Theresa May specifically and deliberately ruled out the Committee from questioning any official who might be placed at risk of criminal proceedings – see para 11 of the report. The determination of the government to protect those who were complicit in torture tells us much more about their future intentions than any fake apology.
It is worth reflecting that the Tory government has acted time and time again to protect New Labour’s Tony Blair, David Miliband, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown from any punishment for their complicity in torture, and indeed to limit the information on it available to the public. The truth is that the Tories and New Labour (which includes the vast majority of current Labour MPs) are all a part of the same elite interest group, and when under pressure they stick together as a class against the people.
Despite being hamstrung by government, the Committee managed through exhaustive research of classified documents to pull together evidence of British involvement in extraordinary rendition and mistreatment of detainees on a massive scale. The Committee found 596 individual documented incidents of the security services obtaining “intelligence” from detainee interrogations involving torture or severe mistreatment, ranging from 2 incidents of direct involvement, “13 to 15” of actually being in the room, through those where the US or other authorities admitted to the torture, to those where the detainee told the officer they had been tortured. They found three instances where the UK had paid for rendition flights.
Why did Jack Straw try to make it illegal for children at childrens’ homes to speak out about abuse? Was Jack Straw influenced by the fact that some of his friends and fellow politicians were paedophiles? Was this a desperate attempt to stop the truth coming out not only that Labour politiicans are paedophiles but highest level politicians of ALL parties?
Up to 50 nuclear power stations could be built under plans being looked at by the government. The remarkable figure – 10 times the number the government is openly discussing – is revealed in documents submitted to the Department of Energy and Climate Change by one of its own advisory bodies.
The documents are likely to raise questions as to what extent the government’s energy policy is weighted in favour of nuclear and away from renewables such as wind turbines. It comes as Brussels begins an investigation into whether Britain is providing up to £17bn of potentially illegal public guarantees for the first nuclear power plant in a generation, Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which aims to provide 7% of the country’s electricity.
Just hours after receiving a report from his hand-picked advisory panel on National Security Agency surveillance operations, President Barack Obama used his end of the year press conference Friday to deliver an Orwellian defense of unrestrained US spying both at home and abroad.
“I have confidence that the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance and snooping around,” Obama said, despite the cascade of revelations proving just the opposite. These revelations, including the latest from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have established that the agency is collecting and storing billions of files recording the phone calls, text messages, emails, Internet searches and even the daily movements of virtually ever US citizen, not to mention those of hundreds of millions of people abroad.
“The United States is a country that abides by rule of law[!], that cares deeply about privacy[!], that cares deeply about civil liberties[!],” he added. Who, at this late juncture, does the American president think he’s fooling? One only has to read the ruling by a Washington, DC Federal District Court judge—which was then stayed in the interest of “national security”—finding the surveillance methods of the NSA to be “almost Orwellian,” and its activities unconstitutional, i.e., criminal.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has abandoned its promise to carry out an independent inquiry into Britain’s involvement in “extraordinary rendition”, detention”and torture carried out by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Instead, the inquiry will be undertaken by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), whose record is one of covering up the activities of the intelligence services.
Only last month, the ISC questioned the head of the internal security service MI5, Andrew Parker; the director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Sir Iain Lobban; and Sir John Sawers, head of the foreign intelligence department MI6. The hearing was meant to demonstrate unprecedented openness and accountability to Parliament of the secret state apparatus, after revelations by US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden that the UK agencies worked with the US to monitor the Internet and phone activity of most of the world’s citizens.
Clare Algar, executive director of the human rights organisation Reprieve, criticised the decision to hand the investigation to the ISC: “If the government takes this course, it will be breaking its promise to hold a genuine, independent inquiry into the UK’s involvement in torture.
The father of one of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing has asked mourners to pray for the “innocent family” of the only person convicted of the worst mass murder in British history, as the nation marked its 25th anniversary.
In his address to a memorial service at Westminster Abbey yesterday evening attended by relatives of the victims, Dr Jim Swire also accused the British government of failing to tell “all the truth they know about this terrible tragedy”.
Before the service, the UK, US and Libyan governments in a joint statement promised to work together to “reveal the full facts of the case”, saying that they wanted “all those responsible for this most brutal act of terrorism brought to justice, and to understand why it was committed”. [BS: positive identification]
Two main political news stories from yesterday dominate today’s news: the Gibson report and the completion of the trial of the murderers of soldier Lee Rigby. There was also a ceiling collapse at the packed Apollo theatre in the Soho area of London.
