Have British Spies been hacking the EU?

First pub­lished by Con­sor­ti­um News.

Just after mid­night on 16 August I was called by LBC in Lon­don for a com­ment on a break­ing story on the front page of The Daily Tele­graph about Brit­ish spies hack­ing the EU. Even though I had just retired to bed, the story was just too irres­ist­ible, but a radio inter­view is always too short to do justice to such a con­vo­luted tale. Here are some longer thoughts.

For those who can­not get past the Tele­graph pay wall, the gist is that that the EU has accused the Brit­ish intel­li­gence agen­cies of hack­ing the EU’s side of the nego­ti­ations. Appar­ently some highly sens­it­ive and neg­at­ive slides about the Brit­ish Prime Minister’s plan for Brexit, the Chequers Plan, had landed in the lap of the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment, which then lob­bied the EU to sup­press pub­lic­a­tion.

Of course, this could be a genu­ine leak from the Brus­sels sieve, as Brit­ish sources are claim­ing (well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?). How­ever, it is plaus­ible that this is the work of the spies, either by recruit­ing a paid-up agent well-placed with­in the Brus­sels bur­eau­cracy, or through elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance.

Before dis­miss­ing the lat­ter option as con­spir­acy the­ory, the Brit­ish spies do have form. In the run up to the Iraq war in 2003, the USA and UK were des­per­ate to get a UN Secur­ity Coun­cil res­ol­u­tion to invade Iraq, thus provid­ing a fig leaf of appar­ent legit­im­acy to the illeg­al war. How­ever, some coun­tries with­in the UN had their doubts and the USA asked Britain’s listen­ing post, GCHQ, to step up its sur­veil­lance game. Fore­warned is fore­armed in del­ic­ate inter­na­tion­al nego­ti­ations.

How do we know this? A brave GCHQ whis­tleblower called Kath­er­ine Gun leaked the inform­a­tion to The Observ­er. For her pains, she was threatened with pro­sec­u­tion under the dra­coni­an terms of the UK’s 1989 Offi­cial Secrets Act, and faced two years in pris­on. The case was only dropped three weeks before her tri­al was due to begin, partly because of the feared pub­lic out­cry, but mainly because her law­yers threatened to use the leg­al defence of “neces­sity” – a defence won only three years before dur­ing the case of MI5 whis­tleblower, Dav­id Shayler. Tan­gen­tially, a film is this year being made about Gun’s story.

We also have con­firm­a­tion from one of the early 2013 Edward Snowden dis­clos­ures that GCHQ had hacked its way into the Bel­ga­com net­work – the nation­al tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions sup­pli­er in Bel­gi­um. Even back then there was an out­cry from the EU bod­ies, wor­ried that the UK (and by exten­sion its closest intel­li­gence buddy the USA), would gain lever­age with stolen know­ledge.

So, yes, it is per­fectly feas­ible that the UK could have done this, even though it was illeg­al back in the day. GCHQ’s inces­tu­ous rela­tion­ship with the America’s NSA gives it massively great­er cap­ab­il­it­ies than oth­er European intel­li­gence agen­cies, and the EU knows this well, which is why is is con­cerned to retain access to the UK’s defence and secur­ity powers post-Brexit, and also why it has jumped to these con­clu­sions about hack­ing.

But that was then and this is now. On 1st Janu­ary 2017 the UK gov­ern­ment finally signed a law called the Invest­ig­at­ory Powers Act, gov­ern­ing the leg­al frame­work for GCHQ to snoop. The IPA gave GCHQ the most dra­coni­an and invas­ive powers of any west­ern demo­cracy. Oth­er­wise known in the Brit­ish media as the “snoop­ers’ charter”, it had been defeated in Par­lia­ment for years, but Theresa May, then Home Sec­ret­ary, pushed it through in the teeth of leg­al and civil soci­ety oppos­i­tion. This year the High Court ordered the UK gov­ern­ment to redraft the IPA as it is incom­pat­ible with European law.

The IPA leg­al­ised what GCHQ had pre­vi­ously been doing illeg­ally post-9/11, includ­ing bulk metadata col­lec­tion, bulk data hack­ing, and bulk hack­ing of elec­tron­ic devices.

It also notion­ally gave the gov­ern­ment great­er over­sight of the spies’ actions, but these meas­ures remain weak and offer no pro­tec­tion if the spies choose to keep quiet about what they are doing. So if GCHQ did indeed hack the EU, it is feas­ible that the For­eign Sec­ret­ary and the Prime Min­is­ter remained ignor­ant of what was going on, des­pite being leg­ally required to sign off on such oper­a­tions. In which case the spies would be run­ning amok.

