The Sam Adams Associates – the Weirdest Club in the World

Since 2002 a unique award ceremony has taken place annually in either the USA or Europe: the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. This year it occurred in Washington DC on 22 September and was given to veteran journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Seymour Hersh.

Why unique? Well the group comprising the Sam Adams Associates is made up of former Western intelligence, military and diplomatic professionals, many of whom have spoken out about abuses and crimes committed by their employers. For their pains, most have lost their jobs and some have also lost their liberty.

Laureates include US army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley (Time person of the year in 2002 and the first SAA laureate), publisher Julian Assange, UK Ambassador Craig Murray, and co-ordinator of the US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in 2007, Dr Tom Fingar.

The common theme that binds this disparate group together into a rather weird, wonderful and very informal global club is that they have all attempted to shine a light on the dark corners of government, to speak truth to power and expose wrongdoing and “fake news” for the greater good of humanity. It is appalling that they have to pay such a high personal price for doing this, which is why the Sam Adams Associates provides recognition and presents as its annual award – a candle stick, the “corner brightener”.

The Sam Adams Award has, over most recent years, gone to bona fide whistleblowers such as Tom Drake, Bill Binney, Jess Raddack and Chelsea Manning, while publishers, such as Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame, have also received recognition. But Seymour Hersh is the first mainstream journalist to receive the accolade.

Hersh has a long and illustrious career, beginning with his exposure of the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam war in 1969 . But it was an article he wrote about the April 2017 chemical attack in Syria that won him the award this year.

To remind people, on 4th April this year a chemical weapon was reportedly used against the civilian population of Idlib Province in Syria and civilians were reportedly killed. Ahead of any possible investigation, the international media unilaterally declared that the Assad regime had attacked its own people; President Trump immediately ordered a retaliatory strike on the Syrian Air Force base from where the alleged attackers launched their fighter jets, and was lauded by the militatry-industrial complex for firm and decisive action.

Except – this was all based on a lie, as Hersh established. However, despite his journalistic reputation, he was unable to publish this story in the American mainstream media, and instead had it published in Germany’s Die Welt.

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The event in Washington this year was a game of two halves – the first was the dinner where Seymour Hersh was presented with his award, lauded by both former intelligence professionals and fellow investigative journalists for his work. It was a recognition of the value of true journalism – speaking truth to power and attempting to hold that power to account.

The second half of the evening, which Mr Hersh was unable to attend because of prior commitments, was the more general annual SAA celebration of all things truth telling and whistleblowing. I had the honour of MCing the event, which included a speech from Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, SAA founder Ray McGovern and many more.

Between us all we have decades of service and experience across different continents. Despite this geographical spread, common themes continue to emerge as they always do at Sam Adams events: official obfuscation, spy spin, media control, illegal war and more.

What to do? We shall continue to speak out in our work around the world – I just hope that the awareness spreads about the fake news that is daily peddled in the mainstream media and that more people begin to look behind the headlines and search for the truth of what is going on.

Whistleblowers, as well as their enablers in the publishing and media world, remain the regulators of last resort for truth and for justice.

Here is a link to the opening segment – other parts can be found on Youtube via World Beyond War 2017:

#NoWar2017 Sam Adams Associates with Ed Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, Annie Machon and Elizabeth Murray from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

French intelligence exonerates Russia of election hacking

My recent RT interview about the French intelligence report that exonerated Russia of trying to hack the recent presidential election, despite the claims of new President, Emmanual Macron. The same thing has happened in Germany too, much to Merkel’s displeasure..

And so the tapestry of lies begins to fray:

No Evidence of Russian Hacking of French Election from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

A Couple of Interviews

Here are a couple of the interviews I have done this month, the first marking the release of US army whistleblower, Chelsea Manning and the second, ironically, discussing leaks from the US intelligence community, the most recent of which adversely impacted the investigation into the recent appalling Manchester bombing in the UK:

The Impact of Chelsea Manning from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

US Intelligence Leaking from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

No evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion

My RT interview today about the statement made by the Chair of the US Congressional Chair of the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, about the lack of any evidence of collusion between the Trump administration and Russia:

US Congressman – No Evidence of Russia-Trump Collusion from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

CIA and MI5 hacking our “Internet of Things”

Yet again Wikileaks has come good by exposing just how much we are being spied upon in this brave new digital world – the Vault 7 release has provided the proof for what many of us already knew/suspected – that our smart gadgets are little spy devices.

Here are a couple of interviews I did for the BBC and RT on the subject:

BBC – CIA and MI5 Hack our TVs from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

And:

Wikileaks release info re CIA/MI5 hacks from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Recent interviews: UK Cyber Security, Kim Dotcom, and Iraq

I’ve done a few more interviews this month for RT, on a variety of issues:

US boots on the ground in Iraq

USA Boots on the Ground in Iraq – again. from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

The extradition case against Megaupload’s founder, Kim Dotcom

Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom faces extradition from NZ to USA from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

And the launch of the UK’s new Cyber Security Centre, soon after the new Investigatory Powers Act (aka the “snoopers’ charter”) became law

The launch of the UK’s new National Cyber Security Centre from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Fake Intelligence

Here’s a recent interview I did for RT UK’s flagship news programme, Going Underground with Afshin Rattansi, about the whole fake news, fake intelligence allegations swirling around President Trump’ administration at the moment:

RT Going Underground – the Issue of US Fake Intelligence from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Donald Trump v the Spooks

Published on Consortium News on 16 January 2017.