Firstly, the Gibson report into UK involvement in torture and rendition was published. The report was paused while police investigations into torture and rendition were in progress so that the report should be considered incomplete and unfinished.
A further unfortunate consequence for Blair’s former cabinet and government is that cabinet ministers are jointly responsible according to UK law. The current UK Conservative-Liberal-Democrat (Conservative) coalition government is keen deal with this problem. It is likely that they would ideally like to postpone it indefinitely so that by the time it’s addressed Blair and his associated Fascist scum will be dead of old age. Accordingly they have broken commitments to appoint a judge-led inquiry and instead have referred it to the intelligence and security committee of selected MPs and peers, a body renowned for ignoring official crimes.
Secondly, the trial of the brutal murderers of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, East London finished yesterday. Soldier Lee Rigby was first run over by a car before a meat cleaver was used to hack at his neck. Early news reports were wrong claiming that he had been decapitated.
An emergency meeting of Cobra was held because of the political nature of the murder. The murderers asked bystanders to film them explaining their purpose. It was both a brutal murder and a political protest. It was not terrorism because ordinary people were not the target.
Adebolajo actively sought out a witness with a camera phone to deliver what he saw as a 21st-century press conference. It was supposed to be his martyrdom video. But there were no satellite trucks or television crews, only a handful of bystanders armed with a smartphone.
“The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers,” said Adebolajo into the lens of a BlackBerry, his bloodied hands still holding the meat cleaver and butcher’s knife used to slaughter his victim. “By Allah, we swear by the almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone.”
The murderers were driven by Western invasions of Muslim countries claiming that they were soldiers attacking another soldier. I disagree with a psychiatrist’s decision that one of the defendants was not insane. The barbarity of the act shows that he was insane.
I am willing to discuss these issues in the comments.
The big story today is the current UK coalition government’s attempts to hide the UK’s part in torture and rendition under the Tony Blair government. Despite repeated denials by liar Jack Straw at the time, evidence has surfaced that Tony Bliar’s government conducted illegal renditions. It is widely accepted that Blair’s government had little regard for the law, truth or justice.
The stalled official inquiry into the UK’s involvement in rendition and torture in the years after 9/11 is to be handed to the controversial intelligence and security committee (ISC), the government will announce on Thursday.
The decision follows years of assurances by ministers that the inquiry would be headed by a senior judge.
It is a move that will dismay human rights groups. The ISC is the oversight body that failed to report publicly on the bulk surveillance operations being conducted by the UK’s signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, and it has already conducted one inquiry into rendition, after which it cleared MI5 and MI6 of blame.
The extent to which the agencies were involved in the abuse of terrorism suspects may be outlined on Thursday with the publication of a redacted version of an interim report of the stalled inquiry that was led by Sir Peter Gibson, a retired appeal court judge.
Gibson is said to be calling for further investigation into the UK’s involvement in the rendition of two Libyan opposition leaders and their families to Tripoli in 2004, and the role played by Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time. Straw was not available for comment but has previously denied any wrongdoing. MI6 is reported to have confronted him with documentary evidence that he personally authorised the agency’s involvement in the rendition operations.
The poorest parts of England are to receive extra money to tackle ill health after NHS bosses rejected plans to divert resources from there to wealthy areas.
NHS England’s decision means that scores of GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in deprived areas will no longer see their budgets cut from April. Its board has defied the Department of Health by throwing out its plans to make the age of the local population, not the level of deprivation, a key factor in the allocation of NHS funding.
Instead NHS England has opted to give all 211 CCGs rises of at least the rate of inflation both next year and in 2015-16, and give those serving the most deprived places extra money to help cope with the demand caused by ingrained health problems. It was obliged to do that to help meet its legal duty to reduce health inequalities and differences in life expectancy between rich and poor areas, said chief financial officer Paul Baumann….
The campaign of hate being waged by this government of rich, privileged, and privately educated sociopaths against the poor, the unemployed, and those who dare try to claim the benefits to which they are entitled is unparalleled in modern history. Even Thatcher in her pomp was not as malicious in her treatment of the aforementioned demographic. This was not because she didn’t wish to be more malicious than she was, it was because when she came to power we still had trade unions capable and willing to resist such an onslaught, meaning that the cost involved in even attempting to rip up the foundations of the welfare state and the collective ethos which lies at its heart would have been too damaging to her government and party to make worthwhile.
