Blair government’s rendition policy led to rift between UK spy agencies MI5 chief’s complaint over MI6 role in ‘war on terror’ abductions caused prolonged breakdown in relations

British involvement in controversial and clandestine rendition operations provoked an unprecedented row between the UK’s domestic and foreign intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, at the height of the “war on terror”, the Guardian can reveal.

The head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, was so incensed when she discovered the role played by MI6 in abductions that led to suspected extremists being tortured, she threw out a number of her sister agency’s staff and banned them from working at MI5’s headquarters, Thames House.

According to Whitehall sources, she also wrote to the then prime minister, Tony Blair, to complain about the conduct of MI6 officers, saying their actions had threatened Britain’s intelligence gathering and may have compromised the security and safety of MI5 officers and their informants.

The letter caused a serious and prolonged breakdown of trust between Britain’s domestic and foreign spy agencies provoked by the Blair government’s support for rendition.

The letter was discovered by investigators examining whether British intelligence officers should face criminal charges over the rendition of an exiled Libyan opposition leader, Abdul Hakim Belhaj.

A critic of Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan dictator, Belhaj was seized in Bangkok in March, 2004 in a joint UK-US operation, and handed over to the CIA. He alleges the CIA tortured him and injected him with “truth serum” before flying him and his family to Tripoli to be interrogated.

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, centre, speaks during a press conference in Tripoli in 2012.
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Abdul Hakim Belhaj, centre, speaks during a press conference in Tripoli in 2012. Photograph: Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images
According to documents found in Tripoli, five days before he was secretly flown to the Libyan capital, MI6 gave Gaddafi’s intelligence agency the French and Moroccan aliases used by Belhaj.

MI6 also provided the Libyans with the intelligence that allowed the CIA to kidnap him and take him to Tripoli.

Belhaj told the Guardian that British intelligence officers were among the first to interrogate him in Tripoli. He said he was “very surprised that the British got involved in what was a very painful period in my life”.

“I wasn’t allowed a bath for three years and I didn’t see the sun for one year,” he told the Guardian. “They hung me from the wall and kept me in an isolation cell. I was regularly tortured.”

The secret role played by MI6 was revealed after the fall of Gaddafi, when documents were found in ransacked offices of his intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa.

One, dated 18 March 2004 was a note from Sir Mark Allen, then head of counter-terrorism at MI6, to Moussa Koussa. It said: “I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abd Allah Sadiq [Abdul-Hakim Belhaj]. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years. I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week.”

Allen added: “[Belhaj’s] information on the situation in this country is of urgent importance to us. Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from [Belhaj] through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing. The intelligence on [Belhaj] was British. I know I did not pay for the air cargo [Belhaj]. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful for the help you are giving us.”

Scotland Yard has concluded its investigation into the alleged involvement of intelligence officers and officials in Libyan rendition operations and an announcement about whether or not to prosecute is imminent.

Whitehall sources have told the Guardian that police and prosecutors have been reviewing the issue for months. They say investigators have been frustrated by the way potentially key witnesses have said they were unable to recall who had authorised British involvement in the rendition programme, who else knew about it, and who knew the precise details of the Belhaj abduction.

“This is an extremely difficult area for police and prosecutors,” said one source. “The problem is, the CPS cannot bring a charge against a government policy.”

The letter to Blair sent by Manningham-Buller, who was director general of MI5 from 2002 to 2007, reflected deep divisions within Britain’s intelligence agencies over the methods being used to gather information after the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Though MI5 has been criticised about some of the tactics used, the letter suggests Britain’s security service had serious misgivings about rendition operations and the torture of suspects.

The Guardian has been told the MI5 chief was “shocked and appalled” by the treatment of Belhaj and vented her anger at MI6, which was then run by Sir Richard Dearlove.

“When EMB [Manningham-Buller] found out what had gone on in Libya, she was evidently furious. I have never seen a letter quite like it. There was a serious rift between MI5 and MI6 at the time.”

She has since said the aim of engaging with Gaddafi to persuade him to abandon his chemical and nuclear weapons programme was not “wrong in principle”.

However, she added: “There are clearly questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”

The police files with the CPS are understood to describe how Belhaj, his pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, and children, and Sami al-Saadi and his family were abducted from the far east to Gaddafi’s interrogation and torture cells in Tripoli in 2004.

The British government paid £2.2m to settle a damages claim brought by al-Saadi and his family. Belhaj has refused to settle unless he receives an apology.

Jack Straw, who as foreign secretary was responsible for MI6, and Allen have always denied wrongdoing.

UK government ‘seeking to avoid responsibility’ for renditions
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In December 2005, when the first evidence emerged that Britain was colluding in CIA rendition operations, Straw told MPs: “There is simply no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop.”

When the Libyan renditions came to light, Straw said: “No foreign secretary can know all the details of what its intelligence agencies are doing at any one time.”

He has been interviewed by the police but only as a potential witness. Government officials, insisting on anonymity, said MI6 was following “ministerially authorised government policy”.

Blair said he did not have “any recollection at all” of the Belhaj rendition.

The Blair and Straw denials appeared to be contradicted by Dearlove.

He has said: “It was a political decision, having very significantly disarmed Libya, for the government to cooperate with Libya on Islamist terrorism. The whole relationship was one of serious calculation about where the overall balance of our national interests stood.”

Neither MI5 nor MI6, nor Manningham-Buller, wanted to make any public comment. Whitehall sources insist the relationship between MI5 and MI6 has now been repaired after a difficult period.

Belhaj is demanding an apology and an acceptance of British guilt. He has taken his case to the supreme court, which has yet to hand down a judgment.

Last year, the court was confronted with the prospect of Straw and British intelligence officers deploying the “foreign act of state doctrine” – that is to say, the courts here cannot rule on the case since agents from foreign countries, notably the US and Libya, were involved, and they are granted immunity.

Section 7 of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act, sometimes described as the “James Bond clause”, protects MI6 officers from prosecution for actions anywhere in the world that would otherwise be illegal. They would be protected as long as their actions were authorised in writing by the secretary of state.

However, lawyers for Belhaj say many cases involving deportation or asylum seekers, for example, relate to actions of foreign states and that, in any case, torture overrides all legal loopholes.

An inquiry under Sir Peter Gibson, a retired senior judge, into earlier rendition programmes in which British intelligence was involved, was abandoned because of the new and dramatic evidence about Belhaj’s abduction.

After insisting that the issues were so serious that it needed a judge-led inquiry rather than one carried out by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, David Cameron reversed his position. After the Gibson inquiry was dropped, he said the issues should be taken up by the committee after all.

Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general and now chair of the committee, said shortly after he was appointed last October: “Our longer-term priority is the substantial inquiry into the role of the UK government and security and intelligence agencies in relation to detainee treatment and rendition, where there are still unanswered questions.”

The Gibson inquiry published a damning interim report before it folded. It concluded that the British government and its intelligence agencies had been involved in rendition operations, in which detainees were kidnapped and flown around the globe, and had interrogated detainees who they knew were being mistreated.

It said MI6 officers were informed they were under no obligation to report breaches of the Geneva conventions; intelligence officers appear to have taken advantage of the abuse of detainees; and Straw, as foreign secretary, had suggested that the law might be amended to allow suspects to be rendered to the UK.

It raised 27 questions they said would need to be answered if the full truth about the way in which Britain waged its “war on terror” was to be established.

The questions include:

• Did UK intelligence officers turn a blind eye to “specific, inappropriate techniques or threats” used by others and use this to their advantage in interrogations?

• If so, was there “a deliberate or agreed policy” between UK officers and overseas intelligence officers?

• Did the government and its agencies become “inappropriately involved in some renditions”?

• Was there a willingness, “at least at some levels within the agencies, to condone, encourage or take advantage of a rendition operation”?

Nick Hopkins and Richard Norton-Taylor
Tuesday 31 May 2016 17.56 BST Last modified on Wednesday 1 June 2016 17.20 BST

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© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

Cooperation between British spies and Gaddafi’s Libya revealed in official papers (2015)

Links between MI5 and Gaddafi’s intelligence during Tony Blair’s government more extensive than previously thought, according to documents

Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of previously unknown joint operations with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government and used the information extracted from rendition victims as evidence during partially secret court proceedings in London, according to an analysis of official documents recovered in Tripoli since the Libyan revolution.

The exhaustive study of the papers from the Libyan government archives shows the links between MI5, MI6 and Gaddafi’s security agencies were far more extensive than previously thought and involved a number of joint operations in which Libyan dissidents were unlawfully detained and allegedly tortured.

At one point, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Previously, MI6 was known to have assisted the dictatorship with the kidnap of two Libyan opposition leaders, who were flown to Tripoli along with their families – including a six-year-old girl and a pregnant woman – in 2004.

However, the research suggests that the fruits of a series of joint clandestine operations also underpinned a significant number of court hearings in London between 2002 and 2007, during which the last Labour government unsuccessfully sought to deport Gaddafi’s opponents on the basis of information extracted from people who had been “rendered” to his jails.

Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
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UK intelligence agencies sent more 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders.
In addition, the documents show that four men were subjected to control orders in the UK – a form of curfew – on the basis of information extracted from victims of rendition who had been handed over to the Gaddafi regime.

The papers recovered from the dictatorship’s archives include secret correspondence from MI6, MI5 reports on Libyans living in the UK, a British intelligence assessment marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret” and official Libyan minutes of meetings between the two countries’ intelligence agencies.

They show that:

• UK intelligence agencies sent more than 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders, Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, despite having reason to suspect they were being tortured.

• British government lawyers allegedly drew upon the answers to those questions when seeking the deportation of Libyans living in the UK

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• Five men were subjected to control orders in the UK, allegedly on the basis of information extracted from two rendition victims.

• Gaddafi’s agents recorded MI5 as warning in September 2006 that the two countries’ agencies should take steps to ensure that their joint operations would never be “discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”.

In fact, papers that detail the joint UK-Libyan rendition operations were discovered by the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch in September 2011, at the height of the Libyan revolution, in an abandoned government office building in Tripoli.

Since then, hundreds more documents have been discovered in government files in Tripoli. A team of London-based lawyers has assembled them into an archive that is forming the basis of a claim for damages on behalf of 12 men who were allegedly kidnapped, tortured, subject to control orders or tricked into travelling to Libya where they were detained and mistreated.

An attempt by government lawyers to have that claim struck out was rejected by the high court in London on Thursday , with the judge, Mr Justice Irwin, ruling that the allegations “are of real potential public concern” and should be heard and dealt with by the courts.

The litigation follows earlier proceedings brought on behalf of the two families who were kidnapped in the far east and flown to Tripoli. One claim was settled when the government paid £2.23m in compensation to al-Saadi and his family; the second is ongoing, despite attempts by government lawyers to have it thrown out of court, with Belhaj suing not only the British government, but also Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of his kidnap.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
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Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
Belhaj has offered to settle for just £3, providing he and his wife also receive an unreserved apology. This is highly unlikely to happen, however, as the two rendition operations are also the subject of a three-year Scotland Yard investigation code-named Operation Lydd. Straw has been questioned by detectives: his spokesman says he was interviewed “as a witness”.

Last month, detectives passed a final file to the Crown Prosecution Service. No charges are imminent, however. The CPS said: “The police investigation has lasted almost three years and has produced a large amount of material. These are complex allegations that will require careful consideration, but we will aim to complete our decision-making as soon as is practicably possible.”

The volte-face in UK-Libyan relations was always going to be contentious: the Gaddafi regime had not only helped to arm the IRA, bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives in 1988, and harboured the man who murdered a London policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, four years earlier; it had been responsible for the bombing of a French airliner and a Berlin nightclub, and for several decades had been sending assassins around the world to murder its opponents.

The Tripoli archives show that the rapprochement, which began with the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1999, gathered pace within weeks of the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time, has said that these links were always authorised by government ministers.

The week after the attacks, British intelligence officers met with Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan intelligence, who offered to provide intelligence from Islamists held in the regime’s jails.

Two months later, British intelligence officers held a three-day conference with their Libyan counterparts at a hotel at a European airport. German and Austrian intelligence officers also attended.

According to the Libyan minutes, the British explained that they could not arrest anyone in the UK – only the police could do that – and that there could be difficulty in obtaining authorisation for Gaddafi’s intelligence officers to operate in the UK. They also added that impending changes to UK law would give them “more leeway” in the near future.

Other documents released under the Freedom of Information Act detail the way in which diplomatic contacts between London and Tripoli developed, with a British trade minister, Mike O’Brien, visiting Tripoli in August 2002, the same month that the dictator’s son, Saif, was admitted as a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics. Blair and Gaddafi spoke by telephone for the first time, chatting for 30 minutes, and in December 2003 the dictator announced publicly that he was abandoning his programme for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

With the war in Iraq going badly, London and Washington were able to suggest that an invasion that had been justified by a need to dismantle a WMD programme that was subsequently found not to exist had at least resulted in another country’s weapons programme being dismantled.

Three months later, in March 2004, the new relationship was sealed by a meeting between Gaddafi and Blair, during which the British prime minister announced that the two countries had found common cause in the fight against terrorism, and the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell announced that it had signed a £110m deal for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast.

However, the Tripoli archive shows that beneath the surface of the new alliance, the Blair government was encouraging ever-closer co-operation between the UK’s intelligence agencies and the intelligence agencies of a dictatorship which had been widely condemned for committing the most serious human rights abuses; MI5 and MI6, and the CIA, would begin to work hand-in-glove with the Libyan External Security Organisation.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 during most of the period that the UK’s intelligence agencies were working closely with the Libyan dictatorship, has defended the decision to open talks with Gaddafi on the grounds that it helped to deter him from pursuing his WMD programme. However, when delivering the 2011 Reith Lecture, she added: “There are questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”

The archive clearly shows that Gaddafi hoped that this intelligence co-operation would result in British assistance in his attempts to round up and imprison Libyans who were living in exile in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Mali. All of these men were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an Islamist organisation that had attempted to assassinate him three times since its foundation in the early 90s. A largely spent force since the late 90s, many of the members of the LIFG had been living peacefully in the UK for more than a decade, having arrived as refugees. Some had been granted British citizenship. Koussa’s agency asked British intelligence to investigate 79 of these men, whom they described as “Libyan heretics”.

Two weeks before Blair’s visit to Libya, Belhaj and his four-and-a-half-months pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, were kidnapped in Thailand and flown to Tripoli. Bouchar says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher, for the 17-hour flight.

In a follow-up letter to Koussa, Allen claimed credit for the rendition of Belhaj – referring to him as Abu Abd Allah Sadiq, the name by which he is better known in the jihadi world – saying that although “I did not pay for the air cargo”, the intelligence that led to the couple’s capture was British.

Three days after Blair’s visit, al-Saadi was rendered from Hong Kong to Tripoli, along with his wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
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Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
Both men say that while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened.

