Yearly Archives: 2008

The Emperor’s New Banks

To state the obvious, the problem with the US government’s bailout of the US financial system is that the US government doesn’t have $700 billion. It doesn’t in fact have any money at all, being substantially in debt. The idea that this creation of yet more funny money in some way heals the system is patently absurd. It merely postpones, very temporarily, some impoverishment and ensures the pain will be borne for a generation or three.

The profligate use of taxpayers’ indebtedness throughout the last year, on both sides of the Atlantic, had been astounding, whether from the hundreds of billions “pumped into the money markets” by central banks, or all those successive rescue packages for individual institutions.

The signals sent to the market are extraordinarily contrary. Executives of failed institutions, whose policies were the direct cause of failure and who awarded themselves billions in bonuses for pursuing those policies, now have their jobs protected after they failed so badly. Irresponsibility and massive greed pays. Neither in the US nor the UK will the government again be able to tell public servants that they get lower pay because they take less risk than the private sector. And we now have institutions which are in effect now public sector, but where individual public servants – for that is what they now are – are receiving pay in the millions.

Furthermore, the investors – who if the market works should, indeed must lose their funds if the institution goes bust, just as they can make great gains if it booms – are not going to lose their money. At least with Northern Rock the British government got that bit right.

What we have instead is perhaps the single most regressive movement of funds in history, with taxes going to protect investments. Yes, I know many ordinary people benefit a bit from investments through pension funds etc, but the wealthy undoubtedly have many more investments on average than the poor, while many of the very poor have no interest in investments but still pay tax.

This is a huge bailout of the wealthy on the backs of the poor. That is why Bush is acting with such alacrity. Those commentators claiming Bush is taking leftward action iwith a “New Deal” philosophy could not be more wrong.

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Mr David Weill


This is Mr David Weill, a corporate adviser and former derivatives trader. He is also a barrister at the Middle Temple. If he really thinks I have perpetrated a libel, therefore, he ought to have no difficulty in undertaking legal action, rather than blustering on about it and trying to frighten me.

I am not frightfully well acquainted with the ethics of the legal profession, but I am surprised that barristers can write to people threatening them with legal action, and describing them as “a sack of crap”. Is it OK for Mr David De Jongh Weill to call me that in a communication related to proposed legal action? Can I complain to someone who regulates barristers? Any ideas?

Mr David De Jongh Weill was a man ahead of his time in making massive losses from derivatives trading, having been arguably one of the most spectacularly unsuccessful derivatives traders ever.

LORD ROTHSCHILD, one of Britain’s most eminent investors, is about to sever his connections with a Buddhist American investment manager whose $1.2bn hedge funds have embarrassed him by halving in value this year.

The funds, which are being wound down, are managed by David de Jongh Weill from Spencer House, a mansion overlooking St James’s Park that used to belong to the family of the Princess of Wales. Mr Weill’s office is rented from one of Lord Rothschild’s companies.

But Mr Weill’s rich clients have been disappointed this year by a fall of more than $600m in the value of the highly speculative funds, which bet heavily on a fall in interest rates that did not happen.

The Independent 30 January 1994

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Another Libel Threat from a Rich Mercenary

Yes again, another libel action threat on behalf of a very rich man who made cash from mercenary activity. The following comment was posted on this blog from a “Friend” of Tony Buckingham.

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.

David Weill

Tony Buckingham is a man who masterminded, funded and made money from mercenary operations in Africa that killed a lot of people. Their aim was to gain physical control of blood oil

and blood diamonds by armed force. They were conducted under legal sanction from corrupt governments.

I love Mr Weill’s idiotic comment that I believe I may know better than the FSA. Obviously that would be impossible. I mean the Financial Services Authority has plainly done a superb job of policing the City of London, preventing the participation of ill-willed individuals or of any unwise practices that might undermine confidence in the market. The FSA is plainly a huge success – how could anyone know better about anything?

