The BBC reports that the UK ‘knew US mistreated rendition detainees’ following the publication of a report by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).
The report states that British agencies continued to share intelligence with allies despite knowing or suspecting abuse in more than 200 cases. Committee chairman Dominic Grieve said agencies knew of incidents that were “plainly unlawful” while Baroness Chakrabarti described them as “horrific practices”.
While it seems clear that the UK’s Security and Intelligence Services were aware of the inexcusable treatment of US detainees it would appear that, thankfully, they did not themselves routinely participate in rendition or enhanced interrogation.
This restraint and reluctance to collaborate more fully with US agencies in these activities may well have been because of the existence of the ISC and the oversight procedure to which intelligence services are accountable.
Is it also now time to hold an inquiry into UK Special Forces activities in Iraq and Afghanistan which are not subject to Parliamentary oversight, and which it has been alleged contravened the Laws of Armed Conflict?
Unlike the Intelligence Services which maintained a separate chain of command, UK Special Forces submitted themselves to a US command and adopted US methods and tactics, such as kill/capture missions.
There is sufficient evidence and anecdote, including the first hand accounts of former SAS operatives, to warrant an investigation but this has been repeatedly blocked by the Ministry of Defence.
If we are ever to understand our strategic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan or the concurrent rise of Islamist extremism we must first examine the policies and practices of detainee mistreatment, incarceration without trial or access to legal representation, rendition, waterboarding, kill/capture missions, night raids, drone strikes and collateral damage algorithms.