Leading article: Only a proper investigation will suffice

Share
Related Topics

The story we relate today regarding the behaviour of the British intelligence services, on the face of it, looks relatively benign. A Moroccan national was extracted by MI5 from a jail in Belgium. He subsequently agreed to work as a spy for the UK authorities, monitoring domestic extremist groups. There was no kidnapping and no torture. Indeed, the individual was facing deportation to Morocco, where he feared such barbaric mistreatment. But his removal from Belgium, if it occurred in the manner described, was nonetheless a breach of international law. No legal process was followed, and there were no safeguards. This might have been a consensual rendition; but it was rendition nonetheless.

And we need to remember some history. For a long time the previous Government flatly denied that the British intelligence services were involved in anything like this. In the words of the Foreign Office: "The UK's position on torture is clear. We abhor torture. We don't participate in, solicit, encourage or condone it. We unreservedly condemn any practice of extraordinary rendition for torture."

But in recent years cracks have begun to appear in this wall of denial. In 2008 it emerged that individuals had been transferred by the CIA through the British airbase at Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. The then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was required to apologise for incorrect information given to MPs on this point.

Then came the publication of details from the disturbing case of the Ethiopian student and British resident, Binyam Mohamed. Mohamed was questioned by British intelligence officials in 2002 after being rendered from Pakistan to Morocco by the CIA. British officials did not kidnap Mohamed. They did not torture him. But his lawyers say they must have been aware that he was being mistreated in Moroccan custody. If that is true, the British intelligence services will be exposed as piggy-backing on the dirty work of others.

What is more, they frustrated efforts on the part of the legal authorities to discover the truth. Lord Neuberger, the top civil judge, who examined this Mohamed case, cast doubt on the veracity of the testimony he had received from the intelligence services. His verdict also left a question mark over the conduct of Mr Miliband (who tried to suppress a court document showing the involvement of MI5 in the Mohamed case). And now it would appear that there exists a British rendition programme – that our intelligence services are not only a passive player in the shady world of transporting individuals secretly across national boundaries, but an active one too. We urgently need to get to the bottom of all this; to discover exactly what our intelligence services have been doing in the so-called "war on terror".

Last month the coalition Government announced a judicial inquiry into the activities of the intelligence services since 2001. Yet this is to be chaired by the retired judge Sir Peter Gibson, who, as the Intelligence Services Commissioner, already oversees this sector and who has publicly praised all those who work for these services as "trustworthy, conscientious and dependable". The conflict of interest is glaring. An inquiry chaired by such an individual can have no credibility.

We need a debate on the methods used to thwart international terrorism. A plausible case can be made for the kind of rendition which this Moroccan national underwent. In some respects it is similar to the Cold War practice of "turning" a foreign intelligence agent. It is, however, much harder to make the case for allowing the intelligence services to kidnap individuals and deliver them up for mistreatment in repressive regimes. But first we need to find out what has been going on. The sad lesson of recent years is that we cannot rely on our elected politicians to tell us the truth. To get that, we need a rigorous and fully independent inquiry.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power