Torture and the diplomat’s role

A respected fellow blogger has pointed me at some fascinating documents on the ‘leninology’ blog. These are the texts of long telegrams, all marked ‘Confidential’, sent to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London by Craig Murray when he was British ambassador to Uzbekistan. They are on Craig Murray’s website too, along with the verbatim text of the FCO legal adviser’s advice on a point raised by Murray. It’s possibly significant that the three Murray telegrams are referred to on his website as either ‘letters’ or ‘memos’, terms which no British diplomat would use in describing what were plainly ‘telegrams’ in Diplomatic Service parlance.  (So who used this outsider terminology in putting the texts on the Web?)

Mr Murray’s three telegrams to the FCO were written in the context of his campaign to persuade the FCO that the UK security and intelligence services were morally, pragmatically and legally wrong to receive, or having received it, to make any use whatever of information originating with the Uzbek intelligence services, on the grounds that those services widely practise torture to get their information, that almost all information originating from them should be assumed to have been got by torture, that by definition no such information could be reliable or useful because people under torture will say anything to stop it, that the US and UK were turning a blind eye to the practice of torture by the Uzbeks because of the strategic and political importance of Uzbekistan to the west in the so-called ‘war on terror’, and that on all three grounds — moral, practical, legal — our government should no longer either receive or make any use of information received from Uzbek intelligence.

The telegrams read to me like a curious blend of crusading journalism with political reporting plus policy advice to London.  I don’t suggest that this combination of three normally separate functions into single documents was illegitimate, nor even necessarily ineffectual in persuading policy decision-makers in London to Mr Murray’s point of view. On the evidence of his telegrams he writes eloquently and with passionate sincerity, although I suspect that the main reaction to them of his readers in Whitehall will have been exasperation.  That probably tells us more about them than about him, but I can’t help wondering whether a less emotional, more hard-nosed approach, concentrating mainly on British national interests rather than arguments from morality, might have rung more bells, sad though that suspicion might be.  But in the end his arguments were never going to prevail, because fortunately or unfortunately they don’t stand up to scrutiny.
Craig Murray
There are several problems with Mr Murray’s recommendations and comments.  The main problem concerns his condemnation of western security and intelligence agencies (and their governments) for receiving information from the Uzbek intelligence service, knowing that much of it has probably been obtained by torture: and, having received it, using it.  The recent House of Lords ruling, issued of course after Mr Murray’s  three telegrams, predictably distinguished between (1) the use of torture-tainted evidence in court proceedings in the UK (plainly contrary to the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT),  although there was previously an argument about whether that Convention was binding on UK courts, not having been incorporated in UK law), and (2) the use of torture-tainted information by the security services as a possible pointer to illegal activity in the UK requiring further investigation.  As the FCO legal adviser said at the meeting in London attended by Mr Murray, and again in his written advice quoted on Mr Murray’s website, the former is contrary to UNCAT, but the latter probably isn’t.  If torture-tainted information comes into the hands of our security services which points to the existence of a terrorist cell in, say, a specified address in Bradford, led by a named individual, is Mr Murray seriously suggesting that the Security Service (or Special Branch) would be wrong to investigate and to seek corroboration of the information by non-torture-tainted means ?  Such a purist position on the part of those responsible for our security would be frankly absurd.  Mr Murray of course says that we should refuse to receive such information in the first place.  But whatever we do, fastidiously placing our hands over our ears when we meet Uzbek intelligence officers, we can be quite sure that the Americans and other western intelligence allies will not follow suit: and such is the pooling of intelligence within the intelligence community that the relevant information would anyway surface sooner rather than later in London, and at that point anyone suggesting that we should ignore it would inevitably and rightly be regarded as off his (or her) trolley.   We have the word of the head of MI5 (Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller) for it that information can be operationally valuable even if it is known to have been extracted by torture, and it would be surprising if that weren’t so.  The point surely is never to rely exclusively on the tainted information, but never to ignore it and always to seek untainted corroboration or refutation of it.  Are we really bold and purist enough to say that even if we have grounds for believing that specific information was got by torture, we should primly draw back our skirts and ignore it?  Even when there can be no absolute certainty that it really was got by torture?  Mr Murray claims that virtually all the intelligence that he saw was ‘obviously’ got by torture and that all of it was ‘useless’, but (a) both assertions are inherently implausible, and (b) Mr Murray was in fact in no position to make such assertions compared with professional intelligence analysts who knew more than he did about the provenance of the information and about the extent to which it corroborated, or was corroborated by, other information of which Mr Murray can’t have been aware.  

There’s another point about the extent of our ‘collaboration’ with Uzbek intelligence.  According to Mr Murray’s own account, Britain’s intelligence service is not represented on the ground in Uzbekistan, or at any rate wasn’t when Mr Murray was ambassador there.  It seems to follow from this that information from Uzbek intelligence is not passed to its British counterpart directly: presumably our intelligence and security services receive it via the Americans or other intelligence partners, along with a mass of other material of various kinds and from various sources.  It’s hard to imagine how in such circumstances our intelligence and security services could be expected to single out material (a) from Uzbek intelligence and (b) likely to have been procured by torture, and refuse to accept it.  And having read it (if only to discover the nature of its source and possible taint), it would be on the most charitable view quixotic — others might call it daft and irresponsible — to fail to follow it up or to seek corroboration of it if it seemed to provide a lead that might permit the detection and prevention of terrorist activity in Britain or activity aimed at Britons.  Yet that is what Mr Murray has been demanding, and continues to demand.

In two important areas Mr Murray deserves our sympathy and a degree of support.  First, it must be wrong, as he points out, for the US government (and to a much lesser extent the British) actively to prop up, subsidise and protect from international criticism a régime as odious and repressive as that of Uzbekistan’s President Karimov, purely because it suits US military, strategic and intelligence interests to have a regime in a sensitive area which allows the stationing in the country of American forces and which collaborates in the supply of intelligence.  American sponsorship of such a régime undermines the west’s case in the ideological battle against extremism and terrorism and actually encourages the spread of Muslim extremism in Uzbekistan and neighbouring countries.  But it would be naive to suggest that Washington should set aside its own short-term interests in maintaining the status quo in Uzbekistan and not try to balance them against the conflicting longer-term objective of encouraging a more democratic and better behaved régime there.  Moreover the British FCO not only gave its prior approval to Mr Murray’s speeches as ambassador in Tashkent denouncing its government’s human rights abuses: the FCO even quoted those speeches subsequently, with its express endorsement, in its annual published report on human rights around the world.  Even Mr Murray doesn’t accuse the FCO of having tried to stifle his efforts, as the British government’s representative in Uzbekistan, to publicise abuses and to call for a more enlightened form of government. 

