Clive Ponting, Hero 2

Clive Ponting, doyen of British whistleblowers, anti-imperialist historian and campaigner for Scottish independence has died at his home in Kelso, age 74.

Clive came closer than anybody else to saving British society and industry from the horrors of Thatcherism. There is a danger in history of believing that everything that happened was inevitable. In fact Thatcher’s government after two years in office was extremely unpopular just before the Falklands War. Conservative party support was at 23% in the opinion polls, well behind both Labour and the Liberal/Social Democratic Party. Thatcher’s later popularity was entirely unexpected and based on a tidal wave of jingoism as a result of a short, successful war with Argentina. Without the Falklands War the privatisation of water, rail gas and electricity and the destruction of 90% of British heavy industry may either not have happened or have been short-lived.

The Argentinian dictator Leopoldo Galtieri was as obnoxious as Thatcher, and also a desperately popular leader looking to unleash a wave of nationalist support. The Falkland Islands are one of the UK’s most pointless surviving colonies, though unlike most at least are not a tax haven. After Galtieri sent his forces on April 2 1982 to occupy the Falklands, the United States were leading international efforts to broker a compromise agreement, when all possibility of a peaceful resolution was destroyed by the UK sinking the battleship General Belgrano.

It is worth noting that the Argentinians had occupied the Falklands without one single British casualty. On 2 May 1982 when an advanced British nuclear submarine sunk the old second world war cruiser Belgrano, killing 323 Argentinians in the most horrible of fashions, not a single British person had been hurt in the Falklands War.

The claim that the ancient Belgrano was a serious military threat was always spurious. Clive Ponting, a Principal level civil servant in the MOD, blew the whistle on the fact that it was not, as claimed, heading towards the Falkland Islands when it was destroyed, but was in fact steaming away. The truth of the matter is that the decision was never a military one, but was a murderous political decision, to make inevitable the war the Tories wanted so badly to revive their political fortunes. As we have seen with Brexit, imperialist hubris and sheer atavism are very easy to awaken in British nationalist society, steeped in tales of Empire and World War.

Clive Ponting’s revelation put a temporary dent in support for the war but it could not ultimately make any difference to the vast surge of Tory popularity from the easy military victory which ensued. That popularity was used by Thatcher to go on to destroy her “enemies within” – industrial workers – and change British society fundamentally to one based unquestioningly on the notion that the only human motive is private greed.

However Clive Ponting achieved something vital; when he was tried under the Official Secrets Act for his leak, which he heroically avowed, the jury accepted his public interest defence and acquitted him, against the clear direction of the judge. He had made the official secrets act a dead letter. When I blew the whistle on torture and extraordinary rendition, in circumstances very similar to Clive, I too was plainly in breach of the official secrets act. From first hand accounts of friends who were at senior level meetings in the FCO with Jack Straw, I know that the only reason I am not in jail now is that Straw and Goldsmith feared a “Ponting verdict” – that a jury would refuse to convict me for doing good. I believe the same is true of Katharine Gun.

Of course, New Labour were never going to accept that kind of limitation on power, and they instituted secret courts for national security cases, with no juries and where the security services can introduce “intelligence evidence” that the defendant themself is not permitted to see. Clive, Katharine or myself would be quickly in jail, without a jury, if we did our whistleblowing today. And of course the state currently believes it has found another way to jail me without the intervention of a jury. So I fear Clive’s achievement has not outlived him, but his name deserves to be remembered with great honour.

In recent years, Clive became a fairly frequent below the line commenter on this blog, modestly identifying only as “Clive P” and bringing his government experience and academic research into the discussion. Like me, he came to believe that the only way to free British society from ingrained imperialist thought would be to break up the UK itself. Having retired to Kelso he became a strong supporter of Scottish Independence.

I am mortified we never met. We emailed each other quite frequently, and a couple of planned meetings fell through because one or the other of us was unwell. He had to cancel a planned talk on Independence at Doune the Rabbit Hole as his health deteriorated. In June he contacted me aware that his health was failing. He had things he wished to say before he left us, on what he had learnt from his experiences and on the authoritarian tendencies in the British state. I discussed this with Alex Salmond and we all agreed the Alex Salmond Show would be the best venue for this. Clive asked that we wait a few weeks until he had recovered strength from his latest rounds of chemotherapy. Sadly that strength never came back. He deserves to sleep well after a good life lived.

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Stinking Tory Corruption 139

I wrote a furious article about the £250 million PPE contract inexplicably awarded to the “family office” Ayanda Capital, an investment house for private wealth tax avoidance. We now learn £150 million of face masks delivered are unusable as they do not meet the required standards.

The Times today reports the NHS year’s supply of top level “FFP2” masks for surgical and similar use – 43 million of them – delvered by Ayanda failed regulatory testing. This was entirely predictable. As I wrote on 8 July:

The normal public procurement tendering process has pre-qualification criteria which companies have to meet. These will normally include so many years of experience in the specific sector, employment of suitably qualified staff, possession of the required physical infrastructure and a measure of financial stability. This is perhaps obvious – otherwise you or I could simply stick in a bid to build the HS2 railway that is £10 billion cheaper than anybody else, win the contract then go and look for a builder.

Ayanda Capital would fail every single test in normal procurement criteria to supply PPE to the NHS. I can see no evidence that anybody in the company had ever seen PPE except when visiting the dentist. They appear to have no medical expertise, no established medical procurement network, no quality control inspection ability, no overseas shipment agents, no warehousing or logistics facilities. We have of course seen this before from these crooked Tories with their “emergency procurement”, with the “ferry company” with no ferries. But this – a quarter of a billion pounds – is on a whole different level.

I understand that normal procurement chains were struggling, but I would still trust any of the UK’s numerous long established and globally successful medical supply companies to go out and get the right kind of medical supplies, of the right quality, and arrange their supply and delivery, rather than throw an incredible sum of taxpayers’ cash at the first couple of City wide boys who said they can do it. From a company with a very dodgy balance sheet.

Plainly Ayanda Capital had no pretence of every having the expertise to undertake this kind of procurement. The excellent piece of investigative journalism (and what a delight it is to be able for once to say that) by the Times’ Billy Kenber reveals something still more horrifying. He says the deal was put together by a “government adviser” who is also an “adviser” to Ayanda Capital.

So there you have the answer to how this obscure and completely inappropriate company landed this massive contract; simple network corruption, with a Tory “adviser” taking a cut from both ends. It speaks volumes of how Johnson’s Tories view government; an opportunity for self-enrichment through getting their hands on the state purse. Covid-19 may seem a disaster to us, to them it is an opportunity. Procurement regulations are suspended. Massive contracts are thrown around with no checks and no competition. Public health functions like test and trace are thrown to new start-up companies owned by their their mates instead of being run by the established public infrastructure in councils and the NHS. It is a big, money-making Tory Bonanza.

We do not just need a public inquiry. We need people to go to prison. All those involved in the Ayanda Capital PPE contract would be a good start.

UPDATE 8:58am

I have just seen this absolutely astonishing thread from Jolyon Maugham at 6.25am this morning. It really is mind-blowing. Not only did the “adviser”, named as Andrew Mills, set this all up, he himself established an intermediary company in the transaction to cream off a fortune.
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Assange Legal Farce Continues 162

There has simply never been a broadcast report in the UK on Assange as fair as this one from Sky News Australia.

https://www.skynews.com.au/details/_6177251758001

nor is it conceivable that there ever could be.

I have reported already on the US changing the indictment after the defence’s opening statement had been heard and defence written evidence submitted. The latest legal twist in this Kafkaesque saga is that Julian may be released and instantly re-arrested under the new indictment.

The USA and the Crown continue to argue that the charges remain the same, even if the indictment has changed. This is like being halfway through a trial for the murder of Stephanie, the defence having demolished the prosecution case, and they suddenly change the allegation from murdering Stephanie to murdering Peter, but say it makes no difference as it is still the same charge of murder. As I have catalogued the relentless cruelty and the contortions of reason in this case, a little bit of me keeps saying “they cannot get away with this”. But so far, they always do.

If anyone can figure a way to embed the Sky News video…

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Self-Congratulation Is Unattractive 245

…but I shall do it anyway.

I came today across this statement which I wrote in December 2014 for distribution to SNP members when I was standing for selection as an SNP candidate. I don’t recall anybody else sounding this warning in 2014, and I feel rather proud of my intuition.

I think we have to avoid the trap of managerialism – of being just another political party but a little more competent and fair. We should maintain a firm thrust towards the goal of national freedom…
I want to end the Union, not to run it.
Within the SNP we must guard against success leading us to develop our own careerists. Professional politicians in Westminster have become a parasitic class with interchangeable beliefs, out for themselves. There are too many of them – Special Advisers, research assistants etc. The number of politicians paid for by the taxpayer has quadrupled in 30 years…
I want the dynamic citizen activism we saw in the Yes campaign to lead to a new kind of politics in Scotland. Bubbling up from ordinary folk. And I want that energy from the people to defeat the forces of the mainstream media and the unionists here in the coming election.
Together, we can do it.

Having been nominated to stand for selection in 19 constituencies – without in a single case having initiated it myself – I was of course barred from standing by the central party. What ordinary SNP members in the 2015 selections would have made of this pitch we can never know. I am of course trying again to see what they make of it today. My pitch has not changed.

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Sky News Miss the Story 180

Sky News are today carrying the story that Nicola Sturgeon attended a meeting with Salmond’s former Chief of Staff, Geoff Aberdein, about a historic sexual allegation made against Alex Salmond on 29 March 2018, several days before she claimed to parliament that she first heard of it. It will prove in the long term still more significant that this meeting also contradicts Sturgeon’s claim that it was Alex Salmond who first told her of the existence of the allegations.

This all appears to come as news to James Matthews, the Sky reporter. The extraordinary thing is, that both he and I sat through the testimony under oath on this point of Geoff Aberdein at the Alex Salmond trial.

On 8 to 9 March 2018 … had contacted him to say she was involved in a process of looking at complaints about Alex Salmond. He had spoken to Kevin Pringle and Duncan Hamilton by conference call to discuss this. On 29 March 2018 he had held a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament to discuss this. On 2 April he had attended a further meeting in Sturgeon’s home.

Matthews obviously thought it of no significance – but then again, it was defence evidence and Matthews, in common with the entire mainstream media, reported virtually zero of the defence evidence. Today’s Sky News article helpfully gives links to the headlines of their Salmond trial stories:

As you will see, lurid allegations from the prosecution witnesses – lurid allegations which were untrue – were prominently featured as the headlines. You will search those reports in vain for detail or even a bare outline of the defence case. The verdict is treated as a shock, and then we are straight in to stories querying the verdict.

