Recent interviews: UK Cyber Security, Kim Dotcom, and Iraq

I’ve done a few more inter­views this month for RT, on a vari­ety of issues:

US boots on the ground in Iraq

USA Boots on the Ground in Iraq — again. from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

The extra­di­tion case against Megaupload’s founder, Kim Dot­com

Megaupload’s Kim Dot­com faces extra­di­tion from NZ to USA from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

And the launch of the UK’s new Cyber Secur­ity Centre, soon after the new Invest­ig­at­ory Powers Act (aka the “snoop­ers’ charter”) became law

The launch of the UK’s new Nation­al Cyber Secur­ity Centre from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

The Chilcot Report about the Iraq War

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

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

The New Terrorism

First pub­lished on RT Op-Edge

Two hor­rors have dwelt in my mind for the last twenty years, ever since I read reports about ter­ror­ist groups while an impres­sion­able young intel­li­gence officer. The first involves the use of power tools as instru­ments of tor­ture; drills, indus­tri­al sanders, angle grinders. This is no secret now and the meme has been much used and abused by Hol­ly­wood and series such as “24”, but I still feel uncom­fort­able every time I am dragged into the “boy toy” sec­tion of a home improve­ment mega-store.

The second has recently hit the news as a grim res­ult of ISIS, the ultra-viol­ent Sunni sect that has swept across much of Syr­ia and Iraq, impos­ing the most dra­coni­an form of Sharia law in its wake upon the hap­less cit­izens of formerly sec­u­lar states.  I pity the poor women, and I pity still more the men of these com­munit­ies faced with the option of sub­mis­sion or grue­some murder.

For this is the oth­er image that haunts me: in 1995 six west­ern tour­ists were abduc­ted by a Kash­miri sep­ar­at­ist group, Al Faran. One of the abduct­ees, a Nor­we­gi­an called Hans Chris­ti­an Ostro, was found decap­it­ated, his head had been hacked off with a knife. The sheer hor­ror,  the ter­ror the poor man must have exper­i­enced, has haunted me ever since.

You can prob­ably see where I am going with this. I have not watched, nor do I have any inten­tion of ever watch­ing, the ISIS video of the grue­some murder of US journ­al­ist James Foley, wheth­er the Met­ro­pol­it­an Police deems it a crime to do so or not. I just feel hor­ror, again, and a deep well of sor­row for what his fam­ily and friends must be going through now.

Yet this is noth­ing new — we have known for months that ISIS has been behead­ing and cru­ci­fy­ing people as they ram­page across Syr­ia and Iraq. There has been a steady stream of del­ic­ately pix­il­ated heads on spikes in the west­ern media, and the out­rage has been muted.

And indeed, such behead­ings have long been car­ried out and filmed dur­ing the earli­er insur­gen­cies in Iraq — I remem­ber a young film maker friend who had stumbled across just such a sick pro­pa­ganda video way back in 2007 — he could not sleep, could not rid his mind of the images either.

It is bar­bar­ity pure and simple, but it is also effect­ive with­in the bound­ar­ies of its aims.

So, what are these aims? I just want to make two points before the West gets swept up in a new wave of out­rage to “bomb the bas­tards” for behead­ing an Amer­ic­an — after all, many hun­dreds if not thou­sands of people across the Middle East have already suffered this fate, to lack of any mean­ing­ful West­ern out­cry.

Firstly, ISIS has clear aims (indeed it pub­lished its five-year plan to great media deri­sion a couple of months ago). It is effect­ively using hideous bru­tal­ity and pro­pa­ganda to spread ter­ror ahead of its war front — this is a 21st cen­tury blitzkrieg, and it’s work­ing. The sheer hor­ror of what they do to any who attempt to res­ist is so great that appar­ently whole armies aban­don their weapons, banks have been left to be raided to the tune of half a bil­lion dol­lars, and entire vil­lages flee.

This is the pure defin­i­tion of ter­ror­ism, and we can see that it is work­ing. ISIS is doing all this to build a new state. or caliphate, in the way that their warped fun­da­ment­al­ist inter­pret­a­tion of reli­gion sets out for them.

Secondly, and here’s the con­ten­tious bit, how pre­cisely is this dif­fer­ent from the ter­ror that the Israel­is have been vis­it­ing upon the many inno­cents killed in Gaza?  The Dahiya Doc­trine of dis­pro­por­tion­ate viol­ence to stun and quash res­ist­ance was exposed by Wikileaks — the Israeli “shock and awe”.  And also, how is this dif­fer­ent from what the US has been met­ing out to the peoples of Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afgh­anistan over the last few years with their drone attacks?

All the above examples show strong mil­it­ary forces, ideo­lo­gic­ally motiv­ated, unleash­ing viol­ence and ter­ror on a huge, dis­pro­por­tion­ate scale on inno­cent pop­u­la­tions that have nowhere really to run.

The dif­fer­ence being? ISIS wields its own knives, does its own dirty work, and proudly films its grot­esque bru­tal­ity to cow its oppon­ents. This is prim­it­ive ter­ror­ism inter­sect­ing with social media, a bas­tard spawn of the 21st cen­tury.  And it still seems to be effect­ive, just as ter­ror of the guil­lot­ine res­on­ated through­out revolu­tion­ary France in the 18th cen­tury.

On the oth­er hand, the US and Israel prefer to be a bit more coy about their ter­ror­ist­ic strategies, hid­ing behind such phrases as “pro­por­tion­ate”, “self-defence”, “pre­ci­sion bomb­ing” and “spread­ing demo­cracy”. But who, ser­i­ously, falls for that these days?

Their armed forces are not dir­ectly get­ting their hands dirty with the blood of their vic­tims: instead, spotty young con­scripts safely hid­den in bunkers on the far side of the world, mete out death from the skies via sick snuff video games  — offi­cially called “pre­ci­sion” bombs and drone attacks that take out whole fam­il­ies. Heads can be blown off, bod­ies evis­cer­ated, limbs mangled and maimed, and all from a safe dis­tance.

We had the first proof of this strategy with the decryp­ted mil­it­ary film “Col­lat­er­al Murder”, where heli­copter pilots shot up some Reu­ters journ­al­ists and civil­ians in Iraq in 2007. That was bad enough — but the cov­er-up stank. For years the Pentagon denied all know­ledge of this atro­cious war crime, and it was only after Wikileaks released the inform­a­tion, provided by the brave whis­tleblower Chelsea Man­ning, that the fam­il­ies and the inter­na­tion­al com­munity learned the truth. Yet it is Man­ning, not the war crim­in­als, who is serving a 35 year sen­tence in a US pris­on.

Worse, by sheer scale at least, are the ongo­ing, wide-ran­ging unmanned drone attacks across the Middle East and Cent­ral Asia, as cata­logued by the Bur­eau of Invest­ig­at­ive Journ­al­ism in the UK. Many thou­sands of inno­cents have been murdered in these attacks, with the US jus­ti­fy­ing the strikes as killing “mil­it­ants” — ie any male over the age of 14.  The US is mur­der­ing chil­dren, fam­il­ies, wed­ding parties and vil­lage coun­cils with impun­ity.

