craig


It’s Super Bernie Day

I retain the belief that the motivations of Bernie Sanders’ voters – a fair society with decent pay, healthcare, working conditions, immigration justice and the ultra wealthy paying their share – will not be affected today by the massive media hype of the right wingers coalescing around the corrupt and inept Joe Biden. I therefore expect that in 24 hours Bernie will be well down the path to becoming the Democratic nominee.

I should like to believe that the leaked DNC emails of four years ago will yet have a vital effect. By exposing the way Hillary and the DNC rigged the primaries and cheated Bernie out of the nomination last time, they have already made people far more alert for procedural cheating this time. That background will also make it far tougher for the right to mobilise unelected superdelegates to undemocratically prevent Bernie from getting the nomination. It is not a good look to cheat him again. If people did not know about the hidden cheating last time, fixing the Convention would be a simpler sell.

I maintain the hope that the novel coronavirus will prove less virulent and less potent than generally feared. If I am wrong, the USA will shortly experience the massive difference in ability to control an epidemic when ordinary people are not covered by an adequate public health service. Similarly, we in the UK will understand that the Tory policy of running the NHS at 99% capacity as a norm is ridiculously improvident; the expense of carrying a substantial spare capacity for emergencies ought to be part of any decent planning, a principle which has been scandalously neglected.

Here is an interesting irony for you. Almost everybody on the left in the UK, and certainly anybody who has expressed the slightest concern at the appalling repression of the Palestinian people, has been slurred and falsely abused as an anti-semite these past four years. Yet every friend of mine who has been falsely slurred as an anti-semite is, like me, rooting strongly for Bernie Sanders to become the first Jewish President of the United States. Meanwhile the Guardian, which in the UK has led the charge against the left with an average of over 8 articles a week in 2019 accusing left wing figures or the left in general of anti-semitism, is pulling out all the stops to prevent Bernie becoming the first Jewish President of the United States.

The Guardian has rebranded as Joe Biden News. When Kath Viner became Editor it targeted the Clintonite identity politics right for its much needed online revenue increase. Last night its US Politics livestream ran 16 straight items gushing about Joe Biden, his rallies and his endorsements from Buttigeig, Klobuchar and a stream of other irrelevant right wing figures.

Today’s Guardian Online Front Page: The Guardian is Rebranding as Joe Biden News

I am personally pleased that the right has finally settled on the hopeless Biden as its standard bearer. I wonder if we will now be allowed to ask why Burisma paid Hunter Biden $850,000 to be non-executive director of a Ukrainian gas company which he never even visited? It is a fine example of the complete departure of rationality from political life that, even when appalling corruption is laced with geopolitical implications touching on issues of war and peace, you are not allowed to point out the stinking mess without being labeled as a supporter of Trump.

Finally, after the Russiagate 2 “Bernie is a Russian Puppet” effort fell rather flat, those united US intelligence agencies are still attacking with a message which scarcely pretends to be anything other than an attempt to damage Sanders by gross libel and insinuation. The curious involvement of Pompeo and Barr in this tells us one thing fairly plainly. Trump would much prefer to face Biden than face Sanders. He is of course right. If the Democrat establishment block Sanders in favour of another bought and paid for Wall Street puppet, they will end up with Trump until 2024 – and then Ivanka.

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

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The Armoured Glass Box is an Instrument of Torture

In Thursday’s separate hearing on allowing Assange out of the armoured box to sit with his legal team, I witnessed directly that Baraitser’s ruling against Assange was brought by her into court BEFORE she heard defence counsel put the arguments, and delivered by her entirely unchanged.

I might start by explaining to you my position in the public gallery vis a vis the judge. All week I deliberately sat in the front, right hand seat. The gallery looks out through an armoured glass window at a height of about seven feet above the courtroom. It runs down one side of the court, and the extreme right hand end of the public gallery is above the judge’s bench, which sits below perpendicular to it. Remarkably therefore from the right hand seats of the public gallery you have an uninterrupted view of the top of the whole of the judge’s bench, and can see all the judge’s papers and computer screen.

Mark Summers QC outlined that in the case of Belousov vs Russia the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg ruled against the state of Russia because Belousov had been tried in a glass cage practically identical in construction and in position in court to that in which Assange now was. It hindered his participation in the trial and his free access to counsel, and deprived him of human dignity as a defendant.

Summers continued that it was normal practice for certain categories of unconvicted prisoners to be released from the dock to sit with their lawyers. The court had psychiatric reports on Assange’s extreme clinical depression, and in fact the UK Department of Justice’s best practice guide for courts stated that vulnerable people should be released to sit alongside their lawyers. Special treatment was not being requested for Assange – he was asking to be treated as any other vulnerable person.

The defence was impeded by their inability to communicate confidentially with their client during proceedings. In the next stage of trial, where witnesses were being examined, timely communication was essential. Furthermore they could only talk with him through the slit in the glass within the hearing of the private company security officers who were guarding him (it was clarified they were Serco, not Group 4 as Baraitser had said the previous day), and in the presence of microphones.

Baraitser became ill-tempered at this point and spoke with a real edge to her voice. “Who are those people behind you in the back row?” she asked Summers sarcastically – a question to which she very well knew the answer. Summers replied that they were part of the defence legal team. Baraitser said that Assange could contact them if he had a point to pass on. Summers replied that there was an aisle and a low wall between the glass box and their position, and all Assange could see over the wall was the top of the back of their heads. Baraitser said she had seen Assange call out. Summers said yelling across the courtroom was neither confidential nor satisfactory.

I have now been advised it is definitely an offence to publish the picture of Julian in his glass box, even though I didn’t take it and it is absolutely all over the internet. Also worth noting that I am back home in my own country, Scotland, where my blog is based, and neither is within the jurisdiction of the English court. But I am anxious not to give them any excuse to ban me from the court hearing, so I have removed it but you can see it here.

This is the photo taken illegally (not by me) of Assange in the court. If you look carefully, you can see there is a passageway and a low wooden wall between him and the back row of lawyers. You can see one of the two Serco prison officers guarding him inside the box.

Baraitser said Assange could pass notes, and she had witnessed notes being passed by him. Summers replied that the court officers had now banned the passing of notes. Baraitser said they could take this up with Serco, it was a matter for the prison authorities.

Summers asserted that, contrary to Baraitser’s statement the previous day, she did indeed have jurisdiction on the matter of releasing Assange from the dock. Baraitser intervened to say that she now accepted that. Summers then said that he had produced a number of authorities to show that Baraitser had also been wrong to say that to be in custody could only mean to be in the dock. You could be in custody anywhere within the precincts of the court, or indeed outside. Baraitser became very annoyed by this and stated she had only said that delivery to the custody of the court must equal delivery to the dock.

To which Summers replied memorably, now very cross “Well, that’s wrong too, and has been wrong these last eight years.”

Drawing argument to a close, Baraitser gave her judgement on this issue. Now the interesting thing is this, and I am a direct eyewitness. She read out her judgement, which was several pages long and handwritten. She had brought it with her into court in a bundle, and she made no amendments to it. She had written out her judgement before she heard Mark Summers speak at all.

Her key points were that Assange was able to communicate to his lawyers by shouting out from the box. She had seen him pass notes. She was willing to adjourn the court at any time for Assange to go down with his lawyers for discussions in the cells, and if that extended the length of the hearing from three to six weeks, it could take as long as required.

Baraitser stated that none of the psychiatric reports she had before her stated that it was necessary for Assange to leave the armoured dock. As none of the psychiarists had been asked that question – and very probably none knew anything about courtroom layout – that is scarcely surprising

I have been wondering why it is so essential to the British government to keep Assange in that box, unable to hear proceedings or instruct his lawyers in reaction to evidence, even when counsel for the US Government stated they had no objection to Assange sitting in the well of the court.

The answer lies in the psychiatric assessment of Assange given to the court by the extremely distinguished Professor Michael Kopelman (who is familiar to everyone who has read Murder in Samarkand):

“Mr Assange shows virtually all the risk factors which researchers from Oxford
have described in prisoners who either suicide or make lethal attempts. … I
am as confident as a psychiatrist can ever be that, if extradition to the United
States were to become imminent, Mr Assange would find a way of suiciding.”

The fact that Kopelman does not, as Baraitser said, specifically state that the armoured glass box is bad for Assange reflects nothing other than the fact he was not asked that question. Any human being with the slightest decency would be able to draw the inference. Baraitser’s narrow point that no psychiatrist had specifically stated he should be released from the armoured box is breathtakingly callous, dishonest and inhumane. Almost certainly no psychiatrist had conceived she would determine on enforcing such torture.

So why is Baraitser doing it?

I believe that the Hannibal Lecter style confinement of Assange, this intellectual computer geek, which has no rational basis at all, is a deliberate attempt to drive Julian to suicide. The maximum security anti-terrorist court is physically within the fortress compound that houses the maximum security prison. He is brought handcuffed and under heavy escort to and from his solitary cell to the armoured dock via an underground tunnel. In these circumstances, what possible need is there for him to be strip and cavity searched continually? Why is he not permitted to have his court papers? Most telling for me was the fact he is not permitted to shake hands or touch his lawyers through the slit in the armoured box.

They are relentlessly enforcing the systematic denial of any basic human comfort, like the touch of a friend’s fingertips or the blocking of the relief that he might get just from being alongside somebody friendly. They are ensuring the continuation of the extreme psychological effects from isolation of a year of virtual solitary confinement. A tiny bit of human comfort could do an enormous amount of good to his mental health and resilience. They are determined to stop this at all costs. They are attempting to make him kill himself – or create in him the condition where his throttling death might be explained away as suicide.

This is also the only explanation that I can think of for why they are risking the creation of such obvious mistrial conditions. Dead people cannot appeal.

I would remind you that Julian is a remand prisoner who has served his unprecedentedly long sentence for bail-jumping. His status is supposedly at present that of an innocent man facing charges. Those charges are for nothing except for publishing Chelsea Manning’s revelations of war crimes.

