Daily archives: September 12, 2007


I had to do some serious journalism tonight, but took a break to watch the France-Scotland game. Now I am going to have to wait until tomorrow when I sober up. Tomorrow may not be long enough.

21 points from 9 games, including beating France home and away, is an astonishing result for a Scotland team widely regarded as largely talent-free, and drawn in an apparently impossible group including France, Italy and Ukraine. Only seven teams have ever won the World Cup, and to face two of them in a European Championship qualifying group is ridiculous.

I grew up in an era of Scotland teams gloriously endowed with talent. In 1974 Scotland went to the World Cup with the best team in the world. I googled to try and find a squad list, but I couldn’t discover one. Amazingly the Wikipedia entry for Scotland’s football team doesn’t give 1974 a mention.

So I have to try and remember the squad, the backbone of which – David Harvey, Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer, Joe Jordan – came from Don Revie’s Leeds United team. Scotland were so outrageously talented that Jimmy Johnstone didn’t get off the bench, and another truly great winger, Eddie Grey, wasn’t even taken. Any team that can put Kenny Dalglish and Denis Law up front was something to marvel at. For me the team was best exemplified by the full-backs, Sandy Jardine and Danny MacGrain, the two most talented players in that position I have ever seen paired for any team anywhere, who helped invent the modern wing-back concept. And what a majestic player Davie Hay was.

That Scotland became the first team in the history of the World Cup to be undefeated yet not win it. They outplayed Brazil in a 0-0 draw. I have looked down the barrels of guns more than once (and I mean that literally, not as sportng hyperbole), but the longest half second of my life was when the ball bobbled agonisingly just past the post, after Billy Bremner stabbed at it with his left foot when a corner, from Willie Morgan I think, whipped through the crowded six yard box (Jordan and Holton were a crowd in themselves) and suddenly flashed in upon him. I remember his forearms around his ears in agony when he realised what he had done. And I recall the hopeless long shot, bobbling gently, that the Zaire goalkeeper let through his legs to knock Scotland out on goal difference.

Tactical naivety was part of the problem. Why on earth didn’t we unleash Willie Morgan and Jimmy Johnstone to run at Zaire? Over-confidence, perhaps. Lorimer was a wonderful player, but we developed an over-reliance on his pile-driving free kicks.

Scotland now have probably not a single player, other than Craig Gordon, who would have even been considered for the 1974 squad. The outrageous talent has peculiarly dried up, despite McFadden’s glorious strike. But we have a very tough-minded management, a team spirit untroubled by preening superstars, and that gallus quality which works better in an underdog than when we were fancied.

Excuse me, I have to pour another whisky…

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MI5 and MI6 to be sued for first time over torture

From The Guardian

A British man who was held in Guant’namo Bay has begun a civil action against MI5 and MI6 over the tactics that they use to gather intelligence.

The suit has been brought by Tarek Dergoul, 29, who claims he was repeatedly tortured while he was held by the US, and that British agents who had also questioned him were aware of the mistreatment.

He wants a high court ruling that will ban the security services from “benefiting” from the abuse of prisoners being held in detention outside the UK.

If Mr Dergoul wins, it would mean that MI5 and MI6 could not interrogate British nationals while they are being held and tortured abroad.

A British citizen, he has been awarded legal aid for the case, and papers will be lodged at the high court today. They were drafted by the Rabinder Singh, QC, a leading human rights barrister from the Matrix Chambers.

According to court documents seen by the Guardian, Mr Dergoul alleges that agents from MI5 and MI6 repeatedly interrogated him while he was held and tortured in Afghanistan and then Guant’namo, and were thus complicit in his treatment. In the 13-page document to be lodged at court, he says he suffered beatings, sexual humiliation, insults to his religion, and was subjected to extremes of cold. He was released back to Britain in 2004 without charge.

Britain says it does not carry out or condone torture, but it stands accused of benefiting from inhumane treatment meted out by other countries.

Mr Dergoul is seeking damages for “misfeasance in public office” by the security services and the Foreign Office.

The court papers state: “The British government and its officials knew that the claimant was being subjected to mistreatment amounting to torture and inhumane and degrading treatment because he told them so…Accordingly the British government and its officials unlawfully sought to benefit from mistreatment of the claimant. It is averred that either the British officials knowingly unlawfully interrogated the claimant or they acted with reckless indifference to its illegality.”


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German Bomb Plot: Islamic Jihad Union

Here I explained that the Islamic Jihad Union was first heard of in the context of bombings in Uzbekistan which were not in fact bombings, as I can testify from direct personal observation conducted officially for the British government. I believe the “Islamic Jihad Union”, like the “bombings”, was concocted by the Uzbek security services.


We now hear from the German authorities that the IJU has claimed responsibility on the web for the alleged bomb plot there. Peculiarly, extensive research by the BBC in Uzbek, Russian, English and Arabic has failed to identify this claim, or any Islamic Jihad Union website. What would it prove anyway? I could get up a posting somewhere claiming to be Santa Claus and taking responsibility,

Let me repeat again:

I never met anybody in Uzbekistan, including from Islamist groups, who had heard of the IJU. I researched this intensively. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, of whom the group is allegedly a cooperative offshoot, have never referred to it anywhere. Nobody in Islamist circles in the UK, or Uzbek exile circles worldwide, has ever heard of the IJU. Nobody can name a single member, let alone leader.

The secuirty services intercept an astonishing number of electronic communications between extremists and suspected terrorists. There has never been a reference to the IJU in any intercepted conversation.

I do not say that the IJU does not exist. It may do. It may be a real terrorist organisation. It may be an agent provocateur operation. It may be a simple invention by the Uzbek security services. But it was first heard of in the context of “bombings” which were not what the Uzbek government said they were, on which JTAC accepted my reporting as correct. The IJU has been seized upon by the US and Germany successively as justification for their alliance with the appalling and totalitarian Uzbek regime, possibly the most vicious in the world.

I shall be following the case in Germany very carefully indeed. I am going to attempt to get my official reports of my investigations of the alleged IJU “Bombings” in Tashkent, and the JTAC responses, released to the German courts.

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