RT interview about whistleblower Edward Snowden

The whistleblower behind last week’s PRISM leaks dramatically went public last night.  Edward Snowden gave an interview to Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian explaining calmly and cogently why he chose to expose the NSA’s endemic data-mining. An immensely brave man.

Here is an interview I did about the case last night for RT:

And here is the transcript.

MI6 “ghost money”

Here’s the full article about MI6 “ghost money”, now also published at the Huffington Post UK:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has recently been criticised for taking “ghost money” from the CIA and MI6. The sums are inevitably unknown, for the usual reasons of “national security”, but are estimated to have been tens of millions of dollars. While this is nowhere near the eyebleeding $12 billion shipped over to Iraq on pallets in the wake of the invasion a decade ago, it is still a significant amount.

And how has this money been spent?  Certainly not on social projects or rebuilding initiatives.  Rather, the reporting indicates, the money has been funnelled to Karzai’s cronies as bribes in a corrupt attempt to buy influence in the country.

None of this surprises me. MI6 has a long and ignoble history of trying to buy influence in countries of interest.  In 1995/96 it funded a “ragtag group of Islamic extremists”, headed up by a Libyan military intelligence officer, in an illegal attempt to try to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi.  The attack went wrong and innocent people were killed.  When this scandal was exposed, it caused an outcry.

Yet a mere 15 years later, MI6 and the CIA were back in Libya, providing support to the same “rebels”, who this time succeeded in capturing, torturing and killing Gaddafi, while plunging Libya into apparently endless internecine war. This time around there was little international outcry, as the world’s media portrayed this aggressive interference in a sovereign state as “humanitarian relief”.

And we also see the same in Syria now, as the CIA and MI6 are already providing training and communications support to the rebels – many of whom, particularly the Al Nusra faction in control of the oil-rich north-east of Syria are in fact allied with Al Qaeda in Iraq.  So in some countries the UK and USA use drones to target and murder “militants” (plus villagers, wedding parties and other assorted innocents), while in others they back ideologically similar groups.

Recently we have also seen the Western media making unverified claims that the Syrian regime is using chemical weapons against its own people, and our politicians leaping on these assertions as justification for openly providing weapons to the insurgents too. Thankfully, other reports are now emerging that indicate it was the rebels themselves who have been using sarin gas against the people. This may halt the rush to arms, but not doubt other support will continue to be offered by the West to these war criminals.

So how is MI6 secretly spending UK taxpayers’ money in Afghanistan? According to western media reporting, it is being used to prop up warlords and corrupt officials. This is deeply unpopular amongst the Afghan people, leading to the danger of increasing support for a resurgent Taliban.

There is also a significant overlap between the corrupt political establishment and the illegal drug trade, up to and including the president’s late brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai.  So, another unintentional consequence may be that some of this unaccountable ghost money is propping up the drug trade.

Afghanistan is the world’s leading producer of heroin, and the UN reports that poppy growth has increased dramatically. Indeed, the UN estimates that acreage under poppy growth in Afghanistan has tripled over the last 7 years.  The value of the drug trade to the Afghan warlords is now estimated to be in the region of $700 million per year.  You can buy a lot of Kalashnikovs with that.

So on the one hand we have our western governments bankrupting themselves to fight the “war on terror”, breaking international laws and murdering millions of innocent people across North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia while at the same time shredding what remain of our hard-won civil liberties at home.

On the other hand, we apparently have MI6 and the CIA secretly bankrolling the very people in Afghanistan who produce 90% of the world’s heroin. And then, of course, more scarce resources can be spent on fighting the failed “war on drugs” and yet another pretext is used to shred our civil liberties.

This is a lucrative economic model for the burgeoning military-security complex.

However, it is a lose-lose scenario for the rest of us.

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.


RTTV interview on the royal wedding and arrest of UK activists

My interview on 29 April 2011 for RTTV about the pre-emptive arrests of UK political activists in the run-up to the royal wedding. 

Thoughtcrime appears to have arrived in the UK – and I accidentally became a royal wedding commentator (sort of). 

