Libya: my enemy’s enemy is my friend, until he becomes my enemy again…

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, reportedly made the startling statement recently that the military intervention in Libya "unlike Iraq, is necessary, legal and right". 

Blair_takes_the_oathWould it not be wonderful if he could take the next logical step towards joined-up thinking and consider sending our esteemed Middle East Peace Envoy, a certain Mr T Blair, over for a spot of porridge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague?  After all, Cameron has now clearly implied that the Iraq war was "unnecessary, illegal and wrong"…..

But back to Libya.  With the ongoing crisis – now war – much is being written about how the previous UK government collaborated with the Gaddafi regime in the last decade – while tacitly glossing over the last year of Coalition government where, no doubt, similar levels of cooperation and back-slapping and money-grubbing were going on at the highest levels to ensure the continuing flow of oil contracts to the UK.

But, yes, we should be dissecting the Labour/Gaddafi power balance.  Gaddafi had New Labour over the proverbial (oil) barrel from the late 1990s, when MI5 whistleblower David Shayler exposed the failed and illegal MI6 assassination plot against Colonel Gaddafi, using as fall-guys a rag-tag group of Islamic extremists.  The newly-elected Labour government's knee-jerk response at the time was to believe the spook's denials and cover-up for them.  Perhaps not so surprising, as the government ministers of the day were uncomfortably aware that the spies held files on them.  But this craven response did leave the government position exposed, as Gaddafi well knew.

MoS_G_Plot-credible_1997The CIA was fully cognisant of this failed plot at the time, as were the French intelligence services.  The Gaddafi Plot is once again being referenced in the media, including the Telegraph, and a recent edition of the Huffington Post.  The details are still relevant, as it appears that our enterprising spooks are yet again reaching out to a rag-tag group of rebels – primarily Islamists and the Senussi royalists based around Benghazi. 

The lessons of the reckless and ill-thought out Gaddafi Plot were brushed under the carpet, so history may yet again be doomed to repeat itself.  Yes, Gaddafi has been one of the biggest backers of terrorism ever, and yes he has brutalised parts of his own population, but if he were deposed how can the West be sure that those stepping into the power vacuum would not be even more dangerous?

Musa_Kousa_Hillary_Clinton_NY_2010The Libyan government continued to use the 1996 MI6 assassination plot as leverage in its negotiations with the New Labour government right up until (publicly at least) 2009.  Musa Kousa, the current Foreign Minister, played a key role throughout.  For many years Kousa was the head of the Libyan External Security Organsiation and was widely seen as the chief architect of international Libyan-backed terrorism against the USA, the UK and France. 

Another apparent example of this moral blackmail caught my eye recently – this report in the Daily Mail.  Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was afforded MI6-backed protection when he was finally allowed into the UK in September 2002 to study at the LSE. 

The timing was particularly interesting, as only months earlier Saif had won a libel case against the UK's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.  A grovelling apology was made by the newspaper, but Saif refrained from asking for "exemplary damages" – which he would almost certainly have won.  The resulting pay-off for this restraint appears to be that a mere five months later he was welcomed into the UK with MI6-facilitated protection.

Saif's relations with the UK had not always been so rosy. As background to this case, in 1995 the Sunday Telegraph had fallen hook, line and sinker for a MI6 classic propaganda operation.  As The Guardian reported, the secretive MI6 media manipulation section, Information Operations, (I/Ops), had successfully spun a fake story to hapless spook hack, Con Coughlin, that Gaddafi Junior was involved in currency fraud.  This story was fake, but the paper trail it produced was used by the spies as a pretext to prevent Saif from entering the UK at the time. 

Saif_Prince_AndrewBy 2002 this was all old history, of course.  Saif was welcomed to the UK, officially to study for his MA and PhD at the London School of Economics (and showing his gratitude to that august institution with a hefty donation of £1.5 million – it makes the new tuition fees for UK students seem better value for money), and unofficially to chum up to various Establishment enablers to end Libya's pariah status, open up lucrative trade channels, and get the SAS to train up Libya's special forces

The UK military must be just loving that now…..

So I get the feeling that the UK government has over the last decade indeed "danced with the devil".  After decades of viewing Libya and Colonel Gaddafi as a Priority One JIC intelligence target, the UK government fell over itself to appease the Gaddafi regime in the wake of the bungled assassination attempt in 1996 and the libelling of his son.  These were the sticks Gaddafi used; the carrots were undoubtedly the Saif/MI6-facilitated oil contracts

Of course, all this is now pretty much a moot point, following Dave Cameron's "necessary, legal and right" military intervention.  If the wily old Colonel manages to hang on grimly to some semblence of power (and he has an impressive track-record of surviving against the odds), then I doubt if he'll be happy to cooperate with British oil companies in the future.  At the very least. 

