Friday, December 30, 2005

Borrow and Spend, Borrow and Spend

Snow: Congress Needs to Help U.S. Pay Bills

Thursday, December 29, 2005

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary John Snow on Thursday said the United States could face the prospect of not being able to pay its bills early next year unless Congress raises the government's borrowing authority, now capped at $8.18 trillion.

Snow, in a letter to lawmakers, estimated that the government is expected to bump into the statutory debt limit around the middle of February.

"At that time, unless the debt limit is raised or the Treasury Department takes authorized extraordinary actions, we will be unable to continue to finance government operations," Snow wrote.

If the department were to carry out various accounting maneuvers — as it has done in the past to avoid breaching the limit — that would free up finances and allow the government to keep paying its bills "no longer than mid-March," Snow wrote.

Boosting the debt limit is more a matter of politics than economics.

Economists doubt Congress will refuse to raise the limit. A federal default is considered unimaginable because it would rattle bond markets, force interest rates higher and shake the economy.

The last time Congress agreed to boost the debt limit was in November 2004 — from $7.38 trillion to the current $8.18 trillion. The government's statutory borrowing authority also was pushed up in 2002 and in 2003.

Snow's letter did not say how much of a boost to the current debt limit the department would like to see this time.

Instead, Snow implored: "I am writing to request that Congress raise the statutory debt limit as soon as possible."

Colleen Rowley

elevated from the diaries ~Rowley is a Congressional Candidate
Contrary to some analysts, Moussaoui no justification for Bush's program

In the past week, many Republicans have used the Moussaoui case as justification for President Bush's attack on our civil liberties. I subsequently wrote a letter to the editor setting the record straight to the WaPo which published an abbreviated version. The following is the complete letter.

As legal counsel to the Minneapolis FBI Division and witness to the entire Moussaoui case, I can tell you that these assertions are not just factually wrong, they miss the real problems that existed within our intelligence gathering superstructure. I wrote a 13 page memo and testified before Congress on these very failures. Yet, some individuals continue to misapply and misrepresent what I said.

By Coleen Rowley in Diaries on Mon Dec 26th, 2005 at 10:50:01 PM PDT

This last week, we learned President Bush secretly ordered the National Security Agency to conduct a domestic spy program that entails no judicial oversight. In defense of this controversial program, a number of Republicans rely upon the case of Zacarias Moussaoui as justification for Bush's attack on our privacy and civil liberties.

Moussaoui is the only individual to be charged in connection with the 9-11 attacks and has pled guilty but is fighting the death penalty. He contends that he was not directly involved with the attacks on 9-11 but was instead to participate in a second-wave attack. He awaits a "death penalty phase" hearing. Although detained on immigration charges since August 16, 2001, the FBI failed to sufficiently investigate Moussaoui pre 9-11. If searches of his personal effects and laptop had been authorized, Moussaoui's connections to the 9-11 hijackings may have emerged and it is possible that 9-11 could have been prevented.

Republican commentators such as William Kristol and Rush Limbaugh claim FISA procedures, and the legal impediments they impose, prevented FBI agents from acting. Consequently, they maintain President Bush is justified in abrogating FISA law to order the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans.

As legal counsel to the Minneapolis FBI Division and witness to the entire Moussaoui case, I can tell you that these assertions are not just factually wrong, they miss the real problems that existed within our intelligence gathering superstructure. I wrote a 13 page memo and testified before Congress on these very failures. Yet, some individuals continue to misapply and misrepresent what I said.


No evidence whatsoever was presented at any time to the Justice Department of Moussaoui's suspicious flight training and ties with terrorism. The Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, which handles FISA matters, was never contacted. Furthermore, no contact was made either with criminal attorneys in the Department of Justice or with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Therefore, no decision was ever made by Department of Justice personnel regarding the given evidence and its application to FISA or criminal standards.

In fact, the subsequent intelligence committees' inquiry, Inspector General investigation, and 9-11 Commission all decided that a sufficient connection between Moussaoui and a foreign power (or international terrorist group) DID EXIST to have satisfied the FISA standard. Likewise, criminal prosecutors advised (after the fact) that they would have proceeded forward to seek a search warrant of Moussaoui's belongings based on the information known in August 2001.

