I wrote at the time about how it's another aspect of the oil story, and how we've long overlooked the torture meted out by the government because they're politically cosy with our interests.
I also mentioned the way that the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, had called attention to human rights abuses, and for his troubles was smeared and sacked by the Foreign Office.
The British government have been trying to silence Craig since then. His book, Murder in Samarkand, has just been published.
This has happened despite the best efforts of the British Government to suppress it. In support of the points he makes in his book, Craig published a number of documents online that the British Government does not want you to see.
He then received a letter from lawyers acting on behalf of the Foreign Office demanding that he remove the documents from his website or he will be issued with a high court injunction. The government is claiming copyright on anything they ever publish, simply as a device to gag someone who exposes their collusion with torture.
This is where bloggers come in. We need to put these documents up - or at the very least links to the sites - in as many places as possible, make it impossible and in fact counterproductive for them to try and censor him. The implications of them getting away with it are, as Craig details below, absolutely enormous.
We've done this before, such as the time the government tried to remove The Guardian's piece on The Ricin Ring That Never Was.
If you have a blog or any webspace, please spread these around.
I've put a Torrent file of all Craig's documents up here.
I am sorry to trouble you, but believe that we now face a threat both to the Web and to Freedom of Information in the UK which must be challenged. The British government is arguing that government documents, even if released under the Freedom of Information Act or Data Protection Act, cannot be published, on the web or elsewhere, as they remain Crown Copyright. They have required me to remove documents from my website on that basis, under threat of legal action.
If you think about it for a moment, the government could thus cancel out almost the whole purpose of the Freedom of Information Act; information released would be just for the private use of an individual. Newspapers - or bloggers - could not publish it in any detail.
If accepted, this extraordinary use of copyright could keep literally everything - everything - produced by government a secret.
The documents in question are the supporting evidence for my book, Murder in Samarkand, which has just been released. The government continues to claim my story is untrue. There is one important advance in all this. Up until now the government refused to acknowledge the documents were authentic. Now Buttrill's letter specifically acknowledges all of the documents and claims copyright over them.
Some of these documents have already been published widely on the web (not least due to the efforts of many of you on this list), particularly the "Tashkent telegrams" on CIA and MI6 use of intelligence obtained under torture in Uzbekistan. Those are now admitted as authentic.
Some are new to the web. Perhaps the most important is the chart of the changes the British Government insisted be made to the book. These are extremey revealing for what they admit to be true - for example, only minor changes are requested in the key meeting between senior officials on the legality of using intelligence from torture, at which it was confirmed that this is US and UK policy.
Perhaps still more revealing is the insistence on removal of the assertion that "Colin Powell knowingly lied" when he claimed that bombs in Tashkent were the work of al-Qaida. The British government insisted on removal not because it was untrue - as detailed in the book, they know full well it is true - but because it would "Damage UK-US relations".
The changes requested were made in the book, because my publisher would not publish without. That is why the truth needs to be out there on the web.
It is on the face of it very strange that the British Government is going after me over the Copyright Act and not the Official Secrets Act. The answer is simple - under the Copyright Act there is no jury. A jury would never convict for campaigning against torture, and be most unlikely to accept that documents released cannot be published. The table of changes requested by the government is not even a classified document in the first place. But a single judge may be more malleable - John Reid had put a huge effort lately into browbeating judges over anything connected to the so-called War on Terror. As the government know very well I have no money to pay a small, or even large fine, they can get the book and documents banned and me in jail without having to convince any jury of pesky citizens.
How to fight back?
Well, we must not let the documents disappear from the web. There is as yet no legal ruling on these matters, Mr Buttrill's claims are only highly controversial legal contentions. So if you post the documents pending a court ruling, there is a danger you may be contravening the - civil, not criminal - law, but then again you may not. You would quite likely receive a threatening letter from Mr Buttrill. Now you have this email from me, NSA and GCHQ are almost certainly tracking you, (they can, incidentally, reciprocally spy in the other country for each other and then swap the info, because neither needs a warrant to spy abroad), but then they probably were already.
The publisher had firm and very expensive legal advice that it was not contravening any civil or criminal law to publish in the book links to web pages containing the documents. So you are almost certainly on safe legal ground in publishing this link to the Dahr Jamail site if you do not wish to mirror the docs yourself.
Feel free to publish this email and the letter from Mr Buttrill.
It might also be helpful if we urged people to contact him, by phone, email or letter, and ask him complex questions about the fascinating and difficult legal and ethical questions thrown up by the government's position. As a government servant he's obliged to reply.
Finally, the government made plain to parliament that it would act against the book itself if it was published. As it only came out on Friday, no injunction yet but it could happen any time. So if you are interested in getting it, buy now and beat the injunctions! It is available from most online booksellers, though bookshops seem very reluctant to stock it.