London, Jun 28 Britain's intelligence officers and ministers have been blamed for allowing "inexcusable" torture by the US in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.
A damning UK parliamentary report released today concluded that British authorities turned a blind eye to the routine mistreatment of detainees by US authorities. The cross-party House of Commons' Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) said UK intelligence agencies, like MI6 and GCHQ, knew what was going on from an early point but failed to act.
"In addition to individual cases, we have considered the actions of those in the agencies' head offices. Immediately after 9/11, the agency heads and deputies were briefed by the CIA. These briefings clearly showed US intent but were not taken seriously," the report noted, adding, "In our view the UK tolerated actions, and took others, that we regard as inexcusable".
"It is difficult to comprehend how those at the top of the office did not recognise the pattern of mistreatment by the US. That the US, and others, were mistreating detainees is beyond doubt, as is the fact that the agencies and defence intelligence were aware of this at an early point," it says.
"The same is true of rendition: there was no attempt to identify the risks involved and formulate the UK's response," it added.
MPs also found three cases in which Britain's spy agencies MI6 and MI5 "made, or offered to make, a financial contribution to others to conduct a rendition operation".
"Given the countries concerned, these can be described as 'extraordinary renditions' due to the real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," it said.
MPs found that British spies had seen detainees being mistreated at least 13 times and were told by prisoners on 25 other occasions that they were being mistreated. On another 128 occasions, they were told of mistreatment by foreign agencies.
ISC found there were 232 cases when this took place despite the knowledge or strong suspicion that information was being obtained from people through torture or other abuse.
The committee concluded that the UK had been in breach of the international prohibition on torture and called for a fresh investigation.
The chairman of ISC, Dominic Grieve, said the committee had been denied access to key intelligence individuals but was releasing the report at this stage to make all the information available so far public.
Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement saying the lessons of what happened in the aftermath of 9/11 "are to be found in improved operational policy and practice, better guidance and training, and an enhanced oversight and legal framework".
She said, "We should be proud of the work done by our intelligence and service personnel, often in the most difficult circumstances, but it is only right that they should be held to the highest possible standards in protecting our national security".
The opposition Labour party called for a fresh inquiry, with the party's Indian-origin shadow attorney-general, Shami Chakrabarti, branding the findings "horrific".
"In the days, months and years after 9/11 there was an understandable febrile atmosphere and the senior partner in the special relationship - the United States - was dabbling in these most horrific practices and – to some extent – the UK government went along for the ride," she said.