Leading article: The truth must be told

Wednesday 25 February 2009 01:00

In a statement issued on his return from Guantanamo Bay, Binyam Mohamed said his worst moment was when he realised that "the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence". The very people "who I had hoped would come to my rescue... had allied themselves with my abusers". The truth, he said, needed to be known.

His plea was echoed yesterday by Mike Gapes, chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, who said that the US ought to reveal its information on Mr Mohamed's treatment, lest the issue drag on, "drip, drip, drip". The shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, made a similar demand for openness at Foreign Office questions. The Foreign Secretary himself, though, sailed serenely on, insisting for the umpteenth time that the British Government abhors torture, and neither orders nor condones it.

Which does not answer Mr Mohamed's charge. He did not claim that British intelligence was actually doing the dirty work, but that it was complicit at one or more removes. Nor can that charge be dismissed so easily; it has been made in identical terms by others who have returned from Guantanamo.

Two weeks ago, the High Court declined to release US documents detailing Mr Mohamed's treatment, citing the Foreign Secretary's objections in the light of a US threat to end prized intelligence cooperation. But those facts have since been blurred. Yesterday David Miliband said that the Foreign Office would have no objection to the release of the records if the US agreed, but that he was not "going on a lobbying expedition".

Meanwhile the Attorney General is consulting the Director of Public Prosecutions about a possible criminal investigation into the conduct of British security agents in relation to Mr Mohamed, but has reached no conclusion. It is hard to escape the impression that all this activity is not just so much so much ducking and weaving designed to protect the security services and obscure the truth.

Mr Gapes is right. Too much "drip, drip, drip" threatens long-term damage to the reputation of the Foreign Secretary and the Government as a whole. The documents must be released.

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