UK Torture Inquiry Boycotted by Lawyers, As David Cameron Fails Again to Demonstrate an Interest in Justice

11.7.11

Last Wednesday, just before David Cameron was engulfed in the News of the World phone hacking crisis, he had the opportunity to practice demonstrating the disregard for justice that he called on in response to the Murdoch scandal, when he attempted to distance himself from his friendship with two former News of the World editors, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, who, of course, served as his director of communications until January this year.

The practice run last Wednesday involved the torture inquiry that Cameron announced exactly a year before, on July 6, 2010, when he told the House of Commons that he had asked a judge, Sir Peter Gibson to “look at whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees held by other countries that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11,” noting that, although there was no evidence that any British officer was “directly engaged in torture,” there were “questions over the degree to which British officers were working with foreign security services who were treating detainees in ways they should not have done.” Last Wednesday, the terms of reference for the torture inquiry were published. With storm clouds gathering over Wapping, David Cameron did not comment directly as human rights groups and lawyers savaged the pending inquiry as a whitewash, but he had already done all that was needed in the preceding twelve months.

How we arrived at a whitewash

The announcement of the inquiry last July was a shock, as it had only been precipitated when William Hague, the coalition government’s foreign secretary, told the BBC, shortly after the General Election in May, that a judge-led inquiry into British complicity in torture was part of the coalition agreement between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

Unable to escape from Hague’s unscripted announcement, Cameron had had to go along with it. It was reported that he had actually agreed with Hague that there should be a judge-led inquiry, but if this was the case, it only lasted until senior figures in the Cabinet Office, with connections to the intelligence services, warned him to be careful not to replicate the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday, which “could drag on for a decade or more at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds.”

As a result, the inquiry was so drastically scaled back that reports “sourced to the Foreign Office” suggested that it “would examine only one case — that of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who was seized in Pakistan in April 2002, rendered to torture in Morocco and Afghanistan, and then held in Guantánamo from September 2004 to February 2009. Most importantly, according to these reports, David Cameron “had already concluded that the country’s intelligence agencies were guilty only of errors of omission, not commission.”

This was the most telling leak, even though it was also noted, by Ian Cobain in the Guardian, that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had persuaded Cameron that his plan — in which “the allegations would be examined briefly, and in secret, by a commission sitting over the summer” — “would be seen as a whitewash.”

With Clegg’s intervention, a judicial inquiry with a wider scope was announced by Cameron on July 6 last year, with confirmation that it would be led by Sir Peter Gibson, a former appeal court judge, assisted by Dame Janet Paraskeva, head of the civil service commissioners, and Peter Riddell, a former Times journalist and a fellow of the Institute of Government.

One problem was immediately apparent — Gibson is the government’s own Intelligence Services Commissioner, whose job is to review the activities of the intelligence services. David Cameron told the House of Commons that the inquiry would be thorough, allowing the victims and their representatives to give evidence during open sessions, as well as representatives of human rights groups, but as I explained at the time:

[T]he scope of the inquiry [was] clearly limited by the fact that, as Richard Norton-Taylor explained in the Guardian, “It will not summon witnesses from foreign countries, such as current or former CIA officers. And it will not be able to compel any individuals to give evidence.” Norton-Taylor added that, on [the] evening [of July 6, 2010], Whitehall officials said that “former Labour ministers, including Tony Blair, will not be asked to give evidence, even though the treatment of British citizens and residents under investigation happened on their watch,” and even though, as was alleged [in] June [2009], former Prime Minister Tony Blair “was aware of the existence of a secret interrogation policy which effectively led to British citizens, and others, being tortured during counter-terrorism investigations.”

Moreover, doubts about the transparency of the inquiry were in place from the very beginning, as the Prime Minister also announced that most of the inquiry would be held in secret and stated, “Let’s be frank, it is not possible to have a full public inquiry into something that is meant to be secret.”

