In 1966, the UK concluded an Agreement with the United States giving it permission to use the British Indian Ocean Territory, including the island of Diego Garcia, for defence purposes for an initial period of 50 years. Unless the UK or the US takes steps to terminate the Agreement, it will automatically be extended in 2016 for a further twenty years.
The disclosure in 2008 that the US had, contrary to previous statements by the FCO, used facilities at Diego Garcia in the course of rendition since 2001, dented public confidence in the UK's ability to exercise control over its sovereign territory. The credibility of US assurances on its use of Diego Garcia was severely damaged. We believe that the two-year window for discussing the rollover of the 1966 Agreement on the use of Diego Garcia offers an opportunity for the UK to assert more strongly its position that the Territory should not be used for rendition other than with the UK's permission.
We recommend that, if the UK allows the 1966 Agreement to be extended beyond 2016, the text should be revised. It should specify that any extraordinary use of the US base or facilities, such as combat operations or any other politically sensitive activity, requires prior approval from the UK Government; and it should state explicitly that the British Indian Ocean Territory should not be used for rendition unless authority has first been granted by the UK Government, on a case by case basis.
We note reports that the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has found that the CIA detained "high-value suspects" on Diego Garcia and that the 'black site' arrangement on the island was made with the "full cooperation" of the British Government. If these reports are substantiated, we would expect to revisit this issue, to assess the implications for the UK and for public confidence in its statements on US use of Diego Garcia.