RT interview about the recent Iran nuclear deal

Here’s a recent inter­view I did about the recent Iran nuc­lear deal, adding some con­text and his­tory and try­ing to cut through some of today’s media myths:

Rus­sia Today inter­view in Iran nuc­lear deal from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

The Value of Whistleblowers

I was recently invited to write an art­icle for the Nat West Busi­ness Sense online magazine about the poten­tial value and bene­fits of whis­tleblowers.  Here’s the link, and here’s the article:

The con­tro­ver­sial issue of whis­tleblow­ing has been firmly thrust into the pub­lic con­scious­ness over the last few years with the ongo­ing saga of Wikileaks.

Often whis­tleblowers can get a bad rap in the media, deemed to be trait­ors, grasses or snitches.  How­ever, rather than a phe­nomenon to be feared, if handled cor­rectly whis­tleblowers can often be bene­fi­cial to their organ­isa­tions.  Allow me to explain.

I have a nod­ding acquaint­ance with the pro­cess.  In the 1990s I worked as an intel­li­gence officer for the UK domestic Secur­ity Ser­vice, gen­er­ally known as MI5, before resign­ing to help my former part­ner and col­league David Shayler blow the whistle on a cata­logue of incom­pet­ence  and crime.  As a res­ult we had to go on the run around Europe, lived in hid­ing and exile in France for 3 years, and saw our friends, fam­ily and journ­al­ists arres­ted around us.  I was also arres­ted, although never charged, and David went to prison twice for expos­ing the crimes of the spies. It was a heavy price to pay.

How­ever, it could all have been so dif­fer­ent if the UK gov­ern­ment had agreed to take his evid­ence of spy crimes, under­take to invest­ig­ate them thor­oughly, and apply the neces­sary reforms.  This would have saved us a lot of heartache, and could poten­tially have improved the work of the spies. But the government’s instinct­ive response is always to pro­tect the spies and pro­sec­ute the whis­tleblower, while the mis­takes and crimes go unin­vestig­ated and unre­solved. Or even, it often appears, to reward the mal­efact­ors with pro­mo­tions and gongs.

The dra­conian Offi­cial Secrets Act (1989) imposes a blanket ban on any dis­clos­ure what­so­ever.  As a res­ult, we the cit­izens have to take it on trust that our spies work with integ­rity. There is no mean­ing­ful over­sight and no accountability.

Many good people do indeed sign up to MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, as they want a job that can make a dif­fer­ence and poten­tially save lives.  How­ever, once on the inside they are told to keep quiet about any eth­ical con­cerns: “don’t rock the boat, and just fol­low orders”.

In such an envir­on­ment there is no vent­il­a­tion, no account­ab­il­ity and no staff fed­er­a­tion, and this inev­it­ably leads to a gen­eral con­sensus – a bul­ly­ing “group think” men­tal­ity.  This in turn can lead to mis­takes being covered up rather than les­sons learned, and then poten­tially down a dan­ger­ous moral slide.

As a res­ult, over the last dec­ade we have seen scan­dal heaped upon intel­li­gence scan­dal, as the spies allowed their fake and politi­cised inform­a­tion to be used make a false case for an illegal war in Iraq; we have seen them des­cend into a spiral of extraordin­ary rendi­tion (ie kid­nap­ping) and tor­ture, for which they are now being sued if not pro­sec­uted; and we have seen that they facil­it­ate dodgy deals in the desert with dictators.

But it is not all bleak.  Recently, Dr Tom Fin­gar received The Sam Adams Award for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence in Oxford for his work on com­pil­ing the US National Intel­li­gence Estim­ate of 2007.  In this he sum­mar­ised the con­clu­sions of all 16 US intel­li­gence agen­cies by say­ing that Iran had ceased try­ing to develop a nuc­lear weapons cap­ab­il­ity in 2003.

There was immense polit­ical pres­sure on him to sup­press this evid­ence, but he went ahead with the report and thereby single-handedly hal­ted the US government’s rush to war with Iran.  By hav­ing the cour­age to do his job with integ­rity, Dr Fin­gar is respons­ible for sav­ing count­less lives across Iran.

