Craig Murray worked as the British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004. Here he clarifies exactly what he knew and did not know about ‘extraordinary rendition’ and the UK and US policy on torture during this time.
I have seen a number of references, in the media and on the internet, citing me as confirming the existence of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme, and that Uzbekistan was a destination for extraordinary rendition.
It seems to me some clarification is required.
As British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 I saw intelligence material passed to the CIA by the Uzbek security services, and shared with MI6 by the CIA. Much of this I knew to be factually incorrect. The intention was invariably to exaggerate the Islamist threat in Uzbekistan and to link Uzbek opposition to Al Qaida.
I had learnt a great deal about the modus operandi of the Uzbek security services and their widespread use of torture. I sent my deputy, Karen Moran, to see the US Embassy in Tashkent to check if my fears about the origin of the intelligence material might be justified. The head of the CIA station confirmed to her that the material probably was obtained under torture, but added that the CIA had not seen this as a problem.
In November 2002, late January or early February 2003 and finally June 2004 I sent official telegrams to the FCO stating that I believed we were receiving material from torture, that the material was painting a false picture and that it was both illegal and immoral for us to receive it.
In March 2003 I was summoned back to the FCO and told by Sir Michael Wood, chief Legal Adviser, that it was not illegal under the UN Convention Against Torture for us to obtain or to use intelligence gained under torture, provided we did not torture ourselves or request that a named individual be tortured. That is I believe still the true British government position, whatever their public line.
I was aware from Autumn 2002 that the CIA were bringing in detainees to Tashkent from Baghram airport Afghanistan, who were handed over to the Uzbek security services (SNB). I presumed at the time that these were all Uzbek nationals – that may have been a false presumption. I knew that the CIA were obtaining intelligence from their subsequent interrogation by the SNB.
In two cases I was contacted by families trying to discover the whereabouts of individuals brought back in this way. I also had some brief connection with a third case.
I knew that a company, Premier Executive, were operating flights of executive jets including Gulfstreams bringing back these detainees, and that this was happening fairly regularly. Premier Executive had permanent ground staff in Tashkent three of whom I met socially. I understood they were civilian contractors who operated flights which supported the US military and intelligence presence in Uzbekistan in a number of ways. I believed them to be linked to Halliburton, whose subsidiary Brown and Root were involved in construction of ground facilities also to support the US military and intelligence presence. I also met socially serving US marines who were detailed to provide protection to Halliburton personnel and operations.
I did not know that Premier Executive or the CIA were bringing non-Uzbek detainees into Uzbekistan. I did not know of detainees being brought to the US base at Karshi Khanabad or any other US facility, rather than to the Uzbek authorities in Tashkent. I never heard of any interrogation with US personnel present. I had not heard the phrase “Extraordinary Rendition”.
What I have learnt since leaving Uzbekistan has come from journalistic work by inter alia Stephen Gray, Frederic Laurin, Andrew Gilligan, Jane Mayer, Scott Pellew and Don van Natta. I have spoken at length with all of these as well as reading what they have published. I have been told by more than one of the above of highly placed US official sources confirming that extraordinary rendition to Uzbekistan of non-Uzbeks does take place, but I have not met such sources myself, nor have I first hand experience of it.
So I find the evidence for extraordinary rendition credible, but am not the first hand authority on it that I am made out to be in some quarters. What I can confirm is the positive policy decision by the US and UK to use Uzbek torture material.
10 July 2005