As the story about the fake “dirty dossier” complied on Donald Trump by former MI6 officer, Christopher Steele, gather impetus, I was asked to do ultiple interviews. Here is the first with the BBC News Channel:
On 18 December last year I wrote an article about the possibility of a coup d’etat in the USA, planned and executed by the CIA and other participants in the Deep State.
At the time I just wanted to highlight the potential problems that were arising from the CIA’s and the American elite’s objection to a Trump presidency and failure of the Clinton candidacy.
However, following fake news of the “Vermont hack” and the failure of the debunked report on “Russian hacking” of the election last week, it seems that the CIA and the wider deep state is dramatically raising the stakes today, with leaks to the media of dubious reports from a corporate spy company alleging corruption and sexual deviancy. How low can they go?
I would laugh at this farrago of nonsense if this escalation of accusation did not imply such an increasingly deadly course, on the part of the American establishment, to push for a showdown with Russia at any cost in 2017.
I fear that soon the curtain will finally be brought down on the puppet show that passes for democracy in America, and those who for decades have been pulling the strings will come raging into the light, red in tooth and claw. The illusion that the people really have a choice of president every four years will be irreparably shattered.
The old British truism that “it does not matter whom you vote for, the government always gets in” can also be applied to the US presidency – usually all candidates are approved and massively funded by the modern incarnation of Eisenhower’s infamous “military-industrial complex” and then assiduously supported by cheerleaders in the old corporate media, leaving the electorate with damn little meaningful choice.
This has been true from Reagan to Bush the First, from Clinton the First to Bush the Second and then on to Obama (the First?). It was supposed to have been true in the most recent election, where the elite’s choice pointed towards a contest between Bush the Third or Clinton the Second, either one of whom would have worked to the interests of Wall Street and continued the increasingly dangerous, interventionist, and hawkish global US foreign policy.
As a little aside, since when did the USA fall for the concept of inherited political power, a de facto new monarchy?
But then an oxymoronic billionaire “man of the people” crowbarred his way into the contest and slashed all the strings of puppetry and privilege. Enter, stage left, the bullish, seemingly bigoted, and bemusingly successful Donald Trump.
As a Brit, currently cut adrift in a pre-Brexit Europe, I hold no brief for the dangers he may or may not pose to the much-vaunted American way of life in the good ol’ homeland. However, as I have stated before, with The Donald’s apparent determination to follow a strategy of US isolationism, to cut a deal in Syria, and effect a rapprochement with Russia, the wider world may just have dodged a nuclear bullet or at least an era of unending war.
Plus, the American people appear to have wanted a change, any change, from the hereditary privilege of the Washington elite. That change could well have come from another outsider, Bernie Sanders, if he had been given a fair chance. However, as we know from the leaked Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Podesta emails, the Democratic Party would stop at nothing to ensure the anointing of the chosen one – Clinton the Second
So why do I think that there may be a coup d’etat looming in America’s near future?
Trump was elected on the promise of “draining the swamp” of the Washington political and corporate elites – this is deeply threatening to the vested interests, not least the CIA, whose daily briefings have been spurned by Trump, thereby rupturing the co-dependent relationship between the president and the politicly compromised intelligence agencies that has existed since 9/11 and which has caused so much global harm, starting with the ill-informed and illegal rush to war in Iraq in 2003. I shall return to the CIA later.
The American elite is facing the inauguration of a self-professed outsider who is threatening all their easily-bought privileges, one who seems more interested in cutting deals than bombing countries. Nor do they like his nominees to high office, especially that of Rex Tillerson, the current CEO of ExxonMobil, to the post of Secretary of State – after all, he has a track record of cutting deals too and with the Russians no less, and such a person as the top US diplomat might, gasp, help to bring to a close the new not-so-Cold War that is so important to the hawkish warmongers and their masters in the thriving US arms and security industry.
Therefore once Trump had been declared the official Republican nominee, the establishment push-back was all too predictable. The story of “Russian hacking” was initially trailed merely as media bait to divert the press from the real story – Hillary Clinton’s potentially illegal use of a private web server while acting as Secretary of State.
Then in November Wikileaks began to release even more damaging emails from the DNC and the Podesta files, which demonstrated quite how the Democrats had stitched up the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. The Democrats immediately cried foul – it must indeed be the Russians hacking their files and handing the information to Wikileaks (now cast as a Russian stooge – a move extremely useful in America’s ongoing attempts to frame the prosecution of Wikileaks editor Julian Assange as “espionage”, even though he is an Australian publisher stuck in Europe).
Unusually Assange went on the record to say the emails Wikileaks published did not come from the Russians: Wikileaks traditionally refuses to discuss its sources.
Then former UK Ambassador and Wikileaks ally, Craig Murray, went public by saying that, while he was in Washington earlier this year, he was given files that were then published on Wikileaks. His view is that the information came from a Democrat whistleblower with legal access – it was a leak by an insider, not a hack by an outsider.
Also earlier this week a group of former senior US intelligence officials, including the former Technical Director of the NSA, wrote an open letter to Congress explaining that, if indeed the Russians had hacked the DNC, the NSA would have been able to provide evidence to to prove this. Yet, at such a time of potential constitutional crisis, none has been forthcoming, either directly or via the CIA, even in the face of calls for the usual congressional hearings and special investigations.