Secondly, it seems on the face of it impossible to justify the behaviour of the FCO in its efforts to get rid of Mr Murray, first from his position as ambassador in Tashkent, and subsequently from the Diplomatic Service altogether.  The mounting of formal investigations into a raft of wild and improbable allegations, virtually all of them eventually droipped for lack of evidence, about his private and official behaviour and the aspersions apparently cast on his mental health, give every impression of shabby and disreputable handling of an employee to whom the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had a duty of care.  It was only when classified documents which he had written began to be leaked to the British press (Mr Murray denies having leaked them himself) and then Mr Murray started to give media interviews about the way he was being treated by the FCO (in which he also confirmed the authenticity of the leaked documents and of the views and accusations expressed and made in them) that the FCO seems to have acquired a reasonable ground for ensuring that Mr Murray left the public service.  Yet we shouldn’t withhold all sympathy from the FCO’s managers in all this:  Mr Murray must have been an exceptionally difficult customer to manage, with his persistent and passionate advocacy of policies that no government could realistically have accepted, his refusal to accept that his recommendations had been considered but rejected, his yen for going public with his views, and his sometimes admittedly unconventional behaviour as an ambassador.  Unelected public servants have to accept extensive constraints on their freedom to go public with their private opinions, especially where these conflict with the considered policies of elected ministers;  and those who can’t or won’t accept those constraints can’t ultimately be accommodated within the public service.

My own conclusion from all this would be that we should use such limited influence as we might have with the Uzbeks to desist from the practice of torture (and other human rights abuses), stressing that they obstruct a mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries;  we should press the Americans and others to do the same;  we should not hesitate to make public our condemnation of such abuses;  and we should devise material incentives to induce the Uzbeks to improve their performance.  In our intelligence service’s relations with their Uzbek opposite numbers, to the extent that such relations exist, they should explain that Uzbek information provided to us but obtained by torture is far less valuable to us than information fromn untainted sources, since torture-tainted information can’t be used in our courts and can’t therefore be used by our ministers as a basis for detaining or deporting terrorists (because it can’t be used in court in response to any appeal). They should also constantly stress to the Uzbeks that torture-tainted information is inherently less likely to be reliable and accurate than information obtained by legitimate means.  They should remind the Uzbeks repeatedly that information got by torture is largely useless to us, is contrary to Uzbekistan’s international obligations and is harmful to UK-Uzbek relations.  They should do everything possible to bring home to the Uzbeks that in practical terms as well as ethically, torture is a lousy way to extract information.  They should never give the slightest hint of encouragement of or connivance at torture.  But if, after all this, they still find themselves receiving information, however tainted, that might enable an act of terrorism against the UK or British citizens to be thwarted, or detected, or terrorists identified and taken out of circulation, it must be right to act on it so as to seek to corroborate or refute it, and anyone suggesting the contrary can’t expect to be taken seriously.  That, at any rate, is my admittedly somewhat reluctant view.

I haven’t attempted in this post to deal with the separate but almost equally interesting question of the rights and wrongs of publishing on the internet classified documents of this kind (i.e. Mr Murray’s three telegrams and the written advice of the FCO legal adviser).  It’s right that the issues they raise should be publicly aired and debated, but there’s also a question of the damage done to the confidence of officials, diplomats and politicians that their private exchanges and advice on sensitive policy matters won’t be leaked and published, with the risk of inhibition and lack of frankness if there is a well-founded fear that they will: cf. Sir Christopher Meyer’s recent book, which I have just read with the greatest interest and considerable disapproval.  It looks on the face of it as if the publication of the documents by Mr Murray is in breach of the Official Secrets Act, and indeed Mr Murray has challenged the government to prosecute him under the Act if it takes that view.  Perhaps there will be a reluctance to prosecute for fear that during any trial too much dirty washing would be held up to public scrutiny over the government’s treatment of Mr Murray: and that despite clear evidence of a breach of the law, a jury might refuse to convict out of sympathy for a crusading moralist plausibly if unfairly represented as standing up to a cynical and unethical establishment.  But if Mr Murray escapes unscathed from his action in publishing the documents, there’ll be a price to be paid in the quality of the essential policy debate within government and of the advice given by officials to ministers.

Postscript:  After posting the comments above, I had a look at Technorati to see how much attention Mr Murray’s publication of the classified documents is getting in the blogosphere.  Answer: 4,299 posts about Craig Murray including 20 posts in the last 18 hours (as of 10 pm GMT on new year’s day).  I was away over Christmas and have been largely bed-bound by a filthy cold since getting back, so I hadn’t realised what a stir all this has been creating.  A random sample of the blogging on the subject doesn’t inspire much confidence in the calm, objective analytical powers of a fair number of those with a view, but one or two of the appended comments do exhibit some awareness of the realities and of the moral dilemmas with which real governments, intelligence officers and diplomats are obliged to wrestle.  It’s discouraging, though, to find so many people seemingly unable to accept a government’s right and duty to try to protect the confidentiality of its own classified documents and wherever possible to penalise those who betray it.  And the casual elision of "complicity in torture" with "operational but not evidential use of leads for investigation regardless of their sources" is not far short of intellectual trickery.  Surely there are bloggers out there who can do better than that?


22 Responses

  1. Ronnie says:

    Thank you for this. I was beginning to worry that the lack of any Spanish photographs indicated some private or family disaster, and indeed had just unsuccesssfully tried to phone you. Happy New Year. I have not been able to follow your link to Craig Murray to see if he might affect my general agreement with what you say. Yes, indeed, if we are told that Mohammed X at 5 Acacia Terace is making bombs we ought to act, carefully, even if we suspect or know that the information was obtained by torture. That is why care and circumspection are required, receiving such information. And you don’t have to be a diplomat abroad. I do wonder a little whether one should say to the foreign “policeman”, knowing that he is likely to use torture, that you would be grateful for some information on Mohammed X. Of course you wouldn’t, formally, but at a party? The other question I have is this. When do our diplomats learn, in induction training or gradually with experience, that there may be a less seemly side to their activities?

