The Report on BBC Radio 4 – the Death of Gareth Williams

A look at the forensic and police failures around the investigation of the still inexplicable death of intelligence officer, Gareth Williams, in London in 2010.

Here’s the link.

Why the new website?

I have great pleasure in launching my new, bespoke website – made for me by Sander Venema, the founder of Asteroid Interactive in the Netherlands.

This is a new company that really listens to what you want, both in terms of design and the back-end system, and I cannot recommend them enough.

So what did I want and why?

First of all, I wanted to get out of the USA domain-name hegemony. Recently the US has been increasingly flexing its legal muscles internationally.  It is now claiming global dominion over all the old domains originally set up in its territory: .com, .org, .net, .info, you name it.

And it does not matter if you are are a citizen of another country, living in another country, your website is hosted on another country’s servers, and you have nothing whatsoever to do with the good ol’ US of A: if you use one of these domain names, the US government can pull the plug on your site, with no warning and no redress.  This has already started to happen.

So I am now safely ensconced in Switzerland – notably the only country not to take down the Wikileaks website in 2010, despite massive global push-back from the US et al.  Switzerland still seems to be taking basic human rights seriously.

The US continually bleats on about the “free market”, so let’s vote with our wallets and remove our custom beyond its pernicious reach.

Secondly, I also wanted to walk the walk and move on to an open source platform and CMS (the software that makes it easy to publish without typing a lot of HTML by hand). This is the only way to ensure that you are not dependent on closed, proprietary software companies, which can be legally pressurised by nasties like the NSA or GCHQ into implanting convenient little “back doors” to spy on or manipulate your data. I made this move on my laptop years ago and have since enjoyed at least a relative sense of security.

Also, as you can see, I value both my privacy and respect yours when it comes to the usual “share” buttons.  But I’m also very happy for you to use my material under the Creative Commons Licence.

And finally, my old site was looking messy – so much information, so little time…….

It needed a revamp, and I hope you find this site more user-friendly, and that you can find the information you want quickly. Please feel free to comment, or email me with any thoughts or suggestions.

I think Sander has come up with a beautiful design.  The building in the banner incorporates an image of the old Stasi HQ in Berlin.  I like the idea – an image of a panoptic police state that seemed brutally immutable, but that has now just…. gone.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) UK Conference

Last month, in my new role as Director of LEAP Europe, I was invited to do a talk at the SSDP conference in London.  It was great to meet the key SSDP organisers, and also share a platform with Jason Reed, the co-ordinator of LEAP UK.

The student activists of SSDP are demanding that our political classes instigate a mature, fact-based discussion about the “war on drugs”.

Sorry to rehash all the well-known articles about why this “war” is such a failure on every conceivable front, but just let me reiterate three key points: prohibition will always fail (as this classic “Yes Minister” scene depicts), and the regulation and taxation of recreational drugs (in the same way as alcohol and tobacco) would be good for society and for the economy; it would decapitate organised crime and, in some cases, the funding of terrorism; and it would make the use and possible abuse of recreational drugs a health issue rather than a criminal matter.

The students get this – why can’t our politicians?

Jason and I had a warm welcome from the SSDP. They can see the value of law enforcement professionals – police, judges, lawyers, and customs and intelligence officers – using their experience to contribute to the debate. I look forward to LEAP working more closely with the SSDP.

And do drop me an email if you would like to help LEAP in Europe.

La Conférence régionale du journalisme d’enquête, Geneva

Swiss_Press_Club_PhotoThe end of April saw me basking in the hot and sunny weather of Geneva, where I had been invited to give a talk (Download Geneva) at the Swiss Press Club.

We had a lovely time in Geneva, and many thanks to Jean-Philippe Ceppi and the rest of the team for such a warm, interested and interesting welcome.

The Gareth Williams Inquest

What a mess, what a cover-up.  The inquest into the sad, strange death of Gareth Williams concluded yesterday, with the coroner raising more questions than she was able to answer.

It was also patently obvious that both MI6 and the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Squad (SO15) hampered the investigation, for the inevitable reasons of “national security”.

When will MI6 realise that it is not above the law?

My heart goes out to Gareth’s family.