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Tuesday, August 04, 2009 

Torture? Look at this fucking great fish!

You perhaps would have thought, what with it being the silly season and all, that a hard news story such as the most authoritative so far inquiry into British state complicity with torture post 9/11 might have made a few waves. Fat chance. The only thing making waves, or rather no longer making them, is a dead fish. Front page of the Graun, pretty much a given, considering the paper's own contribution to the inquiry by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (PDF), was the best it could manage.

Admittedly, it might be because it doesn't tell those of us who have been following the long and winding road from complicity in rendition with the Americans to complicity in torture in Pakistan much that we don't already know. It also doesn't specifically say that we have been complicit: such investigation was outside its remit, and besides, both David Miliband and the home secretary declined to give evidence to the committee, as did Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5. Andrew Dismore, trying to shame the MI5 director into meeting his committee even pointed out to Evans that back in January he gave an interview to a select band of hacks. If he can give an insight into the current workings of the security service to the hoi polloi in Fleet Street, surely he can spare a few minutes to say something to parliamentarians? Alas, no. Evans it seems is only answerable to the toothless Intelligence and Security Committee, where his evidence can be conveniently censored and redacted, and considering their report into rendition, which was a complete whitewash, it's no surprise why the service favours them.

Thankfully, the committee's conclusions pull few punches. Complicity in torture would be a direct breach of our international human rights obligations; despite the need for co-operation between foreign intelligence agencies, there must be mechanisms for ensuring accountability; ministers are determined to avoid parliamentary scrutiny, and the fact they can do so confirms the system for ministerial accountability for security and intelligence matters is woefully deficient; the membership of the Intelligence and Security Committee must be debated to ensure it is subject to frequent scrutiny and that it should be established as a proper parliamentary committee, with an independent secretariat; the government should immediately publish all versions of the guidance given to intelligence officers in relation to the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas; the government should follow the Obama administration and publish all relevant legal opinions provided to ministers; and lastly, the only way to restore confidence in the intelligence services is an independent inquiry into the numerous allegations of complicity in torture, which should make recommendations about improving the accountability of the security services as well as removing any scope for impunity.

Some coverage of these conclusions might well have helped towards that inquiry, one which this government at least is certain not to hold; it's doubtful also that Cameron, especially with the neo-conservatives among his front bench, is likely to piss off the security services as soon as he ascends to power. What it comes down to is that no one really cares: some of those making the allegations are after all convicted terrorists; oh, and probably the fact that all of them have brown or darker skin helps too. We will though remain in judgement of Guantanamo Bay and the explicit involvement of the CIA in torture, even when we ourselves are just as up to our necks in it.

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