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EXCLUSIVE: Ex-British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray on Why He Defied UK Foreign Office by Posting Classified Memos Blasting U.S., British Support of Torture by Uzbek Regime

StoryJanuary 19, 2006
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We spend the hour with the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. The British government has stopped the publication of his book. In a Democracy Now exclusive, Murray tells why he defied the British Foreign Office by posting a series of classified memos on his website. Murray was fired as ambassador to Uzbekistan after he openly criticized the British and U.S. governments for supporting human rights abuses under the Uzbek regime. [includes rush transcript]

A new Human Rights Watch report examines the state of human rights around the world. On Wednesday the group released its 2006 annual report which accused the Bush administration of undermining human rights around the world by the way its waging the so-called war on terror.

The group also called on Congress to set up an independent panel and investigate U.S. human rights abuses. These are excerpts of what Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch had to say.

Later in the day White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan responded to the charges.

  • Scott McClellan, White House press secretary.

Another country highlighted in the Human Rights Watch report is Uzbekistan–the former Soviet Republic that sits in Central Asia north of Afghanistan. The report accuses Uzbekistan of having a “disastrous human rights record.”

Three weeks ago the former British Ambassador to the country, Craig Murray, defied Britain’s Official Secrets Act by posting a series of classified memos that he wrote from his days in Uzbekistan, which up until recently was a close U.S. ally.

Fearing that the British government would shut down his website, Murray encouraged other website owners to republish the material on their sites. Hundreds have since taken up the call.

In one classified memo from July 2004, Murray wrote, “We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services via the US. We should stop… This is morally, legally and practically wrong.”

A summary of one of Murray’s memos read: “U.S. plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism.” In another secret memo Murray estimated the Uzbek government was holding up to 10,000 political and religious prisoners.

One revealing * letter* that Murray posts online is from now-indicted Enron CEO Kenneth Lay to then-Texas governor George W Bush in which Lay crosses out the words “Governor Bush” and writes “Dear George.” In it, Lay writes he is “delighted” Bush is meeting with the Uzbek ambassador to the US and tells Bush of Enron’s plans in Uzbekistan.

Perhaps the most damning memo is one that was not written by Murray but by a British legal advisor named Michael Wood. In the memo, Wood claims that using information extracted through torture is not technically a violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

All of the memos date from between August 2002 and October 2004–the period when Murray served as British ambassador to Uzbekistan. He was removed from the post in part because of his outspoken criticism of Uzbekistan’s human rights record.

  • Craig Murray, joins us today in his first interview in the United States since he posted the memos online.

- For more information:
- Link to classified documents
- Craig Murray is testifying at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration.
- Link to letter from Enron CEO Kenneth Lay to George W. Bush See below: “”:

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: These are excerpts of what Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, had to say.

KENNETH ROTH: I’m sorry to report that the global defense of human rights was profoundly compromised over the last year by the Bush administration’s policy-level decisions to flout some of the most basic human rights norms, out of a misguided sense that that’s the best way to fight against terrorism.

Now, it’s long been understood that the Bush administration’s use of torture and inhumane treatment could not be blamed on a handful of low-level soldiers on the night shift. At minimum, we understood up until now that policy decisions taken at the top had created an atmosphere of tolerance for abuse. And among those policy decisions that one could cite would be, for example, the Bush administration’s ripping up of the Geneva Conventions, with respect to Guantanamo, its extraordinarily narrow definition of torture to the point that most forms of abuse were not considered torture.

Now, other governments, obviously, mistreat detainees. Many of them mistreat detainees even worse than the United States, but uniformly they do it clandestinely. The United States government, over the last year, became the only government in the world to claim as a matter of right, as a matter of official policy, the power to treat detainees inhumanely. This U.S. disregard for Human Rights in the name of fighting terrorism has been extraordinarily counterproductive, even for the effort to defeat terrorism. It has lost the United States the moral high ground. It has breeded resentment, which has been a boon for terrorist recruiters.