In the world of intel­li­gence, where secrecy is para­mount, where crimes can hushed up, and where there is no avenue for voicing con­cern and dis­sent, it is per­haps inev­it­able that whis­tleblowers will con­tinue to emerge.

But in other sec­tors of work mis­takes can be just as life threat­en­ing and the need for expos­ure just as great.  In the UK over the last few years many senior med­ical whis­tleblowers have emerged from the NHS, detail­ing mis­takes and incom­pet­ence that have put the pub­lic at risk.  Alas, rather than learn from mis­takes made, all too often NHS bosses have either vic­tim­ised the whis­tleblowers by sus­pend­ing them or ruin­ing their repu­ta­tion, or they have insisted that they sign gag­ging orders and then covered up the mis­takes.  Neither option is a good out­come either for staff mor­ale or for patient safety.

While the cul­ture of cover-up exists, so too will whis­tleblowers. How could this be resolved, and what would be the poten­tial benefits?

If employ­ers insti­tute a cul­ture of trust and account­ab­il­ity, where employ­ees with con­cerns can be fairly heard, the appro­pri­ate action taken, and justice done, the needs and imper­at­ives behind whis­tleblow­ing would dis­ap­pear. Poten­tial prob­lems could be nipped in the bud, improv­ing pub­lic trust and con­fid­ence in the prob­ity of the organ­isa­tion and avoid­ing all the bad pub­li­city fol­low­ing a whis­tleblow­ing case.

Plus, of course, the poten­tial whis­tleblowers would have a legit­im­ate avenue to go down, rather than hav­ing to turn their lives inside out – they would no longer need to jeop­ard­ise their pro­fes­sional repu­ta­tion and all that goes with it such as career, income, social stand­ing and even, poten­tially their freedom.

Hav­ing a sound pro­ced­ure in place to address staff con­cerns strikes me as a win-win scen­ario – for staff effi­ciency and mor­ale, the organisation’s oper­a­tional cap­ab­il­ity and repu­ta­tion, and poten­tially the wider pub­lic, too.

How to stop war — Make Wars History

A recent Make Wars His­tory event in the UK Par­lia­ment, hos­ted by John McDon­nell MP, with Chris Cover­dale and myself speak­ing.  Some prac­tical steps we can all take to make wars his­tory:

Make Wars His­tory talk in Par­lia­ment, April 2013 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

UK Anonymous Radio Interview

Here’s the link to my inter­view tonight on UK Anonym­ous Radio — I had a great time and found it a fun, wide-ranging, and stim­u­lat­ing hour.  I hope you do too.  So, thank you Anonymous.

And also thank you to Kim Dot­com set­ting up the new file-sharing site, Mega, which replaces his illegally-taken-down global site, MegaUp­load.  I have some­where safe, I think, to store my interviews!

What a sham­bolic dis­grace that MegaUp­load raid was, and what a clas­sic example of the global cor­por­at­ist agenda that I dis­cuss in the interview.

I do love geeks.

Lies, damned lies, and newspaper reporting…

Also on the Huff­ing­ton Post UK, RT, The Real News Net­work, nsnbc, and Inform­a­tion Clear­ing House:

Where to start with this tangled skein of media spin, mis­rep­res­ent­a­tion and out­right hypocrisy?

Last week the Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence presen­ted this year’s award to Dr Tom Fin­gar at a cere­mony jointly hos­ted by the pres­ti­gi­ous Oxford Union Soci­ety.

Thomas_FingarDr Fin­gar, cur­rently a vis­it­ing lec­turer at Oxford, had in 2007 co-ordinated the pro­duc­tion of the US National Intel­li­gence Estim­ate — the com­bined ana­lysis of all 16 of America’s intel­li­gence agen­cies — which assessed that the Ira­nian nuc­lear weapon­isa­tion pro­gramme had ceased in 2003.  This con­sidered and author­it­at­ive Estim­ate dir­ectly thwarted the 2008 US drive towards war against Iran, and has been reaf­firmed every year since then.

