The Canadian Tour

OK, so I’m a crap blogger – but I have to say that my access to the internet was severely limited during my travels across Canada!  And then I had to go back to the UK, then NL….

Vancouver_posterCanada was great – the first national speaking tour organised by the country’s  9/11 groups.  And before you roll your eyes, these are citizens’ groups that are calling for a new enquiry – in response to a mountain of evidence from hundreds of credible experts around the world, who question the official account peddled by the 9/11 Commission. 

Bearing in mind how the issue of 9/11 has been used and abused by our dear governments to justify the endless “war on terror”, the use of torture, the wars in the Middle East and the erosion of our freedoms at home, I think any concerned and responsible citizen should, at the very least, keep an open mind about this issue and do their own research.  Especially as the 9/11 Commission was, in the words of its two chairs, Keane and Hamilton, “set up to fail”!

But back to the tour.  Huge thanks go to Patrick, the national organiser of the tour, who had the vision and commitment to pull the whole thing together, as well as sort out all the logistics and arrange a constant flow of media interviews for me, of which more below.  And of course to the organisers of the events: Elizabeth, Rukshana, Mark, JF, Michael, Adam, Adnan, Graeme, and all the other activists – too many to name individually.

I had to fly to Vancouver via Chicago O’Hare, which spooked me to begin with.  I’ve been through that airport before and it has, in the past, lived up to its well-deserved reputation for power-crazed immigration officers.  However, I got a real sweetie – we ended up having an interesting chat about the nature of democracy, before he cracked a smile and waved me through.  

In comparison, Vancouver airport is a Zen experience – all native art installations and waterfalls.  As I emerged blinking into the late afternoon sunshine (it was about 3am by my body clock), I was greeted by the Vancouver posse and whisked away in the Truth Bus to food, wine and another radio interview

Georgina_photo3I did a series of radio and newspaper interviews the next morning (thanks, Rukshana’s mum for the use of the phone!), before being whisked off on a tour of Vancouver by Rukshana and Georgina.  The city blew me away with its beauty – mountains up close, parks, sea and arty quarters.  If it wasn’t so
damned close to the US border, I would be seriously tempted to move

At the end of the afternoon, I had a fab time being interviewed on Vancouver 1410 CFUN drivetime radio, before one more telephone interview and a well-earned glass of champagne at Georgina and Darren’s.

After this day of recovery, I was then invited onto the Bill Good Show the next morning.  Bill is the grand old man of BC media, and he was a excellent interviewer.  I had half an hour with him, and the show went out to over a quarter of a million people.

Vancouver_photo2The meeting that night was a great success – I could feel the energy and interest of the audience as I spoke for 1 1/2 hours, and then had over an hour more of questions.  I think it’s wrong for the media to say people are no longer interested in politics – they’re just not that interested in the established political hierarchies and systems.

If I had thought Vancouver lovely, the scenery was even more beautiful as I took the ferry down the bay to Victoria, past small wooded islands.  Of course, that was the moment my camera decided to pack up…

I had a lovely couple of days in Victoria, pampered by Elizabeth and Brian, shown the beauties of the island and meeting a number of activists.  I also had the pleasure of meeting Rowland Morgan, (co-author with Ian Henshall) of the excellent bestseller, “9/11 Revealed”

I’d done a number of interviews before arriving on the island.  The Victoria event was very well attended and I had a standing ovation at the end.

Then it was back to Vancouver for another hour-long interview on Co-op Radio and a pot luck supper with the activists, before flying off to Ottawa for the eastern leg of the tour.  I arrived at midnight to be greeted by the lovely Marjorie and Cam, who hosted me for a couple of nights.  My sleep was all too brief, as I had to get up at 4.30 to make a 6am radio interview.

The Ottawa event was smaller (I would say it was an extremely rainy night!), but perfectly formed.  Despite this, the group seemed very enthused about putting on future events.

The next day brought a Greyhound bus ride up to Montreal.  Such moments in life are when you wish you’d put Simon and Garfunkel on your I-pod.  My 18 hours in Montreal were hectic – and we only just made it to the meeting on time, what with an excellent dinner and terrible traffic.  The meeting was really vibrant.  Afterwards, when everyone else was heading out to party, I had to slink back to my bed for a brief 4 hours sleep, before getting a train at 6.30 to Toronto.

