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Island of Diego Garcia

LONDON – Whatever did or didn’t happen on a tiny remote British Crown Colony, the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, has brought MI6 chief John Scarlett out of his shadowy world this week to ward off allegations both MI6 and MI5 were complicit in torture of suspected terrorists at a top-secret interrogation center there, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

After 9/11 but before President Obama took office in the United States, high value al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists were flown to Diego Garcia in what were called “extraordinary rendition flights.”

On Nov. 3, 2000, Britain’s Foreign Office issued an “Immigration Ordinance Order” which assured that Diego Garcia would remain “as secret a place as can be found on the planet,” the government of Tony Blair announced at the time. But when he soon gives evidence to the Chilcot Enquiry into the Iraq War, “he will be questioned about Diego Garcia,” according to a Whitehall source.

This week Scarlett and the Parliamentary Security Committee, together with the two political masters of the security services, tried to absolve the government.

Foreign Secretary David Milliband and the new Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, denied Britain had been involved in torture. But their predecessors had mentioned Diego Garcia had been a refueling post for what was called “the CIA’s private air force” that allegedly ferried key prisoners to interrogation centers in Egypt and Morocco.

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This week a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights repeated what David Milliband and Alan Johnson acknowledged “are serious allegations about the treatment of detainees.”

In an attempt to deflect criticism of the British security services, the two ministers insisted:

“The UK firmly opposes torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. This is not just about our values as a nation but about what we do, not just what we say. We do not torture.”

But Milliband and Johnson also concede:

“By definition we cannot have that same level of assurance when detainees are held by foreign governments, whose obligations may differ from our own. Yet interrogation from overseas is crucial to our success in stopping terrorism. All the most serious plots and attacks in the UK in this decade have had significant links abroad.”

Human Rights organizations like Liberty and Amnesty International now want the Brown government to hold a full scale inquiry into what happened at Diego Garcia.

Activists point out that only this week ministers Milliband and Johnson have admitted, “These issues are of fundamental importance to our security and our values. We need a public debate but an informed one. That must inevitably include what happened at Diego Garcia.”

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