Britain's foreign secretary, under pressure to explain the country's involvement in secret CIA flights, denied Friday that he had withheld any information from Parliament. Jack Straw also said there had been no such flights through Britain since the Sept. 11 attacks. Straw issued a strongly worded written statement to legislators a day after a leaked memo suggested there had been more requests for so-called "rendition" flights from the United States than the four British legislators had already been told about.
"This is not the case," the minister said. "I have given Parliament clear answers, updated as information has become available to me." Human rights organizations and legal groups have accused the United States of covertly moving prisoners between countries outside normal legal processes such as extradition. The process is known as "rendition" and as "extraordinary rendition" when the suspect could be subjected to torture or cruel treatment once transferred.
The leaked memo was written by an official in the Foreign Office and sent to Prime Minister Tony Blair's office. It was obtained by the weekly newsmagazine the New Statesman and published Thursday.
Dated Dec. 7, 2005, it suggested ministers "avoid getting drawn in on detail" and they "try and move the debate on in as front-foot a way as we can, underlining all the time the strong counter-terrorist rationale for close co-operation with the U.S."
Straw denied the Foreign Office had withheld any information, and laid out a chronology of who had been told about rendition flights and when they were informed. "The government is committed to fulfilling its obligations under United Kingdom and international law," Straw said. "I have sought throughout to keep the House informed of developments. And I shall do so again if new information comes to light."
Straw said in December that the government was certain that only three requests had been made, all by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1998. He later said there had been a fourth case, also in 1998. Two of the requests were approved and two denied, Straw said in Friday's statement. Additionally, a review of official records have revealed that there had been no rendition flights through Britain since the Sept. 11 attacks, reports the AP. N.U.