Here is an interview I did today for RRTV about the evolving war in Libya:
Here is an interview I did today for RRTV about the evolving war in Libya:
My interview for RTTV about the current Libyan crisis:
Moving swiftly past the prurient, thigh-rubbing glee that most of the old media seems to be exhibiting over the alleged details of Julian Assange’s love life, let’s re-focus on the heart of the Wikileaks disclosures, and most importantly the aims underpinning them: transparency, justice, and an informed citizenry living within fully-functioning democracies. Such quaint notions.
In the media maelstrom of the Cablegate disclosures, and the resulting infantile and thuggish threats of the American political class, is easy to lose sight of the fact that many of the leaked documents refer to scandals, corruption and cover-ups in a range of countries, not just the good old US of A.
One document that recently caught my attention related to the notorious murder twenty-one years ago of civil rights activist, Pat Finucane, in Northern Ireland. Finucane was a well-known lawyer who was shot and killed in front of his wife and three small children. There has long been speculation that he was targeted by Protestant terrorist groups, in collusion with the NI secret police, the army’s notorious and now-disbanded Forces Research Unit (FRU), and/or MI5.
Well, over a decade ago former top plod, Lord (John) Stevens, began an inquiry that did indeed establish such state collusion, despite having his inquiry offices burnt out in the process by person/s allegedly unknown half-way through the investigation. Stevens fought on, producing a damning report in 2003 confirming the notion of state collusion with Irish Loyalist terrorist activities, but never did clarify exactly what had happened to poor Pat Finucane.
However, Finucane’s traumatised family has never stopped demanding justice. The recent disclosure shines a light on some of the back-room deals around this scandal, and for that I’m sure many people thank Wikileaks.
The “Troubles” in Northern Ireland — such a quintessentially British understatement, in any other country it would have been called a civil war — were deceptive, murky and vicious on both sides. “Collusion” is an elastic word that stretches beyond the strict notion of the state. It is well-known that the US organistion, NORAID, supported by many Americans claiming Irish ancestry, was a major fundraising channel for, um, Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Provisional IRA, from the 1970s onwards.
Such networks provided even more support than Colonel Gaddafi of Libya with his arms shipments, and the cash well only dried up post-9/11. As you can see in this recent article in the The Telegraph, even the incoming Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, New York Congressman Peter King (who ironically called for the designation of Wkileaks as a “foreign terrorist organisation”) appears to have been a life long supporter of Sinn Féin.
With this in the back of our minds, it appears that Dublin and Washington kept pushing for a full inquiry into Finucane’s murder — and in 2005 it looked like MI5 would finally co-operate.
However, the devil was in the detail. Coincidentally, 2005 was the year that the UK government rushed through a new law, the Inquiries Act, which scandalously allowed any department under investigation (in this case MI5) to dictate the terms and scope of the inquiry.
Collusion by any state in the unlawful arrest, torture, and extrajudicial murder of people — whether its own citizens or others — is state terrorism. Let’s not mince our words here. Amnesty International provides a clear definition of this concept.
As the The Guardian article about Finucane so succintly puts it:
“When a state sanctions the killing of citizens, in particular citizens who are lawyers, it puts the rule of law and democracy in jeopardy. And when a state enlists auxiliary assassins, it cedes its monopoly over state secrets: it may feel omnipotent, but it is also vulnerable to disclosure.”
Indeed. Northern Ireland was like a Petri dish of human rights abuses: torture, Diplock courts (aka military tribunals), kidnappings, curfews, shoot-to-kill, informers, and state collusion in assassinations.
The infection has now spread. These are precisely the tactics currently used by the US, the UK and their “auxiliary assassins” across great swathes of the Middle East. Perhaps this explains why our nation states have been outflanked and have ceded their monopoly over secrets.
Will justice ever be done? In the past I would have said, sadly, that would be highly unlikely. However, courageous organisations like Wikileaks and its ilk are improving the odds.
