Blair and Brown Governments Gory with Torture 156

Even I was taken aback by the sheer scale of British active involvement in extraordinary rendition revealed by yesterday’s report of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. Dominic Grieve and the committee deserve congratulations for their honesty, integrity and above all persistence. It is plain from the report that 10 Downing Street did everything possible to handicap the work of the committee. Most crucially they were allowed only to interview extremely senior civil servants and not allowed to interview those actively engaged in the torture and rendition programme.

Theresa May specifically and deliberately ruled out the Committee from questioning any official who might be placed at risk of criminal proceedings – see para 11 of the report. The determination of the government to protect those who were complicit in torture tells us much more about their future intentions than any fake apology.

In fact it is impossible to read paras 9 to 14 without being astonished at the sheer audacity of Theresa May’s attempts to obstruct the inquiry. They were allowed to interview only 4 out of 23 requested witnesses, and those were not allowed “to talk about the specifics of the operations in which they were involved nor fill in any gaps in the timeline”. If the UK had a genuinely free media, this executive obstruction of the Inquiry would be the lead story. Instead it is not mentioned in any corporate or state media, despite the committee report containing a firm protest:

It is worth reflecting that the Tory government has acted time and time again to protect New Labour’s Tony Blair, David Miliband, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown from any punishment for their complicity in torture, and indeed to limit the information on it available to the public. The truth is that the Tories and New Labour (which includes the vast majority of current Labour MPs) are all a part of the same elite interest group, and when under pressure they stick together as a class against the people.

Despite being hamstrung by government, the Committee managed through exhaustive research of classified documents to pull together evidence of British involvement in extraordinary rendition and mistreatment of detainees on a massive scale. The Committee found 596 individual documented incidents of the security services obtaining “intelligence” from detainee interrogations involving torture or severe mistreatment, ranging from 2 incidents of direct involvement, “13 to 15” of actually being in the room, through those where the US or other authorities admitted to the torture, to those where the detainee told the officer they had been tortured. They found three instances where the UK had paid for rendition flights.

My own evidence to the Committee focused on the over-arching policy framework, and specifically the fact that Jack Straw and Richard Dearlove had agreed a deliberate and considered policy of obtaining intelligence through torture. The report includes disappointingly little of my evidence, as the Committee has taken a very narrow view of its remit to oversee the intelligence agencies. This is the only part of my evidence included:

130. This was not unique to the Agencies. Their sponsoring Departments appear to have adopted the same approach. We heard evidence from a former FCO official, Craig Murray, who suggested that “there was a deliberate policy of not committing the discussion on receipt of intelligence through torture to paper in the Foreign Office”.
In July 2004, when he was Ambassador to Tashkent, he raised concerns about the use of Uzbek intelligence derived from torture in a formal exchange of telegrams with the FCO. Mr Murray drew our attention to FCO documents from the same time, which we have seen, one of which referred to “meetings to look at conditions of receipt of intelligence as a general issue”. He told us that the meetings “specifically discuss[ed] the receipt of intelligence under torture from Uzbekistan” and “were absolutely key to the formation of policy on extraordinary rendition and intelligence”.
Mr Murray told us that, when he had given evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee about this, they sought the documents from the FCO which replied that the “meetings were informal meetings and were not minuted ”. He went on to say:
“the idea that you have regular meetings convened at director level, convened by the Director of Security and Intelligence, where you are discussing the receipt of intelligence from torture, and you do not minute those meetings is an impossibility, unless an actual decision or instruction not to minute the meetings has been given.… Were it not for me and my bloody-mindedness, … you would never know those meetings had happened. Nobody would ever know those meetings had happened.”

131. We note that we have not seen the minutes of these meetings either: this causes us great concern. Policy discussions on such an important issue should have been minuted. We support
Mr Murray’s own conclusion that were it not for his actions these matters may never have come to light.

Jack Straw to this day denies knowledge and involvement and famously told Parliament that the whole story about rendition and torture was a “conspiracy theory”.

Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we have not been, and so what on earth a judicial inquiry would start to do I have no idea. I do not think it would be justified.”

