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 régime in the last dec­ade — while tacitly glossing over the last year of Coali­tion gov­ern­ment where, no doubt, sim­ilar levels of coöper­a­tion 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 régime 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 coöper­ate 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 erro­neous45 minutes from attack” moment, with Gaddafi’s alleged stock­piles of WMD a per­fect scare­mon­ger­ing pre­text to push for a full-on régime 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 piqué 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.