It would be a great pity if Mr Weill’s intervention caused people to start googling, researching and posting about the eminently respectable Mr Tony Buckingham, CEO of an FTSE 250 company. Some people, of course, may believe that the fact that someone like Buckingham can be CEO of an FTSE 250 company is symptomatic of the fundamental sickness of the system.

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Titter Ye Not

Stop giggling there! Schadenfreude is not nice (or easy to spell). There are those who may find it funny to see vastly overpaid merchant bankers scurrying out of Lehman Bros with their executive toys and diaries jumbled up into old photocopier paper boxes. But think of the knock-on effects in the economy.

Several cocaine dealers are out of business already. The man at the Evening Standard who writes the stories about the groups who order £20,000 worth of wine at dinner is wondering how he will feed his children. Not to mention the poor estate agents.

Stop laughing you unfeeling bastards!

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Peter Hitchens on the Creepy Plotters Who Rule Us

An excellent article from Peter Hitchens in the Mail.

There is no such organisation as ‘Al Qaeda’. The spooks know this, Cabinet Ministers know this and so do the ‘security correspondents’ who so readily trot out the spooks’ point of view on our broadcasting networks.

Of course, there are terrorists, and there are also fantasists, fanatics, low-lifes and camp followers who plot and attempt horrible things. Some of them even call themselves ‘Al Qaeda’ these days because they have learned that this is a good way to scare us.

But, while they are a menace, they are not as big or as organised a menace as the Government likes to make out.

The State and the vainglorious bureaucrats of the ‘security’ services need to pretend that the terrorists are a tightly organised and terrifying threat, to make themselves look big as well ?” and to help them get hold of new powers to snoop on us and push us around.

The most vital distinction in Western politics today is not between left and right, but between the authoritarians in office and libertarians who resist.

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Evidence of Karimov’s Crimes – and CIA Participation

Ikram Yakubov, the Uzbek security service defector, has given his first UK media interview to the first class journalist Neil Mackay of the Sunday Herald.

Ikram’s testimony is very important, particularly that he personally witnessed a CIA officer present at the torture of Islamic suspects. Remember, the official position of the UK government remains that I was making it all up. They still officially deny the CIA was involved in torture in Uzbekistan, or that we knew about extraordinary rendition. Ikram Yakubov’s testimony makes those government lies still harder to maintain. It would be nice to believe that one day there may be a serious parliamentary inquiry into the lies.

THE CIA SENT ITS agents into Uzbekistan torture chambers to observe the abuse of alleged Islamic terrorists, acc-ording to a dissident member of the Uzbek security services who is now seeking political asylum in the UK after fleeing Tashkent.

Ikrom Yakubov, a former major in the National Security Service (SNB), accused the CIA of involvement in torture sessions in the central Asian republic in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Herald, during which he made a series of startling claims. These include claims that: l Britain’s Richard Conroy, the UN’s co-ordinator in Uzbekistan, was assassinated on the orders of Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan. Karimov has been described as one of the world’s worst dictators and his rule, since 1991, has been characterised by allegations of torture (including claims that victims were boiled alive), media control, fake elections and brutality against human rights organisations and pro-democracy activists; l a series of bomb attacks in the capital, Tashkent, in March 2004 were organised by the SNB in order to tighten Karimov’s dictatorial rule and ramp up the threat from Islamic terror groups; l Karimov ordered the notorious Andijan massacre in May 2005, when Uzbek security forces fired on protesters, killing anything up to 1500 people; l Karimov’s regime routinely framed innocent Muslims on charges of involvement in Islamist terror and invented bogus terror threats to maintain his grip on the country, and l the CIA used a secret detention facility in Uzbekistan where suspects in the “war on terror” were taken from around the world to be tortured by SNB interrogators.

It is also worth remembering that the Tashkent bombings – which as Ambassador I investigated in detail and reported that the Uzbek government story was fake – were used by British ministers in parliament in justification of their anti-terror legislation.