Now, I think there is a copycat phenomenon. I will just give you one example. I met just about a year ago with the prime minister of Egypt and was complaining about the rounding up of suspects in the Taba bombing and the torture of scores, if not hundreds, of suspects. And he said to me really without batting an eyelash, 'Well, what do you want? That's what the United States does.’ And so, you know, there is an enormous problem, that when a government as influential as the United States flouts basic human rights standards, it —

AMY GOODMAN: That was Human Rights Watch executive director, Kenneth Roth, speaking on Wednesday. Later in the day, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan responded to the charges.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: It appears that the report is based more on a political agenda than on facts. The United States of America does more than other country in the world to advance freedom and promote human rights. Our focus should be on those who are denying people human dignity and who are violating human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Another country highlighted in the Human Rights Watch report is Uzbekistan, the former Soviet republic that sits in Central Asia, north of Afghanistan. The report accuses Uzbekistan of having a “disastrous human rights record.” Three weeks ago, the former British ambassador to the country, Craig Murray, defied Britain’s Official Secrets Act by posting a series of classified memos that he wrote from his days in Uzbekistan, which up until recently was a close U.S. ally. Fearing that the British government would shut down his website, Murray encouraged other website owners to republish the materials on their sites. Hundreds have since taken up the call.

In one classified memo from July 2004, Ambassador Murray wrote, “We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services via the U.S. We should stop… This is morally, legally, and practically wrong.” A summary of Craig Murray’s memos read, “The U.S. plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism.” In another secret memo, Murray estimated the Uzbek government was holding up to 10,000 political and religious prisoners.

Perhaps the most damning memo is one that was not written by Murray, but by a British legal advisor named Michael Wood. In the memo, Wood claims that using information extracted through torture is not technically a violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. All of the memos date from between August 2002 and October 2004, the period when Murray served as British ambassador to Uzbekistan. He was removed from the post, in part because of his outspoken criticism of Uzbekistan’s human rights record.

Craig Murray joins us today in the Firehouse studio in his first interview in the United States since he posted the memos online. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

CRAIG MURRAY: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: You just flew in from Britain last night. We’d like to spend this hour talking about your experiences in Uzbekistan. When did you become ambassador there?

CRAIG MURRAY: In August of 2002, I became ambassador, went out to Uzbekistan.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you find when you got there?

CRAIG MURRAY: Well, I found a country which lives in fear. There’s palpable fear in the place. It’s a totalitarian state. Effectively they haven’t reformed much from the old Soviet system, and then they have added a new level of brutality and violence and an extra level of corruption to that. It’s a state where everyone is scared of their neighbor, where there are 40,000 secret police in the city of Tashkent alone. And the astonishing thing was it was a state where people were being disappeared and tortured on an industrial basis and which was being financed and organized by the United States of America.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what did you begin to do as British ambassador? What could you do?

CRAIG MURRAY: Well, the first thing I did was make a speech, openly pointing out the abuses, which hadn’t been done for many years. When I arrived, one of the things you have to do as a new ambassador is call on your fellow ambassadors, pay courtesy calls. And I kept saying to them, you know, to the French, the German, the Italian: “This is awful. It’s terrible what’s happening here. There are thousands of people being rounded up in prisons, tortured, killed, disappeared, and it all seems to have the backing of the U.S.A.”

And they said to me absolutely straight, they said, “Yes, but we don’t mention that. You know, President Karimov is an important ally of George Bush in the war on terror, so there’s an unspoken agreement that we keep quiet about the abuses.” I decided not to do that and so went very public, making a speech outlining the abuses and drawing international attention to them.

AMY GOODMAN: What evidence did you have of the support that the U.S. government was giving Uzbekistan, the Uzbek regime?