The clash between plutocratic President-elect Trump and the CIA is shaping up to be the heavy-weight prize fight of the century, and Trump at least is approaching it with all the entertaining bombast of Mohammed Ali at the top of his game. Rather than following the tradition of doing dirty political deals in dark corners, more commonly known as fixing the match, Trump has come out swinging in the full glare of the media.

In that corner we have a deal-making, billionaire “man of the people” who, to European sensibilities at least, reputedly espouses some of the madder US domestic obsessions and yet has seemed to offer hope to many aggrieved Americans. However, it is his professed position on building a rapprochement with Russia and cooperating with Moscow to sort out the Syrian mess that caught my attention and that of many other independent commentators internationally.

In the opposite corner his opponents have pushed the CIA into the ring to deliver the knock-out blow, but this has yet to land.  Despite jab after failed jab, Trump keeps evading the blows and comes rattling back against all the odds. One has to admire the guy’s footwork.

So who are the opponents ranged behind the CIA, yelling encouragement through the ropes? The obvious culprits include the US military industrial complex, whose bottom line relies on an era of unending war. As justification for extracting billions – even trillions – of dollars from American taxpayers, there was a need for frightening villains such as Al Qaeda and, even more so, the head choppers of ISIS.  However, since the Russian intervention in Syria in 2015, those villains no longer packed so scary a punch, so a more enduring villain, like Emmanuel Goldstein, the principal enemy in George Orwell’s “1984”, was required.  Russia was the obvious new choice, the old favourite from the Cold War play book.

The western intelligence agencies have a vested interest in eternal enemies to ensure both eternal funding and eternal power, hence the CIA’s entry into the fight. As former British MP and long-time peace activist George Galloway so eloquently said in a recent interview, an unholy alliance is now being formed between the “war party” in the US, the military-industrial-intelligence complex and those who previously would have publicly spurned such accomplices: American progressives and their traditional host, the Democratic Party.

Yet, if the DNC had not done its best to rig the primaries in favour of Hillary Clinton, then perhaps we would not be in this position. Bernie Sanders would now be the President-elect.

These establishment forces have also revealed to the wider world a fact long known but largely dismissed as conspiracy theory by the corporate mainstream media, that the two-party system in both the US and the UK is a sham. In fact, we are governed by a globalised elite, working in its own interest while ignoring ours. The Democrats, openly disgruntled by Hillary Clinton’s election loss and being seen to jump into bed so quickly with the spooks and the warmongers, have laid this reality bare.

In fact, respected US investigative journalist Robert Parry recently wrote that an intelligence contact admitted to him before the election that the intelligence agencies did not like either of the presidential candidates. This may go some way to explaining the FBI’s intervention in the run up to the election against Hillary Clinton, as well as the CIA’s attempts to de-legitimise Trump’s victory afterwards.

Whether that was indeed the case, the CIA has certainly held back no punches since Trump’s election. First the evidence-lite assertion that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC emails and leaked them to Wikileaks: then the fake news about Russia hacking the voting computers; that then morphed into the Russians “hacked the election” itself; then they “hacked” into the US electric grid via a Vermont utility.  All this without a shred of fact-based evidence provided, but Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats last month solidified this dubious reality in Americans’ minds.

All this has so far culminated, of course, in the “dirty dossier” allegations last week about Trump, which he has rightly knocked down – it was desperately poor stuff.

This last item, from a British perspective, is particularly concerning. It appears that a Washington dirt-digging company was hired by a Republican rival to Trump to unearth any potential Russian scandals during the primaries; once Trump had won the nomination this dirt-digging jobbery was then taken over by a Democrat supporter of Hillary Clinton. The anti-Trump investigation was then sub-contracted to an alleged former British spy, an ex-MI6 man named Christopher Steele.

Much has already been written about Steele and the company, much of it contradictory as no doubt befits the life of a former spy. But it is a standard career trajectory for insiders to move on to corporate, mercenary spy companies, and this is what Steele appears to have done successfully in 2009.  Of course much is predicated on maintaining good working relations with your former employers.

That is the aspect that interests me most – how close a linkage did he indeed retain with his former employers after he left MI6 in 2009 to set up his own private spy company? The answer is important because companies such has his can also be used as cut-outs for “plausible deniability” by official state spies.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that happened in this case, but Steele reportedly remained on good terms with MI6 and was well thought of.  For a man who had not been stationed in Russia for over 20 years, it would perhaps have been natural for him to turn to old chums for useful connections.

But this question is of extreme importance at a critical juncture for the UK; if indeed MI6 was complicit or even aware of this dirt digging, as it seems it might have been, then that is a huge diplomatic problem for the government’s attempts to develop a strong working relationship with the US, post-Brexit. If MI6’s sticky fingers were on this case, then the organisation has done the precise opposite of its official task – “to protect national security and the economic well-being of the UK”.

MI6 and its US intelligence chums need to remember their designated and legislated roles within a democracy – to serve the government and protect national security by gathering intelligence, assessing it impartially and making recommendations on which the government of the day will choose to act or not as the case may be.

