The US Election

No doubt you, as well as I, have been watch­ing the 2016 USA pres­id­en­tial elec­tion with a sense of appalled fas­cin­a­tion — has ever a cam­paign been fought so viciously in mod­ern West­ern polit­ics?

But the Amer­ic­ans have made their choice (between the dev­il and the deep blue sea), and will have to live with it. I hope it works out well for them.

How­ever, my focus is more on the implic­a­tions for the rest of the world. As a post-Brexit Brit based in Brus­sels, these are many-layered.

From the Brexit per­spect­ive the Trump vic­tory could be good for the UK — he appears to be more sym­path­et­ic to the so-called “spe­cial rela­tion­ship” than Obama.  He is also prob­ably more likely to try to cut deals with Rus­sia over Ukraine and the ongo­ing war in Syr­ia than the ultra-hawk­ish Hil­lary Clin­ton could ever bring her­self to do.

This can only be good for Europe, as the sanc­tions put in place after the US-backed Ukraine coup in 2014 are hurt­ing European trade.  Yet again, Europe has been caught between Rus­sia and the USA.

Also, let us not for­get the infam­ous quote from Assist­ant Sec­ret­ary of State, Vic­tor­ia Nuland, who said in 2014 “fuck the EU”, when it came to decision mak­ing in plan­ning the Ukrain­i­an coup.

But my main point is the European establishment’s response to the Trump pres­id­en­tial vic­tory. And let us not deceive ourselves here — this was an emphat­ic vic­tory. The Amer­ic­an people wanted a can­did­ate for change, for a push-back against the per­ceived Wash­ing­ton polit­ic­al élite.

Per­haps the elec­tion could have swung in anoth­er dir­ec­tion towards anoth­er can­did­ate for change — if Bernie Sanders had been the Demo­crat nom­in­ee.  Alas, as we know from the DNC files leaked to and pub­lished by Wikileaks, his cam­paign was under­mined by his own party in favour of Hil­lary Clin­ton, while pro­mot­ing Trump as the Repub­lic­an can­did­ate that Clin­ton could beat.

Hillary_Clinton_Pant_Suits_2016Hubris is nev­er a good look, just like “pant” suits.

What pains me most is the European main­stream media’s report­ing of Trump’s vic­tory: “lib­er­al demo­cracy” is under threat no less, and pop­u­lism is on the rise.

How­ever, those most wor­ried about “lib­er­al demo­cracy” tend to be the tech­no­crat­ic Euro­crats such as European Coun­cil Pres­id­ent Don­ald Tusk and European Com­mis­sion Pres­id­ent Jean-Claude Jun­ck­er.  And they are the very people try­ing to ram through the thor­oughly *neo*-liberal agen­das of CETA and  the Trans-Atlantic Trade Invest­ment Part­ner­ship — oth­er­wise known as TTIP, widely res­isted across Europe as a rape of our demo­cra­cies.

TTIP, if passed, would elim­in­ate any mean­ing­ful nation­al sov­er­eignty, repla­cing it with a glob­al cor­por­at­ist hege­mony that could sue our nation­al gov­ern­ments if they passed laws that could con­ceiv­ably — some­time in the future — pass laws that could — con­ceiv­ably in the future — inhib­it the profit-mak­ing cap­ab­il­it­ies of the cor­por­a­tions.

That, and nation­al asset-strip­ping, is the pure defin­i­tion of neo-lib­er­al­ism, and that is what our European over­lords want to enact.  Yet, at the same time, they are inveigh­ing against the death of “lib­er­al demo­cracy” after the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump.

Am I miss­ing some­thing here?

War on drugs meets terrorism

Last month I had the pleas­ure of attend­ing the bien­ni­al Drug Policy Alli­ance shindig in Wash­ing­ton on behalf of Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (www​.leap​.cc).  We also held our annu­al LEAP board meet­ing ahead of the DPA, and it was great to have the chance to catch up again with my fel­low dir­ect­ors.

