Search Results for : metropolitan


Metropolitan Police on “Chepiga” and “Mishkin”.

I have just received confirmation from the Metropolitan Police Press Bureau that both the European Arrest Warrant and Interpol Red Notice remain in the names of Boshirov and Petrov, with the caveat that both are probably aliases. Nothing has been issued in the name of Chepiga or Mishkin.

As for Bellingcat’s “conclusive and definitive evidence”, Scotland Yard repeated to me this afternoon that their earlier statement on Bellingcat’s allegations remains in force: “we are not going to comment on speculation about their identities.”

It is now a near certainty that Boshirov and Petrov are indeed fake identities. If the two were real people, it is inconceivable that by now their identities would not have been fully established with details of their history, lives, family and milieu. I do not apologise for exercising all due caution, rather than enthusiasm, about a narrative promoted to increase international tension with Russia, but am now convinced Petrov and Boshirov were not who they claimed.

But that is not to say that the information provided by NATO Photoshoppers’R’Us (Ukraine Branch) on alternative identities is genuine, either. I maintain the same rational scepticism exhibited by Scotland Yard on this, and it is a shame that the mainstream media neither does that, nor fairly reflects Scotland Yard’s position in their reporting.

Still less do I accept the British government’s narrative of the novichok poisoning, which remains full of wild surmise and apparent contradiction. No doubt further evidence will gradually emerge. The most dreadful thing about the whole saga is the death of poor Dawn Sturgess, and the most singular fact at present is that Boshirov and Petrov are only wanted in relation to the “attack on the Skripals”. There is no allegation against them by Scotland Yard or the Crown Prosecution Service over the far more serious matter of the death of Sturgess. That is a fascinating fact, massively under-reported.

I remain of the view that the best way forward would be for Putin to negotiate conditions under which Boshirov and Petrov might voluntarily come to the UK for trial. The conditions which I would suggest Russia propose are these:

1) A fully fair and open trial before a jury.
2) The entire trial to be fully public. No closed sessions nor secret evidence and no reporting restrictions.
3) No restrictions on witnesses who may be called, including the Skripals, Pablo Miller, Christopher Steele and other former and current members of the security services.
4) No restrictions on disclosure – all relevant material held by government must be given to the defence.

I strongly suspect that, if a trial would bring to public light something of the extent of the convoluted spy games that were being played out in Salisbury, we would find the British Government’s pretended thirst for justice would suddenly slam into reverse.

Sadly, it currently seems highly improbable that either justice will be served or the full truth be known.

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My Metropolitan Police Evidence on Torture and Extraordinary Rendition

This is a transcript of the evidence I gave, at their request, to the Metropolitan Police. I published scans of the witness statements yesterday, and a commenter has kindly transcribed them to make them web searchable. I was interviewed by the Police both at my home and at their headquarters, and it was made very plain to me that not only Sir Mark Allen, but Tony Blair, Jack Straw and numerous officials in the FCO and the Security Services were in the frame. I confess I therefore always expected the Establishment would have the case dropped despite overwhelming evidence.

I first offered this evidence to the Gibson Inquiry, I was treated by that Inquiry as an important witness and Judge Gibson ordered the FCO to give me full access to all documents I saw while Ambassador, to refresh my memory. No. 10 panicked at this and other evidence that Gibson was doing a genuine job, and the Gibson Inquiry was closed down by Cameron with the active complicity of Nick Clegg. I was then told by the Gibson secretariat that the Metropolitan Police were taking over aspects of that inquiry. I was then contacted and interviewed by the Metropolitan Police and gave this evidence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions having corruptly closed down the criminal case, the matter is now purportedly under investigation by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament – consisting entirely of “trusties” of the security services. They have continually and repeatedly refused requests by me to give evidence. I last heard from them on 15 December 2015, a simple acknowledgement of a receipt of a communication.

As nobody can claim my evidence is untrue due to the amount of documentary report, the Establishment simply ensures it does not get heard by any inquiry or court. When the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee had hearings into extraordinary rendition, they directly asked seven different witnesses – including Jack Straw – whether I was telling the truth, but they refused to call me as a witness or to accept written evidence from me.

WITNESS STATEMENT
CI Act 1967. 3.9: MC Act I980. ss.5A(3)(a) and SB; Criminal Procedure Rules 2005. Rule 27.1
Age if under 18 Over 18 (if over I3 insert ‘over 18’) Occupation: Development Consultant

This statement (consisting of pages each signed by me) is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and I make it knowing that, if it is tendered in evidence, I shall be liable to prosecution if I have wilfully stated anything in it which I know to be false, or do not believe to be true.

I joined the Foreign Office in 1984 direct from University in the ‘fast stream‘ process. I held a number of posts including second secretary in Lagos, then Head of the Maritime section in London and the Cyprus section. Around 1992-l993 I was also head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) embargo surveillance section both before and after the first Gulf War. Its role was to monitor Iraqi attempts of weapons procurement. I then served in Poland as first secretary in the Embassy and returned to London as deputy Head of the Africa Department, and thereafter in Ghana as Deputy High Commissioner. I was security cleared to Developed Vetted level and because of my earlier work in relation to Iraqi arms embargo l was given extra security clearances enabling me to view other sensitive intelligence material up to including various extra codewords over and above Top Secret. I have never worked for either the Security Service (SYS) or Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). I speak both Polish and Russian.

In August 2002 I took up the role as Ambassador, at the Embassy in Uzbekistan. I was given very little formal pre posting briefing by the FCO and met the outgoing ambassador Chris INGRAM only for about half an hour during which we only discussed a staff issue regarding an embassy member called Chris HIRST. Ihe staff at the Uzbekistan Embassy included a Defence Attache, an assistant, a Deputy Head of Mission, a third secretary, a management officer, consular ofiicer and assistant. My number two was an acting second secretary called Karen MORAN. I didn’t have many staff or much ability to discuss matters with them.

After my arrival in Uzbekistan as part of my role I viewed certain intelligence material originating from Uzbekistan. This material came to me from SIS in London and was sent to them by the CIA via the CIA Headquarters in Washington. It was sent to me if SIS thought it appropriate information I should be aware of. The only person security cleared to see such telegrams were I and Karen MORAN in her role as Deputy Head of Mission (DHM).

I was aware even before I arrived in Uzbekistan that the Uzbekistan security services had a terrible reputation for torture that included for example using boiling water on individuals as well as electrocution. I never whilst in Uzbekistan ever had direct involvement with the Uzbekistan security services, SIS officers came out on liaison visits but I don’t recall who they were or who they met.

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Continuation of Statement of Craig MURRAY …………………………………………………………………………………….. ..

In my new role I was proactive in meeting local Uzbekistan people and I had only been there a couple of weeks when I attended a trial of dissidents accused of terrorism. More than one witness tried to change their original account claiming it was made under torture. I found them credible that they were tortured to give a false account. The United Nations special rapporteur on torture came out to Uzbekistan to do a special report and we arranged for torture victims to see him.

The intelligence that was sent to me by SIS at this time concerned me on two grounds; firstly it showed how systematic the torture was by the Uzbekistan security services as the intelligence was coming from tortured detainees. And secondly the quality of the intelligence was inaccurate. I knew these from my first hand experience in Uzbekistan and I knew individual facts could be shown to be false.

I came to these conclusions after about three to four months of being in Uzbekistan. This was due to the fact I had been doing some work around tortured Uzbekistan detainees and I could see links with the intelligence I was seeing. Most of the intelligence didn’t name the detainees but it had similar trends such as Al Qaeda (AQ) membership or attending AQ training camps which wasn’t true. I was aware that my defence attache Colonel RIDOUT had been to one training camp location that was cited in the intelligence reports and found they did not exist. I knew that Uzbekistan was getting money and arms from the United States and I believed the Uzbekistan government were exaggerating the AQ threat in response. I believe this was a view shared by colleagues in the Embassy.

My concerns revolved around the intelligence and the cooperation between the Uzbekistan security services and CIA. I was uneasy about what the US were not doing to stop the torture. I decided something was going wrong and London (the FCO) must have not known about the torture. I asked Karen MORAN who had regular meetings with the US mission in Uzbekistan to ask the US about the intelligence flow from torture and to confirm from the US mission that it in fact was not from torture. Karen told me that the US response she received was that the intelligence was from torture however it was justified in the ‘war on terror‘. This response was possibly from the US Mission political counsellor.

On about 17th December 2002 I wrote a telegram back to London setting out my concerns. I have obtained a redacted version of that telegram under a Freedom of lnformation request I made I produce a copy of which as CJM/l telegram number I47 of I7/I2/2002 at 0345. It was addressed to the permanent under secretary (PUS) Sir Michael JAY as he was the head of the Diplomatic Service and Michel WOOD the Foreign Office legal advisor as it dealt with legal issues. I also sent it to relevant UK Missions (UKMIS) who had interest/deal in torture policy, these included New York, Geneva, Vienna and ‘Organisation Security and Cooperation in Europe‘ (OSCE) of which Uzbekistan is a member. lf you send a telegram on policy it is practice that it is also sent to other UK Missions who have an interest as with this telegram.

I don‘t know how I received a response but I got a message back stating that I could discuss the matters with William ERHMAN during an Ambassadors conference that l was due to attend in London in January 2003. I believe this message originated from Sir Michael JAY and I believe it is back referenced as telegram 323 of 2002 which appears on the next telegram I sent.

In January 2003 I returned as planned to London for a few days and could not get hold of William ERHMAN so the conversation I intended never took place with him. I subsequently returned to Tashkent, Uzbekistan and it was around this time I was aware public concern had just started regarding detainee issues in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. I seemed to be the only person within the FCO who was worried about it. I had never done this before by that I mean flagged up these kinds of issues/concerns.

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Continuation of Statemait of Craig MURRAY …………………………………………………………………………………….. ..

On 22nd January 2003 I sent another telegram this was addressed to William ERHMAN again I produce a redacted copy that was supplied to me under a Freedom Of Information request I made as exhibit CJM/2 on it there is the back reference 323 which I believe was the response originating from Michael JAY that I previously referred to. ‘The telegram essentially states the same as my first. I did not receive a response to any of the points: this is unheard of because if an Ambassador writes a telegram in relation to a policy matter there is always response. I was frustrated and could not understand why there was no written reply on this policy on torture.

Shortly after this I was asked back to London to discuss the issues I had raised. I can’t recall what method this summons was communicated to me. I believed I was coming back to London to see Sir Michael JAY however I never did see him.

I thought I was in trouble due to the nature of the recall to London and I suspected I was going to be sacked. I returned to London on 6th March 2003 I don‘t recall what dictated the timing but it was two weeks before the war started in Iraq. At that time, with the ‘dodgy dossier‘ going around supporting the war and my concerns regarding the inaccurate intelligence I had seen, the atmosphere was not good at the FC0. It was not the best time to be saying openly that our intelligence was not reliable. A retired ambassador had stated that we should not go to war as the intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) was not reliable. From evidence subsequently given in the Chilcott enquiry I believe Sir Michael WOOD had advised Jack STRAW at the time, it was not legal to go to war in Iraq. So all this was going on around my return to London.

I was called into a meeting on the 7″‘ or 8″‘ March 2003 with Linda DUIFFIELD who was the Director Wider Europe (DWE) and my counter signing manager. This meeting took place in her office and she told me Sir Michael JAY wanted to see me but was too busy. With her at the meeting were Michael WOOD and Matthew KIDD who I believe was from MI6 (SIS), he was introduced as being Permanent Under Secretary Department (PUSD) which is a liaison department that deals with SIS. It was a two part meeting with either a private discussion between Linda and myself and then a gmcral discussion with everyone present or the other way around I can’t recall now. She told me that ‘JAY was not pleased I had put things in writing, things like that should not be in writing.‘ In the general meeting with all three she stated Jack Straw had seen my telegrams (CIM/l and CIM/2) and they ‘troubled him and he lost sleep at night over this‘. Also that he had met ‘C’ Sir Richard DEARLOVE and discussed whether, in relation to the ‘war on terror‘ should intelligence from torture be used. Also that Jack Straw made the decision that I should not send over ‘emotional and melodramatic’ telegrams like these and that intelligence and torture were ministerial decisions.

In the general meeting Sir Michael WOOD stated he had looked at the United Nations convention on torture and that it was his legal position that if we didn’t ask someone to be tortured but got intelligence from torture then we were doing nothing illegal.

I asked him about complicity in torture and Article 3 and 4 of the UN Convention on torture. Sir Michael WOOD stated that he didn’t know but Article l6 allowed us to get intelligence from torture but it could not be used in court. Mr KIDD went on to add that intelligence coming from Tashkent was useful to SIS. I told him the intelligence wasn’t true. He disageed with this.

A formal response to my telegrams was read out to me by Linda with everyone present and she told me the response would not be sent as these things were best not put in writing.

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Continuation of Statement of Craig MURRAY …………………………………………………………………………………….. ..

I produce a copy of the minutes of this meeting again supplied to me under a Freedom of lnformation request I made which 1 exhibit as CIMI3. I do not accept the minutes as a full and accurate account of the meeting. it was not sent to me in draft afierwards for ‘signing off‘ which was practice. It also mentions l was given a revised telegram which I was not. I was shown it but not to keep and it was never sent to me.

Afler this meeting I went back to Tashkent. Later in 2005 I obtained a message dated l4/3/2003 supplied to me under a Freedom of lnfonnation request I made which I exhibit as CJM/4. This indicates Jack Straw saw the minutes of the meeting referred to in exhibit CIM/3. There were hundreds of meetings at the FCO each day and it would be very rare for minutes to be seen by Jack STRAW unless he had previous documents regarding the matter i.e. my original telegrams and an explanatory briefing from Sir Michael Jay or another oflicial. Simon McDONALD was Jack Straw’s number 2 private secretary and Alan CHARLTON was Head of Personnel.

Whilst in Tashkent l was concerned my career was ruined. I had upset my line managers and I decided I wasn‘t going to say anything else as I was extremely concerned about my future.

I was then told that my third secretary Chris HIRST had attacked a blind person in the street with a baseball bat. I had been told by my predecessor that he had been accused of doing something similar before, but that my predecessor had supported him, this was the staff issue I referred to earlier in this statement. I personally had witnessed his verbally violent outbursts in a local bar before. I knew that as a result of this baseball bat incident that he had to go, which he did. After this I then found papers regarding Chris HIRST that had been hidden from me by his partner Karen MORAN and I learnt she had destroyed other similar documents. As a result of this Karen had to go as well.

At this time I was not receiving any replies from London and asked them why they were ignoring me but got no response.

In June 2003 Colin REYNOLDS from the Foreign Office arrived in Uzbekistan ostensibly to find out what was happening at the Embassy with the sudden departure of Karen and Chris. He had been sent out by Alan CHARLTON. All the Embassy staff was seen by Colin and the staff told me that in fact he was asking them not about Chris & Karen as they expected but things about me such as my drinking habits and whether I used prostitutes. The staff were confused and surprised. I let Colin finish the interviews of staff and then l asked him what was going on as it seemed to me that he was investigating me. He told me not to worry and that he had been instructed to investigate allegations raised about me. He would not tell me what those allegations were. He later as I understand reported back to London that the staff supported me and there were no issues. I obtained a copy of his findings dated 26/6/2003 supplied to me under a Freedom of information request I made which I exhibit as CJM/5. This confirms he reported that all the staff supported me. The report has been ec‘d to amongst others Harvey BOWYER of the FCU. This is the internal audit section called the Financial Compliance Unit (FCU) l did‘t know where this fitted into the investigation by Colin REYNOLDS. However a few months later a team fiom the FCU internal audit came to the embassy to go through all our accounts. All they found at the end of their audit was that I owed about $20 for a lunch for which I lost the receipt, this I repaid. It appeared to me that they were plainly out to get me and I thought I had survived: the only criticism of me was the handling of the HIRST matter.

In July after Colin REYNOLDS left I then went on holiday. London then sent out Dominic SCHROEDER from the FCO political Eastern Department who came and interviewed the same staff as Colin Reynolds again after which he came up with some 18 discipline offences against me.

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Continuation of Statement of Craig MURRAY …………………………………………………………………………………….. ..

In August I was called back from holiday in Canada to London to see Howard DRAKE the personnel department director. Present at this meeting were Tessa REDMAYNE of the personnel department and Kate SMITH who was my union representative. At this meeting Howard DRAKE asked me to resign and I declined this is detailed in a report he completed dated 27/8/2003 that was sent to me for ‘clearance’. I produce a copy as exhibit CJM/6. During this meeting l was told that if I forgot about Tashkent that I would be offered another ambassadorship, but I declined this. It was at this meeting that I first became aware of the allegations albeit Colin REYNOLDS had previously told me they were nonsense. The source of the allegations was never disclosed to me.

All the disciplinary allegations were false and around this time my security clearance was up for review. My security clearance reviewer contacted me to state my clearance had been passed by him but it had then been sent back to him and he had been put under pressure not to clear me. He said that he was sticking by his recommendation and my clearance was renewed.

l was suspended for four months and sent back to Tashkent and told not to speak to anyone about the outstanding allegations. l was banned from entering embassy buildings and the stress of it all caused my health to collapse. I suffered severe heart and lung problems as a result.

After four months of investigation l was cleared of all l8 allegations: there was a formal hearing in relation to two matters only. These related to being seen with a ‘hangover’ by a local member of staff in Tashkent and secondly misusing an embassy car, l was cleared on both counts and the evidence against me was shown to be rubbish or non-existent.

l was however found guilty of telling someone about the existence of the allegations when I returned to Tashkent for which I was given a final written warning in January 2004.

Later in June 2004 one of the initial telegrams l had written was somehow leaked to the Financial Times newspaper and the Times printed sections of it. This was not done by me and although I denied it I was suspended as a result and in February 2005 I resigned from the Civil Service. I was given six years early retirement severance pay.

I firmly believe that the allegations against me were knowingly false or grossly exaggerated,. and were concocted against me deliberately to silence me after l was the only senior civil servant to enter a written objection to the policy of collusion in torture. As a consequence my career was destroyed and my health permanently damaged.

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London Metropolitan University

First a statement of interest. I have given talks to classes at London Metropolitan University, attended a couple of conferences there, and been quite heavily engaged as an unpaid adviser to the Ghanaian side in (so far successful) negotiations for LMU acourses to be taught in Ghana.

There is no doubt that LMU is a real university, with some of its teaching and courses of world class. There is also no doubt that it does more than perhaps any other UK university to bring in students from communities which have not traditionally been high-achieving in education.

There is also no doubt at all that LMU had many hundred genuine, hard working overseas students who were performing well on their courses, and who have now been forced out, without notice. For the government to say they are being helped to find other universities is not good enough. In many cases they will be disadvantaged by lack of commonality of content with their new co-students on the first two years of the course, not to mention the massive disruption of moving home, losing part-time jobs, friends, babycare or healthcare arrangements etc. Suddenly to ban a university not just from accepting new international students, but from teaching all those it already has, is an act of monstrous disproportion affecting two thousand of people.

That there has been virtually no public outcry is a measure of just how accustomed we have become to extreme abuse of arbitrary power by government – and of the easy acceptance of the anti-immigrant agenda by mainstream media.

There is no doubt there was a massive problem with illegal immigration disguised as education. It focused on language schools in particular. There are of course some excellent language schools which do a good job, but there were certainly hundreds which scarcely functioned at all. I know, as personal friends, a number of “students” who have been here – in one case for over eight years – and literally never once visited their supposed place of education. It is also a fact that several of these fake colleges were owned and run by organised crime, as one of a number of rackets of the interests that established them. The government has closed down many scores of these fake colleges in the last three years. That is good. As Margaret Hodge was complaining yesterday, it had deported very few of the 60,000 or so identified fake students here from those colleges.

Unlike Ms Hodge, I regard that as good also. While in favour of preventing illegal entry, I am not in favour of uprooting people forcibly from wherever they have succeeded in making a home.

The root of London Metropolitan University’s problems was a stupid “anti-elitist” New Labour decision that real, large, world-respected universities must be treated in the immigration rules exactly like a pretend language school housed in one room above a laundrette.

A university is perfectly capable of judging who is and who is not performing their studies adequately – indeed that is one of the prime functions of a university. Yet the UK Border Agency has imposed a whole new raft of extra criteria like percentage of lectures attended, and bank balances to be maintained, and forced the universities at their own cost to put in place resource expensive systems for monitoring it (yes, even the bank balances).

Yet these criteria are nothing to do with academic achievement – I attended less than 5% of lectures over my university career, and the bare minimum of tutorials I could get away with, yet I got a first. Similarly the university is best placed to know what level of English language understanding is needed for which particular course, but again the UK Border Agency imposes its own criteria – and indeed this has been the major reason given for acting against London Metropolitan University.

Universities are supposed to be self-governing institutions. The intrusion of the immigration authorities into their running is an appalling development which should alarm everyone. Overseas students who fail cease to be students; at that stage the university should and will inform the immigration authorities of their change of status. It is not the job of UKBA to determine who has passed and who failed. As long as the university recognises an individual as part of the university community; that is their legal status. The UK Borders Agency is not a degree-awarding body. It should attend to its own business.

These stupid and intrusive regulations must be repealed.

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Ian Tomlinson Unlawfully Killed By Metropolitan Police

The comments by the jury make this sound more like murder than manslaughter:

The jury decided Pc Harwood acted illegally, recklessly and dangerously, and used “excessive and unreasonable” force in striking Mr Tomlinson.
Jurors added that the newspaper seller, who was not taking part in the protests, posed no threat.

Unfortunately the jury cannot compel a prosecution, so my bet is that the killer, PC Simon Harwood, will get off scot free. But at least a British jury has shown its historic independence of authority has survived – an independence which was denied it in the case of the murder of Jean Charles De Menezes by the utterly disgraceful Sir Michael Wright, grovelling tool of the authoritarian state.

Talking of which, it seems to me that Dr Freddy Patel needs to be sacked and struck off for the disgraceful lie that Tomlinson died of a heart attack. The last thing this country needs is bent pathologists tailoring their evidence to suit the police.

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 20

Tuesday has been another day on which the testimony focused on the extreme inhumane conditions in which Julian Assange would be kept imprisoned in the USA if extradited. The prosecution’s continued tactic of extraordinary aggression towards witnesses who are patently well informed played less well, and there were distinct signs that Judge Baraitser was becoming irritated by this approach. The totality of defence witnesses and the sheer extent of mutual corroboration they provided could not simply be dismissed by the prosecution attempting to characterise all of them as uninformed on a particular detail, still less as all acting in bad faith. To portray one witness as weak may appear justified if they can be shaken, but to attack a succession of patently well-qualified witnesses, on no basis but aggression and unreasoning hostility, becomes quickly unconvincing.

The other point which became glaringly anomalous, in fact quite contrary to natural justice, was the US government’s continued reliance on affidavits from US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg and Board of Prisons psychiatrist Dr Alison Leukefeld. The cross-examinations by the US government of the last four defence witnesses have all relied on precisely the same passages from Kromberg and Leukefeld, and every single one of the defence witnesses has said Leukefeld and Kromberg are wrong as to fact. Yet under US/UK extradition agreements the US government witnesses may not be called and cross-examined. When the defence witnesses are attacked so strongly in cross-examination on the points of disagreement with Kromberg and Leukefeld, it becomes glaringly wrong that Kromberg and Leukefeld may not be similarly cross-examined by the defence on the same points.

Similarly as to process, the only point of any intellectual purchase which the US government’s lawyers have hit upon is the limited direct experience of the witnesses of the H unit of the ADX Supermax prison. This casts in a stark light last week’s objection to the defence introducing further witnesses who have precisely that experience, in response to the affidavits of Kromberg and Leukefeld on these specific points, which were submitted on 20 August and 2 September respectively. The prosecution objected to these witnesses as too late, whereas both were submitted within a month of the testimony to which they were responding. The US government and Baraitser having ruled out witnesses on this very specific new point, their then proceeding to attack the existing defence witnesses on their knowledge of precisely the point on which they refused to hear new evidence, leaves a very bad taste indeed.

