Exclusive: I Can Reveal the Legal Advice on Drone Strikes, and How the Establishment Works 364

This may be the most important article I ever post, because it reveals perfectly how the Establishment works and how the Red Tories and Blue Tories contrive to give a false impression of democracy. It is information I can only give you because of my experience as an insider.

It is a definitive proof of the validity of the Chomskian propaganda model. It needs a fair bit of detail to do this, but please try and read through it because it really is very, very important. After you have finished, if you agree with me about the significance, please repost, (you are free to copy), retweet, add to news aggregators (Reddit etc) and do anything you can to get other people to pay attention.

The government based its decision to execute by drone two British men in Syria on “Legal Opinion” from the Attorney-General for England and Wales, Jeremy Wright, a politician, MP and Cabinet Minister. But Wright’s legal knowledge comes from an undistinguished first degree from Exeter and a short career as a criminal defence barrister in Birmingham. His knowledge of public international law is virtually nil.

I pause briefly to note that there is no pretence of consulting the Scottish legal system. The only legal opinion is from the Attorney General for England and Wales who is also Honorary Advocate General for Northern Ireland.

So Jeremy Wright’s role is as a cypher. He performs a charade. The government employs in the FCO a dozen of the most distinguished public international lawyers in the world. When the Attorney-General’s office needs an Opinion on public international law, they ask the FCO to provide it for him to sign.

The only known occasion when this did not happen was the Iraq War. Then the FCO Legal Advisers – unanimously – advised the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, that to invade Iraq was illegal. Jack Straw asked the Attorney General to dismiss the FCO chief Legal Adviser, Sir Michael Wood (Goldsmith refused). Blair sent Goldsmith to Washington where the Opinion was written for him to sign by George Bush’s lawyers. [I know this sounds incredible, but it is absolutely true]. Sir Michael Wood’s deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, resigned in protest.

In consequence Blair and Straw decided that, again for the first time ever, the FCO’s chief legal adviser had to be appointed not from within the FCO legal advisers, who had all declared the war on Iraq to be illegal, but from outside. They had to find a distinguished public international lawyer who was prepared to argue that the war on Iraq had been legal. That was a very small field. Blair and Straw thus turned to Benjamin Netanyahu’s favourite lawyer, Daniel Bethlehem.

Daniel Bethlehem had represented Israel before the Mitchell Inquiry into violence against the people of Gaza, arguing that it was all legitimate self-defence. He had also supplied the Government of Israel with a Legal Opinion that the vast Wall they were building in illegally occupied land, surrounding and isolating all the major Palestinian communities and turning them into large prisons, was also legal. Daniel Bethlehem is an extreme Zionist militarist of the most aggressive kind, and close to Mark Regev, Israel’s new Ambassador to the UK.

Daniel Bethlehem had developed, in his work for Israel, an extremist doctrine of the right of States to use pre-emptive self-defence – a doctrine which would not be accepted by the vast majority of public international lawyers. He clinched his appointment by Blair as the FCO chief legal adviser by presenting a memorandum to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in 2004 outlining this doctrine, and thus de facto defending the attack on Iraq and the Bush/Blair doctrine.

A key sentence of Daniel Bethlehem’s memorandum is this

“It must be right that states are able to act in self-defence in circumstances where there is evidence of further imminent attacks by terrorist groups, even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack.”

There is a fundamental flaw in this argument. How can you be certain that an attack in “imminent”, if you are not certain where or what it is? Even if we can wildly imagine a scenario where the government know of an “imminent” attack, but not where or what it is, how could killing someone in Syria stop the attack in the UK? If a team were active, armed and in course of operation in the UK – which is needed for “imminent” – how would killing an individual in Syria prevent them from going through with it? It simply does not add up as a practical scenario.

Interestingly, Daniel Bethlehem does not pretend this is accepted international law, but specifically states that

“The concept of what constitutes an “imminent” armed attack will develop to meet new circumstances and new threats”

Bethlehem is attempting to develop the concept of “imminent” beyond any natural interpretation of the word “imminent”.

Daniel Bethlehem left the FCO in 2011. But he had firmly set the British government doctrine on this issue, while all FCO legal advisers know not to follow it gets you sacked. I can guarantee you that Wright’s Legal Opinion states precisely the same argument that David Bethlehem stated in his 2004 memorandum. Knowing how these things work, I am prepared to wager every penny I own that much of the language is identical.

It was New Labour, the Red Tories, who appointed Daniel Bethlehem, and they appointed him precisely in order to establish this doctrine. It is therefore a stunning illustration of how the system works, that the only response of the official “opposition” to these extrajudicial executions is to demand to see the Legal Opinion, when it comes from the man they themselves appointed. The Red Tories appointed him precisely because they knew what Legal Opinion would be given on this specific subject. They can read it in Hansard.

