Yearly Archives: 2018


Lynch Mob Mentality 1302

I was caught in a twitterstorm of hatred yesterday, much of it led by mainstream media journalists like David Aaronovitch and Dan Hodges, for daring to suggest that the basic elements of Boshirov and Petrov’s story do in fact stack up. What became very plain quite quickly was that none of these people had any grasp of the detail of the suspects’ full twenty minute interview, but had just seen the short clips or quotes as presented by British corporate and state media.

As I explained in my last post, what first gave me some sympathy for the Russians’ story and drew me to look at it closer, was the raft of social media claims that there was no snow in Salisbury that weekend and Stonehenge had not been closed. In fact, Stonehenge was indeed closed on 3 March by heavy snow, as confirmed by English Heritage. So the story that they came to Salisbury on 3 March but could not go to Stonehenge because of heavy snow did stand up, contrary to almost the entire twittersphere.

Once there was some pushback of truth about this on social media, people started triumphantly posting the CCTV images from 4 March to prove that there was no snow lying in Central Salisbury on 4 March. But nobody ever said there was snow on 4 March – in fact Borisov and Petrov specifically stated that they learnt there was a thaw so they went back. However when they got there, they encountered heavy sleet and got drenched through. That accords precisely with the photographic evidence in which they are plainly drenched through.

Another extraordinary meme that causes hilarity on twitter is that Russians might be deterred by snow or cold weather.

Well, Russians are human beings just like us. They cope with cold weather at home because they have the right clothes. Boshirov and Petrov refer continually in the interview to cold, wet feet and again this is borne out by the photographic evidence – they were wearing sneakers unsuitable to the freak weather conditions that were prevalent in Salisbury on 3 and 4 March. They are indeed soaked through in the pictures, just as they said in the interview.

Russians are no more immune to cold and wet than you are.

Twitter is replete with claims that they were strange tourists, to be visiting a housing estate. No evidence has been produced anywhere that shows them on any housing estate. They were seen on CCTV camera walking up the A36 by the Shell station, some 400 yards from the Skripals’ house, which would require three turnings to get to that – turnings nobody saw them take (and they were on the wrong side of the road for the first turning, even though it would be very close). No evidence has been mentioned which puts them at the Skripals’ House.

Finally, it is everywhere asserted that it is very strange that Russians would take a weekend break holiday, and that if they did they could not possibly be interested in architecture or history. This is a simple expression of anti-Russian racism. Plainly before their interview – about which they were understandably nervous – they prepared what they were going to say, including checking up on what it was they expected to see in Salisbury because they realised they would very obviously be asked why they went. Because their answer was prepared does not make it untrue.

That literally people thousands of people have taken to twitter to mock that it is hilariously improbable that tourists might want to visit Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge, is a plain example of the irrationality that can overtake people when gripped by mob hatred.

I am astonished by the hatred that has been unleashed. The story of Gerry Conlon might, you would hope, give us pause as to presuming the guilt of somebody who just happened to be of the “enemy” nationality, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Despite the mocking mob, there is nothing inherently improbable in the tale told by the two men. What matters is whether they can be connected to the novichok, and here the safety of the identification of the microscopic traces of novichok allegedly found in their hotel bedroom is key. I am no scientist, but I have been told by someone who is, that if the particle(s) were as the police state so small as to be harmless to humans, they would be too small for mass spectrometry analysis and almost certainly could not be firmly identified other than as an organophosphate. Perhaps someone qualified might care to comment.

The hotel room novichok is the key question in this case.

Were I Vladimir Putin, I would persuade Boshirov and Petrov voluntarily to come to the UK and stand trial, on condition that it was a genuinely fair trial before a jury in which the entire proceedings, and all of the evidence, was open and public, and the Skripals and Pablo Miller might be called as witnesses and cross-examined. I have no doubt that the British government’s desire for justice would suddenly move into rapid retreat if their bluff was called in this way.

As for me, when I see a howling mob rushing to judgement and making at least some claims which are utterly unfounded, and when I see that mob fueled and egged on by information from the security services propagated by exactly the same mainstream media journalists who propagandised the lies about Iraqi WMD, I see it as my job to stand in the way of the mob and to ask cool questions. If that makes them hate me, then I must be having some impact.

So I ask this question again – and nobody so far has attempted to give me an answer. At what time did the Skripals touch their doorknob? Boshirov and Petrov arrived in Salisbury at 11.48 and could not have painted the doorknob before noon. The Skripals had left their house at 09.15, with their mobile phones switched off so they could not be geo-located. Their car was caught on CCTV on three cameras heading out of Salisbury to the North East. At 13.15 it was again caught on camera heading back in to the town centre from the North West.

How had the Skripals managed to get back to their home, and touch the door handle, in the hour between noon and 1pm, without being caught on any of the CCTV cameras that caught them going out and caught the Russian visitors so extensively? After this remarkably invisible journey, what time did they touch the door handle?

I am not going to begin to accept the guilt of Boshirov and Petrov until somebody answers that question. Dan Hodges? David Aaronovitch? Theresa May? Anybody?

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The Strange Russian Alibi 988

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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The War on Raspberries 198

On a recent visit to the National Mining Museum in Newtongrange, I was taken slightly aback by the questions from young adults who knew nothing at all about Thatcher’s destruction of the coal mining industry or its motives. It is hard to realise that for an 18 year old today the miners’ strike is as chronologically distant an event as Dunkirk was to me.

My whole adult life has been defined by the changes initiated by Thatcher and continued by Tories and New Labour. It is hard to remember now the world where your employer could not, by law, sack you just because they wanted to, and where you could get state protection from rapacious landlords charging unfair rents. The destruction of heavy industry in order to destroy the strength of organised labour, and the privatisation of the monopoly utilities for the profit of the rich, was a transformation that is at the root of the mass misery we live amongst today.

There was one small and forgotten part of Thatcher’s attack on traditional working class lifestyle that you probably had to be in Dundee to remember. The war on berry pickers. The soft fruit of the Carse of Gowrie and the Tay Valley is an important part of the Scottish economy. There is currently much concern as to how, post-Brexit, labour is to be found to pick the fruit. Government proposals to issue visas for the purpose are an order of magnitude below what is needed, and local labour remains difficult to attract.

It did not used to be difficult, until around 1980 the Tories launched an extraordinary campaign to drive pickers out of the fields. Berry pickers, they decided, were an unacceptable part of the informal economy and were not declaring their income on benefits claims. Suddenly teams of besuited benefits inspectors started appearing among the raspberry canes demanding social security numbers. People signing on for the broo had to produce their hands for inspection for berry stains. There was a campaign in the rabidly Tory Courier newspaper which even alleged that Tayside berry pickers were a major source of funding to the IRA!

So people stopped going to pick berries. Who would give up their unemployment benefit for a few weeks back-breaking seasonal work, with all the delays and rigours of signing back on again?

Which suggests to me a possible solution to the problem. British people should be able to do up to three months seasonal agricultural work without any requirement to declare the income for either tax or benefit purposes. This would make the financial incentive sufficient to get people into the fields, would protect the economic benefit of the crops to the economy, and would be benefit neutral (the benefits are already being paid) and more or less tax neutral (the large majority who can do this would be nowhere near reaching the income tax threshold anyway).

I am not sure whether the Scottish government’s tax and benefit powers suffice to introduce this in Scotland alone, but it should be considered as a possible way forward throughout the UK.

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Skripals – The Mystery Deepens 3057

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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The Impossible Photo 1219

UPDATE

I am prepared to acknowledge that, given the gate design, they could have passed through different gates in exact synchronicity and this may be a red herring. I am leaving this post up here as it is good to acknowledge mistakes. Please read my updated post Skripals – The Mystery Deepens

Russia has developed an astonishing new technology enabling its secret agents to occupy precisely the same space at precisely the same time.

