Truly Shameful BBC Israeli Propaganda 561

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.

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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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Do Not Mourn the White Saviours of DfID 155

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.

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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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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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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 157

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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Coronavirus: Only an Anecdote 904

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:

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Ultimately, All Monuments are Ozymandias

The great philosopher John Stuart Mill probably did more than anyone to map out the proper boundaries of the individual and the state in the western model of political democracy. Furthermore, he talked not just of the state but of societal behaviour as it impacts on individuals. Through the power of thought his influence on the development of the modern world has been enormous, even if many have never heard of him. He was four generations ahead of his time; but that is in part true because his own writings helped shape the future. This from the New Yorker is a fine example of the received view of Mill among the modern liberal intelligentsia:

Mill believed in complete equality between the sexes, not just women’s colleges and, someday, female suffrage but absolute parity; he believed in equal process for all, the end of slavery, votes for the working classes, and the right to birth control (he was arrested at seventeen for helping poor people obtain contraception), and in the common intelligence of all the races of mankind. He led the fight for due process for detainees accused of terrorism; argued for teaching Arabic, in order not to alienate potential native radicals; and opposed adulterating Anglo-American liberalism with too much systematic French theory—all this along with an intelligent acceptance of the free market as an engine of prosperity and a desire to see its excesses and inequalities curbed. He was right about nearly everything, even when contemplating what was wrong: open-minded and magnanimous to a fault, he saw through Thomas Carlyle’s reactionary politics to his genius, and his essay on Coleridge, a leading conservative of the previous generation, is a model appreciation of a writer whose views are all wrong but whose writing is still wonderful. Mill was an enemy of religious bigotry and superstition, and a friend of toleration and free thought, without overdoing either. (No one has ever been more eloquent about the ethical virtues of Jesus of Nazareth.)

Yet for a living John Stuart Mill was Secretary to the Political Committee of the East India Company, and actively involved in the rapacious colonisation of India and the enforced opening of China to opium sales. How do we cope with this? Mill has possibly influenced my thinking more than any other political writer. I would start any political education with a reading of Mill’s On Liberty and J A Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study. But how do we process Mill’s involvement with the East India Company? Should Mill’s statue be ripped from Victoria Embankment Gardens and dumped in the Thames?

I do not ask that as a rhetorical question. It is a dilemma. Historians of thought have tended to deal with it by ignoring Mill’s day job. I have read three biographies of Mill and I have a fourth, by Timothy Larsen, waiting to be started. Richard Reeves comes closest of Mill’s biographers to addressing Mill’s work for the East India Company but tells us almost nothing on the subject that is not from Mill’s own Autobiography. In his Autobiography, what Mill mostly tells us about his work for the EIC is that it did not take up too much of his time.

If Mill were a dentist, for biographers to ignore his day job and concentrate on his philosophy would make sense. But Mill’s day job was governing a very significant proportion of the world’s population. He did not just work at the East India Company, he was perhaps, as Secretary of the Political Committee, the most important civil servant there. Mill wrote and signed off detailed instructions to Governors General. He issued advice – which was expected to be followed – on trade and military affairs, and on governance. It is fascinating to me that in his Autobiography Mill systematically downplays his role in the East India Office, both in terms of his commitment and his importance within the organisation.

There has been much more written about Mill and the East India Company by Indian researchers than by western researchers, because it is of course an excellent illustration of the hypocrisies of western liberalism, that its figurehead was so enmired in the colonial project. Unfortunately, many of these studies lack nuance and tend to accuse Mill of being things he definitely was not, such as a racist. East India Company policies are ascribed to Mill which Mill was demonstrably and actively against, such as the anglicising project of Trevelyan and Macaulay. Mill did not view British culture as superior, and he was horrified by initiatives like the ending of communal land ownership in Bengal and the British creation of a Bengali landlord class there. I broadly recommend this article by Mark Tunick, though like almost everything published on the subject it suffers from the drawback of discussing what Mill wrote about governing India rather than the much harder task of discussing what he wrote in governing India. The subject needs solid analysis of Mill’s thousands of minutes and despatches in the East India Company records.

Mill worked with Burnes to try to avoid the First Afghan War, but like Burnes he did not resign over it, nor over the appalling war crimes committed by the British in its prosecution. Mill had been the guiding hand behind the long Governor Generalship of Lord Bentinck and its policy of avoiding war and expansion; but Mill was still there administering when that ended, through the annexations of Sindh and Nepal and Baluchistan and the most aggressive period of Imperial expansionism. Mill was there for the opium wars.

So how do we come to terms with our past? If slavery is the touchstone of good and bad, Mill is fine. He was a dedicated an effective lifetime opponent of slavery, including in EIC territories, and was highly influential in assuring the UK did not recognise the Confederacy in the US civil war. But if you look at the atrocious crimes of British imperialism, the financial and economic rape of whole continents, the killing, torture, terror and physical rape, why would slavery be the only criterion to judge people?

I have chosen Mill because he was a demonstrably good man, and yet I perfectly understand why a person of Indian or Chinese heritage might want to dump him in the Thames. There are others Imperialists, like Napier, Gordon or Wolseley, with statues all over the country, whose deeds are not admirable to a modern eye, particularly as our society is now a great deal less homogenous and contains descendants of those whose cities were pillaged and people raped and slaughtered by these military prodigies.

I don’t have all the answers. My life of Alexander Burnes tried to find a way to treat a remarkable man who lived by the mores of times not our own. The answer lies not in glorifying nor in destroying our past.

Monuments do not stand still. They are, ultimately, all of them Ozymandias. Destruction of historical artifacts is a bad thing; they are valuable tools for understanding the past, and of artistic and cultural value in themselves. But it is perfectly natural that in public spaces we wish to have public objects that reflect the mores of our own times. The important thing is to understand that the mores of the times do change; our great grandchildren will undoubtedly think we were quaint and had weird beliefs.

A thought on Edward Colston. His involvement in slavery was as a director of the Royal African Company. The Royal in that title is not meaningless; the company was set up specifically to make the monarch rich. A far more practical way to honour the memory of the slaves would be to abolish the monarchy. That would be a meaningful action.

A further thought. Living here in Edinburgh I find it absolutely infuriating that we have a major street named after the genocidal sadist the Duke of Cumberland. (Yes, Cumberland Street is specifically named after him). Respecting the past does not mean our society cannot move on. Street names and statues are signs of honour. There are plenty that should be removed from the street and placed in museums, where they can be explained and contextualised.

When Horatio Nelson helped to “free” the Kingdom of the Sicilies from Napoleon and restore its appalling autocratic monarchy, Neapolitan writers and intellectuals were shot and hung on Nelson’s flagship, anchored off Naples so the mob could not intervene to save them. Nelson watched some of the executions between bouts of shagging Lady Hamilton. I do not recommend toppling Nelson’s column; but I do advocate some real information about him in an education centre under the square.

UPDATE: I see that Liverpool University have just agreed to rename Gladstone Hall because Gladstone’s father was a slave owner. That is, I think, an appalling act of stupidity from what is supposed to be an institute of learning.

Very many thanks to the 700 people who have applied to follow virtually the criminal proceedings against me which start tomorrow. It is just a procedural court hearing tomorrow and I am worried that nothing much may happen. I do hope you will not get bored and give up on the rest of the case when it comes. In Julian Assange’s case, the behaviour of the judge has been outrageous even in the procedural hearings, but we should not take for granted that the same will happen here.

The court has been informing people they are not allowed to record, or to publish while the court is in session. That is true; but you can take notes, and you are allowed to publish factual accounts of what happened once the court closes.

——————————————

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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An Apology

I owe an apology to all those who are kind enough to subscribe to my blog. I was determined that I would not let my impending trial affect my output, but have been unable to see that through. It is partly because preparation does take up much more time than I had imagined. But it is mostly because I find it hard to put my mind to anything else and really concentrate.

I do not want to give you the impression that I am very worried, or depressed. I am rather angry; a deep, seething anger that keeps breaking into my thoughts. I am rather worried about this. I can with fairness claim to have devoted much of my life to fighting against injustice. I was prepared to sacrifice an extremely prestigious and lucrative career to take a stand against UK complicity in torture, driven largely by empathy for the victims. I have assisted with numerous individual human rights cases and particularly asylum claims, including representing people, without fee, before immigration courts. But I am nonetheless alarmed by how much more viscerally angry I am when the injustice is against myself than when it is against another. I am aware that is very unattractive. This fury at being personally mistreated is disproportionate and quite wrong, and ought not to stop me working. I feel guilty about it.

