So You Think This Is A Free Country? 26

While my last posting discussed the massive pumping out of lies by the government to promote the “War on Terror”, to publish the truth in the UK is almost impossible. As previously detailed. my second book, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, has been subject to legal delay because of injunction by Schillings, libel lawyers acting for the mercenary Colonel Tim Spicer, and because of attempted censorship by the FCO.

I am trying to write a memoir giving a first hand account of what I did and what I personally witnessed. It has the same honesty and shows my own warts as Murder in Samarkand did. I also give some opinions based on my experience.

That may sound straightforward, but under this country’s crazy libel laws you cannot even retell things you did yourself unless you have other objective evidence that you did it. And you may not express opinions that are not mainstream, or which may upset the government or the rich and powerful.

That is not exaggerated. What follows is yesterday’s correspondence with lawyers on the text of the Catholic Orangemen. This is a lot to plough through, but to give some nuggets:

– I must refer to Sandline as a “Private Military Company” and portray their activities in Africa as supporting legitimate government against rebels

– I must portray Western action in Iraq as “peace-keeping”

– I must say Shell were involved in corruption in Nigeria “inadvertently”

When you read through the following dialogue, it is astonishing to realise that these are the lawyers of my publishers who are supposed to be on my side. Yesterday my publisher told me I should view their censorship as enabling me to get at least some of the truth published. That reminded me so strongly of Uzbekistan, where journalists would tell me they had to shove out state propaganda but could get in little anti-government nuances here and there. When it comes to publishing, we do not really have that much more freedom in the UK.

I defy anyone to read the below exchanges and tell me this is legitimate and we have freedom of speech in the UK. I honestly believe everything I have written in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo to be the truth. I have no objection to anyone who disagrees publishing what they want in response. If I had libelled anyone, I have no objection to a libel trial, and firmly believe there is no libel.

But to constrain me from speaking, and publishing the truth of my own experience, cannot be legitimate.

The following is a document in which comments were added by three people. The two publisher’s lawyers are given in bold and italics. My responses are given underlined. Numbers are manuscript page numbers, or question numbers from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. If some of my responses seem a bit exasperated, that is because I have had weeks of this.

22: The latest of these foreign mercenary forces controlling the diamonds was from a company called Sandline International. They had the same ownership and management as Executive Outcomes (EO). This was the euphemistic name for as enthusiastic a band of white-led killers as has been unleashed on Africa since King Leopold ran the Congo.

Queries author again about racial element here ?” he has approved change to ‘white-led’ as he says that there may have been black employees, the leaders were undoubtedly white.

Yes, this is an example of needlessly trying to inflame Spicer. Let’s just remove the sentence in pink (shadowed) above. Leopold was notoriously brutal whilst arguably EO and certainly Sandline were there for peace purposes and the insinuation of racism is still there. Also think should take out sentence beginning ‘The backbone… ‘ for same reason.

In addition, just for accuracy and to temper accusations would say at the beginning of that section:

‘In its 40 years of independence, Sierra Leone was a nation in continual turmoil against rebel factions where physical protection of the diamond mines, usually by employing foreign mercenaries, was the key political factor. The latest of these foreign private military forces assisting against the rebel forces was from a company called Sandline International.’

A key argument of the book is that Africa has suffered historically from the rape of its resources by white military power, whether by colonialism or through more modern forms like the employment of companies such as Sandline by corporations exploiting mineral resources. The fact that all the directors and management of Sandline are white people benefiting from the exercise of force in Africa is undeniably true. I have no interest in expressing their self-portrayal as upholders of legitimate government – that is precisely the argument my book seeks to rebut. Why on earth do you think I would want to advance it? You appear to be saying I am not allowed to put forward this view of Sandline and its activities. That seems to me a serious restriction on freedon of speech.

24: British policy was to restore the democratically elected government of President Kabbah. It could hardly have been otherwise. But unfortunately it failed to take cognisance of the fact that the Kabbah government had indeed been hideously corrupt and as pre-occupied as all previous Sierra Leonean governments with venal deals in the diamond fields. Kabbah himself was a former UN official, which I regret to tell you too often means corrupt and untrustworthy.[12] After the Sandline case became public, Kabbah was to be repeatedly disingenuous about his role in it.

Any problems with Kabbah?

Not if established historically that Kabbah was involved in corrupt activities and UN officials have been shown to be corrupt. These questions have been asked of Craig before but double check.

I really think this is uncontroversial.

26: The defence industry is full of newly retired military personnel, and we provide military training to governments all around the world. I should confess that I didn’t yet on 6 January 1998 mentally attach the word ‘mercenary’ to Sandline, and I did not connect Sandline with Executive Outcomes during that initial telephone conversation with Spicer.

Spicer is objecting to the description of himself as a mercenary ?” but surely this is a matter of fact, so nothing to worry about here?

Agree, there has always been talk about Sandline being a company employing mercenaries, although they objected to the term as you suggest which they view as pejorative. Certainly should not use it in its adjective form but here bearing in mind the context is OK. Just also spell out private military company also to appease (see above and later edits).

I reject the euphemism Private Military Company, for reasons explained in the book. Again it is not my purpose to project Sandline’s image of itself. Spicer did that in his book – which Mainstream published with apparently none of these concerns about where he was libeling others (including me).

26?”27: Tim agreed with my suggestion that we should see Spicer, as we needed to know what was happening. But Tim did mention he believed Sandline were connected to Executive Outcomes. That put me on my guard.

