[JURIST] British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett [official profile] admitted Friday in a written response to a parliamentary question that Britain was "aware of the existence of a secret US detention program" prior to a September speech [JURIST report] by President Bush acknowledging the existence of CIA-operated secret prisons [JURIST news archive] for terror detainees. A cabinet Intelligence and Security Committee [official website] report has also stated that British intelligence service MI5 [official website] was also aware that the US was holding detainees in facilities other than those in Guantanamo [JURIST news archive], but did not have knowledge of the locations, conditions and access to the detainees. The admissions are believed to be the first public confirmations that British officials had prior knowledge of the secret prison network.
In November, a report released [JURIST report] by a European Parliament committee [official website] investigating the CIA's alleged covert use of facilities in European countries for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners, concluded that 16 of those countries cooperated with the CIA "passively or actively" [AFP report]. The European Parliament investigation was launched after the existence of the secret prisons [JURIST report] was first mooted in press reports in late 2005. AP has more.