I think I may be forgiven for publishing again in this context what was to be the last telegram of my diplomatic career (it led to my sacking)





OF 220939 JULY 04




1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.

2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.

3. We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state.


4. In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.

5. I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.

6. On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood.

7. Sir Michael Jay’s circular of 26 May stated that there was a reporting obligation on us to report torture by allies (and I have been instructed to refer to Uzbekistan as such in the context of the war on terror). You, Sir, have made a number of striking, and I believe heartfelt, condemnations of torture in the last few weeks. I had in the light of this decided to return to this question and to highlight an apparent contradiction in our policy. I had intimated as much to the Head of Eastern Department.

8. I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear that without informing me of the meeting, or since informing me of the result of the meeting, a meeting was convened in the FCO at the level of Heads of Department and above, precisely to consider the question of the receipt of Uzbek intelligence material obtained under torture. As the office knew, I was in London at the time and perfectly able to attend the meeting. I still have only gleaned that it happened.

9. I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true ‘ the material is marked with a euphemism such as “From detainee debriefing.” The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.

10. I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in and organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact

11. The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;

“The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.” While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also.

12. On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer:

“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

13. Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless ‘ we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.

14. I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. Sixteen months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment.

15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family’s links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.

16. I have been considering Michael Wood’s legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material.

17. The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points. I should be grateful to hear Michael’s views on this.

18. It seems to me that there are degrees of complicity and guilt, but being at one or two removes does not make us blameless. There are other factors. Plainly it was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the coalition to deport detainees back here from Baghram, but it has been done. That seems plainly complicit.

19. This is a difficult and dangerous part of the World. Dire and increasing poverty and harsh repression are undoubtedly turning young people here towards radical Islam. The Uzbek government are thus creating this threat, and perceived US support for Karimov strengthens anti-Western feeling. SIS ought to establish a presence here, but not as partners of the Uzbek Security Services, whose sheer brutality puts them beyond the pale.


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Three Cheers for Juries

The threat of global warming is so great that campaigners were justified in causing more than £35,000 worth of damage to a coal-fired power station, a jury decided yesterday. In a verdict that will have shocked ministers and energy companies the jury at Maidstone Crown Court cleared six Greenpeace activists of criminal damage.

Jurors accepted defence arguments that the six had a “lawful excuse” to damage property at Kingsnorth power station in Kent to prevent even greater damage caused by climate change. The defence of “lawful excuse” under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 allows damage to be caused to property to prevent even greater damage ?” such as breaking down the door of a burning house to tackle a fire.

The not-guilty verdict, delivered after two days and greeted with cheers in the courtroom, raises the stakes for the most pressing issue on Britain’s green agenda and could encourage further direct action.

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So You Think This Is A Free Country?

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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I have been worrying about the serious deterioration of civil liberties in the UK for five years now, but a small incident last night convinced me we are living in a country that must be classified as “Not free”. I was travelling to the theatre on the tube, and the large majority of passengers were shrouded by copies of either London Lite or the London Paper. Some thirty copies of each banner headline screamed shrilly its message of fear through the train: “Five Suicide Bombers on the Loose in London!” “Jet Terror Plot!” “Terror Jury Holiday Farce Resulted in Acquittals!”

The propaganda, which reflected uncritically the briefing the Security Services and Home Office have been manically pumping out since the non-existence of the “Bigger than 9/11” jet plot was confirmed, was so stark and so divorced from any connection to the truth, that I am convinced we are already in effect living in a totalitarian state where the government controls the population through fear with brutal efficiency and with absolutely no regard to the truth. The government had contrived to turn a major blow for its “War on Terror” scaremongering into a vehicle to ramp up that scaremongering.

The Lite told of there still being bombers around from the “Jet Terror Plot” and gave no indication whatsoever that the jury had decided the jet plot did not exist. Indeed it claimed shamelessly that the three terrorists convicted of conspiracy to murder had been planning to bring down planes – a direct lie.