CRAIG MURRAY: Well, the United States had a large military air base in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is situated immediately north of Afghanistan, and the airbase had been used for operations into Afghanistan, but it was also being made into a permanent facility. It was intend to be a permanent facility. Halliburton were there building all the facilities. And the United States was pumping huge amounts of American taxpayers’ money into the Uzbek regime. According to a U.S. embassy press release of December 2002, in 2002 alone, the United States government gave Uzbekistan over $500 million, of which $120 million was in military support and $80 million was in support of the Uzbek security services who were working alongside their C.I.A. colleagues.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to former ambassador, Craig Murray. He is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. We’ll be back with him in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has since resigned, was forced out as ambassador, fired as ambassador to Uzbekistan. Craig Murray, who from the time he became ambassador in 2002, began speaking out and also talking about the U.S. relationship with the Uzbek regime. The relationship between President Bush and the president of Uzbekistan, Karimov.

CRAIG MURRAY: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: What about it?

CRAIG MURRAY: Well, it goes back to before George Bush became President. In 1997 or 1998, George Bush, as Governor of Texas, had a meeting with the Uzbek ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Safayev, which was actually organized and set up by Kenneth Lay of Enron. And if you go to my website, you can find a facsimile of Kenneth Lay’s letter to George Bush, telling him to meet Ambassador Safayev in order to conclude a billion-dollar gas deal between Uzbekistan and Enron. And that was the start of the Bush relationship with the Karimov regime.

Karimov is one of the most vicious dictators in the world, a man who is responsible for the death of thousands of people. Prisoners are boiled to death in Uzbek jails. And he was a guest in the White House in 2002. It’s very easy to find photos of George Bush shaking Karimov’s hand. Rumsfeld is particularly chummy with Karimov, so —

AMY GOODMAN: Boiled to death?

CRAIG MURRAY: Yeah, it was one of the first cases I came across, back in August or September of 2002. Two Muslim prisoners in Jaslyk gulag, which is an old Soviet gulag in the middle of the Karakum Desert, a sort of forced-labor camp, a terrible place where people are sent to die, effectively, two Islamic prisoners were boiled to death. They died of immersion in boiling water. The mother of one of the prisoners received her son’s body back in a sealed casket, was ordered not to open the casket, and just to bury it the next morning. Despite being in her sixties, she managed to get the casket open in the middle of the night, even though police were guarding the house outside.

She got the body onto the kitchen table and took a series of detailed photos, which she got to the British embassy. I sent them back to London — or, in fact, to Scotland, to the University of Glasgow, the pathology department. On the basis of these detailed photos, they did an autopsy report, in which they said that he had had his fingernails extracted, he had been severely beaten, particularly about the face, and he died of immersion in boiling liquid. And it was immersion, rather than splashing, because there is a clear tide mark around the upper torso and arms, which gives you some idea of the level of brutality of this regime.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you got this information out, and then what happened?

CRAIG MURRAY: It was very difficult for the British government, which, officially, of course, supports human rights, so it was very hard for them to reprimand me for making points on human rights. But also, internally, I was making other points, which I wasn’t making in public at that time, and that was about the intelligence material we were getting from the Uzbek secret service, because I was seeing C.I.A. reports, which were passed on to MI6, which had been extracted from the Uzbek torture chambers.

I had been there for two or three months, which was long enough to know that, effectively, any Uzbek political or religious detainee is going to be tortured. There’s no question of definition here. You know, we’re not talking about 'Is that or is that not torture?' We’re talking about people having their fingernails pulled, having their teeth smashed with hammers, having their limbs broken, and being raped with objects, including broken bottles; both male and female rape, extremely common in Uzbek prisons. And from the security service, which was operating right alongside the C.I.A., we were getting this intelligence.

I mean, the intelligence itself was nonsense. The purpose of the intelligence was to say that all the Uzbek opposition were related to al-Qaeda, that the democratic Uzbek opposition were all Islamic terrorists, that they’d traveled to Afghanistan, held meetings with Osama bin Laden. It was designed to promote the myth that Uzbekistan was, in total, part of the war on terror, and that by aligning himself with Karimov, Bush and the Bush Administration were backing or improving United States security, which wasn’t true at all. I mean, the intelligence was false. If you torture people, they will say anything. I couldn’t believe that the C.I.A. was working so closely with these dreadful security services and then were accepting intelligence which was obviously untrue. When I started complaining about that, even though I was only complaining internally, that’s when the British government started to lose its patience with me and get very angry with me.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did the British government do, and when did they do it?