The first witness of the day was Maureen Baird, former warden (governor in UK terms) of three US prisons including 2014–16 the Metropolitan Correction Centre (MCC) New York, which houses a major concentration of Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) prisoners pre-trial. She had also attended national courses and training programmes on SAMs and met and discussed with fellow warders and others responsible for them elsewhere, including Florence ADX.

Led through her evidence by Edward Fitzgerald QC, Baird confirmed that she anticipated Assange would be subject to SAMs pre-trial, based on the national security argument and on all the documentation submitted by the US Attorney, and post-trial. SAMs meant being confined to a cell 23–24 hours a day with no communication at all with other prisoners. In MCC the one hour a day outside your cell was spent simply in a different but identical empty cell known as the “recreation cell”. She had put in an exercise bike; otherwise it was unequipped. Recreation was always completely alone.

Prisoners were allowed one phone call a month of 30 minutes, or 2 of 15 minutes, to named and vetted family members. These were monitored by the FBI.

Fitzgerald asked about Kromberg’s assertion that mail was “free-flowing”. Baird said that all mail was screened. This delayed mail typically by two to three months, if it got through at all.

Baird said that the SAMs regime was centrally determined and was the same in all locations. It was decided by the attorney general. Neither the prison warden nor the Board of Prisons itself had the power to moderate the SAMs regime. Fitzgerald said the US government had claimed yesterday it could be varied, and some people under SAMs could even have a cellmate. Baird replied “No, that is not my experience at all”.

Fitzgerald quoted Kromberg as stating that a prisoner could appeal to the case manager and unit manager against the conditions of SAMs. Baird replied that those people “could do nothing”. SAMs was “way above their pay grade”. Kromberg’s description was unrealistic, as was his description of judicial review. All internal procedures would have to be exhausted first, which would take many years and go nowhere. She had never seen any case of SAMs being changed. Similarly, when Fitzgerald put to her that SAMs were imposed for only one year at a time and subject to annual review, Baird replied that she had never heard of any case of their not being renewed. They appeared simply to be rolled over by the Attorney General’s office.

Baird said that in addition to herself applying SAMs at the MCC, she went on national training courses on SAMs and met and discussed experiences with those applying SAMs at other locations, including the Florence, Colorado ADX. SAMs had strong and negative consequences on prisoners’ mental and physical health. These included severe depression, anxiety disorder and weight loss. Baird said she agreed with previous witness Sickler that if convicted Assange could very well face spending the rest of his life imprisoned under SAMs at the Florence ADX. She quoted a former warden of that prison describing it as “not built for humanity”.

Fitzgerald took Baird to Kromberg’s description of a multi-phased programme for release from SAMs. Baird said she recognised none of this in practice. SAMs prisoners could not participate in any group programmes or meet other prisoners in any circumstances. What Kromberg was describing was not a programme but a very limited list of potential small extra privileges, such as one extra phone call a month. Phase 3 involved mingling with other prisoners and Baird said she had never seen it and doubted it really applied: “I don’t know how that happens”.

Fitzgerald asked Baird about Dr Leukefeld’s claim that some prisoners enjoy Florence ADX so much they did not want to leave. Baird said this was a reflection of the extreme anxiety disorders that could affect prisoners. They became scared to leave their highly ordered world.

It was interesting to see how the prosecution would claim that Baird was unqualified. It was very difficult to counter the evidence of a prison warder about the inhumanity of the prison regime. The US government hit on a quite extraordinary attack. They claimed that the prison system was generally pleasant as described by Leukefeld and Kromberg, but that the prisons in which Baird had worked had indeed been bad, but only because Baird was a bad warden.

Here are brief extracts from the US Government’s cross-examination of Baird:

Clair Dobbin Are you independent?
Maureen Baird I work for one attorney but also others.
Dobbin You appear on a legal website as a consultant – Allan Ellis of San Francisco.
Baird I do some consultancy, including with Allan but not exclusively.
Dobbin You only work for defendants?
Baird Yes.
Dobbin It says that the firm handles appeals and post-conviction placing.
Baird Yes, I tend to get involved in post-conviction or placing.
Dobbin Do you have any experience in sentencing?
Baird What kind of sentencing?
Dobbin That is what I am asking.
Baird I have testified on prison conditions pre-sentence.

This was a much briefer effort than usual to damage the credentials of the witness. After questions on Baird’s exact prison experience, Clair Dobbins moved on to:

Dobbin Do you know the criteria for SAMs?
Baird Yes.
Dobbin Why do you say it is likely Assange will get SAMs? Kromberg only says it is possible.
Baird Kromberg talks about it a very great deal. It is very plainly on the table.
Dobbin It is speculative. It can only be decided by the Attorney General as reasonably necessary to prevent the disclosure of national security information.
Baird They have made plain they believe Assange to hold further such information.
Dobbin You are not in any position to make any judgement.
Baird It is my opinion he would be judged to meet that criterion, based on their past decisions.
Dobbin How can you say the risk exists he would disclose national security information?
Baird He is charged with espionage. They have said he is a continuing risk.
Dobbin I am suggesting that is highly speculative and you cannot know.
Baird I am judging by what the government have said and the fact they have so much emphasised SAMs. They very definitely fail to say in all this that SAMs will not be applied.

After further discussion on Kromberg’s claims versus Baird’s experience, the US government moved on to the question of the SAMs prisoners under Baird’s care in the MCC.

Dobbin You say they were in solitary confinement. The officers on the unit did not have human contact with the prisoners?
Baird They did not speak to inmates.
Dobbin Why not?
Baird That is not what prison officers do.
Dobbin Why not? You were in charge?
Baird They just open the small viewing slot in the iron door every half hour and look through. Conversation just did not happen.
Dobbin You could encourage that?
Baird I could lead by example. But ordering conversation is not something a prison warden does. I did not have that authority. There are unions. If I instructed the prison officers to socialise with the prisoners, they would reply it is not in their job description.
Dobbin Oh, come on! You could encourage.
Baird On a normal basis, those officers do not talk to inmates.
Dobbin Did you tell your staff to? Wouldn’t the first thing you do be to tell your staff to talk?
Baird No. That’s not how it works.
Dobbin Did you raise your concerns about SAMs with those above you?
Baird No.
Dobbin Did you raise your concerns with judges? (brief discussion of a specific case ensued)
Baird No.
Dobbin Did you raise concerns about the conditions of SAM inmates with judges?
Baird No. They were a very small part of the prison population I was dealing with.
Dobbin So you didn’t encourage staff or raise any concerns?
Baird I tried to be fair and compassionate. I talked to the isolation prisoners myself. The fact that other staff did not engage is not uncommon. I do not recall making any complaints or recommendations.
Dobbin So these conditions did not cause you any concerns at the time. It is only now?
Baird It did cause me concerns.
Dobbin What did you do about your concerns at the time?
Baird I did not think I had any influence. It was way above me. SAMs are decided by the Attorney General and heads of the intelligence agencies.
Dobbin You did not even try.

This was an audacious effort to distract from Baird’s obviously qualified and first-hand evidence of how dreadful and inhuman the regime is, but ultimately a complaint that Baird did not try to modify the terrible system does not really help the government case. In over two hours of cross-examination, Dobbin again and again tried to discredit Baird’s testimony by contrasting it with the evidence of Kromberg and Leukefeld, but this was entirely counter-productive for Dobbin. It served instead to illustrate how very far Kromberg’s and Leukefeld’s assurances were from the description of what really happens from an experienced prison warden.

Baird demolished Dobbin’s insistence on Kromberg’s description of a functioning three-stage programme for removal of SAMs. When it came to Dr Leukefeld’s account of SAMs prisoners being allowed to take part in psychiatric group therapy sessions, Baird involuntarily laughed. She suggested that from where Dr Leukefeld sat “in the central office”, Leukefeld possibly genuinely believed this happened.

The afternoon witness was an attorney, Lindsay Lewis, who represents Abu Hamza, who is held at ADX Florence. The videolink to Lewis had extremely poor sound and from the public gallery I was unable to hear much of her testimony. She said that Hamza, who has both forearms amputated, had been kept in solitary confinement under SAMs in the ADX for almost ten years. His conditions were absolutely inappropriate to his condition. He had no prosthesis sufficient to handle self-care and received no nursing care at all. His bed, toilet and sink were all unadapted and unsuitable to his disability. His other medical conditions including severe diabetes, hypertension and depression were not adequately treated.

Lewis said that the conditions of Hamza’s incarceration directly breached undertakings made by the US government to the UK magistrates’ court and High Court when they made the extradition request. The US had stated his medical needs would be fully assessed, his medical treatment would be adequate, and he was unlikely to be sent to the ADX. None of these had happened.

In cross-examination, Dobbin’s major point was to deny that the assurances given to the British authorities by the US Government at the time of Hamza’s extradition amounted to undertakings. She was also at great pains to emphasise Hamza’s convicted terrorist offences, as though these justified the conditions of his incarceration. But the one thing which struck me most was Lewis’s description of the incident that was used to justify the continued imposition of SAMs on Hamza.

Hamza is allowed to communicate only with two named family members, one of whom is one of his sons. In a letter, Hamza had asked this son to tell his one-year-old grandchild that he loved him. Hamza was charged with an illegal message to a third party (the grandson). This had resulted in extension of the SAMs regime on Hamza, which still continues. In cross-examination, Dobbin was at pains to suggest this “I love you” may have been a coded terrorist message.

The day concluded with a foretaste of excitement to come, as Judge Baraitser agreed to grant witness anonymity to the two UC Global whistleblowers who are to give evidence on UC Global’s spying on Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy. In making application, Summers gave notice that among the topics to be discussed was the instruction from UC Global’s American clients to consider poisoning or kidnapping Assange. The hidden firearm with filed-off serial numbers discovered in the home of UC Global’s chief executive David Morales, and his relationship to the Head of Security at the Las Vegas Sands complex, were also briefly mooted.

 
 
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Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 19

Today was the worst day for the defence since the start of the trial, as their expert witnesses failed to cope with the sheer aggression of cross-examination by the US Government and found themselves backing away from maintaining propositions they knew to be true. It was uncomfortable viewing.

It was not that the prosecution had in any way changed their very systematic techniques of denigrating and browbeating; in fact the precise prosecution template was once again followed. It goes like this.

  1. undermine academic credentials as not precisely relevant
  2. humiliate by repeated memory test questions of precise phrasing of obscure regulations or definitions
  3. denigrate relevance of practical experience
  4. iterate official positions and challenge witness to say they are expressed by named officials in bad faith
  5. humiliate by asking witness to repeat from memory regulations for expert testimony in UK courts
  6. run though a list of qualifications and government positions relevant to the subject and make witness say one by one they have not held them
  7. claim testimony is biased or worthless because it does not include government assertions at full length.

You will note that none of this has anything to do with the truth of the actual evidence, and to date almost all witnesses have easily, sometimes contemptuously, seen off this intellectually shallow method of attack. But today was another story. The irony was that, when it came to the real subject matter of the evidence, it was obvious to any reasonable person that the prosecution claims of the good conditions in the American Prison service for high profile national security prisoners are just nonsense. But it was a day when the divorce between truth and court process was still plainer than usual. Given the horrific reality this process was disguising, it was a hard day to sit through.

First to give evidence by videolink was Yancey Ellis. An attorney with a doctorate in law, Ellis has been practising for 15 years including five as a US Marine Judge Advocate. He currently practises in Alexandria, Virginia, where he is now private, having formally been a public defender. As such he is very familiar with the Alexandria Detention Centre where Assange would be held pre-trial. This includes visiting clients in the Administrative Segregation, (AdSeg or X block) where high profile and national security prisoners are held.

He testified that pre-trail detention could last many months or even years. Isolation from other prisoners is the purpose of the X block. Prisoners are in tiny cells of approximately 50 square feet, which is under 5 square metres. The bed is a shelf. On a daily basis only one to two hours are allowed outside the cell, into a small area outside at a time when nobody else is there. The second hour was generally available only in the middle of the night, so was not utilised.

Edward Fitzgerald, QC for the defence, asked Ellis whether prisoners in Administrative segregation could associate. Ellis replied “not really”. The purpose of AdSeg was to prevent it. You were never allowed out of your cell at the same time as another AdSeg prisoner. Contrary to the assertions of Gordon Kromberg, it was very difficult to talk through the thick steel doors. You would have to scream at the top of your voice to be heard at all. Ellis had tried it himself to consult with his clients. Communication was only possible if he could find a deputy to open a food flap for him. As prisoners in AdSeg were locked down, the unit was not usually staffed.

Ellis said that AdSeg was solitary confinement, on the definition of more than 22 hours a day alone with no human interaction. In practise, there was no appeal to the judicial authorities on prison conditions. “Courts will defer to the jail on how they house inmates” [which of course mirrors Baraitser’s answers to requests to ameliorate Assange’s periods in solitary confinement and other mistreatment in Belmarsh prison].

Fitzgerald pointed out that the AdSeg regime Ellis described was even without the addition of Special Administrative Measures, which bring additional restrictions. Ellis confirmed none of the clients he represented was subject to SAMs. He confirmed they did get phone access, but only to a service that allowed them to send “pre-recorded phone calls” to relatives. Fitzgerald then asked how this was affected by SAMs, but James Lewis QC objected on the grounds Ellis had said he had no direct knowledge and Baraitser upheld that.

Fitzgerald asked Lewis about provision of medical and psychiatric care. Ellis replied that the Alexandria Detention Centre does not employ a doctor. There were some social work and counselling services available in-house. Medical services were provided by a private firm. It could take several weeks to see a psychiatrist, even in a crisis. Asked about suicide risk, Ellis said prisoners could be made to wear a “special suit” [straitjacket?] and had shoelaces, belt etc. removed.

James Lewis QC then cross-examined for the US government and I think this is best conveyed as dialogue. Again this is slightly condensed and paraphrased. It is not a transcript (it would be illegal for me to take a transcript; no, I don’t know why either).

Lewis You have described US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg’s testimony as “inaccurate or incomplete”. How many prisoners are there currently in Alexandria Detention Centre?
Ellis Approximately 300.
Lewis You say there are four or six cells in administrative segregation?
Ellis Yes, in the H block.
Lewis Your info comes from your visits and from prisoners?
Ellis Yes.
Lewis Have you interviewed the governor?
Ellis No.
Lewis Have you interviewed the custodial staff?
Ellis No.
Lewis Have you interviewed the psychiatrists or psychologists?
Ellis No.
Lewis You have given one side of the story. One side of the picture. Do you agree?
Ellis Do I agree there are two sides to every story?
Lewis US Marshalls annually inspect the jail. Do you disagree?
Ellis I don’t know.
Lewis Kromberg says it was inspected on August 5 2019 by US Marshalls and found fully compliant. What do you say?
Ellis Alright.
Lewis Also the Commonwealth of Virginia inspected July 23-5 2019. There have been no suicides during the current inspection period.
Ellis They have a good track record when it comes to completed suicides.
Lewis Have you read these reports? Do you know the findings of these reports? You don’t know how prisoners are assessed for different types of housing?
Ellis I have frequently asked for assessment reports in individual cases. I have never been given them.
Lewis You don’t know that Assange will be placed in Administrative Segregation?
Ellis I would bet that he will.
Lewis Kromberg has stated that AdSeg prisoners have access to prisoner programmes but you have testified otherwise. But you have never represented federal prisoners, have you?
Ellis There is no difference in treatment inside the jail between state and federal prisoners.
Lewis Were you asked by the defence to state that AdSeg is solitary confinement?
Ellis No.
Lewis There is unlimited access to your lawyers. That is not considered in your definition of solitary confinement.
Ellis Not unlimited.
Lewis AdSeg prisoners have library access?
Ellis Rarely. They may be able to go there in their time outside the cell, but only if it can be empty at that time so they do not meet anybody.
Lewis You say Assange will be housed in AdSeg on the ground floor. You cannot know that.
Ellis National security prisoners are all on the ground floor. The higher floors are for general population.
Lewis Your clients in AdSeg were a security risk. Do you know that Assange will be so deemed?
Ellis No.
Lewis How do you know Assange won’t be kept in the medical wing?
Ellis High profile prisoners are not allowed to mix with the general population.
Lewis But won’t Mr Assange benefit from a phalanx of lawyers questioning his conditions. Don’t you think his publicity and support will bring better treatment?
Ellis I don’t know that will be the effect.

Edward Fitzgerald then re-examined for the defence.

Fitzgerald Your judgements are based on your personal observations?
Ellis Yes, and the reports of my clients.
Fitzgerald And why do you say Assange will be kept on the H block?
Ellis It’s the design of the jail. Nowhere else a long term AdSeg prisoner could be held.
Fitzgerald On prisoner programmes, you say they would not be possible if it involved meeting another prisoner?
Ellis Yes, and there are no individual programmes.

For the first time in this trial, Baraitser herself now asked a question of the witness. She asked Ellis why he thought Assange would not be held in the general prison population, as he currently was at Belmarsh. Ellis said it was because he was a public figure in a high profile case. Baraitser suggested that in the UK, being a high profile figure did not mean different treatment. Ellis said he was simply recounting the actual practice of the Alexandria jail in such cases.

Baraitser’s intervention was extraordinary given she had heard irrefutable evidence from Dr Blackwood that Assange had been placed into isolation in the medical wing in Belmarsh after somebody took a brief snatch of video of him, to prevent “reputational damage” to the prison. Yes, now she was saying high profile prisoners in the UK are not removed from the general prison population. She seems to have an infallible mental filter for blocking inconvenient information.

Her less subconscious filter was next in evidence, as there was time for a quick procedural judgement before the next witness, on the question of the decision of the prison governor on Julian Assange in the razor blade in the cell case. The record of the hearing on this ran to a minimum of 19 paragraphs, the judgement itself being in paragraph 19. Baraitser had indicated she was minded only to take para 19 as evidence, although the defence said the whole document contained very useful information. I am told that paras 1 to 18 include information on the extraordinary decision to place Julian Assange in solitary confinement disguised as “healthcare”, including the fact Belmarsh chief medic Dr Daly had produced not one of the compulsory monthly medical reports in his five months on the medical wing.

In one of those accommodations I find inexplicable, the defence conceded, without forcing Baraitser to a judgement, that paragraphs 1 to 18 should be ignored and only para 19 accepted as evidence, on the understanding it did establish the existence of the razor blade and thus vindicate Prof Kopelman’s judgement, and showed the charge had merely been dismissed as not timeous.

Yancey Ellis’s cross-examination above reads very well, and he did provide good answers to the prosecution attack. But he sounded rattled and nervous, and the performance was less convincing than it reads. This was to get much worse for the defence.

The next witness was Joel Sickler. He has a Master’s degree in the administration of justice and has worked for forty years in sentencing and advocacy. He is head of an organisation called Justice in Alexandria, Virginia, an expert in prison conditions, and has visited over 50 prisons across the United States. His organisation makes representations to the court on which institutions are suitable for a prisoner. He testified that he had made dozens of visits to the Alexandria Detention Centre.

He testified that in line with policy Assange would be placed in AdSeg due to his involvement in national security issues and concerns he might pass secrets on to other prisoners. He might also be categorised as needing protection from other prisoners and from self-harm. He would have zero to very limited contact with other prisoners. Sickler characterised Kromberg’s claim that inmates could communicate with each other through the steel doors and thick plexiglass windows as “ridiculous”. If SAMs were applied on top, that involved statutory isolation.

Sickler said that his knowledge of post-incarceration conditions at ADX Florence in Colorado came largely from reading reports. He had one client in there who was not subject to SAMs but was still effectively in solitary confinement for twenty years, despite a clean conduct record. Fitzgerald asked about provision of medical and psychiatric care, and Sickler stated that across the federal system he had dozens of clients who had found a way to commit suicide. In ADX specifically, there was a possibility of being transferred to a Federal medical centre in extreme cases.

At the ADX, Assange would be kept in the SSU known as the H block. With or without SAMs, contact with other prisoners would be completely barred. Contact with the outside world would be extraordinarily limited. Any contact permitted with family would be monitored by the FBI. One 15-minute phone call was allowed per month. Post conviction, contact with lawyers was very limited.

Fitzgerald asked how you could appeal against SAMs or other prison conditions. Sickler replied that appealing even over minor administrative matters virtually never succeeds. SAMs can only be varied by the Attorney General. In the prison system generally, Sickler had filed many thousands of requests on prison conditions and perhaps a dozen had succeeded. With SAMs there was effectively no chance. Solitary confinement could be indefinite in ADX – there was no upper limit.

Fitzgerald asked about changes in the prison after the Cunningham Mitigation settlement. Sickler said changes had been nominal. Any real improvement had only affected lower security prisoners. On prison conditions in general “Official statements, public pronouncements are one thing, reality in prison is something else”. The affidavit by Dr Alison Leukefeld for the government looked great on paper but was not the practice. On the other hand, reports by organisations like the Marshall Project exactly matched with his practical experience. Official statistics, like only 3% of federal prisoners having mental health problems, “do not ring true to me”. There was a significant risk Assange would not receive adequate physical and mental healthcare.

Clair Dobbin then rose to cross-examine. Again, I will report this as dialogue.

Dobbin What do you actually do? Do you work for the defence in cases?
Sickler Yes, I help identify the appropriate institution for imprisonment and help clients navigate the prison system.
Dobbin So prisoner advocacy?
Sickler Yes.
Dobbin So you only go to prisons to visit those you represent?
Sickler Yes.
Dobbin So you are not a prison inspector?
Sickler No, I am not.
Dobbin So you are not an academic?
Sickler No, I am not.
Dobbin So you are not a psychiatrist?
Sickler No, I am not.
Dobbin So you are not a researcher?
Sickler No, I am not.
Dobbin So you are not a doctor? You don’t get to see medical records?
Sickler No, I am not. But I retain a medical consultant. I look at medical reports and I initiate conduct reports on a daily basis.
Dobbin But you don’t have across the board access? Only in respect of your clients?
Sickler That is right.
Dobbin But you are not a clinician. You do not have the authority to validate medical opinion?
Sickler No, but I employ a medical consultant.
Dobbin Is this consultant a clinical psychiatrist?
Sickler No.
Dobbin Have you represented anybody on SAMs?
Sickler No. SAM-like procedures, but not SAMs which can only be ordered by the attorney general.
Dobbin But you said clearly in your affidavit that you have SAM clients. Did you put that there because you want to give the impression you have more expertise than you do?
Sickler Of course not.
Dobbin You have never been to the AdSeg area of Alexandria Detention Centre. So what is your opinion based on?
Sickler Information given to me by numerous third parties including my clients, other lawyers and the public defender.
Dobbin But did you not think it was important to make plain in your statement this is hearsay?
Sickler I didn’t see the distinction as important.
Dobbin Did you see the rules governing expert evidence to this court?
Sickler Yes. I did not think that was against the rules.
Dobbin You have seen Kromberg’s statement. Do you accept there may be legitimate reasons for Assange to be in AdSeg?
Sickler Absolutely.
Dobbin Prisoners in protective custody receive all the same services and rights as other prisoners?
Sickler Of course.
Dobbin Do you agree that he would be able to attend programmes with other prisoners?
Sickler Not if under SAMs.
Dobbin Do you agree that those in protective custody can meet with other prisoners?
Sickler Certainly.
Dobbin Do you agree there are no restrictions on access to lawyers?
Sickler Absolutely, there is a constitutional right.
Dobbin Do you agree that SAMs can only be imposed by the Attorney General?
Sickler Yes.
Dobbin What is the procedure for that?
Sickler It involves consulting the intelligence agencies.
Dobbin It needs the certification of one of the heads of one of the security agencies that the prisoner is a threat to the United States?
Sickler Yes.
Dobbin You cannot know that Assange will get SAMs. And SAMs differ from person to person.
Sickler Yes, correct.
Dobbin In the case of convicted terrorist El-Haj, he was under SAMs but still allowed access to family members?
Sickler Yes, his immediate family.
Dobbin Provisions depend on the individual prisoner?
Sickler Yes.
Dobbin The judge who convicted [another prisoner not heard clearly] entered the MMC personally to check on prison conditions. Does that not show there is good judicial supervision?
Sickler I have seen it, on rare occasions.
Dobbin SAMS does not restrict access to lawyers.
Sickler How do you access lawyers in Florida ADX? And pre-trial there are scheduling difficulties. If he is under SAMs his lawyer will himself be subject to surveillance.
Dobbin What evidence do you have for that?
Sickler The Lynne Stewart case. Lindsay Lewis.
Dobbin Lynne Stewart was running a message for jihadists (she added much alleged detail). Her client was subject to SAMs to prevent him running a terrorist organisation.
Sickler The case, and others, had a chilling effect on the willingness of lawyers to take on SAM cases involving national security.
Dobbin The Alexandria Detention Centre is not overcrowded
Sickler No, it’s below capacity. It is a well-run jail. The staff are very professional.
Dobbin Kromberg sets out very substantial medical staffing levels.
Sickler I understand those are mostly private contractors, not prison staff. In practice prisoner needs are not meaningfully met. It takes a few days to a few weeks to get treatment.
Dobbin But they do get sufficient treatment?
Sickler There is no real psychiatric intervention. This is not top tier. Usually prisoners are just medicated.
Dobbin So they have access to medication? And someone to talk to?
Sickler Correct.
Dobbin Your evidence only refers to one suicide, at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre.
Sickler That is just one example, one of my current cases.
Dobbin But two prison officers have been charged for that.
Sickler We are always swift to blame a little man.
Dobbin It was not the protocols that were wrong, just two people did not do their job. [This is possibly the Epstein case.] The ADC has a good record on suicide.
Sickler It is a very very arduous, almost torturous system of confinement in AdSeg. Assange has depression and is on the autism spectrum. It will be unbearable for him. Even with healthy clients of mine, there has been a terrifying deterioration in these conditions.
Dobbin The evidence is they are successful in preventing suicide at the ADC.
Sickler Yes, they have a stellar record.
Dobbin In the Babar Ahmad case (2012), the European Court of Human Rights considered SAMs and ruled it was not an unacceptable regime. Has anything changed since 2012?
Sickler Not significantly.
Dobbin You initially said in your report Assange might not be sent to ADX. Now you change your mind. Sentencing is at the discretion of the judge. There is no basis for your report.
Sickler I changed my mind in the intervening period. From the second superseding indictment, the charge is now espionage and the government alleges Assange is a continuing threat to the USA.
Dobbin You were a consultant in the Reality Winner case. She only got 53 months.
Sickler She was a qualitatively different kind of defendant.
Dobbin She was an insider. They normally get harsher sentences. She is serving her sentence in a medical facility.
Sickler Not on medical grounds. It is the closest federal incarceration facility to her family.
Dobbin You say Assange would be in solitary confinement. But Kromberg states that most inmates in special housing are in double cells with a cell-mate.
Sickler That can be worse. Many are violent and mentally unwell. Assaults by cellmates are frequent.

