UK Liberty

Rendition involves some troublesome issues

Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian:

Lawyers acting for Binyam Mohamed [Wikipedia, Reprieve], a British resident incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay [he’s been detained for six years], are asking the high court to order the government to disclose information that, they say, would show the evidence against him was obtained by torture.

The government is fighting the case. Of course, it does not want to reveal what Britain’s security and intelligence agencies knew about the US secretly transporting

people suspected of being

“enemy combatants” to places where they were likely to be tortured, the practice known as extraordinary rendition.

Or, kidnapping – a troublesome issue in itself.

To bolster its case, it has used its last resort, hoisting the flag of “national security”.

The government says that Britain’s national security depends on the intelligence the US gives us in what it appears to admit is an entirely one-sided relationship. Actually, it goes further. It implies that only by being subservient to the US can Britain defend its national security. So what is meant by our “national security”? The interests of our security and intelligence agencies? They are in a uniquely privileged position. They have sight of information that may save lives if it is used to thwart a terrorist attack. They also, as in the Mohamed case, have access to information that could save a man’s life and help to put a stop to torture. The government’s argument is that to protect our “national security”, we need to kowtow to the US. It is in this context that we should consider government statements, notably by the foreign secretary, David Miliband, about US assurances over rendering suspects through UK territory. Twice the government has had to correct assurances given to parliament. Now Time magazine reports that, despite repeated denials by Washington, an (anonymous) former senior US official has said that the US imprisoned and interrogated one or more suspects on Diego Garcia, the main island of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Lord Justice Thomas, who heard the case, and plans to give his ruling later this month, said it raised some “very troublesome issues”. It certainly does.

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