So it is all a charade.

Jeremy Wright pretends to give a Legal Opinion, actually from FCO legal advisers based on the “Bethlehem Doctrine”. The Labour Party pretends, very unconvincingly, to be an opposition. The Guardian, apparently the leading “opposition” intellectual paper, publishes articles by its staff neo-con propagandists Joshua Rozenberg (married to Melanie Phillips) and Rafael Behr strongly supporting the government’s new powers of extrajudicial execution. In summer 2012 Joshua Rozenberg presented a programme on BBC Radio 4 entitled “Secret courts, drones and international law” which consisted mostly of a fawning interview with … Daniel Bethlehem. The BBC and Sky News give us wall to wall justification of the killings.

So the state, with its neo-con “opposition” and media closely in step with its neo-con government, seamlessly adopts a new power to kill its own subjects based on secret intelligence and secret legal advice, and a very weird definition of “imminent” that even its author admits to be outside current legal understanding.

That is how the state works. I do hope you find that helpful.

This article has been updated to reflect the fact the Daniel Bethlehem is now retired from the FCO.

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364 thoughts on “Exclusive: I Can Reveal the Legal Advice on Drone Strikes, and How the Establishment Works

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  • Mary

    I am repeating this. Last time it was Paul Wood. Now it is Ian Pannell.

    ‘Ian Pannell is reporting on Syrian chemical weapon use allegedly by the Syrian government and IS.

    Syria conflict: New evidence of chemical attacks

    This is how the veracity of the content in his previous reporting in 2013 was contested by Robert Stuart who has exhibited amazing tenacity in dealing with the Orwellian BBC complaints system.

    Robert Stuart’s website.

    and an article he has just written.

    Analysis of the 30 September 2013 BBC Panorama documentary ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and related BBC News reports, contending that sequences filmed by BBC staff and others at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 purporting to show the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a school in Urm Al-Kubra are largely, if not entirely, staged.

    See also Craig’s pieces on the subject.

    Preparing to Bomb Syria
    Jun 14th 2013
    Quite simply I do not believe the US, UK and French government’s assertion that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebels “multiple times in small quantities”. Why on earth would they do that? The claim that “up to 150 people have died” spread over a number of incidents makes no sense at all. […]

    The Theatre of War
    Oct 8th 2013
    My last post on the BBC footage of Syrian casualties – and the different versions of what the doctor said – has brought me a deluge of emails, not least from the Guardian who have been in touch with the BBC and, if the Guardian can get over its phobia at ever mentioning me at […]

  • Секретарь Тройки

    Mr. McGregor, the answer to your question depends on whether you live behind the Iron Curtain in the Western Bloc.

    In the civilized world, the right to life is qualified by the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, Article 3: “Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

    Commentary :

    (a) This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders, no force going beyond that may be used.

    (b) National law ordinarily restricts the use of force by law enforcement officials in accordance with a principle of proportionality. It is to be understood that such national principles of proportionality are to be respected in the interpretation of this provision. In no case should this provision be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.

    (c) The use of firearms is considered an extreme measure. Every effort should be made to exclude the use of firearms, especially against children. In general, firearms should not be used except when a suspected offender offers armed resistance or otherwise jeopardizes the lives of others and less extreme measures are not sufficient to restrain or apprehend the suspected offender. In every instance in which a firearm is discharged, a report should be made promptly to the competent authorities.”

    In Europe under the ECHR, on the other hand, Article 2(2) reads:

    “Deprivation of life shall not be regrded as inflicted in contravention of this article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:
    (a) in defense of any person from unlawful violence;
    (b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
    (c) in action lawfully take for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.”

    With Europe’s watered-down right to life, proportionality goes out the window. Anything officials call unlawful violence authorizes your summary execution, as does any attempt to escape the authorities. Find yourself in the middle of the wrong disturbance, and you’re fair game. This permits American-style extrajudicial killing – kill the mutt, check the box, you’re done.

  • Beth

    Paul Barbra–11.55—–Great letter ! Thanks for sharing. If the Archbishop doesn’t reply that says it all really. Basically sold his soul to the devil like the rest.

  • Charles McGregor

    Secretary Trotsky, I don’t see how a drone killing specifically predetermined to kill a specific person can fall into any of those three ECHR categories.

  • Beth

    John Goss 12.09—-Thanks for reposting that link. It’s good to be reminded about things like that. Also reminded me of this—https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_9pKiTt4m8 Illegal Attacks by Ian Brown.