Belhaj says he was twice interrogated at Tajoura by British intelligence officers. After gesturing that the session was being recorded, Belhaj says he made a number of gestures to show that he was being beaten and suspended by his arms. One of the British officers, a man, is said to have given a thumbs-up signal, while the second, a woman, is said to have nodded.

Belhaj alleges that following one of these encounters he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK after being threatened with a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk, provoking extreme claustrophobia and fear as well as discomfort.

According to the claim being brought against the British government, the attempt to track down other leading members of the LIFG resulted in the intelligence agencies of Libya and the UK throwing their net still wider.

In late 2005, a British citizen of Somali origin and a Libyan living in Ireland were arrested in Saudi Arabia and allegedly tortured while being questioned by Saudi intelligence officers about associates who were members of the LIFG. The men say they were shackled and beaten. The British citizen says he was also interrogated by two British men who declined to identify themselves and who appeared uninterested in his complaints of mistreatment.

Many of the questions put to the two men concerned the whereabouts of Othman Saleh Khalifa, a long-standing member of the LIFG. Khalifa was detained in Mali a few months later and rendered to Libya. The Tripoli archive shows that summaries of his interrogations were sent to British intelligence, and that both MI5 and MI6 submitted questions that they wished to be put to him. A memorandum from MI6 to Koussa’s deputy, Sadegh Krema, was accompanied by questions “which you kindly agreed to pass to your interview team”.

Khalifa says that he was beaten during interrogations for around six months during the second half of 2006 and that he did not see daylight.

The Tripoli archive shows that during the same week that Khalifa was being rendered to Libya, MI5 and MI6 officers met Libyan intelligence officers in Tripoli and informed them that they were to be invited to the UK to conduct joint intelligence operations. The Libyan minutes of the meeting say that MI5 informed them that “London and Manchester are the two hottest spots” for LIFG activity in the country. The aim was to recruit informants within the Libyan community in the UK.

The Libyan minutes of the meeting also say that the British told them: “With your co-operation we should be able to target specific individuals.” The Libyans, meanwhile, said that potential recruits could be “intimidated” through threats to arrest relatives in Libya.

The following August, senior MI5 and MI6 officers and two Libyan intelligence officers met at MI5’s headquarters in London. According to the Libyan minutes, MI5 warned the Libyans that individuals could complain to the police if they believed they were being harassed by MI5, and could also expose the British-Libyan joint operations to the media.

The minutes also state that the British suggested that Libyan intelligence officers should approach potential recruits in the UK, and that if they refused to cooperate, arrangements could be made for the targets to be arrested under anti-terrorism legislation, accused of associating with those same Libyan intelligence officers, and threatened with deportation.

Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
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Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
One of the targets was a 32-year-old Libyan, associated with the LIFG, who had lived in the UK for 10 years and had been a British citizen for six years. The Libyan intelligence officers repeatedly telephoned him, claiming to be consular officials, and he eventually agreed to meet them at the Landmark hotel in Marylebone, London, on 2 September 2006. According to the Libyan notes of this meeting, the British insisted that two MI5 officers, one calling herself Caroline, should be present, so that the target should know that he was the subject of a joint UK-Libyan approach.

The target was told that he was to be given time to think about the approach. In Libya, meanwhile, the target’s brothers, sisters and mother say they were each detained in turn and told that they should persuade him to return to the country.

The Libyan intelligence officers also visited Manchester, calling at the home of another man targeted for recruitment. According to their notes, MI5 warned them not to enter the house but to persuade him to go with them to a public place where they could be photographed together. As he was not at home, the Libyan spies went instead to a mosque in the Didsbury district, where they told the imam that they were importing and exporting books.

On 5 September, shortly before the two Libyan intelligence officers returned home, they had another meeting with their British counterparts. Their notes show that the British warned that steps should be taken jointly to “avoid being trapped in any sort of legal problem [and] to avoid also that those joint plans be discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”. The Libyans assured MI5 and MI6: “We have effectively reassured them that we will stick by the joint plan to avoid any blame if the operation fails.”

The target says he was approached by “Caroline” and a second MI5 officer on a number of other occasions, but declined to travel to Libya and still lives in west London.

Six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin are bringing a number of claims, which include allegations of false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault.

The case is being brought against MI5 and MI6 as well as the Home Office and Foreign Office. Government departments declined to comment on the grounds that the litigation is ongoing.

When making their unsuccessful bid to have the case struck out, government lawyers admitted no liability. They argued that the five claimants who were subjected to control orders were properly considered to pose a threat to the UK’s national security, and denied that the government relied on information from prisoners held in Libya in making that assessment. They also argued that the LIFG had been a threat to the UK. They are expected to appeal Thursday’s high court decision.

Allen has declined to comment on the rendition operations, while Straw says: “At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law, and I hope to be able to say more about this at an appropriate stage in the future.”

Thursday 22 January 2015 14.24 GMT Last modified on Saturday 7 May 2016 11.17 BST

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© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

MI6 spy Gareth Williams found dead in bag had ‘hacked Clinton secrets’

A MI6 spy who was discovered dead in a holdall at his apartment in 2010 had hacked into sensitive information about former US President Bill Clinton, it has been claimed. The spy had obtained Clinton’s diary for an event and passed it to a friend.
Gareth Williams, 31, hacked into the event’s guest list as it was to be attended by President Clinton, passing it to his friend who was also to be a guest at the party, according to sources speaking on condition of anonymity to the Sun on Sunday.
“The Clinton diary hack came at a time when Williams’s work with America was of the most sensitive nature,” one source said. “It was a diplomatic nightmare for Sir John Sawers, the new director of MI6 at the time.”
The death of Williams remains an unsolved case after five years. A three-year investigation by the Metropolitan Police ended in 2013, deciding that no one else was involved in Williams’ death and his being locked inside the bag, which was found in his bath. A coroner’s report following his death judged that he was killed unlawfully, however.
Another inside source told the newspaper that before his death, living with a new identity has been taking its toll on Williams. “Williams’s state of mind in the months before his death was worrying those closest to him,” the source told the paper. “He found the training so stressful and his mood blackened even talking about it.”
“Typically he’d be asked to learn a new identity then report to a country hotel to meet an interrogation team. There he would be grilled about his new ID for 48 hours without sleep, the source added. “His wrist was broken once after he was handcuffed to a metal bar inside a van that was driven around the country for several hours while he faced a barrage of questions.”
Last week, it was reported that spies may have broken into Williams’ flat in Pimlico, central London, through a skylight, re-entering the residence in order to destroy evidence while the property was under armed guard after the spy’s death. An anonymous source told the Mirror that forensic officers realised that equipment in the flat had been moved in their absence. Williams was a keen cyclist from Anglesey in North Wales and before his death had attended a hacking conference in the US and also a drag show by himself two days before his death.

International Business TimesBy Jack Moore | International Business Times – Sun, Aug 30, 2015

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MI6 spy Gareth Williams was ‘killed by Russia for refusing to become double agent’, former KGB man claims (2015)

Defector Boris Karpichkov claims Russia had a secret agent in GCHQ and Williams knew who it was

A Russian defector has claimed that the MI6 spy who was found dead in a padlocked holdall in his bath in Pimlico was “exterminated” by Russian intelligence agents because he refused to become a double agent and knew the identity of a Kremlin spy working inside GCHQ.

Codebreaker Gareth Williams was found dead at his home in 2010. He had been a cipher expert at GCHQ but was on secondment to MI6 when he died.

MI6 spy in a bag case: Gareth Williams ‘probably’ locked himself in
Scotland Yard boss Horgan-Howe warns MI6 over spy Gareth Williams
Spy Gareth Williams was probably the victim of a ‘criminally mediated’
Coroner criticises MI6 investigation into spy Gareth Williams’ death
MI6 spy Gareth Williams ‘poisoned or suffocated’
MI6 spy Gareth Williams tied himself to bed, says landlady
According to the coroner at the subsequent inquest, his death was likely a “criminally mediated” unlawful killing, though it was “unlikely” to be satisfactorily explained. Police investigating Williams’ death suggested he had died as the result of a sex game gone wrong.

But a defector, Boris Karpichkov, claims intelligence sources in Russia have admitted the MI6 spy was killed by the SVR, the current incarnation of the country’s espionage agency which was formerly known as the KGB.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Karpichkov claimed the SVR attempted to recruit Williams as a double agent, allegedly using details from the British cypher’s private life as leverage.

Police disclosed at the time of Williams’ death that he owned £15,000 worth of women’s designer clothing, a wig and make up. It had been suggested that Williams dressed as a woman outside of work, though a forensics expert has since said they believe the spy likely worked undercover as a woman.

Spy Gareth Williams was probably the victim of a ‘criminally mediated’ unlawful killing

Karpichkov, who is ex-KGB, claims the SVR threatened to reveal the Briton was a transvestite, before Williams in turn revealed he knew the identity of the person who had “tipped the Russians off” about him.

“The SVR then had no alternative but to exterminate him in order to protect their agent inside GCHQ,” he alleges.

Karpichkov, who also lives in the Pimlico area, said he had seen Russian diplomatic cars in the area around the time of Williams’ death but had believed they had been sent to monitor himself. He claims to have not seen the cars since Williams died.

Karpichkov has also claimed that Williams was killed by an untraceable poison which was pushed into his ear using a needleless syringe.

At the time of the inquiry the coroner said that the involvement of intelligence services in Williams’ death remained a “legitimate line of inquiry” but stressed “there was no evidence to support that he died at the hands” of a government agency.

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith Monday 28 September 2015 12:55 BST1 comment

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MI6 spy found dead in bag probably locked himself inside, Met says (2013)

Three-year investigation by Scotland Yard concludes Gareth Williams probably died as a result of a tragic accident

Gareth Williams: last year a coroner concluded that the spy was probably unlawfully killed and his death the result of a criminal act.

The MI6 spy found dead in a bag three years ago probably locked himself in the holdall and died as a result of a tragic accident, Scotland Yard has said.

Outlining the results of a three-year investigation on Wednesday, the Metropolitan police said Gareth Williams most likely died alone in his flat.

But Detective Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said the police could not “fundamentally and beyond doubt” rule out the possibility that a third party was involved in his death.

Williams’s naked body was found in the padlocked bag, with the keys discovered under his body, in the otherwise empty bath in his flat in Pimlico, central London, in August 2010.

Last year, a coroner concluded that Williams was probably unlawfully killed and his death the result of a criminal act. Following an eight-day inquest, the Westminster coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, said he was probably either suffocated or poisoned, before a third party locked and placed the bag in the bath.

But Hewitt said Scotland Yard’s three-year inquiry had come to a different conclusion and that Williams was “most probably” alone when he died.

“Despite all of this considerable effort, it is still the case that there is insufficient evidence to be definitive on the circumstances that led to Gareth’s death,” he said.

“Rather, what we are left with is either individual pieces of evidence, or a lack of such evidence, that can logically support one of a number of hypotheses.”

Hewitt added that the investigation had added “some clarity and detail” to the case, but that “no evidence has been identified to establish the full circumstances of Gareth’s death beyond all reasonable doubt”.

A forensic examination of Williams’s flat, a security service safe house, has concluded that there was no sign of forced entry or DNA that pointed to a third party present at the time of the spy’s death.

Scotland Yard’s inquiry also found no evidence of Williams’s fingerprints on the padlock of the bag or the rim of the bath, which the coroner last year said supported her assertion of “third-party involvement” in the death. Hewitt said it was theoretically possible for Williams to lower himself into the holdall without touching the rim of the bath.

Winding down the lengthy investigation, which has drawn interviews and statements from 27 of Williams’s colleagues in MI6 and GCHQ, Hewitt said the death remained a tragedy that would be kept under review by detectives.

In a statement, Williams’s family said they were disappointed with the police findings and that they agreed with the coroner’s conclusions that he was most likely killed unlawfully.”We are naturally disappointed that it is still not possible to state with certainty how Gareth died and the fact that the circumstances of his death are still unknown adds to our grief,” the family said.

“We note that the investigation has been conducted with further interviews upon some of the witnesses who gave evidence at the inquest and that the investigation team were at last able to interview directly members of GCHQ and SIS [MI6].

“We consider that on the basis of the facts at present known the coroner’s verdict accurately reflects the circumstances of Gareth’s death.”

In a press briefing at Scotland Yard, Hewitt admitted it was “a cause of some regret” that the police were not able to definitively explain the circumstances surrounding the 31-year-old’s death.

He rejected suggestions that the security services had “pulled the wool” over his eyes, following concerns over how MI6 and counter-terrorism officers had handled some evidence during the initial investigation. It emerged on Wednesday that police only gained access to Williams’s spy agency personnel and vetting files after the coroner’s inquest ended last May.

Williams, a maths prodigy and fitness enthusiast originally from Anglesey, was a private person with few other close friends aside from his family, police said. In interviews, MI6 and GCHQ colleagues described him as a “conscientious and decent man” and detectives were unable to identify anyone with any animosity towards him or a motive for causing him harm.

As part of the fresh investigation, a forensic sweep of Williams’s flat discovered 10 to 15 unidentified traces of DNA, which are being kept under examination, but none on the North Face holdall or around the bath area of the en suite bathroom of the flat’s main bedroom. There was also no evidence of a “deep clean” of the flat to wipe all trace of DNA.

Hewitt said: “There are really three hypotheses that you can use here. One is that Gareth, for whatever reason, got himself into that bag and then was unable to get himself out and died as a result of that.

“One is that Gareth, with someone else, got into the bag consensually, then something went wrong and he died as a result of that. The third is that someone murdered Gareth by putting him in that bag. I would argue that any physical absence [of evidence of] a third party being present tends to make the hypotheses that there is a third party present less likely.”

He added: “The coroner drew an inference. I am now drawing a different inference.”

At the coroner’s inquest, two experts tried 400 times to lock themselves into the 32in by 19in holdall without success, with one remarking that even Harry Houdini “would have struggled” to squeeze himself inside. But days after the inquest, footage emerged of a retired army sergeant climbing into the bag and locking it from the inside.

Hewitt said it was now established that it was theoretically possible for a person to climb into the bag and that it was “more probable” that Williams did this before suffocating as a result of the accident. It emerged during the inquest that Williams had an interest in escapology, but the police said it would be speculation to link his death to a failed attempt to escape from the locked holdall.

Josh Halliday
Wednesday 13 November 2013 14.44 GMT Last modified on Thursday 22 May 2014 09.11 BST

Find this story at 13 November 2013

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

MI6 and Met condemned over Gareth Williams’ death (2012)

Coroner criticises intelligence agency for failing to report missing MI6 officer and rules he was probably killed unlawfully

The coroner in the Gareth Williams case delivered a damning verdict that was highly critical of the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism branch and MI6 as she ruled that the officer had probably been killed unlawfully.

The cause of death of Williams, 31, who was found padlocked in a holdall in the bath at his flat in Pimlico, central London, was “unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated”, said Dr Fiona Wilcox.

