US hid waterboarding of 9/11 accused, says former MI5 chief

US hid waterboarding of 9/11 accused, says former MI5 chief
MI5 had no idea that the architect of the September 11 attacks had been waterboarded when the Americans passed them intelligence from his interrogation, the former head of the Security Service has said.
By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent
Published: 7:05AM GMT 10 Mar 2010

Baroness Manningham-Buller said she only discovered that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been waterboarded 183 times when the US Justice Department released a memo last year and it was reported in the press.

She also said that MI5 had protested to the Americans about their treatment of detainees at one stage but declined to go into details.

Speaking during a question and answer session following a lecture at the House of Lords, she also insisted that torture could never be justified even if it saved lives.

It is unclear whether the information passed to the British was acquired through torture but makes clear that MI5 either did not ask or was not told how prisoners were being treated by the Americans.

Lady Manningham-Buller said the US that had been "very keen to conceal from us what was happening".

She added: "The Americans were very keen that people like us did not discover what they were doing."

In a lecture at an event organised by the Mile End Group, she said she had wondered, in 2002 and 2003, how the US had been able to supply the UK with intelligence from Mohammed.

"I said to my staff, 'Why is he talking?' because our experience of Irish prisoners, Irish terrorists, was that they never said anything," she said.

"They said, well, the Americans say he is very proud of his achievements when questioned about it.

"It wasn't actually until after I retired that I read that, in fact, he had been waterboarded 160 times."

It comes ahead of the publication, later this month, of new guidelines given to security and intelligence officers on interrogation.

However the former regulations will not be revealed under which both MI5 and MI6 have been accused of being complicit in the mistreatment of prisoners such as Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantanamo detainee.

CIA officers have claimed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not co-operating until he was waterboarded at a secret facility in Poland near Szymany Airport, about 100 miles north of Warsaw.

He has confessed to a planning a series of plots, making him one of the world’s most prolific and dangerous terrorists.

In 2003 he was working on a plot to hijack aircraft and crash them into Heathrow airport, Big Ben and Canary Wharf when he was captured in March at a house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Behind closed doors at a combatant status review at Guantanamo Bay in 2007 Mohammed issued a statement in which he confessed to involvement in 31 separate plots, adding: “I was responsible for the 9/11 Operation from A to Z.”

Among the plots with British links were that of British shoe-bomber Rich Reid in December 2001, the execution of the journalist Daniel Pearl for which the Briton Omar Saeed Sheikh was found guilty, and the truck bombing of the British consulate and HSBC bank in Istanbul in November 2003 that killed 60 people, including the British consul, Roger Short.

Dame Eliza was the director general of MI5 from October 2002 until her retirement on 20 April 2007 and now sits in the House of Lords.

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