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.

ITV Good Morning Britain, 13 January 2017

The role of MI6 and its former officer, Christopher Steele, in the compiling of the “dirty dossier” against President-elect Donald Trump:

Good Morning Britain 13 01 17 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

BBC News Channel, 12 January 2017

As the story about the fake “dirty dossier” complied on Donald Trump by former MI6 officer, Christopher Steele, gather impetus, I was asked to do ultiple interviews. Here is the first with the BBC News Channel:

BBC News Channel from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

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.

News debate on Russian “hacking” allegations

On 9 January RT hosted a live streamed debate on its news show about the US intelligence report that attempted to prove that Russia had “hacked” the US election.

Also in the debate were former CIA Director, James Woolsey, and former CIA intelligence officer, Larry Johnson.

Here it is:

RT Debate about Intelligence Report into alleged ‘Russian hacking’ (Streamed Live) from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

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? He 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?

CIA threatens cyber attacks against Russia

The CIA was recently reported to have issued the threat of cyber attacks against the Russian leadership, in retaliation for alleged and unsubstantiated claims that Russia is trying to influence the American elections.

Here is an interview I did yesterday about this, and wider, issues:

‘Americans should fear election hacking by US establishment, not Russia’ 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.

Wikileaks – CIA officers operating in the EU?

My interview on RT about the recent disclosure to Wikileaks about how undeclared CIA officers can travel safely into the EU.  The big question is – why would they? Especially when we know from the Edward Snowden disclosures how much the European intelligence agencies collude with their counterparts in the USA…

Undeclared CIA spies in the EU? My recent RT Interview from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

CIA Chief visits Ukraine – Why?

My recent interview on RT about Ukraine and interventionism, both West and East:

cia_ukraine

US miscalculated will of Ukrainian people from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

OHM 2013 – The Joy of Geeks

ohm2013_logoHome and recovered from the rigours of the amazing geekfest, OHM 2013.

This was a 5-day festival in the Netherlands where 3000 geeks, activists and whistleblowers gathered to have fun and also try to put the world to rights.  And this crowd, out of all activist groups, has a fighting chance. The geeks are tooled-up, tech-savvy, and increasingly politicised after all the recent assaults on the internet and wider freedoms.

These include all the anti-piracy measures (interestingly, Russia has just joined the lost war that is the anti-piracy legislation, and the Russian pirates are going to form a Pirate Church, as this will give them special protections and rights under the law). It also includes all the invidious international agreements that the US and its Euro-vassals are trying to force down the throats of reluctant populations: ACTA, PIPA, SOPA, TAFTA…. you name it, there’s a whole new anti-freedom alphabet soup out there in addition to the spook acronyms.

Not to mention all the illegal US take-downs of legitimate business websites, such as Megaupload, and the panoptic surveillance powers of the NSA and its global intelligence buddies, long suspected by many and now proven by the disclosures of the courageous Edward Snowden.

So it was lovely to see at OHM an increasing politicisation. This was partly because of all the above recent horrors, but also because the OHM organisers had pulled together a strong political and whistleblowing speaker track. The attack against digital civil liberties is inextricably linked to and reflective of the full-frontal attack on our historic real-world freedoms:  endemic surveillance, kidnapping, torture, CIA kill lists, illegal wars, drone strikes, secret courts, and many other encroaching horrors that I have written about ad nauseam. And this is just what we know about.

sinking_shipIn my view our Western democracies have been at least fatally holed, if they have not yet foundered. Which, of course, means that our violent, interventionist attempts to bring “democracy” to the developing world are derided as hypocritical at best, and violently resisted at worst.

The new front-line of this struggle is “cyber” warfare – be it the illegal aggressive attacks of such US/Israeli viruses against Iran such as Stuxnet (that is now roaming free in the wild and mutating), or the slower wars of attrition against “pirates”, hackers, Wikileaks, and the growing war on whistleblowers such as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

Well, geeks are the new resistance and they have a fighting chance in my view. And this is why I think that they are our best hope.

