This blog keeps going offline. I have no idea why – perhaps maintenance work on the server?
It is now confirmed that Nadine Dorries blog has been taken down by her webhosts after threats by lawyers acting for the creepy and anti-democratic Barclay Brothers. I particularly dislike them because they destroyed the Scotsman, which was once a good newspaper.
Nadine Dorries had accused the Barclay Brothers of outing the sleaze about MPs in their Daily Telegraph as part of an anti-democratic plot. The same accusation was in this Independent piece at 2am yesterday. The Independent has edited it out. Annoyingly there is no sign of a google cache.
Nadine has completely lost it, after being caught lying about the location of her main residence, in order to cash in on the second home allowance. Her sense of entitlement has been getting up people’s noses for the last 24 hours. I cannot better the writing of Mr Eugenides:
I have spent most of the past six years working against torture, and have met many victims, in some cases dead victims. So Nadine’s whinge that MPs were being tortured after being found out was extremely annoying to me.
But the bullying action by the Barclay Brothers against a blog is another example of the use of our absurd libel laws to silence freedom of speech. No court has ruled that Nadine was libellous. She did not have the chance to defend her views in court. She was simply and effectively silenced, and her entire blogging corpus taken down.
There are numerous ironies to this story. Here are a few:
– The Barclay Brothers have stopped Nadine when she was very effectively digging her own political grave.
– Nobody took seriously her argument that the sleaze revelations were an anti-democratic conspiracy by the Barclay Brothers. The Barclay Brothers will bring far more opprobrium on themselves by this action than was cast by the original accusation.
– If they go through with a libel action, the money Dorries stole from the taxpayer could end up with the even less deserving Barclay Brothers. Bloody Hell!
No doubt Nadine’s blog will still be back up and hosted somewhere safe. But this is a wearing process. When Usmanov did exactly the same to me, we had to change our main url from co.uk to org.uk. We lost ranking for three years worth of links: our technorati score tumbled overnight from 370 to 28, and still hasn’t fully recovered. Neither have our google or wikio rankings.
Bloggers can dispute heartily. We use our free speech sometimes to quarrel – I have been doing that too much lately.
But when free speech in the blogosphere is attacked, we have a tradition of standing together. I have benefited from that more than most. I will stand now by Nadine. If she wants her article republished, I will do so here..
You will find Nadine Dorries offending article in full in the comments section below. I do not agree with her, but I do agree with her right to say it. I know it is there and accept legal responsibility for it.
This won’t make any sense unless you first look at this rather good and amusing piece on Paul Staines’ blog, about the predictive suggestions Google gives you when you type “Gordon Brown is”.
Then go to google.co.uk, and type in “Paul Staines”, and see what predictive text Google suggests.
FIRST PLACE GOOGLE SUGGESTION IS “PAUL STAINES BNP”.
As Paul says so wisely “GOOGLE KNOWS”.
Those google predictive text suggestions for Paul Staines:
Did Paul not have the sense to try this on himself before putting out the results about Gordon Brown? Paul has not so much been hoist by his own petard. His petard has been doubled up, set on fire and rammed up his arse.
As you so acutely observed: Google knows, Paul, Google knows. Couldn’t agree with you more.
Feel free to try it for Craig Murray, incidentally. I don’t know how google order their suggestions – it’s not by most results. Most searches, perhaps?
There is a lively debate in comments on my posting on neo-con bloggers pretending they are libertarians. Prominent among them, of course, is Paul Staines who blogs as Guido Fawkes. Paul has commented thus:
I have not ever flirted with racism. I have always been anti-racist. Nutter.
I would argue that proposing any kind of arrangement with the BNP is to flirt with racism. This is from The Guardian of 31 May 1986.
Tory student leader in ‘ racist ‘ party link / Paul Delarie-Staines of FCS attempts to form pact with British National Party in Hull
By David Rose
A leader of the Federation of Conservative Students wrote to an organiser of the British National Party proposing joint ‘direct action’ to disrupt the meetings of leftwing students. Secrecy, he emphasised, was essential: ‘The Reds would simply go wild if they got to hear of a BNP-FCS link. I would personally be in danger of being expelled from the Conservative Party.’
