Yet Another Torture Cover-Up

graphic: Lance Page/Truthout.org; Adapted: takomabibelot, Poe Tatum via Flickr

When the Brits announced a year ago they’d hold an inquiry into torture, I suggested it was an attempt to get torture victims like Binyam Mohamed to settle so the British government could conduct a sham investigation. In November, Mohamed and others agreed to a settlement.

And today we discover (shock!) that the investigation is a whitewash after all. (h/t fatster)

The government’s plans for an inquiry into the UK’s role in torture and rendition after 9/11 are in disarray after human rights groups queued up to denounce it as a sham and lawyers for the victims said they were boycotting the hearings.

Their anger was prompted by the publication of the detailed terms of references and protocols under which the inquiry will be run by Sir Peter Gibson, a retired judge. It showed that key hearings will be held in secret and the cabinet secretary will have the ultimate say over what the public will and will not learn.

Individuals subjected to rendition and torture during the so-called war on terror will not be permitted to ask questions of MI5 or MI6 officers and the inquiry will not seek any evidence from foreign intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, about British involvement in the torture and abuse of detainees.

The protocol states that the aim is to “establish a reliable account of what happened”, but critics point out that it also says the inquiry “will not request evidence from the authorities of other countries or their personnel”.

The Western democracies–Spain, Germany, the UK and, of course, the US (Poland has not yet thrown their inquiry)–are getting pretty good at this torture kabuki.

But I guess with all the practice they’ve had, that’s not surprising.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

22 replies
  1. ANOther says:

    Well it’s certainly not surprising, but “nut surprising” seems to capture the theme equally well!

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        No, I don’t. I’ve thought of putting something up on my personal blog, but have never gotten around to it.

        Thanks… like a gift offered but not received, it’s the thought that counts. And I mean that sincerely. Means a lot.

  2. prostratedragon says:

    Music for this Thursday: one of the greatest hits of the 16th century,

    Bouree from Dance Suite for Terpsichore, by Michael Praetorius

    Sometimes this piece is played with either crumhorns or a brass ensemble of cornets and sackbutts as the featured instruments, but I find that the Renaissance racketts used here provide a certain … je ne sais quois … resonance, maybe, that captures the tone I’m anticipating from the day.

    (You might check out some of the other Praetorius vids while you’re at it. He’s pretty funky.)

  3. harpie says:

    Craig Murray adds to The Guardian’s information:

    Tidy Little Whitewash; Craig Murray; 7/7/11

    […] It gets worse. The inquiry’s offices, at 35 Great Smith St, are in a Cabinet Office building. It is staffed not by people from the judicial service but by central government civil servants. All the inquiry’s computers are Cabinet Office computers which are an integral part of the Whitehall central government computer network, and the inquiry’s papers can be accessed by MI5, MI6, the Cabinet Office and Foreign Office without leaving their desks. I contacted the Inquiry last night offering to give evidence – and some staff in the FCO had copies of my email this morning. That is how “independent” the Gibson Inquiry is. […]

    …and offers his testimony to the inquiry…

    I am therefore making contact with you, so the Inquiry has my contact details, and I expect to be called.

    …but really expects to be ignored.

    • thatvisionthing says:

      More from Murray’s post —

      An independent inquiry?

      This is such a sick joke it is beyond belief.

      My present thought is, that while I very much respect those who are boycotting this inquiry, yet given that I have an eyewitness account that the Foreign Office specifically sought to twist the terms of reference to exclude my evidence, it would be crazy to make them happy by boycotting. But nor do I wish to submit unsolicited written evidence that the Inquiry can simply bury in Volume III Appendix B p. 4278-4291. Their website says specifically that Crown Servants and Former Crown Servants will normally be approached by the Inquiry – they are anxious not to encourage whistleblowers to come forward. So I have written to them, offering to give evidence but putting the onus on them to call me. This is what I sent:

      I was, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the only senior British civil servant who entered a formal written objection to my Secretary of State on the subject of our complicity in torture, and in doing so I specifically referred to our being in breach of the UN Convention on Torture.