There followed an interchange where Dobbin tried to trip up Sickler over the procedures for committing someone to ADX Florida, but he proved knowledgeable in detail.

Dobbin The procedures say that prisoners with health conditions will not be sent to the ADX unless there are serious security concerns.
Sickler Abu Hamza is there and he has no arms.
Dobbin There are just 14 people in ADX in this category. You have not been there. How do you get your information?
Sickler Reports including the Lowenstein Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights
Dobbin Prisoners at ADX do get family visits.
Sickler How often would Mr Assange get family visits? Why don’t you tell the court?
Dobbin [name not heard] a convicted terrorist who attempted to blow up a plane is in ADX and gets family visits and phone calls.
Sickler He is allowed communication with two named family members. But how often is he allowed to call or see them?
Dobbin You have said solitary confinement at the ADX can be indefinite?
Sickler That’s my impression.
Dobbin What is your source of information?
Sickler It’s from prisoners and lawyers. It’s anecdotal, I admit. But are you saying at some point the US government will decide that Assange won’t be likely to divulge classified information?
Dobbin Do you understand that there are three levels in the H block that defendants can work themselves through to get out?
Sickler No.
Dobbin Did you know that even in SAMs, prisoners can mingle together for social periods?
Sickler No, I did not.
Dobbin (Quotes ECHR judgement endorsing the stepdown programme)
Sickler You have to be within 2 years of release. If you are designated by the Attorney General for SAMs, you are not eligible for that programme. Conditions in the ADX are extraordinarily arduous.
Dobbin Kromberg sets out the stages and says that stage 3 allows contact with other prisoners

Sickler It sounds awful. Even when you reach phase 3 with the extra privileges. If they do that in practice, well that’s wonderful. It still sounds awful to me.
Dobbin There is a progression.
Sickler I should like to know how long it takes.
Dobbin Do you know the numbers who have come out of the ADX? Shouldn’t you know these facts?
Sickler The place is torturous. That is not in dispute.
Dobbin How inmates are treated will depend on how big a security risk they are.
Sickler Precisely.
Dobbin Medical care at the ADX is not affected by SAMs.
Sickler OK.
Dobbin Do you agree that as a result of the Cunningham Settlement there has been a substantial improvement?
Sickler I cannot say.
Dobbin Gordon Kromberg testifies that ADX Colorado has more mental health provision per inmate than any other federal prison.
Sickler That is needed because of the extreme circumstances people are kept in.
Dobbin Does that not indicate to you that the standard of care is good?
Sickler Is there meaningful patient/clinician interaction? I don’t know.
Dobbin The Cunningham Settlement led to over 100 people being removed from ADX.
Sickler But how many had SAMs?
Dobbin We have established that you don’t know anything about the movement out of people with SAMs.
Sickler Yes, you have established that.
Dobbin As a result of the Cunningham Mitigation two new mental institutions were established.
Sickler Yes, for schizophrenia and psychoses.
Dobbin A Department of Corrections report of 2014 shows that some inmates never want to leave ADX as they find the standard of care so good. They re-offend to get back in.
Sickler They cherry-pick whom they speak to. Most prisoners are desperate to get out.
Dobbin Every report gets an official response from the Board of Prisons and policies are constantly upgraded.
Sickler Yes, but I just don’t see results in practice. I had one client recently, a prisoner, who rather than being treated was beaten up and thrown naked in the hole. It took months before a court got him out. Another was refused his diagnosed and prescribed medicines as not in the BoP formulary.
Dobbin In the first case there was judicial review. So the system works.
Sickler After six months.

There was more of this. The cross-examination lasted two and a half hours. Again, it seems much more convincing from Sickler written down than it did live, where he appeared shaken by the aggression. The answers he gave which sound like firm responses, sounded petulant and throwaway when he delivered them. He gave the impression that it was not worth his time to engage with the unreasonable Dobbin and, while I heartily sympathise, that was not the requirement of the moment.

Sickler very definitely gave the impression he was at times agreeing with the prosecutor just because that was the easier line of action. He often did so in a voice that suggested scepticism, sarcasm or mockery, but that was not plain in his words and will not be apparent in the transcript. In normal life, making short sarcastic responses like “Oh yes, it’s marvellous” in reply to ludicrous assertions by the prosecution about the provision of US supermax prisons, may work as a form of ridicule; in a court setting it does not work at all. In fairness to Mr Sickler, being at home rather than actually in a court session will partly account for it. But the court record will say Sickler says prisoner provision in US supermax prisons is marvellous. It doesn’t note sarcasm.

Dobbin is officious beyond the point of offensive; she comes over as properly obnoxious as a person.

The unpleasant irony in all this is that both Sickler and Ellis were mocked and scorned for their lack of personal knowledge of ADX Colorado, when prosecution and judge had combined just on Friday to bar two witnesses who the defence both wished to testify, who had expert personal experience of ADX Florence. That is yet another striking example of the fact that this process is divorced from any genuine attempt to find truth or justice.

 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

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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J’Accuse

A 22 person team from Police Scotland worked for over a year identifying and interviewing almost 400 hoped-for complainants and witnesses against Alex Salmond. This resulted in nil charges and nil witnesses. Nil. The accusations in court were all fabricated and presented on a government platter to the police by a two prong process. The first prong was the civil service witch hunt presided over by Leslie Evans and already condemned by Scotland’s highest civil court as “unlawful, unfair and tainted by apparent bias”. The second prong was the internal SNP process orchestrated by a group at the very top in SNP HQ and the First Minister’s Private Office. A key figure in the latter was directly accused in court by Alex Salmond himself of having encouraged a significant number of the accusers to fabricate incidents.

The only accusations Police Scotland could take forward were given to them by this process. Their long and expensive trawl outside the tiny closed group of accusers revealed nothing. Let me say that again. Police Scotland’s long and expensive trawl outside the tiny closed group of accusers revealed nothing at all.

Let me give you an example. I have personally read an account by a woman who was contacted by the police and asked to give evidence. She was called in for formal interview by the police. The massive police fishing expedition had turned up the fact that, years ago, Alex Salmond had been seen to kiss this woman in the foyer of a theatre. She was asked if she wished to make a complaint of sexual assault against Alex Salmond. The woman was astonished. She told them she remembered the occasion and Alex, who was a friend, had simply kissed her on the cheeks in greeting. No, of course she did not wish to complain. She felt they were trying to push her to do so.

That is typical of hundreds of interviews in the most extensive and expensive fishing expedition in Scottish police history. That turned up nothing. Zilch. Nada.

What the police did get was eye witness evidence that several of the allegations they had been handed by the closed group were fabricated. Two eye witnesses, for example, appeared in court who had been within six feet of the alleged buttock grab during a Stirling Castle photocall. Both had been watching the photo being taken. Both testified nothing had happened. The police had that evidence. But they ignored it. A more startling example is below.

You may be interested to know the police also spent a great deal of time attempting to substantiate the “incident” at Edinburgh airport that has been so frequently recycled by the mainstream media over years. MI5 also hired a London security consultancy to work on this story. The reason so many resouces were expended is that they were desperate to stand up this claim as the only incident from outside the tiny cabal of Scottish government insiders.

They discovered the actual Edinburgh airport “incident” was that Alex Salmond had made a rather excruciating pun about “killer heels” when the footwear of a female member of staff had set off the security scanner gate. This had been reported as a sexist comment in the context of a much wider dispute about staff conditions. That is it. “Killer heels”. A joke. No charge arose from this particular substantial waste of police time, in which the involvement of MI5 is highly noteworthy.

You will probably know that I too faced politically motivated accusations of sexual misconduct from the state, in my case the FCO, when I blew the whistle on British government collusion in torture and extraordinary rendition. I too was eventually cleared of all charges. When you are facing such charges, there comes a moment when you reveal the evidence to those defending you. They, of course, will not necessarily have presumed your innocence. I recount in Murder in Samarkand this moment in my own case, when after going through all the evidence my representative turned to me and said in some astonishment “You really didn’t do any of this, did you?”. He had been disinclined to believe the British government really was trying to fit me up, until he saw the evidence.

In Alex Salmond’s case, after going through all the evidence, his legal team were utterly bemused as to why it was Alex Salmond who was being prosecuted; rather than the members of the WhatsApp group and senders of the other messages, texts and emails being prosecuted for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. There could not be a plainer conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Not only were members of this very small political grouping orchestrating complaints in the documented communications, they were encouraging their creation.

It is much worse than that. There is plain reference to active and incorrect communication from the SNP hierarchy to Police Scotland and the Crown Office.The reason that Police Scotland and the Procurator Fiscal’s office prosecuted the victim of the conspiracy rather than the conspirators, is that they had themselves been politically hijacked to be part of the fit-up. I fully realise the implications of that statement and I make it with the greatest care. Let me say it again. The reason that Police Scotland and the Procurator Fiscal’s office prosecuted the victim of the conspiracy rather than the conspirators, is that they had themselves been politically hijacked to be part of the fit-up. Just how profound are the ramifications of this case for the Scottish establishment has so far been appreciated by very few people.

Alex Salmond’s counsel, in his summing up for the defence, said that the evidence of collusion and conspiracy in the case “stinks”. It certainly does; and the stench goes an awful long way. A new unionist online meme today is to ask why the accusers would put themselves at risk of prosecution for perjury. The answer is that there is no such risk; the police and prosecutors, the Scottish government including, but not only, as represented by the accusers, have all been part of the same joint enterprise to stitch up Alex Salmond. That is why there is still no investigation into perjury or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, despite the evidence not just of the trial but of the documents and texts which the judge prevented from being led as “collateral”.

I cannot begin to imagine how evil you have to be to attempt falsely to convict someone of that most vicious, most unforgivable of crimes – rape. But it is impossible to have followed the trial, still more impossible to know the evidence that the judge ruled inadmissible as collateral, without forming the view that this was a deliberate, a most wicked, conspiracy to fit him up on these charges. Furthermore it was a conspiracy that incorporated almost the entire Establishment – a conspiracy that included a corrupt Scottish Government, a corrupt Crown Office, a corrupt Scottish Police and an uniformly corrupt media.

Coverage of the trial was a disgrace. The most salacious accusations of the odious prosecutor were selected and magnified into massive headlines. The defence witnesses were almost totally ignored and unreported. The entire stream of evidence from credible witnesses that disproved the prosecution case in its entirety was simply never presented in the papers, still less on radio and TV. A great deal of that evidence proved that prosecution witnesses were not merely mistaken, but had been deliberately and coldly lying.

Let us consider the lead accusation, that of attempted rape. I want you honestly to consider whether or not this should have been brought before the court.

Woman H claimed that Salmond attempted to rape her after a small dinner with Alex Salmond, an actor (the publication of whose name the court banned), and Ms Samantha Barber, a company director. Salmond gave evidence that the entire story was completely untrue and the woman had not even been there that evening. Samantha Barber gave evidence that she knows woman H well, had been a guest at her wedding reception, and that woman H had phoned and asked her to attend the dinner with the specific explanation she could not be there herself. Indeed, affirmed Ms Barber, woman H definitely was not there. She had given that firm evidence to the police.

Against that, there was a vague statement by the actor that he believed a fourth person had been present, but he described her hair colour as different to woman H, described her as wearing jeans when woman H said she was wearing a dress, and did not say the woman had her arm in a sling – which it was established woman H’s arm was at that time. One arm in a sling would be pretty debilitating in eating and the sort of detail about a fellow diner at a very small dinner party you would likely remember.

Given the very firm statement from Samantha Barber, her friend, that woman H was definitely not there, a number of lawyers and police officers with whom I have discussed this have all been perplexed that the charge was brought at all, with such a strong witness to rebut it, given that the police were relying on an extremely tentative identification from the actor (who did not appear in court to be cross-examined). The truth is, as the jury found, that woman H was not physically there when she said the incident took place. Woman H had lied. More importantly, the evidence available to the police and prosecutor fiscal showed that there was never any realistic prospect of conviction.

So why was the charge brought?

You might also wish to consider this. While the jury was considering its verdict, two members of the jury were removed. Here I know more than I can legally say at present. That might be put together with the chance that somebody was tailing Alex Salmond’s defence counsel and video recording his conversation on a train. If you look at the recording, it is obvious that if it were being taken with a mobile phone, that act of recording would have been very plainly visible to Mr Jackson. It appears far more likely this was done with a concealed device, possibly routed through a mobile phone for purposes of metadata.

I only have definite good source information on MI5 involvement in the attempt to dredge up charges at Edinburgh airport. While I have no direct evidence the juror expulsion or the Jackson tape were underlain by security service surveillance, I am very suspicious given the knowledge that MI5 were engaged in the witch-hunt. Which of course also begs the question that if any of the alleged incidents inside Bute House were true, the state would by now have produced the MI5 or GCHQ/NSA recordings to prove it (claiming they were sourced from elsewhere). Salmond has been considered by them a threat to the UK state for decades, and not only over Scottish Independence.

I also ask you to consider who has been, and who has not been, persecuted. Alex Salmond stood in the dock facing total ruin. The conspirators have faced not even questioning about their collusion.

I have published the only detailed account of the defence case. In consequence not only was I slung out of court by the judge on a motion of the prosecution, and threatened with jail by the Crown Office for contempt of court, the judge also made an order making it illegal to publish the fact that I had been barred from the court, in effect a super injunction. Yet the mainstream media, who published ludicrously selective and salacious extracts from the proceedings designed deliberately to make Salmond appear guilty, have received no threats from the Crown Office. They continue to churn out article after article effectively claiming Salmond is guilty and massively distorting the facts of the case.

One consequence of the extreme media bias is that lies which were told by the prosecution are still being repeated as fact. The lie that a policy and/or practice was put into place to prevent women working alone in the evenings with Alex Salmond, was comprehensively demolished by four separate senior civil service witnesses, one of them a prosecution witness. That was never media reported and the lie is still continually repeated.

It is only the person who published the truth, as agreed by the jury, who faces hostile action from the state.

Because the only thing that was not fixed about this entire affair was the jury. And they may well have contrived to nobble even that with jury expulsion.

We should be very grateful to that jury of solid Edinburgh citizens, two thirds of them female. They were diligent, they did their duty, and they thwarted a great injustice in the midst of a media hanging frenzy that has to have impacted upon them, and probably still does.

I would however state that, up until she inexplicably expelled me from the court, I had found Lady Dorrian’s handling of the trial entirely fair and reasonable. Equally it was a judicial decision in the Court of Session that had found the Scottish Government process against Salmond to be “unlawful, unfair and tainted by apparent bias”.

Which brings me on to the role of the Head of the Scottish Civil Service, Leslie Evans. “We may have lost a battle, but we will win the war”. That is how, in January 2019, Leslie Evans had messaged a colleague the day they lost in the Court of Session. It is an interesting glimpse into the lifestyle of these people that the colleague she messaged was in the Maldives at the time.

It is incredible that after a process Evans claimed in court to have “established” was described as unlawful and unfair by a very senior judge, her first thought was on “winning the war”. That message alone is sufficient to sack Leslie Evans. Is shows that rather than being a civil servant engaged in an effort to administer justly, she was engaged as parti pris in a bitter battle to take down Alex Salmond. She would not even accept the verdict of the Court of Session. It astonishes me, as a former member for six years of the senior civil service myself, that any civil servant could commit themselves in that way to try ruthlessly to take down a former First Minister, with no heed whatsoever either to fair process or to the decision of the courts.

It is quite simply astonishing that Ms Evans has not been sacked.

Well, Leslie Evans did carry on her war. At the cost of many millions to the Scottish taxpayer, she has now lost the battle in both Scotland’s highest civil court and in Scotland’s highest criminal court. The campaign to destroy Salmond has been trounced in both the Court of Session and the High Court. That Leslie Evans is still in post is a national scandal. That Nicola Sturgeon a few weeks ago extended Evans’ tenure by a further two years is an appalling misjudgment.

Evans has a particularly unionist outlook and regards her role as head of the Scottish civil service as equivalent to a departmental permanent secretary of the United Kingdom. Evans spends a great deal of time in London. Unlike her predecessor, who regarded Scotland as separate, Evans regularly attends the weekly “Wednesday Morning Colleagues” (WMC) meeting of Whitehall permanent secretaries, chaired by the Westminster Cabinet Secretary. She much values her position in the UK establishment. What kind of Head of the Scottish Civil Service spends the middle of the week in London?

Rather than any action being taken against the perpetrators of this disgraceful attempt to pervert the course of justice, even after their plot has been roundly rejected in the High Court, the Scottish Government appears to be doubling down in its accusations against Alex Salmond through the medium of the state and corporate media, which is acting in complete unison. It has now been widely briefed against Salmond that Police Scotland has passed a dossier to the Metropolitan Police on four other accusations, set at Westminster.

What the media has not told you is that these accusations are from exactly the same group of conspirators; indeed from some of the actual same accusers. They also do not tell you that these accusations are even weaker than those pursued in Scotland.

In the massive effort to prove “pattern of behaviour” in Alex Salmond’s recent trial, incidents which happened outwith Scottish jurisdiction could be presented as evidence in a separate “docket”. Thus the defence heard evidence from the “Chinese docket” of Salmond “attempting to touch” a colleague’s hair in a hotel lift in China. Well, the London “docket” was considered even weaker than that, so it was not led in the Edinburgh trial. The idea that Leslie Evans’ “war” against Salmond will be won in an English court, having failed in both the civil and criminal Scottish courts, is just black propaganda.

As is the continued campaign to claim that Salmond is really guilty, carried on by Rape Crisis Scotland. They yesterday published a statement by the nine anonymous accusers attacking Salmond further, and rather amusingly the nine wrote together to deny they were associated with each other. It seems to me entirely illegitimate for this group to be able to conduct a continued campaign of political harassment of Alex Salmond from behind the cloak of state-enforced anonymity, after he has been acquitted of all charges. I understand the reasoning behind anonymity for accusers in sex allegations. But surely state backed anonymity should not be used to enable the continued repetition of false accusations without fear of defamation law, after the jury has acquitted? That is perverse.

It is also a fact that Rape Crisis Scotland is just another instrument of the Scottish government, being almost entirely funded by the Scottish government. There is a very serious infringement of public conduct here. One of the nine conspirators, whose statement is being amplified by Rape Crisis Scotland, is personally very directly involved in the channeling of government money to Rape Crisis Scotland. That is a gross abuse of office and conflict of interest and should be a resignation matter. Here again, direct wrongdoing is being carried out from behind the screen of state-backed anonymity.

Let me give you this thought. Alex Salmond having been acquitted, you would think that the unionist media would seek to capitalise by training its guns on those at the head of the SNP who sought to frame him, who after all are still in power. But instead, the unionist media is entirely committed to attacking Salmond, in defiance of all the facts of the case. That shows you who it is the British establishment are really afraid of. It also confirms what I have been saying for years, that the SNP careerist establishment have no genuine interest in Scottish Independence and are not perceived by Whitehall as a threat to the union. And in that judgement at least, Whitehall is right.

I should state that in this article I have, absolutely against my own instincts, deferred to Alex Salmond’s noble but in my view over-generous wish to wait until the Covid-19 virus has passed before giving all the names of those involved and presenting the supporting documents. I have therefore removed several names from this article. Alex Salmond believes that it is wrong to move on this at a time when many people are suffering and grieving, and he has stated that it would indeed be narcissistic to think of his own troubles at this time of wider calamity. I find this extremely upsetting when his enemies are showing absolutely no respect nor restraint whatsoever and are engaged in full-on attack on his reputation. I can assure you this is even more frustrating for me than for you. But while the mills of God grind slowly, they grind exceedingly small.

Those who do not know Scotland are astonished that the Alex Salmond trial and its fallout have not damaged support in the polls for Independence nor even for the SNP. I am not in the least surprised – the reawakening of the national consciousness of the Scottish people is an unstoppable process. If you want to see it, look not at any single politician but at the mass enthusiasm of one of the great, self-organised AUOB marches. The spirit of Independence rides the SNP as the available vehicle to achieve its ends. It is no longer primarily inspired nor controlled by the SNP – indeed the SNP leadership is blatantly trying to dampen it down, with only marginal success. This great movement of a nation is not to be disturbed by fleeting events.

That is not to underplay the importance of events for those caught up in them. As Alex Salmond stood in the dock, he was very probably staring at the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison, of never being with his wife Moira again, and of having his reputation as Scotland’s greatest national leader for centuries erased. The party hierarchy had already overseen the Stalinesque scrubbing of his image and name from all online content under the SNP’s control. The future now looks very different, and I am cheered by the brighter horizon.

Let me finish this article by observing that the British state continues to keep the unconvicted Julian Assange in conditions of appalling detention and receiving brutal personal treatment reserved normally for the most dangerous terrorists. The British state has refused to let Assange out of jail to avert the danger of Covid-19. By contrast the government of Iran has allowed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe out of prison to reduce her danger from the epidemic. Which of these governments is portrayed as evil by the state and corporate media?

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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Westminster Cannot Block Scottish Independence

Boris Johnson’s facetious, point-scoring reply to the formal request from the Scottish government for agreement to a second Independence referendum is an act of extreme arrogance. An off-the-cuff campaign remark from a single politician has no weight in weighing the will of a nation, and I presume Johnson is not arguing that every political statement Nicola Sturgeon or Alex Salmond has ever made has the force of law.