Reprieve, the London-based legal act charity whose lawyers represented Binyam Mohamed, immediately criticised the inquiry, even going so far as to call for Gibson’s resignation. On July 20, Reprieve’s director, Clive Stafford Smith, wrote a letter to Gibson in which he called on him to step down from his role as the judge in charge of the inquiry, complaining that “his impartiality is fatally compromised,” and noting that, “As the Intelligence Services Commissioner (ISC), it has been Sir Peter’s job for more than four years to oversee the Security Services,” and as a result “he cannot now be the judge of whether his own work was effective.” As the Guardian also noted last week, Gibson’s job involved “overseeing government ministers’ use of a controversial power that permits them to ‘disapply’ UK criminal and civil law in order to offer a degree of protection to British intelligence officers committing crimes overseas,” which, of course, creates exactly the conflict of interest mentioned by Clive Stafford Smith.

In September, nine organizations, including Amnesty International, Cageprisoners, JUSTICE, Liberty, the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, Redress and Reprieve, published a letter to Sir Peter Gibson, explaining that, as well as being prompt, independent, thorough and subject to public scrutiny, the inquiry must also involve the participation of the victims. “Survivors or victims must be involved in the process to ensure their right to effective investigation and redress, and special measures must be adopted to ensure this participation is supportive, safe and effective,” the nine NGOs stated.

The NGOs also explained that the inquiry’s mandate must include “the need to hold accountable those responsible for serious human rights violations,” including, if required, senior officials. They wrote that the inquiry “must be able to pronounce on state responsibility for knowledge and involvement in the serious human rights violations that have been alleged and to identify any individuals responsible for such abuses, including establishing the responsibility of superior officers for crimes committed by subordinates under their effective control.”

In February this year, the NGOs went one step further, warning that they were so alarmed that the inquiry would “fail to meet the UK’s obligations under international and domestic law,” as the Guardian explained, that they were “considering whether they should boycott the inquiry,” because they feared that it it would “not be sufficiently independent, impartial or open to public scrutiny” — in other words, as I explained at the time, they were concerned that it would be a whitewash.

That letter — which is much more forceful than the one in September 2010 — is available here, and it contains a detailed analysis of the NGOs’ problems with the inquiry, which were so fundamental that a boycott was inevitable unless the government changed its terms of reference.

The government’s plans are “in disarray,” but will a boycott derail the inquiry?

With Cameron’s subterfuge in mind, however — that comment last July about him having already made up his mind about the inquiry’s conclusion — the chances of changes that would appease the NGOs were, to be blunt, non-existent. As a result, when the terms of reference and protocols under which the inquiry will be run were published last Wednesday, the NGOs “queued up to denounce it as a sham,” as the Guardian explained. With lawyers for the victims adding that “they were boycotting the hearings,” the Guardian stated that the government’s plans for the torture inquiry were now “in disarray.”

The publication of the terms of reference, the Guardian also explained, “showed that key hearings will be held in secret and the cabinet secretary will have the ultimate say over what the public will and will not learn,” that “individuals subjected to rendition and torture during the so-called war on terror will not be permitted to ask questions of MI5 or MI6 officers and the inquiry will not seek any evidence from foreign intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, about British involvement in the torture and abuse of detainees.”

A fundamental dishonesty was highlighted in the contrast between the stated aim of the inquiry — to “establish a reliable account of what happened” — and the reality: that the inquiry “will not request evidence from the authorities of other countries or their personnel.” The Guardian also noted that there were “doubts about how far the inquiry will go to uncover evidence about operations in which British troops secretly rendered detainees to prisons where they were likely to be abused,” as happened with prisoners rendered from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Although the criticism by NGOs and the lawyers’ boycott was well signalled in advance, it remains a thorough disappointment that the coalition government has so obviously opted for a whitewash, having initially indicated that it would act to differentiate itself from the Labour government on whose watch the UK’s involvement in torture took place. It is true, as the Guardian noted, that “Gibson and his inquiry team will have faced intense pressure from the intelligence agencies and senior civil servants, who will be anxious not only to avoid the airing of embarrassing state secrets, but to ensure that intelligence-sharing relationships with the US and others remain protected — even when those relationships have entailed the abuses at the heart of the inquiry.”

Protecting that “special relationship,” however, was at the heart of David Miliband’s 18-month struggle with two high court judges to prevent disclosure of information relating to British knowledge of Binyam Mohamed’s treatment in US custody in Pakistan. That battle ended with the Court of Appeals overruling Miliband and releasing the judges’s summary of Mohamed’s treatment, but the Labour government delivered a clear message that, when it came to upsetting the Americans, the UK was fiercely resistant to revealing any information whatsoever, even if, as under President Bush, America had turned into a nation that had established a global system of kidnapping, torture and arbitrary detention. With the publication of the terms of reference, the Tory-led coalition government has demonstrated that it, too, has no intention of criticising its US allies.

