Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray blew the whistle on how the Americans were using Uzbekistan’s medieval torture program to produce false intelligence in the war on terror
THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN: Over the weekend the United States denied entry to an unsuspecting individual. Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray who 10 years ago made the critical mistake of exposing the Uzbek torture system that we now know the Americans supported and the British condoned. He was scheduled to participate in an awards ceremony next week where former CIA agent and whistleblower John Kiriakou is slated to receive an award for exposing the Bush era torture program. JOHN KIRIAKOU: We’re talking about a British diplomat. A highly respected internationally respected British diplomat. A whistleblower in his own right, an exposer of torture who has traveled to this country dozens and dozens of times and then for reasons that have not been explained to him, finds himself banned by the United States. HEDGES: The Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence is given out annually to someone who shows moral courage in the midst of wrongdoing on the part of the state. RAY MCGOVERN: In 2006, the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity and Intelligence decided to award ambassador Murray our annual award for integrity. He came and talked at several of our Sam Adams Award ceremonies here in the states and also at Oxford. We did 2 there. We did our last one in Berlin. We go wherever the people are. HEDGES: 10 years after having won the award himself, Murray is still at home wondering how his name received what the State Department and Homeland Security call a hit. PETER VAN BUREN: It means that the Department of Homeland Security believes that ambassador Murray may be eligible to enter the United States under one of the categories of ineligibility. HEDGES: Peter Van Buren is a former United States foreign service employee turned whistleblower after he heavily criticized the United States reconstruction effort in Iraq. Van Buren also just wrote a piece for Consortium News that explains how someone like Murray may have received a hit. VAN BUREN: But more often than not, particularly in cases like ambassador Murray’s where there are political components, what we’ve got is likely a potential 3B violation or potential violation which means terrorism. You don’t have to be a terrorist to fall under this category. You can just be placed on one of these watch lists by one of the dozens of American intelligence agencies and organizations that are allowed to “nominate names” and they do love their Orwellian vocabulary—nominate names to the list. HEDGES: In his relatively short tenure as ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray uncovered a torture infrastructure within the country that had once silenced Uzbeki dissidence and fed the Americans shaky intelligence they were so desperate for as the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan began to unravel. In 2009, 5 years after Murray had left the British foreign office but still 7 years away from being denied entry from the United States, Murray spoke at that year’s Sam Adam’s Award ceremony which took place in Washington, DC at American University. CRAIG MURRAY: You know there are over 10,000 political prisoners in Uzbekistan. Anybody who is a religious Muslim of any kind, no connection to terrorism. Anyone who prays 5 times a day as prescribed will be arrested as a terrorist. Any young man with a beard will be arrest. HEDGES: He subsequently sat down with Real News Senior Editor Paul Jay to expand on the disturbing revelations that ended his career as ambassador. MURRAY: Many of them are killed every year. They’re terrible, literally Stalinist gulags. They are in the old Stalinist gulags which are still there like [inaud.] in the middle of the Kyzyl Kum desert. And people are tortured dreadfully. Most appalling tortures you could think of on a routine basis. If you’re arrested you’re going to be tortured and that means you’re going to have a broken bottle inserted in your anus. You’re going to have your neck broken. You’re going to have your feet held over a fire. You’re going to be suffocated by having a blocked gas mask put over your head. Even a [chemical] assistances of children tortured in front of the parents. You shouldn’t forget the purpose of the torture was to get false intelligence which vastly exaggerated the threat from al Qaeda. It vastly exaggerated the strength of al Qaeda in central Asia and people knew that. HEDGES: Murray saw that western powers like the UK and the US were far more interested in profiting from Uzbekistan’s oil reserves and vital geopolitical position than they were with human rights. MURRAY: Uzbekistan is at the heart of central Asia. It has half the population of central Asia. It really dominates the region. Central Asia has the world’s largest untapped reserves of oil and gas. So anyone who’s interested in acquiring influence over hydrocarbon reserves needs to be in Uzbekistan. The Uzbek government plays this to its own advantage. Uzbek government has no interest other than its own advantage and its quite happy to switch between different world powers as it’s able to get something out of them. HEDGES: Murray says that when he went over to Uzbekistan in 2002, the US viewed Uzbekistan and especially it’s late president Islam Karimov, who coincidentally just died last week, not only as a long term interest in the region but also as the most important ally in central Asia when it came to the war on terror. Beyond firing off a steady stream of intelligence memos and reports to the CIA which were then being forwarded to the British Intelligence Service MI6, and beyond allowing the United States to set up it’s crucial Karshi-Khanabad airbase, the Uzbeks were engaged in a program of extraordinary rendition with the United States of so called suspected terrorists. And it happened to be part of a network of black sites that spanned across many countries. MURRAY: The CIA were flying people in to be tortured and I reported that official to London in as many words. This is in 2003 before [anyone] had heard the words extraordinary rendition. I didn’t realize that the people being flown in were not Uzbek. The idea that strangers would be flown in to be tortured. PAUL JAY, TRNN: Now how, subsequently, how do you know that that’s the case? Because essentially you’re saying the CIA was flying people in to be tortured in Uzbekistan. MURRAY: Yea I knew the CIA people who did it. There weren’t many expats in Uzbekistan. You’re talking quite seriously of not including military personnel, three or four hundred British and American [expatriates] in all of the country. So not surprisingly we used to drink in the same bars and meet. I actually knew the CIA people who flew people in. Subsequently we’ve learned a great deal more. For example, the councilor of Europe Inquiry into extraordinary rendition showed that 90% of the flights which took prisoners to the secret base in Poland at [inaud.] flew on to [Tashkent] as their next destination. There’s a great deal of other evidence that this was part of a global transportation business. JAY: So you found out about this. You send these reports back to your home office in London and they do what? MURRAY: They told me to think more about commercial interest and less about human facts. The exact phrase was that they sent me back a reply saying we think you are over focused on rights was their exact phrase. HEDGES: The experiences as ambassador of Uzbekistan proved detrimental to Murray’s faith and the integrity of the UK as well as the United States. In fact, the ordeal shock him so hard that he says his understanding of human beings changed. MURRAY: I think my world view has changed. I’ve been a British diplomat for over 20 years and I genuinely believe the unbalance were a force for good in the world. That I wasn’t serving something which was detrimental to mankind in general. When something like that hits you, the people you’ve worked with and called your friends for years and years are prepared to go along with something as evil as that that resulted in torture, wars, and death, it really does plunge you into questioning everything you’ve ever believed in. I still haven’t really come out of that process. As of Wednesday, over 10,000 people have signed a Roots Action petition demanding Murray be let into the country. In a statement released Tuesday, members of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity said they wondered which agencies long arms have reached out to disrupt our ceremony and to try and silence Craig? Whatever they intend, it will be bound to backfire. Murray has applied for a VISA via the State Department but that most likely won’t be processed in time. And Murry himself said Wednesday, that “despite the highly critical things I’ve published about Putin, about civil liberties in Russia, and the annexation of the Crimea, I’ve never been refused entry to Russia. The only two countries that have ever refused me entry clearance are Uzbekistan and the USA. What does that tell you?” For the Real News, Thomas Hedges, Washington.