That Baraitser is acting under instructions seems to me certain. She has been desperate throughout the trial to seize any chance to deny any responsibility for what is happening to Julian. She has stated that she has no jurisdiction over his treatment in prison, and even when both defence and prosecution combined to state it was normal practice for magistrates to pass directions or requests to the prison service, she refused to accept it was so.

Baraitser is plainly attempting psychologically to distance herself from any agency in what is being done. To this end she has made a stream of denials of jurisdiction or ability to influence events. She has said that she has no jurisdiction to interfere with the strip searching, handcuffing and removal of Assange’s papers or with his being kept in solitary. She has said she has no jurisdiction to request that his defence lawyers have more access to their client in jail to prepare his defence. She has said she has no jurisdiction over his position in the courtroom. Se has suggested at various times it is up to Serco to decide if he may pass notes to his lawyers and up to Group4 to decide if he can be released from the armoured dock. The moments when she looks most content listening to the evidence, are those when prosecution counsel James Lewis argues that she has no decision to make but to sign the extradition because it is in good form and that Article 4 of the Treaty has no legal standing.

A member of the Assange family remarked to me at the end of week one that she seems very lazy, and thus delighted to accept any arguments that reduce the amount she needs to do. I think it is different to that. I think there is a corner of the mind of this daughter of dissidents from apartheid that rejects her own role in the torture of Assange, and is continually urging “I had no choice, I had no agency”. Those who succumb to do evil must find what internal comfort they may.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible. I wish to stress again that I absolutely do not want anybody to give anything if it causes them the slightest possibility of financial strain.

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

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

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Alternatively:

Account name
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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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BIC NWBKGB2L
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four

Please try this experiment for me.
Try asking this question out loud, in a tone of intellectual interest and engagement: “Are you suggesting that the two have the same effect?”.

Now try asking this question out loud, in a tone of hostility and incredulity bordering on sarcasm: “Are you suggesting that the two have the same effect?”.

Firstly, congratulations on your acting skills; you take direction very well. Secondly, is it not fascinating how precisely the same words can convey the opposite meaning dependent on modulation of stress, pitch, and volume?

Yesterday the prosecution continued its argument that the provision in the 2007 UK/US Extradition Treaty that bars extradition for political offences is a dead letter, and that Julian Assange’s objectives are not political in any event. James Lewis QC for the prosecution spoke for about an hour, and Edward Fitzgerald QC replied for the defence for about the same time. During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times.

In the transcript, those interruptions will not look unreasonable:
“Could you clarify that for me Mr Fitzgerald…”
“So how do you cope with Mr Lewis’s point that…”
“But surely that’s a circular argument…”
“But it’s not incorporated, is it?…”

All these and the other dozen interruptions were designed to appear to show the judge attempting to clarify the defence’s argument in a spirit of intellectual testing. But if you heard the tone of Baraitser’s voice, saw her body language and facial expressions, it was anything but.

The false picture a transcript might give is exacerbated by the courtly Fitzgerald’s continually replying to each obvious harassment with “Thank you Madam, that is very helpful”, which again if you were there, plainly meant the opposite. But what a transcript will helpfully nevertheless show was the bully pulpit of Baraitser’s tactic in interrupting Fitzgerald again and again and again, belittling his points and very deliberately indeed preventing him from getting into the flow of his argument. The contrast in every way with her treatment of Lewis could not be more pronounced.

So now to report the legal arguments themselves.

James Lewis for the prosecution, continuing his arguments from the day before, said that Parliament had not included a bar on extradition for political offences in the 2003 Act. It could therefore not be reintroduced into law by a treaty. “To introduce a Political Offences bar by the back door would be to subvert the intention of Parliament.”

Lewis also argued that these were not political offences. The definition of a political offence was in the UK limited to behaviour intended “to overturn or change a government or induce it to change its policy.” Furthermore the aim must be to change government or policy in the short term, not the indeterminate future.

Lewis stated that further the term “political offence” could only be applied to offences committed within the territory where it was attempted to make the change. So to be classified as political offences, Assange would have had to commit them within the territory of the USA, but he did not.

If Baraitser did decide the bar on political offences applied, the court would have to determine the meaning of “political offence” in the UK/US Extradition Treaty and construe the meaning of paragraphs 4.1 and 4.2 of the Treaty. To construe the terms of an international treaty was beyond the powers of the court.

Lewis perorated that the conduct of Julian Assange cannot possibly be classified as a political offence. “It is impossible to place Julian Assange in the position of a political refugee”. The activity in which Wikileaks was engaged was not in its proper meaning political opposition to the US Administration or an attempt to overthrow that administration. Therefore the offence was not political.

For the defence Edward Fitzgerald replied that the 2003 Extradition Act was an enabling act under which treaties could operate. Parliament had been concerned to remove any threat of abuse of the political offence bar to cover terrorist acts of violence against innocent civilians. But there remained a clear protection, accepted worldwide, for peaceful political dissent. This was reflected in the Extradition Treaty on the basis of which the court was acting.

Baraitser interrupted that the UK/US Extradition Treaty was not incorporated into English Law.

Fitzgerald replied that the entire extradition request is on the basis of the treaty. It is an abuse of process for the authorities to rely on the treaty for the application but then to claim that its provisions do not apply.

“On the face of it, it is a very bizarre argument that a treaty which gives rise to the extradition, on which the extradition is founded, can be disregarded in its provisions. It is on the face of it absurd.” Edward Fitzgerald QC for the Defence

Fitzgerald added that English Courts construe treaties all the time. He gave examples.

Fitzgerald went on that the defence did not accept that treason, espionage and sedition were not regarded as political offences in England. But even if one did accept Lewis’s too narrow definition of political offence, Assange’s behaviour still met the test. What on earth could be the motive of publishing evidence of government war crimes and corruption, other than to change the policy of the government? Indeed, the evidence would prove that Wikileaks had effectively changed the policy of the US government, particularly on Iraq.

Baraitser interjected that to expose government wrongdoing was not the same thing as to try to change government policy. Fitzgerald asked her, finally in some exasperation after umpteen interruptions, what other point could there be in exposing government wrongdoing other than to induce a change in government policy?

That concluded opening arguments for the prosecution and defence.

MY PERSONAL COMMENTARY

Let me put this as neutrally as possible. If you could fairly state that Lewis’s argument was much more logical, rational and intuitive than Fitzgerald’s, you could understand why Lewis did not need an interruption while Fitzgerald had to be continually interrupted for “clarification”. But in fact it was Lewis who was making out the case that the provisions of the very treaty under which the extradition is being made, do not in fact apply, a logical step which I suggest the man on the Clapham omnibus might reason to need rather more testing than Fitzgerald’s assertion to the contrary. Baraitser’s comparative harassment of Fitzgerald when he had the prosecution on the ropes was straight out of the Stalin show trial playbook.

The defence did not mention it, and I do not know if it features in their written arguments, but I thought Lewis’s point that these could not be political offences, because Julian Assange was not in the USA when he committed them, was breathtakingly dishonest. The USA claims universal jurisdiction. Assange is being charged with crimes of publishing committed while he was outside the USA. The USA claims the right to charge anyone of any nationality, anywhere in the world, who harms US interests. They also in addition here claim that as the materials could be seen on the internet in the USA, there was an offence in the USA. At the same time to claim this could not be a political offence as the crime was committed outside the USA is, as Edward Fitzgerald might say, on the face of it absurd. Which curiously Baraitser did not pick up on.

Lewis’s argument that the Treaty does not have any standing in English law is not something he just made up. Nigel Farage did not materialise from nowhere. There is in truth a long tradition in English law that even a treaty signed and ratified with some bloody Johnny Foreigner country, can in no way bind an English court. Lewis could and did spout reams and reams of judgements from old beetroot faced judges holding forth to say exactly that in the House of Lords, before going off to shoot grouse and spank the footman’s son. Lewis was especially fond of the Tin Council case.

There is of course a contrary and more enlightened tradition, and a number of judgements that say the exact opposite, mostly more recent. This is why there was so much repetitive argument as each side piled up more and more volumes of “authorities” on their side of the case.

The difficulty for Lewis – and for Baraitser – is that this case is not analogous to me buying a Mars bar and then going to court because an International Treaty on Mars Bars says mine is too small.

Rather the 2003 Extradition Act is an Enabling Act on which extradition treaties then depend. You can’t thus extradite under the 2003 Act without the Treaty. So the Extradition Treaty of 2007 in a very real sense becomes an executive instrument legally required to authorise the extradition. For the executing authorities to breach the terms of the necessary executive instrument under which they are acting, simply has to be an abuse of process. So the Extradition Treaty owing to its type and its necessity for legal action, is in fact incorporated in English Law by the Extradition Act of 2003 on which it depends.

The Extradition Treaty is a necessary precondition of the extradition, whereas a Mars Bar Treaty is not a necessary precondition to buying the Mars Bar.

That is as plain as I can put it. I do hope that is comprehensible.

It is of course difficult for Lewis that on the same day the Court of Appeal was ruling against the construction of the Heathrow Third Runway, partly because of its incompatibility with the Paris Agreement of 2016, despite the latter not being fully incorporated into English law by the Climate Change Act of 2008.

VITAL PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

It is intensely embarrassing for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) when an English court repudiates the application of a treaty the UK has ratified with one or more foreign states. For that reason, in the modern world, very serious procedures and precautions have been put into place to make certain that this cannot happen. Therefore the prosecution’s argument that all the provisions of the UK/US Extradition Treaty of 2007 are not able to be implemented under the Extradition Act of 2003, ought to be impossible.

I need to explain I have myself negotiated and overseen the entry into force of treaties within the FCO. The last one in which I personally tied the ribbon and applied the sealing wax (literally) was the Anglo-Belgian Continental Shelf Treaty of 1991, but I was involved in negotiating others and the system I am going to describe was still in place when I left the FCO as an Ambassador in 2005, and I believe is unchanged today (and remember the Extradition Act was 2003 and the US/UK Extradition Treaty ratified 2007, so my knowledge is not outdated). Departmental nomenclatures change from time to time and so does structural organisation. But the offices and functions I will describe remain, even if names may be different.