The author of the letter is Mr Paul Delarie-Staines, the chairman of the federation’s 50-strong branch at the Humberside college of Higher Education. Mr Delarie-Staines, who is in his first year of a degree course in business information studies, wrote on May 22 to Mr Ian Walker, a BNP organiser in Hull.
He was, he said, against several of the aims of the BNP, which campaigns for the repatriation of black citizens. Several of its members have been convicted of offences under the Race Relations Act, and others for crimes of violence against ethnic minorities. Its leader, Mr John Tyndall, is a former chairman of the National Front.
Mr Delarie-Staines said he did not share the BNP view on immigration: as a member of the ‘libertarian’ faction of the FCS he advocated the free movement of labour, albeit with the caveat that ‘you come here to work – or starve. ‘
He went on: ‘I share a lot of your objectives.’ These included a return to leadership and statesmanship, the abolition of the welfare state, and ‘the elimination of Communism in Britain – the mass media, the trade unions, and the schoolroom. ‘
Mr Delaire-Staines continued: ‘Nevertheless, even though we have our differences, I know a lot of BNP people at college do support the FCS (some are members of the FCS). I can certainly envisage some degree of cooperation.
‘For instance, we are moving away from just the normal political debate and towards more direct action – anti-Communist slogans on bridges, disrupting the leftist meetings by posing as leftists and then causing trouble, and also convincing individual leftists of the error of their ways.
‘Perhaps members of the BNP would care to join us in our anti-leftist activities. We can arrange a meeting to discuss possible joint future activities. ‘
Other examples of Mr Delaire-Staines work reached the Guardian, including a number of songs. One, entitled FCS Bootboys, reads: ‘Gas them all, gas them all, the Tribune group trendies and all. Crush Wedgwood Benn and make glue from his bones, Burn the broad left in their middle class homes.
‘Yes we’re saying goodbye to the Left, as safe in their graveyards they rest. ‘Cos they’ll get no further, we’ll stop with murder, the bootboys of FCS. ‘
In a letter to a friend, Mr Delaire-Staines said that he had been on a ‘community arts course – well. not exactly community arts, more spraypainting a bridge at 3am. Quite good fun really, ducking out of sight of passing police cars’
Mr Delaire-Staines told the Guardian that he had not meant violence by direct action at leftist meetings, only ‘causing as much noise as possible’. He said that he had tried to forge links with the BNP because ‘we share their anti-Communist view’.
He added: ‘They’re not far-right. They’re just racists, they believe in one colour. ‘
Mr John Barrow, the national chairman of FCS and a Lambeth councillor, said that Mr Delaire-Staines was ‘a bit silly. I wouldn’t hold it against him. I’m sure he’ll grow out of it.’ After hearing extracts from the letter to the BNP he added. ‘He’s absolutely right that he’s in danger of being thrown out of the Conservative Party.’
Mr James Goodsman, the Conservative Central Office official responsible for the FCS, said: ‘If the evidence comes my way I will certainly look into it.
Readers may make up their own mind whether Paul Staines or I appears to be the nutter.
I was myself a student in the 1980’s and I rmember the FCS in their full glory. I remember watching almost the entire National leadership of FCS in St Andrews one day standing on chairs and singing “Tomorrow belongs to me” while giving Nazi salutes. I can certainly confirm that jokes about gas chambers were common in FCS circles, in exaclty the kind of vein referred to in the song quoted in The Guardian article, whether or not it is correctly attributed to Paul Staines.
The Federation of Conservative Students in the mid 1980s was not the sort of organisation which would be immediately attractive to an anti-racist activist. The Conservative Party eventually moved against it because of its embarassing excesses.
Paul Staines may be telling the truth, that he has never been a racist. But anybody who proposes an alliance with the BNP is certainly “Flirting with racism”.
