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.

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

132 thoughts on “Lib Dem Ministers Complicit in Torture

1 2 3 4 5
  • I really cant believe its not larry

    The difference between high wage ecconomies and the low wage ones is also the difference in taxes to be spent by government and the disposible income left for people to spend as they choose in a market ecconomy. In the low wage ecconomies such as china, there is less for workers to spend on luxuries and even neccessities are on a shoe-string. What Alfred seems to suggest is we should downsize our western ecconomies so that working labour can be bought for a few cents an hour forgetting that the knock on effect this would have on the ecconomy at large. One advantage of such a scheme is the removal of millions of public sector workers and the reduction in the importation of high value luxury goods which keep the spivs in emporiums such as harrods in business. Welcome to third world britain.

  • anno


    There are thousands of British engineers working for our overseas manufacturing investments. Low wages. No local tax. But you still need contract security through a regulatory system of banking and quality standards regulation.

    This government is trying to create the illusion of regulation by getting tough with things that did not cause the problem. But any business with any sense would look at the failure of bank regulation in this country and bypass the UK and US altogether, even for financing and quality standards.

    It’s off-topic but it’s relevant, because the inability to maintain credible standards of professional probity in the banking system is exactly the same as the failure to maintain credible standards of professional probity in foreign diplomacy.

    There has been a crash as a result of the bankers’ gambling debts, and there is going to be a crash of international standing as a result of Iraq and Afghanistan and our colluding with torture.

    Just because these things are unthinkable, doesn’t mean to say they have not and will not happen.

  • Alfred

    “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? ”

    So now that I have exploded the economic myths that you wish to promote, you now wish to attribute nonsense to me.

    Suhayl, when you are in hole, it’s best to stop digging.

    What I was talking about is what to do beginning where Britain is now. And I said that a negative income tax was a better alternative to a tariff or industrial subsidization as a means to provide everyone the opportunity to earn a living wage.

    If you want to turn Britain into a copy of North Korea, you’re welcome to the fantasy, but few people are going to agree with you. It’s already been tried and it’s already failed multiple times.

    PaleoLabour aimed in the 50’s and 60’s to build a British economy on the Soviet model. Coal, gas, rail, road transport, steel and much else was nationalized. Then the mines produced coal at twice the world price, and the electricity generating boards bought that coal and sold electricity at an inflated price and by the end of the 60’s Britain was a near economic basket case, with out of control unions and a GDP per capita less than that of defeated Germany.

    The Sovietized system was great for those running it. For just under a year, I worked for the Central Electricity Generating Board at their research center at Capenhurst. It was great. Good company, very smart people, nice canteen. If I had to travel on business, the Director’s office obtained a first class rail ticket for me and arranged a chauffeured car to take me to the station. But the research programme, so far as I was aware of it, was bloody idiotic. So I moved on. But that was the way the PaleoLabour system worked. It was highly inefficient.

    My father, who ran a business found it impossible to deal with people in certain cities because goods sent by the nationalized road freight monopoly were not usually, but always, pilfered.

    And crb, this discussion does stem from the discussion of torture, although to find the connection you’d have to go back a bit. If you do follow the thread right the way through, you might even find the discussion of economics highly relevant. Torture, as I initially argued, is a way of validating the terror threat, and the terror threat is a way of subjugating the population, and the subjugation of the population is manifest in the widespread existence of poverty and unemployment.

  • Alfred

    ‘… 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’

    This fellow Lord Young, was he a descendant of Marie Antoinette, by any chance? He seems to envisage Britain’s unemployed industrial workers sitting around eating cake paid for by the oil “dividend,” as if the dividend was going to acrue to the workers. LOL.

    I suppose what he meant was that with a surplus on the capital account, Britain could run a trade deficit equal to the income, of five billion a year.

    Thing is, though, Britain currently has a capital account deficit:

    “At the end of 2009 external assets stood at £8.7 trillion, while external liabilities stood at £9.0 trillion, this resulted in a net liability position of £275.0 billion.” (2010 Pink Book).

