Diamonds and Rust

Diamonds_and_rust_in_the_bullringSo Col­onel Gad­dafi of Libya has been dish­ing out the dip­lo­matic gifts gen­er­ously to the former US admin­is­tra­tion.  Lis­ted in the pub­lic declar­a­tion are even such items as a dia­mond ring presen­ted to former Sec­ret­ary of State, Condaleeza Rice, and other gifts to the value of $212,000.

This seems a slightly uneven dis­tri­bu­tion of lar­gesse from the Middle East to the West.  Before 9/11 and the ensu­ing war on ter­ror, Gad­dafi was still seen by the west as the head of a “rogue state”.  Bombs, rather than gifts, were more likely to rain down on him.

How­ever, since 2001 he has come back into the fold and is as keen as the coali­tion of the “will­ing” to counter the threat from Islamic extrem­ist ter­ror­ists.  So now he’s the new best­est friend of the US and UK gov­ern­ments in this unend­ing fight. 

But that was kind of inev­it­able, wasn’t it?  As a sec­u­lar Middle East­ern dic­tator, Gad­dafi has tra­di­tion­ally had more to fear from Islam­ists than has the West.  Par­tic­u­larly when these same Islam­ist groups have received ongo­ing sup­port from those very gov­ern­ments that are now cosy­ing up to Gaddafi.

Just to remind you, the reason I helped David Shayler in his whis­tleblow­ing on the crimes of MI5 and MI6 was because of just such a plot– the attemp­ted assas­sin­a­tion of Gad­dafi in 1996 that was fun­ded by the UK external intel­li­gence gath­er­ing agency, MI6.  In 1995 Shayler, then the head of the Libyan sec­tion in MI5,  was offi­cially briefed by his coun­ter­part in MI6, David Wat­son (oth­er­wise known as PT16/B), about an unfold­ing plot to kill Gad­dafi.  A Libyan mil­it­ary intel­li­gence officer, sub­sequently code-named Tun­worth, walked in to the Brit­ish embassy in Tunis and asked to speak to the res­id­ent spook. 

Tun­worth said he was the head of a “ragtag group of Islamic extrem­ists” (who sub­sequently turned out to have links to Al Qaeda — at a time when MI5 had begun to invest­ig­ate the group), who wanted to effect a coup against Col­onel Gad­dafi.  They needed fund­ing to do this, and that was where MI6 came in.  As a quid pro quo, Tun­worth prom­ised to hand over the two Lock­er­bie supsects for trial in Europe , which had for years been one of MI6’s pri­or­ity tar­gets — not to men­tion all those juicy oil con­tracts for BP et al.

Over the course of about 5 months, MI6 paid Tunworth’s group over $100,000, thereby becom­ing con­spir­at­ors in a murder plot.  Cru­cially, MI6 did not get the prior writ­ten per­mis­sion of their polit­ical mas­ter, the For­eign Sec­ret­ary, mak­ing this action illegal under the terms of the 1994 Intel­li­gence Ser­vices Act

Mani­festly, this coup attempt did not work — Gad­dafi is now a strong ally of our west­ern gov­ern­ments.  In fact, an explo­sion occurred beneath the wrong car in a caval­cade con­tain­ing Gad­dafi as he returned from the Libyan People’s Con­gress in Sirte.  But inno­cent people died in the explo­sion and the ensu­ing secur­ity shoot-out.

So, MI6 fun­ded an illegal, highly reck­less plot in a volat­ile part of world that res­ul­ted in the deaths of inno­cent people.  How more hein­ous a crime could there be?  But to this day, des­pite a leaked MI6 doc­u­ment that proved they knew the exist­ence of the pro­posed plot, and des­pite other intel­li­gence sources back­ing up Shayler’s dis­clos­ures, the UK gov­ern­ment has still refused to hold an enquiry.  Quite the oppos­ite — they threw the whis­tleblower in prison twice and tried to pro­sec­ute the invest­ig­at­ing journalists.

Some people may call me naïve for think­ing that the intel­li­gence agen­cies should not get involved in oper­a­tions like this.  Put­ting aside the retort that the spies often con­flate the idea of the national interest with their own, short-sighted career­ism, I would like to remind such cyn­ics that we are sup­posed to be liv­ing in mod­ern demo­cra­cies, where even the secret state is sup­posed to oper­ate within the rule of law and demo­cratic over­sight.  Illegal assas­sin­a­tion plots, the use of tor­ture, and false flag, state-sponsored ter­ror­ism should remain firmly within the retro, pulp-fiction world of James Bond.

Spy Chiefs attack UK Police State

DearloveSir Richard Dear­love, ex-head of MI6 and cur­rent Mas­ter of Pem­broke Col­lege, Cam­bridge, has been much in the news recently after gra­cing the Hay on Wye book fest­ival, where he gave a speech.  In this, he is repor­ted to have spoken out, in strong terms, against the endemic and all-pervasive sur­veil­lance soci­ety devel­op­ing in the UK

Ex-spy chiefs in the UK have a charm­ing habit of using all these sur­veil­lance meas­ures to the nth degree while in the shad­ows, and then hav­ing a Dam­as­cene con­ver­sion into civil liber­ties cam­paign­ers once they retire.  Eliza Manningham-Buller, the ex-head of MI5, used her maiden speech in the House of Lords to argue against the exten­sion of the time limit the police could hold a ter­ror­ist sus­pect without charge, and even Stella Rim­ing­ton (also ex-MI5) has recently thrown her hat in the ring.  They nick all my best lines these days.

Wouldn’t it be great if one of them, one day, could argue in favour of human rights, pro­por­tion­al­ity and the adher­ence to the law while they were still in a pos­i­tion to influ­ence affairs?

Dear­love him­self could have changed the course of world his­tory if he had found the cour­age to speak out earlier about the fact that the intel­li­gence case for the Iraq war was being fixed around pre-determined policy.  As it is, we only know that he objec­ted to this because of the notori­ous, leaked Down­ing Street Memo.

The Guard­ian news­pa­per repor­ted that Dear­love even touched on the real­ity of obtain­ing min­is­terial per­mis­sion before break­ing the law.  Which, of course, is the ulti­mate point of the 1994 Intel­li­gence Ser­vices Act, and does indeed enshrine the fabled “licence to kill”.  It states that MI6 officers can break the law abroad with impun­ity from pro­sec­u­tion if, and only if, they obtain prior writ­ten per­mis­sion from their polit­ical mas­ter — in this case the For­eign Secretary.

How­ever, accord­ing to The Guard­ian, he seems to have mis­un­der­stood the spirit of the law, if not the letter:

He said that the intel­li­gence com­munity was “some­times asked to act in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances. When it does, it asks for legal opin­ion and min­is­terial approval … It’s about polit­ical cover”. 

Moment­ar­ily put­ting aside the not unim­port­ant debate about whether the spies and the gov­ern­ment should even be allowed tech­nic­ally to side-step inter­na­tional laws against crimes up to, and includ­ing, murder, I am still naively sur­prised by the shame­less­ness of this state­ment:  the notion of min­is­terial over­sight was put in place to ensure some kind of demo­cratic over­sight and account­ab­il­ity for the work of the spies — not to provide polit­ical cover, a fig leaf.

I think he’s rather given the game away here about how the spies really view the role of  their “polit­ical masters”.