Adnan_on_TVI hit the ground running, with a lunchtime interview, then a peace demo in the city centre.  Clinton and Bush Jr were in town, giving a talk to 5000 of the faithful who were flush enough to cough up between $200 and $5000 to hear their bien pensees.  Independent media did a couple of good interviews with me.  Shamefully, the Stop the War Toronto group only managed to rustle up about 1,000 protesters outside the conference centre, and then refused to give a platform to Splitting the Sky, a Canadian peace activist who had attempted to arrest Bush for war crimes when he visited Calgary in April, and who had himself been arrested for his pains.  However, some other peace activists had some good coverage!

The next day, having caught up on some sleep at last, I had an excellent time at the Toronto university radio station, where we had a lively hour-long interview, before heading off to my event at the university. 

Next stop, Waterloo University, where I did a round of interviews accompanied by the journalist and campaigner, Barrie Zwicker. The format that night changed to an interview on stage conducted by him, which worked really well.  

Spyinggame003The final stop of the tour was Hamilton where, after another all-too-brief night, I had three morning interviews – 2 on radio, and one recorded for the TV evening news.  A lovely Lebanese lunch with a group of professors from the university followed, and then a much needed chance to sleep it off, before heading out to the final gig, organised by Professor Graeme MacQueen and hosted by Mohawk College.  Well, they always say the last one is the best – and I had an amazing evening.  Over an hour of talk, following by 1 1/2 hours of questions from an interested and informed audience. 

So a great time in an amazing country.  Thanks once again to all who made this tour such a success, and good luck with your future plans!

Amuse Bouche

A debate is currently under way in the (ex) Land of the Free about how much protection intelligence whistleblowers should be accorded under the law.

Yes, the country that has brought the world the "war on terror", Guantanamo Bay, and the Patriot Act, is having a moral spasm about how to best protect those who witness high crimes and misdemeanors inside the charmed circle of secrecy and intelligence. 

And about time too, following the mess of revelations about spy complicity in torture currently emerging on both sides of the pond.

Interestingly, intelligence officials in the US already have a smidgeon more leeway than their UK counterparts.  In the US, if you witness a crime committed by spies, you have to take your concerns to the head of the agency, and then you can go to Congress.  In the UK, the only person you can legally report crime to is the head of the agency involved, so guess how many successful complaints are made?  Even taking your proven and legitimate concerns to your elected UK representatives is a crime under the OSA.

Spooks in the UK now have access to an "ethical counsellor", who has reportedly been visited a grand total of 12 times by intelligence officers since 2006.  But this person has no power to investigate allegations of crime, and a visit guarantees a career-blocking black mark on your record of service: ie if you are the sort of person to worry your head with quaint ideas like ethics and morality you are, at best, not a team player and, worse, a possible security risk. 

WhistleThis is surely culturally unsustainable in a community of people who generally sign up to protect the citizens of the country and want to make a positive difference by working within the law?  Those who have concerns will resign, at the very least, and those who like to "just follow orders" will float to the top.  As one of the leading proponents for greater whistleblower protection in the USA states in the linked article:

"The code of loyalty to the chain of command is the primary value at those institutions, and they set the standard for intensity of retaliation."

Some enlightened US politicians appear to be aware that intelligence whistleblowers require protection just as all other employees receive under the law:  perhaps more so, as the nature of their work may well expose them to the most heinous crimes imaginable.  There is also an argument for putting proper channels in place to ensure that whistleblowers don't feel their only option is to risk going to the press.  Effective channels for blowing the whistle and investigating crime can actually protect national security rather than compromise it.

The nay-sayers, of course, want to keep everything secret – after all, the status quo is currently working so well in upholding democratic values across the globe.  Critics of the new legislation talk of "disgruntled employees …. gleefully" spilling the beans.  Why is this hoary old line always dragged out in this type of discussion?  Why are whistleblowers always described in this way, rather than called principled, brave or ethical?

Blanket secrecy works against the real interests of our countries.  Mistakes can be covered up, group-think ensures that crimes continue, and anyone offering constructive criticism is labelled as a risky troublemaker – no doubt a "disgruntled" one at that.

Of course, certain areas of intelligence work need to be protected: current operational details (as ex-Met Assistant Commissioner, Bob Quick has discovered), agent identities, and sensitive techniques.  But the life blood of a healthy democracy depends on open debate, ventilation of problems, and agreed solutions.  Informed and participatory citizens need to know what is being done in their name.

Last Man Out

Amstie_poster In July 2008 an excellent film, Last Man Out, was screened at the New York Independent Film Festival.