Three decades on and the fruits of Thatcherism – with the corresponding neutering of the unions and other forms of working class solidarity – have culminated in a new normal of demonisation and the near criminalisation of poverty in Britain. Austerity has been sold to the country as a policy of necessity in response to years of Labour profligacy and a bloated public sector. It is a lie so bold and barefaced that even Joseph Goebbels would blush while repeating it.
The vast disruption that could be caused across the country by fracking has been laid bare, with the Government announcing it would make 40 per cent of Britain available to companies to explore for oil and gas next year.
Local communities could be subjected to thousands of wells being dug every year in the search for fossil fuels – requiring billions of litres of water, with dozens of lorries passing by every day – after the Coalition said it would put oil and gas licences covering 100,000 square kilometres up for auction next summer.
The auction, which would give the licence-winners exclusive rights to explore an area for oil and gas, but would require additional permits for fracking, would add to the 19,000 square kilometres of licences that have already been sold to hydrocarbon producers.
The IPCC’s commissioner Jan Williams said: “No one can fail to be shocked by the vile details of Ian Watkins’s offending that emerged in court last month.
“Questions are now rightly being asked as to whether Ian Watkins could have been brought to justice sooner, what steps were taken by police in response to allegations made against him as far back as 2008 and whether his celebrity status had any impact on the investigation.” He added, however, that the investigation was complex and would take time.
The Guardian and Channel4 – in a joint investigation – have released documents sourced by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The documents reveal that US intelligence agencies were given far greater powers to spy on UK citizens by UK intelligence agency GCHQ in 2004. It is extremely unlikely that this move would be taken without treasonous ministerial approval by Tony Blair’s government.
1pm update: The important issue about these revelations is that UK allowed US authorities to spy on UK subjects who are not guilty or even suspected of any crime. Further, the scale of those subjected to such spying without any legal oversight is astonishingly wide. While it is reported as contacts-of-contacts or friends-of-friends of suspects it may be more practical to just consider it as being all UK subjects. [2.20pm Most news sources are reporting contacts-of-contacts. The Guardian say that it’s ‘”three hops” from its targets — who could be people who talk to people who talk to people who talk to you.’ That does look like all UK subjects. ]
The technology used by Britain’s spy agencies to conduct mass surveillance is “out of control”, raising fears about the erosion of civil liberties at a time of diminished trust in the intelligence services, according to the former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown.
The peer said it was time for a high-level inquiry to address fundamental questions about privacy in the 21st century, and railed against “lazy politicians” who frighten people into thinking “al-Qaida is about to jump out from behind every bush and therefore it is legitimate to forget about civil liberties”. “Well it isn’t,” he added.
Ashdown talks frequently to the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, and is chair of the the Liberal Democrats‘ general election team. Though he said he was speaking for himself, his views are understood to be shared by other senior members of the Liberal Democrats in government, who are also keen for some kind of broad inquiry into the subject.
This idea is also supported by Sir David Omand, a former director of GCHQ. He told the Guardian he was in favour of an inquiry and thought it would be wrong to “dismiss the idea of a royal commission out of hand”. It was important to balance the need for the agencies to have powerful capabilities, and the necessity of ensuring they did not use them in a way parliament had not intended, Omand added.
Ashdown is the latest senior politician to demand a review of the powers of Britain’s intelligence agencies – GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 – and the laws and oversight which underpin their activities.
In an interview with the Guardian, Ashdown said surveillance should only be conducted against specific targets when there was evidence against them. Dragnet surveillance was unacceptable, he added.
Ashdown made clear revelations in the Guardian about GCHQ and its American counterpart, the National Security Agency, had raised important issues that “could not be ignored or swept aside in a barrage of insults”.
He also criticised the Labour party, which was in power when the agencies began testing and building many of their most powerful surveillance capabilities. Labour’s former home secretary Jack Straw was responsible for introducing the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act 2000 (Ripa), which made the programmes legal.
“Ripa was a disgraceful piece of legislation,” Ashdown said. “Nobody put any thought into it. Labour just took the words they were given by the intelligence agencies. I don’t blame the intelligence agencies.