These CCTV images released by Scotland yard today allegedly show Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov both occupying exactly the same space at Gatwick airport at precisely the same second. 16.22.43 on 2 March 2018. Note neither photo shows the other following less than a second behind.

There is no physically possible explanation for this. You can see ten yards behind each of them, and neither has anybody behind for at least ten yards. Yet they were both photographed in the same spot at the same second.

The only possible explanations are:
1) One of the two is travelling faster than Usain Bolt can sprint
2) Scotland Yard has issued doctored CCTV images/timeline.

I am going with the Met issuing doctored images.

UPDATE

A number of people have pointed out a third logical possibility, that the photographs are not of the same place and they are coming through different though completely identical entry channels. The problem with that is the extreme synchronicity. You can see from the photos that the channel(s) are enclosed and quite long, and they would have had to enter different entrances to the channels. So it is remarkable they were at exactly the same point at the same time. Especially as one of them appears to be holding (wheeled?) luggage and one has only a shoulder bag.
I have traveled through Gatwick many times but cannot call to mind precisely where they are. Can anybody pinpoint the precise place in the airport? Before or after passport control? Before or after baggage collection? Before or after customs? The only part of the airport this looks like to me is shortly after leaving the plane after the bridge, and before joining the main gangway to passport control – in which case passengers are not split into separated channels at the stage this was taken. I can’t recall any close corridors as long as this after passport control. But I am open to correction.
Please read my updated post Skripals – The Mystery Deepens

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New Labour’s Irrational Adoration of Thatcher 566

When Michael Crick embarrassed Theresa May by quizzing her on her non-existent opposition to apartheid as she visited Mandela’s old cell, the response of New Labour was to defend May by claiming the Tories had opposed apartheid all along. Progress and Labour Friends of Israel rushed immediately to the defence of the person they truly adore, who sits higher still in their Pantheon than Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. They rushed to defend the memory of Margaret Thatcher.

Ex-Labour MP Tom Harris and Blair’s former Political Director John McTernan (who now write for the Tory Spectator and Telegraph) led the suicide charge of the Labour Thatcherites.

The person here quoted with approval is Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, far right blogger who has stated that he never wore a “Hang Nelson Mandela” badge personally, but used to hang out with people who did.

Blair-loving ex-MP Tom Harris went one further by claiming that Jeremy Corbyn’s own anti-apartheid opposition was connected to a “rape-cult”, a stupefying bit of “guilt by association” propaganda.

Here we have Liz Kendall supporter and occasional Guardian columnist Sarah Hayward – possibly the most obscure individual to get themselves a blue tick on Twitter, as though she were worth impersonating – making the absolutely ludicrous claim that when arrested, Corbyn was supporting Thatcher’s anti-apartheid policy.

I could go on, but for a last example here is Blairite house journal the New Statesman, pretending to wrap a scholarly respectability around the Thatcher revisionism. It is worth noting that the Blairites repeatedly call in evidence the claims by another right-wing Blairite and former Ambassador in Pretoria, Lord Renwick (who resigned from the Labour Whip when Blair ceased to be Prime Minister). Renwick wrote an entirely tendentious and self-serving book on his and Thatcher’s “role in ending apartheid”.

The truth is not hard to find. Professor Patrick Salmon, the FCO’s official historian, last year published the monumental volume of official documents “The Challenge of Apartheid”. It details with mounds of evidence Thatcher’s stern resistance to any sanctions against apartheid and, repeatedly, her insistence that the ANC was “a terrorist organisation”. Here is a quote from Salmon’s synthesis of Thatcher’s views from the official history (I can’t give a page number as I received the final draft, as standard FCO practice as I feature in the book, and I quote from the draft):

“Mrs Thatcher was relentlessly hostile to all those who sought to overthrow the apartheid regime by force or undermine it through economic sanctions. The ANC was unacceptable not only because of its association with communism… but above all because of its refusal to renounce the use of violence… which inevitably meant that she regarded it as a terrorist organisation of the same stamp as the PLO or the IRA. Mrs Thatcher adamantly opposed the imposition of further economic sanctions…

South Africa’s role as a bulwark of the West against Soviet expansion was not just a rhetorical ploy but was believed implicitly by Ronald Reagan as well as by Mrs Thatcher.”

I was, to my intense frustration, banned from communicating with the ANC. Professor Salmon details at great length the sharp disagreement between Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe, Malcolm Rifkind and Lynda Chalker over South Africa. There were indeed genuinely anti-apartheid Tories. But Thatcher was not one of them. All of her instincts on this were with the pro-Apartheid right of the party, as Salmon notes explicitly.

In real life, Thatcher was not a dictator. She had to carry her Cabinet with her. Her relationship with Howe in particular was crucial to her political base, as illustrated by the fact that he more than anybody precipitated her ultimate political downfall. It is true that Thatcher did in private meetings tell P W Botha to release Mandela – but that was at Howe’s insistence, not of her own volition.

Thatcher’s 1984 meeting with P W Botha at Chequers is worth noting. There was a massive demonstration against it, on which I took part just before joining the FCO, as did Jeremy Corbyn, Peter Hain and children of both Geoffrey Howe and our then Ambassador to South Africa. At this meeting Thatcher’s briefing provided by the FCO was to call for Mandela’s release. But she did not do so in the official meetings. A minute from her Private Secretary Charles Powell (brother of Blair’s Chief of Staff) claimed that Thatcher had pressed Botha to release Mandela in a private conversation over canapes with no witnesses. It is fair to say the nature of this “pressing”, if it happened, was ever after a subject of some scepticism in the FCO. If anyone knows what the South African records say…

For two years I, among other responsibilities, wrote briefings, speeches and parliamentary answers on South Africa, cleared them through FCO ministers before being sent over to No. 10, where they would get “toned down” by Charles Powell to reflect Thatcher’s views. I cherish my first ever conversation with Powell. I called Number 10 to discuss a draft, and asked;

“Hello, is that Charles Powell?”.
“Actually, it’s Pole”, he replied.
“Oh I am sorry”, I said in genuine innocence, “It’s spelt Powell in my directory”.

I had not yet got used to posh twats.

The truth is very easy to discover, and it is not what the Blairites now claim in their deluded Thatcher worship. Sir Patrick Wright, former Head of the Diplomatic Service, was absolutely correct in observing that Thatcher supported a “Whites-only” state:

It should be noted this comes from Patrick Wright’s diary written at the time, and not a subsequent self-serving account. I can confirm it is absolutely true, from my position as the South Africa (Political) desk officer 1984-6.

What Thatcher favoured was P W Botha’s “Bantustans” or “Homelands policy”, under which an ethnically defined, whites only state possessing all of South Africa’s wealthy cities and ports and the best mineral and agricultural resources, would exist alongside a number of impoverished “independent states” housing different tribes, from which a low paid workforce could commute daily to white areas (or live there temporarily under passes). That was the planned endgame of apartheid, and a number of such “states” were created – South Africa actually declared four “Bantustans” as independent countries. Thatcher hankered after their recognition, particularly Boputhatswana.

The “Homelands policy” is of course identical to the “two state solution” which the neo-cons propose for Palestine, with an apartheid ethnically defined Israel holding all the main resources next to impoverished pockets of Palestinians in an “independent state” commuting in to provide a cheap labour force.

Not only does Patrick Wright affirm in his diaries Thatcher’s support for the “Homelands Policy”, Professor Salmon confirms it too “Mrs Thatcher was talking about a return to pre-1910 South Africa, with a white mini-state partitioned from their neighbouring black states”.

Last year I published more on my recollections of my own role at that period.

