UK complicit? US Senate report reveals CIA torture and deception of Congress

UK complicit? US Senate report reveals CIA torture and deception of Congress
Following the release of a long-awaited report examining the CIA’s use of torture post 9/11, Britain’s previously undisclosed role in the controversial rendition program is somewhat clearer.

In the wake of a six-year examination of CIA documents, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) published a 480-page summary on Tuesday of its investigation into CIA mistreatment and abuse of terror suspects.

The probe examined the CIA’s maltreatment of Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It also details assistance offered by foreign allied states.

Read more:CIA torture far exceeded waterboarding, brought suspects 'to point of death'

America’s program of “enhanced interrogation,” deployed by the CIA on terror suspects post 9/11, was much more brutal than the intelligence agency admitted, the Senate report reveals.

Despite repeated violent interrogation of terror suspects – instances of which Dianne Feinstein, the committee chair,admitted were “torture” – the CIA failed to gather any information that foiled subsequent threats to US national security, the report found.

It also revealed the CIA’s treatment of terror suspects breached the body’s legal mandate and uncovered evidence of what investigators concluded was the intelligence agency’s systematic deception of Congress.

Reflecting on the contentious CIA rendition program, Feinstein said the covert practices were a “stain” on American values and American history.

The document was redacted amid a string of consultations with top CIA officials. Nevertheless, recent reports reveal the committee chair battled to retain significant details about the involvement of Britain and other US allies in the controversial CIA rendition program.

UK ambassador to the US, Peter Westmacott.(AFP Photo / Franck Fife)

The UK government, which has failed to oversee an adequate state investigation into Britain’s involvement in these practices, will be concerned about the contents of the Senate’s report.

In August, records published under Britain’s Freedom of Information (FoI) Act heightened fears the British government lobbied US officials to sanitize the report, and obscure the UK’s role in CIA rendition.

At the time, it emerged UK ambassador to the US, Peter Westmacott, engaged in at least 21 separate meetings with members of SSCI prior to the publication of its long-awaited report.

UK complicity in CIA torture & rendition

In recent years, some detail on the scope of Britain’s involvement in US rendition practices post 9/11 has surfaced.

An array of leaks, which surfaced prior to the publishing of the Senate's report, highlighted Britain’s collaborative role in the CIA's mistreatment and abuse of terror suspects. Of particular note, are allegations that British foreign territory Diego Garcia was used to transfer detainees via rendition flights, contradicting a series of UK government denials that Britain presided over such practices.

UK Foreign Territory, Diego Garcia. (Reuters)

It has also emerged that MI6 was complicit in a least two separate CIA rendition cases in 2004, which resulted in the kidnapping and transfer of two Libyans to prisons run by the Muammar Gaddafi regime. Both men’s families were also abducted. The pregnant wife of one of the men claims she was bound to a stretcher with tape from head-to-toe for the duration of a 17-hour flight.

Read more:Libyan torture victim wins right to sue British government in open court

A Metropolitan Police investigation into both Libyan rendition cases has been in motion for almost three years. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is currently assessing a file of evidence.

Reports have surfaced that UK intelligence officers interrogated prisoners detained in Guantánamo Bay and at Bagram in Afghanistan, in full knowledge they were being maltreated. and it has also been revealed that the British government offered logistical support for key aircraft in CIA rendition exercises, permitting them to refuel at UK military and civilian airports hundreds of times.

Covert cover-up?

In 2013, the British government shelved a state inquiry into Britain’s role in CIA rendition, only to be criticized by the probe’s presiding judge, who suggested the investigation lacked sufficient depth and stringency.

The inquiry is now expected to be managed by Britain’s intelligence and security committee – a group of peers and MPs who concluded seven years ago that Britain bore no complicity in CIA rendition practices. But the UK’s leading human rights organizations have declared a boycott against the new parliamentary inquiry.

The letter detailing the boycott, first seen by the Observer, warned the influential coalition of groups had no trust in the committee’s capacity to uncover the truth.

(AFP Photo / John Moore)

While descriptions of the roles adopted by US-allied states in the Senate Committee’s report were comprehensive, they were portrayed anonymously.

Concrete evidence that Britain was explicitly implicated in severe violations of human rights common to extraordinary rendition could expose the UK government to legal action.

In July, the European court of human rights ruled Polish government officials had actively facilitated the CIA’s European secret prison program.

Legal proceedings and official inquiries have also concluded that Sweden, Italy and Macedonia were implicated in CIA renditions. Romania and Lithuania currently face European Court of Justice (ECJ) proceedings with respect to their involvement in the CIA's program for interrogating and detaining terror suspects.

Commenting on the UK’s involvement in these practices, Clare Algar, a lawyer who works for UK human rights group Reprieve, said it is widely known Britain was “up to its neck in the CIA’s rendition and torture program.”

“MI6 fell over themselves to take credit for the rendition of Gaddafi opponents – along with their wives and young children – to Libyan prisons in 2004,” Algar said.

But the British government continue to battle against “real accountability in the UK courts,” and have reneged on their “promise to hold an independent, judge-led inquiry into the UK’s role in CIA torture,” she added.

“This is not the behavior of a government committed to transparency and democratic accountability,” she concluded.

ICYMI