The National Security Committee Knew They Were Going to Get FALSE Confessions from Torture

Jason Leopold [update: and Jeff Kaye] have an important article on a key document used to develop the torture program, but I think its title should be stronger. As his article shows, Condi Rice and several high level Bush officials were briefed at a key meeting in May 2002 and in several follow-up National Security Council meetings on a number of torture techniques the CIA would eventually (and had, to some extent–I’ll have more to say about this in a follow-up) integrated into its torture program.The JPRA document used in the meeting makes it clear the the point of these techniques is to train students to resist “political exploitation” (see page 6; elsewhere the document talks about media exploitation).

As Leopold and Jeff Kaye have previously reported, “exploitation” has a specific meaning, including not just interrogation, but also recruitment as double agents and for propaganda purposes.

“The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered – not just ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar,” he said. “What I think is important to note, as an ex-SERE Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the focus of Jessen’s instruction. It is exploitation, not specifically interrogation. And this is not a picayune issue, because if one were to ‘reverse-engineer’ a course on resistance to exploitation then what one would get is a plan to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them. The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press.”

As the examples of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi and Jabir al-Fayfi make clear, we used coercive methods for both of these purposes, in addition to whatever intelligence goals we had.

Thus, as Steven Kleinman notes for today’s article, Condi and others were shown what amounts to a how to manual on false confessions before they approved techniques from it for use with Abu Zubaydah and other detainees.

Air Force Col. Steven Kleinman, a career military intelligence officer recognized as one of the DOD’s most effective interrogators as well a former SERE instructor and director of intelligence for JPRA’s teaching academy, said he immediately knew the true value of the PREAL manual if employed as part of an interrogation program.

“This is the guidebook to getting false confessions, a system drawn specifically from the communist interrogation model that was used to generate propaganda rather than intelligence,” Kleinman said in an interview. “If your goal is to obtain useful and reliable information this is not the source book you should be using.”

So it’s important that we know top Bush officials got this document not just because they approved these techniques for the war on terror, but because the May meeting took place between the two dates–February 22 and July 31–when DIA expressed doubts about al-Libi’s claim, made under torture, that there were ties between al Qaeda and Iraq.

Bush’s top advisors knew what they were getting when they approved torture. And they approved them knowing they could be used to get false confessions.

51 replies
  1. klynn says:

    This is quite the investigative piece by Jason and Jeff.

    And they will not reopen the 9-11 investigation to answer the list of questions families still have not yet received answers.

    Thank you EW. Looking forward to the follow-up and how this updates your timelines.

    Boy, Jason and Jeff look to have a Pulitzer quality article there. Wow. IANAL. Will this reopen cases? Will this change some of the upper court decisions? The ACLU just received quite the document. And to think, now these may be applied to citizens…

    Wonder what is on page 33?

  2. harpie says:

    I want to thank Jason and Jeff for continuing to expose the details of this disastrous policy. And thanks to Marcy, for the supurb job in organizing all the information for us.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    These BushCheney administration icons also knew what they themselves used torture for: not to get timely, useable intel, but to intimidate, humiliate and control, and to develop agents themselves. Since these torture programs involved more than a few murders, the statutes of limitation applicable to various aspects of their crimes have no limit – at home or overseas.

  4. joanneleon says:

    “This is the guidebook to getting false confessions”

    That is an astounding statement. But I am not surprised because connecting the dots led Marcy and some others, some of the few who were really paying attention to the situation with torture and the detainees, and were not just activists who are only interested in the latest thing or the latest outrage. They tracked this stuff down, learned everything they could, dug into excruciating detail, for years, when nobody else seemed to care anymore. Marcy especially.

    And this was a logical conclusion, that torture was used to get the confessions that our government wanted.

    I can hardly think of a more cruel and despicable thing to do than to torture people just to get the information you want to justify your wars or to cover your ass. But it looks like nobody will be held accountable for that. Nobody. How low can you go?

  5. Jason Leopold says:

    I completely suck at titles. Drives me crazy. I agree it should be stronger. I am like Fiona Apple with her album titles: my titles start out like book passages.