As it turned out, faulty interpretations and widely-varying perceptions of FISA procedures, especially what the "FISA wall" entailed, played a big role in the FBI's determination not to contact DOJ, and not to move forward until after the 9/11 attacks occurred. There was also the little problem that the FBI's national security law unit lawyer had not actually read for himself the facts that Minneapolis agents had provided but, instead, had relied upon a short, verbal briefing by the first-line supervisor. When 9-11 happened, however, and it was painfully clear in hindsight that the FBI had botched it, this same lawyer's (the lawyer who had not read it) pronouncement of insufficient probable cause served as a convenient blanket defense to protect all of the underlying governmental incompetence. My 2002 memo punched a hole in that blanket defense and led to some truth being unraveled.) The bottom line is that THE FISA LAW ITSELF WAS NOT THE REASON THE FBI FAILED TO INSPECT MOUSSAOUI'S PERSONAL EFFECTS AND COMPUTER FILES. Rather, the faulty interpretations and failure to share and analyze intelligence sufficiently is what enabled Moussaoui to escape further investigation.


It's true that the "FISA wall" problem did play a role in preventing the effective sharing and analysis of information pre 9-11. But to the extent that the "FISA wall" issue was problematic, (and in fact, there is no denying it was a problem, even if it all turned out to be more a problem of misperception and faulty interpretations), it was remedied when the Patriot Act brought down the "wall" shortly after 9-11 that prevented effective sharing of national security intelligence with criminal investigators and/or criminal attorneys.

My original memo to FBI Director Mueller contained a description of "probable cause" as meaning more probable than not, or if quantified, a 51% likelihood. I believed that the information gathered in August 2001 about Moussaoui satisfied the probable cause standard because a federal district judge did, in fact, find ample probable cause to grant a criminal search warrant on September 11th, the day of the attacks. The only material additions were the 9-11 attacks. When I testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, 2002, Senator (and former U.S. Attorney) Arlen Specter made sure I was aware that probable cause, as viewed in the Gates "totality of the circumstances" test, could be seen as even less than a 51% likelihood. The more expansive view of probable cause was subsequently incorporated into FBI General Counsel legal opinions, which means that the minimum threshold of probable cause is even lower than I, and other legal commentators, would have previously thought.


The FISA process has always been a secret process which contains effective emergency provisions. These emergency provisions allow the attorney general enormous power to authorize secret "emergency" electronic surveillance and searches before any court order is granted, or an application is made, for up to 72 hours. No application is even necessary if the surveillance is terminated before the 72 hour "emergency" period ends. In fact, Minneapolis agents were so convinced of the urgency of the situation involving Moussaoui that they requested use of this emergency provision, not the regular FISA process.

Unfortunately, this would have required Attorney General Ashcroft, who had just ranked terrorism as his lowest priority in early August 2001, to appreciate the danger and sign off on the "emergency". And it would have required then FBI Acting Director Pickard to take the emergency request to Ashcroft after he (Ashcroft) had rebuked him (Pickard) earlier that summer, as Pickard testified to the 9-11 Commission, saying "he (Ashcroft) didn't want to hear any more about terrorism." Given these circumstances, FBI Headquarters quickly gave up on Minneapolis' request to seek AG approval for use of this emergency provision.

But myths aside, Moussaoui did not escape inspection because the FISA law was not permissive enough. And with the further changes wrought by the Patriot Act, bringing down the FISA wall and making the FISA process even more permissive, it is certainly not a good argument for Bush to skirt the law now.


Exactly 14 days ago/CNN's Aaron Brown + Crawl
by Chamonix
Mon Sep 12, 2005 at 08:18:34 PM PDT

Aug. 29th CNN's Aaron Brown's Show- I transcribed the highlights off my Tivo. This is some of the first reporting coming in from the ground in New Orleans

I happened to have saved Aaron Brown's show "NewsNight" from Monday, Aug. 29th. The reason I did was Jeanne Meserve's report that I will remember for the rest of my life. I have transcribed several parts of it to share with you. I also included Mark Biello's interview who was the CNN photographer with Jeanne Meserve. Also included Ray Bias Local EMS who called in from the Super Dome. I am also including parts of the crawl. Remember this show aired MONDAY NIGHT, AUG. 29th, at 11pm est, 8 pst.

Jump now.

* Chamonix's diary :: ::


White House says President Bush approved Major Disaster declarations for Louisiana & Mississippi. Move paves way for use of federal funds to help response to hurricane Katrina

FEMA Director Michael Brown urged people to make cash donations to groups including the Red Cross & Salvation Army.

"Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans now under 5-8 feet of rising water after 3 pumps failed" Mayor Ray Nagin said

"Water is pouring through the man hole covers" CNN's John Zarrella said "It can't take it. This is like Hell on Earth"

President Bush strongly endorsed proposed constitution Sunday despite failure of US efforts to win backing of the charter by minority Sunni Muslims AP

Nation Under Terror Alert-Yellow elevated

Aaron Brown- "The worst of the storm is over now, but what is left behind is virtually indescribable. We can't get you the wide picture of what the scenes are like. (in New Orleans) Jeanne Meserve on the ground in New Orleans."