As to his claim to have always been an anti-racist, that is to claim more than simply to claim not to be racist. To suggest any alliance with the BNP is certainly a rather eccentric thing for an anti-racist to do.
I would cllaim I have always been an anti-racist. In the early 1980s, for example, I was a member of the Anti Apartheid Movement and the Anti Nazi League. I have plenty of witnesses to that, and most reasonable people would take that as evidence tending to show I am an anti-racist. What evidence does Paul Staines have to offer us of his anti-racist activism?
There has been a fashion in the blogosphere which needs to be challenged. Blogs of an extreme right wing cast have started to call themselves “Libertarian”.
Brian Mickelthwait has attempted to compile a list of British “Libertarian” blogs. In the vast majority of cases, libertarian here plainly means “right wing conservative” or “neo-con”.
The peculiar thing is, that these neo-con “Libertarians” have, by and large, little or no concern for civil liberties. Very few of these “Libertarians” blogged about the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes, against detention without trial for 42 days, about police violence at the G20 summit. These “Libertarians” do not want to see Guantanamo closed, and are quite happy with extraordinary rendition and the use of torture. Not only will you search the large majority of them in vain for any condemnation of the use of torture in the “War on Terror”, but some of them – like Charles Crawford, for instance – have actively blogged in favour of the use of torture.
Libertarians in favour of detention without trial? Libertarians for Guantanamo?
Libertarians for Torture?
Plainly the word “Libertarian” is being misappropriated by these people, and stretched beyond any natural meaning in the English language. Some of the most prominent “libertarians”, like Paul Staines, have not only been completely silent on civil liiberties, but have flirted with racism in the past. Staines’ site is very often homophobic, and is not the only one on Mickelthwait’s list.
Libertarians against gay rights?
Libertarians against Immigration?
The explanation of the misuse of the word libertarian lies in the United States. A maxim that the only role for the state was national defence became popularised by disciples of the Hayek economic school. The “National defence” get-out allows for Guantanamo, torture and shooting Brazilian electricians, and became a fetish. The idea then appealed to those who favour no tax and no social safety net, or at least strong moves in that direction. It finally emerged as a fully fledged philosophical concept thus:
“I am strong, I am capable. I can survive in a highly competitive environment and pile up loads of money. And a strong State can ruthlessly suppress and keep down the less fortunate, both nationally and internationally, to defend me and my money.”
That is the empty core of “Libertarianism” in its modern US definition. It has moved on from the pamphlet by the great libertarian Piotr Kropotkin, “Is Prison Necessary?”, to a position that prisons are one of the very few things which are necessary to a state.
This is one of my favourite pieces of Kropotkin:
Legislators confounded in one code the two currents of custom of which we have just been speaking, the maxims which represent principles of morality and social union wrought out as a result of life in common, and the mandates which are meant to ensure external existence to inequality.
Customs, absolutely essential to the very being of society, are, in the code, cleverly intermingled with usages imposed by the ruling caste, and both claim equal respect from the crowd. “Do not kill,” says the code, and hastens to add, “And pay tithes to the priest.” “Do not steal,” says the code, and immediately after, “He who refuses to pay taxes, shall have his hand struck off.”
Such was law; and it has maintained its two-fold character to this day. Its origin is the desire of the ruling class to give permanence to customs imposed by themselves for their own advantage. Its character is the skillful commingling of customs useful to society, customs which have no need of law to insure respect, with other customs useful only to rulers, injurious to the mass of the people, and maintained only by the fear of punishment.
Kropotkin was jailed all over Europe for his beliefs, but remained a man of great courage. Back in Russia in 1920 he wrote to Lenin:
Vladimir Ilyich, your concrete actions are completely unworthy of the ideas you pretend to hold.
Is it possible that you do not know what a hostage really is ?” a man imprisoned not because of a crime he has committed, but only because it suits his enemies to exert blackmail on his companions? … If you admit such methods, one can foresee that one day you will use torture, as was done in the Middle Ages
You don’t have to agree with all Kropotkin’s ideas to be a libertarian. But Piotr Kropotkin and John Stuart Mill are great exemplars of libertarian thought, and their attitudes to people and to society are fundamentally different to those of Dick Cheney.