And then the infam­ous pro­vi­sions of the US NDAA 2012. This means that the US mil­it­ary can extra-judi­cially murder any­one, includ­ing US cit­izens, by drone strike any­where in the world with no tri­al, no judi­cial pro­cess. And so it has come to pass.  Amer­ic­an Anwar Al Awlaki was murdered in 2011 by a drone strike.

Not con­tent with that, only weeks later the US mil­it­ary then blew his 16 year old son to pieces in anoth­er drone strike. Abdulrah­man — a child — was also an Amer­ic­an cit­izen. How, pre­cisely, is this atro­city not mor­ally equi­val­ent to the murder of James Foley?

So what is the real, qual­it­at­ive dif­fer­ence between the ter­ror engendered by ISIS, or by the Dahiya Doc­trine, or by the US drone strike pro­gramme? Is it just that ISIS does the dirty, hands on, and spreads its mes­sage shame­lessly via social media, while the US does the dirty in secret and pro­sec­utes and per­se­cutes any­one who wants to expose its egre­gious war crimes?

I would sug­gest so, and the West needs to face up to its hypo­crisy. A crime is a crime. Ter­ror­ism is ter­ror­ism.

Oth­er­wise we are no bet­ter than the polit­ic­al drones in George Orwell’s “1984”, rewrit­ing his­tory in favour of the vic­tors rather than the vic­tims, acqui­es­cing to etern­al war, and hap­pily mouth­ing News­peak.

New Ter­ror­ism, any­one?

Chelsea Manning wins 2014 SAAII Award

Janu­ary 16, 2014


Con­tact: Coleen Row­ley (email: or Annie Machon (email:

Chelsea Man­ning Awar­ded Sam Adams Integ­rity Prize for 2014

Announce­ment by Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence (SAAII)

The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence (SAAII) have voted over­whelm­ingly to present the 2014 Sam Adams Award for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence to Chelsea (formerly Brad­ley) Man­ning.

A Nobel Peace Prize nom­in­ee, U.S. Army Pvt. Man­ning is the 25 year-old intel­li­gence ana­lyst who in 2010 provided to WikiLeaks the “Col­lat­er­al Murder” video – gun bar­rel foot­age from a U.S. Apache heli­copter, expos­ing the reck­less murder of 12 unarmed civil­ians, includ­ing two Reu­ters journ­al­ists, dur­ing the “surge” in Iraq. The Pentagon had repeatedly denied the exist­ence of the “Col­lat­er­al Murder” video and declined to release it des­pite a request under the Free­dom of Inform­a­tion Act by Reu­ters, which had sought clar­ity on the cir­cum­stances of its journ­al­ists’ deaths.

Release of this video and oth­er doc­u­ments sparked a world­wide dia­logue about the import­ance of gov­ern­ment account­ab­il­ity for human rights abuses as well as the dangers of excess­ive secrecy and over-clas­si­fic­a­tion of doc­u­ments.

On Feb­ru­ary 19, 2014 Pvt. Man­ning — cur­rently incar­cer­ated at Leaven­worth Pris­on — will be recog­nized at a cere­mony in absen­tia at Oxford University’s pres­ti­gi­ous Oxford Uni­on Soci­ety for cast­ing much-needed day­light on the true toll and cause of civil­ian cas­u­al­ties in Iraq; human rights abuses by U.S. and “coali­tion” forces, mer­cen­ar­ies, and con­tract­ors; and the roles that spy­ing and bribery play in inter­na­tion­al dip­lomacy.

The Oxford Uni­on cere­mony will include the present­a­tion of the tra­di­tion­al SAAII Corner-Bright­en­er Can­dle­stick and will fea­ture state­ments of sup­port from former SAAII awardees and prom­in­ent whis­tleblowers. Mem­bers of the press are invited to attend.

On August 21, 2013 Pvt. Man­ning received an unusu­ally harsh sen­tence of 35 years in pris­on for expos­ing the truth — a chilling mes­sage to those who would call atten­tion to wrong­do­ing by U.S. and “coali­tion” forces.

Under the 1989 Offi­cial Secrets Act in the United King­dom, Pvt. Man­ning, whose moth­er is Brit­ish, would have faced just two years in pris­on for whis­tleblow­ing or 14 years if con­victed under the old 1911 Offi­cial Secrets Act for espi­on­age.

Former seni­or NSA exec­ut­ive and SAAII Awardee Emer­it­us Thomas Drake has writ­ten that Man­ning “exposed the dark side shad­ows of our nation­al secur­ity régime and for­eign policy fol­lies .. [her] acts of civil dis­obedi­ence … strike at the very core of the crit­ic­al issues sur­round­ing our nation­al secur­ity, pub­lic and for­eign policy, open­ness and trans­par­ency, as well as the unpre­ced­en­ted and relent­less cam­paign by this Admin­is­tra­tion to snuff out and silence truth tell­ers and whis­tleblowers in a delib­er­ate and pre­med­it­ated assault on the 1st Amend­ment.”

Pre­vi­ous win­ners of the Sam Adams Award include Coleen Row­ley (FBI); Kath­ar­ine Gun (formerly of GCHQ, the Nation­al Secur­ity Agency’s equi­val­ent in the UK); former UK Ambas­sad­or Craig Mur­ray; Larry Wilk­er­son (Col., US Army, ret.; chief of staff for Sec­ret­ary of State Colin Pow­ell); Juli­an Assange (WikiLeaks); Thomas Drake (NSA); Jes­selyn Radack (former eth­ics attor­ney for the Depart­ment of Justice, now Nation­al Secur­ity & Human Right Dir­ect­or of the Gov­ern­ment Account­ab­il­ity Pro­ject); Thomas Fin­gar (former Deputy Dir­ect­or of Nation­al Intel­li­gence, who man­aged the key Nation­al Intel­li­gence Estim­ate of 2007 that con­cluded Iran had stopped work­ing on a nuc­le­ar weapon four years earli­er); and Edward Snowden (former NSA con­tract­or and sys­tems admin­is­trat­or, cur­rently resid­ing in Rus­sia under tem­por­ary asylum).

The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence are very proud to add Pvt. Man­ning to this list of dis­tin­guished awardees.

The Real News Network Whistleblower Special

The Real News Net­work cov­er­age of the recent Sam Adams Award for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence, with con­tri­bu­tions from many of the whis­tleblowers involved:

More at The Real News

Will MI6 “fix” intelligence on Iran?

By:    Ray McGov­ern, former CIA ana­lyst and Annie Machon, former MI5 intel­li­gence officer

Recent remarks by the head of MI6, Sir John Saw­ers, leave us won­der­ing if the Secret Intel­li­gence Ser­vice is pre­par­ing to “fix” intel­li­gence on Iran, as his imme­di­ate pre­de­cessor, Sir John Scar­lett, did on Iraq.

Scarlett’s pre-Iraq war role in cre­at­ing “dodgy dossiers” hyp­ing the threat of non-exist­ent “weapons of mass destruc­tion” is well known.  As for Saw­ers, the red warn­ing light for politi­ciz­a­tion blinked brightly on July 4, as he told Brit­ish seni­or civil ser­vants that Iran is “two years away” from becom­ing a “nuc­le­ar weapons state.”  How did Saw­ers come up with “two years?”