Gaddafi has already threatened "vengeance" against the West, and it was reported today that MI5 is taking this all-too-preditable risk seriously.

If Gaddafi is deposed, who can realistically predict the intentions and capabilities of those who will fill the power vacuum?  We should have learnt from Afghanistan and Iraq: my enemy's enemy is my friend – until he becomes my enemy again…..

 

The spies and Libya – time to dust off their conscience

As I've mentioned before, the former heads of UK intelligence agencies have a charming habit of speaking out in support of the rule of law, civil liberties, proportionality and plain common sense – but usually only after they have retired. 

Perhaps at their leaving parties their consciences are extracted from the security safe, dusted off and given back  – along with the gold watch?

DearloveEven then, post-retirement, they might try to thrice-deny potentially world-changing information, as Sir Richard Dearlove did when questioned by the fearless and fearsomely bright Silkie Carlo about the leaked Downing Street Memo at his recent speech at the Cambridge Union.  (The links are in two parts, as the film had to be mirrored on Youtube – Dearlove claimed copyright on the orginal Love Police film and had it taken down.)

And "out of context", my left foot – he could potentially have saved millions of lives in the Middle East if he'd gone public with his considered professional opinion about the intelligence facts being fitted around a preconceived war policy in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Wouldn't it be lovely if these esteemed servants of the state, replete with respect, status and honours, could actually take a stand while they are still in a position to influence world events?

Eliza_Manningham_BullerMy former boss, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, has been unusually vociferous since her retirement in 2007 and elevation to the peerage.  She used her maiden speech to the House of Lords to object to the proposed plans to increase police detention of terrorist suspects without charge from 28 to 42 days; she recently suggested that the "war on terror" is unwinnable and that we should, if possible, negotiate with "Al Qaeda" (well, it worked with the Provisional IRA); and that the "war on drugs" had been lost and the UK should treat recreational drug use as a health rather than a criminal issue. She steals all my best lines….

But credit where credit is due.  Despite the fact that she used the full power of the British state to pursue terrorist suspects up until 2007 and investigate drug barons in the 1990s, she did apparently try to make a stand while en poste in the run-up to the Iraq War.  Last year she gave evidence to the Chilcot Enquiry, stating that she had officially briefed the government that an invasion of Iraq would increase the terrorist threat to the UK.

So it's obvious that once a UK Prime Minister has come over all Churchillian he tends to ignore the counsel of his chief spooks, as we've seen with both the Downing Street Memo the Chilcot Enquiry. 

With that in mind, I've read with interest the recent press reports that the UK authorities apparently knew about Colonel Gaddafi retaining stockpiles of mustard gas and sarin (despite the fact that the world was assured in 2004 that it was his renunciation of WMDs that allowed him back into the international diplomatic fold) . 

So the key question is surely: is this another erroneous "45 minutes from attack" moment, with Gaddafi's alleged stockpiles of WMD a perfect scaremongering pretext to push for a full-on regime change in Libya; or is this genuine, and we were all lied to about Gaddafi's destruction of his WMD stockpiles for economic advantage and fat, juicy oil contracts?

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article quoting the concern of "government insiders" about Gaddafi's potential future terrorism threat against the West, up to and including WMDs, should he cling on to power.  Well, yes, it would hardly be surprising if he were now to be as mad as a wasp with his ex-new best buddies.  Despite the sordid rapprochement in the last decade, he has been for much of his life an inveterate enemy of the West and sponsor of worldwide terrorism.

Rather than waiting for his "K" and his retirement, would it not be wonderful if the current head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, could extract his conscience from that dusty security safe and make a useful and informed statement to shed some light on the mess that the Libyan war is rapidly becoming?  He could potentially change the course of world history and save untold lives.

UK spies continue to lie about torture

Jonathan_EvansWhat a difference a year makes in the mayfly minds of the old media. 

In February 2010 The Guardian's resident spook watcher, Richard Norton-Taylor, reported that the serving head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, had been forced in 2008 to confess to the credulous and compliant Intelligence and Security Committee in Parliament that the spies had lied, yet again, about their complicity in torture.

This confession came shortly after the ISC had released its "authoritative" report about rendition and torture, asserting that there had been no such complicity.  How did the ISC get this so utterly wrong?

