Yesterday Harriet Harman was lying through her teeth on the Andrew Marr show, claiming that the Government had never had any idea any of its intelligence was coming through torture. Meanwhile, the Government has refused to testify on this subject before the Parliamentary Joint Commission on Human Rights, where such lies may have consequences. If Harman is telling the truth, what do Ministers have to hide from the Parliamentary Commission?
Of course, she is not telling the truth. I today sent this memorandum to the Joint Commission on Human Rights, offering to give evidence before them – if Ministers won’t tell them what is happening, perhaps I can:
I wish to offer myself as a witness before the Joint Commission on Human Rights on the subject of the UK government’s policy on intelligence cooperation with torture abroad.
I appeared as a witness in person before both the European Parliament and European Council’s enquiries into extraordinary rendition. My evidence was described by the European Council’s Rapporteur, Senator Dick Marty, as “Compelling and valuable”.
The key points I wish to make are these:
* I was British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004.
* I learned and confirmed that I was regularly seeing intelligence from detainees in the Uzbek torture chambers, sent me by the CIA via MI6.
* British Ministers and officials were seeing the same torture material.
* In October/November 2002 and January/Februray 2003 I sent two Top Secret telegrams to London specifically on the subject of our receipt of intelligence gained under torture. I argued this was illegal, immoral and impractical. The telegrams were speciifically marked for the Secretary of State.
* I was formally summoned back to the FCO for a meeting held on 7 or 8 March 2003 specifically and solely on the subject of intelligence gained under torture. Present were Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe, FCO, Sir Michael Wood, Chief Legal Adviser, FCO, and Matthew Kydd, Head of Permanent Under-Secretary’s Department, FCO.
* This meeting was minuted. I have seen the record, which is classified Top Secret and was sent to Jack Straw. On the top copy are extensive hand-written marginalia giving Jack Straw’s views.
* I was told at this meeting that it is not illegal for us to obtain intelligence gained by torture, provided that we did not do the torture ourselves. I was told that it had been decided that as a matter of War on Terror policy we should now obtain intelligence from torture, following discussion between Jack Straw and Richard Dearlove. I was told that we could not exclude receipt of specific material from the CIA without driving a coach and horses through the universality principle of the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement, which would be detrimental to UK interests.
* Sir Michael Wood’s legal advice that it was not illegal to receive intelligence got by torture was sent on to me in Tashkent (copy attached).
* On 22 July 2004 I sent one further telegram on intelligence got by torture, with a lower classification, following FCO communications on the subject. (Copy attached).
It was my final communication before being dismissed as Ambassador.
In conclusion, I can testify that beyond any doubt the British government has for at least six years a considered but secret policy of cooperation with torture abroad. This policy legally cleared by government legal advisers and approved by Jack Straw as Secretary of State.
2 March 2009
So now I wait to see what response I get. The Foreign Affairs Committee refused to call me to give evidence, and I rather fear that the Joint Commission on Human Rights may continue the British parliamentary tradition of ostracising whistleblowers.