RT interview about whistleblower Edward Snowden

The whis­tleblower behind last week’s PRISM leaks dra­mat­ic­ally went pub­lic last night.  Edward Snowden gave an inter­view to Glenn Gre­en­wald of The Guard­ian explain­ing calmly and cogently why he chose to expose the NSA’s endemic data-mining. An immensely brave man.

Here is an inter­view I did about the case last night for RT:

And here is the tran­script.

MI6 “ghost money”

Here’s the full art­icle about MI6 “ghost money”, now also pub­lished at the Huff­ing­ton Post UK:

Afghan Pres­id­ent Hamid Kar­zai, has recently been cri­ti­cised for tak­ing “ghost money” from the CIA and MI6. The sums are inev­it­ably unknown, for the usual reas­ons of “national secur­ity”, but are estim­ated to have been tens of mil­lions of dol­lars. While this is nowhere near the eyebleed­ing $12 bil­lion shipped over to Iraq on pal­lets in the wake of the inva­sion a dec­ade ago, it is still a sig­ni­fic­ant amount.

And how has this money been spent?  Cer­tainly not on social pro­jects or rebuild­ing ini­ti­at­ives.  Rather, the report­ing indic­ates, the money has been fun­nelled to Karzai’s cronies as bribes in a cor­rupt attempt to buy influ­ence in the country.

None of this sur­prises me. MI6 has a long and ignoble his­tory of try­ing to buy influ­ence in coun­tries of interest.  In 1995/96 it fun­ded a “ragtag group of Islamic extrem­ists”, headed up by a Libyan mil­it­ary intel­li­gence officer, in an illegal attempt to try to assas­sin­ate Col­onel Gad­dafi.  The attack went wrong and inno­cent people were killed.  When this scan­dal was exposed, it caused an outcry.

Yet a mere 15 years later, MI6 and the CIA were back in Libya, provid­ing sup­port to the same “rebels”, who this time suc­ceeded in cap­tur­ing, tor­tur­ing and killing Gad­dafi, while plunging Libya into appar­ently end­less interne­cine war. This time around there was little inter­na­tional out­cry, as the world’s media por­trayed this aggress­ive inter­fer­ence in a sov­er­eign state as “human­it­arian relief”.

And we also see the same in Syria now, as the CIA and MI6 are already provid­ing train­ing and com­mu­nic­a­tions sup­port to the rebels — many of whom, par­tic­u­larly the Al Nusra fac­tion in con­trol of the oil-rich north-east of Syria are in fact allied with Al Qaeda in Iraq.  So in some coun­tries the UK and USA use drones to tar­get and murder “mil­it­ants” (plus vil­la­gers, wed­ding parties and other assor­ted inno­cents), while in oth­ers they back ideo­lo­gic­ally sim­ilar groups.

Recently we have also seen the West­ern media mak­ing unveri­fied claims that the Syr­ian régime is using chem­ical weapons against its own people, and our politi­cians leap­ing on these asser­tions as jus­ti­fic­a­tion for openly provid­ing weapons to the insur­gents too. Thank­fully, other reports are now emer­ging that indic­ate it was the rebels them­selves who have been using sarin gas against the people. This may halt the rush to arms, but not doubt other sup­port will con­tinue to be offered by the West to these war criminals.

So how is MI6 secretly spend­ing UK tax­pay­ers’ money in Afgh­anistan? Accord­ing to west­ern media report­ing, it is being used to prop up war­lords and cor­rupt offi­cials. This is deeply unpop­u­lar amongst the Afghan people, lead­ing to the danger of increas­ing sup­port for a resur­gent Taliban.

There is also a sig­ni­fic­ant over­lap between the cor­rupt polit­ical estab­lish­ment and the illegal drug trade, up to and includ­ing the president’s late brother, Ahmed Wali Kar­zai.  So, another unin­ten­tional con­sequence may be that some of this unac­count­able ghost money is prop­ping up the drug trade.

Afgh­anistan is the world’s lead­ing pro­du­cer of heroin, and the UN reports that poppy growth has increased dra­mat­ic­ally. Indeed, the UN estim­ates that acre­age under poppy growth in Afgh­anistan has tripled over the last 7 years.  The value of the drug trade to the Afghan war­lords is now estim­ated to be in the region of $700 mil­lion per year.  You can buy a lot of Kalash­nikovs with that.