It turns out that in 2006 Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, Evans's predecessor in the MI5 hot-seat, had misled the ISC about MI5's awareness of the use of torture against terrorist suspects, particularly the hapless Binyam Mohamed, whose case was wending its way through the British courts.  Bullying-Manner (as she is known in the corridors of power) appears to have been covering up for her predecessor, Sir Stephen Lander, who was quoted in The Telegraph in March 2001 as saying "I blanche at some of the things I declined to tell the committee [ISC] early on"…..

MusharrafBut Evans had to come clean to the ISC because of the Mohamed court case, and Norton-Taylor wrote, by the Grauny's standards, his fairly hard-hitting article last year. 

Yesterday, however, he seems to be back-tracking frantically.  Following an interview by the BBC with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf appearing to confirm that MI5 did indeed turn a blind eye to the use of torture, Richard Norton-Taylor and other members of our esteemed Fourth Estate are once again quoting Baroness Manningham-Buller's dicredited li(n)es to the ISC as gospel truth, and forgeting both the serving head of MI5's unavoidable confession and the evidence from the Mohamed court case itself.

The ISC was put in place following the 1994 Intelligence Services Act as a democratic fig-leaf: it is not a fully-functioning, independent oversight committee, as it is only able to report on matters of spy policy, finance and administration.  It has no powers to investigate properly allegations of crime, torture or operational incompetence, is unable to demand documents or interview witnesses under oath, and is appointed by and answerable only to the Prime Minister.  It has been lied to by the spies and senior police time and time again – the very people it notionally oversees.  As I have written before, the ISC has since its inception failed to address many key intelligence matters of the day, instead spending its time nitpicking over details.

In the face of this utter lack of intelligence accountability and transparency, is it any wonder that sites like Wikileaks have caught the public's imagination?  Wikileaks is an obvious and necessary reaction to the endemic secrecy, governmental back-scratching and cover-ups that are not only wrong in principle in a notional democracy, but have also resulted directly in illegal wars, torture and the erosion of our traditional freedoms.

Tony Soprano meets Joe McCarthy

Now I'm not a huge follower of US political theatrics.  Give it a few years and the US of A will probably exit from the world stage pursued by a bear (or panda).  So why waste your time on a dying beast?  All you can do is try to avoid the death throes as best you can. 

But this did pique my interest, purely from the Hollywood-blockbuster schlock value.  The new Chair of the US Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman for New York Peter King, has opened a hearing called  “The Extent of Radicalization (with a "z") in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response.” 

Here is the  Download Full_text and here's the video of King's opening statement:


 

Now isn't it wonderful that esteemed politician Peter King has woken up to the dangers of "the enemy within" – or not?  Over the last last few months he has flagrantly displayed his profound ignorance vis a vis the concept of terrorism.  Last December he called for the designation of Wikileaks, the high-tech conduit extraordinaire for public-spirited whistleblowers around the world, as a "terrorist organistion".  

And this from a politician who is reported to be a life-long supporter of the political wing of the Provisional IRA – another religious minority group that fought for its self-proclaimed ideals – and was for decades the "enemy within" the UK. 

In fact, until 9/11 the US Irish community was by far the biggest funder of PIRA terrorism for decades – so don't believe everything that is written about Colonel Gaddafi of Libya. 

I suppose it still holds true that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, and Rep Peter King is clearly adhering to that point of view…..

Looking at the above video, I can't get out of my head that it's a bit like putting the fictional organised crime boss, Tony Soprano, in charge of a government committee investigating organised crime.

But it gets worse.  King even mentions the dread phrase "despite what passes for conventional wisdom in certain circles, there is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings".  Wasn't that also what a certain Senator Joe McCarthy said in the 1950s about the Communist witchhunts?

Osama_bin_Laden_portraitSuch moronic statements would potentially be amusing – if it were not for the fact that Peter Chair is the King of the Homeland Security Committee of the world's dying and desperate super-power, the USA. 

Oops, silly me, I muddled the words…..

But sadly he is, and no doubt the whole world will feel the repercussions of this.  The morphing of the fictional Tony Soprano and paranoid Joe Kennedy has spawned a hellish brat – let's call him Emmanuel Goldstein, for ease of reference.

 

The role of intelligence agencies within a democracy

I recently stumbled across this excellent article in the Trinidad Express, of all places.  It appears that the state of Trinidad and Tobago is in the throes of debating the legitimate role of intelligence agencies within a democracy.

Alana Wheeler, a Fulbright Scholar with a Masters degree in National Security Studies, contributes a clear and well-argued article that gets to the heart of these issues; what is “national security” and what is the best way to protect a nation’s integrity within a legal, proportionate and democratic framework?

