Skip to main content

A U.K. parliamentary committee concluded Thursday that it is beyond doubt that British intelligence agencies knew the United States was mistreating people detained after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

A report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee found Britain knew of the mistreatment at an early stage and that “more could have been done” by authorities to attempt to influence American behaviour.

The report showed that in 198 cases, British authorities received intelligence obtained from detainees whom they knew –or should have suspected – had been mistreated.

In 232 cases, UK personnel continued to supply questions or intelligence to allies after they knew or suspected mistreatment, the report said.

The committee acknowledged that British authorities didn’t want to risk losing access to vital intelligence during frenetic efforts at the time to prevent another attack. But the seriousness of Britain’s position was “slow to dawn,” it said.

The agencies appeared to be “deliberately turning a blind eye so as not to damage the relationship and risk the flow of intelligence; if the agencies started raising concerns, the U.S. could have refused U.K. officers access to the detainees and stopped passing on any intelligence they obtained,” it said.

The committee, which took 50 hours of oral evidence and reviewed 40,000 documents, rejected the agencies’ claims that the cases cited were “isolated incidents.”

“It is difficult to comprehend how those at the top of the office did not recognize the pattern of mistreatment by the U.S,” it said.

Human rights campaigners have called for a judge-led inquiry into detentions and renditions in the so-called war on terror, describing the parliamentary report as too limited to give a full picture. Their concern was born out when the committee – chaired by Conservative Party lawmaker Dominic Grieve – underscored it was denied access to “those who had been on the ground at the time.”

“The committee has therefore concluded – reluctantly – that it must draw a line under the inquiry,” the report said. “This is regrettable.”

Interact with The Globe