Since late 2007, the bench­mark for weigh­ing Iran’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram has been the unan­im­ous assess­ment by all 16 U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies that Iran hal­ted its nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram in late 2003 and that, as of mid-2007, had not restar­ted it.  Those judg­ments have been reval­id­ated every year since — des­pite strong pres­sure to bow to more omin­ous — but evid­ence-light — assess­ments by Israel and its neo-con­ser­vat­ive sup­port­ers.

Intel­li­gence Can Make a Dif­fer­ence

The 2007 the US Nation­al Intel­li­gence Estim­ate helped to thwart plans to attack Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney admin­is­tra­tion.  This shines through in George Bush’s own mem­oir, Decision Points, in which he rues the NIE’s “eye-pop­ping declar­a­tion: ‘We judge with high con­fid­ence that in fall 2003, Tehran hal­ted its nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram.’”

Bush con­tin­ues, “But after the NIE, how could I pos­sibly explain using the mil­it­ary to des­troy the nuc­le­ar facil­it­ies of a coun­try the intel­li­gence com­munity said had no act­ive nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram?” (Decision Points, p. 419)

Hands tied on the mil­it­ary side, US cov­ert oper­a­tions flowered, with $400 mil­lion appro­pri­ated at that same time for a major escal­a­tion of the dark-side struggle against Iran, accord­ing to mil­it­ary, intel­li­gence, and con­gres­sion­al sources cited by Sey­mour Her­sh in 2008.  This clandes­tine but all-too-real war on Iran has included attacks with com­puter vir­uses, the murders of Ira­ni­an sci­ent­ists, and what the Israel­is call the “unnat­ur­al” demise of seni­or offi­cials like Revolu­tion­ary Guards Major Gen­er­al Has­san Moghad­dam fath­er of Iran’s mis­sile pro­gram.

Moghad­dam was killed in a large explo­sion last Novem­ber, with Time magazine cit­ing a “west­ern intel­li­gence source” as say­ing the Israel’s Mossad was behind the blast.  More threat­en­ing still to Iran are the severe eco­nom­ic sanc­tions, which are tan­tamount to an act of war.

Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu and pro-Israel neo-con­ser­vat­ives in the U.S. and else­where have been push­ing hard for an attack on Iran, seiz­ing every pre­text they can find.  Net­an­yahu was sus­pi­ciously fast off the blocks, for example, in claim­ing that Iran was behind the tra­gic ter­ror­ist bomb­ing of Israeli tour­ists in Bul­garia on July 18, des­pite Bul­gari­an author­it­ies and even the White House warn­ing that it is too early to attrib­ute respons­ib­il­ity.

Netanyahu’s instant indict­ment of Iran strongly sug­gests he is look­ing for excuses to up the ante.  With the Per­sian Gulf look­ing like an acci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen, stocked as it is with war­ships from the U.S., the U.K. and else­where — and with no fail-safe way of com­mu­nic­at­ing with Ira­ni­an nav­al com­mand­ers — an escal­a­tion-gen­er­at­ing acci­dent or pro­voca­tion is now more likely than ever.

July 23: Mark­ing a Day of Infamy

Oddly, Sawers’s speech of July 4 came just as an import­ant date approached — the tenth anniversary of a sad day for Brit­ish intel­li­gence on Iraq.  On July 23, 2002 at a meet­ing at 10 Down­ing Street, then-MI6 head, John Dear­love, briefed Tony Blair and oth­er seni­or offi­cials on his talks with his Amer­ic­an coun­ter­part, CIA Dir­ect­or George Ten­et, in Wash­ing­ton three days before.

In the offi­cial minutes of that brief­ing (now known as the Down­ing Street Memo), which were leaked to the Lon­don Times and pub­lished on May 1, 2005, Dear­love explains that George Bush has decided to attack Iraq and the war was to be “jus­ti­fied by the con­junc­tion of ter­ror­ism and weapons of mass destruc­tion.”  While then-For­eign Sec­ret­ary Jack Straw points out that the case was “thin,” Dear­love explains mat­ter-of-factly, “The intel­li­gence and facts are being fixed around the policy.”

There is no sign in the minutes that any­one hic­cupped — much less demurred — at mak­ing a case for war and fur­ther­ing Blair’s determ­in­a­tion to join Bush in launch­ing the kind of “war of aggres­sion” out­lawed by the post-world war Nurem­berg Tribunal and the UN treaty.

Helped by the acqui­es­cence of their chief spies, the Blair gov­ern­ment main­lined into the body polit­ic un-assessed, raw intel­li­gence and forged doc­u­ments, with dis­astrous con­sequences for the world.

UK cit­izens were spoon-fed fake intel­li­gence in the Septem­ber Dossier (2002) and then, just six weeks before the attack on Iraq, the “Dodgy Dossier”, based largely on a 12-year old PhD thes­is culled from the Inter­net — all presen­ted by spy and politi­cian alike as omin­ous pre­mon­it­ory intel­li­gence.

So was made the case for war. All lies, res­ult­ing in hun­dreds of thou­sands dead and maimed and mil­lions of Iraqis dis­placed — yet no one held to account.

Sir Richard Dear­love, who might have pre­ven­ted this had he had the integ­rity to speak out, was allowed to retire with full hon­ours and became the Mas­ter of a Cam­bridge col­lege.  John Scar­lett, who as chair of the Joint Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee signed off the fraud­u­lent dossiers, was rewar­ded with the top spy job at MI6 and a knight­hood. George W. Bush gave George Ten­et the Pres­id­en­tial Medal of Free­dom — the highest civil­ian award.

What need have we for fur­ther proof? “So are they all, all hon­our­able men” — remin­is­cent of those stand­ing with Bru­tus in Shakespeare’s play, but with no Mark Anthony to expose them and stir the appro­pri­ate pop­u­lar reac­tion.

Therein lies the prob­lem: instead of being held account­able, these “hon­our­able men” were, well, hon­oured. Their soft land­ings offer a nox­ious object les­son for ambi­tious bur­eau­crats who are ready to play fast and loose with the truth and trim their sails to the pre­vail­ing winds.

Ill-got hon­ours offer neither deterrent nor dis­in­cent­ive to cur­rent and future intel­li­gence chiefs temp­ted to fol­low suit and cor­rupt intel­li­gence rather than chal­lenge their polit­ic­al lead­ers with hard, un-“fixed” facts. Integ­rity? In this milieu integ­rity brings know­ing smirks rather than hon­ours. And it can get you kicked out of the club.

Fix­ing Intel­li­gence on Iran

Are we in for anoth­er round of “fix­ing” — this time on Iran? We may know soon.  Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Net­an­yahu, cit­ing the ter­ror­ist attack in Bul­garia, has already provided what amounts to a vari­ation on Dearlove’s ten-year old theme regard­ing how war can be “jus­ti­fied by the con­junc­tion of ter­ror­ism and weapons of mass destruc­tion.”

