UK deputy PM says open to inquiry over spies' role in torture

Reuters News
|
Posted: Dec 11, 2014 5:57 PM

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Thursday he would support an inquiry into whether British spies were complicit in CIA torture of terrorism suspects, if other investigations failed to uncover the truth.

Clegg said that while he was sure British intelligence agents were not involved with torture now, allegations that spies had known about the mistreatment of detainees by U.S. authorities and others had to be fully examined.

"I, like everybody else, want the truth out there," he told LBC radio. "Torture cannot, will not, and is not being used under any circumstances by British agencies or indeed on our behest."

According to a U.S. Senate report published on Tuesday, the CIA misled the White House and public about its harsh interrogation of detainees after the Sept. 11 attacks and acted more brutally and pervasively than it had acknowledged.

Britain's foreign and domestic security services, known as MI6 and MI5, have for years been accused of colluding in the ill-treatment of suspected militants.

A spokeswoman from the office of Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday said that British intelligence officials had asked for parts of the summary in the Senate report to be redacted. However she added that these requests were made out of concern for national security and were not meant to cover up any embarrassment arising out of allegations into the UK's involvement.

The heads of MI5 and MI6 have repeatedly said they would never use torture to gain information, and ministers have also denied knowledge of sending suspects to face torture abroad.

However, an inquiry headed by retired senior judge Peter Gibson, set up by Cameron, concluded last year that British spies had known about the U.S. mistreatment of suspects.

His findings are being further examined by parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee.

"Once the police investigations are done, once this report from the Intelligence and Security Committee is done, we should keep an open mind .. about moving to a full judicial inquiry if there are any outstanding questions," Clegg said.

Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior member of the coalition government, said the "explosive" Senate report had shown torture had not kept the West safer and was detrimental to efforts in stopping recruits to Islamic State.

Cameron said this week the use of torture "was always wrong," but appeared to dismiss the need for a new inquiry, telling reporters that the issue "has been dealt with from the British perspective."

(Editing by Crispian Balmer and Lisa Shumaker)