As a final rebuke to Thatcher’s New Labour acolytes, I quote Peter Hain:

[Hain] criticised Norman Tebbit, a minister under Margaret Thatcher, and Charles Moore, her biographer, for trying to rewrite history.

“If Nelson Mandela can forgive his oppressors without forgetting their crimes, who am I not to do the same to our opponents in the long decades of the anti-apartheid struggle,” he added.

“But it really does stick in the craw when Lord Tebbit, Charles Moore and others similar tried over recent days to claim that their complicity with apartheid – and that’s what I think it was – somehow brought about its end. Even, to my utter incredulity, when Lord Tebbit told BBC World, in a debate with me, that they had brought about Mandela’s freedom. I know for a fact that Nelson Mandela did not think so.”

But there is a question here of great urgency today. Why do New Labour leap in to deny what Hain called the Tories “craven indulgence of apartheid”, to defend Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May, and to criticise Jeremy Corbyn for his anti-apartheid activity?

Together with reaction to the quitting the party of Frank Field, an open Thatcher and Enoch Powell reminder, I conclude that the Blairite MPs would prefer to be led by Margaret Thatcher or Theresa May than Jeremy Corbyn. Their psychology is deeply troubling:

I support Scottish Independence, so I am in a different position to voters in England. But, despite the fact large numbers of my friends have joined the Labour Party to support Jeremy Corbyn, I could not vote Labour in most of England. Could I advise somebody to vote for Wes Streeting, John Mann, Jess Phillips, Stephen Kinnock or their ilk? No, under no circumstances.

Labour party members need to bite the bullet on reselection. Being a Labour MP cannot be a sinecure granted for life irrespective of behaviour. The party is plainly dysfunctional, and it is so because the large majority of MPs are totally removed from the views of the membership. There are only two ways to resolve this. Either the MPs will have to leave parliament or the members will have to leave the party. There is no coherent party at present.

The Blairite Labour MPs have painted themselves into a corner by their decision to brand Jeremy Corbyn as personally a racist and an anti-semite. If I was in a party led by a racist and anti-semite, I would leave the party. The idea that they can continue as members of parliament for the party while expressing such views about the leader is a nonsense. But they do not wish to leave, because they would lose their comfy jobs. All of the right wing Labour MPs realise they would never win an election on their own account, without Labour Party support. It would be hilarious if not so serious, that they claim Frank Field can resign the Labour whip but this does not mean leave the party, and that he must still be the Labour Party candidate at the next election!

Their hope is twofold. Firstly, that the charges of anti-semitism against Corbyn will be widely believed and lead to a drastic drop in public support which will force Corbyn out. This is not happening. The public realise that the charges of anti-semitism are false and based on a definition of the word which simply means critic of Israel. Other than the normal polling malaise which follows any split in a party, there is no drastic plunge in support for Labour of the kind which would definitely follow if the public thought the party were led by an anti-semite.

To put it another way, either 40% of the public are anti-semites, or the public do not take these accusations seriously.

The Blairites other hope is that, by the Labour Party adopting the IHRA’s malicious definition of anti-semitism as embracing criticism of Israel, they will manage through legal action to force Jeremy Corbyn’s expulsion from the Labour Party. This attempt to use the British Establishment to circumvent party democracy is extraordinary.

By bringing things to this pitch, the Blairites have made compromise impossible. Either Corbyn and most of the members will have to go, or the Blairite MPs will.

Something must give. That is why I urge everybody who is in the Labour Party to take action today to push for mandatory reselection of MPs. The matter is urgent, and no party can resist the united force of its members for long.

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Planning for UK Embassy to Move to Jerusalem Post Brexit

UPDATE I find people need more explanation than I realised. The UK is bound by a common position under EU common foreign policy (third pillar). So until Brexit the official line must still be always given that the UK is not considering moving its Embassy. Post Brexit that restriction is lifted. What my source is saying is that secret contingency planning for a post Brexit move to Jerusalem is underway in the FCO. What I have been pressing the FCO for is an admission that planning is taking place. Obviously this is not something they would want to be public knowledge at present.

My source stated that the move is partly ideological, and partly to sweeten relationships with the USA in seeking a trade deal. My own observation is that the Tories probably think this would cause more trouble between Corbyn and the Parliamentary Labour Party, and that the Westminster classes are totally out of touch with real public opinion on Palestine, as they seldom meet anybody who does not share their extreme zionism.

ORIGINAL POST:

This information about planning being carried out in great secrecy came to me from an FCO source I had no previous contact with, so I do not know the reliability. It might even be a hoax to make me look foolish. Therefore I decided to check the story with the FCO Press Department, but I can’t get any response out of them. Not answering questions appears to be the standard British state response to independent journalists now. If this is nonsense, it would have taken the FCO two minutes just to tell me so.

So I am posting this here with the caveat that the information is not verified yet. There is much to be said on motive, both from what I was told by the source and from my own gloss, but I shall leave that until we can make more progress on validation. Obviously, I hope the posting may spur the FCO to respond, or others to corroborate the leak.

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Imagine if the BBC Were Honest

The BBC refuses to answer my Skripal questions to Mark Urban on the grounds they have no legal obligation, instead giving a “statement”. That correspondence follows below. But I want you first to imagine a World in which the BBC and Mark Urban were honest and independent, and imagine these were the answers to my 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?
My interviews with Sergei Skripal were on a strictly off the record basis and I felt honour bound not to mention them until I could obtain his permission.

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?
I had not heard from Pablo Miller for decades, since I left the army.

3) When you met Skripal in Salisbury, was Miller present all or part of the time, or did you meet Miller separately?
I did not meet Miller.

4) Was the BBC aware of your meetings with Miller and/or Skripal at the time?
Yes, with Skripal.

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?
A book on Russian intelligence.

6) Pablo Miller worked for Orbis Intelligence. Do you know if Miller contributed to the Christopher Steele dossier on Trump/Russia?
I don’t know.

7) Did you discuss the Trump dossier with Skripal and/or Miller?
No.

8) Do you know whether Skripal contributed to the Trump dossier?
No.

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.
That was my only contact with the intelligence services on this matter.

Does anybody imagine that, if those were indeed the answers, Mark Urban and the BBC would not freely give those answers, and show up their accusers as “conspiracy theorists” with no foundation?

If those were the answers, they would be shouting them from the rooftops.

And indeed the BBC statement, while refusing to answer the questions directly, does give responses to questions 1, 4 and 5 which are along the lines of this outcome were they behaving honestly, though their phrasing does not carry conviction, especially on 1.

The questions the BBC has refused to address at all are all those related to Pablo Miller, UK intelligence services and the Steele Orbis dossier on Trump/Russia. That is an extremely telling omission. Their attempt to issue a statement rather than address the questions individually, is a deliberate ruse to disguise that.

On a balance of probabilities measure, I am willing to take the BBC’s refusal to answer these very specific questions as strong evidence that the Skripal case is indeed about Miller, Steele, Orbis and the Trump/Russia dossier. Furthermore the BBC knows that and is deliberately concealing the truth, and instead broadcasting evidence free nonsense about Russian agents, knowing that to be untrue. If that were not the case, it would take the BBC quite literally two minutes to give the answers above. There would be no downside for the BBC in giving those answers; indeed they would be vindicated to a sceptical public.

I asked you to imagine those answers were true. In asking us to imagine a better world, John Lennon told us “its easy if you try”. Sadly I find it is not easy. It is not easy to imagine a world in which Mark Urban is not a morally repugnant lying shill for the security services, that takes a very great deal of effort.

Here is the BBC statement and ensuing correspondence:

From: Matthew Hunter
Sent: 29 August 2018 09:42
To: ‘is’
Subject: BBC Newsnight

Dear Mr Murray,

Matt Hunter in the BBC News Press Team.