Jeanne Meserve-(in a faint whisper) "It's been horrible. As I left darkness had fallen and you could hear people yelling for help. You could hear the dogs yelping, all of them stranded, hoping someone would come. But for tonight they had to suspend the rescue efforts. It's too hazardous to be out in the boats. There are electrical lines down that are still alive. There are gas lines spewing gas. Cars are submerged and other large objects...the boats can't operate. So they had to leave those people. These people desperately need help. We watched some people come off was horrible, they were in horrible shape. One woman who's leg had been severed. Mark Biello, one of our camera men, went out, he was out for hours, he told horrific tales, he saw bodies, he saw other unfathomable things. Dogs wrapped in electrical lines that were still alive, they were being electrocuted. The police are having radio problems. They put out an appeal to anyone who had personal boats to bring them to the scene, but nobody who had boats could get to the boats to get them to the scene to rescue the people. The water is rising. The area where I was, I don't know what the other neighborhoods are like, but this is a poor neighborhood, these were very humble homes. People have axes and are chopping holes from inside their roof to get out. Most homes appear to be one story high with some small attic space above them. These people are people with not much means, some of them I would guess do not have cars and wouldn't have the option of driving away from here. Some of them I would guess would not have the money that would have bought them a hotel room, getting out of their homes would not have been easy for these people"

(ARE YOU LISTENING GEORGE BUSH, CHERTOFF, MICHAEL BROWN, THIS IS ON MONDAY NIGHT>CNN is on the Ground and in the Water saving people and reporting, where the fuck are you?)

Aaron Brown-"Are the authorities able to communicate with these people who are stranded and scared and hungry and cold and desperate?"

Jeanne Meserve-"They aren't tonight. This happened before with Hurricane Betsy. There are many people who have axes in their attics in preparation for this. So some people were able to use those axes and made holes in their roofs and they would put their hand out or body out or climb out and others clearly didn't have that, so a rescuer was carrying an axe and he was trying to cut them out to provide access to haul them out. There was one coast guard helicopter dropping flares on roofs to signal the boat to get them."

Emergency Officals confirm at least 50 hurricane related deaths in Mississippi, Harrison County-AP

New Orleans spared a direct hit, but still buffeted by devastating winds and serious flooding

Jeanne-"The exit ramps & enterance ramps for the highways are now going to be used as boat ramps to get into the water to rescue people. The Eastern part of the city is submerged in water..up to the eaves of houses after water topped a levee. I am 5 miles from Downtown and I am not seeing the worst of it. I am at the end of ward 9."

LA. Emergency officals say at least 50 people have been rescued from their rooftops

LA. Governor Kathleen Blanco said initial reports indicate Katrina "DEVASTED" parts of at least 6 parishes in SE. LA

Jeanne-"Most of the storm had passed and what apparently was the storm surge came, the water is rising and not going down. I'm only in a 10 block area. I don't know how big the whole ares is. I haven't been able to see footage from the air but it looks like it goes on forever. It is hard for me to comprehend how many people might be out there, how many peoples lives may be in jeopardy or how many might be dead"

Latest damage estimates project total insured damage from Hurricane Katrina could be between 9-16 billion dollars.

High ranking Army Corps. of engineers offical who publicly criticized Pentagon's decision to award Halliburton Co. a No-Bid contract for work in Iraq has been demoted, officals said Monday-AP

Jeanne- "One thing we saw...I couldn't imagine being in this situation, one boat picked up a fairly large group of people and it brought them in and the only land above ground was some railroad tracks and they put them there and then they had to sit there for what seemed to me to be a couple of hours for another boat could pick them up and bring them onto the highway, then there was no truck to bring them into the city... and they set off on foot into the city Arron." (she is crying now) "Our camera man Mark Biello who has a broken foot, has been working since 9 this morning trying to get this story to you, he ended up in that water trying to get the rescue boat out over the submerged railroad tracks. It was a heroic piece of work by CNN employees."

Aaron-(To Jeanne) "You don't need to hear this from me....People think we're a bunch of wacky thrill seekers doing this work sometimes, and no one who has listened to the words you've spoken or the tone of your voice could possibly think that now.

Jeanne-(Whispering/voice shaking) "When you stand in the dark and you hear people yelling, crying for help and no one can get to them, it's a totally different experience."

Aaron-"Thank you Jeanne.....I've known Jeanne for almost 15 years. I think she's a very... tough, ...capable, ...strong reporter and.... she met her match in a story tonight."

