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.

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132 thoughts on “Lib Dem Ministers Complicit in Torture

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  • Vronsky

    The effort of trying not to say ‘I told you so’ is going to give me a hernia. There is a serious disconnect between the attitudes of grass roots membership of the Lib Dems and the career politicians at the top of the tree – almost as severe as the same disconnect in the Labour Party, though in their case this has been dealt with by most of their members leaving.

    Here in Scotland, where we have already seen the LDs in power, your experience sadly causes no surprise. At the last Scottish parliamentary elections the LDs had an opportunity to implement most of their manifesto, on the straightforward basis that it mostly coincided with the SNP’s. Instead they chose opposition with Labour and the Tories, deserting their manifesto, their members and many of their supporters.

    There are new elections to the Scottish Parliament in just over 180 days. Here is an easy prediction: if Labour are the single largest party, they will be joined in coalition by the Lib Dems (there will be no sense of dissonance with that other coalition).

    You linked to the blog of a fellow ‘Liberal’ who said of university tuition fees:

    “In Scotland we – the Scottish Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Government – proudly abolished them (and agreed the graduate endowment). It was a matter of principle.”

    That ‘graduate endowment’ sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it – some sort of hand out to students? No, it was the new, marvellously Orwellian, name for – er – tuition fees.

    Tuition fees were abolished by the SNP government: not moved, not renamed – just abolished. So here’s another easy prediction. If (and God forbid) the next government in Scotland is Lab/Lib, your Liberal colleagues north of the border will support the re-introduction of tuition fees. For fun, you might try to get a promise out of them that they won’t. I don’t doubt that they will call it some new form of abolition, of course.

  • nextus

    Hypocrisy abounds. Just after declaring that “Torture is illegal and abhorrent under any circumstances and we have nothing whatsoever to do with it”, Sawer muses, “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.”

    So we have have a “moral duty” to act on evidence received via torture, if it’s “credible” and “might save lives”? Note that his justification is entirely hypothetical. If he quantified it, the argument would evaporate. The same logic is used for infringing civil liberties. We have just learned that over 101,248 people were stopped and searched under UK anti-terrorism laws, but NONE were arrested for anti-terrorism offences. What happens to the hypothetical argument with that strike rate?

    Talk of “duty” glosses over the human reality of torture. Do you know what it’s like to have someone standing over you ensuring there is no respite, and be unwilling to face the next 5 minutes of life. That blend of pain, despair and torment does not cohere with our everyday repertoire of emotional memories. Torture is only a word to most people, a simple concept like “pain”. I suggest you visit the torture museum in Amsterdam and imagine yourself in the place of the poor illiterates who could do nothing but succumb to the physical and mental horrors being inflicted on them.

    But hey, it’s alright if it “might save lives”. Rubberstamp that one; it sounds like something that ‘might’ be true. Keep the channels open and send them more cash and contracts. We wouldn’t want them to stop now, would we?

  • Anonymous

    Man im depressed already. Been looking into the dunblane masacre and Hollies campaign…..truly disgusting…..oh and by the way im talking about the investigations or should i say contrite BS

  • Katabasis

    “The effort of trying not to say ‘I told you so’ is going to give me a hernia. There is a serious disconnect between the attitudes of grass roots membership of the Lib Dems and the career politicians at the top of the tree”

    – Amen to that Vronsky. I’ve had a long history of haranguing the Lib Dems in Sheffield. Of course everyone wanted to believe in their nice fantasy right up until they actually took power. Here’s one example amongst many:

  • Uzbek in the UK

    It is huge shame that torture is being appreciated by the West. It is now clear that for the West Human Rights is just a curtain by which the most horrible political agendas are being forced, wars started, millions of people killed. In the past support for the dictators like Samosa, Sukharta, Pinichet and others was explained by the harsh reality of the Cold War and spreading of Communist ideology that was so ‘dangerous’, and that millions of innocent people were sacrificed in order to keep Capitalism alive and let it win. However; it has been 31 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and 29 years since the collapse of the USSR, but the support for the bloodies dictators is still being justified by the new ‘danger’- terrorism. More people die from gang crimes and drugs in Britain than on 7th July, but governments seems to be doing nothing to prevent this.

