It isn't rocket science to find out how Tony Blair and Jack Straw colluded in CIA torture
Collusion with CIA torture can be added to the war crimes that should have put Blair and Straw behind bars for taking Britain into an illegal war in Iraq.
The US Torture report provides reams of uncomfortable details about the CIA’s use of torture that was authorised by the administration of George W Bush, but for Britons it leaves one key question unanswered.
What did Tony Blair, then Prime Minister, and Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, know of a CIA torture programme that was sanctioned at the very highest levels of the US government? And to what extent were they complicit in giving UK assistance to US operations?
More than a decade after 9/11 the British government has yet to conduct a full inquiry into the UK role in the US torture and rendition programme.
The Gibson Inquiry, set up by the coalition government in 2010 to investigate the issue, was shelved in January 2012 when compelling new evidence emerged that MI6 had been involved in the rendition of two suspected terrorists to Libya in 2004.
An ongoing Scotland Yard investigation into the renditions of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi and a civil claim for compensation in which Jack Straw was named as a respondent rendered the Gibson Inquiry untenable since it risked prejudicing those proceedings.
However intelligence sources who spoke to The Telegraph earlier this year alleged that both Mr Blair and Mr Straw knew in detail about the CIA’s secret programme after the September 11 attacks and were kept informed “every step of the way”.
“The politicians took a very active interest indeed. They wanted to know everything. The Americans passed over the legal opinions saying that this was now 'legal’, and our politicians were aware of what was going on at the highest possible level.
“The politicians knew in detail about everything – the torture and the rendition. They could have said [to M16] 'stop it, do not get involved’, but at no time did they,” said the source with direct and detailed knowledge of the transatlantic relations during that period.
The source’s claims echoed those made publicly by Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6 from 1999 to 2004, who said in a speech in 2012 that MI6’s cooperation with the CIA’s rendition programme was a “political” decision.
“Tony Blair absolutely knew, Dearlove was briefing him all the time. He was meticulous about keeping the politicians informed,” the source said.
Mr Blair has never confirmed what he knew about the rendition programme and declined to comment at the time.
Mr Straw has denied on several occasions that he was briefed in detail about CIA torture. He also refused to confirm or deny his role in the 2004 rendition of Mr Belhadj, the Libyan dissident, citing the need to protect official secrets in court documents related to the case.
The Gibson Inquiry was unable to establish the facts because it was not able to question witnesses on the issues, but noted that there was at least some communication between the Secret Intelligence Services (MI6) and ministers.
“Although SIS did inform Ministers of exchanges with US counterparts in November 2001, it is not clear how complete a picture of the Agencies’ growing awareness of the new scope of US rendition practice was communicated to Ministers both at this stage and subsequently,” Gibson wrote.
The report added that the inquiry would have wished to investigate “the extent to which the Agencies reported to Ministers their growing awareness of the US Government’s rendition programme.”
In the light of the deeply shocking new details that are expected to emerge from the US torture report, the question bears repeating: how much did Mr Blair and Mr Straw know, and to what extent were they complicit in giving British assistance to US operations?
Source: Daily Telegraph