Exile — ExBerliner Article

My most recent art­icle for the ExBer­liner magazine:

What is exile? Oth­er than a term much used and abused by many new expats arriv­ing in Ber­lin, dic­tion­ary defin­i­tions point towards someone who is kept away from their home coun­try for polit­ic­al reas­ons, either by regal decree in the past or now more prob­ably self-imposed. But there are many oth­er ways to feel exiled – from main­stream soci­ety, from your fam­ily, faith, pro­fes­sion, polit­ics, and Ber­lin is now regarded as a haven.

How­ever, let’s focus on the clas­sic defin­i­tion and a noble tra­di­tion. Every coun­try, no mat­ter how appar­ently enlightened, can become a tyr­ant to its own cit­izens if they chal­lenge abuses of power. Voltaire was exiled in Eng­land for three years and soon after Tom Paine, a former excise man facing charges for sedi­tious libel, sought refuge in France. More recent fam­ous exiles include Dav­id Shayler, the MI5 whis­tleblower of the 1990s who fol­lowed in Paine’s foot­steps pretty much for the same fun­da­ment­al reas­ons, yet Alex­an­der Litv­inen­ko, the KBG whis­tleblower of the same era, iron­ic­ally found safe haven in exile in the UK.

So, being an exile effect­ively means that you have angered the power struc­tures of your home coun­try to such an extent that oth­er coun­tries feel com­pelled to give you refuge, partly for leg­al or prin­cipled reas­ons, but also for polit­ic­al expedi­ency. The cur­rent most fam­ous exile in the world is, of course, Edward Snowden, stran­ded by chance in Rus­sia en route to polit­ic­al asylum in Ecuador.

What does the act of flee­ing into exile actu­ally feel like? It is a wild leap into an unknown and pre­cari­ous future, with great risk and few fore­see­able rewards. At the same time, as you leave the shores of the per­se­cut­ing coun­try, evad­ing the author­it­ies, avoid­ing arrest and going on the run, there is an exhil­ar­at­ing, intense feel­ing of free­dom – a sense that the die has very much been cast. Your old way of life is irre­voc­ably at an end and the future is a blank slate on which you can write any­thing.

After Shayler and I fled to France in 1997, for the first year of the three we lived in exile we hid in a remote French farm­house just north of Limoges – the nearest vil­lage was 2 kilo­metres away, and the nearest town a dis­tant thirty. We lived in con­stant dread of that knock on the door and the ensu­ing arrest. And that, indeed, even­tu­ally did catch up with him.

As a res­ult, for Shayler it meant the world grew increas­ingly small, increas­ingly con­fined. Ini­tially, when we went on the run, we were free to roam across Europe – any­where but the UK. Then, after the French courts refused to extra­dite him to Bri­tain in 1998 to face tri­al for a breach of the dra­coni­an UK Offi­cial Secrets Act, France became the only place he could live freely. If he had then traveled to any oth­er European coun­try, the Brit­ish would have again attemp­ted to extra­dite him, prob­ably suc­cess­fully, so he was trapped.

How­ever, there are worse places than France in which to find your­self stran­ded. As well as being one of the most beau­ti­ful and var­ied coun­tries in the world it felt par­tic­u­larly poignant to end up exiled in Par­is for a fur­ther two years.

It was also con­veni­ently close to the UK, so friends, fam­ily, sup­port­ers and journ­al­ists could vis­it us reg­u­larly and bring Shayler sup­plies of such vital Brit­ish staples as bacon and HP source. But he still missed the simple pleas­ures in life, such as being free to watch his beloved foot­ball team, or being able to watch the crappy late night com­edy shows that the Brit­ish end­lessly churn out. Des­pite these small lacks, I shall always remem­ber those years in France fondly, as a place of great­er safety, a lit­er­al haven from per­se­cu­tion.

Of course, all this was in the era before the stand­ard­ised European Arrest war­rant, when nation­al sov­er­eignty and nation­al laws actu­ally coun­ted for some­thing. Find­ing a secure place of exile now would be almost an impossib­il­ity in Europe if you home coun­try really wanted to pro­sec­ute you.