The author was specifically criticized for agreeing to this meeting in the Report of the Sierra Leone Arms Investigation as his successor, Everard, had apparently also left written instructions that communication was only to be conducted via telephone ?” any problem with saying that Andrews also agreed with decision to meet with Spicer? This hasn’t been raised by the FCO and Andrews account seems otherwise to back up the author.

See your point, if concern then would just say that ‘Tim Andrews agreed to come to the meeting.’ So ambiguous as to whether he knew formal instructions not to. Did Everard give such instructions because he had misgivings about Spicer, as Murray suggests in this section and on p.27 when he says he ‘underestimated’ Spicer, suggesting he is rather sinister! If we want to keep out inflammatory language then unless was a general view at FCO about Spicer in line with this characterization, would remove.

The point here is that I was perfectly entitled to overturn a decision of my predecessor, so Andrews could be doing no wrong in agreeing with me on it. In retrospect it was probably a mistake on my part.

It is made quite clear in the Report of the Sierra Leone Arms Investigation that there was general suspicion about Spicer:

‘The staff of AD(E) felt uncomfortable in their dealings with Mr Spicer, and in their more limited contact with Mr Bowen and Mr Buckingham. On the one hand, these were businessmen associated with British companies with legitimate interests in Sierra Leone. As such, it would have been difficult to decline to speak to them. In addition, they were a valuable source of information on conditions inside Sierra Leone. On the other hand, AD(E) were aware that they needed to tread carefully. Mr Everard told us that he was instinctively wary because of the possible risk of allegations of dealing with mercenaries. 6.22 Because of this unease, Ms Grant asked Mr Everard, before he left his post in AD(E), to set out the record of his dealings with Mr Spicer. He did this in a minute to Ms Grant, dated 5 January (doc. 43) which set out the ground rules Mr Everard had followed in these contacts. These included: – not taking the initiative in making contact;6.23 Mr Everard continued, quoting Ms Grant, that ‘it is important that our contacts with Mr Spicer are not used by his organisation to claim that HMG has legitimised any activity by him and his associates in Sierra Leone… I do not think that I have said anything which could reasonably be construed in this sense.’ 6.24 Mr Everard began to hand over his responsibilities to Mr Murray on 5 January, and left AD(E) on 9 January. We have found no evidence that Mr Everard was ever informed of Sandline’s intention to send arms to President Kabbah. Mr Spicer has stated that, while Mr Everard was generally aware of Sandline’s plans to help President Kabbah, he was not told the details.

28: Tony Buckingham is a rather shadowy figure, formerly of the British special services, who had been behind Executive Outcomes and was in fact at that time chairman of Sandline, though at this point Sandline were not open about this.

Author has added these details about Buckingham in response to an editorial query as the reader might not have been aware of who Buckingham was. Do they raise any problems?

Shadowy implies dodgy don’t you think? Would take out if agree.

They don’t come more dodgy than Tony Buckingham.

P.30-31 there are quite a few statements here that could be tempered in order to make the book safer from Spicer attack. There is no getting around the direct conflict of the 19 January meeting. However, I’m assuming that Andrews and as well as Everard would step forward to back up Murray’s side of the story as already assured by Craig , but reconfirm with author. Nevertheless, on p.30 should add for accuracy and balance after ‘… .including arms.’ ‘In addition, it is true to say that the Resolution had only recently been amended to exclude any sales to Sierra Leone.’ This was an argument raised by Spicer in his book, that most of the FCO (including Penfold) weren’t aware of the amendment and as a result it wasn’t clear to him that there had been one.

But this is nonsense – the passage banning arms exports, reproduced in the book and read out by Tim Andrews, was not from a recent amendment . It is just not true that the FCO did not understand the Resolution – why did Tim read it out to Spicer then? And even if it was from a recent amendment, as of 19 January Spicer definitely knew about it.

Also on p.32 what is the reference 15 referring to? And would take out express accusation of untrustworthiness, just inflames. Would say instead in more circumspect language, ‘Having met Spicer, I felt uneasy about the deal and was worried about his proposal.’

OK. I agree to this

footnote is reference to Spicer’s book and the pages that deal with the 19 January meeting, so this is OK.

32: Yet with regards the events of the 19 January meeting, much of the media and most of the political establishment preferred to take the unsupported word of Spicer against all three of us.

Why would that be?

With the ongoing concerns about Spicer, would it help our case at all here to add the conclusion from the Report of the Sierra Leone Arms Investigation that:

‘There is a conflict of interest about what happened at that meeting which cannot now be fully resolved. Our conclusion is that Mr Murray and Mr Andrews probably left the meeting unaware that Sandline was supplying arms to President Kabbah. We have found no reason why they should have chosen to give Sandline encouragement or approval. We do not find that they did so.

We also conclude that Mr Spicer could have left the meeting unaware that supplying arms to President Kabbah would be a breach of the arms embargo. Thus he may have assumed that he had been given tacit approval.’

Good idea.

Absolutely not. This is a politically motivated report, not an independent judicial inquiry. I told Spicer in words of one syllable that arms exports to anyone in Sierra Leone were illegal, and Tim read to him the passage of the UN Resolution which made that plain. Spicer could not possibly have left the meeting unaware as claimed. The politicians who wished to do so could publish that if they wished, and did so. But it is not true at all and the point of this book is to set the record straight, not to repeat the lies.32:

To many influential people, the idea that a senior Guards officer might lie was unthinkable ?” it struck at the root of their entire belief system. His story also admittedly fell into line nicely with Peter Penfold’s evidence, another establishment figure.

