In Depth

British spies complicit in US torture

Damning report by cross-party MPs leads to calls for judge-led inquiry

British spies were complicit in the torture of detainees by the US in aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack, a damning report by a cross-party group of MPs has found.

The intelligence and security committee (ISC) says MI6 and other agencies knew early on that the US was mistreating detainees but continued to assist at interrogations and provide questions to be asked of prisoners.

Its findings reveal “that British involvement in George W Bush’s illegal and barbarous programme of kidnap for torture was far deeper and more extensive than we have previously been told”, says the Daily Mail’s Peter Oborne.

In the two reports published yesterday, MPs say that on at least two occasions UK intelligence officials were party to the torture of detainees – and one of those instances has never been investigated by police.

Committee chair Dominic Grieve, a Conservative former attorney general, said yesterday that UK renditions had been organised to countries with “very dubious human rights records, where it would have been very likely that the person would be in fact tortured or ill-treated”.

The ISC has spent three years investigating the issue and says it is “beyond doubt” that the UK knew what was going on. However, the committee says it has not found a “smoking gun” indicating there was a blanket policy of ignoring such cases.

Theresa May said some staff had not been “prepared” for the “new and challenging operating environment” they faced. She said it had taken “too long to recognise that guidance and training for staff was inadequate”.

The intelligence services and army are now “much better placed” to meet such challenges, the PM said. The BBC notes that new rules mean ministers must be consulted now if a foreign intelligence agency is believed to be torturing a suspect of interest to the UK.

The reports prompted renewed calls for a judge-led inquiry into the treatment of detainees during the so-called War on Terror. Conservative MP Ken Clarke, one of those calling for independent scrutiny, scrapped the previous judge-led inquiry in 2013.

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