Amidst all the brou - ha - ha over Fred the Shreds modest pension, it was an ideal time for the clerk like John Hutton to clear up a minor misunderstanding.
A delightfuly sanitised version of events can now be told about how Ministers lied to the House of Commons.
MOD officials in 2004 were aware that 2 prisoners captured by UK forces in Baghdad had been handed over to US forces.The 2 prisoners were of Pakistani origin and members of Lashkar e Tayyiba, a proscribed organisation with "links to al Qaida".
Re classified as "enemy combatants" by US forces they were moved to Afghanistan because of a lack of relevant linguists (Pashtun speakers) necessary to interrogate them effectively in Iraq. Hmmmm.
Quote from Hutton"A due diligence search by US officials of the list of all those individuals captured by UK forces and transferred to US detention facilities in Iraq has confirmed that this was the only case in which individuals were subsequently transferred outside Iraq."
With a wonderfully straight face Mr Hutton told the silent and nearly empty and incurious House of Commons that said "inaccurate" information had subsequently been given to the Commons about UK-held detainees, based on the information available to ministers at the time.
Even though 2 Ministers had misled / mistated / lied to the House a review had ....". shown that brief references to this case were included in lengthy papers that went to the then Foreign Secretary (Jack Straw) and Home Secretary (Charles Clarke) in April 2006." An antique and well used ruse to slip inconvenient truths past a Minister.
"It is clear that the context did not highlight its significance at that point to the ministers concerned." You can be absolutlely certain that the "context did not highlight its significance" ....
However we are grateful that a member of the Special Frces involved in dealing with cases of rendition did acually reveal the truth a long time before the MOD did - who leally gagged him.
It was just 1 year ago that Ben Griffin then 29,who had left the British army in 2005 and sevred in Baghdad with US Delta forces was served with a High Court Order that meant he could be jailed if he makes further disclosures about how people seized by special forces were allegedly mistreated and ended up in secret prisons in breach of the Geneva conventions and international law.
The full statement from the dismal Hutton can be read at Hansard here,
26 Feb 2009 : Column 394 Records of Detention (Review Conclusions)
It is worth noting that the stateent was timed so ...."Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I appreciate the significance of the statement and the interest of Members, but the main business of the House is still to follow, so I ask for brief supplementary questions and a concise response." How unfortunate.
Anyway some members (Nick Harvey (North Devon) (LD): + Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): ) did manage to get in a reference to the public remarks of Ben Giiffin and Blunt managed to quote into the record the remarks of BenGiffin .
“Throughout my time in Iraq I was in no doubt that individuals detained by UKSF and handed over to our American colleagues would be tortured. During my time as member of the US/UK Task Force, three soldiers recounted to me an incident in which they had witnessed the brutal interrogation of two detainees. Partial drowning and an electric cattle prod were used during this interrogation and this amounted to torture. It was the widely held assumption that this would be the fate of any individuals handed over to our America colleagues. My commanding officer at the time expressed his concern to the whole squadron that we were becoming ‘the secret police of Baghdad’.”Even David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): who forms the "Crumple Zone" of the libertarian wing which they have infitrated managed to make some disigenuous remarks.
" .... there are one of three explanations. First, the Government are deliberately turning a blind eye. I hope that that is not true. Secondly, possibly, the covert agencies are using deniability to operate outside the law. We hope that that is not true. Thirdly, there is a reprehensible lack of control of our agencies in their operations abroad."
Anyway the whole thing is nicely swept under the carpet, beautifully obfuscated and as John Majr might say ... a line drawn under it.