CRAIG MURRAY: Well, initially, I was summoned back to London for a meeting, which happened in March of 2003.

AMY GOODMAN: Right before the invasion.

CRAIG MURRAY: Just before the invasion. At that meeting, Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign Office’s chief legal advisor, said that it wasn’t illegal for us to obtain this information that was got under torture, which he then confirmed in the follow-up memo, which is the memo which we’ve published on the web. He said that as long as we didn’t specifically ask for an individual to be tortured, if he was tortured and we were passed the material, then that was not breaking the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and therefore the C.I.A. and MI6 were acting perfectly legally in getting this information from torture.

AMY GOODMAN: So you could know they were tortured, but you hadn’t directly asked for their torture?

CRAIG MURRAY: Exactly. That made it not illegal, which is a line which, frankly, no international lawyer or not-in-government employee would take, but that was the view given. And I was told that this question had been considered at the highest level by the British Secretary of State, Jack Straw, who discussed it with the head of MI6, and they had decided that we should continue to receive this intelligence material, which was all C.I.A.-sourced, even though it was obtained through torture.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you have evidence of C.I.A. or other U.S. or British or other government officials in the torture chambers with the intelligence or prison officials in Uzbekistan torturing people?

CRAIG MURRAY: No, I don’t think they ever did that, and I think they carefully avoided it. There is a fabric of deniability over the whole thing. They don’t go actually into the torture chamber. They receive the intelligence that comes out of the torture chamber, but they don’t enter it.

The C.I.A. will then process the material, so that when it actually arrives on the desk of Colin Powell, as it was then, or Condoleezza Rice or Donald Rumsfeld, or on the desk of a British minister, it just says this intelligence was got from an Uzbek prisoner related to al-Qaeda. It doesn’t say who he was. It doesn’t say his name. It doesn’t say when he was interrogated. So you can’t trace it back, in order to say it was that individual and he was tortured in this way.

We know that they were being tortured. As I say, the United Nations did an investigation in which they said that torture in Uzbekistan was widespread and systemic, but the information is sanitized carefully. So when it arrives on the desk of, let’s say, Condoleezza Rice, all she sees is it says, you know, this came from a terrorist detainee in Uzbekistan. So she can say, “I, to my knowledge, have never seen information obtained under torture.” And that’s a fabric of deceit set up to enable her to say that, in effect.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. He was fired from that position. He ultimately quit the British foreign service, was ambassador 2002 to 2004. So, you were there in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. You were there afterwards. How did the time change the U.S. and British relationship with Uzbekistan and Karimov?

CRAIG MURRAY: Well, I should say that one thing, which completely astonished me, was, as we went into the Iraq war, I saw George Bush on CNN, making a speech the day the real fighting started, where he said we are going in basically to dismantle the torture chambers and the rape rooms. And yet, the United States was subsidizing the torture chambers and the rape rooms in Uzbekistan. The sheer hypocrisy of that led me to write another one of the telegrams, which we’ve published on the web.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you say in that telegram? And, by the way, we will also post all of these on our website at

CRAIG MURRAY: Effectively, I said just that: How could we pretend that we were going to war to bring democracy to Iraq or to support human rights, when, at the same time, one of our allies, one of the members of the “Coalition of the Willing,” was Uzbekistan, which is one of the worst regimes in the world and every bit as bad as Saddam Hussein’s regime? And that if Karimov was on our side, plainly, we weren’t the goodies. And so, I put that fairly bluntly, which again didn’t go down too well with Tony Blair and his people, I understand.

AMY GOODMAN: When did they ultimately pull you out?