The spies are not there to fake intelligence to suit the agenda of a particular regime, as happened in the run-up to the illegal Iraq war, nor are they there to endemically spy on their own populations (and the rest of the world, as we know post-Snowden) in a pointless hunt for subversive activity, which often translates into legitimate political activism and acts of individual expression.

And most especially the intelligence agencies should not be trying to subvert democratically elected governments. And yet this is what the CIA and a former senior MI6 officer, along with their powerful political allies, appear to be now attempting against Trump.

If I were an American I would be wary of many of Trump’s domestic policies. As a European concerned with greater peace rather than increasing war, I can only applaud his constructive approach towards Russia and his offer to cooperate with Moscow to staunch the bloodshed in the Middle East.

That, of course, may be nub of his fight with the CIA and other vested interests who want Russia as the new bogeyman.  But I would bet that Trump takes the CIA’s slurs personally. After all, given the ugliness of the accusations and the lack of proof, who would not?

So, this is a world championship heavy-weight fight, over who gets to hold office and wield power, an area where the US and UK intelligence agencies have considerable experience in rigging matches and knocking out opponents. Think, for instance, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953; Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973; Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2003; and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria is punch-drunk but still standing, thanks to some good corner support from Russia.

However, it would appear that Trump is a stranger to the spies’ self-defined Queensbury Rules in which targets are deemed paranoid if they try to alert the public to the planned “regime change” or they become easy targets by staying silent. By contrast, Trump appears shameless and pugnacious. Street-smart and self-promoting, he seems comfortable with bare-knuckle fighting.

This match has already gone into the middle rounds with Trump still bouncing around on his toes and relishing the fight. It would be ironic if out of this nasty prize fight came greater world peace and safely for us all.

Is the USA Facing a Coup d’Etat?

On 18 December last year I wrote an article about the possibility of a coup d’etat in the USA, planned and executed by the CIA and other participants in the Deep State.

At the time I just wanted to highlight the potential problems that were arising from the CIA’s and the American elite’s objection to a Trump presidency and failure of the Clinton candidacy.

However, following fake news of the “Vermont hack” and the failure of the debunked report on “Russian hacking” of the election last week, it seems that the CIA and the wider deep state is dramatically raising the stakes today, with leaks to the media of dubious reports from a corporate spy company alleging corruption and sexual deviancy.  How low can they go?

I would laugh at this farrago of nonsense if this escalation of accusation did not imply such an increasingly deadly course, on the part of the American establishment, to push for a showdown with Russia at any cost in 2017.

First published on RT:

I fear that soon the curtain will finally be brought down on the puppet show that passes for democracy in America, and those who for decades have been pulling the strings will come raging into the light, red in tooth and claw. The illusion that the people really have a choice of president every four years will be irreparably shattered.

The old British truism that “it does not matter whom you vote for, the government always gets in” can also be applied to the US presidency – usually all candidates are approved and massively funded by the modern incarnation of Eisenhower’s infamous “military-industrial complex” and then assiduously supported by cheerleaders in the old corporate media, leaving the electorate with damn little meaningful choice.

This has been true from Reagan to Bush the First, from Clinton the First to Bush the Second and then on to Obama (the First?). It was supposed to have been true in the most recent election, where the elite’s choice pointed towards a contest between Bush the Third or Clinton the Second, either one of whom would have worked to the interests of Wall Street and continued the increasingly dangerous, interventionist, and hawkish global US foreign policy.

As a little aside, since when did the USA fall for the concept of inherited political power, a de facto new monarchy?

But then an oxymoronic billionaire “man of the people” crowbarred his way into the contest and slashed all the strings of puppetry and privilege. Enter, stage left, the bullish, seemingly bigoted, and bemusingly successful Donald Trump.

As a Brit, currently cut adrift in a pre-Brexit Europe, I hold no brief for the dangers he may or may not pose to the much-vaunted American way of life in the good ol’ homeland.  However, as I have stated before, with The Donald’s apparent determination to follow a strategy of US isolationism, to cut a deal in Syria, and effect a rapprochement with Russia, the wider world may just have dodged a nuclear bullet or at least an era of unending war.

Plus, the American people appear to have wanted a change, any change, from the hereditary privilege of the Washington elite. That change could well have come from another outsider, Bernie Sanders, if he had been given a fair chance.  However, as we know from the leaked Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Podesta emails, the Democratic Party would stop at nothing to ensure the anointing of the chosen one – Clinton the Second

So why do I think that there may be a coup d’etat looming in America’s near future?

Trump was elected on the promise of “draining the swamp” of the Washington political and corporate elites – this is deeply threatening to the vested interests, not least the CIA, whose daily briefings have been spurned by Trump, thereby rupturing the co-dependent relationship between the president and the politicly compromised intelligence agencies that has existed since 9/11 and which has caused so much global harm, starting with the ill-informed and illegal rush to war in Iraq in 2003. I shall return to the CIA later.

The American elite is facing the inauguration of a self-professed outsider who is threatening all their easily-bought privileges, one who seems more interested in cutting deals than bombing countries. Nor do they like his nominees to high office, especially that of Rex Tillerson, the current CEO of ExxonMobil,  to the post of Secretary of State – after all, he has a track record of cutting deals too and with the Russians no less, and such a person as the top US diplomat might, gasp, help to bring to a close the new not-so-Cold War that is so important to the hawkish warmongers and their masters in the thriving US arms and security industry.

