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UK Torture Inquiry Farce on Last Legs, While Rendition to “Killing” Remains Uninvestigated

8:36 pm in Torture by Jeff Kaye

Ian Cobain and Richard Norton-Taylor at the UK Guardian are reporting that the widely heralded 2010 announcement of a British government official inquiry into UK torture is facing a boycott by British human rights and attorney groups. The reason is undue secrecy.

[British Prime Minister] Cameron also made clear that the sort of material that has so far been made public with the limited disclosure in the Guantánamo cases would be kept firmly under wraps during the inquiry. “Let’s be frank, it is not possible to have a full public inquiry into something that is meant to be secret,” he said. “So any intelligence material provided to the inquiry panel will not be made public and nor will intelligence officers be asked to give evidence in public.”

This from the UK Guardian… July 14, 2010.

The handwriting was on the wall for some time on this sham inquiry, but the British human rights and lawyer groups kept fighting to make something real out of it. I can understand the impulse to do this, but really the inquiry’s true intentions were telegraphed when Sir Peter Gibson was made its chair, as I noted when the news first broke.

The investigation is being conducted by a panel of three, whose head is the intelligence-connected Sir Peter Gibson, who is Intelligence Services Commissioner, responsible for monitoring secret bugging operations by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA). Many questions have been raised by the appointment of Gibson, and it is startling to think that British human rights groups will accede to the appointment, given Gibson’s likely bias, not to mention his track record in other “judge-led” investigations.

The legal human rights charity group Reprieve describes three fatal flaws embedded within the official rules recently published for the inquiry:

First, the definition of evidence that will remain classified forever is hopelessly overbroad. Set out in Annex A [of the Detainee's Inquiry Protocol - PDF], this effectively includes anything that would in any way breach an “understanding” between the UK and its allies – in other words, anything the Americans would find embarrassing will not be made public…. Given that the essence of British complicity involves working with the US on torture and rendition, the exception to publicity swallows the rule.

Second, there is no meaningful, independent (preferably judicial) review of what should be kept secret… Unlike other inquiries where victims have made serious allegations of torture, the victims will not have meaningful legal representation. Their advisers will be denied access to any documents or hearings deemed secret by the inquiry.

Third, the Inquiry is left toothless due to a lack of powers to compel the attendance of witnesses or the provision of evidence or information from any party or organisation.

Truly, the UK government’s so-called inquiry is being set up as Reprieve director Clive Stafford-Smith called it, “a whitewash.” According to the Guardian article Shami Chakrabarti, director of the British group Liberty, states the inquiry is “a sham.” “When is an inquiry not an inquiry?” Chakrabarti asked. “When it’s a secret internal review.”

Hiding Murder in the Rendition Program

While the U.S. Department of Justice is finally considering two cases of murder of detainees by the CIA, in general, the Obama administration has an official policy of “not looking back” and non-accountability when it comes to crimes of torture. But it seems likely there are more crimes waiting to be revealed.

Last July, around the time the UK torture inquiry was first proposed, I broke the story that the revelations of UK cooperation with U.S. rendition policies included possible “rendition to killing.”

Like much of what I report, the revelation was not consistent with the accepted narrative of what the U.S. media is allowed to report, so it was also ignored by the supposed alternative blogosphere, who mainly grubs after the crumbs that are begrudgingly reported by Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, or second-tier establishment-organs-cum-alternative-press like Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, or Salon.com. The mainstream press reports what government officials tell them, while the “alternative” press and bloggers report what academic and governmental dissidents say. Rarely is any real investigative work done.

But this revelation was based on hard documentation, as reported in my July 14, 2010 article.

A series of documents released on July 14 in the UK Binyam Mohamed civil case, Al Rawi and Others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Others, have produced a series of explosive revelations, reported in Britain and as yet unknown here in the U.S….