    By the way, I have been trying to find out for the past week who requested this doc under FOIA. It was McClatchy Newspapers. But they never wrote a thing about it as I don’t believe they understood the significance of it so it’s now my scoop, which is fair in FOIA land. Story is updated to reflect that. Additionally, page 33 of the manual is missing and DOD can’t find it. Also, Jeff co-wrote this story with me.

    Thanks so much Marcy for digging into the manual and highlighting the “political” and “media exploitation.” Really appreciate you writing about this.

  6. jo6pac says:

    Thanks to everyone but then again 0 and doj don’t look back to treason type crimes done to the nation. No One Goes to Jail.

  7. pdaly says:

    Thanks, Jason, Jeff and Marcy.

    My first thought ran to the murders/suicides at Camp Delta.

    Were these ‘to be released’ innocents supposed to be spying for America upon their release?–but then something went wrong with the newly minted spies’ willingness to spy?

  8. klynn says:

    @Jason Leopold:

    You are welcome. Have been a fan of your writing, Jeff’s and EW’s for a long time. The three of you “get it.”

    Page 33 has my interest peaked.

  9. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for staying on this critical issue EW. Still would like to see you on an MSM outlet again. Have been lobbying over at Chris Hayes Up program. Such serious research.
    Cheney, Addington, Yoo etc needed a tortured confession to back up their false claims about WMD’s in Iraq. Did not matter if it was close to the truth.

    Ted Turner’s heroes: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King. Would like to see the ‘world at peace” Get rid of nukes
    Damn hippie
    link to

  10. perris says:

    So it’s important that we know top Bush officials got this document not just because they approved these techniques for the war on terror, but because the May meeting took place between the two dates–February 22 and July 31–when DIA expressed doubts about al-Libi’s claim, made under torture, that there were ties between al Qaeda and Iraq.

    funny how we were making just this point while it was going on, we all know the very reason they started the program was because cheney wasn’t getting the answers he wanted instead of the real answers they had

  11. emptywheel says:

    @Jason Leopold: I usually suck at titles too, Sweet Judy Blew Lies notwithstanding.

    Given that Condi’s folks have gone radio silence, I suppose it’s harder to say what she knew and wanted. Plus, they were pretty explicit after Abu Ghraib they were torturing to recruit spies. Maybe they just thought they were ∂oing that, not getting al-Libi to gin up war. Though I doubt it–too much evidence they were asking AZ and KSM info on Iraq.

  12. Jeff Kaye says:

    Thanks to EW for catching precisely the most important aspect of the new article and the PREAL revelations.

    And thanks for all the kind words from everyone.

    Let’s say the implications Marcy points out were not invisible to me. It also calls to mind the earlier revelations on the Downing Street memo about how “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” of the Iraq invasion. Gaining false confessions from Al-Libi has certainly been exposed. And since the same techniques were used on KSM, Zubaydah and many others, we must wonder just what kinds of exploitation they were considering.

    Interestingly, there is no mention that I can see in the OLC documents about use of isolation, which is discussed at length in PREAL. (Marcy, you wrote before about how Bybee made this point.) Now, Isolation is mentioned in the 4-28-03 “Legal Principles” CIA document (from Muller to Yoo) as the first of 17 techniques the CIA was using. But Bradbury never mentioned isolation in his memos. I’d think they left themselves wide open legally on that, except that use of isolation was already compromised by US court decisions re solitary confinement, such that I’d guess OLC thought it the better solution to simply ignore this and rely on dubious decisions made re 8th amendment and “shocks the conscience” criteria, the same strategy that cohered around the reservations to the CAT.

  13. lysias says:

    Why isn’t the 9/11 Commission’s report totally discredited as a source? If you bother to look at the footnotes, it’s apparent that the whole account of the operational details of 9/11 is based on interrogations of detainees, some of whom we know were tortured, all of whom were subjected to severe psychological pressure.

  14. Jason Leopold says:

    @emptywheel: That is a classic title. And I have to admit that every time I hear Stephen Stills sing the song it’s th title I think about.

    I’m still bugging Condi’s camp for comment. An AP reporter sent this article to me today ( that was published a few years ago about these May meetings where this was discussed.