All international treaties have a two stage process. First they are signed to show the government agrees to the treaty. Then, after a delay, they are ratified. This second stage takes place when the government has enabled the legislation and other required agency to implement the treaty. This is the answer to Lewis’s observation about the roles of the executive and legislature. The ratification stage only takes place after any required legislative action. That is the whole point.

This is how it happens in the FCO. Officials negotiate the extradition treaty. It is signed for the UK. The signed treaty then gets returned to FCO Legal Advisers, Nationality and Treaty Department, Consular Department, North American Department and others and is sent on to Treasury/Cabinet Office Solicitors and to Home Office, Parliament and to any other Government Department whose area is impacted by the individual treaty.

The Treaty is extensively vetted to check that it can be fully implemented in all the jurisdictions of the UK. If it cannot, then amendments to the law have to be made so that it can. These amendments can be made by Act of Parliament or more generally by secondary legislation using powers conferred on the Secretary of State by an act. If there is already an Act of Parliament under which the Treaty can be implemented, then no enabling legislation needs to be passed. International Agreements are not all individually incorporated into English or Scottish laws by specific new legislation.

This is a very careful step by step process, carried out by lawyers and officials in the FCO, Treasury, Cabinet Office, Home Office, Parliament and elsewhere. Each will in parallel look at every clause of the Treaty and check that it can be applied. All changes needed to give effect to the treaty then have to be made – amending legislation, and necessary administrative steps. Only when all hurdles have been cleared, including legislation, and Parliamentary officials, Treasury, Cabinet Office, Home Office and FCO all certify that the Treaty is capable of having effect in the UK, will the FCO Legal Advisers give the go ahead for the Treaty to be ratified. You absolutely cannot ratify the treaty before FCO Legal Advisers have given this clearance.

This is a serious process. That is why the US/UK Extradition Treaty was signed in 2003 and ratified in 2007. That is not an abnormal delay.

So I know for certain that ALL the relevant British Government legal departments MUST have agreed that Article 4.1 of the UK/US Extradition Treaty was capable of being given effect under the 2003 Extradition Act. That certification has to have happened or the Treaty could never have been ratified.

It follows of necessity that the UK Government, in seeking to argue now that Article 4.1 is incompatible with the 2003 Act, is knowingly lying. There could not be a more gross abuse of process.

I have been keen for the hearing on this particular point to conclude so that I could give you the benefit of my experience. I shall rest there for now, but later today hope to post further on yesterday’s row in court over releasing Julian from the anti-terrorist armoured dock.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible. I wish to stress again that I absolutely do not want anybody to give anything if it causes them the slightest possibility of financial strain.

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

——————————————

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

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

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

Alternatively:

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

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

View with comments

Your Man in the Public Gallery – The Assange Hearing Day 3

In yesterday’s proceedings in court, the prosecution adopted arguments so stark and apparently unreasonable I have been fretting on how to write them up in a way that does not seem like caricature or unfair exaggeration on my part. What has been happening in this court has long moved beyond caricature. All I can do is give you my personal assurance that what I recount actually is what happened.

As usual, I shall deal with procedural matters and Julian’s treatment first, before getting in to a clear account of the legal arguments made.

Vanessa Baraitser is under a clear instruction to mimic concern by asking, near the end of every session just before we break anyway, if Julian is feeling well and whether he would like a break. She then routinely ignores his response. Yesterday he replied at some length he could not hear properly in his glass box and could not communicate with his lawyers (at some point yesterday they had started preventing him passing notes to his counsel, which I learn was the background to the aggressive prevention of his shaking Garzon’s hand goodbye).

Baraitser insisted he might only be heard through his counsel, which given he was prevented from instructing them was a bit rich. This being pointed out, we had a ten minute adjournment while Julian and his counsel were allowed to talk down in the cells – presumably where they could be more conveniently bugged yet again.

On return, Edward Fitzgerald made a formal application for Julian to be allowed to sit beside his lawyers in the court. Julian was “a gentle, intellectual man” and not a terrorist. Baraitser replied that releasing Assange from the dock into the body of the court would mean he was released from custody. To achieve that would require an application for bail.

Again, the prosecution counsel James Lewis intervened on the side of the defence to try to make Julian’s treatment less extreme. He was not, he suggested diffidently, quite sure that it was correct that it required bail for Julian to be in the body of the court, or that being in the body of the court accompanied by security officers meant that a prisoner was no longer in custody. Prisoners, even the most dangerous of terrorists, gave evidence from the witness box in the body of the court nest to the lawyers and magistrate. In the High Court prisoners frequently sat with their lawyers in extradition hearings, in extreme cases of violent criminals handcuffed to a security officer.

Baraitser replied that Assange might pose a danger to the public. It was a question of health and safety. How did Fitzgerald and Lewis think that she had the ability to carry out the necessary risk assessment? It would have to be up to Group 4 to decide if this was possible.

Yes, she really did say that. Group 4 would have to decide.

Baraitser started to throw out jargon like a Dalek when it spins out of control. “Risk assessment” and “health and safety” featured a lot. She started to resemble something worse than a Dalek, a particularly stupid local government officer of a very low grade. “No jurisdiction” – “Up to Group 4”. Recovering slightly, she stated firmly that delivery to custody can only mean delivery to the dock of the court, nowhere else in the room. If the defence wanted him in the courtroom where he could hear proceedings better, they could only apply for bail and his release from custody in general. She then peered at both barristers in the hope this would have sat them down, but both were still on their feet.

In his diffident manner (which I confess is growing on me) Lewis said “the prosecution is neutral on this request, of course but, err, I really don’t think that’s right”. He looked at her like a kindly uncle whose favourite niece has just started drinking tequila from the bottle at a family party.

Baraitser concluded the matter by stating that the Defence should submit written arguments by 10am tomorrow on this point, and she would then hold a separate hearing into the question of Julian’s position in the court.

The day had begun with a very angry Magistrate Baraitser addressing the public gallery. Yesterday, she said, a photo had been taken inside the courtroom. It was a criminal offence to take or attempt to take photographs inside the courtroom. Vanessa Baraitser looked at this point very keen to lock someone up. She also seemed in her anger to be making the unfounded assumption that whoever took the photo from the public gallery on Tuesday was still there on Wednesday; I suspect not. Being angry at the public at random must be very stressful for her. I suspect she shouts a lot on trains.

Ms Baraitser is not fond of photography – she appears to be the only public figure in Western Europe with no photo on the internet. Indeed the average proprietor of a rural car wash has left more evidence of their existence and life history on the internet than Vanessa Baraitser. Which is no crime on her part, but I suspect the expunging is not achieved without considerable effort. Somebody suggested to me she might be a hologram, but I think not. Holograms have more empathy.

I was amused by the criminal offence of attempting to take photos in the courtroom. How incompetent would you need to be to attempt to take a photo and fail to do so? And if no photo was taken, how do they prove you were attempting to take one, as opposed to texting your mum? I suppose “attempting to take a photo” is a crime that could catch somebody arriving with a large SLR, tripod and several mounted lighting boxes, but none of those appeared to have made it into the public gallery.

Baraitser did not state whether it was a criminal offence to publish a photograph taken in a courtroom (or indeed to attempt to publish a photograph taken in a courtroom). I suspect it is. Anyway Le Grand Soir has published a translation of my report yesterday, and there you can see a photo of Julian in his bulletproof glass anti-terrorist cage. Not, I hasten to add, taken by me.

We now come to the consideration of yesterday’s legal arguments on the extradition request itself. Fortunately, these are basically fairly simple to summarise, because although we had five hours of legal disquisition, it largely consisted of both sides competing in citing scores of “authorities”, e.g. dead judges, to endorse their point of view, and thus repeating the same points continually with little value from exegesis of the innumerable quotes.

As prefigured yesterday by magistrate Baraitser, the prosecution is arguing that Article 4.1 of the UK/US extradition treaty has no force in law.

The UK and US Governments say that the court enforces domestic law, not international law, and therefore the treaty has no standing. This argument has been made to the court in written form to which I do not have access. But from discussion in court it was plain that the prosecution argue that the Extradition Act of 2003, under which the court is operating, makes no exception for political offences. All previous Extradition Acts had excluded extradition for political offences, so it must be the intention of the sovereign parliament that political offenders can now be extradited.

Opening his argument, Edward Fitzgerald QC argued that the Extradition Act of 2003 alone is not enough to make an actual extradition. The extradition requires two things in place; the general Extradition Act and the Extradition Treaty with the country or countries concerned. “No Treaty, No Extradition” was an unbreakable rule. The Treaty was the very basis of the request. So to say that the extradition was not governed by the terms of the very treaty under which it was made, was to create a legal absurdity and thus an abuse of process. He cited examples of judgements made by the House of Lords and Privy Council where treaty rights were deemed enforceable despite the lack of incorporation into domestic legislation, particularly in order to stop people being extradited to potential execution from British colonies.

Fitzgerald pointed out that while the Extradition Act of 2003 did not contain a bar on extraditions for political offences, it did not state there could not be such a bar in extradition treaties. And the extradition treaty of 2007 was ratified after the 2003 extradition act.

At this stage Baraitser interrupted that it was plain the intention of parliament was that there could be extradition for political offences. Otherwise they would not have removed the bar in previous legislation. Fitzgerald declined to agree, saying the Act did not say extradition for political offences could not be banned by the treaty enabling extradition.

Fitzgerald then continued to say that international jurisprudence had accepted for a century or more that you did not extradite political offenders. No political extradition was in the European Convention on Extradition, the Model United Nations Extradition Treaty and the Interpol Convention on Extradition. It was in every single one of the United States’ extradition treaties with other countries, and had been for over a century, at the insistence of the United States. For both the UK and US Governments to say it did not apply was astonishing and would set a terrible precedent that would endanger dissidents and potential political prisoners from China, Russia and regimes all over the world who had escaped to third countries.

