New Extraordinary Rendition Memo: Have the Lying Liars been Caught in the Lies they Tell? *UPDATED*
From a Foreign Office Briefing Paper for Number 10 - on where they think they stand on rendition, and how to
cover up deal with the issue
[via the Guardian]
A hidden strategy aimed at suppressing a debate about rendition - the US practice of transporting detainees to secret centres where they are at risk of being tortured - is revealed in a briefing paper sent by the Foreign Office to No 10.
The document shows that the government has been aware of secret interrogation centres, despite ministers' denials. It admits that the government has no idea whether individuals seized by British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan have been sent to the secret centres.
Dated December 7 last year, the document is a note from Irfan Siddiq, of the foreign secretary's private office, to Grace Cassy in Tony Blair's office. It was obtained by the New Statesman magazine, whose latest issue is published today.
It was drawn up in response to a Downing Street request for advice "on substance and handling" of the controversy over CIA rendition flights and allegations of Britain's connivance in the practice.
"We should try to avoid getting drawn on detail," Mr Siddiq writes, "and to try to move the debate on, in as front foot a way we can, underlining all the time the strong anti-terrorist rationale for close cooperation with the US, within our legal obligations."
The document advises the government to rely on a statement by Condoleezza Rice last month when the US secretary of state said America did not transport anyone to a country where it believed they would be tortured and that "where appropriate", Washington would seek assurances.
The document notes: "We would not want to cast doubt on the principle of such government-to-government assurances, not least given our own attempts to secure these from countries to which we wish to deport their nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism: Algeria etc."
The document says that in the most common use of the term - namely, involving real risk of torture - rendition could never be legal. It also says that the US emphasised torture but not "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment", which binds Britain under the European convention on human rights. British courts have adopted a lower threshold of what constitutes torture than the US has.
The note includes questions and answers on a number of issues. "Would cooperating with a US rendition operation be illegal?", it asks, and gives the response: "Where we have no knowledge of illegality but allegations are brought to our attention, we ought to make reasonable enquiries".
It asks: "How do we know whether those our armed forces have helped to capture in Iraq or Afghanistan have subsequently been sent to interrogation centres?"
The reply given is: "Cabinet Office is researching this with MoD [Ministry of Defence]. But we understand the basic answer is that we have no mechanism for establishing this, though we would not ourselves question such detainees while they were in such facilities".
Ministers have persistently taken the line, in answers to MPs' questions, that they were unaware of CIA rendition flights passing through Britain or of secret interrogation centres.
Move along, Move along, Nothing to see here...
So, they are pretty sure it is illegal, they don't know if it has been going on here, and intend to keep working on maintaining their ignorance, and they know they are fucked if they are pursued on the detail.
Listen to the Newsnight Report on the New Statesman memo here. [LoFi mp3 clip]
Then Check out the Bliar's Lies here.
As for Jack Straw's little fibs, well, take your pick.
This one is one of my favourites. It's taken from his uncorrected oral evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee on 13.12.05. Classic Jackspeak:
I do not think it would be justified. While we are on this point, Chairman, can I say this? Some of the reports which are given credibility, including one this morning on the Today programme, are in the realms of the fantastic.
For the rest, it looks like we will have to wait for the New Statesman.
The memo is posted here.