Labour joins calls for Blair to be quizzed over torture

Ed Miliband’s brother David would also be expected to tell what he knows about any UK complicity

The Mole

Tony Blair and David Miliband are facing demands from their own party to give evidence about what they knew of British involvement in the torture and rendition of terrorist suspects by the CIA during America’s War on Terror.

The former Labour Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary are being pressed to come clean about UK involvement after it was revealed Britain asked the US government to redact sections of the shocking Senate report about torture and rendition released in Washington last week.

Michael Fallon, the Tory Defence Secretary, called in the Sunday Telegraph for Blair to be questioned and for the Chilcot report into his decision to take Britain into war in Iraq to be published before polling day next May.

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Given that the question of whether Blair deceived the British people is at the centre of this issue, Fallon can be accused of wanting to inflict maximum embarrassment on Labour in the run-up to the general election.

But the surprising thing is that pressure is also coming from the current Labour leadership under David’s brother, Ed Miliband.

Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, broke ranks to say on yesterday’s Andrew Marr Show that she believes an investigation by a judge might be needed to get to the truth about torture.

Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has already been questioned by police over allegations that MI5 withheld key information, suggesting the intelligence services knew about the torture. In particular, the police were investigating how Abdel Hakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi were handed over to the Libyan dictatorship and subsequently mistreated.

The most damning evidence against the Blair government was a letter found in the wrecked intelligence headquarters of the Libyan dictator, Colonel Gaddafi, from Sir Mark Allen, then head of MI6 counter-terrorism, written in 2004 when Blair was fawning over Gaddafi, saying the delivery to Gaddafi’s regime of a dissident was “the least we could do”.

But Labour also want David Miliband, Labour Foreign Secretary from 2007 to 2010, to be questioned about what he knew about British involvement in rendition and torture.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Tory Foreign Secretary and the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, grabbed headlines at the weekend by announcing his committee was demanding sight of the redacted parts of the CIA report that involve Britain.

Rifkind presented the ISC as a tough watchdog to protect Britain from the excesses of the state. Sadly, it’s no such thing - it’s a watchdog without teeth. It is not a select committee: it is a special committee that reports directly to the Prime Minister, not Parliament. It hears evidence in secret, and its reports often contain more black marker lines than the Senate report on torture.

Sir Malcolm can huff and puff but his predecessors have shown how weak the ISC is. Crucially, an ISC report about the adequacy of MI5 and MI6 guidelines for handling prisoners was suppressed by Gordon Brown and David Miliband, when he was Foreign Secretary, it was claimed by the Sunday Telegraph.

The ISC website says the report was finished on 5 March 2010, but so far it has not been published, even in redacted form.

Home Secretary Theresa May is going to be questioned later today by the Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs but it is unlikely that will shed much light on Britain’s role in US-led torture and rendition.

The Mole shares the view of some leading Labour and Tory figures - including Andrew Mitchell, the former Overseas Development Secretary - who are calling for the government to blow away any suspicions of a high-level British cover-up and announce a full-flown judge-led inquiry into whether the Blair-Brown governments were complicit.

This was the route Yvette Cooper was supporting on the Marr Show. She said she doubted the ISC “have the capacity and the scope” to carry out an inquiry, adding that her “instinct” was that a judge-led process would still be required to ensure confidence.

She told Marr: “That’s always been our assumption that that would be the way to do it…" She added that Blair and other former Labour ministers had "always said that they would co-operate with all investigations and have said that they would be very keen to do so".

Ed Miliband clearly wants to know once and for all whether Labour politicians were culpable - even if it damages his brother David’s chances of making a return to British politics after two years in New York heading the International Rescue Committee charity, as David hinted over lunch with the FT last week.

Now surely Ed wouldn’t want to spoil David’s chances of a comeback, would he?

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is the pseudonym for a London-based political consultant who writes exclusively for The