Straw Man


Complicit by Inaction: Jack Straw in ‘rendition flights’ probe

From IOL

London – Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was hit with a new probe Thursday into how much he and the government knew about alleged US “extraordinary rendition” flights of suspected terrorists.

Members of parliament dissatisfied with Straw’s previous statements on the controversial issue submitted a series of questions in the lower House of Commons and are demanding a fuller response.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government said Monday it had found no evidence of any American requests to fly terror suspects through Britain since September 11, 2001.

It has also repeatedly stated its opposition to torture, but Blair flatly refused Wednesday to query every US government flight coming into and leaving Britain, dismissing the suggestion as “completely absurd”.

MP Andrew Tyrie, from the main opposition Conservatives, said there was a “real risk” the government could find itself “complicit by inaction”.

“Turning a blind eye becomes something more than negligence and may be shown to be unlawful,” he told a London news conference.

He also called for the Security and Intelligence Committee, made up of senior MPs to investigate issues of national security, to look into the affair, which has concerned human rights groups and several European Union countries.

Lynne Jones, a rebel MP from Blair’s ruling Labour Party, said: “The longer this goes on, the more the government is brought into disrepute.

“It would be better if the government showed it was taking this seriously and investigating properly, rather than raising smokescreens.”

The questions ask Straw to specify whether the White House was asked why detainees were transferred to countries known to commit torture and to state how many transfers took place through British airspace.

Others include whether “blanket permission” had been granted for “extraordinary rendition” flights and if Straw’s check of flight records encompassed landings at military airfields and other private facilities.

It also called for the criteria under which it would refuse access to British facilities and airspace to be published.

Washington has come under fire over the last six weeks from reports about hundreds of Central Intelligence Agency flights, suspected of carrying undeclared prisoners across European airspace, since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

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Rendition victim was handed over to the US by MI6

By Colin Brown in The Independent

MI6 officers interrogated a former UK student in Pakistan, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday. The man, a terrorist suspect, says MI6 handed him to the CIA for “extraordinary rendition” and torture .

The allegations by Binyam Mohammed el-Habashi, 27, in which he details the abuse, sleep deprivation and torture inflicted on him, were previously uncorroborated, but Mr Straw admitted for the first time that at least part of his story was true.

Reading from a brief, Mr Straw told MPs: “Mr Habashi was interviewed once in Karachi by the security services. The security services had no role in his capture or transfer from Pakistan. The security service officer did not observe any abuse and no incidents of abuse were reported to him by Mr Habashi.”

Asked whether he could confirm Mr Habashi was handed over to the Americans in Karachi, Mr Straw said: “I know nothing about it.” However, the official confirmation of Mr Habashi’s claims that he was seen by British MI6 officers while in custody in Pakistan will strengthen his legal claims that he was abused after being handed over to the US.

His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, believes Mr Habashi could be the first British resident to become a victim of extraordinary rendition by the US. He is facing trial at a military court at Guantanamo Bay, and could be jailed for life. No date has been set for his hearing.

MI6 officers interrogated a former UK student in Pakistan, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday. The man, a terrorist suspect, says MI6 handed him to the CIA for “extraordinary rendition” and torture .

The allegations by Binyam Mohammed el-Habashi, 27, in which he details the abuse, sleep deprivation and torture inflicted on him, were previously uncorroborated, but Mr Straw admitted for the first time that at least part of his story was true.

Reading from a brief, Mr Straw told MPs: “Mr Habashi was interviewed once in Karachi by the security services. The security services had no role in his capture or transfer from Pakistan. The security service officer did not observe any abuse and no incidents of abuse were reported to him by Mr Habashi.”

Asked whether he could confirm Mr Habashi was handed over to the Americans in Karachi, Mr Straw said: “I know nothing about it.” However, the official confirmation of Mr Habashi’s claims that he was seen by British MI6 officers while in custody in Pakistan will strengthen his legal claims that he was abused after being handed over to the US.

His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, believes Mr Habashi could be the first British resident to become a victim of extraordinary rendition by the US. He is facing trial at a military court at Guantanamo Bay, and could be jailed for life. No date has been set for his hearing.

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Straw Plays Ignorant

Jack Straw was interviewed on BBC radio this morning and claimed he had no records of requests for UK airports to be used for illegal transfers of prisoners to be tortured (extraordinary rendition). When pressed, he admitted that no checks had been made by British authorities on the planes so the the lack of recorded evidence of US requests is hardly compelling, to put it mildly!

The interview can be heard here following a section on the latest Iraq poll. Radio interview

Meanwhile, Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights continues to lay down the line with further interviews over the weekend. Here, we give an extract from her speech given on Human Rights Day.