Passing a narrative verdict, she said she was satisfied that “a third party placed the bag in the bath and on the balance of probabilities locked the bag”.

She was, therefore, “satisfied that on the balance of probabilities that Gareth was killed unlawfully”.

Wilcox levelled devastating criticism at Williams’s employers at MI6 who failed to report him missing for seven days when he did not turn up for work. The explanation from his line manager lacked credibility, she said, and she could “only speculate as to what effect this [delay] had on the investigation”.

The lawyer for the Secret Intelligence Service, Andrew O’Connor, delivered deep regrets and an unprecedented apology to the family from Sir John Sawers, chief of the SIS, who recognised that “failure to act more swiftly” when Williams was absent had contributed to their “anguish and suffering”.

Officers in the Met’s counter-terrorism branch, SO15, whose role was to interview SIS witnesses, were also strongly criticised. SO15 failed to inform DCI Jackie Sebire, senior investigating officer, of the existence of nine memory sticks and a black holdall found at Williams’ MI6 office until two days before the inquest ended, the coroner said. On discovering this, Wilcox said she had seriously questioned whether she should adjourn the inquest at that point.

No formal statements were taken by S015 officers who interviewed Williams’ colleagues, “and I find this did affect the quality of evidence heard in this court,” she said.

She also criticised the handling of an iPhone belonging to Williams and found in his work locker, which contained deleted images of him naked in a pair of boots. The officer involved kept it in his possession before handing it to homicide detectives the following day, “demonstrating disregard for the rules governing continuity of evidence”, she said.

Many agencies “fell short of the ideal”, she said, including LGC Forensics in relation to DNA contamination, and the coroner’s office for failing to inform police officers of a second postmortem.

Williams, a fitness fanatic from Anglesey, north Wales, was probably alive when put in the bag but probably suffocated very soon afterwards either from CO2 poisoning, hypercapnia, or the effects of a short-acting poison, she said.

Scotland Yard has always treated the death as suspicious and unexplained, but held back from describing it as murder or manslaughter. Recording her verdict, Wilcox stated her belief that a criminal hand was involved, although police said afterwards that there was no evidence of this. The Guardian understands police inquiries have focused on the theory that Williams died accidentally in a private sexual liaison that went wrong.

The coroner, however, ruled out bondage or auto-erotic activity as explanations.

The dead man’s family said in a statement that their grief had been exacerbated by the failure of his employers at MI6 to make “even the most basic inquiries of his whereabouts and welfare” when he was absent from work for seven days.

They were “extremely disappointed at the failure and reluctance of MI6” to provide relevant information and called on the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, to conduct a review of how the investigation would proceed “in the light of the total inadequacy of S015’s investigations into MI6”.

Wilcox said there was no evidence to suggest that any SIS colleague had been involved, but it remained a legitimate line of inquiry given Williams socialised with so few people, and never let anyone he didn’t know into his flat. So any third party would be “someone he knew or someone there without invitation”.

An SIS spokesman said: “We fully co-operated with the police and will continue to do so during the ongoing investigation. We gave all the evidence to the police when they wanted it; at no time did we withhold any evidence.”

An iPhone found in his living room had recently been wiped and restored to factory settings, and it could not be ruled out that contact with a third party had been made via the internet on that phone, she said.

Wilcox was “sure that a third party moved the bag containing Gareth into the bath”. There were two possibilities: either he entered the bag outside the bathroom and it was carried in by a third party, or he was locked in the bag by a third party and lifted into the bath.

She dismissed an interest in bondage, and female clothing, as being irrelevant, condemning leaks to the media about him cross-dressing as a possible attempt “by some third party to manipulate a section of the evidence”.

She said: “Gareth was naked in a bag, not cross-dressed, not in high-heeled shoes.” If his interest was bondage, she would have expected much more internet activity on such websites, when his visits made up a tiny percentage of his browsing. His interest was in fashion, she said. Dismissing any auto-erotic activity, she said he was a “scrupulous risk assessor” and if he had locked himself into the bag would have taken a knife in with him to escape.

She said that despite a 21-month police inquiry: “Most of the fundamental questions in relation to how Gareth died remained unanswered.”

Detectives believe scientific tests on a crumpled green hand towel found in his flat may yet yield crucial DNA evidence, as the Metropolitan police launched a review into the case.

The towel was originally in the bathroom, and moved to the kitchen, police believe, by the “third party”. More tests are being conducted on the bag. The memory sticks, which have now been examined by police, are said not to have produced any significant evidence, but will be examined more closely.

Martin Hewitt, deputy assistant commissioner of the Met, said the circumstances of the death were particularly complex and continued to be the subject of a thorough investigation.

He added: “We have listened to the detailed ruling by the coroner and the concerns raised by Gareth’s family. We are giving both very careful consideration.”

Detectives were “currently undertaking actions in order to develop existing DNA profiles, to trace unidentified individuals who may have information about Gareth’s death, and to further develop analysis of telephone communications”.

Caroline Davies and Sandra Laville
Wednesday 2 May 2012 20.31 BST Last modified on Wednesday 21 May 2014 02.01 BST

Find this story at 2 May 2012

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

The circus: How British intelligence primed both sides of the ‘terror war’ (2015)

‘Jihadi John’ was able to join IS for one simple reason: from Quilliam to al-Muhajiroun, Britain’s loudest extremists have been groomed by the security services
Every time there’s a terrorist attack that makes national headlines, the same talking heads seem to pop up like an obscene game of “whack-a-mole”. Often they appear one after the other across the media circuit, bobbing from celebrity television pundit to erudite newspaper outlet.

A few years ago, BBC Newsnight proudly hosted a “debate” between Maajid Nawaz, director of counter-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, and Anjem Choudary, head of the banned Islamist group formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, which has, since its proscription, repeatedly reincarnated itself. One of its more well-known recent incarnations was “Islam4UK”.

Both Nawaz and Choudary have received huge mainstream media attention, generating press headlines, and contributing to major TV news and current affairs shows. But unbeknown to most, they have one thing in common: Britain’s security services. And believe it or not, that bizarre fact explains why the Islamic State’s (IS) celebrity beheader, former west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi – aka “Jihadi John” – got to where he is now.

A tale of two extremists

After renouncing his affiliation with the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), Maajid Nawaz co-founded the Quilliam Foundation with his fellow ex-Hizb member, Ed Husain.

The Quilliam Foundation was set-up by Husain and Nawaz in 2008 with significant British government financial support. Its establishment received a massive PR boost from the release of Ed Husain’s memoirs, The Islamist, which rapidly became an international bestseller, generating hundreds of reviews, interviews and articles.

In Ed Husain’s book – much like Maajid Nawaz’s tome Radical released more recently to similar fanfare – Husain recounts his journey from aggrieved young Muslim into Islamist activist, and eventually his total rejection of Islamist ideology.

Both accounts of their journeys of transformation offer provocative and genuine insights. But the British government has played a much more direct role in crafting those accounts than either they, or the government, officially admit.

Government ghostwriters

In late 2013, I interviewed a former senior researcher at the Home Office who revealed that Husain’s The Islamist was “effectively ghostwritten in Whitehall”.

The official told me that in 2006, he was informed by a government colleague “with close ties” to Jack Straw and Gordon Brown that “the draft was written by Ed but then ‘peppered’ by government input”. The civil servant told him “he had seen ‘at least five drafts of the book, and the last one was dramatically different from the first.’”

The draft had, the source said, been manipulated in an explicitly political, pro-government manner. The committee that had input into Ed Husain’s manuscript prior to its official publication included senior government officials from No. 10 Downing Street, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the intelligence services, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.

When I put the question, repeatedly, to Ed Husain as to the veracity of these allegations, he did not respond. I also asked Nawaz whether he was aware of the government’s role in “ghostwriting” Husain’s prose, and whether he underwent a similar experience in the production of Radical. He did not respond either.

While Husain was liaising with British government and intelligence officials over The Islamist from 2006 until the book’s publication in May 2007, his friend Nawaz was at first in prison in Egypt. Nawaz was eventually released in March 2006, declaring his departure from HT just a month before the publication of Husain’s book. Husain took credit for being the prime influence on Nawaz’s decision, and by November 2007, had joined with him becoming Quilliam’s director with Husain as his deputy.

Yet according to Husain, Nawaz played a role in determining parts of the text of The Islamist in the same year it was being edited by government officials. “Before publication, I discussed with my friend and brother-in-faith Maajid the passages in the book,” wrote Husain about the need to verify details of their time in HT.

This is where the chronology of Husain’s and Nawaz’s accounts begin to break down. In Radical, and repeatedly in interviews about his own deradicalisation process, Nawaz says that he firmly and decisively rejected HT’s Islamist ideology while in prison in Egypt. Yet upon his release and return to Britain, Nawaz showed no sign of having reached that decision. Instead, he did the opposite. In April 2006, Nawaz told Sarah Montague on BBC Hardtalk that his detention in Egypt had “convinced [him] even more… that there is a need to establish this Caliphate as soon as possible.” From then on, Nawaz, who was now on HT’s executive committee, participated in dozens of talks and interviews in which he vehemently promoted the Hizb.

I first met Nawaz at a conference on 2 December 2006 organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) on the theme of “reclaiming our rights”. I had spoken on a panel about the findings of my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, on how British state collusion with Islamist extremists had facilitated the 7/7 attacks. Nawaz had attended the event as an audience member with two other senior HT activists, and in our brief conversation, he spoke of his ongoing work with HT in glowing terms.

By January 2007, Nawaz was at the front of a HT protest at the US embassy in London, condemning US military operations in Iraq and Somalia. He delivered a rousing speech at the protest, demanding an end to “colonial intervention in the Muslim world,” and calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate to stand up to such imperialism and end Western support for dictators.

Yet by his own account, throughout this very public agitation on behalf of HT from mid-2006 onwards, Nawaz had in fact rejected the very ideology he was preaching so adamantly. Indeed, in the same period, he was liaising with his friend, Ed Husain – who at that time was still in Jeddah – and helping him with the text of his anti-HT manifesto, The Islamist, which was also being vetted at the highest levels of government.

The British government’s intimate, and secret, relationship with Husain in the year before the publication of his book in 2007 shows that, contrary to his official biography, the Quilliam Foundation founder was embedded in Whitehall long before he was on the public radar. How did he establish connections at this level?

MI5’s Islamist

According to Dr Noman Hanif, a lecturer in international terrorism and political Islam at Birkbeck College, University of London, and an expert on Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group’s presence in Britain likely provided many opportunities for Western intelligence to “penetrate or influence” the movement.

Dr Hanif, whose doctoral thesis was about the group, points out that Husain’s tenure inside HT by his own account occurred “under the leadership of Omar Bakri Mohammed,” the controversial cleric who left the group in 1996 to found al-Muhajiroun, a militant network which to this day has been linked to every major terrorist plot in Britain.

Bakri’s leadership of HT, said Dr Hanif, formed “the most conceptually deviant period of HT’s existence in the UK, diverting quite sharply away from its core ideas,” due to Bakri’s advocacy of violence and his focus on establishing an Islamic state in the UK, goals contrary to HT doctrines.

When Bakri left HT and set-up al-Muhajiroun in 1996, according to John Loftus, a former US Army intelligence officer and Justice Department prosecutor, Bakri was immediately recruited by MI6 to facilitate Islamist activities in the Balkans. And not just Bakri, but also Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was recently convicted in the US on terrorism charges.

When Bakri founded al-Muhajiroun in 1996 with the blessings of Britain’s security services, his co-founder was Anjem Choudary. Choudary was intimately involved in the programme to train and send Britons to fight abroad, and three years later, would boast to the Sunday Telegraph that “some of the training does involve guns and live ammunition”.

Historian Mark Curtis, in his seminal work, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, documents how under this arrangement, Bakri trained hundreds of Britons at camps in the UK and the US, and dispatched them to join al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.

Shortly before the 2005 London bombings, Ron Suskind, a Wall Street Journal Pulitizer Prize winning investigative reporter, was told by a senior MI5 official that Bakri was a longtime informant for the secret service who “had helped MI5 on several of its investigations”. Bakri, Suskind adds in his book, The Way of the World, reluctantly conceded the relationship in an interview in Beirut – but Suskind gives no indication that the relationship ever ended.

A senior terrorism lawyer in London who has represented clients in several high-profile terrorism cases told me that both Bakri and Choudary had regular meetings with MI5 officers in the 1990s. The lawyer, who works for a leading firm of solicitors and has regularly liaised with MI5 in the administration of closed court hearings involving secret evidence, said: “Omar Bakri had well over 20 meetings with MI5 from around 1993 to the late 1990s. Anjem Choudary apparently participated in such meetings toward the latter part of the decade. This was actually well-known amongst several senior Islamist leaders in Britain at the time.”

According to Dr Hanif of Birkbeck College, Bakri’s relationship with the intelligence services likely began during his “six-year reign as HT leader in Britain,” which would have “provided British intelligence ample opportunity” to “widely infiltrate the group”. HT had already been a subject of MI6 surveillance abroad “because of its core level of support in Jordan and the consistent level of activity in other areas of the Middle East for over five decades.”

At least some HT members appear to have been aware of Bakri’s intelligence connections, including, it seems, Ed Husain himself. In one passage in The Islamist (p. 116), Husain recounts: “We were also concerned about Omar’s application for political asylum… I raised this with Bernie [another HT member] too. ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘On the contrary. The British are like snakes; they manoeuvre carefully. They need Omar in Britain. More likely, Omar will be the ambassador for the khilafah here or leave to reside in the Islamic state. The kuffar know that – allowing Omar to stay in Britain will give them a good start, a diplomatic advantage, when they have to deal with the Islamic state. Having Omar serves them well for the future. MI5 knows exactly what we’re doing, what we’re about, and yet they have in effect, given us the green light to operate in Britain.”

Husain left HT after Bakri in August 1997. According to Faisal Haque, a British government civil servant and former HT member who knew Ed Husain during his time in the group, Husain had a strong “personal relationship” with Bakri. He did not leave HT for “ideological reasons,” said Haque. “It was more to do with his close personal relationship with Omar Bakri (he left when Bakri was kicked out), pressure from his father and other personal reasons which I don’t want to mention.”

Husain later went on to work for the British Council in the Middle East. From 2003 to 2005, he was in Damascus. During that period, by his own admission, he informed on other British members of HT for agitating against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, resulting in them being deported by Syrian authorities back to Britain. At this time, the CIA and MI6 routinely cooperated with Assad on extraordinary rendition programmes.

Husain then worked for the British Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from late 2005 to the end of 2006.

Throughout that year, according to the former Home Office official I spoke to, Husain was in direct contact with senior Whitehall officials who were vetting his manuscript for The Islamist. By November, Husain posted on DeenPort, an online discussion forum, a now deleted comment referring off-hand to the work of “the secret services” inside HT: “Even within HT in Britain today, there is a huge division between modernisers and more radical elements. The secret services are hopeful that the modernisers can tame the radicals… I foresee another split. And God knows best. I have said more than I should on this subject! Henceforth, my lips are sealed!”

