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14 Dec, 2014 13:21

Head of UK torture probe requests CIA data on British role in rendition

Head of UK torture probe requests CIA data on British role in rendition

Sir Malcolm Rifkind has requested data from the US to learn the extent of British intelligence’s involvement in the CIA’s torture program. The UK government’s contradictory statements on the issue have only fanned the flames of suspicion.

The head of the Intelligence and Security Committee of the House of Commons is requesting classified information allegedly inked out of the 480-page summary of the US Senate report on torture interrogation techniques.

Sir Malcolm is chairing an inquiry into the involvement of British intelligence agencies in the CIA's post-9/11 program of detaining and interrogating Al-Qaeda suspects. The MP believes it is possible to persuade Washington to release the classified information, though it is going to be a tough task.

“I am not going to go into the details of how we might try and achieve this, there are various ways we can try and advance it, but at the end of the day the actual decision on the American redacted material is for the Americans to take,” Sir Malcolm said, speaking to the Observer newspaper.

The British inquiry is only interested in “issues relevant to the United Kingdom,” he said, so the Americans might feel safe about the rest of the classified contents. “We don't need to see the whole of their redacted report,” Sir Malcolm said.

Malcolm Rifkind (Reuters/Ian Hodgson)

Once a summary of the classified report, prepared by Democrats on the US Senate Intelligence Committee, was published earlier this week, news came that Britain had contacted the US, demanding to strike out any mention of UK intelligence.

Initially, the British cabinet insisted the redaction had nothing to do with the UK being involved in the abuse of imprisoned terror suspects.

Later on the British government said that any UK-related edits of the document were made for reasons of Britain’s national security, and had no connection to torture allegations. Downing Street stressed this request was from British intelligence agencies not the government.

The report maintained that for years after the 9/11 attacks, arrested terror suspects were subject to a number of ‘brutal interrogation’ techniques.

Among the many harsh examples, the report mentions sleep deprivation, slapping, stress positions, waterboarding etc. The prisoners were also threatened with severe psychological harm and in some cases sexual abuse.

The CIA continued to insist that torture interrogations played an indispensable role in “understanding Al-Qaeda.”
The inquiry into Britain’s role in the inhumane handling of terror suspects is gaining momentum. British MPs and human rights groups are demanding a judicial inquiry into Britain’s involvement in CIA abductions of suspected terrorists.

Reuters/STR New

The initial judicial inquiry into allegations that UK intelligence agencies had been involved in the torture process was ordered by David Cameron in 2010, following public pressure.

However, major human right groups boycotted it for a number of reasons, such as lack of independence and impartiality, and insisted that the inquiry was a waste of public money, because it would be a “whitewash.”

After a long delay, the inquiry was finished in 2013, coming to the conclusion that British intelligence services had been complicit in extraordinary rendition. The fresh investigation has been passed over to the Intelligence and Security Committee of the House of Commons.

Human rights advocates have renewed calls on the UK to investigate its role in the torture scandal.

Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has demanded former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw come clean on what they knew about the CIA's torture and rendition program when they were in office.

“I hope they will cooperate with any parliamentary inquiry,” Fallon said, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

Former FM Straw reacted to the demand, saying that he was never complicit in any of the CIA illegal processes.

“I consider it to be revolting, unlawful and also unproductive,” Straw said, stressing that when the time for a full inquiry comes, he will cooperate “as I always have done.”