Thursday, July 15, 2010

Classified documents reveal UK's role in abuse of its own citizens.

A number of highly classified documents, disclosed during high court proceedings, appear to show that the British government colluded in the torture of British citizens. And that the British government had decided that British prisoners being flown to Guantanamo Bay was its "preferred option".

Among the most damning documents are a series of interrogation reports from MI5 officers that betray their disregard for the suffering of a British resident whom they were questioning at a US airbase in Afghanistan. The documents also show that the officers were content to see the mistreatment continue.

One of the most startling documents is chapter 32 of MI6's general procedural manual, entitled "Detainees and Detention Operations", which advises officers that among the "particular sensitivities" they need to consider before becoming directly involved in an operation to detain a terrorism suspect is the question of whether "detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation".

Other disclosed documents show how:

• The Foreign Office decided in January 2002 that the transfer of British citizens from Afghanistan to Guantánamo was its "preferred option".

• Jack Straw asked for that rendition to be delayed until MI5 had been able to interrogate those citizens.

• Downing Street was said to have overruled FO attempts to provide a British citizen detained in Zambia with consular support in an attempt to prevent his return to the UK, with the result that he too was "rendered" to Guantánamo.

Blair's reputation will finally be shot be pieces when the extent to which the British government acquiesced in the treatment handed out to it's citizens is revealed, I suspect.

What is undeniable at the moment is the government's almost casual indifference to the fact that it was taking part in criminal activity:

At this time, the fact that "rendition" – abducting an individual and moving them against their will from one country to another – was illegal appears not to have been a concern. A document disclosed by the Foreign Office, dated 10 January 2002 and entitled Afghanistan UK Detainees, expresses the government's "preferred options". It states: "Transfer of United Kingdom nationals held by US forces in Afghanistan to a United States base in Guantánamo is the best way to meet our counter-terrorism objectives, to ensure they are securely held." The "only alternative", the document adds, would be to place these individuals in the custody of British forces in Afghanistan, or to return them to the UK.

At around the same time Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, was sending a telegram to several British diplomatic missions around the world in which he signalled his agreement with this policy, but made clear that he did not wish to see the British nationals moved from Afghanistan before they could be interrogated.

"A specialist team is currently in Afghanistan seeking to interview any detainees with a UK connection to obtain information on their terrorist activities and connections," Straw wrote.

"We therefore hope that all those detainees they wish to interview will remain in Afghanistan and will not be among the first groups to be transferred to Guantánamo. A week's delay should suffice. UK nationals should be transferred as soon as possible thereafter."

The notion that one is innocent until proven guilty was clearly dispensed with as Blair made a priority out of making sure that there was not a sliver of light between his administration and that of George W. Bush.

So far just 900 papers have been disclosed, and these have included batches of press cuttings and copies of government reports that were published several years ago. However, a number of highly revealing documents are among the released papers, as well as fragments of heavily censored emails, memos and policy documents.

Some are difficult to decipher, but together they paint a picture of a government that was determined not only to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States as it embarked upon its programme of "extraordinary rendition" and torture of terrorism suspects in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but to actively participate in that programme.

The extent to which Blair's government participated in illegal torture activities will eventually trickle out. Cameron will do his best to limit this, especially as he is anxious to preserve the UK's intelligence links with the US, but one gets the feeling that the people who were tortured are determined to have their story told and there are strong indications that the courts are inclined to agree with them.
Today the government failed in an attempt to bring a temporary halt to the proceedings that have resulted in the disclosure of the documents. Its lawyers argued that the case should be delayed while attempts were made to mediate with the six men, in the hope that their claims could be withdrawn in advance of the judicial inquiry. Lawyers for the former Guantánamo inmates said it was far from certain that mediation would succeed, and insisted the disclosure process continue.
Cameron appears determined to try to buy the silence of these men before the inquiry starts, but I don't get the feeling that these guys are up for sale.

They want the truth to come out. Cameron appears to want an inquiry which doesn't put any pressure on our relationship with the United States. But, as it was the United States, in collusion it appears with Blair's government, who were doing the torturing, I can't see how Cameron can have an honest inquiry and avoid embarrassing our American ally.

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