Walmart has announced that it has donated 1 million dollars to the Salvation Army for Hurricane Katrina

Lowes announced it will match customers donations up to 1 Million dollars

Aaron Brown-"The worst of Katrina is over.... I'm not sure, in fact, that we can say that, but we can say the worst of the weather is, but what remains we are just beginning to understand and that may be far worse than our imaginations to this point. Eastern suburbs of NO were clearly hammered and have been hit harder than we have characterized up to this point"

Arron- "Report coming in from Acadian ambulance service man Ray Bias who is in the Super Dome."

Ray Bias- "We have 2 sections here. One is the 15 thousand original people who came before the hurricane and the other came after, very warm, chaotic, feeding them MRE's, bottled water, bathrooms don't flush, Hopefully we won't stay very long in the dome. There's holes in the top of the Dome. Folks have had to be moved up to higher levels. Very needy people, diabetics, heartattacks and other injuries. Special needs patients in the Dome from hospitals in the area that are flooded. It's getting worst hour by hour."

Water going over the levees in New Orleans

Aaron-"How much longer do you think this can go on in there before people go nuts?"

Ray-"We're close- the special needs patients cannot stay in here very much longer and that's why we're working now to get them out of this Dome. There is also no light. We do have some National Guards here. But it is really chaotic."

LA. Governor Kathleen Blanco ordered State Police to block re-entry into routes to all but emergency workers. "We would really encourage people not to come back to New Orleans for at least 1 week" said an expert.

Aaron Brown now interviews a CNN photographer (Mark Biello) that worked with Jeanne Meserve and was in a boat. He had broken his foot earlier in the day and still went out on the one private boat to help rescue people and shot the story for CNN.

Mark Biello-"Many disabled & elderly folks are trapped in their homes & roof tops. One double amputee has been clinging on a tree since 6 am this morning and many are still trapped there. But since nightfall the rescue operations are hampered because of the live electric lines that are in the water & the gas lines that are bubbling up. You can smell gas."

President Bush thanked governors of states affected by hurricane Katrina for mobilizing assets ahead of time & called on people who evacuated not to return until authorities asy it's time

Levees are over topped in the New Orleans area, extensive & life threatening storm surge flooding on the LA. coast.

"There is no potable water in New Orleans" Governor Blanco said, due to severed water main

Mark Biello-"Humans and animals are wrapped up in the power lines. Local law enforcement & rescue workers are overwhelmed. Wildlife management people are showing up with their flat bottom boats that can cross rail road tracks. They're saying 300-500 people are still trapped in these homes."

New Mexico Supreme Court asked to order a recount in the razor-close '04 Presidential election, even though it's to late for a new vote tabulation to change the outcome- AP (Can you fucking believe this???)

Governor Haley Barbour when asked what his worst fear is he replied "They're a lot of dead people down there." (asshole)

Mark Biello-"Very low income, large magnatude of homes..these are poor people that did not have the transportation or means to get to the shelters or able to evacuate."

France plans to put a tax on airline tickets next year to finance global struggle against proverty & AIDS" -President Chirac announced Monday. (Chamonix likes France..especially the alps!)

Mark-"The water level is rising and getting deeper and more difficult to operate in. It's a slow gradual rise, I'm worried about these people that are trapped over night up in the attic spaces. Literally the air, the air pockets..we saw people sticking their hands out of holes in the rafters. All we saw were hands waving little tin pans so a reflection would signal help."

Aaron-"If you've ever been stuck in a small an elevator, the big worry is you don't know how long you're going to be there. It could be 5 minutes or 5 days and that increases the anxiety."

A suicide bomber blew himself up outside an Israeli bus station.

A gunman killed 4 people near a small town church in N. Texas, then killed himself early Monday after a 9 hour standoff.

"Opium yield in Afganistan dropped just 2% this year despite a major clamping down on poppy farmers that sharply reduced the amount of land used to grow the narcotic." an anti-drug chief says

Mark-"We were the only boat out there making rescue attempts to get to these people. We had to stop, it was just to dangerous to get to these people. I'm afraid those people will be stuck over night on top of their roofs and the water is rising. They're in bad shape. There is nowhere else to go when you are on the top of your roof of your own home surrounded by water."

Aaron-" Were there dozens of these small boats out there, officals or good samaritans, several dozen or are we talking a handful?"

Mark-"Resources are strapped here. I don't know how this got by everybody. This was the only good samaritan boat we found...just a regular small fishing boat that we went out on to help these people and film the story."

China suspends a search Monday for 123 workers trapped after a flood swept through a coal mine. Declaring all of them dead.

Louisiana Attorney General says "He's already gotten calls from people who say they were overcharged for gasoline or a hotel room". He's promising to agressively prosecute price gouging.