SAMSUNGThis was my experience of OHM. Three thousand of the best and the brightest from around the world gathered together not just to have fun playing with bleeding-edge tech, hacking and building toys, and creating slightly surreal, if beloved, hover-pets (see right), but also who turned out in their thousands to listen to and absorb the experiences of a number of international intelligence whistleblowers. In the wake of the Edward Snowden case, this is a hot topic in these circles and there was a huge impetus to help.

We whistleblowers had a fabulous time too. One is a “natural-born geek” – Tom Drake, formerly of the NSA, who was threatened with 35 years in prison because he dared to disclose problems with his organisation. His lawyer, government lawyer-turned-whistleblower Jesselyn Radack, also spoke of her experiences. Coleen Rowley, the FBI whistleblower who exposed the intelligence failure in the US in the run-up to 9/11 and was voted Time Person of the Year in 2002 also gave a fantastic talk called “Secrecy Kills”, and former CIA analyst and presidential “briefer”, Ray McGovern, gave the opening keynote speech, focusing on the need to speak out and preserve our rights. I finished the quintet of whistleblowers and provided the Euro-perspective.

And of course the patron saint of whistleblowers also did one of the key talks – but he had to be beamed in. Julian Assange, who was free to attend HAR, the last such event in the Netherlands four years ago, was unavoidably detained in his embassy refuge in the UK.

OHM_Great_Spook_Panel_2013

Photo by Reinoud van Leeuwen (http://reinoud.van.leeuwen.net/)

The whistleblowers all came together for one of the big sessions of OHM – the “Great Spook Panel“, moderated by the indomitable Nick Farr. The panel was basically a call to arms for the next generation. This addressed the need to stand up to protect our rights against all the egregious erosions that have occurred since 9/11.  The response was hugely enthusiastic. I hope this goes global, and the wider community follows up.

It certainly did in one way. Ray McGovern announced the establishment of the Edward Snowden Defence Fund at the end of the panel discussion, and the donations poured in for the rest of the event.

So a very successful festival. How do I make that assessment? Well, on top of all the fun, variety of talks and networking, the Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD (an unfortunate-sounding name to most English speakers), requested a platform at the event after the Great Spook Panel was announced in the programme.

Such an active and open response shows a degree of push-back against a perceived “threat”. No doubt the organisation wanted to inject the establishment anti-venom before the truth-tellers had their say. Anyway, on the grounds that most whistleblowers are generally denied a mainstream media platform and/or are smeared, the AIVD was prohibited the stage.

Of course, the AIVD would have been very welcome to buy a ticket like normal humans or pay the corporate rate to attend to show support for the community – its officers might have learned something….

Woolwich murder – the “why?” should be obvious

The brutal murder in Woolwich last week of Drummer Lee Rigby rightly caused shock and outrage. Inevitably there has been a media feeding frenzy about “terrorist” attacks and home-grown radicalisation.  British Prime Minister, David Cameron, felt it necessary to fly back from a key meeting in France to head up the British security response.

One slightly heartening piece of news to emerge from all the horror is that the PM has stated, at least for now, that there will be no knee-jerk security crack-down in the wake of this killing.  Sure, security measures have been ramped up around military bases in the UK, but cynical calls from the securocrats to reanimate a proposed “snoopers’ charter”, aka the draft Communications Data Bill, have for now been discounted. And rightly so – MI5 already has all the necessary powers to monitor suspects.

However, there does still seem to be a politically disingenuous view about the motivation behind this murder.  Yet the suspects themselves made no secret of it – indeed they stayed at the scene of the crime for twenty minutes apparently encouraging photos and smart phone recordings in order to get across their message.  When the police armed response team finally arrived, the suspects reportedly charged at the police brandishing knives and possibly a gun.  They were shot, but not fatally.  This may have been attempted “suicide by cop” – delayed until they had said their piece.

This does not strike me as the actions of “crazed killers” as has been reported in the media; rather it reminds me of the cold and calculated actions of Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Breivik. The Woolwich murder was designed to maximize the impact of the message in this social media age.