Fitzgerald stated that all major authorities agreed there were two types of political offence. The pure political offence and the relative political offence. A “pure” political offence was defined as treason, espionage or sedition. A “relative” political offence was an act which was normally criminal, like assault or vandalism, conducted with a political motive. Every one of the charges against Assange was a “pure” political offence. All but one were espionage charges, and the computer misuse charge had been compared by the prosecution to breach of the official secrets act to meet the dual criminality test. The overriding accusation that Assange was seeking to harm the political and military interests of the United States was in the very definition of a political offence in all the authorities.

In reply Lewis stated that a treaty could not be binding in English law unless specifically incorporated in English law by Parliament. This was a necessary democratic defence. Treaties were made by the executive which could not make law. This went to the sovereignty of Parliament. Lewis quoted many judgements stating that international treaties signed and ratified by the UK could not be enforced in British courts. “It may come as a surprise to other countries that their treaties with the British government can have no legal force” he joked.

Lewis said there was no abuse of process here and thus no rights were invoked under the European Convention. It was just the normal operation of the law that the treaty provision on no extradition for political offences had no legal standing.

Lewis said that the US government disputes that Assange’s offences are political. In the UK/Australia/US there was a different definition of political offence to the rest of the world. We viewed the “pure” political offences of treason, espionage and sedition as not political offences. Only “relative” political offences – ordinary crimes committed with a political motive – were viewed as political offences in our tradition. In this tradition, the definition of “political” was also limited to supporting a contending political party in a state. Lewis will continue with this argument tomorrow.

That concludes my account of proceedings. I have some important commentary to make on this and will try to do another posting later today. Now rushing to court.

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

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

——————————————

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

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Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 2

This afternoon Julian’s Spanish lawyer, Baltasar Garzon, left court to return to Madrid. On the way out he naturally stopped to shake hands with his client, proffering his fingers through the narrow slit in the bulletproof glass cage. Assange half stood to take his lawyer’s hand. The two security guards in the cage with Assange immediately sprang up, putting hands on Julian and forcing him to sit down, preventing the handshake.

That was not by any means the worst thing today, but it is a striking image of the senseless brute force continually used against a man accused of publishing documents. That a man cannot even shake his lawyer’s hand goodbye is against the entire spirit in which the members of the legal system like to pretend the law is practised. I offer that startling moment as encapsulating yesterday’s events in court.

Day 2 proceedings had started with a statement from Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s QC, that shook us rudely into life. He stated that yesterday, on the first day of trial, Julian had twice been stripped naked and searched, eleven times been handcuffed, and five times been locked up in different holding cells. On top of this, all of his court documents had been taken from him by the prison authorities, including privileged communications between his lawyers and himself, and he had been left with no ability to prepare to participate in today’s proceedings.

Magistrate Baraitser looked at Fitzgerald and stated, in a voice laced with disdain, that he had raised such matters before and she had always replied that she had no jurisdiction over the prison estate. He should take it up with the prison authorities. Fitzgerald remained on his feet, which drew a very definite scowl from Baraitser, and replied that of course they would do that again, but this repeated behaviour by the prison authorities threatened the ability of the defence to prepare. He added that regardless of jurisdiction, in his experience it was common practice for magistrates and judges to pass on comments and requests to the prison service where the conduct of the trial was affected, and that jails normally listened to magistrates sympathetically.

Baraitser flat-out denied any knowledge of such a practice, and stated that Fitzgerald should present her with written arguments setting out the case law on jurisdiction over prison conditions. This was too much even for prosecution counsel James Lewis, who stood up to say the prosecution would also want Assange to have a fair hearing, and that he could confirm that what the defence were suggesting was normal practice. Even then, Baraitser still refused to intervene with the prison. She stated that if the prison conditions were so bad as to reach the very high bar of making a fair hearing impossible, the defence should bring a motion to dismiss the charges on those grounds. Otherwise they should drop it.

Both prosecution and defence seemed surprised by Baraitser’s claim that she had not heard of what they both referred to as common practice. Lewis may have been genuinely concerned at the shocking description of Assange’s prison treatment yesterday; or he may have just had warning klaxons going off in his head screaming “mistrial”. But the net result is Baraitser will attempt to do nothing to prevent Julian’s physical and mental abuse in jail nor to try to give him the ability to participate in his defence. The only realistic explanation that occurs to me is that Baraitser has been warned off, because this continual mistreatment and confiscation of documents is on senior government authority.

A last small incident for me to recount: having queued again from the early hours, I was at the final queue before the entrance to the public gallery, when the name was called out of Kristin Hrnafsson, editor of Wikileaks, with whom I was talking at the time. Kristin identified himself, and was told by the court official he was barred from the public gallery.

Now I was with Kristin throughout the entire proceedings the previous day, and he had done absolutely nothing amiss – he is rather a quiet gentleman. When he was called for, it was by name and by job description – they were specifically banning the editor of Wikileaks from the trial. Kristin asked why and was told it was a decision of the Court.

At this stage John Shipton, Julian’s father, announced that in this case the family members would all leave too, and they did so, walking out of the building. They and others then started tweeting the news of the family walkout. This appeared to cause some consternation among court officials, and fifteen minutes later Kristin was re-admitted. We still have no idea what lay behind this. Later in the day journalists were being briefed by officials it was simply over queue-jumping, but that seems improbable as he was removed by staff who called him by name and title, rather than had spotted him as a queue-jumper.

None of the above goes to the official matter of the case. All of the above tells you more about the draconian nature of the political show-trial which is taking place than does the charade being enacted in the body of the court. There were moments today when I got drawn in to the court process and achieved the suspension of disbelief you might do in theatre, and began thinking “Wow, this case is going well for Assange”. Then an event such as those recounted above kicks in, a coldness grips your heart, and you recall there is no jury here to be convinced. I simply do not believe that anything said or proved in the courtroom can have an impact on the final verdict of this court.

So to the actual proceedings in the case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a brief break, Baraitser came back with a real zinger. She told Summers that he had presented the findings of the US court martial of Chelsea Manning as fact. But she did not agree that her court had to treat evidence at a US court martial, even agreed or uncontested evidence or prosecution evidence, as fact. Summers replied that agreed evidence or prosecution evidence at the US court martial clearly was agreed by the US government as fact, and what was at issue at the moment was whether the US government was charging contrary to the facts it knew. Baraitser said she would return to her point once witnesses were heard.

Baraitser was now making no attempt to conceal a hostility to the defence argument, and seemed irritated they had the temerity to make it. This burst out when discussing c), the Iraq war rules of engagement. Summers argued that these had not been solicited from Manning, but had rather been provided by Manning in an accompanying file along with the Collateral Murder video that showed the murder of Reuters journalists and children. Manning’s purpose, as she stated at her court martial, was to show that the Collateral Murder actions breached the rules of engagement, even though the Department of Defense claimed otherwise. Summers stated that by not including this context, the US extradition request was deliberately misleading as it did not even mention the Collateral Murder video at all.

At this point Baraitser could not conceal her contempt. Try to imagine Lady Bracknell saying “A Handbag” or “the Brighton line”, or if your education didn’t run that way try to imagine Pritti Patel spotting a disabled immigrant. This is a literal quote:

“Are you suggesting, Mr Summers, that the authorities, the Government, should have to provide context for its charges?”

An unfazed Summers replied in the affirmative and then went on to show where the Supreme Court had said so in other extradition cases. Baraitser was showing utter confusion that anybody could claim a significant distinction between the Government and God.

The bulk of Summers’ argument went to refuting behaviour 3), putting lives at risk. This was only claimed in relation to materials a) and d). Summers described at great length the efforts of Wikileaks with media partners over more than a year to set up a massive redaction campaign on the cables. He explained that the unredacted cables only became available after Luke Harding and David Leigh of the Guardian published the password to the cache as the heading to Chapter XI of their book Wikileaks, published in February 2011.

Nobody had put 2 and 2 together on this password until the German publication Der Freitag had done so and announced it had the unredacted cables in August 2011. Summers then gave the most powerful arguments of the day.

The US government had been actively participating in the redaction exercise on the cables. They therefore knew the allegations of reckless publication to be untrue.

Once Der Freitag announced they had the unredacted materials, Julian Assange and Sara Harrison instantly telephoned the White House, State Department and US Embassy to warn them named sources may be put at risk. Summers read from the transcripts of telephone conversations as Assange and Harrison attempted to convince US officials of the urgency of enabling source protection procedures – and expressed their bafflement as officials stonewalled them. This evidence utterly undermined the US government’s case and proved bad faith in omitting extremely relevant fact. It was a very striking moment.

With relation to the same behaviour 3) on materials d), Summers showed that the Manning court martial had accepted these materials contained no endangered source names, but showed that Wikileaks had activated a redaction exercise anyway as a “belt and braces” approach.

There was much more from the defence. For the prosecution, James Lewis indicated he would reply in depth later in proceedings, but wished to state that the prosecution does not accept the court martial evidence as fact, and particularly does not accept any of the “self-serving” testimony of Chelsea Manning, whom he portrayed as a convicted criminal falsely claiming noble motives. The prosecution generally rejected any notion that this court should consider the truth or otherwise of any of the facts; those could only be decided at trial in the USA.

Then, to wrap up proceedings, Baraitser dropped a massive bombshell. She stated that although Article 4.1 of the US/UK Extradition Treaty forbade political extraditions, this was only in the Treaty. That exemption does not appear in the UK Extradition Act. On the face of it therefore political extradition is not illegal in the UK, as the Treaty has no legal force on the Court. She invited the defence to address this argument in the morning.

It is now 06.35am and I am late to start queuing…

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

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

——————————————

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

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Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 1

Woolwich Crown Court is designed to impose the power of the state. Normal courts in this country are public buildings, deliberately placed by our ancestors right in the centre of towns, almost always just up a few steps from a main street. The major purpose of their positioning and of their architecture was to facilitate public access in the belief that it is vital that justice can be seen by the public.

