I can contribute a useful piece of information on the subject of UK involvement with extraordinary rendition. In 2004 by chance I heard an interview on the World Service at 3am. It was of a Syrian born dual citizen of Canada who had been detained at Kennedy airport on his way home. He was returning to Canada after a family holiday. He described how he was kidnapped, flown to the UK, stripped at the airport of his clothes – there was detailed description of how this was done with unusual expertise in 70 seconds – andforced onto another flight . He was taken first to Jordan and then to Syria where he was tortured repeatedly for 10 months. He stated that the UK Prime Minister of the day, Tony Blair, had cleared permission for the Americans to use two British airports, one in England and one in Scotland, for the purpose of Extraordinary Rendition. This news item was never repeated, so I did not have the opportunity that I expected to have in order to note down exact dates and some other details. News items are normally repeated but this one was not.
I found no reference to Extraordinary Rendition on the news in subsequent days or weeks, either in the papers or broadcasts.. I asked many people if they had heard of extraordinary rendition but it appeared to be a secret only very briefly and accidentally let out.
Five years later I was a guest at a lunch for alumni of the legal profession at King’s College, Cambridge. I took the opportunity to ask three well known senior judges for their opinion of extraordinary rendition. They either pretended to be, or were, ignorant of it. I knew very well that if Tony Blair had secretly complied with a request from the United States so inimical to the UK judicial tradition as this of extraordinary rendition, someone in the judiciary must know of it. This permission to give UK hospitality to enableillegal actions is quite separate from the further issue of whether or not British security services were subsequently involved.
Now that the truth is emerging it has been possible for me to discover the name of the man I heard, but I have not seen it written down. It sounds like Maher Arar. The date of his detainment at Kennedy was 26 September 2002. In 2006 he was completely exonerated; in 2007 given a public apology.
I cannot understand why this coalition government under David Cameron is so reluctant to admit to an act of perfidy committed by Tony Blair, his predecessor.