Accord­ing to the Jer­u­s­alem Post on July 17, Net­an­yahu said that all coun­tries that under­stand that Iran is an export­er of world ter­ror must join Israel in “stat­ing that fact clearly,” in order to emphas­ize the import­ance of pre­vent­ing Iran from obtain­ing a nuc­le­ar weapon.

Appear­ing yes­ter­day on Fox News Sunday and CBS’s Face the Nation, Net­an­yahu returned to that theme. Put­ting the blame for the ter­ror­ist attack in Bul­garia squarely on Iran (and Hezbol­lah), Net­an­yahu warned of the increased dangers that would accrue if Iran acquired nuc­le­ar weapons. “What would be the con­sequences if the most dan­ger­ous régime in the world got the world’s most dan­ger­ous weapons?”.

Will MI6 chief Saw­ers mod­el his con­duct on that of his pre­de­cessors who “jus­ti­fied” war on Iraq? Will he “fix” intel­li­gence around U.K./U.S./Israeli policy on Iran? Par­lia­ment­ary over­seers should demand a brief­ing from Saw­ers forth­with, before erstwhile bull­dog Bri­tain is again dragged like a poodle into anoth­er unne­ces­sary war.

Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer in the UK’s MI5 Secur­ity Ser­vice and Ray McGov­ern is a fomer U.S Army Intel­li­gence Officer and CIA ana­lyst.

21st Century Pacificism (The Old Stuff)

The_ScreamI have always been ideo­lo­gic­ally opposed to war and all the hor­rors that flow in its wake: agon­ising fear and death, fam­ine, dis­place­ment, maim­ing, tor­ture, rape, intern­ment and the break­down of all the hard-won val­ues of civ­il­ised human law and beha­viour.

Look­ing back, I think that was partly why I was attrac­ted to work in dip­lomacy and how I ended up being enticed into intel­li­gence. These worlds, although by no means per­fect, could con­ceiv­ably be seen as the last-ditch defences before a coun­try goes bel­low­ing into all-out war.

I marched against the Iraq war, toured the UK to speak at Stop the War meet­ings, worked with Make Wars His­tory, and have cease­lessly spoken out and writ­ten about these and related issues.

Alastair_Campbell_1Today in the UK we have reached a con­sensus that Blair’s gov­ern­ment lied to the coun­try into the Iraq war on the false premise of weapons of mass destruc­tion, and sub­sequently enabled the Bush admin­is­tra­tion to do the same in the USA, hyp­ing up the threat of a nuc­le­ar Iraq using false intel­li­gence provided by MI6.

Mil­lions of people marched then, and mil­lions of people con­tin­ue to protest against the ongo­ing engorge­ment of the military/intelligence com­plex, but noth­ing ever seems to change.  It’s demo­crat­ic­ally dis­em­power­ing and an ener­vat­ing exper­i­ence.  What can we do about it?

I have a couple of sug­ges­tions (The New Stuff), but first let’s look at some of the most egre­gious cur­rent fake real­it­ies.

David_CameronLast year we had the spec­tacle of the cur­rent No 10 incum­bent, Dave Camer­on, stat­ing that the Liby­an inter­ven­tion would be noth­ing like Iraq — it would be “neces­sary, leg­al and right”. But there was no sub­sequent joined-up think­ing, and Blair and his cronies have still not been held to account for the Iraq gen­o­cide, des­pite prima facie breaches of inter­na­tion­al war law and of the Offi­cial Secrets Act.…

Abdelhakim-BelhajBut help might be at hand for those inter­ested in justice, cour­tesy of Abdel Hakim Bel­haj, former Liby­an Islam­ic Fight­ing Group lead­er, MI6 kid­nap­ping and tor­ture vic­tim, and cur­rent mil­it­ary com­mand­er in Tripoli.

After NATO’s human­it­ari­an bomb­ing of Libya last year and the fall of Gaddafi’s régime, some ser­i­ously embar­rass­ing paper­work was found in the aban­doned office of Liby­an For­eign Min­is­ter and former spy head honcho, Musa Kusa (who fled to the UK and sub­sequently on to Qatar).

These let­ters, sent in 2004 by former MI6 Head of Ter­ror­ism and cur­rent BP con­sult­ant, Sir Mark Allen, gloat­ingly offer up the hap­less Bel­haj to the Liby­ans for tor­ture.  It almost seems like MI6 wanted a gold star from their new best­est friends.

Bel­haj, under­stand­ably, is still slightly peeved about this and is now suing MI6. As a res­ult, a frantic dam­age-lim­it­a­tion exer­cise is going on, with MI6 try­ing to buy his silence with a mil­lion quid, and scat­ter­ing unat­trib­uted quotes across the Brit­ish media: “it wasn’t us, gov, it was the, er, gov­ern­ment.…”.

Which drops either (or both) Tony Blair and Jack Straw eye­brow-deep in the stink­ing cesspit. One or oth­er of them should have signed off on Belhaj’s kid­nap­ping, know­ing he would be tor­tured in Tripoli. Or per­haps they actu­ally are inno­cent of this.…. but if they didn’t sign off on the Bel­haj extraordin­ary kid­nap­ping, then MI6 was run­ning rampant, work­ing out­side the law on their watch.

Either way, there are ser­i­ous ques­tions to be answered.

Jack_StrawBoth these upstand­ing politi­cians are, of course, suf­fer­ing from polit­ic­al amne­sia about this case. In fact, Jack Straw, the For­eign Sec­ret­ary at the time of the kid­nap­ping, has said that he can­not have been expec­ted to know everything the spies got up to — even though that was pre­cisely his job, as he was respons­ible for them under the terms of the Intel­li­gence Secur­ity Act 1994, and should cer­tainly have had to clear an oper­a­tion so polit­ic­ally sens­it­ive.

In the wake of Afgh­anistan, Iraq and Libya, what wor­ries me now is that exactly the same reas­ons, with politi­cians mouth­ing exactly the same plat­it­ud­in­ous “truths”, are being pushed to jus­ti­fy an increas­ingly inev­it­able strike against Iran.

Depress­ing as this all is, I would sug­gest that protest­ing each new, indi­vidu­al war is not the neces­sar­ily the most effect­ive response.  Just as the world’s mar­kets have been glob­al­ised, so mani­festly to the bene­fit of all we 99%-ers, have many oth­er issues.

Unlike Dave Camer­on, we need to apply some joined-up think­ing.  Glob­al protest groups need to counter more than indi­vidu­al wars in Iraq, Afgh­anistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Sudan (North and South), Syr­ia, Iran.….. sorry, I’m get­ting writer’s cramp just enu­mer­at­ing all the cur­rent wars.

Give me a while to over­come my mor­al spasm, and I shall return with a few sug­ges­tions about pos­sible ways for­ward — 21st Cen­tury Paci­fism; the New Stuff.


Last chance to find out what happened to Dr David Kelly — help needed

Many will be aware of the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the death of Dr Dav­id Kelly, the world-renowned weapons inspect­or who was said to have blown the whistle about the “sex­ing-up” of the intel­li­gence case that took our coun­tries into the 2003 Iraq War.

