How Britain Enthusiastically Teamed Up with Bush's Horrific Torture and Rendition Agenda
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MI5 decided that Deghayes should be sent to Guantánamo.
"If he sticks to his story and just gives a few more details, we propose disengaging and allowing events here to take their course," the officer wrote in his report to London. Deghayes was to spend more than five years at Guantánamo, where the abuse continued. At one point he was beaten so severely that he was blinded in one eye.
It is clear from the very small number of British government documents so far made public that ministers were informed about what was happening at the new US prisons within days of the decision being taken to consign British Muslims to Camp X-Ray.
On Jan. 14, 2002, four days after Straw sent his secret rendition telegram, a senior official attached to the Cabinet Office sent a six-page memo to David Manning, Blair’s foreign policy adviser, naming three British citizens held in Afghanistan and noting that they were "possibly being tortured" at a jail in Kabul. By January 18, at the latest, Blair had been made aware. The Prime Minister wrote by hand in the margins of one Foreign Office memo: "The key is to find out how they are being treated. Though I was initially skeptical about claims of torture, we must make it clear to the US that any such action would be totally unacceptable." Blair added a curious instruction to his officials: not to endeavour to stop the torture, but to "quickly establish that it isn’t happening."
Despite the Prime Minister being made aware of the possible use of torture, the UK remained a committed partner in the rendition program. All but two of the British citizens and residents who ended up in Guantánamo were sent there after Blair wrote his note. Documents later disclosed in court showed that after one British terrorism suspect, Martin Mubanga, was detained in Zambia, either Blair or someone close to him at Downing Street intervened to ensure that he could not escape rendition to Guantánamo. Mubanga denied any involvement in terrorism. Nevertheless, a reason for his rendition was set out in a note that Eliza Manningham-Buller of MI5 sent to John Gieve, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, which was also disclosed in court. "We are...faced with the prospect...of the return of a British citizen to the UK about whom we have serious concerns, whom it may be difficult to prosecute and whose release could trigger hostile US reaction," Manningham-Buller wrote.
Around the same time that British nationals were being packed off to Guantánamo, the euphemism "handling" was being coined at the highest levels of British government to describe the manner in which the prisoners were being treated. Straw’s secret telegram said it was for "the US authorities to determine the detail of how these prisoners should be handled. They have told us they would be treated humanely." Three months later, a senior Home Office official was noting, with evident relief, that on the matter of "handling," there had been "no press coverage here during the last four weeks."
The British government still had the option of bringing the young British Muslims back to the UK for prosecution. At the end of February, according to the minutes of a meeting of British security officials, the US was telling the British government that it could have all of the British detainees if it wished. But the officials concluded that the UK "should not be in any hurry" to take them. The representative from the Foreign Office was said to have remained quiet on this point, as his department had "some obvious problems of public presentation."