Now, one of the most incendiary revelations in the documents concerns instructions given to MI6 Special Intelligence Service (SIS) over detention operations. According to Chapter 32 of MI6′s general procedural manual, “Detainees and Detention Operations”, “the following sensitivities arise” (PDF – bold emphasis added):

a. the geographical destination of the target. Where will she or he be held? Under whose jurisdiction? Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation?

b. what treatment regime(s) for the detainees can be expected?

c. what is the legal basis for the detention?

d. what is the role of any liaison partner who might be involved?

The “objective” of “killing” points to the existence of extrajudicial murders carried out by the intelligence services. It’s not clear if the killings are by UK or liaison — including United States — forces. “Liaison partners” refers to instances of operational cooperation with non-UK intelligence agencies.

I have since discovered that BBC reported the same revelations about “killing” on July 15, so at least it was reported in the British press, where it made some stir, the BBC labeling as “stark” the paragraph on about “killing” as “the objective of the operation.” Still, no U.S. news outlet picked up on this.

This is not the first time that unheralded killings of detainees has appeared in an otherwise unnoticed document. Last December I reported on a discussion of Guantanamo health protocols at a February 19, 2002 meeting of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, where officials were told that a “number of the detainees have died of the wounds that they arrived with.”

This is not as impossible or incredible as it may sound. We know that Guantanamo, like other DoD and CIA sites had their share of “ghost prisoners,” i.e., prisoners whose existence was never reported to the International Red Cross or anyone else. Some of these disappeared forever. We don’t know how many. (Maybe a real torture inquiry would shed some light on this.) Indeed, Manadel al-Jamadi, the subject of one of John Durham’s recently announced criminal investigations, was such a ghost prisoner. And he, too, ended up dead, murdered.

Nor are such renditions and ghost prisoners a recent phenomenon. Consider the case of a Bulgarian political activist Dmitrov (aka “Kelly”) who was rendered to U.S. Fort Clayton in Panama in the early 1950s, where, according to declassified CIA documents, he became a victim of the CIA’s Project Artichoke mind control program. The full story was reported by H.P. Albarelli and myself in a Truthout article last year.

The United States, Great Britain and their partners in torture and rendition believe they are above the law, and that they can game the system forever. Perhaps they are right, and we have lost the battle before it was ever really engaged. I refuse to believe this is so. I can’t believe that I am alone in wanting justice, and seeking a radical change in the configuration of forces that control this planet, which are currently organized in the name of power and oppression, for the benefit of an economic elite, and not around justice, social and economic equality, and a rational, humane world order based on cooperation and mutual respect for all nations and all individuals.

We desperately need a real, international inquiry into the crimes of torture, rendition, and aggressive war. But there is no political force currently operative that has the power and influence to make this happen, as the pending collapse of the UK torture inquiry enterprise demonstrates. And that is truly the dilemma of our times.

The Wikileaks Effect: UK Guardian Reveals British Interrogation Manuals Authorize Torture

6:22 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

As the controversies over the Iraq logs released by Wikileaks last Friday escalate, with the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture calling on Barack Obama to initiate an investigation into the war crimes revealed in the documents’ release, not least U.S. connivance with wide-scale Iraqi torture, it is not surprising that other leakers and whistleblowers are wanting to get in on the act.

The story reported here also comes on the same sad day that Omar Khadr, after years of torture and solitary imprisonment in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, locked away at age 15 for eight years, pleaded guilty to “terrorism” and multiple murders — including crimes for which he had never been charged — in a show trial confession engineered by the Pentagon. More will be written on this later.

The UK Guardian is reporting that secret training materials used by the British military in recent years include actions and behaviors that are clearly abusive and outside the treatment of prisoners mandated by the Geneva conventions. The article emphasizes the use of humiliation and sensory deprivation as primary tools of the British interrogator. Even “recent training material [say] blindfolds, earmuffs and plastic handcuffs are essential equipment for military interrogators.”

