Britain Acknowledges Participation in Rendition

A recent article in the Washington PostBritain Acknowledges 2 Detainees Are in U.S. Prison in Afghanistan, tells

The British government, after years of denying it had any role in the U.S. policy of “extraordinary rendition,” acknowledged yesterday that two prisoners its military forces turned over to U.S. custody in Iraq five years ago were subsequently sent to a U.S. prison in Afghanistan.

In a statement to Parliament, Defense Secretary John Hutton apologized for what he said was “inaccurate information . . . given to the House by my department” on previous occasions. The transfer, he said, was unknown to his predecessor and came to his attention only in December during an internal investigation in response to parliamentary questions.

Hutton said that the rendition involving two Pakistani men, who have been in custody at Bagram air base in Afghanistan since 2004, violated a U.S.-British memorandum of understanding specifying that “no person captured with assistance” from British forces “will be removed from the territory of Iraq without prior consultation.”

The Pentagon quickly took responsibility for the lapse. “There was a level of formal coordination that should have taken place with respect to a transfer of this nature,” spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “Unfortunately, that did not occur in this case. It was an error.”

I have a little difficulty in interpreting just what Britain is acknowledging. The article UK concedes involvement in rendition in Deutsche Welle makes things a little bit more explicit

Britain’s government has for the first time admitted direct involvement in the controversial US program of extraordinary rendition. Defence Secretary John Hutton told lawmakers that two men, captured in Iraq in 2004, were handed over to US agents who moved them to Afghanistan. Hutton said the men were members of a Pakistani terrorist organisation and that the US told Britain at the time that it lacked the necessary linguists in Iraq to interrogate the men. The minister acknowledged that the admission contradicted earlier government assurances that no prisoners had been handed over for transfer to third countries and apologised for the error. Human rights groups and some lawmakers have demanded a complete government inquiry into the transfer of prisoners. Previous concerns have focussed on the remote British outpost of Diego Garcia to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects.

This article states concerns that Diego Garcia, which is British dependent territory, was used “to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects”, as if Diego Garcia was a destination for CIA extraordinary renditions. According to this article in the Middle East Times, there were concerns over refueling of CIA flights at Diego Garcia

Foreign Secretary David Miliband last year admitted that two rendition flights landed on British territory in 2002, when US planes refuelled on the British dependent territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Rendition, interrogation, refueling? Diego Garcia may be all of the above.

Getting back to the British acknowledgement, it seems likely that Britain was informed that the detainees would be transferred from Iraq at the time that they were turned over. Did Britain knowingly turn detainees over to the CIA? The articles are a little bit vague, because they use terms like “US custody” and “US agents”, almost as if they are trying to avoid using a simpler, more common term (or acronym).

I’m not troubled when the US takes Pakistanis captured on the battlefield in Iraq to Afghanistan. In fact, I would not be troubled if they took them to Diego Garcia. But recently, we have learned that holier-than-thou countries have both participated in detainee transfers and have been observers and participants in interrogations. The next time the bed-wetters take to the streets of a European capital to protest the United States – for interrogation techniques, GTMO, and rendition – some introspection will be in order. For, lacking such introspection, our proper response should be STFU.

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