Particularly insidious are moves to water down or question the absolute ban on torture, as well as on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Governments in a number of countries are claiming that established rules do not apply anymore: that we live in a changed world and that there is a “new normal”. They argue that this justifies a lowering of the bar as to what constitutes permissible treatment of detainees. An illegal interrogation technique, however, remains illegal whatever new description a government might wish to give it.

Update (13/12): CIA flight assurances ‘worthless’

“Checking for instances of the US requesting permission is simply derisory.”

“It is crystal clear that the UK must investigate allegations that it has been complicit in torture,”

Mr Tyrie, all party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition.

Liberty press release “Few would be na’ve enough to expect a foreign power to ask specific permission to use Britain for the shameful and shadowy business of kidnap and torture. We need a proactive investigation rather than an FCO file-check”

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Straw plans to change rules on diplomats memoirs

Moves by the FCO to stall on the clearance of Craig Murray’s book may be explained by news today that Jack Straw is planning to change the rules governing diplomats’ memoirs. These will be intended to better protect secrets within government and prevent further embaressments. So if they stall long enough they may then be able to block most of this book and any others to follow…

By Nigel Morris in The Independent

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, has admitted that it was only through an internet advertisement that he discovered Sir Christopher Meyer was preparing to publish his memoirs.

Sir Christopher’s colourful account of his time as ambassador to Washington has embarrassed ministers, who have accused him of breaking the trust between civil servants and politicians. They have called for him to resign as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission.

Mr Straw reopened the war of words with Sir Christopher last night by announcing new controls on diplomats writing books and accusing him of keeping the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the dark over his plans to publish DC Confidential.

The Foreign Secretary said: “There was no prior consultation by the author with the FCO before he entered into a commitment with a publisher and began writing. Following the appearance of a trailer for the book on the Amazon website in May, Sir Christopher was contacted by the FCO, reminded of the publication rules and repeatedly asked to submit his text to the department when completed.”

In a Commons written answer, Mr Straw said the book was only submitted to the Government for approval on 7 October, five weeks before its publication. Mr Straw said changes were not demanded in the text because of the “high threshold” required to demonstrate that Diplomatic Service regulations had been broken.

Mr Straw said the case suggested that the current rules, which depended on “norms of conduct and behaviour rather than laws”, were not effective. He said he planned to change the rules governing diplomats’ memoirs to ensure they better protected confidences within government.

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FCO stalls on Craig Murray book clearance

Rather disappointingly, there has been no news yet from the Foreign Affairs Select Committe on whether they have recieved documents from the Foreign and Comonwealth Office that are key to their current deliberations on human rights. It appears the FCO is also stalling on other issues. We post below an excange of e-mails regarding the clearance of Craig Murray’s book that the FCO seems to be taking rather too long to consider.

From: Craig Murray

Sent: 24 November 2005 08:28

To: Richard.Stagg

Subject: RE: Craig’s book

Dickie,

I am not sure about the must. Your legal options are in fact rather limited. Given that the latest section is about six pages long, nor do I accept that you cannot meet the deadline, as a new round of consultation on just six pages is not something that should take over a fortnight, particularly as there is nothing in those six pages remotely touching on the national interest.

I understand that, with Jeremy, you were in touch over sections of the book at a time, pointing out potential difficulties. I think you are just stalling to prevent publication. I am willing to consider agreeing to amendment where you have reasonable points to make. If you don’t make them jolly quick, you will miss your chance.

Craig

—————————————————-

From: [email protected]

Sent: 24 November 2005 07:45

To: [email protected]

Subject: RE: Craig’s book

Craig,

Thank you for the latest sections of your book, which have been safely received.

We are working to process them as quickly as practicable. But we will not be able to meet your end November deadline, as each new section involves a further round of consultation.

I shall be in touch before the end of next week, however, to give you an indication of when the process should be complete. As you know, you must await the outcome of this process before publishing your work in any form.

Dickie.

—–Original Message—–

From: Craig Murray [mailto:[email protected]]

Sent: 20 November 2005 13:47

To: [email protected]

Subject: Craig’s book

Dickie,

What follows is the start of the last chapter of my book. You now have everything which requires clearance. There is some further writing after this, but it covers events after I left FCO employment and does not require your clearance.

I look forward to hearing from you very quickly, at the latest by the end of this month.

Craig

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Foreign Affairs Committee to call British government documents on use of torture evidence

In a very welcome decision, the Foreign Affairs Committee has decided to respond to Craig Murray’s request and call for key documents from the UK Foreign Office. These documents will facilitate a much more adequate assessment of the role of the British governent in the use of evidence gained under torture, and help cut through the obfuscation of the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw. November 23rd should be interesting…

From: PRIESTLEY, Steve

Sent: 17 November 2005 15:54

To: Craig Murray

Subject: RE: extraordinary rendition

Dear Mr Murray,

This is to inform you that the Committee considered your e-mail of 30 October at its meeting yesterday, 16 November, and that it has instructed me to request the FCO to provide it with access to the documents mentioned therein.

