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Allegations of extra-judicial killings by the SAS is under judicial investigation, but is anyone on Channel 4’s ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’ implicated?

Since its premiere in 2015, ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins‘ has been a standout success for Channel 4, captivating audiences with its simulation of the Special Forces selection process. It is massively popular. The show, which recently concluded its celebrity version finale featuring singer Gareth Gates and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, attracted some 1.6 million viewers.

However, the series’ success has been overshadowed by disturbing allegations concerning potential war crimes committed by the UK Special Forces in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2011, now subject to a judicial review. Reports, including those from Action on Armed Violence and a BBC Panorama investigation, first brought to light allegations of unlawful killings by an SAS unit. Such claims have since evolved into including the chilling reports of children killed and people being shot in their beds. In October, lead counsel to the inquiry, Oliver Glasgow KC, set out the details of seven separate kill/capture missions involving the deaths of 33 people, including a number of children.

Yet, despite there being a judge-led review into these allegations of a UK Special Forces unit seemingly out of control, and recent emerging evidence from the BBC reporting that a senior general in the British military locked allegations of wrongdoing away in a safe, rather than referring them to the Royal Military Police, this concern has not become – as yet – a national scandal. For instance, Channel 4 seems happy to re-commission ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins‘ as if nothing is happening.

Given the severity of the accusations, though, is it not reasonable to ask: were any of the ex-SAS hosts on the programme serving in Afghanistan and in the units under review?

The truth is – we do not know and are not allowed to know.

It’s crucial to note that AOAV does not accuse any these individuals on the show with complicity in extra-judicial killings. However, asking whether any of them were in Afghanistan during the alleged incidents is a matter of clear public interest. And there are clearly questions that deserve answering.

The much-revered Jason Fox, or ‘Foxy’, is the show’s longest serving Directing Staff (DS). His military career began in 1992, when he joined the Royal Marine Commandos at the age of 16. He then joined the Special Forces in 2001 and served until he was medically discharged with PTSD on 5 April 2012. Whilst his autobiography offers very little by way of specific details about the tours on which he served, in a documentary with Channel 4 he revealed in conversation with a high-ranking Taliban commander that he served in Helmand, the location where the alleged crimes subject to the inquiry took place. Was Jason Fox in Helmand during the time and places under judicial review? We do not know. There is no public evidence that Jason Fox was involved in the allegations of extra-judicial killings.

Chris Oliver is a relatively new face in the world of ex-Special Forces media stardom. He joined the Directing Staff for Who Dares Wins this year and boasts 16 years of combat experience. His profile on the Channel 4 website details that he served alongside DS Foxy in the Special Forces, and was deployed on operations to Afghanistan before leaving the military in 2015.  Again – was Chris Oliver in Helmand during the period of alleged extra-judicial killings? We do not know. There is no public evidence that Chris Oliver was involved in the allegations of extra-judicial killings.

Likewise, both Jay Morton and Anthony Stazicker, who appeared on Who Dares Wins as undercover recruits in 2020 and 2021 respectively, could also very likely have been in Afghanistan in the period in question. Morton, who successfully passed SAS selection in 2008, served with the Special Forces for 10 years and undertook four tours of Afghanistan in that time.

Stazicker, affectionately nicknamed ‘Staz’, also joined the Special Forces in 2008 and completed a decade’s service. Awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for combat actions conducted in Afghanistan in 2013, it is entirely plausible that he may have also been deployed on the earlier tour which is subject to the inquiry. But we do not know and the veterans refused to say when asked via the production company running the show. There is no public evidence that Jay Morton or Anthony Stazicker were involved in the allegations of extra-judicial killings.

Channel 4’s response to inquiries regarding the involvement of these former Special Forces soldiers in the investigation has been marked by a lack of transparency. When AOAV asked if the broadcaster could confirm that none of the show’s participants were implicated in the ongoing judicial investigation, Channel 4 declined to give details. They told AOAV: “due diligence and thorough background checks were completed ahead of filming and the SAS: Who Dares Wins production team were satisfied with the outcome of these checks. However, the whereabouts of Special Forces operators during service is classified and not information we or they are permitted to put into the public domain. For more information on an individual’s service record you would need to approach the MOD.”

The MOD does not reveal details about any Special Forces Operations or operatives.

Channel 4’s silence, set against the backdrop of allegations of grave crimes like the killing of children, raises serious ethical questions. The continuation of ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins,’ which turns the selection process for an organisation under such grave allegations into entertainment, seems incongruent without an absolute assurance that those involved in its production are not implicated in any way to accusations of war crimes. And whilst AOAV has no evidence anyone named in this article was, the fact remains this: a veil of secrecy around SAS operations makes it seemingly impossible to be given any such assurance.

The situation reflects a broader issue of accountability concerning the Special Forces. The UKSF’s immunity from freedom of information requests and the absence of parliamentary oversight, due to ministers’ policy of not commenting on their activities, contribute to this opacity. While ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins‘ continues to be a popular fixture on Channel 4, the controversy surrounding its hosts and their potential connections to alleged war crimes in Afghanistan casts a shadow over the show. The broadcaster’s reluctance to address these concerns openly only adds to this.

Dr. Iain Overton of Action on Armed Violence responded to this by saying: “The ongoing popularity of ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’ on Channel 4, despite serious allegations of war crimes involving the UK Special Forces in Afghanistan, raises profound ethical questions. While the show has attracted millions of viewers and celebrated the rigours of Special Forces training, it exists in stark contrast to the disturbing reports of unlawful killings and other grave crimes allegedly committed by these same forces. This dichotomy is particularly stark considering the lack of public information about whether any of the show’s ex-SAS hosts were or were not involved in the operations under investigation.

The silence from Channel 4 and the Ministry of Defence only deepens these concerns. Despite the broadcaster’s assurance of thorough background checks, the classified nature of Special Forces operations means there’s no transparency about the past actions of the show’s participants. This secrecy, coupled with the UKSF’s immunity from freedom of information requests and lack of parliamentary oversight, creates a troubling lack of accountability.

As the show continues to air, transforming the selection process of a group implicated in such serious allegations into entertainment, it’s imperative to question the ethical implications of glorifying an organisation without absolute assurance that those involved are not linked to these accusations. This situation reflects a broader issue of transparency and accountability within the Special Forces, a matter of significant public interest and concern.”