      I submitted evidence and gave oral testimony on the UK’s policy of complicity in torture to the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Extraordinary Rendition in Brussels, and the Council of Europe Inquiry into Extraordinary Rendition in Strasbourg, as well as the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. I note that your guidance says that normally your Inquiry will take the initiative to call former crown servants. I am therefore making contact with you, so the Inquiry has my contact details, and I expect to be called.

      Please acknowledge receipt.

      Craig Murray
      HM Ambassador to Uzbekistan 2002-4

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    No one in the West is better than the Brits at hiding government wrongdoing behind an “official inquiry”. Government commissions are where the truth goes to die, especially when they are chaired by a retired judge. The social network behind these appointments and the results they achieve is legendary.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Speaking of cover-ups, Rupert Murdoch has decided to close his News of the World in the UK. NoW is the focus of longstanding government investigations and private-party litigation involving massive illegal hacking into thousands of victims’ phone and e-mail accounts. A closure could save him money, redirect resources to other titles, remove the now discredited NoW label from exposure, delay disclosure of data and witness testimony, and deprive claimants of resources fully to settle their claims. All in a day’s work for Rupert and his flying monkeys.

    • rugger9 says:

      NewsCorp still exists, and NoW was its subsidiary, so I’d see this as a deepening of the pocket victims get to dig into. IMHO, Rupert’s closure was an admission of guilt, and Labour will make this a hot topic in Question Time at least. They have their own reliable outlets in the press. There is also the detail of just how widespread this scandal is. How about the rest of the Commonwealth?

      Cameron’s communications director will be arrested, for things done before Cameron brought him in, and in keeping a blind eye until this blew up. This puts blood in the water for Miliband, and puts Clegg on the hot seat to either ratify the Tory situation or denounce it (and perhaps blow up the coalition), especially from his backbenchers. Labour ought to be able to make considerable hay out of this, and if Cameron thinks the public will stand for BSkyB being given to Rupert after this, he’s going to be out of office very quickly. This was so completely sordid, unnecessary, salacious for the mere profitability, that the stench will prevent any traction for any message Cameron might try.

      The royal angle is also going to be a problem, since I do not see the Queen putting up with this at all [especially after the circus that still surrounds Princess Diana]. The Official Secrets Act will doubtlessly turn up, since I’m sure the hacks got some of those secret details. Sacrificing NoW will not help any of these issues, since Rupert also kept a firm hold on his empire, and authorizations for this activity would have to come from the top. It is extremely hard to believe that after a scoop or two that the sourcing method wouldn’t be relayed to Rupert and his top-level minions, the liabilities were too great.

      So if the UK is so gung ho to hang Assange, will they get Rupert as well?

      • thatvisionthing says:

        [especially after the circus that still surrounds Princess Diana]

        How long has this been going on? I mean, when the story broke, Anthony Weiner came to mind right away, and it’s a hop and a skip to John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer — but Princess Diana? MY Princess Diana?? (whoa, that’s how I feel? why yes, I see I do — in America!) Funny: Supernational, multinational, anational, beyond national — puts her in the lofty untouchable sphere with corporate persons, like Rupert Murdoch’s ownings? Funny too: She still has legs — world class legs. This I gotta watch.

        • rugger9 says:

          Wandering through Hyde Park in London, there is the well-signed Princess Diana fountain (not running due to a drought, it seems), the Diana playground near the Peter Pan statue, the immensely-busy-with-tourists Kensington Palace even during renovations, there’s lots of references to the “people’s princess” and assorted kitsch that goes with it. She was also back into the national memory because of William’s marriage to Kate [kind of like Diana’s but we hope for a better outcome, Will’s got more sense than his father, it seems]. Back in the day, the Queen was very much made into the bad-tempered harpie by tons of bad press, the young Earl Spencer’s speech at Diana’s funeral [especially the line about titles, given that Diana was stripped of some of hers], and there was a lot of talk then in the UK about the queen abdicating, bypassing Charles, to William. I’m sure the royal household will make quite certain that there will be no more press of that kind.