Among the results is a very annoying writers’ block. I have been intending this last five days to write an article on Barack Obama’s failure while President to tackle institutional racism and societal inequalities in the USA, and relate that to the remarkable fact he paid much less attention to aid to Africa than George W Bush. I enjoy writing most when I am running counter to the prevailing narrative and pointing to inconvenient fact. But the lines of logic refuse to flow, the fascinating asides do not pop up, and then I remember something else I must tell my lawyers.

Please do not worry. I am not sad, and my anger does not manifest itself by being horrible to others; on the contrary, for once I seem to be particularly considerate to my family and appreciative of how fortunate I am. The purpose of this post is to apologise to you, and thank you for your patience. It is not a signal of giving up – I do not intend to wait until after the trial before getting back to normal. Please bear with me.

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Please Sign the Open Letter

I should be grateful if you would join Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis, David Hare, Roger Waters, Robert Black, Kristinn Hrnafsson, Christine Assange and many others in signing the open letter against the politically motivated legal harassment of people including Mark Hirst and myself.

I am not asking you to endorse our political views; I am asking you to support free speech and oppose this rather startling authoritarianism and highly selective prosecution.

To the Lord Advocate

DEAR Mr Wolffe,

We are writing to you to express our growing concern over the actions of both the Crown Office and Police Scotland.

In recent weeks vocal independence supporters and backers of the former First Minister Alex Salmond, specifically the former UK diplomat, human rights campaigner and journalist Craig Murray along with fellow journalist Mark Hirst, have been arrested and charged in relation to comments they made publicly during and following the trial of Mr Salmond. Other supporters of Mr Salmond have also been contacted by police and warned over online comments they made in the wake of the trial.

We are particularly concerned to note that the investigating police officers are the same detectives who led the investigation against Mr Salmond over a period of two years and at considerable cost to the public purse.

As you know, the prosecution following from that investigation, pursued again at considerable cost to the public purse, resulted in the acquittal of Mr Salmond on all charges and now raises the most serious questions about why that investigation and that prosecution were pursued.

Whilst we appreciate that you cannot be involved in individual cases you will undoubtedly be aware that complaints of alleged Contempt of Court were made against six other individual journalists widely regarded as being hostile in their reporting of Mr Salmond. No action by the Crown Office or Police Scotland has been taken against any of those individuals. This leaves the distinct impression that Police Scotland, at the direction of the Crown Office, is acting in a manner that is both biased and disproportionate.

As you will be aware, for public confidence to be maintained in our independent legal system the law must be able to both demonstrate it is acting impartially and be seen to be doing so.

The actions taken so far risk establishing a public perception that both Police Scotland and the Crown Office are conducting themselves in a manner which is biased and is indeed political in nature.

Such perceptions risk seriously damaging confidence in the Scottish legal system.

We would welcome your fullest public response to the concerns raised in this letter and any meaningful public assurances you can offer that both Police Scotland and the Crown Office are complying with their obligations to act with complete impartiality and to apply the law fairly.

Professor Noam Chomsky (linguist and political scientist)
Yanis Varoufakis (Author, former Greek Finance Minister, philosopher, economist)
Professor Robert Black QC (Professor Emeritus of Scots Law, Edinburgh University)
Sir David Hare (Playwright, screenwriter and film director)
Kristinn Hrnaffson (Investigative journalist and Editor in Chief of Wikileaks)
Tariq Ali (human rights campaigner, journalist and historian)
Roger Waters (co-founder Pink Floyd, political activist)
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, (US Colonel, Ret, former Chief of Staff, US Department of State)
Paul Kavanagh (Columnist, The National newspaper)
George Kerevan (Journalist, Former SNP MP, former Associate Editor of The Scotsman)
Tommy Sheridan (Convenor, Solidarity and former MSP)
Ann Wright (US Colonel, Ret, and former US Ambassador)
Christine Assange (human rights campaigner and mother of Julian)
Gordon Dangerfield (Solicitor Advocate)
Hugh Kerr (Former Labour MEP, author and journalist)
John Kiriakou (CIA whistle-blower)
Coleen Rowley (Retired FBI Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel, 2002 Time Magazine Person of the Year)
Ray McGovern (Former CIA Officer, Founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity)
Robert Tibbo (lawyer to Edward Snowden)
Annie Machon (former MI5 officer, author and journalist)
Katherine Gun (former GCHQ whistle-blower)
Clive Ponting (former MOD whistle-blower)
Stuart Campbell (Editor, Wings over Scotland)
James Kelly (Editor of SCOT goes POP! and columnist with The National)
Neil MacKay (Singer-songwriter, Scottish independence activist)
Liz Dangerfield (solicitor)
Campbell Martin (Broadcast journalist and former SNP MSP)
Elizabeth Murray (former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst)
Robin McAlpine (Political strategist)
Bogdan Dzakovic (9/11 aviation security whistle-blower, FAA Security, Ret.)
Robert Wing (former US Foreign Service Officer)
Marshall Carter-Tripp (Political science professor and former Division Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research)

Details of charges against Mark Hirst are here. The indictment against me is here. You can sign the letter against this persecution here.


This hearing on 10 June is supposed to be public, but it will be virtual because of coronavirus. While it is a case management hearing, I shall nevertheless be grateful if you are able to “attend” virtually, as I am very keen indeed that I am not stitched up out of the public eye. Please send an email requesting access to the virtual hearing on 10 June to [email protected] I am very keen as many people do this as possible. Journalists please in addition copy in [email protected] for accreditation.

This is a procedural hearing before three appeal court judges. It is not the trial itself, but as with Julian Assange it is vital that the whole process is independently witnessed and that there is no potential for injustice to thrive in the dark. I am very grateful to the 700 people who have already registered.

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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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Racist Killing and Impunity

A social culture where perception of others is not conditioned by skin tone is obtainable. In the process of getting there, a system of law with no impunity for racism and with exemplary punishment for agents of the state in contravention is essential.

A court will judge whether there was intent to kill George Floyd; what is absolutely apparent is there was certainly no intent by the police to preserve his life or health. It is also plain that the force used was wildly disproportionate for the alleged offence. It is further undeniable that police violence in the USA impacts particularly on black people, and that in dealing with black people the police act with an arrogance founded on anticipated impunity. The societal change whereby the majority of adults have camera phones at the ready has given a new power of resistance to the public in this regard. That must be reinforced by exemplary sentencing.

The law currently takes the opposite approach:

If a police officer unlawfully harms a citizen, the officer is subject to assault or homicide charges—no different than if the officer committed these crimes off duty. [2] However, if a citizen unlawfully harms a police officer, the citizen is automatically subject to aggravated assault or aggravated homicide charges, which carry more severe punishment. [3] In fact, some states make the intentional killing of an on-duty officer a capital offense. [4] Enhanced charges in police encounters are thus asymmetrical. They only apply if a citizen harms an officer but not if an officer harms a citizen.

Police who kill in the course of their duties are given every latitude by the courts and far lower sentences than others who kill. That attitude needs to reverse. Police need to understand that their duty to protect and deal fairly embraces both the alleged victim and the alleged criminal. Breach of this public duty to protect should be an aggravating factor when the police kill, and sentences should be stiffer than for the general public. There are moments in public discourse where you need to come down off the fence and decide which side you are on; I am on the side of Black Lives Matter.

Here are two murdered men who have even less chance of receiving justice than George Floyd.

There is a stark contrast between the justified international outrage at Floyd’s death, and the unremarked killing of just a couple more Palestinians. I recommend this twitter thread by the ever excellent Ben White, and the links it gives. Ben does not mention that Iyad, on the left, was on his way to classes for those with special needs when he was chased and gunned down by Israeli soldiers.

This may surprise you. The police in the USA have less impunity for killings than the police in the UK.

Even as straightforward a case as the murder of Jean Charles De Menezes, who did nothing wrong whatsoever, brought no action against the police in the UK. The killing of Sheku Bayoh in Fife had obvious parallels with that of George Floyd, yet nobody was charged. 457 people have died in police custody since 1998, from all causes. From 2005-2015 10% of 294 deaths were “restraint related”. That is 30 people in the UK in ten years who have died at the hands of police in much the same way George Floyd died. That figure excludes those shot by the police.

Not one British policeman has been convicted of an unlawful killing in all these deaths. – not one. The last British policeman convicted was in 1969. That is what I call real impunity.

Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/655710/Deaths_in_police_custody_A_review_of_the_international_evidence.pdf

And that is without examining the similar impunity enjoyed even by private contractors in the UK responsible for the many deaths in the prison system and in immigration detention.

Impunity is a major problem all round the world, and everywhere it enables disproportionate use of state violence against minorities. But it is most sinister in a state like the United Kingdom, where the support of the prosecutorial and judicial institutions of the state for those who enforce the state’s monopoly of violence is absolute, and where the public are so conditioned to the power of the state they do not even notice the impunity.

The United Kingdom is full of people, right now, looking at the images of unrest from the USA and telling each other that the way the police kill black people in the USA is terrible. We do not process that in the UK law enforcement officers enjoy still greater impunity than in the USA.

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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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Let’s Move On From Boris

Boris has a new slogan, “Move on”, which he deployed repeatedly today in his appearance before the House of Commons Liaison Committee. Remembering short slogans is fairly well the extent of his political skills, and he contrived to look pleased with hmself for remembering this one. The public, he solemnly informed those watching, now wanted the narrative to “Move on” from the Dominic Cummings debacle.

The problem with this slogan is it does not have a good history. The aged among us will remember that after the disaster of the Iraq war, it was constantly repeated by Tony Blair. OK, millions of people were dead. But it was time to “move on” from that. Only he could not. The dead of Iraq have haunted him ever since, they enabled Brown to depose him and Blair has the look of a man who believes the dead will be waiting to speak against him in the next life. No matter how much the Guardian still tries constantly to rehabilitate him, he will always have to be protected from the British public, a stinking rich, morally bankrupt pariah.

One of the first articles published in this blog spoke of Blair and his “Move on” mantra. On 21 April 2005 I published from the Blackburn parliamentary election:

Two months ago I arrived here alone, standing forlornly with my rucksack on Blackburn railway station, in the midnight snow. I wanted to make a stand on principle against illegal war, and against Jack Straw’s decision that we should use intelligence obtained under torture. I wanted to get some national publicity for these issues during the campaign, to counter Tony Blair’s mantra: “Let’s move on” from the war.

(Am I the only one to find this mantra insulting? I think I’ll rob a bank to get some campaign funds. When the police come to take me away, I’ll say, “Hey, let’s move on. OK, so I robbed a bank. Whatever the rights and wrongs, that phase is over. What is important is that we all come together now and get behind the really great things I’m going to do with the money.”)

When a politician is desperate enough to use the “move on” slogan, you know they have done something very wrong indeed and are in big trouble.

“And now we must move on from Watergate to the business of the people”

said President Richard Nixon on August 25 1973.

Like Johnson, Nixon made the claim it was “the people” who want to move on. This is the standard mantra for politicians who have done something very illegal: the public do not care, are not interested in justice being visited on politicians. It is always the public who are urging the guilty politicians to “move on” and ignore the trivial detail of their own guilt.

“No decision I have ever made in politics has been as divisive as the decision to go to war to in Iraq. It remains deeply divisive today. I know a large part of the public want to move on.”

Tony Blair on 4 March 2004.

“Our country has been distracted by this matter for too long and I take my responsibility for my part in all of this,” he said. “That is all I can do. Now is the time — in fact, it is past time — to move on. . . . And so tonight I ask you to turn away from the spectacle of the past seven months, to repair the fabric of our national discourse, and to return our attention to all the challenges and all the promise of the next American century.”

Bill Clinton on the Monica Lewinsky affair, August 17th 1998.

We now know it would have been a good deal better if America had not “moved on” but had taken a much deeper interest in Clinton’s appalling history of predatory sexual behaviour.

I presume you see the pattern here. If a politician tells you to “move on” from a subject, it is a gigantic red flag that you should do precisely the opposite. I tried to discover some examples of politicians telling us to “move on” from an issue, where hindsight does not show the politician to have been a massive crook. No examples were readily apparent.

Ladies and gentlemen, I add to this list of shame:

“It is now time to move on… the country wants to move on.”

Boris Johnson 27 May 2020 on the Cummings Scandal.

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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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Why Barnard Castle

UPDATED Dominic Cummings specifically stated now in the press briefing that he had been eager to “get back to work to get vaccine deals through, move regulations aside” and that is why he drove to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.

Now it may be entirely a coincidence that the place to which he chose to drive for his eyesight test happened to be the site of the major factory of GlaxoSmithKline. It may be an entire coincidence that two days later, on the very day Cummings actually started work back in Downing Street he has stated was “to get vaccine deals through”, GlaxoSmithKline announced an agreement to develop the vaccine.

It is however plainly not crazy to ask the question. This astonishing Twitter pile-on against Clive Lewis for retweeting my piece says something very worrying, when you consider that the large majority of those piling in are supposedly part of the “opposition” and include many journalists. A society where it is viewed as a sign of madness to look into the prospect of corruption involving a company as massively, provenly corrupt as GlaxoSmithKline and a figure as shady as Cummings, is a very unhealthy society indeed.

One red flag to me is the number of trolls claiming GlaxoSmithKline only has a small and remote office in Barnard Castle. This is not the entire site, and in a further £96 million investment two new blocks are in construction or recently finished:

So to return to my original posting:

In 2012 GlaxoSmithKline were fined $3 billion for fraud, overcharging and making false claims about medicines in the USA. In 2016, GlaxoSmithKline were fined £37.6 million in the UK for bribing companies not to produce generic copies of their out of patent drugs, thus overcharging the NHS.

Despite the fines, these frauds were still massively profitable for GlaxoSmithKline. A perfunctory search on the company brings up similar frauds and fines it perpetrated in South Africa and India. All this within the last decade. I cannot find any information that anyone was jailed, or even sacked, for these criminal activities. It is absolutely astonishing that such an habitually criminal enterprise carries on serenely in the UK. And what is particularly interesting today is that it carries on its crooked activity from its massive manufacturing and research base in Barnard Castle, County Durham.

On 12 April Dominic Cummings was seen in Castle Barnard during lockdown. Two days later, GlaxoSmithKline of Barnard Castle signed an agreement to develop and manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine with Sanofi of France.

Of course, that could be coincidence. As a child I lived in nearby Peterlee and I know families may go to Barnard Castle just for relaxation. Even when that is illegal. But GlaxoSmithKline Barnard Castle has been working 24/7 during the coronavirus crisis including the weekends. It was working.

The government’s extraordinary refusal to confirm or deny Cummings visit to Barnard Castle appears to make little sense if he just went there for a walk.

But surely if he was discussing Covid-19 vaccine business on behalf of the government, that would answer all the critics of his trip, would it not? They would want to trumpet it from the hills? I mean to believe otherwise, you would have to propound a crazed conspiracy theory. You would have to believe that criminal activity may be occurring again involving GlaxoSmithKline of the kind which might lead to fines of 37.6 million pounds for overcharging the NHS, or of three billion dollars for fraudulent medical claims in the USA. Nobody sane believes that kind of thing, do they?

UPDATED: I should never be surprised by the puerile nature of debate on the internet, but I frequently am. There appears to be organised pushback stating that this article is only speculation. Of course it is. It states a number of facts not generally known, and wonders if there is a connection. It does not claim to have proof Cummings visited GSK, let alone of what he did when there. But both GSK and Cummings are known bad actors.

The even sillier argument is that Barnard Castle is the research and manufacturing centre and not the corporate HQ and therefore no deal could have been done there. Because when a company is involved in a massive criminal conspiracy, as GSK undeniably was in the multi-billion fraud in the USA or its price-fixing to the NHS, such criminal actions obviously can only be arranged in the main London company boardroom during normal working hours with lots of people around and the maximum chance of inconvenient people finding out what is happening? That is a stupid argument.

Equally, those who claim I have uncovered a criminal conspiracy are wrong. I have not. All I have done is put together some circumstances around Cummings denied trip to Barnard Castle, that could potentially provide a more reasonable explanation for why he would take the risk of going there, and why the government would stake all politically on denying it, than a day trip for a walk for his wife’s birthday. I have not proven anything.
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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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Authoritarianism is Shoddy

Well, it is really happening. It is something of a shock to see yourself listed as a criminal for writing the truth. I have a tiny extra glimpse now into the way my friend Julian has been feeling.

Three appeal court judges even at the procedural hearing – though not unheard of, that is not normal. The state is sparing no resources on this; in a sense I am flattered.

There will be no jury at the eventual trial, and this worries me. Not least because the indictment (called a “petition”) contains within itself evidence that this process is a stitch up. Please help me here, and read paras 49 to 56 of the indictment after reading this explanation.