In fact I strongly recommend you to read the whole Hansard transcript, from Q21 to Q51, in which Jack Straw carries out the most sustained bravura performance of lying to parliament in modern history. The ISC report makes plain he was repeatedly involved in direct authorisations of rendition operations, while denying to parliament the very existence of such operations.

For over a decade now the British government, be it Red Tory or Blue Tory, has been refusing calls for a proper public inquiry into its collusion with torture. The ISC report was meant to stand in place of such an Inquiry, but all it has done is reveal that there is a huge amount of complicity in torture, much more than we had realised, which the ISC itself states it was precluded from properly investigating because of government restrictions on its operations. It also concluded in a separate report on current issues, that it is unable to state categorically that these practices have stopped.

The Blair and Brown governments were deeply immersed in torture, a practice that increased hatred of the UK in the Muslim world and thus increased the threat of terrorism. Their ministers repeatedly lied about it, including to parliament. The British state has since repeatedly acted to ensure impunity for those involved, from Blair and Straw down to individual security service officers, who are not to be held responsible for their criminal complicity. This impunity of agents of the state is a complete guarantee that these evil practices will continue.

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156 thoughts on “Blair and Brown Governments Gory with Torture

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  • Republicofscotland

    I haven’t read the transcript yet, but it looks like you’ve been correct all along, still the establishment closing ranks on you should be expected. I’m sure that bitter taste in your mouth must be easing a little at Straw’s bare faced lying being exposed, but not punished alas.

    “For over a decade now the British government, be it Red Tory or Blue Tory, has been refusing calls for a proper public inquiry into its collusion with torture. ”

    Incidently did Corbyn speak out about it?

    • Kevin Mullins

      I suspect Corbyn is keeping his powder dry which is one of many reasons the establishment do not want him in Number 10

      • joeblogs

        Mr. Corbyn is controlled opposition. I think it took him by surprise when he became leader of the ‘Labour’ Party; he had to confront the fact that his supporters expect him to consistently maintain his support for Palestinians, but his new ‘owners’ thought otherwise. If he should become PM, he will turn about face completely. They all do.

        As usual, a labour man will be put in the driving seat when the UK crisis comes (putting 2008 in the shade) – and the press can all then dutifully blame ‘socialism’ as the cause.

        The best thing the nation could do would be to turn up at the polling station on election day, and, in full view of the world’s press and TV cameras, light a match and burn their voting cards. Publicly boycott this sham ‘democracy’. Because, as author Alfred Noyes wrote in the preface to his book, ‘The Edge of the Abyss’ (published in 1942): “It would be a terrible tragedy, if the enemy we are fighting (Nazism) were to be foisted on us under another name”. Profoundly prophetic words. This it turns out, is exactly what has happened.

  • Ian

    Great piece, Craig. It is astonishing the extent of the collusion between the UK and US, despite the general acceptance of its existence. Any decent parliament would be shocked, outraged and demanding answers. Ours won’t, of course. Clive Lewis had a decent stab at it last night on QT, but there is no doubt the government and their supporters want the whole thing to be forgotten and ignored.

  • Stubbs

    It was obvious in 2001, when the US set up Gitmo, that they were renditioning and torturing. Why else have an extra-legal prison ?? Obviously the same at Bagram and thus other convenient facilities around the world.
    As we can’t cosy up close enough to the USA it’s no surprise that we were up to our necks in it with them. What is surprising is that the ISC were supposed to be the “long grass” after the Gibson Inquiry, but they’ve actually thrown the ordure into the fan.

    I expect the media (I didn’t hear it mentioned on the World Service news) will move on from it in a couple of days and Theresa May will witlessly continue pontificating that “We want to … uphold and protect the international rules-based order”

  • Anthony

    Interesting that despite you being named in the report, nobody in the British media has sought your opinion on it.
    Glad to see that RT did.

    Btw, your pointing out the unreliability of intelligence gleaned from torture reminded me of something Jesse Ventura said a few years ago:
    ‘You give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders’

    • Squeeth

      The point about torturing someone is not that they might talk but that they will be broken; it’s the continuation of terrorism by other means. Ask Himmler.

  • Don

    Of course the domestic counterintelligence operations (carried out by all recent governments including Mrs May’s) involving the use of cruel and degrading treatment against thousands of British subjects (including whistleblowers) matters a lot less.

