Monthly Archives: October 2005

The Security Services Support Torture: That is Why We Have a Judiciary

Before the House of Lords this week the government has been arguing for the right to act on intelligence obtained by torture abroad. Channel 4 has obtained the statement to the Law Lords by the head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Butler. In effect she argues that torture works. It foiled the famous ricin plot.

She omits to mention that no more ricin was found than is the naturally occurring base level in your house or mine ‘ or indeed that no poison of any kind was found. Nor does she recall that there has never been a successful large scale poisoning with ricin. But let us leave that for now.

She argues, in effect, that we need to get intelligence from foreign security services, to fight terrorism. And if they torture, so what? Her chief falsehood is our pretence that we don’t know what happens in their dungeons. We do. And it is a dreadful story. Manningham-Butler is so fastidious she even avoids using the word ‘Torture’ at all in her evidence. Let alone the reality to which she turns such a carefully blind eye.

Uzbekistan is one of those security services from whose ‘friendly liaison’ services we obtained information. And I will tell you what torture means. It means the woman who was raped with a broken bottle in both vagina and anus, and who died after ten days of agony. It means the old man suspended by wrist shackles from the ceiling while his children were beaten to a pulp before his eyes. It means the man whose fingernails were pulled before his face was beaten and he was immersed to his armpits in boiling liquid. It means the eighteen year old whose knees and elbows were smashed, his hand immersed in boiling liquid until the skin came away and the flesh started to peel from the bone, before the back of his skull was stove in.

These are all real cases from the Uzbek security services which we viewed as friendly liaison, and from which we obtained regular intelligence, in the Uzbek case via the CIA. A month ago that liaison relationship was stopped ‘ not by us, but by the Uzbeks. But as Manningham-Buller sets out, we continue to maintain our position as customer to torturers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco and many other places.

The key point is that none of the above Uzbek victims were terrorists at all. The great majority of those who suffer torture at the hands of these regimes are not terrorists, but political opponents. And the scale of this torture is vast. In Uzbekistan alone thousands, not hundreds, of innocent men, women and children suffer torture every year. Across Manningham-Buller’s web of friendly intelligence agencies, the number may reach tens of thousands. Can our security really be based on such widespread inhumanity, or is that not part of the grievance that feeds terrorism? Every year the Uzbek government kills many times more innocent people than would realistically have died, even if someone had been able to scrape ricin out of their saucepan. Do those deaths not matter?

How many foreign Muslim lives is one British life worth?

These other governments know that our security services lap up information from their torture chambers. This practical condoning more than cancels out any weasel words on human rights which the Foreign Office may issue.

In fact, the case for the efficacy of torture intelligence is not nearly as clear-cut as Manningham-Buller makes out. Much dross comes out of the torture chambers. History should tell us that under torture people would choke out an admission that they had joined their neighbours in flying on broomsticks with cats. The narrative we get is the precise narrative that the foreign intelligence agency wishes us to hear. They often have their own agenda to plug.

A final thought. Manningham-Buller is arguing from the efficiency of torture in preventing a terrorist plot. If that argument is accepted, then in logic there is no reason to rely on foreign intermediaries. Why don’t we do our own torturing at home? James VI and I abolished torture ‘ New Labour are making the first attempt in English courts to justify Government use of torture information. Why stop there? Why can’t the agencies work over terrorist suspects?

I seem to recall that we tried that approach with the Birmingham 6 and the Guildford 4, and look where that got us.

The Security Services want us to be able to use information from torture. That should come as no surprise. From Sir Thomas Walsingham on, the profession attracts people not squeamish about the smell of seared flesh from the branding iron. That is why we have a judiciary to protect us. I pray that they do.

Craig Murray

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Foreign Affairs Select Committee

The UK Foreign Affairs Select Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its associated public bodies”.

In March 2005 the committee published damning criticism of Jack Straw’s FCO and its policies and practice on torture and extraordinary rendition. The week begining 24th October they will be hearing evidence on the ‘War on Terror’ and later in November will be holding an inquiry into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s 2005 Human Rights Annual Report.

With new evidence available on the brutality of extrodinary rendition and admissions by MI5 of its use of torture evidence, will Jack Straw’s continued obfuscation be tolerated? Will he be called to account for his previous misleading statements and quasi rebuttals?

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MI5 officially admits they use torture evidence

Channel 4 News has published a MI5 statement on the use of information extracted by torture.

Channel 4 News has obtained evidence from the boss of MI5, submitted to the House of Lords, which lawyers say makes the claim that ‘torture works’ in obtaining evidence against suspected terrorists.

Eliza Manningham-Buller gave her submission to hearing on the use of torture to obtain evidence.

“In some cases, it may be apparent to the Agencies that the intelligence has been obtained from individuals in detention (“detainee reporting”), though, even then, the Agencies will often not know the location or details of detention. ”

“… experience proves that detainee reporting can be accurate and may enable lives to be saved.”

Citing a specific case, Manningham-Buller said;

“No inquiries were made of … the precise circumstances that attended their questioning of [Mohammed] Meguerba. In any event, questioning of Algerian liaison about their methods of questioning detainees would almost certainly have been rebuffed and at the same time would have damaged the relationship to the detriment of our ability to counter international terrorism.”

The full document can be read and downloaded here: Statement of Elizabeth Manningham Buller (pdf).

The news report can be watched here

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Hazel Blears made a claim to MPs I know to be false

By Craig Murray writing in the Guardian

The government’s anti-terror measures have already attracted accusations that they propose a form of internment without trial, deportation to countries that use torture, and a vague new crime of “glorifying” terrorism. But they also reveal a disturbing willingness to make use of intelligence material that is simply false.

