Tidy Little Whitewash 44

The result of the News International scandal should be that senior News International figures and senior policemen go to jail. It won’t be – the result will be a public inquiry, pushed back till long, long after media interest has abated, and concluding regrettable mistakes were made, by comparatively junior people.

Hardly any of the media noticed the announcement yesterday that the Gibson inquiry into UK government complicity in torture will finally start to get under way. This should be a dreadful warning – particularly not to be misled by the Nick Clegg device of valuing a “judge-led” inquiry as the indicator of worth. Gibson is a judge – and was also the Commissioner for the Security Services, asked now to “independently” investigate whether he was himself complicit or ineffective. Similarly Hutton was a judge – a Northern Irish one, so close to the security services as to be a thoroughly reliable tool for government.

Anybody who thinks that the Tory Party and Murdoch don’t already have a tame judge firmly in mind, is a complete fool.

Gibson’s protocols and terms of reference are a complete farce. As I told you months ago, after I was tipped off by senior British diplomats, they will only accept evidence related firmly to individual named detainees, rather than consider the general policy of cooperation with extraordinary rendition and receipt of intelligence from torture chambers abroad. The US Government will have a veto over what can be revealed by UK officials and documents about CIA involvement – and, as the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement and the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme is the entire context of the torture policy, that already renders the inquiry useless. The Cabinet Secretary – ie the government – and not the judge, will decide which documents can be made public.

The Guardian deserve congratulations for doing an excellent job in reporting this.

So restrictive are the terms under which the inquiry will be conducted, however, that Justice, the UK section of the International Commission of Jurists, warned that it was likely to fail to comply with UK and international laws governing investigations into torture. Eric Metcalfe, the organisation’s director of human rights policy said: “Today’s rules mean that the inquiry is unlikely to get to the truth behind the allegations and, even if it does, we may never know for sure. However diligent and committed Sir Peter and his team may be, the government has given itself the final word on what can be made public.”

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “When is an inquiry not an inquiry? When it’s a secret internal review. The use of torture by great democracies was the most shaming scandal of the war on terror. Today’s disappointing announcement suggests ministers, not independent judges will decide what the public is entitled to know. It is very hard to see the point of wasting public money on such a sham.”

Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve, said the inquiry was heading for a whitewash, with the US authorities in effect deciding what the public should learn. “Virtually nothing will be made public that is not already in the public domain,” he said. “This is meant to be an inquiry into British complicity into torture and rendition, almost all of which was complicity with the Americans. Yet these terms give America a veto on much of what should be public.”

Solicitor Gareth Peirce, who also represents several victims, described the inquiry as “a wholly inadequate response to the gravest of state crimes – torture”. She added that while the Ministry of Defence exposed the torture of Baha Mousa to public scrutiny “the intelligence services, in contrast, are being allowed to hide”.

Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP for Chichester, who chairs the all- party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, said: “Sir Peter Gibson has stated that he will not be asking the US or other foreign organisations for information on rendition. Without this information, his examination of other aspects of rendition is likely to be incomplete. The plain and highly regrettable fact is that the UK government is not in possession of all the facts on its own involvement in rendition. This is what government departments have confirmed to me.”

Keith Best, chief executive of the charity Freedom from Torture, said: “Effective survivor participation demands an open process. Every decision along the way that privileges secrecy will erode the inquiry’s capacity to deliver justice to victims of torture that Britain knew about or was otherwise complicit in.”

Amnesty International said the government appeared to have “squandered the opportunity to address a mounting pile of allegations of involvement of its agents and policymakers in the torture and ill-treatment of detainees” in a way that ensures public confidence.

There was no immediate response from the inquiry team to the criticisms it is facing.