I’ve been the European Dir­ect­or for LEAP for a while now and am thrilled to say that LEAP Ger­many launched (LEAP_DE_Launch_Article) last Septem­ber in the Bundestag in Ber­lin, with some seni­or police officers, law­yers and judges as the found­ing mem­bers.  LEAP UK is also up and run­ning and will be hold­ing an offi­cial launch event early next year, so watch this space.

While in Wash­ing­ton all the dir­ect­ors were inter­viewed about our spe­cif­ic areas of interest around the failed war on drugs.  Here is a video of former pro­sec­utor, Inge Fryklund, and myself dis­cuss­ing the links between the war on drugs and ter­ror­ism:

LEAP Dir­ect­ors dis­cuss link between the war on drugs and ter­ror­ism from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Next year we have UNGASS in April in New York — the UN Gen­er­al Assembly Spe­cial Ses­sion — the first such since 1998 when the UN decided it would achieve a drug free world by 2008.

Well, that was obvi­ously a raging suc­cess, as drugs are cheap­er, more eas­ily access­ible and more potent than ever before in the key con­sumer areas such as North Amer­ica and Europe, while whole regions of the world com­pris­ing the pro­du­cer and trans­it coun­tries are being decim­ated by the viol­ence attend­ant on the drug trade as organ­ised crime car­tels and ter­ror­ism fight for con­trol of a highly luc­rat­ive trade.

UNGASS 2015 should provide the world with a chance to rethink this failed policy of pro­hib­i­tion.  Cer­tainly the tone has shif­ted since 1998 to at least an under­stand­ing of the bene­fits with­in some con­sumer coun­tries of de-pen­al­isa­tion of drug use — those who choose to use their pre­ferred sub­stance are no longer crim­in­al­ised, and the estim­ated 15% who go on to devel­op depend­en­cies are in many West­ern coun­tries now offered health inter­ven­tions rather than pris­on.

How­ever, from our law enforce­ment per­spect­ive, this still leaves the drug trade in the hands of organ­ised crime and ter­ror­ist organ­isa­tions such as ISIS. The UN has itself vari­ously put the annu­al illeg­al drug trade profits at any­where between $320 bil­lion and half a tril­lion dol­lars per year. This is the biggest crime wave the world has ever seen, and we need the UN to devel­op some joined-up think­ing and pro­duce a rad­ic­al and effect­ive policy to deal with it: reg­u­late, con­trol and tax.

Privacy as Innovation Interview

A recent inter­view I gave while in Stock­holm to the Pri­vacy as Innov­a­tion pro­ject:

privacy_innovation

Keynote at Internetdagarna, Stockholm, November 2014

Here is my key­note speech at the recent Inter­net­dagarna (Inter­net Days) con­fer­ence in Stock­holm, Sweden, dis­cuss­ing all things whis­tleblower, spy, sur­veil­lance, pri­vacy and TTIP:

internetdagarna

Russia — once again Public Enemy No 1

The last Soviet lead­er, Mikhail Gorbachev, said at the cel­eb­ra­tion of the fall of the Ber­lin Wall last week­end that we are facing a new Cold War. What are the geo­pol­it­ic­al real­it­ies behind this state­ment?

First pub­lished on RT Op-Edge.

Last week­end I was invited onto RT to do an inter­view about the com­mem­or­a­tion of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Ber­lin Wall, par­tic­u­larly focus­ing on the speech delivered by the last Soviet lead­er, Mikhail Gorbachev, dur­ing his vis­it to Ber­lin.

I would like to expand on some of the top­ics I men­tioned — how to encap­su­late an altern­at­ive geo­pol­it­ic­al per­spect­ive dif­fer­ent from the West­ern ortho­doxy in under four minutes? A task even Monty Python would find chal­len­ging!

The first issue was Gorbachev’s com­ments about a new Cold War. I would agree, and this is being fab­ric­ated by the USA, as that coun­try always needs an Emmanuel Gold­stein fig­ure to jus­ti­fy its mil­it­ary-indus­tri­al com­plex that is bank­rupt­ing the coun­try and bru­tal­ising the world, while enrich­ing the US olig­archs to the det­ri­ment of civil soci­ety every­where.