Problem with the change here is that the reader hasn’t yet been introduced to Peter Penfold, so is it OK to alter to read:

To many influential people it was perhaps easier to believe the word of a senior Guards officer, combined with the fact that admittedly his story fell into line nicely with the evidence given by Peter Penfold, the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, another establishment figure whose role in the affair will shortly be discussed.

Ok but see adjustments below so adopting less inflammatory language.Also another little point on p.34 is it fair to say Saxena was the architect of the deal? Certainly he was the financier.

Saxena initiated the deal so I think architect is fine

34: It was this contract, including the weapons, men and training that Sandline were to provide, and the diamond concessions and other deals that were to be given to Saxena, which our High Commissioner, Peter Penfold, recommended to President Kabbah on 19 December. By his own account to me, Penfold successfully persuaded Kabbah to sign. This is confirmed by Tim Spicer who writes: ‘Kabbah had discussed our involvement in Sierra Leone with him [Penfold] before agreeing to the deal.'[16]

This was raised in Peter Penfold’s comments on the text. It is basically Craig’s word against his. Would it be wise for us to add balance by including the comments that Penfold quotes from the report of The Sierra Leone Arms Investigation: ‘Mr Penfold learned from President Kabbah on 19 December that the President was going to purchase arms from Sandline, and did nothing to discourage him or take other action to prevent it. However, the decision was President Kabbah’s alone.’

Absolutely not. It is not Penfold’s word against mine. Penfold said precisely the same thing to Ann Grant (as well as Tim Andrews and Lynda St Cooke who were there when he first said it). Ann Grant testified to the truth of this at the Foreign Affairs Committee. (Ann went on to become Head of Africa Command and High Commissioner to South Africa. Penfold was formally reprimanded for giving this advice to Kabbah):

I think I need to ask you to read through this extract of the Foreign Affairs Committee and particularly to Ann Grant’s repeated interventions to confirm the truth of my account.

I would add that the questioning, by Sir John Stanley MP, plainly illustrates what I have been telling you, that the Conservative members of the Committee were simply determined to back Penfold and Spicer rather than being seekers after truth.

1644. In the same minute, Mr Murray, you recommended that Mr Penfold should be withdrawn from his post, did you not?

(Mr Murray) Yes I did.

1645. In doing so you did in that minute, did you not, make a very serious personal allegation against Mr Penfold. You made an allegation that he was acting contrary to the British Government’s policy and that he was advising President Kabbah to go for the military option?

(Mr Murray) Yes I did.

1646. Can you tell the Committee what was the documentary basis you had for making this extremely serious allegation against the High Commissioner?

(Mr Murray) It did not have a documentary basis. It was based on what Mr Penfold had told me.

1647. We have your word that was the case. We unfortunately do not have Mr Penfold’s word. Would you like to then tell us what was the occasion, the date and place of the meeting, at which you are alleging Mr Penfold told you that he had advised President Kabbah to take the military option?

(Mr Murray) Yes. I walked into Tim Andrews’ room on 29 January, I believe it was shortly after lunch. Mr Penfold was talking to Tim Andrews and I think had just handed over the Project Python document and Mr Penfold was in a gleeful mood, very up-beat and he was telling Tim Andrews that Sandline were going to get the Kamajors organised and that this would change the military situation. I was rather alarmed by this.

1648. Just on that point you are actually now confirming to us that he told Mr Andrews that Sandline was going to be providing arms to the Kamajors?

(Mr Murray) No, he said Sandline were going to get the Kamajors organised?”and he said nothing about arms?”and this would change the military situation.

1649. Getting them organised by training would change the military situation against a well-armed junta?

(Mr Murray) Apparently. I am only referring you to what he said. I then asked him if he would mind coming with me into my room which was adjoining and I asked him to explain what this was all about. He told me that he had advised President Kabbah in Conakry to take on Sandline and that they would be able to train up the Kamajors as a fighting force and even things up with the junta. I said, “That’s pretty alarming because I have just told the Department not to have any dealings with Sandline.” I should perhaps state at this point this was the first time I had ever met Mr Penfold. In the interim he had been on holiday in Canada and the United States between my decision to tell the Department that and this meeting so I had no opportunity to convey the Department’s decision to him until then. I said that in view of our general policy on mercenaries and dealing with such people I was not sure it was wise to have advised President Kabbah to employ Sandline. We then had a discussion where he said that it was the only way to get Kabbah back, essentially to use force. I said that is not where we are meant to be going. We were meant to be exploring other peaceful options including things like power sharing with any legitimate opposition and any other possible options. He said that I was losing sight of the fact that the key point was to restore Kabbah and that was the end of our conversation. I believe I fairly immediately went to see Ann and Richard Dales who, in my recollection, happened to be together in Richard Dales’s room at the time and I told them what Mr Penfold had told me about his action in advising President Kabbah to hire Sandline and I told them that this was of great concern to me and they appeared to share my concern and Ann then arranged for the meeting of 30 January in order to find out what all this was about. I do not know if Ann wishes to add anything.


1650. Ms Grant?

(Ms Grant) I very much support everything Craig has said.

