DIEGO GARCIA: BRITAIN'S ISLAND IN THE SUN BECOMES BLAIR'S LATEST PROBLEM IN TORTURE SCANDAL
Globe - Intelligence
January 5, 2005
Tony Blair will face further embarrassing questions over the torture scandal as to why the government permitted the CIA and the US Department of Defence to operate a top-secret interrogation centre on Diego Garcia, a tiny and remote British Crown colony in the Indian Ocean. High level leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and the Taliban are held there. None are protected by the Geneva Convention. Last week, FBI director Robert Mueller said the interrogation techniques used by the CIA interrogators "violate all American anti-torture laws and would be prohibited in criminal cases of the most serious kind".
The interrogation techniques used on Diego Garcia are contained in a secret
CIA manual on coercive questioning. It contains sections headed "Threats
and Fear", "Pain", "Narcosis" and "Heightened
Suggestibility and Hypnosis".
The presence of the prisoners on Diego Garcia is so secret that a counter-terrorism
official in Washington said President Bush "had informed the CIA he did
not want to know where they were". The American interrogators have unfettered
access to prisoners kept on board prison ships in the island's deep-water harbours.
They are brought ashore for questioning in a custom-built concrete cell-block
near the island's air field. From there, US Air Force B52s took off to bomb
Afghanistan and then Iraq.
Now private Lear jets regularly fly in with new prisoners. Highly placed intelligence
sources in Pakistan and Washington have revealed that over thirty al Qaeda suspects
have been kidnapped by CIA "snatch squads" and flown to Diego Garcia
in the chartered Lears ... One intelligence source said: "These operations
are sanctioned in Washington from the top. Rumsfeld knows. Sometimes the snatch
flights are approved by the White House".
Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's in-house counsel, confirmed that "many
key decisions about detainees and their status are made by the President".
Last week, Amnesty International wrote to William S Farish, the US ambassador
to Britain, to seek a meeting over claims that "stress and duress tactics"
are being used on Diego Garcia prisoners. And he wanted to know the role of
"various foreign intelligence services known to torture detainees who are
also involved in the interrogations".
Both MI6 and Mossad agents are known to have visited Diego Garcia to question
"high value" suspected terrorists.
Both Amnesty and the International Red Cross have been refused permission to
visit the island under a secret deal made between London and Washington.
Secret legal opinions from US Justice Department and Pentagon lawyers have concluded that the CIA was "safe from scrutiny" if it conducted its interrogations on places like Diego Garcia ...
A key ruling states violations of American statutes that prohibit torture,
degrading treatment or the Geneva Convention will not apply "if it can
be argued that the detainees are formally in the custody of another country".
"As Diego Garcia is a British colony, it could mean that the prisoners
there are entitled to British protection", said a counter-terrorism officer
in Washington. He is one of those who has expressed concerns inside the CIA
over what is happening.
Human rights organisations fear that there are similar physical abuses at Diego
Garcia as were revealed in Baghdad's now notorious Abu Ghrain prison.
Since February 1964 - following a still secret Anglo-American conference in London - Diego Garcia has increasingly become what Washington calls "a staging base for the security of the West" ...
There are now 6,000 US military personnel living on the island - along with their "high value" al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners. They are part of more than 9,000 other detainees who are held in US military controlled prisons specially set up for the purpose. It has been established that 300 detainees are held in railroad box-cars at Bagram, north of Kabul. Hundreds more are detained in prisons in Afghanistan. But the majority are held in Iraq's thirteen jails.
Only what the CIA manual denotes as "the most difficult" are sent
to Diego Garcia. The island was described as "one of the sites in friendly
countries around the world where al Qaeda operatives can be kept quietly and
securely", said a Washington intelligence officer.
The number of detainees on Diego Garcia are not known. But a senior intelligence
officer said that "there are no more than several hundred held there. Many
have been on Diego Garcia for over two years. Unlike the majority of detainees
in Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, these prisoners still have important information
to give. Diego Garcia has been designed as the place where that information
can be obtained" ...
On November 3, 2000, the Foreign Office issued a new Immigration Ordinance
order that ensured Diego Garcia island would remain "as secret a place
as can be found on the planet", according to a US official. Though the
island has the same status as the Falkland Islands, no outsider is allowed to
set foot on its soil ... A clue to those operations is evident by the skyline
of satellite towers, space-tracking domes, oil and fuel dumps and the armada
of military ships in the harbour.
There is a growing concern among human rights organisations that the "high
value" prisoners are being interrogated under guidelines also approved
by US General Geoffrey Miller, the former commander at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo
Bay. He is now in charge of Abu Gharib prison in Baghdad. Shortly after the
legal opinions were given on how the CIA could interrogate, Miller was sent
to Baghdad last August by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General
Richard Myers to "recommend changes that would improve strategic interrogation".
Miller concluded that "detention operations must act as an enabler for
interrogations". After that order was implemented, the abuses which have
horrified the world began. Will more abuses emerge from Britain's island in
Return To Cutting Edge Home Page