Woolwich Crown Court, which hosts Belmarsh Magistrates Court, is built on totally the opposite principle. It is designed with no other purpose than to exclude the public. Attached to a prison on a windswept marsh far from any normal social centre, an island accessible only through navigating a maze of dual carriageways, the entire location and architecture of the building is predicated on preventing public access. It is surrounded by a continuation of the same extremely heavy duty steel paling barrier that surrounds the prison. It is the most extraordinary thing, a courthouse which is a part of the prison system itself, a place where you are already considered guilty and in jail on arrival. Woolwich Crown Court is nothing but the physical negation of the presumption of innocence, the very incarnation of injustice in unyielding steel, concrete and armoured glass. It has precisely the same relationship to the administration of justice as Guantanamo Bay or the Lubyanka. It is in truth just the sentencing wing of Belmarsh prison.

When enquiring about facilities for the public to attend the hearing, an Assange activist was told by a member of court staff that we should realise that Woolwich is a “counter-terrorism court”. That is true de facto, but in truth a “counter-terrorism court” is an institution unknown to the UK constitution. Indeed, if a single day at Woolwich Crown Court does not convince you the existence of liberal democracy is now a lie, then your mind must be very closed indeed.

Extradition hearings are not held at Belmarsh Magistrates Court inside Woolwich Crown Court. They are always held at Westminster Magistrates Court as the application is deemed to be delivered to the government at Westminster. Now get your head around this. This hearing is at Westminster Magistrates Court. It is being held by the Westminster magistrates and Westminster court staff, but located at Belmarsh Magistrates Court inside Woolwich Crown Court. All of which weird convolution is precisely so they can use the “counter-terrorist court” to limit public access and to impose the fear of the power of the state.

One consequence is that, in the courtroom itself, Julian Assange is confined at the back of the court behind a bulletproof glass screen. He made the point several times during proceedings that this makes it very difficult for him to see and hear the proceedings. The magistrate, Vanessa Baraitser, chose to interpret this with studied dishonesty as a problem caused by the very faint noise of demonstrators outside, as opposed to a problem caused by Assange being locked away from the court in a massive bulletproof glass box.

Now there is no reason at all for Assange to be in that box, designed to restrain extremely physically violent terrorists. He could sit, as a defendant at a hearing normally would, in the body of the court with his lawyers. But the cowardly and vicious Baraitser has refused repeated and persistent requests from the defence for Assange to be allowed to sit with his lawyers. Baraitser of course is but a puppet, being supervised by Chief Magistrate Lady Arbuthnot, a woman so enmeshed in the defence and security service establishment I can conceive of no way in which her involvement in this case could be more corrupt.

It does not matter to Baraitser or Arbuthnot if there is any genuine need for Assange to be incarcerated in a bulletproof box, or whether it stops him from following proceedings in court. Baraitser’s intention is to humiliate Assange, and to instill in the rest of us horror at the vast crushing power of the state. The inexorable strength of the sentencing wing of the nightmarish Belmarsh Prison must be maintained. If you are here, you are guilty.

It’s the Lubyanka. You may only be a remand prisoner. This may only be a hearing not a trial. You may have no history of violence and not be accused of any violence. You may have three of the country’s most eminent psychiatrists submitting reports of your history of severe clinical depression and warning of suicide. But I, Vanessa Baraitser, am still going to lock you up in a box designed for the most violent of terrorists. To show what we can do to dissidents. And if you can’t then follow court proceedings, all the better.

You will perhaps better accept what I say about the Court when I tell you that, for a hearing being followed all round the world, they have brought it to a courtroom which had a total number of sixteen seats available to members of the public. 16. To make sure I got one of those 16 and could be your man in the gallery, I was outside that great locked iron fence queuing in the cold, wet and wind from 6am. At 8am the gate was unlocked, and I was able to walk inside the fence to another queue before the doors of the courtroom, where despite the fact notices clearly state the court opens to the public at 8am, I had to queue outside the building again for another hour and forty minutes. Then I was processed through armoured airlock doors, through airport type security, and had to queue behind two further locked doors, before finally getting to my seat just as the court started at 10am. By which stage the intention was we should have been thoroughly cowed and intimidated, not to mention drenched and potentially hypothermic.

There was a separate media entrance and a media room with live transmission from the courtroom, and there were so many scores of media I thought I could relax and not worry as the basic facts would be widely reported. In fact, I could not have been more wrong. I followed the arguments very clearly every minute of the day, and not a single one of the most important facts and arguments today has been reported anywhere in the mainstream media. That is a bold claim, but I fear it is perfectly true. So I have much work to do to let the world know what actually happened. The mere act of being an honest witness is suddenly extremely important, when the entire media has abandoned that role.

James Lewis QC made the opening statement for the prosecution. It consisted of two parts, both equally extraordinary. The first and longest part was truly remarkable for containing no legal argument, and for being addressed not to the magistrate but to the media. It is not just that it was obvious that is where his remarks were aimed, he actually stated on two occasions during his opening statement that he was addressing the media, once repeating a sentence and saying specifically that he was repeating it again because it was important that the media got it.

I am frankly astonished that Baraitser allowed this. It is completely out of order for a counsel to address remarks not to the court but to the media, and there simply could not be any clearer evidence that this is a political show trial and that Baraitser is complicit in that. I have not the slightest doubt that the defence would have been pulled up extremely quickly had they started addressing remarks to the media. Baraitser makes zero pretence of being anything other than in thrall to the Crown, and by extension to the US Government.

The points which Lewis wished the media to know were these: it is not true that mainstream outlets like the Guardian and New York Times are also threatened by the charges against Assange, because Assange was not charged with publishing the cables but only with publishing the names of informants, and with cultivating Manning and assisting him to attempt computer hacking. Only Assange had done these things, not mainstream outlets.

Lewis then proceeded to read out a series of articles from the mainstream media attacking Assange, as evidence that the media and Assange were not in the same boat. The entire opening hour consisted of the prosecution addressing the media, attempting to drive a clear wedge between the media and Wikileaks and thus aimed at reducing media support for Assange. It was a political address, not remotely a legal submission. At the same time, the prosecution had prepared reams of copies of this section of Lewis’ address, which were handed out to the media and given them electronically so they could cut and paste.

Following an adjournment, magistrate Baraitser questioned the prosecution on the veracity of some of these claims. In particular, the claim that newspapers were not in the same position because Assange was charged not with publication, but with “aiding and abetting” Chelsea Manning in getting the material, did not seem consistent with Lewis’ reading of the 1989 Official Secrets Act, which said that merely obtaining and publishing any government secret was an offence. Surely, Baraitser suggested, that meant that newspapers just publishing the Manning leaks would be guilty of an offence?

This appeared to catch Lewis entirely off guard. The last thing he had expected was any perspicacity from Baraitser, whose job was just to do what he said. Lewis hummed and hawed, put his glasses on and off several times, adjusted his microphone repeatedly and picked up a succession of pieces of paper from his brief, each of which appeared to surprise him by its contents, as he waved them haplessly in the air and said he really should have cited the Shayler case but couldn’t find it. It was liking watching Columbo with none of the charm and without the killer question at the end of the process.

Suddenly Lewis appeared to come to a decision. Yes, he said much more firmly. The 1989 Official Secrets Act had been introduced by the Thatcher Government after the Ponting Case, specifically to remove the public interest defence and to make unauthorised possession of an official secret a crime of strict liability – meaning no matter how you got it, publishing and even possessing made you guilty. Therefore, under the principle of dual criminality, Assange was liable for extradition whether or not he had aided and abetted Manning. Lewis then went on to add that any journalist and any publication that printed the official secret would therefore also be committing an offence, no matter how they had obtained it, and no matter if it did or did not name informants.

Lewis had thus just flat out contradicted his entire opening statement to the media stating that they need not worry as the Assange charges could never be applied to them. And he did so straight after the adjournment, immediately after his team had handed out copies of the argument he had now just completely contradicted. I cannot think it has often happened in court that a senior lawyer has proven himself so absolutely and so immediately to be an unmitigated and ill-motivated liar. This was undoubtedly the most breathtaking moment in today’s court hearing.

Yet remarkably I cannot find any mention anywhere in the mainstream media that this happened at all. What I can find, everywhere, is the mainstream media reporting, via cut and paste, Lewis’s first part of his statement on why the prosecution of Assange is not a threat to press freedom; but nobody seems to have reported that he totally abandoned his own argument five minutes later. Were the journalists too stupid to understand the exchanges?

The explanation is very simple. The clarification coming from a question Baraitser asked Lewis, there is no printed or electronic record of Lewis’ reply. His original statement was provided in cut and paste format to the media. His contradiction of it would require a journalist to listen to what was said in court, understand it and write it down. There is no significant percentage of mainstream media journalists who command that elementary ability nowadays. “Journalism” consists of cut and paste of approved sources only. Lewis could have stabbed Assange to death in the courtroom, and it would not be reported unless contained in a government press release.

I was left uncertain of Baraitser’s purpose in this. Plainly she discomfited Lewis very badly on this point, and appeared rather to enjoy doing so. On the other hand the point she made is not necessarily helpful to the defence. What she was saying was essentially that Julian could be extradited under dual criminality, from the UK point of view, just for publishing, whether or not he conspired with Chelsea Manning, and that all the journalists who published could be charged too. But surely this is a point so extreme that it would be bound to be invalid under the Human Rights Act? Was she pushing Lewis to articulate a position so extreme as to be untenable – giving him enough rope to hang himself – or was she slavering at the prospect of not just extraditing Assange, but of mass prosecutions of journalists?

The reaction of one group was very interesting. The four US government lawyers seated immediately behind Lewis had the grace to look very uncomfortable indeed as Lewis baldly declared that any journalist and any newspaper or broadcast media publishing or even possessing any government secret was committing a serious offence. Their entire strategy had been to pretend not to be saying that.