Pantsdown continues in the article to discuss witnessing the steaming open of envelopes by spooks. In line with the full disclosure policy of this blog I can reveal that nowadays they use endescopes to read letters. The tell-tale sign is a small rip to the seal of the envelope at one end.
[19/11/13 The tell-tell sign of the use of an endescope will usually be on the right-hand side of the envelope’s seal and occasionally on the left-hand side. Why is that?
The blocking of the Chilcot report underlines how the powerful shield their activities from the public
It is the greatest scandal of British public life in a generation, yet Blair and his allies, such as Jack Straw and Alastair Campbell, have never been properly held to account. More than a decade after we went to war, Sir John Chilcot’s report is stalled because Sir Jeremy Heywood, the current cabinet secretary, who was at Blair’s side as principle private secretary during the run-up to the invasion, is blocking crucial evidence to the inquiry.
It is an unbelievable state of affairs. As the former foreign secretary Lord Owen pointed out last week, you couldn’t have a more dubious arrangement. A man who was integral to the government that took us to war is now sitting on evidence of 200 relevant cabinet level discussions, 25 notes written by Blair to George Bush and records of 130 phone conversations between Blair, Bush and Gordon Brown. Heywood claims that he’s bound by the decision taken by his predecessor, Lord O’Donnell, to protect the confidentiality of Blair and Bush’s discussions. In effect, Heywood is claiming that he has no discretion and therefore his past as senior official in Blair’s Number 10 at the time has no relevance.
What is so dismal about this situation, quite apart from the naked self-interest that it represents, is that it underlines that while the British public is expected to put up with ever-increasing levels of intrusion by surveillance, in the name of transparency and security, those in power create for themselves an impregnable bunker where honour, accountability and public opinion count for nothing. They conceal their actions and shield themselves from entirely legitimate requests from an inquiry set up by the prime minister himself.
But in all this, there is a much bigger theme, which is seen in another sputtering inquiry into the behaviour of Blair-era politicians and officials – the Gibson inquiry into allegations that British intelligence agencies were complicit in the torture of terror suspects after 9/11 and that officials in the then foreign secretary Jack Straw’s office were aware. The inquiry’s investigations ended nearly two years ago and the report has been sat on by Number 10 for the past 14 months. After the NGOs and torture victims boycotted Sir Peter Gibson’s inquiry, because it lacked credibility, it probably won’t have the damning impact it should have when it is finally published this week.
As a result, Number 10 may get away without following up with examination of cases such as those of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who was rendered with his wife for torture to Gaddafi’s Libya in an operation involving Sir Mark Allen of MI6 during Jack Straw’s time at the Foreign Office.
Gibson report, published next week, is said to call for further investigation of how far British ministers were responsible
An official investigation into the extent of the UK’s involvement in rendition and torture after 9/11 is reported to have concluded that British intelligence officers were aware that detainees were being mistreated in prisons across the globe.
The inquiry headed by Sir Peter Gibson, a former appeal court judge, was shelved before any witnesses gave evidence, amid a behind-the-scenes dispute over the control of information that was to be made public, and after police launched their own investigations.
However, Gibson completed an interim report based on an examination of documentary evidence, and a version is to be published next week, almost 18 months after it was sent to the prime minister.
Gibson has concluded that there is evidence that British intelligence officers were aware that detainees were being mistreated at US-run detention facilities in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, and at prisons in Pakistan, according to the Times.
Members of Tony Blair’s Cabinet were “deliberately” excluded from seeing key documents drawn up by officials examining the case for war against Iraq, a former head of the Civil Service has claimed.
Lord Butler, who led the Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction in the aftermath of the invasion, said there was no shortage of “very good” information available to help ministers evaluate the case for war in 2003.
But in remarks to a Foreign Office seminar, Lord Butler suggested that the former Prime Minister had intentionally kept the documents away from the majority of the Cabinet. “A lot of very good official papers were prepared,” he said. “None was ever circulated to the Cabinet, just as the Attorney General’s advice [on the legality of the war] was not circulated to the Cabinet.
“So, the Cabinet was not as well-informed as the three leading protagonists: the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary… I think that was deliberate, and it was a weakness of the machinery that underlay that particular decision.”