Para 49 of the indictment is an utter garble. It states that I sent a twitter message beginning “It is respectfully submitted…”.

I sent no such twitter message. Para 50 is missing. This is not a misnumbering, para 50 really is missing. I assume my twitter message, intended to be quoted at para 49, and whatever led in to the Crown’s argument beginning “it is respectively submitted” were in the missing section.

At para 53 the same thing happens again. It explicitly states that I published another tweet starting: “it is respectfully submitted that”.

I published no such tweet. Again the indictment does not give the actual text of the tweet complained of, even though it claims to do so. This time two paragraphs are clearly missing, and again this is not just a misnumbering, because of the missing material. It jumps from 53 to 56.

In short, the indictment from paras 49 to 56 is an inoperable jumble, with three paras missing from two different locations and which does not even contain – though it states it does – the very tweets which form part of the alleged offence with which I am charged.

You may argue this does not matter, and clerical errors are easily corrected. But that is to miss the point. I used to prepare official documents in my 20 year diplomatic career, from ministerial replies to members of the public to fully fledged international treaties.

A Diplomatic Note to a foreign government, which has a legal status, might be the best comparator from my work to this indictment or petition. I always scrupulously proof read every one I sent before signing. It is unthinkable that a Diplomatic Note would be sent containing not one but a series of major, material errors.

Is this document any less solemn? It is an indictment on which they are attempting to brand me a criminal and potentially send me to prison for up to two years. It is signed by Alex Prentice, Depute Advocate General on behalf of the Lord Advocate, and by the senior judge, Lord Turnbull.

But one thing is abundantly clear. Neither Alex Prentice nor Lord Turnbull can have carefully read through the document before they signed it. I do not believe for one moment that they would knowingly sign off a document containing such major errors. The judge, in particular, is meant to weigh carefully the matter to see if there really is a case to answer before he signs the Crown’s “petition”. But, I say it again, plainly Lord Turnbull has not actually read through it; or he would never have signed this garbled mess.

I am advised that it may be “contempt of court” for me to point out that Lord Turnbull signed this without reading it. But when a law makes it illegal to point out a blindingly obvious fact, then the law is an ass.

If Lord Turnbull does not wish to be criticised, he should try doing his job properly and actually paying attention to what he signs.

Contempt is the right word. I have a great deal of contempt for anybody who would send me such a portentous legal document rotten through with utterly careless error which would have been spotted by even a cursory reading of the document.

They did not read it. The judge who approved it did not read it.

Neither of them bothered to read the indictment or petition because it had already been decided to “get” Craig Murray and it therefore did not matter what the document actually said. The content of the charges is immaterial to them. Otherwise, they would have read them before signing. There can only be two reasons for that failure. The first is incompetence. The second is corruption. In a sense, it does not matter which it is in this case.

A state which is turning to authoritarianism to crush dissent does not need to be very careful about matters of process.

The failure of both Prentice and Turnbull to read before signing is not important for the mistakes in the document, which can be remedied by a new document. It is important because of the clear indication of attitude. This prosecution is abuse of process, a clear Article Six violation under the European Convention on Human Rights.

A series of facts make this abundantly plain. The abuse of process lies in this combined with the extraordinary selectivity in prosecuting me, when others who can be objectively proven to have much more effectively produced “jigsaw identification” are not prosecuted. There is a very clear political motivation behind the selection of who to prosecute and who not to prosecute.

When you put together the facts that there is overwhelming evidence that mainstream media journalists were more guilty of “jigsaw identification” than I, that systematic police action is being taken to harass only supporters of Alex Salmond, and that they don’t even care what the indictment to be used against me actually says, the overall picture becomes very, very clear.

Authoritarianism doesn’t have to worry about mistakes in the indictment, because it can just smash you in the face with the jackboot. That is what is happening here.

My own view is that they were so keen to “get” Craig Murray they just signed without any proper scrutiny whatsoever. I don’t see any other conclusion. Do you?

They do not have the excuse that this is routine. Major prosecutions for contempt in Scotland are extremely rare – the last one was Aamer Anwar about a decade ago (it failed).

So why could the state be so keen to prosecute Craig Murray, that is doesn’t even care what is in the indictment, or even if it is drawn up with the most basic level of competence? Well, I refer you to this excellent letter setting out the fact that the state is only acting against those who defended the innocent Alex Salmond, even though his detractors were much more in contempt of court. And I refer you to the Panelbase opinion poll which showed that very substantially more people who know the identities of the accusers, learnt them from the mainstream media.

I remain clear that I identified nobody. If I had wanted to, I would have done so openly. I have never been noted for cowardice.

The other accusation, that I wrote articles stating that the prosecution of Alex Salmond was a fit-up, is something I state again here. It is a proper exercise of my freedom of speech under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Actually, you don’t have to go past the very first sentence of the indictment to understand what is happening here. It reads “On 23 January 2019, Alexander Elliott Anderson Salmond was arrested by police officers in relation to a number of incidents that had taken place in Scotland.”

“That had taken place”.
Not “alleged to have taken place”.
“That had taken place”.
And Prentice wrote this, and Turnbull signed it off, after the acquittal.

After independent witnesses gave eye witness accounts that several of the incidents had not taken place at all. After it was demonstrated in court that the accuser of the most serious offence was not even present when she claimed the offence took place.

After the jury threw out the pile of ordure that the very same Alex Prentice as prosecuting counsel presented to them.

“That had taken place”. No, most of the incidents had not taken place at all, and none in the form alleged.

Right at the start, this wording gives away the motivation. The conspirators have still not psychologically processed the fact their attack on Alex Salmond was foiled by the jury. The Crown is now coming at Mark Hirst and at me in an effort to get some kind of victory from this massive waste of public resources. The conspirators seek to assuage their massive humiliation in the failure of a prosecution that stank and quite obviously ought never to have been brought.

I am not going to pipe down under this abuse of process and attack on freedom of speech. On the contrary, this will be a reasoned, forceful and very public resistance.

TWO WAYS YOU CAN HELP

The hearing on 10 June is supposed to be public, but it will be virtual because of coronavirus. While it is a case management hearing, I shall nevertheless be grateful if you are able to “attend” virtually, as I am very keen indeed that I am not stitched up out of the public eye. Please send an email requesting access to the virtual hearing on 10 June to [email protected] I am very keen as many people do this as possible. Journalists please in addition copy in [email protected] for accreditation.

Secondly, many people come to this blog through social media and I am currently suffering a very high level of suppression, on Facebook and especially on Twitter. Rather than just retweet and share any soical media post that brought you here, (which may appear on the face to have worked but the dissemination will be suppressed), I would be very grateful if you could also write your own new posting and put a link. If you have your own blog or access to one, a commendation of this post with a link would be very welcome, even if it is not your normal policy. And finally of course, the entire post is free as always to copy, republish and translate as you wish.

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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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Profiting from Coronavirus

On 5 May, the British security services released to their pet media the claim that Russia, China and Iran were attempting to hack into British research institutes conducting coronavirus research. The BBC reported it. Britain’s shameful copy and paste media all, without exception, just copy and pasted the government press release.

The Guardian gave the quote:

“Any attack against efforts to combat the coronavirus crisis is utterly reprehensible. We have seen an increased proportion of cyber-attacks related to coronavirus and our experts work around the clock to help organisations targeted”.

If Britain had one single mainstream media journalist willing to think, rather than just regurgitate government propaganda, they might have realised that there is a massive story here if you look at it the other way round. The quote from the Guardian deliberately attempted to give the impression that Russia, China and Iran were trying to disable, destroy or hamper coronavirus research: “Any attack against efforts to combat the coronavirus”. But if you read carefully through those articles, you find that the allegation is merely that they are attempting hack in to gain access to the research.

Because the UK and the US are attempting to hide their vaccine and treatment research results from the rest of the world to make money out of them.

Much has been written about the possibility for a new and better kind of world to emerge after coronavirus. Yet our governments cannot conceive of any model for fighting this threat to the whole world, other than the capitalist, money-making model. The much-touted “race to develop a vaccine” is not a race to save lives. It is a race to make billions.

The United States and the United Kingdom are working in all international fora to head off efforts to pool global research and to make any vaccine or medicine a good for the world. Governments can reward those working on the vaccine, and the companies for providing the facilities, using economic models other than the patent and the potential for massive profit.

