Craig Murray worked as the British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004. Here he clarifies exactly what he knew and did not know about ‘extraordinary rendition’ and the UK and US policy on torture during this time.

I have seen a number of references, in the media and on the internet, citing me as confirming the existence of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme, and that Uzbekistan was a destination for extraordinary rendition.

It seems to me some clarification is required.

As British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 I saw intelligence material passed to the CIA by the Uzbek security services, and shared with MI6 by the CIA. Much of this I knew to be factually incorrect. The intention was invariably to exaggerate the Islamist threat in Uzbekistan and to link Uzbek opposition to Al Qaida.

I had learnt a great deal about the modus operandi of the Uzbek security services and their widespread use of torture. I sent my deputy, Karen Moran, to see the US Embassy in Tashkent to check if my fears about the origin of the intelligence material might be justified. The head of the CIA station confirmed to her that the material probably was obtained under torture, but added that the CIA had not seen this as a problem.

In November 2002, late January or early February 2003 and finally June 2004 I sent official telegrams to the FCO stating that I believed we were receiving material from torture, that the material was painting a false picture and that it was both illegal and immoral for us to receive it.

In March 2003 I was summoned back to the FCO and told by Sir Michael Wood, chief Legal Adviser, that it was not illegal under the UN Convention Against Torture for us to obtain or to use intelligence gained under torture, provided we did not torture ourselves or request that a named individual be tortured. That is I believe still the true British government position, whatever their public line.

I was aware from Autumn 2002 that the CIA were bringing in detainees to Tashkent from Baghram airport Afghanistan, who were handed over to the Uzbek security services (SNB). I presumed at the time that these were all Uzbek nationals – that may have been a false presumption. I knew that the CIA were obtaining intelligence from their subsequent interrogation by the SNB.

In two cases I was contacted by families trying to discover the whereabouts of individuals brought back in this way. I also had some brief connection with a third case.

I knew that a company, Premier Executive, were operating flights of executive jets including Gulfstreams bringing back these detainees, and that this was happening fairly regularly. Premier Executive had permanent ground staff in Tashkent three of whom I met socially. I understood they were civilian contractors who operated flights which supported the US military and intelligence presence in Uzbekistan in a number of ways. I believed them to be linked to Halliburton, whose subsidiary Brown and Root were involved in construction of ground facilities also to support the US military and intelligence presence. I also met socially serving US marines who were detailed to provide protection to Halliburton personnel and operations.

I did not know that Premier Executive or the CIA were bringing non-Uzbek detainees into Uzbekistan. I did not know of detainees being brought to the US base at Karshi Khanabad or any other US facility, rather than to the Uzbek authorities in Tashkent. I never heard of any interrogation with US personnel present. I had not heard the phrase “Extraordinary Rendition”.

What I have learnt since leaving Uzbekistan has come from journalistic work by inter alia Stephen Gray, Frederic Laurin, Andrew Gilligan, Jane Mayer, Scott Pellew and Don van Natta. I have spoken at length with all of these as well as reading what they have published. I have been told by more than one of the above of highly placed US official sources confirming that extraordinary rendition to Uzbekistan of non-Uzbeks does take place, but I have not met such sources myself, nor have I first hand experience of it.

So I find the evidence for extraordinary rendition credible, but am not the first hand authority on it that I am made out to be in some quarters. What I can confirm is the positive policy decision by the US and UK to use Uzbek torture material.

Craig Murray

10 July 2005

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Secret memos, allegations, a sacking and a resignation – Timeline of Craig Murray’s posting to Uzbekistan

August 2002: Craig Murray is appointed British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, a US ally in the “war on terror”.

October 2002: In a speech to “Freedom House”, Craig Murray details grave concerns over the human rights situation in Uzbekistan.

November 2002: In a secret telegram to London, Craig Murray first criticises the receipt by the CIA and MI6 of intelligence extracted through torture.

November 2002 – March 2003: Craig Murray continues to speak out about human rights abuse in Uzbekistan, and support local human rights activists.

8th March 2003: Craig Murray is summoned to London and told formally of Jack Straw’s decision that intelligence material obtained under torture is both legal and useful.

March 2003 – August 2003: Craig Murray continues to speak out about human rights abuse in Uzbekistan.

August 2003: The Foreign Office presents Craig Murray with 18 disciplinary charges, including an allegation that he gave out British visas to Uzbek girls in exchange for sex. He is suspended and given a week to resign. He denounces the charges, and refuses to resign. The charges are not made public.

October 2003: The Guardian newspaper discovers that Craig Murray has been suspended, and reports details of the charges against him. A senior unnamed Foreign Office source talks of a “campaign of systematic undermining” against Craig Murray to pressure him to stop criticising the Uzbek government. The source suggests that the pressure was partly “exercised on the orders of No 10”. The Foreign Office refuses to make any official comment.

January 2004: All 18 disciplinary charges are disproved, and Craig Murray returns to his post – though he is disciplined for speaking to colleagues about the charges.

January 2004 – July 2004: Craig Murray continues to speak out about human rights abuse in Uzbekistan, and support local human rights activists.

July 2004: In a strongly-worded secret memo, Craig Murray criticises the British and US policy of accepting information extracted through torture by the Uzbek government. “We are selling our souls for dross”, he says.

October 11th 2004: Craig Murray’s secret memo is published in the Financial Times, following a leak by an unknown official.

October 15th 2004: Craig Murray is sacked from his Ambassadorial post “for operational reasons”, but remains on the Foreign Office payroll.

October 16th 2004: In a Radio 4 interview, Craig Murray speaks out against his sacking, claiming that he is a “victim of conscience”. He goes on to give other media interviews, in which he is critical of the Foreign Office.

October 21st 2004: Craig Murray is charged with “gross misconduct” for criticising the Foreign Office publicly.

February 2005: Craig Murray resigns from the Foreign Office, and announces his intention to stand as an Independent candidate against Jack Straw in Blackburn.

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Was Craig Murray sacked or did he resign?

Q: Was Craig Murray sacked or did he resign?

A: Both. Craig Murray was sacked from his post as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan in October 2004, but remained on the Foreign Office Payroll. He resigned from the Foreign Office in February 2005.

Q: Why was Craig Murray sacked from his post as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan in October 2004?

A: According to the Foreign Office, Craig was removed from his post for “operational reasons”. This followed the leak of a secret memo Craig had written, in which he raised serious doubts about the wisdom of US and British policy in Uzbekistan. When these doubts became public, it was deemed that Craig could no longer work effectively in his post, and he was removed.

Q: Was Craig behind the leak which led to his sacking?

A: No. We do not know who was behind the leak, or what their motivation was.

Q: Is it true that Craig Murray was under investigation for gross misconduct at the time of his sacking?

A: No. Craig was sacked from his post in Uzbekistan on October 15th 2004 for “operational reasons”, although he remained on the Foreign Office payroll. Shortly afterwards, he gave a number of interviews to the media, speaking out about human rights abuse in Uzbekistan and criticising the decision to withdraw him. The Foreign Office then charged him with gross misconduct on October 21st 2004 because of what he had said to the media. Ten months earlier, the Foreign Office had been forced to withdraw 18 other bogus disciplinary disciplinary charges (see our timeline for more details of these).

Q: Why did Craig resign from the Foreign Office?

A: Craig resigned from the Foreign Office over Western support for the brutal dictatorship in Uzbekistan.

Click here for a full timeline of Craig Murray’s posting to Uzbekistan

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