So there is apparently no substantive evidence of Russian hacking during the election. However, there does appear to be some evidence around the issue of Clinton’s illegal server.
Eleven days before the American election the Director of the FBI, in the wake of the Anthony Weiner sexting case, reopened the investigation into the Clinton server scandal and published the fact, as he said, in the national interest. This caused howls of rage from the Democrats, and again “Russian hacking” was hyped in the media, thereby easily conflating the concept of the illegal server, the alleged hacks, the Russians, into one big lump of geek-speak that most people would not have the will to disentangle. Two days before the election, James Comey backed down, but the hacking seed had germinated.
Now it is coming into bloom – last week the CIA re-entered the fray, with reports about Russian hacking leaked to both the Washington Post and the New York Times. Since then, nameless “intelligence sources” and grandstanding politicians have been falling over themselves to speak to this subject, but it all remains very evidence-lite.
Plus there is apparently by no means a consensus amongst all seventeen of the US intelligence agencies with regards to the CIA’s claims. Indeed, until recently the FBI has directly contradicted them, and the FBI is in the business of pulling together evidence to prosecute a case under law.
That, now, is all changing. Only recently it was reported that the FBI is now supporting the CIA’s “beliefs”. I was puzzled about this volte face until I read this prominent op-ed by Clinton campaign manager, John Podesta, in the Washington Post where, in addition to blaming the Russians for “hacking the election” (note, no longer just the DNC emails and his own), he is attacking the FBI and its head, James Comey, and suggesting that the organisation is broken and “what’s broken in the FBI must be fixed and quickly”. Perhaps, for whatever reason, Comey can see the overturning of the election result as a real possibility now and is desperately rowing back.
In parallel, it seems that the CIA is fearful of retaliation if, against all their endeavours, Donald Trump does indeed get sworn in as the 45th president of the USA on 20th January next year. That goes some way to explaining why they are challenging the election result by pushing this line that the Russians “hacked the election”, the new headline that has morphed through the global MSM over the last couple of days from belief to established fact, with no evidence produced.
The CIA claims that Russian “hackers” were delving around in the emails of both the Democratic National Congress as well as the Republican equivalent for months before the November election. And yet only the Democrat emails were, the CIA asserts, passed on to Wikileaks and thereby published to order to sway the election result. Where is the proof? They have produced no evidence, in the face of of expert testimony from former senior intelligence officers as well as direct assertions from Wikileaks about the source of the DNC leaks. Indeed, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, is refusing to brief the Congressional intelligence committees’ repeated requests to give a briefing.
That has not stopped the global mainstream media from whipping up an imagined new truth: that the Russians “hacked the election”. And the media frenzy has grown exponentially over the last few days.
This is why I fear an American coup d’etat, possibly starting as soon as 19th December, the date when the Electoral College meets to ratify the election of Trump. All this Cold-War, anti-Russian hysteria is being used as a stick to beat the Electoral College members into ignoring their duty and vote in the way directed by the majority of the people of their state whom they are pledged to represent. Plus, who knows what juicy carrots may also have been offered?
If enough prove faithless to the electorate, then the election result will be overturned and Clinton the Second could ascend to the American throne. Even if the Electoral College does its sworn duty to the people, I fear that the CIA anti-Trump campaign may now have gathered so much momentum that the establishment may still find a way, any way possible, to stop Trump’s inauguration as president – after all we still have five weeks to get through before 20th January.
Trump is a known unknown and retains potential possibilities intriguing to the wider world. However, if the Electoral College starts a coup d’etat on Monday and against all constitutional norms the coronation of Clinton proceeds, we know all too well what lies ahead: war.
On 9 January RT hosted a live streamed debate on its news show about the US intelligence report that attempted to prove that Russia had “hacked” the US election.
Also in the debate were former CIA Director, James Woolsey, and former CIA intelligence officer, Larry Johnson.
Here it is:
Published on Consortium News.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) of the USA has been hacked – cue a national American trauma, allegations of dirty tricks, fears that democracy has been subverted, all leading to what the next US president would call “our long national nightmare”.
But, no, I am not talking about the current Russo-phobic hysteria currently engulfing the US media, replete with claims about “fake news”, expelled Russian diplomats, and a lack of skepticism about the evidence-lite hacking allegations.
Instead I am dipping back into history – the old Watergate Scandal – when Richard Nixon’s “plumbers” stole information the old-fashioned way; they broke into the DNC offices, rifled the files and planted listening devices. On 17 June 1972, when police captured five burglars inside the DNC offices at the Watergate building in Washington, the case slowly unfolded over the next two years until President Nixon resigned on 9 August 1974, and was replaced by Vice President Gerald Ford who declared “our long national nightmare is over”.
During those two years, The Washington Post became internationally and justifiably famous for breaking the story about Richard Nixon’s role in the Watergate cover-up and – since then – generations of cub reporters have dreamed of being the next Woodward or Bernstein. Besides leading to the downfall of the mendacious and paranoid Nixon, the scandal contributed to the reining in of an out-of-control intelligence establishment culminating in the Church Committee hearings of 1975.