It may come as a shock to you to realise that at the moment all those lovely vaccine and medicine researchers you see being interviewed on TV about their efforts to compress trials and approvals and get the product to the marketplace, are not sharing their results with fellow researchers around the world. They are rather jealously guarding them and each working in a bubble hoping to be the first in order to cash in. It is certainly true that many of the researchers themselves do not like this, but are controlled by their bosses.

For me, the failure to set up a worldwide shared scientific database on all coronavirus vaccine and medicine research, and the failure to set up a prior agreement on free manufacture worldwide of effective resulting vaccines and treatments, is the most revealing fact about the entire coronavirus episode. The fact that the British government is putting massive resources into ensuring the Chinese or Russians cannot “steal” our research – and doubtless the Chinese and Russians are doing the same, all states are hypocrites in these matters – should sicken everybody.

Our politicians repeatedly attack China for an alleged lack of openness on the pandemic while upholding a profit-led model for tackling it. That model not only excludes openness on research but necessitates security service action to protect the research from being accessed by other researchers in other countries whose collaboration could be invaluable to the world.

There is a report tucked away in today’s Guardian that opens a window on all this:

The sole resolution before the assembly this year is an EU proposal for a voluntary patent pool. Drug and vaccine companies would then be under pressure to give up the monopoly that patents allow them on their inventions, which means they can charge high prices, so that all countries can make or buy affordable versions.

In the weeks of negotiations leading up to the meeting, which is scheduled to last for less than a day, there has been a dispute over the language of the resolution. Countries with major pharmaceutical companies argue they need patents to guarantee sufficiently high prices in wealthy nations to recoup their research and development costs.

Even more fraught have been attempts to reinforce countries’ existing rights to break drug and vaccine company patent monopolies if they need to for the sake of public health. A hard-fought battle over Aids drugs 20 years ago led to the World Trade Organization’s Doha declaration on trade-related intellectual property (Trips) in favour of access to medicines for all, but the US, which has some of the world’s biggest drug companies, has strongly opposed wording that would encourage the use of Trips.

But this refers to protecting the rights in the product eventually to be manufactured. There is prior action needed on lifting all veils on research and the free interflow in real time between companies, institutions and nations of all research ideas and date in the struggle to develop vaccines and treatments. It should be a great joint enterprise bringing the world together, not a race between nations to cash in. The free real time sharing of all research worldwide could make progress substantially quicker, to the benefit of everybody on the planet we share.

If we cannot put aside profit in favour of altruism as the motive in the fight against a massive common threat, then I despair for the future of human society. No wonder we are prey to pandemics.

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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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The Choice

I came across this 2007 interview I did for BBC Radio 4 with Michael Buerk. He is a good interviewer and challenges me directly and critically at several points. The interview is particularly fascinating for the fact that the British government was still lying through its teeth and issuing desperate denials that torture and collusion with extraordinary rendition had ever happened.

It is also good to remind myself that the audience of this blog has grown exponentially and many readers do not know the back story. I had never listened to this interview since giving it and I found it pretty compelling myself!

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Defend Mark Hirst

Mark Hirst, a former senior SNP staffer at Holyrood, is being criminally prosecuted under the 2003 Communications Act for saying this:

These women, and not just these women, some of the people involved in this are senior members of the Scottish Government, senior members of the SNP, and they have been involved in this active collusion to try and destroy Alex Salmond’s reputation and there’s not a cat’s chance in hell that they are going to get away with that.
So they’re going to reap a whirlwind, no question about it, that’s going to happen as soon as this virus emergency is out of the way, then there is going to be a bit of reckoning takes place and we’ll clear out the soft independence supporters which are currently leading the party, that’s why we’ve seen no movement in nearly six years and we’re going to claim the party back, get the country back on course for Independence but to do that we are going to have to wade through what’s left of this leadership and get them out of the way, which I am confident that we’ll do.

The Crown is making the ludicrous charge that this is a statement of a “menacing character”. Mark is being charged under the Communications Act 2003 Para 127 (1)(A)

The Crown Office has been briefing its favourite tame journalist at the Times on the charges against Mark Hirst. You will recall that when I was charged with Contempt of Court, I was contacted by the Times immediately after the police left my home.

As the Times reports, the Crown office are briefing that Mark Hirst has been charged for stating that Salmond’s accusers would “reap the whirlwind”. Both the Times and the Crown Office are guilty of gross dishonesty in presenting that phrase out of the context, which context you can now see plainly in the above full quote. The Crown Office is dishonestly attempting to convey the impression that “reap the whirlwind” implied some personal or even violent vendetta against the conspirators, whereas what Mark Hirst was actually referring to was a political campaign to take back control of the SNP from scheming careerists.

In fact what Mark is saying has precisely the same import as this tweet of mine:

Deliberately to miscontrue a call to political action in opposition to a political grouping as an act of “menace” is state persecution which has profound implications. The prosecution of Mark Hirst is the act of an executive with major fascist leanings.

Mark is the journalist and friend to whom I referred that had five policemen enter his home and confiscate all his phones and laptops. It is far from plain why that action was necessary when he is being prosecuted for the contents of a video that he openly posted online. The provenance of his video is not in dispute: why would they need his phone and computers?

This seems another example of Police Scotland’s “fishing expedition” approach. Remember, the police who did this described themselves to Mark as the “Salmond Team”. The burning question is, why does Police Scotland still have a “Salmond Team” going around to terrorise people in their homes during a pandemic, even after Salmond’s acquittal?

That the decisions on who to prosecute are entirely political is conclusively demonstrated here and here.

I am sorry to say that it appears that the very notion of free speech is anathema to the current government of Scotland.

When we consider what they are doing against Mark Hirst and myself to attack free speech using the Contempt of Court Act 1982 and the Communications Act of 2003, we have to seriously worry about the new legislation currently going through the Scottish parliament specifically to limit freedom of speech.

On 23 April 2020 the Scottish Government introduced its Hate Crime and Public Order Bill into the Scottish Parliament. This vastly increases the amount of speech subject to criminal prosecution. It introduces new categories of protected characteristics, and gives Ministers powers to add new ones without going back to parliament. There is a specific power in the Bill for ministers to add “sex” as a protected characteristic, for example. Crucially it removes the need to prove intent embodied in current law. If you call someone an “old fool”, you will be committing a criminal offence even if you meant nothing by it and were just using a common phrase, age being a protected characteristic. Calling someone a “stupid boy” will similarly become illegal. To possess “inflammatory” material will specifically be a crime even if you had no intention to communicate it to others.

Richard III would very definitely be illegal under this legislation for anti-disabled prejudice. The Merchant of Venice would be illegal for anti-semitism. Once “sex” is added by Ministers, The Taming of the Shrew would be illegal for misogyny. I was glancing through The 39 Steps yesterday and was struck by a very anti-semitic passage I had forgotten was there. Is possessing John Buchan to be illegal? I can see nothing in the bill which would protect you from prosecution for possessing Buchan, if the Crown Office decided to go for you over it. Can you see any protection? Genuine question.

The Bill specifically includes performance. Politically incorrect jokes will become an actual criminal offence. Really. Pretty well every Carry On film ever made would now be illegal and subject its producers, writers and performers to possible imprisonment if made now. I quite accept that the mores of society change, and there is much in Carry On films society would find unacceptable now, but criminal? The Act moves matters of taste and disapproval firmly into the field of the police and the courts. It is a grossly authoritarian piece of legislation.

Once you have statutes in place that make telling a sexist joke a crime, you are dependent on the police and on prosecutors to apply the law in a sensible and liberal manner. But what the case of both Mark Hirst and myself makes plain – as indeed does the Alex Salmond case itself – is that Scotland does not have that at all. Scotland has politically controlled, vindictive and corrupt police and prosecutors who will, as the Mark Hirst case could not demonstrate more plainly, twist any law to the maximum to contrive a prosecution against those labeled as political enemies.

Mark Hirst is a good man. I realise so many of you dug very deep to fund my own defence, but I do urge those who are able to do so to support Mark, who also faces jail for the “crime” of political writing and with whom I stand shoulder to shoulder. My own defence fund has raised more than we need at the current stage of proceedings so it is my intention, absent major objection from you whose money it is, to transfer £10,000 from my defence fund to Mark’s.

——————————————

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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Playing the Blues

I have been working very hard trying to get a government backed “Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan” for the music festival. It has been like banging my head off a brick wall, with a huge batch of documents and accounts to be in your hands before you are permitted to smash your head. Before the pandemic really took hold, I had written about the challenge of making music festival finances work and the need, given infrastructure costs, to reach a certain scale to become viable. At that stage my main worry was how to maintain the non-commercial, community vibe as we expanded; selling the tickets was not proving problematic.