Please note that the Committee has the power to publish these exchanges and any further communications it may receive from you in due course. If you wish anything sent to the Committee to be treated in confidence, please state so and the Committee will consider your request.

The Committee will be hearing oral evidence on the FCO Annual Human Rights Report 2005 from Ian Pearson MP, Minister of State at the FCO, on Wednesday 23 November at half-past Two.

Steve Priestley

Clerk of FAC

—–Original Message—–

From: Craig Murray

Sent: 31 October 2005 11:17

To: PRIESTLEY, Steve

Subject: RE: extraordinary rendition

Dear Mr Priestley,

Thank you. I have seen the draft transcript of Mr Straw’s evidence in his recent appearance before the Committee, and his references to me.

I would strongly urge that the Committee obtain a number of FCO documents which provide essential support my assertions on the use of intelligence got under torture, which were questioned by Mr Straw. I believe this documentary evidence is much more compelling than Mr Straw’s perfectly accurate assertion to the committee that I am a bad electoral campaigner. It seems to me in poor taste for Mr Straw to rejoice to the committee that the BNP should beat anybody, and of dubious relevance to the case.

Chief among the essential documents are Tashkent telegram number 63 of 22 July 2004, and the FCO’s reply to it, plus the further response from Tashkent. The FCO reply contains reference to ‘a series of meetings’. The Committee might wish to see the minutes of that series of meetings.

I believe that for the Committee to reach the truth of the question of British use of torture material, it is essential to see the minute of the meeting held on the specific subject of torture intelligence in the office of Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe. I was summoned back to London for this meeting. I believe the date was 7 March 2003, but I might be a little out. It was the only meeting ever held between these four people. Present were Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe, Matthew Kydd, Head of Whitehall Liaison Department, Sir Michael Wood, Legal Adviser and I, Ambassador to Tashkent. That meeting was minuted, and I have seen the minute which is held by Whitehall Liaison Department.

On 13 March 2003 Sir Michael Wood wrote a minute to Linda Duffield, copied to me, about part of the discussion at the meeting. I believe that this minute would also much interest the Committee.

I quite understand that the Committee cannot simply take my word when it is called into question by the Secretary of State. That is why I believe it is essential that the documentary evidence is made available to the committee.

I should be very grateful if you could pass copies of this email to all members of the committee. If you are precluded from doing this, I should be most grateful if you could tell me, so I may send copies directly. If a more formal means of communication is required, I should also be happy to oblige.

Craig Murray

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Foreign Affairs Committee informed of documentary evidence that challenges the veracity of Jack Straw

We post below an e-mail from Craig Murray to the UK Foreign Affairs Committee. It draws attention to documentary evidence that questions previous oral testimony given by Jack Straw. Will the FAC call it and use it?

From: Craig Murray [mailto:[email protected]]

Sent: 31 October 2005 11:17

To: ‘PRIESTLEY, Steve’

Subject: RE: extraordinary rendition

Dear Mr Priestley,

Thank you. I have seen the draft transcript of Mr Straw’s evidence in his recent appearance before the Committee, and his references to me.

I would strongly urge that the Committee obtain a number of FCO documents which provide essential support my assertions on the use of intelligence got under torture, which were questioned by Mr Straw. I believe this documentary evidence is much more compelling than Mr Straw’s perfectly accurate assertion to the committee that I am a bad electoral campaigner. It seems to me in poor taste for Mr Straw to rejoice to the committee that the BNP should beat anybody, and of dubious relevance to the case.

Chief among the essential documents are Tashkent telegram number 63 of 22 July 2004, and the FCO’s reply to it, plus the further response from Tashkent. The FCO reply contains reference to ‘a series of meetings’. The Committee might wish to see the minutes of that series of meetings.

I believe that for the Committee to reach the truth of the question of British use of torture material, it is essential to see the minute of the meeting held on the specific subject of torture intelligence in the office of Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe. I was summoned back to London for this meeting. I believe the date was 7 March 2003, but I might be a little out. It was the only meeting ever held between these four people. Present were Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe, Matthew Kydd, Head of Whitehall Liaison Department, Sir Michael Wood, Legal Adviser and I, Ambassador to Tashkent. That meeting was minuted, and I have seen the minute which is held by Whitehall Liaison Department.

On 13 March 2003 Sir Michael Wood wrote a minute to Linda Duffield, copied to me, about part of the discussion at the meeting. I believe that this minute would also much interest the Committee.

I quite understand that the Committee cannot simply take my word when it is called into question by the Secretary of State. That is why I believe it is essential that the documentary evidence is made available to the committee.

I should be very grateful if you could pass copies of this email to all members of the committee. If you are precluded from doing this, I should be most grateful if you could tell me, so I may send copies directly. If a more formal means of communication is required, I should also be happy to oblige.