The bill being rushed through parliament includes the proscription of 15 “terrorist” organisations. One of them is the Islamic Jihad Union. This is claimed to operate in the dictatorial central Asian state of Uzbekistan, until recently a key US ally in the “war on terrorism”. But the statement made last week by Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, included one seriously misleading explanation as to why this group was being banned, and she relayed one straightforward falsehood.

“I have been assured,” she told MPs, “that the group would cause a threat to British interests overseas … The intelligence on which the home secretary reached his decision was from our own sources, so I hope that that reassures members that the matter has been scrutinised properly.”

“There was an explosion in Uzbekistan that killed nine people who were involved in the construction of portable improvised explosive devices”, she elaborated. “Over the following three days, there was a series of shoot-outs and suicide bombings that were carried out in Tashkent, Bokhara and Uzbekistan, leaving about 25 dead and 35 wounded.”

Ms Blears was trotting out the Uzbek government version of events in March 2004. But this string of alleged suicide bombings does not appear to have been anything of the kind. As Britain’s ambassador, I visited the site of each of the bombings within a few hours – or, in one case, minutes – of the alleged explosion.

The physical evidence on the ground did not coincide with the official explanation. For example, each suicide bomber was alleged to be using explosives equivalent to 2kg of TNT. But nowhere, not even at the site of an alleged car bomb, was there a crater, or even a crack in a paving stone. In one small triangular courtyard area a bomb had allegedly killed six policemen. But windows on all sides, at between 10 and 30 metres from the alleged blast, were not damaged; nor was a tree in the middle of the yard. The body of one of the alleged suicide bombers was unmarked, save for a small burn about the size of a walnut on her stomach.

A full account of my investigations of these bombings is to appear in my forthcoming book: one reason, perhaps, why the Foreign Office will seek to block its publication. There is no more reason to believe this version of events in March 2004 than to believe the Uzbek government’s version of the Andijan massacre in May this year. What is more, as ambassador I sent back the details of my investigation to London, and the Joint Terrorism Assessment Centre (Jtac) agreed with my view that there were serious flaws in the Uzbek government account – agreeing with my view that the US was wrong to accept it. I concluded then, and still believe now, that these events were a series of extrajudicial killings covered by a highly controlled and limited agent-provocateur operation.

Why then is this Uzbek government propaganda now being uncritically relayed to the Commons by Hazel Blears? The false information she relayed to MPs is the assurance that the intelligence on the IJU is from our own sources. There was no intelligence material from UK sources on the above events. The UK has no intelligence assets in central Asia. We are dependent on information given to us by the United States’ CIA and NSA. There was information from the NSA. We had NSA communications intercepts of senior al-Qaida figures asking each other if anyone knew what was happening in Tashkent (no one did). Despite the only intelligence we had indicating plainly that al-Qaida was not involved, Colin Powell immediately went on the record in Washington to support the US’s ally, stating specifically that Uzbekistan was under attack from Islamist militant forces linked to al-Qaida. Almost certainly MI6 and MI5 happily accept this nonsense, as it suits their own agenda. But if they pretend that they have independent information, that is a lie.

I am greatly concerned that ministers are prepared to push a security service agenda so uncritically. I am sad but far from astonished that they are so seemingly cavalier with assurances to troubled MPs. There was little time for debate and no opportunity to vote individually on which organisations should be banned.

I am not, in a practical sense, concerned by the proscription of the Islamic Jihad Union. The evidence that this organisation exists at all is extremely tenuous, and if it does it is almost certainly the fruit of an Uzbek agent-provocateur operation. But I am greatly concerned by the glib repetition of propaganda by British ministers. It was the manipulation of dud intelligence for political purposes that led us into Iraq. And was that not a factor in the present wave of terrorism that we face in London?

‘ Craig Murray was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan between 2002 and 2004

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Scotland’s answer to Walter Wolfgang

By David Lister writing in the Times online

WITH her year-round tan, long blonde hair and designer clothes, Sally Cameron does not look like a threat to national security. But the 34-year-old property developer has joined the ranks of Britain’s most unlikely terrorist suspects after being held for hours for trespassing on a cycle path.

Ms Cameron was being hailed yesterday as Scotland’s answer to Walter Wolfgang, the 82-year-old heckler manhandled out of the Labour Party conference last month. She was arrested under the Terrorism Act for walking along a cycle path in the harbour area of Dundee.

Yesterday, after receiving a letter from the Tayside procurator fiscal’s office informing her that she would not be prosecuted, Ms Cameron said: ‘It is utterly ridiculous that such an inoffensive person as myself should be subject to such heavy-handed treatment.’

She was walking from her office in Dundee to her home in the suburb of Broughty Ferry when she was arrested under new anti-terrorist legislation and held for four hours.

She said: ‘I’ve been walking to work every morning for months and months to keep fit. One day, I was told by a guard on the gate that I couldn’t use the route any more because it was solely a cycle path and he said, if I was caught doing it again, I’d be arrested.

‘The next thing I knew, the harbour master had driven up behind me with a megaphone, saying, ‘You’re trespassing, please turn back’. It was totally ridiculous. I started laughing and kept on walking. Cyclists going past were also laughing.

‘But then two police cars roared up beside me and cut me off, like a scene from Starsky and Hutch, and officers told me I was being arrested under the Terrorism Act. The harbour master was waffling on and (saying that), because of September 11, I would be arrested and charged.’

Ms Cameron, who said that at one stage one of the officers asked her to stop laughing, described the incident as ‘like a scene from the movie Erin Brockovich, with all the dock workers cheering me and telling me to give them hell’. She said: ‘I was told that the cycle path was for cyclists only, as if walkers and not cyclists were the only ones likely to plant bombs. There are no signs anywhere saying there are to be no pedestrians.