    The missing pages were 15, 16, 33 and 34.

    May 2002 was definitely a very, very interesting and important month in Zubaydah’s interrogation and how it evolved into torture. If you believe his attorneys, every bit of “intel” interrogators collected from him that month, including info that led to the arrest of Moazzam Begg in Pakistan, was the result of some form of torture.

  15. emptywheel says:

    @Jeff Kaye: Stomach slaps is another thing they brought in via the Legal Principles. And arguably, that water drum, bc that’s how some of the “water dousing” was really done–partial immersion in very very cold water.

  16. Jeff Kaye says:

    @emptywheel: Yes, the “abdominal slap”. Bradbury added that at CIA’s behest. I hadn’t realized the water dousing included the partial immersion, but in PREAL that was in the “water pit”, not the drum. The 55-gal. drum was for cramped confinement. Btw, I spoke to someone who went through SERE training recently who witnessed use of the 55-gal. drum. He was thankful he hadn’t been placed in it, but the person who was was reduced to tears. Basically they stuffed them in.

    The missing pages mostly concerned psychological assistance given on scene for “students” going through the class. They needed a lot of that because frankly it sounds like the whole thing was quite dangerous. They were trying to give the experience, as PREAL said, of “helplessness,” without producing a “learned helplessness” syndrome. In lay terms, that meant there was real danger of producing a trauma or phobia response. If that happened, it meant the person would be more vulnerable, not less, when presented with any actual threat of torture.

    That is important b/c it demonstrates how the effects of these techniques, beyond the parameters laid out in the “Pre-academic Laboratory,” could cause serious psychological damage.

    Certainly, btw, OPC knew this, and it is testimony to the blatant falsification of what occurred and/or was known by David Margolis to label this merely “poor judgment.” Margolis has by his actions made himself a serious war criminal, and I hope that he lives long enough to find himself before the dock for his crime along with Yoo, Rice, Bush, Cheney and the rest.

  17. klynn says:

    EW, Jeff and Jason may I ask a favor?

    Would the three of you work on this concern together as a book?

    And, when the three of you come together in the threads (add in bmaz for legal) the post becomes alive. What. A. Team.

  18. klynn says:

    My goodness Jeff, this puts my son’s Kafka dialogue project he emailed you about 2.5 years ago into a whole new light.

    Have you and Jason been going back over the ICRC detainee interviews that were published with the lens of this key document?

  19. harpie says:

    Some of that “Russian model”: propaganda [rather than intelligence] Kleinman mentions:

    July 21, 2002 – Binyam Mohamed was flown aboard a Gulfstream V jet chartered by the C.I.A. to Rabat, in Morocco, where he stayed for the next 18 months. […] Under torture [in Morrocco], Mohamed was interrogated about Al Qaeda and suspected Al Qaeda members. He was told that the U.S. wanted him to testify against individuals then in U.S. custody, including Jose Padilla, Khalid Sheik Mohamed, Abu Zubaydah and Ibn Shiekh Al Libi. Mohamed was told to repeat what he was told: that he was a top Al Qaeda official; that he had met with Osama Bin Laden and 25 other Al Qaeda leaders on multiple occasions; and that he had told Bin Laden about places that should be attacked.


  20. emptywheel says:

    @Jeff Kaye: I’d have to double check, but I’m fairly certain that the abdominal slap dates earlier than Bradbury, to the Legal Principles document. Then it was approved formally in August 2004 for use on one of the Guls. Only then, the next year, did Bradbury approve it.

  21. Jeff Kaye says:

    @klynn: I know Jason and I have both experienced that going over the old material is always an illuminating experience in relation to the ever-new knowledge we can bring to bear from things like this document.

    I’d like to note that the physical pressures in the PREAL document are only one type of torture used to gain false confessions. The other is a type of torture championed in the CIA’s old KUBARK manual, which taught reliance on isolation, sensory deprivation, and manipulation of fears (and sometimes use of drugs) as a way to get “compliance” from a prisoner. The PREAL document did use isolation, and it is the one technique that appears to always carry over from model to the other. I suppose you could say the same about sleep deprivation (which has both physical and psychological effects). — When KUBARK talked about stress positions, it conceptualized them psychologically, not physically, as a means of getting a prisoner to defeat themselves, blame themselves for the pain (via their “weakness”).