Dr_Kelly_2jpgIgnor­ing all stand­ard Brit­ish leg­al require­ments, there has nev­er been an inquest into Dr Kelly’s sud­den death in 2003.  Sub­sequent gov­ern­ment enquir­ies have tried to assert over the years that he com­mit­ted sui­cide. How­ever, a group of seni­or Brit­ish doc­tors has con­sist­ently chal­lenged these find­ings and stated that his death was not proved to be sui­cide bey­ond all reas­on­able doubt.

Dominic_GrieveThe cur­rent seni­or leg­al advisor to the UK Coali­tion gov­ern­ment, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Domin­ic Grieve, prom­ised before last year’s elec­tion that he would con­sider a form­al inquest into Dr Kelly’s death.  How­ever, since com­ing to power Grieve has retreated from that.  In addi­tion, all the evid­ence sur­round­ing the death of Dr Kelly will, excep­tion­ally, remain clas­si­fied for 70 years.

The Brit­ish doc­tors, led by Dr Dav­id Halpin, have one last chance to get to the truth.  This week, they are apply­ing for a Judi­cial Review of Grieve’s decision.

The leg­al papers need to be filed by 8th Septem­ber, and the costs of this case will be at least £50,000, much of which has already been con­trib­uted by the doc­tors and sup­port­ers.  They are ask­ing for dona­tions to cov­er the remainder.  Please help if you can, spread the word to all your con­tacts, and ask them to make a fin­an­cial pledge at this site.

Alastair Campbell — guilty of breaching the OSA?

Alastair_Campbell_1I have long sus­pec­ted that Alastair Camp­bell, Labour’s former Dir­ect­or of Com­mu­nic­a­tions, may poten­tially have broken the UK’s Offi­cial Secrets Act.  Now prima facie evid­ence is begin­ning to emerge that he did indeed breach the “clear bright line” against unau­thor­ised dis­clos­ure of intel­li­gence. 

I know that the Met­ro­pol­it­an Police have their hands full invest­ig­at­ing the melt­down that is the News of the World hack­ing scan­dal — and also try­ing to replace all those seni­or officers who had to resign because of it — but they do have a duty to invest­ig­ate crime.  And not just any old crime, in this case, but one that has poten­tially threatened the very basis of our nation­al secur­ity.

Why do I say this? 

Sun_45_minutes_from_doomYou’ll no doubt have some vague recol­lec­tion that, in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War, the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment pro­duced a couple of reports “mak­ing a case for war”.  The first, the Septem­ber Dossier (2002), is the one most remembered, as this did indeed sex up the case for war, as well as include fake intel­li­gence about Sad­dam Hus­sein try­ing to acquire urani­um from Niger.  Most mem­or­ably it led to the “Brits 45 minutes from Doom” front-page head­line in Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun news­pa­per, no less, on the eve of the cru­cial war vote in Par­lia­ment.

There was also the notori­ous leaked Down­ing Street Memo, where the then-head of MI6, Sir Richard Dear­love ©, was minuted as say­ing that the intel­li­gence and facts were being fit­ted around the [pre­de­ter­mined war] policy.

How­ever, for the pur­poses of a pos­sible Regina v. Camp­bell day in court, it is the second report that requires our atten­tion.

It was pub­lished in Feb­ru­ary 2003, just before “shock and awe” was launched to lib­er­ate the grate­ful Iraqi people.   This report became known as the “Dodgy Dossier”, as it was largely lif­ted from a 12 year old PhD thes­is that the spin doc­tors had found on the inter­net.  How­ever, it also included nug­gets of brand-new and unas­sessed intel­li­gence from MI6.  Indeed, even the tooth­less Intel­li­gence and Secur­ity Com­mit­tee in Par­lia­ment stated in para­graph 82 of its 2002–2003 Annu­al Report ( Down­load ISC_2003) that:

We believe that mater­i­al pro­duced by the [intel­li­gence] Agen­cies can be used in pub­lic­a­tions and attrib­uted appro­pri­ately, but it is imper­at­ive that the Agen­cies are con­sul­ted before any of their mater­i­al is pub­lished. This pro­cess was not fol­lowed when a second doc­u­ment was pro­duced in Feb­ru­ary 2003. Although the doc­u­ment did con­tain some intel­li­gence-derived mater­i­al it was not clearly attrib­uted or high­lighted amongst the oth­er mater­i­al, nor was it checked with the Agency provid­ing the intel­li­gence or cleared by the JIC pri­or to pub­lic­a­tion. We have been assured that sys­tems have now been put in place to ensure that this can­not hap­pen again, in that the JIC Chair­man endorses any mater­i­al on behalf of the intel­li­gence com­munity pri­or to pub­lic­a­tion.

ISC_Iraq_reportAt the time it was repor­ted that Blair and Camp­bell had spon­tan­eously dis­trib­uted this report to journ­al­ists trav­el­ling with them on a tour of the Far East.   The ISC con­firmed that the intel­li­gence had been passed to journ­al­ists without the per­mis­sion of MI6 in its Septem­ber 2003 spe­cial report — “Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruc­tion: Intel­li­gence and Assess­ments” (see pars 131 to 134):

The doc­u­ment was ori­gin­ally giv­en to a num­ber of journ­al­ists over the week­end of
1 and 2 Feb­ru­ary and then placed in the Lib­rary of the House on 3 Feb­ru­ary. The Prime
Min­is­ter described the doc­u­ment as fol­lows:

We issued fur­ther intel­li­gence over the week­end about the infra­struc­ture of
con­ceal­ment. It is obvi­ously dif­fi­cult when we pub­lish intel­li­gence reports, but I hope
that people have some sense of the integ­rity of our secur­ity ser­vices. They are not
pub­lish­ing this, or giv­ing us this inform­a­tion, and mak­ing it up. It is the intel­li­gence
that they are receiv­ing, and we are passing on to people. In the dossier that we
pub­lished last year, and again in the mater­i­al that we put out over the week­end, it is
very clear that a vast amount of con­ceal­ment and decep­tion is going on.”


The Com­mit­tee took evid­ence on this mat­ter from the Chief of the SIS on both
12 Feb­ru­ary and 17 July and sep­ar­ately from Alastair Camp­bell on 17 July. Both agreed
that mak­ing the doc­u­ment pub­lic without con­sult­ing the SIS or the JIC Chair­man was
a “cock-up”. Alastair Camp­bell con­firmed that, once he became aware that the
proven­ance of the doc­u­ment was being ques­tioned because of the inclu­sion of
Dr Al-Marashi’s work without attri­bu­tion, he tele­phoned both the Chief of the SIS and
the JIC Chair­man to apo­lo­gise.

We con­clude that the Prime Min­is­ter was cor­rect to describe the doc­u­ment as
con­tain­ing “fur­ther intel­li­gence… about the infra­struc­ture of con­ceal­ment.… It is the
intel­li­gence that they [the Agen­cies] are receiv­ing, and we are passing on to people.”

How­ever, as we pre­vi­ously con­cluded, it was a mis­take not to con­sult the
Agen­cies before their mater­i­al was put in the pub­lic domain. In evid­ence to us the
Prime Min­is­ter agreed. We have repor­ted the assur­ance that we have been giv­en
that in future the JIC Chair­man will check all intel­li­gence-derived mater­i­al on
behalf of the intel­li­gence com­munity pri­or to pub­lic­a­tion.”