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Jack Straw accused of misleading MPs over torture of Libyan dissidents
Former foreign secretary named in legal documents concerning Gaddafi opponents held after MI6 tip-offs
Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, and Sir Mark Allen, a former senior MI6 officer, have been cited as key defendants in court documents that describe in detail abuse meted out to Libyan dissidents and their families after being abducted and handed to Muammar Gaddafi‘s secret police with the help of British intelligence.
The documents accuse Straw of misleading MPs about Britain’s role in the rendition of two leading dissidents – Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi – and say MI6 must have known they risked being tortured. They say British intelligence officers provided Libyan interrogators with questions to ask their captives and themselves flew to Tripoli to interview the detainees in jail.
They recount how Belhaj was chained, hooded, and beaten; his pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, punched and bound; how Saadi was repeatedly assaulted; his wife, Ait Baaziz, hooded and ill-treated; and their children traumatised, as they were abducted and jailed in Libya following tip-offs by MI6 and the CIA in 2004.
Belhaj and Saadi were leading members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which opposed Gaddafi. Belhaj became head of the Tripoli Brigade during last year’s revolution and is a leading Libyan political figure. They are suing Straw, Allen, MI6, MI5, the Foreign Office, the Home Office, and the attorney general, for damages for unlawful detention, conspiracy to injure, negligence, and abuse of public office. It is believed to be the first time such action has been taken against a former British foreign secretary.
The court documents, served by the law firm Leigh Day and the legal charity and human rights group, Reprieve, allege:
• MI6 alerted Libyan intelligence to the whereabouts of Belhaj and his family. They were held in Malaysia and Thailand and flown to Libya in a CIA plane.
• The CIA and MI6 co-operated in the rendition of Saadi and his family from Hong Kong to Libya via Thailand.
• Straw and his co-defendants knew that torture was endemic in Gaddafi’s Libya.
• British intelligence officers sent detailed questions to the Libyan authorities to be used in Belhaj and Saadi’s interrogations.
• Straw did not tell the truth when he told the Commons foreign affairs committee in 2005 that Britain was not involved in any rendition operations.
• Evidence by Sir John Scarlett, the head of MI6, to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) in 2006 that his agency did not assist in any rendition to countries other than the US or the detainee’s country of origin was incorrect and misleading. Bouchar is Moroccan, and Baaziz is Algerian, and neither had been to Libya before their abduction.
• Evidence by an MI5 witness to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission about the renditions was untrue and misleading.
• According to the US flight plan rendering Belhaj and his wife to Libya, the plane would refuel at the American base on the British Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia. If it had done so it would contradict assurances made to MPs by the former foreign secretary David Miliband. Referring to the coalition government’s plans for secret courts, Khadidja al-Saadi, who was 12 when she was abducted, said: “I tried writing to Ken Clarke [former justice secretary] about my case – I told him that having a secret court judge my kidnap was the kind of thing Gaddafi would have done.”
While many of those flights may not have been involved in rendition operations, the researchers behind the project have drawn on testimony from detainees, Red Cross reports, courtroom evidence, flight records and invoices to show that at least 144 were entering the UK while suspected of being engaged in rendition operations.
While the CIA used UK airports for refuelling and overnight stopovers, there is no evidence that any landed in the UK with prisoners on board. This may suggest that the UK government denied permission for this. In some cases, it is unclear whether the airline companies would have been aware of the purpose of the flights.
Some 51 different UK airports were used by 84 different aircraft that have been linked by researchers to the rendition programme. Only the US and Canada were visited more frequently. The most used UK airport was Luton, followed by Glasgow Prestwick and Stansted. There were also flights in and out of RAF Northolt and RAF Brize Norton.
The CIA’s use of UK airports was first reported by the Guardian in September 2005. Jack Straw, the then foreign secretary, dismissed the evidence, telling MPs in December that year that “unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States … there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition.”
Straw told the same MPs that media reports of UK involvement in the mistreatment of detainees were “in the realms of the fantastic”. Documentation subsequently disclosed in the high court in London showed that Straw had consigned British citizens to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba after they were detained in Afghanistan in 2001. …
“On behalf of the Labour Party, I want to thank him for his nearly 35 years service as an MP, his achievements in government and his eloquence and wisdom.”
He added: “He has been a great friend and loyal supporter to me during my time as leader. It is a measure of the man that I know the same would have been said by the six predecessors of mine under whom he served. He is Labour through and through, and always displayed this in his words and deeds.
“He will be sorely missed but I know he will continue to serve our country in many different ways.”