    There are plenty of “professional” interrogators in govt who are okay with the KUBARK approach, and in fact, it is primarily what is used in the AFM’s Appendix M. You’ll note that aside from present company, and a few of the NGOs, there has been little outcry about Appendix M, and the reason is because while waterboarding and the PREAL-originated EIT-“Physical pressures” are so odious and obviously torture (Yoo/Bybee aside), the effects of the “touchless” psychological torture techniques are less impressive to the uninitiated mind.

    I am reminded of the movie, The Lives of Others, where the East German intelligence official tells someone that all he needs to break someone (for false confession) is to put them in solitary for six months. — In fact, I do not agree with Kleinman on this one thing: the PREAL kinds of torture were not specifically Communist or Soviet kinds of torture. They were much more into use of isolation, and the Chinese, in group pressures. As far as sensory deprivation per se, that appears to have been a US specialty.

  22. klynn says:

    @Jeff Kaye:

    Thank you for your response Jeff.

    BTW, All of your writings aided me in guiding my daughter through her reading of The Hunger Games. She is highly critical of the series and most of her insights have been the result of many dinner conversations involving your writings as well as EW’s, bmaz’s and Jason’s work. She has started a discussion with friends on everything wrong with the books and has pointed out a number of elements which appear to be examples of psychological torture and desensitization to torture. Her insights have a small following on FB as well. Many parents have been thankful for her insights and our writing about our discussions of the books. If you have not read the books, I urge you to consider. I assume you will be motivated to write an article. BTW, DOD gave Scholastic Books an interesting contract back in 2007…I’ll leave it there.

    A closing note…One of my daughter’s friends stopped reading her hard bound copy of The Hunger Games halfway through and came over to our house to talk to my daughter about what aspects of the book were bothering her. My daughter supported her and encouraged her to not just read but to think. She pushed my daughter about what my daughter found concerning in the text. My daughter shared. Her friend went home and pitched the book. The young lady’s mom asked, “Why don’t you sell it to the second hand book store?”

    “No one should read that mind manipulating fear crap mom. It is just not worth it. My future depends on it,” she told her mom.

  23. orionATL says:

    dick cheney and his handy-man david addington.

    this is their contribution to american history – force lies from detainees which can be feed to the press or the always-influencable cia.

    then use those lies to give the nytimes and judy miller the story they would kill their mothers, or their country, for.**

    ** keep in mind that the current nytimes executive editor, jill abrahmson, then in charge of washington gossip from nytimes, was miller’s nominal supervisor for what will become known in history, as the “time of lies from the nytimes”.

  24. orionATL says:

    @Jeff Kaye:

    because the early experiments were done, and published, in the u.s.a.

    who could ever forget the picture of american citizen, jose padilla, being led into a court-room wearing enormous, weird goggles.

    this event, and the american federal courts’ failure to protect citizen padilla from his government, set the stage for the united states becoming an authoritarian society.

  25. Jeff Kaye says:

    @orionATL: My own daughter was never into the book, so I just ignored it. When the movie became big, I was surprised so many others had read the book. I had no idea. Just goes to show how many things can just slide be one, if you’re not directly experiencing it.

    From what you write, I just might take a look.

  26. lysias says:

    @Jeff Kaye: Sensory deprivation is ascribed to the Gestapo in 1938 Vienna in Stefan Zweig’s novella Die Schachnovelle [The Game of Kings]. Zweig was out of Austria by that point, but he had had plenty of contact — in person and through correspondence — with refugees from Nazified Austria, some of whom had undoubtedly had experiences with the Gestapo, by the time he wrote the novella in exile in Brazil between 1940 and 1942.

  27. klynn says:

    @Jeff Kaye:

    FYI, Torture scenes are describe in the books. Kids are accepting the passages as “part of the story, part of character development.”