Shortly after, Maajid Nawaz would declare his departure from HT, and would eventually be joined at Quilliam by several others from the group, many of whom according to Nawaz had worked with him and Husain as “a team” behind the scenes at this time.

The ‘ex-jihadists’ who weren’t

Perhaps the biggest problem with Husain’s and Nawaz’s claim to expertise on terrorism was that they were never jihadists. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent movement for the establishment of a global “caliphate” through social struggle, focusing on the need for political activism in the Muslim world. Whatever the demerits of this rigid political ideology, it had no relationship to the phenomenon of al-Qaeda terrorism.

Nevertheless, Husain and Nawaz, along with their government benefactors, were convinced that those personal experiences of “radicalisation” and “deradicalisation” could by transplanted into the ongoing “war on terror” – even though, in reality neither of them had any idea about the dynamics of an actual terrorist network, and the radicalisation process leading to violent extremism. The result was an utterly misguided and evidence-devoid obsession with rejecting non-violent extremist ideologies as the primary means to prevent terrorism.

Through the Quilliam Foundation, Husain’s and Nawaz’s fundamentalist ideas about non-violent extremism went on to heavily influence official counter-terrorism discourses across the Western world. This was thanks to its million pounds worth of government seed-funding, intensive media coverage, as well as the government pushing Quilliam’s directors and staff to provide “deradicalisation training” to government and security officials in the US and Europe.

In the UK, Quilliam’s approach was taken up by various centre-right and right-wing think-tanks, such as the Centre for Social Cohesion (CCS) and Policy Exchange, all of which played a big role in influencing the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism programme (Prevent).

Exactly how bankrupt this approach is, however, can be determined from Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to express his understanding of the risk from non-violent extremism, a major feature of the coalition government’s Orwellian new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. The latter establishes unprecedented powers of electronic surveillance and the basis for the “Prevent duty,” which calls for all public sector institutions to develop “risk-assessment” profiles of individuals deemed to be “at-risk” of being drawn into non-violent extremism.

In his speech at the UN last year, Cameron explained that counter-terrorism measures must target people who may not “encourage violence, but whose worldview can be used as a justification for it.” As examples of dangerous ideas at the “root cause” of terrorism, Cameron pinpointed “conspiracy theories,” and most outrageously, “The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy.”

In other words, if you believe, for instance, that US and British forces have deliberately conducted brutal military operations across the Muslim world resulting in the foreseeable deaths of countless innocent civilians, you are a non-violent extremist.

In an eye-opening academic paper published last year, French terrorism expert and Interior Ministry policy officer Dr Claire Arenes, noted that: “By definition, one may know if radicalisation has been violent only once the point of violence has been reached, at the end of the process. Therefore, since the end-term of radicalisation cannot be determined in advance, a policy intended to fight violent radicalisation entails a structural tendency to fight any form of radicalisation.”

It is precisely this moronic obsession with trying to detect and stop “any form of radicalisation,” however non-violent, that is hampering police and security investigations and overloading them with nonsense “risks”.

Double game

At this point, the memorable vision of Nawaz and Choudary facing off on BBC Newsnight appears not just farcical, but emblematic of how today’s national security crisis has been fuelled and exploited by the bowels of the British secret state.

Over the last decade or so – the very same period that the British state was grooming the “former jihadists who weren’t” so they could be paraded around the media-security-industrial complex bigging up the non-threat of “non-violent extremism” – the CIA and MI6 were coordinating Saudi-led funding to al-Qaeda affiliated extremists across the Middle East and Central Asia to counter Iranian Shiite influence.

From 2005 onwards, US and British intelligence services encouraged a range of covert operations to support Islamist opposition groups, including militants linked to al-Qaeda, to undermine regional Iranian and Syrian influence. By 2009, the focus of these operations shifted to Syria.

As I documented in written evidence to a UK Parliamentary inquiry into Prevent in 2010, one of the recipients of such funding was none other than Omar Bakri, who at the time told one journalist: “Today, angry Lebanese Sunnis ask me to organise their jihad against the Shiites… Al-Qaeda in Lebanon… are the only ones who can defeat Hezbollah.” Simultaneously, Bakri was regularly in touch with his deputy, Anjem Choudary, over the internet and even delivered online speeches to his followers in Britain instructing them to join IS and murder civilians. He has now been detained and charged by Lebanese authorities for establishing terror cells in the country.

Bakri was also deeply involved “with training the mujahideen [fighters] in camps on the Syrian borders and also on the Palestine side.” The trainees included four British Islamists “with professional backgrounds” who would go on to join the war in Syria. Bakri also claimed to have trained “many fighters,” including people from Germany and France, since arriving in Lebanon. Was Mohammed Emwazi among them? Last year, Bakri disciple Mizanur Rahman confirmed that at least five European Muslims who had died fighting under IS in Syria had been Bakri acolytes.

Nevertheless in 2013, it was David Cameron who lifted the arms embargo to support Syria’s rebels. We now know that most of our military aid went to al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists, many with links to extremists at home. The British government itself acknowledged that a “substantial number” of Britons were fighting in Syria, who “will seek to carry out attacks against Western interests… or in Western states”.

Yet according to former British counterterrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge, despite this risk, authorities “turned a blind eye to the travelling of its own jihadists to Syria, notwithstanding ample video etc. evidence of their crimes there,” because it “suited the US and UK’s anti-Assad foreign policy”.

This terror-funnel is what enabled people like Emwazi to travel to Syria and join up with IS – despite being on an MI5 terror watch-list. He had been blocked by the security services from traveling to Kuwait in 2010: why not Syria? Shoebridge, who was a British Army officer before joining the Metropolitan Police, told me that although such overseas terrorism has been illegal in the UK since 2006, “it’s notable that only towards the end of 2013 when IS turned against the West’s preferred rebels, and perhaps also when the tipping point between foreign policy usefulness and MI5 fears of domestic terrorist blowback was reached, did the UK authorities begin to take serious steps to tackle the flow of UK jihadists.”

The US-UK direct and tacit support for jihadists, Shoebridge said, had made Syria the safest place for regional terrorists fearing drone strikes “for more than two years”. Syria was “the only place British jihadists could fight without fear of US drones or arrest back home… likely because, unlike if similar numbers of UK jihadists had been travelling to for example Yemen or Afghanistan, this suited the anti-Assad policy.”

Having watched its own self-fulfilling prophecy unfold with horrifying precision in a string of IS-linked terrorist atrocities against Western hostages and targets, the government now exploits the resulting mayhem to vindicate its bankrupt “counter-extremism” narrative, promoted by hand-picked state-groomed “experts” like Husain and Nawaz.

Their prescription, predictably, is to expand the powers of the police state to identify and “deradicalise” anyone who thinks British foreign policy in the Muslim world is callous, self-serving and indifferent to civilian deaths. Government sources confirm that Nawaz’s input played a key role in David Cameron’s thinking on non-violent extremism, and the latest incarnation of the Prevent strategy; while last year, Husain was, ironically, appointed to the Foreign Office advisory group on freedom of religion or belief.

Meanwhile, Bakri’s deputy Choudary continues to inexplicably run around as Britain’s resident “terror cleric” media darling. His passport belatedly confiscated after a recent pointless police arrest that avoided charging him, he remains free to radicalise thick-headed British Muslims into joining IS, in the comfort that his hate speech will be broadcast widely, no doubt fueling widespread generic suspicion of British Muslims.

If only we could round up the Quilliam and al-Muhajiroun fanatics together, shove them onto a boat, and send them all off cruising to the middle of nowhere, they could have all the fun they want “radicalising” and “deradicalising” each other to their hearts content. And we might get a little peace. And perhaps we could send their handlers with them, too.

– Nafeez Ahmed PhD, is an investigative journalist, international security scholar and bestselling author who tracks what he calls the ‘crisis of civilization.’ He is a winner of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Nafeez Ahmed
Friday 27 February 2015 14:35 GMT

Find this story at 27 February 2015

© Middle East Eye 2014

MI5 says rendition of Libyan opposition leaders strengthened al-Qaida

Intelligence assessment concludes abduction of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi allowed dissident group to be taken over by exponents of al-Qaida
Abdel Hakim Belhaj

A secret UK-Libyan rendition programme in which two Libyan opposition leaders were kidnapped and flown to Tripoli along with their families had the effect of strengthening al-Qaida, according to an assessment by the UK security service, MI5.

Prior to their kidnap, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi had ensured that their organisation, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), focused on the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi, the classified assessment says. Once handed over to the Gaddafi regime, their places at the head of the LIFG were taken by others who wanted to bring the group closer to al-Qaida.

The two men were seized in Thailand and Hong Kong in March 2004 with the assistance of the UK’s intelligence service MI6, and were “rendered” to Tripoli along with Belhaj’s pregnant wife and Saadi’s wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

In an assessment made 11 months later, MI5 concluded that the capture of the pair had cast the group “into a state of disarray”, adding: “While these senior-ranking members have always jealously guarded the independence of the LIFG, providing it with a clear command structure and set goals, the group is now coming under pressure from outside influences.

“In particular, reporting indicates that members including Abu Laith al-Libi and Abdallah al-Ghaffar may be pushing the group towards a more pan-Islamic agenda inspired by AQ [al-Qaida].”

Two years after MI5 made this assessment, Libi announced the LIFG had formally joined forces with al-Qaida. He became a leading member of the merged organisation and is believed to have orchestrated a series of suicide bomb attacks across Afghanistan, including one in 2007 that killed 23 people at Bagram airfield north of Kabul during a visit by then US vice-president Dick Cheney. Libi was killed in a drone strike the following year.

The classified MI5 intelligence assessment was among hundreds of highly sensitive Libyan and British files that were discovered in official buildings that had been abandoned during the 2011 revolution that led to the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi.

The end of his 42-year dictatorship was hastened by Nato air strikes, and was followed by a period of brief and heady optimism. At a rally in Benghazi in the east of the country in September 2011, the British prime minister, David Cameron, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, addressed enormous crowds waving their countries’ flags. “It’s great to be here in free Benghazi and in free Libya,” Cameron told them.

But Libya’s new leadership was already struggling to impose its authority on the country. And since then, the country has descended into violence and economic instability, with rival militias shelling residential areas and destroying infrastructure in their fight for supremacy.

Fears that Islamist militants would fill the yawning power vacuum appeared to be realised on Tuesday when gunmen claiming allegiance to Islamic State said that they were responsible for an attack on a Tripoli hotel in which at least five guards and five foreigners were killed.

The papers that were recovered during the revolution show that Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of joint operations with Gaddafi’s government and that some of the information extracted from victims of rendition was used as evidence during control-order and deportation proceedings in UK courts.

They also show that in 2006, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Another of the recovered documents is a letter that Tony Blair wrote to Gaddafi in April 2007, and whose existence publicly emerged last week. Addressed “Dear Mu’ammar”, Blair expressed his regret that the British government had failed in its attempts to have a number of Gaddafi’s opponents deported from the UK, and thanked the dictator for his intelligence agencies’ “excellent co-operation” with their British counterparts.

The classified MI5 document was prepared in advance of a five-day visit to Tripoli by senior agency staff in February 2005. Marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret”, it explains that members of the LIFG had been permitted to settle in the UK in the 1990s. This was at a time when Gaddafi, whom the group was plotting to overthrow, was considered to be an enemy of Britain.

The document adds that MI5 reassessed the LIFG’s UK-based members following the change in the group’s leadership that resulted from the detention of Belhaj and Saadi.

“We are actively investigating key individuals in the UK and are seeking to disrupt their activities,” the document says. This action was part of a new strategy “for countering the threat from the LIFG to the UK and its allies” – allies which, by 2005, included the Libyan dictatorship.

Accompanying the document was a list of questions that MI5 wanted Libyan interrogators to put to Belhaj and Saadi. A total of more than 1,600 questions were sent from the UK to Tripoli, in four batches, with MI6 at one point thanking the Libyan intelligence agents for “kindly agreeing” to pass the questions to their “interview team”.

Belhaj and Saadi both say they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli.

They say they were also interrogated by British intelligence officers, and Belhaj says he made it clear, by sign language, that he was being tortured.

After one of these encounters, he says, he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK to avoid being subjected to a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk.

The discovery of the documents that exposed the existence of the UK-Libyan rendition operations had caused widespread dismay in Westminster, even before the emergence of the latest report, which makes clear that one consequence of these operations was that the terrorist organisation that posed the greatest threat to the UK at that time was strengthened.

A criminal investigation into the affair was opened in January 2012 after Dominic Grieve, the then attorney general, wrote to the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe. After a three-year investigation codenamed Operation Lydd, detectives handed their report to the Crown Prosecution Service last month.

Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time, is among the people who have been questioned by police. His office says he was interviewed as a witness.

The rendition operations also led to damages claims being brought by Saadi – who received £2.2m in compensation from the British government – and by Belhaj. Belhaj is claiming damages on behalf of himself and his wife. She was four-and-a-half months pregnant when the couple were kidnapped, and Belhaj says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher for the 17-hour flight to Tripoli, before being jailed for several months.

Belhaj says he would settle his claim for just £3, as long as he and his wife also receive an apology. With the CPS currently considering the police file, this is unlikely to happen.

Ian Cobain
Thursday 29 January 2015 11.27 GMT Last modified on Friday 30 January 2015 00.05 GMT

Find this story at 29 January 2015

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

Cooperation between British spies and Gaddafi’s Libya revealed in official papers (2015)

Links between MI5 and Gaddafi’s intelligence during Tony Blair’s government more extensive than previously thought, according to documents
Blair visit to Africa

Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of previously unknown joint operations with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government and used the information extracted from rendition victims as evidence during partially secret court proceedings in London, according to an analysis of official documents recovered in Tripoli since the Libyan revolution.

The exhaustive study of the papers from the Libyan government archives shows the links between MI5, MI6 and Gaddafi’s security agencies were far more extensive than previously thought and involved a number of joint operations in which Libyan dissidents were unlawfully detained and allegedly tortured.

At one point, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Previously, MI6 was known to have assisted the dictatorship with the kidnap of two Libyan opposition leaders, who were flown to Tripoli along with their families – including a six-year-old girl and a pregnant woman – in 2004.

However, the research suggests that the fruits of a series of joint clandestine operations also underpinned a significant number of court hearings in London between 2002 and 2007, during which the last Labour government unsuccessfully sought to deport Gaddafi’s opponents on the basis of information extracted from people who had been “rendered” to his jails.

Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
UK intelligence agencies sent more 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders.
In addition, the documents show that four men were subjected to control orders in the UK – a form of curfew – on the basis of information extracted from victims of rendition who had been handed over to the Gaddafi regime.

