Truthdigger of the Week: Former British Ambassador and Whistleblower Craig Murray
Posted on Sep 10, 2016
By Emma Niles
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Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.
Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has dealt with his fair share of consequences due to his politics, but a recent hitch in his travel plans served to remind the whistleblower and activist that his political history may still be following him.
This week, Murray was denied entry into the United States via the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. The program is intended to enable “most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa.” Murray is set to chair the presentation of this year’s Sam Adams Award for integrity in intelligence, which takes place Sept. 25, to CIA-torture whistleblower John Kiriakou.
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Murray’s political history lends a crucial context to the controversy. In 2004, he was dismissed from his position as the British ambassador to Uzbekistan after undergoing a widely publicized disciplinary investigation for his comments on the country’s human rights failure. In 2002, Nick Cohen of The Guardian stated that one of Murray’s speeches “broke with all the established principles of Foreign Office diplomacy.” The Guardian later covered a second incident in which one of Murray’s speeches sparked controversy:
As weeks passed, the speech received more negative attention, yet Murray continued to send honest accounts of Uzbekistan’s human rights abuses to his London superiors—dispatches that ultimately went public and may have been the catalyst for his dismissal. “Mr. Murray said officials had been trying to force him out for a year because of his dispatches back to London,” the BBC reported in October 2004. It continued:
“People come to me very often after being tortured,” he told The Guardian’s Nick Paton Walsh in 2004, shortly before his dismissal. “Normally this includes homosexual and heterosexual rape of close relatives in front of the victim; rape with objects such as broken bottles; asphyxiation; pulling out of fingernails; smashing of limbs with blunt objects; and use of boiling liquids including complete immersion of the body. This is not uncommon. Thousands of people a year suffer from this torture at the hands of the authorities.”
His subsequent removal from his position left more than a dent in his resume. “I had a period under psychiatric care as an in-patient for depression,” he told Walsh. “I’ve gone through the break-up of my marriage. In November, I suffered a pulmonary embolism and very nearly died. … An aura of controversy is not one that is useful to the diplomatic corps.”
In the years since his turbulent expulsion from the British diplomatic service, Murray published several books and immersed himself in political activism. In 2006, for example, he again made headlines for publishing classified memos from his time in Britain’s government on his website. “U.S. plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan,” he wrote in one memo. “A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism.”
Now, he is again in the spotlight, accusing the U.S. government of denying him entry due to his politics. After Murray broke this news on his own blog, others in the intelligence community began to rally around him.
“Craig Murray is a legendary figure among national security whistleblowers,” John Kiriakou told Truthdig. “He blew the whistle on the government of Uzbekistan’s torture program, and he paid for it with his career. He has since devoted himself to the causes of human rights and civil liberties. That he is being denied entry into the United States tells me that Secretary of State John Kerry is afraid of ideas. He is afraid of those who stand up for what is right.”
Members of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence issued a statement in which they called Murray’s visa denial “shocking and appalling,” before questioning “which agency’s long arms have reached out to disrupt our ceremony and to try to silence Craig.” It continues:
Meanwhile, the organization behind the No War 2016 conference, where Murray is scheduled to speak, has created a petition in support of his admittance to the U.S. “This attempt to prevent a truth-teller from speaking in support of nonviolence is absolutely shameful,” said David Swanson, director of World Beyond War, which is sponsoring the conference. “This is not a policy created to represent any view of the U.S. public, and we are not going to stand for it.”
Peter Van Buren, a former United States foreign service employee turned whistleblower, recently explained why somebody like Murray would be denied entry through this program. “What we’ve got is likely a potential 3B violation or potential violation, which means terrorism,” he told The Real News Network. “You don’t have to be a terrorist to fall under this category. You can just be placed on one of these watch lists by one of the dozens of American intelligence agencies and organizations that are allowed to nominate names—and they do love their Orwellian vocabulary—to the list.”
Could this be the case? Murray has since shared more detail on his denial to the U.S. via Twitter:
Despite the disruption to his travel plans, Murray has continued to share his political opinions in the days since revealing the visa waiver refusal. He has provided critical analysis of the current political transition in Uzbekistan. “ I am happy to say I do not believe the corrupt system in Uzbekistan will last much longer,” he concludes. Another recent blog post criticizes the “underreporting” of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s quoting of a “sexist, racist and anti-disabled” Twitter account.
It is unclear whether Murray will be able to secure the necessary visa waiver in time for his scheduled appearances in the U.S. later this month. Despite this, it’s clear that he will continue to shed light on underreported and politically subversive topics, as he has bravely done for decades. For this reason, Craig Murray is our Truthdigger of the Week.
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