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Institute for Truth Studies

John ellis water

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UK  Public Inquiry into Iraq Could Expose Torture Network Operated by Bush and Blaid

By Richard Walker

The CIA and the White House are watching nervously as political and public pressure builds in Britain for the truth to be told about the British role in facilitating the “rendition” of suspects to CIA “black” sites and to pro-Western Middle East intelligence services that routinely use torture. 

Just like the clamor that forced the British government to launch an open inquiry into the Iraq war there is now similar pressure for a major investigation into whether the British government of Tony Blair permitted British intelligence services to participate in the rendition process and allowed the CIA to house “ghost detainees” at Britain’s Diego Garcia air base in the Indian Ocean.

A human rights committee set up by both Houses of the British Parliament waded into the fray on August 4, 2009, with a report calling on the government to order an independent inquiry into whether Britain was complicit in the alleged torture of detainees.


The committee also issued a stinging criticism of the government for trying to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of the issue. Some commentators in Britain believe this could have the effect of blowing the lid on rendition and torture.

Iraq Inquiry

Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the Iraq Inquiry, speaks at a

news conference on July 30 in London. The head of a British inquiry into the Iraq war said he will call former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bush administration officials to testify, but acknowledged it
is unlikely that they would give any real evidence.


Craig Murray, a former British diplomat, told the committee that when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, she ordered the intelligence services to disregard any evidence, that they knew had been acquired under torture. But Tony Blair changed that policy after 9-11. David Davis, a former shadow cabinet minister, reacted to the committee’s recommendations by saying he was certain Blair and his successor, Gordon Brown, had seen evidence of Britain’s “clear violations of its international obligations.”

For months, the Obama White House has grown increasingly concerned that a British inquiry into rendition could expose the history of the program and how the CIA did business with intelligence services that tortured.  Recently, Obama instructed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to impress upon her British counterpart, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the need for the British government to keep rendition and intelligence acquisition classified matters. After Clinton met Miliband in Washington, he declared publicly that the U.S. and Britain had a unique intelligence sharing relationship based on “fundamental principle that they did not disclose each other’s intelligence publicly.” Nevertheless, deep down Miliband must have known the rendition train had already left the station.

Most British politicians have made it clear they are fed up with the drip-drip of information from government since 2005 when the practice of rendition was first made public. It took years for the government to admit that at least two renditions took place through Diego Garcia.

Now, MPs want to know why the Diego Garcia flight records for 2002 to 2008 have vanished without trace. A further scandal has erupted over revelations that the British intelligence agency, MI5, may have been aware of the torture in Morocco of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Binyamin Mohammed. Two high court judges have already said, from evidence they reviewed, they believe MI5 sent the CIA questions to ask Mohammed while he was being interrogated.

In 2005, Blair and his then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, gave the House of Commons an assurance that Britain had never played any role in the rendition of suspects.  In 2008, David Miliband was forced to apologize to Parliament, saying the assurance given by Blair and Straw had been inaccurate. That was followed by the home secretary publicly admitting in February 2009 that Britain had played a separate role in the rendition of two suspects from Iraq to U.S. custody in Afghanistan.  There have also been questions asked in Parliament about a “ghost detainee,” Mustafa Naser, whose whereabouts have remained a mystery since 2005. His wife has hired British lawyers to pursue the case of her husband because one of their children was born in Britain. Naser is Spanish and a Spanish judge has also launched an investigation into his disappearance. Two retired CIA officers have told Naser’s lawyers he was in CIA custody in 2005 before being transferred to Syrian intelligence for interrogation. The Spanish authorities have sources that suggest he may still be held somewhere in Syria.

One of the cases that may open up the British role in the CIA’s rendition program is that of Mohammed Madni, who was pulled off the streets of Jakarta in Indonesia in January, 2002, beaten and placed in American custody. His lawyers say he was put in a coffin and flown by way of Diego Garcia to Cairo where he was tortured by Egyptian intelligence. Later he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay and eventually released without charge. According to Madni, the authorities at Guantanamo admitted they had made a mistake and told him that when he was arrested in 2002 he had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If the British government is forced through a court order to admit that Madni was rendered through Diego Garcia, it will open the floodgates to a series of legal actions that could place Britain in the dock of the European Human Rights Court. As Madni’s lawyers have pointed out, if the Blair government knew suspects were being sent for interrogation to countries like Syria and Egypt, they also knew it was not for a Club Med experience.

The ongoing cases in Britain of men who were rendered is very worrying for Washington because it could shine a light into one of the most questionable and secret programs of the Bush era, especially the CIA’s use of what were termed “black sites.” They were facilities housed within prisons, detainee camps and on board ships in international waters.

While Diego Garcia is believed to have housed at least two major al Qaeda suspects, other sites included “the Salt Pit,” an old brick factory outside Kabul in Afghanistan, which was used as a prison but had a sealed off section given over to the CIA. Szymany Airport in Poland, a former Soviet base, was another CIA interrogation and holding center. “Temara,” an interrogation center within the headquarters of the Moroccan security service, was the place where the British detainee, Binyam Mohamed, was held for 18 months. His British lawyers have assembled a large file of information about his captivity including years he later spent at Guantanamo. They claim that while he was being tortured in Morocco his genitals were sliced with a knife. Two other CIA “black sites” were located within the Eagle Base in Bosnia and the Ariana Hotel in the center of Kabul, which has been under CIA control since 2001. Camp Bucca, a detainee holding facility in Iraq, close to the border with Kuwait, had within it a classified area used only by the CIA. It was sometimes visited by members of allied and foreign intelligence services. The two U.S. ships that had CIA interrogation facilities were the USS Bataan and the USS Peleliu.  The Bataan was previously used as a floating prison and rendition site during the Clinton era, which raises questions about how long rendition has been a secret practice. 

Many focus on the Bush era as though rendition began then. But it clearly did not. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, suspects were also “disappeared” and sent to countries like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia for interrogation. That is why the ObamaWhite House and the CIA fear a wide-ranging investigation of rendition in Europe. It could potentially open up a can of worms and it might prove difficult to put the lid back on. 

When Blair was challenged recently about rendition, he shocked the Obama White House by suggesting Obama would probably continue using aspects of rendition. Some of Blair’s critics in Britain said it was a typical example of Blair turning the spotlight on others to shield himself. Of course, Blair has more to worry about than Obama, Bush or Clinton. He sits at the heart of Europe with a court system that would not flinch from trying him for crimes against humanity if evidence pointed to his guilt. Some British lawyers argue that, if it could be shown Blair approved rendition that led to torture, he could be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. From Obama’s perspective, he has made it clear he does not wish to dwell on the past because it could divide the country and complicate his presidency. However, the British inquiry into the Iraq War has the potential to produce startling revelations and if the rendition program was exposed too through yet another inquiry, both those events could force Obama’s hand.

RichardWalker is a New York based writer and a former news producer.

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(Issue # 33, August 17, 2009)

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