Iraq_supergunCru­cially, Blair and Camp­bell had jumped the (old Iraqi super-) gun by issu­ing this inform­a­tion, but Camp­bell seems to have got away with it by describ­ing such a breach of the OSA as a “cock-up”.  Or per­haps just anoth­er pre­cip­it­ous “rush of blood to the head” on his part, as recently described in the long-sup­pressed testi­mony of SIS2 revealed around the Chil­cot Enquiry and repor­ted in The Guard­i­an:

Papers released by the Chil­cot inquiry into the war show that an MI6 officer, iden­ti­fied only as SIS2, had reg­u­lar con­tacts with Camp­bell: “We found Alastair Camp­bell, I think, an enthu­si­ast­ic indi­vidu­al, but also some­what of an unguided mis­sile.” He added: “We also, I think, suffered from his propensity to have rushes of blood to the head and pass vari­ous stor­ies and inform­a­tion to journ­al­ists without appro­pri­ate pri­or con­sulta­tion” (my emphas­is).

So why do I sug­gest that Camp­bell could be liable for pro­sec­u­tion?  It appears that he was a “noti­fied per­son” for the pur­poses of Sec­tion 1(1) of the OSA.  While not employed by the intel­li­gence agen­cies, noti­fied per­sons have reg­u­lar access to intel­li­gence mater­i­al and are sub­jec­ted to the highest clear­ance — developed vet­ting — in the same way as the full-time spooks.  As such, they are also bound by the law against dis­clos­ure of such mater­i­al without the pri­or writ­ten per­mis­sion of the head of the agency whose intel­li­gence they want to dis­sem­in­ate.  There is no room for manœuvre, no dam­age assess­ment, and no pub­lic interest defence.  The law is clear. 

And a report in today’s Tele­graph about Andy Coulson and the phone-hack­ing scan­dal seems to show clearly that Camp­bell was just such a noti­fied per­son:

Unlike Alastair Camp­bell and oth­er pre­vi­ous hold­ers of the Down­ing Street com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or role, Mr Coulson was not cleared to see secret intel­li­gence reports and so was spared the most detailed scru­tiny of his back­ground and per­son­al life.….

The only people who will be sub­ject to developed vet­ting are those who are work­ing in secur­ity mat­ters reg­u­larly and would need to have that sort of inform­a­tion.

The only spe­cial advisers that would have developed vet­ting would be in the For­eign Office, Min­istry of Defence and maybe the Home Office. Andy Coulson’s role was dif­fer­ent to Alastair Campbell’s and Jonath­an Pow­ell.

Alastair Camp­bell could instruct civil ser­vants. This is why [Coulson] wasn’t neces­sar­ily cleared. Giv­en [the nature of] Andy Coulson’s role as more stra­tegic he wouldn’t have neces­sar­ily have been sub­ject to developed vet­ting.”

So it would appear that Alastair Camp­bell is bang to rights for a breach of the Offi­cial Secrets Act under Sec­tion 1(1).  He released new, unas­sessed and uncleared MI6 intel­li­gence with­in the dodgy dossier.  This is not just some tech­nic­al  infrac­tion of the law — although even if it were, he would still have a case to answer.

EMBNo, this report led inex­or­ably to our coun­try going to war against Iraq, shoulder to shoulder with the US, and the res­ult­ing deaths, maim­ings, pois­on­ings and dis­place­ment of mil­lions of inno­cent Iraqi people.  It has also dir­ectly increased the ter­ror­ist threat to the UK, as Tony Blair was offi­cially warned pre-Iraq war by the then-head of MI5, Eliza Man­ning­ham-Buller.  With the dodgy dossier, Camp­bell has dir­ectly harmed count­less lives and our nation­al secur­ity.

Of course, many of us might fan­tas­ise about war­mon­gers get­ting their just deserts in The Hag­ue.  But per­haps the OSA could prove to be Al Campbell’s Al Capone-style tax eva­sion moment.

Now, what about The Right Hon­our­able Tony Blair?

Former head of MI6 says that fact and fiction get mixed up

Sir_john_Scarlett Former head of MI6, Sir John Scar­lett — he of the dodgy Septem­ber Dossier fame that led inex­or­ably to the UK’s inva­sion of Iraq in 2003 and the death, maim­ing, depleted-urani­um pois­on­ing and dis­place­ment of hun­dreds of thou­sands of people — has com­pla­cently stated dur­ing his recent talk at the Hay Lit­er­ary Fest­iv­al that:

One of the prob­lems of intel­li­gence work is that fact and fic­tion get very eas­ily mixed up.  A key les­son you have to learn very early on is you keep them sep­ar­ate.”

Well, no doubt many, many people might just wish he’d listened to his own advice way back in Septem­ber 2002.

Scar­lett is, of course, the seni­or UK spook who made the case for the Iraq war.  Here’s the link:  Down­load Iraq_WMD_Dossier

No doubt you will remem­ber the li(n)es: not only that Iraq’s non-exist­ent  “weapons of mass destruc­tion” could be launched with­in 45 minutes, but also that fake intel­li­gence doc­u­ments had per­suaded MI6 that Iraq was try­ing to buy urani­um from Niger , as Colin Pow­ell asser­ted dur­ing his per­suas­ive speech to the UN in 2003.

Scar­lett pub­licly took the rap and, by pro­tect­ing Tony Blair and Alastair Camp­bell, was rewar­ded with the top job at MI6 and the inev­it­able knight­hood.  No doubt a suit­able recog­ni­tion for his entirely hon­our­able beha­viour.

But it gets worse — now he has appar­ently landed a luc­rat­ive job as an advisor on the situ­ation in Iraq work­ing for Nor­we­gi­an oil mega-cor­por­a­tion, Statoil.

You couldn’t make it up…

… or per­haps you could if you’re a former top spy with an undeserved “K” and a luc­rat­ive oil con­tract who has dif­fi­culty sep­ar­at­ing fact from fic­tion.…..


Dirty Tricks in Iraq and UK Media

An inter­est­ing example of press manip­u­la­tion appeared today in the UK media.  Bri­tain is in the throes of a gen­er­al elec­tion and many pun­dits are say­ing that the res­ult is too close to call — the feel­ing being that the UK’s third party, the Lib­er­al Demo­crats, may hold the bal­ance of power in a hung par­lia­ment.  The Daily Mail, one of the most rabidly right-wing of the nation­al news­pa­pers, chose today to print a story about the arrest and sub­sequent res­cue of two UK sol­diers in Iraq in 2005. 

Sas_in_IraqThe gen­er­al thrust of the piece was that the Labour gov­ern­ment was will­ing to sac­ri­fice our sol­diers by refus­ing to author­ise their res­cue, in order to avoid polit­ic­al embar­rass­ment.  This story appears to be a fairly obvi­ous attempt by The Daily Wail to encour­age mil­it­ary per­son­nel and their fam­il­ies to vote against the incum­bent gov­ern­ment, which was will­ing to sac­ri­fice our boys’ lives for polit­ic­al expedi­ency.