Craig Murray

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Jack Straw dodges questions on torture and extraordinary rendition

Foreign Affairs Committee

Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism

UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE from Monday 24 October 2005

Q105 Sandra Osborne: I would like to ask you about the issue of extraordinary rendition. In response to this Committee’s report of last year on the war against terrorism, the government said that it was not aware of the use of its territory or air space for the purposes of extraordinary rendition. However, it appears that there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the UK air space is indeed being utilised for this purpose, albeit mainly in the media. Some of the suggestions seem to be extremely detailed. For example, the Guardian has reported that aircraft involved in operations have flown into the UK at least 210 times since 9/11, an average of one flight a week. It appears that the favourite destination is Prestwick Airport, which is next to my constituency, as it happens. Can you comment on that? What role is the UK playing in extraordinary rendition?

Mr Straw: The position in respect of extraordinary rendition was set out in the letter that the head of our parliamentary team wrote to Mr Priestly, your Clerk, on 11 March; and the position has not changed. We are not aware of the use of our territory or air space for the purpose of extraordinary rendition. We have not received any requests or granted any permissions for use of UK territory or air space for such purposes. It is perfectly possible that there have been two hundred movements of United States aircraft in and out of the United Kingdom and I would have thought it was many more; but that is because we have a number of UN air force bases here, which, under the Visiting Forces Act and other arrangements they are entitled to use under certain conditions. I do not see for a second how the conclusion could be drawn from the fact that there have been some scores of movements of US military aircraft – well, so what – that that therefore means they have been used for rendition. That is a very long chain!

Q106 Sandra Osborne: The UN Commission on Human Rights has started an inquiry into the British Government’s role in this. Is the Government co-operating fully with that inquiry? Why would they start an inquiry if there were no reason to believe that this was actually happening?

Mr Straw: People start inquiries for all sorts of reasons. I assume we are co-operating with it. I am not aware of any requests, but we always co-operate with such requests.

Q107 Mr Keetch: They are not flying under US military flags; these are Gulfstream aircraft used by the CIA. They have a 26-strong fleet of Gulfstream aircraft that are used for this purpose. These aircraft are not coming into British spaces; they are coming into airports. Some are into bases like Northolt, and some into bases like Prestwick. Whilst it is always good to have the head of your parliamentary staff respond to our Clerk, Mr Priestley, could you give us an assurance that you will investigate these specific flights; and, if it is the case that these flights are being used for the process of extraordinary rendition, which is contrary to international law and indeed contrary to the stated policy of Her Majesty’s Government, would you attempt to see if they should stop?

Mr Straw: I would like to see what it is that is being talked about here. I am very happy to endorse, as you would expect, and I did endorse, the letter sent by our parliamentary team to your Clerk on 11 March. I am happy, for the avoidance of any doubt, to say that I specifically endorse its contents. If there is evidence, we will look at it, but a suggestion in a newspaper that there have been flights by unspecified foreign aircraft in and out of the United Kingdom cannot possibly add up to evidence that our air space or our facilities have been used for the purpose of unlawful rendition. It just does not.

Q108 Mr Keetch: I accept that, but if there were evidence of that, you would join with us, presumably, in condemning —–

Mr Straw: I am not going to pre-judge an inquiry. If there were evidence, we would look at it. So far there we have not seen any evidence.

Q109 Richard Younger-Ross: Our former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has stated in a document to us: “I can confirm it is a positive policy decision by the US and UK to use Uzbek torture material.” He states that the evidence is that the aircraft that my colleague referred to earlier, the Gulfstreams, are taking detainees back to Uzbekistan who are then being tortured. Is that not some indication that these detainees are being transferred through the UK?

Mr Straw: It is Mr Murray’s opinion. Mr Murray, as you may know, stood in my constituency. He got fewer votes than the British National Party, and notwithstanding the fact that he assured the widest possible audience within the constituency to his views about use of torture. I set out the British Government’s position on this issue on a number of occasions, including in evidence both here and to the Intelligence and Security Committee. I wrote a pretty detailed letter to a constituent of mine back in June, setting out our position. As I said there, there are no circumstances in which British officials use torture, nor any question of the British Government seeking to justify the use of torture. Again, the British Government, including the terrorist and security agencies, has never used torture for any purpose including for information, nor would we instigate or connive with others in doing so. People have to make their own judgment whether they think I am being accurate or not.

Q110 Mr Illsley: Foreign Secretary, the letter which you supplied to the Committee in March which gave the conclusion that the British Government is not aware of the use of its territory or air space for the purpose of extraordinary rendition was taken at face value by most members of the Committee at that time, before the election. We took that to mean that we were not aware of any extraordinary rendition, and that it was not happening. The press reports were therefore something of a surprise. Would our Government be contacted by any country using our airspace, taking suspects to other countries? Would we be asked for permission or would there be any circumstances where we would be contacted; or is it the case that it could well be happening but that our Government is not aware of it simply because we have not been informed, or our permission is not necessary?