Matthews and all the MSM hacks came for a hanging. They thus missed the real story, which is of a conspiracy at the highest levels of the Scottish Government to frame Alex Salmond. This finally seems to have penetrated even James Matthews’ thick skull. Had he been paying attention to the defence evidence, he could have published today’s article two months ago.

This relates to the single allegation in the Salmond trial which was about a real incident which actually happened, as opposed to a fiction, a distinction the jury appears to have made by finding only this one “Not Proven” and the others “Not Guilty”. Salmond stated it was a case of working very late together and drinking, getting intimate and going a bit too far with a cuddle. At the time he made a formal apology through a civil service process, which was accepted, and given the choice of transfer the official continued to work closely with him.

The separate official who contacted Aberdein about weaponising this initial Salmond allegation is somebody extremely close to Nicola Sturgeon and very senior in her office. She first contacted Aberdein on 8-9 March – almost a full month before Sturgeon claims she first knew of the allegation.

Anybody who knows how Sturgeon operates would find it extremely improbable that a senior member of her office would be undertaking such discussions without her knowledge. It is simply impossible that the staff member would then go on to arrange a meeting with Sturgeon herself on the subject, without Sturgeon’s prior knowledge and agreement. So we can be extremely confident that Sturgeon knew about the allegation before 29 March, and very probably before 9 March.

It seems from the Sky article that Sturgeon’s defence is to call Geoff Aberdein a liar.

A Scottish government spokesperson told Sky News that Ms Sturgeon does not dispute that the 29 March meeting took place but refutes the suggestion that it involved discussion of the Scottish government’s Salmond inquiry.

This may be difficult for Aberdein as at the 29 March meeting the only other person present was the senior official from Sturgeon’s office, a person whose truthfulness I am by no means alone in holding in great doubt. But in his sworn evidence Aberdein stated that he had a teleconference to discuss the development with Duncan Hamilton and Kevin Pringle, both persons of considerable probity.

I was deeply shocked, indeed shaken, on Friday evening when I was shown a new letter from the Crown Office, denying the existence of a document relevant to my own defence which I know for certain to exist and to be held by the Crown – it was one of those documents, proving the wider conspiracy, excluded from the Salmond trial by the judge as “collateral evidence”. I am now just as shocked by the above Scottish government statement about the 29 March meeting. Lies, evasions, sophistry and denials are perhaps to be expected from politicians, but they are being communicated by civil servants, which says something about the degree of corruption in Scotland today.

I am very sorry, but Scottish politics are about to get very dirty indeed. The degree of penetration and influence by the UK security services behind these events must not be underestimated.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Bill Binney on Russian “Hacking” – Live 246

UPDATE Since posting the link to Bill Binney’s talk, a number of people have been in touch to allege that the hosting organisation, the Schiller Institute, has an objectionable right wing or even racist agenda. I am not aware and have no time now to research. I am however 100% certain that Bill Binney, whom I know, is neither right wing nor in any sense racist, and that he has very important things to say. This does not constitute either an endorsement or a condemnation of the Schiller Institute or anybody else who may be present or speaking.

William Binney, former Technical Director of the National Security Agency (NSA – GCHQ’s much bigger American brother) and the world’s foremost expert in cyber-surveillance, explains why it is impossible that Russia hacked the DNC and Podesta emails for Wikileaks.

From the International Schiller Institute, Washington DC live at 11am in Washington, 4pm in the UK.

Despite the fact that $32 million Mueller Inquiry could find “no concrete evidence” of the hack and Crowdstrike, the source of the original allegation, have admitted there is “no evidence of exfiltration”, the media and establishment persists in the “Russian hacking” narrative. It is stated as accepted fact in the Russophobic report of the Intelligence and Security Committee in the UK.

Yet it is simply untrue, and can be proven to be untrue. See William Binney explain why.

You need to register here
https://schillerinstitute.com/blog/2020/07/20/william-binney-makes-his-case-to-the-world-there-was-no-russian-hack/

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“Credible Open Source Reporting”, the Intelligence Services and Scottish Independence

I write as somebody who held Top Secret clearance for 21 years, with extensive daily use of Top Secret material that entire time, and the highest possible specific codeword clearance above Top Secret for 11 years. I personally conducted for the FCO the largest “action on” operation in GCHQ history. (“Action on” is the process of declassifying top secret material for, in my particular case, government to government use). I have also given evidence in person in a three hour appearance before Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

The BBC has all morning been trailing the imminent report by the Intelligence and Security Committee as showing Russian interference in the Scottish referendum campaign according to “credible open source reporting”. It is hardly a surprise that Westminster has weaponised its report to attack not the British Establishment but Scottish Independence.

“Credible open source reporting” is a piece of formal security service intelligence assessment jargon. It is very important you know exactly what it means. It means material not from secret human intelligence or from communications intercept, but material which has been published, in the media or academia. Stuff that is as available to you or I as it is to the intelligence services. Not intelligence material at all. Nothing to do with the Intelligence and Security Committee.

The last high profile deployment of the “credible open source reporting” formulation was the dirty dossier on Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction, where the PhD thesis of Ibrahim al-Marashi was the source for untrue claims about Iraqi WMD. Al-Marashi, now a Professor, states his work was distorted and altered to suit the agenda of the Iraq War.

Mr Marashi’s student thesis, Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation, was not only plagiarised. It was also altered, as the British government and intelligence establishment sought to strengthen what in truth was uncertain evidence about Saddam’s efforts to develop WMD.

The point of “open source reporting” is that it is published and we can all see it. We could have seen al-Marashi’s PhD thesis. But Blair’s Iraq Dossier did not give the name of the source. It did not say “according to the student Ibrahim al-Marashi”. It said “Intelligence services say that credible open source reporting says…”.

“Credible open source reporting” is a propaganda formulation designed to fool you and give a false imprimatur to any dubious piece of published work.

So the grand Intelligence and Security Committee will not say “According to the article in the Herald by the Russophobe nutter David Leask and the publicity seeking Jennifer Jones”… It will say “According to the intelligence services, credible open source reporting says…”

But actually it is absolutely no more than the former. Dressed up falsely as “intelligence”.

All of Scotland must ask. “Open source reporting. Can I see it then?”.

Yet our so-called journalists are all parroting “open source reporting” without one of them asking where it is.

UPDATE – we now have the report itself. A footnote gives the justification for its “credible open source reporting” on Scottish Independence. It is incredibly flimsy:

44 For example, it was widely reported shortly after the referendum that Russian election observers had suggested that there were irregularities in the conduct of the vote, and this position was widely pushed by Russian state media. We understand that HMG viewed this as being primarily aimed at discrediting the UK in the eyes of a domestic Russian audience. More recently, we note the study by Ben Nimmo – #ElectionWatch: Scottish Vote, Pro-Kremlin Trolls, 12 December 2017.

Yes, that is Ben Nimmo, £5,000 a month consultant to the Integrity initiative, and his identification of scores of ordinary Scottish tweeters as “Kremlin trolls”. You will recall that one sure sign of a Kremlin troll according to Nimmo was use of the phrase “cui bono”. Nimmo was Leask’s source for the Herald article I quoted above.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Cold Wars and Profit

The Guardian carried a very strange piece yesterday under the heading “Stamps celebrating Ukrainian resistance in pictures”. This was the first image shown:

The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was, without any shadow of a doubt, responsible for the slaughter of at least 200,000 Polish civilians; they liquidated whole Polish communities in Volhynia and Galicia, including the women and children. The current Polish government, which is as anti-Russian and pro-NATO as they come, nevertheless has declared this a genocide. It certainly was an extremely brutal ethnic cleansing. There is no doubt either that at times between 1942 and 1944 the UPA collaborated with the Nazis and collaborated in the destruction of Jews and Gypsies. It is simplistic to describe the UPA as fascist or an extension of the Nazi regime; at times they fought the Nazis, though they collaborated more often. There is a real sense in which they operated at the level of medieval peasants, simply seizing local opportunities to exterminate rural populations and seize their land and assets, be they Polish, Jew or Gypsy. But on balance any reasonable person would have to conclude that the UPA was an utterly deplorable phenomenon. To publish a celebration of it, disguised as a graphic art piece, without any of this context, is no more defensible than a display of Nazi art with no context.

In fact the Guardian’s very brief text is still worse than no context.

Ukrainian photographer Oleksandr Kosmach collects 20th-century stamps issued by Ukrainian groups in exile during the Soviet era.

Artists and exiles around the world would use stamps to communicate the horrors of Soviet oppression. “These stamps show us the ideas and values of these people, who they really were and what they were fighting for,” Kosmach says.

That is so misleadingly partial as a description of the art glorifying the UPA movement as to be deeply reprehensible. It does however fit with the anything goes stoking of Russophobia, which is the mainstay of government and media discourse at the moment. Even at the height of the Cold War, we never saw such a barrage of unprovable accusations leveled at Russia through the media by “security service sources”.

A whole slew of these were rehearsed by Andrew Marr on his flagship BBC1 morning show. The latest is the accusation that Russia is responsible for a cyber attack on Covid-19 vaccination research. This is another totally evidence free accusation. But it misses the point anyway. The alleged cyber attack, if it happened, was a hack not an attack – the allegation is that there was an effort to obtain the results of research, not to disrupt research. It is appalling that the UK is trying to keep its research results secret rather than share them freely with the world scientific community. As I have reported before, the UK and the USA have been preventing the WHO from implementing a common research and common vaccine solution for Covid-19, insisting instead on a profit driven approach to benefit the big pharmaceutical companies (and disadvantage the global poor).

What makes the accusation that Russia tried to hack the research even more dubious is the fact that Russia had just bought the very research specified. You don’t steal things you already own.

If anybody had indeed hacked the research, we all know it is impossible to trace with certainty the whereabouts of hackers. My VPN’s are habitually set to India, Australia or South Africa depending on where I am trying to watch the cricket, dodging broadcasting restrictions. More pertinently, Wikileaks Vault 7 release of CIA material showed the specific programmes for the CIA in how to leave clues to make a leak look like it came from Russia. This irrefutable evidence that the CIA do computer hacks with apparent Russian “fingerprints” deliberately left, like little bits of Cyrillic script, is an absolutely classic example of a fact that everybody working in the mainstream media knows to be true, but which they all contrive never to mention.

Thus when last week’s “Russian hacking” story was briefed by the security services, that Jeremy Corbyn deployed secret documents on UK/US trade talks which had been posted on Reddit, after being stolen by an evil Russian who left his name of Grigor in his Reddit handle, there was no questioning in the media of this narrative. Instead, we had another round of McCarthyite witch-hunt aimed at the rather tired looking Jeremy Corbyn.