CRAIG MURRAY: Well, what happened next was I suddenly found in August of 2003 — I was on holiday in Canada — I was called back early from holiday and told they wanted me to resign as ambassador in Tashkent. They said that they would find me another job somewhere else. I could be ambassador somewhere peaceful, like Copenhagen or somewhere. And I said, “No, I’m not going to resign. Why should I resign?” You know, I’m arguing my case internally, as I should. I’m not leaving. So they then said, “Well, in that case, we’re going to have to investigate these disciplinary allegations,” and they handed me a list of 18 allegations, which included stealing money, which included issuing visas in exchange for sex and various other quite extraordinary allegations, and then said they’d give me a week to consider whether I wanted to resign or not.

Of course, I didn’t resign. I said that these are just totally untrue. But they then proceeded to leak the allegations to the media, in order to dent my credibility, in effect. I refused to go, and there was a full formal investigation, which cleared me of all the allegations. I was acquitted of them all. But they had already — although they hadn’t succeeded in getting me to resign , which was the purpose of the allegations, they had, from their point of view, achieved something in tarnishing my name. But I fought the allegations.

I went back, I stayed another year, and then one of my confidential papers was leaked to the Financial Times back in October of 2004. And that wasn’t I who leaked it, but it was the leak of that paper which was the excuse for sacking me. And I strongly suspect that they leaked it themselves, in order to give them an excuse to sack me, having failed to get rid of me any other way.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is it that was leaked?

CRAIG MURRAY: It was a complaint about our cooperation with the Uzbek government.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you say?

CRAIG MURRAY: I said, effectively, that Uzbekistan is morally beyond the pale, that we shouldn’t be treating it as an ally, and we certainly shouldn’t be cooperating with the Uzbek security services.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us about Jamal Mirsaidov?

CRAIG MURRAY: Yes. Jamal Mirsaidov is a very brave man. He’s an old man, a professor of Tajik literature at the University of Samarkand, who was a dissident in Soviet times. I went and had dinner with him at the end of March 2003. While we were having dinner, his grandson, who lived in his house, was abducted off the streets, tortured, severely tortured, and murdered. His elbows and knees were smashed. His right hand was dipped in boiling liquid until the flesh peeled away. And, ultimately, he was killed with a blow to the back of the head.

I left after dinner with the professor, and a few hours, three, four hours after I left, the body was dumped on the professor’s doorstep, and this was intended as a warning, both to the professor and to me, I mean, a warning not to meet dissidents and for dissidents not to meet me. It was — the grandson was either 17 or 18 years old and, obviously, you know, that again gives an example of how dreadful the regime is. But also, it has troubled my own conscience greatly, because if I hadn’t met his grandfather, he probably wouldn’t have died that terrible death. So, it had a profound effect on me.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who has spoken out about the Uzbek regime, the U.S. relationship with that regime, and the financial support, as well as the British government’s. When we come back, we will continue to talk about this and about his book that he has tried to publish about his experiences. The British government has stopped him from doing that, but hasn’t stopped him from posting on his website his confidential memos that he wrote to the British government after viewing U.S. and British intelligence coming out of Uzbekistan based on people who were tortured.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. He was there in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq and afterwards, from 2002 to 2004. Finally, he was fired, and he ultimately quit the British foreign service. We are talking to Ambassador Craig Murray, who has just flown into the United States, speaking for the first time in the United States since he posted confidential memos online that he had written to the British government at the time, of course, privately, writing about the horrendous human rights record of the Uzbek regime and what it had to do with the British and U.S. governments. He is here to testify this weekend at an international commission of inquiry on crimes against humanity committed by the Bush administration, at an event at Riverside Church in New York City. And you can read more about that at

I wanted to talk about what happened last year in the eastern Uzbek town of Andijan. On May 10, protests began over the jailing of 23 businessmen who had been identified by the government as Islamic extremists. The protesters broke the men out of jail, and in the process freed thousands of other prisoners. By May 12, the protests intensified, and demonstrators tried to take over government buildings in Andijan. The Uzbek government responded by sealing off the city and then killing over 700 people. At the time, Uzbekistan was a key ally to both the United States and Britain in Central Asia. Initially, the U.S. downplayed the killings. On May 13, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was asked whether the United States blamed the violence on the government of Uzbekistan. This is how Boucher responded.

