Daily archives: January 25, 2006

The ‘missing’ laptop

As you know, I gave evidence on Tuesday in Strasbourg before the Council of Europe Inquiry into Extraordinary Rendition. My evidence was on the willingness of the CIA to obtain information extracted under torture by foreign intelligence agencies, as the basis of the extraordinary rendition programme. I also provided documentary evidence of British government collusion with the CIA in obtaining torture intelligence.

On return from the Council of Europe, my suitcase has disappeared, including all my documents and notes and my laptop computer.

In dealing with the intelligence services, particularly in a situation which makes them hostile to you, there is a real danger of occasional paranoia. But it is a strange coincidence that on this particular occasion my computer and notes disappear, and a couple of factors make it stranger.

I flew Strasbourg to Paris Orly then Paris Orly to London City. This did not involve any change of terminal and there were a clear two hours between flights.

On arrival at London City, when my bag did not arrive, I went to the luggage desk to report it. The gentleman there affected surprise, waited for a while for the conveyor to clear, and then was taking down the details, including my name and the baggage check number. I spotted a handwritten piece of paper tucked under the keyboard of his computer – on which was already written my name and baggage check number. I challenged him on this, and he said that he had already received an email telling him my luggage was not on the plane.

Of course I wondered why he had not told me this, and why we had gone through the charade of waiting for the carousel to clear, and then asking me for details which he already had written down in front of him. Indeed, as he remained in front of his computer all the time, why would he have to copy down the email from his computer screen at all, and then lodge it under his computer, when he could just read the email off the screen?

When I returned home, I called the central Air France luggage number, and they told me that my suitcase had been located at Orly and was booked on the 7pm flight into London City. When it did not arrive, I phoned them again. They said that it had not been put on that flight, and was being held at the airport so it could not be rebooked on another flight. They could not tell me why it was being held, or who I might speak to about it.

An innocent explanation is not impossible, but it seems to me that the most probable explanation of these events is that the papers and computer of a witness to a Council of Europe inquiry have been intercepted by one member state, possibly acting in collusion with another State or States.

It is of course in the nature of such actions that it is difficult to prove, but I think the circumstances are such as to justify the CofE speaking to the French and British Ambassadors to make plain that the intimidation of witnesses before Senator Marty’s inquiry will not be accepted. They might ask them for a direct assurance that their employees have not intercepted or opened my baggage on the way back from Strasbourg, other than any search by customs etc not capable of being construed as in any way related to the subjects on which I gave evidence at the Council of Europe.

Craig Murray

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Secret Memo on British Involvolment in CIA Flights Now Available

The Newstatesman has published the full version of the secret Foreign Office memo on British involvement in US rendition flights.

As Tony Blair prepared to face Commons questions about British involvement in early December, his officials asked the Foreign Office for a briefing document. The resulting memo, signed by Irfan Siddiq, a private secretary at the Foreign Office, and addressed to Grace Cassy, assistant private secretary at No 10 Downing Street, paints an astonishing picture.

Extraordinary rendition, it declares bluntly, “is almost certainly illegal”, and if Britain co-operated with an illegal act of this kind, “such an act would also be illegal”.

The PDF file of the memo can be read here

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‘Gangster US’ accused over torture: Britain accused of particular complicity

By David Rennie in The Telegraph

An investigator for Europe’s leading human rights watchdog accused America yesterday of “gangster tactics” in its war on terrorism, notably the illegal transfer of terrorist suspects to countries likely to torture them.

Dick Marty, a Swiss senator, told the Council of Europe that the US, with European complicity, had shipped possibly more than 100 suspects to countries where they faced torture.

“The entire continent is involved,” Mr Marty told its parliamentary assembly. He presented colleagues with an interim report dominated by newspaper cuttings and buttressed with evidence from an Italian inquiry into the alleged 2003 kidnapping by the CIA of a radical Egyptian cleric, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, in Milan.

Mr Marty said it was “highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware” of such abductions. He accused Britain of particular complicity on the basis of a leaked secret memo from Sir Michael Wood, the chief legal adviser to the Foreign Office. In the 2003 memo Sir Michael asserted that there was no legal barrier to using foreign intelligence obtained under torture.

The document was handed to Mr Marty and the Council of Europe by Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who has become a fierce critic of British foreign policy. Giving evidence to the Strasbourg assembly, he said that, as envoy in Tashkent after September 11, 2001, he read CIA intelligence, shared with MI6, derived from torture sessions.

Later he said Britain was “much more deeply implicated” than other European nations in CIA extraordinary renditions, or the transfer of detainees outside normal judicial channels.

Several British members of the assembly, which gathers MPs from 46 countries, criticised Mr Marty’s report.

Michael Hancock, a Liberal Democrat, said it needed to have “more substance. . . many of the issues are clouded in myth and a desire to kick America.” Denis MacShane, the former Europe minister, said the report had “more holes than a Swiss cheese”.

The Council of Europe, which is independent of the European Union, was set up in 1949 as a guardian of human rights in Europe.

See also The Times: Britain accused of turning blind eye to torture flights

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No10 dismisses ‘rendition’ report

From ePolitix.com

Number 10 has dismissed an official report into CIA ‘rendition’ flights and detentions in Europe, saying it contains “no new facts”.

European governments almost certainly knew about the secret American practices, according to the study conducted by Swiss MP Dick Marty for the Council of Europe. He concluded that ‘renditions’ in Europe were likely to have involved “more than a hundred persons in recent years”.

His report, however, largely appeared to be a summary of information already in the public domain, including media quotes attributed to unidentified sources. Number 10 said the prime minister had “no view” on the report.

“From what I have heard, it has no new facts therefore there are no new views,” added Tony Blair’s official spokesman..

Marty said that hundreds of CIA-chartered flights “have passed through numerous European countries”.

“It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware,” he argued. And the report said there was “a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of ‘relocation’ or ‘outsourcing’ of torture”.

Marty said the outstanding questions “require plain, honest answers”.

He added that evidence from Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, “appear to be damning for the UK authorities, which seem to have knowingly continued to make use of information obtained under torture and supplied by the Uzbek intelligence services, thereby encouraging the practice of torture”.

But in a sign that claims of secret CIA prison camps, claimed to have been based in Poland and Romania, are not proven, Marty said: “At this stage of the investigations, there is no formal, irrefutable evidence of the existence of secret CIA detention centres in Romania, Poland or any other country.

“Nevertheless, there are many indications from various sources which must be considered reliable, justifying the continuation of the analytical and investigative work.”

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