It's difficult to read the recommendations of the UK parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee new report on illegal rendition as anything other than an explicit warning to Brown's government that the Bush administration cannot be trusted to stick to long-standing deals on co-operation.
Although the report found no smoking-gun evidence that the UK had deliberately been complicit in renditions (mainly because UK records are deliberately fuzzy on details), it did find that the UK, by trusting that the US would keep its word, had "inadvertently" helped the US secret rendition program.
The cross-party committee said "routine" evidence sharing in the case of two British residents in Ghana in 2002 "indirectly and inadvertently" led to their rendition.It's a given of foreign policy that a nation always pursues its own national interest first and foremost - but the primary feature of the US/UK "special relationship" has always been that both nations were willing to compromise somewhat on that hard and fast rule in order to likewise safeguard their partner's national interest. What the Intel committe finds is that the Bush administration has unilaterally abrogated that long-standing arrangement and now expects the relationship to be a one-way street. The committee says that isn't an option for the UK and has recommended changes in the way UK inteligence thinks about the US - in effect, it says UK intelligence agencies should no longer trust the US to look out for British interests.
Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna were flown by the CIA first to Afghanistan and then Guantanamo Bay, where el-Banna is still being held.
The committee said the UK services "used caveats specifically prohibiting any action being taken" when they handed over the intelligence on the men.
It says the UK security services did not foresee that the US authorities would disregard the caveats, given that they had honoured the caveat system for the past 20 years.
"This case shows a lack of regard on the part of the US for UK concerns - despite strong protests - and that has serious implications for the intelligence relationship," the report concluded.
"In fighting international terrorism it is clear that the US will take whatever action it deems is necessary, within US law, to protect its national security," it said.
"Although the US may take note of UK protests and concerns, it does not appear materially to affect their strategy; the rendition programme has revealed aspects of this usually close relationship that are surprising and concerning," the report warned.
it recommended two further changes to strengthen safeguards.That second is perfectly in line with rulings from the International Court, the European Court of Human Rights and the UK's own Law lords. That leaves US law alone in seeing renditions as practised by the Bush administration as anything like a legal procedure. It remains to be seen whether Brown will continue to paint over this crack by turning Blair's blind eye to US illegal activities. I suspect it will, but by UK law that would be a dangerous path for Brown to tread, leaving him and his cabinet open to future charges under UK and international law.
First, where despite the use of caveats and assurances there remains a real possibility that sharing intelligence with foreign liaison services might result in torture or mistreatment...we recommend that ministerial approval should be sought in all such cases.
"Secondly, the Committee considers that 'secret detention', without legal or other representation, is of itself mistreatment.
"Therefore, where there is a real possibility of 'Rendition to Detention' to a secret facility, even if it would be for a limited time, we consider that approval must never be given."