As Rabbie Burns once said ‘Time winds th’ exhausted chain’ and surely the Bards chains of time must now be at breaking point waiting for the damning contents of the Chilcot report to be made public and to know the full facts of extraordinary rendition.
The UK government must release the truth about both complicity in US rendition and the content of the long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war which was deliberately pushed to this side of the General Election. It seems increasing likely, the UK government has something to hide that is illegal or at best, highly embarrassing.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency embarked on a highly classified program of secret detention and ‘extraordinary rendition’ of terrorist suspects. The program was designed to place detainee interrogations beyond the reach of law. Suspected terrorists were seized and secretly flown across national borders to be interrogated by foreign governments that used torture, or by the CIA itself in clandestine “black sites” using torture techniques.
Not one to miss an opportunity for his agenda, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on September 16, 2011 said:
“We also have to work, through, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”
The scene was set then for the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq and the subsequent illegal torture techniques under the rendition programme. Especially in the US, rendition is the practice of sending an alleged foreign criminal or terrorist suspect covertly to be interrogated in a country with less rigorous regulations for the humane treatment of prisoners. This meant exposing these untried prisoners to waterboarding, ‘rectal feeding’, mock executions, sleep deprivation, stress positions and many other degrading acts. The governments of the United States and the United Kingdom meanwhile, claimed that Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed a threat to their security and that of their allies. The UK justified this by their ‘September Document’ written by British Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair said that:
“The document discloses that his [Saddam Hussein] military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them”
The premise for the Iraq war was later proven to be entirely false.
The Iraq Inquiry, also referred to as the Chilcot Inquiry after its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, is a British public inquiry into the nation’s role in the Iraq War. The inquiry was announced on 15 June 2009 by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with an initial announcement that proceedings would take place in private, a decision which was subsequently reversed after receiving criticism in the media and the House of Commons.
Chilcot was also part of the earlier Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction (relating to Iraq), widely known as the Butler Review after its chairman Lord Robin Butler of Brockwell (or Rab to you and me). This dated from 3 February 2004 and was published by the British Government on 4 July 2004.
A similar Iraq Intelligence Commission was set up in the USA. Despite the apparent certainty of both governments prior to the war that Iraq possessed such weapons, no such illegal weapons or programs were found by the Iraq Survey Group. Its main conclusion was the same as the simultaneous Iraq Intelligence Commission that was set up in the USA. The key intelligence used to justify the war with Iraq has been shown to be unreliable.
Subsequent rendition and torture happened as a consequence of the Iraq war, and Amrit Singh, Senior Legal Officer for the Open Society Justice Initiative’s National Security and Counterterrorism program in February 2013, released the best research into the area with his damning report, Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition
It details for the first time what was done to the 136 known victims, and lists the 54 foreign governments that participated in these operations. It shows that responsibility for the abuses lies not only with the United States but also with dozens of foreign governments that were complicit.
UK involvement in rendition and torture practices is being investigated by The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) which was set up to examine the policy, administration and expenditure of the Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Other than the three intelligence and security Agencies, the ISC examines the intelligence-related work of the Cabinet Office including: the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC); the Assessments Staff; and the National Security Secretariat. The Committee also provides oversight of Defence Intelligence in the Ministry of Defence and the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office. A deep and wide remit then, but who ultimately only manage to come up with a ‘summarised’ version of a US $50M senate report.
Let’s look a little closer then at both the UK investigations into it’s own involvement in rendition via this committee and the current status of the Iraq enquiry. Firstly, let’s start with the widely publicised alleged complicity in the rendition and torture scandal and the heavily redacted 480 page report that everyone was talking about. Downing Street has confirmed that British spies spoke to their US counterparts to discuss blacking out some sections but insisted it related only to “national security grounds” and not to cover-up British complicity in torture.
Incidentally, 480 is an interesting number as it’s the same number of days that Mohammed al-Asad, a Yemeni national who was wrongfully detained spent across 3 of these CIA ‘black sites’. Al-Asad told of the first two facilities and being subjected to prolonged darkness, isolation and interrogation, excruciatingly loud music and noise for prolonged periods, kept in a diaper or given a bucket. In the third location, always shackled, al-Asad describes a facility where video cameras were mounted in each cell and follow inmates at all times with white noise blasted in depriving the senses.
This committee of parliament (ISC) investigating allegations of British involvement in torture is seeking access to secret parts (the redacted bits) of the damning US report into CIA tactics regarding rendition. The Chair, Sir Malcolm Rifkind (or Malcy to you and me) said it would request sight of any redacted sections of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings related to the UK’s role in the rendition and interrogation of terror suspects, he said:
“What needs to be discovered is whether they were aware of what the CIA was doing; whether they were willing to accept intelligence obtained by waterboarding and other inhumane practices, and whether they volunteered questions to be put to detainees being interrogated by the CIA,”
Hold up a minute Malcy, until I whittle this down to some simple points.
- We have waited 6 years for this examination of CIA documents
- We get a 480-page summary of the investigation into CIA mistreatment and abuse of terror suspects
- The full report is 6,200 pages
- There is no reason to hide information by summarising but every reason to hide facts
- It’s therefore not a summary, it’s selective, it’s a whitewash
- The public get something 5,720 pages less than the real one
- It’s not unreasonable to say we have been given 7.7% of the facts
- Malcy has not questioned this at all
- Malcy has everyone in a frenzy about the redacted points, which he demands to see and for the US/CIA to provide
- The redacted points were actually done by the UK government and not the US
- The UK are demanding to see something they already have
- Craig Murray said he attended a meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office where he was told “it was not illegal for us to use intelligence from torture as long as we did not carry out the torture ourselves”
- That this policy came directly from Jack Straw, who said “I was never complicit in any of the CIA illegal processes. I consider it to be revolting, unlawful and also unproductive”
Meanwhile, back at the Chilcot report some simple points:
- Announced in June 2009,
- The findings have STILL yet to be announced.
- In comparison, the (related) Butler Review took only 5 months
- The whole premise of the Iraq war remains hidden in the undisclosed report
- The Iraq war cost £9.56billion
- Pressure has greatly heightened for release due the rendition revelations
- Whitehall figures are questioning why the Westminster establishment seem to still be blocking Chilcot’s findings
- Families and some politicians are demanding the release of the £10million report.
- Reginald Keys, 62, whose son Thomas was killed in 2003 aged 20, said they are delaying it because they are trying to cover up the truth
- Tory MP Mark Field, a member of the ISC said it is a politically sensitive report that will be delayed until after the general election
In conclusion, we are being made a fool of twice over:
- The Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament and the media are encouraging the general public to get caught up in the redaction story, which the UK want to see but they have already seen. The US provided the ‘summary’ report to the UK, who redacted it and now the UK governments own investigative committee on the report is shouting about seeing a non-redacted version. You could not make it up. They are attempting to stop people asking the real question. What is in the other 92.3% of the report?
- The government are holding the release of the Chilcot report for purely political reasons. This is a report of major public interest, but it does not suit the Unionist parties who voted for and took us into the illegal Iraq War, for this to be released in advance of May.
I welcome the initiative in the last year by the Scottish Police who have been investigating US rendition flights that passed through Scotland. I also welcome the Scottish Governments demands for the Chilcot Report to be released and for a full enquiry into the rendition disgrace.