‘They took me to the police station and held me for several hours before charging me and releasing me.’

She said that she was particularly galled by the letter from the procurator fiscal’s office, which said that she would not be prosecuted even though ‘the evidence is sufficient to justify bringing you before the court on this criminal charge’.

Keith Berry, the harbour master at Forth Ports Dundee, said yesterday that Ms Cameron had been seen as a ‘security risk’. Speaking about the incident, which took place in May, he said: ‘We contacted the police in regards to this matter because the woman was in a secure area which forbids people walking. It was seen as a security risk. We were following guidelines in requirement with the port security plan set up by the Government.’

A spokesman for Forth Ports said: ‘We will robustly prosecute anyone who breaches these new security measures because they have been introduced by the Government and we are obliged to enforce them.’

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Mothers of dead British soldiers camp out at Downing Street

Rose Gentle and Susan Smith are two mothers whose sons were killed in the war in Iraq. Although they have been refused legal aid by the British government they are pursuing legal action to demand an inquiry as to why Tony Blair took this country into war against Iraq.

They are currently camping outside No 10 for 24 hours to directly confront Tony Blair with their case. The protest is scheduled for 15:00 on Tuesday 18 – through to 15:00 on Wednesday 19 October.

For further information see MFAW

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Extraordinary rendition and torture – not just an American problem!

Award wining journalist Neil Mackay has just published a series of articles on extraordinary rendition and torture. We are posting them here on the site today along with additional material and comment from Craig Murray. This takes place in the context of the British high court currently considering the fate of the Belmarsh detainees, who may of been detained on the basis of evidence gained under torture, and the British government actively and publicaly seeking to justify the use of such evidence on a continuing basis (Real Player).

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Torture Flights: The Inside Story

By Neil Mackay writing in the Sunday Herald

THEY could be walking the streets of Sweden, Italy, Albania, Indonesia or Pakistan. They are kidnapped in broad daylight, hooded, drugged, shackled and placed on a jet operated by the CIA. When they wake they find themselves in a country such as Morocco, Egypt or Uzbekistan ‘ where torture is the currency of the interrogation room. The CIA hand the captive to the local secret police, and the prisoner disappears off the face of the Earth. If they are lucky, they will emerge a few years later in a cage in Guantanamo Bay, broken by beatings, rape and electrocution … if they are unlucky, they are never seen again.


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Two experts on extraordinary rendition: one invented it, the other has seen its full horrors

An excellent report from Neil Mackay. There is one important error – in the penultimate para MI6 head of station should read CIA head of station – there was no MI6 station in Tashkent.

Uzbekistan withdrew intelligence co-operation from the US and UK three weeks ago – it is worth noting that we didn’t stop, they did. Bush has announced that Uzbekistan should be given “One last chance” to restore intelligence co-operation before the US considers sanctions similar to those undertaken by the EU. So it is not the torture the US objects to, it is the new Uzbek refusal to share the results of it.

Extraodrdinary rendition, however, goes on elsewhere. I happened to be in Uzbekistan and blew the whistle on our cooperation with torture there. In Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and many other destinations, extraordinary rendition continues unabated.

This War on Terror. Remind me, who are the good guys?


By Neil Mackay in the Sunday Herald

These two men are experts on rendition: one invented it, the other has seen its full horrors

IF there are two men in the world who know about ‘extraordinary renditions’ then they are Michael Scheuer, the CIA chief who invented the programme, and Craig Murray, the UK ambassador to Uzbekistan who saw first-hand the devastating consequences for British intelligence of using renditions.


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One victim’s story

By Neil Mackay in the Sunday Herald

ON each stage of his journey, as he descended further and further into the gulags and torture chambers of the war on terror, Benyam Mohammed al-Habashi was shadowed by British intelligence. The British were there in Karachi when Americans interrogated him and Pakistanis tortured him; they were feeding questions to the Moroccan torturers who took a scalpel to his penis; they stood back and watched as he was dragged to an American torture chamber in Afghanistan and then to the gulag of Guantanamo, where he languishes to this day.


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Britain sued for ‘complicity’ in torture

By Neil Mackay in the Sunday Herald

One of the world’s leading human rights lawyers is to sue Britain for its ‘complicity’ in the torture of terror suspects who have never been convicted of a crime. The news comes as a former leading British diplomat has accused the government of basing its anti-terror policies on information from torture victims that was ‘bollocks’.


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What will our grandchildren think?

Torture flights: our role in US brutality shames Britain

From the Sunday Herald

IF and when the so-called war on terror ever ends, our grandchildren or our great-grandchildren may well look back in disbelief and wonder how it could have been that, at the turn of the 21st century, the two nations that waged a global conflict under the banner of democracy could have so blatantly flouted that principle.


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Hazel Blears Lies to Parliament about Origin of Intelligence

On 13 October the House of Commons debated new government anti-terrorist measures being rushed through the house, including the proscription of 15 terrorist organisations. There was little time for debate and no opportunity to vote individually on which organisations should be banned.

Below are edited extracts from the debate, in which Liberal, Labour, Conservative and Plaid Cymru MPs all expressed reservations about the inclusion of an alleged Uzbek terrorist group, the Islamic Jihad Union, in the list of banned organisations.

In answering their concerns, Hazel Blears, Home Office Minister, gave one seriously misleading explanation, and one straightforward lie. Blears trotted out the Uzbek government version of a series of violent incidents in Uzbekistan in March 2004. In fact the alleged string of suicide bombings do not appear to have been anything of the kind. I visited the site of each of the bombings within a few hours, or in one case minutes, of the alleged explosion.