As a result of pandering to the Americans’ wishes, the terms of reference are “so restrictive,” as the Guardian described it, that JUSTICE, the UK section of the International Commission of Jurists, warned that the inquiry “was likely to fail to comply with UK and international laws governing investigations into torture.” Eric Metcalfe, JUSTICE’s director of human rights policy, said that the rules “mean that the inquiry is unlikely to get to the truth behind the allegations and, even if it does, we may never know for sure. However diligent and committed Sir Peter and his team may be, the government has given itself the final word on what can be made public.”

Adding to the criticism, Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, asked, “When is an inquiry not an inquiry? When it’s a secret internal review. The use of torture by great democracies was the most shaming scandal of the war on terror. Today’s disappointing announcement suggests ministers, not independent judges will decide what the public is entitled to know. It is very hard to see the point of wasting public money on such a sham.”

Louise Christian, the solicitor for four British men formerly held in Guantánamo, told the Guardian that the terms of reference also excluded the former prisoners. Explaining that “her clients would be playing no part in the inquiry,” she added, “It’s just like Bloody Sunday — this is the first torture inquiry and there will need to be another in a few years.”

Clive Stafford Smith confirmed the key role played by the US, stating, “Virtually nothing will be made public that is not already in the public domain. This is meant to be an inquiry into British complicity into torture and rendition, almost all of which was complicity with the Americans. Yet these terms give America a veto on much of what should be public.”

This was followed up by Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP for Chichester, and the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, who said, “Sir Peter Gibson has stated that he will not be asking the US or other foreign organisations for information on rendition. Without this information, his examination of other aspects of rendition is likely to be incomplete. The plain and highly regrettable fact is that the UK government is not in possession of all the facts on its own involvement in rendition. This is what government departments have confirmed to me.”

In addition, Gareth Peirce, who is the solicitor for several former Guantánamo prisoners, lamented that, while the Ministry of Defence was obliged to have the torture and murder of Baha Mousa in Iraq exposed to public scrutiny in a public inquiry, “the intelligence services, in contrast, are being allowed to hide.” This was something that Reprieve had remarked upon last July, in response to Cameron’s announcement of the inquiry, pointedly asking why the inquiry was not going to be held under the Inquiries Act of 2005, as with the Baha Mousa inquiry.

This, as Reprieve noted, was “a model of an inquiry functioning efficiently, including the hearing of secret evidence,” and Reprieve lamented that, under the current plan for the torture inquiry, “there is no formal mechanism for civil participation — so Reprieve and other civil organisations will not be allowed access to documents and proceedings,” whereas, under the Inquiries Act, “document classification review proceedings are sophisticated and rightly allow the judge to balance the need for national security against the need for transparency.”

However, as everyone has now realized, justice is not what the Gibson inquiry is meant to provide. Instead, it is meant to be nothing more than an expensive version of the swift, private inquiry with a pre-ordained conclusion that David Cameron wanted last summer.

The struggle for justice continues.

Note: The photo at the top of this article is from Indymedia’s report on the London Guantánamo Campaign’s “Prisoner Solidarity Protest” outside the US embassy in London on July 4, 2011.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

43 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Fran Foley Lawrence wrote:

    Bookmarking to read.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Ciudadano Kane Kane wrote:

    ‎!!!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Kathy McConaghie wrote:

    He won’t do anything for the same reason Obama won’t do anything. To protect themselves from eventual reckonings.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Mark Roman wrote:

    Just as the “justice ” for the Gaza Flotilla had media queued up to interview the humanitarian peacemakers in Greece. Real truth is news! The Media is finally getting the picture. With so much disinformation, even the least astute news readers are more able to sift the truth out of the propaganda. Weapons and embedded media be damned, the spectacle of NON violent resistance is so much more powerful than the actions of thugs and goons with the latest arms.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Tom Krohmer wrote:

    Support Wikileaks Commercial >
    http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=WIpF6EKyuUM&feature=p​layer_profilepage

