UK Foreign Office documents concerning the use of British territory by CIA 'rendition' flights show that ministers have been keeping key evidence in their possession from MPs, it has emerged.
The emails and hand-written notes, which are visible in the hands of a UK official in a photo obtained by the Observer newspaper, reveal that flight logs from the island of Diego Garcia have been handed to British detectives investigating renditions. However, despite repeated questions from MPs, ministers have so far refused to provide them with the same documentation.
The UK Government has already admitted that Diego Garcia - an island in the British Indian Ocean Territory which hosts a US military base - was used by two CIA rendition flights in 2002, as part of a programme which saw prisoners flown to countries around the world where they could be subjected to torture.
However, questions remain over the scale of the role played by Diego Garcia in the programme. A CIA flight-plan unearted in 2011 suggests the agency planned to use the island for the 2004 renditon of an anti-Gaddafi dissident and his pregnant wife to Libya. Ministers have however refused to say whether the rendition did make use of the island, or whether the US sought permission to do so.
The documents revealed in today's Observer also suggest concern on the part of the UK Government over presentational issues - a hand-written reference to a "more active" press office is visible - and over how much information has been withheld from the public and Parliament - demonstrated by the note "what else in public domain?"
They can be expected to put further pressure on the Government after last week's revelation that key Diego Garcia flight logs from 2002 had suffered "water damage."
Cori Crider, a lawyer at human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting the victims of the Libyan renditions, said: “This document suggests the UK Government is more interested in presentation than the truth when it comes to the central role it played in CIA torture flights.
“The prioritization of spin can be seen in the reference to a 'more active' press office. Meanwhile, the worried scribble 'what else in public domain?' hints at the iceberg of damaging information that ministers want to keep from both Parliament and the public.
“The Foreign Office should immediately release all documents, including the water-damaged ones and Mr. Moody’s talking points memo, so a proper assessment can be made of this material and what it means. Only this can begin to address the decade-long whitewash of Diego Garcia’s position in the CIA secret prison system.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact donald[DOT]campbell[AT]reprieve[DOT]org[DOT]uk
2. Today's Observer story can be found here.
3. A British Foreign Office Minister last week revealed that flights logs for Diego Garcia from 2002 were "incomplete due to water damage."
4. The CIA flight plan suggesting the Agency planned to make use of Diego Garcia for a 2004 rendition can be found here.