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Torture and Rendition: Diplomats 'trying to censor' US Senate report on British role in CIA activities

Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott tried to lobby US intelligence committee Senator Martin Heinrich on July 14, says charity Reprieve

Desperate diplomats are trying to censor a US Senate report that would blow open Britain’s role in torture and rendition, legal action charity Reprieve said yesterday.

Britain’s ambassador to the US has held at least 22 meetings with US intelligence select committee senators since they began looking into leaked CIA cables in 2009.

Newly released Foreign Office documents show “the desperate attempts being made by the UK to censor the Senate’s report on CIA torture,” stormed Reprieve executive director Clare Algar.

Current ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott most recently tried to lobby Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich on July 14.

He has also courted six other senators since July 2012, including committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and vice-chairman Saxby Chambliss.

His predecessor Sir Nigel Sheinwald held 11 meetings with committee members before being replaced by Mr Westmacott in January 2012.

Foreign Office officials admitted that the list of meetings “is not exhaustive” and doesn’t include “brush-by meetings” or where the ambassadors may have chatted up senators at dinners and receptions.

Reprieve said meetings coincided with important developments in the investigation.

On March 26, Mr Westmacott met Republican Marco Rubio — just six days before Mr Rubio and two others voted against declassifying the summary and conclusions of the committee’s report.

Following the vote, the ambassador met twice in quick succession with Ms Feinstein on April 29 and May 2.

Those meetings are likely to have been “in pursuit of securing certain redactions from the report,” Reprieve said.

The list of meetings was released after information leaked from the report revealed that the British territory of Diego Garcia was used in the US rendition programme.

“We already know that our government was up to its neck in the CIA’s programme of rendition and torture — making it highly likely that the Senate’s report will contain information which is deeply embarrassing for them.

“But simple embarrassment is not a justification for suppressing the truth.

“Ministers must change course and instead support the publication of this crucial report in the most open and transparent form.”

William Hague insisted the government “has not sought to influence the content of the Senate report” in a letter sent to Reprieve in July before being removed from the post as foreign secretary.

But he added: “We have made representations to seek assurance that ordinary procedures for clearance of UK material will be followed in the event that UK material provided to the Senate committee were to be disclosed.”

The Foreign Office had no further comment to make when contacted by the Morning Star yesterday.

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