Monday, July 26, 2010

Documents were tampered with and testimony censored

The Foreign Office (FO) has declined to comment on claims by a former diplomat that it blocked key parts of his testimony to the Iraq Inquiry.
Carne Ross, the UK's Iraq expert at the UN from 1997-2002, said the FO withheld documents he requested, and warned him not to refer to a key memo.

The above is from BBC News and it's referring to Carne Ross' column for the Observer which we're going to treat as public testimony:

After I was invited to testify, I was contacted by the Foreign Office, from which I had resigned after giving testimony to the Butler inquiry in 2004, to offer its support for my appearance. I asked for access to all the documents I had worked on as Britain's Iraq "expert" at the UN Security Council, including intelligence assessments, records of discussions with the US, and the long paper trail on the WMD dossier.
Large files were sent to me to peruse at the UK mission to the UN. However, long hours spent reviewing the files revealed that most of the key documents I had asked for were not there.
In my testimony I had planned to detail how the UK government failed to consider, let alone implement, available alternatives to military action. To support this I had asked for specific records relating to the UK's failure to deal with the so-called Syrian pipeline, through which Iraq illegally exported oil, thereby sustaining the Saddam regime. I was told that specific documents, such as the records of prime minister Tony Blair's visit to Syria, could not be found. This is simply not plausible.
I had also asked for all the Joint Intelligence Committee assessments on Iraq, some of which I helped prepare. Of dozens of these documents, only three were provided to me – 40 minutes before I was due to appear before the Chilcot panel.
Playing by the rules, I had submitted my written testimony to Chilcot before my appearance. In the hours before my appearance, invited to visit the Foreign Office to see further documents (mostly irrelevant), an official repeatedly sought to persuade me to delete references to certain documents in my testimony.
He told me that the Cabinet Office wanted the removal of a critical reference in my evidence to a memo from a senior Foreign Office official to the foreign secretary's special adviser, in which the official pointed out, with mandarin understatement, that the paper sent that week to the Parliamentary Labour Party dramatically – and inaccurately – altered the UK's assessment of Iraq's nuclear threat.
In a clear example of the exaggeration of Iraq's military capabilities, that paper claimed that if Iraq's programmes remained unchecked, it could develop a nuclear device within five years.

Carne Ross testified to the Iraq Inquiry Monday, July 12th. Of the latest developments, Jamie Doward (Guardian) explains, "Ross claims he was told his evidence must not refer to a memo from a senior Foreign Office official. The memo, to the special adviser to the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, expressed concern that a briefing paper for the parliamentary Labour party had 'dramatically' altered the assessment of Iraq's nuclear threat. Ross says the 'paper claimed that if Iraq's programmes remained unchecked, it could develop a workable nuclear device within five years. The official's memo pointed out that this was not in fact the UK assessment, which was more or less the opposite: that the UK believed that Iraq's nuclear programme had been effectively checked by sanctions'." Ross writes Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) that the official response to his column misses two key points: "- that I requested particular documents (including those I wrote myself) and these were not provided me; - and that officials (from the FCO but, they said, acting on behalf of the Cabinet Office) attempted to stop me mentioning certain other documents, including the most damaging;". Henry Porter (Guardian) notes the need for New Labour to purge itself of its Iraq War crimes:

They believe they can finesse the record, yet some things are so serious they cannot be forgotten or ignored – Iraq, for example. Who doubts the truth of what Nick Clegg said when he classed the Iraq invasion as illegal, while being needled by Jack Straw as he stood in for David Cameron at prime minister's questions? Straw was at the heart of the decision to go to war and it seems mildly surprising that he showed his unembarrassed features in the Commons to confront Clegg just a day after the former head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, gave her damning evidence to the Chilcot inquiry.

For an administration that made so much of its intelligence about Saddam's threat to Britain, it is astonishing how Blair's people ignored, or simply did not ask for, the advice of the head of MI5, who stated that there was a very limited and containable threat from Iraq and that there was "no credible intelligence that demonstrates that Iraq was implicated in planning the 11 September attacks". Lady Manningham-Buller's evidence was certainly useful but Carne Ross, the UK's expert on Iraq at the UN, claims in his article today that documents are being held back from Chilcot by the civil service and that the panel is in any case inept at cross-examination. This is deeply troubling and seems to suggest that New Labour's corruption entered, and apparently still remains, in Whitehall.

Forget slippery Jack. He is irredeemable. But on Iraq the four younger men aiming for the leadership surely could do more than shuffle their feet, mimic Blair's evasions and say they weren't sitting members, or in the cabinet at the time. One or more needs to come out with it and say what went wrong and why New Labour practised the great deceit on the British public, causing untold damage in Iraq and, as Lady Manningham-Buller suggested, to our relations with Islam. Was it merely contempt for the public? Or was it something buried deeper in the psyche of the Blair generation, an exaltation in power – their own and that of others – which allowed a few ministers to be impressed by America's might rather than by what was right and reasonable? Again, I exclude Diane Abbott, a constant critic of the war.

And, again, turning to the US, Michael Steven Smith writes "The Sentencing of Lynne Stewart" at the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Lynne Stewart is a friend. She used to practice law in New York City. I still do. I was in the courtroom with my wife Debby the afternoon of July 19th for her re-sentencing. Judge John Koeltl buried her alive.

