9 February 2006
Mr Richard Stagg
Director General Corporate Affairs
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Thank you for your letter of 8 February about my forthcoming book, Murder in Samarkand. Let me respond to the points which you have made.
Firstly, allow me to note that, over a period of many months, you have consulted exhaustively with all the FCO staff, past and present, named in the book.
Let me then relate that to the question of libel. In your letter you state that you are ‘Also advised that there are a number of passages in your book which could well ground actions for defamation.’
Let me be quite plain. I have no desire to libel or defame anybody. So I urge you now to disclose to me those passages in the book which you have been advised may be defamatory, so that I may consider if I believe there is that danger, and remove or amend any accidental defamation.
I make this offer in all good faith, that we may avoid the publication of defamation. If you choose not to take up this fair offer, and subsequently the FCO or its employees attempt to block publication through court actions for defamation, it will be evident that this is not an attempt to avoid defamation, but a ruse to block publication of the book as a whole through vexatious and unnecessary litigation.
I repeat I have the strongest desire not to defame anybody. I know the terrible mental anguish that unjust defamation can cause. You will recall that I was myself outrageously defamed and accused, quite groundlessly, of appalling things like being an alcoholic and offering visas in exchange for sex. Of course, in my case it was the FCO which was defaming me. The complete story of why and how this happened is in fact the substance of my book. Which is why you are so keen to identify and reserve possible legal avenues for the government to block publication.
It is not falsehood which scares you, but truth.
It is plain from your letter that you object to the whole concept of my publishing this account. Nowhere in the months of negotiation between us to date did you propose any such fundamental objections as now surface in your letter. Rather you asked for a series of specific amendments, the vast majority of which I made. I am sadly reinforced in my view that this lengthy process was an effort on your part to stall publication, rather than a discussion in good faith.
On the specific points you raise, you claim that the publication on my website of material in September caused operational damage to Research Analysts. There has been numerous and frequent correspondence and personal contact between us since September. I am puzzled as to why you mention this now and have not done so before. The material in question featured on my website for 24 hours and has not done so since.
You requested me to remove material from the book which you believed was misleading on the role of Research Analysts and could cause operational difficulty. I immediately removed that passage from the text in its entirety. The only point still at dispute, is that I have in the text that a member of Research Analysts told me that people in that Department were in tears over pressure put on them to go along with claims of Iraqi WMD. You tell me that the officer, still in your employ, now denies telling me this. I have noted in the book that I say he told me this, and he apparently says he did not tell me this. People can draw their own conclusions. I cannot see why this is such a huge problem for you, or would lead you to want to ban a book.
Similarly, I formed a strong impression that the British Embassy in Tashkent was pretty inactive before my arrival. You say that is not your impression. Well, fine. That seems to me well within the range of views that should be able freely to be published in a democracy without political suppression.
I note your point on Crown Copyright. Again, I am genuinely concerned to act in a legal fashin and I should be most grateful if you would explain to me how my book differs from Christopher Meyer’s in this regard.
You told me that you had personally played a major role within the FCO in supervising the preparation of the ‘Dirty Dossier’ on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction. I am afraid that one consequence is, that when you try to lecture me on truth, I am sorely tempted to laugh at you. I have lost my livelihood through all this. You have lost something infinitely more precious.
Finally, you threaten me with the Official Secrets Act. I am confident I am not breaking it. And if you really want to ask a jury of twelve honest citizens to send me to prison for campaigning against torture, good luck to you.
Craig J Murray