  28. hcgorman says:

    whose kids are accepting the torture as part of the character development? yikes- I had to read all three because my kids (college age and up) told me to read it because it sounded like the next step after Guantanamo. I thought the first book was really interesting- the next two kind of boring but the kids I spoke to saw this for what it was – a book about child soldiers and manipulation and fear mongering of the populace… part of the story yes, but part of a very ugly story….

  29. Jeff Kaye says:

    @klynn: I have no familiarity with these books, but in the general culture there certainly has been a kind of flirtation with torture as a narrative device, a la 24, romanticizing it.

    But is that what these books do?

    The use of torture in literature goes way back. Some years ago I brought people’s attention to the scene in King Lear where Cornwall plucks out Gloucester’s eyes, and other tortures. Amazingly, an anonymous servant is sickened by the scene and fatally wounds Cornwall, while being killed himself in the attempt. A very dramatic scene.

  30. klynn says:


    Good, I am glad they saw the books for what they are…many are not. And, Lionsgate wants to make a video game out of the books. So the books turned blockbuster movie, turned game, will go beyond flirtation.

    As for your own children stating, “…because it sounded like the next step after Guantanamo,” I am glad their words stirred you to read them.

    True, the use of torture in literature goes way back. WRT current “teen pitched literature” that was put out by a publisher who received a dod contract to “provide integrated reading and language arts programs through their publishing and school resources…” about the time the first book was going into contract, I have concerns. I think the books miss the mark that the writer claims as the intent of the books. There is no forward, no prologue or epilogue to help teens who read the books to “get” the horrors of war and totalitarian societies. The books teach learned helplessness and a host of other mind twisting negative elements which would aid continuation of a policy of war in a generation that has been growing up with war. As hcgorman’s adult children stated so clearly, “..the next step…” a kind of “reverse engineering” on a whole generation. Which is why I mentioned the books on this great thread about the piece written by you and Jason.

  31. Bill Michtom says:

    I’d be interested in what your daughter had to say. Link? Quotes?



  32. Mark Murata says:

    Something that I posted on Twitter which is related to this topic…

    It appears that #MKULTRA was an example of America using the so-called Red Scare as an excuse for enacting its own egregious policies. On April 10, 1953, CIA Director Dulles gave a speech about how the Soviets were engaged in “brain warfare.” ( Three days later, Dulles authorized the #MKULTRA program. Presumably, Dulles gave the speech to scare Congress into approving #MKULTRA.

    In the speech, Dulles accused Russia of purging her minorities and trying to eliminate God from the minds of her people. Dulles also accused the Soviets of engaging in a smear campaign against the West.

    “It is the most vicious campaign of hatred that any country has ever attempted against another,” he said. “It is a campaign intended to condition the minds of the Russian people so that their leaders could embark on any type of aggressive action against the free world.”

    Of course, Dulles’ speech was the western equivalent of what the Soviets were doing. His speech was intended on convincing others that the CIA should be given carte blanche to do whatever they pleased. Case in point, #MKULTRA.

    Incidentally, isn’t this similar to how our government used terrorism to scare the people? Didn’t the Bush administration use the threat of terrorism to allow them to do whatever they wanted?

    In his speech, Dulles warned that the human mind was “a malleable tool in the hands of sinister men.” And he accused the Soviets of using “brain perversion techniques.” According to him, these techniques were “so abhorrent to our way of life that we have recoiled from facing up to them.”

    He said the Soviets had the ability to create “parrot-like individuals.” These people could only “repeat thoughts which have been implanted in their minds by suggestion from outside.”

    He said the Communists had brain washed the Chinese, meaning they cleansed their minds of their old thoughts. After that, the Communists implanted their own revolutionary thought patterns.

    Dulles said the Soviets had the ability to make a person confess to a crime they didn’t commit. He hinted that the Soviets were drugging these people in order to make them confess. He referred to these drugs as “lie serums.”

    Dulles said the Soviets could extract a quick confession using torture, but they weren’t doing that. They had an indoctrination program which took at least three months. According to Dulles, America received information about this program from former participants who escaped.

    “One element stands out in all the known cases,” said Dulles. “It is endless interrogation by teams of brutal interrogators while the victim is being deprived of sleep.”