By the very fact of doing his job of provid­ing dis­pas­sion­ate and object­ive assess­ments and res­ist­ing any pres­sure to politi­cise the intel­li­gence (à la Down­ing Street Memo), Dr Fingar’s work is out­stand­ing and he is the win­ner of Sam Adams Award, 2012.  This may say some­thing about the par­lous state of our intel­li­gence agen­cies gen­er­ally, but don’t get me star­ted on that…

Any­way, as I said, the award cere­mony was co-hosted by the Oxford Union Soci­ety last week, and many Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates atten­ded, often trav­el­ling long dis­tances to do so.  Former win­ners were asked to speak at the cere­mony, such as FBI Coleen Row­ley, GCHQ Kath­er­ine Gun, NSA Thomas Drake, and former UK Ambas­sador Craig Mur­ray.  Other asso­ci­ates, includ­ing CIA Ray McGov­ern, dip­lo­mats Ann Wright and Brady Kiesling and myself also said a few words.  As former insiders and whis­tleblowers, we recog­nised the vitally import­ant work that Dr Fin­gar had done and all spoke about the import­ance of integ­rity in intelligence.

One other pre­vi­ous win­ner of the Sam Adams Award was also invited to speak — Julian Assange of Wikileaks.  He spoke elo­quently about the need for integ­rity and was gra­cious in prais­ing the work of Dr Fingar.

All the national and inter­na­tional media were invited to attend what was an his­toric gath­er­ing of inter­na­tional whis­lteblowers and cover an award given to someone who, by doing their job with integ­rity, pre­ven­ted yet fur­ther ruin­ous war and blood­shed in the Middle East.

Few atten­ded, still fewer repor­ted on the event, and the prom­ised live stream­ing on You­tube was blocked by shad­owy powers at the very last minute — an irony con­sid­er­ing the Oxford Union is renowned as a free speech society.

But worse was to come.  The next day The Guard­ian news­pa­per, which his­tor­ic­ally fell out with Wikileaks, pub­lished a myopic hit-piece about the event. No men­tion of all the whis­tleblowers who atten­ded and what they said, no men­tion of the award to Dr Fin­gar, no men­tion of the fact that his work saved the Ira­nian people from need­less war.

Oh no, the entire piece focused on the taw­dry alleg­a­tions eman­at­ing from Sweden about Julian Assange’s extra­di­tion case.  Dis­count­ing the 450 stu­dents who applauded all the speeches, dis­count­ing all the ser­i­ous points raised by Julian Assange dur­ing his present­a­tion, and dis­count­ing the speeches of all the other inter­na­tion­ally renowned whis­tleblowers present that even­ing, The Guardian’s reporter, Amelia Hill, focused on the small demo out­side the event and the only three attendees she could appar­ently find to cri­ti­cise the fact that a plat­form, any plat­form, had been given to Assange from his polit­ical asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Amelia_HillSo this is where we arrive at the deep, really deep, hypo­crisy of the even­ing.  Amelia Hill is, I’m assum­ing,  the same Guard­ian journ­al­ist who was threatened in 2011 with pro­sec­u­tion under the Offi­cial Secrets Act.  She had allegedly been receiv­ing leaks from the Met­ro­pol­itan Police about the on-going invest­ig­a­tion into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

At the time Fleet Street was up in arms — how dare the police threaten one of their own with pro­sec­u­tion under the OSA for expos­ing insti­tu­tional cor­rup­tion? Shades of the Shayler case were used in her defence. As I wrote at the time, it’s a shame the UK media could not have been more con­sist­ently robust in con­demning the chilling effects of the OSA on the free-flow of inform­a­tion and pro­tect all the Poor Bloody Whis­tleblowers, and not just come out fight­ing when it is one of their own being threatened.  Such is the way of the world.…

But really, Ms Hill — if you are indeed the same reporter who was threatened with pro­sec­u­tion in 2011 under the OSA — exam­ine your conscience.

How can you write a hit-piece focus­ing purely on Assange — a man who has designed a pub­lish­ing sys­tem to pro­tect poten­tial whis­tleblowers from pre­cisely such dra­conian secrecy laws as you were hyper­bol­ic­ally threatened with? And how could you, at the same time, air­brush out of his­tory the testi­mony of so many whis­tleblowers gathered together, many of whom have indeed been arres­ted and have faced pro­sec­u­tion under the terms of the OSA or US secrecy legislation?

Have you no shame?  You know how fright­en­ing it is to be faced with such a prosecution.

Your hypo­crisy is breath-taking.