So on the one hand we have our west­ern gov­ern­ments bank­rupt­ing them­selves to fight the “war on ter­ror”, break­ing inter­na­tional laws and mur­der­ing mil­lions of inno­cent people across North Africa, the Middle East, and cent­ral Asia while at the same time shred­ding what remain of our hard-won civil liber­ties at home.

On the other hand, we appar­ently have MI6 and the CIA secretly bank­rolling the very people in Afgh­anistan who pro­duce 90% of the world’s heroin. And then, of course, more scarce resources can be spent on fight­ing the failed “war on drugs” and yet another pre­text is used to shred our civil liberties.

This is a luc­rat­ive eco­nomic model for the bur­geon­ing military-security complex.

How­ever, it is a lose-lose scen­ario for the rest of us.

So wasn’t the royal wedding lovely?

Well, yes, for some per­haps, and no doubt for the happy couple.

How­ever, oth­ers spent the glor­i­ous day in a bare, con­crete police cell, pre-emptively arres­ted for what they might do and untrace­able to their loved ones and law­yers.  Effect­ively they were “dis­ap­peared”, taken off the streets in case they uttered some­thing that might mar the great day or, heaven for­bid, caused some embarrassment.

A few days ago I wrote a piece high­light­ing my con­cerns about the threatened secur­ity response to pos­sible pro­test­ers — draw­ing com­par­is­ons with the mind­set, if not the viol­ent tac­tics, of the thugs in Syria’s secur­ity appar­atus.  But still, in some deep recess of my mind and against all the accu­mu­lated evid­ence from my last 15 years, I found I still had an emo­tional, resid­ual echo of the notion of Brit­ish fair play that, really, we don’t do those kinds of things in the UK.  Well, then I was a child, and spoke as a child.… 

In the run up to the happy nup­tials, the Met­ro­pol­itan Police stated that it had no spe­cific intel­li­gence of any ter­ror­ist threat from either dis­sid­ent Irish repub­lic­ans, nor from any pos­sible group­ing emer­ging from the Middle East.  Des­pite this, the secur­ity forces had launched a massive intelligence-gathering oper­a­tion to hunt down known “anarch­ists” who might want to voice their protest against the concept of the mon­archy.  Act­iv­ist pages on Face­book were sud­denly deleted with no warn­ing, but the com­pany said it was because of regis­tra­tion issues, and not because of the police.

Yes, there may well have been some who wanted to cause viol­ence — after which they could have been arres­ted legit­im­ately under the terms of the law .  How­ever, what the police did in this case was in an alto­gether dif­fer­ent league.  Using the meth­od­o­logy if not the bru­tal­ity of the Syr­ian mukhabarat, they organ­ised house raids and snatch squads.  They banned cer­tain act­iv­ists from Lon­don, and arres­ted oth­ers both in the days before the wed­ding and on the day itself. 

Those caught in the secur­ity sweep included a Pro­fessor of Anthro­po­logy, Chris Knight, and his friends who were plan­ning a bit of mildly amus­ing street theatre involving a fake guil­lot­ine and a Prince Andrew dummy (is that tautologous?).

Oth­ers swept up by the secur­ity forces included a bunch of envir­on­ment­al­ist squat­ters who were busily tend­ing their mar­ket garden, accord­ing to rightly con­cerned MP John McDon­nell, and some ran­dom “zom­bies” who wanted to go to an altern­at­ive “not the royal wed­ding” garden party.  Hardly the stuff of revolu­tion­ary nightmares.

Hug_the_Police2And then there’s the case of Charlie Veitch, now denounced across the UK media as the known anarch­ist. Yes, Charlie is anti-royalist and wanted to voice his views, but he runs an internationally-known act­iv­ist organ­isa­tion called the Love Police, for chris­sakes.  The peace­ful inten­tions of the organ­isa­tion might pos­sibly be given away by the name.…

So what happened? On Thursday even­ing two police officers, tooled up with proto-Borg tech, muscled their way into the Cam­bridge home he shares with his girl­friend, Silkie Carlo, declar­ing that they were there to arrest him and search the place. They had the pres­ence of mind to film the whole pro­cess and ask some per­tin­ent questions.