I understand you contacted Mark Urban on Monday with regards to meetings he had with Sergei Skripal. Some of the information you’ve requested we are not obliged to share as it is held for purposes of journalism, but I can provide you with a more general response regarding Mark’s meetings with Mr Skripal.

Mark Urban met with Sergei Skripal on a number of occasions last Summer in Salisbury and last spoke to him on the phone in August, 7 months before the poisoning. Mr Skripal agreed to speak to Mark to assist with his research for his latest book on post-Cold War espionage, it was not discussed with Mr Skripal whether the information would be used for the BBC ahead of the book being published. The relevant information gained from these interviews informed Newsnight’s coverage during the early days after the poisoning. Mr Urban reported his meetings with Mr Skripal on BBC Newsnight once the details of the book were made public in keeping with the understood terms of the interview. Mark Urban’s line managers were aware last year that he was working on a book and more specifically from 5th March this year that this work had included interviews with Mr Skripal.

I hope these details help clarify the situation.

Please note that all future journalistic enquiries should be made through the BBC Press Office ([email protected]).

Thank you for your enquiry.

Best wishes
Matt

Matt Hunter – Publicist
BBC News & Current Affairs

——–

From: craig murray [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 29 August 2018 14:23
To: Matthew Hunter; Mark Urban
Subject: RE: BBC Newsnight

Dear Mr Hunter,

Thank you for your email. This is an important matter, which interests a great many people, as I am sure you are aware, and which has caused some damage to the reputation of the BBC.

You state that ” Some of the information you’ve requested we are not obliged to share as it is held for purposes of journalism”. My questions were not couched as an FOI request so that is a redundant provision, even if your broad interpretation of the FOIA were correct, which I dispute.

Your email then proceeds on the basis that you should not reveal anything unless you are legally obliged to do so. That seems a very strange stance for a public broadcast body to take. Whether or not you are legally obliged to do so, can I ask you to give the answer to these questions to Mr Urban, or in each case an explanation for why you refuse to give an answer voluntarily, even if legally unobliged.

What is at stake here is the BBC’s reputation for open and honest reporting, and this particular case has done a great deal to increase public distrust in the BBC. All of these are fair and relevant questions which have simple answers. Kindly address them individually.

My questions to Mark Urban:

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 your response,

Craig Murray

———-

From: Matthew Hunter
Sent: 29 August 2018 15:09
To: ‘craig murray’
Subject: RE: BBC Newsnight

I’m afraid we have no further comment beyond the statement provided earlier.

Many thanks,
Matt

———–

From: craig murray
Sent: 29 August 2018 18:22
To: Matthew Hunter
Subject: RE: BBC Newsnight

Oh, so it was a “statement” rather than a reply to my questions.

May I ask you who drafted the statement, who approved it, and who was consulted on it? The statement, incidentally, does not constitute journalism, so you do have a legal obligation to answer those questions.

Craig

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Facebook Censorship, Mad Ben Nimmo and the Atlantic Council

Facebook has deleted all of my posts from July 2017 to last week because I am, apparently, a Russian Bot. For a while I could not add any new posts either, but we recently found a way around that, at least for now. To those of you tempted to say “So what?”, I would point out that over two thirds of visitors to my website arrive via my posting of the articles to Facebook and Twitter. Social media outlets like this blog, which offer an alternative to MSM propaganda, are hugely at the mercy of these corporate gatekeepers.

Facebook’s plunge into censorship is completely open and admitted, as is the fact it is operated for Facebook by the Atlantic Council – the extreme neo-con group part funded by NATO and whose board includes serial war criminal Henry Kissinger, Former CIA Heads Michael Hayden and Michael Morrell, and George Bush’s chief of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, among a whole list of horrors.

The staff are worse than the Board. Their lead expert on Russian bot detection is an obsessed nutter named Ben Nimmo, whose fragile grip on reality has been completely broken by his elevation to be the internet’s Witchfinder-General. Nimmo, grandly titled “Senior Fellow for Information Defense at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab”, is the go-to man for Establishment rubbishing of citizen journalists, and as with Joseph McCarthy or Matthew Clarke, one day society will sufficiently recover its balance for it to be generally acknowledged that this kind of witch-hunt nonsense was not just an aberration, but a manifestation of the evil it claimed to fight.

There is no Establishment cause Nimmo will not aid by labeling its opponents as Bots. This from the Herald newspaper two days ago, where Nimmo uncovers the secret web of Scottish Nationalist bots that dominate the internet, and had the temerity to question the stitch-up of Alex Salmond.

Nimmo’s proof? 2,000 people had used the hashtag #Dissolvetheunion on a total of 10,000 tweets in a week. That’s five tweets per person on average. In a week. Obviously a massive bot-plot, eh?

When Ben’s great expose for the Herald was met with widespread ridicule, he doubled down on it by producing his evidence – a list of the top ten bots he had uncovered in this research. Except that they are almost all, to my certain knowledge, not bots but people. But do not decry Ben’s fantastic forensic skills, for which NATO and the CIA fund the Atlantic Council. Ben’s number one suspect was definitely a bot. He had got the evil kingpin. He had seen through its identity despite its cunning disguise. That disguise included its name, IsthisAB0T, and its profile, where it called itself a bot for retweets on Independence. Thank goodness for Ben Nimmo, or nobody would ever have seen through that evil, presumably Kremlin-hatched, plan.

No wonder the Atlantic Council advertise Nimmo and his team as “Digital Sherlocks

Nimmo’s track record is simply appalling. In this report for the Atlantic Council website, he falsely identified British pensioner @Ian56789 as a “Russian troll farm”, which led to Ian being named as such by the British government, and to perhaps the most surreal Sky News interview of all time. Perhaps still more remarkably, Nimmo searches for use of the phrase “cui bono?” in reference to the Skripal and fake Douma chemical weapons attacks. Nimmo characterises use of the phrase cui bono as evidence of pro-Assad and pro-Kremlin bots and trolls – he really does. Most people would think to consider cui bono indicates a smattering more commonsense than Nimmo himself displays.

It is at least obvious cui bono from Nimmo’s witchfinding – the capacious, NATO and CIA stuffed pockets of Ben Nimmo himself. That Facebook allows this utterly discredited neo-conservative charlatan the run of its censorship operations needs, given Facebook’s pivotal role in social media intercourse, to concern everybody. The freedom of the internet is under fundamental attack.

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Skripals – When the BBC Hide the Truth

On 8 July 2018 a lady named Kirsty Eccles asked what, in its enormous ramifications, historians may one day see as the most important Freedom of Information request ever made. The rest of this post requires extremely close and careful reading, and some thought, for you to understand that claim.

Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

1: Why did BBC Newsnight correspondent Mark Urban keep secret from the licence payers that he had been having meetings with Sergei Skripal only last summer.

2: When did the BBC know this?

3: Please provide me with copies of all correspondence between yourselves and Mark Urban on the subject of Sergei Skripal.

Yours faithfully,

Kirsty Eccles

The ramifications of this little request are enormous as they cut right to the heart of the ramping up of the new Cold War, of the BBC’s propaganda collusion with the security services to that end, and of the concoction of fraudulent evidence in the Steele “dirty dossier”. This also of course casts a strong light on more plausible motives for an attack on the Skripals.

Which is why the BBC point blank refused to answer Kirsty’s request, stating that it was subject to the Freedom of Information exemption for “Journalism”.

10th July 2018
Dear Ms Eccles
Freedom of Information request – RFI20181319
Thank you for your request to the BBC of 8th July 2018, seeking the following information under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000:
1: Why did BBC Newsnight correspondent Mark Urban keep secret from the licence payers that he
had been having meetings with Sergei Skripal only last summer.
2: When did the BBC know this?
3: Please provide me with copies of all correspondence between yourselves and Mark Urban on the
subject of Sergei Skripal.
The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of
‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you. Part VI
of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters
is only covered by the Act if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature”. The
BBC is not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or
information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.