Well, never say never in life….


RTTV interview – dancing with the devil – how not to deal with “rogue” states

Here is an interview I did for RTTV on 3 March 2011 about the possibility of Western intervention in the unfolding Libyan crisis:


Interestingly, a radio recording of the Dutch "rescue" mission I mentioned has appeared on the internet.  It appears that the pilots were less than honest about their flight plans and intentions, saying that they were heading to their ship south of Malta rather than back towards Tripoli…. where they are eventually caught.

Also, do have a read of this excellent article by Seamus Milne of The Guardian about ramifications of possible Western intervention.

That said, it looks like this viewpoint is being ignored.  The Daily Mail reported today that MI6 officers and SAS soldiers are massing in the East of Libya to assist the rebels.  Well, at least they're doing it openly now, unlike the illegal and failed Gaddafi Plot of 1996.

RTTV interview – in defence of Wikileaks

On 6 December I appeared on RTTV's CrossTalk discussion programme alongside whistleblowing UK ex-diplomat Carne Ross, to talk about the implications of Wikileaks:



From Russia with Love (to the USA)

I've been following with interest the retro, Cold War spy saga currently unfolding in the USA.  The headlines being that 10 alleged Russian sleepers ("illegals" in spy lingo) have been arrested by the FBI and are now charged with "working as agents of a foreign power", which carries a sentence of five years in prison.

These Russian "illegals", some of whom reportedly have been living openly as Russian immigrants, some as other foreign nationals, have allegedly been infiltrating the US since the mid-1990s, and were tasked to get friendly with American power-brokers, to glean what information they could about the thoughts of the US great and the good about Russia, Iran, defence plans etc.

Whatever the truth of this case, and the charges are detailed, I find the timing and media attention given to this story interesting for three key reasons:

From what has been reported of the court papers, the FBI investigation has been going on for years.  Apparently they have known about the spy ring since 2000, and have included communications intercept material in the indictment dating from 2004 and 2008, as well as sting operations from the beginning of this year.  So it's curious that the FBI decided to swoop now, in the immediate aftermath of a successful and, by all accounts friendly, meeting between the Russian and American presidents in Washington DC. 

Many people are commenting on this aspect of the timing.  And, indeed, one might speculate about wheels within wheels – it appears that there are still hardline factions within the US administration that want to ensure that a warmer working relationship cannot develop between Russia and the USA. A strategy of tension is good for business – especially companies like Halliburton and Xe (formerly Blackwater) which profit from building vast US military bases in Central Asia.

But what also intrigues me is the possible behind-the-scenes action. 

OurManInHavanaThis story is getting blanket media coverage.  It's a good, old-fashioned, Cold War-style coup, hitting all the jingoistic spy buttons, just at a time when the US spooks are under pressure about their performance in the nebulous and ever-shifting "war on terror", the shredding of constitutional rights, the illegal surveillance of domestic political activists, and complicity in extraordinary rendition and torture. It's a useful "reminder" that the bloated US security infrastructure is worth all the money it costs, despite the dire state of US national finances. Pure propaganda.

I'm also willing to bet that there is a more covert aspect to this story too – some behind-the-scenes power play.  There are, at the last count, 17 acknowledged intelligence agencies in the US, all competing for prestige, power and resources.  By making these arrests, the FBI will see this as a step up in the spy pecking order.  It reminds me inevitably (and perhaps flippantly) of the classic spy novel by former intelligence officer Graham Greene, "Our Man in Havana".  In this no doubt entirely fictional work, a British MI6 asset invents a spy ring to increase his standing and funding from London HQ.

Also curious is the role played by one Christopher Metsos, allegedly the 11th man, not initially arrested, who is reported to have passed money to the spy ring.  He was caught yesterday in Cyprus trying to board a plane to Hungary, and inexplicably granted bail – inexplicable at least to the Greek police, who always worry that their suspect will flee over the border into the Turkish segment of the island, never to be seen again.  And this has indeed happened, according to The Guardian newspaper this evening. Perhaps he has some urgent appointments to sell vacuum cleaners north of the border…..