The EU Treaty Opt-Out - Why Tony Needs It


The Independent lists some of the rights that Tony is desperate not to afford us. These include:
No one should be subject to torture
No one can be removed to a state where there is a serious risk of torture - I think we can work out why Tony is soft on torture, soft on the causes of torture. Oh Tony, how you've changed the political landscape. I remember the good old days when being against torture was uncontroversial.

Trafficking in human beings is prohibited.
It is beyond shameful that the UK is refusing to ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. In the good old days, slavery was considered to be a terrible wrong. Thanks to Tony this is no longer the case.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed


Craig Murray writes:

Secret Confessions and Torture

Mohammed Sheikh Khalid has now, voluntarily and of his own free will, admitted he masterminded every significant event from the Norman Invasion through the bubonic plague, fall of Constantinople, and Great Fire of London, to the Battle of Little Big Horn, assassination of JFK and the Oklahoma bombing.

Or he might as well have. The extraordinarily comprehensive list of terrorist outrages for which he claims responsibility would be beyond the capacity of any but the most brilliant and inspired mortal; Khalid, I fear, is a more run of the mill thug.

But in truth, we have absolutely no idea what, if anything, he has confessed at all. The BBC brazenly reported all of yesterday that while Khalid did allege he had been tortured during his four years of secret detention by the CIA in various locations around the globe, he is now freely confessing under no duress and does not retract any of his confession.

Who says? The proceedings being held in Guantanamo Bay, and which the BBC report so uncritically, are held behind barbed wire, machine guns, gun emplacements, reinforced steel and concrete and combination locks, before an exclusively military panel. Khalid does not even have a lawyer present. For all we know, his confession could be an entire fabrication. The blandness of the BBC reporting in these circumstances is one of the worst examples of the appalling desertion of the principles of that once worthwhile institution.

The readiness of the rest of the media to push the "instil fear" button on behalf of the Orwellian government is predictable. They report as fact that Khalid also planned to blow up Heathrow, Canary Wharf, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and any other British building the Pentagon had heard of.

If Khalid really is freely and openly confessing all of this stuff, then what possible reason can there be to deny him a lawyer, and not allow public and media access to his trial? The atrocities he allegedly confesses - the Twin Towers, Madrid, Bali - left thousands of bereaved families. They have a right to see justice done, rather than this elaborate propaganda set-up, with its total lack of proper legal process or intellectual credibility.

Did Khalid really do all of this? Two facts must be considered. He has been through years of vicious torture and of solitary confinement. If the experience of others who survived extraordinary rendition is typical, he has been kept in total isolation, in darkness, beaten, cut, suffocated and drowned, suffered white noise and sensory deprivation. He will have been moved around, often not even knowing which country he is in. One good contact has told me that the CIA gave the Uzbek torturers their turn with him. I do not know that for certain, but who can contradict me?

After years of this, a person can be so psychologically damaged that they believe the narrative of their torturers to be the truth. It is perfectly possible that he now in fact believes he did all that stuff on the list, when he did not.

Alternatively, he may have decided to exaggerate his own role and achievements for the personal glory it brings. We can get the appalling situation where both the sides which benefit from and wish to promote the War on Terror - Al Qaida and the CIA - indulge in what becomes a grim mutual cooperation in exaggeration as each seeks to glorify their role. Thus do those on both sides who actually desire a "Clash of Civilisations", promote one.

What is happening now in Guanatanamo Bay is a disgrace. We cannot in present circumstances accept anything that comes out of it as other than a completely unsubstantiated claim by the Pentagon. Some of it is quite possibly true. But this is no way to make the case.

It should also be noted that Mohammed Sheikh Khalid is a man of some repute amongst CIA torturers, and not for reasons you might expect...

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

And the British view of such interrogation methods, and the results they yield?

Nicholas Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the infliction of simulated drowning falls within the definition of torture or cruel and inhumane treatment used by the Government for the purposes of international law.

Ian Pearson (Minister of State (Trade), Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
Whether the conduct described constitutes torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment for the purposes of the UN Convention Against Torture would depend on all the circumstances of the case.

Repost: Blair on Extraordinary Rendition - The Lying Liar and the Lies he tells.


Apologies for recycling articles, the following clip is reposted from December 2005.

But bearing in mind what is emerging this week on the subject of Extraordinary Rendition, I think this, taken from Blairs Press Conference of December 21st 2005 is worth mentioning again in it's own post...

