Lib Dem Ministers Complicit in Torture 132

Nothing has changed. Under the Lib/Con coalition, MI6 continue to receive intelligence obtained through torture abroad, and Lib Dem ministers will be seeing intelligence obtained from hellish torture chambers in Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and numerous other capitals.

That was plain from yesterday’s speech by MI6 head John Sawers – despite the near unanimous complicity of the mainstream media in forwarding the smokescreen of anti-torture spin.

But it is a thin smokescreen indeed. These are Sawers’ key words:

“Suppose we received credible intelligence that might save lives, here or abroad. We have a professional and moral duty to act on it. We will normally want to share it with those who can save those lives.”

Sir John said the UK’s security service had a duty to ensure any partner service would respect human rights but admitted this was “not always straightforward”.

He said: “Yet if we hold back and don’t pass that intelligence, out of concern that a suspect terrorist may be badly treated, innocent lives may be lost that we could have saved.

“These are not abstract questions just for philosophy courses or searching editorials, they are real, constant operational dilemmas. Sometimes there is no clear way forward. The more finely-balanced judgments have to be made by ministers themselves.”

Now parse that very carefully. It says we do receive intelligence from torture, and we know we do. It says this happens all the time – “real constant

operational dilemmas” – and that the decisions to receive intelligence from torture have specifically been approved by ministers. That means Lib Dem ministers are complicit in this policy.

As a former member of the FCO senior management structure I can tell you for certain that Sawers’ speech will have been cleared with William Hague and with Jeremy Browne, the Lib Dem so-called human rights minister, who as I pointed out just yesterday made a speech on foreign policy to the Lib Dem conference in Liverpool devoid of any liberal sentiment and almost devoid of any reference to human rights.

The policy of obtaining – constantly, as John Sawers says – intelligence from torture abroad is precisely the same as that I protested about under New Labour, which protest led to the end of my career. Everything in the documents I have published is precisely consistent with the policy Sawers enumerates now.

The truth about torture is poor Mr Avazov, who was boiied alive (quite literally) in the Jaslyk torture chambers in Uzbekistan.


It is the old man I met who had his children tortured before his eyes until he admitted false family ties with al-Qaida. It is the woman raped with the broken bottle, It is the lady who lived opposite me whose father was blinded as a political prisoner, and who was held down while a truck was run over her legs. All of that and thousands more did not stop the government, despite my profound objections as Ambassador, from accepting intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers via the CIA.

John Sawers relies on the “ticking bomb” fallacy – the idea that torture happens to real terrorists and they give precise timely information to avert an imminent threat. That is a Hollywood scenario. There has never ever been a real life example that meets the ticking bomb cliche.

We encourage torture, we create a market for it, by accepting its fruits. The regimes who pass us this intelligence know we accept it, and they feel supported and reinforced in their abuse of human rights. Why would they take Western rhetoric seriously on human rights when they know we lap up the products of their torture chamber?

Remember the torturers are not altruists but agents of very nasty regimes. The information passed to us by those regimes is not for our good, but for the good of those regimes – and normally to convince us that the opponents of those regimes are all terrorists, whether true or not. In Uzbekistan, every bit of intelligence we could verify from the Embassy, eg on terrorist training camps in named locations in the hills, turned out to be untrue. Yet the intelligence services lapped up the Uzbek information because it greatly exaggerated the strength of al-Qaida in Central Asia, thus providing a spurious justification for our support of Central Asian dictators, whose help we wanted for our Afghan policy and for access to their hydrocarbons.

Torture does not get you the truth. It gets you what the torturer wants to hear. People will say anything, as their arm is held in boiling liquid, to make the pain stop. The regimes who do this do not hold truth as a high priority.

The torture material regularly received by the UK government is from countries where the vast, overwhelming majority of the people tortured are not terrorists at all but merely dissidents from abhorrent regimes. I speak from first hand knowledge.

Sawers sets up a number of Aunt Sallies. We do not torture ourselves or ask for people to be tortured. We do not hand people over to be tortured – but he omits to mention that the CIA, who share all intelligence with MI6, do. His speech is ridden with hypocrisy and should be deplored.

I was most happy to have had the chance to speak in the Lib Dem conference debate on UK complicity in torture. If Jeremy Browne had an honest bone in his pusillanimous body, given the policy he is following in office, he and other Lib Dem Minsters would have opposed the motion. Instead they are pursuing a directly opposite policy hidden behind precisely the same obfuscations used by New Labour.

I accuse Nick Clegg of complicity in torture. I am beginning to wonder whether the man has any connection to liberalism at all.

132 thoughts on “Lib Dem Ministers Complicit in Torture

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  • technicolour

    “For the record, there is no legal, moral, ethical or practical ban on scrutinising information, and where appropriate acting on it, regardless of the way it has originally been obtained or is suspected to have been obtained.”

    Again, like Charles Crawford, you seem to make Craig’s point for him. Although your concept of morality and ethics is obviously somewhat different.

  • Nextus

    Thank you, Brian Barder, for engaging in rational debate. However, I’d like to draw your attention to the hasty assumptions which both undermine your critique and reveal your true sympathies.

    The “juxtaposition” on which you base your accusations of calumny was in fact taken directly from the BBC report on Sawers’s speech. Read it yourself at

    You will notice in the direct quotation from Sir John the statements occur in precisely the order I cited, in an unbroken passage of directly quoted speech. The passage begins with “Torture is illegal and abhorrent”, and ends with “can save those lives” – with no intervening closing quotation marks. If the BBC reporter has falsely juxtaposed the text, please take the issue up with the BBC. Whatever the cause, it’s unlikely to have been an engineered attempt to support Craig Murray.

    In that light your rant about the intention to misrepresent and deceive fades away into nothing. What it does reveal, however, is that you are exceptionally keen to seize upon any triviality to try to undermine criticism of Sir John Sawers’s speech (including the highlighting of typos, a tactic favoured by people in the grip of a critical frenzy) and portray it as evidence of perfidy. “But that is quite simply untrue”, you howl. “This is argument by sleight-of-hand.” Excuse me, Brian, but it seems to me that this accusatory rhetoric is designed to push your own (untrue) assumptions to the fore and thus to manipulate opinion by misrepresentation. Calumny, indeed, sir.

    You go on: “Similarly, those who (presumably deliberately) misrepresent Sawers’s speech by juxtaposing what are in fact separate and unrelated extracts from it have some pretty awkward questions to answer.” Sorry, what are those awkward questions, exactly? I don’t see that the juxtaposition makes any semantic difference, or that it affects my analysis. There are no indexicals or prepositions that would change the context of the latter statement. So what exactly are you objecting to?

    I note you were exceptionally eager to air your analysis, posting it multiple times, protesting about it being blocked, and reposting it on another site. Your enthusiasm is admirable. I’m sorry if this riposte undermines your hypercritical fervour. But please take the issue up with the BBC. And then return to the serious moral issues.

    In general, Brian, you don’t seem sufficiently appraised of Craig’s moral argument concerning the market for torture. Or if you are, you are deliberately omitting it in order to misrepresent the ethical pitfalls of receiving tainted intelligence.

    And, like Crawford, by reiterating what Sawers said you are reiterating the explicit message he wanted to convey, which we already know. As you say, “Constant repetition of half-truths, misrepresentations and downright untruths doesn’t make them valid or reputable.” So why are you simply repeating them? It’s not hard to establish why Sawers wants us to accept his narrative. However, the flaws and inconsistencies in his message are rather more telling, and should be included in the political debate. That’s what Craig’s message was drawing attention to. Sadly, you and Charles are still missing the point.

  • Tim B

    “In general, Brian, you don’t seem sufficiently appraised of Craig’s moral argument concerning the market for torture.”

    I’m not quite sure I see the force of that argument either. What kind of a market is that? Not a real one, presumably, assuming that we don’t pay the security services of the foreign torturing country? Maybe you could expand on that, and possibly while you’re at it you could also address the possible consequences – in terms of the reaction of the popular press and public opinion – of a British Home Secretary who, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the UK*, had to stand up in Parliament and admit that he/she had received detailed information about when and where it was going to take place, but chose not to act on that information due to ‘moral considerations’.

    * I know most commentors on this site believe that all terrorism is in fact false-flag attacks carried out by shadowy New World Order actors, but just go along with me for the sake of argument.

  • crab

    “Sawers’s statement that there is a clear duty to act on information assessed as likely to be reliable if doing so may lead to the prevention of terrorist or other crimes is clearly and undeniably true, just as any assertion to the contrary is self-evidently absurd. Expressions of disgust and anger about it say more about those who voice them than about the security and intelligence services or about ministers.”

    Mr Barder, you should not demean Craig’s message that the heaps of tortured confessions from Uzbek Gulags which our services where politically instructed to recieve and which he was politically instructed not to interfere with, because of important “wot” relationships -where not *reliable* And besides that the whole scene was dispicably inhumane.

    It could be argued that Craig’s interpretation of the statement is frustrated and jaded, with so much of it reading as comfortably as one could expect… (from a PR statement on the about page of an organisations recruitment site)

    But you gave complete benefit of doubt to the script, which Craig has serious experience to doubt.

    Your correction in the order of nextus quoting was quite trivial. And the repeat suggestions that your criticism may have been censored from the blog were hapless and embarassing to freindly relations.

  • technicolour

    Tim B: Lovely hypothetical scenario. Of course we should run things based on the likely reactions of the ‘popular press’. What the public thinks doesn’t usually matter a damn (viz cuts), however, so that part doesn’t work quite so well.

    Also liked the sarky inverted commas around moral considerations. Do you not think there are such things?

  • nextus

    Hi Tim. “I’m not quite sure I see the force of that argument either. What kind of a market is that? Not a real one, presumably, assuming that we don’t pay the security services of the foreign torturing country?”

    The “market” is a trade metaphor denoting a system of rewards and co-operation with a regime that engages in practices that are nefarious and illegal under international law. The Uzbek dictatorship is indeed richly rewarded by Western states, in trade agreements and other sanctions, and part of the perceived return from this relationship is the transmission of information credibly believed to have been extracted under torture. You can expand the moral argument and write the essay yourself.

    That essay should explore the dilemma of acting on information already received. This can’t be dealt with glibly, I agree. But it’s worth point out that in order to avoid duplicity, the UK government should investigate and condemn torturous methods ?” but presently it is turning a blind eye, and trying to argue for its legal right to do, which is morally repugnant.

    Another factor that would have to be considered is the reliability of the information thus procured. Craig claims it’s “dross”; others, including Charles, dispute this. Unfortunately, with MI6 refusing to divulge any actual instances, the argument remains theoretical, and the issue of motives for providing false information in return for trade and contracts is highly relevant to the evaluation.

    There was a proposal for a public debate about this issue some time ago; I’d like to see that happen.

  • anno

    If these FCO tarts had any principles, the UK should be fighting a war against Karimov in Uzbekistan because of his human rights abuses, and to send a message to other dictators not to do the same.

    Instead of which they, the UK, are fighting a deadly war against a group of Muslims whom they have not yet succeeded in either invading or brain-washing as they have previously done in the Arabic speaking nations.

    The excuse for the war was a false flag operation 9/11.

    This despicable class of well-educated British politicians deny even that they are politicians. And it goes on from there. If they can’t even tell the truth about themselves, that their job is international politics, it is obvious that they cannot tell the truth about anything else.

    For chaps who speak many languages, with their different syntax and order of sentence formation, the order in which the points of an argument appear, should be irrelevant. In rhetoric, juxtaposition of ideas is a normal tool of expression and the context is understood by the grouping together of many thoughts, so that the meaning is clear despite complexity. Who would listen to a speech which was spelt out word for every bleeding word?

    Craig’s word parsing may be inappropriate if the sentences were jumbled up by the BBC. But the underlining meaning of Mr Sawers words are the same in spite of this trivia.

    Nobody contributing to this blog would believe that our security forces were capable of false flag operations if

    1/ the false flag operations of our ‘allies’ Israel and the US were not well known. The Israelis are well-known for having planted a car bomb outside their embassy in London a few years ago.

    2/The recent war in Iraq did not produce fresh, confirmed eye-witness accounts of false flag operations performed by UK and US forces to inflame a sectarian divide. 3/ The UK’s record in Northern Ireland wasn’t starting to unravel in front of our very eyes.

    So, shut up you silly velvet-collared mongooses from the cesspit of the FCO. In the new internet world, your dirty machinations have been exposed!

  • technicolour

    “There was a proposal for a public debate about this issue some time ago; I’d like to see that happen.”

    Yes, agree.

  • technicolour

    I mean, I’d like to see someone arguing the case for accepting evidence from tortured people, in front of an audience of careworkers, for example.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I think Liam Fox would be an ideal candidate. Or Con Coughlin. How about that? Get the non-leaders, non-rulers whose salaries we pay and who call themselves ‘The Government’ (and ‘C’ and ‘M’), one-by-one, into a day-room in a Residential Home, get them to justify the use of torture (with pictures) before a panel of care-workers and residents.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    It is important to remember that what happened to the man in the picture which rightly dominates and defines this thread is exactly what the SIS and their spambots and trolls are supporting and facilitating.

    Black prisons, kidnapping and torture, mass murder, sowing discord, setting-up terrorist cells, false flag operations, psy-ops, I-ops, wet jobs, harassment, framing innocent people…

    So, next time anyone sees a fake spambot or a troll posting, have an image in your mind of the dead man in the picture at the top of this thread. And of his mother.

  • Castors

    Sir John said the UK’s security service had a duty to ensure any partner service would respect human rights but admitted this was “not always straightforward”.

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