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Classified documents reveal UK's role in abuse of its own citizens
Quote:Classified documents reveal UK's role in abuse of its own citizens

Previously secret papers show true extent of involvement in abduction and torture following al-Qaida attacks of 2001

The true extent of the Labour government's involvement in the illegal abduction and torture of its own citizens after the al-Qaida attacks of September 2001 has been spelled out in stark detail with the disclosure during high court proceedings of a mass of highly classified documents.

Previously secret papers that have been disclosed include a number implicating Tony Blair's office in many of the events that are to be the subject of the judicial inquiry that David Cameron announced last week.

Among the most damning documents are a series of interrogation reports from MI5 officers that betray their disregard for the suffering a British resident whom they were questioning at a US airbase in Afghanistan. The documents also show that the officers were content to see the mistreatment continue.

One of the most startling documents is chapter 32 of MI6's general procedural manual, entitled "Detainees and Detention Operations", which advises officers that among the "particular sensitivities" they need to consider before becoming directly involved in an operation to detain a terrorism suspect is the question of whether "detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation".

Other disclosed documents show how:

• The Foreign Office decided in January 2002 that the transfer of British citizens from Afghanistan to Guantánamo was its "preferred option".

• Jack Straw asked for that rendition to be delayed until MI5 had been able to interrogate those citizens.

• Downing Street was said to have overruled FO attempts to provide a British citizen detained in Zambia with consular support in an attempt to prevent his return to the UK, with the result that he too was "rendered" to Guantánamo.

The papers have been disclosed as a result of civil proceedings brought by six former Guantánamo inmates against MI5 and MI6, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, and the Attorney General's Office, which they allege were complicit in their illegal detention and torture.

The government has been responding to disclosure requests by maintaining that it has identified up to 500,000 documents that may be relevant, and says it has deployed 60 lawyers to scrutinise them, a process that it suggests could take until the end of the decade. It has failed to hand over many of the documents that the men's lawyers have asked for, and on Friday failed to meet a deadline imposed by the high court for the disclosure of the secret interrogation policy that governed MI5 and MI6 officers between 2004 and earlier this year.

So far just 900 papers have been disclosed, and these have included batches of press cuttings and copies of government reports that were published several years ago. However, a number of highly revealing documents are among the released papers, as well as fragments of heavily censored emails, memos and policy documents.

Some are difficult to decipher, but together they paint a picture of a government that was determined not only to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States as it embarked upon its programme of "extraordinary rendition" and torture of terrorism suspects in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but to actively participate in that programme.

In May, after the appeal court dismissed attempts to suppress evidence of complicity in their mistreatment, the government indicated that it would attempt to settle out of court.

Today the government failed in an attempt to bring a temporary halt to the proceedings that have resulted in the disclosure of the documents. Its lawyers argued that the case should be delayed while attempts were made to mediate with the six men, in the hope that their claims could be withdrawn in advance of the judicial inquiry. Lawyers for the former Guantánamo inmates said it was far from certain that mediation would succeed, and insisted the disclosure process continue.

In rejecting the government's application, the court said it had considered the need for its lawyers to press ahead with the task of processing the 500,000 documents in any event, as the cases of the six men are among those that will be considered by the inquiry headed by Sir Peter Gibson. Last week, in announcing the inquiry, Cameron told MPs: "This inquiry will be able to look at all the information relevant to its work, including secret information. It will have access to all relevant government papers – including those held by the intelligence services."

Cameron also made clear that the sort of material that has so far been made public with the limited disclosure in the Guantánamo cases would be kept firmly under wraps during the inquiry. "Let's be frank, it is not possible to have a full public inquiry into something that is meant to be secret," he said. "So any intelligence material provided to the inquiry panel will not be made public and nor will intelligence officers be asked to give evidence in public."

The coalition government is anxious to draw a line under what is currently described in Whitehall as "detainee legacy issues". It hopes that mediation, followed by the inquiry, will lift the burden of litigation that it is currently facing while restoring public confidence in MI5 and MI6.

It also wishes to preserve what it calls "liaison relationships" – operational links with overseas intelligence agencies, including those known to use torture – on the grounds that they are a vital part of the country's counterterrorism strategy.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
Quote:Covert words that paint a vivid picture of complicity in torture

Foreign Office and No 10 interventions revealed

Emails and memos began months after September 11

Ian Cobain and Owen Bowcott,

Wednesday 14 July 2010 20.43 BST

Early January 2002. The Taliban regime in Kabul had been toppled, Nato forces were spreading out across Afghanistan, and the initial military response to the events of September 11 appeared to be running smoothly.

But in Whitehall – and particularly at the Foreign Office – there were the first signs of nervousness over the proposed manner of dealing with one problem that had arisen in the country: a small number of British citizens and residents, all Muslims, had been detained by US forces.

A mass of documents disclosed during high court proceedings show how rapidly the government became involved in the abduction and torture of these individuals in its attempts to secure the UK against attack by al-Qaida.

They also appear to show how little regard was given within the government to the illegality of its own actions.

On 4 January 2002, a memo circulated to the secretaries of the junior Foreign Office ministers Ben Bradshaw and Lady Amos, as well as to the Foreign Office press office and the department's senior legal adviser, Sir Michael Wood, notes: "Public opinion has on the whole shown little concern about the welfare of the British detainees, or the legal terms of their detention. But the issue is clearly of sensitivity to Muslim opinion in the UK and abroad."

It adds that the FCO should be "seen as applying our normal standards of consular assistance as far as possible". Consular officials had not seen these detainees, however, and "our holding line, that we are first seeking to establish identity details, is wearing thin", not least because extensive reports about one individual had already appeared in the press.

