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A formal report from the House of Commons concludes that it "can no longer rely on assurances from a U.S. administration that purports to uphold the civil and political standards of behavior."


Glenn Greenwald
July 21, 2008 11:18PM (UTC)

(updated below)

In Britain, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons has just issued its Human Rights Annual Report (.pdf). It concluded that America's word can no longer be trusted when it comes to claims about torture, rendition and human rights abuses. From The Guardian yesterday:

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Britain can no longer believe what Americans tell us about torture, an MPs' report to be published today claims. . . .

In a damning criticism of US integrity, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said ministers should no longer take at face value statements from senior politicians, including George Bush, that America does not resort to torture in the light of the CIA admitting it used "waterboarding". The interrogation technique was unreservedly condemned by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who said it amounted to torture.

A change in approach would have implications for extradition of prisoners to the US, especially in terror or security cases, as the UK has signed the UN convention which bars sending individuals to nations where they are at risk of being tortured. . . .

Today's committee report said there were "serious implications" of the striking inconsistencies between British ministers continuing to believe the Bush administration when it denies using torture. "The UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the government does not rely on such assurances in the future," said the committee. "We also recommend that the government should immediately carry out an exhaustive analysis of current US interrogation techniques on the basis of such information as is publicly available or which can be supplied by the US."

The BBC noted that the report also concluded that the British Government must not trust the word of the U.S. Government in light of prior deceit with regard to rendition:

The MPs also challenged the government to check more actively that Britain had not been used by the Americans for so called "rendition" flights -- when detainees are taken to countries where bans on torture may not apply.

The UK had repeatedly accepted assurances that it had not, but it was discovered earlier this year that two rendition planes refuelled on the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Earlier this year, the British Government suffered substantial embarrassment as a result of this:

Britain's denials that its territories have been used for "extraordinary rendition" were dramatically undermined last night after the United Nations claimed that Diego Garcia has been used as a detention centre to hold US suspects. . . .

The revelations raise fresh questions about the island's role in the process of extraordinary rendition -- moving suspects to interrogation centres in third-party countries where they are held outside the law -- and why the UK government was apparently unaware that its ally was operating a prison on Diego Garcia to house so-called "high-value detainees".

If Britain -- one of America's closest allies during the Bush era -- is openly proclaiming that it cannot trust the word of our government, then who can? Moreover, Britain has hardly been a standard-bearer of human rights itself over the last seven years. Indeed, while our political class in the U.S. is busy covering-up and immunizing our Government's lawbreaking and human rights abuses, members of both the British Left and Right are joining together to demand investigations into what appears to be compelling evidence that their own intelligence officials abducted British citizens and turned them over to Pakistani security services in order to be interrogated and tortured:

MPs are calling for an investigation into allegations that British intelligence has "outsourced" the torture of British citizens to Pakistani security agencies after hearing accounts of people being abducted and subjected to mistreatment and, in some cases, released without charge.

John McDonnell, the Labour member for Hayes and Harlington, and Andrew Tyrie, Conservative member for Chichester, say the allegations should be examined by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), the Westminster body that oversees the Security Service, MI5, and the Intelligence Service, MI6. . . .

However, details of three new cases have raised concerns among MPs.

McDonnell says he wants to know whether British officials colluded in the abuse of one of his constituents.

The man, a medical student, said he was abducted at gunpoint in August 2005 and held for two months at the offices of Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau opposite the British Deputy High Commission in Karachi. The student, who has not spoken out before, has described how he was whipped, beaten, deprived of sleep, threatened with execution and witnessed other inmates being tortured.

He was questioned about the suicide attacks on London's transport network in July of that year, and says that after being tortured by Pakistani agents he was questioned by British intelligence officers. He was released to his father, who says he received a personal apology from the director of the Intelligence Bureau.

For the British, of all countries, to conclude in a formal Report that the U.S. is essentially an untrustworthy rogue nation when it comes to human rights abuses -- "The committee's conclusions amount to saying we can no longer rely on assurances from a US administration that purports to uphold the civil and political standards of behaviour," as MP Andrew Tyrie put it -- is about as potent an indictment of how far we've fallen as one can imagine.

UPDATE: I'll be on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman tomorrow morning, along with University of Chicago Law Professor (and Obama adviser) Cass Sunstein, to debate Sunstein's views on matters such as torture, FISA, and whether Bush lawbreakers should be prosecuted (I referenced some of his recent comments on those topics here). Our segment will be between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. EST tomorrow and I'll post the exact time once I know it. Local listings and live audio or video feed are here.

When I wrote over the weekend about Sunstein's remarks urging that Bush officials not be investigated or prosecuted for their crimes, I was relying on Ari Melber's (accurate) report in The Nation about Sunstein's Netroots Nation panel. As amazing as I found Sunstein's remarks based on Melber's summary, they're even more amazing when heard in their entirety, which one can listen to here (the whole Q-and-A session, beginning at 38:00, is what is so instructive -- John Dean is seated on the left and Sunstein is in the middle. The first several questions from the audience are superb and the answers from the panel, from Sunstein in particular, are . . . not superb).

[I'll be on Democracy Now beginning at roughly 8:00 a.m. EST to discuss first the funding issues surrounding the Democratic National Convention (discussed here), and then, roughly at 8:20 a.m. EST, the discussion with Cass Sunstein will begin. The segment will be posted to the website later today].

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Glenn Greenwald

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