By Ray Fleming

THE Bush administration always defended extreme interrogation of suspected terrorists by claiming that valuable information was obtained from their use.

In September 2006 President Bush admitted that the CIA ran centres in foreign countries where these methods were used and claimed that aerial attacks on London's Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf - what would have been Britain's 9/11 - were prevented by such information. In 2007 the Times newspaper decided to test Mr Bush's claim by asking Scotland Yard if it had any information relating to it. The Metropolitan Police refused to confirm or deny whether it possessed any information, on the grounds of national security. The Times appealed to the UK's Information Commissioner under the Freedom of Information Act; this week, after a delay of 27 months, the Commissioner instructed Scotland Yard to reveal whether it has any information relating to President Bush's claim. The Commissioner's instruction, supported by an 18-page explanation of his reasons, requires the police to give an answer or to appeal within 35 days.

These developments could have important consequences on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain, any suggestion that the government knew of or used evidence obtained by the CIA's extreme interrogation methods would undermine its insistence that it does not use or condone the use of such techniques.

In America the claim, also made by former Vice President Cheney, that what amounts to torture produces important results would be tested.

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