    Brian replies: I’m sorry about the dysfunctional link in my original post to Craig Murray’s website: I was told of it last night and mended it at once. As always you pose an excellent example of the moral maze through which people have to navigate in their dealings with wicked and unprincipled interlocutors. Obviouysly there’s no simple or penalty-free solution to the kind of situation you posit. If you have reason to suspect that Mohammed X (or indeed Fred Y) is planning an act of mass murder in London, and you know that a foreign intelligence agency is likely to be able to give you some vital supporting or qualifying information about Mohammed/Fred but that they might well use torture to obtain it for you, do you nevertheless make them aware, perhaps through a third party, of your desperate need for this information? You and I know, perhaps better than some of the other contributors to this discussion, that there’s a terrible penalty attached to either course of action: making known your need for the information, or not making it known. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, in the cant phrase. As will, I hope, be clear from my original post, I have no doubt which course of action I would think the lesser evil. We maintain formal or less formal relations with a raft of extremely nasty governments whose agents commit appalling crimes. Exchanging information, whether secret intelligence or ordinary information in the course of diplomatic contacts, is an inherent and necessary part of a diplomatic relationship. And diplomatic relations are essential if we are to hope to influence the other government, over time and with plenty of carrots and sticks, in the direction of mending its ways — as Craig tried to do, with FCO endorsement, when as British ambassador he made speeches denouncing the human rights abuses of the Uzbek government. If we had not had diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan, he would not have been ambassador in Tashkent and he could not have spoken up as he did in the name of the British government and people. We don’t maintain diplomatic relations with other governments to compliment them or to approve their conduct, but because it is in our mutual interests to have that relationship, which includes exchanging information. I have shaken hands with murderous dictators guilty of every crime against humanity that can be imagined, and exchanged courtesies with them, however coolly: to refuse to do so, meaning to refuse to enter into a formal relationship with such governments, would help no-one and indeed would be to deny ourselves the opportunity to influence them, however slightly, in a positive direction, as well as depriving ourselves of information that might be valuable in the national interest. I see no moral virtue in that: just a mealy-mouthed refusal to take part in nasty, smelly, tainted, hopeful, sometimes heroic, international life.

    I don’t know, I’m afraid, whether fledgling diplomats are trained in solving insoluble problems likely to arise in the less ‘seemly’ areas of their working lives, or whether they are left to pick it up on the job. Having transferred to that funny old trade in mid-career, I was never subjected to any such inaugural training, and indeed I doubt if anyone else was, either, in those far-off days.

  2. Phil says:

    You haven’t really addressed my – and, I think, Murray’s – fundamental concern, which is that in some cases torture has nothing to do with interrogation (in any but the most debased sense of the term). There is strong evidence that certain regimes torture detainees as a matter of policy, either to get names on confessions (e.g. Saudi Arabia) or simply to cow and repress political opponents (e.g. Uzbekistan). Clearly, such a regime should be left in no doubt that Britain does not condone, let alone encourage, this policy. But for Britain to receive intelligence from Uzbekistan which is highly likely to have been extracted through torture does, in effect, condone torture – and to commend this intelligence as ‘highly useful’ comes uncomfortably close to encouraging it, by intimating that part of Uzbekistan’s value to the UK is its provision of a continuing supply of such intelligence.

    Murray’s absolutist stand may be undiplomatic (in all senses of the word), but I find the alternative alarming.

    (Incidentally, my ISP’s inbound email server has been down for the last couple of days, so I won’t have seen any reply to my email.)

    Brian replies: For once I’m not sure what point you are making here, Phil. Of course governments practise torture for all sorts of reasons (intimidation and deterrence of dissidents, revenge, simple sadism) in addition to the attempt to extract information from those unwilling to give it. But it’s the attempt to extract information that is relevant to the issues raised by Mr Murray, which centre on the ethical rights and wrongs of (a) receiving and (b) ‘using’ information originating from sources widely known to practise torture where the information in question is in varying degrees likely to have been obtained by torture. Your assertion that even to receive such information “in effect condone[s] torture” is of course a serious one, and you would no doubt go further and say that a fortiori to make use of such information is to condone torture even more indefensibly. But these assertions need to be refined a little. If Uzbek intelligence passes potentially tainted information to, say, the CIA, which then incorporates parts of it in a daily or weekly digest of intelligence received from a variety of different sources for circulation to a number of intelligence partners, including our own intelligence community, in the course of the routine sharing of intelligence that takes place all the time, can it really be said that our intelligence analysts have in any real sense “received it from the Uzbek intelligence service”? — yes, of course that’s in a literal sense what has occurred, but it’s a misleading description of what has actually happened; or can it be said that by reading a CIA digest they have condoned, encouraged, incited or been complicit in the practice of torture by the Uzbeks? How are the Uzbeks to know who has received and read a CIA digest in which is buried a couple of paragraphs of information which they provided in the first place? And how are they to know whether one or other of the ultimate recipients of the information proceeds to follow up that information and to look for confirmation of its accuracy by comparing it with other related information from other sources, all part of the three-dimensional jigsaw that intelligence analysts try to put together every day? If the Uzbeks have no way of knowing either who has received the information (apart from, in my hypothetical example, the CIA) or what if any use they have made of it, how can that be said to condone or encourage more torture?

    Of course there may be times when the contact between UK and Uzbek intelligence may be more direct than in the scenario just described, although if, as Mr Murray tells us, the UK intelligence service wasn’t represented in Uzbekistan, such contacts would probably be pretty rare. Ronnie’s accompanying comment (above) suggests a genuinely tricky scenario in which the UK side, urgently needing information about a terrorist suspect in the UK and knowing that the Uzbeks are likely to be able to provide it, have to decide whether in effect to ask the Uzbeks for it, even if they know that the Uzbeks might use torture in order to extract it. You, and I assume Craig, would have no doubt about the correct course in such a situation. If failure to ask the Uzbeks for the information resulted in even one otherwise preventable death from terrorism in Britain (or anywhere else), I take it that you would say: So be it. And if (say) several hundred deaths resulted from failure to seek the clinching or corroborative information? Several thousand? Even when there’s absolutely no certainty that torture would in fact be employed? I don’t claim that your answer is obviously or necessarily wrong. But where we must agree to differ is over your claim that there is no dilemma here: that there is no question of judging which of the two courses of action (or inaction) represents the lesser evil. It seems to me, on the contrary, that there clearly is a terrible moral dilemma here, that it’s far from obvious which is the lesser evil, and that decent and honourable men and women are entitled to disagree in mutual respect about which course is in fact that lesser evil.