Personally, if the Russians had been responsible for revealing that the Tories are prepared to open up the NHS “market” to big American companies, including ending or raising caps on pharmaceutical prices, I should be very grateful to the Russians for telling us. Just as the world would owe the Russians a favour if it were indeed them who leaked just how systematically the DNC rigged the 2016 primaries against Bernie Sanders. But as it happens, it was not the Russians. The latter case was a leak by a disgusted insider, and I very much suspect the NHS US trade deal link was also from a disgusted insider.

When governments do appalling things, very often somebody manages to blow the whistle.

If you can delay even the most startling truth for several years, it loses much of its political bite. If you can announce it during a health crisis, it loses still more. The world therefore did not shudder to a halt when the CEO of Crowdstrike admitted there had never been any evidence of a Russian hack of the DNC servers.

You will recall the near incredible fact that, even through the Mueller investigation, the FBI never inspected the DNC servers themselves but simply relied on a technical report from Crowdstrike, the Clinton related IT security consultant for the DNC. And now know for sure that Crowdstrike had been peddling fake news for Hillary. In fact Crowdstrike had no record of any internet hack at all. There was no evidence of the email material being exported over the internet. What they claimed did exist was evidence that the files had been organised preparatory to export.

Remember the entire “Russian hacking” story was based ONLY on Crowdstrike’s say so. There is literally no other evidence of Russian involvement in the DNC emails, which is unsurprising as I have been telling you for four years from my own direct sources that Russia was not involved. Yet finally declassified Congressional testimony revealed that Shawn Henry stated on oath that “we did not have concrete evidence” and “There’s circumstantial evidence , but no evidence they were actually exfiltrated.”

This testimony fits with what I was told by Bill Binney, former Technical Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), who told me that it was impossible that any large amount of data should be moved across the internet from the USA, without the NSA both seeing it happen in real time and recording it. If there really had been a Russian hack, the NSA would have been able to give the time of it to a millisecond. That the NSA did not have that information was proof the transfer had never happened, according to Binney. What had happened, Binney deduced, was that the files had been downloaded locally, probably to a thumb drive.

So arguably the biggest news story of the past four years, the claim that Putin effectively interfered to have Trump elected, turns out indeed to be utterly baseless. Has the mainstream media, acting on security service behest, done anything to row back from the false impression it created? No it has doubled down.

The “Russian hacking” theme keeps being brought back related to whatever is the big story of the day.
Brexit? Russian hacking.
UK General election 2019? Russian hacking
Covid-19 vaccine? Russian hacking.

Then we have those continual security service briefings. Two weeks ago we had unnamed security service sources telling the New York Times that Russia had offered the Taliban a bounty for killing American soldiers. This information had allegedly come from interrogation of captured Taliban in Afghanistan, which would almost certainly mean was obtained under torture.

It is a wildly improbable tale. The Afghans have never needed that kind of incentivisation to kill foreign invaders on their soil. It is also a fascinating throwback of an accusation – the British did indeed offer Afghans money for, quite literally, the heads of Afghan resistance leaders during the first Afghan War in 1841, as I detail in my book Sikunder Burnes.

You do not have to look back that far to realise the gross hypocrisy of the accusation. In the 1980’s the West was quite openly paying, arming and training the Taliban -including Osama Bin Laden – to kill Russian and other Soviet conscripts in their thousands. That is just one example of the hypocrisy. The US and UK security services both cultivate and bribe senior political and other figures abroad in order to influence policy all of the time. We work to manipulate the result of elections – I have done it personally in my role as a UK diplomat. A great deal of the behaviour over which western governments and media are creating this new McCarthyite anti-Russian witch hunt, is standard diplomatic practice.

My own view is that there are malign Russian forces attempting to act on government in the UK and the USA, but they are not nearly as powerful as the malign British and American forces acting on their own governments. The truth is that the world is under the increasing control of a global elite of billionaires, to whom nationality is irrelevant and national governments are tools to be manipulated. Russia is not attempting to buy corrupt political influence on behalf of the Russian people, who are decent folk every bit as exploited by the ultra wealthy as you or I. Russian billionaires are, just like billionaires everywhere, attempting to game global political, commercial and social structures in their personal interest.

The other extreme point of hypocrisy lies in human rights. So many western media commentators are suddenly interested in China and the Uighurs or in restrictions on the LBGT community in Russia, yet turn a completely blind eye to the abuse in western “allies” such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. As somebody who was campaigning about the human rights of both the Uighurs and of gay people in Russia a good decade before it became fashionable, I am disgusted by how the term “human rights” has become weaponised for deployment only against those countries designated as enemy by the western elite.

Finally, do not forget that there is a massive armaments industry and a massive security industry all dependent on having an “enemy”. Powerful people make money from this Russophobia. Expect much more of it. There is money in a Cold War.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Calling all NUJ Members

When a country’s main union for journalists polices the Overton window, you are in a society well on the way to authoritarianism. For four months I have been excluded from the National Union of Journalists and, despite repeated requests, the NUJ even refuses to tell me the nature of the objection.

140 days ago, on 5 March 2020, I applied online to renew my lapsed membership of the National Union of Journalists. For two months I heard nothing, then after inquiring I was told objections had been received to my membership. After two months more pressing I was told the objection is that I am not a “fit and proper person” to join the trade union. I still have no idea on what grounds this is alleged, or who alleges it.

A strange process is underway by which an investigation is carried out, and concluded, by the Assistant Secretary General and a report submitted to the National Executive. Only after the report is finalised do I get any opportunity to see what is alleged against me or to comment, which seems a quite remarkable proceeding.

The other thing that seems very wrong in this procedure is how objections were received and to whom my application was advertised. The system is supposed to work this way. The application is received by HQ, and is then sent within 14 days to your local branch for comment. That is the point at which objections can usually be lodged. My application has never been sent to my local branch, or anywhere. It has never left NUJ HQ. The local branch did not know the application existed until I asked a friend there to check on its progress, over two months after it was lodged.

In my case, my application has never even been sent to my local branch, where I was a member without incident for three years. Objections were lodged while my application was still at NUJ HQ.

But how can this happen? The NUJ claim that the delay in dealing with the objections (plural) is caused by the need to locate the objectors and verify their standing in the union. So if these objectors are so diverse and unknown to NUJ HQ, how did they find out about my membership application in order to object to it? The application was never sent out for comment or posted anywhere. The most obvious explanation is that somebody within the NUJ staff has tipped off some group to object.

I should explain the reason my membership had lapsed. I was a temporary freelance member for three years, which is open to those who get less than 50% of their income from journalism. If after three years you have not reached the 50% bar, you cannot continue as a member. I found myself unfortunately in that position.

As my other income has now mostly gone and there are now subscriptions to this blog, I applied to rejoin as soon as I met the income qualifying bar, after about a 3 year gap. It is worth noting I did not apply as a result of being charged with contempt of court – I applied some eight weeks before that happened. I am not seeking financial assistance from the union.

It is not the income question which is blocking my membership but the allegation I am not a “fit and proper person”. As I lead a pretty blameless personal life, this can only relate to my writings. I find this extremely sinister. It is certainly true that I write things that NUJ members within the mainstream media do not. It is certainly true that I attract massive criticism on social media from a section of mainstream journalists for my writings – on the Skripal case, for example.

But a National Union of Journalists which excludes writers for their opinions is a contradiction. I do not claim this as an absolute – out and out racists and fascists are a different thing. But the union is supposed to be a union for journalists, not for stenographers to power. I find the flat refusal of the NUJ to tell me what I am alleged to have done wrong to be particularly chilling. I find the entire process of handling my application, and the question of how these objections arose before the application was sent out for comment, deeply suspicious.

I therefore call on all members of the NUJ to raise this issue, either direct with NUJ HQ or preferably through your branch. It should not need saying, but strangely it does, that journalists whose political opinions are very different to my own ought still to support my right to be a member of the union. It exists to defend journalists, not to exclude them. If readers have contact with a probable NUJ member, I should be grateful if you could draw this matter to their attention and ask them to act.

I am very sorry to be obliged to publish this post. I am trying to rejoin the NUJ, not to pick a fight with it. My previous three year membership was entirely uneventful. I am a strong supporter of unions, that is why I am trying to rejoin one. But what is happening appears to be extraordinary and wrong. Who are these anonymous objectors and to what do they object? How did they find out I had applied before the application was sent out for comment? Who is behind this objection?

Below is my correspondence with the NUJ. Note that I applied for membership online on 5 March and the first email was received on 26 May, eleven weeks later, in reply to phone calls I made to ask what was happening.

Tomorrow will be precisely one month since I last heard from the NUJ. They still will not tell me what the objection is, 140 days since I submitted my application to rejoin.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Damage to the Soul

The imprisonment of Julian Assange has been a catalogue of gross injustice heaped upon gross injustice, while a complicit media and indoctrinated population looks the other way. In a truly extraordinary twist, Assange is now being extradited on the basis of an indictment served in the UK, which is substantially different to the actual indictment he now faces in Virginia if extradited.

The Assange hearing was adjourned after its first full week, and its resumption has since been delayed by coronavirus. In that first full week, both the prosecution and the defence outlined their legal arguments over the indictment. As I reported in detail to an audience of millions, Assange’s legal team fairly well demolished the key arguments of the prosecution during that hearing.

This extract from my report of the Defence case is of particular relevance to what has since happened:

For the defence, Mark Summers QC stated that the USA charges were entirely dependent on three factual accusations of Assange behviour:

1) Assange helped Manning to decode a hash key to access classified material.
Summers stated this was a provably false allegation from the evidence of the Manning court-martial.

2) Assange solicited the material from Manning
Summers stated this was provably wrong from information available to the public

3) Assange knowingly put lives at risk
Summers stated this was provably wrong both from publicly available information and from specific involvement of the US government.

In summary, Summers stated the US government knew that the allegations being made were false as to fact, and they were demonstrably made in bad faith. This was therefore an abuse of process which should lead to dismissal of the extradition request. He described the above three counts as “rubbish, rubbish and rubbish”.

Summers then walked through the facts of the case. He said the charges from the USA divide the materials leaked by Manning to Wikileaks into three categories:

a) Diplomatic Cables
b) Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs
c) Iraq War rules of engagement
d) Afghan and Iraqi war logs

Summers then methodically went through a), b), c) and d) relating each in turn to alleged behaviours 1), 2) and 3), making twelve counts of explanation and exposition in all. This comprehensive account took some four hours and I shall not attempt to capture it here. I will rather give highlights, but will relate occasionally to the alleged behaviour number and/or the alleged materials letter. I hope you follow that – it took me some time to do so!