    On the other hand it is hard to imagine that Karimov will stop torturing people if CIA or MI6 stops accepting the evidence that was obtained under the torture. To stop torture in places like Uzbekistan more needs to be done. There is not a single mechanism to stop Human Rights violations, especially when it comes to the places that are being used by regional and global powers as a tool of their power projection. 2005 have openly demonstrated that sanctions and ban from the West for Karimov and his bloody dogs meant nothing as he found safety net in China and Russia. People like Karimov will always exist until we are able to clearly prioritise Human Rights over other political agendas, but this, I fear, will not happen in the next few hundred years. Karimov and others like him are doing dirty job for those who leave thousands miles away and getting richer by selling Uzbek cotton, gold, uranium etc. Karimov is a tool of neo-Imperialism, that is new ways of enslaving societies and states via the support of brutality of their dictators.

  • Sabretache

    Solid sobering gut-wrenching stuff Craig. An example of why I sincerely wish you well in your post-FCO career.

    I’m just baffled by the extent to which you still appear to believe there is ANY scope for worthwhile change through the mainstream party political system though. The triumph of hope over experience I guess. Left – Right / Tweedledum – Tweedledee. Can you not see that it makes no damned difference whatsoever? To quote Theodore Hertzl (not one of my favourite people but Zionist Machiavellian to the core and the origins of one of the most blinkered and viscious political creeds on the planet ) “We will lead every revolution against us”. Think about that – the whole issue explained in just seven words.

    Party politics serves its purpose – which is primarily to keep people fighting nasty little tribal battles over trivia and secondarily to throw up the necessary capable unprincipled Blair-like psychopaths required to front an often tricky PR task.(riches await such people and they know it eh?)

    There are dominant Deep State forces in play that serve entrenched dynastic powers with a largely common trans-national agenda . They moderate the art of the possible in ALL mainstream parties and are immune to any form of democratic accountability. It is simply not possible to achieve (or rather achieve and maintain) Privy-Council rank if those Deep State forces judge you to be any kind of credible threat to their agendas. Thus those who do achieve such rank find it impossible to admit what their salary, career, rank, position and place depend upon them NOT admitting. And if you attain serious influence in spite of such comprehensive and thorough vetting – in the manner of a Robin Cook or a Claire Short say – then they have a number of options which progressively run something like this:

    1. Co-opt

    2. Bribe/Persuade (prospect of a gong or an ermine collar – that sort of thing)

    2. Discredit

    3. Threaten

    4. Eliminate

    But all done in the best possible taste naturally.

    PS. I found it difficult to read that Sawyer speech to the end. Not even a moderately crafted example of Orwellian doublespeak. I was frankly surprised at how asinine it was. The guy looks a bit more intelligent than that – a good example of ‘skin-deep and deceptive’ I suppose.

  • mike cobley

    So in other words, we know that certain countries are blood-soaked dungeons and we’re happy for them to remain that way. Like some in the LDs I opposed the coalition from day one, and my worst fears have steadily, horribly come true. And its only going to get worse. As the weeks grind on and Clegg’s innate toryism becomes ever more obvious support will continue to drain away.

    If you want some idea of the bonkers right-liberalism which the leadership holds true, look up a piece called ‘The Liberal Republic’ by Richard Reeves – you can get from the DEMOS website. Reeves used to be the director of DEMOS and is now Clegg’s senior advisor. Reading it should also put paid to this weird meme going round that social democrats are to the right of (classic) liberals. Going back to the original Gang of Four, David Owen was the one who was most rightwing, while Jenkins and Williams were most certainly mainstream Labour (that is, 60s-70s Labour, which was essentially social democrat).