The story comes from the magnificent Iab Cobain, who has been on fire of late:

The British military has been training interrogators in techniques that include threats, sensory deprivation and enforced nakedness in an apparent breach of the Geneva conventions, the Guardian has discovered.

Training materials drawn up secretly in recent years tell interrogators they should aim to provoke humiliation, insecurity, disorientation, exhaustion, anxiety and fear in the prisoners they are questioning, and suggest ways in which this can be achieved….

Prisoners should be “conditioned” before questioning, with conditioning defined as the combined effects of self-induced pressure and “system-induced pressure”. Harsh questioning – or “harshing” – in which an interrogator puts his face close to the prisoner, screaming, swearing and making threats, is recommended as a means to provoke “anxiety/fear”. Other useful responses include “insecurity”, “disorientation” and “humiliation”.

The training material recommends that after a prisoner’s clothes are removed, the interrogator ensures he is searched behind his foreskin and that his buttocks are spread. This is part of the conditioning process, rather than as a security measure. One section of the training course is entitled “positional asphyxiation – signs and symptoms”.

Well, I think readers can get the idea, and should definitely read the entire story at the UK Guardian. The actions of the British military are consistent with the charges of torture in the torture-killing of Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa in Basra in 2003, and of other atrocities committed by British troops. It is also redolent of the torture of IRA prisoners in Northern Irish prisons run by the British in the 1970s and 1980s. (Here’s a link to the diary of a famous hunger striker from another era, Bobby Sands.) The newly revealed British techniques are also similar to those in the U.S. Army’s Army Field Manual on Interrogation, which has a special appendix that describes the use of isolation, forms of sensory deprivation and sleep deprivation, and combines them with techniques that rely on threats and even possible use of drugs in the main portion of the manual. Abuse of prisoners linked to the Army Field Manual was recently the subject of a report by the George Soros-supported Open Society Foundations.

Between the U.S. crimes most recently revealed, and these admissions of British torture — and if not “torture,” a word most terrifically massaged these days, certainly cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, outlawed by the world — we have a veritable concatenation of horrific messages, all of which add up to one huge conclusion: the leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom are war criminals, and the political machinery of these countries allow precious little, outside of creaky and corrupt electoral processes for the people of these countries to do much about it. And maybe that’s why we don’t see much outward protest yet… as if the entire rotten edifice, weakened by economic chicanery and greed in high places, and rent through with generations of lies, might totter over entirely if too much truth, too much protest were made.

In any case, for those who thought that the Wikileaks tempest might blow straight into a teapot, the latest revelations show that the Iraq logs might only be the beginning, that the military and civilian governments of these countries are full of disgusted patriots tired of serving amoral and criminal regimes. Who knows, maybe even the U.S. press might awake and do its duty. That might be hoping too much, but one never knows.

The British revelations should put new pressures upon a supposed British investigation into torture that was announced last July. As Amnesty International and eight British NGOs wrote in September to the putative head of this British inquiry, Sir Peter Gibson (PDF):

A sufficiently empowered and transparent inquiry could discharge the United Kingdom’s duty to effectively investigate damaging allegations of knowledge and/or involvement by state actors or agents in the torture, ill-treatment or rendition of individuals that have arisen in the last decade. Such an inquiry could also play an important role in clarifying how involvement in torture, ill- treatment or rendition might be prevented in the future.

It is incumbent on governments to promptly and effectively investigate all allegations of torture and other related human rights abuses.

It is time for such an inquiry in the United States. Who will call for it? Who will organize it? How can we keep such an investigation prompt, independent, thorough, transparent and subject to public inquiry and oversight? Even more important, what will happen if we don’t have such an inquiry, if the torture regime, which is obviously out of control and still in existence, continues?

I think everyone knows the answer to that, and with a shudder, rejects it. We must not let cowardice and fear and confusion prevent us from pursuing the terrible chore history has thrown upon us. We need a far-reaching societal discussion of these issues, and we need it now.