Sir John Stanley

1651. You are of course aware that unlike yourself who did not produce any record of the alleged conversation and the nature of the conversations to which you have just referred, Mr Penfold did at Ms Grant’s request produce in his minute of 2 February his own account of his discussions with President Kabbah at the point when President Kabbah on December 19 told him of the possible contract that he had with Sandline. You are aware that what you have just told the Committee is directly in contradiction to the actual minute that Mr Penfold put to Ms Grant. You are aware that Mr Penfold told Ms Grant this when President Kabbah asked Mr Penfold whether he should sign the contract or not, I am doing this from recollection, Mr Penfold’s minute to Ms Grant makes it clear that he replied that it was a decision for President Kabbah. You are aware also from the minute of 2 February to Ms Grant that when told by President Kabbah of the impending signing of this contract, Mr Penfold, as is categorically and clearly stated in this minute, reminded President Kabbah that the British Government’s policy was the resolution of this conflict by peaceful means. I have to put it to you, Mr Murray, that on these two fundamental points we have documentary evidence from Mr Penfold; we have no such documentary evidence from you.

(Mr Murray) I really find those points rather difficult to agree with. There is a minute of 2 February written by Mr Penfold at the direct instruction of Ms Grant who insisted that he document these matters and the primary thing being documented was a meeting that had taken place on 19 December. At Ms Grant’s meeting with Mr Penfold on 30 January Ms Grant asked me to be present. I may be wrong but my understanding was that her motive in doing that was so that I could substantiate in her presence what Mr Penfold had told me in terms of his advice to President Kabbah. At that meeting, Ms Grant told Mr Penfold that he had given advice to President Kabbah which was contrary to Government policy and Mr Penfold did not deny this but on the contrary he replied that he had given such advice in his personal capacity. I have a very clear recollection of this. You may ask Ms Grant in a moment but my belief is that she has a similar recollection. I do not believe this is contradicted by his minute of 2 February. Ms Grant laid down the law to him in fairly clear terms about giving advice in his personal capacity and as a result Mr Penfold’s minute of 2 February appears more hedged than what he told me or told me and Ms Grant directly but in paragraph 4 of his message of 2 February you can still discern that his advice was to sign the contract where it says, “I noted that the decision was for him to make but as a personal view I noted that he had already had favourable experiences with executive outcomes.” There is more, but the kernel of his advice to President Kabbah seems to have survived into his minutes of 2 February. Members have a copy and can read it for themselves.

Sir John Stanley: I have to put it to you, and obviously the Committee may wish to ask Mr Penfold to comment on what you have just said, that reference that you have just made to Mr Penfold speaking in a personal capacity and President Kabbah’s favourable experience with Executive Outcomes relates simply to the previous arrangements which had existed between that company and President Kabbah’s forces as you well know. It does not actually bear at all on the specific position that Mr Penfold took up in relation to the prospective Sandline contract.

Chairman: It would probably be best to have Ms Grant’s comments.

Sir John Stanley: If Mr Penfold wants to comment?”


1652. I think Ms Grant should be allowed to comment on the last statement.

(Ms Grant) I can confirm Mr Murray’s account of the meeting at which we were both present with Mr Penfold. As you say, Sir John, there was no written account of the previous conversation between Craig Murray and Peter Penfold but he had already given me the gist of it along the lines he describes and it was that that had prompted me to have the kind of meeting I usually try to avoid with a High Commissioner with whom I have to have a co-operative relationship and it was for me a rather formal meeting at which, as I say, I had asked Craig to be present and where I wanted to hear, firstly, Mr Penfold’s side of the story from his own mouth and to make clear as his reporting officer and the guardian of the policy, if you like, in London exactly what I thought and I did that in the course of the meeting. It was as Craig recalls. There was some heated and quite lengthy debate about whether or not it was open to Mr Penfold to give advice to a head of state to whom he was accredited in a personal capacity. I said that I did not accept that he could do so. I thought that when he gave advice he should always bear in mind his official status and that President Kabbah would do the same. If he was giving advice to President Kabbah President Kabbah would assume that advice had the backing of the British Government.

I’m not sure how I can sew it in. Perhaps on p.35 around here:

I have struggled to understand Peter Penfold’s motivation. The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee was to take the view that Penfold had exceeded his authority in giving full support to the proposed mercenary-led attack in Sierra Leone. But they concluded that his motivation was honourable. He believed the restoration of the democratic government, by armed force if necessary, was an overriding objective. The media portrayed him as a heroic figure, the man in the middle of the action, fighting for democracy in the depths of Africa and being obstructed by the pettifogging bureaucrats back home. In short, the media treated him like General Gordon.

Yes agree, I was going to suggest edits to make no worse an allegation than he advised President Kabbah about the deal and take out that he had ‘successfully persuaded’ . Also put his defence on p.35 after the notation of a reference 17.

No no no – see extract from FAC evidence above

35: On 29 January, Penfold returned to London and again went straight to see Tim Spicer. Having seen Spicer shortly before leaving for Canada, why did Penfold need to see Spicer again immediately on his return?

In Penfold’s notes on the manuscript he gives his reasons for going to see Spicer ?” ‘to receive an up-to-date briefing on what the Nigerians were up to. Spicer had people alongside the Nigerians at Lunghi Airport. The Nigerians were the key players in the Sierra Leone conflict. It would be they who determined what happened next but because of the current state of relations between ourselves and the Nigerian Governments, we had no other access to such information.’ Should we add this detail?

No – I don’t believe Penfold

Yes add this detail in as you please editorially and also edit on this page with regard the accuracy of his movements on 29 January: ‘… Penfold returned to London, went to the FCO and then later to see Tim Spicer.

