Joe Biden’s election victory in the US could offer a glimmer of hope that the truth about CIA “torture flights” to Scottish airports might finally be revealed.
The defeat of Donald Trump is expected to trigger a renewed effort to uncover whether locations such as Aberdeen, Inverness and Wick were used as stop-offs for the illegal transfer of terror suspects to interrogation sites during the War on Terror that followed the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Police in Scotland have been investigating the alleged use of Scottish airports for the “extraordinary rendition” of detainees since 2013.
However, a request by detectives for an unredacted copy of a vital US Senate committee report on CIA torture was denied by the American authorities.
A police dossier has been sent to the Crown Office for consideration, but Lord Advocate James Wolffe previously suggested the case would remain open until appropriate evidence had been obtained from the US.
Hopefully a change in administration in the United States will lead to a change in thinking, and a greater degree of openness and transparency than there has been this far.”
Kevin Stewart MSP
Kevin Stewart, SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, believed the election result last week could pave the way for a breakthrough.
“Hopefully a change in administration in the United States will lead to a change in thinking, and a greater degree of openness and transparency than there has been this far,” he said.
Detectives launched their inquiry in June 2013, just days after The Press and Journal revealed that CIA planes were likely to have used Aberdeen, Inverness and Wick airports as stop-offs during the operations.
‘Conclusive’ proof CIA planes landed at north airports
The P&J had contacted British academics Ruth Blakeley and Sam Raphael, directors of the Rendition Project, who were analysing the illegal detention, transfer and torture of terror suspects, and asked them to review flight data at the three airports.
The researchers subsequently found “conclusive” proof that five CIA planes linked to rendition had landed at both Inverness and Wick, with a further three at Aberdeen International Airport. Suspicious flights were also linked to other Scottish airports.
Professor Blakeley, who is now the head of the politics and international relations department at Sheffield University, said it was possible that Mr Trump’s defeat could boost efforts to obtain the report, although she believed it remained an uphill battle.
“I think there is a very small chance that it makes a difference. I think it might hinge on what the outcome is in the Senate, which of course we are not going to know until Georgia is decided,” she said.
“I think if there was a Democrat win in the Senate, then of course all legislation that Biden’s team want to pass becomes easier.
“But whether that means there would be political will among the Democrats to release the report? I’m not so sure, and I think there is still a really powerful lobby against doing so.”
Prof Blakeley added: “One of things Trump did was return the White House copy of the report, and urged others to do so as well, on the assumption it would be locked up forever and would never see the light of day.
“And so I think it will depend a lot on what the configuration of things like the heads of the intelligence agencies starts to look like under the new administration. And also how much political will there is among Democrats.”
Asked if the election result provided an opportunity for the US authorities to reconsider the issue, Prof Blakeley said: “Definitely. I think certainly there will be plenty of Democrats who are a lot less hawkish, and more dovish, and were appalled by the revelations about CIA torture.
“So I think the prospects for human rights advocates and litigators to make a difference are much higher under this administration than they were under Trump.”