At Last A Torture Inquiry 48

Finally David Cameron has announced that there will be an inquiry into British government complicity in torture. It will not start until a number of civil and criminal proceedings by individuals who claim they have been tortured have been resolved – which David Cameron appears to believe will be later this year, but we can’t know that.

Unlike the Chilcott Inquiry, the personnel of this inquiry are not obviously packed with supporters of the government view. I am somewhat concerned that Sir Peter Gibson, who has been Intelligence Services Commissioner for some years, can be viewed as parti pris. If the intelligence services were seriously misbehaving throughout his time as Commissioner, is he not being asked to judge whether he himself has been negligent?

But Dame Janet Paraskeva, head of the civil service commissioners, and Peter Riddell are genuinely independent minded people. Let us hope Sir Peter Gibson can be too.

But what we don’t have is the terms of reference of the inquiry. These are absolutely crucial. Nothing in David Cameron’s statement precluded the possibility that it will, as the intelligence services wish, simply look at individual cases of victims and assess compensation for them, without considering the existence of an overarching ministerially approved policy to use intelligence from torture.

I remain deeply concerned that individual junior MI5 and MI6 officers will be punished, while Tony Blair and Jack Straw plus the very senior officials like Lord Jay and Sir Richard Dearlove, who were responsible for setting the policy, will get off scot free.

It is still by no means sure that the inquiry will even be permitted to consider this aspect. I remain doubtful that I will be able to give my own evidence of ministerial policy of complicity with torture.

You can see the documents supporting that evidence here:

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48 thoughts on “At Last A Torture Inquiry

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  • somebody

    Heard it on the 6 pm news.

    Congratulations Craig. Finally you will be vindicated and the besmirchment of you good name will be seen for what it was, a nasty NuLabour smear and cover up.

    Well done indeed.

  • Malcolm Pryce

    I understand your hesitancy, it may turn out to be a toothless piece of window-dressing. And yet… To see the Coalition address issues such as this and the New Labour assault on civil liberties is like waking up from a bad dream. Let’s be cautiously optimistic.

  • Ishmael

    I’d like to hear it. The whole lot. I want them to go over everything slowly.

  • Clark

    The policy of approval of torture probably started in Washington. In the UK, we need the evidence that shows who it was that decided that UK policy should follow that of the US.

  • Chris Dooley

    It seems most of the evidence regarding the internal security services matters will be held in closed session. But to his credit, Mr Hague has allowed all alledged victims, their representatives, Human Rights organisations and suchlike to have their say in public.

    It’s looking quite hopefull for you getting your information made public.

  • mark golding

    I lost trust in Sir Peter Gibson after he said vital details from telephone intercepts giving intelligence about the Omagh bombing were passed on “promptly and fully” and in accordance with proper procedures.

    It was known that intelligence officers based at GCHQ had monitored the bombers’ phone calls, but had failed or refused to pass information to RUC detectives hunting the killers in the days following the attack.

    “Sir Peter Gibson, as Intelligence Services Commissioner, is unable to confirm or deny whether any such transcripts or recordings exist, although he did confirm in his summary report that republican terrorists in 1998 were well aware that phone calls might be tapped and took care to speak in code and not to use their names. He also said that voice identification of those involved in any call was not precise.[22] In his opening statement to us, he said that his summary maintained the “usual practice” adopted by those who for national security reasons cannot confirm or deny a particular allegation.[23] He also warned that anything he said could not be interpreted as denial or otherwise.”

    So folks the terms will be narrow as in the Omagh inquiry when Sir Gibson had no reference to the bombing gang mid 1997 – onwards.


  • technicolour

    I’m pretty sure that last time I heard this debated by politicians (Milliband was ‘giving evidence’; I did a bit of a transcript on this site but can’t find it) one large Conservative tubthumpingly asked for the assurance that the government wouldn’t hesitate to use torture if the safety of its citizems was at stake. I have a horrible feeling this was greeted with approval.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Mark, thanks, sadly I agree with you. They’ll probably collar the Facilities Maintenance Technician (sorry, that’s ‘Cleaner’ to you and me) at the Terry Farrell building for it. But tell me, why do you think GCHQ refused to pass on the information to the RUC?

  • Richard the 2nd

    I got the impression from Channel 4 news tonight that the terms of the inquiry were to be very narrow and just focused on the cases of individuals who had been held at Guantanamo. Also it will only go ahead on the basis of them dropping any civil action they are pursuing against the Government.

  • doug scorgie

    Come on Craig; Sir Peter Gibson is a safe pair of hands for the Security Services; he proved that in his Omagh/Panarama inquiry. Also, this will not be an inquiry that will determine criminality, it may apportion blame and, as you say, some junior officers will likely be sacrificed. Although Gibson is described in the media as a Judge; the inquiry is not to be a Judicial inquiry where witnesses will be swearing an oath and liable to perjury charges and, just like the Iraq inquiry, will be another Whitehall whitewash. Don’t get too excited about it.

    Doug Scorgie

  • marcus

    Wow another inquiry.

    Just love the new format, for washing away guilt and finding none of the instigators of the policies getting punished.

    Good old Blightey rewrites history again.

  • ingo

    Doug, I’m a safer pair of hands, and I can dig holes with it, swallowing up all sorts of things one would not want to see coming back to the surface.

    This inquieries main purpose seems to be

    a) to offer shut up money to the tortured ex detainess for dropping their cases alltogether and forever.

    b)As important, to see that this inquiery is ‘being done’, so at later dates, when other related material and evidence comes out, one can stanmd up and say ‘as was already mentioned in our inquiery on torture….blah blah blah’ Until the media leaves it out of the picture.

    I hope that all ex detainees, who know that there are still incarcerated victims of this self perpetuating war on terror machine, somehwere, on prison ships in Diego Garcia, in Bagram C and in Gunatanamo, who are coerced against their will and by means thst constitute torture, I very much hope that they will reject the silver talers offered and want to speak out.

    I also hope that this inquiery will not take it out on them, that they are not going to find themselves cross examined ‘to bits’feeling pressured and unwilling to take part in any future inquiery that does not set predetermined agendas.

    If this inquiery does not take the state of mind of those who were tortured into account, then we know what its aims are.

    Hope and action is all there’s left.

  • sandcrab

    At least it is official confirmation that reports of complicity in torture is now something worth holding an enquiry over, opposed to Blair and Straw’s direction that it is a necessary evil to be quietly accommodated.

  • Anonymous


    GCHQ I believe were reluctant to reveal multilateration was being used to locate (within 30m) the location of a 2G mobile and their ability to switch the mic on to pick up nearby conversations. Britain is very sensitive about privacy and the mobile network is constantly under surveillance by GCHQ HUMINT and word recognition software.

    I believe the mobile network was NOT shut down by police in the immediate aftermath of the London bombings because *mobile phones were being monitored and tracked* by GCHQ interception.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Thanks, Mark. Much appreciated. So, they didn’t want their methods to be revealed in open court.

    I’ve sometimes wondered about all that; the walls have ears. So, if I were to switch on my mobile and intone the word, ‘Rosebud’ a million times…?

    It could be construed as a code, in bcakwards C3rd Syriac, for “Hypnotise Geoff Hoon!”

  • Richard Robinson

    “So, if I were to switch on my mobile and intone the word, ‘Rosebud’ a million times”

    [Evil grin] Prosecution for “wasting police time” ? “We’ve been listening to his phone conversations and it’s just not useful”.

  • Just a Japanese

    I am a Japanese man from Japan and I am very happy for you, Ambassador. This new development means that you didn’t experience the hard time for nothing.

    Sure, the coming public inquiry may be just an attempt to whitewash all the torture scandals. But, who knows? That whitewashing may backfire those who try to do so, one way or another. Although belatedly, it is better to have an inquiry (or two, three…). It is a start.

    I live in Asia in the Far East but I never knew what was going on in the Central Asian countries (Central Asia is very far from the Far East actually) until I read an internet report about a British Ambassaor to Uzbekistan called Craig Murray who allegedly lost his job because of his opposition to the local torturers. It is many years ago now…

    I have to wonder if the common Japanese people know now that the UK government will have a public inquiry into the torture and rendition programme in the Central Asia. This is because, since a few months ago, some Japanese magazines and (one) TV show have been telling the public here that our Japanese government has been bribing the large Japanese media (such as TVs and newspapers) and their senior staff all the time… The Economist magazine apparently wrote a little about this scandal recently (I haven’t read it yet myself). Last week, a Japanese weekly magazine finally quoted a Japanese witness who left the NHK state TV that the systematic media corruption has been going on in Japan at least since the Eisaku Sato cabinets in the 1960s… Still, I hope the Japanese people will learn that the UK is to have the torture inquiry finally. 😉

    I have to agree that the British New Labour’s politics has been seriously disappointing to many people in today’s world. Their participation in the “humanitarian bombing” (?) of the former Yugoslavia in 1999 proved they were extremely “new”, too. …And Mr Blair has been losing hairs, apparently. Now he looks like a rich, filthy and ugly old man to me, unlike what they wanted to be when they first took office.

    Speaking about appearance, I watch your AFP clip (yes, this video looks like an unprofessional video as someone commented) and I can see Ambassador Murray looks “totally” different from Mr. Blair. 🙂 We all know what makes you look totally different from poor Mr. Blair (though he has tons of money). We can see that a man of money and power (like Mr. Blair) does not necessarily look good. I don’t think Mr. Blair is a happy man, either, despite his huge sum of money… But you look good even in the unprofessional video!

    Obviously, Mr. Blair and his company chose the easy and wrong path of life to get money and power but now he looks older and ugly.

    I am happy for you that you chose a right path of life. You have a good life indeed while Mr. Blair does not apparently.

    So, I guess the inquiry will be a fruitful event for you and many people in the world even if it is just a start.


  • mark golding

    Welcome Just a Japanese – yes Blair was seduced by blood money and now his life force is meaningless existing only as a cenotaph of Blasphemy, a demonicon to the inheritors of hell.

  • Jon

    Regarding voice-recognition, I wonder if you mention “Black Briar” enough times on the public comms network, will an American CIA int team dispatch a black ops assassin to take out the speaker?


  • TW

    ‘In October 1924 the MI5 intercepted a letter written by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union. The Zinoviev Letter urged British communists to promote revolution through acts of sedition. Vernon Kell, head of MI5 and Sir Basil Thomson head of Special Branch, told MacDonald that they were convinced that the letter was genuine.’

    ‘genuine’…I bet they did.

  • Dr Paul

    Just think of it: a year or so time, when David ‘Banana’ Miliband is there at the head of New Labour, this Tory-inspired enquiry reveals that he did know all about the torture of British citizens. He’ll be guilty of lying to Parliament, and his career as New Labour leader will be well and truly over.

    Moreover, the Tories will gain the moral higher ground in respect of civil liberties.

    Clever Tories…

  • Clark

    at July 7, 2010 2:57 PM,

    thanks for that. It was obvious that such manipulation of mobile ‘phones was theoretically possible, and I had wondered if the actual “back doors” had been built into the ‘phone software.

    “You’re never alone with a mobile ‘phone”

  • Clark


    note from “July 7, 2010 2:57 PM”; it’s not just the calls that can be monitored. The mouthpiece can be *activated remotely* to “pick up nearby conversations”. Presumably the same goes for the little camera.

    I wonder if it can still be done with the mobile “switched off”, which is really just a standby mode; I bet it can. Best to physically remove the battery if you want privacy.

    The capability must have been designed in by the manufacturers, and the activation codes must proceed across the cellphone network. Such close cooperation between corporatism and government. Many corporate employees must know of this, and yet we never hear of it.

    Of course, a knowledgeable employee could sell those codes for a lot of money. So I wonder who else could be listening or using our cameras?

    Support the Free Software Foundation:

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Clark, you’ve completely freaked me out with that quiet but deeply disturbing information – much welcomed, as always! I will now remove the battery from my mobile and will hit both ‘phone and battery with a large hammer and then will bury the fragments in a deep hole and will plant a thistle on the site.

    But wait… what if the thistle is genetically-modified… to listen and record just like those ‘spy-flies’ they’ve invented. Buzzzz….

  • sandcrab

    If your phone was controlled as listening device, it would run down the batteries as much as a normal call.

    It could perhaps be woken from standby mode at set times in the day or week, but not on demand, because if standby mode could listen out for commands, except at rare intervals, it would use power, and not really be standby mode, it could recieve messages too.

    Im not convinced mobiles can be practicaly used as bugging devices. I think if it was the case there would be some geeky writeups on particular models on the web by hacker /phreaker types. It would involve power efficiency and microphone capabilities considerably improved from the phones normal use. And since they are relatively young, competitive technology i doubt there are these secret extras.

    Also its easy enough to keep a phone muffled in pocket or case, or even sheilded from any signals in conductive material.

    Also phones with open source operating systems like android have very little chance of built in backdoors, except for virii.

  • Clark


    I’m not recommending trashing our mobiles, just that we be aware what they may be able to do, and that ultimately, they are products of the corporate world, and do its bidding rather than our own.


    yes, power usage would make itself noticeable. But… What if the back door permitted loading of software? If it was triggered by a hidden text message, that wouldn’t use much power. So say the mic comes on, saves to memory, compresses to MP3 or equivalent, cutting out silence, and then transmits as a burst. The first three are very low power activities. Transmission is the higher power, but still pretty low, especially if the software waits until it is near a base station, where it can transmit at minimum power, and the duration is kept short. And none of this uses the backlight, display, ringer or earpiece, three of which are the highest power functions, at a guess.

  • Clark

    And beware the “Open Source” ‘phones; I seem to remember reading that although the higher level software is open, on at least some of them the hardware drivers are proprietary.

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