It is also feas­ible that they were indeed fully briefed and an argu­ment could be made that they would be cor­rect to do so. GCHQ and the oth­er spy agen­cies are required to pro­tect “nation­al secur­ity and the eco­nom­ic well-being” of Great Bri­tain, and I can cer­tainly see a strong argu­ment could be made that they were doing pre­cisely that, provided they had pri­or writ­ten per­mis­sion for such a sens­it­ive oper­a­tion, if they tried to get advance intel­li­gence about the EU’s Brexit strategy.

This argu­ment becomes even more power­ful when you con­sider the prob­lems around the fraught issue of the bor­der between North­ern Ire­land and Ire­land, an issue about which the EU is being par­tic­u­larly intransigent. If a deal is not made then the 1998 Good Fri­day Agree­ment could be under threat and civil war might again break out in North­ern Ire­land. You can­not get much more “nation­al secur­ity” than that and GCHQ would be jus­ti­fied in this work, provided it has acquired the neces­sary leg­al sign-offs from its polit­ic­al mas­ters.

How­ever, these argu­ments will do noth­ing to appease the enraged EU offi­cials. No doubt the UK gov­ern­ment will con­tin­ue to state that this was a leak from a Brus­sels insider and oil will, pub­licly at least, be seen to have been poured on troubled dip­lo­mat­ic waters.

How­ever, behind the scenes this will mul­tiply the mutu­al suspicion,and will no doubt unleash a witch hunt through the cor­ridors of EU power, with top civil ser­vant Martin Sel­mayr (aka The Mon­ster) cast as Witchfind­er Gen­er­al. With him on your heels, you would have to be a very brave leak­er, whis­tleblower, or even paid-up agent work­ing for the Brits to take such a risk.

So, per­haps this is indeed a GCHQ hack. How­ever jus­ti­fi­able this might be under the leg­ally neb­u­lous concept of “nation­al secur­ity”, this will pois­on fur­ther the already tox­ic Brexit nego­ti­ations. As Angela Merkal fam­ously if dis­en­gen­ously said after the Snowden rev­el­a­tion that the USA had hacked her mobile phone: “no spy­ing among friends”. But per­haps this is an out­dated concept – nor has the EU exactly been entirely friendly to Brexit Bri­tain.

I am just wait­ing for the first hys­ter­ic­al claim that it was the Rus­si­ans instead or, fail­ing them, former Trump strategist-in-chief, Steve Ban­non, reportedly cur­rently on a mis­sion to build a divis­ive Alt-Right Move­ment across Europe…..

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 régime 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.

————

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.

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.

You say pro-NATO, I say pro-peace

First pub­lished on RT Op-Edge, and also Con­sor­ti­um News.

Dur­ing the seem­ingly end­less US elec­tion, a few months ago Don­ald Trump said at a con­ven­tion that NATO is not a gift that Amer­ica can keep giv­ing.  In his stated view — at the time —  the oth­er mem­ber states should be expec­ted to make a great­er fin­an­cial con­tri­bu­tion (the USA cur­rently con­trib­utes 70% of NATO’s budget) and if not they could not expect auto­mat­ic pro­tec­tion in the face of an attack.

On 13th Novem­ber in the UK’s Observ­er news­pa­per, the Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al of NATO, former Nor­we­gi­an Prime Min­is­ter Jens Stol­ten­berg, wrote a think piece in response and acknow­ledged the need for more wide­spread con­tri­bu­tions, while cry­ing up the his­tor­ic import­ance and future need for NATO by cit­ing grow­ing Rus­si­an “assert­ive­ness” (dip­lo-speak for aggres­sion) and the threat from inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism.

I was invited onto RT to ana­lyse this and am here expand­ing on some of the points I made in an always-all-too-brief inter­view.

Stol­ten­berg was right to acknow­ledge Trump’s con­cerns about the con­tri­bu­tions to NATO.  But I think that he was also address­ing anoth­er and already-serving pres­id­ent some­what closer to home — head of the European Com­mis­sion and totem­ic Euro­crat, Jean-Claude Jun­ck­er — who for a while now has been plot­ting an integ­rated EU army and who ramped up the rhet­or­ic last week after Trump’s vic­tory. The head of NATO is nat­ur­ally not going to be too happy that the EU is poach­ing on his ter­rit­ory.