    But hey, I’ve no doubt that someone’ll come on and assert and insist that social democrats are a thoroughly bad lot. Meh – if that illusion gives you sustenance then chew away on it.

  • Ruth

    Sabretache, you are absolutely right. Politics is just a show to delude people they have a democracy. The leaders are carefully selected to tow the line, if not actual members of the intelligence services. They look good, they have excellent oratorical skills but their remit is to act as executive of the hidden government.

  • Anonymous

    on the up side (if there is one), imagine what the world would be like if we didnt have so many religious people around us….we would truly be fubared

  • Uzbek in the UK

    I am very much surprised of the fact that nobody seem to understand that it does not really matter who will be ruling party in the UK, who will be in the White House or hold majority in the Capitol Hill, torture and support for bloodiest dictators will go on.

    It is because those who are seemly powerful, in fact, serve interests of even ‘more powerful’, those who in fact elect those who are seemly powerful. Our votes worth nothing. Even if lib dems have been voted majority, I bet you they would not have guts to pull out of Afghanistan or stop supporting regimes in Central Asia or elsewhere.

    That is why honest people like Mr Murray suffer a lot when trying to stop all these horrible things to go on. Current British Envoy in Uzbekistan, Rupert Joy is an excellent example of how selective these ‘real powerful’ people are when it comes to allowing someone to represent Her Maj’s government in the country lead by one of the bloodies dictators in the world.

  • Tristan

    Two things about all this strike me:

    1) As you have pointed out, all it says is that the British secret service doesn’t torture people but they’re more than willing to accept ‘intelligence’ received from torturers.

    2) It looks like they want to try and bolster the fear of terrorism again. People seem to be getting less worried about it, that leads to a loss of power (and in the current climate money) to the secret services.

  • nextus

    As Craig pointed out, Sawers is trying hard to distract us from some unpalatable truths here.

    “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.”

    “a suspect terrorist”? What type of terrorist is that? A terrorist who is ‘suspect’?? Not “a person accused of terrorism”? If you substitute that (more accurate) phrase, the statement has a rather more authoritarian ring. Try it.

    “badly treated”? We’re talking about torture here, buddy!! Not insults or rough handling.

    “may be badly treated”. So now it’s hypothetical. If you don’t admit that it’s *actually* happening, you don’t have to shoulder responsibility for it. Neat.

    As usual in this context “intelligence” refers not just to substantiated fact but (as with the infamous dodgy dossier) also rumour, fabrication, and mistruth – sometimes specifically crafted to fuel authoritarian fantasies. If they receive it and believe it, they call it “intelligence”. But “intelligence” is supposed to be an antonym of gullibility. Not the way MI6 uses it, unfortunately.

    I really wish this goon Sawers could be pulled up in front of a public inquiry with Craig on the panel. We wouldn’t need torture to get the truth out of him, just analysis, logic and genuine knowledge: i.e. what used to be correctly known as “intelligence”.

    Please, can some “Liberal” Democrat minister take a principled stand against this crude authoritarian spin? In the long run it would boost the LD’s flagging credibility.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    So where are the voices of those Lib Dems that expressed mutual sorrow in real tears, where are you? Yes YOU who applauded my speech on the massacre of children in Iraq?

    We are not on a tube train hanging our heads in a book, a newspaper or iPod; unless we express our opinions to those we elected to serve us, nothing will happen, nothing, and torture will prevail, pushed and shoved by Britain’s ‘defence’ of an absurd ‘Islamic terrorism’ sown from it’s own seeds to replace the dying fruits of Communism.

    Yet it is this very concept of Muslim or Islamic terrorism, it is this rhetoric that courses the flow of young people into terrorist organisations. Too many in the Muslim world are convinced that the West IS an implacable enemy.

    The Qur’an prohibits aggressive warfare, permits war only in self-defence and insists that the true Islamic values are peace, reconciliation and forgiveness. It also states firmly that there must be no coercion in religious matters, and for centuries Islam had a much better record of religious tolerance than Christianity.