RICHARD BOUCHER: I would note that while we have been very consistently critical of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, we’re very concerned about the outbreak of violence in Andijan, in particular the escape of prisoners, including possibly members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an organization we consider a terrorist organization. I think at this point we’re looking to all the parties involved to exercise restraint to avoid any unnecessary loss of life.

AMY GOODMAN: State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher. I also want to play a clip of Human Rights Watch executive director, Kenneth Roth, from May of last year and then ask the ambassador about the U.S. response to the killings. This is Kenneth Roth.

KENNETH ROTH: Human Rights Watch’s main conclusions are, first, that the scale of the killing and the deliberateness of the slaughter means that this can only be fairly classified as a massacre.

AMY GOODMAN: Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch. Former ambassador Craig Murray, you were in Uzbekistan leading up to this. You were not there during what happened in Andijan. Your response?

CRAIG MURRAY: I think it was a dreadful massacre. I mean, what was happening in Andijan was effectively no different to the pro-democracy demonstrations that you saw in Ukraine or in Georgia, that brought down a, you know, dictatorial regime and succeeded in doing so. In Andijan, the Uzbek government rather predictably responded by shooting the demonstrators, and those 700 people who died were not armed. I was completely flabbergasted by the White House’s approach. On one hand, you’ve got unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators, and on the other side you’ve got the government troops with tanks and heavy weapons shooting them down, and the White House called for restraint on both sides. You know, what do they want the people to do, die more peacefully? It was sickening, frankly. It really was a sickening response from the United States, but, you know, of a peace with their relationship with the Karimov regime, which they were trying desperately to maintain.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you say that this president, President Bush’s relationship with Karimov in the Uzbek regime goes way back, and one of the links is Enron. Can you elaborate more on this?

CRAIG MURRAY: Yes. Enron cut a deal with Uzbekistan to exploit Uzbekistan’s natural gas reserves. Central Asia has the largest untapped reserves of oil and gas in the world. Uzbekistan doesn’t have much oil; it has a terrific amount of natural gas. And Uzbekistan dominates Central Asia. It has half the population of the whole region. It has, by far, the biggest army and the most muscle. So Uzbekistan was key to the energy policy, and that’s why Enron and Halliburton and all of the companies you very much associate with the Bush administration were in there plugging this policy of staying close to Karimov. And that’s why he was such a welcome guest in the White House.

The war on terror, if you like, was a cover for these activities. And that’s why they needed this false intelligence, saying that the Uzbek opposition was all Islamic terrorists. I mean, it’s quite astonishing. Again, the White House spokesman in that clip was saying that the prison break in Andijan would have released terrorists. The majority of people in Andijan jail — and I’ve been to Andijan; I knew two people who were killed in the massacre — the majority of people in Andijan jail were perfectly peaceful political and religious prisoners. There were also some petty criminals who released, too. But the wellspring of the whole policy of the United States was the ruthless pursuit of sectional oil and gas interests, and that originated with Enron. Obviously, once Enron collapsed, those interests passed on to other U.S. companies.


CRAIG MURRAY: Basically other major oil companies. But the sad thing, or the ironic thing, I suppose is the way to put it, is that ultimately the policy didn’t work, because having given probably about $1 billion over a three-year period and having even supported the Uzbek government at the time of the Andijan massacre, when the rest of the world was expressing outrage. The Uzbeks eventually cut a deal with Gazprom of Russia, and the United States then got kicked out of Uzbekistan very unceremoniously. They didn’t leave.

The Bush administration is trying now to put the best possible gloss on it, and say, 'We left because of the human rights situation.' Absolutely untrue. The human rights situation seemed not to bother them at all. They left because they were kicked out. The Uzbek government withdrew the lease on the American Air Force base there. They kicked out the Peace Corps, kicked out most American NGOs and U.S. Aid operations, and, you know, we had the very pathetic sight of America having really kowtowed to this terrible dictator, then being humiliated by him and chucked out of the country. So, all that loss of moral authority, all that waste of money and resource has come to nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the Bush administration will succeed in getting back in?