The papers recovered from the dictatorship’s archives include secret correspondence from MI6, MI5 reports on Libyans living in the UK, a British intelligence assessment marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret” and official Libyan minutes of meetings between the two countries’ intelligence agencies.

They show that:

• UK intelligence agencies sent more than 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders, Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, despite having reason to suspect they were being tortured.

• British government lawyers allegedly drew upon the answers to those questions when seeking the deportation of Libyans living in the UK

• Five men were subjected to control orders in the UK, allegedly on the basis of information extracted from two rendition victims.

• Gaddafi’s agents recorded MI5 as warning in September 2006 that the two countries’ agencies should take steps to ensure that their joint operations would never be “discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”.

In fact, papers that detail the joint UK-Libyan rendition operations were discovered by the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch in September 2011, at the height of the Libyan revolution, in an abandoned government office building in Tripoli.

Since then, hundreds more documents have been discovered in government files in Tripoli. A team of London-based lawyers has assembled them into an archive that is forming the basis of a claim for damages on behalf of 12 men who were allegedly kidnapped, tortured, subject to control orders or tricked into travelling to Libya where they were detained and mistreated.

An attempt by government lawyers to have that claim struck out was rejected by the high court in London on Thursday , with the judge, Mr Justice Irwin, ruling that the allegations “are of real potential public concern” and should be heard and dealt with by the courts.

The litigation follows earlier proceedings brought on behalf of the two families who were kidnapped in the far east and flown to Tripoli. One claim was settled when the government paid £2.23m in compensation to al-Saadi and his family; the second is ongoing, despite attempts by government lawyers to have it thrown out of court, with Belhaj suing not only the British government, but also Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of his kidnap.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
Belhaj has offered to settle for just £3, providing he and his wife also receive an unreserved apology. This is highly unlikely to happen, however, as the two rendition operations are also the subject of a three-year Scotland Yard investigation code-named Operation Lydd. Straw has been questioned by detectives: his spokesman says he was interviewed “as a witness”.

Last month, detectives passed a final file to the Crown Prosecution Service. No charges are imminent, however. The CPS said: “The police investigation has lasted almost three years and has produced a large amount of material. These are complex allegations that will require careful consideration, but we will aim to complete our decision-making as soon as is practicably possible.”

The volte-face in UK-Libyan relations was always going to be contentious: the Gaddafi regime had not only helped to arm the IRA, bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives in 1988, and harboured the man who murdered a London policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, four years earlier; it had been responsible for the bombing of a French airliner and a Berlin nightclub, and for several decades had been sending assassins around the world to murder its opponents.

The Tripoli archives show that the rapprochement, which began with the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1999, gathered pace within weeks of the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time, has said that these links were always authorised by government ministers.

The week after the attacks, British intelligence officers met with Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan intelligence, who offered to provide intelligence from Islamists held in the regime’s jails.

Two months later, British intelligence officers held a three-day conference with their Libyan counterparts at a hotel at a European airport. German and Austrian intelligence officers also attended.

According to the Libyan minutes, the British explained that they could not arrest anyone in the UK – only the police could do that – and that there could be difficulty in obtaining authorisation for Gaddafi’s intelligence officers to operate in the UK. They also added that impending changes to UK law would give them “more leeway” in the near future.

Other documents released under the Freedom of Information Act detail the way in which diplomatic contacts between London and Tripoli developed, with a British trade minister, Mike O’Brien, visiting Tripoli in August 2002, the same month that the dictator’s son, Saif, was admitted as a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics. Blair and Gaddafi spoke by telephone for the first time, chatting for 30 minutes, and in December 2003 the dictator announced publicly that he was abandoning his programme for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

With the war in Iraq going badly, London and Washington were able to suggest that an invasion that had been justified by a need to dismantle a WMD programme that was subsequently found not to exist had at least resulted in another country’s weapons programme being dismantled.

Three months later, in March 2004, the new relationship was sealed by a meeting between Gaddafi and Blair, during which the British prime minister announced that the two countries had found common cause in the fight against terrorism, and the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell announced that it had signed a £110m deal for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast.

However, the Tripoli archive shows that beneath the surface of the new alliance, the Blair government was encouraging ever-closer co-operation between the UK’s intelligence agencies and the intelligence agencies of a dictatorship which had been widely condemned for committing the most serious human rights abuses; MI5 and MI6, and the CIA, would begin to work hand-in-glove with the Libyan External Security Organisation.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 during most of the period that the UK’s intelligence agencies were working closely with the Libyan dictatorship, has defended the decision to open talks with Gaddafi on the grounds that it helped to deter him from pursuing his WMD programme. However, when delivering the 2011 Reith Lecture, she added: “There are questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”

The archive clearly shows that Gaddafi hoped that this intelligence co-operation would result in British assistance in his attempts to round up and imprison Libyans who were living in exile in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Mali. All of these men were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an Islamist organisation that had attempted to assassinate him three times since its foundation in the early 90s. A largely spent force since the late 90s, many of the members of the LIFG had been living peacefully in the UK for more than a decade, having arrived as refugees. Some had been granted British citizenship. Koussa’s agency asked British intelligence to investigate 79 of these men, whom they described as “Libyan heretics”.

Two weeks before Blair’s visit to Libya, Belhaj and his four-and-a-half-months pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, were kidnapped in Thailand and flown to Tripoli. Bouchar says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher, for the 17-hour flight.

In a follow-up letter to Koussa, Allen claimed credit for the rendition of Belhaj – referring to him as Abu Abd Allah Sadiq, the name by which he is better known in the jihadi world – saying that although “I did not pay for the air cargo”, the intelligence that led to the couple’s capture was British.

Three days after Blair’s visit, al-Saadi was rendered from Hong Kong to Tripoli, along with his wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
Both men say that while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened.

Belhaj says he was twice interrogated at Tajoura by British intelligence officers. After gesturing that the session was being recorded, Belhaj says he made a number of gestures to show that he was being beaten and suspended by his arms. One of the British officers, a man, is said to have given a thumbs-up signal, while the second, a woman, is said to have nodded.

Belhaj alleges that following one of these encounters he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK after being threatened with a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk, provoking extreme claustrophobia and fear as well as discomfort.

According to the claim being brought against the British government, the attempt to track down other leading members of the LIFG resulted in the intelligence agencies of Libya and the UK throwing their net still wider.

In late 2005, a British citizen of Somali origin and a Libyan living in Ireland were arrested in Saudi Arabia and allegedly tortured while being questioned by Saudi intelligence officers about associates who were members of the LIFG. The men say they were shackled and beaten. The British citizen says he was also interrogated by two British men who declined to identify themselves and who appeared uninterested in his complaints of mistreatment.

Many of the questions put to the two men concerned the whereabouts of Othman Saleh Khalifa, a long-standing member of the LIFG. Khalifa was detained in Mali a few months later and rendered to Libya. The Tripoli archive shows that summaries of his interrogations were sent to British intelligence, and that both MI5 and MI6 submitted questions that they wished to be put to him. A memorandum from MI6 to Koussa’s deputy, Sadegh Krema, was accompanied by questions “which you kindly agreed to pass to your interview team”.

Khalifa says that he was beaten during interrogations for around six months during the second half of 2006 and that he did not see daylight.

The Tripoli archive shows that during the same week that Khalifa was being rendered to Libya, MI5 and MI6 officers met Libyan intelligence officers in Tripoli and informed them that they were to be invited to the UK to conduct joint intelligence operations. The Libyan minutes of the meeting say that MI5 informed them that “London and Manchester are the two hottest spots” for LIFG activity in the country. The aim was to recruit informants within the Libyan community in the UK.

The Libyan minutes of the meeting also say that the British told them: “With your co-operation we should be able to target specific individuals.” The Libyans, meanwhile, said that potential recruits could be “intimidated” through threats to arrest relatives in Libya.

The following August, senior MI5 and MI6 officers and two Libyan intelligence officers met at MI5’s headquarters in London. According to the Libyan minutes, MI5 warned the Libyans that individuals could complain to the police if they believed they were being harassed by MI5, and could also expose the British-Libyan joint operations to the media.

The minutes also state that the British suggested that Libyan intelligence officers should approach potential recruits in the UK, and that if they refused to cooperate, arrangements could be made for the targets to be arrested under anti-terrorism legislation, accused of associating with those same Libyan intelligence officers, and threatened with deportation.

Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
One of the targets was a 32-year-old Libyan, associated with the LIFG, who had lived in the UK for 10 years and had been a British citizen for six years. The Libyan intelligence officers repeatedly telephoned him, claiming to be consular officials, and he eventually agreed to meet them at the Landmark hotel in Marylebone, London, on 2 September 2006. According to the Libyan notes of this meeting, the British insisted that two MI5 officers, one calling herself Caroline, should be present, so that the target should know that he was the subject of a joint UK-Libyan approach.

The target was told that he was to be given time to think about the approach. In Libya, meanwhile, the target’s brothers, sisters and mother say they were each detained in turn and told that they should persuade him to return to the country.

The Libyan intelligence officers also visited Manchester, calling at the home of another man targeted for recruitment. According to their notes, MI5 warned them not to enter the house but to persuade him to go with them to a public place where they could be photographed together. As he was not at home, the Libyan spies went instead to a mosque in the Didsbury district, where they told the imam that they were importing and exporting books.

On 5 September, shortly before the two Libyan intelligence officers returned home, they had another meeting with their British counterparts. Their notes show that the British warned that steps should be taken jointly to “avoid being trapped in any sort of legal problem [and] to avoid also that those joint plans be discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”. The Libyans assured MI5 and MI6: “We have effectively reassured them that we will stick by the joint plan to avoid any blame if the operation fails.”

The target says he was approached by “Caroline” and a second MI5 officer on a number of other occasions, but declined to travel to Libya and still lives in west London.

Six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin are bringing a number of claims, which include allegations of false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault.

The case is being brought against MI5 and MI6 as well as the Home Office and Foreign Office. Government departments declined to comment on the grounds that the litigation is ongoing.

When making their unsuccessful bid to have the case struck out, government lawyers admitted no liability. They argued that the five claimants who were subjected to control orders were properly considered to pose a threat to the UK’s national security, and denied that the government relied on information from prisoners held in Libya in making that assessment. They also argued that the LIFG had been a threat to the UK. They are expected to appeal Thursday’s high court decision.

Allen has declined to comment on the rendition operations, while Straw says: “At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law, and I hope to be able to say more about this at an appropriate stage in the future.”

Ian Cobain
Thursday 22 January 2015 14.24 GMT Last modified on Monday 26 January 2015 14.03 GMT

Find this story at 22 January 2015

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

Libya rebel commander wants MI6 and CIA apologies (2011)

The commander of anti-government forces in Tripoli has told the BBC he wants an apology from Britain and America for the way he was transferred to a prison in Libya in 2004.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who was then a terror suspect, says he was tortured after being arrested in Bangkok and taken to the Libyan capital in an operation organised by the CIA and MI6.
Details of his case are included in messages sent to the Gaddafi regime by the two intelligence services.
Jeremy Bowen reports from Tripoli.

4 September 2011 Last updated at 22:39 BST

Find this story at 4 September 2011

Copyright © 2015 BBC

Libya: Gaddafi regime’s US-UK spy links revealed (2011)

US and UK spy agencies built close ties with their Libyan counterparts during the so-called War on Terror, according to documents discovered at the office of Col Gaddafi’s former spy chief.
The papers suggest the CIA abducted several suspected militants from 2002 to 2004 and handed them to Tripoli.
The UK’s MI6 also apparently gave the Gaddafi regime details of dissidents.
The documents, found by Human Rights Watch workers, have not been seen by the BBC or independently verified.
Meanwhile, the head of Libya’s interim governing body, the National Transitional Council, said its soldiers were laying siege to towns still held by Col Gaddafi’s forces.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Sirte, Bani Walid, Jufra and Sabha were being given humanitarian aid, but had one week to surrender.
The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Benghazi says there have been unconfirmed reports that Bani Walid has now been taken by anti-Gaddafi forces.
But witnesses on the edge of Bani Walid say the opposition fighters are still on the outskirts although our correspondent adds that it appears as if Gaddafi loyalists have abandoned many of their outlying positions.
‘Protecting Americans’
Thousands of pieces of correspondence from US and UK officials were uncovered by reporters and activists in an office apparently used by Moussa Koussa, who served for years as Col Gaddafi’s spy chief before becoming foreign minister.
Prime Minister Tony Blair embraces Colonel Muammar Gaddafi after a meeting on May 29, 2007 in Sirte, Libya

He defected in the early part of the rebellion, flying to the UK and then on to Qatar.
Rights groups have long accused him of involvement in atrocities, and had called on the UK to arrest him at the time.
The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Tripoli says the documents illuminate a short period when the Libyan intelligence agency was a trusted and valued ally of both MI6 and the CIA, with the tone of exchanges between agents breezy and bordering on the chummy.
Human Rights Watch accused the CIA of condoning torture.
“It wasn’t just abducting suspected Islamic militants and handing them over to the Libyan intelligence. The CIA also sent the questions they wanted Libyan intelligence to ask and, from the files, it’s very clear they were present in some of the interrogations themselves,” said Peter Bouckaert of HRW.
The papers outline the rendition of several suspects, including one that Human Rights Watch has identified as Abdel Hakim Belhaj, known in the documents as Abdullah al-Sadiq, who is now the military commander of the anti-Gaddafi forces in Tripoli.
Alleged CIA letter

Text of letter
Dear Musa
I am glad to propose that our services take an additional step in cooperation with the establishment of a permanent CIA presence in Libya. We have talked about this move for quite some time and Libya’s cooperation on WMD and other issues, as well as our recent intelligence cooperation, mean that now is the right moment to move ahead. I am prepared to send [XXX] to Libya to introduce two of my officers to you and your service, arriving in Tripoli on 20 March. These two officers, both of whom are experienced and can speak Arabic, will initially staff our station in Libya. [XXX] will communicate the details via fax. I will call to confirm this with you.
We are also eager to work with you in the questioning of the terrorist we recently rendered to your country. I would like to send to Libya an additional two officers and I would appreciate if they could have direct access to question this individual. Should you agree I would like to send these two officers to Libya on 25 March. Again [XXX] will communicate the details to you.
Steve
The Americans snatched him in South East Asia before flying him to Tripoli in 2004, the documents claim.
Mr Belhaj, who was involved in an Islamist group attempting to overthrow Col Gaddafi in the early 2000s, had told the Associated Press news agency earlier this week that he had been rendered by the Americans, but held no grudge.
The CIA would not comment on the specifics of the allegations.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said: “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”
The documents also reveal details about the UK’s relationship with the Gaddafi regime.
One memo, dated 18 March 2004 and with the address “London SE1”, congratulates Libya on the arrival of Mr Belhaj.
It states “for the urgent personal attention of Musa Kusa” and is headed “following message to Musa in Tripoli from Mark in London”, according to the Financial Times. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.
The UK intelligence agency apparently helped to write a speech for Col Gaddafi in 2004, when the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair was encouraging the colonel to give up his weapons programme.
And British officials also insisted that Mr Blair’s famous 2004 meeting with Col Gaddafi should be in his Bedouin tent, according to the UK’s Independent newspaper, whose journalists also discovered the documents.
“[The prime minister’s office is] keen that the prime minister meet the leader in his tent,” the paper quotes a memo from an MI6 agent as saying.
“I don’t know why the English are fascinated by tents. The plain fact is the journalists would love it.”
In another memo, also seen by the Independent, UK intelligence appeared to give Tripoli details of a Libyan dissident who had been freed from jail in Britain.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague played down the revelations, telling Sky News that they “relate to a period under the previous government so I have no knowledge of those, of what was happening behind the scenes at that time”.
Mr Blair and US President George W Bush lobbied hard to bring Col Gaddafi out of international isolation in the years after the 9/11 attacks, as Libya moved to normalise relations with former enemies in the West.
Bani Walid
In a press conference in Benghazi, Mr Jalil said four Gaddafi-held towns had one week to surrender “to avoid further bloodshed”.
Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
Media caption
UN envoy Ian Martin on measuring the “expectations” of Libya
But our correspondent, Jon Leyne, says there are reports Bani Walid has now fallen without a fight, with Gaddafi loyalists either melting away or regrouping further south. However, these reports have not been confirmed.
One anti-Gaddafi commander, Abdulrazzak Naduri, had earlier told AFP that Bani Walid had until just 08:00 on Sunday or face military action.
Col Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unconfirmed. It was believed that two sons, Saadi and Saif al-Islam, had been in Bani Walid recently.
The NTC is stepping up its efforts at reconstruction, setting up a supreme security council to protect Tripoli.
Ian Martin, a special adviser to the UN secretary general, arrived in Libya’s capital on Saturday to try to boost international efforts in the country’s redevelopment.
The NTC has also said its leadership will not now move from Benghazi to Tripoli until next week, with Mr Jalil the last to go.
Our correspondent says this could mean a delay in the opposition formally assuming the role of the new government and raise fears of a power vacuum in the capital.