Therefore once Trump had been declared the official Republican nominee, the establishment push-back was all too predictable. The story of “Russian hacking” was initially trailed merely as media bait to divert the press from the real story – Hillary Clinton’s potentially illegal use of a private web server while acting as Secretary of State.

Then in November Wikileaks began to release even more damaging emails from the DNC and the Podesta files, which demonstrated quite how the Democrats had stitched up the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.  The Democrats immediately cried foul – it must indeed be the Russians hacking their files and handing the information to Wikileaks (now cast as a Russian stooge – a move extremely useful in America’s ongoing attempts to frame the prosecution of Wikileaks editor Julian Assange as “espionage”, even though he is an Australian publisher stuck in Europe).

Unusually Assange went on the record to say the emails Wikileaks published did not come from the Russians: Wikileaks traditionally refuses to discuss its sources.

Then former UK Ambassador and Wikileaks ally, Craig Murray, went public by saying that, while he was in Washington earlier this year, he was given files that were then published on Wikileaks. His view is that the information came from a Democrat whistleblower with legal access – it was a leak by an insider, not a hack by an outsider.

Also earlier this week a group of former senior US intelligence officials, including the former Technical Director of the NSA, wrote an open letter to Congress explaining that, if indeed the Russians had hacked the DNC, the NSA would have been able to provide evidence to to prove this.  Yet, at such a time of potential constitutional crisis, none has been forthcoming, either directly or via the CIA, even in the face of calls for the usual congressional hearings and special investigations.

So there is apparently no substantive evidence of Russian hacking during the election.  However, there does appear to be some evidence around the issue of Clinton’s illegal server.

Eleven days before the American election the Director of the FBI, in the wake of the Anthony Weiner sexting case, reopened the investigation into the Clinton server scandal and published the fact, as he said, in the national interest. This caused howls of rage from the Democrats, and again “Russian hacking” was hyped in the media, thereby easily conflating the concept of the illegal server, the alleged hacks, the Russians, into one big lump of geek-speak that most people would not have the will to disentangle.  Two days before the election, James Comey backed down, but the hacking seed had germinated.

Now it is coming into bloom – last week the CIA re-entered the fray, with reports about Russian hacking leaked to both the Washington Post and the New York Times. Since then, nameless “intelligence sources” and grandstanding politicians have been falling over themselves to speak to this subject, but it all remains very evidence-lite.

Plus there is apparently by no means a consensus amongst all seventeen of the US intelligence agencies with regards to the CIA’s claims.  Indeed, until recently the FBI has directly contradicted them, and the FBI is in the business of pulling together evidence to prosecute a case under law.

That, now, is all changing. Only recently it was reported that the FBI is now supporting the CIA’s “beliefs”.  I was puzzled about this volte face until I read this prominent op-ed by Clinton campaign manager, John Podesta, in the Washington Post where, in addition to blaming the Russians for “hacking the election” (note, no longer just the DNC emails and his own), he is attacking the FBI and its head, James Comey, and suggesting that the organisation is broken and “what’s broken in the FBI must be fixed and quickly”. Perhaps, for whatever reason, Comey can see the overturning of the election result as a real possibility now and is desperately rowing back.

In parallel, it seems that the CIA is fearful of retaliation if, against all their endeavours, Donald Trump does indeed get sworn in as the 45th president of the USA on 20th January next year.  That goes some way to explaining why they are challenging the election result by pushing this line that the Russians “hacked the election”, the new headline that has morphed through the global MSM over the last couple of days from belief to established fact, with no evidence produced.

The CIA claims that Russian “hackers” were delving around in the emails of both the Democratic National Congress as well as the Republican equivalent for months before the November election.  And yet only the Democrat emails were, the CIA asserts, passed on to Wikileaks and thereby published to order to sway the election result. Where is the proof? They have produced no evidence, in the face of of expert testimony from former senior intelligence officers as well as direct assertions from Wikileaks about the source of the DNC leaks. Indeed, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, is refusing to brief the Congressional intelligence committees’ repeated requests to give a briefing.

That has not stopped the global mainstream media from whipping up an imagined new truth: that the Russians “hacked the election”. And the media frenzy has grown exponentially over the last few days.

This is why I fear an American coup d’etat, possibly starting as soon as 19th December, the date when the Electoral College meets to ratify the election of Trump.  All this Cold-War, anti-Russian hysteria is being used as a stick to beat the Electoral College members into ignoring their duty and vote in the way directed by the majority of the people of their state whom they are pledged to represent. Plus, who knows what juicy carrots may also have been offered?

If enough prove faithless to the electorate, then the election result will be overturned and Clinton the Second could ascend to the American throne. Even if the Electoral College does its sworn duty to the people, I fear that the CIA anti-Trump campaign may now have gathered so much momentum that the establishment may still find a way, any way possible, to stop Trump’s inauguration as president – after all we still have five weeks to get through before 20th January.

Trump is a known unknown and retains potential possibilities intriguing to the wider world.  However, if the Electoral College starts a coup d’etat on Monday and against all constitutional norms the coronation of Clinton proceeds, we know all too well what lies ahead: war.