If the democratic movements within countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are allowed to coalesce organically and unhindered, no doubt this also be a key issue for their new constitutions – especially after decades of repression and fear meted out by brutal securocrats.

So why the hell can’t we have such an informed debate about these issues in the “mature democracies” of UK or the USA?

RTTV interview – dancing with the devil – how not to deal with “rogue” states

Here is an interview I did for RTTV on 3 March 2011 about the possibility of Western intervention in the unfolding Libyan crisis:

 

Interestingly, a radio recording of the Dutch "rescue" mission I mentioned has appeared on the internet.  It appears that the pilots were less than honest about their flight plans and intentions, saying that they were heading to their ship south of Malta rather than back towards Tripoli…. where they are eventually caught.

Also, do have a read of this excellent article by Seamus Milne of The Guardian about ramifications of possible Western intervention.

That said, it looks like this viewpoint is being ignored.  The Daily Mail reported today that MI6 officers and SAS soldiers are massing in the East of Libya to assist the rebels.  Well, at least they're doing it openly now, unlike the illegal and failed Gaddafi Plot of 1996.

Alleged Wikileaks source, Bradley Manning, faces the death penalty

Bradley_manningAlleged Wikileaks source US Private Bradley Manning is now charged with “aiding the enemy”, amongst a bewildering array of 22 new charges.  This is apparently a capital offence, although the US military has cosily said that they wouldn’t push for this barbaric sentence.

So just life without the hope of parole then…..

Putting aide the minor question of whether the USA should even be entitled to call itself a modern democracy when it still has the death penalty on its books, let’s just remind ourselves of what Manning is alleged to have revealed: the “Collateral Murder” military shoot-up, where innocent children, civilians and journalists were gunned down by US forces in a particularly nasty snuff video game that was then deliberately covered up by the Pentagon for years; many other heinous war crimes and records of daily brutality in Afghanistan and Iraq; and an “embarrass de richesses” of diplomatic cables.

I think “embarrass” is the key word here, on so many levels, and goes a long way to explaining the USA’s desperation to destroy Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, by any means necessary.

But the phrase from the list of charges against the hapless Manning that leaps out at me is “aiding the enemy”.  If – and it’s still a big legal if – Manning was indeed the source of all this crucial information, whom was he actually aiding?

Information that has appeared on Wikileaks over the last few years has been eclectic, international and very much in the public interest.  It’s covered such nasties as Trafigura, the BNP, Scientology, Climategate, Guantanamo, the Australian internet blacklist, Sarah Palin, and much more.

It’s certainly not just restricted to the information that hit the headlines last year about the US hegemony.  However, there is no doubt that it was the release of the Afghan, Iraq and diplomatic files that stirred up this particularly unpleasant hornets’ nest.

As global citizens I would suggest that we have every right to know what is done in our name. But, having said that, according to these new charges against poor Bradley Manning, the beneficiaries of Wikileaks – ie all of us –  have now become the enemy.

When did we, the people, the global citizenry, become the enemy?  It seems that our esteemed rulers are at last showing their true colours….

On that note, do have a look at this video of former MI6 chief, Sir Richard Dearlove, speaking recently at the Cambridge Union Society.  An interesting perspective on the British Establishment’s line on Wikileaks and Julian Assange:

Bleat: the assassination of dissidents

Black_sheep?OK, so I'm not sure if my concept of Bleats (half blog, half tweet) is being grasped wholeheartedly.  But so what – it makes me laugh and the Black Sheep shall perservere with a short blog post…..

So I'm a bit puzzled here.  UK Prime Minister Dave Cameron is quoted in today's Daily Telegraph as saying that:

"It is not acceptable to have a situation where Colonel Gaddafi can be murdering his own people using aeroplanes and helicopter gunships and the like and we have to plan now to make sure if that happens we can do something to stop it."

But do his American best buddies share that, umm, humane view?  First of all they have the CIA assassination list which includes the names of US citizens (ie its own people); then those same "best buddies" may well resort to assassinating Wikileaks's Julian Assange, probably the most high profile dissident in international and diplomatic circles at the moment; plus they are already waging remote drone warfare on many hapless Middle Eastern countries – Yeman, Afghanistan, Pakistan…..

Oh, and now the UK government seems poised to launch covert spy drones into the skies of Britain.  Even the UK's most right-wing mainstream newspapers, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, expressed concern about this today.  Apparently these drones have yet to be weaponised…..

It's a slippery slope down to an Orwellian nightmare.