The first front line in this new Cold War is the inter­net. In the 1990s the USA had a golden oppor­tun­ity — in fact a per­fect storm of oppor­tun­it­ies. It was the last super­power left stand­ing in a newly uni­polar world, his­tory had offi­cially ended and cap­it­al­ism had tri­umphed. The Soviet Uni­on had dis­in­teg­rated and the newly shorn Rus­sia was tot­ter­ing, its vast nation­al wealth being assidu­ously asset-stripped by the glob­al­ised neo­con élite.

Plus, the new world wide web was expo­nen­tially grow­ing and the key pion­eers were pre­dom­in­antly Amer­ic­an com­pan­ies. After an ini­tially pan­icked phase of play­ing catch-up in the 1990s, west­ern spy agen­cies saw the poten­tial for total mas­tery of the inter­net, cre­at­ing a sur­veil­lance pan­op­ticon that the KGB or the Stasi could only have fan­tas­ised about. With thanks to Edward Snowden, we are now begin­ning to get glimpses of the full hor­ror of the sur­veil­lance under which we all now live.

But it is not all down to the NSA.  Build­ing on the old Ech­el­on mod­el, which was so nearly over­thrown in Europe back in July 2001, the NSA has sub­orned, bought and pros­ti­tuted oth­er west­ern intel­li­gence agen­cies across Europe to do its bid­ding.  Ger­many, at the nex­us of east and west Europe, remains a front line in this battle, with the BND pos­sibly work­ing uncon­sti­tu­tion­ally to do the NSA’s bid­ding, even appar­ently to the det­ri­ment of its own nation­al interest. The politi­cians (some) and hackt­iv­ists (many) are fight­ing back.

But it is the geo­graph­ic­al bound­ar­ies that have shif­ted most sig­ni­fic­antly since the fall of the Wall.  Here I need to cred­it former seni­or CIA officer, pres­id­en­tial advisor and cur­rent peace act­iv­ist Ray McGov­ern, for all the use­ful inform­a­tion he provided dur­ing his vari­ous talks and inter­views across Europe a couple of months ago.

Ray, a flu­ent Rus­si­an speak­er, worked as a Soviet expert for much of his career in the CIA. As such he was privy to the behind-the-scenes nego­ti­at­ing that occurred after the fall of the Wall.  When this happened the USA pushed for Ger­man reuni­fic­a­tion but was wor­ried about the 260,000 Soviet troops sta­tioned in the former GDR. They cut a deal with Gorbachev, stat­ing that NATO would not move “one inch” fur­ther than Ger­many after reuni­fic­a­tion. This the Sovi­ets accep­ted, and with­drew their troops.

NATO_Expansion_2Well, we all know what has happened since. NATO has expan­ded east at an amaz­ing rate, now encom­passing a fur­ther 12 east­ern European coun­tries includ­ing the Balt­ic States and Poland, which the US has used as a base for an increas­ing num­ber of “defens­ive” mis­sile sys­tems. In 2008 NATO also issued a declar­a­tion that Geor­gia and Ukraine would be wel­come to join, tak­ing the front line up to the bor­ders of Rus­sia. Coin­cid­ent­ally, both these coun­tries in recent years have been por­trayed as the vic­tims of “Rus­si­an expan­sion­ism”

In 2008 Geor­gia invaded the dis­puted eth­nic Rus­si­an region of South Osse­tia. Rus­sia moved to pro­tect the people and gave the Geor­gi­an mil­it­ary a bloody nose. Any­one remem­ber that? At the time it was por­trayed across the West­ern media as Rus­si­an aggres­sion, but the facts have emerged since to dis­prove this ver­sion of events.