    Sound familiar? (hint: Abu Zabaydah)

    Sleep deprivation is used for a reason. It prevents the victim from thinking. It prevents them from coming up with their own thoughts. I know this because I am a victim of our government’s mind control programs. And I have suffered from sleep deprivation. Without the ability to come up with your own thoughts, without the ability to evaluate other people’s ideas, that makes it more likely for you to accept the ideas provided to you by the people who are torturing you.

    One person who escaped from the soviet interrogations was Michael Shipkov.

    “They are not over interested in what you tell them,” said Shipkov.

    Instead Shipkov believed that the Soviets wanted to “break you down completely and deprive you of any will power or private thought or self-esteem.”

    Again, sound familiar?

    Dulles warned that the Communists were using their interrogation techniques on American POWs in Korea. In addition to being deprived of sleep, one American POW said the Communists had subjected him to bright lights. The Soviets weren’t the only ones who liked to use bright lights.

    Henry Murray also liked to use bright lights on his subjects. Murray was a former member of the OSS (the precursor to the CIA). He is the man who radicalized the Unabomber. In his radicalization program, he used bright lights on his subjects while performing a pseudo-interrogation on them. And it has been speculated that Murray used drugs on his subjects, just like the Soviets.

    For more information on Murray:

    Dulles claimed that the Soviets made “rapid advances” in the “nefarious art of breaking down the human mind” after WWII. But Murray was already radicalizing people in 1948. That means our mind control programs predate the Korean War and almost certainly predate Soviet brainwashing. I bet you anything that these interrogation methods predate the war too. Dulles acknowledged that Germans and Japan had the capability to make their citizens adopt a certain world view before the war. But according to him, what the Soviets were doing was much different. In reality, I doubt the techniques used by the Germans or the Japanese were any different at all. In fact, I bet these techniques go back hundreds of years. For example, I bet the Europeans tried to use these techniques on Japan. That is why Japan decided to close herself off from the rest of the world during the Edo Period.

    As an aside, if you look at the speech transcript posted on the CIA website you will see that the title of speech is “SUMMARY OF REMARKS BY MR. ALLEN W. DULLES.” This implies that the transcript is missing something. I wonder what the CIA edited out…

  33. thatvisionthing says:

    Not sure whether this comment belongs here or in the Is Obama Threatening the “Special Relationship” to Hide Torture? post.

    And my brain isn’t big enough to make the sense out of it that I THINK is there to find. Thing is, I am thinking of some Craig Murray UK things — video of him testifying to Parliament three years ago, and speaking at the Berlin Freedom of Expression conference recently.

    The transcript for his Parliament testimony is online here: The videos of his Berlin speech and interview afterwards were posted on youtube, taken down, and then reposted: and

    The elements I’m groping for are that thing about the special relationship, that UK got copied I guess on all US intelligence, and that British ambassadors routinely saw it. And that there were a lot of British ambassadors that saw it and Craig (UK ambassador to Uzbekistan) was the only one to speak up. So there are a lot of silent witnesses, and there is a whole separate copy to compare to our original. Like I wonder about the destroyed CIA videotapes…or if there’s a way they sync their files so that when we change ours, theirs change too. I wonder how their timeline matches to ours.

    Craig at first thought the torture complicity was the intelligence services run amuck and that he could stop it internally by bringing it to state attention. But he was surprised to find it had the support of the state, specifically Jack Straw and legal advisor Sir Michael Wood. By pressing the issue, he got Wood to submit his opinion in writing on the legality of receiving intelligence got by torture, which Wood did (March 13, 2003) by saying it wasn’t illegal to receive it, it just couldn’t be used as evidence in court.

    Craig also made the point that what freaked them out was not so much that he was bringing attention to torture, but that he was saying the intelligence WASN’T TRUE. From the Berlin speech youtube at

    [37:20] You know, so much of this material was nonsense. There was material about training camps that named locations with coordinates given where we knew – we had been there and there was nothing. But the extraordinary thing is, what got me in more trouble than anything with the Foreign Office – they hated the fact that I was protesting about the intelligence from torture. What they really hated was the fact that I was saying the intelligence wasn’t true, and giving examples of it not being true. Because they were saying it’s high-quality intelligence. This is building into our intelligence picture.

