ALTHOUGH British ministers have done their best to suggest otherwise, it is now clear that Britain was among the countries most active in giving assistance to the Americans in running their infamous “extraordinary rendition” flights through Europe following 9/11 and the Afghanistan war. These flights transported suspected terrorists from America to countries where the manner of their questioning would be more likely to yield results than the methods used at Guantanamo Bay where at least the Geneva Conventions had been heard of. Thanks to an inquiry by a committee of the European Union Parliament we now know the scale of the traffic; there were 336 CIA stopovers in Germany, 170 in Britain and 68 in Spain. Although these countries were not the final destinations for the prisoners the authorities involved must have known, or should have suspected, the purpose of the flights. Previously Britain had admitted to only 70 flights and it is disgraceful that the MEP's report singles out Britain's Europe Minister, Geoff Hoon, for the “deplorable” lack of co-operation it received from him.

The report also gives an interesting insight into the attitude of some members of the Bush administration. At one meeting with the EU, Condoleezza Rice's most senior legal adviser, John Bellenger, asked for help in reducing what he called the “level of hysteria” and the “enormous irrationality of the debate in Europe” about the flights and complained that “the human rights lobby was dictating policies on renditions”.


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