What followed was greater, if unfortunately temporary, control of the US intelligence agencies and at least an apparent respect for the rights of American citizens under the terms of the US Constitution. The work of The Washington Post then was indeed relevant and world changing.
The film depiction of the Post’s investigation – All the President’s Men – celebrated this exposé and confirmed in Western minds that our wonderful free press spoke truth to power. And perhaps, in this case, the press did (although I have to say that I preferred the meltdown scene in the prophetic film The Network, which envisioned the slide of the news media into ratings-driven madness).
But – regarding The Washington Post – how the mighty have fallen. Over the last couple of months, The Post has blown what was left of its journalistic reputation out of the water.
First it unblushingly reported the PropOrNot “blacklist” of “fake news” internet sites that were allegedly working at the Kremlin’s command to swing the US election to Donald Trump, except that list encompassed many of the most reputable independent (ie not US corporate-owned) English-language international news sites. Threatened with angry writs from some of the sites, the paper quickly printed a disclaimer distancing itself from the anonymous people behind PropOrNot, but still not apologising for the McCarthyistic smear.
Then, last Friday, the paper was at it again – breathlessly reporting that the Vermont energy grid was apparently hacked by the scapegoat du jour, Russia. Although there should have been some obvious questions asked: why Vermont? What has that state ever done to Russia? Well, not much as it turns out; nor Russia to Vermont.
Yet again the Post has revised its reporting down to the fact that a laptop, completely unconnected to the grid according to the energy provider’s statement, had been infected by malware. In other words, there was no Russian hacking into the Vermont power grid.
And yet, because it’s The Washington Post, this fake breaking “news” was taken seriously and metastasised through the body politic of America and beyond. This Russian hacking became a “post-truth” reality, no matter how fact-free the original story. (I hereby propose a #factfreediet for us all on Twitter for January, so we can highlight this phenomenon.)
But here is the obvious next questions: why did this non-story appear in The Washington Post and why now? Has the paper suddenly fallen prey to a revamped Operation Mockingbird, its editorial stuffed to the gills with CIA agents of influence?
As I have written before, the CIA and its associates within the Deep State appear to be hell bent on undermining the legitimacy of the Trump election result and this hyping of Russian hacking is one of the key weapons in this struggle. So perhaps the Deep State players are (re)activating a few agents of influence in the mainstream American media?
But there may possibly be a more tangential explanation for The Washington Post’s plunge into fiction: Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and one of the wealthiest people in the world. Amazon is not only the favourite purveyor of all goods online, but also suspected (at least in the UK) of massive tax avoidance scams as well as abusive employment practices in the same country.
Bezos is also, since 2013, the proud owner of The Washington Post, a purchase that heralded his unexpected business swerve into the old mainstream media. The deal to buy the newspaper was reported in the business press to have cost him $250 million.
Interestingly in the same year Amazon cut a deal to develop a cloud-based service for the CIA – a deal worth a reported $600 million over ten years. It also appears that this service has expanded across all 17 of America’s intelligence agencies, so who can tell what it might be worth to Amazon now and in the future?
It is no doubt just an interesting coincidence that the Bezos-owned Washington Post is the fount of the current stream of CIA assertions that the Russians are hacking key USA institutions, starting with the DNC – which then somehow became “hacking the election” – and now the utility grid. Bezos himself has asserted that he exerts no direct control over the editorial decisions of the newspaper, and he has left in place many of the neoconservative editors who preceded his stewardship, so there may not be any need for direct orders.
Of course, all state-level players, including the Russians and certainly the Americans, are going to be probing the basic systems underpinning all our countries for vulnerabilities. That is what intelligence agencies do, and it is also what mercenary spy companies do on behalf of their corporate clients, and what hackers (either of the criminal flavour or the socially-minded hacktivists) do too. The dodgy malware, the code, the vulnerabilities are all out there, often for sale or squirrelled away by the national spy agencies for potential future advantage.
Whatever the truth about the DNC hacking allegations, The Washington Post sadly seems uninterested in properly pursuing it – indeed it seems interested in little beyond pursuing the specific political agenda of fanning a dangerous distrust of Russia and undermining the legitimacy of the President-elect Trump.
If such a compliant corporate culture had existed back in 1972 at the time of the first DNC “hack”, the Watergate Scandal would surely never have been exposed. And the old media still wonders why it is no longer trusted?
The ripple effects of the Donald Trump election victory in America continue to wash over many different shorelines of public opinion, like so many mini-tsunamis hitting the Pacific rim over the last few last weeks. The seismic changes have indeed been global, and not least in Europe.
First up, the Eurocrats have been getting in a bit of a flap about the future of NATO, as I recently wrote. In the past I have also written about the perceived “insider threat” – in other words, whistleblowers – that has been worrying governments and intelligence agencies across the Western world.
Currently the Twittersphere is lighting up around the issue of “fake news“, with Western mainstream media (news purveyors of the utmost unsullied probity, naturally) blaming Trump’s unexpected victory variously on the US alt-media shock jocks, fake news trolls and bots, and sovereign-state media outlets such as the Russian RT and Sputnik.
