We hear much about Johnson coming to power as an iconoclastic figure willing to cut a swathe through the ranks of the Establishment and especially the Civil Service, aided by blue skies thinker Dominic Cummings.
In fact nothing could be further from the truth. There has never been a Prime Minister more entrenched in and deferential to the London Establishment than Boris Johnson.
It may seem strange that Johnson’s very first executive decision on coming in to 10 Downing Street was to cancel the long delayed judicial inquiry into UK involvement in torture and extraordinary rendition. On the face of it, there were political attractions for Johnson in pursuing the issue. The policy of complicity in torture had been established by Tony Blair and Jack Straw, with as ever the active collaboration of Alastair Campbell. A judicial inquiry would hold them to account, and given they are not only New Labour but a leading Remainer posse, you would think Johnson would have pushed forward with the chance to expose them. Plus he likes to pose as something of a social liberal himself. So why was Johnson’s urgent priority to cancel the torture inquiry?
The answer is that scores of very senior civil servants were deeply implicated in British collusion in extraordinary rendition. Those directly guilty of complicity in torture include Sir Richard Dearlove, Sir John Scarlett, Sir William Ehrman, Lord Peter Ricketts and Sir Stephen Wright. It was Johnson’s fellow old Etonian, Sir William Ehrman, who chaired the series of meetings in the FCO on the implementation of the policy of getting intelligence through torture.
I testified on this subject, with documentary evidence, before the Intelligence and Security Committee of the House of Commons in secret session. The Committee’s report commended me because without my evidence that series of meetings, which at Ehrmann’s instruction were held without minutes or record, would never have come to light.
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.
It was not concern for Blair and Straw that led Johnson to cancel the judge led inquiry. It was the knowledge that Establishment insiders like Dearlove, Ehrman and Ricketts would be forced to give public evidence of their wrongdoing and could be liable to criminal proceedings. The judicial inquiry was promised by Cameron but both Cameron and May blenched at the shockwaves it would send through the ranks of the mandarins who run the country. Johnson has now used the opportunity of his advent, when nobody was paying much attention to anything but Brexit, to try to bury the subject completely and protect the Establishment.
It is essential to the health of our society that the full and shameful truth of this disgraceful episode is told and the guilty are held to account. I hope that once this unconstitutional Johnson regime – which has no majority in the House of Commons for its major policy and was appointed by an abuse of monarchical authority – has fallen, the subject will be brought back both by a Corbyn government at Westminster and in Holyrood by the government of Independent Scotland.
I got sacked for opposing torture and extraordinary rendition. Of those that supported it and abetted it, Lord Peter Ricketts is now Strategic Adviser to Lockheed Martin, so reaping the cash from his role in promoting wars that killed millions of innocents. Sir Stephen Wright is Senior Adviser to Mitsui & Co. Sir John Scarlett is a senior executive for Rupert Murdoch. Sir Richard Dearlove is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of London and a member of the far right Henry Jackson Society, among other things.
The wages of sin appear not bad at all. As the only civil servant to have entered at the time a written protest against UK complicity in torture, I remain unemployable.
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