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?