In the wake of US Democrat claims that Russia was interfering in the election process (not a practice that the USA has ever engaged in in any other country around the world whatsoever), we now have the US Green Party presidential candidate apparently spontaneously calling for recounts in three key swing-states in the USA.
The German government has already expressed concern that such “fake” news might adversely influence the almost inevitable re-election for a fourth term as Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Despite having been proclaimed the closest partner of the USA by President Obama on his recent speed-dating visit to Europe, and perhaps wary of the rising nationalist anger (I hesitate to write national socialist anger, but certainly its ugly face is there too in the German crowd) Merkal is getting in an electoral first strike.
At a slightly more worrying level, the European Parliament on 23 November voted for a resolution to counter “propaganda” from Russia – and incredibly equated that country’s media with terrorist groups such as ISIS – the very organisation that Russia is currently trying to help crush in Syria and which the West and NATO are at least officially opposed to.
Equating the content of licensed and networked media outlets – however much they may challenge Western orthodoxies – to the horrors of ISIS snuff videos seems to me to be wilfully blind if not downright and dangerously delusional. Or perhaps we should just call it propaganda too?
Whatever happened to the rights of freedom of expression enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights? Or the concept that a plurality of opinion encourages a healthy democracy?
In America too, we have had reports this week that Google and Facebook are censoring alleged “fake” news. This is the start of a very slippery slope. Soon anyone who dissents from the orthodoxy will be deemed fake and disappear into the corporate memory black hole. Google in 2014 suggested a precursor to this, the Knowledge Vault, a search system that would promote approved websites and disappear those deemed inaccurate at least by Google algorithms. But who controls those?
Once again our corporate overlords seem to be marching remarkably in time – almost a lock step – with the mood of the political establishment.
So how did this all kick off? With remarkably prescient timing, in October the arch-neoconservative UK-based think tank, the Henry Jackson Society, published a report entitled “Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Right, Left and Russia“. Well, at least it got its apostrophes right, but much of the rest is just so much hate-filled bile against those who call out the failed Washington Consensus.
The Henry Jackson Society is an odious organisation that was founded in Cambridge eleven years ago. One of its initial signatories was Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of the UK’s foreign intelligence agency MI6, and of some personal notoriety for peddling the lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that took the UK into the disastrous and illegal Iraq war in 2003, as well as feeding in the fake intelligence about Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Niger that US Secretary of State Colin Powell used as a justification for the same war at the United Nations.
Despite all this, he remains happily retired, bloated with honours, while at the same time threatening the British establishment with his full memoirs to posthumously preserve his reputation and avoid prosecution for a breach of the Official Secrets Act, as I have written before.
The Henry Jackson Society has also folded into itself an organisation called the Centre for Social Cohesion – apparently established to build better integration for the Muslim community in the UK, but which for the last decade has done nothing but stir up Islamophobia. As others have written, the phrase “modern McCarthyites” might not be stretching this concept too far. And now it seems to be turning its ire against Russia.
Its emphasis has been unrelentingly anti-Islam for many years, so it was interesting that this establishment-embedded Society had a fully-formed report about the renewed Red Menace subverting our Western media just ready and waiting to be published ahead of the US elections.
So where does this all leave us?
It may well be that Facebook will begin to disappear so-called fake news – which could have repercussions for all the activist groups that, against all advice and common sense, continue to offer up their plans/organise events on that medium.
We may see the same censorship on Google, as well as dissident websites disappearing down the proposed memory-hole of the Knowledge Vault. Sure, such pages may be recorded on sites like the WayBack Machine et al, but who really searches through that reflexively? Most us us don’t even get through the first page of Google hits anyway. In our digital age, this will make the 20th century practice of your analogue dictator – the airbrushing of political opponents out of history – look positively quaint.
But, just as the Gutenberg Press was a radical innovation in the 15th century that led to a rapid spread of written ideas and the resulting censorship, repression and a thriving underground media, so the the current crackdown will lead to the same push-back.
Then we have to consider the potential censorship of state-owned news outlets such as RT, the Chinese CCTV, and the Iranian Press TV. Where will that leave other state-owned organisations such as the BBC, RAI and other international Euro-broadcasters? Oh, of course, they are part of the Western media club, so it’s all hunkey-dorey and business as usual.
But this can be a two-sided fight – only two months ago RT’s UK bankers, the state-owned Nat West Bank, announced that they were going to shut down the channel’s UK accounts, with no reason or redress. I gather that a similar threat was then issued against the BBC in Russia, and the case was quietly dropped.
Over the last 20 years I have been interviewed by hundreds of major media outlets across Europe, many of them state-owned. However, it is only when I appear on RT.com that I am accused of supporting a state-propaganda outlet, of being a useful idiot – and this has become increasingly marked over the last couple of years.
All these measures smack of an ill-informed and out-of-touch panic reaction by a hitherto complacent establishment. Before they attempt to airbrush history, we need to remember that history teaches some useful lessons about such elitist crackdowns: they never end well for anyone.
First published on Consortium News.