On 1) Summers at great length demonstrated conclusively that Manning had access to each material a) b) c) d) provided to Wikileaks without needing any code from Assange, and had that access before ever contacting Assange. Nor had Manning needed a code to conceal her identity as the prosecution alleged – the database for intelligence analysts Manning could access – as could thousands of others – did not require a username or password to access it from a work military computer. Summers quoted testimony of several officers from Manning’s court-martial to confirm this. Nor would breaking the systems admin code on the system give Manning access to any additional classified databases. Summers quoted evidence from the Manning court-martial, where this had been accepted, that the reason Manning wanted to get in to systems admin was to allow soldiers to put their video-games and movies on their government laptops, which in fact happened frequently.

Magistrate Baraitser twice made major interruptions. She observed that if Chelsea Manning did not know she could not be traced as the user who downloaded the databases, she might have sought Assange’s assistance to crack a code to conceal her identity from ignorance she did not need to do that, and to assist would still be an offence by Assange.

Summers pointed out that Manning knew that she did not need a username and password, because she actually accessed all the materials without one. Baraitser replied that this did not constitute proof she knew she could not be traced. Summers said in logic it made no sense to argue that she was seeking a code to conceal her user ID and password, where there was no user ID and password. Baraitser replied again he could not prove that. At this point Summers became somewhat testy and short with Baraitser, and took her through the court martial evidence again. Of which more…

Baraitser also made the point that even if Assange were helping Manning to crack an admin code, even if it did not enable Manning to access any more databases, that still was unauthorised use and would constitute the crime of aiding and abetting computer misuse, even if for an innocent purpose.

Now while there is no evidence that judge Baraitser is giving any serious consideration to the defence case, what this has done is show the prosecutors the holes in their argument which would cause them serious problems should they get Julian to trial in the United States. In particular, they are wary of the strong freedom of speech protections in the US constitution and so are desperate to portray Julian as a hacker, and not a journalist. But, as you can see above, their case for this is not looking strong.

So the prosecution needed a different case. They have therefore entirely changed the indictment against Julian in Virginia, and brought in a superseding indictment.

As you can see, this is about switching to charges firmly grounded in “hacking”, rather than in publishing leaks about appalling American war crimes. The new indictment is based on the evidence of a “supergrass”, Sigurdur Thordarson, who was acting a a paid informant to the FBI during his contact with Wikileaks.

Thordarson is fond of money and is a serial criminal. He was convicted on 22 December 2014 by Reykjanes District Court in Iceland of stealing over US $40,000 and over 13,000 euro from Wikileaks “Sunshine Press” accounts by forging documents in the name of Julian Assange, and given a two year jail sentence. Thordarson is also a convicted sex offender, and was convicted after being turned in to the police by Julian Assange, who found the evidence – including of offences involving a minor – on Thordarson’s computer.
[Updated 13.45 to add detail of Thordarson’s convictions].

There appears scope to doubt the motives and credentials of the FBI’s supergrass.

The FBI have had Thordarson’s “Evidence” against Assange since long before the closing date for submissions in the extradition hearing, which was June 19th 2019. That they now feel the need to deploy this rather desperate stuff is a good sign of how they feel the extradition hearing has gone so far, as an indicator of the prospects of a successful prosecution in the USA.

This leaves the UK extradition in a state of absolute farce. I was involved in discussion with Wikileaks about what would happen when the superseding indictment was introduced at the procedural hearing last month. It ought not to have been accepted – it is over a year since the closing date, and a week of opening arguments on the old indictment have already been heard. The new indictment is plainly designed to redress flaws in the old one exposed at the hearing.

The superseding indictment also is designed to counter defence witness affidavits which have been disclosed to the prosecution, including expert witness testimony which refutes the indictment on Assange’s alleged hacking assistance to Manning – until now the sole ground of the “hacking” accusation. This switch, we averred, was an outrageous proposition. Was the whole hearing to start again on the basis of the new indictment?

Then, to our amazement, the prosecution did not put forward the new indictment at the procedural hearing at all. To avoid these problems, it appears they are content to allow the extradition hearing to go ahead on the old indictment, when that is not in fact the indictment which awaits Assange in the United States. This is utterly outrageous. The prosecution will argue that the actual espionage charges themselves have not changed. But it is the indictment which forms the basis of the extradition hearing and the different indictment which would form the basis of any US prosecution.

To have extradition decided on the merits of one indictment when the accused actually faces another is an outrage. To change the indictment long after the hearing is underway and defence evidence has been seen is an outrage. The lack of media outrage is an outrage.

None of which will come as any shock to those of us who have been paying attention. We have to continue to build public consciousness of the fact that the annihilation of a journalist for exposing war crimes, based on a catalogue of state lies and dodgy procedure, is not an act that the state can undertake without damage to the very soul of the nation.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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The BBC World War Two Porn Page

Waking up this morning and putting on the TV to see the news, instead I saw on BBC Breakfast a 30 minute piece on the role of a teenage girl in 1932 in helping her father do the maths to establish that the Spitfire needed eight .303 guns to deliver a sufficient weight of shot.

That sentence contains the total import of the 30 minute film. In spreading it out over half an hour, the BBC managed to repeat slight variations on that sentence over forty times, padded out with numerous shots of spitfires, Battle of Britain reminiscences and the exhibition of the kitchen table where the maths was done.

I am very glad the Battle of Britain was won. I admire the heroism of those who fought. My mother never forgot her only brother, an RAF navigator who was shot down and died aged nineteen. I am not mindless of the stakes or the sacrifice. But I am old, and the war was over more than a decade before I was born. It is as chronologically distant from a child born today as Victoria becoming Empress of India was from me. I have repeatedly been tempted to write about the WW2 obsession in the media and the English political psyche, but have refrained from not wishing to offend those with whose emotional ties I sympathise. But this is becoming an unhealthy obsession with a “glorious past”.

The BBC’s piece today actually finished with a Churchill speech, with spitfires flying and with Elgar. It was like a parody. The recent focus on Churchill’s vicious racism might as well not have happened. It really is going too far, and it links in to a current day militarism which was initially cultivated by New Labour and Blair’s obsession with neo-imperialist wars abroad.

You have a war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. We have had “anniversary” events that mark the 70th, 75th and now 80th anniversary with the result we have a full 16 years during which not a day passes that is not a “major anniversary” of an event in WW2, on which peg the BBC can hang more “Britain’s Greatness” nostalgia. Very plainly this all meshes with Brexit, with the nostalgia for Britain’s world-bestriding role exuded continually by Johnson and Gove, and with the new aggression of Unionism. It gets less and less subtle – Stalin’s propagandists might have blenched at today’s BBC state propaganda piece. The girl who did the maths deserved her recognition. But not like this.

In the real world, the UK has just resumed arms sales to Saudi Arabia to massacre the children of Yemen and support the jihadist terrorist fanatics of Idlib.

I am going to keep this page permanently open for comments, and hopefully bookmarked on the right hand side, so you can record future examples of BBC WW2 Porn as they occur, or indeed other examples of gratuitous official militarism.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Banana Republic Corruption

The Ayanda Capital contract to supply £250 million of PPE to the NHS has not caused anything like the stir it should, because UK citizens appear to have come to accept that we live in a country with a Banana Republic system of capitalism. I suppose when you have a Prime Minister who handed out £60 million of public money for a Garden Bridge that there was no chance would ever be built, and who had no qualms about directing public funds to one of his many mistresses, the norm has changed.

But the Ayanda Capital PPE deal represents all that is wrong with UK capitalism.

Ayanda Capital self-describes as a “family office”. It essentially carries out investment and financial engineering, including tax avoidance, for the private wealth of the Horlick family. “Family office” has a very specific meaning in the City of London. The best simple definition I could find is here:

Family offices are private wealth management advisory firms that serve ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) investors. They are different from traditional wealth management shops in that they offer a total outsourced solution to managing the financial and investment side of an affluent individual or family.

Sometimes family offices invest the wealth of more than one “very high net worth” individual or family, but they do not invest or raise funds from the wider public or from institutions.

The only named “person with significant control” of Ayanda Capital is Timothy Piers Horlick, but he owns it through a Mauritius company. Mauritius is now a notorious tax haven; it offers zero tax and keeps company officers and owners secret.

There is no reason to suppose that the activities of Ayanda Capital in private wealth management were illegal, or any more than part of the execrable trend of late stage capitalism towards super concentration of capital assets into private hands and away from the traditional more distributed forms of institutional and shareholder ownership. What Ayanda does is plain enough from its website:

As you would expect from that profile, Ayanda Capital itself, rather than the wealth it invests, is little more than a shell company. It has two directors, Nathan Philip Engelbrecht and Timothy Piers Horlick. In fact, in December 2019, Ayanda Capital’s balance sheet shows that it was only kept from bankruptcy by “intangible assets” worth £2,890,000. That was an increase of almost exactly £2,000,000 in the value of those “intangible assets” in twelve months, allegedly due to “development” spending of that amount. What was being developed is entirely unclear. It is difficult to see how a private wealth investment company develops some form of intangible asset with a value of nearly £3 million. I find it hard to see all that as more than an accounting wheeze – and a rather hoary one at that.

So far, so unremarkable. So the question is this. Why would the NHS turn to this ethically sordid but zeitgeist banal private wealth management office to provide a quarter of a billion pounds worth of PPE to the NHS? Wealth Manager magazine, who have done excellent journalism on this story, have the contract as supplying only face masks. They have confirmed the astonishing fact that there was no published tender for the quarter billion pound contract. Normal tendering processes were suspended in March through secondary legislation at Westminster for the Covid-19 Crisis.

This is all simply astonishing.

The normal public procurement tendering process has pre-qualification criteria which companies have to meet. These will normally include so many years of experience in the specific sector, employment of suitably qualified staff, possession of the required physical infrastructure and a measure of financial stability. This is perhaps obvious – otherwise you or I could simply stick in a bid to build the HS2 railway that is £10 billion cheaper than anybody else, win the contract then go and look for a builder.

Ayanda Capital would fail every single test in normal procurement criteria to supply PPE to the NHS. I can see no evidence that anybody in the company had ever seen PPE except when visiting the dentist. They appear to have no medical expertise, no established medical procurement network, no quality control inspection ability, no overseas shipment agents, no warehousing or logistics facilities. We have of course seen this before from these crooked Tories with their “emergency procurement”, with the “ferry company” with no ferries. But this – a quarter of a billion pounds – is on a whole different level.

