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 café in Strat­ford, East Lon­don, that has for years been known as the Olympic Café, has been ordered to paint over its sign for the dur­a­tion of the games. If I owned the café, 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 naïve 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 régime.

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.