The pandemic has obviously been a huge blow to the entire live music industry and to festivals in particular. Very large amounts of both money and effort had already been sunk into this year’s festival, which is now unable to go ahead. We had, just to give one of scores of examples, built a new entrance to the estate to reduce traffic backing up on the roads.

A music festival is obviously very genuinely affected by the pandemic, so I did not imagine there would be trouble qualifying for the much touted government Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) for small and medium enterprises affected by the virus. We applied, and at the request of the bank produced records and a business plan showing cashflow going forward and how we would recover the financial position and repay the loan.

Last week we received a definitive rejection of our application from RBS/Natwest and I wanted to recount the reasons in detail to you, because they explain very well why the CBILS scheme has been a failure, which is going to cause a great deal of economic damage. I would add that I was dealing throughout with bank staff who really were lovely, and desperate to be helpful. Their computers kept saying no, but they did not relay that with satisfaction or indifference, and indeed went out of their way to alter the input to their computers again and again to try for a different answer. But the answer was ultimately no, and here is why.

The CBILS scheme specifies that is must be applied by the bank using the banks’ normal lending criteria – which were referred to as “policies” by the staff. The government guarantees 80% of the amount and has made available 100% of the funding, but as the bank is still theoretically 20% at risk, individual applications still have to be accepted by the banks’ underwriters as insurable. This was the rock on which our application continually foundered.

One individual phone call lasted over two hours with a “business manager” who was trying very hard to get the application through the underwriters. The application was being blocked by three bank “policies”.

1) There was an absolute bank policy against loaning for refunds to customers. We had explained this was one of the things that we needed the loan to cover.
2) A number of payments (deposits etc) made for this year’s festival were irrecoverable. These were therefore trading losses and it was bank policy not to loan to cover losses.
3) Going forward, we could give no guarantee that the festival would take place in 2021 or 2022 if coronavirus persisted.

To be plain, this was the government’s much vaunted CBILS scheme for which we were applying, which has the stated purpose of helping viable businesses survive coronavirus. Yet it is being applied by the bank in such a way as to rule out providing funds to cover losses directly caused by the coronavirus. To compound this ludicrous situation further, you cannot get a loan if there is a risk your business will be affected in future by coronavirus.

This particular manager had studied our accounts, business plan, sales growth and narrative and said that he accepted we had a good viable business plan going forward. He went to discuss the matter with his director. His director reinforced the refusal on all three counts, and added a fourth. The company, which was set up to finance the necessary expansion of Doune the Rabbit Hole, has been trading for less than two years and, like most startups, was yet to show any profit. We therefore would not be eligible on

4) Lack of profit history

The CBILS scheme has been supplemented by a special scheme for startups, “the Future Fund”, but this only applies to the Tech industry.

The friendly business manager told me that he had found the CBILS scheme particularly frustrating as it was not doing what it claimed to do. His sector was the hospitality and leisure industry, and the bank’s policies actively precluded him from giving loans where they were most needed. He said that the vast majority of CBILS loans he had seen granted were to larger established enterprises and were related entirely to covering their fixed costs – eg rents, mortgages, utilities, insurances etc. Large landlords have readily received loans from the CBILS scheme.

So I can tell you definitively that the government’s much vaunted Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to “save” the country’s small and medium enterprises cannot be used to borrow money to cover in the short term any loss you are making due to coronavirus. You can only get the loan if you are a wealthy company that is not making a loss from coronavirus, does not actually need the loan, and could have got a loan under the bank’s own commercial lending criteria anyway. It is in short, like every Tory measure, a way of funneling government resources to the benefit of the wealthy.

The bank have referred us to the new “Bounce-Back” loan scheme, which is designed to address some of these issues with the CBILS scheme. In particular, it can help non-tech startups, with no need to show a profit for companies in their first three years of trading, and there is no exclusion for companies making a loss due to coronavirus. The problem is, that the loan limit of £50,000 barely scratches the surface of our immediate requirements. But the festival has always been a confection of community spirit and sweat; we will find a way to make it work. I shall let you know how the Bounce-Back application goes in due course.

——————————————

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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A Very Political Prosecution

CORRECTION I published in error that 73% of those who know identities of Salmond’s accusers learnt them from mainstream media. The correct figure is 66%. I aggregated broadcast and newspapers but these were not exclusive questions. In fact the percentage of those in the know who cited broadcast, newspapers or both as their source was 66%.

We are looking for potential witnesses who would be willing to give a sworn statement, and if necessary swear on oath in court in my trial for contempt, that they followed my reporting of the Alex Salmond trial and were unable to work out any of the identities of the accusers from my reports. It is particularly helpful if you can say more than this in one of two ways:

Firstly, if you can say you were unable to work out who the accusers were from my accounts, despite yourself possessing some specialist knowledge, that would be helpful. Such specialist knowledge might include having held office in the SNP, having dealings with Alex Salmond and his staff, or having been a relevant civil servant.

And/or secondly, if you can say that you were unable to work out any of the identities from my reporting, but were able to do so from other reporting, and name the source.

I hope it goes without saying that I only want people to come forward who can genuinely do so in truth, and be prepared if necessary to swear to that.

I was very careful in my reporting not to “out” any of the identities, and I am happy to say that I can now prove that I had no significant effect on popular knowledge of the identities of the failed accusers. I took the unusual decision to commission an opinion poll on the subject from Panelbase, one of the UK’s leading pollsters. This was made possible using funds you provided with the defence fund, and I hope you will agree it is money well spent. We will seek to submit the poll as evidence in court.

You should realise this was at risk. I was committed to publishing the poll, whatever its results. If it came out saying that only a few people knew the identities, and they all learnt them from Craig Murray, I would have had to admit to that. But in fact, this is not what the poll shows at all.

It is important to note that my questions were an add-on to a Panelbase poll using their absolutely normal methods for sampling Scottish public opinion. They surveyed 1086 people and applied their standard weightings to the results.

The finding is stunning. 8% of the adult population of Scotland believe they know the identity of one or more of the failed accusers. That means over 350,000 people know, or believe they know, identities.

Of these, 66% learnt the identities from TV and newspapers. 29% learnt from independent websites or blogs. 19% learnt from friends or contacts. (You could of course learn from more than one source so this adds to more than 100).

We then asked an open question, giving people the opportunity to name the specific media from which they learnt the identities. There were a limited number of responses, so I give here the number of people who named each source rather than dress it up as a percentage:

Can you name a specific broadcast, newspaper or website source from which you learnt or deduced the identities? (there were no prompts, an open answer)

Scotland on Sunday 3

Sun 3

Guardian 2

Daily Record 2

BBC 2

Scotsman 2

Times 2

Herald 1

Telegraph 1

John James blog 1

Channel 4 1

ITV 1

Craig Murray blog 1

Press and Journal 1

National 1

Financial Times 1

Daily Mail 1

Can you name the specific journalist or blogger you had learnt or deduced identities from? (There were no prompts, an open answer):

Dani Garavelli 4

Severin Carrell 2

Magnus Linklater 1

Paul Hutcheon 1

Kenny Farquharson 1

Kieran Andrews 1

David Mackay 1

Mure Dickie 1

(Nobody actually replied Craig Murray or John James to this question, but given each had his blog mentioned once as a source it would probably be fair to add both with 1 each).

Dani Garavelli tops both lists, because her article on the case was published in Scotland on Sunday. As that is the Sunday edition of the Scotsman, that unionist rag is well ahead as the prime source of knowledge, with the Murdoch stable of the Times and Sun combined not far behind.

Plainly, it is unsatisfactory from the point of view of the law that 350,000 people know identities. Something which 350,000 people know in Scotland is not a secret, and has achieved the critical mass required for anybody who actually wants to know to be able to find out just by asking around. I strongly suspect that the large majority of those who do not know, do not wish to anyway.

But equally plainly, it is not my fault that 350,000 people know. It is overwhelmingly down to the mainstream media, as the poll shows. The simple truth is that, in a trial where a number of very politically powerful figures conspired together to bring false charges against one of the most famous people in Scotland, anonymity was always going to be extremely hard to protect. You can’t expect it to work as it rightly would in protecting the identity of a worker in Dundee attacked by a stranger. The poll shows that it did not work; and it proves that is not my fault.