  • Sharp Ears

    Fair dos but I could have done without the reference to Grieve in the light of what I have said before about him refusing to grant an inquest for Dr Kelly which was legally due after his unnatural death.

  • Sharp Ears

    Even the Heil is outraged.
    ‘The Daily Mail also leads on the “bombshell report” into British complicity in torture. It says Britain helped fund US flights carrying kidnapped terror suspects “despite being told it was illegal.”

    Only it and the Guardian saw fit to have their reports on the front page today.
    ‘British ministers in power after 9/11 are facing calls to explain their “inexcusable” actions, says the Guardian. This follows the publication of two “damning” reports into UK involvement in the torture of terrorist suspects. The paper says Mrs May is also “under fire” for stopping key intelligence figures giving evidence to MPs.’

    • Geoffrey

      As I am sure you already know,the Daily Mail has always been against the Iraq invasion and has frequently brought up the torture allegations of the British state.

  • EoH

    Closing ranks is what makes the establishment the establishment. It does a lot of filtering to make sure that anyone allowed in follows the protocol. Craig would know better than most what how well it enforces lapses in following the protocol.

    Its continuity overrides and outlasts any government or monarch. It will be interesting to see how it changes as the City’s (its) money flows onto the continent post-Brexit.

  • Antiwar7

    Interesting. Jack Straw confirms “there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States.” Because he says unless we believe that, then the UK govt was not involved in rendition. And they were.

  • Richard Montgomery

    Thanks Craig for helping expose these criminals. Brown, Blair and Straw will still sleep at night though knowing they are protected by the Establishmend and their compliant sidekicks in the MSM.

  • King of Welsh Noir

    To those of us who never bought the official account of 9/11 it is especially surreal.

    According to an NBC news report, 25% of the footnotes to the 9/11 Commission Inquiry report—the US Government’s justification for the Global War on Terror—were based on evidence derived from torture, including the world record waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – 183 times.

    So the worldwide programme of kidnap and torture was justified by a narrative which was itself substantially woven from ‘confessions’ derived from torture.

    It’s the torture equivalent of picking yourself up by your own bootstraps.

    • Clark

      Here’s the report referred to:

      They even went back and performed more torture, literally to get the answers they wanted to hear. Many detainees confessed to many crimes that had never been committed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did “confess” to helping plan 9/11, but he also “confessed” to multiple entirely invented crimes as well – crimes invented by those ordering the torture.

    • Herbie

      “So the worldwide programme of kidnap and torture was justified by a narrative which was itself substantially woven from ‘confessions’ derived from torture.”

      Excellently put.

      Yes. That’s it.

    • lysias

      That was the point of the torture, to get testimony that would support the official account of 9/11. Interrogators are well aware of the fact that torture is not a reliable way to get true information. It is, however, an effective way to get testimony that supports an account that the torturers want, as Stalin’s secret police — and the Western intel agencies that studied their methods — were well aware.

  • Pyotr Grozny

    A bit early in the thread to go off-topic but justvreceived this update to FCO Travel Advice on Russia

    3:02pm, 29 June 2018: Latest update: Summary – revised information on protests; protests against pension reform are expected in a range of cities across Russia during the weekend of 30 June and 1 July; check the local media for the latest information.

    Are they actually trying to help the traveller or are they making a last ditch effort to scare off football fans who have heard from their friends in Russia that there is nothing to be afraid of?

    • Tatyana

      Pyotr, I’m sorry this may coincide with the world cup, but me too going to participate.
      Our govt decided to extend working years by 5 for men and 8 for women. It is unacceptable, yet the whole pension fund management method is ill.

    • Herbie

      That’s weird. The Saker and others predicted the very same thing:

      “let’s look at another interesting news item from Russia, the recent article “Pension reform as a fifth column tool to overthrow Putin” (original title “About a fair pension system”) by Mikhail Khazin translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard from the Stalker Zone blog (and cross-posted here and here). Please read the full article as it sheds a very interesting light on what the Medvedev government has been up to since it was reappointed. What I want to quote here are Mikhail Khazin’s conclusions: (emphasis added)”

      • Herbie

        The Russian pension reforms:

        “In other words, all of this reform is frank poppycock, a political joke aimed at destroying relations between the People (society) and the Authorities. The specific aim of this is to overthrow Putin, as our liberals are commanded to do by their senior partners from the “Western” global project. And it is precisely like this that we should treat this reform. It has no relation to economic reforms – neither good, nor bad. It not an economic reform, but a political plot! And it is from here that we have to proceed.”