Listen to Blair on Rendition [200kb mp3]

I, I have absolutely no evidence to suggest that anything illegal has been happening here at all, and I'm not going to start ordering inquires into this, that and the next thing when I've got no evidence to show whether this is right or not - and I honestly, and you know, it's like all this stuff about camps in Europe or something - I don't know, I've never heard of such a thing.
I can't tell you whether such a thing exists - because, er - I don't know.

Our recent coverage of  government duplicity over the subject of Rendition is archived here.

America And Britain Asked Poland To Host Secret CIA Gulag


Britain's collusion with the CIA rendition and black sites program has been well documented. However, what seems to be emerging now is not so much a story of collusion but full involvement.

POLAND -- The CIA operated an interrogation and short-term detention facility for suspected terrorists within a Polish intelligence training school with the explicit approval of British and US authorities, according to British and Polish intelligence officials familiar with the arrangements.

That sounds like more than just turning a blind eye and allowing CIA torture flights to use British airspace and territory. If this is true then it looks like Tony Blair will have more questions to evade. It would be interesting to hear his response to this:

According to a confidential British intelligence memo shown to RAW STORY, Prime Minister Tony Blair told Poland's then-Prime Minister Leszek Miller to keep the information secret, even from his own government.

Hmm! So much for Tony's enthusiasm for open government. Not only does he mislead the British Government but he's telling leaders of other countries to behave as badly. And this news comes just weeks after the European Parliament voted to approve the report conducted by MEPs (.pdf) into the collusion of EU states in rendition and black sites. In that report, the UK was slammed for its lack of co-operation with the investigation as well as being second in the list of the ten countries accused of allowing stopovers (Germany came first). Back in January Margaret Beckett was forced to admit that the Government knew about the secret prisons used by the CIA.

So can we now expect another admission from Margaret Beckett, in which she tells us that Britain along with the USA, actively encouraged the Polish Prime Minister to use a Soviet-era compound and intelligence centre as a gulag for the CIA and to keep it secret from the Polish government? I doubt it somehow, but the question still needs to be asked. And whoever answers will have to be a bit more convincing than in previous responses because the Americans don't seem to be denying the story apart from protesting (a little too much I think) about how it does not conduct or condone torture.

US intelligence officials confirmed that the CIA had used the compound at Stare Kiejkuty in the past. Speaking generally about the agency’s program, a former senior official said the CIA had never conducted unlawful interrogations.

“We never tortured anyone,” one former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity. “We sent them to countries that did torture, but not on this scale.”

Despite denials by the Polish authorities that the country is involved with the rendition program, the former head of Polish intelligence, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, has gone on record as saying that the CIA had access to two internal zones at the Stare Kiejkuty training school. When the EU delegation went to Poland as part of their investigation, they reported that key government officials refused to meet with them after having previously agreed to do so. The delegation wanted to investigate both Szymany airport and the facility at Stare Kiejstuty. Mariola Przewlocka, the then airport manager at Szymany revealed that:

...whenever one of the suspected flights was scheduled to land, “orders were given directly by the regional border guards… emphasizing that the airport authorities should not approach the aircraft and that military staff and services alone” would handle landings.

“Money for the services was paid in cash, sometimes as much as four times the normal charge,” the former airport manager added. “Handling of the passengers aboard was carried out in a remote corner of the Szymany airstrip. People came in and out from four-wheel drive cars with shaded windows.”

The cars were seen traveling to and from the Stare Kiejkuty intelligence facility, where British and Polish intelligence officials say US agents conducted short-term interrogations before shuffling prisoners to other locations.

Sounds like a really legitimate operation doesn't it? And if Blair not only knew but also requested this, it begs the question: how much further was he involved in this program? Presumably he intends to obfuscate until he is out of Downing Street, but the questions are not going away and details continue to emerge. If the operation was as innocent as the Americans are insisting, why did they try to silence the EU over rendition flights? And why would the Bush administration seek to prevent suspected terrorists who have been abducted and 'interrogated' from revealing details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that were used on them?

European Parliament To Vote On CIA Torture Flights Report *UPDATED*


The European Parliament will vote today on the report which slams some member states for collusion with the CIA in rendition flights. Last year MEPs set up a temporary committee to investigate the complicity of some European countries and found that 14 of them had at best turned a blind eye, and at worst colluded with CIA activities. Britain was singled out for its lack of co-operation with the committee as well as being one of the countries accused of colluding in the rendition flights. Italy and Germany are also heavily criticised.

It was only late in January this year that Margaret Beckett admitted that the Government knew about the secret prisons to which the CIA  transported suspected terrorists. Ten countries are said to have allowed flights in and over their territory and Britain is near the top of the list beaten only by Germany in the number of stopovers allowed.

