As secret files reveal the UK’s role in abuse and torture, Richard Norton-Taylor addresses Labour’s legacy of secrets, spin and cover-up
“Drop it”, ministers strongly advised, as I sensed the government was not coming clean about their role in “extraordinary rendition”, the US practice of secretly transferring terror suspects to places where they were likely to be tortured. It was the familiar attempt to smother an embarrassing tale, a practice at which New Labour and its spin doctors were particularly adept. The first indications from the Con-Lib coalition are that it intends to unearth its predecessor’s activities. William Hague, the foreign secretary, has delivered what he promised before the general election — a judge-led inquiry into allegations of complicity in torture.
What was astonishing was the lengths to which ministers and officials went to cover up their activities. As they persisted in a shameless pursuit of secrecy, they blamed journalists and conspiracy theorists, fed, they claimed, by human rights groups and misguided lawyers, for not letting go.