  • quasi_verbatim

    No doubt the information extracted by torture was put to good use by our intelligence services and kept us safe.

    We must torture them over there so that we do not have to torture them over here, as Gordon once said.

      • Sharp Ears

        A sicko there @ 16.47

        I heard someone defending torture on LBC. ‘It works sometimes.’

    • SA

      Sounds like the rules of the jungle: do unto others what you would want others to do to you, unless you achieve impunity by being stronger than them and control all international institutions.

  • Geoffrey

    I forgot to mention ,surprisingly good cartoon in The Times of Straw and Blair pushing a torture victim.

  • Old Mark

    On days like these when intelligence matters, and our recent squalid dealings in the ME, get airtime on the legacy media, Craig’s site never disappoints.

    Well done Craig for highlighting the more pertinent points in the ISC report- I’m sure reading para 131, which essentially endorses your recollection and analysis of these events, must give you satisfaction- and renewed energy to keep chipping away at the edifice of lies that Blair & Straw (lately and enthusiastically assisted by the Maybot) have constructed around this episode.

  • David W Carraher

    Thanks, Craig. It is a relief that the Committee has now corroborated your claims and revealed (at least part of) the extent to which the present administration continues to shield those involved in such nefarious deeds. I hope that the Intercept as well as mainstream news sources will pass on this information to their readers.

  • Sharp Ears

    Moazzam Begg.

    Ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoner says British intel agencies the ‘only reason’ he was locked up (VIDEO)
    29 Jun 2018 | 14:35 GMT

    An ex-Guantanamo Bay inmate has said British intelligence agencies are the “only reason” he was locked up in the controversial facility. It follows revelations that the UK was more involved in US torture than previously known.

    Moazzam Begg, who spent two years in Guantanamo, said that British interference was the only reason for his detention in the prison, which was established by former US president George W. Bush as part of the ‘War on Terror’ after the 9/11 attacks.

    “The first instance in which an MI5 agent saw me was when my hands were tied behind my back, shackled to my legs, and a hood was placed over my head while Americans pointed guns towards me,” Begg said.


    He lost three years of his life in Bagram and then Guantanamo.

    • Pete

      I see – ref Moazzam Begg – that Mr Cross has edited his Wikipedia page too…

  • defo

    And into the memory hole it goes.
    Off Aunties home page, and slipping rapidly down the politics page as “UK ‘knew US mistreated detainees'”
    Does this count as complicity ? 🙂

  • Carl

    Impunity is right. They’ll never throw smooth Jack overboard. Or Cameron, or any member of the club. They are absolutely untouchable.

    • Herbie

      Not sure Blair and Straw are full members of the club. Cameron is. Osborne, Johnson and so on.

      But there certainly are circumstances in which mere associate members may be sacrificed to the mob.

      There’s always a necessary cleansing as the ancien regime pretends to fade into history.

  • Muscleguy

    Excellent reportage and opinion Craig, what would we do without you.

    We can only hope that since ScotGov now owns Prestwick airport while the SNP are in power in Holyrood no more rendition flights will refuel in Scotland. Our impotence over it I may well use on the doorsteps in Indyref2. Our complicity in crimes against humanity like this will never end until we are Independent.

    It was disappointing to see my adoptive home country New Zealand be forced into line over the Salisbury poisoning after PM Ardern’s comment in the immediate aftermath ‘we could not find any Russian spies to expel in NZ’. IOW ‘we are not convinced’. I presume the 5eyes partners came down hard on little NZ. Still, we got our semi-non-aligned foreign policy stance in at the start.

    • Kerch'ee Kerch'ee Coup

      Shannon Airport in the Republic has been used for a number of CIA rendition flights despite many protests. As the SNP seems to have virtually signed the country up to NATO, it would be stretching credulity to argue that they would have behaved differently or will do so in future.. We can only hope that information about such flights is widely exchanged so that they may be publicized.

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