    Myself, I believe that swapping information, however dubiously obtained, with other governments (including governments with horrible records of torture and other breaches of human rights) is a necessary and ultimately a mutually beneficial part of conducting one’s international relations, and that a refusal to get down from time to time into the international bear-pit is a decision to opt out of international life: the equivalent of retreating into a monastery or convent and locking the doors behind you. I think that would be the ultimate betrayal of civilised values. There are far better (because far more effective) ways of campaigning, with others, to encourage or pressurise recalcitrant governments into improving their human rights behaviour, and penalising them if they resist, than primly refusing to have anything to do with them, and in consequence sacrificing what may turn out to be indispensable information needed for the protection and promotion of our own national interests. It may be — I don’t know — that the US government is guilty of failing to use its influence with the Tashkent régime to induce it to desist from torture and other hideous abuses, for fear of losing its military and other facilities in the country. If so, that should be, and is, condemned. But I know of no evidence that Britain similarly pulls its punches on the human rights front, or indeed that we have any national interest in Uzbekistan that would tempt us to do so. Our punches may well be pretty feeble affairs, of course; although Craig seems to have landed some telling blows, with official British government approval, when he was there as ambassador. And pressure in private is often more effective (because more painless to yield to) than public sermonising, although it doesn’t do anything to satisfy the rapacious demands of the moralising bloggers at home. The important point, which I hope on reflection you’ll accept, is that there are no easy, penalty-free, ethically pure answers in this wicked world, and those who claim that there are do no justice to those whom we pay to look after our interests even if they are forced to compromise the purists’ absolutist principles occasionally in doing so.

  3. Craig says:


    I always read your blog with interest, but in this instance, obviously, even more so.

    Allow me to make a couple of points in response.

    In two years of seeing this Uzbek intelligence material, I never saw a single piece that even purported to concern a threat to the UK, or indeed to the West. Everything we were given was, without exception, designed to convey the impression that all the Uzbek opposition were Islamic terrorist and linked to al-Qaida (which is very far from the truth).

    If the material had been about threats in Birmingham, certainly the analysts would have been better placed than I to evaluate it. But as it was about Central Asia, I don’t accept that people who had never even visited Uzbekistan were in a better position than I to evaluate.

    What I found particularly chilling were instances where such intelligence was being deliberately accepted or interpreted, in order to justify continuing US support to this odious regime. The US was justifying its presence and policy in Uzbekistan by the common threat faced, and prepared to buy fictions that reinforced that threat as part of the raison d’etre of the War on Terror.

    So when I call the intelligence dross, I really mean that. It wasn’t just not useful to the UK, it was positively and deliberately misleading.

    In my view, the Uzbek security services really are just so terrible that we shouldn’t treat them as friendly liaison – just as we didn’t treat the KGB that way. That is not to say that if the KGB had sent us a message about a nuclear bomb in London, we wouldn’t have acted on it, just as we should any such urgent message from the Uzbeks. But regular friendly liaison channels? No.

    I think there does have to be a line – if you will forgive the reductio ad absurdum, I presume you wouldn’t have argued that we should have links with the Gestapo in 1936 for info on Stalin?

    You are quite right, of course, that in practice intelligence relationships in Uzbekistan were run by the CIA.

    If the government had argued “Yes, we did accept a lot of information from the Uzbeks, knowing it might very probably come from torture, but we have to protect the UK”, (which I think is a fair summary of the line you argue above) I would not have released these documents. But the government has not been saying that. They have trotted out such obfuscations and circumlocutions, even in the face of direct parliamentary inquiry, that I think it now amounts to lying. When ministers are not honest with parliament, my own view is that the rules governing civil servants change. I realise that is not a universal view.

    I am sure I was a pain to manage. I got more passionate than civil servants usually do, because in Uzbekistan the horror hits you in the face. The very nice old lady whose front gate was opposite mine, a member of a banned democratic opposition party, was attacked in the lane by the Uzbek intelligence services, not twenty metres from the Residence gate. They broke her legs, poured paint down her throat, and run her over in an army truck. She was my friend. (Fortunately she survived).

    When I had dinner with the distinguished dissident Professor Mirsaidov in Samarkand, that same night his grandson was abducted and killed after many hours of appalling torture. The body was dumped outside the family home after I left. The Russian Ambassador told me, from his excellent sources, that this was intended as a warning to both dissidents and me not to meet each other.

    My horror at all this and at the extent of US involvement strained my relationship with the office, and they asked me to resign (and be reposted, without stigma) but at this same meeting handed me eighteen incredible disciplinary charges. Let me stress 16 were dismissed as having no evidence to back them, and I was acquitted of the other two at a hearing. I was convicted only of an added charge, that of talking about the charges!!

    Until the FCO took that extraordinary step against me, nobody had any idea, outside Whitehall, that I had any difference of opinion with the FCO on policy. I only started to “let my views be known” after that amazing attack on me.

    I am not at all perfect. And there are two sides to every story (at least). That, however, is my side, and I hope explains my actions to you somewhat better.


    Brian replies: I very much appreciate your courtesy, Craig, in giving such a full, informative and measured reply to my post. There are some new insights in what you say that I want to take time to ponder; and other points which you make clearly deserve a proper reply. So with your permission I shall not attempt to give you a substantive further reply here and now. Perhaps the best course will be to quote your ‘comment’ in full in a new post and to follow it with my own further reactions when I have formulated them. I think, perhaps conceitedly, that between us we might be able to shed some light on these murky and obscure matters, certainly not because of any superior wisdom or moral sensitivities on my part or even on yours, but simply because we have a good deal of experience in common in dealing with these kinds of issue out there in real life, as distinct from the rarefied air of the blogosphere. (By all means e-mail me if you prefer to carry this forward differently, or indeed if you prefer not to carry it forward at all!)

  4. If torture-tainted information comes into the hands of our security services which points to the existence of a terrorist cell in, say, a specified address in Bradford, led by a named individual, is Mr Murray seriously suggesting that the Security Service (or Special Branch) would be wrong to investigate and to seek corroboration of the information by non-torture-tainted means?