The “once in a generation” remark has no more force than “die in a ditch”. It is not contained in any official document, and appears in neither the Edinburgh Agreement nor the Smith Commission report. For Johnson to base his refusal of a vital democratic step on such a flimsy pretext is extremely arrogant. It is born of colossal self-confidence. He is perfectly confident the highly centralised Westminster system will allow him simply to ride roughshod over Scotland.

Johnson is of course right. You may be surprised to hear that I agree with the analysis of McHarg and McCorkindale published today that a legal challenge arguing the Scottish Government’s right to hold a referendum is a waste of time, not least because if such legal challenge looked like succeeding the Tories would simply pass Westminster legislation outlawing the referendum explicitly. There is no doubt whatsoever that such legislation would be upheld by the UK Supreme Court under the doctrine of the Sovereignty of (Westminster) Parliament.

I also have no doubt that a futile and time-wasting court action is going to be a key part of the Scottish Government’s approach in response to Johnson, of pretending to do something about Independence a few more years.

McHarg and McCorkindale are quite right on UK Constitutional Law, which is where their expertise lies. They know very little about public international law and still less about international politics.

The truth is that UK Constitutional Law is as irrelevant to Scottish Independence as Soviet Constitutional Law was to the question of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian Independence. The UK is disintegrating and not the smirk of Johnson, the frippery of the UK Supreme Court nor the witterings of lawyers can hold it together.

Independence is not a matter of domestic law. It is a matter of international law alone. Independence is the existence of a state in relation to other states. It is gained not by any internal process- internal process is utterly irrelevant, and in 95% of cases does not involve a referendum – but by recognition of other states, formalised through the General Assembly of the United Nations.

I touched on these points in my brief statement at the AUOB press conference after the march on Saturday.

In its judgement on Kosovo, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) specifically confirmed that the agreement of the state being seceded from was not necessary for Independence. That is the position in law, whatever any UK court may say. Indeed it was the UK government itself that put this argument most clearly to the ICJ in the Kosovo case.

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State’s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. It is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that a state has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of the original state and its political or legal authorities.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

So the key question is, could Scotland get recognition from other states for a Declaration of Independence? The attitude of the EU will be crucial and here Catalonia is obviously a key precedent. But it is one that has been totally misunderstood.

The vast majority of the politicians and functionaries of the EU institutions viewed the actions of the Francoist government of Spain in assaulting the people of Catalonia who were trying to vote, with extreme distaste. But they held their noses and supported Spain. Because over 20 years experience as a diplomat taught me that the EU functions as a club of member states, who will support each other in almost any circumstance. So Spain was supported.

But the UK is shortly going to stop being a member. It is Scotland, as a potential member with a long history of valued membership and a firm intention to join, which will have the natural support of the EU, the more so as there will be a strong desire to get Scotland’s fishing, energy and mineral resources back within the bloc. The disintegration of the UK will also be encouraged as a salutary lesson to any other states that consider leaving the EU. The political forces within the EU are very, very strongly behind recognition of Scottish Independence.

Once the EU decides to recognise Scotland (and crucially it is not a decision that needs unanimity in the EU vote, an extremely important and overlooked fact) the rest will be easy. The UK is detested in much of the developing world for its continued refusal to decolonise Diego Garcia, for the Iraq War, and for the whole history of colonialism.

So how should Scotland proceed? My advice would be to declare Independence at the earliest possible opportunity. We should recall all Scottish MPs from Westminster immediately. We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.

The key criterion which governments have traditionally used to recognise another state is control of the state’s internal territory. (They do not have to use that criterion, each state can recognise on whatever basis it wishes, but that is the usual one cited). This is where the Catalonian Declaration of Independence failed, the Catalan Government never managed to enforce it on its own ground.

There is going to be no process of Independence agreed with the British government. We have to take Independence, not beg for it. At some stage, there is always the danger that the British government may try to react by sending in the British Army to enforce Westminster’s will. If we believe we are an independent nation, we have to be prepared to defend ourselves as an independent state should the worst happen. Calling a confirmatory referendum as the first act of the Independent state would make it difficult for Johnson to justify sending in the British Army to try to prevent it, but we cannot rule it out. Hopefully that will not involve anyone getting killed, but we must be plain that Westminster will never voluntarily allow us to leave and may physically attack us if we try.

I appreciate this may all sound very unpleasant and confrontational.

We have two alternatives now – we stand up for ourselves and our inalienable right of self-determination in international law as defined in the UN Charter, or we grovel before Johnson’s smirk and try various “legal” and “constitutional” avenues in terms of the UK’s utterly irrelevant domestic legislation. Which will get us nowhere, slowly.

The time has come for Scottish Independence. With a referendum denied by no fault of ours, we must seize the moment and take the Independence for which they will not let us vote.

——————————————

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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London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It

Yesterday the Scottish Government published “Scotland’s Right to Choose“, its long heralded paper on the path to a new Independence referendum. It is a document riven by a basic intellectual flaw. It sets out in detail, and with helpful annexes, that Scotland is a historic nation with the absolute and inalienable right of self-determination, and that sovereignty lies not in the Westminster parliament but with the Scottish people.

It then contradicts all of this truth by affirming, at length, in detail, and entirely without reservation, that Scotland can only hold a legitimate Independence referendum if the Westminster Parliament devolves the power to do so under Section 30.

Both propositions cannot be true. Scotland cannot be a nation with the right of self-determination, and at the same time require the permission of somebody else to exercise that self-determination.

I was trying to find the right words to discuss the document. One possibility was “schizophrenic”. The first half appears to be written by somebody with a fundamental belief in Scottish Independence, and contains this passage:

The United Kingdom is best understood as a voluntary association of nations, in keeping with the principles of democracy and self‑determination.

For the place of Scotland in the United Kingdom to be based on the people of Scotland’s consent, Scotland must be able to choose whether and when it should make a decision about its future.

The decision whether the time is right for the people who live in Scotland again to make a choice about their constitutional future is for the Scottish Parliament, as the democratic voice of Scotland, to make.

Yet the rest of the paper completely negates this proposition and instead argues that the necessary powers must be granted by the Westminster Parliament:

The Scottish Government is committed to agreeing a process for giving effect to its mandate for a further independence referendum. When they make a decision about their future, the people of Scotland must do so in the knowledge that their decision will be heard and respected and given effect to: not just by the government in Scotland, but also by the UK Government, by the European Union and by the international community.

For a referendum to have this legitimacy, it must have the confidence of all of those that it would effect. This means not just the UK Government acknowledging and respecting the Scottish Government’s mandate, but the Scottish Government and UK Government seeking to agree the proper lawful basis for the referendum to take place.

We call on the UK Government to enter discussions about the Scottish Government’s mandate for giving the people of Scotland a choice, and to agree legislation with the Scottish Government that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.

I am frequently told that this paper is all just a cunning ploy, and that when the Tory Government rejects – as it will reject – this servile request to grant Scotland the powers to hold a referendum, the Scottish Government will go to court to say it has the right to a referendum.

If that really is the cunning plan, it is the most stupid cunning plan since Baldrick and his turnip. In what way does publishing an official Scottish Government paper which states explicitly that a referendum “must have” the agreement of the UK government to be legitimate, prepare the ground to go to court and argue the precise opposite? Plainly that is not the intent here.

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech presenting the paper made the acceptance of a veto from “the rest of the UK” on the holding of a second referendum even more explicit:

It is based on the solemn right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future.

The Scottish Government believes that right should be exercised free from the threat of legal challenge.

In line with our values, we acknowledge that a referendum must be legal and that it must be accepted as legitimate, here in Scotland and the rest of the UK as well as in the EU and the wider international community.

We are therefore today calling for the UK Government to negotiate and agree the transfer of power that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.

And what does Ms Sturgeon plan to do when Boris Johnson just says no, as he assuredly will? To be fair to Nicola, she could not have been clearer about what she intends to do. Absolutely nothing different.

Of course, I anticipate that in the short term we will simply hear a restatement of the UK government’s opposition.

But they should be under no illusion that this will be an end of the matter.

We will continue to pursue the democratic case for Scotland’s right to choose.

We will do so in a reasonable and considered manner.

So this is the Sturgeon plan: in the short term, we accept Johnson can block Independence. Beyond the short term (how many years is that?) we do nothing except continue in democratic politics as the SNP already is, operating at Holyrood and putting before Scottish voters “the democratic case for Scotland’s right to choose”, while accepting Westminster’s veto. This will have the pleasant side effect of keeping Ms Sturgeon living very nicely indeed in Bute House, with her husband picking up a massive salary as CEO of the Party, and the SNP just like the last five years doing nothing whatsoever about Independence other than occasionally blether about it, “pursuing the democratic case”, while very explicitly accepting Westminster’s veto.

The truth is there is no route to a referendum by legal challenge in the UK courts. The UK Supreme Court has already ruled that Westminster, the “Crown in Parliament” is sovereign, that the Sewell Convention has no legal force and that any powers that the Scottish parliament has, and indeed the very existence of the Scottish Parliament, is entirely at the gift of Westminster. The clue is on the tin. It is the UK Supreme Court. To be fair the Scottish Government paper plainly does not anticipate any such pointless legal challenge, though it is not inconceivable that one may be futilely undertaken at some stage to keep the SNP’s pro-Independence activists happy, by pretending to do something and kicking Indy yet a few months further down the road.

Because the truth is, that is the purpose of the current Scottish Government paper. The reason it is schizophrenic is that it is a deeply dishonest document. All the stuff at the beginning, about Scotland’s ancient right as a nation and the sovereignty residing in the Scottish people, is no more and no less than window dressing to keep Scottish Independence activists happy. The actual meat of the paper, that Indyref2 “must have” Westminster agreement or it is not legitimate, sits there like a great steaming turd whose stink cannot be disguised no matter how much the SNP leadership has tried to conceal it under flowers.

I have to say, I am astonished how many very decent people in the SNP have fallen for the trick.

The Scottish Government position is fundamentally incorrect. The Independence of a nation is a matter of international law, not of domestic legislation. The UN Charter enshrines the right of self-determination of peoples, and nobody has argued that the Scots are not a people in the encapsulated sense.

It is perfectly normal for States to become Independent without the permission of the state from which they are seceding. The UK Government itself argued precisely this position before the International Court of Justice over Kosovo. I here repeat a post I wrote almost exactly one year ago setting out the legal position:

BEGINS

The London Supreme Court last week not only confirmed that the Westminster Parliament could overrule at will any Scottish Government legislation, irrespective of the Scotland Act and the Sewell Convention, but it also ruled that Westminster had already successfully done so, by retrospectively passing provisions in the EU (Withdrawal) Act that overruled the Bill on the same subject, within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, that had already been passed by Holyrood.

Not content with that, the London Supreme Court confirmed that London ministers may, by secondary legislation, under the Scotland Act decree laws for Scotland that are not even passed through the Westminster parliament.

Which leaves Scotland in this extraordinary situation. English MPs or English ministers in their London Parliament can, at any time, impose any legislation they choose on Scotland, overriding Scotland’s parliament and Scotland’s representation in the London parliament. Yet, under the English Votes for English Laws rules of the London Parliament introduced by the Tories in 2015, Scottish MPs cannot vote at all on matters solely affecting England.

That is plainly a situation of colonial subservience.

I am firmly of the view that the Scottish government should now move to withdraw from the Treaty of Union. Scotland’s right to self determination is inalienable. It cannot be signed away forever or restricted by past decisions.

The Independence of a country is not a matter of domestic law it is a matter of international law. The right of the Scottish Parliament to declare Independence may not be restricted by UK domestic law or by purported limitations on the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The legal position is set out very clearly here:

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State‟s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. Of major relevance, it is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that the Scottish Government has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of London and completely irrespective of the London Supreme Court.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. 1 Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

As I have stressed, the SNP should now be making a massive effort to prepare other countries, especially in the EU and in the developing world, to recognise Scotland when the moment comes. There is no task more important. There is a worrying lack of activity in this area. It may currently not be possible to spend government money on sending out envoys for this task, but if personal envoys were endorsed by the First Minister they would get access and could easily be crowd funded by the Independence Movement. I am one of a number of former senior British diplomats who would happily undertake this work without pay. We should be lobbying not just the EU but every country in Africa, Asia and South America.

My preferred route to Independence is this. The Scottish Parliament should immediately legislate for a new Independence referendum. The London Government will attempt to block it. The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

There will never be a better time than now for Scotland to become an Independent, normal, nation once again. It is no time for faint hearts or haverers; we must seize the moment.

ENDS

Events since I wrote that have made the case still stronger. With the UK now leaving the European Union, EU states will be extremely eager to recognise Scottish Independence and get Scotland and its resources back inside the EU, while sending out a strong message that leaving the EU can have severe consequences. At the UN, the UK’s repudiation of the International Court of Justice ruling and overwhelming General Assembly mandate over the Chagos Islands has made the UK even more of a pariah state, while senior statesmen in the developing world see Scottish Independence as a wedge issue to open the question of the UK’s ridiculous permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

The claim that to proceed to Independence without Westminster consent is illegal and illegitimate lies at the heart of this truly disgraceful Scottish Government paper. That claim is wrong at every level.

You cannot both believe that the Scots are a people with the right of self-determination, and believe that Westminster has a right to veto that self-determination.

This paper by the Scottish Government is nothing more and nothing less than proof that the gradualists who sadly head the SNP are perfectly happy operating within the devolution system and have no intention of ever paying any more than lip service to Independence.

——————————————

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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Indigenous Eurasian Islamic Populations

This blog was defending the human rights of the Uighurs a decade before the neo-conservatives for whom they are now a fashionable cause even knew of their existence. The Uighurs are the closest linguistic and cultural cousins of the Uzbeks, and the populations are contiguous. (China is not contiguous with Uzbekistan but Osh and the eastern Ferghana Valley in Kirghizstan are Uzbek majority areas).

The dynamic spread of Islam northwards and eastwards under the Abbasids, (much less commented that the expansion of its early centuries) and the temporary patronage of Islam by the Mongol Yuan conquerors of China, left very substantial Islamic populations throughout Eurasia, which later became subsumed into non-Muslim polities, including by the expansion of the Chinese and Russian empires. The persecution of the Uighurs is a historic continuation. For decades from the mid eighteenth century they were subjected to one of history’s most sustained and organised campaigns of mass rape of the female population by Chinese occupiers. In a historical perspective, it was the period of comparative tolerance that preceded the current massive attempt at cultural genocide which was the aberration.

I do despair of those on the left who excuse the mass imprisonment of hundreds of thousands and the extrajudicial killing of thousands, because it is China doing it and not a CIA aligned power.

The Uighurs are a people with the right of self-determination. They are not Chinese; their language, culture and religion are completely different. They have a clearly defined territory they have occupied continuously for many centuries. One of the problems with the British is that as an island, we tend to only think of colonies as places you sail to. Colonies you walk to is a concept we have not grasped. That is one of the reasons the left in the UK have such difficulty recognising that China is an Empire and Kashgar is a colony. The other reason is that whole “West Bad, Opponents Good” thing.

It is excellent to recognise that the Western powers have done a huge amount of evil in the world. It is a completely illogical step to assume from this revelation that they have a monopoly on evil. All major governments do evil.

Kashmir is the other pressing issue of a Hindu minority population under pressure. Six years ago I annoyed rather a lot of people when I warned that my personal experience of living among them for some months in India was that it was changing into an an “increasingly oppressive and rabidly conservative Hindu society”. I have viewed the rise of Modi and his Hindu nationalists with great concern, while Western governments have been much more concerned with seeking to benefit from India’s economic boom.

The revocation of the autonomous status of Kashmir and Jammu was a reckless and aggressive act of centralisation that was grossly insensitive to both the population and the history of the region – and I write in full awareness that there have been not only Muslim but also many Sikh victims of intercommunal violence over the years. The incorporation of Kashmir into India was a dreadful British error, semi-apologetically enshrined in its special constitutional position, now destroyed by Modi. It is only the statesmanship of Imran Khan which has averted a hideous war.

The Supreme Court of India’s firmly anti-Muslim ruling in the Ayodhya dispute, and the new immigrant citizenship law excluding Muslims (which has outraged the remnants of liberal India), are evidence of intercommunal policy which is all pushing in an anti-Muslim direction. Modi has been portrayed in the West as a moderniser. This is a fundamental error – he is just a populist in the Trump and Johnson mode who succeeds by stirring up feelings against the “other” in the population. The situation in India is destabilising and I fear more violence against the Muslim population is bound to ensue.

The Muslim populations of Central Asia now live in autonomous republics, none of which has transitioned to effective democracy, all of which have been more or less looted by oligarchs, all have continuing serious human rights problems, and all are increasingly under the economic sway of China (which is not, in itself, a bad thing). China remains something of an enigma. Its economic success continues to be staggering, if severely pollution creating. As I frequently assert, there has never been a power in the world of such economic dominance which has shown such a comparatively tiny appetite for military dominance. If you compare China to the USA in this regard the difference is striking. China has very few military bases outside China, the USA has eight hundred.

But the Central Asian “stans” only contain a minority of the Muslim colonies in Eurasia which Russia acquired in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, simultaneous with the expansion of the British Empire. Many of these colonies, with their overwhelmingly Muslim populations, remain part of the Russian Federation which – make no mistake about it – is still an Empire.

The Tatar are the most widespread of the colonial peoples within Russia. Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Cherkessa, Kabardino Balkaria and Karachai are all areas of Russia where I believe the original Muslim population, absorbed into the Russian Empire by conquest, will in the fulness of time achieve independence, in addition to the better-known Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. The astonishing brutality of the Russian repression of the perfectly justified Independence movements of the latter countries cannot hold back the tide of decolonisation forever. Crimea, of course, should belong to the Tatars who were deported from their land by Stalin. Not Russia, not Ukraine, but Krim Tatar.

As I said earlier, even though Russia’s colonies were colonised contemporaneously with the British ones, and even though the indigenous populations are Muslim, we in the UK have difficulty perceiving them as colonies because they are contiguous with Russia by land and have been institutionally absorbed into the metropolitan. It is also worth noting that, largely but not entirely as a result of the Soviet period of running its Empire, Russia did a much better job of providing education, health and other public services to its colonies than the British ever did.

It is important to state that these colonised peoples are not Russians but separate peoples in the sense of the UN Charter, with very distinct cultures, histories, languages and religion, and thus they do have the right of self-determination. I do not deny that at present, outside the colonies of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, there is little evidence of separatist desire. But I expect that to change over historic time.

It is of course a personal irony that I am very often accused of being a Russian agent because I debunk ludicrous anti-Russian scares like the fake Skripal narrative, or the totally unfounded narrative that Russia has any desire to attack Western Europe. These scare stories about Russia are of course essential to the profits of the western military-industrial-security complex, and I debunk them because they are nonsense, and because of their propaganda power in controlling western populations. But while I have a deep-seated love for Russia, its culture and people, I know of no other commentator who calls for the Russian Federation to be divorced of its internalised colonies, an opinion the Kremlin would find outrageous.

The Eurasian Muslim populations were overtaken by history from around the seventeenth century and, Islam having expanded itself in Eurasia by conquest, the Muslims were generally themselves absorbed into larger Empires by conquest. In Central Asia they have in the last thirty years regained a kind of independence, but are still dominated by foreign imposed institutions and the colonial subordinate administrative and political class. In China and India the conditions of Muslims are worsening markedly. In Russia the brutal crushing of Independence attempts in some areas has led to the current position where the colonial status of the Muslim sub-polities within the Russian Federation is shunned by the entire world as a Pandora’s Box.

This is of course not in any sense a comprehensive survey. But sometimes it is useful to step back and try to see current events in a broader perspective, both historically and geographically. I do hope this gives some food for your own thoughts. I do hope that some of those thoughts are more profound than the notion that Russia and China, as diplomatic opponents of the West, are beyond criticism.

——————————————

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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Violence and the State

The state rests its power on a monopoly of violence. Indeed, in the final analysis a state is nothing but a monopoly of violence. Even when a state does good things, like tax to provide healthcare, it ultimately depends on its ability to employ violence to enforce the collection of the tax. Arrest and imprisonment is, absolutely, violence. We may not recognise it as violence, but if you try to resist arrest and imprisonment you will quickly see that it is violence. Whether or not blows are struck or arms twisted to get someone there, or they go quietly under threat, confining somebody behind concrete and steel is violence.

I use the case of tax evasion and healthcare to show that I am merely analysing that the state rests on violence deliberately. I am not claiming that the violence of the state is a bad thing in itself. I just want you to recognise that the state rests on violence. Try not paying your taxes for a few years, and try refusing to be arrested and go to court. You will, ultimately, encounter real violence on your person.

John Pilger gave a harrowing account of the everyday application of state violence at the Free the Truth meeting at which I spoke last week. Here is an extract from his speech describing his visit to Julian Assange:

I joined a queue of sad, anxious people, mostly poor women and children, and grandmothers. At the first desk, I was fingerprinted, if that is still the word for biometric testing.

“Both hands, press down!” I was told. A file on me appeared on the screen.

I could now cross to the main gate, which is set in the walls of the prison. The last time I was at Belmarsh to see Julian, it was raining hard. My umbrella wasn’t allowed beyond the visitors centre. I had the choice of getting drenched, or running like hell. Grandmothers have the same choice.

At the second desk, an official behind the wire, said, “What’s that?”

“My watch,” I replied guiltily.

“Take it back,” she said.

So I ran back through the rain, returning just in time to be biometrically tested again. This was followed by a full body scan and a full body search. Soles of feet; mouth open.

At each stop, our silent, obedient group shuffled into what is known as a sealed space, squeezed behind a yellow line. Pity the claustrophobic; one woman squeezed her eyes shut.

We were then ordered into another holding area, again with iron doors shutting loudly in front of us and behind us.

“Stand behind the yellow line!” said a disembodied voice.

Another electronic door slid partly open; we hesitated wisely. It shuddered and shut and opened again. Another holding area, another desk, another chorus of, “Show your finger!”

Then we were in a long room with squares on the floor where we were told to stand, one at a time. Two men with sniffer dogs arrived and worked us, front and back.

The dogs sniffed our arses and slobbered on my hand. Then more doors opened, with a new order to “hold out your wrist!”

A laser branding was our ticket into a large room, where the prisoners sat waiting in silence, opposite empty chairs. On the far side of the room was Julian, wearing a yellow arm band over his prison clothes.

As a remand prisoner he is entitled to wear his own clothes, but when the thugs dragged him out of the Ecuadorean embassy last April, they prevented him bringing a small bag of belongings. His clothes would follow, they said, but like his reading glasses, they were mysteriously lost.

For 22 hours a day, Julian is confined in “healthcare”. It’s not really a prison hospital, but a place where he can be isolated, medicated and spied on. They spy on him every 30 minutes: eyes through the door. They would call this “suicide watch”.

In the adjoining cells are convicted murderers, and further along is a mentally ill man who screams through the night. “This is my One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” he said.

When we greet each other, I can feel his ribs. His arm has no muscle. He has lost perhaps 10 to 15 kilos since April. When I first saw him here in May, what was most shocking was how much older he looked.

We chat with his hand over his mouth so as not to be overheard. There are cameras above us. In the Ecuadorean embassy, we used to chat by writing notes to each other and shielding them from the cameras above us. Wherever Big Brother is, he is clearly frightened.

On the walls are happy-clappy slogans exhorting the prisoners to “keep on keeping on” and “be happy, be hopeful and laugh often”.

The only exercise he has is on a small bitumen patch, overlooked by high walls with more happy-clappy advice to enjoy ‘the blades of grass beneath your feet’. There is no grass.

He is still denied a laptop and software with which to prepare his case against extradition. He still cannot call his American lawyer, or his family in Australia.

The incessant pettiness of Belmarsh sticks to you like sweat.

You can see John give the speech here:

Assange’s “crime”, of course, is to reveal the illegal use of force by the state in Iraq and Afghanistan. That the state feels the need to employ such violence against somebody who has never practised violence, is a striking illustration that violence constitutes the very fabric of the state.

