New Statesman’s latest leaked e-mails

As noted here, the New Statesman has another clutch of leaked Foreign Office documents and as per the last set of leaked documents, these have accidentally found their way through some OCR software in order to make them usable by bloggers, with the full text being published below – please feel free to cut and paste at will:

From: Irfan Siddiq
Sent: 30 August 2005 09:35 AM
Subject: CONF-CT Foreign Secretary’s conversation with the Home Secretary, 28 Aug

The Foreign Secretary spoke to the Home Secretary on 28 August about a number of CT related issues.
Hamas/Hizbullah;

The Foreign Secretary raised the proscription of Hamas and Hizbullah, reviewing the history, the recent evidence suggesting that there was no distinction between the political and military wings and repeating his belief that both organisations should be proscribed in full. Clarke said that he had no strong views on the matter and viewed it as a foreign policy lead, which was the Foreign Secretary’s call. He noted, however, that the agencies were arguing against the move and that the Foreign Secretary was “isolated” in his view. The Foreign Secretary was surprised by the view of the agencies, which he said he would look into. Clarke said that he was happy in principle (i.e. if the Foreign Secretary could square the agencies) to include Hamas and Hizbullah with the batch of organisations that he was already planning on putting up for proscription before the next session of parliament.

ACTION: Grateful for information on what exactly the agencies’ arguments against proscription are. The Foreign Secretary has also asked for the relevant back papers on Hamas/Hizbullah proscription for today’s box, in preparation for the PM’s meeting on Thursday.

Hizb ut Tahrir/Al Muhajiroun:

The Foreign Secretary asked about proscription of HuT/AM. HuT was banned by the NUS and a number of school boards and he felt that we should move against them now. He was prepared to look into constructing arguments against HuT on foreign policy grounds. Clarke said he would prefer putting off proscription of HuT until after the proposed amendments to the current legislation: it would, for example, be much easier to argue that HuT met the criteria of “justifying and glorifying violence”. Clarke said that his fear was that the Government would lose the case for proscription and so wanted to act cautiously, The Foreign Secretary added that he felt that we should in any case move against AM. If it was now no longer functional, there would be no problem, and if the move was challenged it would prove that AM was no longer defunct and would help identify those associated with AM.

ACTION: The Foreign Secretary has also asked for the relevant back papers on HuT/AM proscription for today’s box. He would also like as soon as possible, work to be done on HuT activities abroad- He would like to pursue the foreign policy argument approach and wants to know if there is a case that can be made on foreign policy grounds. He feels that the distinction currently drawn between HuT in the UK and HuT abroad is spurious. He recalls that MeK were proscribed in the UK on the basis of their activities abroad.

MoUs:
The Foreign Secretary said that proscription of HuT could potentially help improve CT understanding and co-operation with states such as Egypt where HuT was already banned. Clarke said he had wanted to raise the MoU with Egypt. The Foreign Secretary explained the sensitivity of the September Presidential elections. Clarke said he was content to wail until after the Presidential elections, but did not want to wait until the November parliamentary elections. The Foreign Secretary said we would re-engage with the Egyptians after the Presidential elections.

Clarke raised the issue of resources dedicated to the MoU’s. We had to have the resources necessary. The Foreign Secretary said that as far as he was aware no potential MoUs were being held up for resource reasons. He agreed that we could not allow progress to be held up by resource constraints.

Irfan Siddiq
Private Secretary
Foreign Secretary’s Office

————————————-

From: Robert Tinline
Sent: Tuesday 30 August, 2005 11:16 AM
To: David Richmond
Subject: RE: CONF: CT: Foreign Secretary’s conversation with the Home Secretary, 28 August

David

We will incorporate all of this into the briefing going up tonight, attaching, on Hizbullah and Hamas, the four FS’s letters to the HS and the supporting submissions; and on HuT, the latest Research Analyst paper and the SyS assessment for the last Proscription Working Group.

Could you speak to EMB (and “C” if possible) to confirm that our understanding below remains correct, alert them to the likely discussion on Thursday and allow us to brief the SoS on their likely stance?

CCs: Grateful for any comments on my summaries below:

Rob

H/H

As I understand it, the agencies do not oppose proscription, they oppose reliance on their assessments to justify what they see as a change of policy not fact.

The agencies (especially SyS who write the assessments on which proscription is considered) are reluctant to argue that the nature/structure of either organisation has fundamentally changed since 2001. They argue that their assessment in 2001 could have justified proscribing the whole of both organisations. A policy decision was taken only to proscribe a part of each. Their current assessments could similarly justify proscribing the whole of both organisations but, given the assessments have not substantially changed, could not explain a change of policy between 2001 and now, We have argued that we have more evidence to justify proscribing the whole of both organisations and that the context in which they are operating has changed dramatically since before 9-11. The agencies have been unmoved, arguing it is a policy decision. While the HO. and now the Home Sec. have argued that unless the agencies change their assessment the risk of losing a challenge is too high.