And the message being? Well, it was indeed captured on smart phone and sent out to the world.  The killers clearly stated that this was a political action designed to highlight the gruesome violence daily meted out across North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia as a result of the western policy of military interventionism.

This manifests in a variety of ways: violent resistance and insurgency against puppet governments as we see in Iraq; internecine civil war in countries such as post-NATO intervention Libya; covert wars fought by western proxies, as we see in Syria; or overt attacks in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where US and UK controlled drones target militants named for assassination on presidentially-approved CIA kill lists with the resulting collateral murder of community gatherings, children and wedding parties.

All this does not justify the appalling murder in Woolwich, and the perpetrators must face justice for the crime.  However, it does go some way to explaining why such an atrocity occurred, and we as a society need to face up to the facts or this will happen again.

Saying this does not make me an apologist for terrorism, any more than it did journalist Glenn Greenwald – a writer who has had the journalistic attack dogs unleashed on him for similar views. Beyond the group-think denialism within the Washington Beltway and the Westminster Village, the cause and effect are now widely-recognised. Indeed, in her 2010 testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry about the Iraq War, former head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller said precisely the same thing – and I don’t think anyone would dare to label her “an apologist for terrorism”.

The seed of Islamic extremism was planted by western colonialism, propagated by the 1953 CIA and MI6 coup against President Mossadegh of Iran, watered by their support for a fledging Al Qaeda in the 1980s Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion, and is now flourishing as a means both of violently attempting to eject western occupying forces from Muslim countries and gaining retribution against the West.

We need to face up to this new reality. The brutal murder of this soldier may be a one-off attack, but I doubt it.  Indeed, similar attacks against French soldiers in Toulouse occurred last year, and this weekend there has already been what appears to be a copy-cat attack against a soldier in Paris.

In this endemic surveillance society terrorist groups are all too aware of the vulnerabilities inherent in large-scale, co-ordinated attacks, the planning of which can be picked up by sigint or from internet “chatter”. Much simpler to go for the low-tech atrocity and cynically play the all-pervasive social media angle for maximum coverage.

The UK media has reported that the Woolwich suspects have been on the British intelligence radar for the last 8 years, but MI5 failed to take prompt action. The inevitable government enquiry has been promised, but the fall-back defensive position, already being trotted out by former spies and terrorism experts across the media is that the security services are never going to be in a position to accurately predict when every radicalised person might “flip” into violence and that such “lone wolf” attacks are the most difficult to stop.

As more news emerges, this is looking increasingly disingenuous. Reports have emerged that one of the suspects, Michael Adebolajo, was approached to work as an agent for MI5 half a year ago, apparently after he had been arrested and assaulted by police in Kenya. This may be another example of the security services’ failed Prevent initiative that seems to be causing more harm that good within the young British Muslim community.

This story has been compounded by the recent intriguing arrest of one of Adebolajo’s friends, the self-styled Abu Nusaybah, immediately after he had finished recording an interview about this for the BBC’s Newsnight programme.  The Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command swooped at the Beeb and arrested the man on terrorism charges: he has now disappeared into the maw of the legal system.

The only long-term and potentially effective solution is to address the fundamental issues that lead to Islamic violence and terrorism and begin negotiations. The UK, at least, has been through this process before during the 1990s, when it was attempting to resolve the civil war in Northern Ireland. Indeed my former boss, Eliza Manningham-Buller, stated as much during a BBC lecture in 2011, saying that the US and UK governments need to negotiate with Al Qaeda to reach a political settlement.

Over the last 20 years, Al Qaeda has consistently demanded the removal of the western (predominantly US) military presence from the Middle East. Since the 9/11 attacks our political elites and media have equally consistently spun us the line that Al Qaeda carries out attacks because it “hates our way of life, hates our freedoms”.

Unless our governments acknowledge the problems inherent in continued and violent western interventionism, unless they can accept that the war on terror results in radicalisation, “blowback” and yet more innocent deaths, and until they admit that negotiation is the only viable long-term solution, we are all condemned to remain trapped in this ghastly cycle of violence.