Complicit by Inaction: Jack Straw in ‘rendition flights’ probe

From IOL

London – Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was hit with a new probe Thursday into how much he and the government knew about alleged US “extraordinary rendition” flights of suspected terrorists.

Members of parliament dissatisfied with Straw’s previous statements on the controversial issue submitted a series of questions in the lower House of Commons and are demanding a fuller response.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government said Monday it had found no evidence of any American requests to fly terror suspects through Britain since September 11, 2001.

It has also repeatedly stated its opposition to torture, but Blair flatly refused Wednesday to query every US government flight coming into and leaving Britain, dismissing the suggestion as “completely absurd”.

MP Andrew Tyrie, from the main opposition Conservatives, said there was a “real risk” the government could find itself “complicit by inaction”.

“Turning a blind eye becomes something more than negligence and may be shown to be unlawful,” he told a London news conference.

He also called for the Security and Intelligence Committee, made up of senior MPs to investigate issues of national security, to look into the affair, which has concerned human rights groups and several European Union countries.

Lynne Jones, a rebel MP from Blair’s ruling Labour Party, said: “The longer this goes on, the more the government is brought into disrepute.

“It would be better if the government showed it was taking this seriously and investigating properly, rather than raising smokescreens.”

The questions ask Straw to specify whether the White House was asked why detainees were transferred to countries known to commit torture and to state how many transfers took place through British airspace.

Others include whether “blanket permission” had been granted for “extraordinary rendition” flights and if Straw’s check of flight records encompassed landings at military airfields and other private facilities.

It also called for the criteria under which it would refuse access to British facilities and airspace to be published.

Washington has come under fire over the last six weeks from reports about hundreds of Central Intelligence Agency flights, suspected of carrying undeclared prisoners across European airspace, since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.