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Was the UK Detainee Inquiry on Rendition and Interrogation commissioned for the sake of political whitewashing?

Was the UK Detainee Inquiry on Rendition and Interrogation commissioned for the sake of political whitewashing?

In December 2013, the open version of the UK "Report of the Detainee Inquiry" was published. The open version is the censored version of the full report. The report follows an inquiry into the treatment of detainees; and relates to UK participation as part of the Coalition in the US run Rendition and "Enhanced" Interrogation program post 9/11. 

This post primarily focuses on the evolution of the rendition program, and the denial of the Geneva Convention which led to the human rights abuses of prisoners of war, primarily by the US, post 9/11 - during rendition, interrogation and detention.

Even excluding the fact that the public open version of the Detainee Inquiry Report has been censored - the report is severely limited owing to lack of access of the authors to relevant data. There are 12 pages [pages 91-102] listing issues and areas the Inquiry would have wished to investigate to more adequately answer questions, but they were not provided adequate access to information to do so. 

If you read the report you will find that for every question asked, there has been relevant information withheld from the reviewers - which clearly limits the validity of any conclusions that could be drawn from the cherry picked data they were provided.

Given how much was withheld from the reviewers (let alone the public) - it would appear that the commissioning of this report, (with the reviewers being given cherry picked data and the public receiving a censored version) was done as a form of political whitewashing to give the appearance of transparency - while in fact covering up the truth.

But the report does give a history (albeit very brief) of the evolution of the US run - rendition and enhanced interrogation program.

Enabling legislation:

The report identifies 3 measures that empowered the US government to undermine human rights in the context of its treatment of detainees (more appropriately called Prisoners of War) under the guise of the "Global War on Terror" between 9/11 2001 and November 2001:

1. On 14 September, a joint resolution, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, was passed by the US Congress which authorised the use of the United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
It authorised the President to “use all necessary and appropriate force” against those involved in the attacks.

2. On 17 September, President Bush signed a Presidential Finding which gave the CIA new wide-ranging powers.
A Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE) Working Paper from 2007 notes that the Finding gave authorisation to a broad scope of covert actions that, for example, allowed the CIA to establish a secret detention programme overseas.

3. On 13 November, President Bush issued a Military Order (PMO) on ‘Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terror’.
This instructed that detainees should be treated humanely and permitted the US to hold detainees at a location anywhere in the world as determined by the US Secretary of State for Defense.

These three measures permitted the US rendition programme to expand rapidly and change in nature. It became politically deemed a “vital tool” of the so-called global war on terror - and was managed and carried out by the CIA. 

The policy of treating prisoners of war (referred to as detainees) in a manner “consistent” with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions was adopted by the US, subject to the caveat, that this would be the case, “unless otherwise instructed by an appropriate higher authority”.

From late 2001, the US envisaged that there would be room to treat detainees as ‘unlawful combatants’ rather than Prisoners of War.

The green light for rendition and torture

In January 2002, the US Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) publicly stated that while the US was, “for the most part,” treating prisoners “in a manner that is reasonably consistent with the Geneva Conventions,” it need not do so because the detainees were “unlawful combatants”, [who did not have any rights under the Convention]. 

"Enhanced" Interrogation Techniques
The report describes the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. 
Minimal details are provided, but such techniques included:

i. variations on techniques which the European Court of Human Rights had found to amount to inhuman and degrading treatment; and

ii. in a smaller number of cases, the use of waterboarding which, following a US public announcement in 2008 that this technique had been used, the UK Government went on record as regarding as a form of torture.

In 2004 and 2005, the UK SIS Office specifically issued interim guidance to it's officers regarding unacceptable treatment of detainees (suggesting that these methods had been in use at detention facilities):

“The following forms of treatment of detainees are regarded by UKG [HMG] as unacceptable and contrary to the Geneva Convention:

1. Hooding during questioning, during arrest or transit 

2. Physical punishment of any sort (beatings etc)
3. Use of stress privation
4. Intentional sleep deprivation
5. Withdrawal of food, water or medical help
6. Degrading treatment (sexual embarrassment, religious tauntings etc)
7. Use of ‘white noise’
8. Torture methods such as thumb screws etc.
NB. The blindfolding or obscuring of vision during the arrest or transit on security grounds is regarded as acceptable.”

