Leading article: Give us answers, not spin

More urgently, the inconsistencies between the information contained in the memo and the Government's previous statements on the subject cannot be so easily brushed aside. The memo, dated 7 December, admits that the Foreign Office has only incomplete information concerning rendition requests from the US. It concludes: "We now cannot say that we have received no such requests for the use of UK territory or air space for 'extraordinary rendition'." Yet no such uncertainty was reflected in Mr Straw's answer to a parliamentary question on rendition last month. The memo also admits there is no way of knowing if detainees captured by British forces in Iraq or Afghanistan had subsequently been transferred by the US to interrogation centres. Again, Mr Straw has made no public reference to this uncertainty.

But let us step back from the carefully phrased denials and examine what we know. The existence of secret CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe has not been denied by the Bush administration. And there is compelling testimony from people who claim to have been shipped abroad by the US and tortured. We are also familiar by now with the Bush administration's slippery definition of torture, and witnessed its contempt for international law in Guantanamo Bay.

Is it such a leap of imagination to suppose that the US has been outsourcing torture or even practising it itself in secret prisons in friendly states? That is the charge that the Bush administration must answer. As for our own Government, it must still demonstrate that it has not facilitated the scandalous procedure by providing landing sites for CIA rendition flights. Is it out of the bounds of possibility that the US might not have made formal requests for the use of UK airspace for such flights but carried them out anyway? Despite what Mr Straw claims, this matter is far from closed.

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