Newsletter Excerpt re Edward Snowden

For readers who have not yet signed up to my monthly newsletter, here is the excerpt about Edward Snowden from my June edition, with a little update at the end:

The Edward Snowden saga is riveting for me on so many levels.You’ll no doubt be aware of the case, unless you have been living in a cupboard for the last few weeks.  Snowden is the brave young NSA contractor who has blown the whistle on a range of global surveillance programmes that the Americans and the Brits have developed over the last few years to fight the war on terrorism spy on all of us.

The sheer scale of his disclosures so far is incredible and has huge implications for what remains of our democratic way of life. Just today more information emerged to show that the NSA has been spying on key EU institutions – which might go some way to explaining why so much recent EU legislation appears to favour the interests of US corporatism over those of European citizens….

Pundits have been calling him the most significant whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam war 40 years ago.  But I would go further.  In my view Edward Snowden is the most significant whistleblower in modern history because, while Ellsberg disclosed vital information, it was largely a matter that affected the Americans and the hapless Vietnamese.  What Snowden has exposed, just to date, impacts all of us around the world.

Snowden has confirmed the darkest fears of legal experts, geeks and concerned global citizens about the sheer scale of the surveillance society we all now live under.  Not only are our intelligence agencies running amok, they do so using the infrastructure of the global internet megacorps.  What he has laid bare is the fact that we are all already living under full-blown fascism.

He played it so well with that early film stating very clearly his motivation to go public – to defend a way of life that he saw was under threat. He appears to have learned from the mistakes of previous whistleblowers.  He chose a journalist who understands the issues and has the fire in the belly and the international profile to fight his corner.  Glenn Greenwald is a fearless campaigning lawyer-turned-journalist who for years has been defending the work of Wikileaks, with the irony being that he is now the new Assange, being attacked, threatened and smeared for reporting the disclosures.

Of course, I and many other former whistleblowers have been swamped by the usual frenzied media tsunami, called up for interview after interview.  For me this began just as I was about to turn in for the night at 11.30pm on 9th June, when RT rang me up asking for an urgent live interview just as the identity of Snowden was emerging across the world’s media.  After a frantic 15 minutes sorting out the makeup and the tech (in that order, naturally), I was wide awake again and speaking on live TV.  From that came a slew of other requests over the next few days, including many programmes on the BBC, Sky News, and multiple radio and newspaper interviews.  I could barely find time to leave my phone and computer to get to the bathroom….  Then the wave receded for a few days before Snowden fled to Russia, when the whole cycle began again.

Reading about Snowden going on the run also brought back a number of personal memories for me. In 1997 I fled the UK with David Shayler only 12 hours ahead of his initial disclosures about MI5 criminality breaking in the UK media. We were pursued across Europe, and had a month literally on the run, followed by a year living in hiding in la France Profonde before David was arrested, pending extradition, at the request of the British government.  He spent almost 4 months in a Paris prison before the French released him – their view being that he was a whistleblower, which was deemed to be a political offence for which France specifically does not extradite.  We lived more openly in Paris for another two years, although David was trapped in France – had he travelled to another country the whole ghastly extradition process would have started again.

Well, there are worse places than France to be trapped in exile, but even so it was difficult for him.  How much more so for Edward Snowden, whose options are more seriously constrained and who faces life in prison in the US if he is caught?  Knowing the penalties he faces and being aware of the tracking capabilities and the ruthless disregard for the law and human rights of the modern US intelligence infrastructure, his bravery in exposing the global US surveillance state is truly breath-taking.

To finish, here is one of my recent Sky News interviews about the Edward Snowden case:

Sky TV interview on Snowden case from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Addendum: today’s news told us that Bolivian President, Evo Morales’s official, diplomatically protected, plane have been barred from flying home from Moscow over much of Euro airspace, where he had been participating in high-level talks.  The reason being that Edward Snowden might have been be on board. Morales was grounded in Austria and had to submit to a police search of the plane, against all diplomatic protocol.  No Snowden was found, naturally.