I don’t believe Penfold is telling the truth here. There was no record of his alleged call on the FCO before his meeting with Spicer. This is of a piece with his normal behaviour – he claims he told Tim Andrews and Lynda St Cooke about the Sandline contract at a meeting on 23 December. They both absolutely denied this and denied there was any meeting- they said he just came in to pick up mail. I believe Tim and Linda and believe Penfold ot be simply a liar.

I am content to remove the specific accusation that Penfold called on Spicer before calling on the FCO, but suggest we move to simply

“Spicer returned to the UK and the next day met Spicer again”.

Take out that he saw him immediately and the last sentence in this passage ‘Having seen Spicer… ‘ which makes the direct allegation that something suspicious was going on, which we can’t prove.

35: But Kabbah was not Sierra Leone.

Penfold has objected to this, stating that: ‘Kabbah’s government was the legitimate, democratically elected government of Sierra Leone. This was the cornerstone of the UK’s and the UN’s policy to seek its restoration.

However, the author does note this on p.51: Normal UK doctrine is that ‘we recognise states, not governments’, and our major criteria for dealing with a government is that it has effective control of its territory. But, in what was intended as an example of our new ethical foreign policy, we had continued to recognise President Kabbah and his dwindling band of supporters as the legitimate government of Sierra Leone’

So is it OK to leave this at it stands?

Yes agree, in context is OK but so clearer could say, ‘But in my view Kabbah was not Sierra Leone, notwithstanding the fact that he was still the democratically elected president.’

how about “Kabbah was not representative of all of Sierra Leone and was not in control of any of it”

36: But in my conversations with him, Penfold never displayed any idealism ?” quite the opposite ?” and nor did idealism come over in his appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Just want to check I have amended correctly ?” I’ve inserted your new text following this but is it OK to say that idealism did not come over in his appearance before the FAC?

Well that is the honest opinion of Craig based on answers he gave during the hearing and have pressed him on this point in previous reports. However, seems clear to me that he was arguably idealistic, from what Craig repeats in their conversations as well as general consensus about him, so would add after Committee the following:

‘That is my opinion of course and admittedly the general consensus is that he was always highly committed to the democratic process in Sierra Leone.’

Also, would edit on this page about Spicer: ‘..pounds of blood diamonds in return for support by privately hired milita’

But why? What is untrue here? Seems self-evidently true to me.

And also later on this page would take out the aside that Spicer never looked him in the eye (suggesting sinister and underhand, Spicer made no personal attacks on Craig you will note). Finally, in the last sentence on this page edit to read:

‘This reinforced my earlier misgivings about Spicer and… .’ So language less inflammatory.

Also on p.37 would consider removing the allegation that Spicer’s reason for attacking the Kamajors was suspect because wasn’t the result of his military intervention the overthrow of RUF, so it achieved it’s aim more so than any prediction Craig is making here? Double check historical facts with Craig.

The RUF were overthrown by ECOMOG – the Kamajors played no effective role and Spicer’s weapons were still impounded.

41: The annulment of the election results and transition to Abacha was handled by Ernest Shonekan, head of Unilever Nigeria and a long-term ally of military dictators, as well as one of the most personally unpleasant men I have had the misfortune to meet.

No problems here?

Not if history has shown, as Craig claims that Shonekan was an ally of dictators. Can check with him again. Would temper on this page the allegation about Shell as suggested in my first report so says:

‘… inadvertently making corrupt payments… ‘ which is what they’ve admitted.

I am not putting out in my name a statement that Shell “inadvertently” made corrupt payments! How do you do that anyway?!!!

50: As I walked in, he glanced at me in some annoyance at the interruption. Not knowing who I was, he carried on with his flow of words, his eyes occasionally flitting to me with a distrustful look.

‘So I persuaded him to sign it!’ Penfold was saying gleefully. ‘Kabbah would never have done it on his own ?” he’s much too cautious. But Kabbah trusts my judgement. Kabbah said that if anyone else had brought him the contract, he wouldn’t have signed. Kabbah said that directly to me. But because he trusts me, he signed. It’s great! Now we are going to get the Kamajors organised, get the junta out, and we’ll all be back in Freetown again!’

We have now added a disclaimer to the preface, explaining the author’s use of direct speech. However, although Penfold does not specifically single out this section in his list of comments, he does mention it on his covering email: ‘the allegations made by Murray are inaccurate and untruthful, especially his assertions that I had persuaded President Kabbah to sign the Sandline agreement’. Should we therefore add some kind of qualification to this? Bill has suggested something along the lines of:

When I walked in, he glanced at me in some annoyance at the interruption. Not knowing who I was, he carried on with his flow of words, his eyes occasionally flitting to me with a distrustful look.

As I recall, though of course this is disputed by Penfold, he was saying gleefully, ‘So I persuaded him to sign it! Kabbah would never have done it on his own ?” he’s much too cautious. But Kabbah trusts my judgement. Kabbah said that if anyone else had brought him the contract, he wouldn’t have signed. Kabbah said that directly to me. But because he trusts me, he signed. It’s great! Now we are going to get the Kamajors organised, get the junta out, and we’ll all be back in Freetown again!’

I can agree to this.

Yes or want to be even safer :

‘He was talking about his meeting with Kabbah and that he had been advising him on the deal. He said Kabbah had listened to him carefully before signing the deal. He was extremely pleased with himself, because he said now the Kamajors would get organized, get the junta out, and we would be back in Freetown.’

The suggestion there is that Penfold was pro signing but not that he was showing off and claiming persuaded Kabbah, which is denied.