LMO is a film directed by Jonathan Kerr-Smith and is a documentary following 9/11 survivor, hero, and campaigner on behalf of the families and first responders, William Rodriguez, as he tours the UK and Europe.  I organised the tours and feature in the film.

Make Wars History UK Tour, 2009

In January and February 2009 Chris Coverdale toured the UK speaking at Make Wars History meetings.  I had the pleasure of introducing him at a number of events.  The first date of the tour was in Liverpool:

Gareth Peirce on Torture, Secrecy and the British State

Gareth_Peirce_1Leading UK human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce, has written a powerful and eloquent article in the London Review of Books about the British state's involvement in torture. 

She also broadens out the argument to look at the fundamental societal problems – lack of accountability, secrecy, the use and abuse of the concept of "national security"  – that created a culture that facilitates and condones torture.

Gareth has fought for victims of injustice for four decades, focusing primarily on terrorism and intelligence issues. 

A long piece, but stick with.  It's worth it!

Film Review of “Secrecy” on Cinepolitics, January 2009

Over the last few years I have been a regular guest on political discussion programmes on the rapidly growing Press TV.  Occasionally I am invited onto the film review show, “Cinepolitics”, by the host (and film maker) Russell Michaels

The film under review is a documentary called “Secrecy”, looking at the stifling effect censorship and the creeping concept of national security have had on democracy in the USA under the former presidential regime.  When this was filmed in January, there was hope that the new presidency might roll this back.  However, “Secrecy” is just as pertinent now that the issue of torture and Guantanamo Bay is being addressed more openly by the media.

ETH0 Hacker Camp, January 2009

In January 2009 I was invited to talk at ETH0, a small but select hacker camp held in the wilds of the Netherlands.  The crowd was young, hip, informed – and very interested in the use and abuse of intelligence and particularly the erosion of our most basic civil liberties.   Events like this give me hope.

Some of the organisers are also involved in planning a major techno-political hacker festival, Hacking at Random, in NL this summer.   An event not to be missed!

Canadian Speaking Tour, May 2009

Vancouver_posterOn 22 May I shall be starting my very own national speaking tour in Canada.   Following my visit to California last year, the Canadian 9/11 Truth groups have pulled together a 7-event tour, where I will have the chance to discuss the intelligence world, whistleblowing, going on the run and the issue of 9/11, particularly focusing on its repercussions around the world: the endless “war on terror”, the illegal wars in the Middle East, and the erosion of our democracies in the West.

The Canadian Truth Movement tirelessly campaigns for a new, independent inquiry in the tragic events of 9/11, and has in the past hosted speakers such as Professor David Ray Griffin  and architect Richard Gage.

More information about the tour can be obtained from: or  See you there!


Tour dates:

Friday 22 May – Vancouver

Sunday 24 May – Victoria

Wednesday 27 May – Ottawa

Thursday 28 May –

Saturday 30 May – Toronto

Sunday 31 May – Waterloo

Monday 1 June – Hamilton

Agent Names Lost

So the good times keep on rolling for the spook community in the UK.  An officer of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) apparently lost top secret information such as the names of undercover agents while travelling in Ecuador.

LanderSOCA is a relatively new agency set up in 2004 to police organised crime, particularly that revolving around the illegal drug trade.  The agency has the misfortune to have as Chairman Stephen Lander, erstwhile boss of MI5; a man whose management style was known as "Stalinesque". 

Even before this latest blunder, concerns had been raised by SOCA staff about ineffective and top-heavy management (shades of MI5 in the 1990s)and recent questions have been asked about whether the agency was producing meaningful results, as the price of illicit drugs has plummeted on UK streets, indicating a glut of recent imports. 

This latest blunder will hardly have reassured ministers.  Reportedly, the hapless SOCA officer lost a USB stick containing the names of undercover agents involved in the drug war in Ecuador, as well as information relating to 5 years' worth of investigations.   The blunder has reportedly jeopardised operations that have cost in the region of £100 million.

Agent identities are, rightly, the most protected of secret information.  This is an unforgivable gaff, and yet the officer is apparently only facing "disciplinary charges". 

So, if you are a whistleblower exposing heinous spy crimes, you are put on trial and sent to prison, even if the trial judge acknowledges that no lives were ever put at risk through your disclosures.  However, if you carelessly leave top secret agent information lying around in hostile territory, you don't even get the sack, let alone face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

I would suggest that the next intelligence whistleblower to emerge from the shadows should simply claim to have dropped a USB stick outside the offices of a national newspaper.  A rap over the knuckles will then be the worst that they face!