Many West­ern expats now talk of being “exiled in Ber­lin”, and they may indeed be self-exiled in search of a more sym­patico life style, a buzzy group of like-minded peers, work oppor­tun­it­ies or whatever. But until they have felt the full force of an extra­di­tion war­rant, before the fuzz has actu­ally felt their col­lars, this is real­ist­ic­ally exile as a life­style choice, rather than exile as a des­per­ate polit­ic­al neces­sity or, in Edward Snowden’s case, a poten­tially exist­en­tial require­ment.

The Trident Whistleblower

My inter­view on RT yes­ter­day about the young whis­tleblower, Sub­mar­iner Wil­li­am McNeilly, who exposed ser­i­ous secur­ity con­cerns about the UK’s nuc­le­ar deterrent sys­tem, Tri­dent:

Annie Machon Tri­dent Whis­tleblower from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Today it was repor­ted that McNeilly turned him­self in to the police at Edin­burgh air­port and is cur­rently in mil­it­ary cus­tody.

Holistic security for journalists and sources — Logan Symposium

Here is a short talk I gave at the recent Logan Sym­posi­um in Lon­don, where I dis­cussed a more hol­ist­ic approach for both journ­al­ists and their sources:

The Logan Sym­posi­um — Dec 6th — Annie Machon from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Edward Snowden Website

Just a short post to announce the new Edward Snowden web­site.  Away from all the spin and media hys­teria, here are the basic facts about the inform­a­tion dis­closed and the issues at stake.

Snowden_website
And here’s anoth­er aide mem­oire of the dis­clos­ures so far. The impact of these dis­clos­ures is glob­al. Edward Snowden is simply the most sig­ni­fic­ant whis­tleblower in mod­ern his­tory.

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.

A blast from the past

How strange to stumble across this art­icle in the Guard­i­an news­pa­per yes­ter­day, which describes a journalist’s jus­ti­fi­ably para­noid exper­i­ences inter­view­ing Dav­id Shayler and me back in 2000 while writ­ing an art­icle for Esquire magazine.

The author, Dr Eamonn O’Neill, now a lec­turer in journ­al­ism at Strath­clyde Uni­ver­sity, spent a few days with us in Lon­don and Par­is way back when.

Shayler_Esquire_2000The Esquire art­icle high­lights the para­noia and sur­veil­lance that we had to live with at the time, and the con­tra­dict­ory brief­ings and slanders that were com­ing out of the Brit­ish estab­lish­ment and the media. O’Neill also intel­li­gently tries to address the motiv­a­tions of a whis­tleblower.

When it was pub­lished I was mildly uncom­fort­able about this art­icle — I felt it didn’t do Dav­id full justice, nor did it appear to get quite to the heart of the issues he was dis­cuss­ing.  I sup­pose, at the time, I was just too enmeshed in the whole situ­ation.

Now, with hind­sight, it is more per­spic­a­cious than I had thought.  And rather sad.

This art­icle is a timely remind­er of how vicious the estab­lish­ment can be when you cause it embar­rass­ment and pain; the treat­ment meted out to Dav­id Shayler was bru­tal.  And yet noth­ing has changed to this day, as we can see with the ongo­ing pur­suit and vili­fic­a­tion of Wikileaks.

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.

Upcoming New York Conference: how the world changed after 9/11

INN

Look­ing for­ward to speak­ing at this con­fer­ence next week­end!

A timely and neces­sary debate about the vital, but increas­ingly fra­gile, state of our demo­cracy and basic civil rights.

And what a great line up — well done to the organ­isers! 

Some of the oth­er speak­ers are old friends I’ve worked with before, some I look for­ward to meet­ing for the first time.

FBI Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds

Sibel_EdmondsI strongly recom­mend you take the time to watch this film about FBI whis­tleblower, Sibel Edmonds.

Kill the Mes­sen­ger”  joins some inter­est­ing dots, not just about what might have been going on round Sibel’s case, but also adds a dif­fer­ent per­spect­ive to the notori­ous out­ing of CIA officer, Valer­ie Plame.