The offence was com­poun­ded when the Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates all wrote a let­ter to The Guard­ian to set the record straight. The ori­ginal let­ter is repro­duced below, and this is what was pub­lished.  Of course, The Guard­ian has a per­fect right under its Terms and Con­di­tions to edit the let­ter, but I would like every­one to see how this can be used and abused.

And the old media won­ders why they are in decline?

Let­ter to The Guard­ian, 29 Janu­ary 2013:

Dear Sir

With regard to the 24 Janu­ary art­icle in The Guard­ian entitled “Julian Assange Finds No Allies and Tough Quer­ies in Oxford Uni­ver­sity Talk,” we ques­tion whether the newspaper’s reporter was actu­ally present at the event, since the account con­tains so many false and mis­lead­ing statements.

If The Guard­ian could “find no allies” of Mr. Assange, it did not look very hard! They could be found among the appre­ci­at­ive audi­ence of the packed Oxford Union Debate Hall, and — in case you missed us — in the group seated right at the front of the Hall: the Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integ­rity in Intelligence.

Many in our group — which, you might be inter­ested to know co-sponsored the event with Oxford Union — had traveled con­sid­er­able dis­tances at our own expense to con­fer the 10th annual Sam Adams award to Dr. Thomas Fin­gar for his work on over­see­ing the 2007 National Intel­li­gence Estim­ate that revealed the lack of an Ira­nian nuc­lear weapon­iz­a­tion program.

Many of us spoke in turn about the need for integ­rity in intel­li­gence, describ­ing the ter­rible eth­ical dilemma that con­fronts gov­ern­ment employ­ees who wit­ness illegal activ­ity includ­ing ser­i­ous threats to pub­lic safety and fraud, waste and abuse.

But none of this made it into what was sup­posed to pass for a news art­icle; neither did any aspect of the accept­ance speech delivered by Dr. Fin­gar. Also, why did The Guard­ian fail to provide even one sali­ent quote from Mr Assange’s sub­stan­tial twenty-minute address?

By cen­sor­ing the con­tri­bu­tions of the Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates and the speeches by Dr. Fin­gar and Mr. Assange, and by focus­ing exclus­ively on taw­dry and unproven alleg­a­tions against Mr. Assange, rather than on the import­ance of expos­ing war crimes and main­tain­ing integ­rity in intel­li­gence pro­cesses, The Guard­ian has suc­ceeded in dimin­ish­ing none but itself.

Sin­cerely,

The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integ­rity in Intelligence:

Ann Wright (retired Army Col­onel and For­eign Ser­vice Officer of US State Depart­ment), Ray McGov­ern (retired CIA ana­lyst), Eliza­beth Mur­ray (retired CIA ana­lyst), Coleen Row­ley (retired FBI agent), Annie Machon (former MI5 intel­li­gence officer), Thomas Drake (former NSA offi­cial), Craig Mur­ray (former Brit­ish Ambas­sador), David MacMi­chael (retired CIA ana­lyst), Brady Kiesling (former For­eign Ser­vice Officer of US State Depart­ment), and Todd Pierce (retired U.S. Army Major, Judge Advoc­ate, Guantanamo Defense Counsel).

The Real News Network Whistleblower Special

The Real News Net­work cov­er­age of the recent Sam Adams Award for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence, with con­tri­bu­tions from many of the whis­tleblowers involved:

More at The Real News

SAAII Award at the Oxford Union Society

On 23 Janu­ary the Oxford Union Soci­ety will be host­ing the Sam Adams Award for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence.

The SAAII is one of the few inter­na­tional recog­ni­tions for those within the intel­li­gence com­munity who fol­low their con­science, often at great pro­fes­sional and per­sonal cost.

Thomas_FingarThis year’s win­ner is Dr Tom Fin­gar, who headed up the 2007 US National Intel­li­gence Estim­ate on Iran. He col­lated the offi­cial assess­ments of all 16 of America’s intel­li­gence agen­cies, which unan­im­ously assessed that Iran had ceased try­ing to build a nuc­lear weapon in 2003. This evidence-based ana­lysis made it impossible for the Bush admin­is­tra­tion to push through its plans to launch a war against Iran in 2008. This excel­lent art­icle by ex-CIA ana­lyst Ray McGov­ern explains Dr Fingar’s achieve­ments far bet­ter than I could.

