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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Torture flights landed in UK, admit air controllers

By Marie Woolf for The Independent 19 February 2006

CIA jets suspected of flying terrorist suspects to secret prisons for torture have landed at commercial British airports and received help from UK air traffic control, the authorities have admitted for the first time. National Air Traffic Services (Nats) confirmed that three planes with CIA tail numbers have travelled through Britain "on a number of occasions". MPs last night seized on the letter as the first formal acknowledgement that British authorities were aware that CIA flights associated with "extraordinary rendition" have travelled through UK airspace. They said it showed that ministers could no longer claim they had no knowledge of CIA flights that have been linked to the policy of sending terrorist suspects for interrogation in countries that carry out torture.

Nats admitted it had provided a service to the flights after a number of Parliamentary questions to Transport ministers from Sir Menzies Campbell, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats. The letter, written to Sir Menzies following orders from Transport minister Karen Buck, says that of four aircraft identified from records as having been used by the CIA, "three have received an ATC [air traffic control service] from Nats on a number of occasions in the past five years. We are not prepared to offer a number because we are not confident that such a number would be robust." The planes are part of a ghost fleet of CIA jets that have been spotted at UK airports since 2001. Nats implies that they have travelled here frequently and may even have travelled under different call signs.

It said the flights may also have used airspace controlled by the Ministry of Defence. Defence ministers have been criticised for refusing to answer questions put down by Sir Menzies about how often the CIA jets have landed at military air bases. Defence minister Adam Ingram said "the information is not recorded centrally". But the admission by the civil aviation service that CIA aircraft have used UK airspace is the first admission that the authorities and ministers are aware of the flights. Tony Blair has claimed that he has no knowledge of so-called torture flights coming in and out of the country, and has refused to hold an independent public inquiry.

The flights have been associated with the practice of extraordinary rendition. which involves taking terrorist suspects to foreign prisons and secret jails in Europe. Seventy-six planes used by the CIA are believed to have made stops in Britain since 11 September 2001, at Prestwick, RAF Northolt, Luton and Glasgow. Last night, Nick Clegg, a Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said the letter was a significant admission. "It is significant that a public agency has confirmed the frequency of these flights through UK airports," he said. "More questions remain about their destination and what they contained."


Vancouver Voyeur said...

"Tony Blair has claimed that he has no knowledge of so-called torture flights . . . and has refused to hold an independent public inquiry."
I would think with a significant admission from a public agency would be enough to prompt an independent public inquiry.

CyberKitten said...

V V said: I would think with a significant admission from a public agency would be enough to prompt an independent public inquiry.

You would think so, wouldn't you - especially after Jack Straw (the Foreign Secretary) said that he had 'no knowledge' of such flights.... Yet another reason why I don't trust Governments...

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Well, governments don't exactly behave in a manner which engenders trust, now do they? I'm ready for a liberal coup, how about you?

CyberKitten said...

V V said: I'm ready for a liberal coup, how about you?

Oh yes..... [bg]

Dave said...

Seen on www.cheeksnpaste.blogspot.com and seems rather appropriate:-

Five surgeons are discussing who has the best patients to operate on.
The first surgeon says, "I like to see accountants on my operating table because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered."
The second responds, "Yeah, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is colour coded."
The third surgeon says, "No, I really think librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order."
The fourth surgeon chimes in: "You know, I like construction workers. Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over at the end, and when the job takes longer than you said it would."
But the fifth surgeon shut them all up when he observed: "You're all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There's no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains and no spine, and the head and the arse are interchangeable."

CyberKitten said...

..and of course the classic:

"How can you tell when a Politican is lying?"

"You can see their lips move."

Gary said...

civilians at Brize Norton