Of course, a film that invest­ig­ates how the might of the state can be used to stifle the legit­im­ate dis­sent of a whis­tleblower will always res­on­ate with me.

Same mes­sage, dif­fer­ent coun­try.

Deja Vu

I had a strong sense of déjà vu today, when I read about the woes of Mrs Green, the bar­ris­ter wife of Tory MP Dami­en Green who was arres­ted last Novem­ber for allegedly encour­aging gov­ern­ment inform­a­tion leaks.

Mr Green was arres­ted under an obscure and antique piece of legis­la­tion for “con­spir­ing to com­mit mis­con­duct in a pub­lic office and aid­ing and abet­ting, coun­selling or pro­cur­ing mis­con­duct in a pub­lic office”.  This, des­pite the fact that civil ser­vice man­dar­ins had per­suaded the Met­ro­pol­it­an Police Spe­cial Branch (MPSB) to invest­ig­ate him because he posed a “ser­i­ous threat to nation­al secur­ity”.  The case has now been dropped and reports have now shown that these civil ser­vants sig­ni­fic­antly over­stated the case to spur the police into action.

In such a case the obvi­ous step would have been for the Met to have invoked the dra­coni­an 1989 Offi­cial Secrets Act.  Cer­tainly their heavy-handed response seemed to indic­ate that this was how they were view­ing the grav­ity of the case, even if they were des­per­ately try­ing to avoid the attend­ant scan­dal such a step would have pro­voked.    Spe­cial Branch officers in the Counter-Ter­ror­ism squad are not nor­mally sent to rip apart people’s houses for minor offences.

Which takes me back to the inter­view with the out­raged Mrs Green.  A bar­ris­ter spe­cial­ising in highly con­fid­en­tial child abuse cases, she inno­cently let the secret police enter her home, only to watch in dis­be­lief as they ripped it apart in what sounds to me like a counter-ter­ror­ism style search.  They, of course, found noth­ing rel­ev­ant to their invest­ig­a­tion, but scoured the com­puters, removed the bed­sheets, took away love let­ters between the Greens, and even rifled through the children’s books.

I sup­pose I was more for­tu­nate than the hap­less Mrs Green.  When the secret police ripped apart my home in the same way back in 1997, I was in Europe with my ex-part­ner and col­league, MI5 whis­tleblower Dav­id Shayler.  After we had exposed the fact that MI5 was shame­lessly break­ing the law, the MPSB had obtained a war­rant that allowed them to search our home for mater­i­al relat­ing to our employ­ment in MI5.  As I was away, they jack­hammered the front door in, and then spent two days rip­ping through the flat in Pimlico.  It had been my home for 4 years.

Nat­ur­ally, the police found noth­ing rel­ev­ant.  That did not deter them from search­ing the place for two days, and tak­ing away bags of pos­ses­sions, includ­ing some of my under­wear, the bed­sheets, pho­to­graphs, and our love let­ters.  They also smashed up chairs and lamps, ripped the bath apart, pulled up the car­pets, and scattered my remain­ing under­wear across the bed­room floor. It looked like they had been play­ing with it.

I saw all this when I returned home a month later, and I felt viol­ated.  I know this is a com­mon reac­tion when one’s home is burgled; but in this case my home had been despoiled by the police, not by crim­in­als.  No doubt, some would say that we, and the Greens, deserved this treat­ment.  After all, we had the temer­ity to expose mal­prac­tice, lies, and crime with­in gov­ern­ment circles.  We, of course, would argue that we had acted for the pub­lic good.

Whatever.  I still think that a counter-ter­ror­ism style search of a whistleblower’s house is over the top and delib­er­ately intim­id­at­ory.

The police may have ran­sacked my home, but I was nev­er charged with any offence.  Nor did I ever did get my under­wear or love let­ters back.….

Legal doublethink re whistleblowers — my CPBF article, July 2006

Thanks to Wikileaks the concept of whis­tleblow­ing is once again, rightly, back in the prime-time news slots.

To high­light the Brit­ish leg­al double­think when it comes to whis­tleblow­ing cases, I repro­duce below an art­icle I wrote in 2006 for the excel­lent UK Cam­paign for Press and Broad­cast­ing Free­dom organ­isa­tion (CPBF).