The London Paper was still more worrying, because it put detail into the line the odious security service spokesman Frank “Goebbels” Gardner has been pumping out on the BBC: juries are unreliable. It said that the failure to convict in the trial was due to interruptions for a holiday for the jurors and because of an injury to a juror in a golf accident. The clear trend of the briefing coming from the government is towards the abolition of jury trials in terrorist cases: Diplock courts.

Meantime in London two men are on trial for “terrorism” because they attended a demonstration at the Uzbek Embassy against the hideous Uzbek regime, at which red paint was thrown at the Embassy to symbolise the blood of Karimov’s many thousands of victims. Such protest as paint-throwing should, I think, be illegal, but given events like the Andijan massacre of many hundreds of peaceful demonstrators, I have huge sympathy for those who undertake civil disobedience in the Uzbek case. It has nothing to do with terrorism, but under the notorious Section 58 of the Terrorism Act there is real danger of conviction and heavy sentences.

These are critical times: all good men and women must fight hard against the closing in of the system upon us.


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Nick Cohen Has Gone Mad

Nick Cohen’s latest rant is a defence of La Palin, under the guise of advice to liberals on how to attack her more wisely. He gives the game away with the following defence of Blair:

If they had confined themselves to charging Tony Blair with failing to find the weapons of mass destruction he promised were in Iraq, and sending British troops into a quagmire, they might have forced him out. They were so consumed by loathing, however, they insisted that he had lied, which he clearly had not.

Which planet is Cohen on? On 24 September 2002 Blair told the UK parliament this:

The dossier we publish gives the answer. The reason is because his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programme is not an historic leftover from 1998. The inspectors aren’t needed to clean up the old remains. His WMD programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The WMD programme is not shut down. It is up and running…

Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population; and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.

Which is beyond doubt the most infamous lie, or series of lies, in all political history. It fulfils all the criteria of a lie by being demonstrably untrue, and by the fact that Blair knew it to be untrue. Unlike Nick Cohen, who was in a pub somewhere, I was a senior British diplomat at the time the dossier was produced and a former head of the FCO section monitoring Iraqi sanctions enforcement. I know, and have counted as a friend, John Williams, the Head of FCO News Department who did the first draft and is now a man wracked with conscience. I was told at the time that our claims were “Bollocks” by Bill Patey, then head of the FCO department covering the Middle East and now our Ambassador in Saudi Arabia, I heard first hand and before the war started witness of the pressure and career threats that reduced members of the FCO Research Analysts to tears.

It is interesting that Cohen tries the same rhetorical trick with Blair that he does with Palin. He starts off by trying to sound sympathetic to liberals, that there is validity to “charging Tony Blair with failing to find the weapons of mass destruction he promised were in Iraq, and sending British troops into a quagmire.”

But in fact we know these are not Cohen’s views at all and he remains a major cheerleader for the Iraq war. He has written an entire book about how misguided the “Left” are for not understanding Iraq and the noble neo-con desire to export “democracy” by force. So if Cohen disguises his defence of Blair with a false cloak of sympathy for the arguments against him, how much notice should we take of his feeble anti-Palin points before he defends her? Is it not more probable that the laughable old dipsomaniac is simply lost in admiration of another fellow neo-con?

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Two Cheers For Nationalisation

The Guardian’s Larry Elliott has written an excellent piece on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I particularly like this passage:

But if the big financial institutions cannot – unlike, say, a car company or an airline – be allowed to founder, they also cannot be allowed to conduct themselves in the same way as companies where there really is a risk of failure. Congress will undoubtedly demand tougher regulations for the activities of US banks in exchange for bailing them out, and rightly so. If ever there was a time to bring in controls on the ability of banks to create unlimited amounts of credit, to restrict the more toxic forms of derivatives, to rein in the activities of hedge funds, to insist that remuneration structures are not biased in favour of reckless speculation, and to use anti-trust law to break up the power of the big institutions then this, surely, is it.

