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.