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Thursday 27 Nov 2014

Press Release

The Secret War On Terror: former Pakistan president says British Government never told him they disapproved of the torture of British terrorist suspects

Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf has claimed he was never told about Britain's disapproval of torture and insistence that other countries should not do it on Britain's behalf. He says this may have been a "tacit approval of whatever we were doing".

General Pervez Musharraf was President of Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, throughout the period when it is alleged British subjects were mistreated and tortured while being held in detention in the country.

The exclusive interview, with BBC reporter Peter Taylor, raises new questions about how much knowledge MI5 had that torture was being used in the fight against al-Qaeda.

Former President Pervez Musharraf's comments come ahead of the start of the Gibson Inquiry. The independent investigation, chaired by former Appeal Court judge Sir Peter Gibson, will look at claims Britain was complicit in the torture of terror suspects in other countries. The Inquiry is expected to start within the next two months.

In the interview to be screened tonight (Monday 14 March) as part of the new BBC Two series The Secret War On Terror, the former Pakistan leader admits: "We are dealing with vicious people and you have to get information. Now if you are extremely decent we then don't get any information... We need to allow leeway to the intelligence operatives, the people who interrogate."

When asked does the end justify the means to extract information from suspected terrorists who are reluctant to talk, former President Musharraf responded: "To an extent yes...".

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 suspected of plotting a terrorist attack. In court action the Ethiopian, who had lived in the UK for eight years, claimed he was hung by his wrists, beaten with a leather strap, and subjected to a mock execution; all with the knowledge of the UK Security Services. He says the admissions he later made were false and the result of torture.

Many detainees who have since received compensation from the British Government claimed they were tortured in Pakistan and forced into confessions by its intelligence agency the ISI.

Sir David Omand, UK Security & Intelligence Co-ordinator (2002-05), is unequivocal about the UK's complete rejection of torture: "I am very clear we are not and have not been complicit in torture and I'm in no doubt that all the countries concerned including Pakistan and the United States were very well aware of what British policy was, which was we don't do this and we don't ask other people to do it."

But former president Pervez Musharraf said he had no recollection of being told by the British Government that the ISI should not use torture on British subjects: "Never. Never once, I don't remember at all". He added: "Maybe they wanted us to continue to do whatever we were doing; it was a tacit approval of whatever we were doing."

Responding to the Pakistan leader's allegations, former Director of MI5 Baroness Manningham-Buller said he was "wrong" and denied that "a blind eye had been turned"."No... there was no tacit approval of torture."

Denying Britain had been complicit in torture, she added: "I think this raises a much broader question. Al-Qaeda is global threat. To counter it we need to talk to services throughout the world.

"We have to be careful and cautious in those relationships, but to decide that we are never going to talk to the following 50 countries in any circumstances means that you are deciding deliberately not to try and find out information that you need to know."

A landmark two-part BBC series, The Secret War On Terror reveals the astonishing inside story of the intelligence war which has been fought against al-Qaeda over the last decade since 9/11.

With unparalleled access to Western intelligence and law enforcement agencies and with a host of exclusive interviews with those who have been at the sharp end of fighting the terrorists – from the CIA and the FBI to MI5 – Peter Taylor asks whether the West is winning and whether we are any safer from attack.

In her first television interview Baroness Manningham-Buller goes on to talk candidly about the challenges faced by British Intelligence post the events of 9/11 as they worked to protect the UK from terrorist attacks.

When asked if she was aware the Americans were using enhanced interrogation techniques she commented: "Not for a quite a long time after they started using them. They chose to conceal it from the allies and indeed from their own citizens."

The programme explores the tactics employed by the United States Government as they fought The Secret War On Terror, leading one witness to make an extraordinary revelation.

Peter meets Jim Clemente of FBI's Behavioural Analysis Unit, who was sent to observe interrogations at Guantanamo. He was shocked by what one officer told him: "She actually had watched the television show 24 to get ideas on interrogation methods that they would then utilise at Guantanamo. It was outrageous, unbelievable that some one would do something that stupid."

Episode one of The Secret War On Terror is broadcast tonight (Monday 14 March) on BBC Two, 9pm. It is presented by Peter Taylor and produced and directed by Mike Rudin.

Notes to Editors

Any use of information or quotes should be credited to BBC's The Secret War On Terror.

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