Just as we are not conditioned to recognise the violence of the state as violence, we do not always recognise resistance to the state as violence. If you bodily blockade a road, a tube station or a building with the intention to prevent somebody else from physically passing through that space, that is an act of physical force, of violence. It may be a low level of violence, but violence it is. Extinction Rebellion represents a challenge to the state’s claim to monopolise violence, which is why the Metropolitan Police – a major instrument of state domestic violence – were so anxious to declare the activity illegal on a wide scale.

Ultimately civil resistance represents a denial of the state’s right to enforce its monopoly of violence. The Hong Kong protests represent a striking demonstration of the fact that rejecting the state’s monopoly of violence can entail marching without permission, occupying a space, blockading and ultimately replying to bullets with firebombs, and that these actions are a continuum. It is the initial rejection of the state’s power over your body which is the decision point.

Just as I used the example of tax evasion and healthcare to demonstrate that the state’s use of violence is not always bad, I use the example of Extinction Rebellion to demonstrate that the assertion of physical force, against the state’s claim to monopoly of it, is not always bad either.

We are moving into an era of politics where the foundations of consent which underpin western states are becoming less stable. The massive growth in wealth inequality has led to an alienation of large sections of the population from the political system. The political economy works within a framework which is entirely an artificial construct of states, and ultimately is imposed by the states’ monopoly of force. For the last four decades, that framework has been deliberately fine-tuned to enable the massive accumulation of wealth by a very small minority and to reduce the access to share of economic resource by the broad mass of the people.

The inevitable consequence is widespread economic discontent and a resultant loss of respect for the political class. The political class are tasked with the management of the state apparatus, and popular discontent is easily personalised – it concentrates on the visible people rather than the institutions. But if the extraordinary wealth imbalance of society continues to worsen, it is only a matter of time before that discontent undermines respect for political institutions. In the UK, once it becomes plain that leaving the EU has not improved the lot of those whose socio-economic standing has been radically undercut, the discontent will switch to other institutions of government.

In Scotland, we shall have an early test of the state’s right to the monopoly of force if the Westminster government insists on attempting to block a new referendum on Independence, against the will of the Scottish people. In Catalonia, the use of violence against those simply trying to vote in a referendum was truly shocking.

This has been followed up by the extreme state violence of vicious jail sentences against the leaders of the entirely nonviolent Catalan independence movement. As I stated we do not always recognise state violence. But locking you up in a small cell for years is a worse act of violence on your body even than the shocking but comparatively brief treatment of the woman voter in the photo. It is a case of chronic or acute state violence.

Where the use of violence by a state is fundamentally unjust, there is every moral right to employ violence against the state. Whether or not to do so becomes a tactical, not a moral, question. There is a great deal of evidence that non-violent protest, or protest using the real but low levels of physical force employed by Extinction Rebellion, can be in the long term the most effective. But opinions differ legitimately. Gandhi took one view, and Nelson Mandela another. The media has sanitised the image of Mandela, but it is worth remembering that he was jailed not for non-violent protest, but for taking up violent resistance to white rule, in which I would say he was entirely justified at the time.

To date, the Catalan people and their leaders appear firmly wedded to the tactic of non-violence. That is their choice and their right, and I support them in that choice. But having suffered so much violence, and with no democratic route available for their right of self-determination, the Catalans have the moral right, should they so choose, to resist, by violence, the violence of the Spanish state. I should however clarify that does not extend to indiscriminate attack on entirely innocent people, which in my view is not a moral choice.

All of which of course has obvious implications should a Westminster government seek to block the Scottish people from expressing their inalienable right of self-determination following the election. Which fascinating subject I shall return to once again in January. Be assured meantime I am not presently close to advocating a tactic of violence in Scotland. But nor will I ever say the Scottish people do not ultimately have that right if denied democratic self-expression. To say otherwise would be to renounce the Declaration of Arbroath, a founding document of European political thought.

As western states face popular discontent and are losing consent of the governed, one of the state’s reactions is to free up its use of force. Conservative election promises to give members of the UK armed forces effective immunity from prosecution for war crimes or for illegal use of force, should be seen in this light. So also, of course, should the use of agents not primarily employed by the state to impose extreme violence on behalf of the state. The enforcers of the vicious system John Pilger encountered were employed by Serco, G4S or a similar group, to remove the state one step from any control upon their actions (and of course to allow yet more private profit to the wealthy). Similar contractors regularly visit strong violence on immigrants selected for deportation. The ultimate expression of this was the disgusting employment by the British and American governments of mercenary forces, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, to deploy brutal and uncontrolled violence on the local population.

The pettiness of the election campaign, its failure to address fundamental issues due to the ability of the mainstream media to determine and manipulate the political agenda, has led me to think about the nature of the state at a much more basic level. I do not claim we are beyond the early stages of a breakdown in social consent to be ruled; and I expect the immediate response of the system will be a lurch towards right wing authoritarianism, which ultimately will make the system still less stable.

——————————————

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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The Roger Stone – Wikileaks – Russia Hoax

As ever, the Guardian wins the prize for the most tendentious reporting of Roger Stone’s conviction. This is not quite on the scale of its massive front page lie that Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy. But it is a lie with precisely the same intent, to deceive the public into believing there were links between Wikileaks and the Trump campaign. There were no such links.

The headline “Roger Stone: Trump Adviser Found Guilty On All Charges in Trump Hacking Case” is deliberately designed to make you believe a court has found Stone was involved in “Wikileaks hacking”. In fact this is the precise opposite of the truth. Stone was found guilty of lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee by claiming to have links to Wikileaks when in fact he had none. And of threatening Randy Credico to make Credico say there were such links, when there were not.

It is also worth noting the trial was nothing to do with “hacking” and no hacking was alleged or proven. Wikileaks does not do hacking, it does “leaks”. The clue is in the name. The DNC emails were not hacked. The Guardian is fitting this utterly extraneous element into its headline to continue the ludicrous myth that the Clinton campaign was “Hacked” by “the Russians”.

It is worth noting that not one of those convicted of charges arising from or in connection with the Mueller investigation – Manafort, Papadopolous, Stone – has been convicted of anything to do with Wikileaks, with anything to do with Russia or with the original thesis of the enquiry.

Astonishingly, in the case of Stone, he has been convicted of saying that the Mueller nonsense is true, and he was a Trump/Wikileaks go-between, when he was not. Yet despite the disastrous collapse of the Mueller Report, and despite the absolutely devastating judicial ruling that there was no evidence worthy even of consideration in court that Russiagate had ever happened, the Guardian and the neo-con media in the USA (inc. CNN, Washington Post, New York Times) continue to serve up an endless diet of lies to the public.

Randy Credico was the chief witness for the prosecution against Roger Stone. That’s for the prosecution, not the defence. This is the state’s key evidence against Stone. And Credico is absolutely plain that Stone had no link to Wikileaks. The transcript of my exclusive interview with Randy has now been prepared (thanks to Sam and Jon) and follows here.

I spoke to Randy yesterday to clarify one point. The first conversation Randy ever had with Julian Assange was on 25 August 2016 and it was on-air on Randy’s radio show. There was no private talk off-air around the show. That was Randy’s only contact of any kind with Julian Assange before the 2016 election. His next contact with him, also an on-air interview, was not until Spring 2017, well after the election. He could not have been in any sense a channel to Wikileaks.

Here is the unedited interview from 10 November:

RC: Hello.
CM: Hello there, Randy. Hello, can you hear me OK?
RC: Yes, perfectly.
CM: Yeah. I’m good, I’m very good indeed. OK, let’s do it like this, shall we, it seems …
RC: Now listen, before you start, you can ask me anything you want, and this is the only interview I’m going to do. I’ll be in town with—like, all day long—with people asking me to talk about this and I just want to get it out of the way and move on. All right?
CM: No, I quite understand. And that’s very sensible. Now, let’s start then … let’s start … before we get into the substance, let’s start then with some of the atmospherics. How did it feel to you, you know, to be you … to be Randy walking into that courtroom?
RC: Well, you know, when I, when I … first of all, for the last eight months I knew this was eventually going to happen. So I’ve been on needles and pins, a lot of anxiety that … Wait a second … Hold on, hold on … can you start and do that again?
[aside] Bye, everybody. … I’m doing an interview with somebody here.
Hi, Craig. Hi, Craig.
CM: Yep. Yep. I’m here.
RC: Hello. All right. Start going. Start … start again.
CM: OK. Before we get into the substance, Randy, let’s talk about the atmospherics. How did it feel to be you? How did it feel to be Randy Credico walking into that courtroom?
RC: Well, you know, all of my life … I got into show business when I was 18 years old and I really was pursuing fame and notoriety and, you know, I finally got it, and this is “be careful what you wish for”—because this is certainly not something that I was relishing. For the past eight months, when Mr Stone was indicted, I have been suffering from heavy anxiety, having to appear as a witness under subpoena. And then when it finally happened, eight months went by quickly, and I got to tell you something, going into that courtroom, and anticipating it the previous night in which I couldn’t sleep was not a very comforting feeling. I walked in and, you know, it wasn’t the traditional way where you walk in from the back. You had to walk through the very front of the courthouse, past the defendant, past his family, past his friends, past his supporters, and then get on that witness stand right next to the jury, and begin answering questions. So after a while I was OK with it, but I knew it was going to be a long session; I knew I was going to have to come back the next day and continue and then I was going to have to go through the cross-examination. So it was just nothing but anxiety going in, and there was some relief when it was over but it was a different kind of a feeling because I felt bad for the defendant at the end of the testimony.
CM: Yeah, no, I’m sure you did. Did you catch his eye at any slight stage while you were … while you were talking?
RC: Yeah. You know, I tried not to. I didn’t think that was fair, so I did look at him. He was very morose looking, very sullen looking … and, you know, but for the grace of God, there goes I. I could’ve been in that seat, in that situation at some point in my lifetime, and the weight of the federal government with the vast resources in a case like that, and the defendant, he had … he had a lot of attorneys, but I didn’t think they were … they were really sufficient. These were not great barristers, you know what I mean? They were not good. And I found out they weren’t really that good because I had known earlier the way they were cross-examining previous witnesses that they just weren’t up to the job.
So, you know, you go in there and you’re under a lot of stress, and you’ve got to tell the truth and at the same time the truth is going to hurt the guy who’s sitting there … you know, just 25 or 30 feet away from you, and it could put him in prison. I mean—who wants to be in that position? All of my life, I have worked to get people out of prison. I’m a prison reformer. I’ve extricated people out of prison through clemency and changes of laws in the State of New York. And other activism that I have done like in Texas, I got 46 people out of prison. So this was a very bizarre, ironic situation that I was in at that particular point.
So yes, I caught his eye; I did catch his eye. You know, it’s such loose strings—it’s someone that you’ve known. I’ve known the guy for 17 years. And people say “How were you ever friends with this guy? You know, you’re an extreme left-winger, the guy is an extreme right-winger”. Well, I have no regrets meeting him, because I met him in 2002, after I had been working 5 years, visiting prisons, organizing families of prisoners who were subjected to New York’s racist and draconian Rockefeller drug laws. They were called the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. I was working with him, organizing, visiting their loved ones in prison, and we were moving forward to getting some substantial change in 2002, but we were at loggerheads with the government. So because Roger Stone was running the campaign of a third party candidate—a billionaire, a real maverick individual, who had some great ads that I saw—I went to Mr Stone because the Democrats and the Republicans in the race were not addressing the issue. Mr Stone actually not only agreed with my position there, but he spent … had his candidate spend … millions of dollars doing ads to repeal New York’s racist Rockefeller drug laws. And that was a very key moment in the historical run of this movement. Within a year and a half, the laws had changed, and each year there was major building blocks. We got the public to support us; we were getting politicians to support us. In 2002, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer—our two Democratic Senators—were not on board. And so, this guy Tom Golisano was on board and he did rallies with these families, he put them on television, and he, like I said, spent millions of dollars on ads. And if it weren’t for Roger Stone, that wouldn’t have happened. And so because of that within a year and a half, these families that I had worked with, there was retroactivity when the laws were changed within a year and a half, and that was a key component. And Mr Golisano stayed with it for another year, he continued to work with us.
So, something like that. Even though Mr Stone had screwed me over, had done some very nasty things over the next 17 years, there was still that soft spot for him because, when I look at those families and I remember their faces when they get reunited with their loved ones—he played a role in that.
So that’s the dilemma I was facing when I was on that witness stand. I was an aggrieved person. This could’ve been done, by the way, in a civil court, you know, my grievance against Mr Stone because, for me—for me—my position was I was kind of smeared by being associated with the Trump campaign with these bogus allegations of being the back channel to Wikileaks—which we’ll get into. There was never any back channel to Wikileaks—that was all hocus pocus! So, answering your question, it was … it was a very bizarre, uncomfortable experience undergoing those {inaudible} in that highly publicized and media-covered circus that was going on. Not a circus, but whatever was going on there, it was something that I would not want to go through again. And, look, I’ve performed in front of a million different audiences; I’ve worked strip joints when I was in air force bases; I’ve done vigils, rallies; I’ve worked the worst toilets in the room over a 45 year period in show business, but I still wasn’t prepared for that kind of atmosphere.
CM: Yes, I can imagine. Is it a fair characterisation to say that you, Randy, you’re on the libertarian left of politics, whereas Roger’s on the libertarian right, and you both met because there were some issues such as drug decriminalization on which you agree and on which he then did good work in decriminalizing communities in New York. Is that the basic analysis?
RC: Yes, I would say I once ran on the Libertarian party line in 2010. A lot of their positions I don’t agree with … but I’m on the left, he’s a libertarian right. He’s not like one of these people—when I met him he was not the ideologue that he was portrayed to be in the media in 2002—a far right Jesse Helms type or a far right John Ashcroft type. He was a libertarian, he smoked pot; you know, we had the same views on music. He actually was advocating for the pardon of Marcus Garvey, who was framed, who was a leader of Black Nationalism in the 20s, on these bogus mail fraud charges. So, you know, he’s kind of a sphinx, you know, politically. He’s not, like I said, a hard-core right-winger. He was not for the war in Iraq back in 2003. So, you know, I don’t even know what the right and the left is sometimes. You know, I really don’t know what that means. I mean Tony Blair’s supposed to be a Labour guy, but he’s as bad as George Bush is, and always has been. So does he really support Labour, is he a leftist? No. So, you know, these labels are a little confusing to me. But like I said, Stone—you know—he’s a showman. He’s a showman; he’s an exhibitionist. That’s what got him in trouble here. The poor guy is … you know, he’s a megalomaniacal showman. Just like I am. I’m in show business, why? Because I’m like him—I like to get laughs, and I want to be recognised. That’s him.
I said he’d done a lot of bad things to me but politically we were, you know, we coincided on a few major issues, and one of them was drug law reform in the State of New York. Now, mind you, 97% of the people that were subjected to the Rockefeller drug laws in the State of New York were black and Latino. And still are—they have been modified, not completely changed. But, you know, they were subjected to harsh punishment; they were getting 15 years to life. I know one kid by the name of Terence Stevens, paralysed from the neck down—from the neck down—with muscular dystrophy, and that guy was doing all of this time for possession on a bus! They ascribed it to him for possession! And he had done 10 years in prison, in the medical ward of a real dank prison—it was called Green Haven—for possession. And that was not like the exception to the rule. There were thousands of people in similar circumstances that were there that were just mules, or addicts that were doing this time—and Stone actually was very sympathetic to it. It wasn’t like it was a—you know, what would you call it—flash in the pan type of a push. He continued afterwards, he even wrote some op-ed pieces; but, like I said, he did some bad things to me over the years, but I’m a good natured guy, and I overlooked it. I let him get away with it.
CM: The astonishing thing about all this is … is that it all comes out of the Mueller inquiry, and the so-called Russiagate scandal, and yet none of these charges relate to Russia. And let’s be quite plain, to the best of your knowledge and belief—or to the best of your knowledge anyway—Roger Stone has no link to the Russian government that we’re aware of, and he certainly has no link to Wikileaks that we’re aware of. Is that your understanding?
RC: Well, actually what he had was … Look … Roger Stone … Here’s what happened. In 2015, Trump hired him. He lasted one month. Why? Because every time he did an interview it was more about him than it was about Trump; and Trump got frustrated with him and dumped him. And he may have given Trump advice here and there because, you know, he was the one who got Trump to run 30 years earlier; it was his idea, he kept pushing Trump. So he was kind of unceremoniously kicked out of the Trump camp.
Flash forward to 2016, he’s kind of hanging around the Trump campaign, he comes up with one of these Super PACs. And so he’s trying to ingratiate himself back into the Trump orbit there. And what he did was he, like, looks at Wikileaks and he sees what’s going on with Wikileaks, and he’s trying to get information. He’s going to guys like Jerome Corsi. You know, Jerome Corsi is a complete lunatic, you know, beyond the pale of conspiracy freaks … and he got hoodwinked by that guy. And this is my estimation, this is my analysis. He gets hoodwinked into thinking that he’s got a back channel. Right.
So he is showing, you know … First of all, the whole idea of a back channel is ridiculous. Julian Assange does not telegraph what he’s going to put out. He never has. He doesn’t compromise his sources and he always puts out that his whole M.O. is the element of surprise. So there was no reason for him to give it to Roger Stone, of the kind of preview of what he was doing. Why would he do that? When everything that he was doing, he was doing carefully, and he was selecting the time and then he’d put it out. There was no reason for him to give anything to Stone. No, Stone was playing the role of someone that had the inside information from Assange. Now, you know Assange, he’s very careful. He’s not going to … if he wanted to he would just give it directly to Trump, you know, but he didn’t. He never did. He didn’t need to go through Stone. But Stone was pretending that he had some kind of access to Wikileaks, and he was selling that to the Trump campaign—that he was able to get something in advance, he knew what it was. And so they didn’t think they were going to win, and they were looking for Hail Marys and this was one of them, and they brought him into the orbit and Stone was thinking that whatever this guy Corsi was giving him was accurate, possibly, and then … then me. All right? So, there was nothing there.
And then, the following month, in August 25th, after Stone had said a few weeks previously that he had direct contact with Assange, and he modelled at that to get a back channel. I had never met Assange, never had any conversation with Assange. In fact, I never ever even met him until the following year. So, on August 25th, through my friend, through someone then that worked with Assange got him on my radio show … on August 25th. And so, I was … it was a big fish for me. I had just gone from one day a week with my show to three days a week, and two of those days were prime time—5 o’clock drive time—and I let Stone know that I had Assange on my show. He didn’t even respond to that. I let him know. So I was kind of one-upping him. And Assange was on the show—we even talked about it: “Do you have a back channel with Roger … ?” And he laughed at it. You know, Stone was on my show on the twenty … two days previously … and I asked him about it, and he said that he had a back channel and he really couldn’t disclose what it was. And then Assange was on. So there was no back channel there, with me.
I went to London a few weeks later. I went to London to see a fellow by the name of Barry Crimmins, who is a left wing comedian, who I had known for 30 years; and we were in London together performing there back in 1986. It was the 30 year anniversary. He was working at the Leicester Square Comedy Club in London. And somebody underwrote my trip to see him. Three days. I hung out with him for three days.
I also had a letter from the General Manager from the station to give to Julian Assange, or someone that works with Julian Assange, with a proposal that he do a radio show out of the Ecuadorian Embassy, with an IFB, and do it over the Pacifica network, and it would be his show. But at that time remember in September he was preparing obviously putting stuff together, collating it, or whatever, and putting it together, for the eventual day that he was trying to put it out, which was on October 7th. Now, the date that he put it out they say it was to coincide with the Access Hollywood tape. Now, anyone, talk to Stefania Maurizi, she will tell you that they were planning to put that out a day or two earlier on the 7th. That was the day they were going to put it out. She was the one that knew, she never told anybody, but she did afterwards. And last year she said she knew they were going to put something out on the 7th, because she worked with Assange. She was one of the few journalists that he trusted, and rightly so.
But I never got in to see him. They didn’t, they didn’t see me, because Stone found out on the 27th, he knew that I was flying to London to see my friend Barry Crimmins, so … and possibly see Assange. He wanted me to find out from Assange, because he put somebody on my radio show—Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for President—he put him on my show on the 9th of September, and I owed him a favour and the favour was to find out if this email from Hillary Clinton to somebody existed regarding the situation in … in Libya, and sabotaging the peace talks with Gaddafi. Well, I never did that, I never gave it to Assange. I wouldn’t dare ask him.
I’ve been in that Embassy three times since, after that year 2017 when I spent some time with you and John Pilger in London and Edinburgh. That’s when I saw him. I never once asked him about his business. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t ask him how they did things … nothing. The stuff was so general. We talked about dogs, we talked about him running for Senate, and the Green Party, we talked about food. We talked about general things. And that was it. I never once saw … There was no way I was going to ask him to confirm if this email existed. In fact, I told Stone that if it existed, it would be on the Wikileaks website.
All right, so that happens; that happens, and nothing happens. I did say, I did predict, and I put it on Facebook after standing outside that Embassy on the 29th, I dropped the letter off. There was a guy from either MI6, MI5, or a metropolitan police department outside that building with a headphone on, or an earplug, and he was listening: you could tell, these guys are so obvious. And I dropped the letter off. I was in for less than 20 seconds. I knocked on the door on the left; a hand came out; I dropped the letter off from the station, and left; I went through Harrods and I was followed. So I extrapolated from that, that something must be coming up. I put it on Facebook: “Here’s a picture of me, look at this guy behind me. I got a feeling the guy inside’s gonna drop something this week.”
Two days later I said the same thing to Stone. So now, he’s going to use me as—well, I mean, well, he has to—as the back channel. Supposedly he had a back channel for months. But the whole thing was ridiculous: I mean, there was no back channel; there never was a back channel. This was Stone just blowing himself up as, you know, as an important person to impress. As you said yesterday in your tweet, that he was looking to make money, and he did, he did ask the family for some money when he said that this was coming out, and that in fact did justify his luck that it came out on the 7th, and they thought that Stone had the inside information; he had no inside information. All right, so that’s where we were back … that’s where we are back then, up until October first or second or third. So I had no back channel. I had no information; Stone had no information—but he continued to sell himself as a person that did.
And then the, then the … I think that Correa shut down this internet for a while after he got pressure from John Kerry at that meeting in Bogota of the OAS [Organization of American States]. And so I said to Stone at a dinner, the only time I saw him in 2016 was at a dinner on October 12th or 13th, and I told him that, that was information that I got from about 20 people that there was pressure—it was even in the paper. So that was it. So now we go a year later, Stone testifies. Are you with me there, Craig?
CM: Yes, I am with you.
RC: OK. Do you want to ask a question, or should I continue?
CM: No, you carry on. Go with the flow.
RC: I shall. You go forward. The following year, Stone testifies, he testifies to confirm, not to Mueller, but the House Intel Committee—they had opened up an investigation right after this whole Russia stuff—and I was totally against it. I thought the whole thing was a ridiculous thing, chasing down you know Russians being behind it. Hillary Clinton ran a terrible campaign. Julian Assange did not send a map to the Clinton campaign of every school in Michigan and Wisconsin … all right. So she lost. She was a horrible campaign….
I was a big Bernie person. I was supporting … I did a four day howler marathon for Bernie to get out to vote just prior on the day before the New York primaries. So I was still pissed off at Hillary because she had taken it away from Bernie. Her and her cohorts at the DNC had taken it away from Bernie. And if Bernie had won that primary, had won that nomination, he would have beaten Trump … I believe. But Hillary …
CM. Yeah, I know. There’s a lot of polling evidence that says that, I think.
RC: Yes, I think, I think … I really do think that Bernie would have won that election. So I was really furious! I was furious that he was out of it. I’m still furious. I ended up voting for Jill Stein that day. And I went to Jill Stein’s party on November 8th 2016. I think I had you on the show with Jill Stein just prior to that. And I had her on the show that day and I went to her party and Trump won, and I was very depressed about that … not that I supported Hillary, I mean she didn’t have any chance at all so it’s fine …
Now going forth, let me get back to 2017. He voluntarily—voluntarily—goes before the House Intel Committee. They didn’t subpoena him, they didn’t ask him to show up but he voluntarily goes up and it’s behind closed doors. Simultaneously he releases a 47-page screed that he’s about to read on YouTube, he reads it on YouTube, and then his opening statement. Forty-seven pages he reads to them chiding the whole process and slamming Schiff and everybody, putting this whole Russiagate thing out there. And then at the end they ask him if he had a back channel, and he says “Yes, it’s a journalist but I’m not supposed to say who it is”.
Now, the next day, I’m trying to reach him. I’m thinking he’s going to say that I was now, because I had sent him those text messages, he’s gonna say …. And then he sends me a text message saying “Look, just go along with this, don’t worry about it. You’ll get a lot of press out of this. They’re not going to believe you, Credico; they’re going to believe me.” So, look he was covering up his attempts; he had no connection. And by the way, this is not helping Julian Assange out, having Roger Stone and Trump and all these people out there saying that they’re connected to Wikileaks. This is not helping his cause—all right—because Roger Stone is radioactive. Julian Assange knows that he’s radioactive. He doesn’t hate Stone; he finds him to be some kind of showman, you know, an exhibitionist; but he had nothing … he’s smart enough to know that you don’t go there, and he didn’t go there. But, so … now, he’s got himself in a bind here: he has said he’s got a back channel, he’s gloating about it, you know, he’s showboating … and a few days later, he lets me know that he’s gonna name me as the back channel. And that’s gonna go public! He said, “Look nobody’s gonna believe you, Credico. And better that, uh … better that I name you than go to jail.” So he doesn’t mention this guy Corsi, who was the back channel that wasn’t the back channel.
CM: OK. Can you just hang on a second, Randy? He said “better he names you than go to jail”. What was he thinking: that having claimed to have a back channel to the committee, he had to try to substantiate it or he’d be in trouble for lying? Or was there was some other risk of jail?
RC: If he says … If he says that they … He didn’t even get a subpoena! In other words, they didn’t subpoena him. Adam Schiff said, “We’d like to know who that back channel is.” And you have to get a full vote on the committee to get a subpoena. Without even getting a subpoena, he went and named me. I said “Well, why are you naming me?”. He says “Why should I go to jail for you?”. Now this is a cocked hat situation for me at that particular point. You know, here I’m being named for something I didn’t do, but he can circumstantially say that I did, because I had told him that I had a connection with Assange on my show: Margaret Ratner Kunstler. You know, but she …. And that was it. When I asked her to get him on the show, she was furious that I even asked her. So, you know, I had a show for a year prior to that and I never asked her. I did not want to get involved and bring her into this. And so I gotta get my own guests. But now I had it three days a week, and so I asked her gingerly and she did get him on the show. But by telling him that, putting that name out, now he’s got her name. Right?
And now I told him on October 1st that something’s coming out which I had already announced, extrapolating on public comments by Assange saying that something is coming out; I think Sarah Harrison may have said that something was coming out; everyone knew that something was coming out. And so since I never was able to get that thing, and never tried, on the Libyan connection with Hillary Clinton—and … what’s his name? … Gaddafi—I felt obligated to get something. And by the way, this is coming from the Heathrow Airport, where I was at the duty free bar there, and I was getting free drinks, because I got a couple of bottles there, and it’s the only duty free store I’ve ever been in where they’ve got like three or four portable bars where you could drink. Instead of spending money at the bar, you know, twelve pounds per ale, I was getting all of these different booze samples that they had and then I was buying a couple. And so when I’m waiting around at the gate, you know, I’m just texting him too along with other people “Something’s coming out”. I’m gonna go back to 2017. So he’s going to name me, he says he’s gonna name me, and just to go along with it. And he’ll go to jail … I don’t know how he could go to jail by not answering the subpoena, or not giving up the name. He could always just take the Fifth Amendment. He could, like I did later on; I took the Fifth Amendment. For a variety of reasons I took the Fifth Amendment. So now he’s put me in a jam … all right, he names me, he names me as a back channel.
And there’s a ton of papers, a ton of stories out there in the newspapers and the electronic media that Randy Credico’s the back channel. Now everybody on the centre left hates me. People connected to the Clinton people think that I helped Donald Trump win, I facilitated it, and I got myself in a big jam right there. Now what do I do? Do I go up there, when I get the letter from the House Intel Committee, and contradict Roger Stone? If I do, then he’s in trouble legally and then he could go to jail for perjury. So I had to think about that. Even though he put my reputation on the line there I feel like … Look, people lie to Congress all the time, to Congressional committees; and, you know, it leads to wars; it leads to mass surveillance; it leads to … appointments to the Supreme Court federal bench. And so those are big lies that are never investigated and they get away with it. So his was a small lie except for it was about me though; that was the only problem. I don’t mind that he lied to Congress, because everybody lies to Congress.
CM: Yeah, I must say to that point I mean he hadn’t done anything. He’d boasted a bit; he’d tried to work an angle by claiming he had a contact he didn’t have; he’d then maintained that by telling the Intelligence Committee that he had a contact he didn’t have. But then, that’s a fairly harmless lie.
RC: You … you … you know what it is? It’s a fender bender. But it turned out to be a 21 trailer tractor pile-up. It was a fender bender. It was no big thing to tell them that. I kind of laughed at his 47-page statement. It was kind of entertaining. You know, he was putting on a show there. But when he put me in there …. Look, if it was anybody else, it’s fine. And it’s not like it was a major transgression to say that he had a back channel that he didn’t have. Right? That’s not a major transgression. When you lie about weapons of mass destruction—that is something that cost millions of lives, and people got away with that. People got away with lying to Congress about that, lately. You got guys who lie about not being spied on—there’s no domestic spying—that was a lie, they got away with that. All right? That’s the kind of stuff that affects them. This doesn’t affect, you know, anything. But he did lie to Congress, he did it five or six times, he kept lying; and there are five or six times that he lied in there and said that I had been providing him information from, like, early June all the way through October third or fourth or fifth. So … which is totally ridiculous, you know! And nobody else provided him with that, because Assange does not tip his mitt. You know what I mean?
So he was building himself up, ingratiating himself with the Trump campaign, which he had been disaffected from … thrown off the campaign. So he was clawing himself back on, and this was his way … and he was fishing around. Wikileaks had rebuffed him, told him “Stop saying you’re connected to us! All right? That’s not true.” They put that out there. They sent them a direct mail that “we had nothing to do with Roger Stone”. And all that was doing was hurting them, by saying that, you know, he was one of the most despised person in the US, whether it’s true or not the reasons why, but he’s a despised person in the US by a lot of people. And traditional right-wingers don’t like him, and the left doesn’t like him, because he’s a dirty trickster and he’s been connected … remember, he was connected to … with Mobutu, he helped out Mobutu do PR work; he helped out Marcos do PR work; Savimbi … did PR work for Savimbi; he was a big fan of Pinochet. So he doesn’t have a clean past. All right? He made a lot of money, made millions of dollars working with some of the most odious dictators in the 80s. And he and Manafort, and a few others, they had a PR firm and that’s who they worked for. All right? So let’s not say Roger Stone is an angel here. You don’t make money … maybe if this is the ghost of Lumumba, the ghost of Aquino, of Victor Jara, coming back to haunt Mr Stone. You know, but we just push that aside, we push that aside.
Getting back to Wikileaks: they rebuffed, they publicly said they did not have anything to do … and you know that was true: they did not. He did not have a back channel. He invented himself in, he insinuated himself into the Wikileaks orbit, as if he was like, you know, some part of it. And that wasn’t good for them, you know, because they were going to release that stuff.
Now Assange has material there. He’s got the material. Either he can not put it out there and possibly help out Hillary, or he could put it out there and help out … whatever it was, that wasn’t his decision. His decision as a journalist is: he’s got material and so his ethics as a journalist: you put it out there. You can’t hold back material. That’s the way he looked at it. And he put it out there. Because he had it. He got a big scoop there. And he had to put that out there. If he had a similar scoop on Trump, he would’ve put that out there. He does not compromise his ethics. He is a journalist, and he operates as a journalist in the best tradition.
CM: To move the story on now, though: next, Stone does get nasty and he gets nasty towards you because you won’t play along with his story and you won’t say you were a back channel when you weren’t, so he starts to threaten you.
RC: Well, here’s what happened. I went there back to London—and I don’t think I saw you this time around, I think there in November, and I knew I put it out, and I was covering for Pacifica the case of … the case that Stefania Maurizi had against the Crown Prosecutor Services over the emails that were suppressed by them, between them and the Swedish Prosecutor. So I went to that proceeding and … {inaudible} … and spent three or four days in London. I got to see Julian a couple of times and, you know, that was the last time I saw him, by the way. But I was still … I didn’t know what to do at that particular time.
I got the subpoena when I got back and I really thought that they were going to ask me about my communications with Assange, the House Intel Committee. So that was one of the reasons that I said, “Well, here I can go and use my First Amendment rights”, and my lawyer said “No, you can’t; you can use your Fifth Amendment rights.” And then, you know, Stone was hanging over my head that he was going to bring in Mrs Kunstler, and drag her through this. And, you know, he and I both come from Italian-American families and it’s chauvinistic but we don’t drag the women into it; that’s a tradition—you don’t bring the women into the mud here. But he was going to do that, he was going to bring Mrs Kunstler’s name into to it. She’s this woman with a pristine past; she’s done nothing. Her husband was the greatest civil rights attorney; he liked the fanfare, he got a lot of publicity, but he did incredible work. She did incredible work throughout her life, and she did it quietly. She does not like the trash …. She’s lived this humble life, and just done all of the grunt work legally, and I did not want to drag her through this, this entire quagmire. I didn’t want her name, and the fact I even broached her name to Stone, that was … I was an asshole for doing it. And for Stone to hang that over my head, that was one of the reasons why I took the Fifth Amendment when I did … and to the very end I had no idea what I was going to do. I was trying to do this—do you remember the Wallendas, you know, the tightrope specialists? I was trying to walk this line there where I could say I wasn’t the guy, wasn’t the back channel, without pissing off Stone, and to do that, say that I wasn’t the back channel, but like I said, without giving them information, without going before the Committee. But if I … the thing is once I took the Fifth Amendment, everyone assumed that I was a back channel and was helping out Stone. That’s just the way people think.
And then, the … I was working for this millionaire guy who was going to run for Governor. I was working throughout 2018; I had, like, a one year contract. He decided … he’s such a nice guy, rather than … rather than fire me, he decided to drop out of the race. OK, I worked with him for the previous year, OK, because he was a big shot with the liberal Democrats—he was like probably a billionaire—and he was a big finance guy who just couldn’t be seen at that point with me because I was now radioactive being associated with Stone, but I played it that way—I did take the Fifth Amendment but, like I said, people just assumed, and I started doing television shows, trying to explain myself; I couldn’t explain myself. And then I finally said … and he was getting upset that I was even out there, contradicting, gainsaying what he had put out there in front of the House Intel Committee. And why? Why was he upset? Because he didn’t want it to get out that he had been calling up Trump with this bogus information that he had gotten from this guy Corsi and somebody else. He had been calling up Trump, he had been calling the family, he had been calling up everybody, to get back in there, weasel his way back in there with this back channel claim that he didn’t have. And so he didn’t want to get that to be exposed. He got so furious with me that he started saying nasty ….
Now, I understand: he’s in a bad situation right now. He’s in a bad situation: he lied to Congress! Now he’s saying things about me, and he’s, like, saying nasty … now, look, going up to the … before I took the Fifth, he was sending me text messages to take the Fifth and not to talk. All right? And he’s text messaging this … in broad daylight! You know, we live in an age of mass surveillance … why would you be doing that, text messaging someone: “Don’t talk. All right? If you talk, you do this, do that!” And … but, you know that’s not the reason why. The only reason, the main reason was that I was worried that she would be dragged into this, because he could somehow circumstantially, you know, say that this is the … and I didn’t know he had these prior discussions with other people.
So now we’re going through … getting back to 2018, and what … I’m in a quandary here: what do I do? Big dilemma. Do I come out? And I finally said, “Look, I wasn’t the guy; this is all a complete lie.” And then he started sending out some of the text messages and emails—the one about … {inaudible} …, and all of that—to make it look like I was … {inaudible} …, you know, a war—a public battle between the two of us. And thing is … is that I don’t know why he did that. He’s escalating it. He’s getting stories planted about my character … he’s smearing me, and then … he’s threatening me. But the threats I never took seriously. All right? If I took them seriously, I would gone to the police department—911, and would’ve called up 911—”Somebody had threatened … “. I never took those seriously. It was a guy that was desperate now; he was acting in a desperate way. And he didn’t know what to do. Look, I’ve seen … the guy is sending these things out at two o’clock in the morning … you know, the guy, you know, he gets toasted. All right? He’s not doing it on a sober level. He’s sending out some very nasty things. And so when I … I got so sick and tired of him saying these things about me publicly, that I took the private emails, and I said when … when they got so bad … the smear job had got so bad … it was what was called a ‘brushback pitch’. I gave them to somebody in the media and said “Here, here’s what he’s saying to me in these emails.” And then that’s what … that’s what dragged in the Mueller people when they saw them. I wish I had never put them out, but he escalated it, and I put it out; and the next thing you know, they show up; they’re looking for me, and I’m kind of laying low. I did a show at the …{inaudible} …, my first public performance, and they’re there … they’re there, and they asked me to cancel it; I wouldn’t testify, and then I got a subpoena a couple of months later, and I have … Mow, when you go before them, the first thing they tell you is you can say anything you want, you just can’t lie. All right?
CM: Yep?
RC: Are you there?
CM: Yeah, I’m with you.
RC: You can’t lie to them. You just can’t lie to them. So I sat there and I told them they had all of our emails, they had subpoenas, they had the text messages, and you know, Stone was … Stone put himself into that situation. You know, when they were doing this broad investigation with the Mueller people … these are the best lawyers that exist in the US prosecutors. So like, some top level attorneys and FBI people assigned to it. And they found everything, and so now, now I have to go before the Grand Jury. And in fact I went before the Grand Jury, and I had to answer “Yes” or “No”, and I had the … I was there with my book Sikunder Burnes, by the way, which everyone was interested in … if you recall?
CM: I do. I recall the photos very well.
RC: So now I go before them. Nothing’s happened and months go by and Stone starts dripping out more text messages that were recently found. These were text messages I didn’t have: 2016 and 2017. He selectively cherry-picked some messages, dropped them out there and so they want to know. They call me back into DC, I gotta go back to DC and go over hundreds of pages of text messages with Stone. And the next thing you know, the following January 25th, Stone had lied and he had threatened … you know, I didn’t take the threats seriously. Like I said, I would have said something to the authorities, you know. But, you know, he did put it out there and he did try to get me to change my testimony. So … you know, you gotta be careful, you can’t do things like that. And so he got arrested, and now you know, he gets arrested and now the onus is on me. I know that I’m gonna be … I looked at those charges, seven … he had seven charges and five of them were related to me.
I’m in a real box right now. I felt terrible. But eventually, hopefully, the guy pleads out or he gets a pardon or whatever. He didn’t. He didn’t get a pardon. In fact, he hasn’t pardoned any of the people connected to this. And you would think that this guy would have gotten a pardon. I felt terrible, like I said, about having to testify, but if I don’t testify then I’m in contempt and can spend two years in jail on contempt charges. Plus, they already had the goods there, they had the goods, they had the text messages, and Stone was … you know, indiscreet, putting those things out there. Can you imagine Assange putting something out there like that? Would you do something like that, in the open? You know that everyone can see your Gmail. If you’re a follower of Assange, you don’t put in things in Gmail, because it’s like graffiti on a train: it’s hard to get off, you can’t wash it off, it’s there forever. And so … so he never had a back channel, though. Stone never had a back channel.
CM: Don’t you think there’s a tremendous irony here, because the Mueller inquiry set out to prove Hillary Clinton’s claims that the Russians had hacked the DNC and had then conspired with the Trump campaign and Wikileaks to take the election from her, and they couldn’t find any of that because it’s nonsense: it’s just not true, so …
RC: He wasn’t charged.
CM: So they found …
RC: He wasn’t charged. I repeat, Julian Assange was not charged here.
CM: No, precisely. And they end up … they end up doing the opposite: they end up actually trying Roger Stone because he was claiming that that original thesis was true, in fact. You know, he was claiming to be a link between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks, and fact there was no link between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks; so they end up taking someone to court for the opposite reason from what they tried to prove in the first place.
RC: Obviously, he did not have a back channel. Obviously, what he did was … he disrupted an investigation and threw everybody off. All right? So you step on toes when you do something like that. If he had just been hon… Look, all he had to do, Craig, for himself … all right, very easily … was go before that House Intel Committee, if they ever were even going to call him, and say “Look, I tried. I did not have a back channel. Nothing ever happened. You know, I was bluffing the Trump campaign … if he had just said that and just been honest …. He put himself in a bad spot all because of this narcissism or this megalomania, this need for attention. You know, the guy, like I said, is not everyone’s favourite character, and … you know …. Look, there was no back channel to Wikileaks, ever! You’re right, there was no back channel … I mean, that’s my opinion. I don’t see a back channel to Wikileaks. And I said that, that I don’t think … you know … if they have something they’re going to show at the rest of this trial. Maybe there was, but I didn’t see it. I don’t … so far, I don’t see anything. And why would Assange ever, ever, ever give up … you know, he doesn’t give up the source—A; and, B—he doesn’t tip what he … you know, tip his mitt, as it were. So that is where Stone got himself into trouble, with lying to Congress five times and then they couldn’t … and so the whole time they want me, you know, all … I got three subpoenas and Congressional committees—from the Senate, the House … two from the House judiciary, the Senate Intel—and I rebuffed … I said no to all of them. I didn’t want to get involved in that circus, that political circus between the Democrats and Republicans—I didn’t want to have anything to do with that. But from the Mueller people, they have the subpoena, and I was compelled, and … like I said there was nothing there that I did; but if people think that, you know, well maybe I was BS’ing Stone, you know, I was just trying to satisfy what … you know, the guy wanted something for the Gary Johnson … all because of this whole Gary Johnson, getting him on my show, and me trying to reciprocate it and I never did try. I’d never … He wanted me to get Assange on his show; that was the first request for getting Gary Johnson. I didn’t do that. So, look, this whole thing could have been avoided. All he had to do was, when he went in front of the Intel Committee, when he volunteered, to say that he didn’t have a back channel, that it was all BS, you know, that he was just bluffing, that he was trying to get in good with … you know … with the Trump campaign. So now, he’s facing … the biggest charge against Stone right now is guess what? Jury tampering, I mean, witness tampering. So the other things carry a couple of years; but the witness tampering carries 20 years, and I’m the witness that he tampered with! Now I told …. They did such a bad job, the defence attorneys yesterday. What he said was “Mr Stone … “. One charge was that he’d steal my dog! And I never took that seriously that he was gonna steal my dog. I volunteered, I said: “Stone likes dogs. Stone likes dogs, he’s got dogs, he loves dogs, he wasn’t gonna steal my dog”. I was never worried about him taking this dog of mine. All right? It was hyperbole of the highest order, and it was out of frustration, and probably juiced up on Martinis when he said it. I didn’t take it seriously, at all.
CM: And you were able to say that in the witness stand. That’s what you said, yeah?
RC: I said it. I literally witnessed … I said in the witness stand. You know, I can’t say that he didn’t try to get me to change my … to get me to take the Fifth Amendment. That was … He was one person that had advice. Everyone … I think I even asked you about it! I asked a hundred people what should I do—I had no idea! I’d never been in that situation before! Now what do I do? I knew what the cost was going to be: if I took the Fifth Amendment, people were going to wonder; and if I had not taken the Fifth Amendment, and testified, then Stone would have been charged, and he would have been guilty and possibly do some time in prison. So I was basically saving him then, and … Look, ironically he is now facing prison time.
CM: Yep. You did ask me. I advised you not to take the Fifth, I said you should go in there and tell, tell the full truth … was my advice.
RC: That’s right. I did ask you. I may have asked you on my show; I may have asked you by phone—but I remember you were the one of the few people that said “Don’t take the Fifth Amendment!” You were one of them. And a few others said the same thing: Ben Weiser said “Do not take the Fifth Amendment!” And Glenn Greenwald told me not to take the Fifth Amendment. So there were three people who told me … wise people told me not to take the Fifth Amendment. And lo and behold I did anyway, and all it did was create some problems. But Stone could have taken … that’s the thing, Stone could have taken the Fifth Amendment…. He could have done that and it would’ve been over with…. And now it’s dragged on, he’s put himself in harm’s way. You know, I did say that I wasn’t worried about this, but they didn’t ask me. The other threats about I’m gonna die … because there was a lot of things he said, but was I worried about that? No, I wasn’t worried that he was going to kill me! You know what I mean.
CM: The thing I take away from this is that you … plainly you forgive him for his bluster against you, which you never took that seriously in the first place, and I mean, I think it goes to your nature as the very kind and caring person you are, Randy: you’re more concerned now for Roger Stone … you know, you’re worried what’s going to happen to him, about him going down to jail, being in an awful situation. So despite everything, your main worry now is for him.
RC: I worry about that! I worry about the guy. Look, he’s 67 years old. He’s got a wife, he’s got friends, he’s got kids … you know, I don’t want to be the guy that’s responsible for him doing time in a US prison. US prisons are terrible … you know, that’s why, you know, we’re vying so hard to keep Julian from coming over here, and Lauri Love from coming over here, because of conditions of US prisons. That guy wouldn’t last a minute with a Nixon tattoo on his back, so I feel terrible that he put himself in this situation. Like I said, if his lawyer had asked me—his lawyer closed up, it was like “My God, this guy should have asked me some more questions … that I did not feel threatened by Stone personally.” You know what I mean? He made this threat, but I didn’t … I didn’t … I told him I’d never felt threatened by that. The thing is, that he had not emailed, telling me to take the Fifth, to stonewall all of this—he should have never done that! You know what I mean? I didn’t ask him for his advice on that. I asked people who were … legal people, people like yourself who know the legal system, what to do—and I got a mixed bag. At the end of the day, I ended up taking the Fifth Amendment. And, like I said, as bad as he’s been to me … I don’t want to see …. Look, jail is for people like Hannibal Lecter … people like … people like Rudolf Hess … and people like, you know … that commit the heinous crimes … people that get us into wars. Tony Blair, I’d like to see in prison. Pinochet, I’d like to see in prison … you know, before he died. Those are the kind of people that should be in prison—people that cause bodily harm, torture people—whoever tortured those loyal people in Uzbekistan … those are the people that should be in prison. But I am not … I had a father that did ten years in prison, OK? It ruined the kids … we all became hard-core alcoholics. You know, it was long before I was born. So I heard the horror stories of the prison that my father spent ten years in on the … on the … he was a male nurse on the tuberculosis ward. Ninety-nine percent of the people on that ward were black. All right? So he had an Italian … first generation, second generation Italian … that’s there, and you know they’re not good on race. My father was always good. That was the … that was what I took as a takeaway. But I always worked on prison reform because of I went through as a kid, listening to my father’s horror stories. So prison is not good for anybody. Now, Stone should do something like get probation or something. I don’t want to see the guy—at 67, 68 years of age—you know, the fact that he’s a broken man now, a broken-down man right now … he spent all this money. Look, I have a grievance against him—he has done some rotten things to me over the years; but, you know, forgiveness is a cardinal virtue, and I subscribe to having … you know, to forgive. I forgive. I forgive … and let it go. You know what I mean?
CM: Yes.
RC: The stuff that he did back in the 80s, that’s … he’ll have to deal with his maker on that … with those dictators … so he’ll have to deal with his … I don’t know how bad he is, what he did, I don’t know. But as far as me, I can forgive somebody. I don’t want to have resentment, I don’t want to carry resentment around. And I will be in a very bad spiritual way … a very bad spiritual way if in fact he goes to prison. It’s going to do a number on me to see that guy actually go into a maximum security prison, or any kind of prison. It’s not something that I want to see, personally. It’s not up to me … but believe me, it’s a lot of weight on my shoulders right now. And I don’t want to see anybody go to prison. It’s just not … it’s not the answer. Putting people in prison is not the answer. There has to be alternatives to incarceration. There are so many bad things that go on the world, and we spend a hundred thousand dollars here to put Roger Stone in prison. You know, it’s going to be a heavy burden for me to carry for the rest of my life, if he does go. And I, you know … I’m sorry that I’m in this …this … you know, I … right now, Assange is in a prison … and that kills me, every day that he’s in that prison. This bright … as you say, he’s the brightest person you’ve ever met. And I say, he’s the second brightest—you’re the brightest person I’ve ever met. But Assange is right behind you. And this brilliant individual is there, suffering. The people that put him through this should be in prison. The people that have been … the people on the CPS that conspired to put him there … and the politicians and the judges that put him there. Remember, when Garibaldi liberated San Stefano prison in 1860, you see, the first thing he said to one of the inmates was “Show me the judges!” And that how I feel: show me the judges. Who are … who’s doing this to Julian Assange? Just show me who the judges are! Show me those who are conspiring in the judiciary to destroy this young man, this brilliant young man, this great journalist. Show me who those people are. Those are the ones that should be behind bars.
CM: Yep. No, you’re absolutely right: there’s much more evil done by the State and those in a position of power in the State than there is by, unfortunately, the actual criminals (as the state sees them). Anyway, Randy, we ….
RC: You get these people, they’re so … the blacks and Latinos that go through the criminal justice system. It creates a lot of jobs for the bailiffs, for the lawyers, for the bail bondsmen, the jailers … you know, for the prison guards. Everyone’s got a piece of pie. But you need low-level so-called criminals; but the big criminals—the ones that start wars, the guys like Tony Blair and people like Jack Straw—they’re walking the streets.
CM: Yep. No, I quite agree. Well, we’d better wind it up, Randy. That’s been a long ….
RC: It was a long conversation … it was a long, a long … the end is in sight … and I’m sorry it was so garrulous there, but …
CM: No, that was excellent. And it’s very good that you got that off your chest, if you like, and, you’ve got the record set absolutely straight now for people to hear, which is superb.
RC: It’s the only interview I’m doing. I told you that I needed to get this off. Believe me … I’m getting calls all day long, to be interviewed. I did the one interview. It’s over—I’m not doing another one. So thanks very much for bearing with me … it was like going to a shrink, right now, and I got this off my chest. OK?
CM: It’s a new career for me. All right. I’ve got to go now, Randy, and get that processed. All right?
RC: Thank you very much. You know it’s the first time I’ve been interviewed by you. I’ve interviewed you 45 times over the years.
CM: Yes, it’s quite fun doing it the other way round.
RC: And give my best to Cameron and to Nadira. OK?
CM: I will do. Thank you very much. Thank you.
RC: All right. Thank you. Bye bye.