However,I would sug­gest that there is anoth­er level to this story.  Many remem­ber when the news first broke: how two SAS sol­diers, work­ing under cov­er and dis­guised as Arabs, failed to stop their car at a check­point and engaged in a shoot-out that killed one Iraqi and injured three more.  The SAS oper­at­ives were arres­ted and taken to a police sta­tion where the author­it­ies dis­covered that their car con­tained weapons and explos­ives. The SAS launched a res­cue, plough­ing into the police sta­tion with tanks, and then track­ing their tar­gets to a loc­al mili­tia house nearby, fight­ing their way in and sav­ing their com­rades.  All hero­ic stuff.  How­ever, the obvi­ous fol­low-up ques­tions are:

1) What the hell were these two sol­diers doing in dis­guise, and with a car-load of weaponry?

2) Pre­cisely why was the gov­ern­ment so embar­rassed about the poten­tial polit­ic­al fall-out?

I think these two ques­tions are inter-depend­ent.  Dirty tricks and col­lu­sion are a stand­ard meth­od­o­logy for the SAS and the intel­li­gence com­munity — a well-doc­u­mented tac­tic they used in the war in North­ern Ire­land over three dec­ades.  So just what was the inten­ded des­tin­a­tion of the weaponry?  Would they have been used for an attack sub­sequently blamed on “insur­gents” or “Al Qaeda”?

As for the poten­tial polit­ic­al embar­rass­ment, the Daily Mail’s excuse — that the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment didn’t want to under­mine the per­ceived sov­er­eignty of the Iraqis at that time — is just too feeble to stand up.  The issue of polit­ic­al embar­rass­ment makes far more sense if seen in terms of UK gov­ern­ment aware­ness of the use by the Brit­ish mil­it­ary of dirty tricks, col­lu­sion or false flag ter­ror­ism in Iraq. 

Of course, this is a per­fectly stand­ard tac­tic used by many coun­tries’ mil­it­ary and intel­li­gence infra­struc­tures.  It would be naïve to think it does not hap­pen, but it is a ret­ro­grade, risky and counter-pro­duct­ive tac­tic. 

In the 21st cen­tury it is more naïve to think that such activ­ity is either effect­ive or accept­able in a world where the spread of demo­cracy and the applic­a­tion of inter­na­tion­al law and human rights are the way for­ward.

Iran threat ramped up

The Sunday Times repor­ted last week­end that Sir John Scar­lett, the cur­rent head of MI6, is to fly to Israel at the end of the month to meet his counter-part, Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad. White­hall has tried to down­play the meet­ing as “routine”. How­ever, the focus of the meet­ing appears to be to dis­cuss Israel’s assess­ment of Iran’s nuc­le­ar cap­ab­il­ity.

In recent years the neo-cons in power in the US have made no secret of their desire to “fin­ish the job” in the Middle East and attack Iran. For the last two years there has been much sabre-rat­tling on both sides. The polem­ics from the US usu­ally coin­cided with Iran’s plans to trade increas­ing amounts of its oil in euros. The south west region of Iran has vast oil reserves, and if Iran switched trad­ing cur­ren­cies, this would have an extremely det­ri­ment­al effect on the power of the petro­dol­lar, and the Amer­ic­an eco­nomy as a whole.

Lest we for­get, Sad­dam Hus­sein had also begun to trade in euros what little oil he could pri­or to the Iraq war in 2003. Scar­lett, a career MI6 officer, played a lead­ing role in mak­ing the case for that war. At the time he was Chair of the Joint Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and came to pub­lic atten­tion when he signed off the notori­ous Septem­ber Dossier. It has since become appar­ent that Iraq did not have WMD, nor was it try­ing to acquire urani­um from Niger, as MI6 had stated in the dossier. This claim was based on forged doc­u­ments.

So the tim­ing of the new Israeli intel­li­gence is inter­est­ing, to say the least. Last week, Iran announced that it was going to trade ALL its oil in euros and the yen, and Israel appears to be furi­ously lob­by­ing the US and UK about Iran’s increas­ing nuc­le­ar threat. Israeli intel­li­gence sources are claim­ing that they have inform­a­tion “on a par with” that which led to the bomb­ing of the Syr­i­an nuc­le­ar power sta­tion.

Based on this, they are ask­ing the US gov­ern­ment to reas­sess the level of threat posed by Iran. In Decem­ber 2007 the com­bined think­ing of the whole of America’s intel­li­gence infra­struc­ture was pub­lished in the US Nation­al Intel­li­gence Estim­ate. It clearly stated that Iran had stopped devel­op­ing its nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gramme in 2003 because of inter­na­tion­al pres­sure.

But the appar­ent tri­umph of inter­na­tion­al dip­lomacy does not suit the agenda of the hawks in the US admin­is­tra­tion. What could be bet­ter than to have the spy agen­cies of its closest allies con­veni­ently reveal new intel­li­gence say­ing that Iran now poses an increas­ing nuc­le­ar threat?

The (Il)legal Road to War

Yet anoth­er art­icle has appeared about the mess that is the wars in Afgh­anistan and Iraq. Max Hast­ings, writ­ing in the Daily Mail yes­ter­day, described how our sol­diers in Afgh­anistan feel that the con­tin­ued con­flict is point­less if there is no clear polit­ic­al strategy to resolve the situ­ation.

The Brit­ish army is over­stretched, appar­ently at the behest of the USA. Accord­ing to the art­icle, our mil­it­ary badly needs to redeploy both nor­mal troops and the SAS from Iraq to Afgh­anistan, but the US is unwill­ing to allow this to hap­pen for polit­ic­al reas­ons. The Amer­ic­ans also appear to be mak­ing shame­less use of the SAS.

So, let’s remind ourselves of how we got into this mess. At an inform­al meet­ing with Bush in 2002, Blair uni­lat­er­ally com­mit­ted this coun­try to sup­port the Amer­ic­an inva­sion of Iraq. Without the sup­port of Blair, Bush could not have pre­ten­ded that he had a mean­ing­ful inter­na­tion­al coali­tion to invade Iraq.

Hav­ing made this prom­ise, Blair needed to deliv­er. Intel­li­gence mater­i­al, rather than being used to inform policy mak­ing, was manip­u­lated to fit around pre-determ­ined decisions. This was sum­mar­ised clearly by the then head of MI6, Sir Richard Dear­love, in the notori­ous leaked “Down­ing Street Memo”, in which he is quoted as say­ing that the intel­li­gence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

Fol­low­ing on from this came the Septem­ber Dossier, which not only placed undue emphas­is on the claim that WMD could be launched against Brit­ish interests in 45 minutes, but also the fake intel­li­gence that Sad­dam was try­ing to pro­cure urani­um from Niger. And finally, we had the Dodgy Dossier of Feb­ru­ary 2003, based largely on a 12 year old PhD thes­is culled from the inter­net, but which also con­tained nug­gets of raw intel­li­gence from MI6. Inter­est­ingly, it has been estab­lished by the For­eign Affairs Select Com­mit­tee in par­lia­ment that Blair did not have pri­or writ­ten per­mis­sion from MI6 to pub­lish this intel­li­gence, which leaves him wide open to pro­sec­u­tion under Sec­tion 1(1) of the 1989 Offi­cial Secrets Act.