Economic liberalism plus social authoritarianism does not equal libertarianism. The idea is absurd.
The attempt of neo-cons to rebrand as libertarians must be continually challenged.
Nadine Dorries, the MP who lied about where she lives to claim her constituency home as her second home and get the taxpayer to pay for it, is tryng to be feminine and vulnerable and make us feel sorry for her. The atmosphere at Westminster is so gloomy, she tells Radio 4, that everyone fears a suicide.
Well, Westminster Bridge is very handy. Jump, you bastards, jump!
New Labour MP Ben Chapman is to retire at the next general election. Having stolen £15,000 from the taxpayer in exaggerated mortgage claims, let us hope Inspector Knacker retires him before that.
Chapman was a fellow retired member of the British diplomatic service, with a notably undistinguished career. As a former Commercial Counsellor in Beijing, Chapman remained a tireless worker against human rights in China, believing trade to be more important.
It is understood that, apart from spending more time with his money, Chapman is expecting to spend more time with his Chinese friends cashing in on his advocacy.
The thief Chapman would of course have been retired by the voters anyway. I will offer 10/1 against New Labour holding Wirral South at the next election.
I watched Obama’s speech about national security live today. There were parts which were much better than anything I ever expected to hear from any American Presiident. Like this:
I know some have argued that brutal methods like water-boarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence, I bear responsibility for keeping this country safe, and I reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counter-terrorism efforts ?” they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.
There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world. Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law. Indeed, part of the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first place was the misplaced notion that a prison there would be beyond the law ?” a proposition that the Supreme Court soundly rejected. Meanwhile, instead of serving as a tool to counter-terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.
So the record is clear: rather than keep us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. That is why I argued that it should be closed throughout my campaign. And that is why I ordered it closed within one year.
All of which was simply great, and what a huge improvement! At last there seems to be some intelligence and common sense applied.
But from the rest of his speech, it appeared military tribunals will resume, detainees will not in fact have access to normal judicial institutions, and some will continue to be detained without trial.
Most of all, how can he understand that torture and Guantanamo recruit for terrorism, but not understand that bombings of civilian areas in Southern Afghanistan recruit for terrorism?
It is something of a conundrum, whether Obama is a good man hemmed in, or whether he is simply a better salesman for US military dominance than the last one. Having watched him today, I am inclined to give him some further credit.
Having been defeated by the Gurkhas in the Courts and in the Commons, having fought against rights for Gurkhas for years, Gordon Brown is now doing a photocall with them and with Joanna Lumley in the hope of getting good publicity out of his climbdown.
Not only is Gordon Brown sick, he thinks we are all stupid.
Headline news is that four gullible black men have been arrested in New York by the FBI, after an agent provocateur operation presuaded them to try and blow up a synagogue and “Shoot down military aircraft”.
The FBI say they are a “homegrown” cell of four with no outside links to terror organisations. The FBI agent provocateur helpfully suggested targets to them and offered to provide them with weapons and equipment. There can never have been a more blatant example of a “Terror threat” generated by the authorities.
Obama of course desperately needed a terror threat to justify his stunning U turns. He is keeping Guantanamo open, continuing fake “trial” military tribunals there, continuing to bar detainees there from UK courts as “non-persons”, continuing the use of evidence from waterboarding and other torture, continuing spying on his own people under the Patriot Act, continuing extraordinary rendition, and refusing to release the photographic evidence of the torture.
Hard to justify all that, given the limited evidence of a real terror threat. But, Hey! Now we have the “Groom a Terrorist” programme. Find four angry and frustrated black men, tell them they can blow things up and offer to give them the means.
The FBI spokesman said the “Leader” of the group (strikes me the leader was the agent provocateur) was motivated by “Anger at the deaths in Afghanistan caused by the US military.” There could not be a more complete rebuttal of the nonesense uttered by both Brown and Obama, that we have to fight in Afghanistan to keep us safe at home.
