The Gibson Inquiry – Wilfully Blind? 36

Wilful blindness – or worse? The credibility of the Gibson Inquiry into UK government complicity in torture seems to me to fall by the minute. The following facts seem to me almost unbelievable.

Government departments, including the FCO and MI6, are supposed to have already given Gibson all relevant documents so the inquiry can read through them before starting witness hearings.

But the government did not hand over the key document, revealed by Ian Cobain in the Guardian last month, which set out the permissions to operatives on complicity in torture. In fact as an email to me from Sara Carnegie, solicitor to the inquiry, reveals, the government still had not given this document to the inquiry ten days after the Guardian published. It now has done so in response to a specific request from Sara Carnegie.

Just as astonishingly, the FCO papers including those shown above, handed over by me to the Inquiry, were not among those submitted to the Inquiry by the FCO. The Inquiry has now requested unredacted copies. As of five days ago, and two months after I submitted my copies (redacted by the FCO), the Inquiry had still not received these papers from the FCO.

Ian Cobain’s source for his document is a whistleblower. I am also a whistleblower. There is no doubt that the documents produced from these whistleblower sources to the Inquiry are key evidence that the UK government was complicit in torture. There is also no doubt that if it were not for these whistleblowers, the Inquiry would never have seen this material – AND THAT THE INQUIRY IS INCREDIBLY RELAXED ABOUT THAT. So how much other incriminating material is the government still keeping hidden, and the so-called Inquiry not inquiring about?

Which goes back to the specific question on which I challenged the Inquiry. Had Gibson, in his role as Commissioner for the Intelligence Services, seen the document authorising complicity in torture revealed by Ian Cobain? This is the Inquiry’s very carefully worded answer to me on that point.

Further to your email below, I have now had an opportunity to speak to Sir Peter and show him a copy of the relevant document that was referred to in the Guardian article. He has confirmed that he has no memory of ever having seen this and that it would not have been a document that he would automatically have been expected to see at that time.

The statutory function of the Intelligence Services Commissioner was extended with effect from 6 July 2010, to include the monitoring of compliance by intelligence officers and military personnel with the Consolidated Guidance on the standards to be following during the detention and interviewing of detainees. Sir Peter had no role in the drafting of the Guidance. You may be aware that this Guidance is the subject of Judicial Review proceedings and judgment is expected in the near future.

The second para is smoke in your eyes, answering a point I never raised. The first para is a very narrow denial – that Gibson cannot recall having seen a particular piece of paper. It is far short of a denial that he knew of the policy. I think that Clive Stafford Smith’s point is absolutely right. Gibson should not be a judge, he should be a witness.

Suspect might be a better word.

36 thoughts on “The Gibson Inquiry – Wilfully Blind?

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  • John Goss

    Carefully-worded indeed. Gibson not having any memory is likely to be his line until someone jogs it for him, if anyone ever does.

    He’s seen it now, but it’s a good point how many other similar documents he has no recollection of having seen! Is he fit to chair this inquiry? The evidence suggests not.

  • craig Post author


    Deniability is designed in to the system; the non-naming of the source in the final version of the intelligence report the Minister sees being the most important deniability ruse. But that does not mean either that ministers do not know, or that MI6 are out of control. Both are completely false.

  • Clark

    Craig, I accept that ministers and those such as Gibson did know. In this case your actions have demonstrated that ministers did know, thus the only remaining approach is to attempt to discredit and sideline you.
    My point about a structure is that the claims of ignorance themselves should be demonstrably ludicrous. Anyone in a position of responsibility should be denied any credibility in making a claim of ignorance by the operation of the structure. Inquiries such as this should be reduced to the formality of submitting appropriate queries to the system.
    But such a structure, that ensures accountability while preserving operational secrecy, has not yet been developed. As far as I know, no attempt has ever been made to design such a system. If a viable system is developed, governments would have no excuse for not implementing it.

  • Tom Welsh

    Tuning in to Radio 4 this morning, I was treated to the plummy tones of Lord Goldsmith making equally carefully-worded statements.At one point, referring to the Baha Mousa affair, he remarked that the MoD had erred by lacking the “institutional memory” of earlier decisions that British servicemen should not torture prisoners. He then made the altogether unbelievable claim that it was difficult for soldiers “on the ground” to know what they were, or were not, allowed to do!

    It seemed to me that a simple rule such as “Do not torture anyone” would cover things pretty satisfactorily. But isn’t it shocking and astounding that British soldiers would need to be told that? Surely there was a time when one could take elementary decency for granted, except perhaps in a small minority of psychopaths.

    Now it seems the psychopaths have taken over the asylum.