I see this as a very clever move by persons unknown – testing exactly what the international response would be if Edward Snowden tries to fly out of Russia.  And the Europeans, under undoubted pressure from the US, have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

The US-Euro complicit patsies have been flushed out by this diplomatic scandal. Demonstrations are apparently already occurring against the French embassy in Bolivia.  And this on the same day that the French President, Francois Hollande, used the Snowden disclosures to delay the rightly-maligned US-EU trade agreement.

So, even as the French use the Snowden disclosures for political advantage, they apparently refuse to assist the source.  Which is unfortunate – my memory of French law is that whistleblowing is deemed a political act and the French specifically do not extradite for alleged political offences.

Perhaps the French constitution and law have changed since Sarkozy took France into NATO….

The Keiser Report – my recent interview

My recent interview on Max Keiser’s excellent RT show, The Keiser Report, apparently now the most watched English language news commentary show across the world.

We were discussing such happy subjects as the war on terror, the war on drugs, but predominantly the war on the internet:

The Olympics – Welcome to the Machine

Published in The Huffington Post UK, 27 July 2012

OK, I was really so not planning on ever writing anything, whatsoever, at any point while I continue to breathe, about the London Olympics.  First of all I have absolutely zero interest in the circus that is modern competitive sport (panem et circenses), and secondly what more could I possibly add to the scandals around the security?  All the information is out there if people choose to join the dots.

But synchronicity plays its part.  Firstly, this morning I read this excellent article by former UK ambassador-turned-whistleblower, Craig Murray, about how the UK is now under martial law in the run-up to the Olympics.  Shortly afterwards I did an interview with the women’s glossy magazine, Grazia, about the security set-up around the games. I know, I know, sometimes the heavens align in a once-in-a-century configuration……

So on the back of this fortuitous alignment and while my angry-o-meter is still spiked at the “dangerous” level, I wanted to set some thoughts down.

Craig is correct – because of the Olympic Games, London has gone into full martial law lock-down.  Never before in peace-time has the capital city of the formerly Great Britain seen such a military “defensive” presence: missile launchers on local tower blocks primed to blow straying commercial airliners out of the skies over London, regardless of “collateral damage”; anti-aircraft bunkers dug in on Greenwich common; and naval destroyers moored on the Thames.

Plus, absent the promised G4S publicly-funded work-experience slaves – sorry, security staff –  the military has been drafted in.  Soldiers just home from patrolling the streets in Afghanistan in daily fear of their lives have had all leave cancelled.  Instead of the much-needed R & R, they shall be patrolling the Olympic crowds.  Does anyone else see a potential problem here?

And all this follows a decade of erosion of basic freedoms and civil liberties – all stripped away in the name of protecting the UK from the ever-growing but nebulous terrorist threat.

But I would take it a step further than Craig Murray – this is not just martial law, this is fascist martial law.

(And being conscious of any potential copyright thought-crimes, I hereby give all due credit to a very famous UK TV advert campaign which appears to use the same cadence.)

Why do I say this is one step beyond?

The Italian World War II dictator, Benito Mussolini, is famously credited with defining fascism thus: “the merger of the corporate and the state”.

And this is precisely what we are seeing on the streets of London.  Not only are Londoners subjected to an overwhelming military and police presence, the corporate commissars are also stalking the streets.

When Seb Coe and Tony Blair triumphantly announced that London had won the Olympics on 6th July 2005, one of their mantras was how London and the UK would benefit from the presence of the games.  They painted a rosy picture of local businesses booming on the back of the influx of tourists.

But the cold reality of today’s Olympics is greyer.  Commuters are being advised to work from home rather than use the overloaded transport networks; the civil service is effectively shutting down; and Zil lanes for the “great and the good” of the Olympics universe are choking already congested London streets.

Even worse, businesses across the UK, but particularly the local ones in the economically deprived environs of the Olympic Park in East London, are categorically NOT allowed to benefit from the games.  Under the terms of the contracts drawn up by the corporate mega-sponsors, London small businesses are not allowed to capitalize in any conceivable, possible, miniscule way on the presence of the games in their own city.