I understand that normal procurement chains were struggling, but I would still trust any of the UK’s numerous long established and globally successful medical supply companies to go out and get the right kind of medical supplies, of the right quality, and arrange their supply and delivery, rather than throw an incredible sum of taxpayers’ cash at the first couple of City wide boys who said they can do it. From a company with a very dodgy balance sheet.

What are Ayanda Capital in this transaction other than the classic Banana Republic “Mr 10%”? Precisely what kind of country has the UK become? No wonder it is falling apart.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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MURRAY CJ
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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I Need A Craig Murray

URGENT: The access code to listen live to this morning’s hearing is now published on the court website. https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/coming-to-court/public-access-to-a-virtual-hearing Last night my lawyers told me that the hearing had been moved forward to 09.45 from 10.00, but that is not reflected on the court website at the minute.

I tried to do a public service in making available to everybody key facts from the Julian Assange extradition hearing and the Alex Salmond trial, which revealed a picture very different from that portrayed in the mainstream media. I find myself wishing now I had somebody to perform the same service for me.

I am particularly constrained about what I can say in my own case. The last week has been incredibly hectic, with our reply to the Crown’s submissions (written arguments) due in last Thursday, and our responses to the Crown’s amendments in view of our responses, due in today. I previously published the indictment, called the “petition”; the written arguments are called the “submissions”. I cannot publish these at present but I think I can publish this brief extract from the Crown’s submissions, paras 48 to 50. They are slightly edited, on legal advice, to remove even the remotest possibility that the Crown might claim that in some esoteric way they could lead to the identification of witnesses [you should see the rest of the rubbish in the Crown’s submissions!], and I publish with little comment but they are followed by some not irrelevant images of publications that are not being prosecuted for potentially influencing the jury. I can think of no reason you cannot comment, but please say nothing that might in any way reference specifically anybody with a protected identity.

Extract from the Submission of the Crown:

48. … The characters talk about how they can fabricate allegations of sexual offending against a previous minister, including attempted rape, in order to destroy his reputation. The script suggests that there was never any such offending and despite a large team of police working on the investigation for months, they did not find any evidence of serious offending. The characters suggest that more women from their organisation should be found to fabricate allegations against the former minister and that the criminal investigation has been orchestrated by the minister and his or her colleagues.

49. It is respectfully submitted that there are undeniable and crucial similarities with the prosecution of Alex Salmond and his readers note this in the attached comments section (production 2). The Respondent has not explicitly named Alexander Salmond … but the Website hosts comments attached to the article which do name him in connection with the content. The tenor of the article is that Alex Salmond has been the victim of a false campaign, motivated by political gain and that all of the criminal allegations against him have been concocted by members of government in order to damage his reputation.

50. It is respectfully submitted that such commentary from the Respondent … meet the test set out in the 1981 act. These articles carry a severely prejudicial risk to the course of justice. Should any potential jurors have read these articles, there is the clear implication that the witnesses are lying and the criminal investigation is at best, flawed or at worst, corrupt. Any potential jurors exposed to such material carry the risk of being prejudiced against the witnesses prior to hearing their evidence.

My personal blog. Influenced the jury. I am facing jail for that.

Tomorrow’s (Tuesday 7 July) hearing is at 10am. It will again be a procedural one dealing with management of the case, but again I should be very grateful indeed if any of you are able to listen in and follow the process, as matters vital to the course of the case are often determined in these procedural hearings.

You will be able to access the case via the link given at the bottom of this page. https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/coming-to-court/public-access-to-a-virtual-hearing
The password for the case should be posted on that page on Tuesday morning.

Finally, again I do apologise that I am finding it very difficult to keep up regular blog posts on other subjects while this case against me is in train.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Truly Shameful BBC Israeli Propaganda

In a genuinely outrageous piece of victim blaming, BBC News just blamed Palestinian intransigence in refusing to accept Israeli annexation of the West Bank for the deaths of Palestinian children caused by the Israeli blockade of medical supplies to Gaza.

This is a precise quote from the BBC TV News presenter headline at 10.30am:

“The lives of hundreds of sick Palestinian children are being put at risk because of the latest downturn in relations between their leaders and Israel last month. The Palestinian President said his government was giving up on past peace agreements because of Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank. That decision stopped co-operation on many security and civil matters including medical and travel permits.”

There followed a heart rending piece by BBC Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell featuring Palestinian children in Gaza dying of varous medical conditions and their distraught mothers.

The entire piece very plainly blamed Palestinian officials for the situation.

The BBC did not blame Israel for placing a blockade illegally preventing pharmaceuticals and medical supplies from entering Gaza – the basic reason the children cannot be treated at home.

The BBC did not blame Israel for blockading in illegally the civilian population of Gaza, so that these children cannot freely leave for treatment in Europe without Israeli clearance.

The BBC did not point out that the proposed annexation of the West Bank is illegal, has been condemned by the UN Secretary General and by 95% of the governments of the world, and will precipitate great violence.

No, the BBC blamed the Palestinians.

“Accept the illegal annexation of still more of your land, or small children will die and it will be your fault”.
That is a line the BBC are perfectly happy to push out on behalf of Israel. It is an astonishing moment for the UK state propagandist. It is important we do not ourselves become complacent at this absolutely unacceptable behaviour.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Do Not Mourn the White Saviours of DfID

I never write to shock. But I do relish making people think, and consider arguments out of the comfort zone of a set of group shared opinions. I am very aware that many people find this intensely annoying.

A good example is that I believe that Russian actions in Syria have been legal, and helpful in preventing a still more massive conflagration in the Middle East. But I believe that the Russian occupations of Crimea and a section of Georgia are illegal, acts of military aggression. The accepted political view in mainstream western politics at the moment is that Russia is always wrong and the West is always right. Those who dissent form a smaller group, but find strength in the line that Russia is always right and the West is always wrong. Both opinions are nonsensical.

I expect that the vast majority of people who support my website identify as left wing and take the position that the Tory decision to abolish the Department for International Development and move it inside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a bad thing. I do not however think the massive praise for DFID now being deployed in the media stands up to close inspection. DFID is in fact a toxic institution that dispenses astonishing sums of money, in a way that provides greater practical benefit to the wealthy members of the Aid Industry in the UK than it does to those it is supposed to help lift out of poverty abroad.

It does not have to be like that. I entirely support the giving of 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income to international development. But at the moment it is being sluiced away. The greatest concentration of economic benefit from British aid lies in the leafier parts of North London (and not, incidentally, in East Kilbride. It is not DFID staff who are milking the system).

It is a very good discipline to ask yourself how much cash those employees of charities campaigning to keep DFID make personally from DFID. It is an interesting paradox that if they appear not to be employed by DFID, they are almost certainly lining their own pockets with a very great deal more DFID cash than actual DFID employees.

When I travel around the rural areas of both Ghana and Nigeria, I frequently pass over rivers and streams on iron and concrete bridges built by DFID’s predecessor the Overseas Development Administration (ODA). Often the road itself was first built by ODA. I am sure academic papers have been written, but I cannot sufficiently convey to you the massive positive impact such infrastructure has had over decades on rural communities, transforming access to markets for agricultural and cottage industry products and helping social mobility.

You realise the importance of a bridge in rural Africa when you see the devastating social consequences when one disappears. This is an extract from my memoir The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. I had not recalled before looking for this passage on the bridge, what an extended discussion on DFID ensues. It was written ten years ago and describes the situation still further back in 2001, but the key points remain true and I will explain what has changed.

Travelling North West from the city of Sunyani, I visited the town of Tainano. (Footnote in book: I think it was Tainano but my notes are not quite clear which of a number of towns I visited that day it was. I intend to explore this region again…) This had been a renowned market gardening centre, but had gone into a dreadful economic decline some ten years earlier following the collapse of its bridge in a storm. I arrived at the fallen bridge, a simple concrete structure spilling down into a river, a major tributary of the Black Volta, some 40 metres across, its brown surge flowing fast enough for there to be little eddies flecked with flashes of white. We were only an hour’s drive from Sunyani, but I was told that the drive to the next bridge was some four hours on a very rough road. The alternative was to cross by canoe.

I walked down to where a jumble of four or five canoes was pulled onto the steeply sloping bank. The rare sight of a white man wanting to cross caused huge amusement and there followed some excited competition as to which canoe I should take. I eyed them dubiously – they were all of local dugout construction, hewed from a single trunk with rough pieces of wood nailed across as seats. Each already contained a fair amount of water slopping about in the bottom. I chose the largest looking one and we set off. One paddler in front and one at back. They were incredibly muscled; their torsos would have been the delight and envy of any Californian gym, and they were soon sheathed in gold as the sun reflected off a mixture of sweat and river water. I was continually wiping my glasses clear.

We set off more or less straight upstream, the men paddling like crazy with huge muscular strokes but still making very little headway, the force of their efforts rocking the canoe from side to side so that water poured in and I had to lift my feet clear of the floor while gripping the slimy canoe sides to try and retain my balance. That didn’t feel safe, so I reluctantly planted my feet again, the water in the well of the canoe now over my ankles. We had started straight upstream in order to come back to a point opposite our starting one in a graceful arc. As we were broadside to the current in the middle of this manoeuvre, the water flowed over the side and along my seat, thoroughly wetting my arse.

I was in danger of wetting myself anyway. I have a terrible and irrational fear of drowning – I can bath but get scared in a shower for example, and even get scared in very heavy rainfall. Unsurprisingly, I have never learnt to swim. There was one other passenger, an old lady who had hoisted up her brightly flowered dress and knotted it beneath her loins, while balancing an improbably large cloth bundle of goods on her knees. I told myself that if she could do it, I should not be pathetic, but she didn’t improve my mood by screwing up her eyes and yelling out “Lord have mercy” throughout the entire passage. This rather cancelled out my efforts to tell myself that the boatman must make this crossing scores of times a day and it must have been completely routine for the local villagers.

After turning at the top of the arc, we were racing down with the current on the other side of the stream at a quite alarming rate. As we sped past the road, the rear boatman threw a rope to someone on the bank who whipped it round a tree trunk, pulling the canoe up with a jolt that nearly pitched me into the water. I disembarked on shaky legs, deeply conscious of my wet trousers.

I had been vaguely aware of flashes of fluorescent orange in a large tree that was growing to the right of the collapsed bridge on the bank on which we had now arrived. After wiping my glasses again I could now see about a dozen life jackets, hung high in the tree. The effect was rather macabre.

I turned to the boatman and asked why they didn’t use the life-jackets.
He flashed me a wide grin.
“Oh,” he said, “We don’t use them since people drown in them.”