Charlie’s alleged pre-crime?  That he had pos­ted a fright­en­ingly pres­ci­ent video on You­tube say­ing that he thought he was being spied on, but still cri­tiquing the royal wed­ding and sug­gest­ing that fel­low act­iv­ists get together in Soho Square, Lon­don (quite a dis­tance away from the fest­iv­it­ies) on the day.  OK, so he had a bit of a rant — but that’s what people do on You­tube.  Agree with him or strongly dis­agree, it’s called his free­dom of expres­sion — a much-vaunted, tra­di­tional Brit­ish liberty. 

But in the eyes of the police, appar­ently he was “con­spir­ing to cause a pos­sible breach of the peace”, and needed to be locked up.   It’s like we’ve time-travelled back to pre-revolutionary 18th cen­tury France, where the king could issue a lettre de cachet to send people to the Bastille.

So at the very time that Prince Wil­liam and his blush­ing bride were cre­ated Duke and Duch­ess of Cam­bridge, a Brit­ish cit­izen was raided, locked up and hid­den away in a police cell in that very city for exer­cising free speech. 

On Thursday night he was hauled off to the Cam­bridge nick, which then refused to con­firm to his under­stand­ably upset girl­friend where he was being held, before being transfered to the Met Police on Fri­day morn­ing and held incom­mu­nic­ado for the rest of the day.  Fam­ily and law­yers then appar­ently spent fruit­less hours ringing around all the Lon­don police sta­tions try­ing to track him down.  So Charlie had effect­ively been “dis­ap­peared”, like a dis­sid­ent in a total­it­arian régime.

So let’s get this straight — we’re talk­ing about the Met­ro­pol­itan Police spy­ing on known act­iv­ists (as we all now know they do, after the under­cover cop scan­dal earlier this year) to pre­vent them from express­ing their legit­im­ate polit­ical views about the wed­ding of Kate and Wills.  The secur­ity forces had already stated that there was no spe­cific ter­ror­ist threat, so this was all about pre­vent­ing an embar­rass­ing incid­ent on the big day.  And I’m sorry, but I don’t think that Pre­ven­tion of Embar­rass­ment is covered by the legal code.

Plus, these arrests were pre-emptive to stop a pos­sible crime which might be com­mit­ted — and let’s face it, only breach of the peace at that.  Not a biggy.

So we are basic­ally look­ing at the police spy­ing on and then pre-emptively arrest­ing cam­paign­ers for being poten­tial dis­sid­ents, for ThoughtCrime.  How much more Orwellian can it get?

I men­tioned the tac­tics of the Syr­ian secur­ity forces and their bru­tal crack-down.  I’ve also pre­vi­ously writ­ten about how the slide towards fas­cism began in Ger­many in the 1930s with the bru­tal­isa­tion of internal oppos­i­tion­ists and dissidents . 

So let’s really stop and think about this — do we really want to let these early indic­a­tions slide by, uncon­tested? After all, we have the Olympics and the Dia­mond Jubilee next year, and no doubt the same, or exten­ded, powers will come into force.  How far will we let it go before we wake up to the threat?

As I’ve writ­ten before, with thanks to Pas­tor Mar­tin Niemoeller:

First they came for the Irish in the 1980s,

But I was not Irish so I did not speak up.

Then they came for the Muslims after 9/11,

But I was not a Muslim, so I did not speak up.

Then they came for the “domestic extremists”,

But I was not an act­iv­ist, so I did not speak up.

Then they came for me;

and there was nobody left to speak up for me.

 

RTTV interview on the royal wedding and arrest of UK activists

My inter­view on 29 April 2011 for RTTV about the pre-emptive arrests of UK polit­ical act­iv­ists in the run-up to the royal wedding. 

Thoughtcrime appears to have arrived in the UK — and I acci­dent­ally became a royal wed­ding com­ment­ator (sort of). 

Well, never say never in life.…

 

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.

