UK intelligence officers watched prisoners being tortured and were actively involved in the rendition of terrorist suspects in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, according to a damning report by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC).
Even though there is no evidence of British officers physically mistreating detainees, the reports says that the overseas agency MI6 and the domestic service MI5 were involved in numerous torture cases and scores of incidents when terrorist suspects were handed over to the secret police of brutal regimes knowing full well that they faced inhumane treatment, The Independent wrote.
The ISC noted that Tony Blair’s government, in power during the period of the investigation, could have done more to influence Washington’s handling of detainees.
The committee found that British intelligence officers witnessed detainees being mistreated at least 13 times, were told by prisoners on 25 other occasions that they were being mistreated, and were told of mistreatment by foreign agencies on 128 other occasions.
But despite knowledge of the abuse, the UK agencies continued to supply questions for interrogations, the committee noted.
After the report’s publication, Jack Straw, the then-foreign secretary, said although he was in charge of MI6 and GCHQ, he was unaware of some of the US-British collusion in the torture and rendition of prisoners.
The ISC said that because it had been prevented by the government from talking to several key witnesses, intelligence and security services were the only ones being held accountable by the document while politicians had escaped relatively unscathed.
“It is difficult to comprehend how those at the top of the office did not recognize the pattern of mistreatment by the US. That the US, and others were mistreating detainees is beyond doubt, as is the fact that the agencies and defense intelligence were aware of this at an early point,” the report concluded.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Britain played an important, though secondary, role in the US' global system of detaining and jailing terrorist suspects that involved the setting up of "black sites" on the territory of countries around the world.
Since these "black sites" operated outside of US borders and outside of US jurisdiction, evidence has shown that "rendered" prisoners were thrust into a legal black hole and subjected to brutal torture and other human rights abuses.
According to Reprieve US, a non-profit organization of lawyers and investigators assisting those facing detention without trial, execution and extra-judicial killing, CIA prison facilities have been uncovered in Afghanistan, Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory), Djibouti, Egypt and Syria, among others.
In 2005, it emerged that the CIA was detaining prisoners in Europe, transporting them covertly through European airspace and airports.
President Donald Trump’s pick for CIA director, Gina Haspel, has been criticized for her alleged involvement in the activities of one such facility in Thailand.