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Monday, December 12, 2005 

Lies and misinformation: just another interview with Jack Straw.

Jack Straw is a liar.

That's a pretty serious allegation to make, but I feel it is entirely justified. On today's Radio 4 Today programme,
he said that there was no evidence that US "extraordinary rendition" flights had passed through the UK. "Careful research has been unable to identify any occasion ... when we have received a request for permission by the United States for a rendition through the United Kingdom territory or airspace."
Perhaps so. But this entirely ignores a simple fact. The US hasn't asked anyone's permission. Both Poland and Romania, countries which supposedly housed secret CIA prisons, have said they had no knowledge of the US using their soil for such purposes. Are all the countries in Europe, all of which have said they have little or no knowledge of what America has been up to lying about what has gone on? Probably not. What some do know however is that they can get away with lying about what they do know. Jack Straw has managed to use this to his advantage.

Last Tuesday the Guardian published details of flights identified as being charted CIA planes and CIA-owned jets landing at numerous airports around Britain. You can see the tables below. A couple of them are believed to have definitely been involved in carry kidnapped prisoners. Whether they were carrying the prisoners at the time is unknown. Is Jack Straw denying that these flights landed in Britain? Is he saying that this is all the Guardian's imagination, and that the planespotters who saw these planes were seeing mirages?

The Lib Dems foreign spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell said:
"I have no doubt of the good faith of the foreign secretary in this matter, but the truth is that the British authorities simply don't know whether extraordinary rendition is taking place using British airfields," he said. "The sooner we have a system of inspection, the better."
I am willing to bet that the British authorities know full well about these extraordinary rendition flights. If the government doesn't know, and the Department of Transport doesn't know, then I find it very difficult to believe that MI5/6 also do not. Whether they have been telling the government or not is a different matter. If they have, then Jack Straw needs to consider his position. If not, then MI5/6 needs to explain itself.
Karen Buck, the aviation minister, told Sir Menzies that this "indicates that if these aircraft landed in the UK they were either not involved in civil commercial transport or were stopping for technical purposes, for example to refuel".
Karen Buck is being very careful, and for good reason. In another article in last week's Guardian, there was this:
The British government is guilty of breaking international law if it allowed secret CIA "rendition" flights of terror suspects to land at UK airports, according to a report by American legal scholars.

Merely giving permission for the flights to refuel while en route to the Middle East to collect a prisoner would constitute a breach of the law, according to the opinion commissioned by an all-party group of MPs, which meets in parliament for the first time today.
So now Karen Buck is denying even that permission was given to the aircraft to refuel. Obviously they just landed, refueled and went on their way without anyone noticing, no contact with control towers, and without anyone asking who they were. Is this government now so arrogant that it thinks that we will believe this? This is a classic example of spinning, of distorting the original question and answering in such a way as to conceal the truth. I also find it outrageous that the Conservatives have not asked any questions or got involved in this at all. Instead it has been the Lib Dems and the media who have run with this and tried to get answers out of the government. The answers we have got are deeply unsatisfactory. They are, I believe, lies and carefully crafted misinformation. Jack Straw knows full well what has been going on, and if he didn't, he does now. He should drop the bullshit and apologise, instead of covering up for the Americans and their continued breachings of international law.

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