RTTV interview — in defence of Wikileaks

On 6 Decem­ber I appeared on RTTV’s CrossTalk dis­cus­sion pro­gramme along­side whis­tleblow­ing UK ex-diplomat Carne Ross, to talk about the implic­a­tions of Wikileaks:

 

 

From Russia with Love (to the USA)

I’ve been fol­low­ing with interest the retro, Cold War spy saga cur­rently unfold­ing in the USA.  The head­lines being that 10 alleged Rus­sian sleep­ers (“illeg­als” in spy lingo) have been arres­ted by the FBI and are now charged with “work­ing as agents of a for­eign power”, which car­ries a sen­tence of five years in prison.

These Rus­sian “illeg­als”, some of whom reportedly have been liv­ing openly as Rus­sian immig­rants, some as other for­eign nation­als, have allegedly been infilt­rat­ing the US since the mid-1990s, and were tasked to get friendly with Amer­ican power-brokers, to glean what inform­a­tion they could about the thoughts of the US great and the good about Rus­sia, Iran, defence plans etc.

Whatever the truth of this case, and the charges are detailed, I find the tim­ing and media atten­tion given to this story inter­est­ing for three key reasons:

From what has been repor­ted of the court papers, the FBI invest­ig­a­tion has been going on for years.  Appar­ently they have known about the spy ring since 2000, and have included com­mu­nic­a­tions inter­cept mater­ial in the indict­ment dat­ing from 2004 and 2008, as well as sting oper­a­tions from the begin­ning of this year.  So it’s curi­ous that the FBI decided to swoop now, in the imme­di­ate after­math of a suc­cess­ful and, by all accounts friendly, meet­ing between the Rus­sian and Amer­ican pres­id­ents in Wash­ing­ton DC

Many people are com­ment­ing on this aspect of the tim­ing.  And, indeed, one might spec­u­late about wheels within wheels — it appears that there are still hard­line fac­tions within the US admin­is­tra­tion that want to ensure that a warmer work­ing rela­tion­ship can­not develop between Rus­sia and the USA. A strategy of ten­sion is good for busi­ness – espe­cially com­pan­ies like Hal­libur­ton and Xe (formerly Black­wa­ter) which profit from build­ing vast US mil­it­ary bases in Cent­ral Asia.

But what also intrigues me is the pos­sible behind-the-scenes action. 

OurManInHavanaThis story is get­ting blanket media cov­er­age.  It’s a good, old-fashioned, Cold War-style coup, hit­ting all the jin­go­istic spy but­tons, just at a time when the US spooks are under pres­sure about their per­form­ance in the neb­u­lous and ever-shifting “war on ter­ror”, the shred­ding of con­sti­tu­tional rights, the illegal sur­veil­lance of domestic polit­ical act­iv­ists, and com­pli­city in extraordin­ary rendi­tion and tor­ture. It’s a use­ful “reminder” that the bloated US secur­ity infra­struc­ture is worth all the money it costs, des­pite the dire state of US national fin­ances. Pure propaganda.

I’m also will­ing to bet that there is a more cov­ert aspect to this story too — some behind-the-scenes power play.  There are, at the last count, 17 acknow­ledged intel­li­gence agen­cies in the US, all com­pet­ing for prestige, power and resources.  By mak­ing these arrests, the FBI will see this as a step up in the spy peck­ing order.  It reminds me inev­it­ably (and per­haps flip­pantly) of the clas­sic spy novel by former intel­li­gence officer Gra­ham Greene, “Our Man in Havana”.  In this no doubt entirely fic­tional work, a Brit­ish MI6 asset invents a spy ring to increase his stand­ing and fund­ing from Lon­don HQ.

Also curi­ous is the role played by one Chris­topher Met­sos, allegedly the 11th man, not ini­tially arres­ted, who is repor­ted to have passed money to the spy ring.  He was caught yes­ter­day in Cyprus try­ing to board a plane to Hun­gary, and inex­plic­ably gran­ted bail — inex­plic­able at least to the Greek police, who always worry that their sus­pect will flee over the bor­der into the Turk­ish seg­ment of the island, never to be seen again.  And this has indeed happened, accord­ing to The Guard­ian news­pa­per this even­ing. Per­haps he has some urgent appoint­ments to sell vacuum clean­ers north of the border.….