CRAIG MURRAY: It’s not impossible. Karimov is a person entirely motivated by cash and power, basically, and he saw short-term advantage, effectively short-term advantage in massive, massive bribes paid to his daughter by Gazprom, in going with Russia on the gas deal. And part of that was that Putin insisted that the United States be removed from Uzbekistan as part of that deal. In a couple of years time, if Karimov sees personal advantage and the chance to make money out of letting the United States back, he will equally do it, too, to Putin.

AMY GOODMAN: We know about black sites, about the U.S. sending people to prisons in Eastern Europe. It’s believed Romania, Poland are among those places. Is Uzbekistan one of those places, and do you know anything about secret flights, these so-called torture flights where prisoners are taken, spirited away to other places to be tortured?

CRAIG MURRAY: I think the most important thing I can say about extraordinary rendition is that the end product exists. The United States, as a matter of policy, is willing to accept intelligence got by torture by foreign agencies. I can give direct firsthand evidence of that and back it up with documents.

On the existence of flights, the C.I.A. planes did come into Uzbekistan. They did bring prisoners, Uzbek prisoners, back from Afghanistan into Uzbekistan, to my certain knowledge. They also came in from other places. For example, the C.I.A. flight, which famously stopped at this secret location in Poland, went on Tashkent. That was the next destination of that plane. I cannot say, to my knowledge, while I was ambassador there, that the C.I.A. had any secret imprisonment facilities or brought in third country nationals to Uzbekistan. If that was happening, I wasn’t aware of it. Since I left, a number of journalists, in particular reputable journalists, have told me that they have inside C.I.A. sources who tell them that is happening. I believe that’s probably true. I believe it probably is happening, but I would be lying if I said that I knew it was happening while I was there. I didn’t. But what I can say for sure is that the C.I.A. is happy to get information from foreign torture chambers, and that is, of course, the basis of this program of shipping people around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who has just flown into this country, to the United States, last night. I want to read you a bit from a Reuters report that says, “Britain believes the C.I.A.’s reported secret transfer of terrorism suspects to foreign countries for interrogation is illegal, according to a leaked government document that has just been published today. The Foreign Office memo says the practice known as extraordinary rendition could never be legal if the detainee is at risk of torture, according to extracts that are printed in The Guardian newspaper.” It adds, “British cooperation would also be illegal, if we knew of the circumstances, according to the paper. Human right groups have accused the C.I.A. of running secret prisons in Europe and elsewhere, abducting suspects, transferring them between countries by plane. President Bush last month said the United States does not secretly move terrorism suspects to foreign countries that torture to get information. He said, 'We do not render to countries that torture. That has been our policy, and that policy will remain the same.'

“Washington has come under growing pressure to explain why hundreds of flights by C.I.A. planes have crisscrossed the world, stopping in many European countries. Britain, a key U.S. ally, has repeatedly sought to play down its role in the rendition controversy. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told Parliament, January 10, Britain has approved only two C.I.A. rendition flights. However, the leaked document dated December 7, 2005, says the C.I.A. may have used British airports more often. According to the BBC News website, quoting from an extract of the memo, the papers we have uncovered so far suggest there could be more than two cases referred to in the House of Commons by the Foreign Secretary. It was sent by an official in Straw’s department to an aide in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office. It was leaked to the New Statesman magazine, parts were reprinted in several British newspapers today. The briefing document’s author, named as Irfan Siddiq, appears to suggest that British government should seek to sidestep difficult questions over its role in renditions. 'We should try to avoid getting drawn on detail and to try to move to debate on,' he wrote, according to the newspaper. A spokesperson for Blair declined to comment. A Foreign Office spokesman had no comment. He said in a statement, 'The government does not deport or extradite anyone to another state where there are substantive grounds to believe they would be subject to torture.'” You actually ran against Jack Straw, is that right?