No – see FAC excerpt above. He didn’t only say it to me, and others confirmed he said it.

A few other comments from reading over p.51-52:

Was Colin Glass known to be arguably heavy drinker? That is what is implied on p.51 by use of term ‘beer belly’ and at home in bar. Could just say at home in a rugby club rather than bar and take out the beer belly reference.

The issue of the contract also comes up:

53: ‘Well, if you think there’s any point in negotiating with a mob of murderers.’

I decided it was time to come to the point.

‘Listen, I heard you tell Tim and Linda that you advised President Kabbah about the Sandline contract and he subsequently signed.’

Penfold jutted out his lower lip: ‘Yes, I did.’

‘I really don’t think that was wise. Sandline are a private military company, which I think is no different from a mercenary company.’

‘They have done good work in Sierra Leone.’

No – I don’t use this euphemism and really don’t think that Sandline can force people in law to describe them in the terms they dictate. Again you are positing a gross intrusion on freedom of speech.

54: ‘So you’ve met Peter, then.’

‘Interesting man. I am really worried that he advised President Kabbah to sign the Sandline contract.’

‘He said he gave it to him,’ added Tim.

If Craig is not confident that Tim would stand up and say Penfold definitely did persuade Kabbah to sign then could reinforce Penfold’s defence here and say after ‘..added Tim. And by that I assumed that Tim meant that it was Kabbah’s decision, something Penfold always insisted.

I am entirely confident

There are also a few additional tweaks between p.54 and 76, in order to temper allegation against Penfold:

No no no no no. See FAC extract above

P.55 take out ‘..and advised him to sign’ and then edit later to say:

‘If it could be insinuated that a British High Commissioner had arguably encouraged the signing of… .’

P.56 take out ‘..and urged him to sign it.’

P.57 edit to read ‘… not entitled to advise Kabbah on the Sandline contract.’P.59 What of Penfold’s suggestion that Craig Murray destroyed all the correspondence on the Sandline affair, or at least gave the instruction. This is in his official FCO response. Good to get Craig’s comment on this as argument as to why no paperwork from Penfold found.

Because Penfold never wrote or delivered the papers he claimed. It is worth noting that not a single one of these alleged reports was claimed by Penfold to be delivered to me. He claimed a letter was posted to Ann Grant, which never arrived, and that other documents were sent to Tim Andrews. Soo if I had destroyed his documents as he alleges, I would have to have been in conspiracy with Tim Andrews and Ann Grant. Why would we do that?

P.60 Raised before with Craig but presumably Dales is not going to come forward and say he didn’t say Penfold would not obey instructions? We are relying on hearsay here to back up potentially defamatory claim. Did he formalize this view at any point? Also later Dales tells Craig to keep away from Penfold (p.65)P.66

Edit to read:

That was not exactly the same as what he had said on 29 and 30 January to Tim, Linda, Anna and me where there was to my mind a clear suggestion that Penfold was more actively involved in influencing Kabbah’s decision to sign.’


Also, take out ‘Penfold had obviously had to think about it’ it is inferred in this section anyway and the Anderson comment afterwards (btw assuming no problem in publishing sections of the transcript ?” matter of public record?). Later temper wording to say:

‘… then he would know that they were and yet presumably he had approved of the deal with Spicer and Sandline and also not discouraged President Kabbah to go along with it.’ Then take out allegation ‘..whatever his attempts to cover up now… ‘ as not necessary to make this claim.


P.71 It is likely that Lloyd won’t like this assessment of him and have already questioned Craig on this matter ?” that Lloyd took full weekends.

Do you need any further clarification of your original query on p.63 about Robin Cook’s inquiry? I’m not 100 per cent sure which section of the text this referred to? That’s Ok.

76: All this stuff about Security Council resolutions and sanctions was ‘an overblown hoo-ha’.[30]

I asked author to add a footnote here for the source of his quote and the one he has come up with is quite scathing about Penfold. Would there be a problem with this?;

You could use this article instead:

from the Independent.

Also on p. 76 edit to read:

‘After all, if I was telling the truth and the FCO had not approved the arms shipment, aside from Penfold it would later transpire,… ‘

P.78/79 Important: No comment here but asked for confirmation that the C&E officials referred to would be willing to testify if need be to allegations made on these pages. Would not publish otherwise. Can see awaiting instructions below.

82: When I eventually gave my evidence to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee I was given firm instructions on what I was and was not allowed to say. It was made very plain to me by Sir John Kerr that I was giving evidence on behalf of the Secretary of State, not on behalf of myself. I was therefore to stick to the FCO line. I was also not to be drawn into speculation or comment. In particular, I was not to mention that Peter Penfold had been in Canada (where Saxena was) between his two London meetings with Spicer. And I was not to call Spicer a liar.

Edits required here? This was specifically raised in John Kerr’s comments to the FCO ?” would be safer to remove Kerr’s name here? Author is opposed to this as he says this is what Kerr said to him.

Would take out from ‘It was made very plain by Sir John Kerr… ‘ .Kerr backs his version of events and so should not alienate him. We have made point already that Penfold went to Canada and that Saxena was there without making direct allegation, so leave it to reader to make conclusions. Would edit this passage to read:

‘… Committee I was given some coaching by Sir John Kerr on how to deal with cross examination by the Committee, which can be notoriously fierce.

Also at p.83 would take out the line starting ‘But, instructed not to… ..’ as Kerr disputes and passage speaks for itself as to Craig trying to avoid calling him a liar.