At this time, the fact that "rendition" – abducting an individual and moving them against their will from one country to another – was illegal appears not to have been a concern. A document disclosed by the Foreign Office, dated 10 January 2002 and entitled Afghanistan UK Detainees, expresses the government's "preferred options". It states: "Transfer of United Kingdom nationals held by US forces in Afghanistan to a United States base in Guantánamo is the best way to meet our counter-terrorism objectives, to ensure they are securely held." The "only alternative", the document adds, would be to place these individuals in the custody of British forces in Afghanistan, or to return them to the UK.

At around the same time Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, was sending a telegram to several British diplomatic missions around the world in which he signalled his agreement with this policy, but made clear that he did not wish to see the British nationals moved from Afghanistan before they could be interrogated.

"A specialist team is currently in Afghanistan seeking to interview any detainees with a UK connection to obtain information on their terrorist activities and connections," Straw wrote.

"We therefore hope that all those detainees they wish to interview will remain in Afghanistan and will not be among the first groups to be transferred to Guantánamo. A week's delay should suffice. UK nationals should be transferred as soon as possible thereafter."

In the event, the "interview" process in Afghanistan took considerably longer. The manner in which some were conducted is revealed within the reports that an MI5 officer sent to London after each of his encounters with Omar Deghayes, a Libyan-born British resident who was being held at the US air base at Bagram, north of Kabul, in June and July that year. Deghayes is one of the men currently suing the government.

The MI5 interrogators were clearly aware of the manner in which Deghayes was being mistreated. Their only emotional reaction to his plight appears to have been disgust at his physical condition. Considering him to be insufficiently forthcoming, they decided to abandon him to further treatment at US hands.

Some of the disclosed documents are fragmentary and partially intelligible.

Much to the anger of lawyers representing those men suing the government, a number have been blacked out completely, leaving only a date.

A page of one document bears the MI5 letter head and logo, but has been so heavily redacted that only one word, "conclusion", remains visible. Among the papers is a handwritten note, headed "Warriors 14/1", that appears to relate to the state of a detainee in Afghanistan. It states: "Interview conditions: cold beaten up." According to one of the claimants' lawyers it dates from a period when MI5 officers were interviewing detainees in Kabul. The note appears to end with a list of options which includes "collusive deportation extradition".

There is a clear account of the fate of Martin Mubanga, another of the men suing the government, despite the large amounts of black ink that were used to conceal parts of the documents relating to his case before they were handed over.

A joint Zambian-British citizen, Mubanga travelled after 9/11 from Afghanistan to Zambia, where he was detained in March 2002 by Zambian officials accompanied by Americans. A number of messages between the British high commission in Lusaka and the Foreign Office in London show that Blair's office had decided that "under no circumstances should Mubanga be allowed to return to the UK". Should consular officials obtain access, however, there was a danger that the Zambians would hand Mubanga over to the British.

The exchanges become increasingly irate, with one official complaining about "the schizophrenic way in which policy on this whole case was handled in London": one half of the Foreign Office was insisting that Mubanga was entitled to consular assistance, and the other half was saying it should not take responsibility for him.

It had put the British high commission in Lusaka "in an impossible position", and there was a need for "co-ordinated thinking" to avoid such problems arising in future.

The documents show that there had been a proposal to put Mubanga on trial in the UK, but as a consequence of the British decision to wash their hands of him he was flown to Guantánamo, where he spent the next 33 months.

It was not the only time the prime minister's office intervened to thwart attempts by Foreign Office officials to obtain a degree of protection for British citizens, according to the documents.

Minutes prepared for the Home Office terrorism and protection unit after a meeting in April 2002 of officials including John Gieve, the Home Office permanent under-secretary, state that the American authorities had been informed that the British government might begin making public requests for legal access to British men held at Guantánamo. "FCO had wanted to do this (and wanted to be seen to be doing it) but had been overruled by No 10," the minutes say.

The same minutes show that while consideration was being given to the prosecution in the UK of some individuals in Afghanistan, David Blunkett, home secretary, warned there would be questions about the public interest in prosecuting "young and ill-informed individuals who may have been manipulated by others".

Missing from the documents so far disclosed is a copy of the secret policy that governed MI5 and MI6 officers interrogating detainees held overseas between mid-2004 and earlier this month, when it was revised on the orders of the coalition government.

The court had ordered that it be handed over by last Friday, but it failed to materialise. Instead, lawyers for the six men were given the chapter from MI6's manual that deals with detainee operations. This explains that MI6 officers are involved in detaining suspects or helping others do so; interviewing; and preparing reports based on details passed by overseas agencies.

When detaining suspects themselves, officers should consult superiors and consider where the detainee will be held and how they will be treated. There is another consideration. "Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the object of the operation?" the manual asks.

This document was handed over instead of one that is known to be extraordinarily sensitive. Ministers of the last government repeatedly insisted that the secret interrogation policy of recent years should never be made public.

The former foreign secretary David Miliband even indicated to a Commons select committee that to do so would "give succour" to the nation's enemies.


The black ink that obscures parts of Security Service and Foreign Office papers has frustrated lawyers for the six claimants. Known as redactions, the boxes hide information deemed too sensitive to release on national security grounds. Sapna Malik, representing Binyam Mohamed, complains that they make it hard to reach a settlement and avoid protracted litigation. Any assessment is made "very difficult by the limited nature of the disclosure provided to date, the heavy redaction of the handful of potentially relevant documents … and the refusal of the [government] to provide meaningful answers to the claimants' requests for further information".

Nonetheless, despite so much being withheld, the release of security service reports of interviews with detainees in Guantánamo Bay and other overseas detention centres is almost unprecedented.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war

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