The Trident Whistleblower

My inter­view on RT yes­ter­day about the young whis­tleblower, Sub­mar­iner Wil­liam McNeilly, who exposed ser­i­ous secur­ity con­cerns about the UK’s nuc­lear deterrent sys­tem, Tri­dent:

Annie Machon Tri­dent Whis­tleblower from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Today it was repor­ted that McNeilly turned him­self in to the police at Edin­burgh air­port and is cur­rently in mil­it­ary custody.

Re:publica — The War on Concepts

This week I made my first visit to the re:publica annual geek­fest in Ber­lin to do a talk called “The War on Con­cepts”. In my view this, to date, includes the four wars — on drugs, ter­ror, the inter­net, and whis­tleblowers. No doubt the num­ber will con­tinue to rise.

Here’s the video:

republica_2015_Annie_Machon_The_War_on_Concepts from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Anything to Say? unveiled in Berlin

Last week artist Dav­ide Dormino unveiled his sculp­ture cel­eb­rat­ing whis­tleblowers in Alex­an­der­platz, Berlin.

Called “Any­thing to Say?”, the sculp­ture depicts Chelsea Man­ning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange stand­ing on three chairs, with an empty fourth chair beside them, upon which we are all encour­aged to stand up on and speak our truth.

Dav­ide invited me to do just that for the unveil­ing cere­mony, along with Ger­man MP for the Green Party and whis­tleblower sup­porter, Hans Chris­tian Stroebele and Wikileaks’ Sarah Har­rison. Here’s a report:

Anything_to_Say?_sculpture_unveiled_in_Berlin from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

AcTVism film trailer

The AcTV­ism Munich media col­lect­ive is releas­ing a film on 19th April fea­tur­ing Noam Chom­sky, The Real News Net­work’s Paul Jay and  myself.

Filmed last Janu­ary, we dis­cussed the old and new media, act­iv­ism, and much more.

Here’s the trailer:

AcTV­ism Trailer — Chom­sky, Machon and Jay from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Whistleblower panel discussion at Logan Symposium

Here is a panel dis­cus­sion I did about whis­tleblow­ing at the Logan Sym­posium in Lon­don last Novem­ber. With me on the panel are Eileen Chubb, a UK health care whis­tleblower who runs Com­pas­sion in Care and is cam­paign­ing for Edna’s Law, and Bea Edwards of the US Gov­ern­ment Account­ab­il­ity Pro­ject.  With thanks to @newsPeekers for film­ing this.

news­Peek­sLIVE whis­tleblower inter­view from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

US/UK intelligence agencies threaten Germany

Accord­ing to journ­al­ist Glenn Gre­en­wald, Ger­man Vice Chan­cel­lor Sig­mar Gab­riel has stated that the US and UK spy agen­cies threatened to cut Ger­many out of the intelligence-sharing loop if it gave safe haven to NSA whis­tle­bower, Edward Snowden.

Here is my view of the situ­ation on RT today:

RT Inter­view about US/UK intel­li­gence threats to Ger­many from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Jihadi John and MI5

So this week the mur­der­ous beheader of the Islamic State, “Jihadi John”, has been unmasked.  His real iden­tity is appar­ently Mohammed Emwazi, born in Kuwait and now a Brit­ish cit­izen who was raised and edu­cated in west London

Much sound, fury and heated debate has been expen­ded over the last couple of days about how he became rad­ic­al­ised, who was to blame, with MI5 once more cast in the role of vil­lain. In such media sound-bite dis­cus­sions it is all too easy to fall into facile and polar­ised argu­ments. Let us try to break this down and reach a more nuanced  understanding.

First up is the now-notorious press con­fer­ence hos­ted by the cam­paign­ing group, Cage, in which the Research Dir­ector, Asim Qure­shi , claimed that MI5 har­ass­ment of Emwazi was the reason for his rad­ic­al­isa­tion. Emwazi had com­plained to Cage and appar­ently the Met­ro­pol­itan Police that over the last six years MI5 had approached him and was pres­sur­ising him to work as an agent for them. Accord­ing to Cage, this har­ass­ment lead to Emwazi’s radicalisation.

Yet recruit­ment of such agents is a core MI5 func­tion, some­thing it used to do with sub­tlety and some suc­cess, by identi­fy­ing people within groups who poten­tially could be vul­ner­able to induce­ments or pres­sure to report back on tar­get organ­isa­tions.  In fact, Brit­ish intel­li­gence used to be much more focused on gath­er­ing “HUMINT”.  The very best intel­li­gence comes from an (ideally) will­ing but at least co-operative human agent: they are mobile, they can gain the trust of and con­verse with tar­gets who may be wary of using elec­tronic com­mu­nic­a­tions, and they can be tasked to gather spe­cific intel­li­gence rather than wait­ing for the lucky hit on intercept.