  • Germany 336
  • Britain 170
  • Ireland 147
  • Portugal 91
  • Spain 68
  • Greece 64
  • Cyprus 57
  • Italy 46
  • Romania 21
  • Poland 11

In order to secure the vote of the British Labour group in the European Parliament, the criticisms of Geoff (Buff) Hoon, who was particularly evasive, had to be dropped.

The British Labour group in the parliament is now prepared to vote in favour of the report which criticises the Labour government in the UK but only after specific and personal criticisms of the Europe minister, Geoff Hoon, were dropped.

Hoon's evasiveness however, is a matter of record. If the report is approved, it will be uncomfortable for Tony Blair who, as we know,  doesn't like talking about this issue.


The European Parliament has approved the report.

The EU parliament voted to accept a resolution condemning member states who accepted or ignored the practice [of rendition].

Margaret Beckett Finally Admits Knowledge of Secret CIA Gulags


Our esteemed Foreign Secretary has finally admitted that the British Government knew about secret CIA prisons prior to Bush confirming their existence back in September.

"Prior to this speech, we were aware of the existence of a secret U.S. detention program only in general terms," Beckett said in response to a lawmaker's question.

A Foreign Office spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the statement was the first confirmation Britain had prior knowledge of the secret prisons.

This is a change of tune from the Government which up until now has either denied all knowledge of 'extraordinary rendition' and CIA 'black sites', or simply refused to talk about it.

We have said absolutely all that we have to say on this. There is nothing more to add to it. The Council of Europe report adds nothing new whatever to the information that we have.

Remember how "unhelpful and evasive" Geoff (Buff) Hoon was when MEPs conducted their own inquiry into rendition and black sites? On January 23rd the European Parliament committee on involvement in rendition will meet to discuss their Draft report (.pdf) which slammed Britain and other EU states for their lack of co-operation with the investigation. I wonder if this might force a few more admissions from Mrs Beckett.

Buff Hoon and the Chamber of Well Kept Secrets...


More genius form the Beau Bo D’Or stable...

Council of Europe publishes draft report on Government involvement in extraordinary rendition - How will the final draft differ?


The following is from Craig Murray:
Council of Europe publishes draft report on Government involvement in extraordinary rendition

A draft report on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners (2006/2200(INI)) is now in circulation. The full draft can be downloaded from here.

The report slams the UK government for its lack of cooperation with the enquiry, condems its involvement in extraordinary rendition, and is outraged by the legal advice provided by the then legal advisor to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Time will tell how many of its findings survive the inevitable political pressure and make it through to the final version.

Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners


57. Deplores the way in which the British Government, as represented by its Minister for Europe, cooperated with the temporary committee;

58. Thanks the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Renditions (APPG), comprising members of the House of Commons and House of Lords, for its work and for providing the temporary committee delegation to London with a number of highly valuable documents;

59. Condemns the extraordinary rendition of Bisher Al-Rawi, an Iraqi citizen and resident of the UK, and Jamil El-Banna, a Jordanian citizen and resident of the UK, who were arrested by Gambian authorities in Gambia in November 2002, turned over to US agents, and flown to Afghanistan and then to Guantánamo, where they remain detained without trial or any form of judicial assistance;

60. Condemns the multiple extraordinary rendition of Binyam Mohammed, Ethiopian citizen and resident of the UK; points out that Binyam Mohammed has been held in at least two secret detention facilities, in addition to military prisons;

61. Is deeply disturbed by the testimony of Binyam Mohammed's lawyer, who gave an account of the most horrific torture endured by his client to the official delegation of the temporary committee to the UK;

62. Points out that the telegrams from UK security service to an unspecified foreign government, which were released to the Chairman of the APPG, Andrew Tyrie, suggest that the abduction of Bisher Al-Rawi and Jamil El-Banna was facilitated by partly erroneous information supplied by the UK security service MI5;

63. Emphasises that the former UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jack Straw, conceded in December 2005 that UK intelligence officials met Binyam Mohammed when he was arrested in Pakistan; points out in this respect that some of the questions put by the Moroccan officials to Binyam Mohammed, appear to have been inspired by information supplied by the UK;

64. Condemns the extraordinary rendition of UK citizen Martin Mubanga, who met the official delegation of the temporary committee to the UK, and who was arrested in Zambia in March 2002 and subsequently flown to Guantánamo; regrets the fact that Martin Mubanga was interrogated by British officials in Guantánamo where he was detained and tortured for four years without trial or any form of judicial assistance, and then released without charge;

65. Criticises the unwillingness of the UK Government to provide consular assistance to Bisher Al-Rawi and Jamil El-Banna on the grounds that they are not UK citizens;

66. Thanks Craig Murray, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, for his very valuable testimony to the temporary committee on the exchange of intelligence obtained under torture and for providing a copy of the legal opinion of Michael Wood, former legal advisor to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office;

67. Is outraged by Michael Wood's legal opinion, according to which "receiving or possessing" information extracted under torture, in so far as there is no direct participation in the torture, is not per se prohibited by the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; points out that Michael Wood declined to give testimony...