The BBC is of course being entirely tendentious here – “journalism” does not include the deliberate suppression of vital information from the public, particularly in order to facilitate the propagation of fake news on behalf of the security services. That black propaganda is precisely what the BBC is knowingly engaged in, and here trying hard to hide.

I have today attempted to contact Mark Urban at Newsnight by phone, with no success, and sent him this email:

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

I should very much welcome others also sending emails to Mark Urban to emphasise the public demand for an answer from the BBC to these vital questions. If you have time, write your own email, or if not copy and paste from mine.

To quote that great Scot John Paul Jones, “We have not yet begun to fight”.

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A Short Article Not Mentioning Alex Salmond

An Ambassador is evidently not as important as a Scottish First Minister, but there is one interesting similarity. You get to live in a palatial Residence at public expense, and you host numerous social events there, from intimate lunches to grand dinners to receptions for many hundred people. Indeed as a diplomat you do this throughout your career – as an Ambassador, Deputy High Commissioner, First Secretary and even Second Secretary I hosted many scores of such events in my home, and in every case was supported by office and domestic staff who worked under me, both British and local.

The strange thing is that, despite the fact I generally had extremely friendly relationships with those I managed, out of the dozens of women, many young, who assisted me over the years on such occasions, I am absolutely certain that every single one of them would have point blank refused had I asked them upstairs to my bedroom after the event. Some would have refused humorously, some would have told me to F*** Off, some might have suggested I was drunk. But not one would have conceivably said yes. Not office staff, not domestic staff. Not from any of the very different cultures concerned – British, Nigerian, Polish, Ghanaian, Uzbek. And if I had “instructed” any of them to lie down on the bed, the reaction of all of them would certainly have switched from humour to “F… Off”.

Which is as it should be.

The position of a senior British diplomat to a Ghanaian member of their domestic staff is possibly one of even greater power and authority compared to that of a Scottish First Minister to any Scottish government sector employee. Simple authority cannot compel compliance with such obviously unorthodox instruction.

I do however recall an occasion when I invited a young woman, not working for me in any sense, to my hotel bedroom after an event in Lodz, Poland. We both understood what an invitation to a bedroom that late at night meant, and as soon as we closed the door behind us I kissed her, passionately, which she welcomed. I did not ask her permission beforehand, indeed there was no prior verbal exchange at all about the possibility of a physical relationship developing. That is not in the least unusual in human relationships, and I despise the drive to make such matters coldly transactional. In that particular instance, for example, we remain friends 25 years on.

Not one of us would be able effectively to clear our names against allegations made years after the event, of an incident which allegedly occurred with no independent witnesses. As outsiders, we can only refer to our own experience to judge the likelihood of the tale which is told. For reasons explained in the first paragraph, I happen to have experience of the peculiar circumstance of hosting large public events in my own home with the assistance of public sector staff who worked for me. Few of you reading this will have analogous experience, as it is an unusual position to be in.

And I smell horseshit.

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Time to End Cheap Flights

African cities generally use less electricity than their European equivalents, as people own fewer appliances and have greater need for thrift. Jet engines are essentially the same as turbines used for electricity generation, and the engines on a single jumbo would power a small African city had they generators attached. Remember that next time you fly.

Worldwide aviation emissions pump slightly more pollution into the atmosphere than the entire United Kingdom economy, and aviation emissions continue relentlessly to increase year after year. Air transport is simply far too cheap for the damage it causes and the resources it consumes. You cannot cause more damage to the Earth’s atmosphere with £30 worth of resources, than by buying a £30 Ryanair ticket to Barcelona. If you spend that £30 on fuel for your diesel car, or on coal and burn it in your garden, you will not come close to the damage caused by your share of emissions on that Ryanair flight.

The fundamental reason air travel has expanded to be so harmful is the international understanding that tax and duty is not charged on aviation fuel – unlike vehicle, train or maritime fuel. Even citizens of Saudi Arabia or Venezuela no longer can access fuel as cheaply as you do in effect when you fly.

The notion that it is impossible to tax aviation fuel, as a plane could fly off and fill up elsewhere, is nonsense. There would be a cost to that flight scheduling, and in any event countries could tax planes on untaxed fuel landed in their fuel tanks, not to mention the scope for international agreement on enforcing fuel levies.

The fact that aviation fuel is not taxed is indeed not the sole reason why it is, ludicrously, cheaper for me to fly from Edinburgh to Bristol or London than get the extremely more fuel-efficient train – for which fuel is taxed. The farce and greed of rail privatisation is also a large part of it. But the fuel tax question undoubtedly is a very major factor, and the sole reason you can fly to Barcelona for £30.

The question has become mixed with notions of democratisation of leisure. This should be tackled head on. There is no human right to go by air and have a sun soaked holiday on the Med dirt cheap. The Earth cannot afford to indulge the pollution caused by massive air tourism. The unpopularity of saying this means that few people in politics ever do, but it is nonetheless true. In view of climate change, for the public to expect Ryanair fare levels is obscene.

Mass air travel for leisure needs to be stopped. Maritime, rail and other more eco-friendly means of international communication need to be encouraged. As mankind has not even the political will to tackle these most straightforward of measures on climate change, I really do begin to despair for the future.

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When They Decide to Get You

Alex Salmond’s jeopardy has caused me a dreadful shudder of recognition and empathy. I too was accused of hideous offences under a civil service disciplinary code and barred from taking any action to defend myself. I was not allowed to speak to anybody at all about the charges, and particularly not allowed to know the identity of my accusers, or to organise witnesses in my defence – which appears the exact procedure which Alex Salmond now, with absolute justice, complains of. These Civil Service disciplinary investigations are contrary to all rules of natural justice, and designed to facilitate executive stitch-ups, not to uncover the truth.

As with Alex Salmond, some of the accusations against me were hideous – offering visas in exchange for sex, for example. They were so hideous that the mental anguish of not being permitted to take any normal steps to defend myself caused me a mental breakdown. I know what Salmond must be feeling. I received psychiatric treatment in St Thomas’ Hospital for a condition called “learnt helplessness” – meaning it was the dreadful experience of having things done to me which I was not permitted to take any normal steps to counter, which caused my clinical depression.

The charges against me were entirely fake and entirely vexatious, even malicious, issued after I had objected to British complicity in torture in the “War on Terror”, which the government denied at the time, calling me a liar, though now admits. The charges were designed to destroy my reputation. You can read the full story in my book “Murder in Samarkand”, widely available in libraries. I believe it conveys the anguish that “learnt helplessness” can cause.

To be plain, I was told not to reveal the existence of the charges to anybody at all and specifically forbidden from contacting witnesses. Nevertheless the charges were such obvious nonsense they eventually collapsed and I was found not guilty of all eighteen charges – but found guilty of breaking the order to keep the charges secret, in organising my defence. Not keeping the charges secret is the only disciplinary offence of which I was ever convicted.

The extreme Kafkaesque nature of this is only increased by the fact that the government themselves had revealed the charges in the widest possible manner, by leaking them to the Daily Mail, in the effort to permanently ruin my reputation. A number of the charges were sexual, such as having a secret flat to entertain prostitutes – again, totally untrue, but great for the tabloids. The use of false sexual allegations to destroy threats to the political elite is routinely deployed – Alex Salmond joins Julian Assange, Tommy Sheridan (whose recent court victories against the Murdoch press went totally unreported), Scott Ritter and myself among recent victims of this tactic.

