Whistleblowers, former diplomats, and intelligence agency employees have condemned the United States government for denying entry to former British ambassador Craig Murray.
Murray is currently scheduled to present the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence to CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou at the end of September. He also is supposed to speak at a conference planned by World Beyond War around the same time. But the U.S. government has refused Murray “entry clearance.”
Whistleblowers Bill Binney, Thomas Drake, Diane Roark, Kirk Wiebe, Coleen Rowley, Matthew Hoh, Peter Van Buren, and Kiriakou, along with individuals like former diplomat Ann Wright and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, signed on to a statement put out by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.
“News that former British Ambassador Craig Murray has been denied entry to the United States under the regular visa waiver program is both shocking and appalling,” the statement declared. “We Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) had invited Craig to be Master of Ceremonies at our award ceremony honoring John Kiriakou, the CIA torture whistleblower (more details at samadamsaward.ch), this September as part of the ‘No War 2016’ conference.”
“Now we’re wondering which agency’s long arms have reached out to disrupt our ceremony and to try to silence Craig.”
Director of World Beyond War, David Swanson, reacted, “This attempt to prevent a truth-teller from speaking in support of nonviolence is absolutely shameful. This is not a policy created to represent any view of the U.S. public, and we are not going to stand for it.”
Murray was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004. He criticized Uzbekistan’s repressive government, and when he was removed from his post, it occurred shortly after he told the Financial Times that MI6 was using intelligence Uzbek authorities obtained through torture.
Since his departure, Murray has become a defender of WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange. He has harshly criticized the illegality and crimes surrounding the Iraq War. He has spoken out about British and U.S. intelligence dealings with the Uzbekistan security services and periodically calls attention to aspects of the U.S. relationship with Uzbekistan.
Murray shared in a post on his personal blog, “Like millions of British passport holders I have frequently visited the USA before and never been refused entry clearance under the visa waiver program.”
He adds, “It is worth noting that despite the highly critical things I have published about Putin, about civil liberties in Russia and the annexation of the Crimea, I have 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?”
Murray plans to apply for a visa, however, it is entirely possible his application will not be approved by the time he is supposed to travel.
Van Buren, a State Department whistleblower, wrote on his personal blog, “No one has told Murray why he cannot travel to the U.S., though he has been here numerous times over the past 38 years. Murray learned of his travel bar when applying for the online clearance the U.S. requires of all “visa free” travelers. Murray was electronically informed to contact the State Department to see if he might qualify otherwise.”
“Ambassador Murray was stopped by what the State Department and Homeland Security calls ‘a hit.’”
Van Buren described the process:
What happens is dozens of American intelligence agencies pour names into a vast database, which includes everyone from Osama bin Laden (his name has allegedly never been removed in some sort of reverse tribute) to the latest ISIS thug to all sorts of others who have little or no actual reason to be there, such as Murray.
The likely salient part of the database in Murray’s case is called CLASS, part of the Consular Consolidated Database. It is the largest known data warehouse in the world. As of December 2009, the last time information was available, it contained over 100 million cases and 75 million photographs, and has a current growth rate of approximately 35,000 records per day.
When one of those persons labeled a bad guy applies for entry or a visa to the U.S., the computer generates a hit. A hit is enough to deny anyone a visa-free trip to the U.S. with no further questions asked and no information given. Technically, the traveler never even officially knows he was “a hit.”
The U.S. government never has to tell Murray why he is no longer allowed into the country without a visa.
Others have faced a similar predicament—particularly ideological exclusion—when invited to speak at conferences.
Pakistani human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar was blocked from speaking at a conference hosted by the Columbia University law school’s human rights program in 2011. He had trouble getting a visa to speak at a CODEPINK conference in 2012. He has represented Karim Khan in his lawsuit against the U.S. government for launching a drone attack that killed Khan’s son and brother.
Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan is well-known for being denied entry in 2004 after the Patriot Act flagged him. It prevented him from taking a job at Notre Dame University. Later, in 2006, when the State Department was ordered by a federal court to justify refusing him entry, it alleged he was a “material supporter of terrorism” for contributing to two European groups, which provided “humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.”
Karim Meziane, Dora Maria Tellez, Vicente Verez-Bencomo, John Milios, Adam Habib, Riyadh Lafta, Omar Barghouti, Malalai Joya, and 61 Cuban scholars are all individuals, who the U.S. government has used post-9/11 security measures to deny entry into the country.
The visa denials—or in this case, the refusal to allow Murray to enter with a visa-waiver—all occur for similar reasons. The person is critical of U.S. policy and so they become candidates for denied entry. It is essentially “blacklisting.” Graham Greene, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Dario Fo, Pablo Neruda, Carlos Fuentes, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and former NATO Deputy Supreme Commander Nino Pasti were all at one point excluded for their writing, plays, or outspokenness against U.S. government policies.
As Murray concluded, “I have no criminal record, no connection to drugs or terrorism, have a return ticket, hotel booking and sufficient funds. I have a passport from a visa waiver country and have visited the USA frequently before during 38 years and never overstayed.”
“The only possible grounds for this refusal of entry clearance are things I have written against neoliberalism, attacks on civil liberties, and neoconservative foreign policy. People at the conference in Washington will now not be able to hear me speak.”