  • Mary

    Well now we know. Rev Giles Fraser. Do you remember him at St Paul’s when Occupy was ongoing?

    Just like Carey and Bishop Nazir-Ali (Muslim haters), he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    ‘I’m excitedly packing my bags to fly to Israel for the New Year, Rosh Hashanah.’

    ‘I’m a committed Zionist. That’s become a loaded word, fraught with political anxiety, especially on the left. But what I mean by it is simply that I passionately support the existence of Israel. And I don’t support it in some abstract, mealy mouthed way. I have a great love of the place and its people.’


    He softens it by criticizing the present government. Not good enough Rev.

    Membership? http://www.anglicanfriendsofisrael.com/about/who-we-are/

    Rev Sizer is allowed to use social media again. Wow! How wonderful! That is SO kind of the Bishop.


    What a crowd. They are appalling hypocrites. ‘Thou shalt not kill’ but these Christian Zionist types are, even by visiting Israel, supporting the murderers in the terror ‘state’.

    Israel is there by way of a cruel and ongoing Occupation.

  • Paul Barbara

    Thanks, Beth. I thought it had been ‘rejected’ on this thread, but apparently it got caught up in the spam filters, so was delayed.

  • Macky

    Jon; “I am not attempting to exonerate politicians – just pointing out that sometimes you attribute to them too much power.”

    This in response to the issue of MPs who voted for an illegal war ! Jon, I hope that this doesn’t come as a surprise to you, but MPs are politicians, and they had enough power to take this country into an illegal war or not, and it was them, not any Deep State spooks, that cast their pro-war votes. Without the compliance of these “otherwise good” self-servers, the Deep State would be rendered powerless.

  • fedup

    I should be happy for any MPs proven to have engaged in a crime to be disqualified from office and jailed if appropriate.

    Jon recollecting that famous phrase; “Failure to act is not an option”! The case before us are;
    1- The MPs did vote for Iraq war. The said war was based on a pack of lies and humbug. The said MPs however failed to risk assess the unfolding war they were voting for, and did fail to question the veracity of the fake data in the public domain that was the basis of their decision!

    What more proof do we need? These MPs have no agreement/contract to be left troughing in the HoC, enjoying the cheap booze, subsidised meals and the attention of the lobbying companies and their generosity towards the said MPs, as well as inflated salaries and expense accounts.

    Therefore those MPs whom voted for the war ought to be tossed out on their ears for their egregious mistake and failure to discharge their duty with due diligence and care! Furthermore the proceedings must ensue to bring these war facilitators to trial and let the due process to convict or exonerate them.

    …we should first look at unelected individuals in the deep state

    Commendable and lofty goals that undoubtedly would be enjoying unanimous support. Alas given the Failure as our (we the people) only option, we have singularly failed to dislodge the warmongers whom voted for the Iraq war out of their supposed contested seats in the HoC. However to start searching for the “deep state” operatives who are far too cosseted by the plethora of laws and layers of administration, is a pipe dream, and wistful wish.

    I am not attempting to exonerate politicians – just pointing out that sometimes you attribute to them too much power.

    Jon despite the fact that yea olde higher authority clause has been exhausted to its last stump of it’s legs. I would agree with you on this issue too. However given the only purported recourse available to we the people; elections, which we don’t really have much say in it other than contributing a tic on a bit of paper and then told who won the lottery to become our dear leaders!

    It is therefore part of playing the game to expect that those swine whom have troughed so relentlessly and profited from their warmongering, at least not to continue their tenure of the seats in Hoc which evidently they have occupied as their rightful place, and expect no less than getting back to seat there over and again.

    Fact is we need to at least try and disrupt the “deep state” bypassing their selected and groomed operatives, and at least throw the “deep state” into a bit of disarray for about five ten minutes now and again, won’t you agree?

    Kind regards
    John Joe James

  • Mary

    What are we supposed to make of these photos other than to say that they show good actors? And why are they being published now 14 years later?

    Emails From Within White House Reveal 9/11 Shock
    One email reads “today is Pearl Harbor” as senior government aides react in horror to the unfolding terrorist attacks in the US.,
    Friday 11 September 2015

    Another 9/11 in Chile.
    On September 11th 1973 a military coup was started by Augusto Pinochet which removed the democratically elected leader of Chile. This film recounts the event from witnesses and archive footage of ‘The Other 911’.

  • Секретарь Тройки

    Neither do I, Mr. McGregor, but the wonderful thing about those categories is the way their absurd level of generality encourages creative endeavor in justifying arbitrary killings. The lack of a proportionality criterion applies the chosen wheeze to everybody in the drone’s kill box. Omitting the Code’s investigation provision gives killer officials impunity and makes the categories moot.