    And I see, Suhayl thinks I’m advocating workers live on a penny an hour, which is not at what I said. What I said was:

    “Employment for all can be guaranteed by some version of a reverse income tax, which makes it worthwhile to obtain employment at any wage down to a penny an hour.” (If this blog software were less Scotch, I’d have added emphasis on the words “makes it worthwhile”.)

    That means that employers may pay, in a competitive labour market, as little as a penny an hour for labour, assuming the surplus has not already been mopped up at a much higher price, but that the government will then make up the difference between the wage paid and some minimum wage, which might well vary somewhat according to age, experience and education of the worker.

    I am sorry if I failed to make the concept, which I thought was well known, sufficiently clear.

  • Alfred

    “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.”

    And you, Suhayl, expect to get back a diversified industrial economy with nine million workers partially unemployed, fully unemployed or fully unemployed and so discouraged they have given up looking for work?

    And when you talk about “push coming to shove” are you talking about war, because if not, what is wrong with international trade? Iraq does oil better than Britain, Britain does marmalade, scotch and, um whatever, better than Iraq. Hence trade.

  • poverty of freedom


    Have you seen today’s article in Spiegel Online about you?

    Appeasing the Uzbek Dictator

    Who’s Afraid of the Ruler of the Silk Road?

    By Erich Follath and Christian Neef,1518,724471,00.html

    Uzbekistan is both a nation of terror led by brutal dictator Islam Karimov and a partner of the West that is an important staging ground for NATO’s war in Afghanistan. Its story is best told through the eyes of two men — the flamboyant former British ambassador and the current top German diplomat in the country.

  • Sabretache

    I have a couple of suggestions for the clearly God-fearing Charles Crawford.

    1. Read Luke 18:9-14.

    2. Then attend the salat al-Janaza of an innocent Afghan, Iraqi, or Pakistani (there are at least a couple of dozen every day to choose from so fitting it into your busy schedule should be no problem) followed by an Islamic memorial service for the millions of dead, tortured, broken, orphaned and displaced by our oh-so-necessary and (self)righteous wars.

    Oh, and one more thing – from now on, try hard not to proclaim your good works in the manner of tick-box items on a CV. It has the opposite effect to that intended.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    anno, at 1224 am, that’s an excellent point, thanks for making it; this dovetails with Alfred correct statement that this discussion is linked intimately with the main one of this thread. Thanks for your expostulations, Alfred, and for taking the time to explain your arguments in such a cogent manner. It’s good to learn about reverse income tax; I hadn’t heard of the concept before. I see your point now.

  • technicolour

    Clark, Suhayl: I don’t count them as our ‘rulers’ either. They are our elected representatives, paid for by us, who are mostly and increasingly, with some honourable exceptions, acting as nothing of the sort, and should be sacked.

    Very sad thread.

  • crb

    “If you do follow the thread right the way through, you might even find the discussion of economics highly relevant.”

    I did thanks, but i didnt. -just sayin

  • Stephen

    Thanks, Craig.

    That was a very powerful post.

    I conclude that the “government” does not govern. Some hidden hand alone can explain the consistency of state policy across governments despite their rhetoric.

    Surely we could and should start a campaign. Voting means nothing.

  • technicolour

    ‘Voting means nothing’ – well, it could, couldn’t it?

    Isn’t the ‘hidden hand’ the very out in the open Bilderburg?

  • Alfred

    Reviewing your post Craig, I made the effort to think a little about the photograph. You give no provenance for this picture, and make no explicit reference to it. Perhaps no details can be provided because to do so would jeopardize a source. But if the picture were circulated with evidence of its authenticity, details about the victim’s life and the circumstances of his death it could, surely, be a hugely effective in mobilizing opposition to torture, e.g., by distribution to members of all NATO legislatures.

    One question that arises is why the victim has an incision from throat to abdomen. Was this made during the course of a post-mortem examination? Were the victims organs harvested? Or is this evidence of some hideous modern version of disembowelment, the living victim’s entrails burnt before his eyes, perhaps, as was the common punishment for treason in England as late as the seventeenth century?

