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May: I did not request redactions


Theresa May is to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee

Theresa May is to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee

Theresa May is to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee

Home Secretary Theresa May has insisted she did not request any redactions to an American report that exposed brutal CIA interrogation methods in a bid to cover up any UK involvement.

Mrs May did concede that officials had requested that no evidence was included in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report that would damage national security.

But she told the Home Affairs Select Committee she could not speak for previous Governments.

Her appearance before the Committee comes as the Government faces mounting 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.

Committee chair Keith Vaz said he would be asking US Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the American committee that published the CIA torture report, and a Republican, to give evidence next year.

The Home Secretary said she had not read the full 6,000-page report and had only seen the 500-page summary made publicly available

"I have certainly not asked for any redactions to take place in the report," she said. " The only time I met Senator Feinstein was in September of this year and I've not seen the draft report, I've not asked for any redactions in that report. We discussed other things."

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chair of the intelligence and security committee (ISC), yesterday insisted he and his colleagues would look into questions of UK complicity in torture ''without fear or favour'' and call witnesses - possibly including ex-prime minister Tony Blair.

Asked if she thought a judge-led inquiry was appropriate, Mrs May said: "The process we've seen undertaken in the US is of course a Senate inquiry, the equivalent committee here in the UK, the committee of Parliament is the ISC.

"Sir Malcolm Rifkind has been very clear that committee will be undertaking their enquiries into these matters, he's been very clear about the sort of information they'll be looking for, as far as I'm concerned the security and intelligence agencies will be co-operating fully with that inquiry."

The Home Secretary said British security and intelligence agencies staff would not want to be "tainted" by suggestions that they have been involved in torture.

"We all believe torture is abhorrent and is wrong," she said.

Mrs May said the Coalition Government had developed guidance for security and intelligence operatives as to what they should do in the circumstances they feel there might be a risk of torture taking place.

Julian Huppert MP took issue with the guidance issued by the Government to intelligence officers on how to deal with detainees overseas.

The guidance says operatives can proceed if there is a "lower than serious risk of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment".

Dr Huppert said the wording was not clear enough and implied that the threshold was "chosen carefully".

The Home Secretary said: "The intention of the guidance is to make it clear that people must assess the risk of ... certain types of treatment being used in the circumstances in which they find themselves and if there is a low risk of something being undertaken that's why the guidance sets that out in that particular way."

Sir Malcolm called on the White House to disclose to the committee what the UK Government and its intelligence agencies covered up in last week's damning report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee into the CIA's use of torture.

Downing Street insists 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.

Among other torture methods used by the CIA across its secret prison network were the use of insects placed in a confinement box, sleep deprivation and the now-notorious practice of waterboarding.

Other techniques included the attention grasp, which involves grasping an individual with both hands on each side of a collar opening; walling, which is when an individual is pushed against a wall quickly; and stress positions.

Donald Campbell, from human rights charity Reprieve, said: " Theresa May has confirmed that there was 'work done' by the UK to prevent certain evidence relating to the country from being put into the Senate torture report.

"However, we are sadly none the wiser about who did this work, and what it entailed.

"The Home Secretary may claim such steps were only taken to protect national security, but all too often in the past this term has been used in order to cover up embarrassment.

"It is alarming that she said she was 'not aware of any evidence' of UK involvement in rendition and torture.

"Given the High Court, several Government ministers and numerous reports from the media, NGOs and victims have said differently over the past decade, it suggests she hasn't been paying attention.

"The Home Secretary's evidence has, if anything, raised more questions than it answers. It can only strengthen the case for a proper, independent inquiry into UK involvement in rendition and torture."

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