We should have seen it coming when he told her to take all the time she needed at the start when she spoke before the sentence was read. It didn’t matter what she said. He had already written his decision, which he read out loud to a courtroom packed with supporters. It was well crafted. Bulletproof on appeal. He is smart and cautious.

After about an hour into his pronouncement, he came to the buried alive part. He prefaced it by citing the unprecedented 400 letters of support people had sent him, all of which he said he read. He noted Lynne’s three decades of service to the poor and the outcast. He stressed that she is a seventy-year-old breast cancer survivor with high blood pressure and other serious health problems. And then he laid it on her: 120 months.

Everyone in the courthouse divided 120 by 12. He had given her a death sentence, we all thought. She’ll never get out. He almost quadrupled the 28 month sentence he had originally pronounced. She had told him that 28 months was a horizon, that she had hope. But no more.

Lynne’s granddaughter gasped. Then started sobbing. She kept crying even as Judge John Koeltl kept reading. And reading. And reading. It was awful. The sentence was pitiless and cruel. How to understand it?

Lynne's lawyer Jill Shellow Levine rose after the judge finished. She asked him why. He was candid. He was told to do it by his supervisors, the judges on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This court is an institution of the elite. It is considered the second highest court in America next to the Supreme Court because it presides over the financial center of the empire, not its capital, that is in D.C., but its real capital. This court makes policy and Lynne Stewart was to be made an example of in “the war against terrorism” just as a half a century before, in the same court, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were condemned to death in the war against communism, told that they had caused the deaths of 50,000 U.S. soldiers in the Korean War, and found guilty of the ridiculous charge of “stealing the secret” of the atomic bomb, when there was no secret, it was only a matter of technology. The sentencing Judge Kaufman knew they would leave behind two orphan children, Robert and Michael, ages six and three.

There's more, use the link. Michael Smith is a co-host -- with Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian -- of Law & Disorder (airs on WBAI Mondays and elsewhere around the country throughout the week) which this week speaks with Vinie Burrows about the Lynne Stewart case. Ralph Poynter is Lynne's husband. He made the following statement last week.

Ralph Poynter: Just a brief statement on Lynne Stewart's sentencing. It's perjury, thy name is the United States government. The president-elect begins lying when announcing candidacy only to reneg on every promise. War, health care, Social Security, economy, etc. To excuse the president, it is quoted, he must perjure him or herself to become president. It is an understood and unstated American way, accepted perjury. When taking the oath of office, the president swears to uphold the Constitution and then proceeds to support the dismantling of the Constitution: The Patriot Act, hypocritical perjury. In office, the president employs signing -- that is, after signing a bill, signing a statement saying he will not abide by the bill. Pre-meditated perjury. There's more perjury gone on in this administration in these few years than all of the Bush administration. When Lynne Stewart was attacked by the government for making a press release on the Sheik's behalf it was revealed that other attorneys had made press releases as she did. The New York federal prosecutor said they didn't know about them. The national federal prosecutor said other lawyers should be charged and arrested. The Second Circuit of Appeals said it was selective prosecution but they would not deal with it and that Lynne Stewart should be further prosecuted and given a harsher sentence. Prosecutorial perjury. Is there anyone on the planet who does not know that the landmark [stage?] was hatched and planned for by the U.S. government with an Egyptian operative named Emad Salem? Is there anyone on this planet who does not know that the F.B.I. directed every step of the plot while promising unemployed, hapless hangers on money to be involved this so-called plot? It was staged, financed and filmed by the covert operative Emad Salem with constant oversight by the F.B.I. They desired to credit the blind Sheik. The F.B.I. charged the Sheik for not reporting the F.B.I. operative to the F.B.I. The blind Sheik merely said, "I don't think this would be good for Islam and go pick another target" -- never acquiesing to a plan of Emad Salem's. National security perjury. The judge first rejected this case against Lynne Stewart as being vague. The judge reversed himself and allowed the case to proceed. The judge allowed Osama bin Laden in the case while saying it had only to do with the state of mind of a third defendant. He allowed the massacre of Luxor in the case -- I guess for dramatic effect -- although having nothing to do with the case. Finally, I want to talk about the perjury on the part of the part of the so-called progressive people who leap to embrace any and every petty accusation made about Lynne Stewart. She is arrogant. She would like to think she would support and defend the First Amendment, speech. She would like to think she would defend the right for people to have an attorney. She is not remorseful. And have people forgotten, have we forgotten bravery, courage, Patrick Henry, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer? Have we forgotten the principles of Lynne Stewart -- the principles that she stood by for 50 years? Have we forgotten who we claim to be? Progressive people, whose side are we on, brothers and sisters? Let us remember John Paul Jones: We have not yet begun to fight. Join us. Join Lynne. Join the struggle, the view of America that is inclusive and the view that we think America should have and should become.

Ruth transcribed that. And, as she noted, WBAI's Taking Aim this Tuesday (5:00 p.m. EST) is planning on using the full hour to discuss the case of Lynne Stewart (and Ralph's comment can be heard on last week's Taking Aim, already archived).

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack Addresses Netroots Nation" went up last night.

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