4 September 2011

Find this story at 4 September 2011

Copyright © 2015 BBC.

Files Note Close C.I.A. Ties to Qaddafi Spy Unit (2011)

TRIPOLI, Libya — Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.

Although it has been known that Western intelligence services began cooperating with Libya after it abandoned its program to build unconventional weapons in 2004, the files left behind as Tripoli fell to rebels show that the cooperation was much more extensive than generally known with both the C.I.A. and its British equivalent, MI-6.

Some documents indicate that the British agency was even willing to trace phone numbers for the Libyans, and another appears to be a proposed speech written by the Americans for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi about renouncing unconventional weapons.

The documents were discovered Friday by journalists and Human Rights Watch. There were at least three binders of English-language documents, one marked C.I.A. and the other two marked MI-6, among a larger stash of documents in Arabic.

It was impossible to verify their authenticity, and none of them were written on letterhead. But the binders included some documents that made specific reference to the C.I.A., and their details seem consistent with what is known about the transfer of terrorism suspects abroad for interrogation and with other agency practices.

And although the scope of prisoner transfers to Libya has not been made public, news media reports have sometimes mentioned it as one country that the United States used as part of its much criticized rendition program for terrorism suspects.

A C.I.A. spokeswoman, Jennifer Youngblood, declined to comment on Friday on the documents. But she added: “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”

The British Foreign Office said, “It is the longstanding policy of the government not to comment on intelligence matters.”

While most of the renditions referred to in the documents appear to have been C.I.A. operations, at least one was claimed to have been carried out by MI-6.

“The rendition program was all about handing over these significant figures related to Al Qaeda so they could torture them and get the information they wanted,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, who studied the documents in the intelligence headquarters in downtown Tripoli.

The documents cover 2002 to 2007, with many of them concentrated in late 2003 and 2004, when Moussa Koussa was head of the External Security Organization. (Mr. Koussa was most recently Libya’s foreign minister.)

The speech that appears to have been drafted for Colonel Qaddafi was found in the C.I.A. folder and appears to have been sent just before Christmas in 2003. The one-page speech seems intended to depict the Libyan dictator in a positive light. It concluded, using the revolutionary name for the Libyan government: “At a time when the world is celebrating the birth of Jesus, and as a token of our contributions towards a world full of peace, security, stability and compassion, the Great Jamhariya presents its honest call for a W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East,” referring to weapons of mass destruction.

The flurry of communications about renditions are dated after Libya’s renouncement of its weapons program. In several of the cases, the documents explicitly talked about having a friendly country arrest a suspect, and then suggested aircraft would be sent to pick the suspect up and deliver him to the Libyans for questioning. One document included a list of 89 questions for the Libyans to ask a suspect.

While some of the documents warned Libyan authorities to respect such detainees’ human rights, the C.I.A. nonetheless turned them over for interrogation to a Libyan service with a well-known history of brutality.

One document in the C.I.A. binder said operatives were “in a position to deliver Shaykh Musa to your physical custody, similar to what we have done with other senior L.I.F.G. members in the recent past.” The reference was to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was dedicated to the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, and which American officials believed had ties to Al Qaeda.

When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the group, a case officer wrote back on March 4, 2004, that “we are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services,” and promised to do their best to locate him, according to a document in the C.I.A. binder.

Two days later, an officer faxed the Libyans to say that Mr. Sadiq and his pregnant wife were planning to fly into Malaysia, and the authorities there agreed to put them on a British Airways flight to London that would stop in Bangkok. “We are planning to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” the case officer wrote.

Mr. Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said he had learned from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader for the rebels.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Belhaj gave a detailed description of his incarceration that matched many of those in the documents. He also said that when he was held in Bangkok he was tortured by two people from the C.I.A.

On one occasion, the Libyans tried to send their own plane to extradite a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Abu Munthir, and his wife and children, who were being held in Hong Kong because of passport irregularities.

The Libyan aircraft, however, was turned back, apparently because Hong Kong authorities were reluctant to let Libyan planes land. In a document labeled “Secret/ U.S. Only/ Except Libya,” the Libyans were advised to charter an aircraft from a third country. “If payment of a charter aircraft is an issue, our service would be willing to assist financially,” the document said.

While questioning alleged terror group members plainly had value to Western intelligence, the cooperation went beyond that. In one case, for example, the Libyans asked operatives to trace a phone number for them, and a document that was in the MI-6 binder replied that it belonged to the Arab News Network in London. It is unclear why the Libyans sought who the phone number belonged to.

The document also suggested signs of agency rivalries over Libya. In the MI-6 binder, a document boasted of having turned over someone named Abu Abd Alla to the Libyans. “This was the least we could do for you to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years,” an unsigned fax in 2004 said. “Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu Abd through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing.”

By ROD NORDLANDSEPT. 2, 2011

Find this story at 2 September 2011

© 2015 The New York Times Company HomeSearch

Documents show ties between Libyan spy head, CIA (2011)

Associated Press= TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies worked closely with the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi, sharing tips and cooperating in handing over terror suspects for interrogation to a regime known to use torture, according to a trove of security documents discovered after the fall of Tripoli.

The revelations provide new details on the West’s efforts to turn Libya’s mercurial leader from foe to ally and provide an embarrassing example of the U.S. administration’s collaboration with authoritarian regimes in the war on terror.

The documents, among tens of thousands found in an External Security building in Tripoli, show an increasingly warm relationship, with CIA agents proposing to set up a permanent Tripoli office, addressing their Libyan counterparts by their first names and giving them advice. In one memo, a British agent even sends Christmas greetings.

The agencies were known to cooperate as the longtime Libyan ruler worked to overcome his pariah status by stopping his quest for weapons of mass destruction and renouncing support for terrorism. But the new details show a more extensive relationship than was previously known, with Western agencies offering lists of questions for specific detainees and apparently the text for a Gadhafi speech.

They also offer a glimpse into the inner workings of the now-defunct CIA program of extraordinary rendition, through which terror suspects were secretly detained, sent to third countries and sometimes underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation tactics like waterboarding.

The documents mention a half dozen names of people targeted for rendition, including Tripoli’s new rebel military commander, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, which helped find the documents, called the ties between Washington and Gadhafi’s regime “A very dark chapter in American intelligence history.”

“It remains a stain on the record of the American intelligence services that they cooperated with these very abusive intelligence services,” he said Saturday.

The findings could cloud relations between the West and Libya’s new leaders, although Belhaj said he holds no grudge. NATO airstrikes have helped the rebels advance throughout the six-month civil war and continue to target regime forces as rebels hunt for Gadhafi.

Belhaj is the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a now-dissolved militant organization that sought to assassinate Gadhafi.

Belhaj says CIA agents tortured him in a secret prison in Thailand before he was returned to Libya and locked in the notorious Abu Salim prison. He insists he was never a terrorist and believes his arrest was in reaction to what he called the “tragic events of 9/11.”

Two documents from March 2004 show American and Libyan officials arranging Belhaj’s rendition.

Referring to him by his nom de guerre, Abdullah al-Sadiq, the documents said he and his pregnant wife were due to travel to Thailand, where they would be detained.

“We are planning to arrange to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” they tell the Libyans. The memo also requested that Libya, a country known for decades for torture and ill-treatment of prisoners: “Please be advised that we must be assured that al-Sadiq will be treated humanely and that his human rights will be respected.”

The documents coincide with efforts by the Gadhafi regime over the last decade to emerge from international isolation, even agreeing to pay compensation to relatives of each of the 270 victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The documents show the CIA and MI6 advising the regime on how to work to rescind its designation as a state sponsor of terror — a move the Bush administration made in 2006. Both agencies received intelligence benefits in return.

The validity of the documents, not written on official letterhead, could not be independently verified, but their content seems consistent with what has been previously reported about intelligence activities during the period.

Later correspondence deals with technical visits to Libya to track the regime’s progress in dismantling its weapons programs.

In one undated memo, the CIA proposes establishing a permanent presence in Libya.

“I propose that our services take an additional step in cooperation with the establishment of a permanent CIA presence in Libya,” it says. It is signed by hand “Steve.”

Another memo is a follow-up query to an apparent Libyan warning of terror plots against American interests abroad.

One document is a draft statement for Gadhafi about his country’s decision to give up weapons of mass destruction.

“Our belief is that an arms race does not serve the security of Libya or the security of the region and contradicts Libya’s great keenness for world peace and security,” it suggests as wording.

But much of the correspondence deals with arrangements to render terror suspects to Libya from South Africa, Hong Kong and elsewhere. One CIA memo from April 2004 tells Libyan authorities that the agency can deliver a suspect known as “Shaykh Musa.”

“We respectfully request an expression of interest from your service regarding taking custody of Musa,” the memo says.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood declined to comment Saturday on specific allegations related to the documents.

“It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats,” Youngblood said. “That is exactly what we are expected to do.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also declined to comment on intelligence matters.

In Tripoli, Anes Sherif, an aide to Belhaj, said the documents provided little new information: “We have known for a long time that (the British and U.S. governments) had very close relations with Gadhafi’s regime.”

Amid the shared intelligence and names of terror suspects are traces of personal relationships.

In one letter from Dec. 24, 2003, a British official thanks Gadhafi’s spy chief Moussa Koussa — who later became foreign minister and defected early in the uprising — for a “very large quantity of dates and oranges” and encourages him to continue with reforms.

“Your achievement realizing the Leader’s initiative has been enormous and of huge importance,” the British official says. “At this time sacred to peace, I offer you my admiration and every congratulation.

AP foreign, Saturday September 3 2011
BEN HUBBARD

Find this story at 3 September 2011

© 2015 Guardian News

Islamist terror threat to west blown out of proportion – former MI6 chief

Richard Dearlove says extremists are now focused on Middle East and giving them publicity in west is counter-productive
Richard Norton-Taylor

The government and media have blown the Islamist terrorism threat out of proportion, giving extremists publicity that is counter-productive, a former head of Britain’s intelligence service has said.

Sir Richard Dearlove, chief of MI6 at the time of the Iraq invasion, said that Britons spreading “blood-curdling” messages on the internet should be ignored. He told an audience in London on Monday there had been a fundamental change in the nature of Islamist extremism since the Arab spring. It had created a major political problem in the Middle East but the west, including Britain, was only “marginally affected”.

Unlike the threat posed by al-Qaida before and in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks 13 years ago, the west was not the main target of the radical fundamentalism that created Isis, (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), Dearlove said.

Addressing the Royal United Services Institute, the London-based security and defence thinktank, he said the conflict was “essentially one of Muslim on Muslim”.

He made it clear he believed the way the British government and the media were giving the extremists the “oxygen of publicity” was counter-productive. The media were making monsters of “misguided young men, rather pathetic figures” who were getting coverage “more than their wildest dreams”, said Dearlove, adding: “It is surely better to ignore them.”

The former MI6 chief, now master of Pembroke College, Cambridge University, was speaking to a prepared text hours after the ITV programme Good Morning Britain broadcast an interview with a Briton who had appeared in an Isis video saying he was recruited through the internet and was prepared to die for his cause.

Abdul Raqib Amin, who was brought up in Aberdeen, appeared in an online video last month with two men from Cardiff urging western Muslims to join the fighting with Isis. He told Good Morning Britain: “I left the UK to fight for the sake of Allah, to give everything I have for the sake of Allah. One of the happiest moments in my life was when the plane took off from Gatwick airport. I was so happy, as a Muslim you cannot live in the country of kuffars [non-believers].”

Amin added: “I left the house with the intention not to go back, I’m going to stay and fight until the khilafah [rule of Islam] is established or I die.”

Dearlove said he was concerned about the influence of the media on the government’s security policy. It was time to take what he called a “more proportionate approach to terrorism”.

MI5, MI6, and GCHQ devoted a greater share of their resources to countering Islamist fundamentalism than they did to the Soviet Union during the cold war, or to Irish terrorism that had cost the lives of more UK citizens and British soldiers than al-Qaida had done, Dearlove noted.

A massive reaction after the 9/11 attacks was inevitable, he said, but it was not inevitable the 2001 attacks would continue to “dominate our way of thinking about national security”. There had been a “fundamental change” in the nature of the threat posed by Islamist extremists. Al-Qaida had largely failed to mount the kind of attacks in the US and UK it had threatened after 9/11.

It was time, he said to move away from the “distortion” of the post-9/11 mindset, make “realistic risk assessments” and think rationally about the causes of the crisis in the Middle East.

The al-Qaida franchises that had emerged since had largely “fallen back” on other Muslim countries, Dearlove said. What was happening now was a long-awaited war between Sunni and Shia Muslims that would have only a ripple effect on Britain, he suggested.