Lewis then moved on to conclude the prosecution’s arguments. The court had no decision to make, he stated. Assange must be extradited. The offence met the test of dual criminality as it was an offence both in the USA and UK. UK extradition law specifically barred the court from testing whether there was any evidence to back up the charges. If there had been, as the defence argued, abuse of process, the court must still extradite and then the court must pursue the abuse of process as a separate matter against the abusers. (This is a particularly specious argument as it is not possible for the court to take action against the US government due to sovereign immunity, as Lewis well knows). Finally, Lewis stated that the Human Rights Act and freedom of speech were completely irrelevant in extradition proceedings.

Edward Fitzgerald then arose to make the opening statement for the defence. He started by stating that the motive for the prosecution was entirely political, and that political offences were specifically excluded under article 4.1 of the UK/US extradition treaty. He pointed out that at the time of the Chelsea Manning Trial and again in 2013 the Obama administration had taken specific decisions not to prosecute Assange for the Manning leaks. This had been reversed by the Trump administration for reasons that were entirely political.

On abuse of process, Fitzgerald referred to evidence presented to the Spanish criminal courts that the CIA had commissioned a Spanish security company to spy on Julian Assange in the Embassy, and that this spying specifically included surveillance of Assange’s privileged meetings with his lawyers to discuss extradition. For the state trying to extradite to spy on the defendant’s client-lawyer consultations is in itself grounds to dismiss the case. (This point is undoubtedly true. Any decent judge would throw the case out summarily for the outrageous spying on the defence lawyers).

Fitzgerald went on to say the defence would produce evidence the CIA not only spied on Assange and his lawyers, but actively considered kidnapping or poisoning him, and that this showed there was no commitment to proper rule of law in this case.

Fitzgerald said that the prosecution’s framing of the case contained deliberate misrepresentation of the facts that also amounted to abuse of process. It was not true that there was any evidence of harm to informants, and the US government had confirmed this in other fora, eg in Chelsea Manning’s trial. There had been no conspiracy to hack computers, and Chelsea Manning had been acquitted on that charge at court martial. Lastly it was untrue that Wikileaks had initiated publication of unredacted names of informants, as other media organisations had been responsible for this first.

Again, so far as I can see, while the US allegation of harm to informants is widely reported, the defence’s total refutation on the facts and claim that the fabrication of facts amounts to abuse of process is not much reported at all. Fitzgerald finally referred to US prison conditions, the impossibility of a fair trial in the US, and the fact the Trump Administration has stated foreign nationals will not receive First Amendment protections, as reasons that extradition must be barred. You can read the whole defence statement, but in my view the strongest passage was on why this is a political prosecution, and thus precluded from extradition.

For the purposes of section 81(a), I next have to deal with the question of how
this politically motivated prosecution satisfies the test of being directed against
Julian Assange because of his political opinions. The essence of his political
opinions which have provoked this prosecution are summarised in the reports
of Professor Feldstein [tab 18], Professor Rogers [tab 40], Professor Noam
Chomsky [tab 39] and Professor Kopelman:-
i. He is a leading proponent of an open society and of freedom of expression.
ii. He is anti-war and anti-imperialism.
iii. He is a world-renowned champion of political transparency and of the
public’s right to access information on issues of importance – issues such
as political corruption, war crimes, torture and the mistreatment of
Guantanamo detainees.
5.4.Those beliefs and those actions inevitably bring him into conflict with powerful
states including the current US administration, for political reasons. Which
explains why he has been denounced as a terrorist and why President Trump
has in the past called for the death penalty.
5.5.But I should add his revelations are far from confined to the wrongdoings of
the US. He has exposed surveillance by Russia; and published exposes of Mr
Assad in Syria; and it is said that WikiLeaks revelations about corruption in
Tunisia and torture in Egypt were the catalyst for the Arab Spring itself.
5.6.The US say he is no journalist. But you will see a full record of his work in
Bundle M. He has been a member of the Australian journalists union since
2009, he is a member of the NUJ and the European Federation of Journalists.
He has won numerous media awards including being honoured with the
highest award for Australian journalists. His work has been recognised by the
Economist, Amnesty International and the Council of Europe. He is the winner
of the Martha Gelhorn prize and has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel
Peace Prize, including both last year and this year. You can see from the
materials that he has written books, articles and documentaries. He has had
articles published in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post
and the New Statesman, just to name a few. Some of the very publications for
which his extradition is being sought have been refereed to and relied upon in
Courts throughout the world, including the UK Supreme Court and the
European Court of Human Rights. In short, he has championed the cause of
transparency and freedom of information throughout the world.
5.7.Professor Noam Chomsky puts it like this: – ‘in courageously upholding
political beliefs that most of profess to share he has performed an
enormous service to all those in the world who treasure the values of
freedom and democracy and who therefore demand the right to know
what their elected representatives are doing’ [see tab 39, paragraph 14].
So Julian Assange’s positive impact on the world is undeniable. The hostility
it has provoked from the Trump administration is equally undeniable.
The legal test for ‘political opinions’
5.8.I am sure you are aware of the legal authorities on this issue: namely whether
a request is made because of the defendant’s political opinions. A broad
approach has to be adopted when applying the test. In support of this we rely
on the case of Re Asliturk [2002] EWHC 2326 (abuse authorities, tab 11, at
paras 25 – 26) which clearly establishes that such a wide approach should be
adopted to the concept of political opinions. And that will clearly cover Julian
Assange’s ideological positions. Moreover, we also rely on cases such as
Emilia Gomez v SSHD [2000] INLR 549 at tab 43 of the political offence
authorities bundle. These show that the concept of “political opinions” extends
to the political opinions imputed to the individual citizen by the state which
prosecutes him. For that reason the characterisation of Julian Assange and
WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence agency” by Mr Pompeo makes
clear that he has been targeted for his imputed political opinions. All the
experts whose reports you have show that Julian Assange has been targeted
because of the political position imputed to him by the Trump administration –
as an enemy of America who must be brought down.

Tomorrow the defence continue. I am genuinely uncertain what will happen as I feel at the moment far too exhausted to be there at 6am to queue to get in. But I hope somehow I will contrive another report tomorrow evening.

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

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

——————————————

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

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Roger Waters on Julian Assange

Roger Waters has become one of the most eloquent and persistent supporters of Julian Assange. He is prepared to challenge the propagandists of the mainstream media head-on in a way that many more people should do.

For yesterday’s rally for Assange Roger had prepared a talk putting Julian’s persecution in a global context. He did not have time to give the whole speech, and so I asked him if I could publish it:

WE ARE HERE TODAY FOR JULIAN ASSANGE.

But I have four names on this piece of paper.

The First and last of course is Julian Assange, A Journalist, a courageous shiner of light into the dark places from which the powers that be would dearly like to have us turn away.

Julian Assange. A name to be carved with pride intoany monument to human progress.

Julian is why we are here today, but this is no parochial protest. We are today part of a global movement, a global movement that might be the beginning of the global enlightenment that this fragile planet so desperately needs.

Ok. Second Name. Sent to me by my friend VJ Prashad.

Second name is Aamir Aziz, Aamir is a young poet and activist in Delhi involved in the fight against Modi and his rascist Citizenship law.

Everything Will Be Remembered

Kill us, we will become ghosts and write
of your killings, with all the evidence.
You write jokes in court;
We will write ‘justice’ on the walls.
We will speak so loudly that even the deaf will hear.
We will write so clearly that even the blind will read.
You write ‘injustice’ on the earth;
We will write ‘revolution’ in the sky.
Everything will be remembered;
Everything recorded

This out pouring of the human spirit from India is taking place in a time of revolt, when the fetters of propriety are set aside.

As we meet here in London, across the Atlantic in Argentina thousands of women are taking to the streets to demand the legalization of abortion from President Fernandez.

It’s not just Argentina. This last year we have seen major protests erupt across the whole world against neoliberal/fascist regimes. In Chile, The Lebanon, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti,France and now, of course also in Bolivia fighting the new US imposed military dictatorship there.

When will we see the name of England appended to that noble list? I sense the scratching of heads in drawing rooms across the home counties, “What’s he talking about, the man’s a bloody pinkopervert, bloody anti semite, what’s he talking about? We don’t live in a dictatorship, this is a free country, a democracy, with all the finest traditions of fair play, pah!”

Well, I’ve got news for you Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells. We’d like to think this is a free country, but are we really free? Why, when Julian Assange is brought to the dock in the tiny magistrates court inside Belmarsh prison are so many seats occupied by anonymous American suits, whispering instructions into the attentive ear of the prosecution’s lead barrister, James Lewis QC?

Why?

Because we don’t live in a free country, we live in a glorified dog kennel and we bark and/or wag our tails at the bidding of our lords and masters across the pond.

I stand here today, in front of the Mother of Parliaments, and there she stands blushing in all her embarrassment. And just upstream from here is Runnemede, where in 1215, we, the English, laid out the rudiments of common law. Magna Carta, ratified in 1297 article 29 of whichgave us Habeus Corpus. Or did it? It stated:

“The body of a free man is not to be arrested, or imprisoned, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way ruined, nor is the king to go against him or send forcibly against him, except by judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”

Sadly, Article 29 is not enforceable in modern law. Magna Carta is only an idea, and in this propaganda driven modern world, it provides no check in principle to Parliament legislating against the rights of citizens.

We do however have an extradition treaty with the USA and in the first paragraph of article 4 of that treaty it states. “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.” Julian Assange has committed no crime but he has committed a political act. He has spoken truth to power. He has angered some of our masters in Washington by telling the truth and in retribution for the act of telling the truth they want his blood.

Yesterday in front of Battersea Power Station I did a TV interview for SKY news to promote this event, there was no visual link, so my only contact with the lady asking me questions was via an ear bud on a curly wire. I learned something about telling truth in the phrasing of her questions to me. She came at me like some crazed Don Quixote every question laced, thick with the smears and innuendo and the false accusations with which the powers that be have been trying to blacken Julian Assange’s name. She rattled off the tired, but well prepared narrative, and then interrupted constantly when I made reply. I don’t know who she is, she may mean well. If she does, my advice would be to stop drinking the Kool-aid, and if she actually gives a fig for her chosen profession get her sorry ass down here and join us.