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Non-Existent “Bigger than 9/11” Airline Plot

I came in for much criticism at the time for being the first “respectable” commentator to call the fact that the “Bigger than 9/11 airline plot” was massive government hype, but my sources were very good. After a long trial a jury has now found that there was no credible evidence of plans to blow up airlines.

jurors rejected prosecution claims that Ali was responsible for an unprecedented airline bomb plot. They discarded evidence that Ali intended to target passenger jets flying from London to major North American cities with suicide attacks.

The jury did find that three of the accused were engaged in a plan to carry out domestic terrorist bombing, and there does appear some quite firm evidence to substantiate that. Doubtless the appeals process will work its way through. But this appears to be another example of a small pathetic group of failed would be terrorists who were never, at any stage, planning to take liquid explosives on to airliners.

That is the fundamental problem with the “War on Terror”, It is not that Islamic extremist terrorism does not exist. It does. Frankly given the many, many thousands of civilians we have killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, it would be surprising if it did not exist. But it is massively hyped out of all reality by a government determined to use it to justify a massive increase in its powers over the citizenry.

I ask you to cast your minds back to just how very massive the hype was about the “airline liquid bomb plot” in summer of 2006. Scotland Yard called it “Bigger than 9/11”. In particular, remember the appalling anti-Muslim stories of plans to blow up planes using babies and baby bottles – as potent and horrifying a racist urban myth as has ever been developed.

These were total rubbish.

Of the twenty one people arrested over this massive plot to blow up airlines, which the Metropolitan Police described as “Bigger than 9/11”, in the end three were convicted of conspiracy to murder and four of causing public nuisance. Not one of those dragged from their homes at 2.30 am on the direct personal instruction of John Reid was convicted.

Accepting that 7/7 was Islamic terrorism (which I realise many people do not), about 60 people have been killed by Islamic terrorists in the UK. Any death is terrible, but that is about 2% of those who died in the Northern Ireland troubles. Even in the year of 7/7, less people were killed by Islamic terrorists than were drowned in their own baths. You have more chance of being struck by lightning than killed by a Islamic terrorist.

Yet this terrorist campaign was described by Tony Blair as “A fundamental threat to Western Civilisation” and by John Reid as “A threat on the scale of the Second World War”. The astonishing thing is that they created a climate in which the media accepted those assesments without a hint of the ridicule they deserved.

Terrorism has to be fought and prevented, but that is best done by meticulous, plodding police and intelligence work. It is also fundamental, but worth saying, that opposing rather than participating in oppression, bombing, torture and illegal invasion abroad would cut the ground from under terrorism. You do not fight terrorism by massively talking it up and terrifying your population into anti-Muslim attitudes, and initiating a spiral of repression that will just cause more terror.

On December 2006 I blogged:

I still do not rule out that there was a germ of a terror plot at the heart of this investigation. We can speculate about agents provocateurs and security service penetration, both British and Pakistani, but still there might have been genuine terrorists involved. But the incredible disruption to the travelling public, the War on Shampoo, and the “Bigger than 9/11” hype is unravelling.

If anyone can point to anything more prescient, I shall be dead impressed.

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A Day in the Life

Haven’t blogged much in the last week, so I thought I would take you through my day yesterday to show the kind of stuff I’m doing. It was a slightly busier day than usual, but really not much.

04.16 Helped Nadira start her day’s Ramadan observances

04.45 Got up and dressed properly

05.15 Left home in Shepherds Bush

07.00 Flew London City Airport to Edinburgh

09.30 Meeting of Scottish University Rectors at University of Edinburgh to discuss reaction to Scottish future funding paper. Key points we make:

– Overall funding for Scottish University sector inadequate compared to rest of Northern Europe

– Lack of opportunity for student input in the “Consultation” process

– No discussion of the key question of student support. Average debt for students leaving Scottish Universities now £13,500 even though most don’t have to pay tuition fees. Students whose parents can’t afford to support them tend to have higher levels of debt. With recession looming and job prospects looking bleaker, real danger of poorer people deciding not to go to University.