UK on U.S. Rendition: “Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation?”

9:29 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

A series of documents released on July 14 in the UK Binyam Mohamed civil case, Al Rawi and Others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Others, have produced a series of explosive revelations, reported in Britain and as yet unknown here in the U.S. The story has been reported at the UK Guardian, while the British advocacy group Reprieve has posted links to all the documents on its site.

The fate of the "ghost prisoners" in the U.S. rendition torture program has been the subject of much speculation. It was a central mystery explored in the recently released best-selling thriller by Barry Eisler, Inside Out, which takes the CIA’s secret black site torture and disappearances as the real-world scandal around which the book’s plot revolves. Eisler’s book implies that there were more killings in the secret prisons than we know.

Now, one of the most incendiary revelations in the documents concerns instructions given to MI6 Special Intelligence Service (SIS) over detention operations. According to Chapter 32 of MI6′s general procedural manual, "Detainees and Detention Operations", "the following sensitivities arise" (PDF – bold emphasis added):

a. the geographical destination of the target. Where will she or he be held? Under whose jurisdiction? Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation?

b. what treatment regime(s) for the detainees can be expected?

c. what is the legal basis for the detention?

d. what is the role of any liaison partner who might be involved?

The "objective" of "killing" points to the existence of extrajudicial murders carried out by the intelligence services. It’s not clear if the killings are by UK or liaison — including United States — forces. "Liaison partners" refers to instances of operational cooperation with non-UK intelligence agencies.

Both the Guardian and Reprieve make it clear, as does a perusal of the documents themselves, that official British policy was to cooperate with the U.S. rendition program. At more than one point, the UK government, led then by Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair, intervened to facilitate the rendition of prisoners, including UK citizens. At one point, in 2002, British officials discuss how to spin the leaks about UK cooperation with the rendition program: "Our line — that we are seeking information and reassurances and that the US is aware of our opposition to the death penalty — is not strong, but a stronger line is difficult until policy is clearer."

From the Reprieve report:

In a January 10, 2002, telegram from the FCO [Foreign Office], officials made clear that the Blair Government wanted British nationals taken to lawless detention in Guantanamo Bay: “we accept that the transfer of UK nationals held by US forces in Afghanistan to the US base in Guantánamo is the best way to meet out counter-terrorism objective by ensuring that they are securely held"….

An FCO official recognized in an August 22, 2002, email that “we are going to be open to charges of concealed extradition” and that as a result of direct interference by Number 10 “we broke our policy” on consular access by failing to help Martin Mubanga. Mubanga, who was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing after years in lawless detention without charge, was rendered first to Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo because Number 10 specifically refused to allow him to come home.

The Guardian article details a number of other details about "the Labour government’s involvement in the illegal abduction and torture of its own citizens." The UK government says it has identified half a million documents relevant to the Mohamed disclosure requests. The government’s request to stop the release of documents and force mediation with the plaintiffs was turned down by the British court.

Cameron Touts Secrecy for UK Torture Inquiry

The avalanche of documents has not escaped the notice of the new Cameron/Clegg coalition government. Just last week they announced the formation of a UK "judge-led investigation" regarding the complicity of intelligence personnel in the torture and rendition of detainees. The investigation is being conducted by a panel of three, whose head is the intelligence-connected Sir Peter Gibson, who is Intelligence Services Commissioner, responsible for monitoring secret bugging operations by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA). Many questions have been raised by the appointment of Gibson, and it is startling to think that British human rights groups will accede to the appointment, given Gibson’s likely bias, not to mention his track record in other "judge-led" investigations.

In any case, the six cases involved in the Mohamed civil proceedings are among those to be considered by the Gibson inquiry. While the government may not be able to stop the flow of documents in the Mohamed case, the Prime Minister was not going to let this be a precedent for the upcoming torture investigation.