It was also repor­ted in The Observ­er that France and Ger­many are plan­ning to announce the accel­er­a­tion towards a EU army over the com­ing weeks. So much for European-wide con­sensus. It would appear that Jun­ck­er also sees this as a bar­gain­ing pos­i­tion in future Brexit nego­ti­ations, if Bri­tain ever does get around to trig­ger­ing Art­icle 50.  Any EU army would need the UK’s con­tri­bu­tion — not just the armed forces, which are the second largest in the EU, but also con­tin­ued close coöper­a­tion with the intel­li­gence agen­cies.

After all, if both the UK post-Brexit and the USA after the ascen­sion of Trump become increas­ingly isol­a­tion­ist and isol­ated, it would be nat­ur­al for the two coun­tries to pivot towards each oth­er to the increas­ing exclu­sion of Europe. The UK/US “spe­cial rela­tion­ship” has always been heav­ily pre­dic­ated on the uniquely close work­ing rela­tion­ship of their spies, and the EU will fear being left fur­ther out in the cold.

So, if Jun­ck­er car­ries on regard­less with his van­ity EU army pro­ject and Bri­tain agrees to con­trib­ute post-Brexit, there may be oth­er sweet deals on offer to the UK dur­ing the Brexit nego­ti­ations. At least, that seems to be the pos­i­tion Jun­ck­er seems to be oil­ing his way towards.

But the fun­da­ment­al ques­tion has to be asked: why, now, do we need either a New Mod­el EU army or the cava­lier NATO?  Stol­ten­berg tried to address this in his art­icle:

In the last few years we have seen a dra­mat­ic deteri­or­a­tion of our secur­ity, with a more assert­ive Rus­sia and tur­moil across north Africa and the Middle East. Nato allies have respon­ded togeth­er. We have imple­men­ted the biggest rein­force­ment of our col­lect­ive defence since the cold war. [.…] This is deterrence, not aggres­sion. […] Nato also con­tin­ues to play a cru­cial role in the fight against ter­ror­ism. Every Nato ally is part of the US-led coali­tion against Islam­ic State…”

Let us unpick these com­ments.

Firstly, is Rus­sia indeed becom­ing more of a mil­it­ary threat, or is this just so much dip­lo­mat­ic grand­stand­ing? After all, is it Rus­sia or NATO that has been more, umm, assert­ive over the last 27 years?

In answer I refer you back to an art­icle I wrote two years ago after the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Ber­lin Wall. Ref­er­en­cing the work of former seni­or CIA officer and fel­low Sam Adams Asso­ci­ate, Ray McGov­ern, it made clear that a deal was made between the Soviet Uni­on of the time and the US and that, in return for the with­draw­al of 260,000 Soviet troops from the GDR and the reuni­fic­a­tion of Ger­many, NATO would not move one inch fur­ther east than the Ger­man bor­der.

Well, today we can see the res­ult of these nego­ti­ations — anoth­er twelve coun­tries, most in East­ern Europe and right up to the Rus­si­an bor­der, have been assim­il­ated into NATO. Recently with­in most of these bor­der coun­tries large-scale mil­it­ary exer­cises have been pro­voc­at­ively and pub­licly staged, plus mis­sile “defence ” sys­tems have been planted in the fer­tile para­noi­ac soil of an increas­ingly aggress­ive and nation­al­ist­ic Poland.

Yes, Rus­sia has in retali­ation been con­duct­ing its own bor­der exer­cises. The lead­er­ship has to be seen to be doing some­thing, oth­er­wise it will appear weak and not pro­tect­ing its own people. That might be “assert­ive”, but it’s cer­tainly not “aggress­ive”.

Nor let us for­get the fact that in 2008 NATO was warm towards the idea of Ukraine and Geor­gia join­ing, provided they could meet a few con­di­tions. This would be tak­ing West­ern forces dir­ectly into Russia’s back yard. It would be encirc­ling Russia’s bor­der with the rest of Europe with a new “Iron Cur­tain”.  And I have to say that *is* an aggress­ively polit­ic­al move at the very least.

How did this play out? Well, first stop for the cam­paign of Rus­si­an demon­isa­tion was Geor­gia, under West­ern neo-con pup­pet pres­id­ent Mikhail Saakashvili , invad­ing a small and eth­nic­ally Rus­si­an seg­ment of Geor­gia, South Osse­tia.   Rus­sia respon­ded by pro­tect­ing the pop­u­la­tion, and then was excor­i­ated across the West­ern world as con­duct­ing an unpro­voked inva­sion of Geor­gia. This myth has long been exposed fac­tu­ally, but it is the hys­ter­ic­al head­lines of the time that resid­ually stick in most people’s minds.

