THE head of a committee of MPs investigating allegations of British involvement in torture confirmed that he would ask the US government to hand over any material documenting the UK’s role in the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation programme.
Former foreign and defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the House of Commons intelligence committee would act “without fear or favour”, although some MPs want a judge-led inquiry.
The stark warning from the Conservative grandee, who served in John Major and Margaret Thatcher’s governments, follows a US senate report which found “brutal” treatment of suspects.
Downing Street has said some material was removed from the report at the UK’s request “for national security reasons”, but said no redactions related to British involvement in the mistreatment of prisoners.
Sir Malcolm was speaking as the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which he chairs, is conducting an inquiry into the treatment of detainees by British intelligence agencies in the decade following the terror attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001.
The former cabinet minister confirmed that his committee would ask the US government whether it could see the redacted material.
The Conservative MP said that if British intelligence officials were present when people were being tortured then those officials were “complicit in that torture”.
He said: “That would be quite against all the standards of this country; it would be something that ought to be brought into the public domain.”
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Sir Malcolm said his committee would request any former minister or serving minister with a contribution to make to give evidence.
He said: “If they refuse to do so, that in itself would imply they have something to hide.
“We will decide who in the intelligence agencies, who from the government or former governments or anyone else, needs to be subject to our evidence sessions.
“If there is evidence they knew or were involved then of course they would be priority figures for our investigation.
“If people deserve to be embarrassed, it’s our job to embarrass them.
“We have a statutory obligation to carry out this task without fear or favour and if our conclusions are that either serving ministers or former ministers or MI6 or MI5 or anyone else were complicit in torture, we will say so and we will indicate the evidence that has brought us to that conclusion.”
Former home secretary Alan Johnson said former foreign secretary Jack Straw and former prime minister Tony Blair, who were in office at the time of the post-9/11 interrogation programme, should go before Sir Malcolm’s committee.
Mr Johnson, who served in Mr Blair’s government, said: “It is right the Intelligence and Security Committee see what was redacted so they can be sure this was to protect sources, British agents in the field.
“I’m absolutely convinced that what was redacted was what the Home Office says they wanted redacted.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said she doubted the ISC “have the capacity and the scope” to carry out an inquiry and it remained her “instinct” that a judge-led process would still be required to ensure confidence.
Mr Blair and other former ministers had “always said that they would co-operate with all investigations and have said that they would be very keen to do so,” Ms Cooper said.
It was important to get to the truth to make sure there was no “shadow of innuendo or allegations cast over the vital work that the agencies rightly do to keep us all safe every day of the week,” she added.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said the ISC and police investigations should be allowed to “run their course”.
“If at the end of it, if it doesn’t appear that the truth is emerging, that people imagine there is some kind of cover-up, then of course a judge-led inquiry is the right way to proceed.”
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