Jordanian government on Monday announced plans to spend 85 million to upgrade security at the countries border with Iraq.

Aaron Brown-"It will certainly be 10-12 hours till daylight tomorrow before we have a fuller appreciation of how desperate the situation is in some of those areas. We have just a taste of that tonight and it's not a very comfortable taste at that.

I have been covering /chasing hurricanes in one part of the Southeast or another. I never remembered a situation quite like the one we have now where 12-18 hours after the center of the hurricane passed, we still don't have an especially clear picture of what devastating the damage is. I think it's gonna be well into tomorrow until we really understand the magnitude of the distruction and the magnitude of the loss of life and based on what we learned in the last little gut says...if nothing else that the numbers are going to be extraordinarily disquieting.

US Terror Alert-Yellow-Elevated

Craig Murray

Blair's torture lies.... Level 1 completed

Craig Murray's damning data release has now featured on DailyKos and dozens of other sites here and abroad.

Every post on the subject (and there's a wide variety of them by now) urges readers to save a copy for themselves.

This data can no longer be recalled, and it is being discussed widely.

OK, mainstream media... over to you.

UPDATE (11:37pm) - Craig Murray's site is currently down. This is almost certainly a server issue, and it will be dealt with in the morning.

UPDATE (00:48) - Well, shut my mouth. Something fishy *is* going on. Details in the morning. Meantime, my advice to those who are hosting this data is as follows;

Back-up your website... just to avoid any possible hassles.

Boy, it's a good thing we hosted this in multiple locations, isn't it?


UPDATE (00:55) - Initial mainstream. That's Level 2. Start the clock.

UPDATE (01:15) - BlairWatch are now carrying a mirror of Craig's original post.

Posted by Manic on December 29, 2005, 07:14 PM in It's War! It's Legal! It's Lovely! | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (2)

Tony Blair and Jack Straw lie about torture... but how much?

Blair and Straw may be liars, but many people forget that - as experienced lawyers and politicians - they are *exceptional* liars.

BlairWatch have provided a repository of quotes from Tony Blair and Jack Straw on the subject of torture (or, if you prefer, 'rendition') and/or their awareness of this practice:

You will need these leads - and the documents posted below - because we are setting a New Years' Challenge:


What is the biggest and/or boldest lie Tony Blair or Jack Straw has told regarding their use, awareness and/or tolerance of torture?

The challenge is two-fold, because the government is currently taking action to withdraw these documents from circulation. Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has been ordered to return these documents to the FCO, and delete any reference to them from his forthcoming book. Post them on your website, and you can be sure that the government will take an interest.

Nevertheless, we urge you to mirror these documents on your website, add your own research/analysis, and then urge others to do the same. This damning evidence must not be allowed to disappear.


These documents reveal a very specific list of concerns expressed by Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, and how our government responded.

At first, they attempted to dismiss the concerns. When Craig Murray pressed them on the matter, they sought to dismiss *him*:

You may also wish to note that - in recent statements regarding extraordinary rendition - both Straw and Blair echo Craig Murray's concerns that using intelligence gained by torture is 'morally, legally and practically wrong'.

They do this while claiming to be unaware of any actual instance of torture, but they can only continue to do so while Murray remains gagged.

The writing was on the wall during the 2005 General Election when Craig Murray, standing as an independent candidate in Straw's constituency of Blackburn, was excluded from a public debate. It wasn't until Murray was forcibly removed from the building that Jack Straw felt confident enough to deliver the following answer to this question:

Constituent: "This question is for Mr Straw; Have you ever read any documents where the intelligence has been procured through torturous means?"

Jack Straw: "Not to the best of my knowledge... let me make this clear... that the British government does not support torture in any circumstances. Full stop. We do not support the obtaining of intelligence by torture, or its use."

You may also wish to read/hear the most recent denial from Tony Blair, who claims here that "I've never heard of such a thing. I can't tell you whether such a thing exists - because, er - I don't know."

Well they *do* know, because Craig Murray *told* them.... and Uzbekistan is only part of the big picture.

Unlike other European countries, the UK is in a unique position in that, through the UK/US Intelligence Sharing Agreement, the CIA and MI6 pool all their material. So-called intelligence comes not just to Bush, but to Blair and Straw from the torture chambers of countries including Syria, the Gambia, Egypt, Uzbekistan and Morocco.

Tony Blair and Jack Straw have lied about their use of intelligence gained by torture and their awareness of the practice of torture. They will be allowed to continue these lies if the following information is suppressed.

Copy and paste this text into a new document. Save it to your hard drive. Make a back-up and send to a friend.