Sim­il­arly in Ukraine. In 2014 a coup against the elec­ted head of state, Vikt­or Yanukovych, appar­ently partly orches­trated by the USA as we know from inter­cep­ted calls between the Assist­ant US Sec­ret­ary of State for Europe, Vic­tor­ia Nuland and US Ambas­sad­or to Ukraine, Geof­frey Pyatt.

Inter­est­ingly, it was Yanukovych who blocked Ukraine’s acces­sion to NATO in after his elec­tion in 2010, per­haps an addi­tion­al motiv­a­tion for the 2014 coup.

All this laid bare the fact that the US had pumped $5 bil­lion in to sub­vert the Ukrain­i­an state over the pre­ced­ing few years and that, in the face of European oppos­i­tion to it, the US thought “fuck the EU”. And yet still the EU acqui­esced to US-led sanc­tions against Rus­sia that have hit the EU eco­nomy hard.

And the USA accused Rus­sia of med­dling in their demo­crat­ic pro­cesses this year? Pot and kettle springs to mind.

Add to this a prob­ably NATO-approved strike on a Rus­si­an jet involved in the Syr­i­an con­flict earli­er this year by NATO mem­ber Tur­key (at the time one of the closest trad­ing part­ners of Rus­sia and which, tem­por­ar­ily, caused bilat­er­al dam­age that has since been repaired) and the mil­it­ary wing of West­ern interests is not exactly com­ing up smelling of roses.

But per­haps NATO was just being “assert­ive”.

So to Stoltenberg’s second point of jus­ti­fic­a­tion for NATO: the suc­cess that it has had com­bat­ing the threat of inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism.

Where can I start with this? Since NATO invoked Art­icle 5 (when one state is attacked, all must respond) in the wake of the 9/11 attacks against Amer­ica, west­ern coun­tries have been dragged into war after illeg­al war across the Middle East, cent­ral Asia and North Africa.

Let us exam­ine the roll-call of suc­cesses: Afgh­anistan (now back in the hands of the Taliban war­lords and sup­ply­ing ever more heroin to the illeg­al drug trade that goes some way to fund­ing ter­ror­ist groups, includ­ing ISIS); Iraq, now a bas­ket case and the cradle of ISIS; Libya ditto plus the drugs; Yemeni com­munit­ies being vapor­ised with “pre­ci­sion” bombs by US proxy Saudi Ara­bia: and Syr­ia of course.

So the NATO Sec­ret­ary General’s second jus­ti­fic­a­tion of the organisation’s con­tin­ued exist­ence is not exactly what one would call com­pel­ling. But I sup­pose he had to try, when Juncker’s threatened folie de grandeur that is the EU army is even less inspir­ing.

So, back to Pres­id­ent-elect Don­ald Trump.  What will he do, faced with this mess of com­pet­ing west­ern military/security interests and Euro-bur­eau­crat career­ists? Per­haps his US isol­a­tion­ist pos­i­tion is not so mad, bad and dan­ger­ous to know as the wail­ings of the west­ern lib­er­al press would have us believe?

Amer­ic­an “excep­tion­al­ism” and NATO inter­ven­tion­ism have not exactly benefited much of the world since the end of the Cold War. Per­haps the time has indeed come for an Amer­ic­an Com­mand­er-in-Chief who can cut deals, cut through the sabre-rat­tling rhet­or­ic and, even unin­ten­tion­ally, make a sig­ni­fic­ant con­tri­bu­tion to world peace.

Stranger things have happened.  After all, out­go­ing Pres­id­ent Obama won the Nobel Prize for Peace a mere eight months after his inaug­ur­a­tion.…

Donald Trump and implications for NATO

Pres­id­ent-elect of the USA, Don­ald Trump, said dur­ing his cam­paign that oth­er NATO mem­bers should pay a fair con­tri­bu­tion and not rely on the USA to always bail them out.

On 13th Novem­ber the Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al of NATO, Jens Stol­ten­berg, defen­ded his organ­isa­tion in UK news­pa­per The Observ­er.