Mr Straw: Mr Illsley, on the precise circumstances in which foreign governments apply for permission to use British air space, I have to write to you, because it is important that I make that accurate. What Mr Stanton on my behalf said in the letter is exactly the same: why would I, for a second, knowingly provide this Committee with false information, if I had had information about rendition? We do not practise rendition, full-stop. I ought to say that whether rendition is contrary to international law depends on the particular circumstances of the case; it depends on each case, but we do not practise it. I would have to come back to you on that question.

Chairman: We will expect a letter. Thank you very much.

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Planet Jack Straw – hecklers may be violently ejected!

Ringverse looks at the speech given by Jack Straw last week at the Labour Party conference…

The Man of Straw’s performance was breathtaking, even by his own standards.

He opened by crowing about getting Robin Cook to Blackburn to reassure the elders that it was Ok to deliver the muslim vote, and reassured everybody that Robin’s Ethical foreign policy was at the root of our adventures abroad today.

Then the stock in trade conference cliche, it’s all the Tories fault. If only we had a labour government, then all those Rwandans and Bosnians would have been saved, and Srebrenica would never have happened.

But fear not, because the New Labour came along in 1997, with a manifesto to put Britain at the heart of international affairs. Tony lead us to victory, and the opressed to freedom in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, those beacons of peace and prosperity. We even set up the ICC, which can try any war criminal, unless they are American.

Then, out of the fluffy blue clouds of the international idyll we created, came 911. World War II? It was as nothing as compared to 911. WWII was for girls. And because we didn’t have a war to show we were fighting back, we started a couple. And god, hasn’t history proved us right!

I mean, we did argue tirelessly for an alternative at the UN. Tony and Dubya did everything to avoid war, but when the rest of the UN wanted to avoid war too, we couldn’t let evil flourish while we stood by and did nothing, like those goddam cheese eating surrender monkeys.

– Pause to kick the shit out of an old man who isn’t quite with the programme –

Ok, there might be a few problems in Iraq, and and you’d better be prepared for more, because things are going so well that the levels of violence and chaos can only increase as the Iraqis and Afghans embrace their new found freedom in their democratic utopia, but they have ink on their thumbs, so all is well.

You can’t make a democratic omlette without breaking a few collateral eggs you see, and well, it’s like WWII all over again.

Just like 911 was as significant as 6 years of all out global slaughter, post war Iraq is just like postwar Germany. Bet you didn’t know about the bloody insurgency that bought terror to germany after the war. And nobody told you about the 3 feuding Germanic tribes post WWII either? It might not have been in your school books, but in the New Labour history of the world, it’s really prominent in chapter 13…

And never mind that it too after 6 years of war it took the Germans 4 years to elect a government. In Iraq it only took us 3 months to do so much damage that it still took them 2 years to get to that point. And we created a bloody insurgancy that stuffs Iraq for the forseeable. So that proves, Tony is better at war than Winston was!

But these world events, you can stand aside and watch, or you can shape them, take advantage of them. Just think, if it wasn’t for 911, and the heaven sent 7/7 bombings, we wouldn’t stand a chance of passing all this terror legislation. Detention without trial, deportations to be tortured, glorification. If New Labour hadn’t stood up,when it counted to take blatant advantage, then where would we be?

People used to say that the labour movement stood for civil liberties and human rights, indeed concern for these values underpins our every deportation and rendition.

But the rules of the game have changed.

Only Tony has got the vision, the clarity and the leadership to take on the UN, and tutor them in the ways of righteousness. In our new world, Human Rights lite is the 3rd way. And just as soon as the world gets behind our vision of responsibility to protect [better check out what Dubya thinks of that one], then genocide and dictstorship will become a thing of the past, except for where we think we have a vested interest… We have to respect our friends in Uzbekistan.

And so on and so on…

I only made it into 10 minutes into the clip, there was much more, notably on Turkey whose Human Rights record appears to cause Jack no concern. But a man can only take so much…

I’ll admit, I might have stretched a few points in my previous take on Jack’s words. But his drivel and doublespeak surpasses even the Blair’s and Charles Clarke’s nonsense over the last few days.

The only conference question left, is if John Reid can surpass his collegues when he closes on Thursday…?

The full majestic travesty can be seen and heard here (Real Player)

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British involvement in torture – Jack Straw obfuscates again

On Sunday we posted extracts from a report from the Foreign Affairs Committee describing concern that:

some British personnel have committed grave violations of human rights of persons held in detention

It also states that current British policy acts:

to condone and even to encourage torture by repressive states

and concludes that:

the Government has failed to deal with questions about extraordinary rendition with the transparency and accountability required on so serious an issue“.