The most senior police officer in the UK, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Paul Stephenson no less, is saying that the British citizens are not taking the threat of terrorism seriously enough. “Al Qaeda” could strike at any minute, the enemy is within etc, etc.…
Now, for a man of his seniority, one presumes that he has served as a policeman for a fair few years — possibly in the 1970s, certainly the 80s and 90s. Which means that he should have a memory of what it means to be under the real, daily threat of bombs exploding that aimed to maim, kill and terrorize the civilian population of London and the rest of the UK. After all, throughout those decades the Provisional IRA, backed by the fund-raising activities of certain American citizens and Colonel Gaddafi of Libya — that erstwhile patron of freedom fighters everywhere, now a staunch ally of the West in the “war on terror” — was pretty much putting bombs down at will on UK streets.
During these years the UK has endured Lockerbie, Omagh, Bishopsgate, Canary Wharf, and Manchester, to name but a few major atrocities. A good summary of the terrorist attacks against London alone over the last 150 years can be found here, with the first Tube bombing occurring in 1885. A pilot, Patrick Smith, also recently wrote a great article about aircraft security and the sheer scale of the terrorist threat to the West in the 1980s — and asks a very pertinent question: just how would we collectively react to such a stream of atrocities now?
Putting aside my professional life at the time, I have personal memories of what it was like to live and work in London in the 1990s under the shadow of terrorism. I remember making my way to work when I was a fledging MI5 intelligence officer in 1991 and commuting through Victoria train station in London 10 minutes before a bomb, planted in a rubbish bin, exploded on the station concourse. One person was killed, and many sustained severe injuries. One person had their foot blown off — the image haunted me for a long time.
I also vividly remember, two years later, sitting at my desk in MI5’s Mayfair office, and hearing a dull thud in the background — this turned out to be a bomb exploding outside Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. And let’s not forget the almost daily disruption to the tube and rail networks during the 90s because of security alerts. Every Londoner was exhorted to watch out for, and report, any suspicious packages left at stations or on streets. Yet because of the preceding couple of decades, this was already a normal way of life in the city.
Londoners have grown used to inconvenience; they grumble a bit about the disruption and then get on with their lives — echoes of the “keep calm and carry on” mentality that evolved during the Blitz years. In the 1990s the only noticeable change to London’s diurnal rhythm was that there were fewer US tourists clogging up the streets — an early indication of the disproportionate, paranoid US reaction to a perceived terrorist threat.
Separate from the IRA, in 1994 a car bomb exploded outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington, London. Despite initial reports that Iranian-backed groups were responsible (and, it turns out, MI5 may have dropped the ball), Palestinian activists were blamed and convicted, wrongly it turns out, as MI5 assessed that the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, had pulled a dirty trick.
Terrorism on the streets of London was nothing new. In the early 1980s my father was in London attending an investigative journalism course and narrowly missed two bombings — one in a restaurant at Marble Arch a couple of hours after he and the rest of the course members had been eating there, and another later that night close to the hotel he was staying in at Lancaster Gate.
My Pa had another near miss in 1970 when he was a young airline pilot flying VC-10s around the world for BOAC. He was supposed to be the pilot of the VC-10 that ended up at Dawson’s Field in Jordan — hijacked by members of the PFLP and eventually blown up. He had been prevented from flying from Bahrain that day as he was suffering a bad dose of the ‘flu.
To this day, his view about both these incidents is to shrug and carry on. Yes, it was a close shave, but if you allow incidents like that to colour the rest of your life, then the concept of terrorism has already won.
The UK and its citizens have had plenty of hands-on experience of living with the reality of war, political violence and terrorism. As a result, I’m constantly flabbergasted by the global security crackdown since 9/11 and particularly in the UK after 7th July 2005. It was ghastly, and my heart bleeds for the victims, families, and survivors, but major terrorist atrocities are hardly new to the UK.
The UK government seems now to have forgotten hard-learned lessons from the 1970s and 80s in the war in Northern Ireland: that draconian measures — torture, shoot to kill, internment, military-style tribunals - not only don’t work, but also are counter-productive and act as recruiting grounds for terrorist groups. The flagrant miscarriages of justice around cases like the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six reinforced this perspective.
And the UK has not been alone in Europe when it comes to living with the daily reality of terrorism: the Spanish have endured Basque separatist attacks for four decades, as have the French — in addition to those perpetrated in Paris with devastating results by Algerian Islamic groups in the 1990s. Germany successfully dealt with the Baader-Meinhof Gang (Red Army Faction), and other European countries, such as Belgium and Italy, have endured Operation Gladio style terrorist attacks over recent decades.