As Manchester United prepare to face Barcelona in the Champions League Final, here are two aspects of the Barca colours.
Thierry Henry in Barca Colours
Muzaffar Avazov in Barca colours
Muzaffar Avazov is one of two dissidents who were boiled alive by the Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov. I investigated the case as British Ambassador with the assistance of the now chief pathologist of the UK. There is no doubt that death was caused by immersion in boiling liquid, while Avazov was a prisoner in Karimov’s notorious Jaslyk gulag. Karimov has over 10,000 political prisoners.
Uzbekistan is perhaps the most brutal dictaotrship in the world, but Barcelona receive $10 million a year to promote the Karimov regime and the propaganda “Show club” owned by the President’s daughter.
Anyone supporting Barcelona next week is supporting fascism.
So for offering to change legislation for cash, and then for lying to the committee investigating it with a story they called “Wholly implausible”, Lord Scumbag Taylor of Blackburn has been suspended for a whole six months – for 50% of which the Lords is on holdiay anyway!!
It is another symptom of the failure of the Establishment to understand that the public really are furous at their easy tolerance of corruption among their number.
Taylor has been doing this for years, making millions of pounds as a “Consultant” and “Director” for numerous companies which depend on government contracts, particularly in the defence industry, but he also has a major financial interest in the government’s crazed authoritarian ID card scheme.
So in the autumn Taylor will be back in the Lords, peddling Jack Straw’s influence again.
It has been a comparatively good couple of days. While there is little justice, at least there is exposure of some of the criminals that this blog has been pursuing for years. Tessa Jowell paid off her mortgage – three times – with money given to her husband by Blair’s friend Berlusconi, as a reward for lying for him in court.
That is undoubtedly true, and has been again confirmed by Italian judges.
The fact that Jowell is still a minister is quite astonishing, and again says a great deal about New Labour’s toleration of corruption. She still maintains a pretence of having separated from Mills. Berlusconi is no doubt engaged in his normal bribery and threats of the Italian judiciary to keep Mills from having to serve his sentence. I do hope that he fails, and that the Jowells are genuinely separated, for the four and a half year jail term at least.
I was trying to register to vote at our new address today, but Ealing Borough Council’s website was down. So I telephoned them and got a recorded message saying they had been “forced to evacuate the building.” Presumably more than just a fire drill if the webiste is down.
Anyway, I was googling local news to see if I could find out why, and perhaps get a clue when they might reopen. I was saddened to come across this item
It seems someone was killed on this street – indeed very close to us – on the same day Cameron was born, which is a sad thought.
But like the neighbours quoted in the article, I had myself genuinely been puzzled by the higgledy-piggeldy conversions into flats of several houses on this street. Are there national standards on provision of fire escapes, or is it up to the local authority?
The memories of political commentators are short. It is remarkable how little the name of Elizabeth Filkin has featured in discussion of the current massive sleaze revelations.
The outcry against Commons sleaze at the end of the Major government led to a toughening up of regulation. The Blair government found this inconvenient, particularly when standards commissioner Elizabeth Filkin was investigating ministers Geoffrey Robinson, John Reid and Keith Vaz.
So Blair and Martin forced her out, replacing her with someone more compliant, on a markedly lower salary and with less resources to do the job.
The culture of sleaze and corruption did not accrue accidentally and innocently. It was entered into quite deliberately, and New Labour ruthlessly eliminated obstacles to corruption.
This is the BBC interview Filkin gave as she was forced out:
One particularly egregious abuse of MPs’ allowances is not covered by the interim measures Lord Martin-in-waitng announced yesterday as agreed by the party leaders.
The additional cost (or second home) allowance exists in theory to cover the extra cost to an MP of having to maintain a home in both their constituency and at Westminster.
But there is nothing preventing an MP from maintaining their main home somewhere else entirely, and then claiming a second home either in their constituency or in Westminster. Most of us expect to have to move to our place of work. MPs don’t have to do that.