——————————————

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“The Palace… Threatened Us a Million Different Ways”.

This leaked off-air recording of ABC News anchor Amy Robach is much more revealing than anything the BBC is going to air about Andrew Saxe Coburg Gotha.

Buckingham Palace has been “threatening” journalists to bury the story for years – which is all very reminiscent of Jimmy Savile, who was of course, ahem, popular at the Palace. Robach also states they were scared of losing interview access to folically challenged William Saxe Coburg Gotha and his underweight wife. She does not explicitly state that was one of the “threats” Buckingham Palace employed, but it does follow directly as her next observation.

Amy Robach very probably realised this “unguarded” moment would get out to the public, and we should be grateful to her for lifting the lid on how the protection of the crimes of the powerful operates, on a global level. Alan Dershowitz, whom Robach mentions, was not only a Lolita Express passenger, he is the celebrity lawyer who defended the CIA‘s use of torture as legally and morally justified. One might speculate on the psychological parallels of torturing the defenceless and inflicting sex on the young.

There is overwhelming evidence that Virginia Roberts Giuffre was trafficked into the UK by Epstein for sex with Prince Andrew. There are flight logs. There is that compromising photo in Ghislaine Maxwell’s flat. Both are entirely consistent with, and strongly corroborate, Virginia’s own testimony. This instance occurred in the UK.

It ought to be a matter of deep national disgrace that neither Ghislaine Maxwell nor “Prince” Andrew has been questioned over by the Metropolitan Police over this sex trafficking. That Virginia was over 16 is not the issue. She was sex trafficked into the UK and not legally adult. Why is there not a massive media clamour for Scotland Yard to investigate?

Amy Robach has the answer to that question.

Hat Tip to projectveritas

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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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Extinction Aversion

Man made climate change has appeared to me for three decades to be sufficiently proven, and it has that cardinal virtue of a scientific hypothesis, you can see the things which it predicts will happen, come to pass before your eyes, like being uncomfortably hot in your Edinburgh flat on Easter Monday.

Direct action of the illegal kind is a very important weapon in the arsenal of protest. It represents a challenge to the state’s monopoly of force. While it may appear non-violent, in fact by imposing your body into a space and blocking it off, that is an assertion of physical force. What the Extinction Rebellion protests showed this week was the reticence of the Metropolitan Police in dealing with nice, middle class and largely white protestors. That reticence is to be welcomed; the fact that it is not extended to other groups is what is to be deplored. The alternative is to argue for everyone to get beaten up by Plod equally, which is not a sensible line to take.

I broadly support the Extinction Rebellion protest. In terms of gatecrashing climate change on to the political agenda, they have had a good and entirely necessary effect. Their use of what was in effect force, certainly did some harm in restricting the movement of people around London, and in some cases will have impacted the ability of struggling people to earn their living. It also disrupted public transport systems which are a good thing. But these are minor items if you accept that climate change is whirling its way to becoming an existential threat – and that is a premise which I do accept. The disruption is outweighed by the intent to do a much greater good, in terms of the justification of the people doing the protesting. Whether it succeeds in prompting real action by government and achieving a balance of good, is a different question. I fear we have to get rid of the Tories first.

I accept that climate change is a worldwide phenomenon and action in individual states of limited utility. But individual states can inspire by example, not least by showing that a switch to a greener economy can lead to a major stimulation of economic growth. I do not pretend to expertise in green economics. What follows are rather some homely policy nostrums which I believe should form a part of a coherent approach to green policy.

1) Home Insulation

The Tory Government has effectively abandoned and cancelled home insulation schemes; in effect nothing whatsoever is happening. Yet the government’s own plan to reach committed emissions targets by 2050 explicitly depends on one third of all savings being achieved by insulation in Britain’s existing stock of over 20 million very poorly insulated homes.

There is the clearest case here for government action. The aim should be to upgrade 4 million homes a year. Full funding should be provided to local authorities and housing associations for their stock. Householders should face a legal obligation to bring home insulation up to high defined standards – with generous means-tested grants available from central government funds, which should meet 100% of the cost for all those in straitened circumstances, and a decreasing percentage thereafter based on income and wealth. Private landlords should be forced to comply and self-fund up to the value of four months’ rent, with grants available for higher costs. Failure to comply should lead to the landlords’ property being confiscated by the local council, with tenancies protected.

Those are the broad outlines of a policy which would provide massive employment and contribute to a major Keynesian boost for an economy crippled by years of austerity, as well as make a major difference to emissions.

2) Ocean Energy

Wind energy has made massive strides, and to a lesser extent solar and hydro. But disappointingly little has been done to harness the restless energy of the seas. Government support for research programmes into utilising wave and current energy is pitifully small, given the potentially vast and reliable energy resource available, to the UK in particular.

On tidal energy, those objecting to the Severn or Wash barrage schemes on the grounds of effect on wildlife habitat are failing spectacularly to see the wood for the trees. Of course biodiversity is massively important, but we are fighting a battle in which some resources will need to be sacrificed. The Severn, Wash and Swansea Bay schemes do not require substantial technological innovation – they are basically just low head hydro – and should be pushed ahead as urgent projects. Simultaneously major research funding should be given to innovation. I suspect the harnessing of currents rather than waves would be the first to fruition.

3) Aviation Fuel Tax

Cheap flights are the opiate of the people. I cannot buy in to the argument that aviation fuel tax is only viable if everybody does it. Planes landing can very easily be taxed on any fuel they have in their fuel tanks brought in from third countries. If hub passengers transiting are reduced in favour of fuel tax free destinations, I cannot see that as a bad thing. An aviation hub is a particularly undesirable thing to become, from any sensible environmental view.

Flying is a major contributor to pollution and there is far too much of it. The tax free fuel status that makes flights cheaper than trains is ludicrous. Aviation fuel should be taxed at the same levels per calorific value as road fuels.

4) Expand Rail Networks

Nationalisation and re-integration is of course the sensible prelude to any development of rail transport. The UK is chronically behind most of the developed, and even much of the developing, world in terms of high speed rail lines. This needs to be rectified as does the chronic over-concentration of transport resource on South East England. HS2 should run on to Aberdeen and Inverness, not just be confined to the southern third of the UK.

On a wider note, with demand for rail transport buoyant, re-establishment of many Beeching axed lines should be undertaken with a view to a simple containerised nationwide freight distribution system as well as passenger transport. Rail is far more energy efficient than road. The preponderance of road transport is simply the result of perverse incentive from government policy.

Light rail and tram systems should be expanded in cities. Here in Edinburgh, the poor planning and execution of the start of a tram system should not put us off. Trams should be a local service, not fast and stopping frequently, but rather akin to buses, as in Manchester. They should not be confused as in Edinburgh with an express airport service, with very few and inaccessible stops.

5) Encourage Micro-Generation: Abolish Nuclear

The UK had an immensely successful programme of encouraging domestic solar generation through feed in tariffs, so the Tories cut it, as they cut the less successful insulation grants. Generous feed-in tariffs for domestic generation should be rebooted, while technologies such as heat pumps and exchangers should be zero rated for VAT (as should bicycles).

By contrast, the massively expensive nuclear power projects should be scrapped immediately. I lived almost all my adult life under the impression nuclear energy involved some fiendishly clever technology, until I realised it generates from bog standard steam turbines, and the nuclear part is simply a ludicrously complicated, incredibly expensive and devastatingly dangerous way to – boil water.

The real attraction to governments of nuclear power is the precise reason governments dislike micro-generation – nuclear power promotes a massively centralised security state, and links in well to weaponisation. It is the most expensive electricity of all, and should be immediately closed down.

The above represent my own thoughts on possible short term policy responses to climate change. I acknowledge quite freely that it is not my area of expertise and is perhaps insufficiently radical, and certainly insufficiently broad and detailed. It has however focused my mind on the great economic stimulus that can be gained from wholesale pursuit of the necessary technologies at the government level.

I have deliberately concentrated on unilateral measures rather than international negotiation, because I am sceptical there is sufficient will for progress on the latter or that governments around the world intend to stick to commitments. I have viewed it from a UK not a Scottish perspective because action is required immediately, and Scotland starts from a much better place anyway.

That I am thinking on this at all is in a way evidence that Extinction Rebellion achieved their aim from their immediate action, though it is those in power they seek to influence, not random bloggers. I am very sceptical of their declared desire to “negotiate with government”. If David Cameron were still in power, he would undoubtedly “hug a swampie” and make all kinds of green noises, then continue shutting down environmental programmes. Those around Theresa May are quite clever enough to recommend such an approach, as a potential Tory rescuing image as the party otherwise crashes to electoral disaster.

I would recommend Extinction Rebellion to keep blocking the roads and stay clear of the politicians. If they could refine their tactics to concentrate more on direct action against the big polluters and their financial backers, and move away from shocking the public through inconvenience, that might be tactically good for a while. But on the whole, I applaud. Vigorously.

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Pure: Ten Points I Just Can’t Believe About the Official Skripal Narrative

I still do not know what happened in the Skripal saga, which perhaps might more respectfully be termed the Sturgess saga. I cannot believe the Russian account of Boshirov and Petrov, because if those were their real identities, those identities would have been firmly established and displayed by now. But that does not mean they attempted to kill the Skripals, and there are many key elements to the official British account which are also simply incredible.

Governments play dark games, and a dark game was played out in Salisbury which involved at least the British state, Russian agents (possibly on behalf of the state), Orbis Intelligence and the BBC. Anybody who believes it is simple to identify the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in this situation is a fool. When it comes to state actors and the intelligence services, frequently there are no “good guys”, as I personally witnessed from the inside over torture, extraordinary rendition and the illegal invasion of Iraq. But in the face of a massive media campaign to validate the British government story about the Skripals, here are ten of the things I do not believe in the official account:

1) PURE

This was the point that led me to return to the subject of the Skripals, even though it has brought me more abuse than I had received in my 15 year career as a whistleblower.

A few months ago, I was in truth demoralised by the amount of abuse I was receiving about the collapse of the Russian identity story of Boshirov and Petrov. I had never claimed the poisoning, if any, was not carried out by Russians, only that there were many other possibilities. I understood the case against the Russian state is still far from established, whoever Boshirov and Petrov really are, and I did not (and do not) accept Bellingcat’s conjectures and dodgy evidence as conclusive identification. But I did not enjoy at all the constant online taunts, and therefore was not inclined to take the subject further.

It is in this mood that I received more information from my original FCO source, who had told me, correctly, that Porton Down could not and would not attest that the “novichok” sample was made in Russia, and explained that the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was an agreed Whitehall line to cover this up.

She wanted to explain to me that the British government was pulling a similar trick over the use of the word “pure”. The OPCW report had concluded that the sample provided to them by the British government was “of high purity” with an “almost complete absence of impurities”. This had been spun by the British government as evidence that the novichok was “military grade” and could only be produced by a state.

But actually that is not what the OPCW technical experts were attempting to signal. The sample provided to the OPCW had allegedly been swabbed from the Skripals’ door handle. It had been on that door handle for several days before it was allegedly discovered there. In that time it had been contacted allegedly by the hands of the Skripals and of DC Bailey, and the gloves of numerous investigators. It had of course been exposed to whatever film of dirt or dust was on the door handle. It had been exposed to whatever pollution was in the rain and whatever dust and pollen was blowing around. In these circumstances, it is incredible that the sample provided “had an almost complete absence of impurities”.

A sample cannot have a complete absence of impurities after being on a used doorknob, outdoors, for several days. The sample provided was, on the contrary, straight out of a laboratory.

The government’s contention that “almost complete absence of impurities” meant “military grade” was complete nonsense. There is no such thing as “military grade” novichok. It has never been issued to any military, anywhere. The novichok programme was designed to produce an organo-phosphate poison which could quickly be knocked up from readily available commercial ingredients. It was not part of an actual defence industry manufacturing programme.

There is a final problem with the “of high purity” angle. First we had the Theresa May story that the “novichok” was extremely deadly, many times more deadly than VX, in minute traces. Then, when the Skripals did not die, it was explained to us that this was because it had degraded in the rain. This was famously put forward by Dan Kaszeta, formerly of US Intelligence and the White House and self-proclaimed chemical weapons expert – which expertise has been strenuously denied by real experts.

What we did not know then, but we do know now, is that Kaszeta was secretly being paid to produce this propaganda by the British government via the Integrity Initiative.

So the first thing I cannot believe is that the British government produced a sample with an “almost complete absence of impurities” from several days on the Skripals’ doorknob. Nor can I believe that if “extremely pure” the substance therefore was not fatal to the Skripals.

2) Raising the Roof

Three days ago Sky News had an outside broadcast from the front of the Skripals’ house in Salisbury, where they explained that the roof had been removed and replaced due to contamination with “novichok”.

I cannot believe that a gel, allegedly smeared or painted onto the doorknob, migrated upwards to get into the roof of a two storey house, in such a manner that the roof had to be destroyed, but the house inbetween did not. As the MSM never questions the official narrative, there has never been an official answer as to how the gel got from the doorknob to the roof. Remember that traces of the “novichok” were allegedly found in a hotel room in Poplar, which is still in use as a hotel room and did not have to be destroyed, and an entire bottle of it was allegedly found in Charlie Rowley’s house, which has not had to be destroyed. Novichok was found in Zizzi’s restaurant, which did not have to be destroyed.

So we are talking about novichok in threatening quantities – more than the traces allegedly found in the hotel in Poplar – being in the Skripals’ roof. How could this happen?

As I said in the onset, I do not know what happened, I only know what I do not believe. There are theories that Skripal and his daughter might themselves have been involved with novichok in some way. On the face of it, its presence in their roof might support that theory.

The second thing I do not believe is that the Skripals’ roof became contaminated by gel on their doorknob so that the roof had to be destroyed, whereas no other affected properties, nor the rest of the Skripals’ house, had to be destroyed.

3) Nursing Care

The very first person to discover the Skripals ill on a park bench in Salisbury just happened to be the Chief Nurse of the British Army, who chanced to be walking past them on her way back from a birthday party. How lucky was that? The odds are about the same as the chance of my vacuum cleaner breaking down just before James Dyson knocks at my door to ask for directions. There are very few people indeed in the UK trained to give nursing care to victims of chemical weapon attack, and of all the people who might have walked past, it just happened to be the most senior of them!

The government is always trying to get good publicity for its armed forces, and you would think that the heroic role of its off-duty personnel in saving random poisoned Russian double agents they just happened to chance across, would have been proclaimed as a triumph for the British military. Yet it was kept secret for ten months. We were not told about the involvement of Colonel Alison McCourt until January of this year, when it came out by accident. Swollen with maternal pride, Col. McCourt nominated her daughter for an award from the local radio station for her role in helping give first aid to the Skripals, and young Abigail revealed her mother’s identity on local radio – and the fact her mother was there “with her” administering first aid.

Even then, the compliant MSM played along, with the Guardian and Sky News both among those running stories emphasising entirely the Enid Blyton narrative of “plucky teenager saves the Skripals”, and scarcely mentioning the Army’s Chief Nurse who was looking after the Skripals “with little Abigail”.

I want to emphasise again that Col. Alison McCourt is not the chief nurse of a particular unit or hospital, she is the Chief Nurse of the entire British Army. Her presence was kept entirely quiet by the media for ten months, when all sorts of stories were run in the MSM about who the first responders were – various doctors and police officers being mentioned.

If you believe that it is coincidence that the Chief Nurse of the British Army was the first person to discover the Skripals ill, you are a credulous fool. And why was it kept quiet?

4) Remarkable Metabolisms

This has been noted many times, but no satisfactory answer has ever been given. The official story is that the Skripals were poisoned by their door handle, but then well enough to go out to a pub, feed some ducks, and have a big lunch in Zizzi’s, before being instantly stricken and disabled, both at precisely the same time.

The Skripals were of very different ages, genders and weights. That an agent which took hours to act but then kicks in with immediate disabling effect, so they could not call for help, would affect two such entirely different metabolisms at precisely the same time, has never been satisfactorily explained. Dosage would have an effect and of course the doorknob method would give an uncontrolled dosage.

But that the two different random dosages were such that they affected each of these two very different people at just the same moment, so that neither could call for help, is an extreme coincidence. It is almost as unlikely as the person who walks by next being the Chief Nurse of the British Army.

5) 11 Days

After the poisoning of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, the Police cordoned off Charlie Rowley’s home and began a search for “Novichok”, in an attitude of extreme urgency because it was believed this poison was out amidst the public. They were specifically searching for a small phial of liquid. Yet it took 11 days of the search before they allegedly discovered the “novichok” in a perfume bottle sitting in plain sight on the kitchen counter – and only after they had discovered the clue of the perfume bottle package in the bin the day before, after ten days of search.

The bottle was out of its packaging and “novichok”, of which the tiniest amount is deadly, had been squirted out of its nozzle at least twice, by both Rowley and Sturgess, and possibly more often. The exterior of the bottle/nozzle was therefore contaminated. Yet the house, unlike the Skripals’ roof space, has not had to be destroyed.

I do not believe it took the Police eleven days to find the very thing they were looking for, in plain sight as exactly the small bottle of liquid sought, on a kitchen bench. What else was happening?

6) Mark Urban/Pablo Miller

The BBC’s “Diplomatic Editor” is a regular conduit for the security services. He fronted much of the BBC’s original coverage of the Skripal story. Yet he concealed from the viewers the fact that he had been in regular contact with Sergei Skripal for months before the alleged poisoning, and had held several meetings with Skripal.

This is extraordinary behaviour. It was the biggest news story in the world, and news organisations, including the BBC, were scrambling to fill in the Skripals’ back story. Yet the journalist who had the inside info on the world’s biggest news story, and was actually reporting on it, kept that knowledge to himself. Why? Urban was not only passing up a career defining opportunity, it was unethical of him to continually report on the story without revealing to the viewers his extensive contacts with Skripal.

The British government had two immediate reactions to the Skripal incident. Within the first 48 hours, it blamed Russia, and it slapped a D(SMA) notice banning all media mention of Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller. By yet another one of those extraordinary coincidences, Miller and Urban know each other well, having both been officers together in the Royal Tank Regiment, of the same rank and joining the Regiment the same year.

I have sent the following questions to Mark Urban, repeatedly. There has been no response:

To: [email protected]

Dear Mark,

As you may know, I am a journalist working in alternative media, a member of the NUJ, as well as a former British Ambassador. I am researching the Skripal case.

I wish to ask you the following questions.

1) When the Skripals were first poisoned, it was the largest news story in the entire World and you were uniquely positioned having held several meetings with Sergei Skripal the previous year. Yet faced with what should have been a massive career break, you withheld that unique information on a major story from the public for four months. Why?
2) You were an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment together with Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller, who also lived in Salisbury. Have you maintained friendship with Miller over the years and how often do you communicate?
3) When you met Skripal in Salisbury, was Miller present all or part of the time, or did you meet Miller separately?
4) Was the BBC aware of your meetings with Miller and/or Skripal at the time?
5) When, four months later, you told the world about your meetings with Skripal after the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you said you had met him to research a book. Yet the only forthcoming book by you advertised is on the Skripal attack. What was the subject of your discussions with Skripal?
6) Pablo Miller worked for Orbis Intelligence. Do you know if Miller contributed to the Christopher Steele dossier on Trump/Russia?
7) Did you discuss the Trump dossier with Skripal and/or Miller?
8) Do you know whether Skripal contributed to the Trump dossier?
9) In your Newsnight piece following the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you stated that security service sources had told you that Yulia Skripal’s telephone may have been bugged. Since January 2017, how many security service briefings or discussions have you had on any of the matter above.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Craig Murray

The lack of openness of Urban in refusing to answer these questions, and the role played by the BBC and the MSM in general in marching in unquestioning lockstep with the British government narrative, plus the “coincidence” of Urban’s relationship with Pablo Miller, give further reason for scepticism of the official narrative.

7 Four Months

The official narrative insists that Boshirov and Petrov brought “novichok” into the country; that minute quantities could kill; that they disposed of the novichok that did kill Dawn Sturgess. It must therefore have been of the highest priority to inform the public of the movements of the suspects and the possible locations where deadly traces of “novichok” must be lurking.

Yet there was at least a four month gap between the police searching the Poplar hotel where Boshirov and Petrov were staying, allegedly discovering traces of novichok in the hotel room, and the police informing the hotel management, let alone the public, of the discovery. That is four months in which a cleaner might have fatally stumbled across more novichok in the hotel. Four months in which another guest in the same hotel might have had something lurking in their bag which they had picked up. Four months in which there might have been a container of novichok sitting in a hedge near the hotel. Yet for four months the police did not think any of this was urgent enough to tell anybody.

The astonishing thing is that it was a full three months after the death of Dawn Sturgess before the hotel were informed, the public were informed, or the pictures of “Boshirov” and “Petrov” in Salisbury released. There could be no clearer indication that the authorities did not actually believe that any threat from residual novichok was connected to the movements of Boshirov and Petrov.

Similarly the metadata on the famous CCTV images of Boshirov and Petrov in Salisbury, published in September by the Met Police, showed that all the stills were prepared by the Met on the morning of 9 May – a full four months before they were released to the public. But this makes no sense at all. Why wait a full four months for people’s memories to fade before issuing an appeal to the public for information? This makes no sense at all from an investigation viewpoint. It makes even less sense from a public health viewpoint.

If the authorities were genuinely worried about the possible presence of deadly novichok, and wished to track it down, why one earth would you wait for four months before you published the images showing the faces and clothing and the whereabouts of the people you believe were distributing it?