MI5 used to be good at this — spend­ing time to really invest­ig­ate and identify the right recruit­ment tar­gets, with a con­sidered approach towards mak­ing the pitch.

How­ever, it appears since 9/11 and the start of the bru­tal “war on ter­ror” that two prob­lems have evolved, both of which ori­gin­ated in Amer­ica. Firstly, Brit­ish intel­li­gence seems to have fol­lowed their US coun­ter­parts down a moral helter-skelter, becom­ing re-involved in counter-productive and bru­tal activ­it­ies such as kid­nap­ping, intern­ment and tor­ture. As MI5 had learned at least by the 1990s, such activ­it­ies inev­it­ably res­ult in blow-back, and can act as a recruit­ing drum to the ter­ror­ist cause of the day.

(Tan­gen­tially, the Home Office also instig­ated the Pre­vent pro­gramme — in concept to counter rad­ical Islam in vul­ner­able social com­munit­ies, but in prac­tice used and abused by the author­it­ies to intim­id­ate and coerce young Muslims in the UK.)

Secondly, Brit­ish intel­li­gence seems over the last dec­ade to have blindly fol­lowed the US spies down the path of pan­op­tican, drag-net elec­tronic sur­veil­lance.  All this has been long sus­pec­ted by a few, but con­firmed to the many by the dis­clos­ures of Edward Snowden over the last couple of years. Indeed it seems that GCHQ is not merely com­pli­cit but an act­ive facil­it­ator and ena­bler of the NSA’s wilder ideas.  And what we now know is hor­rific enough, yet it cur­rently remains just the tip of the iceberg.

This deluge of inform­a­tion cre­ates gar­gan­tuan hay­stacks within which some genu­ine intel­li­gence needles might reside — to use the ter­min­o­logy of the spy agency cheer­lead­ers. How­ever, it con­cur­rently swamps the intel­li­gence agen­cies in use­less inform­a­tion, while also cer­tainly throw­ing up a per­cent­age of false-positives.  Bear­ing in mind the sheer scale of the leg­ally dubi­ous snoop­ing, even a 0.001% of false pos­it­ives could poten­tially pro­duce thou­sands of erro­neous leads.

Curi­ous people now have a world of inform­a­tion at their fin­ger­tips. They may click on an intriguing link and find them­selves on a rad­ical web­site; even if they click out quickly, the pan­op­ticon will have logged their “interest”. Or they could donate money to an appar­ently legit­im­ate char­ity; “like” the wrong thing on Face­book; fol­low the wrong per­son on Twit­ter; have their email hacked, or whatever.…

The Big Brother Borg algorithms will crunch through all of this inform­a­tion pre­dict­ably and pre­dict­ively, with sub­tleties lost and mis­takes made. Mind you, that happened in a more lim­ited fash­ion too at the height of the Cold War sub­ver­sion para­noia in Bri­tain in the 1970s and 1980s, when school­boys writ­ing to the Com­mun­ist Party HQ for inform­a­tion for school pro­jects could end up with a MI5 file, and divor­cing couples could denounce each other.  But at least, then, whole pop­u­la­tions were not under surveillance.

I think this may go some way towards explain­ing so many recent cases where “lone wolf” attack­ers around the world have been known to their national intel­li­gence agen­cies and yet been left to roam free, either dis­coun­ted as too low level a threat in the flood of inform­a­tion or oth­er­wise sub­jec­ted to bungled recruit­ment approaches.

In the ana­logue era much time, research and thought would go into identi­fy­ing per­sons of interest, and more cru­cially how to approach a tar­get either for dis­rup­tion or recruit­ment.  I should think that the spy super-computers are now throw­ing up so many pos­sible leads that approaches are made in a more hur­ried, ill-informed and less con­sidered way.

And this can res­ult in cases such as Michael Ade­bolayo whom MI5 approached and allegedly har­assed years before he went on to murder Drum­mer Lee Rigby in Wool­wich in 2013. The same may well have happened with Mohammed Emwazi. Once someone has been tar­geted, they are going to feel para­noid and under sur­veil­lance, whether rightly or wrongly, and this might res­ult in grow­ing resent­ment and push them into ever more extreme views.

How­ever, I would sug­gest that MI5 remains merely the tool, fol­low­ing the dir­ect­ives of the UK gov­ern­ment in response to the ever-expanding, ever-nebulous war on ter­ror, just as MI6 fol­lowed the dir­ect­ives of the Blair gov­ern­ment in 2003 when it allowed its intel­li­gence to be politi­cised as a pre­text for an illegal war in Iraq. MI5 might be an occa­sional cata­lyst, but not the under­ly­ing cause of radicalisation.