The physical evidence on the ground did not coincide with the official explanation. For example, each suicide bomber was alleged to be using explosives equivalent to 2kg of TNT. But nowhere, not even at the site of an alleged car bomb, was there a crater, or even a crack in a paving stone. In one small triangular courtyard area a bomb had allegedly killed six policemen. But windows on all sides, at between ten and thirty metres from the alleged blast, were not damaged. A tree in the middle of the yard was not damaged also. The body of one of the alleged suicide bombers was unmarked, save for a small burn about the size of a walnut on her stomach.

A full account of my investigations of these bombings appears in my book, which is one reason the FCO will seek to block publication. There is no more reason to believe the Uzbek government version of events in March 2004 than to believe the Uzbek government version of the Andizhan massacre. What is more, as Ambassador I sent back the detail of my investigation to London, and the Joint Terrorism Assessment Centre (JTAC) agreed with my view that there were serious flaws in the Uzbek government account ‘ and agreed with my view that the US were wrong to accept it. I concluded then, and still believe now, that these events were a combination of a series of extra-judicial killings covered by a highly controlled and limited agent provocateur operation.

Why then is this Uzbek government propaganda now being uncritically relayed to the House of Commons by Hazel Blears?

Where Hazel Blears lies outright is in assuring MPs that the information on the IJU is from our own sources. There was no intelligence material from UK sources on the above events. The UK has no intelligence assets in Central Asia. We are dependent on information given to us by the United States’ CIA and NSA. There was information from the NSA on the above events. We had NSA communications intercepts of senior Al-Qaida figures asking each other if anyone knew what was happening on Tashkent (no-one did). Despite the only intelligence we had indicating plainly that Al-Qaida were not involved, Colin Powell immediately went on the record in Washington to support their ally Karimov, stating specifically that Uzbekistan was under attack from Islamic militant forces linked to Al-Qaida.

Almost certainly MI6 and MI5 happily accept this rubbish analysis, as it suits their own agenda. But to pretend that they have independent information is a lie.

I am greatly concerned that Ministers are prepared so easily and uncritically to push a security service agenda. I am sad but far from astonished that they are so cavalier with assurances to MPs. It is worth noting that the instincts and suspicions of these MPs were absolutely spot on ‘ they are to be commended.

I am not, in a practical sense, concerned by the proscription of the Islamic Jihad Union. The evidence that this organisation exists at all is extremely tenuous, and if it does it is almost certainly the fruit of an Uzbek agent provocateur operation. I am greatly concerned by the glib repetition of Karimov propaganda by British ministers.

Craig Murray

13 Oct 2005

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): Liberal Democrat Members do not take substantive issue with the substance of the order, although we have some reservations, to which I shall turn. As my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) said in business questions earlier, we have strong reservations about the manner in which the Government have introduced these measures. Introducing an order listing 15 specified organisations in a circumstance where debate is limited and there is no opportunity for amendment could have put the House in a very difficult situation. As it happens, we do not have any substantive information that would contradict the information that the Minister has helpfully supplied in her letter, but that is a happy circumstance and would not necessarily apply in every case. When I first approached this matter, I shared the unease that was expressed by the hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price) about the listing of the Islamic Jihad Union. Indeed, I continue to feel uneasy about the inclusion of that group among the list of 15. If it had been the subject of a specific order, there would have been greater opportunity for the House to scrutinise its inclusion.

I hope that nobody outside the House will be in any doubt about the view that we take of the Karimov regime, which is entirely despicable and despotic. The Minister’s PPS, the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound), recently did a brave and laudable thing in going there and bringing to the attention of the regime the revulsion that we all feel. I know that the hon. Gentleman and I share a concern about the practice of the Uzbek Government with regard to the operation of the death penalty. The Government’s signals to the Uzbek regime have not always been helpful. I am thinking especially of their treatment of my old friend, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who has done us all a great service in graphically highlighting the appalling human rights record of the Uzbekistan Government.

Adam Price (Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr) (PC): I question the Minister specifically on the Uzbek organisation that appears in the list. According to the right hon. Lady’s own note, it has as its principal aim the holding of elections in Uzbekistan. It does not organise or recruit in the United Kingdom. It was involved in the Andijan uprising in May, which left hundreds of civilians dead. They were killed not by the Islamic Jihad Union but by the brutality of the Karimov regime that it is trying to overthrow. Should we not tread very carefully before proscribing an organisation that has less blood on its hands than a Government with whom we still maintain diplomatic relations?

Hazel Blears: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I took a particular look at the organisation to which he refers. The indication, given the information, was that it was perhaps less active here than many of the other organisations that are set out in the explanatory memorandum. I have been assured that the group would cause a threat to British interests overseas in particular. It is always open to any of us to seek to weigh the balance between the actions of one group or another. As for the organisations that are set out in the list, I am saying that the information of the security and intelligence services has been sufficient, when scrutinised carefully by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, for him to reach the decision that proscription is appropriate. I will deal with the provisions on appeal, which are extensive for any organisation that finds itself proscribed.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): Reading the note as carefully as I could, it appeared to me that in respect of the Islamic Jihad Union’I would be grateful if the right hon. Lady were to clarify the matter’it was not its resistance to the Karimov regime that was causing the Government difficulties, but the fact that it was associated with direct acts of terrorism in third countries such as Kazakhstan. Can the Minister confirm that that is the case?