    And remember that I was called back to a meeting where – basically I wasn’t sacked immediately at that meeting, but the process was started, and that meeting took place two weeks before we invaded Iraq. I was saying your intelligence is rubbish. And at precisely that same time, of course, we had published the dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which contained a lot of other intelligence material which was also rubbish. It was completely untrue. And I knew that as well, having been head of the Foreign Office union in charge of embargo surveillance.

    So I’m afraid to say that in both the United States and the United Kingdom, the analysis of intelligence, which is something I had spent quite a lot of my career doing and at which I believe I was very good, had ceased to be a genuine intellectual exercise in determining the facts and had become instead a process of providing lies to government that government wanted to publish. Making the world as it was. The government wanted to support Karimov for reasons of oil and gas and the war in Afghanistan. There needed to be a reason for supporting him, therefore there needed to be Al Qaeda activity in Central Asia, where it did not in fact exist. And the media is complicit in this building of lies.

    At his testimony to Parliament in 2009, he said that British policy on receipt and use of torture intelligence had changed, invisibly, from Margaret Thatcher’s day. His questioners didn’t know how to track that. And he suggested that a question they might well ask was when did the Foreign Office find out that the US had started waterboarding, that that might be where the British policy changed:

    Q77 Chairman: I want to probe ministerial responsibility a little further. You have made some serious allegations both generally and to us today. When do you think the policy might have changed? Was it a consequence of 9/11 or before it? You had been in the Foreign Office throughout that period.

    Mr Murray: I am sure it changed post-9/11. Forgive me for making a suggestion to the Joint Committee, but were I you I would be fascinated to discover when the Foreign Office first found out that the CIA had started waterboarding. We have seen from the documents released in the United States in the past couple of weeks that they were waterboarding from July 2002. That is very much in the period I am talking about. I started to send my telegrams in the autumn of 2002 and it was then we were told by the US embassy in Tashkent that their view was that torture was okay in the war on terrorism.

    Q78 Chairman: When did you start in Tashkent?

    Mr Murray: I started in August 2002.

    Q79 Chairman: So, it began more or less from the start of your service there?

    Mr Murray: Yes. The UK will have received intelligence from all of the 180 waterboarding sessions with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other suspects. I think it quite likely that was the trigger that led us to reconsider our policy on whether to receive intelligence from torture. We have an agreement with the CIA whereby that body and the SIS share all intelligence reports. When the CIA started to go in for torture we had either to resile from the agreement or go along with torture ourselves. My expectation is that the time when the UK first knew about waterboarding is the key to the answer to your question.

    Q80 Chairman: As far as you are aware, were the Attorney General or Solicitor General ever asked for an opinion on the legal position, or did they ever offer one?

    Mr Murray: No, but whenever I raised these issues I was referred to Sir Michael Wood; I was never referred to the law officers.

    Q81 Chairman: Do you know whether anybody else asked the law officers?

    Mr Murray: Not to my knowledge. I should say that I have known Sir Michael Wood for some years and if there were an opinion by the law officers he would have referred me to it.

    Q82 Chairman: Did you ever have direct access to ministers to discuss any of these issues with them face to face?

    Mr Murray: No, I did not. I asked but obviously that was like putting it in writing; it was something better not done.

    Q83 Chairman: When you sent your original telegrams do you know whether Jack Straw actually received them or do you believe they were headed off at the pass by officials?

    Mr Murray: I know for sure that Jack Straw read them. I was told at the meeting in March that he had specifically discussed my telegrams with both Sir Richard Dearlove and Sir Michael Jay.

    Q84 Chairman: To summarise where we are, we were not directly involved in torturing anybody in Uzbekistan, but effectively there was a chain that ended up with you in Tashkent via the CIA and MI6 in London. It is not like the allegations we have received regarding Pakistan, for example, where basically we are in the prison cell asking the questions and somebody may have been tortured. This is a much more remote chain of circumstances. Your argument is that because Uzbekistan is a country where torture is almost a way of life in that country evidence was being obtained by the CIA indirectly from the Uzbeks and then supplied to MI6 and the sum totality must have been known to ministers. Although we were not directly involved through that chain that is sufficient in your view to create an allegation of complicity by the UK in torture in Uzbekistan?