These are the false asser­tions that inex­or­ably took this coun­try to war. But even if these claims had been true, aggress­ive war is illeg­al under both inter­na­tion­al and Brit­ish law. A raft of legis­la­tion pro­hib­its our coun­try enga­ging in any mil­it­ary action except in self-defence:

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death EstimatorThe Gen­er­al Treaty for the Renun­ci­ation of War (Kel­logg-Bri­and Pact)
The United Nations Charter
The Nurem­burg Judg­ment
The Nurem­burg Prin­ciples
The Rome Stat­ute of the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­in­al Court
The UK’s Inter­na­tion­al Crim­in­al Court Act 2001

The Iraq and Afghan wars are unwinnable and illeg­al. It is time for the people of the UK to inform them­selves of the laws of war and demand that they be upheld. We are all equal under the law – even the former Prime Min­is­ter. Every day we delay res­ults in the deaths of more of our ser­vice­men and of yet more inno­cent people in the Middle East.


The UK Spies: Ineffective, Unethical and Unaccountable

The text of my art­icle for e-Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions, March 2008:

The UK Intel­li­gence Com­munity: Inef­fect­ive, Uneth­ic­al and Unac­count­able

The USA and the UK are enmeshed in an appar­ently unend­ing war of attri­tion – sorry peace­keep­ing — in Iraq.  Why? Well, we may remem­ber that the UK was assured by former Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair, in sin­cere terms, that Sad­dam Hus­sein pos­sessed weapons of mass destruc­tion which could be deployed again Brit­ish interests with­in 45 minutes.  Indeed the press was awash with “45 minutes from Armaged­don” head­lines on 18th March 2003, the day of the cru­cial war debate in the Brit­ish par­lia­ment. The implic­a­tion was that Bri­tain was dir­ectly at threat from the evil Iraqis.

The US var­ied the diet.  George Bush, in his State of the Uni­on address before the war, assured his nation that Iraq had been attempt­ing to buy mater­i­al to make nuc­le­ar weapons from Niger.  The Amer­ic­an media and pub­lic fell for this claim, hook, line and sinker.

What do these two erro­neous claims have in com­mon?  Well, both were “sexed up” for pub­lic con­sump­tion.

We all know now that there nev­er were any WMDs to be found in Iraq.  After 10 years of pun­it­ive sanc­tions, the coun­try simply didn’t have the cap­ab­il­ity, even if it had the will, to devel­op them.  The Niger claim is even more tenu­ous.  This was based on an intel­li­gence report eman­at­ing from the Brit­ish Secret Intel­li­gence Ser­vice (com­monly know as SIS or MI6), which was based on for­ger­ies.

We have had head­line after scream­ing head­line stat­ing that yet anoth­er ter­ror­ist cell has been roun­ded up in Bri­tain. The Ricin plot? The behead­ing of a Brit­ish Muslim ser­vice­man? The liquid bombs on air­planes?  Yet, if one reads the news­pa­pers care­fully, one finds that charges are dropped quietly after a few months.

So, why is this hap­pen­ing?  I can haz­ard a few guesses.  In the 1990s I worked for 6 years as an intel­li­gence officer for MI5, invest­ig­at­ing polit­ic­al “sub­vers­ives”, Irish ter­ror­ists, and Middle East­ern ter­ror­ism.  In late 1996 I, with my then part­ner and col­league Dav­id Shayler, left the ser­vice in dis­gust at the incom­pet­ent and cor­rupt cul­ture to blow the whistle on the UK intel­li­gence estab­lish­ment.  This was not a case of sour grapes – we were both com­pet­ent officers who reg­u­larly received per­form­ance related bonuses.

How­ever, we had grown increas­ingly con­cerned about breaches of the law; ineptitude (which led to bombs going off that could and should have been pre­ven­ted); files on politi­cians; the jail­ing of inno­cent people; illeg­al phone taps; and the illeg­al spon­sor­ing of ter­ror­ism abroad, fun­ded by UK tax-pay­ers.

The key reas­on that we left and went pub­lic is prob­ably one of the most hein­ous crimes – SIS fun­ded an Islam­ic extrem­ist group in Libya to try to assas­sin­ate Col­on­el Gad­dafi in 1996.  The attack failed, but killed inno­cent people.  The attack was also illeg­al under Brit­ish law.  The 1994 intel­li­gence Ser­vices Act, which put SIS on a leg­al foot­ing for the first time in its 80 year his­tory, stated that its officers were immune from pro­sec­u­tion in the UK for illeg­al acts com­mit­ted abroad, if they had the pri­or writ­ten per­mis­sion of its polit­ic­al mas­ter – ie the For­eign Sec­ret­ary.  In this case they did not.

So, the assas­sin­a­tion attempt was not only immor­al, uneth­ic­al and highly reck­less in a volat­ile area of the world, but also illeg­al under Brit­ish law.

In August 1997 we went pub­lic in a nation­al Brit­ish news­pa­per about our con­cerns.  We hoped that the newly-elec­ted Labour gov­ern­ment would take our evid­ence and begin an invest­ig­a­tion of the intel­li­gence agen­cies.  After all, many Labour MPs had been on the receiv­ing end of spook invest­ig­a­tions in their rad­ic­al youth.  Many had also opposed the dra­coni­an UK law, the Offi­cial Secrets Act (OSA 1989), which deprived an intel­li­gence whis­tleblower of a pub­lic interest defence.

How­ever, it was not to be.  I have no proof, but I can spec­u­late that the Labour gov­ern­ment did the spies’ bid­ding for fear of what might be on their MI5 files. They issued an injunc­tion against Dav­id and the nation­al press.  They failed to extra­dite him from France in 1998 but, when he returned vol­un­tar­ily to face trail in the UK in 2000, they lynched him in the media.  They also ensured that, through a series of pre-tri­al leg­al hear­ings, he was not allowed to say any­thing in his own defence and was not able to freely ques­tion his accusers.  Indeed the judge ordered the jury to con­vict.

The whole sorry saga of the Shayler affair shows in detail how the Brit­ish estab­lish­ment will always shoot the mes­sen­ger to pro­tect its own interests.  If the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment had taken Shayler’s evid­ence, invest­ig­ated his dis­clos­ures, and reformed the ser­vices so that they were sub­ject to effect­ive over­sight and had to obey the law, they may well be work­ing more effi­ciently to pro­tect us from threats to our national’s secur­ity.  After all, the focus of their work is now counter-ter­ror­ism, and they use the same resources and tech­niques as the police.  Why should they not be sub­ject to the same checks and bal­ances?

Instead, MI5 and SIS con­tin­ue to oper­ate out­side mean­ing­ful demo­crat­ic con­trol.  Their cul­tures are self-per­petu­at­ing olig­arch­ies, where mis­takes are glossed over and repeated, and where ques­tions and inde­pend­ent thought are dis­cour­aged.  We deserve bet­ter.