Unfor­tu­nately, by immers­ing itself in the now-overwhelming intel­li­gence detail, it appears to be miss­ing the big­ger pic­ture — just why are young Brit­ish people tak­ing an interest in the events of the Middle East, why are so many angry, why are so many drawn to rad­ical views and some drawn to extreme actions.

Surely the simplest way to under­stand their griev­ances is to listen to what the extrem­ist groups actu­ally say? Osama Bin Laden was clear in his views — he wanted US mil­it­ary bases out of Saudi Ara­bia and US med­dling across the Middle East gen­er­ally to stop; he also wanted a res­ol­u­tion to the Palestinian conflict.

Jihadi John states in his ghastly snuff videos that he is met­ing out hor­ror to high­light the hor­rors daily inflic­ted across the Middle East by the US mil­it­ary — the bomb­ings, drone strikes, viol­ent death and mutilation.

To hear this and under­stand is not to be a sym­path­iser, but is vital if west­ern gov­ern­ments want to develop a more intel­li­gent, con­sidered and poten­tially more suc­cess­ful policies in response. Once you under­stand, you can nego­ti­ate, and that is the only sane way for­ward. Viol­ence used to counter viol­ence always escal­ates the situ­ation and every­one suffers.

The USA still needs to learn this les­son. The UK had learned it, res­ult­ing in the end of the war in North­ern Ire­land, but it now seems to have been for­got­ten. It is not rocket sci­ence — even the former head of MI5, Lady Manningham-Buller, has said nego­ti­ation is the only suc­cess­ful long-term policy when deal­ing with terrorism.

Along with the UK, many other European coun­tries have suc­cess­fully nego­ti­ated their way out of long-running domestic ter­ror­ist cam­paigns. The tragedy for European coun­tries that have recently or will soon suf­fer the new model of “lone wolf” atro­cit­ies, is that our gov­ern­ments are still in thrall to the failed US for­eign policy of “the war on ter­ror”, repeated daily in gory tech­ni­col­our across North Africa, the Middle East, cent­ral Asia, and now Ukraine.

Global jihad is the inev­it­able response to USA global expan­sion­ism, hege­mony and aggres­sion. As long as our gov­ern­ments and intel­li­gence agen­cies in Europe kow­tow to Amer­ican stra­tegic interests rather than pro­tect those of their own cit­izens, all our coun­tries will remain at risk.

Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, Berlin 2015

Last week in Ber­lin the 2015 Sam Adams Award for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence was presen­ted to the former Tech­nical Dir­ector of the NSA, whis­tleblower and tire­less pri­vacy advoc­ate, Wil­liam Bin­ney.

A 36-year intel­li­gence agency vet­eran, Bill Bin­ney resigned from the NSA in 2001 and became a whis­tleblower after dis­cov­er­ing that ele­ments of a data-monitoring pro­gramme he had helped develop were being used to spy on Amer­ic­ans.  He explained that he “could not stay after the NSA began pur­pose­fully viol­at­ing the Constitution”.

Bill remains tire­less, pledging to spend the remainder of his years speak­ing out across the world and work­ing to reform the gross gov­ern­mental illeg­al­ity and stu­pid­ity of inter­cept­ing tril­lions and tril­lions of com­mu­nic­a­tions of inno­cent people’s phone calls, emails and other forms of data. Bill states “it’s viol­ated everyone’s rights. It can be used to spy on the whole world.”

The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates decided to hold the cere­mony in Ber­lin as it is cur­rently a global hub for privacy-minded indi­vidu­als — journ­al­ists, film-makers, tech­no­lo­gists, whis­tleblowers and campaigners.

Binney_at_BundestagHis­tory has made Ger­many much more sens­it­ive to the need for basic rights, such as pri­vacy, than many other soi dis­ant west­ern demo­cra­cies, and the dis­clos­ures of Edward Snowden, includ­ing the col­lu­sion of Ger­man intel­li­gence agen­cies with the NSA as well as the bug­ging of Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, have caused out­rage across the country.

Plus, only last year Bill Bin­ney was invited to give evid­ence to the Ger­man Bundestag’s NSA Inquiry Commission.

SAA_Photo_Berlin_2015Whis­tleblowers, former intel­li­gence officers, mil­it­ary officers, dip­lo­mats and law­yers flew in from around the world to hon­our Bill Bin­ney. The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates attend­ing the event were Ray McGov­ern (CIA), Todd Pierce (US mil­it­ary law­yer), Coleen Row­ley (FBI), Eliza­beth Mur­ray (US national intel­li­gence coun­cil), Craig Mur­ray (UK ambas­sador), Kath­er­ine Gun (GCHQ), Tom Drake (NSA), Jes­selyn Radack (US DoJ), David MacMi­chael (CIA), and myself (MI5).

We were also pleased that Edward Snowden was able to join us via live link to give a  power­ful speech hon­our­ing Bill Binney.