Forgive my “infamously fluent French”, but the phrase “pour encourager les autres” seems to have lost its famously ironic quality. Rather than making an example of people who dissent in order to prevent future dissidence, now it seems that the USA is globally paying bloody big bucks to people in order to encourage them to expose the crimes of their employers – well, at least if they are working for banks and other financial institutions.
I have been aware for a few years that the USA instituted a law in 2010 called the Dodd-Frank Act that is designed to encourage people employed in the international finance community to report malfeasance to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in return for a substantial percentage of any monies recouped.
This law seems to have produced a booming business for such high-minded “whistleblowers” – if that could be the accurate term for such actions? They are celebrated and can receive multi-million dollar pay days, the most recent (unnamed) source receiving $20 million.
Nor is this US initiative just potentially benefiting US citizens – it you look at the small print at the bottom of this page, disclosures are being sent in from all over the world.
Which is all to the public good no doubt, especially in the wake of the 2008 global financial crash and the ensuing fall-out that hit us all. We need more clarity about arcane casino banking practices that have bankrupted whole countries, and we need justice.
But does rather send out a number of contradictory messages to those in other areas of work who might also have concerns about the legality of their organisations, and which may have equal or even graver impacts on the lives of their fellow human beings.
If you work in finance and you see irregularities it is apparently your legal duty to report them through appropriate channels – and then count the $$$ as they flow in as reward – whether you are a USA citizen or based elsewhere around the world. Such is the power of globalisation, or at least the USA’s self-appointed role as the global hegemon.
However, if you happen to work in the US government, intelligence agencies or military, under the terms of the American Constitution it would also appear to be your solemn duty under oath to report illegalities, go through the officially designated channels, and hope reform is the result.
But, from all recent examples, it would appear that you get damn few thanks for such patriotic actions.
Take the case of Thomas Drake, a former senior NSA executive, who in 2007 went public about waste and wanton expenditure within the agency, as I wrote way back in 2011. Tom went through all the prescribed routes for such disclosures, up to and including a Congressional Committee hearing.
Despite all this, Tom was abruptly snatched by the FBI in a violent dawn raid and threatened with 35 years in prison. He (under the terrifying American plea bargain system) accepted a misdimeanour conviction to escape the horrors of federal charges, the resulting loss of all his civic rights and a potential 35 years in prison. He still, of course, lost his job, his impeccable professional reputation, and his whole way of life.
He was part of a NSA group which also included Bill Binney, the former Technical Director of the NSA, and his fellow whistleblowers Kirk Wiebe, Ed Loumis and Diane Roark.
These brave people developed an electronic mass-surveillance programme called Thin Thread that could winnow out those people who were genuinely of security interest and worth targeting, a programme which would have cost the US $1.4 million, been consistent with the terms of the American constitution and, according to Binney, could potentially have stopped 9/11 and all the attendant horrors..
Instead, it appears that backs were scratched and favours called in with the incoming neo-con government of George W Bush in 2000, and another programme called Trail Blaizer was developed, to the tune of $1.2 billion – and which spied on everyone across America (as well as the rest of the world) and thereby broke, at the very least, the terms of the American constitution.
Yet Bill Binney was still subjected to a FBI SWAT team raid – he was dragged out of the shower early one morning at gun-point. All this is well documented in an excellent film “A Good American” and I recommend watching it.
Rather a contrast to the treatment of financial whistleblowers – no retaliation and big bucks. Under that law, Bill would have received a payout of millions for protecting the rights of his fellow citizens as well as saving the American public purse to the tune of over a billion dollars. But, of course, that is not exactly in the long-term business interests of our now-global surveillance panopticon.
President Dwight Eisenhower, in his valedictory speech in 1961, warned of the subversive interests of the “military-industrial” complex. That seems so quaint now. What we are facing is a steroid-pumped, globalised military surveillance industry that will do anything to protect its interests. And that includes crushing principled whistleblowers “pour encourager les autres“.
Yet that manifestly has not happened, as I need to move on to the even-more-egregious cases of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
The former, as you may remember, was a former American army private currently serving 35 years in a US military prison for exposing the war crimes of the USA. She is the most obvious victim of outgoing-President Obama’s war on whistleblowers, and surely deserving of his supposed outgoing clemency.
The latter, currently stranded in Russia en route from Hong Kong to political asylum in Ecuador is, in my view and as I have said before, the most significant whistleblower in modern history. But he gets few thanks – indeed incoming US Trump administration appointees have in the past called for the death penalty.
So all this is such a “wonderfully outstanding encouragement” to those in public service in the USA to expose corruption – not. Work for the banks and anonymously snitch – $$$kerching! Work for the government and blow the whistle – 30+ years in prison or worse. Hmmm.
If President-Elect Donald Trump is serious about “draining the swamp” then perhaps he could put some serious and meaningful public service whistleblower protection measures in place, rather than prosecuting such patriots?
After all, such measures would be a win-win situation, as I have said many times before – a proper and truly accountable channel for potential whistleblowers to go to, in the expectation that their concerns will be properly heard, investigated and criminal actions prosecuted if necessary.
That way the intelligence agencies can become truly accountable, sharpen their game, avoid a scandal and better protect the public; and the whistleblower does not need ruin their life, losing their job, potentially their freedom and worse.
