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View Diary: British torture memos (150 comments)

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    He has been saying this for a long time. This speech is a must read. He pulls on all the threads.

    In November 2002 I was sitting looking through MI6 intelligence material I saw some of which the markings indicated it was a re-release of CIA material passed on from another security service - from the text it was plain that was Uzbek. There were two intelligence reports; one about a threat to Samarqand - a city in Uzbekistan- from Tajik militants in the hills- Islamic militants who were supposedly going to sweep down and attack the city. We happened to know that this just wasn't true- the defense attaché had been there, we knew the places, there weren't training camps where it said there were. The second one was talking of the links between some Uzbek opposition group with Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden - it was just the same formula that I had seen before. And I started thinking now has this been got through torture? How did it get here? Where did it come from? So I said to my deputy 'I want to go back to London and complain about this but I don't want to make a fool of myself so could you go and see the Americans because it's possible that they have a protocol in place to make sure that any information passed on by the Uzbek's doesn't come from torture. Perhaps Americans have to be present during Uzbek interrogation if the material is to be used by the Americans.'

    This of course is before Abu Ghraib when I rather naively felt that having Americans present at the interrogation would prevent people being tortured as opposed to helping to facilitate it. So She went and saw the CIA head of station in Tashkent and said to him' my boss has been worried that this intelligence might be obtained by torture' and he said to her 'well it probably is obtained by torture - we don't see that as a problem' She came back and reported to me so I went back to London saying' This material is nonsense and probably obtained by torture' London did not actually reply.

    I went back in February saying much the same thing and they called me back to a meeting in March 2003 where the foreign office legal advisor Sir Michael Wood said that it was not illegal to obtain or use intelligence material that had been got under torture. If you read the UN convention against torture it didn't say you couldn't do it- it said you couldn't torture people, it said you couldn't use material obtained by torture in court- it didn't say that you couldn't go to someone else who'd tortured someone, get the torture material off him and use it. I think it didn't say it because it didn't need to be said. Also he was ignoring article four of the convention which talks about complicity in torture. Basically if you are regularly obtaining material from a security service that is routinely practicing torture and you have a system of getting that material again and again then you become complicit. The foreign office argues to this day that it's ok to get the stuff. The official line is 'we do not torture and we do not instigate torture but it would be irresponsible to ignore material which is relevant to the war on terror.'

    If you really push them they'll say 'what if the Uzbek's suddenly gave us information that an airplane was about to crash into Canary Wharf? Would you really want us to ignore the information?' This of course discounts the fact the information's all not true anyway. It's all nonsense. It would be impossible through all that dross to pick out the true bits. I must admit I was completely flabbergasted, again possibly naively. I thought 'we're getting this material from people who have been tortured; obviously people in London don't realize that. When I point it out to them they will want to stop.'

    This of course was not the case. At this stage they got very annoyed, they seemed particularly annoyed that I was saying that the intelligence wasn't any good. I don't think I helped myself by pointing out that the dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction was rubbish too. They seemed very fond of intelligence that was rubbish. So they didn't find that very conciliatory. But it's a very important point; you have to ask yourself why do the intelligence services like material?

    I told you the story of my mate Tom and Stephan; the dossier on weapons of mass destruction which contained 152 articles all of which turned out to be untrue, every bloody single one of them. Almost all of those had come from paying wadges of cash to dodgy informants. Not only that they were getting the information they wanted to hear. They wanted to hear that Saddam Hussein was a terrible threat; they want to hear that the opposition in Uzbekistan are all linked to Al-Qaeda and all want to blow up Canary Wharf. Why? Well if you're going to be totally cynical you'd say that whether subconsciously or not the truth is the bigger the threat out there the more we need the security services, the more they need massive budgets and resources and pay increases and toys to play with. And you have to ask 'who benefits?' Well they benefit, they benefit. They also benefit government by providing these excuses for Tony Blair to stand up in the house of commons and say 'because I am responsible for the safety of all the people in the UK we can abolish freedoms that have existed in this country since Magna Carta. They benefit from this edifice of lies, and lies gained through torture. There are people still today in Belmarsh prison who have been in there for three years without charge, without trial. Without even being told what they are accused of, on the basis of intelligence material.

    It is good that this comes back out now though. Hopefully people will be more likely to listen. This man deserves our support.

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