How about this – I think it should satisfy John Kerr. His two concerns were not to be seen to have held info back from C&E, and to be seen to have only given friendly advice. I think tactically we can meet his concerns. But in truth if he had not told me not to, I would definitely have called Spicer a liar and really I ought to have. If I don’t give the true explanation, my failure to do so can be seen as undermining the truth of my account.

Still waiting for author to back up claim about CPS’s rapid review of the Customs and Excise case against Penfold and Spicer. The latest detail on this is that the author sent an email to the FCO stating:


This was my last attempt to “Flush out” the FCO, sent to Jane Darby on 3 September:

I am not a journalist commenting on these matters but a retired senior diplomat giving direct witness from my time in the FCO. There is an official clearance process in which I am now engaged. If any important matters are factually wrong, that process should pick them up. Otherwise there is no point in the process.

I make this point with particular reference to the fact detailed in my book that, when the Customs and Excise dossiers reached the Crown Prosecution Service recommending the prosecution of Penfold and Spicer, the decision not to proceed was communicated back from the CPS to Customs immediately the same day. This fact is likely to be embarassing to the Government.

I write this as the man who initiated the Customs and Excise investigation, was a key witness to it and closely involved throughout. If the government wishes to query these facts, this is your opportunity to do so. Failure in the correction process to address this evidently key issue of readily determinable fact will be relied on as supporting evidence for the truth of my account.


You are right to view this as a vital bit of the book.

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26 thoughts on “So You Think This Is A Free Country?

  • Sabretache

    Crikey Craig – Unbelievable! The fear of a libel action is palpable; producing a consistent – almost fawning – concern to 'tone it down' and provide let-outs for those being criticised. An almost pathological aversion to calling a spade a spade – in case the spade should decide hit back.

    Impressed with your responses though.

    I suggest you keep a careful record of all this – not that you need the likes of me to say so. There are loads of places which will give it prominence on the internet – including me – and sod Spicer and Penfold. Could almost be the basis for a book all by itself in fact!

    Best of luck with the publication. I'll be first in line to buy a copy.

  • Crink

    Hey there!

    If you end up having to tone it down, then will you send me an electronic copy of the original if I prove I've bought the printed version? I may as well get the full bang for my buck.



  • writeon

    Well, Craig, I've done my 'duty' and read the whole bizarre correspondance. Problem is, I think the suggested changes 'flatten' the prose and shave-off the cutting edges. After the 'corrections' it really doesn't sound like you at all!

    Your anger gets toned down to a kind of insipid nulabspeak which drives me to distraction. It's like the power of words are seen as threatening, so one does ones' best to suck all the life out of them.

    You're right about the whole issue of freedom of expression and free speech. It seem that the more powerful one is the less other people are allowed to say about one.

    In reality I think we are talking about a form of political self-censorship at work here. That one has to be careful about criticizing state/business policy and the way they choose to frame the world and their collective and individual roles in it. If one tries to punch through the propaganda wall, one had better watch out!

    The comments I get about my stufff are nothing like this level of scrutiny. It must drive you absolutely crazy.

    Finally, the level of 'proof' demanded of those who dare to speak the truth about governmet lies, is in such staggering and glaring contrast compared to what the political/economic establishment are allowed to get away with, that one is left feeling nothing but mix of contempt and dispair.

    Good luck, Craig. You really must be a very tough, brave, stubborn, idealist.

  • GeorgeM

    Will there be a U.S. version of the book, and would it be able to include the stuff that your lawyers want to take out, like you were able to do with Dirty Diplomacy/Murder in Samarkand?

  • Craig

    Yes, it is amazing, isn't it. Sabretache – support from other blogs is very welcome as it obviates the purpose of the censorship.

    James – once all is resolved, I will post ip censored out original text with page refs, so peole can see what it shouljd have said.

    GeorgeM – Unfortunately I can't do that this time because the same publisher has the US rights

    Kazbel – many thanks for the nomination. I'll think about taking part (not immediately enthused)

  • OrwellianUK

    How about just 'Publish and be damned' Craig?

    Seriously though, how about providing a seperate footnote system in the book that refers to the original text which could be posted on this site? Would that get around the libel bollocks?


  • ruth

    Brilliant. But why is Spicer so touchy, so very, very defensive. Is it because in reality he serves the government within the government or as Gerald James describes it the 'permanent' government. Could it have been that Penfold was working for the security services and that it was all part of their illicit activities in selling arms in exchange for resources? And were they at the same time secretly arming the RUF? All this could explain the massive profits of BAE and why the trial transcripts of the trial of Charles Taylor are no longer available.

  • Strategist

    I'm sure Craig would love to see Spicer in court (as long as it was before a jury of 12 good men/women and true…), just as he would Alisher Usmanov.

    I would love to see this book presented by Craig at next year's Hay Festival, and I would like to participate in the discussion on this question on the Hay Festival website messageboard

    But I have waited nearly 2 weeks now for my registration to be able to post on the messageboard to be processed, without success, and they haven't responded to my emails to follow this up. And this is how you start getting paranoid, (or is it start seeing clearly?) "So You Think This Is A Free Country"

  • Craig


    Yes, and I am really taken aback by the brazen claim by the organisers that neither my publisher nor anyone else had put me forward as a speaker. I want to get hold of some emails that disprove that, but I have to reinvigorate an old PC.