After all, where are the most heinous crimes witnessed? Sure, bank crimes impact the economy and the lives of working people; but out-of-control intelligence agencies that kidnap, torture and assassinate countless people around the world, all in secret, actually end lives.
All that said, other Western liberal democracies are surely less draconian than the USA, no?
Well, unfortunately not. Take the UK, a country still in thrall to the glamorous myth of James Bond, and where there have been multiple intelligence whistleblowers from the agencies over the last few decades – yet all of them have automatically faced prison. In fact, the UK suppression of intelligence, government, diplomatic, and military whistleblowers seems to have acted as an exemplar to other countries in how you stifle ethical dissent from within.
Sure, the prison sentences for such whistleblowing are not as draconian under the UK Official Secrets Act (1989) as the anachronistic US Espionage Act (1917). However, the clear bright line against *any* disclosure is just as stifling.
In the UK, a country where the intelligence agencies have for the last 17 years been illegally prostituting themselves to advance the interests of a foreign country (the USA), this is simply unacceptable. Especially as the UK has just made law the Investigatory Powers Act (2016), against all expert advice, which legalises all this previously-illegal activity and indeed expanded the hacking powers of the state.
More worryingly, the ultra-liberal Norway, which blazed a calm and humanist trail in its response to the murderous white-supremacist terrorist attacks of Anders Breivik only 5 years ago, has now proposed a draconian surveillance law.
And Germany – a country horrified by the Snowden revelations in 2013, with its memories of the Gestapo and the Stasi – has also just expanded the surveillance remit of its spooks.
In the face of all this, it appears there has never been a greater need of intelligence whistleblowers across the Western world. Yet it appears that, once again, there is one law for the bankers et al – they are cashed up, lauded and rewarded for reporting legalities.
For the rest of the Poor Bloody Whistleblowers, it’s prosecution and persecution as usual, despite the fact that they may indeed be serving the most profound of public interests – freedom, privacy and the ability to thereby have a functioning democracy.
As always – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. So back to my fluent French, referenced at the start: we are, it seems, all still mired in the merde.
During the seemingly endless US election, a few months ago Donald Trump said at a convention that NATO is not a gift that America can keep giving. In his stated view – at the time – the other member states should be expected to make a greater financial contribution (the USA currently contributes 70% of NATO’s budget) and if not they could not expect automatic protection in the face of an attack.
On 13th November in the UK’s Observer newspaper, the Secretary General of NATO, former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, wrote a think piece in response and acknowledged the need for more widespread contributions, while crying up the historic importance and future need for NATO by citing growing Russian “assertiveness” (diplo-speak for aggression) and the threat from international terrorism.
I was invited onto RT to analyse this and am here expanding on some of the points I made in an always-all-too-brief interview.
Stoltenberg was right to acknowledge Trump’s concerns about the contributions to NATO. But I think that he was also addressing another and already-serving president somewhat closer to home – head of the European Commission and totemic Eurocrat, Jean-Claude Juncker – who for a while now has been plotting an integrated EU army and who ramped up the rhetoric last week after Trump’s victory. The head of NATO is naturally not going to be too happy that the EU is poaching on his territory.
It was also reported in The Observer that France and Germany are planning to announce the acceleration towards a EU army over the coming weeks. So much for European-wide consensus. It would appear that Juncker also sees this as a bargaining position in future Brexit negotiations, if Britain ever does get around to triggering Article 50. Any EU army would need the UK’s contribution – not just the armed forces, which are the second largest in the EU, but also continued close cooperation with the intelligence agencies.
After all, if both the UK post-Brexit and the USA after the ascension of Trump become increasingly isolationist and isolated, it would be natural for the two countries to pivot towards each other to the increasing exclusion of Europe. The UK/US “special relationship” has always been heavily predicated on the uniquely close working relationship of their spies, and the EU will fear being left further out in the cold.
So, if Juncker carries on regardless with his vanity EU army project and Britain agrees to contribute post-Brexit, there may be other sweet deals on offer to the UK during the Brexit negotiations. At least, that seems to be the position Juncker seems to be oiling his way towards.
But the fundamental question has to be asked: why, now, do we need either a New Model EU army or the cavalier NATO? Stoltenberg tried to address this in his article:
“In the last few years we have seen a dramatic deterioration of our security, with a more assertive Russia and turmoil across north Africa and the Middle East. Nato allies have responded together. We have implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the cold war. [….] This is deterrence, not aggression. […] Nato also continues to play a crucial role in the fight against terrorism. Every Nato ally is part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State…”
Let us unpick these comments.
Firstly, is Russia indeed becoming more of a military threat, or is this just so much diplomatic grandstanding? After all, is it Russia or NATO that has been more, umm, assertive over the last 27 years?
In answer I refer you back to an article I wrote two years ago after the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Referencing the work of former senior CIA officer and fellow Sam Adams Associate, Ray McGovern, it made clear that a deal was made between the Soviet Union of the time and the US and that, in return for the withdrawal of 260,000 Soviet troops from the GDR and the reunification of Germany, NATO would not move one inch further east than the German border.
Well, today we can see the result of these negotiations – another twelve countries, most in Eastern Europe and right up to the Russian border, have been assimilated into NATO. Recently within most of these border countries large-scale military exercises have been provocatively and publicly staged, plus missile “defence ” systems have been planted in the fertile paranoiac soil of an increasingly aggressive and nationalistic Poland.
Yes, Russia has in retaliation been conducting its own border exercises. The leadership has to be seen to be doing something, otherwise it will appear weak and not protecting its own people. That might be “assertive”, but it’s certainly not “aggressive”.
Nor let us forget the fact that in 2008 NATO was warm towards the idea of Ukraine and Georgia joining, provided they could meet a few conditions. This would be taking Western forces directly into Russia’s back yard. It would be encircling Russia’s border with the rest of Europe with a new “Iron Curtain”. And I have to say that *is* an aggressively political move at the very least.
How did this play out? Well, first stop for the campaign of Russian demonisation was Georgia, under Western neo-con puppet president Mikhail Saakashvili , invading a small and ethnically Russian segment of Georgia, South Ossetia. Russia responded by protecting the population, and then was excoriated across the Western world as conducting an unprovoked invasion of Georgia. This myth has long been exposed factually, but it is the hysterical headlines of the time that residually stick in most people’s minds.
Similarly in Ukraine. In 2014 a coup against the elected head of state, Viktor Yanukovych, apparently partly orchestrated by the USA as we know from intercepted calls between the Assistant US Secretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
Interestingly, it was Yanukovych who blocked Ukraine’s accession to NATO in after his election in 2010, perhaps an additional motivation for the 2014 coup.
All this laid bare the fact that the US had pumped $5 billion in to subvert the Ukrainian state over the preceding few years and that, in the face of European opposition to it, the US thought “fuck the EU”. And yet still the EU acquiesced to US-led sanctions against Russia that have hit the EU economy hard.
And the USA accused Russia of meddling in their democratic processes this year? Pot and kettle springs to mind.
Add to this a probably NATO-approved strike on a Russian jet involved in the Syrian conflict earlier this year by NATO member Turkey (at the time one of the closest trading partners of Russia and which, temporarily, caused bilateral damage that has since been repaired) and the military wing of Western interests is not exactly coming up smelling of roses.
But perhaps NATO was just being “assertive”.
So to Stoltenberg’s second point of justification for NATO: the success that it has had combating the threat of international terrorism.
Where can I start with this? Since NATO invoked Article 5 (when one state is attacked, all must respond) in the wake of the 9/11 attacks against America, western countries have been dragged into war after illegal war across the Middle East, central Asia and North Africa.
Let us examine the roll-call of successes: Afghanistan (now back in the hands of the Taliban warlords and supplying ever more heroin to the illegal drug trade that goes some way to funding terrorist groups, including ISIS); Iraq, now a basket case and the cradle of ISIS; Libya ditto plus the drugs; Yemeni communities being vaporised with “precision” bombs by US proxy Saudi Arabia: and Syria of course.
So the NATO Secretary General’s second justification of the organisation’s continued existence is not exactly what one would call compelling. But I suppose he had to try, when Juncker’s threatened folie de grandeur that is the EU army is even less inspiring.
So, back to President-elect Donald Trump. What will he do, faced with this mess of competing western military/security interests and Euro-bureaucrat careerists? Perhaps his US isolationist position is not so mad, bad and dangerous to know as the wailings of the western liberal press would have us believe?
American “exceptionalism” and NATO interventionism have not exactly benefited much of the world since the end of the Cold War. Perhaps the time has indeed come for an American Commander-in-Chief who can cut deals, cut through the sabre-rattling rhetoric and, even unintentionally, make a significant contribution to world peace.
Stranger things have happened. After all, outgoing President Obama won the Nobel Prize for Peace a mere eight months after his inauguration….
Now, I speak all over the world at conferences and universities about a whole variety of interconnected issues, but I do want to highlight this conference from earlier this year and give a shout out for next year’s. Plus I’ve finally got my hands on the video of my talk.
Webstock celebrated its tenth anniversary in New Zealand last February, and I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak there. The hosts promised a unique experience, and the event lived up to its reputation.
They wanted a fairly classic talk from me – the whistleblowing years, the lessons learnt and current political implications, but also what we can to do fight back, so I called my talk “The Panopticon: Resistance is Not Futile”, with a nod to my sci-fi fandom.
So why does this particular event glow like a jewel in my memory? After expunging from my mind, with a shudder of horror, the 39 hour travel time each way, it was the whole experience. New Zealand combines the friendliness of the Americans – without the political madness and the guns, and the egalitarianism of the Norwegians – with almost equivalent scenery. Add to that the warmth of the audience, the eclecticism of the speakers, and the precision planning and aesthetics of the conference organisers and you have a winning combination.
Our hosts organised vertigo-inducing events for the speakers on the top of mile-high cliffs, as well as a surprisingly fun visit to a traditional British bowling green. Plus I had the excitement of experiencing my very first earthquake – 5.9 on the Richter scale apparently. I shall make no cheap jokes about the earth moving, especially in light of the latest quakes to hit NZ this week, but the hotel did indeed sway around me and it wasn’t the local wine, excellent as it is.
I mentioned eclecticism – the quality of the speakers was ferociously high, and I would like to give a shout out to Debbie Millman and her “joy of failure” talk, Harry Roberts, a serious geek who crowd-sourced his talk and ended up talking seriously about cocktails, moths, Chumbawamba and more, advertising guru Cindy Gallop who is inspiring women around the world and promoting Make Love Not Porn, and Casey Gerald, with his evangelically-inspired but wonderfully humanistic talk to end the event.
All the talks can be found here.
It was a fabulous week. All I can say is thank you to Tash, Mike, and the other organisers.
If you ever have the chance to attend or speak at the event in the future, I seriously recommend it.
And here’s the video of my talk:
President-elect of the USA, Donald Trump, said during his campaign that other NATO members should pay a fair contribution and not rely on the USA to always bail them out.
On 13th November the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, defended his organisation in UK newspaper The Observer.
Here is a short interview I gave to RT on these developments:
No doubt you, as well as I, have been watching the 2016 USA presidential election with a sense of appalled fascination – has ever a campaign been fought so viciously in modern Western politics?
But the Americans have made their choice (between the devil and the deep blue sea), and will have to live with it. I hope it works out well for them.
However, my focus is more on the implications for the rest of the world. As a post-Brexit Brit based in Brussels, these are many-layered.
From the Brexit perspective the Trump victory could be good for the UK – he appears to be more sympathetic to the so-called “special relationship” than Obama. He is also probably more likely to try to cut deals with Russia over Ukraine and the ongoing war in Syria than the ultra-hawkish Hillary Clinton could ever bring herself to do.
This can only be good for Europe, as the sanctions put in place after the US-backed Ukraine coup in 2014 are hurting European trade. Yet again, Europe has been caught between Russia and the USA.
Also, let us not forget the infamous quote from Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, who said in 2014 “fuck the EU“, when it came to decision making in planning the Ukrainian coup.
But my main point is the European establishment’s response to the Trump presidential victory. And let us not deceive ourselves here – this was an emphatic victory. The American people wanted a candidate for change, for a push-back against the perceived Washington political elite.
Perhaps the election could have swung in another direction towards another candidate for change – if Bernie Sanders had been the Democrat nominee. Alas, as we know from the DNC files leaked to and published by Wikileaks, his campaign was undermined by his own party in favour of Hillary Clinton, while promoting Trump as the Republican candidate that Clinton could beat.
What pains me most is the European mainstream media’s reporting of Trump’s victory: “liberal democracy” is under threat no less, and populism is on the rise.
However, those most worried about “liberal democracy” tend to be the technocratic Eurocrats such as European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. And they are the very people trying to ram through the thoroughly *neo*-liberal agendas of CETA and the Trans-Atlantic Trade Investment Partnership – otherwise known as TTIP, widely resisted across Europe as a rape of our democracies.
TTIP, if passed, would eliminate any meaningful national sovereignty, replacing it with a global corporatist hegemony that could sue our national governments if they passed laws that could conceivably – sometime in the future – pass laws that could – conceivably in the future – inhibit the profit-making capabilities of the corporations.
That, and national asset-stripping, is the pure definition of neo-liberalism, and that is what our European overlords want to enact. Yet, at the same time, they are inveighing against the death of “liberal democracy” after the election of Donald Trump.
Am I missing something here?
Interestingly, he gave this interview to The Guardian, the paper that has won awards for publishing a number of the Edward Snowden disclosures about endemic illegal spying and, for its pains, had its computers ritually smashed up by the powers that be.
The timing was also interesting – only two weeks ago the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (the only legal body that can actually investigate allegations of spy crime in the UK and which has so far been an unexceptional champion of their probity) broke ranks to assert that the UK spies have been illegally conducting mass surveillance for 17 years – from 1998 to 2015.
This we could all deduce from the disclosures of a certain Edward Snowden in 2013, but it’s good to have it officially confirmed.
Yet at the same time the much-derided Investigatory Powers Bill has been oiling its way through the Parliamentary system, with the culmination this week.
This “Snoopers’ Charter“, as it is known, has been repeatedly and fervently rejected for years.
It has been questioned in Parliament, challenged in courts, and soundly condemned by former intelligence insiders, technical experts, and civil liberties groups, yet it is the walking dead of UK legislation – nothing will kill it. The Zombie keeps walking.
It will kill all notion of privacy – and without privacy we cannot freely write, speak, watch, read, activate, or resist anything future governments choose to throw at us. Only recently I read an article about the possibility of Facebook assessing someone’s physical or mental health – potentially leading to all sorts of outcomes including getting a job or renting a flat.
And this dovetails into the early Snowden disclosure of the programme PRISM – the complicity of the internet megacorps – as well as the secret back doors what were built into them.
It will be the end of democracy as we (sort of ) know it today. And, as we know from the Snowden disclosures, what happens in the UK will impact not just Europe but the rest of the world.
So how does this all link into the MI5 head honcho’s first live interview? Well, the timing was interesting – ahead of the Investigatory Powers Bill passing oleaginously into law and with the ongoing demonisation of Russia.
Here is an interview I gave to RT about some of these issues: