The British government has announced that flight records from Diego Garcia, the Indian Ocean territory leased to the United States and implicated in the CIA's rendition program, have been "damaged to the point of no longer being useful" — going back on their previous line that the documents were still intact.The issue first came up when the government informed the parliament on 8 July this year that the flight records of Diego Garcia, sought by investigating lawmakers, were "incomplete due to water damage."
However, just one week later, then Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds changed the government's line saying on 15 July that "previously wet paper records have been dried out" and that "no flight records have been lost as a result of the water damage."But on Friday, the government once again reversed its position, claiming that the records relating to civilians landing on the island hadn't dried out and had in fact been destroyed by water damage. These particular records are of significance as they may indicate that civilian CIA agents operated rendition flights through the island.Questions are yet to be answered over exactly how the documents were rendered unusable. The flight records were supposedly destroyed by what then Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds called "extremely heavy weather" in June of this year, however, as VICE News recently found, June was actually a very dry month for Diego Garcia.When asked about this earlier this month, a Foreign Office spokesperson said "I don't think it's very helpful for us to have a discussion about how much rain is a lot of rain."The ministry also released a statement saying: "BIOT [British Indian Ocean Territory] immigration officials conducted a fuller inspection, and previously wet paper records have been dried out. They report that no flight records have been lost as a result of the water damage."Since the early 2000s, there have been numerous allegations that the US operates a prison for terrorist suspects on Diego Garcia. One of the claims came from a retired four star US general.
In 2008, the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted that two US planes carrying rendered suspects had landed on Diego Garcia to refuel in 2002. They did so without Britain's knowledge, he said.Britain has always said that it has no knowledge of the US running a prison on the island. But in April sources told Al Jazeera that a forthcoming US Senate Intelligence Committee report stated that the British gave "full co-operation" for a CIA "black site" prison on Diego Garcia.The US has about 3,200 military and civilian personal based on the island.VICE News spoke to Donald Campbell from the human rights charity Reprieve who have been closely following and scrutinising the British government's line on Diego Garcia.Campbell claimed that the Government were lying in their statement and still held the flight records. "It is now over a decade since the UK helped the CIA fly detainees to countries where they faced horrific torture, yet the Government is still withholding crucial evidence of the part it played. They must publish it without delay," he said."The government's excuses for Diego Garcia's missing records are getting increasingly confused and desperate. Ministers could hardly be less credible if they simply said 'the dog ate my homework,'" he added.