The poverty and squalor of the town were as bad as I had seen in Ghana. Unlike most rural towns, which smell earthy but clean, this one had a palpable smell of sewage and the buildings were visibly decaying; the orange blooms of rust on the corrugated tin roofs were spreading, and in places the ensuing holes had gone rampant, reducing the covering to a fragile latticework of fern-like iron oxide tendrils.

As usual, I chatted with the local schoolmaster, and he firmly alleged that the government’s failure to replace the bridge was because it was an opposition town which the government was happy to see dwindle. In his school I was impressed to find the electoral commission personnel with their cameras set up, quietly and methodically issuing photo ID cards to a queue of several hundred people. They had lost some film stock on the crossing but still had plenty.

I took a trip around the surrounding countryside in an old plum and orange coloured taxi, which had lost a door and whose bodywork was battered beyond recognition, but had a Peugeot badge on the steering wheel. The chrome front bumper was rather bafflingly tied across the roof, secured to the window struts either side with ties made from strips of old fertiliser sacks. The driver, Aaron, was a bright man who was going to vote NDC on the grounds that Rawlings’ willingness to hold a free election meant that he deserved support.

But my trip showed the surrounding farmers to be as impoverished by the loss of the bridge as the town, and I determined on return to try to persuade DFID to rebuild the bridge. It seemed to me that the resulting benefit to an area which had been effectively cut off from economic interaction with the rest of the country, would justify the expenditure.

In fact I was to get nowhere with this. DFID were in the throes of changing from project work to a doctrine which is now the basis of their philosophy, that of budget support. The idea is that no longer will the UK do something for the aid recipient, like building a bridge, a hospital or some schools, or providing inputs and training to farmers. Instead we help the government, together with its civil society, to plan its budget and its programmes to maximise poverty alleviation. We then pump money into its budget to help it to achieve these agreed aims.

This has several advantages. It is more democratic, with the African country pursuing its own objectives. The consultation structures included boost the role of civil society. It also builds up the capacity of the African administration and African professionals to deliver goods to the people.

Unfortunately, these happy ideas are hopelessly unrealistic. With the greatest will in the world, the capacity of African ministries to deliver anything to the people is in practice highly constrained – even in Ghana, which probably has the best civil service in Africa.

There are numerous factors behind this. There is a lack of middle management capability, and a lack of incentive for ordinary civil servants to deliver. African bureaucracies almost entirely lack any link between performance in the job and reward or discipline, with family and tribal linkages almost always being much more crucial to your career than ability or performance.

There is also the sadly unavoidable fact that African governments are corrupt – all of them, to a greater or lesser degree. Now that is not to say that Western governments are not corrupt – of course they are, all of them, to a greater or lesser degree. But African governments are more corrupt. Why they are more corrupt, and whose fault that is, opens up another range of very interesting questions touched on from time to time in this book. But the sad truth is that African governments are rather intensely corrupt, and so simply to hand them over in effect large wodges – amounting to billions of pounds – of the British public’s cash as “Budget support” is not a policy that is going to strike the man in the street as glaringly sensible.

DFID would argue, with some justice, that they then carefully monitor the spending of the African government and the achievement of the objectives of the programmes, to make sure the money is being well used.

There are two problems with this. The first is a wonderful DFID word, fungibility. It means the ability to switch around funds and I think the meaning is clear if you think of it as fudge-ability. Put simply, it means that you put the £100 million DFID gave you for education, into education. Meanwhile you put the £40 million of your own taxpayers’ money, that you had for education, into your own pocket. Nobody will notice amid the flood of resources coming from donors.

Fungibility – where would the Swiss banks and London property market be without it?

The second problem is that in its decade of re-orienting to budget support, DFID has vastly reduced the percentage of funds it devotes to monitoring and evaluation – so it doesn’t really know how much fungible leakage is occurring.

Anyway, Ian Stuart, the head of DFID’s Ghanaian operations, advised me that there was no way DFID would do something as old-fashioned as building a bridge, and though I continued to try for another year, he was right.

Despite what I have written, there is a role for budget support in aid policy – an element of it is essential to have a real effect on primary education, for example. And other approaches can also be fraught. In 1999 the British Council organised for DFID the delivery of basic textbooks to every single primary school in Ghana – a programme of which I was proud. Again I made a point of journeying to the most remote locations to make sure they had got through, and in almost every case they had.

But in a significant number of cases they were not being put to use. One headmaster proudly showed me that the books were “safe” in a locked steel container in a locked cupboard in his locked office. The packets had not been opened. Another teacher told me they read to the children from the books but did not let them see them as “They would get them dirty.”

But in deep rural districts the biggest problem in education I had found was teacher absenteeism. Talking to those teachers present, to local priests and others, I reckoned teacher absenteeism in rural areas ran at over 60%. Often schools would have no teacher present at all, or a single teacher holding the fort for all the others – I suspect they took turns. The simple truth was that educated teachers were not prepared to live in villages with no running water, little electricity and none of the delights of urban society.

I found DFID remarkably ignorant of the true state of affairs. The problem was that neither permanent nor visiting DFID staff nor consultants would dream of calling in to a village school ten hours drive from Accra, certainly not without first giving warning and almost certainly arranging the visit through, and being accompanied by, officials from the local regional office. That would give plenty of time for absent teachers to get there and everything to be in order. Whereas I would be driving through the bush and simply see a school and call in. DFID also credited official figures which, while acknowledging the problem, hid its true extent.

That describes the situation under New Labour, when unrealistic ideology dominated DFID’s approach. David Cameron then came in to power and made this situation still worse, by effectively applying Tory privatisation doctrine to aid. Cameron speeded up a process which was already under way, of spending the aid budget through what he called the “Third Sector” and you and I call charities. This was a part of his “Big Society” initiative.

The worst effect of this was to turn previously worthy charities into corporations devoted to making cash for the elite who run them. Rather than conduits for public philanthropy, major charities became primarily an arm of private sector provision for government, as motivated by altrusim as SERCO or G4 are. Those that were most favoured by DFID started to show the most alarming effects on their corporate ethos.

It would be an interesting study to discover at precisely what point it became generally accepted that the executive staff of charities had to be paid according to the market for executives of rapacious capitalist corporations, and that it was ludicrous to even consider that those who devote their lives to working for charities might do so in part for reasons of altruism that did not require them to become incredibly rich personally. Little old ladies who slave away as volunteers in charity shops or rattling tins at events might be expected to do it for little or nothing for charity, but executive staff – heaven forfend!

I think one of the most morally disgusting statements I have read in my life can be found today on the website of the Save the Children Fund, stating that it is for the good of the poorest children of the planet, racked by poverty and disease and dying in their hundreds of thousands, that the executives of the Save the Children fund need to be paid at levels that enable them to lead lifestyles of the fabulously wealthy. If this monstrously hypocritical sentence does not make you want to vomit, you are not a good person.

We are serious about being the best we can be for the world’s children. That means we place a premium on attracting the best people to work for us and to lead our organisation.

The best people to help starving and sick children are, by this definition, those who want to be paid the most money to do it. There is a more rational argument that those who want to be paid the most money are the worst people to help the world’s children.

So this is what Save the Children ladle out to their UK executives. REMEMBER, MUCH OF THEIR INCOME IS DFID MONEY.

That is whithout even considering the salary of the “Global Head” of such charities. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, wife of Stephen Kinnock, skimmed £284,000 a year plus expenses as global head of Save the Children. Her successor, Inge Asher, somehow scrapes by on £188,900 a year. The utterly shameless David Miliband, Chief Executive of the International Rescue Committee, gets an eye watering US $911,000 a year for his work for a “charity” that gets £100 million a year from DFID.

Compare Save the Children UK and Islamic Relief UK. Islamic Relief is the slightly larger charity by turnover, despite being unusual in UK development agencies in getting a scarcely significant part of its income from DFID. Islamic Relief’s Chief Executive gets a salary approximately 60% of that of his Save the Children UK counterpart, and would not be in the top 20 highest paid employees at Save the Children UK. This precisely because the Islamic Relief trustees feel that working for the charity should in itself contain an element of sadaqah, or charitable giving. Here the Muslim community has maintained a much greater sense of morality than the DFID bloated rest of the British development “charitable” sector. The UK large scale “charitable” sector is a scam on an epic scale. DFID is responsible for much of that development.

So when you hear the UK aid sector screaming at the threat to DFID, do not be shocked. Thousands of luxurious lifestyles across London are potentially at threat.

It astonishes me that there is complete denial about the link between the deliberate entrenchment of corporate macho management structures, with their vastly inflated financial reward systems, into the charity sector from the 1990s onwards, and the ensuing rash of incidents of appalling sexual abuse by charity executives and staff, of which the behaviour of Save the Children senior executives Justin Forsyth and Brendan Cox were among the worse. If you base your recruitment policy on the reward structures of large capitalist enterprises, you will get nasty people. Overpaid, over-entitled and arrogant jumped up arses are going to behave like overpaid, over-entitled and arrogant jumped up arses.

When Save the Children produced their report on why its senior male executives felt entitled to physically molest any female employee who crossed their path, understandably the current overpaid crew avoided blaming either over-payment or over-entitlement. But the truth of the matter is that the entire ethos of the charity sector has been ruined by the massive pump through of DFID cash. I genuinely can’t begin to understand the mindset of people who believe they should personally take these mind-boggling sums from a supposed charity to help the poorest. DFID have created the situation whereby the sector is full of highly paid individuals, in it for the money, who would rather sexually exploit the poor than help them.

This overpayment and excess of self-regard feeds directly into what is generally recognised in international development as “White Saviour Syndrome

When you have reached the stage where there needs to be a parliamentary report on “Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Aid Sector”, you know that things have gone very wrong indeed. The fault lies at base with DFID and their massive hosepipe of high pressure money. Charities have been allowed to argue that they need reward criteria the same as would be employed by the Wolf of Wall Street, because the money motive is what brings good staff. You cannot therefore be surprised they started to behave socially like the Wolf of Wall Street.

DFID’s own direct staff costs are comparatively modest, at around £212 million in 2018/9 including pension and other costs, which is a commendable 1.4% of its total budget. Its very top salaries are broadly the same as the very top salaries at Save the Children, although the DFID executives are managing a budget 50 times greater.

The salary of the four highest paid executives at DFID represents 0.03% of DFID’s turnover. The salary of the four highest paid executives at Save the Children UK represents 0.15% of Save the Children UK’s income.

This is even more acute in the field. When I worked alongside the Overseas Development Agency in the British High Commission in Nigeria, a portfolio of projects totalling hundreds of millions of pounds were managed by two ODA officers, of whom the most junior, who did most of the project management, would earn the equivalent in today’s salaries of about £25,000 a year. He would pay tax on that, pay for his own private vehicle, live in a small flat and have access to the High Commission Land Rover Defender pool when on official duty.

