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:

BBCCIA and MI5 Hack our TVs from Annie Machon on Vimeo.


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

BBC World interview re UK spy accountability

Here’s a recent inter­view I did for BBC World about the three top Brit­ish spies deign­ing, for the first time ever, to be pub­licly ques­tioned by the Intel­li­gence and Secur­ity Com­mit­tee in par­lia­ment, which has a notion­al over­sight role:

BBC World inter­view on UK Par­laiment­ary hear­ings on NSA/Snowden affair from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

It sub­sequently emerged that they only agreed to appear if they were told the ques­tions in advance.  So much for this already incred­ibly lim­ited over­sight cap­ab­il­ity in a notion­al West­ern demo­cracy.….

BBC “World Have Your Say” debate

A recent inter­view on BBC World Ser­vice radio, on “World Have Your Say”.  An inter­est­ing debate with some oth­er former intel­li­gence types:

BBC World Ser­vice “World Have Your Say” inter­view from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

BBC Sunday Morning Live — whistleblower debate

Here is a video of a debate I was involved with about whis­tleblowers on the most recent edi­tion of BBC debate show, Sunday Morn­ing Live. The ques­tion under dis­cus­sion: are whis­tleblowers her­oes or vil­lains?

BBC Sunday Morn­ing Live from Annie Machon on Vimeo.
A shame that some of the stu­dio guests used this oppor­tun­ity to launch ad hom­inem attacks rather than focus on the key ques­tion, but I’m glad I could con­trib­ute.

BBC Radio interview about the “snoopers’ charter”

Yes­ter­day I gave an inter­view to BBC Radio Ulster about the secur­ity fall-out of the Wool­wich murder and the cyn­ic­al polit­ic­al oppor­tunism of those call­ing, inev­it­ably, for great­er powers for the spies and a rein­tro­duc­tion of the pro­posed Com­munuic­a­tions Data Bill, dubbed the “snoop­ers’ charter”.

Here is the link.

The Report on BBC Radio 4 — the Death of Gareth Williams

A look at the forensic and police fail­ures around the invest­ig­a­tion of the still inex­plic­able death of intel­li­gence officer, Gareth Wil­li­ams, in Lon­don in 2010.

Here’s the link.

BBC article: could 7/7 have been prevented?

Peter Taylor, a respec­ted journ­al­ist at the BBC, argues that if there had been more coöper­a­tion between MI5 and region­al police Spe­cial Branches, then the 7/7 bomb­ings in Lon­don in 2005 could have been pre­ven­ted.  His thes­is appears to be that MI5 did not work closely enough with the police (the exec­ut­ive branch) of the UK’s intel­li­gence com­munity: the aptly-named Oper­a­tion Crevice has exposed the cracks in the uni­fied pub­lic façade of the UK intel­li­gence com­munity.

How­ever, Taylor assures us that this prob­lem is in the past, with MI5 officers and Spe­cial Branch police now hap­pily work­ing side by side in region­al offices across the UK.  So that’s OK then.

It con­tin­ues to sur­prise me that seasoned Brit­ish journ­al­ists repeatedly fall into the post-9/11 group-think of the USA — that ter­ror­ism is a new phe­nomen­on.  Rather start­lingly, Taylor’s art­icle even asserts that the FBI had the Crevice inform­a­tion in real-time, while the West Yorks SB was left in the dark.

Those in the UK with a memory longer than a mayfly’s will be aware that this coun­try endured 30 years of Irish Repub­lic­an ter­ror­ism, and dur­ing the 1990s MI5 had lead respons­ib­il­ity for invest­ig­at­ing this threat.  So from 1993 the spooks did indeed work side-by-side with their region­al SB counter-parts across the coun­try.  Dur­ing this peri­od the emphas­is was on gath­er­ing both intel­li­gence to pre-empt­ively thwart ter­ror­ist plots and also evid­ence to use in the ensu­ing court cases.  And there were some not­able suc­cesses.

So what changed in the fol­low­ing dec­ade?  Did the spooks retreat back behind the bar­ri­cades of their Lon­don HQ, Thames House, as the ink dried on the Good Fri­day Agree­ment?  Were the hard-won les­sons of the 1990s so quickly for­got­ten?

Well, cer­tainly oth­er les­sons from the civil war in Nort­ern Ire­land appear to have been expunged from the col­lect­ive intel­li­gence memory.  For example, the use of tor­ture, mil­it­ary tribunals, intern­ment and curfews were all used extens­ively in the early years of the NI con­flict and all were spec­tac­u­larly counter-pro­duct­ive, act­ing as a recruit­ing ground for new gen­er­a­tions of ter­ror­ists.  Yet these prac­tices now once again appear to be impli­citly con­doned by MI5 and MI6 in the USA’s bru­tal “war on ter­ror”.