  • mary

    Excellent new article from John Pilger.
    ‘This is Rupert’s Revolution, after all. Gone from the Murdoch press are pejorative “insurgents”. The action in Libya, says The Times, is “a revolution… as revolutions used to be”. That it is a coup by a gang of Muammar Gaddafi’s ex cronies and spooks in collusion with Nato is hardly news. The self-appointed “rebel leader”, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, was Gaddafi’s feared justice minister. The CIA runs or bankrolls most of the rest, including America’s old friends, the Mujadeen Islamists who spawned al-Qaeda.’
    ‘Nato attacked Libya to counter and manipulate a general Arab uprising that took the rulers of the world by surprise. Unlike his neighbours, Gaddafi had come to power by denying western control of his country’s natural wealth. For this, he was never forgiven, and the opportunity for his demise was seized in the usual manner, as history shows. The American historian William Blum has kept the record. Since the second world war, the United States has crushed or subverted liberation movements in 20 countries, and attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democratic, and dropped bombs on 30 countries, and attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.


  • Anna

    As an ex civil servant, although not in the ‘secret’ wing, I am absolutely certain that senior people including ministers, and probably the PM knew exactly what was going, I have drafted a few of those weasily worded emails for senior managers myself. The sooner this charade of an inquiry discovers some balls the better, although I’m not at all optimistic that they will.

    It’s also ludicrous to suggest that soldiers don’t know what they are, or are not allowed to do. There are rules of engagement and they know perfectly well when they are being broken, which doesn’t prevent them from breaking them, obviously.

  • Jon

    I apologise for the O/T, but these days I think we could all do with a giggle.
    Google News attempts, via a computer program, to scan news sites around the world, and group together all articles it finds about the same thing. So I was unsure what to make of these just now:
    Giant Snake Found In Whitehall! – Sky News (blog)
    Hague bids to boost Foreign Office – The Press Association

  • ingo

    Jack Straw has been furiously busy in damage control today, denying everything Haig accused him off.

    Haig is talking of reforming the FCO, tut tut, would that be a shuffle? or a sand bagging of the many?
    If the Conservatives mean what they say on human rights they should at least be asking Craig to advise and help, or even offer him a job back and be open to have FCO policies tested

    I wonder how far you have to scratch the surface to find JS signature underneath documents, how much longer can he keep himself afloat?
    Thanks for the link Mary, so Menwith Hill directs UAV’s to their target, next to commerical espionage and who knows what else. Radio 4 was definately cringeworthy this morning.

    Thanks Anna and welcome, they all knew, because next to shuffling these papers along for peer perusal, they all talk to each other, have lunch at clubs etc.

  • John Goss

    I love that heading “Wilfully Blind”. And while Gibson is conveniently blind, Tony Blair and Jack Straw, are wilfully dumb. MI6 did not draft the “dodgy dossier” on WMDs without pressure from the top. The tortures that have taken place in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and the murder by British forces of Baha Mousa, are the direct result of an illegal war. Without that war, and Blair’s other wars, there would have been no Gibson enquiry into torture. The blame goes right to the top. But they are going to try and pin it on a handful of rogue troops. That is not satisfactory!
    Kenneth Clarke wants human rights’ legislation in Europe to change giving Strasbourg no powers over the UK Supreme court. (There are currently 100,000 cases waiting to be heard at Strasbourg). A petition is being (or has been) presented to parliament today calling for a referendum. Clarke said “The Strasbourg Court should be used by victims of state torture, not complaints.” It has no chance of success and is not even getting Cameron’s support (though that was not what he was saying a fortnight ago).
    If the Gibson inquiry, as is expected is a whitewash, is there any chance of having an enquiry in Europe to bring Blair and Straw to account?

  • tony_opmoc

    The coming 10th anniversary of 9/11 is getting to me. I know that was a real event, because the Grandmother of Twin Baby Girls my Wife was Childminding on that day was in one of The Towers when it was hit. She survived though we didn’t know for 24 hours.

    Since then, I have had my doubts about other events, purely on the basis of myself analysing some of the photography immediately after the actual event. The last time was Norway, and I posted my thoughts here then.

    Subsequently I dismiss my own analysis as ridiculous. Until an hour ago, I had no idea that lots of other people had come to similar conclusions, and have gone to great lengths to analyse photography in great detail.

    Its entirely possible that all these people are nuts – including me – except that I haven’t yet reached any firm conclusions.

    Still here it is – if posting links is allowed here.