So, here is the film of a won­der­fully touch­ing cere­mony, and con­grat­u­la­tions to Bill Bin­ney for the cour­age he has already demon­strated and con­tin­ues to dis­play:

Sam Adams Award Ber­lin 2015 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

And here we have the text of the award cita­tion to Bill Binney:

The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integ­rity in Intelligence

Presents its INTEGRITY AWARD for 2015 to:

Wil­liam Binney

Know all ye by these presents that Wil­liam Bin­ney is hereby honored with the tra­di­tional Sam Adams Corner-Brightener Can­dle­stick Holder, in sym­bolic recog­ni­tion of Mr. Binney’s cour­age in shin­ing light into dark places.

Bill Bin­ney rep­res­ents the pat­ri­otic side of a duel between two unequal adversar­ies: an exceed­ingly power­ful and ruth­less state and Bill, an offi­cial who would not break his sol­emn oath to defend its Con­sti­tu­tion.  Like Tom Drake and Ed Snowden, he was determ­ined to pre­serve his integ­rity, his pri­vacy, and his per­sonal honor.

On both sides of the Atlantic we hear the man­tra: “After 9÷11÷2001 EVERYTHING CHANGED;” just like “everything changed” after the burn­ing of the Reich­stag on 2÷27÷1933.  That event led many Ger­mans into what the writer Sebastian Haffner called “sheep­ish sub­missive­ness” — with dis­astrous consequences.

As a young Ger­man law­yer in Ber­lin at the time, Haffner wrote in his diary one day after the Reich­stag fire that Ger­mans had suffered a nervous break­down.  “No one saw any­thing out of the ordin­ary in the fact that, from now on, one’s tele­phone would be tapped, one’s let­ters opened, and one’s desk might be broken into.”

What was miss­ing, wrote Haffner, was “a solid inner ker­nel that can­not be shaken by external pres­sures and forces, some­thing noble and steely, a reserve of pride, prin­ciple, and dig­nity to be drawn on in the hour or trial.”

We are grate­ful that these traits were NOT miss­ing in Bill Bin­ney.  Nor were they miss­ing in Edward Snowden, whose pat­ri­otic risk-taking opened the way for Bill and his col­leagues to expose the collect-it-all fan­at­ics and the dam­age they do to pri­vacy everywhere.

What Ed Snowden called “turn­key tyranny” can still be pre­ven­ted.  But this can only hap­pen, if pat­ri­ots like Bill Bin­ney can jolt enough people out of “sheep­ish sub­missive­ness.” Goethe under­stood this 200 years ago when he warned, “No one is more a slave than he who thinks him­self free, but is not.”

“Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein*.

Presen­ted this 22nd day of Janu­ary 2015 in Ber­lin by admirers of the example set by the late CIA ana­lyst, Sam Adams.

And finally, here are some extra inter­views from the night with Bill Bin­ney, Tom Drake, Jes­selyn Radack, and Coleen Row­ley:

With thanks to Ber­lin Moscow on Unter den Linden and the Dreger Group for host­ing the event, to pro­fes­sional pho­to­grapher Johanna Hul­lar for all her great pic­tures of the ceremony.

Turkish TV Interview

Here’s the first half of a long inter­view I did last month for the invest­ig­at­ive news pro­gramme in Tur­key, Yaz Boz, dis­cuss­ing all things whis­tleblower and tech secur­ity:

Yaz Boz — Turk­ish news Inter­view from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Holistic security for journalists and sources — Logan Symposium

Here is a short talk I gave at the recent Logan Sym­posium in Lon­don, where I dis­cussed a more hol­istic approach for both journ­al­ists and their sources:

The Logan Sym­posium — Dec 6th — Annie Machon from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Swedish SVT TV Interview, November 2014

Here’s an inter­view I did while at the excel­lent Inter­net­dagarna con­fer­ence in Stock­holm last month.  It cov­ers all things whis­tleblower, going on the run, and spy account­ab­il­ity:

Inter­view on Swedish SVT TV, Novem­ber 2014 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Keynote at Internetdagarna, Stockholm, November 2014

Here is my key­note speech at the recent Inter­net­dagarna (Inter­net Days) con­fer­ence in Stock­holm, Sweden, dis­cuss­ing all things whis­tleblower, spy, sur­veil­lance, pri­vacy and TTIP:

internetdagarna

RT interview about GCHQ

Here is my recent inter­view on RT dis­cuss­ing the UK listen­ing post, GCHQ, its pros­ti­tu­tion to America’s NSA, and the fail­ure of oversight:

rt_gchq_spying.cleaned

Interview with George Galloway

Here is my recent inter­view with Brit­ish MP George Gal­lo­way on his RT show, “Sputnik”.

george_galloway.cleaned