Former SAAII win­ners include FBI Coleen Row­ley, GCHQ Kath­er­ine Gun, NSA Thomas Drake, and Wikileaks supremo Julian Assange.

Over the last few weeks I have had the pleas­ure of work­ing with the Union officers and fel­low SAAII­ers, espe­cially renowned peace act­iv­ists Ray McGov­ern and Eliza­beth Mur­ray (formerly of the US National Intel­li­gence Coun­cil), to organ­ise this event.  Many of us will be speak­ing that even­ing, and Julian Assange will be doing a live video link.

All this in recog­ni­tion of Dr Fingar’s con­tri­bu­tion to pro­fes­sional, eth­ical intel­li­gence work. Even in this “gloves-off”, post-9/11 world, it is heart­en­ing to hear that is possible.

I hope that many people can sup­port and report on this event.

Interview about Iran on The Real News Network

Fol­low­ing on from the art­icle former CIA ana­lyst, Ray McGov­ern, and I co-authored last month about the pos­sible “fix­ing” of intel­li­gence around Iran, here is a sub­sequent inter­view we did for The Real News Net­work:

Will MI6 “fix” intelligence on Iran?

By:    Ray McGov­ern, former CIA ana­lyst and Annie Machon, former MI5 intel­li­gence officer

Recent remarks by the head of MI6, Sir John Saw­ers, leave us won­der­ing if the Secret Intel­li­gence Ser­vice is pre­par­ing to “fix” intel­li­gence on Iran, as his imme­di­ate pre­de­cessor, Sir John Scar­lett, did on Iraq.

Scarlett’s pre-Iraq war role in cre­at­ing “dodgy dossiers” hyp­ing the threat of non-existent “weapons of mass destruc­tion” is well known.  As for Saw­ers, the red warn­ing light for politi­ciz­a­tion blinked brightly on July 4, as he told Brit­ish senior civil ser­vants that Iran is “two years away” from becom­ing a “nuc­lear weapons state.”  How did Saw­ers come up with “two years?”

Since late 2007, the bench­mark for weigh­ing Iran’s nuc­lear pro­gram has been the unan­im­ous assess­ment by all 16 U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies that Iran hal­ted its nuc­lear weapons pro­gram in late 2003 and that, as of mid-2007, had not restar­ted it.  Those judg­ments have been reval­id­ated every year since — des­pite strong pres­sure to bow to more omin­ous — but evidence-light — assess­ments by Israel and its neo-conservative supporters.

Intel­li­gence Can Make a Difference

The 2007 the US National Intel­li­gence Estim­ate helped to thwart plans to attack Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney admin­is­tra­tion.  This shines through in George Bush’s own mem­oir, Decision Points, in which he rues the NIE’s “eye-popping declar­a­tion: ‘We judge with high con­fid­ence that in fall 2003, Tehran hal­ted its nuc­lear weapons program.’”

Bush con­tin­ues, “But after the NIE, how could I pos­sibly explain using the mil­it­ary to des­troy the nuc­lear facil­it­ies of a coun­try the intel­li­gence com­munity said had no act­ive nuc­lear weapons pro­gram?” (Decision Points, p. 419)

Hands tied on the mil­it­ary side, US cov­ert oper­a­tions flowered, with $400 mil­lion appro­pri­ated at that same time for a major escal­a­tion of the dark-side struggle against Iran, accord­ing to mil­it­ary, intel­li­gence, and con­gres­sional sources cited by Sey­mour Hersh in 2008.  This clandes­tine but all-too-real war on Iran has included attacks with com­puter vir­uses, the murders of Ira­nian sci­ent­ists, and what the Israelis call the “unnat­ural” demise of senior offi­cials like Revolu­tion­ary Guards Major Gen­eral Has­san Moghad­dam father of Iran’s mis­sile program.

Moghad­dam was killed in a large explo­sion last Novem­ber, with Time magazine cit­ing a “west­ern intel­li­gence source” as say­ing the Israel’s Mossad was behind the blast.  More threat­en­ing still to Iran are the severe eco­nomic sanc­tions, which are tan­tamount to an act of war.

Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu and pro-Israel neo-conservatives in the U.S. and else­where have been push­ing hard for an attack on Iran, seiz­ing every pre­text they can find.  Net­an­yahu was sus­pi­ciously fast off the blocks, for example, in claim­ing that Iran was behind the tra­gic ter­ror­ist bomb­ing of Israeli tour­ists in Bul­garia on July 18, des­pite Bul­garian author­it­ies and even the White House warn­ing that it is too early to attrib­ute responsibility.

Netanyahu’s instant indict­ment of Iran strongly sug­gests he is look­ing for excuses to up the ante.  With the Per­sian Gulf look­ing like an acci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen, stocked as it is with war­ships from the U.S., the U.K. and else­where — and with no fail-safe way of com­mu­nic­at­ing with Ira­nian naval com­mand­ers — an escalation-generating acci­dent or pro­voca­tion is now more likely than ever.

July 23: Mark­ing a Day of Infamy

Oddly, Sawers’s speech of July 4 came just as an import­ant date approached — the tenth anniversary of a sad day for Brit­ish intel­li­gence on Iraq.  On July 23, 2002 at a meet­ing at 10 Down­ing Street, then-MI6 head, John Dear­love, briefed Tony Blair and other senior offi­cials on his talks with his Amer­ican coun­ter­part, CIA Dir­ector George Tenet, in Wash­ing­ton three days before.

In the offi­cial minutes of that brief­ing (now known as the Down­ing Street Memo), which were leaked to the Lon­don Times and pub­lished on May 1, 2005, Dear­love explains that George Bush has decided to attack Iraq and the war was to be “jus­ti­fied by the con­junc­tion of ter­ror­ism and weapons of mass destruc­tion.”  While then-Foreign Sec­ret­ary Jack Straw points out that the case was “thin,” Dear­love explains matter-of-factly, “The intel­li­gence and facts are being fixed around the policy.”

There is no sign in the minutes that any­one hic­cupped — much less demurred — at mak­ing a case for war and fur­ther­ing Blair’s determ­in­a­tion to join Bush in launch­ing the kind of “war of aggres­sion” out­lawed by the post-world war Nurem­berg Tribunal and the UN treaty.

Helped by the acqui­es­cence of their chief spies, the Blair gov­ern­ment main­lined into the body politic un-assessed, raw intel­li­gence and forged doc­u­ments, with dis­astrous con­sequences for the world.

UK cit­izens were spoon-fed fake intel­li­gence in the Septem­ber Dossier (2002) and then, just six weeks before the attack on Iraq, the “Dodgy Dossier”, based largely on a 12-year old PhD thesis culled from the Inter­net — all presen­ted by spy and politi­cian alike as omin­ous pre­mon­it­ory intelligence.

So was made the case for war. All lies, res­ult­ing in hun­dreds of thou­sands dead and maimed and mil­lions of Iraqis dis­placed — yet no one held to account.

Sir Richard Dear­love, who might have pre­ven­ted this had he had the integ­rity to speak out, was allowed to retire with full hon­ours and became the Mas­ter of a Cam­bridge col­lege.  John Scar­lett, who as chair of the Joint Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee signed off the fraud­u­lent dossiers, was rewar­ded with the top spy job at MI6 and a knight­hood. George W. Bush gave George Tenet the Pres­id­en­tial Medal of Free­dom — the highest civil­ian award.

What need have we for fur­ther proof? “So are they all, all hon­our­able men” — remin­is­cent of those stand­ing with Bru­tus in Shakespeare’s play, but with no Mark Anthony to expose them and stir the appro­pri­ate pop­u­lar reaction.

Therein lies the prob­lem: instead of being held account­able, these “hon­our­able men” were, well, hon­oured. Their soft land­ings offer a nox­ious object les­son for ambi­tious bur­eau­crats who are ready to play fast and loose with the truth and trim their sails to the pre­vail­ing winds.

Ill-got hon­ours offer neither deterrent nor dis­in­cent­ive to cur­rent and future intel­li­gence chiefs temp­ted to fol­low suit and cor­rupt intel­li­gence rather than chal­lenge their polit­ical lead­ers with hard, un-“fixed” facts. Integ­rity? In this milieu integ­rity brings know­ing smirks rather than hon­ours. And it can get you kicked out of the club.

