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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  • Ruth

    Charles Crawford,

    There’s a lot of evidence that very strongly suggests the ‘terrorists’ weren’t on the underground trains that were bombed. Why hasn’t a proper inquiry taken place to find out who was actually responsible for the bombing?

    To me because the state is covering up the true facts relating to the case it appears not that the state is passing the buck but that the state actually carried out an act of mass murder.

  • Ruth

    And also Mr Crawford,

    Surely the blowing up of the plane over Lockerbie, one of the greatest terrorist acts, should be subject to an inquiry. All the evidence points to the fact that Megrahi had nothing to do with it. And yet the state, which claims to be protecting us, is willing to leave the real bomber at large.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Alfred, the UK’s industries were not destroyed because of cheap labour in India, etc. They were destroyed because the govt of the time targeted them for destruction on purely ideological – not economically logical – grounds and because they were acting on behalf of international finance – Wall St/ City of London. Shipbuilding thrived in Japan even though workers there were being paid more than workers in Scotland/ UK. So the arguments about ‘cheap labour wins out’ do not always apply.

    I realise it’s not an easy situation, though and that there are structural chnages which will result in a shift of overall wealth from the West to the East. That’s inevitable. But the USA and UK are suffering partly – not wholly – because of neoliberal economic policies. My ref. to the USA exploting innovation properly was taking the long view – often that is precisely what has happened over the past 50+ years. germany – though also going thru’ hard times relatively, is stronger because they kept their core industries. They were acting in the national interest. ASll-too-ofetn, UK rulers have not.

  • Clark

    Yes, the “suspicious packages” story makes no sense. Who the hell is daft enough to post toner cartridges disguised as bombs, to try to discover if real bombs would get through?

  • Suhayl Saadi

    And The Telegraph, of course, has the full story! Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Just as the Church of England once (probably somewhat unfairly, even then) was described as the Tory Party at prayer, so at times The Telegraph seems like the Intelligence Services at the keyboard.

    And Con Coughlin’;s at it again – slavishly devoted to his master’s voice, it seems. ‘Trust MI6’? Like bow-wow.

  • Anonymous

    “UK’s industries were not destroyed because of cheap labour … They were destroyed because the govt of the time targeted them for destruction on purely ideological …”

    Suhayl, you are talking rubbish. British shipbuilding could not compete. It staggered from one subsidy to another, the public cost eventually being judged unacceptable.

    Japanese shipbuilders undercut British shipbuilders on cost, then Korea was the low-cost builder, Now the Chinese are winning on cost against the Koreans.

    But I leave it to others to decide who is talking economic nonsense.

  • KingofWelshNoir

    Funny how the ‘suspicious packages’ story came close on the heels of the chairman of BA claiming most airport security was a waste of time.

  • Anonymous

    A suspicious package posted via air from Yemen to “Jewish places of worship in Chicago”?

    Might as well have stuck a red label saying “Al-Qaeda Express Delivery” on it.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    That’s an example of a re-write of history. UK mines were MORE economically viable than German mines, which were heavily subsidised. We ditched the mines; the Germans kept theirs. So, now we are at the mercy of Russia.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Perhaps now, J. Edgar Hoover’s maxim about “we’re not behind every post-box…” will come true, but in reverse. They will indeed be behind every post-box. Watch out! It’s a red letter day!

  • Clark

    Suhayl, Alfred, I don’t think you really disagree, and neither of you are talking nonsense. It’s shades of grey. The ideological struggle was damaging productivity; UK manufacturing needed to modernise and lay off workers, but the unions were opposed. But the government, with the usual lousy sense of priorities, were prepared to let the industries go in order to win the fight with the unions – after all, buying from overseas was comparable in cost.

  • Ishmael

    Suspicious packages? Looks like military intervention down the North Pole before Christmas. Guantanamo Bay for Santa & the Elves. Look Obama you write to Santa, he sends gifts, not bombs. Its beginning to look like Christmas is gonna be cancelled this year. Bloody Americans, They ought to grow up.

  • Alfred

    “UK mines were MORE economically viable than German mines, which were heavily subsidised”

    German mines were MORE heavily subsidized.

    When the British mines closed Britain’s electrical generators were able to buy Canadian, American and Australian surface-mined coal at half what it cost to dig it from deep mines in Britain.

    Your wasting your time, Suhayl. You just don’t know the facts.

  • Ingo

    I have just discovered two suspect packages in my trousers, what am I gonna do with it?