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Fran, Cuidadano, Kathy and Mark. I’m hoping you’re right, Mark, and that the appreciation of non-violent resistance is on the increase. I certainly think that Tahrir Square is seared into people’s memories as a powerful symbol and demonstration of what can be done.
    And Tom, the Mastercard spoof ad by WikiLeaks isn’t quite on-topic, but thanks for posting it — it’s a good reminder that Julian Assange’s appeal against his proposed extradition to Sweden is being heard in the High Court tomorrow.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Good Andy I boycotted another UK inquiry this year and refused to give evidence (another whitewash) as inquiry doesnt allow for holding people to account and I was told to remove any evidence which might show this … what therefore is the point of an inquiry!!!

  8. Tashi says...

    Is it an inquiry or a symbolic distraction? It seems like the latter. Distract the public with an illusion of justice – so that they remain quiet. It seems like the struggle for (true) justice continues. Aren’t we tired of being placated and numbed? I am.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Carol Anne. There’s no point in playing along with these people if they have no intention of seeking out the truth and holding anyone accountable.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Monica Leavitt wrote:

    Why is it that the U.S. and the U.K. are always in lockstep with each other these days?

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    That “special relationship,” eh, Monica? What a disgrace. Bush establishes the most horrendous paranoid brutal dictatorship targetting Muslims, and Britain just follows suit.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Mark Roman wrote:

    You are welcome Andy. I have been reading about the work of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Afghan “Gandhi”. He stood up and organized the Afghan people against the British in the early to mid 20th century. He was a friend of Gandhi and totally rejected violence. His followers suffered, but the British were at a total loss as to how to counter him and his ideas. Google him up.
    I believe that the power of non violence will trump the Empire eventually. They are at a total loss as to how to respond to the truth, and today it’s an information society. The truth gets through and I believe that all people can see the truth when it is presented in the context of human feeling, and not as a ” product”.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Excellent, Mark. Nice to be informed about a Gandhi-like figure I hadn’t encountered before:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khan_Abdul_Ghaffar_Khan

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Tashi, yes, a symbolic distraction. I very much hope that NGOs, lawyers and the many vociferous critics of torture in this country refuse to lie down and let David Cameron walk all over us.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Regina Kaniewski wrote:

    shared

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Mark Roman wrote:

    He [Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan] was physically a giant compared to Gandhi, and to see photos of them strolling through Gandhi`s gardens is very sweet.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I am digging and sharing this now. This procedure is so obviously a whitewashing attempt, that I am amazed that the government thinks they can get away with it.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Regina and George — and Mark, again.
    George, I agree absolutely, but what we’re dealing with, as I mentioned in the article, is a position taken by Cameron that, as the Guardian uncovered last summer, would, if he had had his way, have involved a brief, secret commission, dealing solely with Binyam Mohamed’s case, and concluding, as Cameron had already concluded, “that the country’s intelligence agencies were guilty only of errors of omission, not commission.”
    That’s a true disgrace. The British public’s general lack of interest is also a disgrace, but I hope that those who do care (and there are many of us, and we have loud voices) don’t let Cameron get away with it. He insults our intelligence every time he opens his mouth.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Edwards wrote:

    Thanks for interesting postings..great to have access once more on 3G and the generosity of my brother.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Welcome back, Mary. Good to hear from you.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    Today I read this and was equally amazed (off topic!):
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/​society/2011/jul/11/nhs-he​alth
    And the blunt language of today’s White Paper was even worse. I guess you’ve seen the Guardian on that. All this shows an utter contempt for the public.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    I am incandescent with rage, George. I’ll try and respond soon to the White Paper, but I need to calm down first. Honestly, I can barely begin to express how distressing it is that Cameron and his cronies only have one thought — privatize everything — even though that’s the last thing we need after the financial crisis of ’08. It’s simply not possible to have everything privatized and expect that for-profit organizations can actually provide everything a functional society needs. People will die, people will suffer, infrastructures will collapse …

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Saleyha Ahsan wrote:

    hi andy…am back from tunisia/libya….free to talk tomorrow? want to join in on the rage….

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Harsha Prabhu wrote:

    A shame and a sham!

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Thanks Andy, the inquiry into torture should be about the British government belatedly accepting responsibility for what governments have been doing for a long time. Privatisation is about selling our assets to business mates at a dishonest, knock-down price and relinquishing responsibilities governments should rightly maintain.