    Mr Murray: I would agree with that.

    Q85 Chairman: That is a summary of your case?

    Mr Murray: I would add one point. My case is that because as an ambassador I was fortunately a member of the senior civil service and I was arguing against this I was able to be given high-level policy direction and be told that ministers had decided we would get intelligence from torture. The fact that ministers made that decision was the background to what was happening in Pakistan, for example. It is not that MI5 operatives were acting independently; they were pursuing a policy framework set ministerially.

    Q86 Chairman: So, ministers specifically used the words “torture”, “evidence from the CIA” and “no questions: turn a blind eye”?

    Mr Murray: Ministers certainly had before them and read my telegrams which said that this was torture and detailed the type of torture involved.

    Q87 Chairman: What you just said was that ministers said it was okay to use torture?

    Mr Murray: No; I think I said that ministers said it was okay to use intelligence from torture.

    Q88 Chairman: Therefore, the inference is that it is not just turning a blind eye or “ask no questions, tell no lies”; it is specific knowledge?

    Mr Murray: Nobody argued to me once that the Uzbek intelligence we were discussing did not come from torture; everyone accepted that it came from torture and the question was whether or not we accepted it. Nobody said that it was not actually torture.

    Q89 Lord Dubs: Presumably, when you were in post in Uzbekistan you had frequent or occasional meetings with other British ambassadors in the region.
    Mr Murray: Hardly ever. We met in Brussels on one occasion, but, no, we did not have regional meetings.

    Q90 Lord Dubs: But you occasionally met other ambassadors even if it was just in Brussels. Did you ever discuss with your ambassadorial colleagues the issues that you have just raised with us; in other words, the change in British Government policy and so on?

    Mr Murray: I did indeed.

    Q91 Lord Dubs: What was their response?

    Mr Murray: I think that in most cases the best way to sum up their response was “rather you than me”.

    Q92 Chairman: Do you mean “rather you than me” in terms of raising the issue?

    Mr Murray: It was “rather you than me raise the issue”. When I drafted the first telegram, which was genuinely drafted in the expectation that the government would want to stop the practice if they knew of it, I showed it to a colleague in my political section in Tashkent. He handed it back to me saying that it was a long resignation note. “Rather you than me” was truly a comment by one of my ambassadorial colleagues. I want you to think back to the period late 2002/early 2003 when we were gearing up to the war in Iraq with dodgy dossiers about weapons of mass destruction. At that stage to say intelligence was unreliable was quite a difficult thing to do internally because it cut across all the false intelligence on Iraqi issues as well. There was a feeling that if you raised these things you would get in trouble, as indeed I did.

    Q93 Lord Dubs: You told us earlier in this session that you noted a change in British Government policy.

    Mr Murray: Yes.

    Q94 Lord Dubs: Leaving aside the question whether or not your ambassadorial colleagues should have raised their concerns with you, surely did you not ask them if they were aware of this and, if so, how they felt about it?

    Mr Murray: I think we did. My general point is that my ambassadorial colleagues all sympathised with the position I was in and tended to agree with me that we should not be doing this sort of thing, but they were not willing to put at risk their own careers. It was perceived that you were not allowed to disagree and if you cast any doubt on the war on terror and war in Iraq initiatives you would get your head chopped off in career terms. I would like you to consider the following seriously: I was seeing intelligence in Uzbekistan whose purpose, as I have told you, was to exaggerate the Islamic threat in central Asia. Absolutely contemporaneously with the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which exaggerated that threat, waterboarding was happening in the US which we now know was aimed largely at persuading al-Qaeda operatives to confess to a link with Iraq. There was a vogue for false intelligence and that built up the rationale for the war in Iraq, the alliance with Uzbekistan and other things.

    Q95 Chairman: I think this takes us beyond our terms of reference.

    Mr Murray: I do not think it does. Torture gives you false intelligence; it does not give you the truth. There was an appetite for false intelligence.

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