Sim­il­arly, this year we have seen a viol­ent coup over­throw demo­crat­ic­ally-elec­ted Pres­id­ent Yanukovych of Ukraine when he was inclined to stay with­in the Rus­si­an sphere of influ­ence rather than ally the coun­try more closely to the EU under the asset-strip­ping aus­ter­ity meas­ures deman­ded by the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­et­ary Fund. Vic­tor­ia Nuland, the US Assist­ant Sec­ret­ary of State respons­ible for Europe, was heard to dis­cuss the US had over pre­vi­ous years pumped $5 bil­lion into Ukraine to sub­vert it, that the newly installed Prime Min­is­ter would be “their man”, and “fuck the EU”.

And yet still Rus­sia is blamed for aggres­sion. I am not an apo­lo­gist for Rus­sia, but the facts speak for them­selves even if they are not widely repor­ted in the West­ern main­stream media.

But why on earth would the US be med­dling in Ukraine? Would an expan­sion of NATO be suf­fi­cient excuse in America’s self-inter­ested eyes?  Prob­ably not.

Which leads me on to a very inter­est­ing art­icle by Eric Zuesse. The argu­ment of his well-researched and ref­er­enced report is that it all comes down to energy sup­plies once again.  When does it not?

The USA has some unsa­voury allies in the Middle East, includ­ing theo­crat­ic dic­tat­or­ships such as Saudi Ara­bia and Qatar.  Their vast energy reserves are not only essen­tial to the USA, but also the trad­ing of these reserves in the petro­dol­lar mono­poly is vital to prop­ping up the bank­rupt US eco­nomy.

Rus­sia, at the moment, is the primary energy sup­pli­er to the EU — the world’s largest mar­ket. Iran, a Rus­si­an cli­ent, wanted to build a pipeline via Syr­ia with Pres­id­ent Assad’s approv­al, to exploit this vast mar­ket.  How­ever, Saudi Ara­bia, Qatar and the USA appar­ently have oth­er plans involving a pipeline from Qatar via Syr­ia to Europe.

Hence the urgent need to over­throw Assad and put a Sunni pup­pet gov­ern­ment in place, more pal­at­able to those pulling the strings. Qatar’s pre­ferred can­did­ate of choice would be more mod­er­ate, such as the Muslim Broth­er­hood. Saudi, on the oth­er hand, would have no com­punc­tion about installing a hard-line fun­da­ment­al­ist régime in place — up to and includ­ing ISIS. And thus the murder, may­hem and human suf­fer­ing erupt­ing across the region now. This is an appalling real life example of the hor­rors inher­ent in Brzezinski’s psy­cho­path­ic “grand chess­board”.

It is widely accep­ted tru­ism today, over a dec­ade after the “war on ter­ror” began, that all the wars in the Middle East were launched to pro­tect America’s oil and energy interests. Less well known is the country’s des­per­ate scramble to pro­tect the petro­dol­lar mono­poly. If that fails, the dol­lar will no longer remain the world’s reserve cur­rency and the USA is fin­an­cially screwed.

If you look at all the recent wars, inva­sions, and “human­it­ari­an inter­ven­tions” that have res­ul­ted in col­lapsed coun­tries and anarchy across whole regions, it is clear that bey­ond oil and gas the key issue is money: pre-2003 Iraq tried to trade what oil it could in euros not dol­lars and Sad­dam Hus­sein was deposed; des­pite being wel­comed briefly back into the inter­na­tion­al fold, once Libya’s Col­on­el Gad­dafi began to talk about estab­lish­ing an Afric­an gold dinar cur­rency, backed by Libya’s oil wealth to chal­lenge the petro­dol­lar, he too was toppled; Assad wanted to facil­it­ate energy pipelines to Europe for Rus­sia and Iran, and he was attacked; even Iran tried to trade its energy reserves in euros, and lo and behold it was almost invaded in 2008; and finally Rus­sia itself trades some of its energy in rubles.

As people say, always fol­low the money.