There is one important difference between Alex Salmond’s case and my own – I requested several times that my case be referred for police investigation but the FCO refused, whereas the Salmond allegations have been referred. The case of Michelle Thomson, the entirely innocent former MP whose career was deliberately destroyed by Police Scotland keeping an investigation open for years into simple matters that could have been cleared up in a week, makes this a limited comfort. I don’t doubt we will see years of this nonsense against Salmond before it is finally dismissed.

“Safe” members of the establishment elite can conduct the most blatant of crimes and never get prosecuted at all. The late Tessa Jowell engaged repeatedly and personally in blatant money laundering of crooked Berlusconi funds that would have had anyone but a senior politician locked up. Amber Rudd was a Director of a share ramping scheme that ripped off hundreds of investors. Michelle Mone is currently engaged in a Ponzi scheme badly disguised as a crypto-currency. None of those will be prosecuted.

I would suggest that the financial affairs of the vast majority of the wealthy and powerful would not stand up to close investigation and scrutiny. But in the normal course of events the powerful are shielded from such scrutiny. Paul Manafort’s financial dealings would have been actionable at any time in the last few decades. It is only when caught in the mass fishing expedition of the Mueller “Russiagate” investigation that he gets convicted – for matters nothing to do with the ostensible reason for the investigation. Which is not to say the convictions are a bad thing, just that if you scratch below the surface of any multi-millionaire or any friend of the powerful, you will be able to convict them. They should all be scratched, not just those whom other wealthy individuals regard as a threat to the political order.

Prosecution is not happening in the Manafort case from motives of preventing financial impropriety of the rich – 99.9% of that is overlooked, all the time. It is happening because for some reason the neo-conservative Establishment in the United States continue to see Donald Trump as a threat. What I do not understand is why they see Trump as a threat to Establishment interests, as he has given no indication he means to follow through on any of his anti-establishment or non-interventionist campaign rhetoric. The Establishment are not those who should feel threatened by Trump.

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A Gangster State

Max Weber defined a key attribute of a state as holding the monopoly on the legitimate exercise of violence within a given territory. For anybody other than the state to use substantive physical force against you or to imprison you is regarded as an extremely serious crime. The state itself may however constrain you, beat you, imprison you and even kill you. That link is on deaths in police custody. I might also quote the state murder of 12 year old British child Jojo Jones, deliberately executed by drone strike by the USA with prior approval from the British government.

That is but one example of the British state’s decreasing reticence over the use of extreme violence. The shameless promotion of Cressida Dick to head the Metropolitan Police as reward for orchestrating the cold-blooded murder of an innocent and unresisting Jean Charles de Menezes is another example. So is Savid Javid’s positive encouragement of the US to employ the death penalty against British men stripped of citizenship.

There are a class of states where the central government does not have sufficient control over its territories to preserve its monopoly of violence. That may include violence in opposition to the state. But one further aspect of that is state sanctioned violence in pursuit of state aims by non state actors, done with a nod and a wink from the government – death squads and private militias, often CIA supplied, in South America have often acted this way, and so occasionally does the British state, for example in the murder of Pat Finucane. In some instances, a state might properly be described as a gangster state, where violent groups acting for personal gain act in concert with state authorities, with motives of personal financial profit involved on both sides.

It appears to me in this sense it is fair to call Britain a gangster state. It has contracted out the exercise of state violence, including in some instances to the point of death, against prisoners and immigration detainees to companies including G4S, who exercise that violence purely for the making of profit from it. It is a great moral abomination that violence should be exercised against humans for profit – and it should be clear that in even in most “humane” conditions the deprivation of physical liberty of any person is an extreme and chronic exercise of violence against them. I do not deny the necessity of such action on occasion to protect others, but that the state shares out its monopoly of violence, so that business interests with which the political class are closely associated can turn a profit, is a matter of extreme moral repugnance.

Rory Stewart appeared on Sky News this morning and the very first point he saw fit to make was a piece of impassioned shilling on behalf of G4S. That this was the first reaction of the Prisons Minister to a question on the collapse of order at Birmingham Prison due to G4S’ abject performance, shows both the Tories’ ideological commitment to privatisation in all circumstances, especially where it has demonstrably failed, and shows also the extent to which they are in the pockets of financial interests – and not in the least concerned about the public interest.

I should add to this that Tories here includes Blairites. Blair and Brown were gung-ho for prison privatisation, and even keen to extend the contracting out of state violence for profit to the military sector by the deployment of mercenary soldiers, which New Labour itself consciously rebranded as “private military companies”. Iraq was a major exercise in this with British government contracted mercenaries often outnumbering actual British troops.

The reason for the state to have the monopoly of violence in any society is supposed to be in order to ensure that violence is only ever exercised with caution, with regret and in proportion, solely in unavoidable circumstances. It is the most profound duty of a state to ensure that this is so. The contracting out of state violence for private profit ought to be unthinkable to any decent person.

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The Ubiquity of Evil 4211

My world view changed forever when, after 20 years in the Foreign Office, I saw colleagues I knew and liked go along with Britain’s complicity in the most terrible tortures, as detailed stunningly in the recent Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee Report. They also went along with keeping the policy secret, deliberately disregarding all normal record taking procedures, to the extent that the Committee noted:

131. We note that we have not seen the minutes of these meetings either: this causes us great concern. Policy discussions on such an important issue should have been minuted. We support Mr Murray’s own conclusion that were it not for his actions these matters may never have come to light.

The people doing these things were not ordinarily bad people; they were just trying to keep their jobs, comforting themselves with the thought that they were only civil servants obeying orders. Many were also actuated by the nasty “patriotism” that grips in time of war, as we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost nobody in the FCO stood up against the torture or against the illegal war – Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Carne Ross and I were the only ones to leave over it.

I then had the still more mortifying experience of the Foreign Office seeking to punish my dissent by bringing a series of accusations of gross misconduct – some of them criminal – against me. The people bringing the accusations knew full well they were false. The people investigating them knew they were false from about day 2. But I was put through a hellish six months of trial by media before being acquitted on all the original counts (found guilty of revealing the charges, whose existence was an official secret!). The people who did this to me were people I knew.

I had served as First Secretary in the British Embassy in Poland, and bumped up startlingly against the history of the Holocaust in that time, including through involvement with organising the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. What had struck me most forcibly was the sheer scale of the Holocaust operation, the tens of thousands of people who had been complicit in administering it. I could never understand how that could happen – until I saw ordinary, decent people in the FCO facilitate extraordinary rendition and torture. Then I understood, for the first time, the banality of evil or, perhaps more precisely, the ubiquity of evil. Of course, I am not comparing the scale of what happened to the Holocaust – but evil can operate on different scales.

I believe I see it again today. I do not believe that the majority of journalists in the BBC, who pump out a continual stream of “Corbyn is an anti-semite” propaganda, believe in their hearts that Corbyn is a racist at all. They are just doing their job, which is to help the BBC avert the prospect of a radical government in the UK threatening the massive wealth share of the global elite. They would argue that they are just reporting what others say; but it is of course the selection of what they report and how they report it which reflect their agenda.

The truth, of which I am certain, is this. If there genuinely was the claimed existential threat to Jews in Britain, of the type which engulfed Europe’s Jews in the 1930’s, Jeremy Corbyn, Billy Bragg, Roger Waters and I may humbly add myself would be among the few who would die alongside them on the barricades, resisting. Yet these are today loudly called “anti-semites” for supporting the right to oppose the oppression of the Palestinians. The journalists currently promoting those accusations, if it came to the crunch, would be polishing state propaganda and the civil servants writing railway dockets. That is how it works. I have seen it. Close up.

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Not Content with Constant Anti-Scottish Output, the BBC is Extending its Reach to Anti-Scottish Censorship.