It gets worse. The inquiry’s offices, at 35 Great Smith St, are in a Cabinet Office building. It is staffed not by people from the judicial service but by central government civil servants. All the inquiry’s computers are Cabinet Office computers which are an integral part of the Whitehall central government computer network, and the inquiry’s papers can be accessed by MI5, MI6, the Cabinet Office and Foreign Office without leaving their desks. I contacted the Inquiry last night offering to give evidence – and some staff in the FCO had copies of my email this morning. That is how “independent” the Gibson Inquiry is.

Consider this – the Secretary of the Inquiry is Alun Evans, former Director of Strategic Communications in No. 10 and before that John Precott’s spin doctor. The secretariat staff:

Four are from the Cabinet Office, two from the Ministry of Defence and one from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. .

An independent inquiry?

This is such a sick joke it is beyond belief.

My present thought is, that while I very much respect those who are boycotting this inquiry, yet given that I have an eyewitness account that the Foreign Office specifically sought to twist the terms of reference to exclude my evidence, it would be crazy to make them happy by boycotting. But nor do I wish to submit unsolicited written evidence that the Inquiry can simply bury in Volume III Appendix B p. 4278-4291. Their website says specifically that Crown Servants and Former Crown Servants will normally be approached by the Inquiry – they are anxious not to encourage whistleblowers to come forward. So I have written to them, offering to give evidence but putting the onus on them to call me. This is what I sent:

I was, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the only senior British civil servant who entered a formal written objection to my Secretary of State on the subject of our complicity in torture, and in doing so I specifically referred to our being in breach of the UN Convention on Torture.

I submitted evidence and gave oral testimony on the UK’s policy of complicity in torture to the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Extraordinary Rendition in Brussels, and the Council of Europe Inquiry into Extraordinary Rendition in Strasbourg, as well as the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. I note that your guidance says that normally your Inquiry will take the initiative to call former crown servants. I am therefore making contact with you, so the Inquiry has my contact details, and I expect to be called.

Please acknowledge receipt.

Craig Murray
HM Ambassador to Uzbekistan 2002-4

I am going to approach the FCO for assistance over this provision:

Current and former civil and crown servants called as witnesses can expect to receive legal and financial support from their current or former Department or agency.

I have a feeling we will find that whistleblowers are excluded from this provision!

Actually, you could not invent a more farcical “independent” inquiry if you tried to write the blackest of satires. Yet, if there was one area where I honestly did believe that the Lib Dems and even the Tories would be better than New Labour, it was over civil liberties. Plainly we just don’t have career politicians who care about freedom at all, or any principle other than their personal power and self-enrichment.

The total corruption of this country’s political community is the lesson from both the immunity of the Murdoch empire, and the Gibson non-inquiry into state complicity in torture.

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44 thoughts on “Tidy Little Whitewash

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  • mike

    I think we all have a moral obligation to buy The Guardian. Of course it has its faults, but it’s fast becoming the only part of the mainstream media that digs deep into the grubby workings of the state.
    As the song goes “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
    Is it Tony Cameron or David Blair?

  • John Goss

    Everyday I get more and more disgusted hearing about inquiries which are not inquiries. There has still not been an inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly, it was left to an inquiry, whereas I was under the impression that any death for which there is no natural explanation, should go to inquest. The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, gave a long explanation to the house as to why there would be no inquest, but this never addressed issues raised by a group of senior doctors, regarding lack of fingerprints, access to prescription drugs and stomach contents. It will be 70 years before the public will have access to the truth. I might be dead by then.

    I applaud what you are trying to do Craig. You know better than most what barriers to the truth are constructed against honest men. It sickens me to think that my country would be complicit in covering up torture, rendition and other nasty affairs when I was brought up to believe I lived in a civilised and accountable society. Yet it is left to people like yourself, Julian Assange, Robert Fisk and John Pilger to keep the public informed of the diabolical dealings of much of the government, armed-forces, media and police, while the so-called inquiry will, as they always do, whitewash over the dirty business, as you say.

    Do you think the public could force the inquiry to hear your evidence? Through AVAAZ perhaps?