Basic­ally, the rul­ing stated that a whis­tleblower can­not repeat their own dis­clos­ures in pub­lic, even though any­one else in the world can:

Hogarth_judge In 2006 I hadn’t heard of Mr “Justice” Eady (he had yet to reach his max­im­um velo­city), but he seems to have built up of bit of form since then.  He is now most notori­ous for his pun­it­ive rul­ings in many “libel tour­ismcases and celeb sex scan­dals, not to men­tion the odi­ous concept of the super-injunc­tion, start­lingly exem­pli­fied in the Trafigura case about alleg­a­tions of dump­ing tox­ic waste off the Ivory Coast — one of Wikileaks’s earli­er media suc­cesses.

Obvi­ously Eady, the man in charge of rul­ing on UK free­dom of expres­sion cases, was the per­son to go to if you had some­thing to hide.

Thank­fully he was replaced earli­er this year by Michael Tugend­hat QC, who flu­ently rep­res­en­ted the media’s corner dur­ing the Shayler whis­tleblow­ing years, and some of Eady’s most egre­gious decisions have already been over­turned by his suc­cessor.

 

CPBF_Logo  Anoth­er suc­cess for Brit­ish justice — Annie Machon (31÷7÷06)

It was anoth­er resound­ing suc­cess for Brit­ish justice, accord­ing to Annie Machon. Mr Justice Eady gran­ted a per­man­ent injunc­tion against Dav­id Shayler in the High Court today (Fri­day 28 July). In a breath­tak­ing rul­ing, Eady stated that Dav­id was not entitled to present evid­ence or cross-exam­ine his accusers (again), but instead issued a sum­mary judge­ment based on asser­tions made by MI5.

This means that Dav­id can now only talk about a restric­ted range of dis­clos­ures — spe­cific­ally what appeared in the Mail on Sunday on 24 August 1997. This means that he can­not talk about a whole range of top­ics which are in the pub­lic domain and have already been cleared via the injunc­tion and for the pub­lic­a­tion of my book, Spies, Lies and Whis­tleblowers.

Spe­cific­ally, this means that, while I and the rest of the world can talk about state-sponsored false-flag ter­ror­ism, includ­ing the Gad­dafi plot, Dav­id is banned. Very con­veni­ent when the 911 cam­paign is tak­ing off.

The tem­por­ary injunc­tion was issued in Septem­ber 1997 on the expli­cit under­stand­ing that a full leg­al hear­ing would be needed before it could be made per­man­ent. Dav­id has now been denied this.

Also, the injunc­tion has been abused repeatedly, for example allow­ing the gov­ern­ment to spin lies against him when he wished to reveal the wrong­ful con­vic­tion of two inno­cent Palestini­ans, Samar Alami and Jawad Bot­meh, for the bomb­ing of the Israeli embassy in Lon­don in 1994. Also, when he tried to alert the gov­ern­ment to murder and a major ter­ror­ist attack organ­ised by MI6 officers in the Gad­dafi plot, he did so leg­ally via the injunc­tion.

For his pains, he was the one thrown in pris­on in Par­is in 1998.

The injunc­tion has also repeatedly been used to intim­id­ate journ­al­ists (one of whom was tried and con­victed) and to stop the media invest­ig­at­ing the crimin­al­ity of MI5 and MI6. With this rul­ing, the judge has also abol­ished at one stroke the media’s right to pub­lish whis­tleblowers’ testi­mony if they can argue it caused no dam­age to nation­al secur­ity.

If any future whis­tleblower emerges from the intel­li­gence ser­vices, and is injunc­ted, the media has lost this defence, enshrined by par­lia­ment in crim­in­al law (Sec­tion 1.5 of the OSA). And why is an injunc­tion neces­sary any­way? There already exists a crim­in­al sanc­tion under the Offi­cial Secret Act. The judge was kind enough to say that the injunc­tion was for David’s own good and would stop him hav­ing to break the OSA again! We are through the look­ing glass.

Yours in won­der­land, Annie