But in all those years, none of our countries gave up on the concept of basic values and freedoms — indeed they seemed to learn useful lessons from the repressive, failed experiment in Northern Ireland. So why are we now falling in line, unthinkingly, with the hysterical and brutal US response post 9/11?
In the UK we are effectively living under a Big Brother surveillance state, as I have previously and extensively written. Other Northern European countries are constantly pressured to fall in line with the US “war on terror” fear mentality. To its credit Germany is reacting cautiously, even in the face of the current, hyped-up terror threat. But then we Europeans know the lessons of history — we’ve lived them, and Germany more than most. The ghosts of the Gestapo and the Stasi still create a frisson of fear in the collective Germanic memory.
But returning to that doughty crime fighter, Sir Paul Stephenson. The day after he ticked off the UK public for not taking terrorism seriously enough, he is once again in the media, predicting an era of growing civil unrest in the wake of the student riots in London, and chillingly stating that the rules of the game had changed. Forget about trying to negotiate with campaigners — now the only way to deal with them is to spy on them, as The Guardian reported:
“We have been going through a period where we have not seen that sort of violent disorder,” Stephenson said. “We had dealt with student organisers before and I think we based it too much on history. If we follow an intelligence-based model that stops you doing that. Obviously you realise the game has changed. Regrettably, the game has changed and we must act.”
Last year the same newspaper revealed that ACPO, the senior police officers’ private association, was running an illegal unit to spy on “domestic extremists” (read politically active citizens). In response to the public outcry, the head of ACPO, Sir Hugh Orde, promised to stop this Stasi-like practice. In the wake of the student protests, Sir Paul will probably see a renewed need for the unit, no doubt under another name. Big Brother grows apace — because, of course, we all know that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.…..
November 5th has long had many levels of resonance for me: Bonfire Night of course, when I was a child — fireworks in the garden and burnt baked potatoes from the fire; since the age of seven, celebrating the birthday of my oldest friend; and, since 2002, the memory of having to stand up in the witness stand in an Old Bailey court room in London to give a mitigation plea at the trial of my former partner, seeing his sentence reduced from the expected thirteen months to a “mere” six, and then having to deal for weeks with the media fall-out. A strange mix of memories.
David Shayler endured a “Kafkaesque trial” in 2002 in the sense that he was not allowed to make a defence due to government-imposed gagging orders, despite all the relevant material already having been widely pubished in the media. The issues were summed up well in this New Statesman article from that time.
But the current debate about control orders used against so-called terrorist suspects — my emphasis — adds a whole new dimension to the notorious phrase.
This recent, excellent article in The Guardian by lawyer Matthew Ryder about control orders sums it up. How can you defend a client if you are not even allowed access to the information that has led to the original accusation?
The Liberal Democrats, in the run-up to the General Election earlier this year, pledged to do away with control orders, as they are an affront to the British model of justice. However, MI5 is putting up a strong defence for their retention, but then they would, wouldn’t they?
Much of the “secret” evidence that leads to a control order appears to come from telephone intercept, but why on earth can this evidence not be revealed in a court of law? It’s not like the notion of telephone bugging is a state secret these days, as I argued in The Guardian way back in 2005.
Bearing all of the above in mind, do have a read of this interview with Paddy Hill, one of the victims of the notorious wrongful convictions for the IRA Birmingham pub bombings in 1974. After being arrested, threatened, tortured and traumatised, he was forced to confess to a terrible crime he had not committed.
As a result, he had to endure sixteen years in prison before his innocence was confirmed. He is still suffering the consequences, despite having found the strength to set up the “Miscarriages of Justice Organisation” to help other victims.
And then have a think about whether we should blindly trust the word of the security forces and the police when they state that we have to give away yet more of our hard-won freedoms and rights in the name of the ever-shifting, ever-nebulous “war on terror”.
Do we really need to hold terrorist suspects in police cells for 28 days without charge? Will we really continue to allow the head of MI6 to get away with blithely asserting, unchallenged, that British intelligence does its very best not to “benefit” from information extracted via unthinkable torture, as former UK ambassador Craig Murray so graphically described in his blog on 29th October?
I’ve said it before, and I shall say it again: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was put in place for a reason in 1948. Let’s all draw a breath, and remember, remember.….
An interesting example of press manipulation appeared today in the UK media. Britain is in the throes of a general election and many pundits are saying that the result is too close to call — the feeling being that the UK’s third party, the Liberal Democrats, may hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. The Daily Mail, one of the most rabidly right-wing of the national newspapers, chose today to print a story about the arrest and subsequent rescue of two UK soldiers in Iraq in 2005.
The general thrust of the piece was that the Labour government was willing to sacrifice our soldiers by refusing to authorise their rescue, in order to avoid political embarrassment. This story appears to be a fairly obvious attempt by The Daily Wail to encourage military personnel and their families to vote against the incumbent government, which was willing to sacrifice our boys’ lives for political expediency.
However,I would suggest that there is another level to this story. Many remember when the news first broke: how two SAS soldiers, working under cover and disguised as Arabs, failed to stop their car at a checkpoint and engaged in a shoot-out that killed one Iraqi and injured three more. The SAS operatives were arrested and taken to a police station where the authorities discovered that their car contained weapons and explosives. The SAS launched a rescue, ploughing into the police station with tanks, and then tracking their targets to a local militia house nearby, fighting their way in and saving their comrades. All heroic stuff. However, the obvious follow-up questions are:
1) What the hell were these two soldiers doing in disguise, and with a car-load of weaponry?
2) Precisely why was the government so embarrassed about the potential political fall-out?
I think these two questions are inter-dependent. Dirty tricks and collusion are a standard methodology for the SAS and the intelligence community — a well-documented tactic they used in the war in Northern Ireland over three decades. So just what was the intended destination of the weaponry? Would they have been used for an attack subsequently blamed on “insurgents” or “Al Qaeda”?
As for the potential political embarrassment, the Daily Mail’s excuse — that the British government didn’t want to undermine the perceived sovereignty of the Iraqis at that time — is just too feeble to stand up. The issue of political embarrassment makes far more sense if seen in terms of UK government awareness of the use by the British military of dirty tricks, collusion or false flag terrorism in Iraq.
Of course, this is a perfectly standard tactic used by many countries’ military and intelligence infrastructures. It would be naïve to think it does not happen, but it is a retrograde, risky and counter-productive tactic.
In the 21st century it is more naïve to think that such activity is either effective or acceptable in a world where the spread of democracy and the application of international law and human rights are the way forward.
So Colonel Gaddafi of Libya has been dishing out the diplomatic gifts generously to the former US administration. Listed in the public declaration are even such items as a diamond ring presented to former Secretary of State, Condaleeza Rice, and other gifts to the value of $212,000.
This seems a slightly uneven distribution of largesse from the Middle East to the West. Before 9/11 and the ensuing war on terror, Gaddafi was still seen by the west as the head of a “rogue state”. Bombs, rather than gifts, were more likely to rain down on him.
However, since 2001 he has come back into the fold and is as keen as the coalition of the “willing” to counter the threat from Islamic extremist terrorists. So now he’s the new bestest friend of the US and UK governments in this unending fight.
But that was kind of inevitable, wasn’t it? As a secular Middle Eastern dictator, Gaddafi has traditionally had more to fear from Islamists than has the West. Particularly when these same Islamist groups have received ongoing support from those very governments that are now cosying up to Gaddafi.
Just to remind you, the reason I helped David Shayler in his whistleblowing on the crimes of MI5 and MI6 was because of just such a plot– the attempted assassination of Gaddafi in 1996 that was funded by the UK external intelligence gathering agency, MI6. In 1995 Shayler, then the head of the Libyan section in MI5, was officially briefed by his counterpart in MI6, David Watson (otherwise known as PT16/B), about an unfolding plot to kill Gaddafi. A Libyan military intelligence officer, subsequently code-named Tunworth, walked in to the British embassy in Tunis and asked to speak to the resident spook.
Tunworth said he was the head of a “ragtag group of Islamic extremists” (who subsequently turned out to have links to Al Qaeda — at a time when MI5 had begun to investigate the group), who wanted to effect a coup against Colonel Gaddafi. They needed funding to do this, and that was where MI6 came in. As a quid pro quo, Tunworth promised to hand over the two Lockerbie supsects for trial in Europe , which had for years been one of MI6’s priority targets — not to mention all those juicy oil contracts for BP et al.
Over the course of about 5 months, MI6 paid Tunworth’s group over $100,000, thereby becoming conspirators in a murder plot. Crucially, MI6 did not get the prior written permission of their political master, the Foreign Secretary, making this action illegal under the terms of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act.
Manifestly, this coup attempt did not work — Gaddafi is now a strong ally of our western governments. In fact, an explosion occurred beneath the wrong car in a cavalcade containing Gaddafi as he returned from the Libyan People’s Congress in Sirte. But innocent people died in the explosion and the ensuing security shoot-out.
So, MI6 funded an illegal, highly reckless plot in a volatile part of world that resulted in the deaths of innocent people. How more heinous a crime could there be? But to this day, despite a leaked MI6 document that proved they knew the existence of the proposed plot, and despite other intelligence sources backing up Shayler’s disclosures, the UK government has still refused to hold an enquiry. Quite the opposite — they threw the whistleblower in prison twice and tried to prosecute the investigating journalists.
Some people may call me naïve for thinking that the intelligence agencies should not get involved in operations like this. Putting aside the retort that the spies often conflate the idea of the national interest with their own, short-sighted careerism, I would like to remind such cynics that we are supposed to be living in modern democracies, where even the secret state is supposed to operate within the rule of law and democratic oversight. Illegal assassination plots, the use of torture, and false flag, state-sponsored terrorism should remain firmly within the retro, pulp-fiction world of James Bond.
OK, so I’m a crap blogger — but I have to say that my access to the internet was severely limited during my travels across Canada! And then I had to go back to the UK, then NL.…
Canada was great — the first national speaking tour organised by the country’s 9/11 groups. And before you roll your eyes, these are citizens’ groups that are calling for a new enquiry — in response to a mountain of evidence from hundreds of credible experts around the world, who question the official account peddled by the 9/11 Commission.
Bearing in mind how the issue of 9/11 has been used and abused by our dear governments to justify the endless “war on terror”, the use of torture, the wars in the Middle East and the erosion of our freedoms at home, I think any concerned and responsible citizen should, at the very least, keep an open mind about this issue and do their own research. Especially as the 9/11 Commission was, in the words of its two chairs, Keane and Hamilton, “set up to fail”!
But back to the tour. Huge thanks go to Patrick, the national organiser of the tour, who had the vision and commitment to pull the whole thing together, as well as sort out all the logistics and arrange a constant flow of media interviews for me, of which more below. And of course to the organisers of the events: Elizabeth, Rukshana, Mark, JF, Michael, Adam, Adnan, Graeme, and all the other activists — too many to name individually.
I had to fly to Vancouver via Chicago O’Hare, which spooked me to begin with. I’ve been through that airport before and it has, in the past, lived up to its well-deserved reputation for power-crazed immigration officers. However, I got a real sweetie — we ended up having an interesting chat about the nature of democracy, before he cracked a smile and waved me through.
In comparison, Vancouver airport is a Zen experience — all native art installations and waterfalls. As I emerged blinking into the late afternoon sunshine (it was about 3am by my body clock), I was greeted by the Vancouver posse and whisked away in the Truth Bus to food, wine and another radio interview.
I did a series of radio and newspaper interviews the next morning (thanks, Rukshana’s mum for the use of the phone!), before being whisked off on a tour of Vancouver by Rukshana and Georgina. The city blew me away with its beauty — mountains up close, parks, sea and arty quarters. If it wasn’t so
damned close to the US border, I would be seriously tempted to move
At the end of the afternoon, I had a fab time being interviewed on Vancouver 1410 CFUN drivetime radio, before one more telephone interview and a well-earned glass of champagne at Georgina and Darren’s.
After this day of recovery, I was then invited onto the Bill Good Show the next morning. Bill is the grand old man of BC media, and he was a excellent interviewer. I had half an hour with him, and the show went out to over a quarter of a million people.
The meeting that night was a great success — I could feel the energy and interest of the audience as I spoke for 1 1/2 hours, and then had over an hour more of questions. I think it’s wrong for the media to say people are no longer interested in politics — they’re just not that interested in the established political hierarchies and systems.
If I had thought Vancouver lovely, the scenery was even more beautiful as I took the ferry down the bay to Victoria, past small wooded islands. Of course, that was the moment my camera decided to pack up…
I had a lovely couple of days in Victoria, pampered by Elizabeth and Brian, shown the beauties of the island and meeting a number of activists. I also had the pleasure of meeting Rowland Morgan, (co-author with Ian Henshall) of the excellent bestseller, “9/11 Revealed”.
I’d done a number of interviews before arriving on the island. The Victoria event was very well attended and I had a standing ovation at the end.
Then it was back to Vancouver for another hour-long interview on Co-op Radio and a pot luck supper with the activists, before flying off to Ottawa for the eastern leg of the tour. I arrived at midnight to be greeted by the lovely Marjorie and Cam, who hosted me for a couple of nights. My sleep was all too brief, as I had to get up at 4.30 to make a 6am radio interview.
The Ottawa event was smaller (I would say it was an extremely rainy night!), but perfectly formed. Despite this, the group seemed very enthused about putting on future events.
The next day brought a Greyhound bus ride up to Montréal. Such moments in life are when you wish you’d put Simon and Garfunkel on your I-pod. My 18 hours in Montréal were hectic — and we only just made it to the meeting on time, what with an excellent dinner and terrible traffic. The meeting was really vibrant. Afterwards, when everyone else was heading out to party, I had to slink back to my bed for a brief 4 hours sleep, before getting a train at 6.30 to Toronto.
I hit the ground running, with a lunchtime interview, then a peace demo in the city centre. Clinton and Bush Jr were in town, giving a talk to 5000 of the faithful who were flush enough to cough up between $200 and $5000 to hear their bien pensees. Independent media did a couple of good interviews with me. Shamefully, the Stop the War Toronto group only managed to rustle up about 1,000 protesters outside the conference centre, and then refused to give a platform to Splitting the Sky, a Canadian peace activist who had attempted to arrest Bush for war crimes when he visited Calgary in April, and who had himself been arrested for his pains. However, some other peace activists had some good coverage!
The next day, having caught up on some sleep at last, I had an excellent time at the Toronto university radio station, where we had a lively hour-long interview, before heading off to my event at the university.
Next stop, Waterloo University, where I did a round of interviews accompanied by the journalist and campaigner, Barrie Zwicker. The format that night changed to an interview on stage conducted by him, which worked really well.
The final stop of the tour was Hamilton where, after another all-too-brief night, I had three morning interviews — 2 on radio, and one recorded for the TV evening news. A lovely Lebanese lunch with a group of professors from the university followed, and then a much needed chance to sleep it off, before heading out to the final gig, organised by Professor Graeme MacQueen and hosted by Mohawk College. Well, they always say the last one is the best — and I had an amazing evening. Over an hour of talk, following by 1 1/2 hours of questions from an interested and informed audience.
So a great time in an amazing country. Thanks once again to all who made this tour such a success, and good luck with your future plans!
On 22 May I shall be starting my very own national speaking tour in Canada. Following my visit to California last year, the Canadian 9/11 Truth groups have pulled together a 7-event tour, where I will have the chance to discuss the intelligence world, whistleblowing, going on the run and the issue of 9/11, particularly focusing on its repercussions around the world: the endless “war on terror”, the illegal wars in the Middle East, and the erosion of our democracies in the West.
The Canadian Truth Movement tirelessly campaigns for a new, independent inquiry in the tragic events of 9/11, and has in the past hosted speakers such as Professor David Ray Griffin and architect Richard Gage.
More information about the tour can be obtained from: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. See you there!
Friday 22 May — Vancouver
Sunday 24 May — Victoria
Wednesday 27 May — Ottawa
Thursday 28 May —
Saturday 30 May — Toronto
Sunday 31 May — Waterloo
Monday 1 June — Hamilton
Last November he authorised the arrest of Tory MP Damien Green for allegedly encouraging leaks of sensitive government information. This had the knock-on benefit of waking MPs up to the fact that we are now living in a de facto police state. Well, I suppose that must have been a welcome distraction for them. It must be so dull merely to spend your time devising new and ingenious ways of fiddling your parliamentary expenses.
This week, Quick was photographed entering Downing Street with highly classified documents under his arm about a sensitive UK terrorist investigation, which were clearly visible to waiting photographers. The clearly visible “Secret” briefing document detailed an MI5-led operation, codenamed Pathway, and bounced the counter-terrorism agencies into making premature arrests of the suspects, many of them young Pakistanis in the UK on student visas.
Outrage followed this massive security lapse. What on earth was the man doing, openly carrying secret documents? Protective rules dictate that such papers are not allowed outside HQ unless signed out and in a security briefcase. The voluntary press censorship committee, the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee, has slapped a ‘D’ Notice all over the story. Quick has, of course, resigned. Reportedly, he may even (gasp) face disciplinary proceedings within the Met.
Is it just me, or people missing a trick here? This man has disclosed a highly classified intelligence document without permission. In addition, this document contained information about an ongoing operation AND the names of senior intelligence officers — according to MI5 lore two of the most damaging types of information that could possibly be disclosed. So, why is Quick not facing prosecution under the draconian 1989 Official Secrets Act? He clearly falls under Section 1(1) of the Act as a notified person if he is handling Secret documents:
(a) a member of the security and intelligence services; or
(b) a person notified that he is subject to the provisions of this subsection,
is guilty of an offence if without lawful authority he discloses any information, document or other article relating to security or intelligence which is or has been in his possession by virtue of his position as a member of any of those services or in the course of his work while the notification is or was in force.
Under these provisions, there is no real defence under law. Legal precedent in recent OSA trials has clearly established that the reason for an unauthorised disclosure of secrets is irrelevant. (The theoretical and untested subsequent defence of “necessity” has no bearing on this particular case.) Whether the breach occurs due to principled whistleblowing or a mistake doesn’t matter: the clear bright line against disclosure has been crossed and prosecution inexorably follows.
Except if you have sufficiently seniority, it appears.….
I haven’t written here for a while, despite the embarras de richesses that has been presented to us in the news recently: Dame Stella saying that the UK is becoming a police state; drones will patrol the streets of Britain, watching our every move; databases are being built, containing all our electronic communications; ditto all our travel movements. What can a lone blogger usefully add to this? Only so much hot air — the facts speak for themselves.
Plus, I’ve been a bit caught up over the last couple of months with Operation Escape Pod. Not all of us are sitting around waiting for the prison gates to clang shut on the UK. I’m outta here!
But I can’t resist an interesting article in The Spectator magazine this week. And that’s a sentence I never thought I would write in my life.
Tim Shipman, quoting a plethora of anonymous intelligence sources and former spooks, asserts that Britain’s foreign policy is being skewed by the need to placate our intelligence allies, and that the CIA is roaming free in the wilds of Yorkshire.
His sources tell him that the UK is a “swamp” of Islamic extremism, and that the domestic spies are terrified that there will be a new terrorist atrocity, probably against US interests but it could be anywhere, carried out by our very own home-grown terrorists. According to Shipman, this terrible prospect had all the spooks busily downing trebles in the bars around Vauxhall Cross in the wake of the Mumbai bombings.
Apart from the suggestion that the spies’ drinking culture appears to be as robust as ever, I find this interesting because well-sourced spook spin is more likely to appear in the august pages of The Speccie than in, say, Red Pepper. But if this is an accurate reflection of the thinking of our politicians and intelligence community, then this is an extremely worrying development. It goes a long way to explaining why the UK has become the most policed state in the Western world.
Yes, in the 1990s the UK practised a strategy of appeasement towards Islamic extremists. MI5’s view was always that it was better to give radicals a safe haven in the UK, which they would then be loathe to attack directly, and where a close eye could be kept on them.
This, of course, was derailed by Blair’s Messianic mission in the Middle East. By unilaterally supporting Bush’s adventurism in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the teeth of stark warnings about the attendant risks from the head of MI5, Britain has become “the enemy” in the eyes of radical Islam. The gloves are off, and we are all at greater risk because of our former PM’s hubris.
But now we apparently have free-range CIA officers infiltrating the Muslim communities of the UK. No doubt Mossad is also again secretly tolerated, despite the fact that they had been banned for years from operating in the UK because they were too unpredictable (a civil service euphemism for violent).
And I am willing to bet that this international perception that UK spooks will be caught off-guard by an apparently British-originated terrorist attack is the reason for the slew of new totalitarian laws that are making us all suspects. The drones, the datamining and the draconian stop-and-search laws are designed to reassure our invaluable allies in the CIA, Mossad, ISI and the FSB. They will not be put in place to “protect” us.
In September I was invited over to California to give two talks about intelligence, whistleblowing, and 9/11 and its impact on the world. I focused on the erosion of our traditional freedoms and basic civil liberties
Two meetings were organised for me in Marin, San Fransisco, and Davis by the Californian 9/11 movement. They were great meetings — packed out — and the response was brilliant. It’s heartening that so many people care about these issues, and the adverse impact the “war on terror” is having, not just on the lives of people in the Middle East wars, but also on our way of life in the West.
Two men in black, apparently carrying handcuffs, turned up at the meeting in Marin, sat at the back and spent much of the time muttering into their mobiles during the talk. At the end, while everyone was clapping, they sat with their arms crossed, glowering at me, and for one mad moment I thought they were going to haul me off for talking in public about dangerous notions such as democracy, civil rights and peace.
Anyway, thank you to all who made this possible, particularly Gabriel, Kevin, and Byron. And thanks also to Ken, Hummux and the team for filming the talk in Marin. DVDs of the talk can be obtained here.
Here’s the talk in Marin:
After the London event in 2007, Cynthia McKinney and I flew over to Amsterdam for an interview at a big public event organised by new media organisation, Docs at the Docks.
Last Sunday George Bush graciously flew into the UK for a final official visit before he steps down as president in January next year. PM Gordon Brown looked distinctly uncomfortable at their joint press conference, particularly when he had to announce that the UK would continue to support US military adventurism in the Middle East by sending yet more troops out there.
Of course, over the years many millions of us opposed these illegal wars, but to no avail. This was the last opportunity for peace protesters in the UK to vent their feelings towards Bush. The police responded in an increasingly heavy-handed way, penning the peaceniks up, beating innocent people around the head for no reason, and calling in the armoured riot police.
One friend of mine said that they were standing there playing protest songs when suddenly a wall of Robocop lookalikes appeared and began to advance on them. My friend, a seasoned activist, had never seen anything quite like it; even he was unnerved. Another decided to make a stand. Well, to be exact, he lay down at their feet, protected only by Solomon his trusty Peace Dog.
Despite all this, the police persisted in blaming the protesters. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison announced that the Met would hold an enquiry and said: “We are seriously disappointed by the irresponsible and criminal action of those who have challenged police….”
Allison then went on to make a statement that chilled my heart: he said that the protest could have been used as a “cover” for terrorists targeting George Bush.
So this is what it has come to. Many intelligent commentators over recent years have said that politicians and police use the threat of terrorism to gain more and more draconian powers. Time and again we have seen innocent people stopped for no good reason under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. Infamously, this Act was also used to throw 87 year old Walter Wolfgang out of a Labour Party conference for heckling Jack Straw. Police can even arrest you now purely to ascertain your identity.
But for a senior policeman to claim that violence is acceptable against peace campaigners as they might be harbouring terrorists is one step beyond. The tactics the US army has used so disastrously on the streets of Baghdad have now been imported to the streets of Westminster.
I have been saying for a long time that the laws are already in place for the UK to be defined as effectively a police state. The only reason that this is not yet obvious to all is because these laws are not applied more widely. But perhaps we are seeing the first signs of this now.
Where will this end? The German people did not just wake up one day in 1939 and find that they lived under a fascist régime. The process was slow, and the erosion of democracy incremental. The vast majority was not even aware of what was happening to their country until it was too late.
They say that if you put a frog in cold water, and then gradually heat up the pot, the frog cannot detect the change in temperature fast enough and will sit there boiling to death. This, I fear, is what is happening to our democracy.