          On the principal topic, torture ought to make QTime if there was justice for a British subject, but will not. Tony Blair was Labour, and Miliband would have to explain why his predecessor let it go [Blair’s already getting hit for the rush to war], and Cameron doesn’t gain enough to beat Labour with it since he’s in government now. That’s another reason the issue with Murdoch is so useful for Labour, it’s all about the Tories and their judgement/ethics in a winning scenario.

          • thatvisionthing says:

            See, I don’t know much about British politics, but what’s piquing my imagination is thinking about a world where national governments are just too weak to serve their useful public purpose. I think that’s where we’re going, recognizing it, and EW wrote a post on it earlier too, about the death of sovereignty. Nations literally can’t police themselves, they’re so corrupted by secrecy and corporate money — who rules? Rule of Nobody. So — and I’m way fuzzy here — what happens when justice for a world figure that everyone cares about is at stake? I mean, I think it’s secrecy/corporations vs. real people, that the corporations will protect their puppet politicians and government agencies, but that puts them kind of starkly against the people if it’s shown that Diana WAS hacked, that the press hounding was based on something more criminal and tangible… like, I don’t even know what we’re talking about. But is there a way that this could bring a different set of adversaries in play than national governments and justice departments that cannot serve public interests anymore? And is this a way for new justice systems to build themselves from the ground up — a grassroots construct to serve their unmet needs? I think that’s what I keep looking for. Because we all see that justice has failed, is failing, will fail. The job can’t be done by governments anymore.

            • rugger9 says:

              It goes in cycles, and lately the cycles run on the order of centuries. It’s somewhat different now because the media in the USA is more monolithic in its ownership, and possibly that is what was really behind the net neutrality attempt to rein in the blogs recently.

              100 years ago, was the sunset of the Gilded Age, that embodied almost all of the attributes of society (even in America) that we see today, especially in terms of corporate accountability for finance and safety. Unless we break through the MSM wall, we run the risk of fulfilling the predictions of 1984’s Ministry of Truth.

              As it is, on a separate EW thread, regarding the arrest of Cameron’s communications director, it seems that individual gave (now proven false) testimony that sent a Scottish MP to jail, and the Glasgow cops want to discuss that with him.

              • thatvisionthing says:

                What a circus! Turning over to the police evidence of payments to the police for the police to discover they committed crimes and investigate… NY Times:

                According to another person familiar with the possible charges, e-mails recently turned over to the police from The News of the World linked Mr. Coulson and half a dozen other people, including high-ranking editors, to payments to the police “in the six figures.”

    • thatvisionthing says:

      Speaking of corporate persons — isn’t it great how they can just change their name and morph their assets and move on? Blackwater becomes Xe and it’s a whole new slate? I wonder if there’s a MERS database for criminal corporations…

      From comments at Murray’s website:

      Dreoilin:

      Biggest shock I got all day!
      .
      Twitter: #C4NEWS BREAKING: James Murdoch announces closure of News of the World – last edition this Sunday:
      http://t.co/hZGP7gf

      Craig:

      Just wait for your brand new soaraway Sunday Sun.

      Mary:

      Some updating required.
      .
      First edition of the News of the World. The 1st of October 1843
      http://www.information-britain.co.uk/famdates.php?id=393

      Mark_golding:

      Craig is psychic – thesunonsunday.co.uk was registered as a domain name on July 5 by a company called Media Spring.
      .

      Domain name:
      thesunonsunday.co.uk

      Registrant:
      Mediaspring

      Registrant type:
      UK Individual

      Registrant’s address:
      The registrant is a non-trading individual who has opted to have their
      address omitted from the WHOIS service.

      Registrar:
      Webfusion Ltd t/a 123-reg [Tag = 123-REG]
      URL: http://www.123-reg.co.uk

      Relevant dates:
      Registered on: 05-Jul-2011
      Renewal date: 05-Jul-2013
      Last updated: 07-Jul-2011

      .
      “Corporations do everything people do except breathe, die and go to jail for dumping 1.3 million pounds of PCBs in the Hudson River.” – Stephen Colbert

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