Hazel Blears: There is a range of activities that all these organisations will be undertaking. We have attempted in the explanatory memoranda to outline, as far as we can, the activities that have taken place. As for the Islamic Jihad Union, in March 2004 there was an explosion in Uzbekistan that killed nine people who were involved in the construction of portable improvised explosive devices. Over the following three days, there was a series of shoot-outs and suicide bombings that were carried out in Tashkent, Bokhara and Uzbekistan, leaving about 25 dead and 35 wounded. I also asked about the impact on British interests to satisfy myself that the order was an appropriate way forward.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has carefully scrutinised the information that is available to him. We are being told by the security services that the organisations on the list are of particular concern at this time. That is why the decision has been reached.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I want to return to the Islamic Jihad Union. It is the organisation that causes some of us concerns because of the country in which it is clearly operating. Can the Minister reassure me that her primary channels of information come from British intelligence and not from Uzbek sources?

Hazel Blears: The information that we receive is from our own security and intelligence services. Obviously, we have very good relationships with intelligence services throughout the world, and it is right that we should also take account of that information. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in his careful scrutiny of the evidence available to him, will have taken into account a range of different sources in relation to each of these decisions.

Adam Price: Have the Government either sought or received intelligence from the Uzbek Government on this matter?

Hazel Blears: I can give hon. Members the reassurance that they are seeking, as the case on the IJU is based on our own intelligence.

Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) (Lab): Do other EU countries include the IJU on a proscribed list? Concerns about the Uzbek Government would prompt many of us to prefer to see them on the list rather than groups that oppose them, given that they have carried out acts of cruelty and torture against their own citizens. Have the British Government received representations from the Uzbek Government and other Governments about the inclusion of organisations on the list? It can be argued that many of them display anti-western attitudes, so what representations have been received from the United States?

Hazel Blears: The IJU is proscribed by both the US and the UN, so other countries have concerns about that organisation. As I said, the intelligence on which the Home Secretary reached his decision was from our own sources, so I hope that that reassures Members that the matter has been scrutinised properly and that this is a proper decision. I shall come on to the appeal provisions, which are robust. If groups feel that they have been wrongly proscribed they have recourse to a review.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Before you come on to that point, I would like to ask you another question about the Uzbeks.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The hon. Lady must correct her use of language. She is not asking questions of me, but of her right hon. Friend the Minister.

Helen Goodman: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I am sure that what the Minister said about the IJU is correct, but after the uprising in Andijan people were massacred by the Government, and others were tortured into saying that they belonged to radical Islamist groups. How will the Minister make a judgment in practice about whether people truly belong to the IJU, which is to be proscribed, or have simply been tortured into claiming that they do?

Hazel Blears: If an organisation is proscribed, anyone seeking either to become a member or to give it support would be guilty of a criminal offence. Prosecution would be a matter for the courts, and it would have to be brought properly. Evidence would be tested and there would be an opportunity for all the issues raised by my hon. Friend to be explored within the criminal justice system, as would happen with any other kind of offence. There would be an opportunity to discover whether evidence had not been obtained properly or did not stand up under scrutiny or cross-examination. I accept the points made by several hon. Members that other people may have carried out acts that we would all find abhorrent. However, we are talking about whether particular organisations pose such a threat that they should be proscribed. The fact that other organisations may be involved in other activities does not mean that the listed organisations should not be subject to a proscription order.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I reassure the Minister that the official Opposition will support the order. These are difficult areas, and hon. Members have highlighted the point that it is no light matter for this House to proscribe organisations that may want to set themselves up in this county or that are already operating in this country, if they can be shown to have legitimate aims.

I suggest that a common-sense distinction can easily be made between organisations that seek political change in their country’they might even support freedom fighters’and organisations that support terrorism. The random slaughter of innocent individuals can play no part in the process of trying to bring about political change. The hallmark of the various organisations identified by the Government is that they have engaged in that very activity.

I am mindful of hon. Members’ comments about the Islamic Jihad Union. The Government of Uzbekistan undoubtedly leave a great deal to be desired and may properly be described as “a tyrannical regime”. The fact that opposition to that regime may manifest itself outside the law is perhaps understandable, but that it should take the form of random suicide bombings that kill innocent civilians must be unacceptable. If this House does not send out a signal that it considers such behaviour unacceptable, we are on dangerous ground.

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Blair in dock over his case for terror laws

By James Kirkup writing in The Scotsman

Key points

‘ Tony Blair is facing questions over MI5’s backing of the Terrorism Bill

‘ The Bill will allow suspects to be detained for up to 90 days without charge

‘ According to one official, MI5 made no request to extent the detention period

Key quote

“Given this government’s record of making claims of this kind about the position of the intelligence and Security Services, I am extremely sceptical that the Security Service has made the recommendation being suggested,” – Dominic Grieve, shadow attorney general

TONY Blair and the minister in charge of counter-terrorism are facing questions about whether they misled the public over MI5’s backing for the government’s controversial new Terrorism Bill.

Opposition MPs have challenged the government to prove claims by the Prime Minister and HazelBlears, the Home Office minister overseeing the bill, that the Security Service has recommended a crucial part of the legislation.

In an echo of previous controversies over the veracity of government statements about the intelligence and Security Services – such as the row over the “sexing- up” of intelligence over Iraqi weapons programmes – Whitehall insiders have cast grave doubt on claims made by Mr Blair and Ms Blears about the Security Service, also known as MI5.

The Terrorism Bill, published last week, would allow police officers to detain suspects without charge for up to 90 days. Under current law, suspects must be charged or released in 14 days.

The proposal has been criticised by opposition parties, civil rights groups and even the government’s own terror law watchdog.

Ministers, led by Mr Blair, say they have been convinced by arguments for the change made by senior police officers. The Association of Chief Police Officers has publicly called for the new rule.

On 5 August, before the bill was published, Mr Blair clearly suggested that MI5 was also backing the move. “We will also examine whether the necessary procedure can be brought about to give us a way of meeting the police and Security Service request that detention, pre-charge of terrorist suspects, be significantly extended,” the Prime Minister said at a Press conference.

