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Thursday, January 19, 2006 

Jack Straw lied to the Foreign Affairs committee over "extraordinary rendition".

Late last year Obsolete accused Jack Straw of lying. Now we have the complete evidence that proves he lied when giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs committee on the 13th of December.

The evidence comes from the leaked memo written by Irfan Siddiq, a private secretary at the foreign office, in response to a request from Downing Street for a briefing document ahead of Blair's appearance in the commons to answer questions about British involvement in the practice of "extraordinary rendition", or kidnapping, to give it a jargonless name. The memo in full can be downloaded from the New Statesman website which it was leaked to here. I've also mirrored it in case the Statesman takes it down at some point.

While the entire memo is explosive and worth reading and comparing with government statements, the most important piece is contained in the 17th point:

Pretty straight forward then. No longer could the government reasonably deny that
they had no such requests from the US to help them with their practice of kidnapping terrorist suspects. So what then, other than a bare-faced lie, is this porker which Jack Straw told to the Foreign Affairs committee 6 days after this memo had been written?

Q 23. Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we have not been, and so what on earth a judicial inquiry would start to do I have no idea.

I do not think it would be justified. While we are on this point, Chairman, can I say this? Some of the reports which are given credibility, including one this morning on the Today programme, are in the realms of the fantastic.

A full transcript of the committee evidence on rendition is available here.

It would seem that the government has been telling the truth that it is not aware of the US using UK territory for the purposes of rendition. But this is what is called plausible deniability. The UK government has been operating a policy of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". The memo also makes clear that many government departments were frantically searching to see if they had been made aware by the US of what they have been carrying out. It also states that such practices are almost certainly illegal. The "smoking gun" though is the document's attempts to spin the whole debate and focus on moving it onto the realm from which not many people will be able to criticise it: saving innocents from being attacked by terrorists, and accepting Condi Rice's word that the US does not practice torture. The memo itself then undermines her statement, as it makes clear though that the US does not consider "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" torture, so in other words, "torture-lite" is A-OK anywhere in the world.

Both Blair and Straw have a lot of explaining to do. What is now clear is that Jack Straw definitely lied to the Foreign Affairs committee. Deliberately misleading the House of Commons is a serious offence, and if he does not consider this a resigning issue, then he should be investigated by the speaker of the house, who should decide what penalty he should face.

Thanks to BlairWatch, the New Statesman and Guardian for the sources for this piece.

Update: Straw is to give a written statement to the commons on this. Unfortunately, the memo has come out on the same day as Ruth Kelly's statement on sex offenders working in schools, the decision to keep cannabis in drug classification c, and a new audio tape from bin Laden. As such, it has been thrust down the news agenda. What parliament and the so-called opposition must do is tell Straw to stick his written statement and at least give a statement with questions allowed in the house, if not announce a full inquiry. Whether that happens or not should be a useful measure to how far Cameron's "new" Conservatives and the leaderless Lib Dems are willing to challenge this government's obfuscations and downright lies. Thanks to Curious Hamster.

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Ch 4 News just reported that Straw is going to issue a written statement on this to the House tomorrow. With any luck the opposition parties will tell where to stick his written statement and demand he comes to the House to make a statement in person.

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