Pointing the finger at Sunni Saudi Arabia, Dearlove said the Isis surge in Iraq had to be the consequence of “sustained funding”.

He made it clear he believed more attention should be paid to security threats from Europe and China, which he warned was heading inexorably into the paradox of a “strong government but weak state”.

The Guardian, Monday 7 July 2014 15.37 BST

Find this story ay 7 July 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Former MI6 counter-terrorism chief warns against rush to overhaul UK laws

Exclusive: Don’t alter laws in response to ‘unproven threat’ from homegrown militants in Syria and Iraq, says Richard Barrett

Britain should resist a rush to overhaul its fundamental legal principles in the face of an “unproven threat” from homegrown militants fighting in Syria and Iraq, the former global counter-terrorism director of MI6 has said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Richard Barrett criticised government plans for new laws to tackle British extremists and warned against Boris Johnson’s suggestion that Britons who travel to Iraq or Syria should be presumed guilty of involvement in terrorism unless they can prove their innocence.

“This fundamental tenet of British justice should not be changed even in a minor way for this unproven threat – and it is an unproven threat at the moment,” Barrett said.

In a newspaper column described as “draconian” by the former attorney general, Johnson called for British jihadists to lose their citizenship, proposed the return of control orders and urged David Cameron to intervene against Islamic State (Isis) militarily.

The London mayor wrote that Isis, whom he described as “wackos”, now controls an area the size of Britain and that the government had to be far more effective at preventing Britons from travelling to Syria or Iraq to join them. “The law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a ‘rebuttable presumption’ that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose,” he wrote.

But Barrett, formerly a counter-terrorism chief at both MI5 and MI6, said the government needed to better understand the domestic threat posed by Isis before introducing new laws. “I don’t think we should change the laws without a very much more thorough assessment and understanding of the threat,” he said.

“Sure, there’s a problem with people who go to Syria and they may have broken the law if they joined organisations like Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, but there should be some sort of effort to prove that, rather than assume they’ve done so.”

The home secretary, Theresa May, said last week that banning orders for extremist groups would be considered again – even if they “fall short of the legal threshold for terrorist proscription” – alongside powers to stop radical preachers. However, Barrett said tighter rules could curb the free speech of groups whose sermons do not “obviously and directly incite to violence”. He said: “The banning of groups that fall short of violent extremism but appear to promote it should follow a clearer analysis of what makes people leave the UK to join a group like the self-described Islamic State. Maybe it will, but if so, I have not seen the analysis and wonder on what it will be based.”

Dominic Grieve, the Conservative former attorney general, also suggested it was unwise to propose major changes to the law on the basis of a single horrific incident such as the killing of the American journalist James Foley.

Grieve dismissed Johnson’s proposal as “draconian” because it would throw out the ordinary principles of common law and potentially lead to the prosecution of people who legitimately travelled to war-torn Middle East states.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “Boris Johnson is suggesting that effectively there should be rebuttable presumption, so that the moment it was established by a prosecutor that you had gone to a country like Syria the burden would be on you to show that you were acting innocently.”

The former minister also dismissed the call from Johnson and Conservative backbencher David Davis for British jihadists to be stripped of their citizenship even if they were born in the UK and hold no alternative citizenship. Under current rules the Home Office can only do this to naturalised Britons, or those with dual citizenship. The proposal was “entirely contrary to a United Nations convention of which we are signatories”, Grieve said. “If we are about to rip up a UN convention, we need to think through the consequences.”

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, added his concerns to calls for new laws, describing the tougher control orders introduced by the Labour government as “fundamentally flawed” and stressing that Britain already has a number of measures to tackle potential terrorists. “I sometimes wish it was as simple as Boris Johnson implies: all we need to do is pass a law and everything will be well,” he said during a visit to India.

Johnson has a track record of using his Daily Telegraph platform to float alternatives to government policy and No 10 sources were phlegmatic about his intervention, pointing out that the prime minister and Home Office had already set out what the government is doing to counter the Isis threat internationally and domestically in lengthy newspaper articles this summer.

But the fact that figures such as Johnson and Davis are so keen to float alternative measures, even ones that are legally questionable, indicates that Cameron and May are failing to persuade colleagues that they are doing everything necessary.

The net appeared to be closing on the British man dubbed “Jihadi John” at the weekend when the British ambassador to the US, Sir Peter Westmacott, said voice recognition technology had been used to pin down the identity of the man.

But the MI5-led investigation has not so far deterred other British militants from boasting about their actions in Syria. Nasser Muthana, 20, a former medical student from Cardiff, on Monday bragged on Twitter about forcing members of the Yazidi community to convert to Islam and undergo a form of spiritual healing – days after claiming there were “hundreds of Yazidi slave women” in Syria.

Muthana tweeted: “Converting Yezidis even the jins of them lol, alhamdulillah ruqyah today Yezidi jin accepted islam and knows conditions of la ilaha ilallah”.

Earlier on Sunday, the British jihadist took to Twitter to tell a US TV network it should be “working to save stevie boy” – the second hostage held in the Isis video of James Foley’s murder – instead of trying to identify Foley’s killer.

Muthana, who appeared in a widely circulated recruitment video for Isis, travelled to Syria with his brother, Aseel, 17. Previously, he has boasted about acquiring bomb-making skills and posted pictures apparently showing the charred remains of Syrian army soldiers.

In recent days, the Cardiff-born militant has bragged about the number of Yazidi captives, tweeting: “We have hundreds of Yazidi slave women now in Syria, how about that for news!” Responding to a tide of online criticism about his slave comments, Muthana wrote: “When I spoke about slave everyone jumped on me muslims and non muslims alike … so I stayed quiet and will stay quiet but everyone will soon find out when I get my own concubines lool, slave markets are on full blast.”

The Muthana brothers, who grew up in Cardiff after their father moved there from Yemen as a teenager, are among an estimated 500 young men from Britain who have flown to Syria to join the rebels.

One of Muthana’s associates, using the name Abu Dhar Alhumajir, wrote in another message: “The price of one slave girl is about $1,500-2,000. I think female captives/slaves would entice a lot of people.”

On Sunday, Alhumajir – thought to be a Briton of Somali origin – tried to recruit two other Twitter users to fight alongside Isis in Syria. He told one Twitter user that women were joining militants every day, “the problem is you not trying hard enough full stop”. He added: “U should feel ashamed that sister are making hijra while u complain about how hard it is”.

Josh Halliday and Andrew Sparrow
The Guardian, Monday 25 August 2014 21.42 BST

Find this story at 25 August 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.

MI6, the CIA and Turkey’s rogue game in Syria

World View: New claims say Ankara worked with the US and Britain to smuggle Gaddafi’s guns to rebel groups

The US’s Secretary of State John Kerry and its UN ambassador, Samantha Power have been pushing for more assistance to be given to the Syrian rebels. This is despite strong evidence that the Syrian armed opposition are, more than ever, dominated by jihadi fighters similar in their beliefs and methods to al-Qa’ida. The recent attack by rebel forces around Latakia, northern Syria, which initially had a measure of success, was led by Chechen and Moroccan jihadis.
America has done its best to keep secret its role in supplying the Syrian armed opposition, operating through proxies and front companies. It is this which makes Seymour Hersh’s article “The Red Line and The Rat Line: Obama, Erdogan and the Syrian rebels” published last week in the London Review of Books, so interesting.

Attention has focussed on whether the Syrian jihadi group, Jabhat al-Nusra, aided by Turkish intelligence, could have been behind the sarin gas attacks in Damascus last 21 August, in an attempt to provoke the US into full-scale military intervention to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. “We now know it was a covert action planned by [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s people to push Obama over the red line,” a former senior US intelligence officer is quoted as saying.

Critics vehemently respond that all the evidence points to the Syrian government launching the chemical attack and that even with Turkish assistance, Jabhat al-Nusra did not have the capacity to use sarin.

A second and little-regarded theme of Hersh’s article is what the CIA called the rat line, the supply chain for the Syrian rebels overseen by the US in covert cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The information about this comes from a highly classified and hitherto secret annex to the report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the attack by Libyan militiamen on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September 2012 in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed. The annex deals with an operation in which the CIA, in cooperation with MI6, arranged the dispatch of arms from Mu’ammer Gaddafi’s arsenals to Turkey and then across the 500-mile long Turkish southern frontier with Syria. The annex refers to an agreement reached in early 2012 between Obama and Erdogan with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplying funding. Front companies, purporting to be Australian, were set up, employing former US soldiers who were in charge of obtaining and transporting the weapons. According to Hersh, the MI6 presence enabled the CIA to avoid reporting the operation to Congress, as required by law, since it could be presented as a liaison mission.

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The US involvement in the rat line ended unhappily when its consulate was stormed by Libyan militiamen. The US diplomatic presence in Benghazi had been dwarfed by that of the CIA and, when US personnel were airlifted out of the city in the aftermath of the attack, only seven were reportedly from the State Department and 23 were CIA officers. The disaster in Benghazi, which soon ballooned into a political battle between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, severely loosened US control of what arms were going to which rebel movements in Syria.

This happened at the moment when Assad’s forces were starting to gain the upper hand and al-Qa’ida-type groups were becoming the cutting edge of the rebel military.

The failure of the rebels to win in 2012 left their foreign backers with a problem. At the time of the fall of Gaddafi they had all become over-confident, demanding the removal of Assad when he still held all Syria’s 14 provincial capitals. “They were too far up the tree to get down,” according to one observer. To accept anything other than the departure of Assad would have looked like a humiliating defeat.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar went on supplying money while Sunni states turned a blind eye to the recruitment of jihadis and to preachers stirring up sectarian hatred against the Shia. But for Turkey the situation was worse. Efforts to project its power were faltering and all its chosen proxies – from Egypt to Iraq – were in trouble. It was evident that al-Qa’ida-type fighters, including Jahat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and Ahrar al-Sham were highly dependent on Turkish border crossings for supplies, recruits and the ability to reach safety. The heaviest intra-rebel battles were for control of these crossings. Turkey’s military intelligence, MIT, and the paramilitary Gendarmerie played a growing role in directing and training jihadis and Jabhat al-Nusra in particular.

The Hersh article alleges that the MIT went further and instructed Jabhat al-Nusra on how to stage a sarin gas attack in Damascus that would cross Obama’s red line and lead to the US launching an all-out air attack. Vehement arguments rage over whether this happened. That a senior US intelligence officer is quoted by America’s leading investigative journalist as believing that it did, is already damaging Turkey.

Part of the US intelligence community is deeply suspicious of Erdogan’s actions in Syria. It may also be starting to strike home in the US and Europe that aid to the armed rebellion in Syria means destabilising Iraq. When Isis brings suicide bombers from across the Turkish border into Syria it can as easily direct them to Baghdad as Aleppo.

The Pentagon is much more cautious than the State Department about the risks of putting greater military pressure on Assad, seeing it as the first step in a military entanglement along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel are the main opponents of a greater US military role. Both sides in the US have agreed to a programme under which 600 Syrian rebels would be trained every month and jihadis would be weeded out. A problem here is that the secular moderate faction of committed Syrian opposition fighters does not really exist. As always, there is a dispute over what weapons should be supplied, with the rebels, Saudis and Qataris insisting that portable anti-aircraft missiles would make all the difference. This is largely fantasy, the main problem being that the rebel military forces are fragmented into hundreds of war bands.

It is curious that the US military has been so much quicker to learn the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya than civilians like Kerry and Power. The killing of Ambassador Stevens shows what happens when the US gets even peripherally involved in a violent, messy crisis like Syria where it does not control many of the players or much of the field.

Meanwhile, a telling argument against Turkey having orchestrated the sarin gas attacks in Damascus is that to do so would have required a level of competence out of keeping with its shambolic interventions in Syria over the past three years.

PATRICK COCKBURN
Sunday 13 April 2014

Find this story at 13 April 2014

© independent.co.uk

British spies ‘knew of detainee abuse’

Aborted inquiry found that British spies knew detainees were abused, deprived of sleep and made to wear hoods.

The Obama Administration has repeatedly said it wishes to close the Guantanamo detention facility [AP]

British spies knew about detainee abuse but were told they did not have to intervene because they might damage relations with the US, a senior British judge has found.

The report, from Peter Gibson, comes from an inquiry intended to examine whether Britain was implicated in the mistreatment of detainees following the 9/11 attacks.

But it was scrapped earlier this year after Libya alleged that Britain was complicit in “rendition” – capturing people suspected of terrorism and transferring them to third countries without legal process.

Gibson found evidence that British spies had been aware of physical assault, sleep deprivation and the use of hoods.

“Officers were advised that, faced with apparent breaches of Geneva Convention standards, there was no obligation to
intervene,” he said in the report.

Britain had been reluctant to complain about the ill-treatment of detainees for fear of damaging relations with allies, including the US, the report said.

Allegations of torture

In some cases, British officials failed to raise objections about renditions when they should have, while ministers were unaware of the operations.
Britain’s MI6 linked to Libya torture scandal

After reviewing 20,000 documents, Gibson said he had found 27 issues that needed further investigation, including allegations of torture.

“Documents indicate that in some instances UK intelligence officers were aware of inappropriate interrogation techniques,” the report said.

“(The) government or its agencies may have become inappropriately involved in some cases of rendition.”

In response the British government said on Thursday that a parliamentary committee would take over from Gibson’s role and look at Gibson’s outstanding concerns.

Cabinet minister Ken Clarke said the inquiry’s findings showed Britain’s spy agencies had struggled to come to terms with the threat from armed groups after the 9/11 attacks.

Unprepared and inadequate

“It is now clear that our agencies and their staff were in some respects not prepared for the extreme demands suddenly
placed upon them,” Clarke told parliament.

“Guidance regulating how intelligence officers should act was inadequate, the practices of some of our international partners should have been understood much sooner. Oversight was not robust enough.”

The heads of MI5 and MI6, Britain’s domestic and overseas intelligence agencies, have repeatedly said they would never use, or encourage others to use, torture to gain information.

In November 2010, however, Britain agreed to make payments to 16 former Guantanamo Bay detainees in settlements over claims they were mistreated abroad with the knowledge and in some cases complicity of British spies.

Last updated: 19 Dec 2013 20:22
Source:
AP

Find this story at 19 December 2013

Copyright Aljazeera

Statement by the Detainee Inquiry on publication of its report on 19 December 2013

Today the Government has published a report submitted to the Prime Minister by Sir Peter Gibson and Dame Janet Paraskeva, the Panel of the Detainee Inquiry, on the Inquiry’s work.

The Inquiry’s Report speaks for itself. It is a rigorous, thorough and independent piece of work. It reveals more information than ever before about the workings of Government and the Agencies, on the issues highlighted in the report.

Sir Peter said:

“There are matters which deserve further investigation. That is what the documents have disclosed and we explain why in our report.”

Dame Janet said:

“We have worked hard to put as much as possible into the public domain. I do hope the Government will decide to build on our work in a future Inquiry and give the detainees a chance to have their say.”

