Rendition Memo in Full

What follows is the full and unexpurgated text of the Foreign Office memo relating to renditions through UK territory and airspace that was leaked to, and published by, the New Statesman last week – now in a usable format, the scanned PDF having been put through OCR software to generate a new text-based PDF.

I have added my own annotations to this post, in italics, together with the text of Jack Straw’s Ministerial Statement about this memo, given to the House of Commons on 20th Jan 2006.

For those of you who just want the memo without my own ramblings, you can download it in PDF format by clicking this link.

UPDATE: Tim at Bloggerheads has his usual excellent selection of links to various reports relating to this issue – well worth visiting.


Dear Grace,



1. An explanation of what is normally meant by “Rendition’1 and “Extraordinary Rendition”, though these are neither legal nor precise terms. Discussion also of their legality: Rendition could be legal in certain limited circumstances; Extraordinary Rendition is almost certainly illegal. Further advice, too on what we and the US mean when we talk of “torture” and “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” (CID). And to what extent knowledge of, or partial assistance in, these operations (e.g. permission to refuel) constitutes complicity?

2. Advice too on handling. We should try to avoid getting drawn on detail, at least until we have been able to complete the substantial research required to establish what has happened even since 1997; and to try to move the debate on in as front foot a way as we can, underlining ail the time the strong counter-terrorist rationale for close co-operation with the US, within our legal obligations. Armed with Rice’s statement and the Foreign Secretary’s response, we should try to situate the debate not on whether the US practices torture (and whether the UK is complicit in it): they have made clear they do not – but onto the strong US statements in Rice’s text on their commitment to domestic and international instruments. A debate on whether the US test for torture/CID derives from their commitments under the US Constitution rather than international law is better ground than the principle of whether they practice torture.

This is as it appears, a quick overview of the contents on the memo plus the author’s recommendations on the press line to take which amounts to dissemble, obfuscate and don’t get drawn into answering direct questions. The most interest comment is that which relates to shifting the debate on the definition of torture from that in international law to one based on what is permitted under the US Constitution, which, as is later noted, does permit treatment that has been ruled unlawful under international law.


3. You asked for further advice on substance and handling, following my letter of 5 December, including with a view to PMQs on 7 December.


What do we mean by “Rendition”?

4. This is not a legally defined term. But it is normally understood to mean the transfer of a person from one jurisdiction to another, outside the normal legal processes such as extradition, deportation, removal or exclusion. It does not necessarily carry any connotation of involvement in torture.

“Extraordinary Rendition