The BBC’s success in taking down Wings Over Scotland’s YouTube channel – and Youtube’s complacent compliance with the BBC instruction – has a very dodgy foundation in law. Excerpts of copyright material may be published for purposes of “criticism, review or quotation” provided the source is acknowledged. As Wings would only use BBC material for review and criticism – they are hardly repeating it as great news reporting – the BBC’s copyright infringement claim is at best very dubious.

More to the point, this despicable infringement on freedom of speech is appalling behaviour for a state broadcaster. Removal of criticism is the BBC’s only purpose here. The BBC is not protecting a state asset – the old news clips in question have zero commercial value; Wings was not republishing episodes of Dr Who.

Not content with constant anti-Scottish output, the BBC is extending its reach to anti-Scottish censorship.

If you have not yet seen it, I do urge you to watch this eye-opening, indeed breathtaking, documentary on the BBC’s fake news output in the Scottish referendum campaign. The strange colour toning in the BBC excerpts were in fact an additional defence against a copyright claim. Watch it now in case the BBC and YouTube take this one down too.

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Liberal Comfort Blankets

Carole Cadwalladr posted a nonsensical tweet today showing the swing of opinion from Remain to Leave during the EU referendum campaign and claiming this as evidence that the Leave advertising worked.

This is a ludicrously childish assumption of cause and effect by Cadwalladr. Consider this graph showing the even more spectacular leap of support by Labour during the 2017 general election campaign. Yet the Tories vastly outspent Labour on advertising.

Then look at this graph of the Scottish Independence Referendum, where again No outspent Yes on advertising but opinion swung the other way.

Carole Cadwalladr has done excellent work on the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data sales scandals, revealing dark doings that needed to be exposed. But the claim that advertising spending has a decisive effect on polling intentions is very dodgy indeed. In fact, looking at the examples of the Scottish Referendum and General Election, using the Cadwalladr induction method you would conclude that advertising spending is counter-productive.

But Cadwalladr’s foolish tweet today is more than an attempt to enhance the importance of the research of Carole Cadwalladr. It is part of a continuing effort by the liberal elite to find simplistic reasons why their views were rejected by a major section of the general populace in two seismic political events – Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump. The elite are seeking to comfort themselves with the idea that happenings of very marginal significance – Cambridge Analytica’s audience research, or 13 Russians allegedly trying to hack unspecified info – were in fact massive factors that explain the electorate’s “deplorable” behaviour.

For what it is worth – and perhaps it is not worth much, though it is worth more than Cadwalladr’s logical fallacy – my own view is that hatred of the political class, by a population which has come to realise it is exploited, was a major factor.

In the Brexit referendum, Remain made the fatal mistake of being fronted by detested politicians – Nick Clegg, Will and Jack Straw, George Osborne, Tony Blair. The chance to kick these people proved irresistible. Similarly Hillary was the most detested machine candidate the Democrats had available. By contrast, while the “authentic” personas of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage may be fake, they were well placed to tap into the anti-politician mood.

This also explains why Remain did much better in Scotland, where it was headed by the SNP’s far less detested politicians who are themselves regarded as anti the UK establishment

Finally, the key factor that unites all the three opinion poll charts above – General Election, Brexit and Scottish Indyref – is that opinion swings very fast indeed inside the period of broadcasting restrictions, when broadcasters have to give at least a semblance of fair time to the view which the Establishment generally derides. Unlike the advertising explanation, which works in only one out of three cases, the hypothesis that broadcasting restrictions redressing establishment bias is the most important factor, would appear to work very well in all three cases.

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Wow! Did We Really Just Do That?

The Levellers Play Doune the Rabbit Hole

I find it hard to get my head round the fact that this is the little festival Jamie started nine years ago with a group of his schoolfriends and the money from an endowment life insurance I took out for him the day he was born. 2018 was the year Doune the Rabbit Hole finally attained critical mass, and everything went right.

As the years go by, I have become more rather than less involved in helping run the show. I also have got older. I find that I am still capable of working like crazy for the week before and during the festival and averaging only three hours sleep a night for seven days. But what I can no longer do is recover easily from it. I have effectively been out of action for the last ten days, having come down with a sore throat and cough on the Festival’s last evening that simply will not go away, coupled with exhaustion. It is a hard thing to admit we are past our physical prime and on the slope towards extinction, but there we are.

I know some readers resent my taking time off from blogging to run music festivals, because some readers write and tell me so, but I am afraid it is an important part of what keeps me going, and while I am extremely grateful indeed to those who pay subscriptions to keep the blog active, it does not purchase any part of my life. Regular readers will recall that finally in December I got paid years of arrears for work done in Ghana. Well, I quixotically invested much of this – a six figure sum – to keep the Doune the Rabbit Hole and Eden Festivals going, both of which share the philosophy of being non-commercial with no sponsorship, no advertising and no rip-off pricing, and both of which were in danger of going under. largely due to 2017’s appalling weather.

Amazingly, the Scotsman got precisely what we are trying to do, in a four star review of DTRH 2018:

The atmosphere was, as ever, bohemian and laid-back, probably more akin to the free festivals of the 1970s than the corporately sponsored affairs which draw large audiences nowadays.

While this review from eFestivals picked up on an atmosphere which precisely matches my description before the Festival of why it is important to me and why I find renewal there (and no, I don’t know the author):

The reviews from people who just went along to enjoy have a similar vibe:

As a seasoned festival veteran (albeit I had not been at one since 2005) I have to say that I was totally blown away by this festival due to the intimacy of it all. Far removed from the commercialisation of big festivals, this was right down to earth, you could freely chat to most of the bands and it was easy to get up the front of crowd without having to maintain your position for the entire day!
The vibe was nice and friendly and as the festival goers were there to see the music rather than want the kudos of a Glastonbury Facebook check-in it was a lovely atmosphere…But, there is so much more to this event than simply the music. The boys (8 and 10) had a ball in the kids area, the free deckchairs that were scattered about sporadically were a marketing masterstroke and the bar sold a nice selection of cold local ales. (Added to this the free drinks for the children – a lovely touch)
We sang, we danced, we chilled. I even took in part of the World Cup final with the Levellers! What a memory that will remain. (again to highlight the intimacy of the event, the bands generally mingled with their fans rather than being penned in to a huge backstage commune far from the madding crowd)…
The support of local bands, up and coming bands and the sheer variation on offer meant it was a brilliant weekend loved by us all and we cannot wait to return in 2019. It was a triumph and I thank the organisers for a great show in a beautiful setting.

Doune the rabbit hole is an experience I would recommend to everyone.
What a fantastic weekend! Never have I seen so many happy people!
A super family friendly atmosphere. There’s lots for the kids to do. There’s showers if you don’t mind paying a little. Lots of space to lay about in the sun and relax.
The music was amazing, you are guaranteed to be dancing all weekend. There’s something for everyone.
The estate is beautiful too, so many trees to lay under or lounge around in deckchair.
I had such a brilliant weekend!

First time at this festival and it was absolutely brilliant. The toilets were always clean and never without toilet roll or hand sanitizer! the variety of seating available in the main arena was unlike any other festival I’ve been to. Great variety of music and alcohol available as well as food. Absolutely loved Pyroceltica and loved the night time camp fire. Fantastic atmosphere, everyone seemed friendly and it was a wonderful festival suited to all ages. I can’t wait to go back again next year!

