David Blackburn

To restore confidence, there must be an inquiry into alleged British involvement in torture. 

To restore confidence, there must be an inquiry into alleged British involvement in torture. 
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Following Alan Johnson’s and David Miliband’s denial of British collusion in torture, Sir John Scarlett, the head of MI6, has inadvertently added a further denial. In a Radio 4 interview, recorded prior to the publication of Johnson’s and Miliband’s joint article, and which will be broadcast this morning, Sir John asserted that there has been "no torture and there is no complicity with torture.”

Asked if Britain was ever compromised by its allies’, and particularly the Americans’, “different moral standards”, Scarlett replied: "Our American allies know that we are our own service, that we are here to work for the British interests and the United Kingdom. We're an independent service working to our own laws - nobody else's - and to our own values."

He concluded: “Our officers are as committed to the values and the human rights values of liberal democracy as anybody else. They have the responsibility of protecting the country against terrorism and these issues need to be debated and understood in that context.”

Scarlett concurs exactly with Miliband and Johnson – there is no collusion or complicity, but intelligence gathering must be understood in its own context. The caveat does not answer questions concerning British involvement in Extraordinary Rendition, Guantanamo Bay and the legal black hole at Bagram Airport and cases such as Binyam Mohammed’s. Naturally, fighting terrorism necessitates suspending normality; but in what is an ideological struggle between liberal democracy and a perverse fundamentalism, there must be a limit to what we are prepared to sacrifice. Confidence in British Intelligence’s integrity is uneasy and a tendency to judge them as guilty before proving it innocent is emerging in consequence.  Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, Andrew Tyrie’s assessment that an inquiry “is the only way to give the public confidence that we have got to the bottom of all of this, to draw a line under it and to move on” is correct and the government should call one.