    Will they go orf, sir? or does it mean that I’m exited?

    What sort of explosives , sir? marxzipan!

    Ah, well that explains it all, the sandbank squad on holiday in yemen has struck again. Slork should have known.

    Fear means,

    good business at Christmas….

    Mistletoeing sophistication,

    for the whoooole nation. survive!

  • dreoilin

    — “It makes us strive all the harder to find different ways, consistent with human rights, to get the outcome we want.” —

    “So there it is. MI6 do what you want. They err on the side of allowing terrorist activity to proceed. Happy now?” – Charles Crawford

    Would you say, Charles, that this applied to MI5 activities in Northern Ireland? Were their activities consistent with human rights?

  • Ruth

    A study of the events underlying the losses incurred by the Export Credit Guarantee Department, 1982-90

    ‘… a statement made by Lord Young to a Parliamentary Select Committee that in 1986 the UK had invested £120 billion overseas, and this money was the revenue from North Sea Oil. According to Young, ‘this investment yielded a dividend of £5 billion per annum and the UK no longer needs the traditional industrial base of manufacturing’

  • dreoilin

    Or, Charles, are you going to do what you’ve done in the past — drop in 1 or 2 comments and then just leave, without answering any questions?

  • dreoilin

    I have two family members flying into two different US States over the weekend. Looks like their timetables are going to be all buggered up!

    (Ruth, we look like we’re playing ping pong)

  • MJ

    “By 1990 there was a deficit of £0.4 in foreign assets”.

    I make that 40p. Not to be sniffed at these days of course.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ All,

    “Charles Crawford retired from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the end of 2007 after nearly three decades in the UK’s Diplomatic Service, most of it spent serving in or dealing with communist and post-communist Europe.”

    Why do you try to attack Murray – what is your real purpose? What is your real point – come on Crawford – speak up.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    So, Alfred, you’d get rid of a country’s variegated natural resources or the ability to draw on those and allow the country to become energy-dependent on others, like the Ukraine is with Russia? You argue for defence of the UK but you’d sell the family silver to the highest bidder? You talk with concerns about immigration yet you’d allow British workers to be paid a penny an hour and live on that? A lot of what you say in these specific respects has no internal consistency and is nonsensical. On foreign policy, you’re super. on domestic policy, somewhat lkike a Maoist, you assume a deeply ideological position which would not be workable in real life. UK mines were actually profitable at the time they were closed. It was done entirely for political reasons. Those are the facts.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Clark said,

    “Your argument might have some credibility if we saw US / UK governments clearly opposed to torture, but we see the opposite – Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition flights, Abu Ghraib, Craig sacked and smeared, etc.”

    Excellent point, It seems Charles Crawford has again been taken in by highly polished words, this time from the front-window display of the intelligence services. His spark of hope amounts to a damp squid.


    Bush reveals in new memoir ‘Decision Points’ set for publication next month, and previewed to the Drudge Report, he though a 9/11 plane had been shot down.


    After the first two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, he gave the order to shoot down any more suspected hijacked jets.

    A private stationed at Fort Meade on September 11th 2001 has given an explosive interview about how she personally heard military commanders make the decision to shoot down United Airlines Flight 93.

    This information and the demolition of WTC 7 will I sincerely believe be revealed on the Wikileaks site soon after the Bush memoirs are published. It is intended to finally put to rest the 9/11 conspiracy.

  • anno

    You have to switch your mobile off in planes and hospitals because it can affect sensitive electronic equipment. Patients can overdose on pulses of pain-killers.

    Craig’s former colleague Charles Crawford is clearly fitted with just such a cranial lie-injector. Whenever he reads bare truth and starts to empathise with the decency of it as any human being would, the government installed device injects a minute dose of antidote.

    And when he sees it printed on the web for all to read and agree with, the lie-injector goes barmy and he staggers to his laptop to eradicate the ghastly spectre of published truth, like a spitfire pilot with his tail blown off trying to loop the loop to catch the bastard behind him who shot it off.

    Charles Crawford, your blind, schoolboy, patriotic spirit would have earned you a beautiful white military Portland headstone in former times.

    But right now I wish you and your whole kind, and all the politicians with you would just fuck off.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    When push comes to shove, as it is now, the survivors will be those diversified industrialised economies which have access to mixed sources of fuel domestically and a core of basic, infrastrucural industries. Germany has those. We chucked ours into the sea. Short-sightedness.

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