    This website has had over 100,000 views

    “London, Madrid, Oslo and other faked terror events”


  • Roderick Russell

    Craig in your comment to Clark you say “Deniability is designed in to the system”. Yes, but isn’t that what the offense of willful blindness is about. In response to a question from CNN – Where did the idea of “willful blindness” start for you? – Author Margaret Heffernan said “ I read the transcript of the trial of Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay and in the instructions to the jury, the judge cited the legal concept of willful blindness — that if there is information that you could have known, and should have known, but somehow managed not to know, the law treats you as though you did know it.” The Americans in the Enron trials seem to have rediscovered this offense. I am not a lawyer, but I do know that “willful blindness” is also a criminal offense in Canada and should make “plausible deniability“ just a little more difficult to sustain.

    @Tom Welsh your quote “there was a time when one could take elementary decency for granted” just says it all.

  • John Goss

    Roderick Russell, that’s right about ‘wilfull blindness’ being cited in the Enron case. And Tom Watson asked James Murdoch if he had heard of the phrase. Murdoch, of course, denied he had. Tom Watson said something to the effect “Well, you’ve heard of it now”. Gibson is sure to have heard of it, but will no doubt have turned a deaf ear to it, in case it incriminates him for turning a blind eye to the Guardian torture documents.

  • tony_opmoc

    Roderick Russell,

    Although I come from a very working class background in Oldham, and my main academic interests were maths, physics, computing, logic and analysis, I also studied practical philosophy and psychology. My main interest initially in these non-core subjects was that lots of crumpet tended to go on these courses. Not that it did me any good but that was my initial motivation.

    “willful blindness” is part of the human psyche. Its an inbuilt defence mechanism in order to cope with gross trauma, that otherwise would be completely disabling.

    The effect for example would be complete denial if your husband kept coming home covered in blood in the area in which the Yorkshire Ripper was committing serial murders. Whilst you knew he wasn’t actually a butcher, you knew that he did know and went drinking with the guy from the real meat company. You accepted his excuses that he had just been helping his mate out. The idea that you were married to the Yorkshire Ripper never crossed your conscious mind.

    Despite all the evidence you displayed “willful blindness”.


  • John Goss

    Mary, I’ve just read the John Pilger article. What a first-class journalist; and one with morals. When I was serving my apprenticeship in the early sixties John Pilger was taking on Distillers in the Daily Mirror for the malformations of children caused by their drug thalidomide. It is good to know that he still writes with the same fervour and still takes on challenging issues. He is an inspiration.

  • mary

    Quite agree John. He always hits the nail on the head and seems tireless. I had the good fortune to meet him once at the BAFTA theatre when he was presenting the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism to Mohammed Omer, the brave young Palestinian photo journalist from Gaza. The co-recipient was Dahr Jamail who went to Iraq (Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq) and was one of the few unemmbedded journalists there. John Pilger has never sold out and is as true as he was in those early days which I remember also. (He is damned handsome in real life and charming too!)

  • Courtenay Barnett

    A Judge in a court trial would have to step aside by reference to the standards that must be applied to Gibson’s needed recusal. The Pinochet case and Lord Hoffman’s position therein should serve amply to set the standard by which Gibson ought to abide. Intelligence Services Commissioner (ISC) sitting as Judge equates to Caesar judging Caesar.
    On the most fundamental principles of Natural Justice – the Nemo iudex in causa sua limb (i.e. one ought not to be a Judge in his own cause) is flagrantly offended.
    The whole exercise with Gibson presiding becomes, by the standards of even he or she with the most fundamental grasp of the principles of law and justice – a farce and a travesty.

    Nuff said.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    One can also argue that on the one hand – quasi judicial bodies can be taken to Judicial Review in the mainstream judicial system which itself upholds and applies the principles of natural justice.This is a prodedural observation.

    If, the converse is applied, on the basis of substantive legal priciples being applied – then serious jurisprudential issues do arise. To have a properly constituted non-court tribunal ( read : Inquiry), then where are the standards of justice to be derived from? And, more particularly, with regard to “Natural Justice’s” applicability, then by what standard of anything that might be termed – credible standards of justice applied – is the Inquiry’s Judge/Head to be exempted from the principles of Natural Justice?

  • Vronsky

    “has no memory”
    The most contemptuous of denials, since it isn’t a denial at all. It’s equivalent to ‘Whoops! Did I really?’ an attitude only possible in the confident knowledge that no-one is going to do anything about it. Phrases like ‘I don’t now recall’ and ‘I can’t remember’ are becoming steadily more common in these official non-denials, an index of their increasing contempt for the rest of us. We’re not far from the time when they’ll come right out and say: “Yeh, we did do that – now piss off.’