  • Brian Barder

    I have tried three times over two days to submit a critical comment on this unfortunate post. Each time I receive a message saying:

    Thank You for Commenting

    Your comment has been received. To protect against malicious comments, I have enabled a feature that allows your comments to be held for approval the first time you post a comment. I’ll approve your comment when convenient; there is no need to re-post your comment. Return to the comment page

    This is by no means the first time I have posted a comment here. As my comment has still not appeared, I’ll have to put it on my own blog* with a link to this.

    Very tiresome.

    Brian Barder


  • Alfred


    If your message contained more than a single URL, the response you received would have been automatically delivered. But perhaps there other circumstances under which that the message appears.

    The bit about “not needing to repost” is probably untrue.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights reads:-

    “Article 6

    1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

    The right to life ( UN European Convention on Human Rights) reads as follows:-

    “ARTICLE 2

    1. Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one

    shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution

    of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for

    which this penalty is provided by law.

    2. Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in

    contravention of this article when it results from the use of force

    which is no more than absolutely necessary:

    (a) in defence of any person from unlawful violence;

    (b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent escape of

    a person unlawfully detained;

    (c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot

    or insurrection.”

    And ?” Article 15 of the UN CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment states:-

    “Article 15

    Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”

    Thus, when the head of MI6 vacillates and equivocates on the use of information obtained by torture, surely, it is either that the UK and its highest places public servants adhere to the standards to which the British state professes to adhere or he doesn’t.

    Not only are a lot of these provisions meaningless when relative to the relief that could be visited upon the ‘Third World’ with appropriate restructuring of the global financial architecture for actualizing the “right to life”, but there is clearly no commitment to respect the principles when the greater interests of the state ( such as access to oil supplies) take precedence over human rights. Uzbekistan is a case in point.

    So sad.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Alfred, I think the photo is of the man who was boiled to death by the regime in Uzbekistan; it’s in Craig’s ‘Murder in Samarkand’. I think his mother came to Craig to appeal for help and his decision to help her was the ‘Rubicon’ for Craig. At least, I assume that’s who it’s of. Perhaps you’re right though and not everyone would make the connection, esp. if they haven’t read the book. So a caption wouldn’t go amiss.

    Brian Barder, if you want to post more than one website address, (I learned recently) that you just have to omit the http://www. part and then you can post as many as you like in a single post and that message you got won’t come up.

    Sometimes also if you’ve tried to post more than 3-4 posts in a short space of time (or maybe tried to post the same post, 3-4 times in short space of time) the message comes up, but if you persevere, it does get posted. Hope that helps.

  • dreoilin

    Alfred, I highly recommend Craig’s book ‘Murder in Samarkand’ where this poor man featured. The book is a great read, and explains much about Craig and how he came to be where he is today.

  • Craig


    I know the message comes up sometimes – it does it to me too! I think sometimes it is because you attempt to post during a spambot storm. The annoying thing is the comments disappear – contrary to the message, they are not held anywhere.

  • Ruth


    I entirely agree with you,

    ‘I conclude that the “government” does not govern. Some hidden hand alone can explain the consistency of state policy across governments despite their rhetoric.

    Surely we could and should start a campaign. Voting means nothing.’

    Voting is just to preserve the illusion of democracy.

  • anno

    Charles Crawford gives advice in May 2010 to the new Foreign Secretary, about FCO recruitment:

    ‘Insist that ‘diversity’ questionnaires must make provision for Poles, Romanians, Slovaks, Jews and other significant communities.’

    What about Muslims, Mr Crawford?

    Mr Crawford and Mr Clegg are part of that social class that regard whistleblowers as part of the enemy, because they support the human rights of ‘the enemy’. Who are ‘the enemy’ The Muslims who speak the truth of Islam and who oppose the corruption of the status quo, represented by idiots like Charles Crawford.

    They are ignorant, arrogant, public-school-boys, Craig. Newcomers to the political game have to play by their rules. You don’t, bless you, and it offends them to the core that anybody could expect to belong to their little club at the same time as siding with the other side, i.e. Muslims.