So the urgent question arises as to how Jack Straw and others in government have responded to the FAC report and what is the current status of policy relating to these issues?

Jack Straw replied officially to the FAC reports accusation of “obfuscation” in June. Just for the record I ran a Google definition search for obfuscation which came up with the following “To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand“. No small charge! Water of a ducks back apparently as the official reply to the charge is a prime example of clarity obstruction, leaving holes large enough for any eventuality. The FAC accusation and Straw’s reply in full.

The FAC said:

“14. We conclude that the Government has failed to deal with questions about extraordinary rendition with the transparency and accountability required on so serious an issue. If the government believes that extraordinary rendition is a valid tool in the war against terrorism, it should say so openly and transparently so that it may be held accountable. We recommend that the Government end its policy of obfuscation and that it give straight answers to the Committee’s question of 25 February.”

Jack Straw says:

“The Government’s response to the Committee’s question of 25 February did give a clear explanation of its policy towards rendition. The Government explained that its “… policy is not to deport or extradite any person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that the person will be subject to torture or where there is a real risk that the death penalty will be applied… The British Government is not aware of the use of its territory or airspace for the purposes of ‘extraordinary rendition’. The British Government has not received any requests, nor granted any permissions, for the use of UK territory or airspace for these purposes…” The Government has also explained that it is not in a position to respond to all of the questions posed by the Committee without reference to information Parliament has decided is a matter for the Intelligence and Security Committee”.

The last sentence with bold added makes it all too clear that we have not been given the full story and nor will we be if Mr Straw can help it.

Today we post an article from back in October 2004 entitled Spies “lap up” info from torture, reminding us just how far this government has taken us into what Amnesty International has referred to as a “creeping acceptance of the practice of torture”

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Straw accused of currying favour

The Times- Straw accused of currying favour

:THE ancient electoral offence of ‘treating’, which bans candidates from bribing voters, is being dusted down by prosecutors after lying unused in law books for a century.

The first allegations of treating to be investigated by the Crown Prosecution Service involve the UK Independence Party (UKIP) providing hot beverages to electors and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, giving curry to Muslims.

The Representation of the People Act forbids ‘providing meat, drink, entertainment or provision to any person’ for the purpose of corruptly influencing them to vote.

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Craig Murray accuses Straw of “pious hypocrisies” over Uzbekistan

The Sunday Telegraph – Straw accused of ‘pious hypocrisies’ over Uzbekistan: Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan has accused Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, of “pious hypocrisies” over his statements condemning the shootings of up to 500 anti-government demonstrators by troops in the Uzbek capital.

Craig Murray, who quit the Foreign Office last year after claiming that it was complicit in the Uzbek government’s human rights abuses, said that Mr Straw had issued “platitudes” rather than a proper call for reform.

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(Times): Ready, steady, cook up reasons for supporting the boiling butcher

The Times – Ready, steady, cook up reasons for supporting the boiling butcher:ISLAM KARIMOV, President of Uzbekistan, boils people alive. Why? For the same reason Saddam Hussein put his enemies in a shredder: because, at the time, he could.

When the West is your pal you are able, quite literally, to get away with murder. And what murder! It is a surprise Karimov has time for governing at all, once he has spent the morning formulating new ways to poach, grill, tenderise, smoke and flamb’ his citizens to death. Boiling water, electrocution, chlorine-filled gas masks, drowning, rape, shooting, savage beatings, Karimov’s Uzbekistan is the absolute market leader in torture right now. The CIA would not shop anywhere else, which is why a mysterious Gulfstream 5 executive jet routinely delivers terrorist subjects from Afghanistan there for interrogation and, perhaps, percolation. Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador, drew attention to this last year, and the noted socialist Tony Blair acted immediately. He sacked him.

Mr Murray’s warnings echo louder than ever now, on the back of hundreds of corpses in the streets of Andijan. Uzbek troops opened fire on an unarmed crowd of protesters on Friday in an act of such brutality that the world finally woke up to the wickedness of the war on terror’s new best friend. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, called it a ‘clear abuse of human rights’ ‘ no kidding, Sherlock ‘ but struggled to make his voice heard among our American allies. Little surprise. If they had wanted his opinion, they would surely have given it to him.

Live and don’t learn would appear to be the moral to this story. Karimov may be a vicious, murdering, malevolent despot, but he is our vicious, murdering, malevolent despot so, like Saddam, he can boil, shred and gas away until we tire of uses for him. Saddam was in the right place, sharing our hostility towards Iran at the right time, and so we armed him to the teeth in the name of a cause. Karimov, a nasty member of the regional Soviet hierarchy even before independence in 1991, stands beneath another flag of convenience. He is frightened of Islam, rich in gas and oil, and within striking distance of Afghanistan. An American airbase, which Karimov allowed to be built at Khanabad, now protects the American-owned pipeline carrying Central Asia’s black treasure through Afghanistan to the sea. Is it not strange that all our pals have the same thing in common? Just as celebrities end up latching on to other celebrities, so the West always finds itself hanging out with guys who are knee-deep in four-star.