From the UK Guardian:

Cameron also made clear that the sort of material that has so far been made public with the limited disclosure in the Guantánamo cases would be kept firmly under wraps during the inquiry. "Let’s be frank, it is not possible to have a full public inquiry into something that is meant to be secret," he said. "So any intelligence material provided to the inquiry panel will not be made public and nor will intelligence officers be asked to give evidence in public."

Maybe Cameron will be mollified if he looks at released documents like this one (PDF), in which almost 29 of 36 pages are totally redacted.

Exposing U.S. Torture

While on the surface this appears to be a story about Britain and torture, it is really about the United States. Tony Blair bent British rules and policies, including adherence to international treaties, such as the Convention Against Torture, at the behest of and to placate and cooperate with the United States.

At many points in the documents, it’s evident that British intelligence agents were witnessing serious abuse of prisoners. While they were told not to participate (actively) in the torture and cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment, the policies were written such that cooperation could proceed with ministerial approval.

The silence meeting these latest revelations in the U.S. press, the lack of ongoing interest in the UK torture inquiry, the failure by the so-called "progressive" components of the Democratic Party to strenuously take up the call by the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, and other human rights groups for greater accountability and official investigations over torture is an ominous development. One can only hope at this point that the continuing revelations about great crimes and cover-up will reach a tipping point, and the outrage over other issues — the BP massive oil blowout, Mel Gibson, etc. — will attach to the torture issue, which goes right to the heart of what this nation is. And right now, that heart is rotten.

U.S. Legal Actions, UK Inquiry: Noose Tightens on Torture Criminals

10:05 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

Before taking up the question of the UK torture inquiry, announced the other day, we should consider other important developments on the anti-torture front today.

Omar Khadr, captured as a child, abused, mistreated and tortured for years at Guantanamo, has fired his military attorneys — most likely because he seeks some method to exert control over his situation. God knows how we would respond if placed in his situation.

Meanwhile, Daniel Shulman at Mother Jones has posted an article describing two new actions taken to strip licensure from two former Guantanamo psychologists, Major John Leso and retired Colonel Larry James. James is now dean of the professional psychology program at Wright State University in Ohio, and was the subject of a complaint against him in Louisiana, which was dismissed by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, and subsequently brought to the Louisiana Court of Appeal. Leso is the infamous "Maj. L" in the interrogation log released by Time Magazine some years ago in the torture case of Mohammed Al-Qahtani.

Both Leso and James were members of the Behavioral Science Consultant Team, or BSCT, at Guantanamo. Indeed, James was in charge of the BSCT while he was there. The complaint against Leso, filed by the Center for Justice and Accountability, can be viewed here. The James filing — the work of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic — is available in PDF format.

These filings were separate from yet another complaint, this one filed with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, against James Mitchell, one of the principals for CIA torture contractors Mitchell-Jessen and Associates, who has also been identified as one of the interrogators involved in reverse-engineering SERE techniques for the interrogation-cum-torture experiments made upon Abu Zubaydah in the spring and summer of 2002. (PDF link to full document here.)

These actions have been taken in the context of the refusal of the Obama administration to undertake the necessary criminal investigations against the work of torturers under governmental employ during the Bush/Cheney era. While there is a secret investigation supposedly underway in the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, congressional oversight and action on the subject of interrogations has been minimal. While the Senate Armed Services Committee conducted a wide-ranging investigation of the spread of SERE-style torture in the military, the committee refuses to release a less-redacted version of their report, and moreover, issued their findings without recommendations. Even worse, they allowed SERE psychologists, like James Mitchell, to remain in charge of Special Operations battlefield interrogations and detention.

Keeping the lid on the torture scandal is the SOP of the Obama administration lately. According to a July 2 report by Mike Scarcella at The Blog of Legal Times, the Holder Justice Department has filed hundreds of papers in court arguing against an ACLU suit "that blacked-out passages in the [Office of Professional Responsibility] report [on the Office of Legal Counsel torture memos] should remain confidential in the interest of national security and the privacy of government lawyers."