So, in my view, this is the cur­rent geo­pol­it­ic­al situ­ation. Rus­sia is now strong enough, with its dom­in­a­tion of Europe’s energy sup­ply, its back­ing of Middle East­ern coun­tries that want to break away from the US sphere of influ­ence, and its trade deals and estab­lish­ment of an inde­pend­ent glob­al invest­ment devel­op­ment bank with oth­er BRICS coun­tries, that it can chal­lenge the US hege­mony.

How­ever, threaten the petro­dol­lar mono­poly and thereby the very fin­an­cial solvency of the United States of Amer­ica and you are sud­denly Pub­lic Enemy No 1.

As I said, I am by no means an apo­lo­gist for Rus­sia — I tell it like I see it. To west­ern sens­ib­il­it­ies, Rus­sia has some ser­i­ous domest­ic issues to address: human rights abuses dur­ing the bru­tal Chechen war; its sus­pec­ted involve­ment in the death by poloni­um-210 pois­on­ing of KGB defect­or Alex­an­der Litv­inen­ko in Lon­don in 2006; its overly-pun­it­ive drug laws; and human rights abuses against dis­sid­ents, the LGBT com­munity, and journ­al­ists. Yet the West has merely mouthed plat­it­ud­in­ous objec­tions to all these issues.

So why now is Rus­sia being inter­na­tion­ally excor­i­ated and pen­al­ised for actions for which it is not respons­ible?  Over the last few years it has looked states­man­like com­pared to the US and its vas­sal states: it was not involved with the Libya fiasco, it has giv­en safe haven to NSA whis­tleblower Edward Snowden, and it hal­ted the rush to yet anoth­er dis­astrous west­ern war in Syr­ia.

Nor, to my west­ern European sens­ib­il­it­ies, are Amer­ica and its aco­lytes too pristine either, with their mass sur­veil­lance, pres­id­en­tially-approved kill lists, illeg­al wars, kid­nap­ping, tor­ture and drone bomb­ings. Not to men­tion their domest­ic addic­tion to gun own­er­ship and the death pen­alty, but that’s anoth­er story.…

Yet the US media-enabled pro­pa­ganda machines jus­ti­fy all of the above and demon­ise anoth­er coun­try, cre­at­ing yet anoth­er fresh bogey­man to jus­ti­fy yet more “defence” spend­ing.

The Rus­si­an bear is being baited, increas­ingly sur­roun­ded by yap­ping curs. I thought this sport had been made illeg­al hun­dreds of years ago, at least in Europe — but obvi­ously not in the dirty realm of inter­na­tion­al polit­ics.  It is a mar­vel the bear has not lashed out more in the face of such pro­voca­tion.

There was a chance for peace when the Wall came down 25 years ago. If the US had upheld its side of the gentlemen’s agree­ment about not expand­ing NATO, if the neo­con pred­at­ors had not pounced on Rus­sia, and if closer integ­ra­tion could have been achieved with Europe, the future could have been rosy.

Unfor­tu­nately, I have to agree with Gorbachev — we are indeed facing a new Cold War, and this time it is of America’s mak­ing. But Europe will bear the brunt, through trade sanc­tions, energy short­ages and even, poten­tially, war. It is time we Europeans broke away from our Amer­ic­an vas­salage and looked to our own future.

The war on drugs funds terrorism

Here is a short excerpt from a pan­el dis­cus­sion I took part in after the Lon­don première of the new cult anti-pro­hib­i­tion film, “The Cul­ture High”. This is an amaz­ing film that pulls togeth­er so many big issues around the failed glob­al 50 year policy of the war on drugs. I ser­i­ously recom­mend watch­ing it.

Also in the clip: Brett Har­vey (the dir­ect­or of the film) Niamh East­wood (the dir­ect­or of Release) Jason Reed (exec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the nas­cent LEAP UK — watch this space) and comedi­an and compere Rufus Hound.

wod

LEAP talk at Akzept drug conference in Bielefeld

Here’s a talk I did last week at the inter­na­tion­al Akzept Con­fer­ence in Biele­feld about pro­hib­i­tion and the failed “war on drugs”:

Akzept Kon­gress 2013 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

The Culture High

Culture_High_InterviewI had a fab­ulous time doing an inter­view on behalf of LEAP for the new anti-pro­hib­i­tion film, The Cul­ture High.

Made by Adam Scor­gie, who dir­ec­ted the cult film, The Uni­on, his new work prom­ises to be the film on the sub­ject of can­nabis pro­hib­i­tion.  Thanks to the team for a wide-ran­ging, lively and stim­u­lat­ing inter­view.

If you want to sup­port their work, click here.  And the film will be released next sum­mer.

OHM 2013 — Geeks and Drugs

ohm2013_logoAs I have men­tioned before, the Dutch geek­fest Observe, Hack, Make (OHM 2013) was not just a chance for geeks to play with cool tech toys, the whole event also had a very strong polit­ic­al track. While there was inev­it­ably a lot of focus on whis­tleblow­ing in the wake of the Snowden dis­clos­ures, anoth­er speak­er track attrac­ted a lot of atten­tion: glob­al drug policy and the fail­ure of pro­hib­i­tion.

This was a track I sug­ges­ted and I was pleased that three speak­ers were giv­en the chance to dis­cuss this on the main stage. While com­ing to the sub­ject from rad­ic­ally dif­fer­ent per­spect­ives and exper­i­ences, the under­ly­ing mes­sage of all three was that the “war on drugs” was an abject fail­ure that caused massive and increas­ing harm to the glob­al pop­u­la­tion.

John Gilmore was first up. John made his dosh dur­ing the tech boom, and has since spent sig­ni­fic­ant sums try­ing to reform the failed drug policies with­in his home coun­try, the good ol’ US of A. Of course, there, it was always going to be an uphill battle.  The USA is the foun­tain head of pro­hib­i­tion, ram­ming the drug con­ven­tions of 1961, 1971, and 1988 through the United Nations by brute dip­lo­mat­ic force.

To this day, the US remains the key power ensur­ing that the UN upholds these con­ven­tions, des­pite the fact that the policy of pro­hib­i­tion has mani­festly failed, des­pite the fact that many coun­tries have exper­i­mented suc­cess­fully with harm reduc­tion and decrim­in­al­isa­tion of per­son­al use, and des­pite the fact that these laws are from a dif­fer­ent era and are wildly out of date — in the 1960s HIV and AIDS had yet to emerge, and rap­idly mutat­ing “leg­al highs” were unknown.

And let’s not for­get that the USA is the world’s biggest con­sumer coun­try of drugs. It is Amer­ica that drives this illeg­al mar­ket. And it is in Amer­ica that 20 states have leg­al­ised the medi­cin­al use of can­nabis, and two states have fully leg­al­ised the use even, gasp, purely for pleas­ure. The hypo­crisy is breath­tak­ing.

But change is afoot. Primar­ily, I believe, because the USA no longer needs the “war on drugs” as a pre­text for invading/interfering with oth­er coun­tries, now it has the “war on ter­ror”. But also because of the excel­lent work of research and edu­ca­tion­al civil soci­ety groups. The Beckley Found­a­tion, set up by Aman­da Feild­ing in 1998, is one such.

Aman­da gave an excel­lent talk, focus­ing on the dual nature of Beckley’s work: policy and sci­entif­ic research. Her view is that sound nation­al and inter­na­tion­al policy can­not be developed unless it is based on evid­ence, research and facts. Yet the cur­rent “war on drugs” has become almost an art­icle of faith that too many politi­cians are afraid to chal­lenge.

Beckley aims to provide the research and the facts. It funds and estab­lishes sci­entif­ic research that enables lead­ing sci­ent­ists, such as Pro­fess­or Dav­id Nutt in the UK, to research the poten­tial thera­peut­ic bene­fits of cur­rently illeg­al drugs, and also to assess the dif­fer­ent soci­et­al harms caused by all drugs, both licit and illi­cit. To date, the pro­hib­i­tion ortho­doxy has inhib­ited free sci­entif­ic research to the det­ri­ment of many people across the plan­et.

Aman­da was pleased to be able to announce two new research pro­jects just start­ing in the UK, into the poten­tial thera­peut­ic bene­fits of psilo­cybin (magic mush­rooms) and LSD. Beckley has also recently com­mis­sioned a cost bene­fit ana­lys­is of the leg­al­isa­tion of (only) can­nabis is the UK. The res­ults will be form­ally announced in Septem­ber, so for now I shall con­fine myself to say­ing that they are encour­aging.

Using such research, Beckley is thus in a pos­i­tion to advise gov­ern­ments about devel­op­ing fact-base policy. One of the key areas of the world invest­ig­at­ing poten­tially bene­fi­cial altern­at­ives to pro­hib­i­tion is Lat­in Amer­ica, and Aman­da has developed close work­ing rela­tion­ships with a num­ber of gov­ern­ments across the region.

And under­stand­ably so — Lat­in Amer­ica, as one of the key pro­du­cer regions of the world, has been rav­aged by the drug wars. Viol­ent organ­ised crime car­tels have grown so wealthy and power­ful that they can sub­vert whole coun­tries, cor­rupt gov­ern­ments and law enforce­ment, and ter­ror­ise whole pop­u­la­tions in their quest to dom­in­ate the illeg­al drugs trade.

In Mex­ico, since the war on drugs was ramped up 7 years ago, it is estim­ated that over 70,000 inno­cent people have been kid­napped, tor­tured and killed in drug-related viol­ence. Many have simply been dis­ap­peared.

Finally I also did a talk at OHM as the European dir­ect­or of Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP).

LEAP is a unique voice in the glob­al drug policy debate. The organ­isa­tion, only 11 years old, has over 100,000 sup­port­ers and a pres­ence in 120 coun­tries. We con­sist of police officers, judges, law­yers, pris­on gov­ernors, intel­li­gence per­son­nel, and even drug czars. What unites us is a shared pro­fes­sion­al know­ledge, exper­i­enced across the spec­trum of drug law enforce­ment, that pro­hib­i­tion has egre­giously failed.

Over the last 50 years drug use has expo­nen­tially increased, the potency of illeg­al drugs has increased, they are ubi­quit­ously avail­able, and the price of street drugs has gone through the floor. Faced with this inform­a­tion, how can our gov­ern­ments claim they are win­ning the “war on drugs” to cre­ate a “drug free world”? Quite the oppos­ite — pro­hib­i­tion has enabled a glob­al and expo­nen­tially grow­ing black mar­ket.

I became aware of the drug pro­hib­i­tion fail­ure while I was work­ing for MI5. One of my post­ings involved invest­ig­at­ing ter­ror­ist logist­ics, which meant that I had to work closely with UK Cus­toms across the UK. This exper­i­ence made me very aware that the “war” had been lost.  It also made me very aware, early on, that there was a massive over­lap between the illeg­al drug mar­ket and ter­ror­ist fund­ing.

The US DEA estim­ates that over half of the des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist groups around the world gain the bulk of their fund­ing from drugs money. So on the one hand pro­hib­it­ing drugs and fight­ing the “war on drugs” sends the mar­ket under­ground and that black money provides a key rev­en­ue stream to the ter­ror­ists. On the oth­er hand the West is also waging the “war on ter­ror”.  What they give with one hand they take away with anoth­er.

One stark example of this is the cur­rent melt-down in Libya — coun­try that was “grate­fully” lib­er­ated by NATO two years ago. The dic­tat­or was tor­tured and killed, MI6 and the CIA were help­ing the “spon­tan­eous” rebels. the infra­struc­ture was ruined, and the bulk of the coun­try is now run by ban­dit mili­tias which bru­tal­ise the inhab­it­ants pr impose hard-line Islam­ism on them. Many pre­dicted this would hap­pen, includ­ing myself.