  • part 1

    LibDem ministers accused of complicity in torture: it’s for the birds

    October 31st, 2010

    A blog post entitled “Lib Dem Ministers Complicit in Torture” appeared yesterday. It concludes:

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

    The author of this scurrilous piece is in some danger of being taken seriously, being (as he constantly reminds us all) a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who has achieved a certain fame through having insisted, I believe wrongly, that he was sacked from the Diplomatic Service for criticising the practice of torture by the Uzbek authorities and for having repeatedly denounced his own government for receiving, and sometimes acting on, information from the Americans but originating with the Uzbeks, some of which may well have been obtained by torture. He certainly did both these things, with characteristic gusto, but he was eased out of the Diplomatic Service ?” to put it politely ?” for other reasons.

    Craig Murray, for it is he (you guessed?), is a friend and former Diplomatic Service colleague. I respect his moral passion and his furious energy and often admire his quixotic courage. But on the subject of the use of information that may have (and sometimes probably has) been obtained by torture, the main theme of his post yesterday, he is simply and straightforwardly wrong. The dozens of admiring and mostly uncritical comments appended to Craig’s post are in many cases even more misguided.

    I have tried repeatedly to contribute a comment to Craig’s blog setting out my reasons for accusing him (I hope in civil terms) of misrepresentation of facts and of drawing conclusions from a recent speech by the head of the Secret Intelligence Service (aka MI6) which the text of the speech does not support. My comment has not however so far been selected for publication on Craig’s blog (although at least one equally critical comment by another former DS colleague is there). So I offer it here, in the faint hope that one or two readers of Craig’s blog might find their way to it on this one:

  • part 2

    I’m sorry to spoil the self-righteous party here, but virtually everything in Craig’s post and almost all the comments on it so far are based on assumptions that don’t bear examination and that have indeed been repeatedly debunked elsewhere. They gain nothing whatever from constant repetition. On the contrary, by deliberately ignoring the exposure of their false premisses, their authors inevitably lay themselves open to the suspicion of intellectual chicanery.

    Much of the original post’s argument depends on this assertion:

    ‘Now parse [the speech of Sir John Sawers, head of SIS] 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.’

    But if you read the full text of Sawers’s speech (freely available at ) you will see that he says no such thing. The statement about the obligation to make use of intelligence from whatever source if it might help to save lives is unrelated to torture and doesn’t even mention it.

    The comment by ‘Nextus’ above [i.e. on Craig’s blog] asserts that ?”

    ‘Just after declaring that “Torture is illegal and abhorrent under any circumstances and we have nothing whatsoever to do with it”, Sawer [sic] 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.”‘

    But that’s quite simply untrue. Sawers’s sentence about the duty to act on intelligence that might save lives comes four paragraphs before, not “just after”, his statement that torture is abhorrent, and has no direct connection with it. This is argument by sleight-of-hand.

    Contrary to what Craig and some comments imply, Sawers’s remarks about difficult decisions being referred to ministers are about decisions on the action to be taken on intelligence, not whether to “receive” it in the first place, and not whether it is acceptable to act on intelligence even if there are grounds for suspecting that it has been obtained by torture.

    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. It is illegal and immoral to encourage or condone torture, for example by asking a foreign intelligence service known to use torture for information that it is likely to obtain by torture. But we have Sawers’s and ministers’ assurance that British services and ministers do not encourage or condone torture and that if individuals are suspected of doing so, their transgressions are investigated and, if substantiated, punished. Neither Craig nor anyone else, to the best of my knowledge, has ever produced a shred of evidence to the contrary.

    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. 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.

    Constant repetition of half-truths, misrepresentations and downright untruths doesn’t make them valid or reputable.

    I respect and admire Craig’s moral passion and often his courage, as he knows. But it becomes fatiguing to have to keep on pointing out that in this particular segment of his familiar crusade, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. It’s time to move on, Craig.

    PS (30 Oct): I wrote this early yesterday, 29 Oct, and tried twice to post it as a comment on Craig’s blog post (before I had seen Charles Crawford’s comment covering some of the same sceptical ground). Each time I got a message that as this was my first comment on this blog (which it isn’t) it would be reserved for approval in due course by Craig. Meanwhile Craig has posted a comment on Charles Crawford’s blog saying that the ‘reserve comments for moderation’ function on Craig’s blog has been turned off. Weird. This is my third attempt. If this doesn’t work, I’ll have to put it on my own blog with a suitable link.


1 2 3 4 5

Comments are closed.