Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ending the whitewash

Shortly after being elected, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the establishment of a formal inquiry into his intelligence services' collusion in torture and rendition. It was a whitewash from the start. Run by the Intelligence Services Commissioner, hearing evidence in secret, and boycoted by human rights groups, it was never going to be the independent investigation the public (and the law) demanded. And even the revelation of a smoking gun - MI6's "policy on liason with overseas security and intelligence services in relation to detainees who may be subject to mistreatment", which explicitly told spies to balance the value of the information obtained against the amount of pain that would be inflicted - did not alter that fact. Rather than naming names and holding those responsible to account, the Gibson inquiry was always simply going to shuffle crimes under the carpet, "restore" the image of the intelligence services, and "draw a line under events", so the spies could right on back to torturing, without this messy clamouring for accountability and prosecutions.

Which is why I'm glad its finally over. A whitewash inquiry is worse than no inquiry at all. As we've seen with the numerous inquiries into Blair's lies before the Iraq war, it just gives those responsible something to hide behind, while doing nothing to get to the truth. It undermines both accountability and the truth itself.

...which is of course why the British government loves them so much. Hold a whitewash, "draw a line" - then claim that the issue is settled and that the public is being unreasonable in continuing to demand accountability. But until there is accountability, until there is justice, until those responsible are sacked, prosecuted, and driven from public life, it will never be "over".