And these terms and conditions are enshrined in the Olympics Act 2006; any infraction of the rules carries a criminal penalty.  For more than a week, corporate police enforcers have been patrolling London looking for infractions of the Olympic trademark.  And this goes way beyond “Olympics R US” or some such.  As Nick Cohen wrote in an excellent recent article in The Spectator magazine:

“In the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act of 2006, the government granted the organisers remarkable concessions. Most glaringly, its Act is bespoke legislation that breaks the principle of equality before the law. Britain has not offered all businesses and organisations more powers to punish rivals who seek to trade on their reputation. It has given privileges to the ­Olympics alone. The government has told the courts they may wish to take particular account of anyone using two or more words from what it calls ‘List A’ — ‘Games’; ‘Two Thousand and Twelve’; ‘2012’; ‘twenty twelve’. The judges must also come down hard on a business or charity that takes a word from List A and conjoins it with one or more words from ‘List B’ — ‘Gold’; ‘Silver’; ‘Bronze’; ‘London’; ‘medals’; ‘sponsors’; ‘summer’. Common nouns are now private property.”

I heard recently that a well-established local cafe in Stratford, East London, that has for years been known as the Olympic Cafe, has been ordered to paint over its sign for the duration of the games. If I owned the cafe, I would be tempted to sue the Olympic Committee for breach of trademark.

It seems to me that this real-world trademark protectionism is an extension of the ongoing copyright wars in cyberspace – a blatant attempt to use state level power and legislation to protect the interests of the wealthy international mega-corps few.  We saw early attempts at this during the South African Football World Cup in 2010, and the Vancouver Winter Olympics the same year.

But the London Olympics take it to the next level: there is a long list of what you are not allowed to take into the stadia.  Spectators will be subjected to airport-style security theatre.  This will ensure that no liquids of more than 100ml can be carried, although empty bottles will be allowed if people want to fill them up with tap water on site.  This, of course, means that more spectators will be buying their sponsor-approved liquids in situ and at no-doubt over-inflated prices, to the benefit of one of the key Olympic sponsors.

The London games seem to be the first time that the global corporate community is demonstrating its full spectrum dominance – where the legal, police, and military resources of the state are put at the disposal of the giant, bloated, money-sucking leech that is the International Olympic Committee.

Every city that has hosted the Olympics over the last four decades has been financially bled white; many are still paying back the initial investment in the infrastructure, even if it is now decaying and useless. Greece, anybody?

But do the IOC or its regional pimps care?  Hell, no. Like all good parasites, once the original host has been drained dry, the Games move on to a new food source every four years.

What really, deeply puzzles me is why the hell are the people of London not out there protesting against this corporatist putsch?  Perhaps they fear being shot?

How can it be a crime to take a full bottle of water into a stadium when you want to watch a sport? How can it be a crime to tweet a picture?  How can it be criminal to celebrate the occasion in your local pub with Olympic flags draped around your bar, drinking a beer and eating a burger marketed cheesily as “fit for champions” or some such?

The original ideals behind the reconstitution of the modern Olympics in 1896 were a highly romanticised and distorted vision of the values of the ancient games.  But even that naive ideal has been lost in the crapulous corporatism that is the modern event.

We have even gone way beyond the Roman view of bread and circuses placating the masses.  Now we are into the hardcore realpolitik of international corporations and national governments using the games as a perfect pretext to tighten the “security” screws even more.

And so the UK is proud to present full-blown Corporate Fascism Version 2.0.

Vae victis.

So wasn’t the royal wedding lovely?

Well, yes, for some perhaps, and no doubt for the happy couple.

However, others spent the glorious day in a bare, concrete police cell, pre-emptively arrested for what they might do and untraceable to their loved ones and lawyers.  Effectively they were "disappeared", taken off the streets in case they uttered something that might mar the great day or, heaven forbid, caused some embarrassment.

A few days ago I wrote a piece highlighting my concerns about the threatened security response to possible protesters – drawing comparisons with the mindset, if not the violent tactics, of the thugs in Syria's security apparatus.  But still, in some deep recess of my mind and against all the accumulated evidence from my last 15 years, I found I still had an emotional, residual echo of the notion of British fair play that, really, we don't do those kinds of things in the UK.  Well, then I was a child, and spoke as a child…. 

In the run up to the happy nuptials, the Metropolitan Police stated that it had no specific intelligence of any terrorist threat from either dissident Irish republicans, nor from any possible grouping emerging from the Middle East.  Despite this, the security forces had launched a massive intelligence-gathering operation to hunt down known "anarchists" who might want to voice their protest against the concept of the monarchy.  Activist pages on Facebook were suddenly deleted with no warning, but the company said it was because of registration issues, and not because of the police.