    Do you not feel just a little uncomfortable using torture tainted information even in that limited context, Brian?
    The present government in Tashkent know we are more than happy to accept information they obtain by means that would be illegal in the United Kingdom-but I suppose in these circumstances hypocrisy is a wonderful emollient. To continue to use such evidence, knowing its provenance, or even closing our eyes to what we ought to know, can only encourage the Uzbeks in their wickedness.
    Our intelligence services may get some scraps- but the torture apparatus in Uzbekistan is not designed to help the UK but to crack down on the political opposition, an opposition that may one day-the sooner the better- take over from the wretched Karimov and his gang. The members of a new government, who may have been tortured, are unlikely to feel kindly disposed towards a country that has benefitted from their collective pain!

    Why not be prepared to go at least as far as the U.S goes in Guantánamo Bay, or Abu Ghraib? Could we finesse the meaning of torture? I’m sure HMG might prevail on Peter Goldsmith to produce an opinion similar to that produced in the US by Alberto Gonzales for Bush in 2002.

    Brian replies: I will answer your opening question, Tony, by asking you another. Do you not feel just a little uncomfortable arguing that those who bear the responsibility for ensuring your and my physical safety and that of several millions of our fellow-citizens should be barred from following up every scrap of information that comes their way if it might help to corroborate or correct or indicate the falsehood of intelligence on which they are already working? Penetrating extremist terrorist organisations is an incredibly difficult task and it would be recklessly irresponsible to ignore any information that might help to cast light on what is going on, out of a misplaced moral fastidiousness. To speak of ‘using’ information that may be suspected of having been got by torture by its original providers at several times removed is deeply misleading: and to say that ‘using’ it somehow incites the torturers to carry on torturing is frankly far-fetched. The torturers will have no way of knowing who else has received the information they have handed over to the CIA or any other intelligence gatherer, still less what use if any they have made of it or whether it has been ‘used’ in any way at all. Under our law such information can’t be used in evidence in court nor as a basis for action against a suspected terrorist. If it offers a clue to something that might be worth following up, perhaps because it chimes in with information from other sources, do you solemnly maintain that our security officers should pretend that they haven’t read it, just because it might possibly have originated with people who practise torture? And we’re not talking here just about information that might permit the pre-empting or detection of terrorism, but about the whole raft of intelligence about the covert intentions and activities of foreign governments, companies and individuals that might have a bearing on British interests. We have seen recently the disastrous effects of faulty intelligence, or intelligence that is avowedly unreliable being misrepresented by politicians as solid and then being used as a basis for far reaching policy decisions. And now you want to shut off potentially irreplaceable sources of information from those who need every bit of it that they can get — not for personal gain or because of an overdose of original sin, but in your interests and mine. Do you not feel just a little uncomfortable in putting forward such an extremist and damaging point of view?

    I don’t disagree with your analysis of why a wicked government (one of many) does wicked things, but I don’t think that’s relevant to the issue we are discussing. Letting off steam about the terrible things done by wicked foreigners is a foible that most of us indulge in from time to time, and if it makes us feel good, why not? But don’t let’s imagine that it adds light as well as heat to the debate. There’s a genuine dilemma here, and as in all genuine dilemmas there’s no penalty-free solution to it. Whether we pretend not to know about the fruits of others’ wickedness and so deny ourselves what might one day be precious intelligence that could save lives or prevent other damage to British interests, or whether we make such use of the information as we properly can while continuing to use such little influence as we might have to induce other governments to desist from gross breaches of human rights — either way we can’t avoid getting our hands just a little bit dirty. Excoriating the wicked Uzbeks doesn’t advance matters one jot.

  5. Richard says:


    I think you do an injustice to the thousands of people who’ve picked up this story and run with it. These documents appear to fit a much wider picture of wilful, systematic complicity in crimes against humanity, combined with a cynical and endemic culture of lies at the heart of government.

    Now we can argue the toss about whether it’s OK for our government to lie to us, and be complicit in crimes against humanity. We can talk about whether the CAT should be repealed and the principles established at Geneva and Nuremberg abandoned or “modified” to allow state-sponsored torture. We can sit around and wait for the evidence that our government has been instigating and collaborating with torture all around the world to become so clear and overhwhelming that no-one can deny it any more.

    Or we can conclude, as many of us now have, that we’ve seen enough to make a judgement call on the evidence that’s emerged so far. This is an emergency. People are being tortured, in our name, NOW – and as we have a moral and prudential imperative to do everything we can to stop it, NOW. In addition to the moral issues, there are security issues too. The more people we torture, the more likely we are to be attacked again by terrorists. Non-violent civil disobedience is one very legitimate tactic.

    Many of us simply have no confidence in the government or the security services. They do not appear to represent us. They do not appear to be acting in our interests. By sponsoring torture overseas they are dishonouring our country and putting our lives at risk. There appears to be evidence of serious high-level criminal misconduct (see comments from Lord Steyn). If publishing these documents will help to bring these people down and get them into a courtroom (full jury trial, no “secret evidence”, no torture-extracted confessions), then so much for the good.

    I’m personally not convinced that any government has any business keeping secrets from its citizens, least of all for the purpose preserving the “facelessness” of torture-complicit bureaucrats like Matthew Kydd. If they don’t want their names smeared all over the internet then they should think a bit more carefully about the moral implications of the way they carry out their jobs. In the absence of real justice, this will have to do for the moment.

    Brian replies: It ought not to be necessary to re-state our revulsion over torture every time we discuss the much narrower question raised by Craig Murray and dealt with at great length by the Law Lords in their definitive judgment of 8 December 2005: namely whether on balance it’s right to check out for corroboration or refutation information received, not necessarily directly, from foreign institutions known to practise torture, which may in some circumstances turn out to be valuable in pre-empting or detecting terrorist acts in the UK or against Britons. The Law Lords have established that information reasonably suspected of having been got by torture may not be used in evidence in a UK court, and may not be relied on by the government for detaining or deporting people or imposing control orders on them: but if the probably tainted information prompts further investigation which in turn uncovers corroborative evidence not itself obtained by torture, that can be used in court and by ministers. There is no evidence that I know of that our own intelligence or security services liaise, collaborate or otherwise cosy up directly to the Uzbek intelligence service, that they encourage them to use torture either directly or indirectly, that they condone the use of torture, or even that information is passed to them directly by the Uzbeks. To infer from this situation that the British government is ‘complicit in torture’, ‘sponsoring torture overseas’, or that ‘people are being tortured in our name’, or to say ‘the more people we torture….’ is simply unrelated to reality. And to assert that government ‘has no business keeping secrets from its citizens’ is to reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the way government works, and of the only way any government can work, anywhere, at any time.

