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UK's secret policy on torture revealed
#1
UK's secret policy on torture revealed
Exclusive: Document shows intelligence officers instructed to weigh importance of information sought against pain inflicted
Ian Cobain
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 4 August 2011 12.42 BST
Article history

A number of men said they were questioned by MI5 and MI6 officers after being tortured at Guantánamo Bay. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
A top-secret document revealing how MI6 and MI5 officers were allowed to extract information from prisoners being illegally tortured overseas has been seen by the Guardian.

The interrogation policy details of which are believed to be too sensitive to be publicly released at the government inquiry into the UK's role in torture and rendition instructed senior intelligence officers to weigh the importance of the information being sought against the amount of pain they expected a prisoner to suffer. It was operated by the British government for almost a decade.

A copy of the secret policy showed senior intelligence officers and ministers feared the British public could be at greater risk of a terrorist attack if Islamists became aware of its existence.

One section states: "If the possibility exists that information will be or has been obtained through the mistreatment of detainees, the negative consequences may include any potential adverse effects on national security if the fact of the agency seeking or accepting information in those circumstances were to be publicly revealed.

"For instance, it is possible that in some circumstances such a revelation could result in further radicalisation, leading to an increase in the threat from terrorism."

The policy adds that such a disclosure "could result in damage to the reputation of the agencies", and that this could undermine their effectiveness.

The fact that the interrogation policy document and other similar papers may not be made public during the inquiry into British complicity in torture and rendition has led to human rights groups and lawyers refusing to give evidence or attend any meetings with the inquiry team because it does not have "credibility or transparency".

The decision by 10 groups including Liberty, Reprieve and Amnesty International follows the publication of the inquiry's protocols, which show the final decision on whether material uncovered by the inquiry, led by Sir Peter Gibson, can be made public will rest with the cabinet secretary.

The inquiry will begin after a police investigation into torture allegations has been completed.

Some have criticised the appointment of Gibson, a retired judge, to head the inquiry because he previously served as the intelligence services commissioner, 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. The government denies there is a conflict of interest.

The protocols also stated that former detainees and their lawyers will not be able to question intelligence officials and that all evidence from current or former members of the security and intelligence agencies, below the level of head, will be heard in private.

The document seen by the Guardian shows how the secret interrogation policy operated until it was rewritten on the orders of the coalition government last July.

It also:

Acknowledged that MI5 and MI6 officers could be in breach of both UK and international law by asking for information from prisoners held by overseas agencies known to use torture.

Explained the need to obtain political cover for any potentially criminal act by consulting ministers beforehand.

The secret interrogation policy was first passed to MI5 and MI6 officers in Afghanistan in January 2002 to enable them to continue questioning prisoners whom they knew were being mistreated by members of the US military.

It was amended slightly later that year before being rewritten and expanded in 2004 after it became apparent that a significant number of British Muslims, radicalised by the invasion of Iraq, were planning attacks against the UK.

The policy was amended again in July 2006 during an investigation of a suspected plot to bring down airliners over the Atlantic.

Entitled "Agency policy on liaison with overseas security and intelligence services in relation to detainees who may be subject to mistreatment", it was given to intelligence officers handing over questions to be put to detainees.

Separate policy documents were issued for related matters, including intelligence officers conducting face-to-face interrogations.

The document set out the international and domestic law on torture, and explained that MI5 and MI6 do not "participate in, encourage or condone" either torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.

Intelligence officers were instructed not to carry out any action "which it is known" would result in torture. However, they could proceed when they foresaw "a real possibility their actions will result in an individual's mistreatment" as long as they first sought assurances from the overseas agency.

Even when such assurances were judged to be worthless, officers could be given permission to proceed despite the real possibility that they would committing a crime and that a prisoner or prisoners would be tortured.

"When, not withstanding any caveats or prior assurances, there is still considered to be a real possibility of mistreatment and therefore there is considered to be a risk that the agencies' actions could be judged to be unlawful, the actions may not be taken without authority at a senior level. In some cases, ministers may need to be consulted," the document said.

In deciding whether to give permission, senior MI5 and MI6 management "will balance the risk of mistreatment and the risk that the officer's actions could be judged to be unlawful against the need for the proposed action".

At this point, "the operational imperative for the proposed action, such as if the action involves passing or obtaining life-saving intelligence" would be weighed against "the level of mistreatment anticipated and how likely those consequences are".

Ministers may be consulted over "particularly difficult cases", with the process of consulting being "designed to ensure that appropriate visibility and consideration of the risk of unlawful actions takes place". All such operations must remain completely secret or they could put UK interests and British lives at risk.

Disclosure of the contents of the document appears to help explain the high degree of sensitivity shown by ministers and former ministers after the Guardian became aware of its existence two years ago.

Tony Blair evaded a series of questions over the role he played in authorising changes to the instructions in 2004, while the former home secretary David Blunkett maintained it was potentially libellous even to ask him questions about the matter.

As foreign secretary, David Miliband told MPs the secret policy could never be made public as "nothing we publish must give succour to our enemies".