Not in the UK Detainee Inquiry Report, but reported elsewhere (and included here as an indicator of all that went on that is known about the enhanced interrogation technique but was barely touched on in the UK Detainee Inquiry Report:
  • Maj Gen Antonio Taguba confirmed that "systemic and illegal" abuse occurred under the watch of the 372nd Military Police Company in Tier 1-A of Abu Ghraib. He cited the photographs, additional video, and detainee and witness testimony. Beyond the abuses depicted in the photos, Taguba described other reported incidents he deemed credible, including:
  • "A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee";
  • "Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them";
  • "Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees";
  • "Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair";
  • "Threatening male detainees with rape";
  • "Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell";
  • "Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick"; and
  • "Using military working dogs to frighten intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee."
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)

PHR was founded in 1986 on the idea that health profes- sionals, with their specialized skills, ethical commitments, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them.
PHR is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization funded through private foundations and by individual donors. Membership is open to all, not only health professionals. PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
  (Since 2005, PHR has documented the systematic use of psychological and physical torture by US personnel against detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Bagram airbase, and elsewhere in its groundbreaking reports Break Them Down; Leave No Marks; Broken Laws, Broken Lives; and Aiding Torture.) 
PHR analyzes three instances of apparent illegal and un- ethical human subject research for their report: Experiments in Torture - Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the Enhanced Interrogation Program: 
  • Medical personnel were required to monitor all waterboarding practices and collect detailed medical information that was used to design, develop, and deploy subsequent waterboarding procedures;  
  • Information on the effects of simultaneous versus sequential application of the interrogation techniques on detainees was collected and used to establish the policy for using tactics in combination. These data were gathered through an assessment of the presumed “susceptibility” of the subjects to severe pain; 
  • Information collected by health professionals on the effects of sleep deprivation on detainees was used to establish the “enhanced” interrogation program’s (EIP) sleep deprivation policy.

The PHR Report: Experiments in Torture - Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the Enhanced Interrogation Program is available at this link: 
Some other refs 
Who is to blame for Abu Ghraib?

Redefining torture: 

Sidelining Geneva 
Torture Reports   (Taguba Report)   (Schlesinger Report)   (Fay Jones Report)   (Church Report exec summary. This report was kept secret). (Schmidt Report) (Tom Parker comments on use of torture by the UK; and Oren Gross on how torture methods spread)

Guantanamo Bay detention camp (wiki)
Iraq, Guantanamo Torture Proven By Medical Exams: Report
Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedure (Published by Wikileaks)
Guantanamo document confirms psychological torture
In June 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v Rumsfeld that - Common Article 3 did apply to detainees detained in CIA-run prisons as well as those detained at Guantanamo, and thus ruled the US policy up to that date unlawful.

It was in response to this judgment that the US Department of Defense (DoD) directed the application of Common Article 3 to all DoD facilities, including Guantanamo, on 7 July 2006. (In contrast, the UK considered the full protections afforded by both Conventions as applicable from the outset of the conflict - albeit the report suggests that the UK was complicit to some degree - although the degree of UK involvement remains largely unknown because the members of the inquiry were provided only selected data).

The third Geneva Convention (GCIII) requires that:
“Every prisoner of war, when questioned on the subject, is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information.... No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.” (article 17)

The fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) requires that:
“Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity” (article 27)
“No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.” (article 31)

Common Article 3 of the Conventions provides for minimum protections for captured
persons, which must be adhered to by all contracting States. 

It bans torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, as well as outrages against the human dignity of detainees. Under the Article, each Party to a conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

“(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”

There is no universally recognised legal definition of rendition. 
The ISC, in its 2007 Report on Rendition, identified five different types of rendition:

1. Rendition: Encompasses any extra-judicial transfer of persons from one jurisdiction or State to another.

2. Rendition to Justice: The extra-judicial transfer of persons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes of standing trial within an established and recognised legal and judicial system.

3. Military Rendition: The extra-judicial transfer of persons (detained in, or related to, a theatre of military operations) from one State to another, for the purposes of military detention in a military facility.

4. Rendition to Detention: The extra-judicial transfer of persons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes of detention and interrogation outside the normal legal system.

5. Extraordinary Rendition: The extra-judicial transfer of persons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes of detention and interrogation outside the normal legal system, where there is a real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The report indicates that the post-9/11 rendition programme included:
1. Renditions to third countries to which the detainee had no obvious connection. 
This included rendition to countries which the UK Government regarded as having a questionable human rights record in detainee treatment;

2. Renditions to CIA secret prisons ("black sites")
This included rendition to some detention centres in third countries that were not open to inspection and kept secret even to a large extent within the host nation – the so-called ‘black sites’ or ‘CIA secret prisons’;

3. Renditions to the country of origin of the detainee. 
This included rendition to countries which the UK Government regarded as having a questionable human rights record in detainee treatment.

The writers of the UK Detainee Inquiry are commended for having made the most of limited information.

But the restriction of their access to information and censorship of the findings indicates that this exercise was in the interest of political whitewashing the UK involvement in the US rendition and enhanced interrogation program - in order to give the appearance of transparency - while in fact likely covering up the truth (otherwise the information would not have been withheld).

This report also calls to question the existence of organizations like the CIA, which operate with little or no oversight. When there is secrecy and little oversight - there is no accountability. The CIA and similar organizations are intrinsically Machiavellian. Machiavellians are predisposed to lie, cheat, steal and do anything illegal, immoral or vicious if it will satisfy their personal goals. 

It is dangerous, and not in the public interest to have Machiavellian organizations in positions of power and influence in any country. 

The full (open/censored) Detainee Inquiry report is available here:

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