So England. I call upon our prime minister,Boris Johnson, to declare his colours, does he support the spirit of Magna Carta? Does he believe in, democracy, freedom, fair play, free speech, and especially the freedom of the press? If the answer to those questions is yes, then come on Prime Minister be the British Bulldog you would have us all believe you are? Stand up to the bluster of American hegemony, call off this show trial, this charade, this kangaroo court. “The evidence before the court is incontrovertible.” Julian Assange is an innocent man. A journalist doing very important work for “we the people” by exposing the crimes of powerful sociopaths in the corridors of power.

I call on you to free him today.

I cannot leave this stage without mention of Chelsea Manning, who provided some of the material that Julian published.

Chelsea has been in a federal prison for a year incarcerated by the Americans for refusing, on principle, to give evidence to a grand jury specifically convened to make an example of Julian Assange. What courage. They are also fining her $1,000 a day. Chelsea yours is another name to be carved in pride, I’ve been reading the latest on your case, it looks as if your legal team are finding light at the end of the tunnel, please god, you get out soon back to your loved ones, you are a true hero.You exemplify the bulldog spirit that I was talking about a few moments ago.

Also Daniel Hale

Daniel is a whistle-blower you may not know yet. He was in a great documentary movie National Bird, made by my good friend Sonia Kennebeck. He was part of the US drone program targeting Afghans in their own country from some mobile command center in Navada. When his stint in the USAF was over. Daniel’s good heart refused to edit out the burden of remorse he carried and he very bravely decided to tell his story. The FBI/CIA have pursued Daniel remorselessly ever since and he is now in prison awaiting trial. Daniel’s is another name to be carved in pride. Those of us who have never compromised our liberty in the cause of freedom, who have never picked up the burning torch and held it trembling over the crimes of their superior officers, can only wonder at the extraordinary courage of those who have.

There are other speakers here, so I will make way, I could stand here all day railing against the dying of the light should we not stand Bulldog like, with arms linked, ranks closed in front of our brother and comrade Julian Assange. And when the lackies of the American Empire come to take him, to destroy him and hang him in the hedge as a warning to frighten future journalists, we will look them in the eye and steadfast with one voice we will intone.

“Over our dead fucking bodies.”

Roger Waters Feb 22nd 2020

You can see Roger delivering the truncated version, with force but still self-deprecation, on this video of yesterday’s event. You can also see great speeches including by Yanis Varoufakis and Brian Eno. I hope you will forgive me for setting the video to start at my own speech, which was the final one. It was only by the generosity of readers of this blog that I have been able to be here campaigning this week at all.

Today I move from the centre of London down to Woolwich and have to get to Belmarsh Magistrate’s Court (which is entered through Woolwich Crown Court) before dawn to try to queue for one of the 14 public seats in the courtroom. Holding the hearing in such a tiny court is a deliberate act of censorship by the British government. If any readers can offer practical advice on where to queue precisely in terms of access to the building it would be extremely welcome. There is of course no guarantee that the authorities will respect any queue, or have not reserved some of the public seats for the US Embassy etc.

I promise this is the last time I shall repeat this appeal:

With great reluctance, I am obliged to ask for donations to help this blog cover the Assange court case. We have rented a house close to the court and I will be trying to queue in the early hours of the morning to get one of the tiny number of seats available to the public at the hearing. The last year has seen constant travels down to London to support Julian in one way and another, and funds for the blog are running very low at the moment – very substantially less than 1% of readers subscribe (I am grateful to and humbled by those who do subscribe – and was very touched to meet so many subscribers at yesterday’s rally. Please don’t feel reticent to introduce yourselves, it gives me heart). I generally do not seek one off donations, as long term income is required to keep things on the road, but for the Assange – and Salmond – cases to be covered properly an exception is needed. With humility and reticence, I therefore ask if a few people could put some small donations forward using the standard payment details below.

——————————————

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

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The Assange Hearing: A Reticent Request

Julian Assange will stand next week in the armoured dock, accused of the “crime” of publishing. It is worth recalling that Wikileaks has a 100% record of accuracy. Nothing it has published has ever been shown to be inauthentic. Julian stands accused of the crime of telling the truth – more than that, of telling freely to the ordinary people of the world about the crimes which the powerful seek to conceal.

It is a sad and damning fact that nobody in the United States has ever been jailed for the war crimes Wikileaks has revealed, for the massacre of journalists and of children, for the torture or for the corruption. Instead, the publisher who helped whistleblowers to get the truth out to the people has suffered enormously, and is threatened with incarceration for the rest of his life.

We might also consider that none of Julian’s publishing ever took place inside the United States. The USA is trying to extradite him for publishing American secrets outside the USA, in a startling claim of worldwide jurisdiction. It is a prosecution that would if successful have a massive chilling effect on investigative journalists all over the globe. The fact that the mainstream media editors who gleefully republished Wikileaks’ revelations are not also in the dock reflects the fact that the security services are now very confident they have those outlets under control.

For these and many other reasons, Julian’s hearing next week is extremely important and I am going down to London today for ten days to cover it and to take part in associated events. I do hope everybody will make a real effort to join the protests.

With great reluctance, I am obliged to ask for donations to help this blog cover the Assange court case. We have rented a house close to the court and I will be trying to queue in the early hours of the morning to get one of the tiny number of seats available to the public at the hearing. The last year has seen constant travels down to London to support Julian in one way and another, and funds for the blog are running very low at the moment – very substantially less than 1% of readers subscribe (I am grateful to and humbled by those who do subscribe). I generally do not seek one off donations, as long term income is required to keep things on the road, but for the Assange – and Salmond – cases to be covered properly an exception is needed. With humility and reticence, I therefore ask if a few people could put some small donations forward using the standard payment details below.

——————————————

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

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Alternatively:

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

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

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Immigration, and How People Are Valued

In the last recorded full year, to March 2019, net migration into the UK from the EU was 59,000 while from outwith the EU it was 219,000.

That table is from racist playground the Migration Watch website. It is a poisonous organisation, but their figures seem to be correctly extrapolated from the Office of National Statistics. There is one matter on which Migration Watch are actually correct, which I will come to anon.

Non-EU net immigration has risen substantially in each of the last eight years. The second most interesting point about the Home Office’s policy statement on the new “points-based immigration system” is that none of the existing routes by which 219,000 non-EU migrants per year enter the UK is to be abolished (paras 12-13, 20-24). So that 219,000 non-EU net migrant figure will not be reduced as a result of these changes. Indeed, as several references in the paper make clear, immigration opportunities for non-EU citizens are increased as a result of this paper.

Those immigration routes for non-EU citizens are increased quite substantially. I anticipate a major surge in immigration from the Commonwealth as a result of this change. The problem the Government will find is that a points based system results in a level of automaticity of qualification. Those from English speaking countries – let’s say Ghana or India, but it is true of scores – already have the language qualification and benefit from good educational systems. Crucially, there are large very established communities from those countries already in the UK which own a vast plethora of companies, which makes securing a job offer much easier. I have no doubt whatsoever that many companies will discover an urgent need for one new accountant and two new systems administrators, and that cousins and brothers with genuine, appropriate qualifications, who previously the family was finding it difficult to bring in to the UK, will now breeze through to work for the family firm.

Speaks English? Yes, 10 points. Job offer? Yes, 20 points. Salary over £25,600? Yes, 20 points. Appropriate skill level? Accountant or IT systems administrator, yes, 20 points. For the avoidance of doubt, I have spoken to people in Ghana today already working on how to make money out of helping people get in through the scheme once it starts on 1 January.

I have written before about the tragic deprofessionalisation of the former UK Immigration Service. The system has been privatised and largely decoupled from Embassies, with visa processing handled by private companies in separate buildings. The vast majority of applications are never seen at all by an immigration professional from the Home Office or FCO. They are handled by very poorly paid employees, often locals of the country, completely as a tick box computer exercise.

In the days when the UK had a real Immigration Service, and I line managed a visa section in Accra which had 22 British professional Entry Clearance Officers in it, the very wise Chief Immigration Officer Myron Reid used to tell his staff always to remember it was not the documents they were admitting to the UK, it was the person. The key test was; did you believe the individual and should they be admitted, not how much paperwork they could produce, verification of which was always very difficult. Nowadays the much lower paid, private sector employed drones taking the vast majority of decisions seldom see the individual. The paperwork is all that counts. This will be still more the case as they tick the boxes to add up the 70 points.

I make this forecast with confidence. The net result of these changes will be increased net immigration into the UK, with a substantial spike in non-EU immigration visible in the March 2021 annual return. This is the other point on which Migration Watch are actually correct. The difference is, of course, that I very much welcome the increased immigration opportunities which will arise and believe the increased immigration is essential to our economy and society. I also find it irresistibly hilarious that the large majority of those who voted Brexit and voted Tory, who were primarily motivated by racism, will as a consequence face a substantive surge in non-white immigration. You would need a heart of stone not to laugh at that.

It is also worth noting that, while the freedom of movement with the EU was reciprocal, it is being exchanged for a new policy that will not be. It is going to be far easier for an Indian citizen to qualify to work in the UK, than for a UK citizen to go and work in India.

Do I believe that the government is deliberately seeking to increase non-EU migration? No, I don’t. I think they are just massively incompetent, have misread the effect of the points-based system which was only a vote-winning slogan, and have not understood the lack of control of implementation resulting from their austerity destruction of the professional Immigration Service.

