Former UK Ambassador Describes What Happens to People with Integrity Who Have the Misfortune to End Up in Government Positions
Put Blair and Straw on Trial For Torture By Craig Murray, Former British Ambassador To Uzbekistan
In the summer of 2004, I warned Tony Blair’s Foreign Office that Britain was using intelligence material which had been obtained by the CIA under torture. Two months later I was sacked as the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan on the orders of Downing Street, bringing to an end my 20-year diplomatic career.
When I then went public with the news that Uzbek territory was part of a global CIA torture programme, I was dismissed as a fantasist by Mr Blair’s henchmen. Now finally, a decade later, I have been vindicated by last week’s shocking Senate Intelligence Committee report.
Over 500 pages it details the CIA’s brutal abuse of Al Qaeda suspects, who were flown around the world to be tortured in a network of secret prisons. One of these was in Uzbekistan, where the US had an air base.
The CIA programme included both torture they conducted themselves and torture conducted for them by allies. Shamefully, the torture-by-proxy details remain classified to protect America’s gruesome ‘allies’.
The CIA were flying people to Uzbekistan to be tortured, usually via their secret prison at Szymany in Poland. The Uzbeks were doing the actual torture, sometimes with CIA members in the room.
Aside from the moral dimension, the Senate report confirmed my repeated view that intelligence gleaned from torture is useless. When I was Ambassador, one secret file I was sent contained CIA information which named a member of Al Qaeda. The man turned out to be a Jehovah’s Witness.
In 2003, I attended a meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), where I was told by officials that it was not illegal for us to use intelligence from torture as long as we did not carry out the torture ourselves. I was also told at the meeting that this intelligence was ‘useful’ – and that policy came directly from the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
I have a copy of a note signed by the Foreign Secretary’s private secretary which says that Mr Straw had seen the minutes of the meeting and thought it had been ‘handled well’.
I was specifically told by a very senior FCO manager that there was a deliberate policy of not writing down anything about this because there should not be evidence of the policy.
Meanwhile, the FCO was churning out speeches which claimed we opposed it. On July 22, 2004, I sent that telegram to Mr Straw complaining about the fact we were using intelligence material obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA.
HIS silence in response didn’t surprise me. I was gone soon afterwards. Strange then that when he sacked me – on the express orders of Mr Blair’s Downing Street, I was later informed – Mr Straw claimed to Parliament that the existence of a CIA torture programme was only ‘Mr Murray’s opinion’.
He claimed the Government knew nothing of any torture by the CIA, and still today denies knowing anything about it.
My career had been destroyed by politicians who wanted to hide their complicity in human rights abuses. To complete the process, they then trashed my reputation with smears: the stressful end to my first marriage, and the start of my relationship with my current wife, Nadira, found its way into the press in the most lurid terms. False stories about my drinking and fabrications about sleeping with prostitutes also appeared. All of this was to distract from the truth: that hundreds of British members of the security services, diplomats and civil servants co-operated with the CIA torture program me.
It is a terrible indictment of our society that I was the only person in a position of authority who was trying to stop it.
Now that I have been vindicated, it is time for a formal Government apology for the way I was treated. But it is not just past UK governments which were complicit in both the torture and the cover-up. For the past year, the British Ambassador in Washington and his staff have regularly been lobbying the US authorities not to reveal facts about the UK’s involvement in the CIA torture program me.
That lobbying has been successful, and is one of the reasons that most of the Senate report has not been published.
The British Government continues to cover up the truth even today. We should not forget that the climate of public and media opinion which made it possible for this US Senate report to be published at all was generated entirely by the work of whistleblowers. I was the first of these, but at least I remain at liberty: two subsequent whistleblowers – soldier Chelsea Manning and CIA agent John Kiriakou – are serving long stretches in prison.
Although it is in no way comparable to the horrifying abuses suffered by the torture victims, we truth-tellers have also been through hell.
It is very strange to now hear Westminster politicians calling for a judicial inquiry into our involvement in rendition.
There has already been one, headed by retired judge Sir Peter Gibson. He started to gather evidence, and ordered the Foreign Office to give me full access to all the classified documentation on the subject from my time as Ambassador. Indeed, Gibson gave every appearance of being a man of integrity, appointed to lead an investigation into governmental wrongdoing.
It was therefore no surprise when the Gibson inquiry was cancelled and his duties handed to politicians on the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee. Incredibly, its members include Hazel Blears, one of Tony Blair’s Ministers at a time when the Government had a policy of using intelligence from torture. She is therefore investigating herself.
No wonder a source on the Intelligence and Security Committee told journalists last week that they would only scrutinise members of the security services, not the politicians who instructed them.
There is, at least, an ongoing Metropolitan Police inquiry, called Operation Lydd, into whether the criminal law was broken by Britons implicated in the rendition program me.
Complicity in torture is a crime in the UK. I have given sworn evidence to the detectives involved, who recently passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Astonishingly, at the CPS the dossier has been given not to the branch that deals with misconduct in public office, but to the counter-terrorism division. This focuses attention away from the crime of torture and on to the alleged criminal intentions of the actual victims of the crime they are supposed to be considering.
The police think it will all be quietly swept under the carpet by the CPS.
Recent scandals, such as the alleged cover-up of an Establishment paedophile ring, highlight the apparent impunity of our political class in the face of the honest forces of law and order.
We don’t need an inquiry into British complicity in torture. We need a trial. And it should be Tony Blair and Jack Straw in the dock.