Today, the management of that portfolio of projects would no longer be undertaken directly by DFID. It would be split between a dozen different charities. Each would employ a minimum of one expat on a minimum of £50,000 a year tax free, plus their plush detached house, return holiday tickets and full time use of a $100,000 Toyota Land Cruiser. Sometimes the take home pay of an ultimately DFID funded charity aid worker in Africa, managing a single project, is higher than that of the tax paying British ambassador who is in charge of all UK interests in that country.

I want you to understand I am not pontificating from an armchair. I am speaking from four decades of direct involvement and experience in African development of this transformation, which I have witnessed up close and in detail.

You will scour in vain the 196 page DFID Annual Report and Accounts for a breakdown of what percentage of DFID aid is paid to UK charities. The accounts are scrupulous in detailing DFID’s direct salary and administrative costs for its aid, but then take all the money paid out to charities as effective aid to the intended final purpose and destination, without any accounting for the administrative costs of the charity.

The £50,000 salary, the Land Cruiser and the luxury house of the charity worker helping administer a DFID project in Malawi will count as aid to Malawi, even though Malawi gets no benefit. So will the fat fee, air fares and expenses of the British consultant who will fly out from time to time to evaluate the project. The White Saviour syndrome reaches its apogee in projects which consist entirely of sending out British experts for “advocacy”. There are entire tranches of “aid to Africa” which consist entirely of paying members of the UK Aid Industry large sums of money to go out and patronise Africans on the subject of human rights and women’s rights. I have witnessed this in Ghana where society is perfectly capable of tackling these subjects and the general position on both sets of rights is no worse than in the UK.

The DFID annual report is equally silent on what percentage of aid is provided as direct budget support. It details what sectors and geographical locations allegedly benefit, but has very little to say on the medium of provision.

There are entire DFID programmes that consist of nothing but paying particularly wealthy British people to go out and talk down to Africans. As though African countries do not contain extremely educated people concerned with gender and other rights. It is the modern, politically correct version of the Victorian Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. It reflects the attitude of “Over the seas there are little brown children”, who we need to enlighten. Plan UK are one of many British charities who are main DFID conduits for this type of well paid activity. The DFID money given to the bank accounts of the wealthy British people who undertake this work all counts as “Aid to Africa”.

Ghana gave us Kofi Annan; sent us Afua Hirsch; it has a real human rights lawyer – and friend of mine – as its President. It does not need lectures on rights as “aid”. But it gets them.

Many people whose world view I broadly share will be horrified by my criticism of DFID. One of those is Owen Barder, whose work I generally admire and not only because his late father Brian was something of an intellectual mentor to me (and my boss in Nigeria). There is a fascinating discussion between Owen and Ian Birrell on the effectiveness of aid, centred on a report of the DFID £11 million backed Millennium Villages Project in Northern Ghana, which essentially said it was a waste of money. This evaluation report is truly unusual because normally the consultants evaluating projects are also employed managing other projects. It is all a part of the Aid Industry and they do not normally produce reports that rock the mutual gravy train. I am not sure that ITAD will get much more DFID work after this honesty.

Both Owen and Ian are genuinely knowledgeable, and they have entirely different conclusions on DFID and aid, as brought out in these twitter threads of Ian here and Owen here – each thread having lots of bifuractions and interjections that lead into interesting areas.

But still more enlightening is the perspective of President Nana Akuffo Addo:

Personally, I support the idea of 0.7% of Gross Domestic Income being given by the UK and other wealthy states in aid to developing countries. This is both morally correct and an exercise of enlightened self-interest. I believe that this aid should overwhelmingly be given in the form of delivered turnkey projects. That could take the form of building and furnishing complete factories to provide the processing and added value to African commodity exports which Nana Akuffo Addo outlines in the above speech. Building and handing over cocoa processing plants and gold refineries would be a good start.

I understand why project aid was discredited by disastrous dam projects in the 1980’s. But the provision now of solar energy power stations and the infrastructure to integrate them with the local grid, or indeed of rural roads and bridges, remains for me the most effective way to provide aid. It should be delivered turnkey. You identify what factory or infrastructure is needed and you build it and hand it over. Of course this should take account of long term project sustainability and include the ancillary materials, connections, training and technology transfer required. But at the end of the day, you will have given something concrete to the people of the country. This is certainly how I wish to see Scottish aid develop post Independence.

I am well aware that the current danger from the Tory move to disestablish DFID is that aid funds will be diverted to the military, security services, armaments industry and to boost the profits of Tory donor companies. My expectations of anything getting better in any sector under the current rulers of the last days of the United Kingdom are close to zero. But contriving a worse system for managing aid than DFID is going to be quite hard to achieve. There are excellent left wing arguments against DFID as it has developed institutionally under the ideologically driven right wing governments that dominate the UK.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Cynicism and Warmongering

The BBC plumbed the depths of hypocrisy in dressing up the final episode of the Salisbury Poisonings as a homage to Dawn Sturgess while systematically lying about the facts of her death, yet again to cover up the implausibility of the official narrative.

As I noted yesterday, the BBC drama appeared to show Charlie Rowley fishing the perfume bottle out of the charity bin at least two months ahead of when this really occurred, to make it more plausible that it had been dropped in there after the alleged attack on the Skripals. The question of how it had managed to sit in a charity bin for three months, when that bin was emptied regularly, was thus dodged.

The next alteration of a timeline by the BBC is just as crucial. The BBC had the discovery of the perfume bottle containing novichok happening before Sturgess’s death, whereas in fact the perfume bottle was not “discovered” until 11 July 2018, three days after Dawn’s death. The extraordinary thing about this is that the police had been searching Rowley’s flat intensively for “novichok” for over a week before coming across a perfume bottle sitting on the kitchen counter. As they were specifically looking for a phial of liquid, you would have thought that might have caught the eye somewhat sooner.

The final episode was more open in its attempts to provoke Russophobia than previous episodes, with images of Putin, Russia, and Boshirov and Petrov appearing. It is of course the case that the military, security service and arms manufacturing complex needs Russophobia to justify sucking away so much of our national wealth. So we should not be surprised this kind of propaganda is produced. We should also realise that those in the service of the elites that benefit from the political system will do everything they can to maintain the propaganda. It is possible to understand all of that, and still be very disappointed that so very many ordinary people fall for it. The sad fact is, propaganda works, and always has.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the Skripal incident was a propaganda initiative from day 1. The role of the Integrity Initiative and its Skripal group – in which the BBC was very much included – puts this BBC propaganda piece in its proper perspective.

I do not know what happened in Salisbury. I know that the British government story makes no sense whatsoever, and I know that the Russian government has not told us the truth about the identities of Boshirov and Petrov, otherwise their true identities would have been firmly documented and reported by now. What the Russians were doing remains a mystery, with possibilities ranging from assassination through liaison to extraction. What the British government was doing is equally murky, and whether the Skripals are willingly a part of MI6’s plans is by no means clear. Sergei’s continuing work for MI6 and his relationship with Pablo Miller are evidently key, while I suspect that Sergei’s role in Christopher Steele’s baroque, fabricated dossier on Donald Trump is probably the motive for the action.

The prosecutions of Julian Assange and Alex Salmond, and subsequently of myself, have stood in the way of my declared intention to make a documentary about the Skripal case, while the money you have so kindly contributed to my legal defence fund is almost as much as I needed to raise for the film. Attempting to counter the propaganda of the state while the state employs its legal mechanisms to drain your energy and resources is not easy. That is of course the standard lot of dissidents around the globe. It will not stop us.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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The Miracle of Salisbury

It turns out that the BBC really does believe that God is an Englishman. When the simple impossibility of the official story on the Skripals finally overwhelmed the dramatists, they resorted to Divine Intervention for an explanation – as propagandists have done for millennia.

This particular piece of script from Episode 2 of The Salisbury Poisonings deserves an induction in the Propaganda Hall of Fame:

Porton Down Man: I’ve got the reports from the Bailey house
Public Health Woman: Tell me, how many hits?
Porton Down Man: It was found in almost every room of the house. Kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedrooms. It was even on the light switches. We found it in the family car too. But his wife and children haven’t been affected. I like to think of myself as a man of science, but the only word for that is a miracle.

Well, it certainly would be a miracle that the family lived for a week in the house without touching a light switch. But miracle is not really the “only word for that”. Nonsense is a good word. Bullshit is a ruder version. Lie is entirely appropriate in these circumstances.

Because that was not the only miracle on display. We were told specifically that the Skripals had trailed novichok all over Zizzis and the Bishops Mill pub, leaving multiple deadly deposits, dozens of them in total, which miraculously nobody had touched. We were told that Detective Bailey was found to have left multiple deadly deposits of novichok on everything he touched in a busy police station, but over several days before it was closed down nobody had touched any of them, which must be an even bigger miracle than the Baileys’ home.

Perhaps even more amazingly, as the Skripals spread novichok all over the restaurant and the pub, nobody who served them had been harmed, nobody who took their payment. The man who went through Sergei’s wallet to learn his identity from his credit cards was not poisoned. The people giving first aid were not poisoned. The ducks Sergei fed were not poisoned. The little boy he fed the ducks with was not poisoned. So many miracles. If God were not an Englishman, Salisbury would have been in real trouble, evidently.

The conclusion of episode two showed Charlie Rowley fishing out the perfume bottle from the charity bin at least two months in the timeline before this really happened, thus neatly sidestepping one of the most glaring impossibilities in the entire official story. I think we can forgive the BBC that lie – there are only so many instances of divine intervention in the story the public can be expected to buy in one episode.

It is fascinating to see that the construction of this edifice of lies was a joint venture between the BBC and the security services’ house journal, the Guardian. Not only is all round pro-war propagandist “Colonel” Hamish De Bretton Gordon credited as Military Advisor, but Guardian journalists Caroline Bannock and Steven Morris are credited as Script Consultants, which I presume means they fed in the raw lies for the scriptwriters to shape into miracles.

Now here is an interesting ethical point for readers of the Guardian. The Guardian published in the last fortnight two articles by Morris and Bannock that purported to be reporting on the production of the drama and its authenticity, without revealing to the readers that these full time Guardian journalists were in fact a part of the BBC project. That is unethical and unprofessional in a number of quite startling ways. But then it is the Guardian.

[Full disclosure. I shared a flat with Caroline at university. She was an honest person in those days.]

Again, rather than pepper this article with links, I urge you to read this comprehensive article, which contains plenty of links and remains entirely unanswered.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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“Putin’s Gonna Get Me”.