The library of documents, the analysis of information and preliminary identification of potential witnesses the Inquiry carried out, will save any subsequent Inquiry a huge amount of time and resource.

The report does not find facts or reach conclusions. It is based on the scrutiny of documents, no witness has yet had the opportunity to explain or add to this information. But the Inquiry has shone a bright light onto issues which might be investigated further by a future Inquiry or on which the Government can take action now.

The Inquiry covered four separate themes: interrogation and treatment issues, rendition, training and guidance as well as policy and communications. Its work revealed 27 separate issues the Inquiry would like to have investigated further and which might be followed up by a future Inquiry.

In summary the report says:

Interrogation and Treatment issues:
Documents indicate that in some instances UK intelligence officers were aware of inappropriate interrogation techniques and mistreatment or allegations of mistreatment of some detainees by liaison partners from other countries.

Rendition
Documents indicate that Government or its Agencies may have become inappropriately involved in some cases of rendition.

Training and Guidance
No reason to doubt that instruction to personnel was that detainees must be treated humanely and consistently with UK’s international legal obligations. But officers on the ground needed clear guidance on when and with whom to raise concerns.

Policy and Communications
Documents raise the question whether the Agencies could have identified possible patterns of detainee mistreatment more quickly and whether or not sufficient information was given to the ISC to enable it to perform its duties.

Notes for editors:

The Inquiry’s original task was set out by the Prime Minister when he announced its establishment on 6 July 2010, to: “….look at whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees, held by other countries, that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11”

On 18 January 2012, the then Justice Secretary, told the House: “….. following consultations with Sir Peter Gibson, the chair of the Inquiry we have decided to bring the work of his Inquiry to a conclusion. We have agreed with Sir Peter that the Inquiry should provide Government with a report on its preparatory work to date, highlighting particular themes or issues which might be the subject of further examination. The Government are clear that as much of this report as possible will be made public.”

As the Justice Secretary made clear in his statement to the House, the CPS’ announcement of new criminal investigations to be carried out by the Metropolitan Police meant that the Inquiry start its mandate as originally envisaged.

The Inquiry examined some 20,000 documents and as a result has raised a number of robust questions for a future Inquiry to investigate further and a number of areas where the Government can act now. The vast majority of the documents the Inquiry examined were highly classified.

For more information including the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, Protocol, biographies of Sir Peter Gibson and Dame Janet Paraskeva, and a link to the report please visit: www.detaineeinquiry.org.uk

Find this story at 19 December 2013

Find the report at

© UK Crown Copyright 2013

MI6 officers told to ignore Geneva convention breaches, Gibson report finds

British intelligence officers were told to ignore evidence of breaches of the Geneva convention when detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan were being interrogated in 2002, a report by the aborted inquiry into alleged British complicity in torture has found.
The inquiry was axed earlier this year after fresh criminal investigations were launched into allegations involving Libyan victims Photo: EPA

British intelligence officers were told to ignore evidence of breaches of the Geneva convention when detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan were being interrogated in 2002, a report by the aborted inquiry into alleged British complicity in torture has found.

The orders from MI6’s head quarters to intelligence officers came as Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, was telling MPs that anyone who is captured “should be treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Convention”.

The report published by Sir Peter Gibson disclosed that in 2002 spies working for MI6 overseas were told to turn a “blind eye” to any evidence they witnessed of breaches of the Convention, which sets out how prisoners should be treated.

Documents uncovered by the inquiry showed that “officers were advised that, faced with apparent breaches of Geneva Convention standards, there was no obligation to intervene”, the report said.

“Officers were also advised that such conduct should only be raised with the detaining authority ‘if circumstances allow’. Officers were not advised to cease any interview immediately if they felt that the detainee was not being treated in accordance with the appropriate standards.”
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Mr Blair had told MPs on January 16, 2002 : “I totally agree that anybody who is captured by American troops, British troops or anyone else should be treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Convention and proper international norms.”

Yet two days later, Mr Blair wrote on the bottom of a Number 10 note about detainees in Guantanamo: “The key is to find out how they are being treated.

“Though I was initially sceptical about claims of torture, we must make clear to the US that any such action wd be totally unacceptable & v. quickly establish that it isn’t happening” [sic].

The partly-redacted report recommended 27 areas which should be examined further, adding that it “would also want to put on its recognition of the extreme harshness of the conditions and the treatment experienced by the detainees”.

One area it wanted to examine was whether “UK officers may have turned a blind eye to the use of specific, inappropriate techniques or threats used by others and used this to their advantage when resuming an interview session with a now compliant detainee”.

The inquiry was axed earlier this year after fresh criminal investigations were launched into allegations involving Libyan victims. The report also found that Britain “may have become inappropriately” involved in some cases of rendition of suspected terrorists.

The heads of both MI5 and MI6 have been asked to give their responses to MPs on the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is investigating the claims, by February.

Ken Clarke, the Cabinet Office minister in charge of the inquiry, said the report “finds no evidence in the documents to support any allegation that UK intelligence officers were directly responsible for the mistreatment of detainees held by other countries overseas”.

He added that it was important when considering the report to bear in mind it was a period “when we and our international partners were suddenly adapting to a completely new scale and type of threat from fundamentalist religious extremists.

Mr Clarke said: “It is now clear that our agencies and their staff were in some respects not prepared for the extreme demands suddenly placed on them.”

He said: “There is some damage to our reputation which prides itself as a beacon of justice, human rights and the rule of law. If failures and mistakes were made in this period that is a matter of sincere regret.”

Jack Straw, who was Labour foreign secretary at the time, flatly denied that he knowingly facilitated the torture of British citizens by US authorities, even though he authorised their transfer to Guantanamo Bay.

By Christopher Hope, Senior Political Correspondent
4:34PM GMT 19 Dec 2013

Find this story at 19 December 2013

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Sir Christopher Curwen -obituary; Sir Christopher Curwen was the MI6 Chief who oversaw one of his Service’s greatest coups — getting Oleg Gordievsky out of Moscow

Sir Christopher Curwen , who has died aged 84, was head of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, or MI6) from 1985 to 1988, and it was under his aegis that the Service brought off one of its most spectacular coups, the exfiltration from Moscow of the agent Oleg Gordievsky.

Successively code-named FELIKS and OVATION after being recruited by SIS in 1974, Gordievsky was its star source inside the KGB. He had provided valuable reports at a critical time in the Cold War, a period in which paranoia at the Kremlin had become so pronounced that Nato’s 1983 ABLE ARCHER exercise had been misinterpreted in Moscow as a possible cover for a surprise attack on the Soviet Bloc.

As well as producing enormous quantities of documents from the rezidentura (KGB station) in London, where he had been posted in June 1982 , Gordievsky had identified KGB personnel in the First Chief Directorate ’s British and Scandinavian department and had shed light on dozens of past cases.

While posted to Copenhagen, Gordievsky had alerted SIS to two of the KGB’s most important sources in Norway: Gunvar Haavik and Arne Treholt. Code-named GRETA, Haavik was a secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had been spying since she had conducted a love affair in 1947 with a Soviet while she was working at the Norwegian embassy in Moscow. Haavik had been arrested in January 1977 in the act of passing information to her KGB case officer in an Oslo suburb, and confessed to having been a spy for almost 30 years. Arne Treholt, also employed by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, was arrested in January 1984 in possession of 66 classified documents . He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment.

Gordievsky’s greatest triumph, however, was to prevent a potentially massive breach of security in MI5. This was the unmasking of Michael Bettaney, who since December 1982 had been working for the Soviet counter-espionage section, and had made three anonymous approaches to the KGB rezident (head of station) in London, Arkadi Gouk, offering to supply him with MI5 secrets. SIS’s tip from Gordievsky led to a discreet mole-hunt, swiftly conducted inside MI5 by Eliza Manningham-Buller, who identified the culprit without compromising the source of the original tip. In April 1984 Bettaney was sentenced to 23 years’ imprisonment .

With scalps such as these, Gordievsky was considered SIS’s most valuable source, and elaborate measures had been taken to protect him. He was, for example, given the front-door key to a flat, close to the Soviet embassy in London, to which he could disappear with his family should the need arise.

Curwen’s appointment as “C” (as the head of MI6 is known) coincided with just such a crisis. On Friday May 17 1985, having just been promised the job of rezident (head of station) in London , Gordievsky was suddenly summoned back to Moscow, supposedly for consultations.

On his arrival Gordievsky realised that his apartment had been searched; and when he reached FCD headquarters he was accused of being a spy. When he denied it, his interrogators used drugs in an unsuccessful attempt to extract a confession, and he concluded that, although the KGB had been tipped off to his dual role, there was insufficient evidence to justify an arrest. Although he remained under constant surveillance, in late July Gordievsky was able to shake off his watchers while jogging in a park and send an emergency signal to SIS requesting a rescue .

The “signal” was nothing more elaborate than Gordievsky’s appearing on a pre-arranged street corner, at a particular time, carrying a Harrods shopping bag — but it was enough to prompt Curwen to brief Margaret Thatcher’s Foreign Office private secretary, Charles Powell, who immediately flew to Scotland, where the Prime Minister was staying with the Queen at Balmoral. After consultation with the Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe, Mrs Thatcher approved a high-risk plan to get Gordievsky out of Moscow and into the West.

The ruse — originally conceived by John Scarlett, himself a future Chief of SIS — was for MI6’s Moscow station commander, Viscount Asquith, to play the “Good Samaritan” by driving a pregnant member of the embassy staff in his Saab for medical treatment in Helsinki; Gordievsky — having evaded his KGB watchers — joined the car at a rendezvous outside Leningrad and was driven over the frontier with Finland at Viborg. He was then driven to Trömso in Norway, and the next day flew from Oslo to London.

Gordievsky was briefly accommodated at a country house in the Midlands, where Curwen visited him, and then at Fort Monckton, Gosport, where he underwent an 80-day debriefing conducted by SIS’s principal Kremlinologist, Gordon Barrass. Among Gordievsky’s other visitors was the US Director of Central Intelligence, Bill Casey, who was flown down to the fort for a lunch hosted by Curwen, a celebration of one of SIS’s most impressive post-war coups.

Although Gordievsky’s safe exfiltration was a source of great pride for Curwen and his staff, there remained considerable concern about precisely how the agent had been compromised. One possibility was that, after so many setbacks, the KGB had worked out for itself that a mole had been at work within the organisation. Or had Gordievsky’s dual role somehow been leaked by a mole?

It was not until the CIA arrested the Soviet spy Aldrich Ames in February 1994 that an explanation was offered. Ames claimed to having identified Gordievsky to the Soviets as a source who had penetrated the KGB in Denmark and London — although there were doubts that he was telling the truth.

Gordievsky’s defection was nevertheless a devastating blow for the KGB, and the expulsion of the London rezidentura, ordered on the basis of his information, had a colossal impact on the organisation .

Resettled under a new identity near London, Gordievsky published his memoirs, Last Stop Execution, in 1994. As well as describing his role in compromising KGB spies in Norway and in Sweden, he revealed that the KGB rezidentura in London had cultivated several highly-placed trade union leaders (among them Richard Briginshaw and Ray Buckton), and that the Soviet embassy had been in touch with what he termed “confidential contacts” – influential individuals (including three Left-wing Labour MPs, Joan Lester, Jo Richardson and Joan Maynard) who could be relied upon to take the Kremlin’s lead on political controversies.

The constitutional implications of Gordievsky’s disclosures were considered sufficiently important for Curwen to brief the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robin Butler, who in turn called in Tony Blair, as leader of the Opposition, to explain the situation to him.

The son of a vicar, Christopher Keith Curwen was born on April 9 1929 and educated at Sherborne, where he was a friend of David Sheppard, later the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool. During National Service as a second-lieutenant with the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars in Malaya, Curwen was mentioned in dispatches for his gallantry in jungle warfare against communist guerrillas. An officer who served alongside him in Malaya said of Curwen: “There are some people you’d go into the jungle with and some you wouldn’t. I would be very happy to go back into the jungle with Chris… He was tough and fair. He was an excellent officer and his men liked him very much.”

Curwen went up to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he was a keen rower and occasional rugby player. He joined the Cambridge Union but seems to have shown little interest in politics. In the summer of 1951 he drove across the Sahara after visiting his elder brother, then working in the Colonial Service in Nigeria.

In July 1952 he joined SIS and two years later, in 1954, was posted to Thailand to work for Robert Hemblys-Scales, where he became fluent in Thai. In July 1956 he was moved to Vientiane, where he married his first wife, Vera Noom Tai, a physiotherapist who later worked at St Thomas’s Hospital.

Curwen returned to head office in Broadway in 1958, but by 1961 he was back in Bangkok, before spending two years in Kuala Lumpur. After another spell in London , in May 1968 he began a three-year appointment as SIS’s liaison officer in Washington, DC . A Washington colleague described him as “a very gentle chap. I can’t think of anyone more low-key than him.”

Other diplomats who worked alongside Curwen described him as hardworking and discreet. “[He] was very scrupulous,” one recalled. “He used to refer all his activities for approval to me and I give him full marks for that. Of course, there may have been some that he didn’t refer to me.”

In 1977 Curwen’s first marriage was dissolved, and in the same year he married his former secretary, Helen Stirling. He was posted to Geneva as head of station, and in May 1980 was back in London as “C”’s Deputy, succeeding Sir Colin Figures in July 1985 — just in time to be confronted by the Gordievsky crisis.

Mrs Thatcher had been less than impressed by MI6’s performance in the months leading up to the Argentine invasion of the Falklands in 1982. It is said that Curwen’s appointment as C was promoted by Sir Antony Duff, the director-general of MI5.

His selection as “C” was unusual in that “Far East Hands” are rarely appointed to the post, which more usually goes to a Kremlinologist or Middle East specialist. Curwen’s four-year tenure had the advantage of a burgeoning budget, after the Prime Minister insisted that more funds be made available for SIS after years of financial cuts.

Curwen was appointed CMG in 1982 and KCMG in 1986.

On his retirement in November 1988, Curwen succeeded Colin Figures as the Cabinet Intelligence Coordinator, helping the Prime Minister to manage administrative issues across the whole of the intelligence community. In 1991 he recommended in a review, undertaken on behalf of the Cabinet Office’s Joint Intelligence Committee, that MI5 should continue to lead the Metropolitan Police Special Branch in operations against the Provisional IRA.

He finally retired in 1991, when he took on a part-time role as a member of the Security Commission, a body which became redundant when the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee was created three years later .

Sir Christopher Curwen, who retired near Bath, listed his interests in Who’s Who as books, gardening and motoring.

He had five children: a son and two daughters with his first wife, and a son and a daughter with his second.

Sir Christopher Curwen, born April 9 1929, died December 18 2013

7:25PM GMT 23 Dec 2013

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Find this story at 23 December 2013

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