I assume the single individual who mentioned me as the source was acting in good faith – though it is worth noting that the polling was carried out after every newspaper in Scotland had run the story that I am being prosecuted for contempt of court for revealing identities.  In that circumstance, that I am not more prominent is remarkable and must reflect a truth.

The charge of “jigsaw identification” is very difficult to refute. As soon as you publish anything at all about the evidence in a case, there is of course the chance that is the last piece of information that an individual with particular knowledge needed to work out an identity. Let me put if this way. If the jigsaw is a face in 1,000 pieces, if your information contributes 12 pieces out of 1,000 you may think you revealed nothing. But you cannot guard against the person sitting at home who already has 800 pieces and can make a guess now your 12 filled in an area.

My lawyers advise that for me to say others were guilty of jigsaw identification is not a defence, any more than if I were to rob a bank it would be a defence to say somebody else did it too. But what this poll shows conclusively is that in practice anyone who reported on the trial could be accused of jigsaw identification.

Nobody can look at the above data and say that the obvious course of justice is to prosecute Craig Murray and nobody else. Is there a single person who honestly believes that it is a coincidence that they are prosecuting the only journalist who fairly reported the defence case against this government led fit-up? That they have chosen to prosecute the political dissident and whistleblower and not the mainstream media who were collectively responsible for far more identification? The selectivity of this prosecution represents an Article 6 abuse of the European Convention on Human Rights.

There are of course two strands to the indictment against me, insofar as anything can be deduced from that incoherent document. One is jigsaw identification. The other is reporting likely to influence the trial. I have just demolished the first strand; you cannot possibly prosecute me and not the mainstream media. I refuse to take the second strand seriously. If they genuinely believed my reporting could influence the trial, they had a public duty to take action before or during the trial, not months afterwards. This is very plainly a political persecution.

A final note. With over 5,000 people having contributed to my defence fund, I do hope you will forgive the lack of personal replies to thank you. I am really quite overwhelmed and humbled by your kindness.

You should also know that, as it was never my intention to identify anyone, I have pending the outcome of my trial temporarily censored those sentences in my articles complained of by the prosecution as causing jigsaw identification, even though I strongly deny that they do. Prior to receiving the indictment, I had no idea precisely what the complaint referred to.  I have also censored the indictment of its references to the same material. I do not believe there was any problem with the originals; but it is a very few sentences and my lawyers rather insisted. I hope you will not feel I am too cowardly in this.

I have refused to censor those larger passages the Crown complain of where I state that the charges were a fit-up and a state sponsored conspiracy. I believe here there is a vital argument of freedom of speech, and I will not bend.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible.

This article is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation, and I very much hope people will do so actively. Truth shall set us free.

——————————————

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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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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More Information Wars

I am subject to a very peculiar hidden censorship by Twitter. I have long noted that many of the articles I deem most important were reaching far fewer people than I might expect through Twitter, whereas inconsequential tweets reach large numbers with ease. I decided to do a controlled test on this, with a content free tweet.

 

This got retweeted 131 times and was seen by 134,576 people.

That’s 1,027 people per retweet.

That is the neutral control. Now here is the tweet of an article which I believe to be very important.

That got retweeted 419 times but was seen by just 38,288 people.

That’s 91 people per retweet.

On that measure 11 times less than the content free tweet.

The “Impressions” measure is governed by Twitter actually introducing the Tweet into somebody’s timeline. When I tweet, (the same principle applies when somebody retweets) Twitter does not just automatically drop that tweet into the timeline of all 80,000 people who follow me. It starts with a sample of those, and then an algorithm increases the number depending on how popular the tweet was. There are a number of moving parts to that, but retweets is a major factor. Yet in this instance, a tweet which is retweeted by over 1.1% of those who see it, is given far less exposure by twitter than a tweet retweeted by less than 0.1% of those who see it.

The reason that I did this experiment is that I have been observing this happening for a long time, with many of my most important tweets suppressed. Either there is electronic monitoring and analysis of subject matter to suppress certain political subjects, or there is active human monitoring. I am very much inclined to believe the latter, because I find the suppression kicking in is quite nuanced; it depends not so much on subject matter, as on precisely my take on the subject matter and how far it challenges the mainstream narrative.

Impressions per retweet is a rough measure of what is going on. For a more accurate measure you would need to divide Impressions by: my 80,000 follows plus the totaled follows of all who retweeted, in each case. But the rough measure is a good indication that something is amiss. As I said, I am attempting to measure a phenomenon I have noticed over a long period.

Yesterday, my friend Stuart Campbell had all his twitter accounts cancelled. The highly popular Wings Over Scotland account was taken down some time ago, and now his personal account and his old Sealand Gazette account have also been taken down. This is following a campaign against him by activists opposed to his view on trans rights. I do not share Stu’s views on that specific subject, but the attempt to impose conformity of opinion and to limit the right of free expression is appalling.

These attacks on free speech matter.

Sadly the internet has developed in such a way that alternative media outlets like this one are highly dependent on two major corporate gatekeepers – Facebook and Twitter – for bringing in the majority of our traffic. Both have instituted policies of deliberate suppression of views which do not accord to the agenda of the mainstream media.

The reason that my tweet in this instance was suppressed is that it points to my article giving information on the UK government’s coronavirus App which you will not find in the mainstream media.

I find Twitter much worse than Facebook in this regard. A few years ago I would have mentioned Google as a major source of traffic too, but that pass has long been sold. This website used to get a great deal of traffic from Google, but even though our readership is now many times what it was a few years ago, Google has penalised alternative media heavily in its rankings and we now get almost no traffic from that source.

People learn. About 40% of readers of this site now just come straight here, and not from any link or source, just dropping in themselves to see if anything new. Five years ago that number was less than 10%. The internet retains its ability to work round blockages, because it empowers the ingenuity of people.  Keep that hopeful thought and cherish it.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible.

This article is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation, and I very much hope people will do so actively. Truth shall set us free.

——————————————

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:

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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Civil Liberty Vanishes

The sinister potential of coronavirus lockdown to suppress dissent was on display on Monday as police broke up a small group of protestors outside Westminster Crown Court during a case management hearing for Julian Assange. The dozen protestors, who included Julian’s father John Shipton, were all social distancing at least 2 metres apart (except where living in the same household). The police did not observe social distancing as they broke up this small and peaceful protest.

This is a stark illustration of the use of the current emergency powers to suppress legitimate dissent.

For the first time, there was something of a court victory for Assange’s defence team, as they obtained their preferred date of September for resumption of the extradition hearing. Last week magistrate Baraitser had tried to impose a choice of July or November based on the availability of Woolwich Crown Court. As defence witnesses have to come from around the world, July was too early for the defence, while November would mean another lengthy period of incarceration for the unconvicted Assange. This is not the first time the defence have secured the agreement of the US-led prosecution to a procedural request, but it is the very first time Baraitser has acceded to anything proposed by the defence, throughout all the lengthy proceedings.

SO the Assange hearing will resume in September, and of course I intend to be there to report it, if not myself incarcerated. The exact date is not yet known nor the venue. It will not be Woolwich but another Crown Court which has availability. I suspect it may be at Kingston-upon-Thames, because the government will want to maintain the theatre of the peaceful Julian being an ultra-dangerous offender and that is the other purpose built “anti-terrorism court” in London.

It is well worth reading this excellent article from El Pais by Julian’s partner, Stella Morris. It says a great deal that in the state that is actually holding Europe’s most prominent political prisoner, no newspaper would publish it. It is a truism that the general public fail to notice the slide into authoritarianism before it is too late. I confess I never thought to witness the process first hand in the UK. The information on guns in the article is new to me:

After Julian was arrested a year ago, Spain’s High Court opened an investigation into the security company that had been operating inside the embassy. Several whistleblowers came forward and have informed law enforcement of unlawful activities against Julian and his lawyers, both inside and outside the embassy. They are cooperating with law enforcement and have provided investigators with large amounts of data.

The investigation has revealed that the company had been moonlighting for a US company closely associated with the current US administration and US intelligence agencies and that the increasingly disturbing instructions, such as following my mother or the baby DNA directive, had come from their US client, not Ecuador. Around the same time that I had been approached about the targeting of our baby, the company was thrashing out even more sinister plans concerning Julian’s life. Their alleged plots to poison or abduct Julian have been raised in UK extradition proceedings. A police raid at the security company director’s home turned up two handguns with their serial numbers filed off.

