Guidance on dealing with foreign
security services and detention issues
71. The ISC report on rendition states that:
From 2004 it became clear to [the Secret Intelligence
Service] and the Security Service that their existing guidance
to staff on dealing with foreign liaison services was insufficiently
detailed given the increasing requirement to cooperate with foreign
services in counter-terrorism operations. They therefore began
to expand their guidance, and as elements were finalised they
were formally issued to staff.
The Foreign Secretary, in his evidence to the Foreign
Affairs Committee, made clear that, prior to 2004, such guidance
as existed was "informal".
Since 2004, guidance has been "formal and has had a comprehensive
including "comprehensive legal advice to all officials".
72. As we noted above, the Foreign Secretary has
firmly ruled out disclosing what guidance was - and presumably
still is - provided to security services' personnel about their
dealings with foreign agencies, including the human rights issues
they may face, on the grounds that this may prejudice ongoing
73. On 17 March 2009, the ISC released a press notice
disclosing that it had written to the Prime Minister about the
alleged complicity of the UK security and intelligence agencies
in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and made recommendations.
The letter was based on "further, in depth, evidence"
from the agencies and the FCO and was prompted by "a number
of new developments" including new information about the
Binyam Mohamed case. The Prime Minister told us that the ISC's
letter "addressed issues which remain the subject of legal
proceedings and police investigation" and he "must therefore
consider carefully before deciding whether and in what form it
can be published, and the timing of any publication".
The ISC's letter on alleged complicity in torture has yet
to be published, over four months after it was submitted to the
Prime Minister. We urge the Prime Minister to make its contents
public, with the minimum of redaction, as soon as possible.
74. On 18 March, the day after the ISC published
its press notice, the Prime Minister made a written ministerial
statement to the House of Commons, to announce the following four
actions, in order to "protect the reputation of our security
and intelligence services and to reassure ourselves that everything
has been done to ensure that our practices are in line with United
Kingdom and international law":
- guidance to intelligence officers
and service personnel about the standards applied during the detention
and interviewing of detainees overseas will be published, once
it has been consolidated and reviewed by the ISC;
- Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner,
has been invited to monitor compliance with the guidance and report
to the Prime Minister annually;
- the ISC has been asked to follow-up its reports
on detention and rendition; and
- potential criminal wrongdoing will be referred
to Attorney General, who will consider whether there is a basis
for inviting the police to launch an investigation.
75. The Prime Minister told us that "work was
underway to provide consolidated guidance to the ISC" and
that, after review by the ISC, the guidance would be published
"in order to make clear the very high standards which apply".
The Government would "aim to keep any redactions that may
be necessary for national security reasons to a minimum".
We welcome the Government's decision to consolidate and publish
guidance to security services' personnel on work in detention
and interrogation. We also welcome the Prime Minister's statement
that redaction prior to publication will be kept to a minimum.
76. It is not clear to what extent the guidance will
be revised during this process. If the process of consolidation
and review does not involve substantial revision it is difficult
to understand why the Foreign Secretary should categorically rule
out publishing post-2004 guidance. We recommend that the Government
clarify whether the Government or the ISC will be revising existing
guidance as part of the consolidation and review process. We also
recommend that the Government should release earlier versions
of the guidance, subject to any necessary redaction.
77. We asked the Prime Minister whether Sir Peter
Gibson's reports on compliance with the guidance will be made
public. He confirmed
that Sir Peter will focus on new cases not "cases currently
being examined in the courts and elsewhere [which] are historical"
and that he would encourage him to "focus on the systemic
issues you describe rather than individual cases". On publication,
the Prime Minister said Sir Peter "will cover compliance
in this area in his published annual reports as Intelligence Services
We welcome the appointment of Sir Peter Gibson to monitor compliance
with Government guidance to security services' personnel on detention
and interrogation issues. We call on Sir Peter to ensure that
he publishes as much information as possible on his work in this
area in his annual reports, which we look forward to scrutinising.