MPs’ questioning of intelligence chiefs a “damp squib,” fails to mention Libya torture complicity

November 7, 2013

Image of hands hanging on the bars of a prison cell

Commenting on today’s questioning of the heads of the UK intelligence agencies by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, Reprieve’s Strategic Director, Cori Crider said:

“Today’s hearing was billed as a grilling, but was nothing more than a damp squib.  It gave a clear demonstration, if one were needed, of just how inadequate the ISC is as a watchdog on the intelligence services.

“One of the many elephants in the room was the UK’s involvement in Libyan rendition and torture.  Not one member of the ISC asked about MI6’s role in ‘rendering’ the wives and children of Gaddafi opponents back to the dictator’s prisons in 2004 – an incident of which the ISC was completely unaware when it cleared the services of involvement in rendition and torture in 2007.

“They also failed to question GCHQ over its role in providing support to the CIA’s covert drone programme – which has killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen, and violates international law.

“The ISC’s inadequacy shows why the courts are so important to ensure abuses by the secret parts of the state are kept in check – yet the Government is doing its best to undermine our justice system, introducing secret courts and cutting back legal aid and judicial review.  These moves must be resisted.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 /

2. In 2007, 3 years after MI6 helped organise the rendition to torture of Libyan dissidents Sami al Saadi, along with his wife and four children aged 12 or under, and Abdelhakim Belhadj, along with his pregnant wife Fatima Boudchar, the ISC produced a report which said there as “no evidence that the UK Agencies were complicit in any “Extraordinary Rendition” operations.” – see p29 of report here:

3. In Parliament last week, George Howarth, a member of the ISC, admitted they hadn’t looked into the Prism/GCHQ revelations until it had been reported in the Guardian:

Mr Watson: I am reassured by my right hon. Friend’s thoroughness in the investigation. Was July the first time that the Committee had examined Prism, and was that after the Guardian revelations? [Laughter.]

Mr Howarth: It was after the Guardian revelations. The hon. Member for Cambridge seems to think that that is funny. Actually, he would still be sitting here today if we had not gone and looked at this matter after the allegations emerged. He would be accusing us of being inadequate in our responsibilities.