  • anno

    Political deception and malice, whether it be from UK, US, IS, Europe or political Islam, have always joined to make a coalition against humanity. I left the company of the political classes of the UK whose ‘no memory’ drawl has cancelled responsibility for a thousand years of genocide, and joined the company of political Islam, which is equally bereft of morality, human or divine. These people grasp every opportunity to cheat individuals or state alike, spy, bear false-witness and exercise control over information and truth.
    Political minds of all shades collude against the conscience and goodwill of ordinary people. Same old, same old. On the day of judgement, they will get a little note in their left hand reminding them of what they have ‘ no memory ‘ of right now.

  • OldMark

    ‘Phrases like ‘I don’t now recall’ and ‘I can’t remember’ are becoming steadily more common in these official non-denials, an index of their increasing contempt for the rest of us.’

    Exactly- the tactic applied here is the same as that used by Murdoch pere et fils before the Select Committee in July, and exhibits a similar degree of contempt for the interlocutor (Craig in this case, the MPs on the Committee in Murdoch’s case).

  • John Goss

    The trouble is Peter Gibson is as much a favourite with David Cameron as Andy Coulson once was. If Cameron can be convinced that he’s (the Government’s) making a bad judgment in letting Gibson chair the Inquiry he might disassociate himself before the shit hits the fan.

  • John Goss

    Courtenay, I meant to thank you for giving a considered legal slant on what is tantamount to judges judging themselves.

  • ingo

    Thanks for your ususal crisp explanations Courtnay, much obliged. So he knows that we know that he knew. Gibsons work is that of a bad conductor, trying to make out that the finale is just as good as the concert, which he knew was out of sync and tune.

    What if those who are asked to go and give witness, refuse and cite his partiality as a reason whilst argueing for his participation as a witness? What would actuially happen? would he not be publically compromised?

  • TFS

    Off course if he’s a civil servant, then the civil service code of conduct begame legally binding of all civil servants as of November 2010.

    Perhaps a strongly worded document highlighting this fact to him?

  • anno

    At the last great technological breakthrough, the enlightenment, there arose an overwhelming demand for freedom of speech, such as we now experience on the internet. The problem for the UK establishment then was how to filter out the religion of Islam from the wealth of knowledge that Islam had brought to this country. The answer was for the establishment to create Puritanism, as it has now created for want of a better word, Salafism, strictly controlled Islam. Salafism as practised properly is another thing quite different from what has been created to subjugate the Muslims now.
    This quasi-Salafism has worked with the government in the UK in the last ten years to create a climate of fear amongst the Muslims of speaking out against the crimes the Muslims have suffered abroad. They lent the spies and cameras in the mosques, they helped to concoct the false-flag terror plots which have all been since exposed.
    So from now on I shall rename Salafism, Neo-Puritanism. We are now living in a post-neo-puritan age. May Allah’s curse be on all the scholars of Islam who co-operate with the enemies of Islam to line their pockets, and raise their personal power over the ordinary Muslims. May Allah’s curse be on the Deobandi collaborators with the British in 1918 to destroy the Ottoman Chaliphate. May Allah’s curse be on the likes of Belhaj the CIA/ ALQaida military chief in Libya who collaborate with Zionist bankers and UK US IS EU colonialists to steal Muslim money and oil, murder Muslim families, and help the US to enslave Africa for a second time, solely for the taste of raw power in their bloody fangs.
    May Allah’s curse be on those Muslims who think they can put up Islam by political scavenging. May Allah’s curse be on the political collaborators with the enemies of Islam to build mosques which are paid for by proceeds of mortgages and Usury, which they have deliberately made Halal to eat the proceeds from. May Allah’s curse be on the Zionists for directing the mischief from their kettled fortresses in the city of London and Washington.
    On this anniversary of 9/11, who actually believes that Usama Bin Laden is dead, and not sitting in some cosy south American haven like Hitler’s henchmen? Who believes anything the media tells us about the world we live in. believe me you will get more information out of an ancient Walt Disney cartoon. same old, same old, plus ca change…

  • Jonangus Mackay

    How War on Terror turned Britain’s Iraq ‘expert’ at UN into an anarchist.
    ‘I don’t think David Kelly was murdered. I think he was humiliated to death, which is almost worse [ . . . ] We were effectively demoralized — de-moralized — by our State. We were given permission to be amoral.’
    Carne Ross to an audience of 350 at LSE last night:
    Full recording (83 mins) here:

  • Wikispooks

    I haven’t done the introductory page yet but I think Craig should read this:
    A draft resolution prepared for the inter-parliamentary Council of Europe bluntly criticized the “cult of secrecy” in the United States and other nations and it praised the role of whistleblowers in helping to challenge the abuse of secrecy authority.
    Plus some devastating stuff about European Countries involvement in extraordinary rendition.

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