Yes, there may well have been some who wanted to cause violence – after which they could have been arrested legitimately under the terms of the law .  However, what the police did in this case was in an altogether different league.  Using the methodology if not the brutality of the Syrian mukhabarat, they organised house raids and snatch squads.  They banned certain activists from London, and arrested others both in the days before the wedding and on the day itself. 

Those caught in the security sweep included a Professor of Anthropology, Chris Knight, and his friends who were planning a bit of mildly amusing street theatre involving a fake guillotine and a Prince Andrew dummy (is that tautologous?).

Others swept up by the security forces included a bunch of environmentalist squatters who were busily tending their market garden, according to rightly concerned MP John McDonnell, and some random "zombies" who wanted to go to an alternative "not the royal wedding" garden party.  Hardly the stuff of revolutionary nightmares.

Hug_the_Police2And then there's the case of Charlie Veitch, now denounced across the UK media as the known anarchist. Yes, Charlie is anti-royalist and wanted to voice his views, but he runs an internationally-known activist organisation called the Love Police, for chrissakes.  The peaceful intentions of the organisation might possibly be given away by the name….

So what happened? On Thursday evening two police officers, tooled up with proto-Borg tech, muscled their way into the Cambridge home he shares with his girlfriend, Silkie Carlo, declaring that they were there to arrest him and search the place. They had the presence of mind to film the whole process and ask some pertinent questions.

Charlie's alleged pre-crime?  That he had posted a frighteningly prescient video on Youtube saying that he thought he was being spied on, but still critiquing the royal wedding and suggesting that fellow activists get together in Soho Square, London (quite a distance away from the festivities) on the day.  OK, so he had a bit of a rant – but that's what people do on Youtube.  Agree with him or strongly disagree, it's called his freedom of expression – a much-vaunted, traditional British liberty. 

But in the eyes of the police, apparently he was "conspiring to cause a possible breach of the peace", and needed to be locked up.   It's like we've time-travelled back to pre-revolutionary 18th century France, where the king could issue a lettre de cachet to send people to the Bastille.

So at the very time that Prince William and his blushing bride were created Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a British citizen was raided, locked up and hidden away in a police cell in that very city for exercising free speech. 

On Thursday night he was hauled off to the Cambridge nick, which then refused to confirm to his understandably upset girlfriend where he was being held, before being transfered to the Met Police on Friday morning and held incommunicado for the rest of the day.  Family and lawyers then apparently spent fruitless hours ringing around all the London police stations trying to track him down.  So Charlie had effectively been "disappeared", like a dissident in a totalitarian regime.

So let's get this straight – we're talking about the Metropolitan Police spying on known activists (as we all now know they do, after the undercover cop scandal earlier this year) to prevent them from expressing their legitimate political views about the wedding of Kate and Wills.  The security forces had already stated that there was no specific terrorist threat, so this was all about preventing an embarrassing incident on the big day.  And I'm sorry, but I don't think that Prevention of Embarrassment is covered by the legal code.

Plus, these arrests were pre-emptive to stop a possible crime which might be committed – and let's face it, only breach of the peace at that.  Not a biggy.

So we are basically looking at the police spying on and then pre-emptively arresting campaigners for being potential dissidents, for ThoughtCrime.  How much more Orwellian can it get?

I mentioned the tactics of the Syrian security forces and their brutal crack-down.  I've also previously written about how the slide towards fascism began in Germany in the 1930s with the brutalisation of internal oppositionists and dissidents . 

So let's really stop and think about this – do we really want to let these early indications slide by, uncontested? After all, we have the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee next year, and no doubt the same, or extended, powers will come into force.  How far will we let it go before we wake up to the threat?

As I've written before, with thanks to Pastor Martin Niemoeller:

First they came for the Irish in the 1980s,

But I was not Irish so I did not speak up.

Then they came for the Muslims after 9/11,

But I was not a Muslim, so I did not speak up.

Then they came for the "domestic extremists",

But I was not an activist, so I did not speak up.

Then they came for me;

and there was nobody left to speak up for me.