Here is a short inter­view I gave to RT on these devel­op­ments:

Don­ald Trump and NATO from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

NATO planes bomb Syrian government forces

The dip­lo­mat­ic row rumbles on after US-led air strikes hit Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment forces in Deir ez-Zour, killing 62 sol­diers and injur­ing over 100.  This happened only a few days into a week-long tri­al cease­fire designed to be a pre­curs­or to US-Rus­si­an joint oper­a­tions against ISIS.

It has now been repor­ted that Brit­ish forces were involved and, need­less to say, that the cease­fire is over, with the Rus­si­ans and the Syr­i­ans nat­ur­ally being blamed.

Here is my ini­tial ana­lys­is last Sat­urday imme­di­ately after the bomb­ings, pre­dict­ing that the US would have great­er prob­lems rein­ing in the vari­ous mili­tias than Rus­sia would in ensur­ing that Syr­ia held to the cease­fire:

US air strike on Syr­i­an mil­it­ary — RT inter­view from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Ex-CIA Chief advocates murder

Well, this was an inter­est­ing one.  As I was step­ping out of the shower this morn­ing, my phone rang — RT ask­ing if I could do an inter­view asap.

The sub­ject under dis­cus­sion?  A former act­ing head of the CIA appar­ently recom­mend­ing that the USA cov­ertly start to murder any Ira­ni­an and Rus­si­an cit­izens oper­at­ing against ISIS in Syr­ia, and bomb Pres­id­ent Assad “to scare him, not to kill him”.

I know — an Alice Though the Look­ing Glass moment.  Here is the link to inter­view that Michael Morell gave.

And here is my take on this:

CIA_Chief_wants_to_Assassinate_Iranians_and Rus­si­ans from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

The Chilcot Report about the Iraq War

Here is an inter­view I did yes­ter­day about the long-awaited Chil­cot Report into the cluster­fuck that was and is Iraq:

The Chil­cot Report on the Iraq War from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

The NSA and Guantanamo Bay

Yes­ter­day The Inter­cept released more doc­u­ments from the Edward Snowden trove.  These high­lighted the hitherto sus­pec­ted by unproven involve­ment of the NSA in Guantanamo Bay, extraordin­ary rendi­tion, tor­ture and inter­rog­a­tion.

Here is my inter­view on RT about the sub­ject:

Snowden dis­clos­ures about NSA and Guantanamo from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

The (Il)legality of UK Drone Strikes

It was repor­ted in The Guard­i­an news­pa­per today that the UK par­lia­ment­ary joint com­mit­tee on human rights was ques­tion­ing the leg­al frame­work under­pin­ning the use of Brit­ish drone strikes against ter­ror­ist sus­pects.

Here is an inter­view I did for RT today about the ques­tion­able leg­al­ity of the UK drone strike pro­gramme:

The (Il)legalitiy of UK drone strikes? from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

War on Drugs has failed — ENCOD Article

Below is an art­icle I recently wrote for the excel­lent European drug policy reform organ­isa­tion, European Coali­tion for Just and Effect­ive Drug PoliciesENCOD.  And here is the link to the ori­gin­al on the ENCOD web­site.

I have had the hon­our of serving as the European Dir­ect­or of Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP) for the last four years, and have been thrilled to over­see the estab­lish­ment of thriv­ing nation­al groups in the UK and Ger­many, with the pos­sib­il­ity of more on the hori­zon. In my view, law enforce­ment offers a unique and crit­ic­al voice to the inter­na­tion­al drug policy reform debate.

LEAP, foun­ded in 2002, today has over 150,000 sup­port­ers and speak­ers in 20 coun­tries. We con­sist of police officers, law­yers, judges, pris­on gov­ernors, pro­ba­tion officers, intel­li­gence and mil­it­ary per­son­nel, and even inter­na­tion­al drug czars. What unites us is a shared pro­fes­sion­al know­ledge, exper­i­enced across the full spec­trum of law enforce­ment, that drug pro­hib­i­tion has egre­giously failed.

Over the last 50 years glob­al 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 drug pro­hib­i­tion fail­ure while I was work­ing for MI5 back in the 1990s. 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 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 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 the res­ult­ing massive profits provide a key rev­en­ue stream to ter­ror­ists, not least ISIS which con­trols part of the flow of heroin from cent­ral Asia into Europe. On the oth­er hand the West is also waging the “war on ter­ror” to fight these same groups.

So what our gov­ern­ments give the mil­it­ary-secur­ity com­plex with one hand, they also give with the oth­er.