Also, be sure to check out this from obsolete, reminding us of Jack Straws evidence[sic] on the subject back in December 2005:

Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we have not been, and so what on earth a judicial inquiry would start to do I have no idea. I do not think it would be justified. While we are on this point, Chairman, can I say this? Some of the reports which are given credibility, including one this morning on the Today programme, are in the realms of the fantastic.

Blair: Accomplice to Rendition and torture


Later today the European Parliament's Committee investigating rendition will release a report saying that the UK, amongst others knew and participated in rendition.

The plain fact is that the highest levels of New Labour knew and covered up their involvement in the CIA gulag and the use of torture.

New Labour: Lower than vermin.

[ringverse adds:]
Anyone remember Blair on Extraordinary Rendition: The Lying Liar and the Lies he tells?
Listen to Blair and judge for yourself.[200kb mp3]

I, I have absolutely no evidence to suggest that anything illegal has been happening here at all, and I'm not going to start ordering inquires into this, that and the next thing when I've got no evidence to show whether this is right or not - and I honestly, and you know, it's like all this stuff about camps in Europe or something - I don't know, I've never heard of such a thing.
I can't tell you whether such a thing exists - because, er - I don't know.

Letter to Tony

After a tip from Blairwatch's member, Dick Cheney in earlier comments I have just sent the following email to Tony at Downing Street. It would be appreciated if others would make follow up enquiries. Send them via here where he specifically is asking for questions from the Queen's Speech.

I'm convinced this question will get chosen...

In the Queen's Speech I noticed that you intended to introduce legislation to "Making it a criminal offence to view images of rape and sexual torture" with a penalty of three years imprisonment."

Would this apply to viewing images of the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison?

I look forward to your reply


Naturally we will publish any reply

What are we doing here?


Exhibit A - Torture and Rendition

Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding"

Exhibit B - Ghost Plane

"What he claimed most significantly was a connection between Al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. This intelligence report made it all the way to the top, and was used by Colin Powell as a key piece of justification ... for invading Iraq," he told the broadcaster.

Exhibit C - Another leaked Memo

Downing Street has distanced itself from leaked papers suggesting Iraq is fuelling terrorism, stressing they were not drawn up by its officials.

MEPs criticise 'unhelpful and evasive' Geoff Hoon in rendition inquiry


The delegation of MEPs who came to Britain as part of their investigation into collusion with CIA flights did not get much co-operation from the Minister for Europe.

Sarah Ludford, the Liberal Democrat MEP on the Brussels investigating committee, said the Europe Minister's answers under cross-examination earlier this week were "not as forthcoming or informative as would be justified by the weight of the allegations raised".

She added: "We felt there was an unwillingness to engage with the questions. It's not enough to say there's nothing to look at. The allegations are credible enough to trigger an obligation to investigate."

Claudio Fava, an Italian committee member, said the meeting with Mr Hoon "proved to be the least fruitful of any meeting with ministers in recent months". The Foreign Office insisted Mr Hoon had answered all the questions put to him.


Mr Fava also said that Hoon's replies were as unhelpful as those the MEPs had received previously from the United States. I suspected earlier that this would probably be the case. The investigation is continuing however and it seems that certain people are getting worried at what might be uncovered. Claudio Fava and others involved in the inquiry have been getting death threats.

The 'Rapporteur' of the European Parliament Committee investigating extraordinary rendition by the CIA in Europe, Claudio Fava MEP, has received death threats. Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford, Vice-Chair of the Committee today said:

"I would like to express my solidarity with my colleague Claudio Fava at this difficult time. The police must offer him top-level protection. It is an outrage that in a democratic Europe, a parliamentarian investigating breaches of human rights and the rule of law can receive a death threat."

Mr. Fava received an anonymous letter threatening him with the same fate as his father, a Sicilian journalist murdered by the mafia in 1984. In addition, five anonymous letters have been sent to journalists and others involved in the case.


Baroness Ludford added:

"These death threat letters would appear to indicate that parliamentary and judicial investigators are beginning to get close to the truth. It shows how high the stakes are. The determination of some authorities to keep up the wall of silence must be matched by determination to uphold Europe's democratic values."