This practice of having the main home somewhere else completely is apparently quite common. That must be true, because we have the word of the great Iain Dale for that (or Dorries Dale as he will henceforth be known here). He told us in a comment on this blog:
Craig, there are many MPs who don’t have their first homes in Westminster or in their constituencies. It can be for a number of reasons. In her case it was to do with her family.
I’ve made clear that if it was me I would have my main home in the constituency, as I promised in North Norfolk. But what is right for one individual might not be right for the other. Surely the point is that any claim on the taxpayer has to be for a consituency home or in Westminster. Margaret Moran’s was neither, which is why you were wrong to draw the analogy. Perhaps you’d be good enough to admit that.
Now it seems to me that, if people are stupid enough to elect an MP who won’t live in the constituency, we can’t stop that. But I can see no reason at all why the taxpayer should pay for a second home anywhere, for an MP who insists on having their main home neither in Westminster nor in their constituency.
(The case of Nadine Dorries is an example of this and in fact still worse. She did in fact have her main home in the constituency, but Nadine Dorries lied about it and pretended her main home is in the Cotswolds, in order to defraud the taxpayer of a great deal of money for her “Second home”).
This system of absentee MPs funded by the taxpayer is a major abuse and must be stopped immediately.
Consultant Dr Chris Burns Cox is among a group of three doctors and five nurses from the UK and Belgium, who are on hunger strike at the Rafah crossing into Gaza, after being prevented from crossing by the Egyptian government. Chris has been on five previous visits to Gaza to train medical staff.
Egypt is under huge pressure from the United States and Israel, but nevertheless plays a most shameful part in maintaining the Gaza prison ghetto. The ethnic cleansing and confinement of the Palestinians remains one of the great crimes of the last century, still unmitigated in this century. The prevention of medical staff from entering Gaza is indefensible.
I have been contacted direct from Rafah and informed that the British Embassy in Cairo is refusing to help with the Egyptian authorities, which sadly sounds all too typical of Milliband. I am trying now with some of my own diplomatic contacts.
As the secret trial of Aung San Suu Kyi proceeds, there is a hopelessness in the lack of any serious response from Western governments, and the week-kneed bleating of regional leaders in ASEAN. There is scarcely a ripple in the British blogosphere.
It is difficult to get a media handle on Burma. It does not fit with any of the prevailing narratives. There is no Islamic dimension . There is no continuing communist dimension. There is not even an internal ethnic divide. It is simply a question of a military dictatorship hanging on to power for the personal profit of its leaders, and its own institutional entrenchment. The military now absorbs an astonishing 40% of the country’s wealth.
The people of Burma already suffer from spiralling poverty. The international community should agree on a complete ban on all imports from Burma. The military will only give up their hold on power if dictatorship is impoverishing them. Of course this means more hardship for the population – but many of them are at subsistence already.
After Blackburn, I had promised never to put myself again through the horrors of standing as an independent parliamentary candidate. But the sleazthat has been revealed is only a symptom of the moral laxity and low quality of our MPs, as revealed in their endorsement of illegal war, torture, curtailment of civil liberties, the Ponzi scheme economy… I could go on.
But where to stand? After Blackburn, I refuse to stand in any constituency that does not contain at least one bookshop. Nobody can comprehend the true disaster of the collapse of our public education system, without going to Blackburn. No wonder New Labour have to collect in their postal ballots and fill them in for them.
I had pretty well resolved to raise the anti-sleaze banner against Douglas Hogg, but he seems to have run away already. Of course, by-elections may alter the equation, but otherwise I should be interested to hear any suggestions.
Tim Ireland, incidentally, has done Nadine Dorries up like a kipper.
Michael Martin was a rotten speaker, pushed into the job by New Labour because he is the loyalist’s loyalist, having never shown any evidence that he can think. He was never qualified for the job in any way.
But the sight of the troughing toffs ganging up to make a ritual sacrifice of a pleb in the hope that the news agenda will then “move on”, is deeply unedifying.