But is not all bad news. Coun­tries in Lat­in Amer­ica and states in North Amer­ica are leg­al­ising can­nabis, safe injec­tion rooms have rolled out across Europe, Canada is look­ing to leg­al­ise can­nabis, and the decrim­in­al­isa­tion of drugs has been hugely suc­cess­ful in coun­tries such as Por­tugal and the Czech Repub­lic.

Even at the UN level, which recently held a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion Gen­er­al Assembly Spe­cial Ses­sion in New York, the concept of harm reduc­tion is at least now being tabled by some coun­tries, although the pro­gress is gla­cial.

The times may not be chan­ging fast enough for many of us in the drug policy reform world, des­pite baby steps being made in the right dir­ec­tion by some coun­tries. Yet even the more pro­gress­ive coun­tries with­in the inter­na­tion­al com­munity are still con­strained by the leg­al straight jack­et that is the UN drug treaty frame­work.

And while harm reduc­tion is good pro­gress in that it no longer crim­in­al­ises those who choose to use, it utterly fails to address the big­ger prob­lem that I men­tioned before: that the crim­in­al­isa­tion of cer­tain drugs drives the mar­ket under­ground, provid­ing huge profits to organ­ised crime car­tels and ter­ror­ist groups around the world every year. Pro­hib­i­tion has unleashed the biggest crime wave the world has ever seen. As with alco­hol pro­hibiton in 20th cen­tury Amer­ica, only leg­al­isa­tion and reg­u­la­tion will remove this mar­ket from the greedy grasp of crim­in­als.

I have just watched a old BBC News­night debate between comedi­an and act­or, Rus­sell Brand, and right-wing writer and com­ment­at­or, Peter Hitchens. The debate encap­su­lated the entrenched pos­i­tions of both the reform­ist and pro­hib­i­tion­ist camps. The former was rep­res­en­ted by Brand, a former drug user in recov­ery, advoc­at­ing abstin­ence-based ther­apy. The lat­ter by Hitchens, an anti-drug war­ri­or largely approach­ing the issue from a mor­al­ity pos­i­tion, who argued that tak­ing drugs is a crime and that all such crimes should be pro­sec­uted as a deterrence.

While nat­ur­ally I lean more towards the pos­i­tion of Brand, who two years ago elec­tri­fied a rather tur­gid annu­al UN Com­mis­sion on Nar­cot­ic Drugs meet­ing in Vienna by call­ing for full drug leg­al­isa­tion, and also while respect­ing his per­son­al exper­i­ences, I do think he’s miss­ing a trick.

Yes, those with drug depend­en­cies need help and com­pas­sion not pris­on, but the vast major­ity of those who choose to use do so recre­ation­ally, just for fun, and nev­er devel­op an addic­tion, just as only a minor­ity of those who choose to drink go on to devel­op alco­hol­ism. And yet the para­met­ers of the drug debate rarely stray bey­ond the well-worn issue of “prob­lem” users, both amongst reform­ist as well as pro­hib­i­tion­ist circles. We do not call all drink­ers alco­hol­ics so why, in the pub­lic dis­course, are all users of oth­er drugs clumped togeth­er as “addicts” in high-pro­file debates?

As for Hitchens, I remain baffled. He seems to think that all laws are immut­able, graven in stone with words from on high, and as such must there­fore be strictly enforced. This is tosh. All laws change and evolve to reflect the chan­ging mores of the soci­et­ies which write them. If this were not to hap­pen, we in the West would still burn witches, own slaves, not allow women to vote, out­law homo­sexu­al­ity and, in Amer­ica of course, alco­hol would remain pro­hib­ited. Yet now, all these out­dated, unjust, and cruel laws have been swept away,

In 2014 LEAP pub­lished a Pro­posed Amend­ment of the UN Treat­ies, in which we argue that all drugs should be brought with­in the orbit of the World Health Organ­isa­tion Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Tobacco Con­trol (2003). We argue that only full reg­u­la­tion and con­trol of the drug mar­ket will end the scourge of the illeg­al glob­al drug trade. Until this hap­pens at least $320 bil­lion per year profits will con­tin­ue to bene­fit only crime car­tels and ter­ror­ist organ­isa­tions.

The “war on drugs” has failed.

Albert Ein­stein, who was not exactly a dullard, said that the very defin­i­tion of insan­ity was to con­tin­ue to do the same thing, even if it repeatedly fails, in the hope that you will even­tu­ally get a dif­fer­ent out­come. That is what we are see­ing with pro­hib­i­tion.

It is time for this insan­ity to cease.