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Terrorism & Security

CIA rendition flights landed in British territories

The British government says it has learned from the US that its earlier denials of aiding the criticized operations were wrong.

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The BBC writes that the Conservative Party expressed its deep concern over the revelations, while members of the Liberal Democrats called for a full investigation.

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In the Commons, William Hague, the [Conservative Party's] shadow foreign secretary, said he accepted assurances were made "in good faith" but said: "This information will cause widespread concern given the categoric nature of the assurances previously given.
"More worrying still, it means that very specific assurances about the use of the facilities at Diego Garcia have also turned out, although given in good faith, to have been false." ...
Liberal Democrat Edward Davey called for a full inquiry and said extraordinary rendition was "state-sponsored abduction" and the government must ensure that Britain was not used to "facilitate" it.
Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell added: "The truth is, this is a gross embarrassment, in spite of its good faith, for the British government, involving as it does a breach of our moral obligations and possibly our legal responsibilities as well."

The Associated Press writes that the discovery of the 2002 rendition flights "risks replaying the debate over tactics that came to light in 2005 with the revelation that the CIA had operated secret prisons to interrogate prisoners." At the time, AP reports, Ms. Rice suggested that rendition flights operated with the permission of host foreign governments. AP also notes that Rice avoided addressing Britain's involvement in rendition flights during a December 2005 interview.

The disclosure of the rendition flights brought condemnation in the editorials of British newspapers. The Guardian asked, "Why... has the US waited until now to reveal what has been going on? Why have all those official requests from London failed to elicit the truth until now,?" and stated that "It is not just disappointing when ministers repeatedly mislead parliament. It is unacceptable and wrong." The Times of London writes that the disclosure "is a saga that could be dismissed as being about the past, not the future." However, "the compelling need to have a culture of consulting allies that is scrupulously followed in practice transcends the argument about rendition. Extraordinary omissions will not serve any US administration well." And the Financial Times wonders if this case is but one incident in a larger pattern of perhaps willful ignorance on the part of the British government.

What else does London not know – or want to be able to plausibly deny – in a relationship with Washington that appears as unsighted as it is unequal, despite Mr Blair's pretensions to be a player?
This affair should not end without a thorough inquiry into whether other rendition operations have used British facilities, and indeed, whether Diego Garcia was part of the same lawless network that includes Guantánamo and Bagram.
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