Security committee's redactions vow
A parliamentary intelligence watchdog has pledged to uncover whether redactions to a US report on brutal CIA torture methods were requested by UK authorities to "avoid embarrassment".
But the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has warned the scale of its inquiry into detainee treatment was such that it would not be completed before the next general election and it would fall to its successors to make judgments that would underpin its conclusions.
The ISC has released a statement amid cross-party calls for a new judicial inquiry into Britain's possible role in the shocking treatment of detainees in the years after the September 11 attacks exposed in a report from the US Senate Intelligence Committee.
The Government has acknowledged that UK officials had worked with the US Committee t o ensure material was not included in the report which could damage national security.
In a statement, the ISC said: "In this country, questions have been raised over the extent to which those redactions were made at the request of the UK authorities, and the nature and purpose of any such redactions.
"The Intelligence and Security Committee has already begun questioning both MI5 and MI6 on that issue.
"We will receive all the primary evidence from both agencies and will scrutinise whether any requests which were made were justified on grounds of national security, and not - as some have suggested - to avoid embarrassment.
"Our intention is to gain a complete understanding as to how and why any references to the role of the UK have been redacted in the Senate report, including whether the redactions were made at the request of the UK, or by the US authorities themselves."
The Committee said it would not complete its inquiry within three months but would raise concerns in the meantime - if they arise from its scrutiny of redactions of the US senate report.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chair of the ISC, earlier this week said his committee would call witnesses - possibly including ex-prime minister Tony Blair - as part of its inquiry.
He has called on the White House to disclose to the committee what the UK Government and its intelligence agencies asked to be redacted from its American counterpart's report .
Downing Street insisted all redactions were made for reasons of national security but the former foreign secretary said it was important to establish there had not been a move to hide embarrassing revelations.
Lord West, who was previously chief of defence intelligence, has acknowledged it was possible individual British spies in the field knew what US counterparts were doing to detainees but denied lobbying the Senate committee over the issue.
The report from the US Senate Intelligence Committee said the interrogation of detainees in the wake of 9/11 was ''far worse'' than the CIA had portrayed to the US government.
Waterboarding methods had deteriorated to ''a series of near drownings'' and agency staff subjected detainees to ''rectal rehydration'' - forced feeding through the anus - and other painful procedures that were never approved.