Fix­ing Intel­li­gence on Iran

Are we in for another round of “fix­ing” — this time on Iran? We may know soon.  Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Net­an­yahu, cit­ing the ter­ror­ist attack in Bul­garia, has already provided what amounts to a vari­ation on Dearlove’s ten-year old theme regard­ing how war can be “jus­ti­fied by the con­junc­tion of ter­ror­ism and weapons of mass destruction.”

Accord­ing to the Jer­u­s­alem Post on July 17, Net­an­yahu said that all coun­tries that under­stand that Iran is an exporter of world ter­ror must join Israel in “stat­ing that fact clearly,” in order to emphas­ize the import­ance of pre­vent­ing Iran from obtain­ing a nuc­lear weapon.

Appear­ing yes­ter­day on Fox News Sunday and CBS’s Face the Nation, Net­an­yahu returned to that theme. Put­ting the blame for the ter­ror­ist attack in Bul­garia squarely on Iran (and Hezbol­lah), Net­an­yahu warned of the increased dangers that would accrue if Iran acquired nuc­lear weapons. “What would be the con­sequences if the most dan­ger­ous régime in the world got the world’s most dan­ger­ous weapons?”.

Will MI6 chief Saw­ers model his con­duct on that of his pre­de­cessors who “jus­ti­fied” war on Iraq? Will he “fix” intel­li­gence around U.K./U.S./Israeli policy on Iran? Par­lia­ment­ary over­seers should demand a brief­ing from Saw­ers forth­with, before erstwhile bull­dog Bri­tain is again dragged like a poodle into another unne­ces­sary war.

Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer in the UK’s MI5 Secur­ity Ser­vice and Ray McGov­ern is a fomer U.S Army Intel­li­gence Officer and CIA analyst.

Spooks + Politicians + Hacks = War

I keep return­ing to this sub­ject, but it is troub­ling me deeply. Read­ing the runes, all things point to the fact that we are being act­ively groomed for yet another Middle East­ern war.

As I’ve said before, the pic­ture is clearly being drawn for those who wish to join the dots. At the end of last year the entire US intel­li­gence infra­struc­ture form­ally assessed that Iran had aban­doned its nuc­lear weapons pro­gramme in 2003. This, of course, did not suit the hawk­ish neo-con agenda in the States.

Then Mossad, the Israeli intel­li­gence out­fit, con­veni­ently pops up claim­ing that it has new, shit-hot intel­li­gence that dis­proves the US assess­ment. Mossad passes this on to the heads of MI6 and the CIA, and shortly after­wards the Prime Min­is­ter of Israel, Ehud Olmert, vis­its George Bush on a state visit to Amer­ica to dis­cuss his “con­cerns” about Iran.

The third part of the equa­tion fell into place this week. Con Cough­lin, writ­ing in the right-wing UK national news­pa­per, The Daily Tele­graph, unques­tion­ingly regur­git­ates inform­a­tion from anonym­ous intel­li­gence sources who state that Iran is now devel­op­ing weapons grade uranium.

Cough­lin has form. For many years he worked for The Sunday Tele­graph, oth­er­wise known as the in-house journal of MI6. Read­ers of this site will know that MI6 has a sec­tion called Inform­a­tion Oper­a­tions (I/Ops), which manip­u­lates the media either by plant­ing false stor­ies or mas­sa­ging the facts to suit MI6’s interests. Well, rather embar­rass­ingly, Coughlin’s involve­ment in one such oper­a­tion was exposed a few years ago.

In 1995 he was shown “inform­a­tion” by an MI6 officer whom he described as “a senior bank­ing offi­cial” prov­ing that Col­onel Gadaffi’s son, Saif Al Islam, was involved in a money-laundering scam with Iran. Cough­lin duti­fully repor­ted this, and this story was used by the For­eign Office to deny Al Islam a visa to live in the UK.

What Cough­lin, and his then editor Dominic Lawson (whose brother-in-law was a senior MI6 officer), didn’t appear to know as he took this story down in short­hand, was the MI6 officer was from I/Ops, and that he was plant­ing this story in the press to ensure that the son of a then Pri­or­ity 1 Joint Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee tar­get could not come over the UK and live high on the hog. Too polit­ic­ally embar­rass­ing, old bean.