    When you look at European human rights law you see very clearly how the USA trimmed your rights to fit the satellite states they had in mind. The convention also withholds your economic, social, and cultural rights – that’s the American way. Handy for suppressing Scottish self-determination or for asset-stripping in Greece! Indispensable for elite looting and austerity at home.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Mary, thanks for the links.

    I checked dout the one re. the alleged chemical weapons attack (you, at 1:55pm today). The chap’s critique is very interesting and very detailed. I don’t have enough expeirnece in burns to be able to comment, really. One small thing that did occur ot me was that one of his many criticisms of the BBC TV report was that at one point a man whom he (Robert Stuart, the author of the critique) describes as “a Westerner” comes into the camera’s view. Mr Stuart indicates that the BBC producer was unable to identify this person.

    It seems to me that this makes an assumption. In my experience, many Syrian people look like Westerners. There are lots of blond, blue-eyed Syrians. This man could be from anywhere Europe/the Middle East. He could simply be Syrian.

    It does not negate the rest of his critique – I’m deeply suspicious of BBC narratives – I just wanted to point out the assumptions we sometimes make about people, about ‘them’ and ‘us’. It’s kind of along the same lines I was talking abotu when I observed that some people in the UK seem to have been expecting the Syrian refugees to be emaciated, malnourished, etc. and the fact that they were not, to some of the media, was a sign that they must be ‘bogus’. When in fact, as one of them – who’d managed to get to the USA – pointed out, “we were not hungry, we were running from war”. Syria was a developed country, with high levels of health and primary, secondary and tertiary education provision. I know you know this, of course, Mary. Just stating it again, for the record.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    ” ‘The Tories want war. Tell them: Don’t bomb Syria.

    Tell your MP to stand against military escalation in Syria.” Mary, on the ‘Labour Party London Mayoral candidate’ thread from today.

    I agree totally.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    “Fact is now everyone but the blind dog in the fish quay know that Iraq war was based an absolute lie and a huge waste of resources as well as the cause of deaths of millions of Iraqis and even more millions of Iraqi refugees, not forgetting our own dead soldiers, maimed soldiers and others returned with PTDS.” Fedup, earlier today in this thread.

    The blind dog in the fish queue did know. The blind dog in the fish queue always knows. Our MPS (the ones who voted for war) knew too – for obvious reasons (see also under ‘Colin Powell’), they simply preferred to believe the fictional narrative.

  • fedup

    FBI says ‘Australian IS jihadist’ is actually a Jewish American troll named Joshua Ryne Goldberg

    He talks the lingo don’t he?

    This is the kind of “interloper” who is fanning the flames of hatred.

  • fedup

    responsible for this horrific piece

    Trouble is the horrific content are actually mundane facts for Jewish supremacists whose belief structure holds us the none Jews as animals in the shape of human so that Jews will not be served by beasts appearing as beasts. As clearly indicated in the article.

    Thanks Squonk great research.

  • Macky

    How interesting ! Referring to Joshua Ryne Goldberg troll behaviour as a sort of False Flag get comments deleted !! :O

  • Paul Barbara

    ‘The New Pearl Harbour’; just what the PNAC document called for in 2000. And just like the original ‘Pearl Harbour’, it was orchestrated. The definitive book is probably ‘Day of Deceit’ by Robert B. Stinnett, a highly decorated retired naval officer, who worked on the book for seventeen years.
    FDR, the Military Brass, and Big Business wanted in to WWII, but only 16% of the American public wanted to get involved in another European war. An Intelligence Agency guy came up with an 8-point plan that would draw Japan to attack the US; FDR agreed it, and said ‘They have to make the first strike’.
    There were three aircraft carriers based at Pearl, and they were judged too valuable to lose, as they would take too long to replace. One was sent to San Francisco, for ‘training purposes’, and two were sent delivering aircraft to island bases, just to get them out of harm’s way when the attack was imminent. ALL Japanese Naval codes had been broken (not just some), and the Japanese Task Force was tracked crossing the Pacific, but Pearl was not warned. You know the rest: 2,400-odd sailors died, and the following day, a million American’s signed up to the armed forces.
    The ‘cunning plan’ had worked a treat.

  • fedup

    How interesting ! Referring to Joshua Ryne Goldberg troll behaviour as a sort of False Flag get comments deleted !! :O

    Macky is jabbahutch appointed as a mod?

    I thought I had caught a glimpse of your post and then it vanished!

