British MPs take on CIA over secret flights

By Ernest Bey

A GROUP of British MPs is suing the CIA in an attempt to force it it to hand over information about Britain's secret involvement in its extraordinary rendition program.

The group, led by Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, was to file a complaint in a Washington court yesterday seeking a judicial review of the agency's failure to disclose the information.

The MPs from the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition have made requests to the CIA, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security over the past 12 months, under US freedom of information legislation, seeking more information about Britain's role in rendition.

Hundreds of pages of documents have been disclosed but Mr Tyrie said the specific information he requested had not been revealed.

''I hope that this ground-breaking litigation will lead to comprehensive disclosure in the US,'' he said. ''Only then can we give the public confidence that we have got to the bottom of rendition and British involvement in it.''

The MPs want to learn more about the use of British airports and air space, about agreements between the US and the UK on rendition, the use of Diego Garcia, a British territory in the Indian Ocean, and about the transfer of detainees from British to American hands.

They have also demanded information about specific detainees, including two rendered through Diego Garcia, and others whom British special forces in Iraq handed over to US forces, and who were then flown to Afghanistan.

The MPs have submitted freedom of information requests to British government departments. Most are now with the Information Commissioner's office, pending appeals against the Government's refusal to disclose information.

Similar requests regarding prisoner exchange deals are to be made of Australian government departments.

Mr Tyrie has made a series of allegations about Britain's involvement in the program since he established the all-party group four years ago. ''Each allegation was categorically denied,'' he said. ''Each has subsequently been admitted.''

In September 2005 The Guardian reported that aircraft involved in the CIA's rendition program had flown into Britain at least 210 times since the al-Qaeda attacks in the US four years earlier. Three months after that report, the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that ''there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition''.

Mr Straw and former prime minister Tony Blair also denied that any rendition flights landed on Diego Garcia. In February last year Foreign Secretary David Miliband said they had.

After the Government repeatedly denied that British forces in Iraq had been involved in rendition, John Hutton, who was defence secretary, admitted this year that they had. He also disclosed that two cases were detailed in documents sent to Mr Straw and former home secretary Charles Clarke

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