– “Additional” funding linked almost exclusively to research; danger that good teaching is neglected and under-rewarded.

We also agree –

We are against the government’s daft proposals to raise the age for purchasing alcohol from off licenses to 21

We will campaign for the democratic Scottish tradition of elected rectors as Chairman of University Court to be introduced in every Scottish University

10.30 Joint Press conference of the Rectors – first in five hundred years. This goes well. Times Higher Ed were there and others who hopefully will run features. The only paper that reported it as news was the Scotsman. They have slanted it as an attack on the SNP, but then they slant everything as an attack on the SNP.

The only reference to anything I said was a joke in the diary

11.30 Post press conference meeting to discuss future strategy for Rector’s group

12.00 Walk to National Library of Scotland. Order up manuscripts relating to Alexander Burnes (whose biography I am writing)

12.50 Leave library. Phone calls from immigration lawyers and the Guardian about a defector from the Uzbek security services, Ikram Yakubov, who I am helping. Ikram has brought valuable information from a security analysis centre close to President Karimov. Much more on this to come, but here is some of his evidence:

– On a visit to an Uzbek security service detention centre he saw a CIA officer named Andrew actually present as alleged members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were tortured

– Richard Conroy, British head of the UN in Uzbekistan, was assassinated on the orders of President Karimov when the passenger plane on which he was flying blew up near Tashkent airport

– The Tashkent bombs of 2004 were an operation by the Uzbek security services to discredit the opposition

– Karimov personally ordered the Andijan massacre. Lists of those killed were carefully compiled and amout to over 1500

– SOAS lecturer Shirin Akiner does work for the Uzbek government

Obviously I have great concern for Ikram’s safety. Normally such a defector should be of great interest to MI6, but of course this is all stuff the British government denies.

13.10 Quick lunch with senior friends from the Scottish Lib Dems and SNP, to quietly forward agreement on the replacement of Council Tax by a local income tax.

14.00 Back in National Library for delivery of manuscripts. Include two fascinating letters home to Montrose from London from the 15 year old Alexander preparing to sail to India as a Cadet. I have to make copies by hand in pencil.

Some extracts from Alex to his father, April 1st 1821

“Would that my birthday were come for from that day I hope never to be a burden to anyone. Fortunately my birthday happens on Wednesady which is account day so I will be entitled to pay the very day I am sixteen…

I am astonished by your silence for except for a few lines from (illegible) and a letter from you returning the certificates I have not received a scrap from father, mother or brother.

Mr Hume [Joseph Hume] has given me a state of James’ expenditure in London which I now transmit you as also the gross anount of our equipment.

Jame’s amounts to £84 & mine to £101 odd, but the reason of the disparity is my getting all my accoutrements such as sword, cap & so in London, which James has not. This is really a great sum…”

NLS Mss 3813 ff 114-5

A PS to his mother is poignant:

PS I hope you make them feed the hawk & crow & also take care of the tulips & other flowers I had.

NB William Ross had my Greek dictionary which you can get from him when he’s done with it but not till then for you know well the circumstances of his father.

NLS MSS 3813 ff 112-3

His mother was to see Alex only once more, briefly, ten years later, when he was one of the most famous men in the country, and then never again before his death in a futile invasion of Afghanistan which he had put his career on the line to try to stop.

17.30 Leave the Library for the airport. On the bus I make calls to organise some Freshers week student meetings (anti-war and Amnesty) in Scotland.

20.30 Arrive London City. DLR malfunctioning.

21.45 Go to Madame Jojos for evening at burlesque show. Some discussions of African development projects, but mostly just relax in a group that includes some breathtakingly beautiful women – including of course Nadira. Drink a large amount of Veuve Cliquot.

