UK made use of CIA 'torture' evidence

Right or wrong, Britain did benefit from evidence obtained by from the CIA’s now-notorious programme of High Value Target (HVT) interrogation, the use of methods like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, confinement in boxes, and throwing prisoners against (specially-modified) walls.

That’s what emerged from an investigation I did for BBC Radio’s File on Four and BBC World Service ‘Assignment‘ into the vexed question of alleged UK complicity into the methods used by the United States in combatting terrorism. (Download the PODcast of this program here or Listen to File on Four now 0r World Service version here. )

The former No 2 at Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), also known as MI6, Sir Nigel Inkster, was among those on the program. Asked by me if the UK agencies reap the benefits of the most controversial US methods, he said:

“To some degree I would say that the answer to that question is yes they did…Lets not forget that we’re dealing with a situation in which both the UK and the US had significantly under-invested in intelligence and security capacity for the preceding decade, so neither the CIA nor their British counterparts were exactly staffed up to deal with this global insurgency. And the material that came from these detainee interrogations was unquestionably valuable; one has to say for better or worse because as it now becomes evident you know some of the ways that information was obtained are ones that the UK government could never willingly have gone along with.”

What’s interesting is that, like some ex high-ups in the CIA I interviewed for this program, the significance Sir Nigel makes of these HVT interrogations is not their revelation of great plots but rather the way they filled in the details of an Al Qaeda network that on 9/11 was still largely un-canvassed. Not much of a ticking bomb scenario, in other words. That’s not really how it worked at all. Continue reading UK made use of CIA 'torture' evidence

On the trail of torture

UPDATE: Binyam Mohamed returned to the UK on February 23, 2009

(Published in the Sunday Times, Feb 8, 2009)
by Stephen Grey and David Leppard

Prisoner No 1458 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, woke up each day last week in his solitary cell and waited for the inevitable: the arrival of a team of guards to take him down the corridor in shackles to be painfully force fed through a tube.
This was not another attempt to extract a confession, but an attempt to keep Binyam Mohamed alive. The 30-year-old former resident of Notting Hill, west London, was continuing his hunger strike against what he sees as failed promises to set him free. When he last saw his lawyer two weeks ago, his arms, she said, stuck out of his 6ft body “like little thin twigs”.
Although previously accused by US authorities of plotting a terrorist attack on American soil, Mohamed has not been charged with any crime. His former military prosecutor declared a month ago that he presented no threat to either America or Britain.
After losing almost 50lb in weight, and wasting further by the day, he was probably in no state to be told or even to care that two High Court judges in London last Wednesday were appealing for the public release of “powerful evidence” that might help prove his astonishing claims of mistreatment to be true. The issues at stake, said the British judges, were nothing short of the lofty interests of “law, free speech and democratic accountability”.
Involved shocking allegations of extreme mental and physical torture at the behest of America’s CIA, it is a case that has threatened to embarrass the new administration of President Barack Obama, whose inaugural speech included a pledge to halt such activities, as well as to shed an unwelcome spotlight on what exactly the British government knew and kept secret about potential crimes committed by its closest ally. Continue reading On the trail of torture

The Guantanamo Airlift: how Europe helped transport the prisoners

By Stephen Grey / additional research Natalia Viana.

For more information, including breakdown of Guantanamo prisoner flights, see / and

THE secret flight plans of American military planes have revealed for the first time how European countries helped send prisoners, including British citizens, to the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Despite widespread criticism of alleged human rights abuses and torture at the US base in Cuba, a Sunday Times investigation has shown that at least five European countries gave the United States permission to fly nearly 700 terrorist suspects across their territory.

Three years ago, The Sunday Times published flight logs of CIA civilian jets in Europe, setting off a controversy over the whether countries across the continent have been secretly involved in America’s rendition of terrorist suspects to countries that carry out torture. Continue reading The Guantanamo Airlift: how Europe helped transport the prisoners

Gitmo Underwear Scandal; Who Smuggled the Speedos?

ABC News: The Blotter
September 24, 2007 4:09 PM
Stephen Grey and Brian Ross Report:

The discovery that two Guantanamo detainees were wearing unauthorized underwear — Under Armour briefs and a Speedo bathing suit — has apparently triggered a full U.S. Navy investigation.
In a letter last month to a lawyer representing the two detainees, a U.S. Navy Commander warned, “We cannot tolerate contraband being surreptitiously brought into the camp” and said, “Such activities threaten the safety” of Guantanamo staff, detainees and visiting lawyers.
The lawyer who received the letter, Clive Stafford-Smith of London, wrote back, “I have never received such an extraordinary letter in my entire career.”
“I cannot imagine who would want to give my client Speedos, or why,” Stafford-Smith responded about his client, Shake Aamer. He “is hardly in a position to go swimming, since the only available water is the toilet in his cell. I presume that nobody thinks that Mr. Aamer wears Speedos while paddling in his privy.”
Aamer, a Saudi Arabian, has been held at Guantanamo for more than five years, according to the Associated Press.
Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.
The U.S. Navy Commander, whose name was redacted from copies of the letters provided to by Stafford-Smith, said the investigation revealed “the briefs were not issued by JTF-Guantanamo personnel, nor did they enter the camp through regular mail.” Continue reading Gitmo Underwear Scandal; Who Smuggled the Speedos?