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Gitmo - another Brit idea commercialised by the US?

Demon diarist tells of HMG's post-9/11 planning

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Blunkettwatch Stunning revelations in today's excerpts from The Blunkett Tapes in the Guardian - although the offshore jurisdiction limbo that is Guantanamo Bay is generally held to be a US innovation, it was in fact devised within easy bagging and tagging range of the very offices whence we report. Like vertical take-off aircraft, the hovercraft, apocalyptic science fiction and Churchillian rhetoric it was in fact a British innovation.

And, like all of the above, it was lifted and commercialised by our 'special' relations.

It is October 2001 and, the late Home Secretary writes, HMG is wondering uneasily what to do with all of its suspected terrorists. The Foreign Office cautions that it might not be entirely advisable to sign agreements with "certain countries" on the transfer of terror suspects. Plus ca change, although these days we're rather less scrupulous about who we sign bagging agreements with, more recent Home Secretaries have been having the devil of a job getting the beggars to sign anyway. (Something about them not seeing the point of promising not to torture people when they flatly deny that they torture people anyway).

Says David: "I had suggested we might get people out of the country by moving [them] to Gibraltar." Which is possibly not something that'd go down a treat with Gibraltar's local government, so you can maybe see the objection. But no, apparently you can't, because it wasn't that. "Someone said Gibraltar is too easy to escape from [oh, right...] and anyway it is too close to Morocco [but aren't they on our side?], so what about Ascension Island? The Foreign Office were apparently unhappy so I said: 'Well, we could send them to the Falklands!'"

Great plan, David. Hostile environment, sheep, uncleared minefields, some squaddies, but no shooting and no Taliban. So ship in Taliban suspects, then see if it reminds you of anywhere else. But whatever, we didn't do it, and the rest is history. Or, given Gitmo's poorly-documented un-status, perhaps not.

Anyone suspecting that the people running HMG might not be entirely glued would do well to rewind a month, to September 11 2001 where a bunkered (and we trust tin-hatted) COBR emergency briefing is taking place. The Global War on Terror is afoot, and the War Cabinet is discussing matters of national and international security, to wit, the protection of the upcoming Labour Party conference.

"It was put to me that there should be a battleship off the coast [Brighton rocks, unexpectedly] that would have capacity for ground-to-air missiles in case unauthorised planes looked as if ["looked as if? Hmm...] they were going to attack the conference centre or hotel. When I said that I thought this was way over the top, the MoD [said] they could have missiles mounted either on the roof or in a series of lorries near by. I vetoed that as well." Not even a gas mask then? Spoilsport. ®

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