    Today’s Guardian reports that: “Cameron vows to end state services ‘monopoly'” Speaking as somebody who has worked for a for-profit company trying to deliver services to long-term unemployed people, profit and social work don’t mix well. What a load of discredited Thatcherite balderdash!

    No, first you have to prove that government is willing to do what governments are elected to do in a so-called democracy. If we don’t have accountability, we might as well call it a police state and downgrade their credentials to those of a Mubarak or a Suharto.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Pauline Maria wrote:

    Double whammy of legal corruption here with not only justice obstructed, police and lawyers have boasted of lying with innocent people in prison. When officials are abusing in this way this means that the power of authority is not the one that should be in place. Man Made laws have been created to exploit, abuse and to profit. Have to go back before Roman Law to see what happened. Salic Law prevented women inheriting the throne – we live in a Man’s world now and I look forward when all the corrupt officials cannot function in trusted roles – because in place there will be a structure that does not allow corrupt individuals to work. There are around 50,000 troops based in Iraq, and estimated around a million based internationally while US ‘protect the world’ – from terrorists.

    Projection does not exist in the psychological understanding of those who abuse. Cameron is a puppet who even uses Tony Blairs speeches written by a scriptwriter – except his are loaded on a teleprompter now. If he had any sense of leadership and integrity – he would bring an end to injustice. The next puppet is already being lined up – different faces, same agenda. Can of worms and anyone who supports war and so many violations to people, including promoting crime – corruption comes in many levels, is no one to trust. They are puppets who are paid to do a job. Perhaps they get a bonus at the end of term. John Major – on the board of the Carlile group now – no coincidence. Tony Blair lives in Jerusalem now – ‘the family’ still support him by providing police protection. The media spin works overtime and lawyers are like prostitutes, the pimp tells them not to touch real cases and they will not. Perhaps they would if they got paid more – but justice was never meant to be about profit. They have certainly refused to address corruption – Karma does not escape anyone.

    Btw Andy, all those contracts that are made with deception and fraud – they can all be legally made voidable. Just one subject area – I did a little research on Tesla – Any contract that is being made with relation to his contribution to the upliftment of human condition, also does not require people to pay. When greedy upstarts see their bank account filled with plenty of zeros before thinking about consequences, especially if this is to the detriment and death of other people, they become dangerous and a liability to humanity as a whole. All the clap trap about bringing troops home – people have been taken as fools for far too long. Also not only have many millions of Christians been murdered from the early church in the middle east (Jesus Christ decendants) and since in these years, the same continues, getting people in the West in UK and USA to go fight illegal wars. Abusers think they are untouchable. Anyone with a conscience would not even consider entering wars – it makes my stomach churn to listen to the term ‘war games’ – power games in the courtroom too. It seems as if the private corporations are handled by those who are ‘friends’ together. The cartels aim to control almost every area of consumerism and many areas are covered already. Manufacture – less than £1 a day in India and China for several years now. We do not get the savings.

    There is no Justice in UK – the legal business thrives with violating people who will pay the legal bill. Before Cameron entered office he was told to address corruption. Tony Blair was told three times with evidence and so was his wife asked to deal with human rights violation. Her chambers wrote to say they did not have the experience to advise – it is a crime to obstruct justice. The expenses fraud – nothing to do with him. A lady called Heather Brooke forced the issue and even she had fob offs but she went all the way to high court – risking everything she owned and she won. Cameron can stand in a church but his soul is not sincere for as long as justice in courts under any situation is obstructed!

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Jalal Ibn Sa’eed Mohabbat wrote:

    Thanks for the post bud.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Pauline Maria wrote:

    Btw I am extensively trained in the healing profession and know about the toxins, addictives and preservatives in food have consquences to the body – gm modified food too. Have known this since a small child. But also the phamaceutical industry is a multitrillion dollar industry – pharmaka in greek means sorcery. In ancient times, people did not take medications – a vast amount of women were killed accused of being witches – their land and wealth taken to pay the fines. I also have media blackout which is why I write very openly exposing global corruption and eveything I can see is going on. Keep up the excellent work.

