9/11 Hero in London

RodriguezLast week 9/11 hero Wil­liam Rodrig­uez was back in Lon­don, speak­ing at the Global Peace and Unity Con­fer­ence in London’s Dock­lands. Wil­liam is invited every year, and addressed an audi­ence of thou­sands last Sunday.

Wil­liam was the last sur­vivor to leave the Twin Towers on 9/11. He sur­vived being bur­ied alive by the col­lapsing North Tower after he ran from the build­ing and dived under a firetruck. After he was pulled from the rubble, mira­cu­lously with few injur­ies, he was imme­di­ately inter­viewed by CNN, before return­ing to help with the res­cue effort. Since then, he has become a spokes­per­son for the fam­il­ies of the vic­tims and the survivors.

Wil­liam is recog­nised in Amer­ica as a national hero. He had one of the few mas­ter keys to the WTC com­plex, and repeatedly re-entered the North Tower after the attacks to unlock secur­ity doors and help the fire­fight­ers res­cue trapped people. For his bravery he has been recog­nised at the White House.

He was instru­mental in lob­by­ing for the 9/11 Enquiry and, when the com­mis­sion failed to address a wide range of evid­ence and ques­tions from the sur­viv­ors, eye­wit­nesses and fam­il­ies, he began cam­paign­ing for a new, inde­pend­ent enquiry on behalf of these groups.

He now travels the world doing inter­views, meet­ing politi­cians and heads of state, and recount­ing his amaz­ing story of sur­vival and hope. He also cam­paigns against the overt politi­cisa­tion of the 9/11 tragedy, which has been used and abused by gov­ern­ments to jus­tify the wars in the Middle East, the unend­ing war of ter­ror, and the res­ult­ing roll-back of our freedoms and civil liber­ties. His is an amaz­ing story and acts as an inspir­a­tion to many people.

Over the last 2 years I’ve organ­ised three national and inter­na­tional speak­ing tours for him across the UK and much of Europe — sadly not yet reach­ing Ire­land des­pite reports to the con­trary! — and his exper­i­ence has touched thou­sands of people, both at the events them­selves and via the extens­ive media cov­er­age he has received. On this visit to Lon­don I arranged inter­views for him on Sky News and Press TV.

The Elephant in the Room

In Septem­ber an award-winning inde­pend­ent doc­u­ment­ary, “The Ele­phant in the Room” was screened at the Por­to­bello Film Fest­ival in London.

The film, made by Brit­ish dir­ector Dean Puck­ett, had already won “Best Doc­u­ment­ary” at the Lon­don Inde­pend­ent Film Fest­ival earlier this year.  At Por­to­bello, Dean won the “Best Dir­ector” award.

The film doc­u­ments Dean’s per­sonal jour­ney and response to the tra­gic events of 9/11.  In Octo­ber 2001 he vis­ited New York with his father, who was run­ning in the mara­thon.  As a bud­ding 19 year old film maker, Dean recor­ded images of the trau­mat­ised city and his per­sonal response to the events, and includes this early foot­age in the film.

He then goes on to meet act­iv­ists in the UK and Europe who ques­tion the offi­cial account, and inter­view 9/11 hero Wil­liam Rodrig­uez and US Pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Cyn­thia McKin­ney, amongst oth­ers.  He also deals sens­it­ively with the first respon­ders who are ill and dying because the US gov­ern­ment lied about the safety of the air in NYC after the attacks.  These people are gen­er­ally ignored and given little help or support.

I helped Dean in some sec­tions of the film, and he accom­pan­ied Wil­liam Rodrig­uez on the European leg of the speak­ing tour I organ­ised for him last year — I’m chuffed to have an “Assist­ant Pro­du­cer” credit!

The film can be down­loaded and watched here.

Talks in California, September 2008

In Septem­ber I was invited over to Cali­for­nia to give two talks about intel­li­gence, whis­tleblow­ing, and 9/11 and its impact on the world.  I focused on the erosion of our tra­di­tional freedoms and basic civil liberties

Two meet­ings were organ­ised for me in Marin, San Fran­sisco, and Davis by the Cali­for­nian 9/11 move­ment.  They were great meet­ings — packed out — and the response was bril­liant.  It’s heart­en­ing that so many people care about these issues, and the adverse impact the “war on ter­ror” is hav­ing, not just on the lives of people in the Middle East wars, but also on our way of life in the West.

Two men in black, appar­ently car­ry­ing hand­cuffs, turned up at the meet­ing in Marin, sat at the back and spent much of the time mut­ter­ing into their mobiles dur­ing the talk.  At the end, while every­one was clap­ping, they sat with their arms crossed, glower­ing at me, and for one mad moment I thought they were going to haul me off for talk­ing in pub­lic about dan­ger­ous notions such as demo­cracy, civil rights and peace.

Any­way, thank you to all who made this pos­sible, par­tic­u­larly Gab­riel, Kevin, and Byron.  And thanks also to Ken, Hum­mux and the team for film­ing the talk in Marin.  DVDs of the talk can be obtained here.

Here’s the talk in Marin:

 

 

Echelon and the Special Relationship

Journ­al­ist and writer James Bam­ford, has a new book, “The Shadow Fact­ory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eaves­drop­ping on Amer­ica” (Doubleday), which came out this week in the United States.

Bam­ford is a former pro­du­cer at ABC News of thirty years’ stand­ing, and his book has caused quite a stir. One of his key gripes is the fact that for­eign com­pan­ies try to acquire work in sens­it­ive US depart­ments. He cites in par­tic­u­lar the attempt in 2006 of Israeli data secur­ity com­pany, Check Point Soft­ware Tech­no­lo­gies, to buy an Amer­ican com­pany with exist­ing con­tracts at the Defence Depart­ment and the NSA. This deal was stopped after the FBI objected.

For­eign soft­ware and secur­ity com­pan­ies work­ing within intel­li­gence agen­cies are indeed a prob­lem for any coun­try. It com­prom­ises the very notion of national sov­er­eignty. In the UK, MI5 and many other gov­ern­ment depart­ments rely on pro­pri­et­ary soft­ware from com­pan­ies like Microsoft, notori­ous for their vul­ner­ab­il­ity to hack­ers, vir­uses and back door access. Should our nation’s secrets really be exposed to such eas­ily avoid­able vulnerabilities?

Another sec­tion of the book to have hit the head­lines is Bamford’s claims that bed­room “con­ver­sa­tions” of sol­diers, journ­al­ists and offi­cials in Iraq have been bugged by the National Secur­ity Agency (NSA).

Bam­ford, who is by no means a fan of the NSA in its cur­rent rampant form, makes the mis­take of think­ing that in the inno­cent days pre-9/11, the agency respec­ted demo­cratic rights enshrined in the US con­sti­tu­tion and never snooped on US cit­izens in their own country.

While tech­nic­ally this might be true, does nobody remem­ber the ECHELON system?

ECHELON was an agree­ment between the NSA and its Brit­ish equi­val­ent GCHQ (as well as the agen­cies of Canada, Aus­tralia, and New Zea­l­and) whereby they shared inform­a­tion they gathered on each oth­ers’ cit­izens. GCHQ could leg­ally eaves­drop on people out­side the UK without a war­rant, so they could tar­get US cit­izens of interest, then pass the product over to the NSA. The NSA then did the same for GCHQ. Thus both agen­cies could evade any demo­cratic over­sight and account­ab­il­ity, and still get the intel­li­gence they wanted.

Spe­cial rela­tion­ship, anyone?