And last week, on the day the bill was published, Ms Blears also said that the Security Service, had argued for the 90-day rule.

“The three-month period is what the police and Security Service say is necessary,” Ms Blears said last Wednesday at the Home Office.

In fact, The Scotsman has learned from credible Whitehall sources that MI5 has not given any such advice to ministers.

The police proposal for the 90-day rule was made at a Whitehall meeting of senior security officials in the wake of the 7 July suicide attacks on London.

According to one official who was briefed on the meeting, MI5 made no request for an extension in the detention period. Nor has the Security Service expressed a view on the need for the rule in its informal discussions with ministers since.

“MI5 were present at the conversations, but they made no recommendations on the detention period,” said a Whitehall official involved in the discussions. The 90-day proposal “was police-led. It originated only with the police”.

Security sources say that MI5 chiefs take the view that their service has no role in recommending specific policies to ministers.

The Security Service has not objected to the 90-day proposal, either. “They don’t object to it in any way, but it didn’t come from them and they’re not pushing for it – that’s not what they do,” said a Whitehall official. “It would not be accurate to say they have said it is necessary.”

Mr Blair’s comment remains on the Downing Street website.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman declined to repeat the assertion that the Security Service had recommended the 90-day rule, confirming only that MI5 officials had been present at meetings to draw up the bill.

As for what, if any, advice MI5 had given, the spokesman said only: “We never comment on the advice of the Security Service.”

Ms Blears’ remark, made to a group of journalists at a Home Office briefing, was reported in several national newspapers last Thursday. The Home Office has not challenged the accuracy of those remarks.

Asked by The Scotsman to reiterate Ms Blears’ comments about the Security Service and the Terrorism Bill, the Home Office last night issued a statement that failed to back up the minister’s position.

“This extension is necessary as the police and law enforcement agencies have to take on increasingly complex and international terrorist organisations who make ever-greater use of new technology such as encrypted computers,” the department said.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, yesterday said he was “very concerned” that MI5’s position could have been misrepresented.

“Given this government’s record of making claims of this kind about the position of the intelligence and Security Services, I am extremely sceptical that the Security Service has made the recommendation being suggested,” he said.

“If there is any evidence to support this, it must be published, if not in parliament, then to the Intelligence and Security Committee.”

Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, agreed. “If the government is going to say that the Security Service is recommending this power, then they should publish the evidence to support that claim.”

“On something as fundamental and serious as this, the government should make available the advice of the Security Service before MPs debate the bill.”

Since August, Mr Blair has not suggested the new measures were recommended by MI5.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, has been even more reticent. He surprised MPs on the Home Affairs Committee last month when he admitted the Security Service had not actually advised ministers that foreign-born “hate preachers” should be deported to their home countries.

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Iraq envoy’s tell-all memoir blocked

By Martin Bright writing in The Observer

The Foreign Office has effectively killed the publication of a controversial fly-on-the-wall memoir of the Iraq war by one of Britain’s most senior diplomats, which would have called the conflict ‘politically illegitimate’.

In a move that brought immediate accusations of censorship from its author, The Observer can reveal that Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations during the preparations for war in 2003 and the Prime Minister’s envoy to Iraq following the war, has been blocked in his efforts to reveal ‘certain truths’ about the conflict. He was uniquely well-placed to provide the inside story of the conflict and its aftermath.

But this weekend his publishers in Britain and America were set to pull the plug on the book after the Foreign Office demanded drastic cuts and the removal of references to conversations between Greenstock and the major players in the conflict, including Tony Blair and the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

Greenstock told The Observer he was considering other ways of getting his story out: ‘My personal view is that it might be worth saying what I want to say rather than being censored to blandness.’

He refused to elaborate on what this might entail, but opposition politicians last night demanded that Parliament be allowed to question the former ambassador about the contents of his memoirs.

Greenstock, now director of the international affairs institution, the Ditchley Foundation, said it was a pity that the government’s culture of secrecy had prevented him from putting his experiences on the historical record.

Civil service rules prevent senior public servants from writing their memoirs without first submitting them for official approval. The Observer understands that the first two-thirds of Greenstock’s work, The Costs of War, were submitted to the Foreign Office in the spring, when officials indicated that there were only likely to be minor changes.

However, when the final manuscript was delivered in the summer, Downing Street was said to be ‘deeply shocked’ by reports of private ministerial conversations and the deliberations of the UN Security Council. It is now thought the Foreign Office has gone back through the book and demanded further cuts.

The American publisher, Public Affairs, has already removed the book from its online catalogue, and Random House in Britain is now thought unlikely to publish a watered-down version.

Extracts seen by The Observer show that Greenstock saw the conflict as ‘politically illegitimate, but militarily a startling success for the US-led coalition’. He said the decisions made to remove Saddam were ‘honourable’, but that the promise of the post-war period had been ‘dissipated in poor policy analysis and narrow-minded execution’.

In the catalogue entry, now withdrawn, Greenstock wrote: ‘In the UK retired public officials do not normally write books on events still current. I am breaking that convention because the lessons drawn from the saga in Iraq are too important to leave until later.’ Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said Greenstock should be called before Parliament to discuss his book: ‘There is an opportunity here for one of the committees of the house, Foreign Affairs or Defence perhaps, to show its independence from the government by requesting Sir Jeremy to come before it.’

The new chair of the Foreign Affairs committee chair, Mike Gapes, said there had been no communication with Greenstock concerning his book.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: ‘The book is still under discussion in keeping with the proper procedures.’

Although Greenstock said he had not yet decided to defintively pull the plug on the book, he indicated that the cuts required by the Foreign Office would leave little substance to his memoirs.