And then post a copy to your website.

Use this timeline for added context if you wish (for added illumination, compare the treatment of Craig Murray to that of David Blunkett, who was allowed to leave office - and then return! - 'without a stain on his character'):

Legally, Blair and Straw are on extremely shaky ground here. Morally, they don't have a leg to stand on.

Show it, prove it, share it.


Letter #1


FM Tashkent (Ambassador Craig Murray)

TO FCO, Cabinet Office, DFID, MODUK, OSCE Posts, Security Council Posts

16 September 02

SUBJECT: US/Uzbekistan: Promoting Terrorism


US plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism. Support to Karimov regime a bankrupt and cynical policy.


The Economist of 7 September states: "Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists, an excellent way of converting their families and friends to extremism." The Economist also spoke of "the growing despotism of Mr Karimov" and judged that "the past year has seen a further deterioration of an already grim human rights record". I agree.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners are currently detained, many after trials before kangaroo courts with no representation. Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water. Two leading dissidents, Elena Urlaeva and Larissa Vdovna, were two weeks ago committed to a lunatic asylum, where they are being drugged, for demonstrating on human rights. Opposition political parties remain banned. There is no doubt that September 11 gave the pretext to crack down still harder on dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism.

Yet on 8 September the US State Department certified that Uzbekistan was improving in both human rights and democracy, thus fulfilling a constitutional requirement and allowing the continuing disbursement of $140 million of US aid to Uzbekistan this year. Human Rights Watch immediately published a commendably sober and balanced rebuttal of the State Department claim.

Again we are back in the area of the US accepting sham reform [a reference to my previous telegram on the economy]. In August media censorship was abolished, and theoretically there are independent media outlets, but in practice there is absolutely no criticism of President Karimov or the central government in any Uzbek media. State Department call this self-censorship: I am not sure that is a fair way to describe an unwillingness to experience the brutal methods of the security services.

Similarly, following US pressure when Karimov visited Washington, a human rights NGO has been permitted to register. This is an advance, but they have little impact given that no media are prepared to cover any of their activities or carry any of their statements.

The final improvement State quote is that in one case of murder of a prisoner the police involved have been prosecuted. That is an improvement, but again related to the Karimov visit and does not appear to presage a general change of policy. On the latest cases of torture deaths the Uzbeks have given the OSCE an incredible explanation, given the nature of the injuries, that the victims died in a fight between prisoners.

But allowing a single NGO, a token prosecution of police officers and a fake press freedom cannot possibly outweigh the huge scale of detentions, the torture and the secret executions. President Karimov has admitted to 100 executions a year but human rights groups believe there are more. Added to this, all opposition parties remain banned (the President got a 98% vote) and the Internet is strictly controlled. All Internet providers must go through a single government server and access is barred to many sites including all dissident and opposition sites and much international media (including, ironically, This is in essence still a totalitarian state: there is far less freedom than still prevails, for example, in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. A Movement for Democratic Change or any judicial independence would be impossible here.

Karimov is a dictator who is committed to neither political nor economic reform. The purpose of his regime is not the development of his country but the diversion of economic rent to his oligarchic supporters through government controls. As a senior Uzbek academic told me privately, there is more repression here now than in Brezhnev's time. The US are trying to prop up Karimov economically and to justify this support they need to claim that a process of economic and political reform is underway. That they do so claim is either cynicism or self-delusion.

This policy is doomed to failure. Karimov is driving this resource-rich country towards economic ruin like an Abacha. And the policy of increasing repression aimed indiscriminately at pious Muslims, combined with a deepening poverty, is the most certain way to ensure continuing support for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They have certainly been decimated and disorganised in Afghanistan, and Karimov's repression may keep the lid on for years - but pressure is building and could ultimately explode.

I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the "War against Terrorism" and that Karimov is on "our" side.

If Karimov is on "our" side, then this war cannot be simply between the forces of good and evil. It must be about more complex things, like securing the long-term US military presence in Uzbekistan. I silently wept at the 11 September commemoration here. The right words on New York have all been said. But last week was also another anniversary - the US-led overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. The subsequent dictatorship killed, dare I say it, rather more people than died on September 11. Should we not remember then also, and learn from that too? I fear that we are heading down the same path of US-sponsored dictatorship here. It is ironic that the beneficiary is perhaps the most unreformed of the World's old communist leaders.