02.00 Home to bed.

The rather scarey thing about this day is that not one of the things mentioned earns me a penny. I also did not get round to the very urgent task of last minute changes to The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, changes wanted by my publishers to appease the FCO and Schillings (Tim Spicer’s lawyers). Hard to settle to this because I really don’t want to do it. But that is the priority for today, together with Ikram.

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Hypocrite Miliband And The Myth Of Western Moral Superiority

David Miliband was making great show today of fulminating in Kiev against Russian disregard of international law. Yet simultaneously he is continuing the sorry British record of participation in war crimes and contravention of the UN Convention Against Torture, Article IV of which covers “complicity” in torture. Both of these are serious breaches of international law.

Binyam Mohamed is a British resident who was the victim of illegal rendition and hideous torture in several countries.

Miliband has declined to release further evidence about the case on grounds of national security, arguing that disclosure would harm Britain’s intelligence relationship with the US.

Mohamed faces a “Trial” by military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay. Judges, defence and prosecution lawyers are all members of the US military. Neither Mohamed not his defence lawyers will be allowed to see much of the evidence against him. This includes evidence of participation in his torture by British security services, and details of where he was being held and interrogated over two years (Uzbekistan? Afghanistan? Poland? Diego Garcia? – Miliband is keeping it secret). By the symmetry of evil, UK evidence is being witheld on grounds it could damage security cooperation with the US, while US evidence is being witheld on the grounds it could damage security cooperation with the UK. This farce is sickening.

It was, of course, the excuse that security cooperation with Saudi Arabia would be damaged that led to the dropping of the prosecution of the vile corrupt executives at BAE. The operations of the security services are, beyond any shade of argument, above the law both sides of the Atlantic.

When I threw over my diplomatic career to expose the hideous UK/CIA complicity with torture in Uzbekistan, I genuinely believed that my personal sacrifice would form part of a movement which would end this abomination being carried out in our names. In fact, the Bush/Blair acolytes have pushed further to the point that poor Binyan Mohamed faces a fate that would have been beyond the pen of Kafka.

Never mind, let’s divert the public by pointing at those evil Russians!

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The Right To Be Wrong

Harry’s Place is the natural home for ex-socialists who joined the neo-con assault on the developing world, and then sought to justify themselves by extreme vituperation against anyone who exhibited a greater degree of political consistency. But these rather sad people need a home, and it is quite wrong for the site to be taken down.

I am genuinely flummoxed as to why people who disagree with something don’t simply argue back, expecially on blogs which have undermined the need for access to a printing press. The fact that I am really nice and the denizens of Harry’s Place really horrible does not in the least make the attack on Harry’s Place any more justified than Alisher Usmanov’s or Tim Spicer’s attacks on me. Support freedom of speech and an open web! Bring back horrible Harry!

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DGFA: A Sceptics Guide to Life

Richard Wilson, author of Titanic Express and a member of the team that maintained this site in its early days, has now got his own blog. Richard Wilson’s blog is a sceptics guide that seems to target anything from obscure place names on maps, through exposure of Britain’s complicity in torture, on to behavioural psychology.

In this piece he profiles Craig and talks about his decision to include him in his forthcoming book, ‘Don’t Get Fooled Again’.

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UN Confirms US Kills Sixty Children Among Ninety Civilians in Afghanistan

Yet another act of hideous brutality. The US is maintaining its claim to have killed “Thirty militants”. The UN, which unlike the US has actually been to the place to investigate, is confirming that the victims were sixty civilians including ninety children. Yet another notch upwards on the spiral of hate. How can anyone believe this is a solution?

“Investigations by UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men,” U.N. Special Envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide said in a statement.”

The U.S. military has launched an investigation into the incident, after saying it was unaware of any civilians killed in what it said was a single air strike in the Shindand district of western Afghanistan on Friday.

Jets had targeted a known Taliban commander and killed 30 militants, the U.S.-led coalition said.

UNAMA sent its human rights team to the Shindand area to investigate, meeting local officials, elders and villagers.

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