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy tweeted and re-posted – excellent stuff. As for Sir Peter Gibson, if he accepts this job, if he fails to excuse himself from an obvious conflict of interest, this lack of discretion demonstrates that he was barely fit for the job he is already doing for the intelligence services.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Saleyha, Harsha, Willy, Pauline and Jalal.
    Saleyha, I’m glad you’re back. Do give me a ring. it will be good to catch up — and to share the rage.
    And Willy, yes, Gibson is obviously not “fir for purpose” — just a well-paid rubber-stamper, as Clive Stafford Smith recognized with his sharp assessment: “As the Intelligence Services Commissioner (ISC), it has been Sir Peter’s job for more than four years to oversee the Security Services,” and as a result “he cannot now be the judge of whether his own work was effective.”

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Mike Mizzi wrote:

    what more can you expect from tory scum?

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Pauline Maria wrote:

    They are all the same. Feel free to share this.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Mezentian Gate wrote:

    Should you be directing the inquiries to the Labour Party, in power from 1997 till 2010?
    they are the ones who approved the torture, not this coalition…who is guilty after the fact

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Regina Kaniewski wrote:

    that’s exactly the way way I feel about Cameron, Andy….an insult to our intelligence. he is not “fit for purpose” and like a little boy with a new toy. It is embarrassing. I am still waiting for a reply to the second of two letters on the subject of British complicity in torture from “the relevant Department” …but it will be hogwash just like the reply to my letter about Bradley Manning. Cameron is completely under the influence of the U.S. …what sort of politician would invite Schwarzenegger to speak to our MP s ?

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Lilia Patterson wrote:

    Andy, excellent job. It just goes to show that Cameron aims to hide any accountability under a veneer of activities by intelligence agencies as a reason to justify covering everything up under official secret acts. But when will the agencies have any accountability to the public, in particular when those secretive intelligence agencies more often than not end up working with private corporate companies, again who are not being held up to be accountable for their actions? Politicians, and intelligence agencies are meant to be working for the welfare of the people of the country that has elected them for office, in the first place.

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Mike, Mezentian, Regina, Lilia — and Pauline again. Great to hear from all of you.
    Mezentian, I agree with you regarding who was responsible for these crimes in the first place, although it’s noticeable that the Tories — with a very few exceptions (David Davis, Andrew Tyrie and a few others) — did nothing to oppose Labour’s close relationship with the US, and would, of course, have done the same themselves. It’s also worth noting that torture may still be happening, in the sense that British nationals may still be being seized in other countries and then “interrogated” by foreign intelligence services using torture and asking questions submitted by the British.
    Mainly, though, the Tories should have a thorough an open inquiry to avoid being contaminated by association, and a whitewash, sadly, just reinforces the notion that they’re complicit in hiding and approving crimes committed by the intelligence services.

  37. Jeffrey Kaye says...

    Great article, Andy, and a nice summary of the recent struggle surrounding the UK torture inquiry. As I wrote in a piece at Firedoglake, “UK Torture Inquiry Farce on Last Legs, While Rendition to “Killing” Remains Uninvestigated,” there’s much yet to be revealed. Or to put it from Cameron’s standpoint, much still to cover up.

    An example from my article, URL http://my.firedoglake.com/valtin/2011/07/06/uk-torture-inquiry-farce-on-last-legs-rendition-to-killing-remains-uninvestigated/

    “Last July, around the time the UK torture inquiry was first proposed, I broke the story that the revelations of UK cooperation with U.S. rendition policies included possible “rendition to killing.”

    Like much of what I report, the revelation was not consistent with the accepted narrative of what the U.S. media is allowed to report, so it was also ignored by the supposed alternative blogosphere, who mainly grubs after the crumbs that are begrudgingly reported by Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, or second-tier establishment-organs-cum-alternative-press like Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, or Salon.com. The mainstream press reports what government officials tell them, while the “alternative” press and bloggers report what academic and governmental dissidents say. Rarely is any real investigative work done.

    But this revelation was based on hard documentation, as reported in my July 14, 2010 article.

    A series of documents released on July 14 in the UK Binyam Mohamed civil case, Al Rawi and Others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Others, have produced a series of explosive revelations, reported in Britain and as yet unknown here in the U.S….

