Daily archives: June 10, 2007

Extraordinary Rendition Continued

As I have explained before, the effect of public outcry over extraordinary rendition has been to switch it to US military bases in the UK rather than our civilian airports. There is an excellent article in the Mail:

The picture that proves ‘torture flights’ are STILL landing in the UK



The row over CIA ‘torture flights’ using British airports has deepened following fresh evidence that a plane repeatedly linked to the controversial programme landed in the UK just days ago.

The plane was logged arriving at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk last weekend, and watching aviation experts said the aircraft, piloted by crew clad in desert fatigues, was immediately surrounded on the runway by armed American security forces.


Here is another one, by gambling millionaire Stuart Wheeler:

You might have thought torture happened only in the barbaric Middle Ages. But as renditions expert Stephen Grey and human rights organisation Amnesty have recently pointed out, it is happening right now with the full approval of a supposedly civilised nation: the United States.

The US has also sanctioned the shackling of prisoners’ limbs, the threat of dog attacks and the prolonged maintenance of stress positions or repetitive exercises while attacking China, Eritrea, Burma, Iran and Libya for carrying out those same abuses.


Both of which illustrate a vital point. The most important rift in British politics today is not between left and right, it is between authoritarians and libertarians, between those who support human and civil rights, and those who prefer “Strong government”. This fault line coincides closely with those who support, and those who oppose, the Iraq war, largely because both issues depend on the prior question “Is might always right?”.

I therefore have much more in common with the Mail and Mr Wheeler, with Ken Clarke, Malcolm Rifkind, Peter Hitchens and Michael Ancram than I do with John Reid, Gordon Brown, or Michael White. This question of liberty is a prior question – without liberty, you’re not allowed to disagree over economics. That is what poor, deluded Polly Toynbee has failed to grasp in her view that we should support Blair, no matter how many countries he invades or people he kills, because of his allegedly good child poverty policies.

Our parties are still structured around an economic fault, so now that authoritarianism has become the more crucial dividing line, they are all split. New Labour less so, because it has become a career vehicle of those attracted simply to personal power and wealth. It is fascinating how the old hard left of different varieties of communist – John Reid, Christopher Hitchens, David Aaronovitch, Melanie Phillips and their like – have taken so avidly to the new order. Of course, they never believed in liberty anyway. The Tories are – as Wheeler notes in his article – perhaps the most split. Every instinct of Ming Campbell is with the authoritarians; strangely that is true of most Lib Dem MPs, but few of their activists.

Meantime, a must see documentary from the great Stephen Grey on Channel 4 Dispatches on Monday evening at 8pm:

Dispatches: Kidnapped To Order

Dispatches exposes a new phase in America’s war on al Qaeda: the rendition and detention of women and children. Last year, President Bush confirmed the existence of a CIA secret detention programme but he refused to give details and said it was over.

Dispatches reveals new evidence confirming fiercely-denied reports that many of the CIA captives were held and interrogated in Europe. Those prisons may now be closed but the programme is by no means over, it’s just changed. A new front has opened up in the Horn of Africa and America has outsourced its renditions to its allies.

Reporter Stephen Grey (author of Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Programme) investigates America’s global sweep for prisoners ‘ obtaining exclusive interviews with former detainees who claim they have been kidnapped and flown halfway across the world to face torture by America’s allies.

The film opens with an examination of the most notorious rendition story to date ‘ the kidnap of Egyptian cleric Abu Omar. This month in Italy the trial opens of twenty-five CIA officers accused of snatching Omar from the streets of Milan in broad daylight and flying him to Cairo four years ago. Grey travels to Egypt to secure an exclusive interview with Omar who defies the warnings of his interrogators not to speak publicly about his treatment. He details the torture that was inflicted upon him in his fourteen-month detention and the number of other ‘ghost detainees’ he encountered – people who are being held in secret, without charge.

This coincides with the BBC documentary on the BAE bribes, so check your recorder is working now. And if you read only one book this year make it Grey’s Ghost Plane.

View with comments

Extraordinary Rendition and the Negligence of Political Policemen

Our highly politicised police have issued a statement claiming there is “No evidence” of extraordinary rendition flights using the UK while transporting prisoners. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/09/nflight109.xml This parrots the exact phraseology used by Jack Straw http://www.channel4.com/more4/news/news-opinion-feature.jsp?id=80 and Tony Blair http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1716238,00.html.

This careful coincidence of wording, together with the timing of the Association of Chief Polce Officers’ statement to coincide with the Council of Europe’s detailed and damning report on extraordinary rendition, shows just how NuLab has politicised the police.

The Council of Europe report is careful, detailed and stunning. http://assembly.coe.int:80/CommitteeDocs/2007/EMarty_20070608_NoEmbargo.pdf The author, Dick Marty, is a senior Swiss judge who has conducted important terrorism trials. He knows evidence when he sees it. I was a witness before his committee.

It is worth reporting his conclusions:

It is my sincere hope that my report this year will catalyse a renewed appreciation of the moral quagnire into which we have collectively sunk as a result of the US-led “War on Terror”. Almost six years in, we appear no closer to pulling ourselves out of this quagmire, partly because of the lack of factual clarity – perpetuated by secrecy, cover-up and dishonesty – about the exact practices in which the US and its allies have engaged, and partly because of a lack of urgency and political will on both sides of the Atlantic to unite around consensus solutions.

By clarifying some of the unspoked truths that have previously held us back in this exercise, I hope I have spurred right-minder Americans and Europeans alike into realising that our common values, in tandem with our common security, depend on our uniting to end the abusive practices inherent in US policies like the “High-Value Detainee” programme.

In the UK we are still stuck in

secrecy, cover-up and dishonesty

as witness the fact that the terse denial by ACPO got more, and more favourable, media coverage in the UK than the Swiss judge’s 368 paragraphs of carefully weighed evidence.

Of course, the reason the British police have “No evidence” is that they have steadfastly refused to look for any. When the CIA flights have landed for refuelling at British airports they were registered as normal civilian flights. On board sometimes were prisoners: held under no lawful authority, shackled, blindfold, beaten , drugged and tortured. Even when there were no prisoners, on board were shackles, weapons, drugs and other illegal equipment. The police had every lawful authority to search while these planes were on the ground in the UK (I used to be the number 2 in the FCO’s Aviation and Maritime Department).

Not only that, but on numerous occasions the police had the aircraft actually pointed out to them by protestors. Of the hundreds of documented occasions when the CIA torture flights came through the UK, not once – NOT ONCE – did a British police officer go on board to look. And now they say they have no evidence! It makes me sick.

I was a witness before the Council of Europe inquiry. I should have happily been a witness for the SOCPA enquiries, only of course they didn’t really make any.

View with comments