The reason only the West could set the Iraqi people free was because our military and financial support for Saddam Hussein’s corrupt Government had made it impossible for his citizens to rise up alone. So it is in Uzbekistan. When Kabuljon Parpiyev, one of the leaders of the doomed Andijan protestors, spoke to Zakir Almatov, the Uzbek Interior Minister, at the weekend, he claims that he was told: ‘We don’t care if 200, 300 or 400 people die ‘ we have the force.’ It is the backing of the coalition that makes Karimov cocksure and invincible. There are countries around the world that would choose true freedom overnight: if only the coalition’s freedom-junkies would let them.

In 2002, the United States gave Uzbekistan $500 million in aid (as opposed to $36 million four years earlier) of which $120 million went to the army and $79 million to the notorious SNB, Karimov’s secret police. It was the SNB who boiled Muzafar Avazov, an Islamist activist, to death, having already beaten him severely and ripped his fingernails out. The fate of his fellow prisoner Husnidin Alimov does not bear thinking about, considering the Government restricted viewing of his lifeless body. It was also the SNB who came to collect Avazov’s 63-year-old mother, Fatima Mukhadirova, sentenced to six years’ hard labour for the crime of telling the world about the murder of her son. (She was released the day before Donald Rumsfeld was due to visit, during which he praised ‘the wonderful co-operation we have received from the Government of Uzbekistan’ over the War on Terror.)

So the freedom our precious coalition claims to be exporting around the world is not true freedom at all. Rather, it is freedom we are giving back, having conspired with sadists to take away. What the Iraqi people enjoyed at the polling booths in January was freedom on our terms, not theirs. Considering the dreadful human toll, one would think we would then acknowledge that mistake by not repeating it, but no: there were no opposition parties in Uzbekistan’s last election and there are no arms restrictions imposed by our Government, either. Questioned on thisin Parliament in December 2003, Bill Rammell, the junior Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister, said: ‘Uzbekistan is a key player in a region of strategic importance to the UK, so defence co-operation is important. It is important to note that Uzbek armed forces are not implicated in human rights violations.’ In other words: go boil your head. Oh, sorry, you already have done.

We mould these little monsters such as Saddam, Karimov and General Manuel Noriega and they do our dirty work until such a time when it is no longer expedient, at which point we extract revenge and dress it up as a moral crusade; or enduring freedom. There are those who believe that, whatever its motives, the war in Iraq can be justified by free elections and the removal of Saddam. Yes, but only if that policy is consistent. If the coalition agenda is to spread democracy worldwide, then it cannot be in bed with a tyrant like Karimov. And if it is, then any good in Iraq is overpowered by the stench of death and hypocrisy wafting across from central Asia.

As it stands, the War on Terror finds an exalted place in its ranks for a man whose idea of government is a dissident casserole. Hey, Tony, what’s that smell? I think your freedom’s done.

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Straw criticises Uzbek ally as former envoy demands sanctions

The Independent – Straw criticises Uzbek ally as former envoy demands sanctions: Mr Murray, who left the Foreign Office after accusing the British Government of using intelligence gained through torture by Uzbek authorities, said: “Jack Straw may say the situation is serious, but talk is cheap. And other than talk, Britain has done nothing. How much money has the Government spent supporting democratic movements in Uzbekistan? The answer is virtually bugger all.

“I was always told to refer to Uzbekistan as ‘our ally’. Is Jack Straw saying that Uzbekistan is no longer our ally?”

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Straw aide linked to ‘voters’ in empty flat

The Independent – Straw aide linked to ‘voters’ in empty flat: JACK STRAW has been urged to investigate how 10 voters in his constituency were registered at a seemingly empty flat above a shop owned by one of his key election campaigners.

Hussain Akhtar, a Blackburn councillor considered to be the foreign secretary’s right-hand man in the town’s Muslim community, would not discuss the matter with The Sunday Times but said the voters were ‘gone’.

The property was boarded up with ‘Vote Labour’ placards during the election campaign. One of the listed tenants was first registered to vote at Akhtar’s property about two years after she says that she left.

The case emerged as concerns grow about the accuracy of the electoral roll and the potential vulnerability of the election system to abuse. The Electoral Commission has called for new laws to improve their administration.

There is no evidence that Akhtar has been involved in wrongdoing, but he is under pressure to explain how the 10 voters ‘ and himself ‘ are registered in a property which appears to be empty.

Tony Melia, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Blackburn who came third in Thursday’s poll, said: ‘I have made a complaint about this matter to Jack Straw.

‘We need to know why these people are registered at this address, who registered them and, most importantly, whether they voted. I am particularly concerned at voters who are registered and moved out some years ago.’

