Thursday, 3 June 2010

Minister weazeling about over torture techniques

Here is part of the transcript (full version here) from the Baha Mousa Inquiry in which former minister Adam Ingram admits that he misled MPs in a select committee over the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq.

It makes a good read. I particularly like the last paragraph where he realises he's being fingered and tries to pin it on officials - his "I think it was Sue" moment.


Inquiry Panel Q: Can I ask you, please, next to look at your letter to the then chair of the Joint Human Rights Committee on 25 June 2004 at MOD050702. At the time the chair of the JCHR was Jean Corston MP, was it not?

Adam Ingram. It was, yes.

Q. So you are addressing this to "Jean", as you put it there on the first page. This is signed by you, Mr Ingram, is it not, as we see from MOD050704?

A. It was signed by me, yes.

Q. Thank you. Can you look, please, at one paragraph at page MOD050703? It is the second paragraph which perhaps we can highlight. It begins:

"British troops were instructed to stop hooding detainees in September last year, and this remains the case. However, there are some circumstances during initial detention and transit, where for good military reasons, such as to protect sensitive information or to protect the identity of an individual, it is necessary to obscure the vision of the detainees. The UK believes that this is acceptable under the Geneva Conventions but I should make absolutely clear that hooding was only used during the transit of prisoners; it was not used as an interrogation technique."

There are a few questions, Mr Ingram, arising from that paragraph. The first is, given the information that we were just looking at by the time this was written, there would not, in fact, have been any security reason to have hooding rather than blindfolding as an acceptable alternative for sight deprivation, would there?

A. I wouldn't know the answer to that. Why would I know the answer to that?

Q. Because you told us a moment ago that you were privy to the kind of information which said that hooding had ceased.

A. In terms of the operational requirement, that would be an operational matter. I may be misinterpreting your question, I am sorry.

Q. You, as the minister, did not question advice that you were being given, did you, that for operational reasons hooding might still be required sometimes, even though blindfolding might be an acceptable alternative? Is that what you are telling the Inquiry?

A. Well, sorry – I am not understanding your question, I am sorry.

Q. Did you query any advice that you were given to the effect that hooding was still essential in certain circumstances, even though it could be said that blindfolding would be an acceptable alternative for security reasons?

A. As I understand it, the blindfolding, as we spoke about, were goggles that could be used…

Q. Yes.

A. …as an alternative. Given the timescale of this, I don't know whether such – and I don't recollect this – whether the goggles were available at that stage for use, so hooding may still have been something which was still being used for those purposes.

Q. Are those the sorts of questions that you asked of those advising you?

A. I have no recollection of asking those questions. I am asking on the basis of the information in front of me now as to whether that's the type of thought process I would likely to have gone through.

Q. I see. Can I ask you another question arising from the same paragraph, please? In the penultimate lines you said:
"I should make absolutely clear that hooding was only used during the transit of prisoners."

A. I think that should have been a bit more expansive and said "arrest" as well.

Q. What should it have said, Minister?

A. Well, I am no longer a minister.

Q. When you wrote this as a minister, what should it have said?

A. I think it should have been more specific and said, you know, during the – it says "The UK believes that this is acceptable under the Geneva Convention", but it should make clear – I should make absolutely clear that the hooding was only used during the transit of
prisoners, but it could have been used at – within an interrogation area for the security of the individual because that individual may be coming in to give evidence. So it is clearly not a very precise term.

Q. It is just not accurate, is it?

A. That's correct.

Q. You knew, by this time, of Baha Mousa having been hooded for something like 24 hours in September 2003, didn't you?

A. Albeit not continually.

Q. He was not in the process of transit, was he?

A. That's correct.

Q. You have continued – this is my last question on this paragraph – "... not used as an interrogation technique". That is a categorical statement, isn't it?

A. Correct, yes.

Q. As Mr Elias put to you a moment ago, you were aware, weren't you, that at least one tactical questioner had advised that Baha Mousa should be hooded when in custody at BG Main?

A. I think I said I would then have had to have questioned the precise information I was being given in relation to that statement within that background note, whether it was used specifically -- I think what I said was specifically for interrogation purposes and I think there can be some doubt in the way in which that was phrased within that background note.

Q. Did you question that, Mr Ingram…

A. I have no recollection of questioning it.

Q. …before you made this categorical statement to the chair of the Committee on Human Rights?

A. That would have been a document prepared for me by my staff and by those who were drawing together all of the information. I would have relied upon their intensity of scrutiny to make sure that the answers that I was giving would have been accurate at all times. There was also another mechanism within the Department that, if something which was said proved not to be accurate on hindsight, either because someone questioned it or because it became a matter of reflection and therefore reconsideration, then people would be so informed of the inaccuracy. I don't recollect such a correction being made to that document, but there was a mechanism to ensure that at all times we were trying to tell the truth as we knew it at that time.