It is in the context over this war over information and accountability that we must look across the Atlantic to see what is unfolding in the United Kingdom, where the new British administration of Prime Minister David Cameron (with coalition partner Nick Clegg) announced that there would be a "judge-led investigation" of the complicity of UK intelligence personnel in the torture of detainees in the U.S.-led rampage that incarcerated an untold number of prisoners, rendered them to countries that would torture, or sent them into CIA secret prisons. These crimes were committed in part to coerce "intelligence" and confessions that would link Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda, the better to drum up fake evidence to justify an unprovoked attack upon Iraq.

UK Torture Inquiry Questions

The announcement of the UK inquiry has been met with a mostly uncritical positive reception in the U.S. And who can blame the American human rights, anti-torture and civil liberties movement? They’ve had to put up with the "don’t look back" policy of President Obama, not to mention the latter’s embrace of Bush-era positions on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, indefinite detention, support for the Army Field Manual’s Appendix M, governmental secrecy, and even this administration’s own operation of black site prisons (run now by JSOC, not, apparently, the CIA).

A press release by the ACLU captured the general attitude of U.S. opponents of the Pentagon/CIA torture program:

"An investigation into the role of government personnel in the abuse and torture of prisoners is exactly what the Obama administration should be initiating. And while we welcome Prime Minister Cameron’s commitment to ensuring that torture survivors are acknowledged and compensated, this announcement also serves as a reminder of how little has been done here in the United States to reckon with the abuses of the last nine years," said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director.

While the sentiment is understandable (see a similar statement by Tom Parker at Amnesty International), even though we dearly need an investigation, it is not certain that the UK inquiry is exactly what the doctor ordered. The British press and human rights agencies, while approving of Cameron/Clegg’s decision to make good on their campaign promise and initiate an investigation into UK intelligence services complicity with torture, are dubious about the details of how the investigation will proceed.

For one thing, proceedings will be held in secret. While the three-person investigating panel will have ample access to UK documents, they will not be allowed to study U.S. documents. Moreover, the inquiry cannot begin until all current criminal and civil complaints are settled. This led U.S. blogger-commentator Marcy Wheeler to wonder if the inquiry weren’t meant in part to limit the disclosures that could still surface if the cases now outstanding were adjudicated fully.

The investigation panel is supposed to include Dame Janet Paraskeva, head of the civil service commissioners, and retired journalist Peter Riddell. No less a UK government critic than Craig Murray finds these two to be independent-minded and fair (though some question their experience in these matters). But Murray — and as we’ll see, many others — is concerned about the ex-judge Sir Peter Gibson, named to head the investigation.

The 76-year-old Gibson is an odd choice, especially, as John Ware at BBC Panorama put it, "for an inquiry deemed to be fully independent." He is closely linked to intelligence circles, as he is Intelligence Services Commissioner, responsible for monitoring secret bugging operations by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA). In the past, Gibson has refused to say how many instances of bugging have taken place, because it would “assist those hostile to the UK”. There has also been some criticism regarding Gibson’s propensity for secrecy.

Peter Oborne at the UK Daily Mail has more to say about Gibson and "judge-led" "independent inquiries:

Sir Peter is a thoroughly acceptable figure to British spies because he has been Commissioner of the Intelligence Services since 2006, and was reappointed only last year.

Most of his work is carried out away from the public eye, but I have heard no reports of Sir Peter asking probing questions of MI5 and MI6 bosses over the past few years, despite the publication of a mass of troubling material during that period.

This is not the first time Gibson has been asked to head a secretive investigation, as he also led the inquiry into the 1998 IRA Omagh bombing, after a BBC report that GCHQ withheld info from the police that could have led to an interdiction of the bombers. The report itself was, of course, kept secret, but there were many questions about how Gibson conducted the affair. According to John Ware:

Sir Peter’s report, published in January 2009, angered relatives of Omagh’s victims and survivors when it focused only on whether the Omagh bombing could have been stopped. He concluded it could not have been.

