Craig Murray, the UK’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan, has posted at his blog copies he received of telegrams he obtained via Freedom of Information Act. As part of his official duties as ambassador, he had sent these telegrams to the Labor government of Tony Blair in 2003, describing the use of torture in the production of UK intelligence. As Murray reminds us, he was "smeared and sacked" for daring "to apply simply the most basic of humane standards."

Since he was literally there — he wrote these telegrams — Murray can fill in the redacted sections with what he knows he wrote. He explains that these sections "detail British ministers’ receipt of the torture intelligence from the CIA, and point out that the purpose of the CIA intelligence is consistently to paint a false picture, exaggerating the strength of al-Qaida in Central Asia."

Once extremely top secret, these telegrams prove, Murray says, UK complicity in torture. I’d add they prove the same thing about the U.S. government.

The most amazing new piece of evidence is a March 13, 2003 memo by UK Foreign Office Legal Adviser Michael Wood that it was perfectly okay for the government "to receive or possess information under torture." Cynically, Wood agrees that the evidence so derived would not be admissible in court, but there is no treaty obligation in the Convention Against Torture against gathering such information. The twisted nature of this ruling, made in secret, is the equal to anything produced by Yoo, Bybee or Bradbury.

Reproduced below is the text of one of mostly unredacted telegrams. The others can be downloaded here, here and here (PDFs). The last of the links here contains the Wood memo.

Manuscript Note: Matthew Kidd, Redacted
Grateful for views from both Redacted and Legal Advisers.
Wm Ehrman

Fm Tashkent
To Routine FCO
TELNO Misc 01
Of 220903 January 03


Your relno 323


1. Thank you for TUR. I apologise for not findng you at the Leadership Conference, but I had decided to drop this. What seemed to be a major concern seemed not a problem to others, and this caused me some self-doubt.

2. However I see that the Economist of 11 to 17 January devoted its front cover, a full page editorial and four whole pages of article to precisely the question I had raised. Reading a newspaper on the flight back here 12 January, I was astonished to find two pages of the Sunday Mail devoted to exactly the same concerns. Back in Tashkent, I find Human Rights Watch urging the US government not to extradite Uzbek detainees from Afghanistan back to Uzbekistan on the same grounds. All of which emboldens me to think I am in good company in my concern. These stories all quote US sources as indicating that the CIA is accepting intelligence obtained under torture by "allied" governments. As I already explained, I too believe that to be most probably true here.

3. Redacted. You accept that torture of detainees in Uzbekistan is widespread. Redacted.

4. Redacted. I can give you mounds of evidence on torture by the Uzbek security services, and I have et victims and their families. I have seen with my own eyes a respected elder break down in court as he recounted how his sons were tortured in front of him as he was urged to confess to links – I have no doubt entirely spurious – with Bin Laden. Redacted.

5. Redacted.

6. I am worried about the legal position. I am not sure that a wilful blindness to how material is obtained would be found a valid defence in law to the accusation of having received material obtained under torture. My understanding is that receiving such material would be both a crime in UK domestic law and contrary to international law. Is this true? I would like a direct answer on this.

7. Redacted.

8. The methods of the Uzbek intelligence services are completely beyond the pale. Torture including pulling out of fingernails, electrocution through genitals, rape of dependants, immersion in boiling liquid – is becoming common, and I weigh those words very carefully. Redacted.

Single Copies


Kudos to Ambassador Murray for standing up against obloquy all these years, and persevering to bring us the truth. The latter is a slim commodity in the United States, where the U.S. Congress, under Democratic Party leadership, refuses to implement the needed investigations of the torture activities of this country, and of the decisions that led to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, they kowtow to the President’s "don’t look back" policy, which only ensures that in the present the forces that dragged this country into war and barbarity will have free play to continue to do so.

Jeff Kaye

Jeff Kaye

Jeffrey Kaye is a retired psychologist who has worked professionally with torture victims and asylum applicants. Active in the anti-torture movement since 2006, he has his own blog, Invictus, previously wrote regularly for Firedoglake’s The Dissenter, as well as at The Guardian, Truthout, Alternet, and The Public Record. He is the author of Cover-Up at Guantanamo, a new book examining declassified files on treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo detention camp.