Publishing sources said the book was highly unlikely to see the light of day while Blair was still Prime Minister

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Heroic Uzbek woman blows apart Karimov’s show trial

from BBC Online

An Uzbek woman says she saw government troops open fire on unarmed civilians during protests in Andijan in May.

Her testimony, at the trial of 15 men alleged to have led the revolt, contradicts government accounts of what happened during the unrest.

The Uzbek government says nearly 200 people, mostly “terrorist organisers”, died when security forces put down an armed Islamic uprising.

Human rights groups say 500 or more civilians may have been killed.

Makhbuba Zakirova told the court that she saw soldiers shooting at people waving a white flag.

“Even Hitler did not do such things,” she said.

Mrs Zakirova said that after speaking out in court, she feared for her life and freedom.

Correspondents say her statement undermines three weeks of testimony in what many foreign observers had dismissed as a show trial.

All 15 accused men have pleaded guilty to charges that they were trying to overthrow the Uzbek government and set up an Islamic state, and they have all given long and detailed testimonies.

‘Telling the truth’

Mrs Zakirova, 33, said she mingled with anti-government protesters in the city square while walking with her children.

She said she stayed out of curiosity when she heard Uzbek President Islam Karimov was supposed to talk with the protesters.

“There were people in helmets everywhere. I twice saw soldiers shooting from military vehicles. The shooting was intense,” she said, the Reuters news agency reported.

Mrs Zakirova was interrupted by the prosecutor, who asked: “Do you realise what you are saying? Are you sure?”

She replied: “Are you going to arrest me now? I was telling only the truth, and you yourself asked me to give a truthful testimony… I am only saying what I saw.”

Earlier this week, the Uzbek authorities denied reports that illegal methods may have been used to force confessions from the 15 men on trial.

A former Uzbek interior ministry employee told the BBC that beatings or psychotropic drugs were often used to force confessions.

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UN official accuses US troops of starving Iraqi civillians

From BBC Online and Al Jazeera

A senior United Nations official has accused US-led coalition troops of depriving Iraqi civilians of food and water in breach of humanitarian law. Human rights investigator Jean Ziegler said they had driven people out of insurgent strongholds that were about to be attacked by cutting supplies.

Mr Ziegler, a Swiss-born sociologist, said such tactics were in breach of international law. A US military spokesman in Baghdad denied the allegations.

“A drama is taking place in total silence in Iraq, where the coalition’s occupying forces are using hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population,” Mr Ziegler told a press conference in Geneva.

He said coalition forces were using “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.”

“This is a flagrant violation of international law,” he added.

Mr Ziegler said he understood the “military rationale” when confronting insurgents who do not respect “any law of war”.

But he insisted that civilians who could not leave besieged cities and towns for whatever reason should not suffer as a result of this strategy.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan, a US military spokesman, later rejected the accusations. “Any allegations of us withholding basic needs from the Iraqi people are false,” he said.

Even though some supplies had been delayed during fighting, he argued that “all precautions” were being taken to take care of civilians.

“It does not do relief supplies any good if you have them going into a firefight,” he said.

The Geneva Conventions forbid depriving civilians of food and water. Cutting off food supply lines and destroying food stocks is also forbidden.

Mr Ziegler, who opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq, said he would urge the UN General Assembly to condemn this practice when he presented his yearly report on 27 October.

Ziegler said that he had been in touch with the British authorities on the issue, and “a channel seems to be opening”, but that attempts to start a dialogue with the US authorities had been fruitless.

For background information on humanitarian law see the ICRC site

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US torture set to continue despite the McCain amendment

John McCain’s amendment won’t stop the administration’s abuses

By Michael Roston writing in Prospect

So Republican senators have finally stood up to President Bush. At least, thats what people said when Senator John McCain and 45 of his fellow Republicans approved a McCain-sponsored amendment intended to eliminate the abuse of detainees. The legislation, which passed in a 90-9 vote on October 6, even drew the support of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said, in a letter to McCain, that the legislation “will help deal with the terrible public diplomacy crisis created” by the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Not so fast.

However much McCain might want to stop the abusive practices, his bill will not reduce the use of torture by agents of the United States engaged in the global war on terrorism. Nor will it help America’s image abroad. The legislation will not end the Bush administration’s shadow war, which includes the use of torture as a tool. And individuals around the world enraged by America’s use of torture are unlikely to believe an amendment tacked onto a spending bill will stop such horrific practices.

Why not? First, its not clear whether McCain’s legislation places any new constraints on the conduct of interrogations — where much of the alleged abuse occurs. The amendment’s first section requires that soldiers adhere to the standards of the Army Field Manual when conducting interrogations. Yet, in a directive issued by President Bush on February 7, 2002, the military was ordered “to treat detainees humanely, and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva,” which the Field Manual standards already follow.

While McCain’s amendment does not allow for the “military necessity” of torture, the administration has already declared in a December 30, 2004, Justice Department memo that there are no exceptions “permitting torture to be used for a ‘good reason.’ ” Similarly, in a January 27, 2005, interview with the New York Times, President Bush declared that torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture. So while McCain, in his statement before the Senate, emphasized the importance of reducing confusion, it is unclear how the new law can be any more clear than the Bush administration’s present policy.

McCain has also stressed that the second part of his legislation would prevent inhumane acts from being committed by any agent of the United States government, even those not in uniform. But techniques utilized by intelligence agencies, especially the Central Intelligence Agency, will not be constrained by the amendment. While the McCain legislation prohibits inhumane acts from being conducted on any detainee “in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government,” intelligence agencies have become adept at exploiting the concept of “physical control” in order to prevent findings that they have committed illegal acts.