HuT/AM

The under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Sec may proscribe an organisation if he believes the organisation:”(a) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (b) prepares for terrorism, (c) promotes or encourages terrorism, or (d) is otherwise concerned in terrorism.”

The Home Office explained their first listings against the following criteria:
“(a) the nature and sole of an organisation’s activities
“(b) the specific threat it poses to the UK
“(c) the specific threat it poses to British nationals overseas
“(d) the extent of the organisation’s presence in the UK
“(c) the need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism”

HuT is active in many countries and banned in some (Azerbaijan. Egypt Germany Jordan. Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan. Kuwait. Pakistan. Syria. Tajikistan. Turkey. Uzbekistan). A number of governments cite HuT involvement in violence and links to terrorist organisations (with little supporting evidence). There are unconfirmed claims that HuT cells and individual members have participated in attempted coups in the Middle East. And it is certainly extremist. But there is no apparent case to proscribe HuT because its activities abroad include involvement in terrorism. Indeed it is not entirely clear whether they would be caught under a future criterion of “justifying or condoning violence”. Much of their literature explicitly rejects the use of violence.

Supporting other States’ work against terrorism is not one of the statutory tests, so I doubt we could rely on that alone if we did not think HuT were involved in terrorism. especially as most of those who have banned it are not known for tolerance of democratic dissent. (The only Western democracy to act. Germany, banned it as anti-Semitic not terrorist.)

————————————-

From David Richmond
Sent: Tuesday 30 August, 2005 12:50 PM
To: Robert Tinline
Subject: RE: CONF: CT: Foreign Secretary’s conversation with the Home Secretary, 28 August

Rob

I have spoken to EMB and will speak to C this afternoon. Eliza’s account of the SyS position is in line with your summary – they do not oppose proscription but oppose reliance on their assessment to justify what they see as a change of policy not fact. She did, however query some of your detailed description of SyS’s position, claiming that the original 2001 assessment did not provide a watertight case for proscribing either the military or the political wings Whether or not she is right in her recollection, the key point is that they have no new evidence which in their view would satisfy a court or tribunal that the political wings should now be proscribed in the event of a challenge.

She also made the point that the opposition to the proscription of H/H at the 19 August meeting came not from the Agencies but from the NIO because of the read across to Sinn Fein.

David

————————————-

To: Robert Tinline
From: David Richmond
Subject: RE: CONF: CT: Foreign Secretary’s conversation with the Home Secretary, 28 August
Sent: 31 August 2005 11:04:04 GMT

Rob

I have now spoken to C who says that he is not aware of any particular SIS view on proscription of H/H. He sees this as a political issue and a matter for the Foreign Secretary. On Eliza’s concern about evidence, he points out that this is a perennial problem.

My conclusion is that there is no opposition to proscription from the Agencies but we shall need to make a careful judgment on whether we can make a case which will withstand legal challenge.

David

Couple of points of interest here that the New Statesman doesn’t appear to have picked up on.

1. The section in the first e-mail – from Irfan Siqqiq – dealing with the government’s efforts to obtain Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with a number of countries known to practice to torture to facilitate deportations to those countries confirms that Egypt is one of the countries where we are trying to obtain such an agreement.

My own post of a few days back on the ‘rendition memo‘ includes the US State Department’s assessment of Egypt, which includes this:

Despite these legal safeguards, there were numerous, credible reports that security forces tortured and mistreated detainees. Human rights groups reported that the State Security Investigations Service (SSIS), police, and other government entities continued to employ torture to extract information, coerce opposition figures to cease their political activities, and to deter others from similar activities. Reports of torture and mistreatment at police stations remained frequent. In prominent cases, defendants alleged that police tortured them during questioning (see Sections 1.e. and 2.c.). Although the Government investigated torture complaints in some criminal cases and punished some offending officers, punishments generally have not conformed to the seriousness of the offense.

Principal methods of torture reportedly employed by the police and the SSIS included stripping and blindfolding victims; suspending victims from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beating victims with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; using electrical shocks; and dousing victims with cold water. Victims frequently reported being subjected to threats and forced to sign blank papers for use against themselves or their families should they in the future complain about the torture. Some victims, including male and female detainees and children, reported sexual assaults or threats of rape against themselves or family members. While the law requires security authorities to keep written records of detentions, human rights groups reported that the lack of such records often effectively blocked investigation of complaints.

And, of course, since then we’re also found out that the government’s idea of a suitable independent ‘watchdog’ for its Memorandum of Understanding with Libya turns out to be Col Gaddafi’s son.

2. The other intriguing point here is the reference in the third e-mail – dated 30 August – to:

opposition to the proscription of H/H [Hamas/Hizbullah] at the 19 August meeting came not from the Agencies but from the NIO [Northern Ireland Office] because of the read across to Sinn Fein.

A point which become even more apposite since Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian election.

As mentioned earlier, feel free to copy the text of the e-mails at will.

Oh, and in case you don’t know, the ‘C’ referred to in a couple of the e-mails is the Head of British Intelligence, what would be called ‘M’ in the James Bond films.

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