    The IRA campaign in main-land Britain was NOT described as Catholic terrorism, – and we knew in our hearts it was essentially not a religious campaign but one of an independent Ireland.

    We learned and now have solid proof of the Irish border murders were carried out by our own special forces on information supplied by the intelligence services.

    So who ARE the real terrorists when we observe British special forces dressed as Arabs planting bombs in Iraq. Who ARE the real terrorists when Mossad steals our passport identities to carry out assassination.

    Sir John Sawers needs to look in the dark corners of his own secret organisation before the British public do it for him.

    I warn him the ‘awakening’ has already begun, take a look at your own GCHQ reports!

  • nextus

    Sorry, my bad. “A person accused of terrorism” is also overstating it. Sawers actually means “a person suspected of plotting a terrorist act”. The difference is that the latter requires no actual crime to have taken place, or indeed any compelling evidence of an impending crime (virtually anything will suffice: photos of municipal buildings, or half a bag of sugar in the kitchen). It just requires the opinion of the state authority.

    So Sawers is really saying that we shouldn’t allow his secret service operations to be compromised by concerns over the inhumane torture of people linked by the authorities to terrorist acts that haven’t happened, as long as somebody else has already done the dirty work.

    Your Majesty, if you’re reading this, please rescind his knighthood.

  • MJ

    “Instead they are pursuing a directly opposite policy hidden behind precisely the same obfuscations used by New Labour”.

    What a bombshell. Is anyone here, apart perhaps from Craig, even remotely surprised at this revelation?

  • crb

    “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.”

    These are moments of maddening, murderous horror which humans can do. And the splattering of families into maimed survivors by -defensive- forces, and the destruction of societies into degenerate clusters by -developement- strategies. Predictable proceeds of careless decisions.

    Someday when we can care and decide better, accidents will still bring slow painful disease and pityful twisted children and murderous maiming disasters into peoples lives. We will always need to be strong and reach beyond circumstances.

    Now opportunities to dismantle suffering extend artifically, multiples beyond the limit of Natures’ hard errors.

    Health inside all.

  • Anonymous

    Very sorry for off-topic but potentially very interesting development:

    This Saturday is a national day of action against Vodafone, who have merrily avoided over £6 billion in taxes. All of this while the Chancellor is telling us that his huge public spending cuts are “fair”, and that “we’re in this together”… right. This campaign is an explosive expansion on action already taken this Wednesday at Vodafone’s flagship store in London. See the brilliant video

    We’re told that fighting the deficit is such a pressing issue, and so far we’re doing very well highlighting the terrible impact of this spending slash. Saturday’s action on Cornmarket offers us a brilliant opportunity to put forward an alternative: start with claiming the £12 billion a year owed to us by some of the world’s richest companies before raiding public services.

  • Ingo

    Thanks Craig for your analisys of this bare faced liar.

    Thanks also for Sabre tache’s apt description of the ongoing agenda.

    Uzbek is right, not one political party in the main stream is wiling to break the mould, I hope that Lib Dems sit up and take note of your words.

    I have experienced their two faced agendas in local Government and have never trusted their middle of the road act. Far from saying I told you so, I did stick my neck out and ask that you postpone your membership until after the election .

    The fact that not a single liberal front runner run with your membership and made a point of it that the Lib Dems are different, that should have rung alarm bells.

    Far from ever having a differtent agenda, their quick decisions and lack of haggleing for more concessions, caving in after a mere week of City pressure, should make us understand that they must have had a rapport with the Conservatives for some time before the election.

    No party is willing to act on the mandate they receive from their voters, they are all verbalising perfidious ideas and loose policies at the doorstep, trying to make out they are progressive, want to give us a fair vote,LoL, and scrap Trident, then they use your vote as a springboard to power and pretend their promises were nothing but wishfull aspirations, …sadly they can’t do as they said they would.

    Now we know that only Independent people can bring Britain back down to earth. We need to co-opt people into positions who understand the need for a sustainable self supporting future.