Blair, Blunkett and the former foreign secretary Jack Straw also declined to say whether or not they were aware that the instructions had led to a number of people being tortured.

The head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, said that, in the post 9/11 world, his officers would be derelict in their duty if they did not work with intelligence agencies in countries with poor human rights records, while his opposite number at MI6, Sir John Sawers, spoke of the "real, constant, operational dilemmas" involved in such relationships.

Others, however, are questioning whether in the words of Ken Macdonald, a former director of public prosecutions, "Tony Blair's government was guilty of developing something close to a criminal policy".

The Intelligence and Security Committee, the group of parliamentarians appointed by the prime minister to assist with the oversight of the UK's intelligence agencies, is known to have examined the document while sitting in secret, but it is unclear what if any suggestions or complaints it made.

Paul Murphy, the Labour MP and former minister who chaired the committee in 2006, declined to answer questions about the matter.

A number of men, mostly British Muslims, have complained that they were questioned by MI5 and MI6 officers after being tortured by overseas intelligence officials in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. Some are known to have been detained at the suggestion of British intelligence officers.

Others say they were tortured in places such as Egypt, Dubai, Morocco and Syria, while being interrogated on the basis of information that could only have been supplied by the UK.

A number were subsequently convicted of serious terrorism offences or subjected to control orders. Others returned to the UK and, after treatment, resumed their lives.

One is a businessman in Yorkshire, another a software designer living in Berkshire, and a third is a doctor practising on the south coast of England.

Some have brought civil proceedings against the British government, and a number have received compensation in out-of-court settlements, but others remain too scared to take legal action.

Scotland Yard has examined the possibility that one officer from MI5 and a second from MI6 committed criminal offences while extracting information from detainees overseas, and detectives are now conducting what is described as a "wider investigation into other potential criminal conduct".

A new set of instructions was drafted after last year's election, published on the orders of David Cameron, on the grounds that the coalition was "determined to resolve the problems of the past" and wished to give "greater clarity about what is and what is not acceptable in the future".

Human rights groups pointed to what they said were serious loopholes that could permit MI5 and MI6 officers to remain involved in the torture of prisoners overseas.

Last week, the high court heard a challenge to the legality of the new instructions, brought by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Judgment is expected later in the year.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#2
Tony Blair knew of secret policy on terror interrogations

Letter reveals former PM was aware of guidance to UK agents

Ian Cobain
The Guardian, Thursday 18 June 2009


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, the Guardian can reveal.

The policy, devised in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, offered *guidance to MI5 and MI6 officers *questioning detainees in Afghanistan who they knew were being mistreated by the US military.

British intelligence officers were given written instructions that they could not "be seen to condone" torture and that they must not "engage in any activity yourself that involves inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners".

But they were also told they were not under any obligation to intervene to prevent detainees from being mistreated.

"Given that they are not within our *custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this," the policy said.

The policy almost certainly breaches international human rights law, according to Philippe Sands QC, one of the world's leading experts in the field, because it takes no account of Britain's obligations to avoid complicity in torture under the UN convention against torture. Despite this, the secret policy went on to underpin British intelligence's *relationships with a number of foreign intelligence agencies which had become the UK's allies in the "war against terror".

The policy was set out in written instructions sent to MI5 and MI6 officers in January 2002, which told them they might consider complaining to US officials about the mistreatment of detainees "if circumstances allow".

Blair indicated his awareness of the existence of the policy in the middle of 2004, a few weeks after publication of photographs depicting the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

It was around this time, David *Miliband, the foreign secretary, told MPs on *Tuesday, that the policy was changed, becoming more "comprehensive and formal".

In a letter to the intelligence and *security committee (ISC), the group of MPs and peers that provides political *oversight of the UK's security and *intelligence *services, on May 24 2004, Blair said that rather than considering making a *complaint, "UK intelligence personnel interviewing or witnessing the interviews of detainees are instructed to report if they believe detainees are being treated in an inhumane or degrading way".

The Guardian has learned from a *reliable source that MI5 officers are now instructed that if a detainee tells them that he or she is being tortured they should never return to question that person.

It remains unclear what Blair knew of the policy's consequences. The Guardian has repeatedly asked him what role he played in approving the policy, whether he was aware that it had led to people being tortured, and whether he made any attempt to change it.

His spokesman said: "It is completely untrue that Mr Blair has ever authorised the use of torture. He is opposed to it in all circumstances. Neither has he ever been complicit in the use of torture.

"For the record, also, Mr Blair believes that our security services do a superb job of protecting our country in difficult *circumstances and that it is not surprising following the attacks of September 11 2001 that there was a heightened sense of the dangers the country faced from terrorism. None of this amounts to condoning the use of torture."

When the Guardian pointed out to Blair that it had not suggested he had authorised the use of torture, but had asked whether he had played any role in the approval of a policy that led to people being tortured, his spokesman replied: "Tony Blair does not condone torture, has never authorised it nor colluded in it at any time." But there is growing evidence of MI5's *collusion in the torture of British *terrorism suspects in Pakistan, where officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence *directorate (ISI), an agency whose routine use of *torture has been widely documented, were asked by MI5 to detain British *citizens and put questions to them prior to an *interrogation by MI5 officers.

Two high court judges say they have seen "powerful evidence" of the torture of Binyam Mohamed, the British *resident who returned from Guantánamo Bay in February, before he was questioned by an MI5 officer in May 2002.

In a separate case, a court has heard that MI5 and Greater Manchester police drew up a list of questions to be put to another man, Rangzieb Ahmed, who was detained by the ISI in August 2006, despite having reason to believe that he was in danger of being tortured.

By the time Ahmed was deported to the UK after a lengthy period of unlawful detention three of his *fingernails were missing.

Several other men have come forward to say they were questioned by British intelligence officers after suffering brutal torture at the hands of Pakistani agents, and there have been similar allegations of British collusion in the torture of *British citizens in Egypt, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates.

While a small number of the victims were subsequently tried and convicted in the UK, most were released without charge.

International concern about *Britain's involvement in torture has been *mounting for some time. In February Martin Scheinin, a UN special rapporteur on human rights, reported that British intelligence *personnel had "interviewed detainees who were held incommunicado by the Pakistani ISI in so-called safe houses, where they were being tortured".

Scheinin added that this "can be *reasonably understood as implicitly condoning torture."

In March, after the Guardian disclosed the existence of the interrogation policy, and reported on the growing number of allegations of British collusion in torture, Gordon Brown announced that the policy was to be rewritten by the ISC.

In what was seen at Westminster as an acknowledgement that the secret policy had been open to abuse, Brown also pledged that the rewritten policy would be made public and that a former appeal court judge would monitor the *intelligence agencies' compliance with it, and report to the prime minister each year.

On Tuesday Miliband said the existing policy, as amended in 2004, would not be published.

But the discovery that Blair was aware of the secret interrogation policy appears certain to fuel the growing demand for an independent inquiry into aspects of the UK's role in torture and rendition.

So far, those who have called for such an inquiry include the Conservative and Liberal *Democrat leaders David *Cameron and Nick Clegg; Ken Macdonald, a former director of public prosecutions; Lord *Carlile of Berriew, the government's *independent reviewer of counter-*terrorism *legislation; Lord Howe, who was foreign secretary between 1983 and 1989 in the Thatcher government; and Lord Guthrie, a former chief of defence staff.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#3
The detail of the game is fascinating.

Supposedly ethical controls are put in place which can be easily overridden, even when it is known that torture is likely to be the result.

So far, it's just a game of ensuring legal cover for the British state.

However, the spooks - presumably - then insist upon the power to "consult ministers" in difficult cases.

Thus the politicians are made complicit and cannot blame any torture "scandals" on a "rogue intelligence agent".

Ultimately, though, both spooks and politicians must remain committed to Omerta, otherwise they'll both end up in an International Human Rights or War Crimes court.

Milliband Major, the jilted elder brother and Blair Heir who was passed over, also reveals why the British deep state regards him as such an excellent candidate for PM:
"As foreign secretary, David Miliband told MPs the secret policy could never be made public as "nothing we publish must give succour to our enemies"."

Flexible morality: the hallmark of any political leader.

Quote:Intelligence officers were instructed not to carry out any action "which it is known" would result in torture. However, they could proceed when they foresaw "a real possibility their actions will result in an individual's mistreatment" as long as they first sought assurances from the overseas agency.

Even when such assurances were judged to be worthless, officers could be given permission to proceed despite the real possibility that they would committing a crime and that a prisoner or prisoners would be tortured.

"When, not withstanding any caveats or prior assurances, there is still considered to be a real possibility of mistreatment and therefore there is considered to be a risk that the agencies' actions could be judged to be unlawful, the actions may not be taken without authority at a senior level. In some cases, ministers may need to be consulted," the document said.

In deciding whether to give permission, senior MI5 and MI6 management "will balance the risk of mistreatment and the risk that the officer's actions could be judged to be unlawful against the need for the proposed action".

At this point, "the operational imperative for the proposed action, such as if the action involves passing or obtaining life-saving intelligence" would be weighed against "the level of mistreatment anticipated and how likely those consequences are".

Ministers may be consulted over "particularly difficult cases", with the process of consulting being "designed to ensure that appropriate visibility and consideration of the risk of unlawful actions takes place". All such operations must remain completely secret or they could put UK interests and British lives at risk.

Disclosure of the contents of the document appears to help explain the high degree of sensitivity shown by ministers and former ministers after the Guardian became aware of its existence two years ago.

Tony Blair evaded a series of questions over the role he played in authorising changes to the instructions in 2004, while the former home secretary David Blunkett maintained it was potentially libellous even to ask him questions about the matter.

As foreign secretary, David Miliband told MPs the secret policy could never be made public as "nothing we publish must give succour to our enemies".

Blair, Blunkett and the former foreign secretary Jack Straw also declined to say whether or not they were aware that the instructions had led to a number of people being tortured.
"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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