If this were sufficient of a constitutional crisis for the extreme measure of sacking a Speaker, it is certainly sufficient for the resignation as MPs of the worst individual troughers.
A general election will be best. But unless there are at the very least several by-elections, the MPs who pressured Martin to go will be revealed as simple hypocrites and scapegoat-tetherers.
I was reviewing my evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. The Committee’s main preoccupation was whether receipt of intelligence you know comes from torture, makes you complicit in that torture in terms of the UN Convention Against Torture. I seemed, at least to myself, the only person who was morally outraged at torture. The question troubling the Committee was, can the government, legally, get away with it?
This, from the uncorrected transcript, is part of their questioning of me on this point:
Mr Murray: I think the essence of the government’s position is that if you receive intelligence material from people who torture, be it CIA waterboarding, or torture by the Uzbek authorities or anywhere else, you can do so ad infinitum knowing that it may come from torture and you are still not complicit.
Q77 Dr Harris: The government say that they condemn the use of torture, do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture and work hard to eradicate it, but they also say in their response to our report on the UN Convention Against Torture: “#Our rejection of the use of torture is well known by our liaison partners. The provenance of intelligence received from foreign services is often obscured as intelligence and security services, even where they share intelligence, rarely share the details of their sources. All intelligence received from foreign services is carefully evaluated. Where it is clear that the intelligence is being obtained from individuals in detention the UK agencies make clear to foreign services the standards which they expect them to comply with.” That does not say what you think it ought to say, but do you accept that their position is different from yours and that their current position is consistent with what Sir Michael Wood essentially said?
Mr Murray: Their position remains the one outlined by Sir Michael Wood, and it was put to me that if we received intelligence from torture we were not complicit as long as we did not do the torture ourselves or encouraged it. I argue that we are creating a market for torture and that there were pay-offs to the Uzbeks for their intelligence co-operation and pay-offs to other countries for that torture. I think that a market for torture is a worthwhile concept in discussing the government’s attitude.
Q78 Dr Harris: In your evidence you assert that Jack Straw himself as foreign secretary endorsed Sir Michael Wood’s view set out in that memorandum?
Mr Murray: Yes.
Q79 Dr Harris: That would not be a surprise in a sense given the government’s position that the Wood memorandum is at least consistent if not congruent with the government’s then, and presumably currently, position?
Mr Murray: What you say about the government’s position is true, but it has done everything possible to disguise its position. I received an email from the Bishop of Bath and Wells who had written to a government minister to say he was worried about the possibility that we were using intelligence from torture as highlighted by the Binyam Mohamed case. He got the reply that was always given which was to refer to the first part of the government’s position that you cited – the bit about condemning torture unreservedly – but not the second part. The government do not volunteer the fact that they very happily accept this information. I make it absolutely plain that I am talking of hundreds of pieces of intelligence every year that have come from hundreds of people who suffer the most vicious torture. We are talking about people screaming in agony in cells and our government’s willingness to accept the fruits of that in the form of hundreds of such reports every year. I want the Joint Committee to be absolutely plain about that.
And this is Philippe Sands questioned on the same point:
Q77 Dr Harris: You describe Lord Bingham’s words as providing a small opening to enable the government to come up with a position, but is it not the case that the government has leapt through it and relied very much on that approach? The 2008 annual report of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on human rights published in March 2009 says: “The use of intelligence possibly derived through torture presents a very real dilemma given our unreserved condemnation of torture and our efforts to eradicate it. Where there is intelligence that bears on threats to life we cannot reject it out of hand. What is quite clear however is that the information obtained as a result of torture would not be admissible in any criminal or civil proceedings in the UK.” They are just saying that is the position and they rely on that. They do not have to work very hard to do that, do they?
Professor Sands: In a sense they are fudging; they are expressing a commonsensical position. You get the odd bit of information that has been provided under torture. It provides information that may head off some serious attack. What do you do? Do you just ignore it? They are saying no. But what they are not addressing is whether or not there is a policy of systematic reliance on such information.