The only possible conclusion from the amazing four month delays both in informing the hotel, and in revealing the Boshirov and Petrov CCTV footage to the public, is that the Metropolitan Police did not actually believe there was a public health danger that the two had left a trail of novichok. Were the official story true, this extraordinary failure to take timely action in a public health emergency may have contributed to the death of Dawn Sturgess.

The metadat shows Police processed all the Salisbury CCTV images of Boshirov and Petrov a month before Charlie Rowley picked up the perfume. The authorities claim the CCTV images show they could have been to the charity bin to dump the novichok. Which begs the question, if the Police really believed they had CCTV of the movements of the men with the novichok, why did they not subsequently exhaustively search everywhere the CCTV shows they could have been, including that charity bin?

The far more probable conclusion appears to be that the lack of urgency is explained by the fact that the link between Boshirov and Petrov and “novichok” is a narrative those involved in the investigation do not take seriously.

8 The Bungling Spies

There are elements of the accepted narrative of Boshirov and Petrov’s movements that do not make sense. As the excellent local Salisbury blog the Blogmire points out, the CCTV footage shows Boshirov and Petrov, after they had allegedly coated the door handle with novichok, returning towards the railway station but walking straight past it, into the centre of Salisbury (and missing their first getaway train in the process). They then wander around Salisbury apparently aimlessly, famously window shopping which is caught on CCTV, and according to the official narrative disposing of the used but inexplicably still cellophane-sealed perfume/novichok in a charity donation bin, having walked past numerous potential disposal sites en route including the railway embankment and the bins at the Shell garage.

But the really interesting thing, highlighted by the blogmire, is that the closest CCTV ever caught them to the Skripals’ house is fully 500 metres, at the Shell garage, walking along the opposite side of the road from the turning to the Skripals. There is a second CCTV camera at the garage which would have caught them crossing the road and turning down towards the Skripals’ house, but no such video or still image – potentially the most important of all the CCTV footage – has ever been released.

However the 500 metres is not the closest the CCTV places the agents to the Skripals. From 13.45 to 13.48, on their saunter into town, Boshirov and Petrov were caught on CCTV at Dawaulders coinshop a maximum of 200 metres away from the Skripals, who at the same time were at Avon Playground. The bin at Avon playground became, over two days in the immediate aftermath of the Skripal “attack”, the scene of extremely intensive investigation. Yet the Boshirov and Petrov excursion – during their getaway from attempted murder – into Salisbury town centre has been treated as entirely pointless and unimportant by the official story.

Finally, the behaviour of Boshirov and Petrov in the early hours before the attack makes no sense whatsoever. On the one hand we are told these are highly trained, experienced and senior GRU agents; on the other hand, we are told they were partying in their room all night, drawing attention to themselves with loud noise, smoking weed and entertaining a prostitute in the room in which they were storing, and perhaps creating, the “novichok”.

The idea that, before an extremely delicate murder operation involving handling a poison, a tiny accident with which would kill them, professionals would stay up all night and drink heavily and take drugs is a nonsense. Apart from the obvious effect on their own metabolisms, they were risking authorities being called because of the noise and a search being instituted because of the drugs.

That they did this while in possession of the novichok and hours before they made the attack, is something I simply do not believe.

9 The Skripals’ Movements

Until the narrative changed to Boshirov and Petrov arriving in Salisbury just before lunchtime and painting the doorknob, the official story had been that the Skripals left home around 9am and had not returned. They had both switched off their mobile phones, an interesting and still unexplained point. As you would expect in a city as covered in CCTV as Salisbury, their early morning journey was easily traced and the position of their car at various times was given by the police.

Yet no evidence of their return journey has ever been offered. There is now a tiny window between Boshirov and Petrov arriving, painting the doorknob apparently with the Skripals now inexplicably back inside their home, and the Skripals leaving again by car, so quickly after the doorknob painting that they catch up with Boshirov and Petrov – or certainly being no more than 200 metres from them in Salisbury City Centre. There is undoubtedly a huge amount of CCTV video of the Skripals’ movements which has never been released. For example, the parents of one of the boys who Sergei was chatting with while feeding the ducks, was shown “clear” footage by the Police of the Skripals at the pond, yet this has never been released. This however is the moment at which the evidence puts Boshirov and Petrov at the closest to them. What does the concealed CCTV of the Skripals with the ducks show?

Why has so little detail of the Skripals’ movements that day been released? What do all the withheld CCTV images of the Skripals in Salisbury show?

10 The Sealed Bottle

Only in the last couple of days have the police finally admitted there is a real problem with the fact that Charlie Rowley insists that the perfume bottle was fully sealed, and the cellophane difficult to remove, when he discovered it. Why the charity collection bin had not been emptied for three months has never been explained either. Rowley’s recollection is supported by the fact that the entire packaging was discovered by the police in his bin – why would Boshirov and Petrov have been carrying the cellophane around with them if they had opened the package? Why – and how – would they reseal it outdoors in Salisbury before dumping it?

Furthermore, there was a gap of three months between the police finding the perfume bottle, and the police releasing details of the brand and photos of it, despite the fact the police believed there could be more out there. Again the news management agenda totally belies the official narrative of the need to protect the public in a public health emergency.

This part of the narrative is plainly nonsense.

Bonus Point – The Integrity Initiative

The Integrity Initiative specifically paid Dan Kaszeta to publish articles on the Skripal case. In the weekly collections of social media postings the Integrity Initiative sent to the FCO to show its activity, over 80% were about the Skripals.

Governments do not institute secret campaigns to put out covert propaganda in order to tell the truth. The Integrity Initiative, with secret FCO and MOD sourced subsidies to MSM figures to put out the government narrative, is very plainly a disinformation exercise. More bluntly, if the Integrity Initiative is promoting it, you know it is not true.

Most sinister of all is the Skripal Group convened by the Integrity Initiative. This group includes Pablo Miller, Skripal’s MI6 handler, and senior representatives of Porton Down, the BBC, the CIA, the FCO and the MOD. Even if all the other ludicrously weak points in the government narrative did not exist, the Integrity Initiative activity in itself would lead me to understand the British government is concealing something important.

Conclusion

I do not know what happened in Salisbury. Plainly spy games were being played between Russia and the UK, quite likely linked to the Skripals and/or the NATO chemical weapons exercise then taking place on Salisbury Plain yet another one of those astonishing coincidences.

What I do know is that major planks of the UK government narrative simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

Plainly the Russian authorities have lied about the identity of Boshirov and Petrov. What is astonishing is the alacrity with which the MSM and the political elite have rallied around the childish logical fallacy that because the Russian Government has lied, therefore the British Government must be telling the truth. It is abundantly plain to me that both governments are lying, and the spy games being played out that day were very much more complicated than a pointless revenge attack on the Skripals.

I do not believe the British Government. I have given you the key points where the official narrative completely fails to stand up. These are by no means exhaustive, and I much look forward to reading your own views.

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Adab Festival Pakistan

Am giving a talk in Karachi on Sunday, and very much looking forward to it. Entry is free. This blog has a number of regular readers and two donating subscribers in Karachi, and it would be a great pleasure if they can introduce themselves. I am speaking primarily on Sikunder Burnes, (after whom Karachi’s famous Burnes Road is named), but shall happily wander off into the vicious folly of modern western military interference in Afghanistan, the illegality of drone strikes, the two century long history of western exploitation and exacerbation of the Sunni/Shia divide, and the great work of Julian Assange.

As always, I shall also be talking about why Scottish Independence, just like Irish, should be seen in the context of decolonisation, despite the eventual co-option of Scots to the Imperial project. As I have explained till I am blue in the face, the domestic law of the metropolitan country is utterly irrelevant to the legality of secession; the only determining factor is international recognition.

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The Scottish Parliament Does Have the Right to Withdraw from the Act of Union

The London Supreme Court last week not only confirmed that the Westminster Parliament could overrule at will any Scottish Government legislation, irrespective of the Scotland Act and the Sewell Convention, but it also ruled that Westminster had already successfully done so, by retrospectively passing provisions in the EU (Withdrawal) Act that overruled the Bill on the same subject, within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, that had already been passed by Holyrood.

Not content with that, the London Supreme Court confirmed that London ministers may, by secondary legislation, under the Scotland Act decree laws for Scotland that are not even passed through the Westminster parliament.

Which leaves Scotland in this extraordinary situation. English MPs or English ministers in their London Parliament can, at any time, impose any legislation they choose on Scotland, overriding Scotland’s parliament and Scotland’s representation in the London parliament. Yet, under the English Votes for English Laws rules of the London Parliament introduced by the Tories in 2015, Scottish MPs cannot vote at all on matters solely affecting England.

That is plainly a situation of colonial subservience.

I am firmly of the view that the Scottish government should now move to withdraw from the Treaty of Union. Scotland’s right to self determination is inalienable. It cannot be signed away forever or restricted by past decisions.

The Independence of a country is not a matter of domestic law it is a matter of international law. The right of the Scottish Parliament to declare Independence may not be restricted by UK domestic law or by purported limitations on the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The legal position is set out very clearly here:

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State‟s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. Of major relevance, it is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that the Scottish Government has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of London and completely irrespective of the London Supreme Court.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. 1 Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

As I have stressed, the SNP should now be making a massive effort to prepare other countries, especially in the EU and in the developing world, to recognise Scotland when the moment comes. There is no task more important. There is a worrying lack of activity in this area. It may currently not be possible to spend government money on sending out envoys for this task, but if personal envoys were endorsed by the First Minister they would get access and could easily be crowd funded by the Independence Movement. I am one of a number of former senior British diplomats who would happily undertake this work without pay. We should be lobbying not just the EU but every country in Africa, Asia and South America.

My preferred route to Independence is this. The Scottish Parliament should immediately legislate for a new Independence referendum. The London Government will attempt to block it. The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

There will never be a better time than now for Scotland to become an Independent, normal, nation once again. It is no time for faint hearts or haverers; we must seize the moment.

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The Incredible Case of Boshirov and Petrov’s Visas

The Metropolitan Police made one statement in the Skripal case which is plainly untrue; they claimed not to know on what kind of visa Boshirov and Petrov were travelling. As they knew the passports they used, and had footage of them coming through the airport, that is impossible. The Border Force could tell them in 30 seconds flat.

To get a UK visa Boshirov and Petrov would have had to attend the UK Visa Application Centre in Moscow. There not only would their photographs be taken, but their fingerprints would have been taken and, if in the last few years, their irises scanned. The Metropolitan Police would naturally have obtained their fingerprints from the Visa Application.

One thing of which we can be certain is that their fingerprints are not on the perfume bottle or packaging found in Charlie Rowley’s home. We can be certain of that because no charges have been brought against the two in relation to the death of Dawn Sturgess, and we know the police have their fingerprints. The fact of there being no credible evidence, according to either the Metropolitan Police or the Crown Prosecution Service, to link them to the Amesbury poisoning, has profound implications.

Why the Metropolitan Police were so coy about telling us what kind of visa the pair held, points to a wider mystery. Why were they given the visas in the first place, and what story did they tell to get them? It is not easy for a Russian citizen, particularly an economically active male, to get past the UK Border Agency. The visa application process is very intrusive. They have to produce evidence of family and professional circumstances, including employment and address, evidence of funds, including at least three months of bank statements, and evidence of the purpose of the visit. These details are then actively checked out by the Visa Department.

If they had told the story to the visa section they told to Russia Today, that they were freelance traders in fitness products wanting to visit Salisbury Cathedral, they would have been refused a visa as being candidates for overstaying. They would have been judged not to have sufficiently stable employment in Russia to ensure they would return. So what story did Petrov and Boshirov give on their visa application, why were they given a visa, and what kind of visa? And why do the British authorities not want us to know the answer to these questions?

Which brings us to the claims of neo-conservative propaganda website Bellingcat. They claim together with the Russian Insider website to have obtained documentary evidence that Petrov and Boshirov’s passports were of a series issued only to Russian spies, and that their applications listed GRU headquarters as their address.

There are some problems with Bellingcat’s analysis. The first is that they also quote Russian website fontanka.ru as a source, but fontanka.ru actually say the precise opposite of what Bellingcat claim – that the passport number series is indeed a civilian one and civilians do have passports in that series.

Fontanka also state it is not unusual for the two to have close passport numbers – it merely means they applied together. On other points, fontanka.ru do confirm Bellingcat’s account of another suspected GRU officer having serial numbers close to those of Boshirov and Petrov.

But there is a bigger question of the authenticity of the documents themselves. Fontanka.ru is a blind alley – they are not the source of the documents, just commenting on them, and Bellingcat are just attempting the old trick of setting up a circular “confirmation”. Russian Insider is neither Russian nor an Insider. Its name is a false claim and it consists of a combination of western “experts” writing on Russia, and reprints from the Russian media. It has no track record of inside access to Russian government secrets or documents, and nor does Bellingcat.

What Bellingcat does have is a track record of shilling for the security services. Bellingcat claims its purpose is to clear up fake news, yet has been entirely opaque about the real source of its so-called documents.

MI6 have almost 40 officers in Russia, running hundreds of agents. The CIA has a multiple of that. They pool their information. Both the UK and US have large visa sections whose major function is the analysis of Russian passports, their types and numbers and what they tell about the individual.

We are to believe that Boshirov and Petrov were GRU agents whose identity was plainly obvious from their passports, who had no believable cover identities, but that neither the visa department nor MI6 (which two cooperate closely and all the time) knew they were giving visas to GRU agents. Yet this information was readily available to Bellingcat?

I do not know if the two are agents or just tourists. But the claimed evidence they were agents is, if genuine, so obvious that the two would have been under close surveillance throughout their stay in the UK. If the official story is true, then the failures of the UK visa department and MI6 are abject and shameful. As is the failure to take simple precautions for the Skripals’ security, like the inexplicable absence of CCTV covering the house of Sergei Skripal, an important ex-agent and defector supposedly under British protection.

A further thought. We are informed that Boshirov and Petrov left a trace of novichok in their hotel bedroom. How likely is it, really, that, the day before the professional assassination attempt, which involved handling an agent with which any contact could kill you, Boshirov and Petrov would prepare, not by resting, but by an all night drugs and sex session? Would you really not want the steadiest possible hand the next day? Would you really invite a prostitute into the room with the novichok perfume in it, and behave in a way that led to complaints and could have brought you to official notice?

Is it not astonishing that nobody in the corporate and state media has written that this behaviour is at all unlikely, while scores of “journalists” have written that visiting Salisbury as a tourist, and returning the next day because the visit was ruined by snow, would be highly unlikely?

To me, even more conclusively, we were informed by cold war propagandists like ex White House staffer Dan Kaszeta that the reason the Skripals were not killed is that novichok is degraded by water. To quote Kaszeta “Soap and water is quite good at decontaminating nerve agents”.

In which case it is extremely improbable that the agents handling the novichok, who allegedly had the novichok in their bedroom, would choose a hotel room which did not have an en suite bathroom. If I spilt some novichok on myself I would not want to be queuing in the corridor for the shower. The GRU may not be big on health and safety, but the idea that their agents chose not to have basic washing facilities available while handling the novichok is wildly improbable.

The only link of Boshirov and Petrov to the novichok is the trace in the hotel room. The identification there of a microscopic trace of novichok came from a single swab, all other swabs were negative, and the test could not be repeated even on the original positive sample. For other reasons given above, I absolutely doubt these two had novichok in that bedroom. Who they really are, and how much the security services knew about them, remain open questions.

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The Strange Russian Alibi

Like many, my first thought at the interview of Boshirov and Petrov – which apparently are indeed their names – is that they were very unconvincing. The interview itself seemed to be set up around a cramped table with a poor camera and lighting, and the interviewer seemed pretty hopeless at asking probing questions that would shed any real light.

I had in fact decided that their story was highly improbable, until I started seeing the storm of twitter posting, much of it from mainstream media journalists, which stated that individual things were impossible which were, in fact, not impossible at all.

The first and most obvious regards the weather on 3 and 4 March. It is in fact absolutely true that, if the two had gone down to Salisbury on 3 March with the intention of going to Stonehenge, they would have been unable to get there because of the snow. It is therefore perfectly possible that they went back the next day to try again; and public transport out of Salisbury was still severely disrupted, and many roads closed, on 4 March. Proof of this is not at all difficult to find.

This image is from the Salisbury Journal’s liveblog on 4 March.

Those mocking the idea that the pair were blocked by snow from visiting Stonehenge have pointed to the CCTV footage of central Salisbury not showing snow on the afternoon of 4 March. Well, that is central Salisbury, it had of course been salted and cleared. Outside there were drifts.

So that part of their story in fact turns out not to be implausible as social media is making out; in fact it fits precisely with the actual facts.

The second part of their story that has brought ridicule is the notion that two Russians would fly to the UK for the weekend and try to visit Salisbury. This ridicule has been very strange to me. Weekend breaks – arrive on Friday and return on Sunday – are a standard part of the holiday industry. Why is it apparently unthinkable that Russians fly on weekend breaks as well as British people?

Even more strange is the idea that it is wildly improbable for Russian visitors to wish to visit Salisbury cathedral and Stonehenge. Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most breathtaking achievements of Norman architecture, one of the great cathedrals of Europe. It attracts a great many foreign visitors. Stonehenge is world famous and a world heritage site. I went on holiday this year and visited Wurzburg to see the Bishop’s Palace, and then the winery cooperative at Sommerach. Because somebody does not choose to spend their leisure time on a beach in Benidorm does not make them a killer. Lots of people go to Salisbury Cathedral.

There seems to be a racist motif here – Russians cannot possibly have intellectual or historical interests, or afford weekend breaks.

The final meme which has worried me is “if they went to see the cathedral, why did they visit the Skripal house?” Well, no evidence at all has been presented that they visited the Skripal house. They were captured on CCTV walking past a petrol station 500 yards away – that is the closest they have been placed to the Skripal house.

The greater mystery about these two is, if they did visit the Skripal House and paint Novichok on the doorknob, why did they afterwards walk straight past the railway station again and head into Salisbury city centre, where they were caught window shopping in a coin and souvenir shop with apparently not a care in the world, before eventually returning to the train station? It seems a very strange attitude to a getaway after an attempted murder. In truth their demeanour throughout the photographs is consistent with their tourism story.

The Russians have so far presented this pair in a very unconvincing light. But on investigation, the elements of their story which are claimed to be wildly improbable are not inconsistent with the facts.

There remains the much larger question of the timing.

The Metropolitan Police state that Boshirov and Petrov did not arrive in Salisbury until 11.48 on the day of the poisoning. That means that they could not have applied a nerve agent to the Skripals’ doorknob before noon at the earliest. But there has never been any indication that the Skripals returned to their home after noon on Sunday 4 March. If they did so, they and/or their car somehow avoided all CCTV cameras. Remember they were caught by three CCTV cameras on leaving, and Borishov and Petrov were caught frequently on CCTV on arriving.

The Skripals were next seen on CCTV at 13.30, driving down Devizes road. After that their movements were clearly witnessed or recorded until their admission to hospital.

So even if the Skripals made an “invisible” trip home before being seen on Devizes Road, that means the very latest they could have touched the doorknob is 13.15. The longest possible gap between the novichok being placed on the doorknob and the Skripals touching it would have been one hour and 15 minutes. Do you recall all those “experts” leaping in to tell us that the “ten times deadlier than VX” nerve agent was not fatal because it had degraded overnight on the doorknob? Well that cannot be true. The time between application and contact was between a minute and (at most) just over an hour on this new timeline.

In general it is worth observing that the Skripals, and poor Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, all managed to achieve almost complete CCTV invisibility in their widespread movements around Salisbury at the key times, while in contrast “Petrov and Boshirov” managed to be frequently caught in high quality all the time during their brief visit.

This is especially remarkable in the case of the Skripals’ location around noon on 4 March. The government can only maintain that they returned home at this time, as they insist they got the nerve agent from the doorknob. But why was their car so frequently caught on CCTV leaving, but not at all returning? It appears very much more probable that they came into contact with the nerve agent somewhere else, while they were out.

I shall write a further post on these timing questions shortly.

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Skripals – The Mystery Deepens

The time that “Boshirov and Petrov” were allegedly in Salisbury carrying out the attack is all entirely within the period the Skripals were universally reported to have left their home with their mobile phones switched off.

A key hole in the British government’s account of the Salisbury poisonings has been plugged – the lack of any actual suspects. And it has been plugged in a way that appears broadly convincing – these two men do appear to have traveled to Salisbury at the right time to have been involved.

But what has not been established is the men’s identity and that they are agents of the Russian state, or just what they did in Salisbury. If they are Russian agents, they are remarkably amateur assassins. Meanwhile the new evidence throws the previously reported timelines into confusion – and demolishes the theories put out by “experts” as to why the Novichok dose was not fatal.

This BBC report gives a very useful timeline summary of events.

At 09.15 on Sunday 4 March the Skripals’ car was seen on CCTV driving through three different locations in Salisbury. Both Skripals had switched off their mobile phones and they remained off for over four hours, which has baffled geo-location.

There is no CCTV footage that indicates the Skripals returning to their home. It has therefore always been assumed that they last touched the door handle around 9am.

But the Metropolitan Police state that Boshirov and Petrov did not arrive in Salisbury until 11.48 on the day of the poisoning. That means that they could not have applied a nerve agent to the Skripals’ doorknob before noon at the earliest. But there has never been any indication that the Skripals returned to their home after noon on Sunday 4 March. If they did so, they and/or their car somehow avoided all CCTV cameras. Remember they were caught by three CCTV cameras on leaving, and Borishov and Petrov were caught frequently on CCTV on arriving.

The Skripals were next seen on CCTV at 13.30, driving down Devizes road. After that their movements were clearly witnessed or recorded until their admission to hospital.

So even if the Skripals made an “invisible” trip home before being seen on Devizes Road, that means the very latest they could have touched the doorknob is 13.15. The longest possible gap between the novichok being placed on the doorknob and the Skripals touching it would have been one hour and 15 minutes. Do you recall all those “experts” leaping in to tell us that the “ten times deadlier than VX” nerve agent was not fatal because it had degraded overnight on the doorknob? Well that cannot be true. The time between application and contact was between a minute and (at most) just over an hour on this new timeline.

In general it is worth observing that the Skripals, and poor Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, all managed to achieve almost complete CCTV invisibility in their widespread movements around Salisbury at the key times, while in contrast “Petrov and Boshirov” managed to be frequently caught in high quality all the time during their brief visit.

This is especially remarkable in the case of the Skripals’ location around noon on 4 March. The government can only maintain that they returned home at this time, as they insist they got the nerve agent from the doorknob. But why was their car so frequently caught on CCTV leaving, but not at all returning? It appears very much more probable that they came into contact with the nerve agent somewhere else, while they were out.

“Boshirov and Petrov” plainly are of interest in this case. But only Theresa May stated they were Russian agents: the police did not, and stated that they expected those were not their real identities. We do not know who Boshirov and Petrov were. It appears very likely their appearance was to do with the Skripals on that day. But they may have been meeting them, outside the home. The evidence points to that, rather than doorknobs. Such a meeting might explain why the Skripals had turned off their mobile phones to attempt to avoid surveillance.

It is also telling the police have pressed no charges against them in the case of Dawn Sturgess, which would be manslaughter at least if the government version is true.

If “Boshirov and Petrov” are secret agents, their incompetence is astounding. They used public transport rather than a vehicle and left the clearest possible CCTV footprint. They failed in their assassination attempt. They left traces of novichok everywhere and could well have poisoned themselves, and left the “murder weapon” lying around to be found. Their timings in Salisbury were extremely tight – and British Sunday rail service dependent.

There are other possibilities of who “Boshirov and Petrov” really are, of which Ukrainian is the obvious one. One thing I discovered when British Ambassador to Uzbekistan was that there had been a large Ukrainian ethnic group of scientists working at the Soviet chemical weapon testing facility there at Nukus. There are many other possibilities.

Yesterday’s revelations certainly add to the amount we know about the Skripal event. But they raise as many new questions as they give answers.

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