  • Strategist

    Good luck with that PC, because the Festival's chief Peter Florence has gone out on a limb with that posting to his own message board. Somebody with better technical skills than I should Google Cache that (or whatever it's called), in case they try to take it down.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    To be frank, I'm surprised that there is any surprise about this. Censorship has always been alive and well in our land. It's just it's normally very sophisticated, internalised, subtle beyond the cognisance of most. The book industry is one of the worst and has no insight into its own pathology – or perhaps it does, and just doesn't let on. Power cannot be negotiated with; there is no possible discourse with it; it can only be destroyed. But unfortunately, no-one has the power to do so! And so, we howl at the moon.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    The reason the powers-that-be (of whom publishers and most journalists are terrified) hate Craig Murray so much is because he cannot be dismissed as a crackpot, 'raghead', 'Paki', leftie, etc. – the rulers do not forgive betrayal by one of their own. Some of us are enemies from birth, others by nurture. But make no mistake, this is indeed a cultural war – a series of battles for information supremacy – and it is one front in the military war.

  • Charles Crawford


    You are of course basically free to publish one way or the other what you like, and to take responsibility for any legal consequences which might come your way.

    Publishing firms likewise are free to decide for themselves how far if at all they want to get entangled in your potentially costly libel suits.

    Vexing for an author, yes. But not exactly censorship?

    And given that the range of views published every minute in this country on politics and otherwise is almost unimaginably wide by any conceivable historical and contemporary standard, do you really think that "you may not express opinions that are not mainstream, or which may upset the government or the rich and powerful"? What in the torrent of different views we all try to cope with every day is 'mainstream' any more?


  • ruth

    Well, Charles the UN doesn't seem to agree with you.

    From the Guardian 15 August 2008

    'The government has been accused of creating laws that have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the UK in a sharply critical report from the United Nations' committee on human rights. The report calls for the reform of Britain's libel laws and controls introduced under recent terrorism laws.

    The government's use of the Official Secrets Act to prevent issues of public interest being published is also condemned in an intervention from the UN which warns that public servants are being gagged even where national security is not at risk.

    The criticisms are made as part of the committee's analysis of a report which the UK is required to submit to the UN every three years, appraising human rights in its jurisdiction.'

  • richard

    Fascinating stuff, Craig – I remember well the brief chat we had about this general topic in Blackburn back in 2005. There's a particularly incisive article on Tim Spicer from the Center for Public Integrity, which has the advantage of being based in the US and thus largely beyond the reach of UK 'libel terrorists'. It's from a few years back now, but the contrast with the kid gloves treatment TS gets in the UK press is very refreshing!

  • Craig


    Only you could look at a list of lengthy comments from lawyers, saying "Yhe law prevents you from publishing this – say the opposite instead" and rejoin "bascially you are free to publish what you want". Unless my publisher is lying to me, he would very happily publish what I have written, but believes himself to be constrained from so doing by the law.

  • Sabretache

    If Suhayl Saadi has a web site or substantial commentary posted anywhere on the Internet, I'd like to know the address(s) – I particularly liked this gem in the comments here:

    "Power cannot be negotiated with; there is no possible discourse with it; it can only be destroyed. But unfortunately, no-one has the power to do so! And so, we howl at the moon."

  • ruth

    That's rubbish. Maybe people can't destroy power alone but they most definitely can en masse. The initiative now must be to make people know what's really going through friends, acquaintances, colleagues etc, setting up an organisation with groups.

  • ruth

    That's absolute rubbish. People can't destroy power alone but they can en masse. To deal with the loss of our civil liberties and make people aware of the real situation rather than the lies doled out by the media and government, it is a good idea to discuss these issues with friends, acquaintances, colleagues etc and to set up an organisation headed with groups at a local level. I think it's important to do it quickly because how much longer will free speech be available on the Internet. I've already come across instances of manipulation.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I agree with you, Ruth. I bow to your wisdom. I was writing poetically, but also becasue I feel that while many people are doing good work – groundwork and information work, this website and Mr Murray's activism being an excellent example of both – there is no longer a systematised oppositional mass movement which might really rock things up, constrain the sabre-toothed tiger of the military-security imperium and address the economic and political system which constructs that imperium. I'm not trying to dishearten people, far from it, but like many of us, I'm extremely frustrated by it all. In my own way, I try to address the issues and to write about them, whether through fiction or non-fiction – it is then me who is howling at the moon! Thank you for your activism. Btw, sabretache and anyone else who might be interested, I am hesitant to use Mr Murray's site to promote my own site, so anyone can just google 'Suhayl Saadi' and the site is either the first or second hit that comes up. You're most welcome to browse. Best wishes.

  • david weill

    I believe that you are simply dragging up these old allegations to create interest and controversy to sell books – which is of course your business.

    You should be aware however of the nature of the tort of defamation, specifically libel. Your lawyers can help you with this if you can't get your head around it.

    You have made derogatory comments in print that have been published about a good friend of mine, Tony Buckingham, that would by their very nature bring Tony into a negative light by any reasonable member of the public.

    Your comments are wholly false. Tony is the CEO of a FTSE 250 company, a man of integrity, and a supporter of western democracy. You should expect to be contacted by attorneys in due course.

    You may think that you know better than the FSA and numerous other regulators and agencies. In my opinion however, you are just a sack of crap.

  • Shamus

    Nice site – pity you have to go to such lengths to moderate it.

    I am from Togo and now study English, give true I wrote the following sentence: "Are you tired of opening multiple browsers and entering your itinerary over and over again? We offer a tool to search all of the leading travel sites at the."

    Best regards :-D, Shamus.

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