British intelligence was fully aware of the existence of the “black sites” and gave details of email exchange between officers to show their full knowledge as early as 2003.
British intelligence officials questioned detainees that were tortured dozens of times by their US counterparts but refused to raise concerns over the industrial scale of the abuse, a report by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has revealed.
The parliamentary group that oversees the work of the intelligence machinery of the UK outlined in its reported that “agencies were deliberately turning a blind eye so as not to damage the relationship and risk the flow of intelligence.” Even as early as 2003, two years into the “war on terror” launched by former President George W Bush, more than 83 cases where UK personnel had been involved in, witnessed or been told of mistreatment.
In one of these cases British intelligence officers put questions to a man despite knowing he had been subjected to appalling abuse, including sleep deprivation and waterboarding in secret US run prisons knows as “black sites”. The first person to be detained in such a facility was Saudi born Palestinian national Abu Zubaydah.
The report found that US officials had briefed British intelligence officers about Abu Zubaydah who was being subjected to harsh interrogation techniques. One senior British intelligence officer noted that his treatment was so harsh that 98 per cent of US Special Forces would have broken if subject to the same conditions.
Abu Zubaydah lost his eye while in custody and is still being held in Guantanamo Bay. He was also said to have confessed that Al-Qaeda planned to use an improvised nuclear device to attack Washington, which is now accepted to be a false claim, the report found.
Agency officers were on a number of other occasions informed in detail by a foreign liaison service about mistreatment of detains, details of which were also included in the report. A regular sanction used against suspected terrorists is the “dark room”. This is a blacked out room where detainees are exposed to strobe lighting and loud rock music to create a disorientating effect, the report found. They have a 30-pound (13.6 kilogramme) weight tied around their neck and a guard makes them walk constantly around the room. Should they collapse, they are doused in water and revived; they then continue in the dark room. The temperature is varied between uncomfortable extremes.
ISC says that British intelligence was fully aware of the existence of the “black sites” and gave details of email exchange between officers to show their full knowledge as early as 2003. According to the report there was a general assumption that responsibility for ensuring the legality of detentions lay with the detaining authorities and those liaison partners, notably the US, operated lawfully according to their own jurisdictions.
Scotland Yard has said it is studying the report, amid warnings that if the UK does not investigate the international community may do so.