Al Islam nat­ur­ally sued, and The Sunday Tory­graph duly settled out of court once it real­ised that intel­li­gence whis­tleblower David Shayler knew the inside track on this libel­lous story and was pre­pared to give evid­ence in court.

Cough­lin was also instru­mental in get­ting stor­ies link­ing Sad­dam Hus­sein to WMD and Al Qaeda into the national UK media in the run-up to the Iraq war, although the vigi­lent reader will notice these stor­ies often con­tra­dict them­selves. So it’s inter­est­ing that he’s now break­ing more “news” sug­gest­ing pre­cisely what Mossad and gov­ern­ments of the UK and the USA would have us believe: that Iran is a real, devel­op­ing nuc­lear threat, and that there is a sound case for war.

Iran Threat — First the Spooks, now the Politicians

As I pos­ted on on 7 May, Israeli intel­li­gence is claim­ing it has new intel­li­gence that proves the recent US National Intel­li­gence Estim­ate wrong in its assess­ment of the nuc­lear threat posed by Iran.

Mossad claims to have solid intel­li­gence that proves Iran is still try­ing to develop a nuc­lear mil­it­ary cap­ab­il­ity. There have been recent high-level talks about this between the intel­li­gence agen­cies of the US, UK and Israel.

A report in The Guard­ian today now indic­ates that the politi­cians are fol­low­ing suit. Israeli Prime Min­is­ter, Ehud Olmert, is set to meet Pres­id­ent Bush today to dis­cuss the threat from Iran. It would not sur­prise me if the US soon announces that it has proof of Iran’s nuc­lear intent, and tries to push for another a “pre-emptive”, and highly illegal, attack.

Iran threat ramped up

The Sunday Times repor­ted last week­end that Sir John Scar­lett, the cur­rent head of MI6, is to fly to Israel at the end of the month to meet his counter-part, Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad. White­hall has tried to down­play the meet­ing as “routine”. How­ever, the focus of the meet­ing appears to be to dis­cuss Israel’s assess­ment of Iran’s nuc­lear capability.

In recent years the neo-cons in power in the US have made no secret of their desire to “fin­ish the job” in the Middle East and attack Iran. For the last two years there has been much sabre-rattling on both sides. The polem­ics from the US usu­ally coin­cided with Iran’s plans to trade increas­ing amounts of its oil in euros. The south west region of Iran has vast oil reserves, and if Iran switched trad­ing cur­ren­cies, this would have an extremely det­ri­mental effect on the power of the petro­dol­lar, and the Amer­ican eco­nomy as a whole.

Lest we for­get, Sad­dam Hus­sein had also begun to trade in euros what little oil he could prior to the Iraq war in 2003. Scar­lett, a career MI6 officer, played a lead­ing role in mak­ing the case for that war. At the time he was Chair of the Joint Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and came to pub­lic atten­tion when he signed off the notori­ous Septem­ber Dossier. It has since become appar­ent that Iraq did not have WMD, nor was it try­ing to acquire uranium from Niger, as MI6 had stated in the dossier. This claim was based on forged documents.

So the tim­ing of the new Israeli intel­li­gence is inter­est­ing, to say the least. Last week, Iran announced that it was going to trade ALL its oil in euros and the yen, and Israel appears to be furi­ously lob­by­ing the US and UK about Iran’s increas­ing nuc­lear threat. Israeli intel­li­gence sources are claim­ing that they have inform­a­tion “on a par with” that which led to the bomb­ing of the Syr­ian nuc­lear power station.

Based on this, they are ask­ing the US gov­ern­ment to reas­sess the level of threat posed by Iran. In Decem­ber 2007 the com­bined think­ing of the whole of America’s intel­li­gence infra­struc­ture was pub­lished in the US National Intel­li­gence Estim­ate. It clearly stated that Iran had stopped devel­op­ing its nuc­lear weapons pro­gramme in 2003 because of inter­na­tional pressure.

But the appar­ent tri­umph of inter­na­tional dip­lomacy does not suit the agenda of the hawks in the US admin­is­tra­tion. What could be bet­ter than to have the spy agen­cies of its closest allies con­veni­ently reveal new intel­li­gence say­ing that Iran now poses an increas­ing nuc­lear threat?