  6. Richard says:

    Thanks for those thoughts, Brian. I think you may be misunderstanding my “understanding”. I can recognise the theoretical desirability of keeping things secret from the public, but I just feel that the idea seems to be constantly, constantly abused to the extent that I’m starting to think we’d be better off without any Official Secrets Act than one that is routinely abused to hide government criminality. They seem to be trotting this line out more and more and in the end I think we just have to start calling their bluff.

    Has Craig’s action damaged national security? Of course not. But it has exposed Jack Straw as a liar, which seems like a rather important service to democracy.

    Surely the first loyalty of any public servant has to be to the British people, not to the political elite?

    You appear to be sceptical of the view, now held by many (eg. Lord Steyn), that our government has been criminally complicit in torture, has systematically instigated other governments to commit acts of torture etc. Maybe you’re right, maybe Craig is (I do think that his time in Uzbekistan gives him a certain degree of authority on that particular question), but unless we have a public debate, criminal investigation etc. I don’t think we’re ever going to get this out into the open.

    Are you not the least bit concerned by the general picture that’s emerging? It’s not just about Craig’s revelations, it’s this whole awful extraordinary-rendition business, together with Guantanamo, Abu Graib, the “secret prisons” etc., and the barefaced attempts by the likes of Gonzales, Rice and Rumsfeld to change the meaning of the word “torture”.

    I would urge you to take a look at Craig’s rebuttal of Manningham-Buller. She has the audacity to cite the “Ricin case” as an example of where torture-tainted evidence was “useful”, when in fact the entire thing was a complete fabrication based on, surprise-surprise, a fantastical forced confession. The case fell apart when it came to court – and I find it hard to believe that MB was unaware of this when she presented it to Parliament as a “success story”? What is such a mendacious woman doing in charge of our security?!

    Can you honestly say that you still trust this government, and the bureaucrats who work for them? I’m afraid that I can’t. I just wish that there were more people like Craig in the civil service.

    Brian replies: Thanks, Richard. I’m glad that you recognise the inevitable need for all governments, whether virtuous or crooked, to maintain the confidentiality of some at least of their information and internal debates. That imperative can’t, as you seem to suggest, be affected or negated by its occasional abuse — and I invite you to name a government of any country at any time that hasn’t periodically used confidentiality to save itself from embarrassment or the revelation of deeds that it prefers to keep under wraps. However, you go much further than that, accusing the British government of abusing confidentiality to “hide government criminality”, alleging that Jack Straw has been exposed as “a liar”, claiming that Lord Steyn has accused the government of having been “criminally complicit in torture, has systematically instigated other governments to commit acts of torture, etc.” [I love that ‘etc’!], assuming that because the government failed to get a conviction in the ricin case (since, as appeared at the time, some of the key evidence could not be produced in court) therefore it was “a complete fabrication” and accusing the head of the Security Service of “mendacity” — a non sequitur if ever I heard one — and then going on to a blanket denunciation of extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other unsavoury matters for which the British government has not the smallest responsibility, and none of which has the slightest bearing on the issue under discussion. And to cap it all you choose to insinuate that because I identify rather more complexity than you do in the dilemmas posed by the availability of information that may have been procured by torture, therefore I am not in the least concerned about all the other issues in your laundry list (rendition, Guantanamo, etc.). If you really want to know my views on all those matters, you have only to read my blog, admittedly a time-consuming and tedious chore, and to follow up the numerous links in it to my many letters and articles in the national press and in various periodicals, some of them drawing attention for the first time in the UK media to abuses and unwarranted invasions of our civil rights. If you can point to a similar record of liberal campaigning, I would be happy to have chapter and verse for it. If not, I think you might reconsider your unwarranted assumptions about my views and concerns. And if you feel compelled to make such sweeping accusations against our elected ministers, whatever you and I might think of some of them, I suggest that you have a duty to back them up with chapter and verse. I would hope, for example, that on the issue of whether Jack Straw is a liar, you might care to read an illuminating discussion of this very issue in the comments on

    One further point. You write: “Surely the first loyalty of any public servant has to be to the British people, not to the political elite?” That raises another set of issues too complex to discuss properly here. But the simple answer to your question must be No. The first (but not only) duty of a public servant must be to the elected ministers whom he serves. A democracy can’t function unless its elected leaders can rely on the loyalty, discretion and support of their unelected officials. No public servant has the right to claim priority for his or her own views or values over those of his or her political masters. Public servants have the right, often exercised, to put their own views and recommendations in confidence to their ministers, and the right to have them properly considered. But if ministers decide not to accept those views and recommendations, and decide on an alternative course of action, public servants’ duty is to accept that decision and to do everything possible to execute and defend their ministers’ policies to the best of their ability, whatever their private view of them. If however a public servant (let’s assume for once that we are speaking of a person of the female gender) believes that a ministerial decision is illegal, or so morally unacceptable that she can’t in conscience defend it or carry it out, her duty is to report her misgivings in the first place to her line manager or other senior official, and if that produces no acceptable solution, to her Permanent Secretary, and ultimately to the Cabinet Secretary or head of the diplomatic service. If still unable to reconcile her conscience with the activity objected to, and if the Cabinet secretary and head of the civil service (or head of the diplomatic service) rules that her objections are unfounded, the conscientious objector may either ask to be moved to other work not relevant to the policies or activities objected to, or else — if she feels compelled by conscience to make public her objections — she must resign from the public service and only then use the media to publicise what she sees as government wrong-doing. Even then, though, she must honour her obligations under the Official Secrets Act by not taking classified official documents with her into her new private life and not publicly revealing their contents except to the limited extent necessary for a defence of breach of confidentiality in the public interest. If even one in ten of our public servants acted on the basis that their first responsibility was to their own ethical and political views and to the public exposure of government decisions and policies of which they disapproved, and accordingly felt justified in betraying government secrets at will, the work of government would at best be seriously hampered, at worst brought to a halt. I’m not saying that Mr Murray behaved in that way: he denies having been responsible for the first major leak of a document that he had written, and the early parts of his disputes with the FCO seem otherwise to have been conducted in confidence. But he does seem to have taken a different view from mine about the duty of a public servant to accept the decisions of elected ministers even when they conflict with his own advice to them, and loyally to seek to carry out the policies which result. Accordingly, I regard your wish that there were “more people like Craig in the public service” as unrealistic. Mr Murray’s experience demonstrates, I fear, that the public service can’t in practice accommodate people who are unwilling, perhaps indeed genuinely unable, to accept the constraints on their freedom of expression that all public servants are bound, for good and compelling reason, to observe.