Labour had feared that Straw would lose many votes over the Iraq war. Akhtar was one of the campaigners used to mobilise the Muslim vote.

One of the tenants on the electoral roll at Akhtar’s property in Whalley Range, Blackburn, is Afrin Hussain. Electronic records of the electoral roll indicate that she was first registered there in 2002, although the spelling of her first name was then Afrian.

She said yesterday that she had moved out five years ago and was now listed on the electoral roll at a separate address with her husband. She had voted in the election.

‘We just don’t know how we got registered at Whalley Range. I will go to the council next week and tell them what has happened,’ she said.

Most of the voters at the address are thought to be part of Akhtar’s extended family. ‘Some people have been moved to different addresses and everybody knows it. The people have moved from here, they are gone,’ he said.

In other constituencies some candidates said they believed the lack of checks on the electoral roll and voting process may have resulted in fraud. In Birmingham Ladywood Ayoub Khan, the Liberal Democrat candidate, has called for an inquiry into allegations of ‘personation’ ‘ voting under someone else’s name ‘ and hopes to challenge the result.

In North Lanarkshire, council officials believe that they may have found evidence of two instances of personation and have told the police.

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Leaked documents reveal Straw’s collusion with Blair war lies

Sunday Times– Blair hit by new leak of secret war plan: A SECRET document from the heart of government reveals today that Tony Blair privately committed Britain to war with Iraq and then set out to lure Saddam Hussein into providing the legal justification… The document reveals Blair backed ‘regime change’ by force from the outset, despite warnings from Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, that such action could be illegal… It records a meeting in July 2002, attended by military and intelligence chiefs, at which Blair discussed military options having already committed himself to supporting President George Bush’s plans for ousting Saddam.

‘If the political context were right, people would support regime change,’ said Blair. He added that the key issues were ‘whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan space to work’.

The political strategy proved to be arguing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed such a threat that military action had to be taken. However, at the July meeting Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, said the case for war was ‘thin’ as ‘Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran’. Straw suggested they should ‘work up’ an ultimatum about weapons inspectors that would ‘help with the legal justification’. Blair is recorded as saying that ‘it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors’. A separate secret briefing for the meeting said Britain and America had to ‘create’ conditions to justify a war.

Sunday’s leaked document proves what many suspected all along. Tony Blair and Jack Straw had already decided to go to war with Iraq in July 2002, even while they were publicly insisting that “no decision has yet been taken”. Knowing that the case for war was “thin” they then set about concocting a phoney justification, based around nonexistent WMD.

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Rory Bremner backs Keys and Murray

Writing in today’s Daily Mail, Rory Bremner said:

“If people still feel comfortable enough to vote Labour, but do not want Tony Blair, the voters of Sedgefield hold the key. If all Conservative, Lib Dem and disillusioned Labour voters in Sedgefield vote for [Reg] Keys, it could be enough to overturn Blair’s 17,000 majority. It’s possible.

Incidentally, the same strategy could apply to voters in Blackburn, who could rid themselves of the egregious Jack Straw by voting for Craig Murray, the former diplomat who exposed the government of Uzbekistan for boiling dissidents alive.”

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Jack Straw “simply not up to the job”, says Labour MP

Independent – Outspoken ex-envoy takes aim at Straw:Tony Blair’s lies over the war on Iraq, and his careless destruction of liberty have left me disgusted with the party I joined in 1968… Blair showed his contempt for the law by appointing an unholy trinity of home secretaries who have been deeply flawed: Jack Straw was simply not up to the job. David Blunkett saw himself as some sort of deified demi-god, issuing new commandments on a daily basis for the six o’clock news. And then there’s poor Charlie Clarke, a bit of a chump preaching the politics of fear who was dealt a cruel hand by Blunkett over the Terrorism Act…

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Outspoken ex-envoy takes aim at Straw

BLACKBURN (Reuters) – Outspoken ex-envoy takes aim at Straw: “SACK JACK” is the simple message emblazoned on luminous green posters adorning an old army fire engine in the town square. “Hit the road Jack Straw. Don’t you come back no more,” blares an accompanying tune as shoppers wander by in the former mill town of Blackburn. The dated “Green Goddess” fire engine has been commandeered as a campaign bus by an outspoken former ambassador who left the diplomatic service in a row over torture in Uzbekistan and is now battling his old boss, Foreign Secretary Straw, in his own constituency in the May 5 election… “My campaign is about the lack of ethics in foreign policy and the abandonment of international law just to please George Bush,” Murray told Reuters. “Blackburn can send a powerful message of discontent,” he added… Murray’s 21-year diplomatic career came to an abrupt end late last year after he was withdrawn from Uzbekistan. He had accused the West of tacitly endorsing torture by accepting bogus information extracted by duress from prisoners in the authoritarian Central Asian state that has become a key ally of Washington…

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