British spy agencies are under growing pressure to reveal how closely they worked with their US counterparts following 9/11 after a damning US Senate report exposed how the CIA tortured terror suspects.
The revelations, published on Tuesday, have dragged Britain’s domestic spy agency MI5 and its foreign intelligence counterpart MI6 back into the spotlight and led to calls for a full judge-led inquiry.
Britain was Washington’s closest partner in the “War on Terror” and questions about British involvement in abuses have rankled for years, along with doubts about the close alignment with US foreign policy.
Tom Davies from Amnesty International said Britain seemed “afraid to turn over the rock for fear of what it will find underneath.”
The British-based rights group has launched an online petition calling for the opening of a criminal investigation that had received nearly 14,000 signatures by Friday.
Britain’s press has also been unusually united in demanding that the public know what the security services did on their behalf.
“America now knows the truth about what it did. We in Britain do not,” Jenni Russell wrote in a Times comment piece demanding the publication of details about British involvement that were “removed” from the US report.
Downing Street yesterday admitted that the Senate had given British agencies “limited sight of some sections” and that they had “highlighted a small number of issues in the proposed text where changes would be necessary to protect UK national security”.
But it said that “there was no question of the UK seeking redactions over any allegations of UK involvement in activity that would be unlawful in the UK.”
Prime Minister David Cameron admitted in 2010 that “there are questions over the degree to which British officers were working with foreign security services who were treating detainees in ways they should not have done.”
He then asked retired judge Peter Gibson to lead an independent investigation, which produced a preliminary report that raised 27 serious queries about the behaviour of British security officers.
Specifically, Gibson said he wished to investigate “whether in some cases, UK officers may have turned a blind eye to the use of specific, inappropriate techniques or threats used by others”.
Parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) then took over the reins and is due to publish its conclusions at the end of 2015, but that is unlikely to dampen calls for further action.