Our criminal Labour government

British government officials expressed embarrassment and anger at Washington last night after they were forced to admit that US rendition flights carrying terror suspects for secret interrogation had twice landed on British soil.

In an apology to the Commons, David Miliband, the foreign secretary, told MPs that contrary to “earlier explicit assurances” two flights landed at Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean territory where the US has a large air base, in 2002. He said the flights had been mistakenly overlooked in previous US internal inquiries carried out at the UK’s behest.

A senior American official said the renditions had come to light only when CIA flight crews were interviewed directly. John Bellinger, chief legal adviser in the US state department, said CIA officials were now “as confident as they can be” that no other detainees had been flown through Britain on secret rendition flights over the past six years of America’s “war on terror”.

The government’s deep unease over an issue which has strained relations between the two close allies was made clear by Miliband’s disclosure that he had asked his officials to compile a list of all flights on which rendition had been alleged. Bellinger said the Bush administration would look at the list “and see how we can appropriately respond”.

In his statement, Miliband said the two flights had refuelled at Diego Garcia. Each one had a single detainee on board who did not leave the aircraft.

British and US officials all refused to give details about the two detainees in question other than that one was in Guantánamo Bay and the other had been released.

Mike Hayden, the CIA director, said neither of the two men “was ever part of the CIA’s high-value terrorist interrogation programme” – a reference to “waterboarding” and other techniques considered to amount to torture, and thus be illegal, by Britain but not by the US.



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