MoD 'concealing US rendition flights' (London Independent)
Thursday February 23rd, 2006
The Government has been accused of hiding the extent of the use of British airspace and airports by CIA planes suspected of flying terrorist suspects to secret torture camps.
The Ministry of Defence faces an investigation by the Parliamentary Ombudsman for refusing to disclose how many times US-registered planes associated with extraordinary rendition had used British airspace. The ministry refuses to answer parliamentary questions on the issue on the ground that the information is not recorded centrally and would incur a disproportionate cost to obtain.
But the Liberal Democrats said yesterday that this excuse had been "blown apart" by an admission by the National Air Traffic Services (Nats) that three US planes had used British airspace about 200 times in the past five years. Nick Clegg, the party's foreign affairs spokesman, has written to the Armed Forces minister, Adam Ingram, asking him to reconsider the Government's refusal to disclose the planes' movements. He said it was "unacceptable" that information could be revealed by Nats, now a privately owned company, while MPs were not allowed to obtain it. He will call in the Ombudsman, who investigates complaints of maladministration, unless the MoD comes clean. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said he had no knowledge of the 200 flights mentioned by Nats. He said: "We know of no occasion where there has been a rendition through UK territory, or indeed over UK territory, nor do we have any reason to believe that such flights have taken place without our knowledge."
Last month Mr Straw told MPs he knew of only four requests for the transfer of detainees via the UK, two of which were refused.