  • craig Post author


    Yes, I am thinking we will do just that – not yet though, I want to get enough strategic support in place to make sure it is not a dmap squib.

  • mary

    7 July 2011 Last updated at 12:57
    UK troops in Iraq ‘governed by human rights code’ A UK public inquiry into the case of Baha Mousa is due to deliver its findings later this year
    Related Stories
    Rights law applies to Mousa case
    Lawyers seek ‘Iraq abuse’ inquiry
    UK troops accused of unlawfully killing and ill-treating civilians in Iraq were governed by the European Convention on Human Rights, a court has ruled.
    The decision by judges in Strasbourg came after relatives of six dead Iraqis took the UK government to court for breaches of their human rights.
    A seventh man, held without charge for three years, also brought the case at the European Court of Human Rights.
    The UK argues the convention does not apply to troops serving outside Europe.
    Four years ago, the House of Lords – now the UK Supreme Court – ruled there was no UK human rights jurisdiction surrounding the deaths or wrongful detention of six civilians.

  • Chris

    We may not be able to rely on the main stream media to expose the corruption and misdirection within our own government but at least we can still rely on you Craig. Great Blog.

  • Azra

    Mike, I have always been a supporter of Guardian, but since the online version has been available I have stopped buying it, this Saturday is back to the newsagent putting my order for daily delivery!

  • mark_golding

    There we have it, a breathtakingly accurate and well researched piece by Craig who leads the field in attacking government complicity in torture.
    From Hutton, Butler to Chilcot and now Sir Peter Gibson the Intelligence Services Commissioner we witness inquiries that fail to wash. So what to do? As difficult as it may seem perhaps the time has come to prevent this stitch-up by using public pressure even in the face of US threats to terminate intelligence sharing. My first step will be to contest the appointment of Sir Peter on bias; he should be a witness not chairman (campaign group Reprieve said that Sir Peter has – as Intelligence Services Commissioner – repeatedly exonerated British spies from wrongdoing, despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary.
    Also on the panel are Dame Janet Paraskeva (DBE!!) and journalist Peter Riddell. Yes that is Riddell former Washington Bureau Chief at The Financial Times and a member of the Privy Council.
    A cosy set-up thus far but one we can change collectively given the will and perseverance and surely we owe that to Craig.

  • mary

    A friend tells me of a description he heard of the young bloods who inhabit No 10 and 35 Great Smith Square. He refers thus to the young civil servants all of whom are no doubt double firsts from Oxford.
    He also asked if I had heard of the Oxford Martin School. They are a think tank which advise the government on law relating to war and such things as torture. Many of the Fellows come from US. Their co-director is David Rodin. See his bibliography including works on torture.
    “What do you do for your living Dr Rodin?”
    “I write books about war, armed conflict and torture”. {http://www.elac.ox.ac.uk/downloads/David_Rodin_CV_Sept08.pdf}

    Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed … – Oxford Martin School

  • mike

    Azra: Great to see your back in the liberal-intelligentsia fold (ing of actual newsprint). Of course, even The Guardian only goes so far in its investigations. We have to rely on the internet to ask the REALLY awkward questions…

  • Anon

    “Plainly we just don’t have career politicians who care about freedom at all, or any principle other than their personal power and self-enrichment.”
    Now where have I heard that before, Oh, yes I remember…
    “Reflecting the mood of the country, the Conservative Party was rotten at the core. The only thing they cared about was their property and their cash. The only thing they feared was that one day those nasty Communists would come and take it. The Labour and Liberal Parties were no better.”
    “Recollections of a Rebel” 1978 by Robert Boothby (1900 – 1986)

  • mary

    I knew nothing – James Murdoch. Next Sunday’s NoTW will be the last. All the revenue will go to good causes!!
    Shall we wait for the new improved version to appear a little later?

  • dreoilin

    I don’t know what I was expecting next exactly, but shutting down abruptly like this was not it.