We need to think much more deeply about Central Asia. It is easy to place Uzbekistan in the "too difficult" tray and let the US run with it, but I think they are running in the wrong direction. We should tell them of the dangers we see. Our policy is theoretically one of engagement, but in practice this has not meant much. Engagement makes sense, but it must mean grappling with the problems, not mute collaboration. We need to start actively to state a distinctive position on democracy and human rights, and press for a realistic view to be taken in the IMF. We should continue to resist pressures to start a bilateral DFID programme, unless channelled non-governmentally, and not restore ECGD cover despite the constant lobbying. We should not invite Karimov to the UK. We should step up our public diplomacy effort, stressing democratic values, including more resources from the British Council. We should increase support to human rights activists, and strive for contact with non-official Islamic groups.

Above all we need to care about the 22 million Uzbek people, suffering from poverty and lack of freedom. They are not just pawns in the new Great Game.



Letter #2


Fm Tashkent (Ambassador Craig Murray)


18 March 2003



1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.


2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.

3. Uzbekistan's geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years.

4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid - more than US aid to all of West Africa - is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov's vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He - and they - are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?

5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I understand at American urging).

6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values. Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of Iraq and "dismantling the apparatus of terror… removing the torture chambers and the rape rooms". Yet when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international fora. Double standards? Yes.

7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.



[Transcript of facsimile sent 25 March 2003 from the Foreign Office]

From: Michael Wood, Legal Advisor

Date: 13 March 2003

CC: PS/PUS; Matthew Kidd, WLD

Linda Duffield


1. Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the UN Convention on Torture to receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.

2. I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides:

"Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."

3. This does not create any offence. I would expect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence.


M C Wood
Legal Adviser


Letter #3


FM TASHKENT (Ambassador Craig Murray)


OF 220939 JULY 04




1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.

2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.

3. We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state.


4. In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.

5. I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.

6. On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood.

7. Sir Michael Jay's circular of 26 May stated that there was a reporting obligation on us to report torture by allies (and I have been instructed to refer to Uzbekistan as such in the context of the war on terror). You, Sir, have made a number of striking, and I believe heartfelt, condemnations of torture in the last few weeks. I had in the light of this decided to return to this question and to highlight an apparent contradiction in our policy. I had intimated as much to the Head of Eastern Department.

8. I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear that without informing me of the meeting, or since informing me of the result of the meeting, a meeting was convened in the FCO at the level of Heads of Department and above, precisely to consider the question of the receipt of Uzbek intelligence material obtained under torture. As the office knew, I was in London at the time and perfectly able to attend the meeting. I still have only gleaned that it happened.

9. I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true - the material is marked with a euphemism such as "From detainee debriefing." The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.

10. I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in and organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact

11. The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;

"The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights."

While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also.

12. On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer:

"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

13. Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.

14. I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. Sixteen months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment.

15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.

16. I have been considering Michael Wood's legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material.

17. The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points. I should be grateful to hear Michael's views on this.

18. It seems to me that there are degrees of complicity and guilt, but being at one or two removes does not make us blameless. There are other factors. Plainly it was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the coalition to deport detainees back here from Baghram, but it has been done. That seems plainly complicit.

19. This is a difficult and dangerous part of the World. Dire and increasing poverty and harsh repression are undoubtedly turning young people here towards radical Islam. The Uzbek government are thus creating this threat, and perceived US support for Karimov strengthens anti-Western feeling. SIS ought to establish a presence here, but not as partners of the Uzbek Security Services, whose sheer brutality puts them beyond the pale.



Mark Morford's Happy New Year

You Say You Want A Resolution
What to do when the new year invites you in and plies you with drinks and slips you the tongue
- By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, December 30, 2005

Is this the year? Is this the time you reset your intent and cut a wide swath and upset your preconceptions and infuriate the fearmongers and the fundies and the sexually terrified, even as you disavow your grudges and cleanse your spiritual colon and wave your bitchin' flame of self around like a Bic lighter at a 1984 Journey concert?

Because gosh look, just look outside, right now: Do you see it? It's a whole new year, all lined up and facing into the wind and waiting to play with you like an eager puppy, like a supple French hooker, like a shimmering glass of God's own tequila just sitting on the counter of possibility waiting for you to tip your head back and let that white-hot firewater slide down your throat like a snake of temptation straight into your undernourished id. Are you ready? Because get this: You need to be.

Because here's the bad news: We have three more ungodly and humiliating and colon-curdling years of BushCo. We have three more years of some of the most miserable foreign and environmental and human-rights policy you will see in your lifetime.

We have three more years of brutal unforgivable war and misprision and of the religious right trying to cram its splintered stick of wicked self-righteousness straight up the country's yamdinger, and if I'm here to tell you anything at all I am here to tell you this: Your energy is needed. Right now.