Shakespeare’s heirs at the BBC produced this deathless and entirely convincing line as the climax of the first episode of “The Salisbury Poisonings”, a three part piece of state propaganda on the Skripal saga, of which I watched Part 1 as it was broadcast last night. The other two parts are to be broadcast today and tomorrow, which unusual scheduling reflects the importance our masters place on this stirring tale of the resilience of the great British nation under attack by devilish foreigners. You can watch all three episodes now on BBC iPlayer, but personally I suffer from overactive antibodies to bullshit and need a break.

The line about Putin was delivered by salty, ex-British military Ross Cassidy, so of course was entirely convincing. It may have been more so had he ever said it in public before this week, but there you are.

To judge by social media, an extraordinary proportion of the public find the official narrative entirely convincing. I find myself unable to pretend that does not fill me with despair at the future of democracy. That anybody could listen to the following dialogue without doubling up in laughter is completely beyond me. I do not quite understand how the actors managed to speak it.

Porton Down Man: “And it’s one of the deadliest synthetic substances on earth. It’s so toxic that a spoonful, with the right delivery mechanism, could kill thousands”.
Heroic Public Health Lady: “But if it’s so toxic, how come the Skripals are still alive?”
Porton Down Man: “The paramedics assumed that they had overdosed on fentanyl so they gave them a shot of Naloxone, which happens to combat nerve agent toxicity. Plus, it was cold, further inhibiting the speed with which the substance took effect.”

Aah yes, it was cold. A factor those pesky Russians had overlooked, because of course it is never cold in Russia. And everybody knows it is minus 40 inside Zizzis and inside the Bishops Mill pub. Once the nerve agent has entered the body, only in the most extreme conditions could exterior temperature have any kind of effect at all. Neither Sergei nor Yulia was anyway outdoors for any significant period after supposedly being poisoned by their door handle.

Many wildly improbable stories have been produced by the security services over the last three years to explain why this ultra deadly nerve agent did not kill the Skripals. Interestingly enough, the BBC drama left out a detail which the Daily Mail alleged came from a security service briefing, that:

“Completely by chance, doctors with specialist chemical weapons training were on duty at the hospital when the victims were admitted. They treated Sergei and Yulia Skripal with an atropine (antidote) and other medicines approved by scientists from Porton Down, the government’s top secret scientific research laboratory”

Which is very believable, I suppose, because it is no more of a coincidence than the Chief Nurse of the British Army being right there when they first collapsed on a bench.

Yet in all the multiple attempts to explain the non-deadly deadly nerve agent, “it was cold” appears to be a new one. It must have official approval, because all purpose security service shill, warmonger and chemical weapons expert, Lt Col Hamish De Bretton Gordon was listed in the credits as “military advisor” to this BBC production.

Let me offer you this tiny smidgeon of wisdom, for nothing: when the state broadcaster starts to make propaganda videos that credit a “military advisor”, you are well on the way to fascism.

Perhaps wisely, Part One at least of the BBC Drama made no attempt at all to portray how the alleged poisoning happened. How the Skripals went out that morning, caught widely on CCTV, to the cemetery according to this version, and then returned home without being caught coming back. How while they were back in their house two Russian agents rocked up and, at midday in broad daylight on a very open estate, applied deadly nerve agent to the Skripals’ door handle, apparently without the benefit of personal protective equipment, and without being seen by anybody. How the Skripals then left again and contrived for both of them to touch the exterior door handle in closing the door. How, with this incredibly toxic nerve agent on them, they were out for three and a half hours, fed the ducks, went to the pub and went to Zizzis, eating heartily, before both collapsing on a park bench. How despite being different ages, sexes, body shapes and metabolisms they both collapsed, after this three hour plus delay, at exactly the same moment, so neither could call for help.

The BBC simply could not make a drama showing the purported actions that morning of the Skripals without it being blindingly obvious that the story is impossible. Luckily for them, we live in such a haze of British Nationalist fervor that much of the population, especially the mainstream media journalists and the Blairite warmongers, will simply overlook that. The omission of the actual “poisoning” from “The Salisbury Poisonings” is apparently just an artistic decision.

All those events happened before the timeline of this BBC Drama started. The BBC version started the moment people came to help the Skripals on the bench. However it omitted that the very first person to see them and come to help was, by an incredible coincidence, the Chief Nurse of the British Army. That the chief military nurse was on hand is such an amazing coincidence you would have thought the BBC would want to include it in their “drama”. Apparently not. Evidently another artistic decision.

The time from touching the door handle to the Skripals being attended by paramedics was about four hours. That Naloxone is effective four hours after contact with an ultra deadly nerve agent is remarkable.

I do not want to under-represent the personal suffering of policeman Nick Bailey nor his family. But he was shown in the drama as rubbing this “deadliest synthetic substance” directly into the soft tissues around his eye, but then not getting seriously ill for at least another 24 hours. Plainly all could not be what it seems.

The actual poisoning event, the specialist team coincidentally at the hospital and the Army Chief Nurse were not the only conspicuous omissions. Also missing was Skripal’s MI6 handler and Salisbury neighbour Pablo Miller, who did not rate so much as a mention. The other strange thing is that the drama constantly cut to newsreel coverage of actual events, but omitted the BBC’s own flagship news items on the Skripal event in those first three days, which were all presented by BBC Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban.

Now Mark Urban happens to have been in the Royal Tank Regiment with Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller. Not distantly, but joining the regiment together at the same rank in the same officer intake on the same day. I do love a lot of good coincidences in a plot. Mark Urban had also met frequently with Sergei Skripal in the year before the alleged attack, to “research a book”. Yet when Urban fronted the BBC’s Skripal coverage those first few days, he kept both those highly pertinent facts hidden from the public. In fact he kept them hidden for four full months. I wonder why Mark Urban’s lead BBC coverage was not included in the newsreel footage of this BBC re-enactment?

There is much, much more that is wildly improbable about this gross propaganda product and I must save some scorn and some facts for the next two episodes. Do read this quick refresher in the meantime. How many of these ten questions has the BBC Drama addressed convincingly, and how many has it dodged or skated over?

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Coronavirus: Only an Anecdote

Today’s shocking evidence by Prof. Neil Ferguson that, had lockdown been implemented a week earlier, the death toll would have been halved, has the ring of truth, although it must remain a surmise (and I am aware of his past record).

But I want to give you an anecdotal example from my own family of the extraordinary government laxness at the start of this pandemic.

Whilst I was in London during February covering the Assange hearing, Nadira attended the Berlin Film Festival. She has produced a feature film in Iran, currently in post production, which she was there to promote. She therefore spent almost the whole time in the company of people from Iran involved in the film.

In very early March, a week or more after her return, Nadira developed a bad fever and pneumonia like symptoms. I advised her to call 111. It is important to remember that at this time Iran was well known to be a major epicentre of Covid-19. Nadira was phoned back by a Covid-handler from 111, and she explained the situation to him. He said that she just had seasonal flu and that Germany was not a risk for Covid-19. She explained that she had been the whole time with people newly flown in from Tehran. He stated that unless they were showing symptoms, there was no risk of infection. He said Nadira did not need a test or to self-isolate.

When I got back from London, Nadira took to her bed and remained there for a week, which is simply unheard of – she never gets sick. Cameron developed a nasty cough and we kept him off school for over a week.

Two things are in retrospect striking. The first is that Nadira complained bitterly, and continued to do so for some weeks, that she had completely lost all sense of taste and of smell. We had been gifted a particularly good bottle of wine and I thoughtlessly opened it, rather than wait until she could enjoy the taste too. At that time loss of taste and smell was not a reported marker of covid-19.

The second striking fact is that we now know that the real reason that the 111 service was so adamant to Nadira that no testing was required, is that there was in fact no available testing capacity for anybody who was not Prince Charles. That does not explain why Nadira was told she did not have to isolate. Nor does it explain why in early March NHS Scotland could not grasp the difference between being in Berlin, and being in Berlin with a group flown in from Tehran.

It is worth noting that Nadira flew back in to Edinburgh, very likely carrying Covid 19, precisely two days before the controversial Nike conference. Nadira is just one person, and I am prompted to tell the story (with her permission) by Ferguson’s admission that the failure to do anything about the thousands of people returning from Italy had seeded the virus substantially. That is only a part of it. The refusal to take seriously and test members of the public who believed, with sensible reason, they may have contracted the virus abroad, plainly contributed to the UK’s higher death rate (let alone the failure to bring in airport screening).

Of course, until an antibody test is made available, we have no evidence it was not indeed just the flu which Nadira and Cameron had. To complete the family story, I did not develop pneumonia but did come down with a number of acute symptoms of which the most startling was sleep. About ten days after I returned to Nadira from London, I went through a period where I just could not wake up: for about five days I was sleeping 20 hours a day in a proper, deep sleep. I also found I could not type to blog. I could not control my fingers, while after ten minutes of typing my hands became extremely painful and I literally could not move my thumbs at all. I had all kinds of worries, from arthritis to Alzheimers. It was only later I discovered this arthritis like condition can be a coronavirus symptom too. It now seems to have thankfully cleared up.

At precisely the same time my daughter, who lives with us, came down with eye infections so bad she was off work for a fortnight while they were treated by the Edinburgh Eye Clinic. There is some evidence now this too can be a symptom of Covid-19, though the same can be said for a huge variety of symptoms.

The only member of my family to have been tested was my sister-in-law, who works in the NHS. She was extremely ill and hospitalised for a considerable period. She self-isolated and avoided admission perhaps overlong, not wanting to be a burden on her own hospital. In this self-isolation period my brother continued to look after her and to share a bed, and yet he has at no stage exhibited any symptoms.

This is all only anecdotal. Only one of the family ever was tested, even though Nadira very much ought to have been and wanted to be. It interests me that only Cameron ever developed a cough – even my sister-in-law who was hospitalised for weeks never coughed, even though both she and Nadira had breathing difficulties. My daughter and I had completely different symptoms again. The only common symptom to us all was fever. My brother, who cannot have avoided catching the disease, had no symptoms at all.

Anecdotal evidence is not without value. What the story of my family does show is that government negligence caused the most serious failure in diagnostic capacity compared to better organised countries, and thus the abdication of any possibility of effective track and trace right from the start. That seems to me a sufficient illustration of why the UK death rate has been so high.

I wish to thank all of those who tuned in for the first procedural hearing in my Contempt of Court trial. I realise it was not too gripping but please do not give up and do stay with me through the procedures as they get more dangerous. Julian Assange’s case has been marked by terrible abuse of procedure. I am severely constrained in what I can say, but I may perhaps say that today was a most happy contrast to the handling of Julian. I have no doubt your presence with me helps; and it is a massive emotional support.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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