  • Anon

    Close down NOTW (looks good does that). Now, that clears the way for the takeover of BSkyB…..everyone happy.
    Didn`t Murdoch or his accountants ever question where all this vast amount of money was going in payment for the ALL this hacking and to the police?.

  • ingo

    To shut the paper down is the easiest and last trick in the book to avert more damage. James Murdoch will have to prove that other decisions, commercial competition could have been swayed by getting to know one’s targets.
    This is not stopping the police seizing computers, thing is which police should do it. How come Sir Hugh Orde has not spoken of his disgust at the revelations, closing ranks already.

    Sod the inquiery, lets get on with what evidence is available.
    If phone tapping is eligible evidence in ‘terrorist’? cases, then it surely is sufficient evidence to find those who used these illegal and corrupt practises for commercial gains and priviledge with popular people and those in power.

    This should be heard by a Scottish court if any, ideally I’d have the Scots investigate this scandal.

  • Póló

    Surely this brings us straight back to the unfit person objection to the takeover?

    Well, it’s one line of thought.

    Admittedly not holding my breath.

  • mark_golding

    I put it to you British Prime-Minister David Cameron that you knew from private conversation with Andy Coulson before he left his job at your side that he had perjured himself while serving as No 10 communications chief, and that would put No 10 very close to very serious allegations.
    We know Strathclyde Police have been given a file which includes a transcript of Andy Coulson saying in court on oath that he had no knowledge of the News of the World paying corrupt police officers.
    News International revealed that it had sent e-mails to the police which showed Andy Coulson, when he worked at the News of the World, authorised payments to police officers.
    This explains why Andy Coulson decided he would have to leave his job straight after his appearance in court.
    Will Cameron come clean or do we wait for more ‘leaked’ information that will certainly require Mr Cameron to review his position.

  • harpie

    UK Torture Inquiry Farce on Last Legs, While Rendition to “Killing” Remains Uninvestigated; Jeff Kaye; FDL; 7/6/11

    […] While the U.S. Department of Justice is finally considering two cases of murder of detainees by the CIA, in general, the Obama administration has an official policy of “not looking back” and non-accountability when it comes to crimes of torture. But it seems likely there are more crimes waiting to be revealed.
    Last July, around the time the UK torture inquiry was first proposed, I broke the story that the revelations of UK cooperation with U.S. rendition policies included possible “rendition to killing.” […]

    [Jeffrey Kaye is a psychologist active in the anti-torture movement. He works clinically with torture victims at Survivors International in San Francisco, CA. His blog is Invictus; as “Valtin, ” he also occasionally blogs at Daily Kos, and elsewhere. He is a regular contributor to Truthout and The Public Record.]

  • John Goss

    Shutting down the News of the World. It’s a ploy to increase circulation figures with a special last ‘charity’ (I wonder which charities) edition to try and divert readers from the responsible newspapers which will be carrying the real stories about its nefarious business standards and practices. Next week the story will be dead. Murdoch’s media outpourings are much less believable than anything yfrog puts out.


  • mark_golding

    Craig is psychic – thesunonsunday.co.uk was registered as a domain name on July 5 by a company called Media Spring.

    Domain name:


    Registrant type:
    UK Individual

    Registrant’s address:
    The registrant is a non-trading individual who has opted to have their
    address omitted from the WHOIS service.

    Webfusion Ltd t/a 123-reg [Tag = 123-REG]
    URL: http://www.123-reg.co.uk

    Relevant dates:
    Registered on: 05-Jul-2011
    Renewal date: 05-Jul-2013
    Last updated: 07-Jul-2011

  • John Goss

    I’ve just read James Murdoch’s statement and it appears any charity can have free advertising space in the News of the World this Sunday, if I understand it correctly. Taking him at his word I have contacted my preferred charity http://www.conscienceonline.org.uk/ and informed them of this conscience-cleansing offer. Perhaps you know some worthy causes too!

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