What was not pre­dicted was the explo­sion in the drug trade. Over the last dec­ade west­ern Africa has become one of the main trans­it regions between the pro­du­cer coun­tries (Lat­in Amer­ica) and the con­sumer coun­tries in Europe. It now appears that this luc­rat­ive trade has not only res­ul­ted in destabil­ising coun­tries, lead­ing to viol­ent narco-states such as Mali and Guinea-Bis­sau, the trade has also become a stream of income to Al Qaeda affil­i­ated groups in Libya. Which is bad for west­ern secur­ity, is bad for the sta­bil­ity of Libya, but is also bad for the people of Libya, where there has reportedly been an explo­sion of drug use and rock­et­ing infec­tions of HIV.

There have been many suc­cess­ful attempts to alle­vi­ate the pen­al­isa­tion of drug users in many European coun­tries — Por­tugal, the Neth­er­lands and Switzer­land spring to mind. Because of more lib­er­al decrim­in­al­isa­tion laws, all these coun­tries have seen a decrease in drug use and asso­ci­ated crime, plus good health out­comes and the free­ing up of law enforce­ment resources across the spec­trum to go for the drug traders.

How­ever, we in LEAP would argue that only full reg­u­la­tion, con­trol and tax­a­tion of the drug mar­ket will deal with the scourge of the inter­na­tion­al drug trade. Until that hap­pens, this glob­al trade, estim­ated by even the UN at being worth between $320 bil­lion and $500 bil­lion per year, will only profit organ­ised crime car­tels and ter­ror­ist organ­isa­tions.

The “war on drugs” has failed. Albert Ein­stein said that the very defin­i­tion of insan­ity was to con­tin­ue to do the same, even if it repeatedly fails, in the hope that you will even­tu­ally get a dif­fer­ent out­come. That is what we are see­ing with pro­hib­i­tion.

And the geek com­munity under­stand this too. Of course they do, they are sci­ent­ists. I was heartened by their interest and by their response. Let’s all cam­paign to end this insan­ity.

Here is a video of my talk at OHM on the sub­ject:

LEAP — End­ing the war on drugs and people (OHM 2013) from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

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Dutch festival OHM — Observe, Hack, Make

Today I am limber­ing up to attend the Dutch geek fest­iv­al, Observe Hack Make (OHM 2013). A lot of talks from whis­tleblowers, sci­ent­ists, geeks, futur­ists and bleed­ing edge tech people. The vis­ion­ar­ies?

You decide — all talks will be live streamed and avail­able after­wards. Enjoy!

NORML Conference, 18–19th May in Bristol

LEAP_logoThis com­ing week­end NORML UK will be hold­ing its first AGM and nation­al con­fer­ence in Bris­tol.

Mr Nice, aka Howard Marks, will be open­ing the event and speak­ing on the Sat­urday night dur­ing the two-day event.

Join­ing the event to dis­cuss the need for a sens­ible and evid­ence-based rethink about drug policy will be many oth­er speak­ers from groups such as Trans­form, Stu­dents for Sens­ible Drug Policy, the Beckley Found­a­tionRelease, former Chief Con­stable of Cam­bridge­shire Tom Lloyd, and of course, Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion.

The head of LEAP UK, former Met police detect­ive and forensic money-laun­der­ing expert Row­an Bos­worth-Dav­ies, will be speak­ing on Sunday19th May.

I shall be speak­ing at the con­fer­ence on the Sat­urday after­noon, and then enjoy­ing the even­ing with Howard Marks et al.  Come along if you can.

MI6 “ghost money”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RT article about MI6’s Afghan “ghost money”

Here’s a link to my new art­icle, pub­lished exclus­ively today on RT’s Op-Edge news site.

I dis­cuss the recent news that MI6, in addi­tion to the CIA, has been pay­ing “ghost money” to the polit­ic­al estab­lish­ment in Afgh­anistan, oth­er examples of such med­dling, and the prob­able unin­ten­ded con­sequences.

Taken to court.…

A fun inter­view with Heimir Már Pétursson on TV2, filmed dur­ing my recent tour of Ice­land:

Ice­land TV 2 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.