Today’s RT interview about the Bradley Manning hearing:
And here’s the transcript of the full interview I did.
Today’s RT interview about the Bradley Manning hearing:
Today’s RT interview about the Bradley Manning hearing:
And here’s the transcript of the full interview I did.
Coincidentally, while in Iceland I was invited on to RT to do an interview about the country’s proposal to censor the internet in order to stop access to violent porn. I stress that this discussion is still, apparently, at a consultative stage — decisions have yet to be taken.
My recent interview on Iceland’s premier news discussion show, Silfur Egils, hosted by the excellent Egill Helgason.
The name refers to an old Norse saga about a hero, an earlier Egill, throwing handfuls of silver to the ground so he could make the Viking politicos of the day scrabble around in the dirt trying to pick up the coins.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Wikileaks spokesman, Kristinn Hrafnsson, invited me to speak at the Icelandic Centre for Investigative Journalism while I was in Iceland in February.
While focusing on the intersection and control between intelligence and the media, my talk also explores many of my other current areas of interest.
Well, this will be an interesting week. On the invitation of Snarrotin, the Icelandic civil liberties organisation, I’m off to Iceland for a series of talks and interviews on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.leap.cc).
Iceland is an inspirational and interesting country. Following the 2008 credit crash, the Icelanders bucked international trends and actually held some of their ruling élite — the politicians and bankers who had brought about these financial problems — to account. The government fell, some bankers were fired and prosecuted, and the Icelandic people are having a serious rethink about the way their democracy could and should work.
And indeed why should the people pay the price for the decisions made in their name by an unaccountable élite? One could speciously argue that the people had a meaningful choice at the ballot box.… but back in the real, 21st century political world, Iceland was as stitched-up as all other notional Western democracies. The worst allegation that can be thrown at the people was that they were disengaged, uninvolved and sidelined from how their country was really run — as many of us across the West feel to this day.
But apparently no longer in Iceland: since the financial crisis the citizens of this small democracy have re-engaged in the political process, and the future is looking rosy.
New, accountable politicians have been elected to form a new government. Citizens have been involved in drawing up a new constitution, and heated debates are challenging the established shibboleths of the corporatist governing class: revolving around such issues as finance, internet freedoms, free media, terrorism, and how a modern country should be run in the interest of the many. And next week, I hope, a rethink of the country’s obligations to the international “war on drugs”.
While the issue is strenuously ignored by the Western governing élite, it is now widely recognised that the current prohibition strategy has failed outright: drug trafficking and use has increased, the street price of drugs has plummeted and they are endemically available, whole communities have been imprisoned, whole countries have become narco-states and descended into drug war violence, and the only people to profit are the organised crime cartels and terrorist organisations that reap vast profits. Oh, and of course the banks kept afloat with dirty drug money, the militarised drug enforcement agencies, and the politicians who now, hypocritically, want to look “tough on crime” despite allegations that they also dabbled in their youth.….
Well, the time has come for an adult discussion about this failed policy, using facts and not just empty rhetoric.
So, a week discussing all my favourite happy topics: the “war” on drugs, the “war” on terror, and the “war” on the internet. My type of mini-break!
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.
I saw this chilling report in my Twitter feed today (thanks @Asher_Wolf): Telstra is implementing deep packet inspection technology to throttle peer to peer sharing over the internet.
Despite being a classicist not a geek by training, this sounds like I know what I’m talking about, right? Well somewhat to my own surprise, I do, after years of exposure to the “hacktivist” ethos and a growing awareness that geeks may our last line of defence against the corporatists. In fact, I recently did an interview on The Keiser Report about the “war on the internet”.
Officially, Telstra is implementing this capability to protect those fragile business flowers (surely “broken business models” — Ed) within the entertainment and copyright industries — you know, the companies who pimp out creative artists, pay most of them a pittance while keeping the bulk of the loot for themselves, and then whine about how P2P file sharing and the circulation and enjoyment of the artists’ work is theft?
But who, seriously, thinks that such technology, once developed, will not be used and abused by all and sundry, down to and including our burgeoning police state apparatus? If the security forces can use any tool, no matter how sordid, they will do so, as has been recently reported with the UK undercover cops assuming the identities of dead children in order to infiltrate peaceful protest groups.
Writer and activist, Cory Doctorow, summed this problem up best in an excellent talk at the CCC hackerfest in Berlin in 2011:
The shredding of any notion of privacy will also have a chilling effect not only on the privacy of our communications, but will also result in our beginning to self-censor the information we ingest for fear of surveillance (Nazi book burnings are so 20th Century). It will, inevitably, also lead us to self-censor what we say and what we write, which will slide us into an Orwellian dystopia faster than we could say “Aaron Swartz”.
As Columbian Professor of Law, Eben Moglen, said so eloquently last year at another event in Berlin — “freedom of thought requires free media”:
Two of my favourite talks, still freely available on the internet. Enjoy.
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.
Dr 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.
So 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:
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.
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 coverage of the recent Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, with contributions from many of the whistleblowers involved:
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.
This 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.
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.
Just a quickie, as this is some sort of holiday season apparently. However, this did annoy me. In the same way that President Obama signed the invidious NDAA on 31st December last year, despite his protestations about vetoing etc, it appears the US government has sneaked/snuck through (please delete as appropriate, depending on how you pronounce “tomato”) yet another draconian law during the festive season, which apparently further erodes the US constitution and the civil rights of all Americans.
Yesterday the Senate approved an expansion of the terms of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This allows the US intelligence services to hoover up, if you’ll pardon the mild intelligence joke, the emails of god-fearing, law-abiding Americans if they are exchanging emails with pesky foreigners.
Well of course the whole world now knows, post 9/11, that all foreigners are potential terrorists and are now being watched/snatched/extraordinarily rendered/tortured/assassinated with impunity. In Europe we have had many people suffer this way and some have managed to achieve recognition and restitution. That appears to do little to stop the drone wars and blood-letting that the USA has unleashed across the Middle East.
But the NDAA and the extended FISA should at least rouse the ire of Americans themselves: US citizens on US soil can now potentially be targeted. This is new, this is dangerous, right?
Well, no, not quite, as least as far as the interception of communications goes.
The Echelon system, exposed in 1988 by British journalist Duncan Campbell and reinvestigated in 1999, put in place just such a (legally dubious) mechanism for watching domestic citizens. The surveillance state was already in place, even if through a back door, as you can see from this article I wrote 4 years ago, which included the following paragraph:
ECHELON was an agreement between the NSA and its British equivalent GCHQ (as well as the agencies of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) whereby they shared information they gathered on each others’ citizens. GCHQ could legally eavesdrop on people outside the UK without a warrant, so they could target US citizens of interest, then pass the product over to the NSA. The NSA then did the same for GCHQ. Thus both agencies could evade any democratic oversight and accountability, and still get the intelligence they wanted.
The only difference now is that FISA has come blasting through the front door, and yet people remain quiescent.