UK facing more questions on torture

Published: Friday 12th December 2014 by The News Editor

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The Government is facing fresh questions over whether it sought to cover up “embarrassing information” about alleged British complicity in torture after details emerged of m eetings between UK ministers and officials and the US Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the CIA’s abuse of detainees.

Details of 24 meetings since 2009 between UK politicians and diplomats and members of the committee were disclosed following a Freedom of Information Act request.

Home Secretary Theresa May, Labour former minister Lord West and the UK’s ambassador to Washington held meetings with the US politicians while they were working on their inquiry, the information obtained by human rights group Reprieve showed.

Downing Street has confirmed that British spies spoke to their US counterparts to discuss potential redactions to the damning report on “national security grounds”.

But details of the meetings led to further questions about the extent of British influence over the report.

Reprieve spokesman Donald Campbell said: “We already know that the UK was complicit in the CIA’s shameful rendition and torture programme.

“What we don’t know is why there is no mention of that in the public version of the Senate’s torture report.

“There are important questions which members of the current and the previous governments must answer: did they lobby to ensure embarrassing information about the UK was ‘redacted’ or removed from the report?

“Theresa May and Lord West – a former Home Office minister – both met with the Senate committee while it was working on this report. They need to provide clear answers on whether they sought to lobby the committee to keep embarrassing information about the UK out of the public eye.”

In a letter to Reprieve in July, William Hague – then the foreign secretary – said: “The UK Government has not sought to influence the content of the Senate report.

“We have made representations to seek assurance that ordinary procedures for clearance of UK material will be followed in the event that UK material provided to the Senate committee were to be disclosed.”

Downing Street confirmed yesterday that there had been contact about the content of the report.

Asked whether Britain had asked for details of UK activities to be blacked out – or “redacted” – from the US report, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: “My understanding is that no redactions were sought to remove any suggestion that there was UK involvement in any illegal torture or rendition.

“There was a conversation between the agencies and their US counterparts on the executive summary. Any redactions there would have been on national security grounds.”

Some 24 hours earlier the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked about redactions sought by the UK and said there had been “none whatsoever, to my knowledge”.

The Home Office declined to comment on Mrs May’s meeting with the committee in July 2011.

The CIA’s director has defended the controversial “enhanced interrogation” programme.

In an unprecedented televised press conference in response to the Senate report, J ohn Brennan acknowledged that “abhorrent” tactics had been used by the agency, but insisted that lives had been saved as a result.

Mr Brennan conceded that it was “unknown and unknowable” whether the harsh treatment resulted in intelligence which could have been gained in any other way but said there was no doubt that detainees subjected to the treatment offered “useful and valuable” information.

Published: Friday 12th December 2014 by The News Editor

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