CRAIG MURRAY: I did. I stood against him on the torture issue in his Blackburn constituency.


CRAIG MURRAY: Yes. I didn’t have a backing of any political party. So I didn’t get a huge number of votes, but it was worth doing.

AMY GOODMAN: So what about this latest leaked document?

CRAIG MURRAY: I think there’s no doubt now that extraordinary rendition is happening. I mean, this is just further documentary evidence. And the, you know, certainly, ethnic Uzbeks, the United States was bringing into Uzbekistan. So that, itself, proves that President Bush is lying in saying that they don’t take people to countries that torture. And, you know, one of the amazing things is that even a country like Syria, which occasionally is in the sort of list of evil places, cooperates with the C.I.A. in the extraordinary rendition program and in giving intelligence. So, there is no doubt that George Bush and Condoleezza Rice have been lying through their teeth about extraordinary rendition for some time. And more and more information is going to come out about it. The Council of Europe is conducting an investigation, and I’m going to be testifying before that inquiry.

AMY GOODMAN: When is that?

CRAIG MURRAY: That’s on Monday in Strasbourg.

AMY GOODMAN: And what will you say?

CRAIG MURRAY: I will again say that what I can testify to for certain is that the C.I.A. is prepared to get intelligence from foreign torture chambers, that as a matter of policy, it will do that, and I have firsthand experience with that. I’d like to mention one thing —

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that firsthand experience.

CRAIG MURRAY: Well, when I was complaining about our obtaining this torture material, before I went back to London, I asked my deputy to call up the American embassy just to make sure I wasn’t missing something here and to ask them, ask the C.I.A. station there, whether they, too, believed that this Uzbek intelligence was probably coming from torture. And so, my deputy went off to the American embassy. She had a meeting there, which was either with a political counselor or the head of the C.I.A. station. I’m not quite certain which [inaudible]. She came back and reported to me that she had had the meeting, and the American embassy had said, yes, it probably did come from torture, but they didn’t see that as a problem.

And then, of course, I was called back to this meeting in London, where I was told that it was quite legal to get the information, even though it was obtained under torture. So no one, no one was denying internally that the information came from torture. And no one — it hasn’t yet been denied. Neither the British government nor the American government has denied what I’m saying, that they were getting intelligence from Uzbek torture chambers.

One thing I want to mention, which is very important in this, is the U.K.-U.S. intelligence sharing agreement, under which the C.I.A. and MI6 share everything they’ve got all over the world across the board, and the N.S.A. and G.C.H.Q. share everything they’ve got around the world across the board, and that subsisted since it was negotiated by Churchill and Roosevelt, I think. And that means that, in effect, the British government doesn’t have an independent policy on these things, The British government is tied to whatever the U.S. policy is, because however the C.I.A. gets its material, however the N.S.A. gets its material, the British intelligence services are getting the same material. So the British policy is the American policy, and that’s why this whole question of extraordinary rendition is extraordinarily difficult for the British government, which can’t pretend it doesn’t know what’s happening. Plainly, it does know what’s happening, and it’s on very, very difficult grounds.

But frankly, it’s been let, so far, very much off the hook by a very weak media. If you think the media in the United States is bad, I think in some ways it’s worse in the U.K. And people just aren’t asking the difficult questions of ministers. They aren’t pursuing the kind of points that that memo raises. I mean, everyone has known, if you like, the truth about extraordinary rendition and the points in that memo that’s been leaked today. But no one has really backed — in questioning, no reporter has had the nerve to back Tony Blair up against the wall on it.

AMY GOODMAN: We only have ten seconds. But what has given you the courage to speak out?

CRAIG MURRAY: I think it’s just what any decent person would do, I mean, when you come across people being boiled and their fingernails pulled out or having their children raped in front of them, you just can’t go along with it and sleep at night.

AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Craig Murray, I want to thank you very much for joining us. That does it for today’s broadcast. He will speaking this weekend at Riverside Church at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, the title of that, at Our website,, will post all of the memos there.

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