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
there. 

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 Mon­tréal.  Such moments in life are when you wish you’d put Simon and Gar­funkel on your I-pod.  My 18 hours in Mon­tréal 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 régime.  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: directors@vancouver911truth.org or elizwood@shaw.ca.  See you there!

Victoria_poster


Tour dates:

Fri­day 22 May — Van­couver

Sunday 24 May — Vic­toria

Wed­nes­day 27 May — Ott­awa

Thursday 28 May —
Mon­tréal

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!