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By Joseph Willits
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In a frank speech about the role of the intelligence service, and Foreign Office today, William Hague effectively apologised for British complicity in torture. "Allegations of UK complicity in extraordinary rendition leading to torture", he said, had "undermined Britain’s standing in the world", especially if the nation maintains the value that it is "abhorrent" and "wrong".
As the the Foreign Office expands, and is playing more of an active global role, Britain needed to be an "inspiring example of the values we hold dear", Hague said.
"Moral authority in the eyes of the world, once damaged, must be painfully and gradually re-established".
The Government, he said, was doing this in various ways. Upon coming to power, Cameron announced a Detainee Inquiry, with the aims of establishing "whether the UK was involved in or aware of the improper treatment of detainees held by other countries". It would begin, Hague said, "as soon as current police investigations are completed". Cameron had also published "consolidated guidance issued to intelligence officers and service personnel on the treatment of detainees held overseas by other States".
A Justice and Security Green Paper had also been brought forward, Hague said, "to strengthen our legal arrangements and Parliamentary and independent oversight of the Intelligence Agencies."
"At its heart are proposals to ensure that cases involving national security information can be heard fairly, fully and safely in our courts, and that we protect British interests by preventing the disclosure of genuinely sensitive material. This includes intelligence information shared with Britain by intelligence partners overseas."
Hague heaped praised on agents and intelligence sources, "vital assets in this whole of Government effort" who "risk … lose their lives", saying there was a "duty to protect them".
"Properly used, Secret Intelligence saves both military and civilian lives, protects our economy, stops serious crime and makes a critical contribution to our diplomatic and military success".
Libya, the Foreign Secretary said, was a military intervention of which Britain should be "proud" – a key example of "diplomatic and military success … backed by effective intelligence". The deaths of Western diplomats were saved, he said when "the Agencies obtained firm intelligence" and "were able to warn the NTC of the threat", thus preventing loss of life.