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Craig Murray: Drama Queen

26th January 2010

Craig Murray's vanity knows no bounds. His 'story' is soon to be dramatised on the BBC! If I can bear to listen I'll do so and give you a full and fair review.

Meanwhile he launches another misguided missile at the role of the government's Law Officers.

He appears to understand nothing about how it all works in practice, a surprising failing in someone self-proclaimed to have had a 'brilliant career'.

What I strongly object to is his renewed propagandistic traducing in that posting of Michael Wood, former FCO Legal Adviser.

Here is what I have posted on Craig's site (note: correcting three typos which I overlooked when posting the comment - my bad):

Craig,

You write:

"Sir Michael Wood has perhaps been best known to a wider public as the man that the FCO wheeled in to tell me that it was perfectly legal to obtain intelligence from torture, as long as somebody else did the torture."

It may indeed be the case that Michael has become known to 'a wider public' through your book. What is more than unfortunate is that in the book and here on this website you shamelessly and repeatedly misrepresent what he actually said to you.

In MiS (pp 160-164 in my copy) you described the events leading up to your meeting with Michael and Linda Duffield. You argued the case to them that, based on your research, it was illegal under the Convention to use or even possess material based on torture.

Michael told you that this was not the legal position, a view he subsequently put in writing. And, since as you say he is a masterful international lawyer, he was right. His view was later upheld by the House of Lords in a key decision you praise in the book (p. 367).

In the book you characterised what Michael said to you as "So there we had it. Torture by proxy for intelligence purposes was legal". This is a trivial misreading of Michael's minute and position, based on your complete misunderstanding of the law.

Now you repeat this nonsense again in the posting above:

"...it was perfectly legal to obtain intelligence from torture, as long as somebody else did the torture."

You time and again make great play of Michael's minute of 13 March 2003 as if it supports your position. It doesn't. Try reading it.

As for your wider point, you don't understand the way the AG's office works, as Jane18 patiently pointed out. It is reasonable for the government to have a central pool of top legal advice rather than rely solely on the legal advice from one department of state.

Craig is either dimmer than he claims to be or he is being dishonest. It is blindingly obvious that there are a great number of different questions (and answers) concerning the torture issue which he runs together as and when it suits him.

Thus, for example:

  • is torture legal under international law?
  • is it lawful for one government to act on information supplied by another government and suspected to have been extracted by torture?
  • what sort of actions might fairly be described as being 'complicit in torture' committed by others?
  • can evidence possibly extracted under torture be used in court? 

It is a great pity that anyone takes Craig seriously when he is unable to write accurately about these subjects.

To be clear. I do not think that the fact that he makes a number of strong policy points with considerable passion is enough.

Craig creates a considerable media noise and no doubt makes some money by claiming to derive validation from the fact that he lived up to the very highest professional ethics of senior civil servants and paid a price for doing so, unlike (he asserts) a large number of his former colleagues.

Fine. We all have to make tough choices, and reasonable people may come down on different sides.

But let's at least agree that those professional ethics are based on unrelenting accuracy and integrity, and an ability to identify (and act on) fine distinctions of logic and meaning.

In this new posting once again Craig falls well short of that simple standard. 

Update:  here is Michael Wood's statement to the Chilcot Inquiry which blows away everything Craig says about relations between the FCO and Attorney General - and describes in meticulous detail Michael's views on the (il)legality of the Iraq intervention. 

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