How far was the UK complicit in CIA rendition and torture?

cia emblemThe report published today by the US Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Dianne Feinstein,  makes horrifying, even disgusting, reading.   The tactics used against prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay or foreign CIA  black sites (i.e. torture chambers) included water-boarding (simulated drowning), ‘rectal rehydration’ (leading to anal fissures and rectal prolapse), sleep deprivation for a week or more imposed on those shackled, forced to stand and naked, hooding, iced-water immersion, slamming against walls, and threats of sexual and physical violence against prisoners’ families.

The Senate committee also notes that at least 26 of the detainees were ‘wrongfully held’, and the evidence used against them was often based on hearsay or mere rumour. In extreme cases Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was water-boarded 183 times, and Abu Zubaydah 83 times who emerged an utterly broken man – maybe the aim of the exercise. This was justified by the CIA on the grounds that the information extorted by torture ‘saved lives’ by revealing future plots. The Senate committee after years of investigation stated it could find not a single case of this kind, only that torture revealed false information (anything to stave off further torture) or information already gleaned by more traditional forms of intelligence gathering. Continue reading

Rushing into new anti-extremist powers has a troublesome history

10913320_sHere we go again. The undoubted threat represented by ISIS and the return of its recruits to the UK is leading to calls for new banning orders for extremist groups, new civil powers to target extremists, and measures to target persons even when they have actually not broken the law. It has also led to proposals to revoke the passports of returning British citizens, a power already being used after it was introduced in April this year via royal prerogative executive powers – an anachronistic means of acquiring new powers without explicit parliamentary authority. The emphasis is being put on strengthening terrorism prevention and investigation measures (TPIMs) which replaced control orders and are almost identical with them, when the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson, has recommended stronger ‘locational constraints’ and required attendance at probation service meetings, though these are unlikely to make a decisive difference. Continue reading

Will we adapt to a multipolar world, or face endless war?

Ten years ago this week, 100,000 American troops were assembled in Kuwait as the US and UK were poised to strike, the neocons driving them on to “seize the unipolar moment”; the UN Security Council was split; and at London’s biggest demonstration ever, the crowds had heard Tony Benn’s call: “Another world is possible”.

Ten years on we face yet another scenario of Western intervention in Mali, yet again in the name of fighting terrorism. Now like the US-UK in Iraq in 2003, and NATO in Libya in 2011, France has overstepped a UN resolution which called specifically for an African force under African (ECOWAS) leadership to stabilise the situation. Continue reading

The US: a declining military and economic power

The news today that 3 more NATO troops have been killed by Afghan soldiers – bringing the number of such murders to 15 in this month alone and 45 this year so far – is serious enough, but it hides a much more disturbing background. It has been dismissed as a series of random killings, not connected by any common thread, simply the result of personal grudges. However, a recent US military psychologists’ investigation found that it actually reflected deeply ingrained hate stereotypes on both sides. Continue reading

Hiding government’s sins and misdemeanours

The nature of the British state and the government’s contempt for personal freedom come to a head with new laws proposed for the Queen’s Speech next month. It was already known that the government intended to bring forward a law to allow the police and MI5/6, without a warrant, to access data from every phone call, email, text message and internet browsing. Now the government is proposing to add secret courts to total surveillance. Continue reading