  7. Friend says:

    Well spotted! A small team of us help out Craig with his web site and yes, surprise, surprise, some of us arn’t ex-diplomats. Nice one Sherlock. Reminds me of that really important distinction that Dr Kelly wasn’t strictly part of the intelligence community…

    Elision of complicity with use – damn it, you rumbled the whole arguement there. Although I thought elision was more to do with ommission rather than linkage. Nevermind, back to the kitchen to boil up that cooking pot.

  8. Brian,
    I note you have failed to confirm whether you have even the slightest quarm using torture tainted information.
    And to answer your question. Yes, I do have difficulty in the absolutist position you attribute to me. Just as I have difficulty in rejecting the use of torture to resolve the “ticking time bomb” problem.
    And when you say this:

    that those who bear the responsibility for ensuring your and my physical safety and that of several millions of our fellow-citizens should be barred from following up every scrap of information that comes their way if it might help to corroborate or correct or indicate the falsehood of intelligence on which they are already working?

    Why should the intelligence services be deprived of evidence they obtain by using torture themselves?
    Surely to ensure the safely of those millions why not? Is it not proportionate? Indeed, I suspect most first year law students could come up with a defence to one accused to such action.

  9. Richard says:


    Thanks for that long and detailed response. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read through everything on your site but of course I don’t doubt that you are doing what your conscience dictates, and I would not wish to imply otherwise. I would caution you not to assume, however, that everyone who disagrees with your views is naive or stupid.

    I think there’s a distinction between practical and moral complexity. Being an expert on the practical complexities, as you doubtless are, does not in itself make you an expert on the moral issues that lie behind them.

    You assert that the use of torture-tainted information need not, in itself, entail instigating further torture. Craig fears, and many share that fear, that in practice our use of torture-tainted information has instigated further torture. That’s the morally-relevant issue here.

    On the basis of the information that has emerged over the last year, I and many others believe that we have a government which has committed a series of criminal acts, and is trying to cover them up. You disagree. I hope that you are right, but I’m not optimistic.

    What seems “unrealistic” to me is your assertion that the British government is in no way morally complicit in the atrocities committed by the United States, when we have such a close military and political cooperation with them.

    I find it sad that you consider such atrocities nothing more than a “laundry list”. I’m sure that the victims don’t see it that way.

    Are public servants morally obliged to collude with the covering up of criminal acts by their political masters? If breaking the official secrets act might expose government criminality and therefore deter further such criminality, would a public servant be wrong to do so?

    Would a bureaucrat during the Nazi era have been wrong to violate official secrecy in order to expose the criminal activities of his or her political masters?

    I find it bizarre that you don’t seem to see the “moral complexities” in the question of whether it’s right to break the official secrets act when you do see such complexities in the question of whether or not it’s right to use torture-tainted information.

    I find it disturbing that you seem to feel that there is a certain category of human beings (eg. public servants) who are not obliged or entitled to follow the dictates of their conscience, and must always defer instead to the orders of a politician. Surely this was the ethos that helped make the holocaust possible?

    What lies behind all this: This is just a wild guess, but I’m starting to wonder if you might be arguing with your own conscience here, as much as anything else. My “wild guess” is that you are aware of some criminally/morally abhorrent UK government secret(s), and fear that your own silence makes you morally complicit. That, I wager, is why what Craig has done disturbs you so much.

  10. Tim Weakley says:


    You and your respondents have pretty well thrashed out all aspects of the ethical dilemmas implicit in the Craig Murray business, so let me just ask this:
    Is it possible that Murray referred to the telegrams as ‘letters’ or ‘memos’ at his website simply because most potential readers grew up after the end of the Telegram Age, while we old parties associate telegrams with going to the village post-office and filling out a form, and messenger boys on red bikes?
    By the way, how are diplomatic telegrams actually transmitted? Someone codes them, presumably – then what? Do they go out over the ordinary public international phone lines or satellite links or whatever?

    Brian replies: Thanks, Tim. That sounded like a good explanation. But if you look at the earlier comment here by ‘Friend’ you’ll see that I guessed correctly. The documents were apparently put on his blog by a group of friends of Mr Murray who are not, or are not all, former diplomats. Hence the give-away misnomers.

    In my day, towards the end of the middle ages, FCO ‘telegrams’ were automatically enciphered and equally automatically transmitted by wireless signal, sometimes via wireless relay stations dotted around the globe (and universally assumed to be something to do with spying). I believe, but quite possibly wrongly, that nowadays they are sent (of course after enciphering) in the same way as e-mails, but over a secure system; and that they are still called ‘;telegrams’ by those who write and read them.

    Please now see my envoi, below.

  11. Brian says:

    I agree with Tim’s comment above that in these comments and replies to comments, read with the original post plus the debate over at Owen’s blog on the same subject, we have just about exhausted the ins and outs and the ethical dilemmas of this subject. Some of the more recent comments have begun to scrape the barrel, resorting to unsupported and intemperate invective against the government, disagreeable speculation about my own motives and ethics, and the reiteration of arguments and allegations that I or others have already dealt with at some length. I don’t really blame the authors of these: wading through these rivers of text is not a lot of fun over a new year holiday. But little will be gained by my going over the same old ground again in yet further replies, so I shall not enter the lists here again, except to keep my promise to post, soon, in a new item, a considered (and I hope equally courteous) reply to Mr Murray’s own comment earlier. I am grateful to those who have contributed their views and I hope that we may all have clarified our thinking a little (or a lot) as a result of the debate.


  12. Richard says:


    I find it amusing (and somewhat telling) that you attach such significance to the question of whether these damning documents were “letters”, “memos”, or “telegrams”. Surely the salient question is less whether or not the correct FCO terminology was used and more whether or not the concerns Craig raised (ie. that we have been “selling our souls for dross”) are justified. You’ve failed to show that they are not.

    The description “Confidential letters” was first used, to my knowledge by the Uzbek pro-democracy organisation Erkinyurt and erm, well, it just kind of caught on.

    I placed the documents on Craig’s website, at his request, so please do blame me for any technical inaccuracies, and do send the New Labour blackshirts round to me first when the crackdown starts. I have not, nor have I ever been, an employee of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but I’m not sure that’s the most relevant issue either. Frankly you’re welcome to whatever supercilious cudos you think that your long record of doing-what-diplomats-do gives you over the rest of the blogosphere.