    The other day four of my posts vanished too, these were about the barbarity of the zionist thugs in uniform.

    What gives?


    ‘The New Pearl Harbour’; just what the PNAC document called for in 2000. And just like the original ‘Pearl Harbour’, it was orchestrated. The definitive book is probably ‘Day of Deceit’ by Robert B.

    The decency of the ordinary Joe is a dangerous asset that needs to be kept in check and this done through kidding the honourable Joe, by lies and stories.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    This is the sort of thing I mentioned earlier. There has been a cacophony of this type of narrative all over the MSM. It is a narrative with which I do not agree.

    I do not think that “Traumatisation, the world’s failure to properly arm the Free Army, and the West’s refusal to act when Assad used sarin gas, handed the reins to various Islamists.” [quote from link]

    The Islamists were the main act, and were in on the act, right from the start. The West, which inludes Turkey (and via Saudi Arabia, UAE/Qatar/Kuwait) has been arming the Islamists right from the start. And the overall, the ‘FSA’ were not the ‘freedom fighters’ we are led to believe.

    It’s partisan propaganda. And it gets a very wide airing. And anyone who questions it, or argues against it, is attacked and derided.


  • lysias

    As for those aircraft carriers that had been stationed at Pearl Harbor until shortly before the Japanese attack, Pacific commander Adm. Kimmel a week or two before the attack had started a naval exercise including those carriers northwest of Oahu — just where the Japanese fleet would later arrive — until he was summarily ordered by Washington to terminate the exercise and return the fleet to Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, the carriers at Pearl were sent out to transport airplanes to Midway, so that they were away from the action when the Japanese attack occurred.

  • Silvio

    9/11 Fourteen Years Later
    By Paul Craig Roberts

    Millions of refugees from Washington’s wars are currently over-running Europe. Washington’s 14-year and ongoing slaughter of Muslims and destruction of their countries are war crimes for which the US government’s official 9/11 conspiracy theory was the catalyst. Factual evidence and science do not support Washington’s conspiracy theory. The 9/11 Commission did not conduct an investigation. It was not permitted to investigate. The Commission sat and listened to the government’s story and wrote it down (my emphasis /Silvio). Afterwards, the chairman and cochairman of the Commission said that the Commission “was set up to fail.”


  • Michael T Darwyne


    “The letter claimed drone strikes in Syria are “a necessary and proportionate exercise of the individual right of self-defense of the United Kingdom,” but added that “action against ISIL in Syria is lawful in the collective self-defense of Iraq.””

    It appears the UK Government or its legal advisers now realise that to give the killings legal protection, they have to be portrayed not as action against individuals on account of the security threat to the UK allegedly posed by those individuals, (which would not engage the right of collective self-defence of Art 51 of the UN Charter)but as actions in defence related to state action in a declared war zone (Iraq).

    he initial justification given by Mr. Cameron would make it difficult to invoke rules of public international law, since this was not state action against a state or its operatives.

    If this analysis is correct, this new explanation may save Mr. Cameron from a situation in which he could otherwise be accused of assassination by executive fiat.

    [Fred: the principles of international law regulate the actions of states against states and would not in my view be relevant in relation to hostilities openly targeted against individuals in a sovereign state, save that such action could be regarded as a gross interference in domestic matters by the host state.]

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Managment of the Hajj must be a logistical nightmare. But is this an illustration, perhaps, of the lack of Health and Safety in Mecca (and the region more generally) and the intense construction work entailed in Mecca’s gross ‘re-devlopment’ (in the face of the ideological destruction of its historic sites)? Might this have been ‘high winds’ and a rainstrorm – entirely possible, it’s not the first time a major accident has occurred there – or one wonders, might it have been ISIS?


  • Suhayl Saadi

    In Stephen Grey’s book, ‘The New Spaymasters’ (2015), he explicity states that assassination by drone is not done by the Uk becaus eit is illegal. This was understood by all – spooks, politicians, military, etc.

    Now, something has changed. How was it illegal when Grey publihsed his book, just a few months ago, and suddenly legal now? What change has there been in law? If there have been no chnages in the law and no case-law chnages, how is it suddenly legal? Why is the PM not being intensively grilled about this?

    Stephen Grey – who wrote an excellent book, ‘Ghost Plane’ on ‘extraordinary rendition’ – has written this good book on spies. However, though the book is excellent, it does malke the assumption that Britihs and Americna spooks are basically beneficent and that they trying to protect the people of the UK and USA. I question that assumption. I also wonder whether perhaps in wriitng this book, Grey has become a little too close to his subject, and possibly has been manipulated by them a la Norman Baker in his book on the death of David Kelly.

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