Hat Tip: N379P

MEPs inquiry into 'extraordinary rendition' comes to Britain


I nearly missed this. Following the Council of Europe investigation which found that the UK was one of 14 European countries which colluded in an unlawful "spider's web" of secret CIA flights, a seperate inquiry by MEPs has come to Britain to take evidence from MPs and other people who might have knowledge of CIA torture flights.

Seven MEPs are spending two days in London questioning MPs, human rights groups, and relatives and lawyers of victims of alleged "renditions".

The delegation is also due to meet Europe Minister Geoff Hoon and government officials.

Whitehall denies there is evidence that prisoners are flown through Britain.

Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford is heading the delegation holding the questions session in London.

Among their witnesses will be the Labour chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Mike Gapes, the Conservative chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on extraordinary rendition, Andrew Tyrie, and Tory member of the Intelligence and Security Committee member Michael Ancram.

They will also meet officials from the Home Office, Ministry of Defence and the Department for Transport.

The MEPS are due to report on the results of their investigation early next year.

So I wonder if the Ministers giving evidence will tell the inquiry the same stories they told us previously now that Bush has admitted that 'Black Sites' exist and 'extraordinary rendition' takes place. Let's just remind ourselves again about the sort of stuff we were told by the Government. Perhaps they might stay on-message with Bush and just try to justify it.

Tonight's Entertainment in Manchester *UPDATED*


Labour Conference Fringe Meeting
Joint CND/Stop the War Public Meeting
Tuesday 26th September 7pm
Methodist Central Hall, Oldham Street, Manchester

Speakers include:
Tony Benn,
Michael Meacher MP,
Walter Wolfgang (Labour Party NEC),
Craig Murray,
Roudabeh Shafie (Action Iran),
Lindsey German (Stop the War Coalition),
Kate Hudson (CND)

»Map for location

Back from Manchester, after having had the pleasure of listening to two octogenarians, Tony Benn and Walter Wolfgang appearing on the same platform and remind me that politicians can speak with conviction, and it is possible to have faith in them.

Michael Meacher, and Jeremy Corbyn [Craig Murray couldn't make it] were also very good, as were Lindsey German[STWC] and Roudabeh Shafie[Action Iran].

Suffice to say, this Conference fringe meeting was not eulogising Tony's speech...

Pics, and hopefully audio [if it worked] tomorrow.

Manchester 'Time to Go' Demo - Reports and Photos *UPDATED*


A few photos from the Time to GO protest in Manchester today, below and on our Flickr stream.

There is usual dispute about numbers - I heard Sky and C4 talking about 10,000, which is obviously bollocks, as even the police estimate puts it at 20,000. Stop the war are reporting 60,000, so applying the Blairwatch rule of thumb [I wasn't out with our maths addict] the real number must be somewhere between what the police and organisers claim...

The police were out in force, apparently over 1000 of them lining the route - but they had little to do, as there was not a single arrest.

The whole event set the scene appropriately for Tony's arrival at Conference, provided a kind of mood music if you like? Delegates might wish to take note that I didn't spot many obvious natural Conservative supporters among the crowd - I have no dout there were some, but I got the impression that more than one or two of the people there were amongst those who spent the 1980s and 90s working their arses off trying to get the Labour Party into power...

Meanwhile on Planet Labour, PowerWhore aspirant deputy leadership candidate Harriet Harman was giving interviews [mp3] outside the conference centre [after we all marched past] suggesting that Labour should take notice of public opinion over Foreign Policy... Remind me again Harriet, how did you vote on Iraq after 2 million people took to the streets in protest back in 2003...

But don't worry, there is no chance of any inconvenient debates on the leadership taking place on the conference floor - the 'arrangements committee' have seen to that....

Well, it's the elephant in the room this, it's the one subject that the conference organisers are absolutely desperate to keep away from the conference floor. The trouble is that around 17 constituency labour parties have individually put forward motions calling for a debate on the leadership, and not all of them are anti blair - some of them are saying he should go when he wants. But the conference arrangements committee, which does pretty much what it does on the tin, has ruled them all out of order on procedural grounds...

I haven't had a chance to catch the news coverage of the day, apart from a couple of bulletins, so I can't comment on how much attention the demo received. If others want to add to this via the comments, and any links to coverage from people who were there, photos or video clips etc, then please do and I'll list them here.

Manchester Evening News [Reader Submitted Photos]
The Guardian
Photos and reports from the Socialist Worker website.
The Respect Supporters weblog have a series of Live reports.
Lenin's Tomb does the .