Q78 Dr Harris: What I have just read out is consistent with Lord Bingham’s judgment in your view.
Professor Sands: It may be. What I do not know is the factual background against which that is written. I have information about what is in the public domain. I have access to certain information through my professional practice as a barrister which for reasons you understand I cannot address in this forum. If they are talking about a very limited piece or pieces of information that may be one thing. It is quite another thing, if we take the scenario of those words, to imagine a situation in which Her Majesty’s Government engaged in an arrangement with a country that was known to torture in a widespread way and turned a blind eye to what was going on and received all the information but did not participate physically in the torture. I do not think Lord Bingham had that in mind.
Q79 Dr Harris: But what Mr Murray described as a schizophrenic approach could arise where they worked to stop torture. Let us take the instance of the government being merely a passive recipient of information but they know that it may well have been obtained under torture because they know it happens. They have no intention to use it in any proceedings, to comply with the judgment in A & Ors, but it may be stuff that they feel they are entitled to according to the bit of Lord Bingham’s speech that you read out. They will not know in advance; they cannot say, “Give the information to us next April because we think that it will contain information about a bomb in the House of Commons.” Is it not the case that, even though in Mr Craig’s words it seems schizophrenic, by being merely a passive recipient as long as they do everything else to stop it that is a consistent and possibly lawful policy given the case law provided by the House of Lords decision to which you have alluded?
Professor Sands: I do not think I can give a better answer than the one I have given. It might be depending on the particular facts, the regularity of the flow of information and the context in which the information arrived. I take your point, but perhaps I may turn it around a slightly different way. I have set out the criteria that I believe need to be met on the basis of case law and practice to determine when complicity arises. Essentially, there are three factors. First, there must be knowledge that torture is or is likely to take place.
Q80 Chairman: Does that include constructive knowledge?
Professor Sands: I think it would. In my view turning a blind eye in the face of overwhelming evidence would constitute knowledge for the purposes of the Committee Against Torture. Second – this is the crucial issue ?” there is a contribution by way of assistance. The question then becomes: at what point does the regular receipt of information that is known to have been obtained by torture amount in some way to a contribution? It depends on the factual scenario against which that happens. The third element is some material or substantial effect on the perpetration of the crime. If you go through those three elements you can begin to see a situation in which one-off accidental reliance on information would be in one category but systematic reliance on such information in the circumstances of knowledge of the background to an ongoing relationship with another state might well cross the line into complicity.
Q81 Chairman: It is the contribution by way of assistance that has a substantial effect on the perpetration of the crime, so those are two of the three elements in the wording you identify in the ICTY judgment. I have no wish particularly to defend the government, but in a legal sense it is hard to see why passive receipt – I shall come on to receipt with gratitude – via an email box that you do not close, even with knowledge that torture is taking place and the rest of your embassy is saying, “Don’t torture”, is in itself is contribution by way of assistance or that it has a substantial effect on the perpetration of the crime, because the fact that you are receiving it passively is not the reason they are doing it, is it?
Professor Sands: That would appear to be what Lord Bingham had in mind in the passage I read out, but what I am suggesting is that you must distinguish between different situations. There is a world of difference between the one-off receipt of information that comes into your mailbox and a relationship that is premised on regular, systematic, continual reliance against the background of a broader relationship between two sovereign entities.
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In sending in my corrections and clarifications, it occurred to me that the correct analogy with material from torture must be child porn. Child abuse is indeed a form of torture. It is abuse of the helpless. If you possess child pornography, you are viewed as guilty even if you had no part in making it. The law takes the view that you have encouraged the act by creating the market for the material, and that you must be depraved to want it. It seems to me that is all precisely true also of torture. And remember that in Uzbekistan, torture of children in front of parents was indeed one of the techniques used to get the “Intelligence”.
So try substituting “child abuse” for “torture” in the committee’s deliberations, and the argument about just how much Ministers may seebefore they are complicit in its production, takes on a whole new light.
I have included this argument in my comments on the transcript sent to the committee yesterday.