Today’s GuardianAmerica carries a story about US flights on “extraordinary rendition” missions—i.e. transporting terrorist suspects to and from secret prisons where “enhanced interrogation,” aka torture, was used—that had twice landed on British soil. Tony Blair’s government had assured Britons that no such flights had ever landed on British soil, that Britain had not participated in the US “extraordinary rendition” activities.
The report leaves some important questions unasked.
The only explanation given as to why and how this information is coming to light now: “The foreign secretary said an “error in the earlier US records search meant that these cases did not come to light”. [My emphasis.] There’s no indication of which bureaucracy made the error in searching US records. Was it the Pentagon? State Department? White House? CIA? And beyond records, there were people in both the US and UK governments who had to have known about the flights landing on British soil. Who were they? Bush? Cheney? Blair? Straw?
So we have an important piece of information that has come to light, but there is nothing yet as to who should be held accountable for its having been buried until now. In other words, here’s a classic example of bureaucracy as “rule by no one.”
Here’s a link to the Guardian story, followed by an excerpt:
Gordon Brown, speaking in Brussels, said he shared “the disappointment that everybody has” about the rendition flights issue.
The prime minister told reporters: “We have just been informed by the United States of America about what has actually happened. The US has expressed regret for us not knowing about this issue. We share the disappointment that everybody has about what’s actually happened.”
There have been long-standing suspicions that the CIA has used one of its so-called “black site” prisons on Diego Garcia, home to a large US military base, to hold suspects, although Miliband today assured MPs that no US detainees have ever been held on Diego Garcia.
Miliband has been told by the US that neither of the men in the rendition flight to Diego Garcia was British. One is currently in Guantánamo Bay and the other has been released.
The foreign secretary said an “error in the earlier US records search meant that these cases did not come to light”.
Reprieve, a legal charity that represents a number of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, has in the past accused the government of cooperating with the US on extraordinary rendition – the practice of seizing terrorism suspects and interrogating them on non-US territory.
President George Bush acknowledged in September 2006 the existence of the CIA’s black site prisons. He said al-Qaida suspects or members of the Taliban who “withhold information that could save American lives” have been taken “to an environment where they can be held secretly, questioned by experts”.