Sir Peter later acknowledged he "deliberately did not" investigate why intercepts that he found had been shared between GCHQ and Special Branch were not also shared with the CID.

He told MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) that he had not seen it as part of his remit to "go into questions like why certain things were done or not done".

An mixture of hopefulness and ominous foreboding emanates from British anti-torture human rights groups. Addressing worries that the inquiry will focus on lower-level interrogators and let government officials like former Prime Minister Tony Blair off the hook, London director of Human Rights Watch said, "To be credible and to get to the bottom of what went wrong, any inquiry must be as public as possible, examine all cases of alleged complicity that are brought to its attention and examine the degree to which decisions by UK ministers and officials contributed to abuse."

The British human rights group, Reprieve, who like the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights, sponsors many attorneys currently defending Guantanamo prisoners, noted a number of concerns about the proposed inquiry. Top on the list of concerns is the pervasive secrecy surrounding the investigation. Not only will they be held in secret, but only the Prime Minister can decide what will be made public in the proceedings or final report. "Under the Government’s plan," Reprieve reports, "there is no formal mechanism for civil participation — so Reprieve and other civil organisation[s] will not be allowed access to documents and proceedings."

Another outstanding demand is that the government produce the old, secret official policy that governed UK intelligence agents. The new policy, itself recently published, still allows unnamed "ministers" the ability to approve "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment": "…a wide spectrum of conduct and different considerations and legal principles may apply depending on the circumstances and facts of each case." What, Reprieve asks, were in the old rules, if these are the new rules? Any real inquiry would make this public.

What Now?

The no-accountability policy of the Obama administration has proven bankrupt, and recent legal actions taken against Leso, James, and Mitchell are laudable and hopefully will provide a decent chill among those health care providers who serviced (or still serve) the CIA and Pentagon torture and human experimentation programs. The UK inquiry certainly is a response to a societal repulsion in Great Britain against crimes against humanity, and perhaps, at a remove, to the widespread hatred of Britain’s participation in the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But it would be naive to believe that the British government, which sees itself as the best ally of the U.S. intelligence services, will open itself up to the kind of scrutiny needed — not without a fight. To agree to the form in which the investigation is now proposed threatens to direct the fight for accountability and justice into a blind alley. As Peter Oborne reminds us, we should remember that other "judge-led" inquiry/cover-up in 2003, when "Lord Hutton’s investigation into the death of government scientist David Kelly… failed to ask the right questions, while reaching conclusions that flew in the face of evidence."

In addition, instead of sparking a renewed bid for a real investigation in the U.S., which is the fond hope of many anti-torture activists, a limited hang-out in the UK will only stifle the movement for accountability in the U.S., as enthusiasm for an open inquiry and prosecutions of high government officials is buried by demoralization and a feeling of futility.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Activists can support the moves by Britain to have an investigation into Britain’s role in torture, while demanding that it be a real investigation, with open, televised hearings (as much as is feasible), the inclusion of civil organizations, such as Reprieve, and a published protocol that includes a programmatic insistence that all lines of evidence will be followed, no matter how high up the governmental ladder such inquiry leads, and no matter what other countries’ crimes may also be implicated. One could start by refusing to accept the appointment of Peter Gibson as head of the investigating panel.

Those who sponsored, support, and defend the torture and rendition programs of the past ten years must feel the noose of real justice tightening ever further around them, and they will fight with all their might and subterfuge to protect themselves and the monopoly of state violence and terror they administer. We must take this opportunity and push even harder to have a real investigation, one that will truly bring justice, and a giant step toward the complete abolition of torture and cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment of prisoners everywhere. That was the program of the European and American Enlightenment, and over 200 years later, it must be our program, too.