Shades of Watergate – the fake Russian Hacking

Published on Consortium News.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) of the USA has been hacked – cue a national American trauma, allegations of dirty tricks, fears that democracy has been subverted, all leading to what the next US president would call “our long national nightmare”.

But, no, I am not talking about the current Russo-phobic hysteria currently engulfing the US media, replete with claims about “fake news”, expelled Russian diplomats, and a lack of skepticism about the evidence-lite hacking allegations.

Instead I am dipping back into history – the old Watergate Scandal – when Richard Nixon’s “plumbers” stole information the old-fashioned way; they broke into the DNC offices, rifled the files and planted listening devices. On 17 June 1972, when police captured five burglars inside the DNC offices at the Watergate building in Washington, the case slowly unfolded over the next two years until President Nixon resigned on 9 August 1974, and was replaced by Vice President Gerald Ford who declared “our long national nightmare is over”.

During those two years, The Washington Post became internationally and justifiably famous for breaking the story about Richard Nixon’s role in the Watergate cover-up and – since then – generations of cub reporters have dreamed of being the next Woodward or Bernstein. Besides leading to the downfall of the mendacious and paranoid Nixon, the scandal contributed to the reining in of an out-of-control intelligence establishment culminating in the Church Committee hearings of 1975.

What followed was greater, if unfortunately temporary, control of the US intelligence agencies and at least an apparent respect for the rights of American citizens under the terms of the US Constitution. The work of The Washington Post then was indeed relevant and world changing.

The film depiction of the Post’s investigation – All the President’s Men – celebrated this exposé and confirmed in Western minds that our wonderful free press spoke truth to power.  And perhaps, in this case, the press did (although I have to say that I preferred the meltdown scene in the prophetic film The Network, which envisioned the slide of the news media into ratings-driven madness).

But – regarding The Washington Post – how the mighty have fallen. Over the last couple of months, The Post has blown what was left of its journalistic reputation out of the water.

First it unblushingly reported the PropOrNot “blacklist” of “fake news” internet sites that were allegedly working at the Kremlin’s command to swing the US election to Donald Trump, except that list encompassed many of the most reputable independent (ie not US corporate-owned) English-language international news sites. Threatened with angry writs from some of the sites, the paper quickly printed a disclaimer distancing itself from the anonymous people behind PropOrNot, but still not apologising for the McCarthyistic smear.

Then, last Friday, the paper was at it again – breathlessly reporting that the Vermont energy grid was apparently hacked by the scapegoat du jour, Russia. Although there should have been some obvious questions asked: why Vermont?  What has that state ever done to Russia? Well, not much as it turns out; nor Russia to Vermont.

Yet again the Post has revised its reporting down to the fact that a laptop, completely unconnected to the grid according to the energy provider’s statement, had been infected by malware. In other words, there was no Russian hacking into the Vermont power grid.

And yet, because it’s The Washington Post, this fake breaking “news” was taken seriously and metastasised through the body politic of America and beyond. This Russian hacking became a “post-truth” reality, no matter how fact-free the original story. (I hereby propose a #factfreediet for us all on Twitter for January, so we can highlight this phenomenon.)

But here is the obvious next questions: why did this non-story appear in The Washington Post and why now? Has the paper suddenly fallen prey to a revamped Operation Mockingbird, its editorial stuffed to the gills with CIA agents of influence?

As I have written before, the CIA and its associates within the Deep State appear to be hell bent on undermining the legitimacy of the Trump election result and this hyping of Russian hacking is one of the key weapons in this struggle. So perhaps the Deep State players are (re)activating a few agents of influence in the mainstream American media?

But there may possibly be a more tangential explanation for The Washington Post’s plunge into fiction: Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and one of the wealthiest people in the world. Amazon is not only the favourite purveyor of all goods online, but also suspected (at least in the UK) of massive tax avoidance scams as well as abusive employment practices in the same country.

Bezos is also, since 2013, the proud owner of The Washington Post, a purchase that heralded his unexpected business swerve into the old mainstream media. The deal to buy the newspaper was reported in the business press to have cost him $250 million.

Interestingly in the same year Amazon cut a deal to develop a cloud-based service for the CIA – a deal worth a reported $600 million over ten years. It also appears that this service has expanded across all 17 of America’s intelligence agencies, so who can tell what it might be worth to Amazon now and in the future?

It is no doubt just an interesting coincidence that the Bezos-owned Washington Post is the fount of the current stream of CIA assertions that the Russians are hacking key USA institutions, starting with the DNC – which then somehow became “hacking the election” – and now the utility grid. Bezos himself has asserted that he exerts no direct control over the editorial decisions of the newspaper, and he has left in place many of the neoconservative editors who preceded his stewardship, so there may not be any need for direct orders.

Of course, all state-level players, including the Russians and certainly the Americans, are going to be probing the basic systems underpinning all our countries for vulnerabilities.  That is what intelligence agencies do, and it is also what mercenary spy companies do on behalf of their corporate clients, and what hackers (either of the criminal flavour or the socially-minded hacktivists) do too. The dodgy malware, the code, the vulnerabilities are all out there, often for sale or squirrelled away by the national spy agencies for potential future advantage.

Whatever the truth about the DNC hacking allegations, The Washington Post sadly seems uninterested in properly pursuing it – indeed it seems interested in little beyond pursuing the specific political agenda of fanning a dangerous distrust of Russia and undermining the legitimacy of the President-elect Trump.

If such a compliant corporate culture had existed back in 1972 at the time of the first DNC “hack”, the Watergate Scandal would surely never have been exposed. And the old media still wonders why it is no longer trusted?

German spy agency penetrated by ISIS

My recent interview about the German domestic spy agency, the BfV – the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, ironically – being allegedly infiltrated by ISIS.

ISIS Agent in German Spy Agency from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Perils of Censorship in the Digital Age

First published on RT OP-Edge.

The ripple effects of the Donald Trump election victory in America continue to wash over many different shorelines of public opinion, like so many mini-tsunamis hitting the Pacific rim over the last few last weeks.  The seismic changes have indeed been global, and not least in Europe.

First up, the Eurocrats have been getting in a bit of a flap about the future of NATO, as I recently wrote.  In the past I have also written about the perceived “insider threat” – in other words, whistleblowers – that has been worrying governments and intelligence agencies across the Western world.

Currently the Twittersphere is lighting up around the issue of “fake news“, with Western mainstream media (news purveyors of the utmost unsullied probity, naturally) blaming Trump’s unexpected victory variously on the US alt-media shock jocks, fake news trolls and bots, and sovereign-state media outlets such as the Russian RT and Sputnik.

In the wake of US Democrat claims that Russia was interfering in the election process (not a practice that the USA has ever engaged in in any other country around the world whatsoever), we now have the US Green Party presidential candidate apparently spontaneously calling for recounts in three key swing-states in the USA.

The German government has already expressed concern that such “fake” news might adversely influence the almost inevitable re-election for a fourth term as Chancellor, Angela Merkel.  Despite having been proclaimed the closest partner of the USA by President Obama on his recent speed-dating visit to Europe, and perhaps wary of the rising nationalist anger (I hesitate to write national socialist anger, but certainly its ugly face is there too in the German crowd) Merkal is getting in an electoral first strike.

At a slightly more worrying level, the European Parliament on 23 November voted for a resolution to counter “propaganda” from Russia – and incredibly equated that country’s media with terrorist groups such as ISIS – the very organisation that Russia is currently trying to help crush in Syria and which the West and NATO are at least officially opposed to.

Equating the content of licensed and networked media outlets – however much they may challenge Western orthodoxies – to the horrors of ISIS snuff videos seems to me to be wilfully blind if not downright and dangerously delusional. Or perhaps we should just call it propaganda too?

Whatever happened to the rights of freedom of expression enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights? Or the concept that a plurality of opinion encourages a healthy democracy?

In America too, we have had reports this week that Google and Facebook are censoring alleged “fake” news.  This is the start of a very slippery slope. Soon anyone who dissents from the orthodoxy will be deemed fake and disappear into the corporate memory black hole.  Google in 2014 suggested a precursor to this, the Knowledge Vault, a search system that would promote approved websites and disappear those deemed inaccurate at least by Google algorithms. But who controls those?

Once again our corporate overlords seem to be marching remarkably in time – almost a lock step – with the mood of the political establishment.

So how did this all kick off? With remarkably prescient timing, in October the arch-neoconservative UK-based think tank, the Henry Jackson Society, published a report entitled “Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Right, Left and Russia“. Well, at least it got its apostrophes right, but much of the rest is just so much hate-filled bile against those who call out the failed Washington Consensus.

The Henry Jackson Society is an odious organisation that was founded in Cambridge eleven years ago. One of its initial signatories was Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of the UK’s foreign intelligence agency MI6, and of some personal notoriety for peddling the lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that took the UK into the disastrous and illegal Iraq war in 2003, as well as feeding in the fake intelligence about Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Niger that US Secretary of State Colin Powell used as a justification for the same war at the United Nations.

Despite all this, he remains happily retired, bloated with honours, while at the same time threatening the British establishment with his full memoirs to posthumously preserve his reputation and avoid prosecution for a breach of the Official Secrets Act, as I have written before.

The Henry Jackson Society has also folded into itself an organisation called the Centre for Social Cohesion – apparently established to build better integration for the Muslim community in the UK, but which for the last decade has done nothing but stir up Islamophobia. As others have written, the phrase “modern McCarthyites” might not be stretching this concept too far. And now it seems to be turning its ire against Russia.

Its emphasis has been unrelentingly anti-Islam for many years, so it was interesting that this establishment-embedded Society had a fully-formed report about the renewed Red Menace subverting our Western media just ready and waiting to be published ahead of the US elections.

So where does this all leave us?

It may well be that Facebook will begin to disappear so-called fake news – which could have repercussions for all the activist groups that, against all advice and common sense, continue to offer up their plans/organise events on that medium.

We may see the same censorship on Google, as well as dissident websites disappearing down the proposed memory-hole of the Knowledge Vault. Sure, such pages may be recorded on sites like the WayBack Machine et al, but who really searches through that reflexively? Most us us don’t even get through the first page of Google hits anyway. In our digital age, this will make the 20th century practice of your analogue dictator – the airbrushing of political opponents out of history – look positively quaint.

But, just as the Gutenberg Press was a radical innovation in the 15th century that led to a rapid spread of written ideas and the resulting censorship, repression and a thriving underground media, so the the current crackdown will lead to the same push-back.

Then we have to consider the potential censorship of state-owned news outlets such as RT, the Chinese CCTV, and the Iranian Press TV. Where will that leave other state-owned organisations such as the BBC, RAI and other international Euro-broadcasters? Oh, of course, they are part of the Western media club, so it’s all hunkey-dorey and business as usual.

But this can be a two-sided fight – only two months ago RT’s UK bankers, the state-owned Nat West Bank, announced that they were going to shut down the channel’s UK accounts, with no reason or redress. I gather that a similar threat was then issued against the BBC in Russia, and the case was quietly dropped.

Over the last 20 years I have been interviewed by hundreds of major media outlets across Europe, many of them state-owned.  However, it is only when I appear on RT.com that I am accused of supporting a state-propaganda outlet, of being a useful idiot – and this has become increasingly marked over the last couple of years.

All these measures smack of an ill-informed and out-of-touch panic reaction by a hitherto complacent establishment. Before they attempt to airbrush history, we need to remember that history teaches some useful lessons about such elitist crackdowns: they never end well for anyone.

What price whistleblowers?

First published on Consortium News.

Forgive my “infamously fluent French”, but the phrase “pour encourager les autres” seems to have lost its famously ironic quality. Rather than making an example of people who dissent in order to prevent future dissidence, now it seems that the USA is globally paying bloody big bucks to people in order to encourage them to expose the crimes of their employers – well, at least if they are working for banks and other financial institutions.

I have been aware for a few years that the USA instituted a law in 2010 called the Dodd-Frank Act that is designed to encourage people employed in the international finance community to report malfeasance to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in return for a substantial percentage of any monies recouped.

This law seems to have produced a booming business for such high-minded “whistleblowers” – if that could be the accurate term for such actions? They are celebrated and can receive multi-million dollar pay days, the most recent (unnamed) source receiving $20 million.

Nor is this US initiative just potentially benefiting US citizens – it you look at the small print at the bottom of this page, disclosures are being sent in from all over the world.

Which is all to the public good no doubt, especially in the wake of the 2008 global financial crash and the ensuing fall-out that hit us all.  We need more clarity about arcane casino banking practices that have bankrupted whole countries, and we need justice.

But does rather send out a number of contradictory messages to those in other areas of work who might also have concerns about the legality of their organisations, and which may have equal or even graver impacts on the lives of their fellow human beings.

If you work in finance and you see irregularities it is apparently your legal duty to report them through appropriate channels – and then count the $$$ as they flow in as reward – whether you are a USA citizen or based elsewhere around the world. Such is the power of globalisation, or at least the USA’s self-appointed role as the global hegemon.

However, if you happen to work in the US government, intelligence agencies or military, under the terms of the American Constitution it would also appear to be your solemn duty under oath to report illegalities, go through the officially designated channels, and hope reform is the result.

But, from all recent examples, it would appear that you get damn few thanks for such patriotic actions.

Take the case of Thomas Drake, a former senior NSA executive, who in 2007 went public about waste and wanton expenditure within the agency, as I wrote way back in 2011. Tom went through all the prescribed routes for such disclosures, up to and including a Congressional Committee hearing.

Despite all this, Tom was abruptly snatched by the FBI in a violent dawn raid and threatened with 35 years in prison.  He (under the terrifying American plea bargain system) accepted a misdimeanour conviction to escape the horrors of federal charges, the resulting loss of all his civic rights and a potential 35 years in prison.  He still, of course, lost his job, his impeccable professional reputation, and his whole way of life.

He was part of a NSA group which also included Bill Binney, the former Technical Director of the NSA, and his fellow whistleblowers Kirk Wiebe, Ed Loumis and Diane Roark.

These brave people developed an electronic mass-surveillance programme called Thin Thread that could winnow out those people who were genuinely of security interest and worth targeting, a programme which would have cost the US $1.4 million, been consistent with the terms of the American constitution and, according to Binney, could potentially have stopped 9/11 and all the attendant horrors..

Instead, it appears that backs were scratched and favours called in with the incoming neo-con government of George W Bush in 2000, and another programme called Trail Blaizer was developed, to the tune of $1.2 billion – and which spied on everyone across America (as well as the rest of the world) and thereby broke, at the very least, the terms of the American constitution.

Yet Bill Binney was still subjected to a FBI SWAT team raid – he was dragged out of the shower early one morning at gun-point. All this is well documented in an excellent film “A Good American” and I recommend watching it.

Rather a contrast to the treatment of financial whistleblowers – no retaliation and big bucks. Under that law, Bill would have received a payout of millions for protecting the rights of his fellow citizens as well as saving the American public purse to the tune of over a billion dollars. But, of course, that is not exactly in the long-term business interests of our now-global surveillance panopticon.

President Dwight Eisenhower, in his valedictory speech in 1961, warned of the subversive interests of the “military-industrial” complex.  That seems so quaint now.  What we are facing is a steroid-pumped, globalised military surveillance industry that will do anything to protect its interests.  And that includes crushing principled whistleblowers “pour encourager les autres“.

Yet that manifestly has not happened, as I need to move on to the even-more-egregious cases of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

The former, as you may remember, was a former American army private currently serving 35 years in a US military prison for exposing the war crimes of the USA. She is the most obvious victim of outgoing-President Obama’s war on whistleblowers, and surely deserving of his supposed outgoing clemency.

The latter, currently stranded in Russia en route from Hong Kong to political asylum in Ecuador is, in my view and as I have said before, the most significant whistleblower in modern history. But he gets few thanks – indeed incoming US Trump administration appointees have in the past called for the death penalty.

So all this is such a “wonderfully outstanding encouragement” to those in public service in the USA to expose corruption – not. Work for the banks and anonymously snitch – $$$kerching! Work for the government and blow the whistle – 30+ years in prison or worse. Hmmm.

If President-Elect Donald Trump is serious about “draining the swamp” then perhaps he could put some serious and meaningful public service whistleblower protection measures in place, rather than prosecuting such patriots?

After all, such measures would be a win-win situation, as I have said many times before – a proper and truly accountable channel for potential whistleblowers to go to, in the expectation that their concerns will be properly heard, investigated and criminal actions prosecuted if necessary.

That way the intelligence agencies can become truly accountable, sharpen their game, avoid a scandal and better protect the public; and the whistleblower does not need ruin their life, losing their job, potentially their freedom and worse.

After all, where are the most heinous crimes witnessed?  Sure, bank crimes impact the economy and the lives of working people; but out-of-control intelligence agencies that kidnap, torture and assassinate countless people around the world, all in secret, actually end lives.

All that said, other Western liberal democracies are surely less draconian than the USA, no?

Well, unfortunately not.  Take the UK, a country still in thrall to the glamorous myth of James Bond, and where there have been multiple intelligence whistleblowers from the agencies over the last few decades – yet all of them have automatically faced prison.  In fact, the UK suppression of intelligence, government, diplomatic, and military whistleblowers seems to have acted as an exemplar to other countries in how you stifle ethical dissent from within.

Sure, the prison sentences for such whistleblowing are not as draconian under the UK Official Secrets Act (1989) as the anachronistic US Espionage Act (1917). However, the clear bright line against *any* disclosure is just as stifling.

In the UK, a country where the intelligence agencies have for the last 17 years been illegally prostituting themselves to advance the interests of a foreign country (the USA), this is simply unacceptable. Especially as the UK has just made law the Investigatory Powers Act (2016), against all expert advice, which legalises all this previously-illegal activity and indeed expanded the hacking powers of the state.

More worryingly, the ultra-liberal Norway, which blazed a calm and humanist trail in its response to the murderous white-supremacist terrorist attacks of Anders Breivik only 5 years ago, has now proposed a draconian surveillance law.

And Germany – a country horrified by the Snowden revelations in 2013, with its memories of the Gestapo and the Stasi – has also just expanded the surveillance remit of its spooks.

In the face of all this, it appears there has never been a greater need of intelligence whistleblowers across the Western world. Yet it appears that, once again, there is one law for the bankers et al – they are cashed up, lauded and rewarded for reporting legalities.

For the rest of the Poor Bloody Whistleblowers, it’s prosecution and persecution as usual, despite the fact that they may indeed be serving the most profound of public interests – freedom, privacy and the ability to thereby have a functioning democracy.

As always – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. So back to my fluent French, referenced at the start: we are, it seems, all still mired in the merde.

 

 

Webstock, New Zealand, 2016

Now, I speak all over the world at conferences and universities about a whole variety of interconnected issues, but I do want to highlight this conference from earlier this year and give a shout out for next year’s. Plus I’ve finally got my hands on the video of my talk.

Webstock celebrated its tenth anniversary in New Zealand last February, and I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak there.  The hosts promised a unique experience, and the event lived up to its reputation.

Webstock_2016They wanted a fairly classic talk from me – the whistleblowing years, the lessons learnt and current political implications, but also what we can to do fight back, so I called my talk “The Panopticon: Resistance is Not Futile”, with a nod to my sci-fi fandom.

So why does this particular event glow like a jewel in my memory? After expunging from my mind, with a shudder of horror, the 39 hour travel time each way, it was the whole experience. New Zealand combines the friendliness of the Americans – without the political madness and the guns, and the egalitarianism of the Norwegians – with almost equivalent scenery. Add to that the warmth of the audience, the eclecticism of the speakers, and the precision planning and aesthetics of the conference organisers and you have a winning combination.

Our hosts organised vertigo-inducing events for the speakers on the top of mile-high cliffs, as well as a surprisingly fun visit to a traditional British bowling green. Plus I had the excitement of experiencing my very first earthquake – 5.9 on the Richter scale apparently. I shall make no cheap jokes about the earth moving, especially in light of the latest quakes to hit NZ this week, but the hotel did indeed sway around me and it wasn’t the local wine, excellent as it is.

I mentioned eclecticism – the quality of the speakers was ferociously high, and I would like to give a shout out to Debbie Millman and her “joy of failure” talk, Harry Roberts, a serious geek who crowd-sourced his talk and ended up talking seriously about cocktails, moths, Chumbawamba and more, advertising guru Cindy Gallop who is inspiring women around the world and promoting Make Love Not Porn, and Casey Gerald, with his evangelically-inspired but wonderfully humanistic talk to end the event.

All the talks can be found here.

It was a fabulous week.  All I can say is thank you to Tash, Mike, and the other organisers.

If you ever have the chance to attend or speak at the event in the future, I seriously recommend it.

And here’s the video of my talk: