Daily archives: November 1, 2005

Foreign Affairs Committee informed of documentary evidence that challenges the veracity of Jack Straw

We post below an e-mail from Craig Murray to the UK Foreign Affairs Committee. It draws attention to documentary evidence that questions previous oral testimony given by Jack Straw. Will the FAC call it and use it?

From: Craig Murray [mailto:[email protected]]

Sent: 31 October 2005 11:17

To: ‘PRIESTLEY, Steve’

Subject: RE: extraordinary rendition

Dear Mr Priestley,

Thank you. I have seen the draft transcript of Mr Straw’s evidence in his recent appearance before the Committee, and his references to me.

I would strongly urge that the Committee obtain a number of FCO documents which provide essential support my assertions on the use of intelligence got under torture, which were questioned by Mr Straw. I believe this documentary evidence is much more compelling than Mr Straw’s perfectly accurate assertion to the committee that I am a bad electoral campaigner. It seems to me in poor taste for Mr Straw to rejoice to the committee that the BNP should beat anybody, and of dubious relevance to the case.

Chief among the essential documents are Tashkent telegram number 63 of 22 July 2004, and the FCO’s reply to it, plus the further response from Tashkent. The FCO reply contains reference to ‘a series of meetings’. The Committee might wish to see the minutes of that series of meetings.

I believe that for the Committee to reach the truth of the question of British use of torture material, it is essential to see the minute of the meeting held on the specific subject of torture intelligence in the office of Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe. I was summoned back to London for this meeting. I believe the date was 7 March 2003, but I might be a little out. It was the only meeting ever held between these four people. Present were Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe, Matthew Kydd, Head of Whitehall Liaison Department, Sir Michael Wood, Legal Adviser and I, Ambassador to Tashkent. That meeting was minuted, and I have seen the minute which is held by Whitehall Liaison Department.

On 13 March 2003 Sir Michael Wood wrote a minute to Linda Duffield, copied to me, about part of the discussion at the meeting. I believe that this minute would also much interest the Committee.

I quite understand that the Committee cannot simply take my word when it is called into question by the Secretary of State. That is why I believe it is essential that the documentary evidence is made available to the committee.

I should be very grateful if you could pass copies of this email to all members of the committee. If you are precluded from doing this, I should be most grateful if you could tell me, so I may send copies directly. If a more formal means of communication is required, I should also be happy to oblige.

Craig Murray

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Jack Straw dodges questions on torture and extraordinary rendition

Foreign Affairs Committee

Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism


Q105 Sandra Osborne: I would like to ask you about the issue of extraordinary rendition. In response to this Committee’s report of last year on the war against terrorism, the government said that it was not aware of the use of its territory or air space for the purposes of extraordinary rendition. However, it appears that there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the UK air space is indeed being utilised for this purpose, albeit mainly in the media. Some of the suggestions seem to be extremely detailed. For example, the Guardian has reported that aircraft involved in operations have flown into the UK at least 210 times since 9/11, an average of one flight a week. It appears that the favourite destination is Prestwick Airport, which is next to my constituency, as it happens. Can you comment on that? What role is the UK playing in extraordinary rendition?

Mr Straw: The position in respect of extraordinary rendition was set out in the letter that the head of our parliamentary team wrote to Mr Priestly, your Clerk, on 11 March; and the position has not changed. We are not aware of the use of our territory or air space for the purpose of extraordinary rendition. We have not received any requests or granted any permissions for use of UK territory or air space for such purposes. It is perfectly possible that there have been two hundred movements of United States aircraft in and out of the United Kingdom and I would have thought it was many more; but that is because we have a number of UN air force bases here, which, under the Visiting Forces Act and other arrangements they are entitled to use under certain conditions. I do not see for a second how the conclusion could be drawn from the fact that there have been some scores of movements of US military aircraft – well, so what – that that therefore means they have been used for rendition. That is a very long chain!

Q106 Sandra Osborne: The UN Commission on Human Rights has started an inquiry into the British Government’s role in this. Is the Government co-operating fully with that inquiry? Why would they start an inquiry if there were no reason to believe that this was actually happening?

Mr Straw: People start inquiries for all sorts of reasons. I assume we are co-operating with it. I am not aware of any requests, but we always co-operate with such requests.

Q107 Mr Keetch: They are not flying under US military flags; these are Gulfstream aircraft used by the CIA. They have a 26-strong fleet of Gulfstream aircraft that are used for this purpose. These aircraft are not coming into British spaces; they are coming into airports. Some are into bases like Northolt, and some into bases like Prestwick. Whilst it is always good to have the head of your parliamentary staff respond to our Clerk, Mr Priestley, could you give us an assurance that you will investigate these specific flights; and, if it is the case that these flights are being used for the process of extraordinary rendition, which is contrary to international law and indeed contrary to the stated policy of Her Majesty’s Government, would you attempt to see if they should stop?

Mr Straw: I would like to see what it is that is being talked about here. I am very happy to endorse, as you would expect, and I did endorse, the letter sent by our parliamentary team to your Clerk on 11 March. I am happy, for the avoidance of any doubt, to say that I specifically endorse its contents. If there is evidence, we will look at it, but a suggestion in a newspaper that there have been flights by unspecified foreign aircraft in and out of the United Kingdom cannot possibly add up to evidence that our air space or our facilities have been used for the purpose of unlawful rendition. It just does not.

Q108 Mr Keetch: I accept that, but if there were evidence of that, you would join with us, presumably, in condemning —–

Mr Straw: I am not going to pre-judge an inquiry. If there were evidence, we would look at it. So far there we have not seen any evidence.

Q109 Richard Younger-Ross: Our former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has stated in a document to us: “I can confirm it is a positive policy decision by the US and UK to use Uzbek torture material.” He states that the evidence is that the aircraft that my colleague referred to earlier, the Gulfstreams, are taking detainees back to Uzbekistan who are then being tortured. Is that not some indication that these detainees are being transferred through the UK?

Mr Straw: It is Mr Murray’s opinion. Mr Murray, as you may know, stood in my constituency. He got fewer votes than the British National Party, and notwithstanding the fact that he assured the widest possible audience within the constituency to his views about use of torture. I set out the British Government’s position on this issue on a number of occasions, including in evidence both here and to the Intelligence and Security Committee. I wrote a pretty detailed letter to a constituent of mine back in June, setting out our position. As I said there, there are no circumstances in which British officials use torture, nor any question of the British Government seeking to justify the use of torture. Again, the British Government, including the terrorist and security agencies, has never used torture for any purpose including for information, nor would we instigate or connive with others in doing so. People have to make their own judgment whether they think I am being accurate or not.

Q110 Mr Illsley: Foreign Secretary, the letter which you supplied to the Committee in March which gave the conclusion that the British Government is not aware of the use of its territory or air space for the purpose of extraordinary rendition was taken at face value by most members of the Committee at that time, before the election. We took that to mean that we were not aware of any extraordinary rendition, and that it was not happening. The press reports were therefore something of a surprise. Would our Government be contacted by any country using our airspace, taking suspects to other countries? Would we be asked for permission or would there be any circumstances where we would be contacted; or is it the case that it could well be happening but that our Government is not aware of it simply because we have not been informed, or our permission is not necessary?

Mr Straw: Mr Illsley, on the precise circumstances in which foreign governments apply for permission to use British air space, I have to write to you, because it is important that I make that accurate. What Mr Stanton on my behalf said in the letter is exactly the same: why would I, for a second, knowingly provide this Committee with false information, if I had had information about rendition? We do not practise rendition, full-stop. I ought to say that whether rendition is contrary to international law depends on the particular circumstances of the case; it depends on each case, but we do not practise it. I would have to come back to you on that question.

Chairman: We will expect a letter. Thank you very much.

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The sins of Blunkett

The media are treating the rules Blunkett has now broken as trivial. In fact they are not.

Blunkett took a directorship of, and shares in, a DNA technology firm. The biggest customer in the UK for DNA technology is ‘ the Home Office. This is not primarily in the glamorous world of Police and crime detection, though that is very important and what first comes to the popular mind. An even bigger, and exponentially growing, field for DNA testing is immigration control.

Every day immigration sections in Embassies and High Commissions around the World are overseeing thousands of DNA tests to prove relationships of visa applicants to relatives they wish to join in the UK. This usage expanded massively while Blumkett was Home Secretary ‘ and directly responsible for immigration. The Home Office does not actually pay for the test ‘ the applicant does that ‘ but does supervise the process, including the taking of samples.

So Blunkett is entering a field that is set to benefit directly from his ministerial activities. Few doubt that the government ultimately intends its War on Terror and ID card drive to result in the building of a national DNA ID bank. Again while Blunkett was Home Office Minister, the decision was taken that DNA samples taken from crime suspects will be retained on file, even if the suspect was completely innocent, perhaps one of thousands sampled in a widely spread net in a murder investigation.

DNA is the chosen weapon of Big Brother. That the most enthusiastic enemy of civil liberties should choose to invest in it, should worry us.

It is of course ironic that the other high profile use of DNA testing is paternity suits. It was DNA testing that proved that the right wing American society adulteress that Blunkett chose as his lover, was not carrying his baby. I have nothing at all against illegitimate people ‘ I am not married to my present partner. But maybe God decided Blunkett was enough of a bastard already.

Craig Murray

Pressure on Blunkett continues today with fresh evidence emerging of ignored warnings and doubts about the accreditation status of the company

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