Former British Ambassador From Entering America:
He is not a terrorist and is not a social media
jihadi. He has no criminal record, no connection to
drug smuggling, and does have a return ticket, a
hotel reservation and ample funds to cover his
By Peter Van
States over the weekend denied travel to a former
Craig Murray, who was also a British diplomat
for some 30 years, and is the author of several
stood twice for election to the House of Commons. He
was “honored” by being thrown out of Uzbekistan by
its repressive government after risking his life to
human rights abuses there. He is not a terrorist
and is not a social media jihadi. He has no criminal
record, no connection to drug smuggling, and does
have a return ticket, a hotel reservation and ample
funds to cover his expenses.
however seen as a threat to the United States.
Murray was headed to the U.S. this week to be Master
of Ceremonies at an award ceremony honoring
John Kiriakou, the CIA torture whistleblower.
Kiriakou was the only U.S. government official to go
to jail in connection with the torture program, and
all he did was help expose it to the media. The
event is sponsored by Sam Adams Associates for
Integrity in Intelligence (of which I am a member.)
also spoken in support of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.
Hmm. Might have something to do with this visa
No one has
told Murray why he cannot travel to the U.S., though
he has been here numerous times over the past 38
years. Murray learned of his travel bar when
applying for the online
clearance the U.S. requires of all “visa free”
travelers. Murray was electronically informed to
contact the State Department to see if he might
Murray was stopped by what the State Department and
Homeland Security calls “a hit.”
happens is dozens of American intelligence agencies
pour names into a vast database, which includes
everyone from Osama bin Laden (his name has
allegedly never been removed in some sort of reverse
tribute) to the latest ISIS thug to all sorts of
others who have little or no actual reason to be
there, such as Murray.
salient part of the database in Murray’s case is
CLASS, part of the Consular Consolidated
Database. It is the largest known data warehouse in
the world. As of December 2009, the last time
information was available, it contained over 100
million cases and 75 million photographs, and has a
current growth rate of approximately 35,000 records
When one of
those persons labeled a bad guy applies for entry or
a visa to the U.S., the computer generates a hit. A
hit is enough to deny anyone a visa-free trip to the
U.S. with no further questions asked and no
information given. Technically, the traveler never
even officially knows he was “a hit.”
chooses to follow the process through and formally
applies for a visa to the United States, the State
Department in London will only then examine the hit.
In 99.9999 percent of the cases, all the State
Department official will see in their computer is a
code that says “Contact Washington,” officially a
Security Advisory Opinion, or SAO.
person abroad will most often have no idea why they
are refusing to issue a visa, just that they can’t.
They sign their name to a blank check of a refusal.
They make a potentially life-altering decision about
someone with no idea what the evidence against them,
if any, is. The traveler of course has no chance to
rebut or clarify, because they too have no idea what
is being held against them. There is no substantive
appeal process and of course everything in the files
is likely classified.
“contact Washington” message triggers a namecheck
process in DC that rumbles around the intelligence
community looking for someone who knows why the U.S.
government wants to keep Murray out of the United
States next week. That process can take anywhere
from weeks to forever, and taking forever is one
strategy the U.S. uses when it just wants some
troublesome person to go away. For politically
motivated cases such as Murray’s, that is what is
most likely to happen: not much. Murray may thus
never learn why he cannot travel to the United
what free speech (and free speech covers not only
what people say, but what people, Americans in this
case, in America may choose to listen to) is about
now afraid of people like Ambassador Craig Murray.
BONUS: Murray has only been denied
travel to one other country, Uzbekistan. Such is the
company America now keeps.
MORE BONUS: Those who think this is
the first time the U.S. has used a visa denial to
stop free speech, please see the case of scholar
Tariq Ramadan, denied the opportunity to teach
at Notre Dame. There have been many more such cases,
albeit less mediagenic. This is policy now for
America, not an exception.