So one would hope that this new BBC pro­gramme calls for a reapprais­al of our intel­li­gence infra­struc­ture.  Why should we mind­lessly con­tin­ue to accept the status quo, when this res­ults in les­sons being for­got­ten and mis­takes being repeated?  How about the BBC call­ing for a root and branch review of the threats the UK real­ist­ic­ally faces, and the most efeect­ive way to guard against them, while work­ing with­in the demo­crat­ic pro­cess?



BBC Report on Shayler’s conviction

The BBC report after Dav­id Shayler’s con­vic­tion in Novem­ber 2002:

Former MI5 agent Dav­id Shayler is facing jail after being con­victed of reveal­ing secur­ity secrets.

Shayler, 36, was found guilty on three charges of break­ing the Offi­cial Secrets Act.

He revealed secret doc­u­ments to the Mail on Sunday news­pa­per in 1997, arguing he had a pub­lic duty to expose mal­prac­tice with­in the secur­ity ser­vices.

But the pro­sec­u­tion argued Shayler, who will be sen­tenced on Tues­day, had poten­tially placed the lives of secret agents at risk.  It said he betrayed a “life-long duty of con­fid­en­ti­al­ity” by reveal­ing clas­si­fied mat­ters.

Shayler, who rep­res­en­ted him­self, also told the Old Bailey jury he feared for his life at the time, because of some­thing “far more ser­i­ous” than any­thing pub­lished in the paper.  Shayler was remanded on bail for sen­ten­cing and could face up to two years’ impris­on­ment on each of the three counts.

Shayler copied 28 files on sev­en top­ics before leav­ing MI5 in Octo­ber 1996.


Soon after, he accused MI5 of incom­pet­ence and leaked sens­it­ive inform­a­tion to the Mail on Sunday, includ­ing alleg­a­tions of fin­an­cial links between the Pro­vi­sion­al IRA and Libya.  He then fled to France with the £40,000 he earned from his rev­el­a­tions, but returned to Bri­tain after three years know­ing he faced arrest.

Out­side court Shayler’s girl­friend Annie Machon — also a former MI5 officer — said: “Dav­id is a whistle-blower, pure and simple.   I’m shocked at the ver­dict. He deserves to be pro­tec­ted, not pro­sec­uted.  Dav­id revealed mal­prac­tice, crime and incom­pet­ence on behalf of the intel­li­gence ser­vice and he did it in the pub­lic interest.  He still believes it was right to do so. We believe judges in Europe will be more scep­tic­al about the Offi­cial Secrets Act in this coun­try.”

John Wadham, dir­ect­or of civil rights group Liberty and also Shayler’s soli­cit­or, said they would con­sider tak­ing the case to appeal and would con­tin­ue their applic­a­tion to the European Court of Human Rights.

Pre-tri­al rul­ing

Maurice Frankel from the Cam­paign for Free­dom of Inform­a­tion, said there needed to be fun­da­ment­al changes to the way in which such cases were dealt with.

A House of Lords hear­ing before the tri­al ruled that Shayler could not reveal details of the “ser­i­ous” mat­ter that allegedly put his life in danger.  It also refused him per­mis­sion to argue his case with a “pub­lic interest defence” under the European Charter of Human Rights.

But fol­low­ing the con­vic­tion, Lib­er­al Demo­crat home affairs spokes­man Simon Hughes said: “Whatever the rights and wrongs of Mr Shayler’s actions, there should be a change in the law to ensure that a pub­lic interest defence can be under­taken.”

Dur­ing the tri­al, Nigel Sweeney QC, for the Crown, said dis­clos­ure of even one piece of clas­si­fied inform­a­tion could be the “final piece in the jig­saw” allow­ing hos­tile coun­tries or organ­isa­tions to identi­fy Brit­ish agents.

Mr Sweeney told the tri­al: “The nation’s agents may be unmasked.”

But Shayler told the court: “I was seek­ing to expose the truth.

No harm’

I’m not the first per­son in his­tory to stand up and tell the truth and be per­se­cuted, and I doubt I’ll be the last.

His argu­ment that no agents’ lives were put at risk was dis­missed as “irrel­ev­ant” by the judge.

The jury was told cur­rent legis­la­tion allowed altern­at­ive action for whistle-blow­ing, such as telling the police or a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter, instead of going to the media.

Jur­ors were allowed to see the weighty file of secret doc­u­ments — but the names of agents and oth­er ultra-sens­it­ive inform­a­tion was obscured.