We are now to be expected to entrust ourselves to a new coronavirus tracing app, currently being trialed on the Isle of Wight, that allows the government to know precisely where we are and with whom. The results will be permanently stored in a central database – something that is not required for the ostensible purpose of the app. The UK is alone among European states in seeking to create a national centralised database containing traceable unique identifiers for individuals. Precisely to address civil liberties concerns, all other countries are using a devolved database approach with amalgamation only of research useful date which cannot identify individuals. The UK is also refusing to share code with the public, or even precise detail of developers. The US firm Palantir, which has developed the app for NHSX, is coy about where its development is carried out and by whom. So far nothing has been released on the architecture of the App.

I highly recommend this podcast by Matrix Chambers on the very alarming civil liberties implication of the approach to the tracing app by Boris Johnson’s government.

There is no organisation or group with an interest in data privacy which is not sounding the alarm. The Register reports:

Controversially, the NHSX app will beam that contact data back to government-controlled servers. The academics who signed today’s open letter fear that this data stockpile will become “a tool that enables data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of society, for surveillance.”

As we reported yesterday, Britain has abandoned the international consensus on how much data should be collected to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter said:

We hold that the usual data protection principles should apply: collect the minimum data necessary to achieve the objective of the application. We hold it is vital that if you are to build the necessary trust in the application the level of data being collected is justified publicly by the public health teams demonstrating why this is truly necessary rather than simply the easiest way, or a “nice to have”, given the dangers involved and invasive nature of the technology.

Then a further report in The Register emphasised still more the UK government’s rejection of the Apple-Google app being used by virtually every other country, which is specifically devised to make impossible centralised storing of information which identifies individuals:

Presumably the goal with this kind of explanation is to comfort the vast majority of UK folk who don’t understand how the entire internet economy works by connecting vast databases together.

So long as you can rely on one piece of per-user data – like a “big random number” – everything else can be connected. And if you also have a postcode, that becomes 100 times easier. Ever heard of Facebook? It’s worth billions solely because it is able to connect the dots between datasets.

Indeed, it may be possible to work out who is associating with whom from the app’s ID numbers. Bear in mind, the Apple-Google decentralized approach produces new ID numbers for each user each day, thwarting identification, especially with the ban on location tracking.

Levy also glossed over the fact that as soon as someone agrees to share their information with UK government – by claiming to feel unwell and hitting a big green button – 28 days of data from the app is given to a central server from where it can never be recovered. That data, featuring all the unique IDs you’ve encountered in that period and when and how far apart you were, becomes the property of NCSC – as its chief exec Matthew Gould was forced to admit to MPs on Monday. Gould also admitted that the data will not be deleted, UK citizens will not have the right to demand it is deleted, and it can or will be used for “research” in future.

Yes, that is Matthew Gould in charge of the whole project. Matthew Gould, who as Private Secretary to first David Miliband and then William Hague, and then as UK Ambassador to Israel, held an extraordinary total of eight secret meetings with Liam Fox and Adam Werritty together.

1) 8 September 2009 as Miliband’s Principal Private Secretary (omitted from O’Donnell report)
2) 16 June 2010 as Hague’s Principal Private Secretary (omitted from O’Donnell report)
3) A “social occasion” in summer 2010 as Ambassador designate to Israel with Gould, Fox and Werritty (omitted from O’Donnell report)
4) 1 September 2010 in London (only one September meeting in O’Donnell report)
5) 27 September 2010 in London (only one September meeting in O’Donnell report)
6) 4-6 February 2011 Herzilya Conference Israel (omitted from O’Donnell report)
7) 6 February 2011 Tel Aviv dinner with Mossad and Israeli military
8) 15 May 2011 “We believe in Israel” conference London (omitted from O’Donnell report)

Funnily enough, I was recalling Matthew Gould last week when the Cabinet Secretary, after his “investigation”, published his report “exonerating” Priti Patel of bullying. It reminded me of when then Gus O’Donnell as Cabinet Secretary published his “investigation” into the Fox-Werritty affair, in which Gus O’Donnell systematically lied and covered up the meetings between Fox, Werritty and Matthew Gould, claiming there had only been two such meetings when in fact there were eight. It is also a good moment perhaps to pay tribute to the redoubtable Paul Flynn MP, recently deceased, who after I briefed him attempted to question Gus O’Donnell on the Public Administration Committee about the meetings he was covering up. With admirable persistence, despite continual efforts to block him, Flynn did manage to get Gus O’Donnell to admit directly that one of the Fox/Werritty/Matthew Gould meetings was with Mossad.

Hansard Public Administration Committee 24/11/2011

Q<369> Paul Flynn: Okay. Matthew Gould has been the subject of a very serious complaint from two of my constituents, Pippa Bartolotti and Joyce Giblin. When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador, and they strongly believe—it is nothing to do with this case at all—that he was serving the interest of the Israeli Government, and not the interests of two British citizens. This has been the subject of correspondence.

In your report, you suggest that there were two meetings between the ambassador and Werritty and Liam Fox. Questions and letters have proved that, in fact, six such meetings took place. There are a number of issues around this. I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service. Werritty is a self-proclaimed—

Robert Halfon: Point of order, Chairman. What is the point of this?

Paul Flynn: Let me get to it. Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran.

Chair: I have to take a point of order.

Robert Halfon: Mr Flynn is implying that the British ambassador to Israel is working for a foreign power, which is out of order.

Paul Flynn: I quote the Daily Mail: “Mr Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran and has made several visits. He has also met senior Israeli officials, leading to accusations”—not from me, from the Daily Mail—“that he was close to the country’s secret service, Mossad.” There may be nothing in that, but that appeared in a national newspaper.

Chair: I am going to rule on a point of order. Mr Flynn has made it clear that there may be nothing in these allegations, but it is important to have put it on the record. Be careful how you phrase questions.

Paul Flynn: Indeed. The two worst decisions taken by Parliament in my 25 years were the invasion of Iraq—joining Bush’s war in Iraq—and the invasion of Helmand province. We know now that there were things going on in the background while that built up to these mistakes. The charge in this case is that Werritty was the servant of neo-con people in America, who take an aggressive view on Iran. They want to foment a war in Iran in the same way as in the early years, there was another—

Chair: Order. I must ask you to move to a question that is relevant to the inquiry.

Q<370> Paul Flynn: Okay. The question is, are you satisfied that you missed out on the extra four meetings that took place, and does this not mean that those meetings should have been investigated because of the nature of Mr Werritty’s interests?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I think if you look at some of those meetings, some people are referring to meetings that took place before the election.

Q<371> Paul Flynn: Indeed, which is even more worrying.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I am afraid they were not the subject—what members of the Opposition do is not something that the Cabinet Secretary should look into. It is not relevant.

But these meetings were held—
Chair: Mr Flynn, would you let him answer please?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I really do not think that was within my context, because they were not Ministers of the Government and what they were up to was not something I should get into at all.

Chair: Final question, Mr Flynn.

Q<372> Paul Flynn: No, it is not a final question. I am not going to be silenced by you, Chairman; I have important things to raise. I have stayed silent throughout this meeting so far.

You state in the report—on the meeting held between Gould, Fox and Werritty, on 6 February, in Tel Aviv—that there was a general discussion of international affairs over a private dinner with senior Israelis. The UK ambassador was present…

Sir Gus O’Donnell: The important point here was that, when the Secretary of State had that meeting, he had an official with him—namely, in this case, the ambassador. That is very important, and I should stress that I would expect our ambassador in Israel to have contact with Mossad. That will be part of his job. It is totally natural, and I do not think that you should infer anything from that about the individual’s biases.

When I put in Freedom of Information requests for the minutes of the eight meetings involving all of Liam Fox, Adam Werritty and Matthew Gould, they came back as blank sheets of paper, with literally everything removed but the date, in the interests of “national security”. When I put in a Freedom of Information request for all correspondence between Adam Werritty and Matthew Gould, I received a refusal on the grounds it would be too expensive to collect it.

I should make my position perfectly plain. I think a coronavirus tracing app is an important tool in containing the virus. I would happily use the safeguarded one being developed by Google/Apple with decentralised data and daily changing identifiers, not linked to postcodes, being adopted by major European governments.

But I think serious questions have to be asked about why the UK government has developed its own unique app, universally criticised for its permanent central data collection and ability to identify individuals from their unique codes. That this is overseen not by a scientist or health professional, but by the man who held all those secret meetings with Fox and Werritty, including with Mossad as admitted to Parliament by the then Cabinet Secretary, frankly stinks.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible.

This article is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation, and I very much hope people will do so actively. Truth shall set us free.

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