    Resign and make a right stink of it, now is as good a time than any, Jeremy browne’s forboding speech at conference indicates the Lib Dem commitment, not much change for the better. to come.

    Whats left for us is to organise and do stuff that wakes people up. Julian has rattled their cage, but failed to open it fully, after so much time of deceit and diverting agendas, the hinges have rusted together.

    To finish the analogy, it will take some force to get the gate open again, a single effort is not enough, many have to push and pull.

  • technicolour

    watched the vodaphone video, three cheers for those (mainly) young people!


    Wonder if the mainstream press will cover this – they must get a lot of ad revenue from Vodaphone.

    MJ: I would have been surprised a few months ago. Now I’m just stuck in quiet horror. They can’t be blackmailing every single one of the Lib Dem MP’s.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I agree with all of the previous posts. It is indeed disgusting. Uzbek particularly has made some excellent – and deeply uncomfortable – points here and also in a previous thread re. Afghanistan.

    For oil, minerals (esp. rare earth metals), opium and hegemony, as they always have, our rulers (who, in spite of the facade of ‘democracy’, are not our leaders – thanks to Clark for pointing-out the crucial difference) at a convenient distance will torture and kill their way across the face of this beleaguered earth. As Ruth and Uzbek has stated, in these respects, it matters not which pennant they hoist. Their own suits remain pristine, white as snow, while they profit from, and are complicit in, the butchery committed by others in – Craig is spot-on about this – a systemically capitalised market situation.

    Torture is good for business.

    Now, in this schema, it becomes legitimate to pose the quetion: Who exactly are the terrorists?

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq


    My own frustration blanked an intended response for your powerful succinct post – thank-you – for clearly and precisely given readers the ‘real deal’ – Like you I found it impossible to listen to Sawers ‘asinine’ speech to the end – it was paused and shut down as nausea demanded.

  • Ishmael

    The response to the speech in the Daily Mail was disgusting. Those who challenged the status quo were quickly shot down, with those “egging” him on, winning most praise. Sheep and stupid. With a public like that they continue to do as they please without censure. It is simply far to easy for the establishment to do as they please, whether criminal or not. After all who, or what, or what law will put an end to it. Your picture is horrific and reinforces the workings of that despicable regime.

  • Vronsky

    “They will be here.”

    Wish they’d hurry up. I need a new replica Rolex. And I haven’t been called a moron in ages – gets to a fella, being ignored like that.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    ‘Torture is good for business.’

    I am pretty sure that torture is a business nowadays. I see no reason of why Karimov cannot make money of torturing foreign suspects. He has established the system where torture can be run 24/7. He has very ‘qualified’ staff to do ‘this’ job and very ‘suitable’ place or even places.

    Most of the people in the West know Guantanamo Bay but I bet only very few heave heard of Jaslyk. And what was/is going on in Jaslyk is much worse of what was going on in Guantanamo Bay. Hence, it is very comfortable for the West to use Karimov and most probably pay him to torture those who cannot be tortured elsewhere. Hence, probably why Rupert Joy attended Gulnara Karimova’s party.

  • Vronsky

    “The IRA campaign in main-land Britain was NOT described as Catholic terrorism”

    But the ‘troubles’ in Ireland were always described as ‘sectarian’. Anything at all familiar about that? Some of my family were involved (way back). I find it acutely difficult to see them as Catholic fundamentalists, but that would be the appellation du jour now, I suppose. Or maybe ‘insurgents’. Aren’t words funny? ‘My mum was an insurgent’. She might have liked that. She was only 8 at the time, mind you.

    Resistance to imperialism is always ‘nationalism’ at best, ‘terrorism’ more commonly – whichever, these are very bad things and I’m sure everyone here knows that and quite properly disapproves.

    Clark has an interesting post at October 29, 2010 2:41 AM on the ‘Russia and Afghanistan’ thread. Read it if you haven’t seen it already. It’s one of these little summation things he does occasionally.


    89 days and counting. Keep your hat to hand.

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