My first time at DTRH and I was only there for the Sunday. I had a fabulous time though. Love that dogs and kids are welcome, love all the fun stuff laid out to entertain kids – and mostly for free. We took our son to Belladrum last year and everything cost extra money once you were in there so it was lovely to see it was only face painting and hugging an alpaca that cost here. I saw lots of very different bands and loved several of them. Lovely laid back vibe around the place, nice size of arena for the number of people. Hope to come back, with my son, in future

Felt like one big happy family in a field for the weekend. Great mix of music. Young & older, shoulder to shoulder sharing unforgettable festival experiences. Perfect introduction to festival life for our young daughter who had a whale of a time. Doune the Rabbithole put a lot of effort & imagination into the weekend resulting in a laid-back, thoroughly enjoyable time. An absolute treat of a wee festival

First time at DTRH which is surprising as live right next to site ! How to describe this wonderful little festival .. . Well as a late 30s gent who gave up my festival going after some fairly poor experiences at other events ( and a belief that I was getting on a bit and passed it ) my love of getting away from it all and listening to some good music is restored ! Doune is a family friendly ( and dogs so many lovely mannered four legged friends ! ) festival small in size but jam packed with character. From Friday to the Sunday night the stages offered something for every music taste or opportunity to create your own jam in one of the many tents dotted around the site where you could sit relax or get your groove on. Hammocks filled with giggling children or glorious deck chairs were a fantastic addition and offered somewhere to watch the unique and interesting characters that passed by or to fill bellies with the awesome food on offer notably the haggis man truck and gastro gorillaz ( seriously this was one of the best meals I’ve had at a festival ! ). We spent the majority of time between the campsite and main arena easily within walking distance and drama free throughout the weekend. The behavior of all in attendance was as chilled as the atmosphere. Never had an issue or witnessed anything concerning or that would have ruined your weekend ( and the toilets weren’t awful either ! ) In short will be back and highly recommend anyone who loves the festival atmosphere of old but without the drama to attend as you’ll definitely find something at DTRH that will bring back those memories of how good it used to be and can apparently be again ! Great job

There are many more, but I trust that it comes across that this event is about the people and the way they interact socially – in a “pop-up society” that is kinder than our normal one – and thus it gives a glimpse of society’s potential. This year it felt like we succeeded in doing precisely what we set out to do. I am extremely grateful to the readers of this blog who came along to work as volunteers with me in the bar or elsewhere, or just to take part in the festival – I was approached by scores of people including from Moscow, Warsaw and Berlin! Happily everyone seemed to “get” that it was about lifestyle not about political analysis.

I should love to be able to tell you that bands react to the non-commercial nature of the festival by charging us less than their full commercial rates, but sadly that would be untrue, and the artists always hide behind their agents. Supporting musical talent is of course a key aim, but I have to confess I worry sometimes that we have people working many hours – often weeks – for love of it, while some chap turns up, strums a guitar for 45 minutes and walks away with thousands of pounds. But I suppose that is the nature of talent. On the positive side, they do almost all react by chilling out and joining in with everyone else when not performing.

So, for those wondering why articles are few and far between lately, there is your answer. I continue to live a very full and varied life. I just need to pace it a little better!

.

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The Silence of the Whores 856

The mainstream media are making almost no effort today to fit Charlie Rowley’s account of his poisoning into the already ludicrous conspiracy theory being peddled by the government and intelligence agencies.

ITV News gamely inserted the phrase “poisoned by a Russian nerve agent” into their exclusive interview with Charlie Rowley, an interview in which they managed to ask no penetrating questions whatsoever, and of which they only broadcast heavily edited parts. Their own website contains this comment by their journalist Rupert Evelyn:

He said it was unopened, the box it was in was sealed, and that they had to use a knife in order to cut through it.

“That raises the question: if it wasn’t used, is this the only Novichok that exists in this city? And was it the same Novichok used to attack Sergei and Yulia Skripal?

But the information about opening the packet with a knife is not in the linked interview. What Rowley does say in the interview is that the box was still sealed in its cellophane. Presumably it was the cellophane he slit open with a knife.

So how can this fit in to the official government account? Presumably the claim is that Russian agents secretly visited the Skripal house, sprayed novichok on the door handle from this perfume bottle, and then, at an unknown location, disassembled the nozzle from the bottle (Mr Rowley said he had to insert it), then repackaged and re-cellophaned the bottle prior to simply leaving it to be discovered somewhere – presumably somewhere indoors as it still looked new – by Mr Rowley four months later. However it had not been found by anyone else in the interim four months of police, military and security service search.

Frankly, the case for this being the bottle allegedly used to coat the Skripals’ door handle looks wildly improbable. But then the entire government story already looked wildly improbable anyway – to the extent that I literally do not know a single person, even among my more right wing family and friends, who believes it. The reaction of the media, who had shamelessly been promoting the entirely evidence free “the Russians did it” narrative, to Mr Rowley’s extremely awkward piece of news has been to shove it as far as possible down the news agenda and make no real effort to reconcile it.

By his own account, Mr Rowley is not a reliable witness, his memory affected by the “Novichok”. It is not unreasonable to conjecture there may also be other reasons why he is vague about where and how he came into possession of this package of perfume.

The perfume bottle is now in the hands of the Police. Is it not rather strange that they have not published photos of it, to see if it jogs the memory of a member of the public who saw it somewhere in the last four months, or saw somebody with it? The “perpetrators” know what it looks like and already know the police have it, so that would not give away any dangerous information. You might believe the lockdown of the story and control of the narrative is more important to the authorities than solving the crime, which we should not forget is now murder.

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Detente Bad, Cold War Good

The entire “liberal” media and political establishment of the Western world reveals its militarist, authoritarian soul today with the screaming and hysterical attacks on the very prospect of detente with Russia. Peace apparently is a terrible thing; a renewed arms race, with quite literally trillions of dollars pumped into the military industrial complex and hundreds of thousands dying in proxy wars, is apparently the “liberal” stance.

Political memories are short, but just 15 years after Iraq was destroyed and the chain reaction sent most of the Arab world back to the dark ages, it is now “treason” to question the word of the Western intelligence agencies, which deliberately and knowingly produced a fabric of lies on Iraqi WMD to justify that destruction.

It would be more rational for it to be treason for leaders to blindly accept the word of the intelligence services.

This is especially true on “Russia hacking the election” when, after three years of crazed accusations and millions of man hours by lawyers and CIA and FBI investigators, they are yet to produce any substantive evidence of accusations which are plainly nuts in the first place. This ridiculous circus has found a few facebook ads and indicted one Russian for every 100,000 man hours worked, for unspecified or minor actions which had no possible bearing on the election result.

There are in fact genuine acts of election rigging to investigate. In particular, the multiple actions of the DNC and Democratic Party establishment to rig the Primary against Bernie Sanders do have some very real documentary evidence to substantiate them, and that evidence is even public. Yet those real acts of election rigging are ignored and instead the huge investigation is focused on catching those who revealed Hillary’s election rigging. This gets even more absurd – the investigation then quite deliberately does not focus on catching whoever leaked Hillary’s election rigging, but instead seeks to prove that the Russians hacked Hillary’s election-rigging, which I can assure you they did not. Meanwhile, those of us who might help them with the truth if they were actually interested, are not questioned at all.

The Russophobic witch hunt has its first real life victim in 29 year old Maria Butina, whose life is to be destroyed for chatting up members of the NRA in order to increase Russian influence. With over 20 years of diplomatic experience, I can tell you that every country, including the UK and US, has bit part players of its own nationals who self-start in a country to make their way, and if they gain any traction are tapped by their national security service as potential “agents of influence”. I could name quite literally scores of such people, but have no desire to get anyone in trouble. The elevation of Butina into a huge threat and part of a gigantic plot, is to ignore the way the United States and the United Kingdom and indeed all major governments’ Embassies behave around the globe.

The war-hawks who were devastated by the loss of champion killer Hillary now see the prospect of their very worst fear coming true. Their very worst fear is the outbreak of peace and international treaties of arms control. Hence the media and political establishment today has reached peaks of hysteria never before seen. Pursuing peace is “treason” and the faux left now stand starkly exposed.

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