    For chapter and verse on the evidence of UK government complicity (and/or active involvement) in torture, Jack Straw’s mendacity and related issues, please do take a good look at

    I’m sorry if you find it disagreeable that so many of us no longer have any confidence in the honesty and integrity of our political class, and the people who work for them. I know that, having devoted so much of your life to the service of the British state, it must be very difficult for you to have to face the reality of what this state has been . But please don’t mistake this internal difficulty with “moral complexity”. There’s nothing “morally complex” about collaborating with people who boil teenagers alive in order to fabricate evidence of phantom security threats.

  13. Dave Weeden says:

    I’m sorry but I disagree with Tim: I don’t think that all aspects of ethical dilemmas have been “thrashed out.” I’d like to quote Brian’s post:

    Unelected public servants have to accept extensive constraints on their freedom to go public with their private opinions, especially where these conflict with the considered policies of elected ministers; and those who can’t or won’t accept those constraints can’t ultimately be accommodated within the public service.

    My emphasis. Now, I agree that our elected representatives, through being elected, are entitled to override the judgements of their permanent staff. But I’d also like to draw your attention to the 1997 Labour Manifesto:

    Labour wants Britain to be respected in the world for the integrity with which it conducts its foreign relations. We will make the protection and promotion of human rights a central part of our foreign policy.

    The 2001 manifesto abandons this pledge and talks only about joining the Euro and widening the EU. Now, Britain is a signatory to the various EU and UN human rights conventions, which are, as I recall, pretty unequivocal in their condemnation of torture.
    So my question is: did Jack Straw have the right to his “considered opinion” If he acted contrary to the ethics on which he was elected, and in addition in possible contravention of conventions which he is supposedly bound by?

  14. edjog says:

    It seems to me that what is actually at issue here is not what is being discussed. Should anyone reading this be of the opinion that any State has a right to extract any information from anybody under any circumstances whatsoever through torture: they are in a minority which thankfully carried insufficient weight when it came to the passing of UNCAT into law.

    Since we find that the practice continues, the question is not what should be done with the information, but what is wrong with our ability to enforce international law?

    Clearly, when a British intelligence analyst is confronted by data which may help in the defence of British citizens’ lives, they would be irresponsible if they ignored it. This is not the same thing however as telling our ‘allies’ (and in the US’ case, i use the term with full intended irony) that we do not want information which has come from those sources and publicly condemning them should they continue to use it themselves or financially support any regime which uses such abhorrent methods.

    Far from “fastidiously raising our skirts” or whatever was your exact original phrase, Brian, we should be attempting to extricate ourselves from the slurry-pit in the hope that soap and water will be all that’s required to wash down our chest-waders in order that the intolerable stench will not pollute anything we might hope for in the future.

    After all, do we really believe that Al Quaeda can actually be defeated by methods which recruit its membership? Do we imagine that our security services are so infallible that, sooner or later, we in Britain will not be subject to a proper terrorist atrocity, a la 9/11, if we continue to support the misguided policy of the US? What’s more, do we actually believe that US War On Terror policy is primarily to do with terrorism? Or is it more likely to have an economic motive?

    If one even suspects the latter, this begs the question: what then is in Britain’s economic best interests? I would suggest that the US will do all in its power to maintain the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, because the US is dominant under this model. As an island nation, surrounded by strong winds and tides, i would suggest that this is not in our interest at all. In fact, since fossil fuels can only get more expensive, we should be cutting ourselves loose from the dinosaur and looking to the future now, whilst we have options.

  15. Chuck Unsworth says:

    Part of this debate is about what we find morally acceptable or repugnant.  For me the whole notion of deliberately conniving in the transporation of prisoners to certain ill-treatment or torture is utterly disgusting.  Observation of, or participation in, ill-treatment is even worse.
    Murray’s complaints to FCO are entirely understandable and the FCO heirarchy should have taken the same stance with the Uzbeks.  We cannot condone such treatment without diminishing our own standing (and thus, influence) in the world.  And I do not suggest that we deliberately close our ears and eyes to avoid learning of these things, either – although this has been typical of successive FCO ministers and senior officials.
    If information obtained by such means and by other nations is unconditionally passed to our people that is a different discussion.  At that point professional assessment as to the value or accuracy of the information should be sought and appropriate action taken under the existing laws.

    Brian comments:  Your last two sentences accurately describe what, on all available evidence, is actually happening, including the professional assessment that you advocate.  So far from that being ‘a different discussion’, it is precisely the discussion that has been going on for weeks on numerous blogs, including this.  A debate on whether we find torture ‘morally acceptable or repugnant’ is hardly worth having, any more than a debate on whether we think motherhood is a good thing or whether genocide is morally acceptable or repugnant, although a surprising number of people seem to enjoy proclaiming their views on it. 

  16. Chuck Unsworth says:

    I had hoped that ‘find’ was sufficient of a get-out clause. But, at the risk of repetition, I feel that as a nation we should take an unassailable and considered position.  I do not believe Straw’s stated position is/was logical or supportable in the long term.  And I do not think the FCO officials are doing anything apart from serving their own career interests.
    I’m very happy to accept your assurances that this ‘intelligence’ is being passed to our people unconditionally.  As to the professionalism of some of our intelligence community I have major reservations…..

  1. 2 January, 2006

    Is Craig Murray right about torture?

    In which I agree with my father that Craig Murray, while right in general, is wrong about the use of intelligence obtained from torture.

  2. 2 January, 2006

    Torture & justifications – obfuscations & shades

    There’s a difference between extracting information from a known terrorist operative that you know can save lives, and using torture as a method of state control and repression…This isn’t about torture as always wrong. This is about torture as an i…

  3. 3 January, 2006

    Intelligent Debate

    By far the most intelligent debate on the subject of the Craig Murray Telegrams can be found at the Website of Brian Barder, a career diplomat and civil service who resigned from SIAC in slightly less dramatic circumstances, but for equally principled rea

  4. 4 January, 2006

    A dose of moral outrage!

    What the debate here and here needs is a dose of moral outrage. We are talking about TORTURE folks-the deliberate

  5. 5 January, 2006

    Barder on Murray

    I have absolutely nothing to add that I have not said before on the Craig Murray story, and as I have mentioned, I’m less interested in the specifics of the case than I am in how Western policies can reduce torture in specific and increase liber…