UK territory was used for CIA interrogation, torture – Bush-era whistleblower

Reuters/Jim Young
The CIA carried out interrogations on British territory, according to a senior Bush administration official. The claims, if true, contradict the official line of the British government that it was not complicit in torture in the years after 9/11.

Speaking to Vice News, Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, said the British territory of Diego Garcia was used as a “transit location” for the CIA to carry out interrogations and other “nefarious activities” when other bases were unavailable.

“What I heard was more along the lines of using it as a transit location when perhaps other places were full or other places were deemed too dangerous or insecure, or unavailable at the moment,” he said.

“So you might have a case where you simply go in and use a facility at Diego Garcia for a month or two weeks or whatever and you do your nefarious activities there.”

Wilkerson was in the US State Department between 2002-2005, but was not witness to the CIA’s activities until he left the administration.

The 69-year-old is an army veteran who served in the US Pacific Command in the 1980s.

Diego Garcia, located in the Indian Ocean, has been an important British military outpost since 1966. The previous Labour government admitted the location was used to facilitate rendition flights by the US, but did not comment on torture or interrogation techniques on the island.

“No one has indicated there was a detention site there, not in so many words,” Wilkerson said.

“What they indicated is that interrogations took place there.”

It is the first time a US official has spoken on record about the British territory and its role in CIA rendition programs, which remain shrouded in secrecy.

On whether the British government was aware of illegal activities on the island, Wilkerson said it would be “difficult” to imagine that long-term actions would have occurred “without the British knowing.”

“That doesn't mean London knew,” he added. “But I just don't, myself, I can't see how we could have used Diego Garcia for almost any function other than maybe a bounce-in and bounce-out and even that, the bounce-in and bounce-out, they'd be aware of.”

The British government has not commented on Wilkerson’s statements.

Last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK was investigating allegations that MI6 intelligence officers were involved in the torture of foreign detainees. Amnesty International and others have criticized the investigation, arguing that the government retained a right to withhold information it deemed detrimental to national security.

The revelations come weeks after the publication of the CIA ‘torture report’ by the US Senate Committee.

The report, which was published in December, revealed that US intelligence officers had engaged in acts of torture on foreign detainees after 9/11, including “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as rectal feeding, sleep deprivation, and threatening family members.