CIA agents, for example, have shielded themselves from charges of committing torture or inhumane acts by creating artificial walls; activities and acts of torture committed are merely conducted by their counterparts in foreign countries yet who are effectively controlled by American agents. The case of the “Salt Pit” — an Afghan-owned detention facility that became the subject of a Justice Department investigation after one of its detainees froze to death, as reported in March by the Washington Post — is illustrative. Though the CIA funded the facility and made key operational decisions, the CIA officer who ordered the interrogation that resulted in the death of a detainee by hypothermia was not prosecuted. The reason: The Justice Department found that the Salt Pit was outside the jurisdiction of the United States.

Similarly, there has been no indication that the administration has discontinued the terrifying practice of “extraordinary rendition,” in which individuals detained as part of terrorism investigations have been transported, without recourse to due process, to places like Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Syria — countries whose intelligence agencies are widely alleged to employ torture as a matter of routine. As in the “Salt Pit” case, CIA agents never commit the acts themselves, and so the McCain provision will not constrain them.

McCain seems to mean well with the prohibitions he is promoting. It’s difficult to doubt his sincerity; he was, as is well known, a victim of torture himself during the Vietnam War. But the Bush administration sees no need for his legislation. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said on October 5, that the administration views the McCain amendment as “unnecessary and duplicative.” McClellan also claimed that the prohibitions “would limit the president’s ability as commander-in-chief.” McClellan was confirming that the law will not tie the hands of the shadowy characters behind the President’s policies of torture. Rather, the McCain amendment is another clash in a long line of executive-legislative conflicts over who controls foreign and defense policies.

If McCain really wanted to pick another fight in this long line of disputes, he should have gone further. In addressing the Senate, he insisted that “the cruel actions of a few darken the reputation of our country in the eyes of millions.” But our reputation will still be darkened when extraordinary renditions and “host-nation facilities” are used to create legal cover for American agents, with the same terrible result: torture and inhumane treatment.

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How to lose the war on terrorism

As the UK government unveils its latest traunch of terrorist legislation a few hints from across the pond on how best to ensure failure in the ‘war on terror’.

By Andrew Freeman writing in The Daily Collegian

After Sept. 11, 2001 the American public had one question in mind: how do we lose this war that has been brought upon us? Our leaders pondered this long and hard, and their actions have brilliantly illustrated the best way to lose the war on terrorism. Taken together, these actions give a clear sense of how to lose a global war.

Create enemies abroad.

The key to any unsuccessful war is to make more enemies than you kill. When your enemies grow stronger with each assault, your defeat is assured. In the Vietnam War, American soldiers destroyed villages and slaughtered civilians in such numbers that the survivors were almost invariably turned against the Americans. In the current war on terrorism, state-sanctioned policies of torture, including the abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq, help to rally people against our cause. The practice of “extraordinary rendition,” by which suspected terrorists were flown to nations like Egypt or Syria to be tortured, is another example. Torture is just one of the heavy-handed tactics that can be employed to create enemies abroad, however. A far more effective one is war.

Start an unnecessary conflict.

By invading Iraq, a country where Islamic fundamentalist organizations like Al Qaeda were not present, let alone supported, we opened up a new front in the war on terror. Iraqi insurgents are now engaging in acts of terrorism against American troops, as well as against their countrymen. In his Oct. 6 speech, President Bush called Iraq “the central front in our war on terror.” This is only true because of our presence there – Iraq played no role in the Sept. 11 attacks, and its leader, Saddam Hussein, had successfully suppressed fundamentalism there. Because we removed Saddam and began to occupy the country, depriving the Sunni Arab elite of political power, they responded by launching an anti-American insurgency.

Fail to secure and protect the homeland.

When the Department of Homeland Security was first proposed by Democrats, the Bush administration was opposed to its formation. However, they soon realized that the idea was an excellent way to score a political victory: they called for a department where the president had expansive powers to hire and fire employees, knowing Democrats would oppose it. Then, before 2002 midterm elections, the administration claimed that Democrats were opposed to national security, leading to Republican gains in Congress.

Having used national security as a crass political weapon, the

Republicans promptly began to waste homeland security funds. In North Pole, Alaska, $500,000 was allotted to protect against terrorism, according to the National Review, and throughout the country states at no risk of terrorism were inundated with homeland security funds. In 2003, $5.47 per person was apportioned to New York, compared with $38.31 for Wyoming, according to the New York Daily News.

Damage the armed forces.

Nothing is more effective in losing a war than in squandering the contributions of those who fight for you. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides medical services to veterans, announced in June that it faced a probable $2.6 billion shortfall, according to the Washington Post. This resulted from incompetence: the agency underestimated the number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who would seek medical treatment by over 70,000. Prior to this announcement, Republican congressmen had successfully defeated attempts by Democrats to raise funding for the VA.

On the field, soldiers are not provided with sufficient armor for their protection, and many have had to purchase it themselves, without reimbursement. This continues despite a 2004 law that required the Pentagon to reimburse soldiers and their families for such expenditures, a law that has not been enforced. Unsurprisingly, military recruitment has declined heavily this year, with army recruiters missing their goals by 7,000 recruits according to the Associated Press. The Bush administration has been doubly successful in damaging the military, weakening protection for soldiers, on and off the battlefield, while discouraging young people from joining it.

In the end, however, there is only so much that can be done by our leaders to lose the war on terrorism. We all have to do our part as well, whether it be by blindly supporting an inept leadership or being hateful towards foreigners. The consequences of not losing a global war are astonishing. The United States didn’t lose the Cold War, and look where we are now – the richest, most powerful nation in the world. Unless you want that to continue, it is your patriotic duty to stand behind the president and help lose the global war on terrorism.

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