    Now, one of the most incendiary revelations in the documents concerns instructions given to MI6 Special Intelligence Service (SIS) over detention operations. According to Chapter 32 of MI6′s general procedural manual, “Detainees and Detention Operations”, “the following sensitivities arise” (PDF – bold emphasis added):

    a. the geographical destination of the target. Where will she or he be held? Under whose jurisdiction? *** Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation? *** [Emphasis added]

    b. what treatment regime(s) for the detainees can be expected?

    c. what is the legal basis for the detention?

    d. what is the role of any liaison partner who might be involved?

    The “objective” of “killing” points to the existence of extrajudicial murders carried out by the intelligence services. It’s not clear if the killings are by UK or liaison — including United States — forces. “Liaison partners” refers to instances of operational cooperation with non-UK intelligence agencies.”

    — Keep fighting, my international friends, for just as many of the Latin American torturers who tortured, murdered and disappeared thousands as part of the U.S.-backed and Chilean organized Operation Condor have later been prosecuted and brought to justice, the same can happen here. It takes will, and some political luck, perhaps, but it can be done.

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Jeff. I had considered cross-posting your article, but I got rather swamped, so thanks for those important excerpts.
    I was also impressed by your assault on the complacency of the media, leaving few journalists uncriticized: “The mainstream press reports what government officials tell them, while the ‘alternative’ press and bloggers report what academic and governmental dissidents say. Rarely is any real investigative work done.”
    Thanks for your investigative work — and although I felt a slight chill reading your words, reflecting on how many articles of mine are a response to news initially reported elsewhere, I then remembered that I am also involved in real investigative work!

  39. Jeffrey Kaye says...

    “…although I felt a slight chill reading your words, reflecting on how many articles of mine are a response to news initially reported elsewhere, I then remembered that I am also involved in real investigative work!”

    God, Andy. You have done more investigative work than almost anyone I know. Your middle name should be Sherlock. No one who writes regularly can help responding to or reporting upon what governmental figures say. It’s only when such journalist/bloggers ignore the investigations of people like yourself, or fail to investigate further themselves, taking the “spin” of spokespeople at their word, repeatedly, that my dander gets up.

    Anyway, I’m glad you recalled your work to yourself, and that chill blew away. Keep up the essential work you are doing, my friend.

  40. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Jeff. And goodnight, my friend. It’s 2.15 am here, and I need to accept that I’m not going to complete tonight the next 12 Guantanamo prisoner stories in my new 10-part series (adding information from the Detainee Assessment Briefs released by WikiLeaks to what was previously known). I should be able to complete it tomorrow.
    Thanks again for your words. Sometimes we rattle around in our own heads, while the egotists are on the airwaves …

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Thank you, Andy, I will share this article now. I deliberately left it for later days because it is important to remind people constantly how awful our government is regarding this investigation. The timing is also cleverly chosen; at the time when majority of our population lives in despair caused by Cameron’s brutal cuts. They have no time to think, question and analyze these very serious matters – breach of human rights, involvement of our government in torture of detainees. Thanks to our shameful media, who happily joined the campaign of disinformation, the word “terrorist” is drilled in our heads. An ability to even question the meaning of those phony ‘wars on terrorism’ is lost. That’s the result of a well orchestrated campaign, still on-going. I was appalled by the response of our Police when questioned yesterday why they didn’t stop phone-hacking as soon as they knew about it. The answer was – because they were busy dealing with terrorists. My alarm was immediately triggered, but many of us will swallow it as ‘truth’. The government is aware that jobless, impoverished and soon homeless nation is not aware or willing to know the meaning of ‘rendition’ and ‘extraordinary rendition’ with possibility of extra-judicial killing.

    Carry on, Andy, it is so important to continue to criticize our involvement in unjustified wars. Our primary responsibility as British citizens is to challenge our government’s complicity in torture of detainees. I can’t believe that our special relationship with the USA degrades us beyond repair.

  42. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Dejanka. That’s a powerful analysis, and I’m delighted that you’re so aware of what’s going on. A lot of education — and the waking up of those encouraged to slumber — is needed! Always good to hear from you.

  43. Ten NGOs Withdraw from UK Torture Inquiry, Citing Lack of Credibility and Transparency | The Global Realm says...

    [...] I reported last month, ten NGOs, including Amnesty International, Liberty and Reprieve, announced their [...]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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