Energy of transformation. Energy of possibility. Energy of intellect and clarity and progress and joy and sex and kiss, of change and growth and defiance. Oh I know, it sounds all swoony and big-brushed and impossibly affected. It might sound all froufrou and New Agey and San Francisco. You know what? Who cares.

For lo, I have seen the great surges of flesh and credit card debt and obesity at the local Wal-Mart, big-box stores erupting like a plague across the land, the relentless American craving for cheap-ass Chinese-made crap and toxic garbage food continuing unabated like some sort of perpetual tsunami that continues to crash against the ravaged shore of common sense.

I have seen major industry steep the landscape in enough unchecked pollution to make the ice caps melt and the animals gag and the forests hack like dying emphysema patients, watched massive Midwestern megachurches maim the notion of the healthy self-defined individual soul, borne witness to the inexplicable success of Ashlee Simpson and Mariah Carey while trying, every single day, to allay the shuddering effect of Tom Cruise and Paris Hilton and the Olsen twins with ointments and salves and fine single-malt scotch.

Against the backdrop of a leering and spiritually depraved leadership, I have witnessed the death of poetry. As my friend Rob Brezny points out in his outstandingly odd and delicious book of divine conspiracy, "Pronoia," an estimated 37 million Americans take antidepressants. By the time they hit age 17, 78 percent of teenage girls are unhappy with their bodies. The United States is the biggest arms dealer in the world, by a long shot. Half of all war casualties are civilians caught in the crossfire. And so on.

I have watched the rise of the morally bankrupt Christian fundamentalist mind-set in America with equal parts disgust and sadness and bemusement, all overlaid with a general sense that just about everything these people do is pretty much the exact opposite of what Jesus had in mind. Which is exactly what makes them so dangerous.

I have seen the big pharmcos work like intestinal worms to create a nation of jittery and confused prescription-drug addicts, Big Auto refuse to improve mpg or cop to the overall abusive idiocy of the monster SUV, heard the president mutter the actual words, "We do not torture," as the United States quickly becomes, in its global actions and disregard for all things humanitarian, little better than the fundamentalist terrorists it claims to despise.

And lo, it is bleak and nasty and gray as death's own gum disease.

On the other hand, I have seen new voices of protest being born straight out of the pious machinery of fundamentalist ignorance. I have seen the coolly blasphemous alt-spirituality segment of the bookstore explode and flourish and make a calm mockery of the belief that godhood is somehow unattainable to calm and open-hearted people right here, right now.

Community is flourishing in new and astounding forms, via 10 thousand blogs and 10 million photo-sharing Web pages and countless bizarre blinking winking communication devices, our frayed human interconnections constantly regenerating in new and unexpected ways, like nerve endings after a traumatic accident.

I have watched the fundamentals of industrial design elegance finally invade the public consciousness (thanks, Apple Computer), watched the organic food movement bloom and catch hold (albeit imperfectly), swooned as Fiona Apple returned to show everyone how the sultry lithe songstress thing is supposed to be done. I have read of the discovery of fiery new stars, odd new planets, unexpected remote galaxies that make your ego spin and your perspective reel and your spirit giggle knowingly.

I have seen the failure of the false gods, of the intelligent design simpletons, the ugly macho kill-'em-all Hummer mentality. I have witnessed the hijacking of the Republican Party by dangerous neocon nutballs and then watched their seemingly impenetrable fortress of war and homophobia and intolerance, one of the most secretive and controlling and dishonest regimes in American history, crack and crumble in a matter of months under the weight of their insufferable deception and duplicity.

And lo, this is cause indeed for rejoicing. Or at least for a modicum of smile, a subcutaneous whisper that, really and truly, all is not lost.

So then, as the new year races to engulf us all, perhaps this is what you can choose, this is what you resolve to understand: that the Great Battle continues. The great surge toward enlightenment and evolution must go on, will go on, can't not go on, as those of us who choose to see it understand that we are already reeking gleaming teeming brimful with all the divine juicy godhead we will ever need. It is merely waiting to be, quite literally, turned on.

It is, after all, all about subtle energy, shifts in awareness, the decision to move forward no matter what. It is all about focusing on micro to affect macro. This much you probably already know. In which case, this year you can simply resolve to, well, continue. To keep on, even when it all seems bleak and fraught and impossibly constricted. Because, sometimes, merely refusing to stop cultivating an unquenchable lust for beauty and truth and orgasmic life is the most profound and important thing you can resolve to do.

Thoughts for the author? E-mail him.

Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate and in the Datebook section of the SF Chronicle. To get on the e-mail list for this column, please click here and remove one article of clothing. Mark's column also has an RSS feed and an archive of past columns, which includes a tiny photo of Mark probably insufficient for you to recognize him in the street and give him gifts.

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