I appreciate this is not the analysis that has been given from pretty well all other left wing thinkers. They have chosen to fight this as a radical restriction of immigration. Of course, what is lost is freedom of movement. It will be harder for EU nationals to come and work here and particularly in jobs the government deems as low-skilled. I utterly deplore the loss of free movement, which was one of the great societal advances of my lifetime. However, I suspect that many EU citizens who wish to live in the UK will still manage to gain employment that fits with the government’s rules. I want for a moment to consider the question of labour shortages in certain industries, which has dominated media debate on the points based system to date.

Firstly it is worth noting that, if not deterred by the ludicrously costly bureaucracy – and that is a real bar to genuine applicants – the paper has sufficient loopholes to allow immigrants, including EU immigrants, to come for work in many of the areas where shortages are feared. Nurses, for example, will not have to meet the minimum salary threshold, because in the NHS and other institutions national pay scales will take precedence over the minimum salary of £25,600 (para 4). In the building trade, plasterers and electricians will count as skilled. What constitutes skilled work is peculiarly arbitrary – anyone who thinks filleting fish is unskilled work should try it. Still more arbitrary is the notion that salary defines the value or the skill of work done. Care work doesn’t seem to me exactly easy.

The fundamental takeaway from this policy is that people who earn under £25,600 are viewed as inferior beings. It is remarkable that a government that claims its aim is to end discrimination between EU citizens and others, views discrimination on grounds of earnings as more laudable.

There will indeed be labour shortages arising from the imposition of this policy, in hospitality, agriculture, social care and other sectors. This will cause some economic pain. The Brexit myth that there are millions of hard working Brits waiting to re-enter the Labour market once no longer undercut by rampaging Romanians, will be exposed for the nonsense that it is. So is the idea that care homes will start paying £18 an hour to attract staff as a result of Brexit.

The paper states that there will be a power to add further “shortage occupations”, a job offer in which will give qualifying points, and I strongly suspect that will be quickly and quietly used rather than permit sectors to collapse. The power of adding shortage occupations is left by the paper with the Migration Advisory Committee, rather than with mad Priti Patel, which I am told she is not too pleased about but gives some hope the economy will not be ruined for the sake of xenophobia. But the extraordinarily high cost of immigration applications is also going to be a severe barrier to finding alternative staffing flows to EU free movement for low paid work. Upfront Home Office application charges – most of which goes to those private agencies doing the call centre type visa processing – of some £1500 will of course be an entirely new obstacle to those from the EU, and a substantial problem. So is the probable new requirement for medical insurance for EU citizens working here.

So the new policy will create at least temporary staffing shortages in some key economic sectors, will substantially diminish the rights of EU citizens, and will in my firm estimation lead overall to an increase in net immigration. I earlier referred to the second most interesting point being that the new policy did nothing to block pre-existing routes to non-EU immigration. The most interesting point of all is that it is a disaster for the rights of British citizens. British citizens lose the right to move freely around Europe, to work, settle and lead their lives over the vast majority of that great continent. It is an appalling restriction on the opportunities of all of us, especially of the young.

This great freedom has been thrown away to promote the views of racists. Those racists are so incompetent that at the same time as shredding British citizens’ right to migrate freely to the EU, they are inadvertently opening the doors to a new net increase in immigration into the UK largely from outwith the EU. This level of hapless blundering is a further marker in the extraordinary deterioration of the UK state as functioning entity.

——————————————

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

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Alternatively:

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

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

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Seeing Through the Lies – US Edition

The Guardian newspaper has taken the art of obfuscation, false implication and the subtler forms of journalistic lying to new heights in its very extensive coverage of the Roger Stone sentencing saga. It has now devoted fourteen articles in the last fortnight to this rather obscure episode of American political history. Yet in not one of those articles – nor in more than a dozen articles about the Stone case that preceded it over the last few months – has the Guardian informed its readers what Stone was actually convicted of doing.

Stone was convicted of giving false testimony and misleading the FBI, because he claimed to be a conduit between Wikileaks and Trump when he was not. There was no conduit between Wikileaks and Trump. Stone was also convicted of witness intimidation, because once his fantasies got him into trouble he tried to browbeat my friend Randy Credico into backing up his tale.

The Guardian has, in a feat of some skill, contrived to give its readers the impression that Stone has been convicted for Trump/Wikileaks links, when that is in fact the precise opposite of the truth.

Stone has been convicted for fabricating the existence of Trump/Wikileaks links, of which there were none.

The Guardian has hung its entire corporate personality on Clinton identity politics and its entire financial survival on building a new online customer base among the Clinton electorate in the USA. When even the New York Times had to admit the Mueller report utterly failed to substantiate Clinton’s inane claims that the Russians had caused Clinton’s election defeat, even when a judge dismissed the DNC’s lawsuit against said Russians as being supported by no viable evidence whatsoever, even when the entire world derided the Guardian’s massive front page lie about Paul Manafort visiting Assange in the Embassy, the Guardian has persisted in reporting as fact the preposterous conspiracy theory that its heroine was thwarted from attaining supreme power by the evil machinations of Vladimir Putin.

To maintain this stance in the face of all factual evidence requires great skill and dexterity from Guardian journalists. Fortunately for the Guardian it does not lack for fantasist Russophobe fabricators like Luke Harding or for more subtly corrupt spinners like David Smith, who last week wrote of Stone that “He was the sixth former Trump aide to be convicted in cases arising from the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.”

The oleaginous David Smith omitted to note what any half honest human being would consider a very pertinent fact – that not one of those convictions had anything at all to do with Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, being either entirely unrelated tax and corruption matters turned up while trawling, or as with Stone being questions of process. Stone’s case is unique in that not only did his conviction not relate to any Russian interference, it was for promoting precisely the same ludicrous fantasy that the Guardian is promoting. It was illegal for Stone to persist in telling his lies on oath; there is no legal bar to the Guardian promoting the same Trump/Wikileaks/Russia fantasy ad nauseam.

Yet we have the spectacle of Julian Assange standing before a judge facing extradition to the United States and up to 175 years in jail for “espionage”, when everything Wikileaks has ever published has a 100% record for truth and accuracy.

To finish with Stone, the ludicrous vindictiveness of the prosecutors in pushing for a seven to nine year jail sentence for an offence that was really no more than wasting investigators’ time with his fanatasies, was rightly called out by Donald Trump. The notion that Roger Stone threatened witnesses is problematical. Randy Credico, the only person Stone was convicted of threatening, has written to the judge asking for Stone not to be jailed and making plain he did not feel threatened. He had known Stone for years and was used to his blustering talk, which Randy never took as intended to be a serious threat.

To consider those DNC leaks published by Wikileaks in which Roger Stone claimed falsely to have a part. What the leaks did reveal was the foul play and machinations of the DNC machinery in cheating Bernie Sanders out of the nomination – including jiggling the ordering of primaries specifically to give Hillary “momentum”, and giving Hillary debate questions in advance. Nobody should be surprised to see the same tactics being deployed against Bernie Sanders – whom I should be clear I support strongly – yet again.

The “muddle” that led to CIA-linked Pete Buttigieg being able to claim victory in Iowa, for a crucial five days before the official tallies showed Bernie had in fact won was, I strongly suspect, merely a portent of what is to come. The fact the app that “misfired” was designed by four ex-Clinton staffers working for a company chaired by a Buttigieg team member is indicative of what we can expect over the next few months. The right have yet to decide on their champion to thwart Bernie. Buttigieg and Klobuchar are enjoying moments in the sun of media approval, and the DNC have now changed the rules to allow Bloomberg into future debates. That the Clintonites who have been deriding Sanders as not a Democrat, will actually switch to support Republican billionaire Bloomberg against Sanders, is something I expect to see play out over the next month as it becomes clear that neither Buttigieg nor Klobuchar can stop Bernie.

Here in the UK, I predict Bloomberg supporting Guardian editorials by April.

Still more sinister, the zionist propaganda machine has started to ramp up its attacks on Bernie. In Iowa the AIPAC linked Democrats pressure group Democratic Majority for Israel sprayed money on TV ads attacking Bernie. It is a sign of the times that Bernie Sanders, bidding to become the first Jewish President of the United States, is attacked and undermined by extreme zionists because of his entirely reasonable views on Israel/Palestine.

Despite all of which, opinion polls show Bernie with a clear lead heading towards the Nevada primary. I remain cautiously hopeful that the degree of cheating required to stop Bernie gaining the nomination would simply be too much to hide, and that the Wikileaks DNC revelations may ultimately, by showing up the dirty tricks last time, help Bernie to power this time. We should, however, never underestimate the resources of the financiers and the security state which will be deployed against Bernie in the next few months. It is going to be a fascinating year in US politics. Either the Democrats will pick a right wing standard bearer and lose to Trump, or Bernie will become President. I do not share the general fatalism on the left which deems the latter impossible.

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Time Warp UK

The resignation of Savid Javid yesterday as Chancellor without even presenting a budget mirrors the resignation of Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston’s father – and in so doing says something extraordinary about lack of social progress in the UK in the intervening 130 years.

Chancellor Randolph Churchill disagreed with then Prime Minister Lord Salisbury over his first budget, and resigned. The whole spat was carried out in a splenetic and emotional fashion which was almost certainly influenced by Churchill’s mental deterioration from syphilis – which the Eton and Oxford educated Randolph had caught as a result of a Bullingdon Club jaunt.

(There is no evidence a pig was involved. There is also no evidence Winston had congenital syphilis, or that Jennie Churchill caught it from Randolph, the latter being slightly surprising).

It is to me quite incredible that the UK is still at the mercy of the whims and foibles of degenerates from not only the same class, but from within the same tiny social institutions which still confer a hereditary ability to govern a state of 60 million people now, in 2020. It makes a mockery of the UK’s claim to be a functional social polity and it makes a mockery of the very notion that “democracy” has any real existence in British society.

Johnson’s drive to centralise power is not especially different to that of Thatcher or Blair; there is a slight qualitative difference in the degree of Cummings’ policy influence, but to date I regard the claims that there is a real discontinuity in the form of UK government as overblown. Westminster has always been the seat of a massive, centralised abuse of power; perhaps it is a little bit more visible at the moment. What has enabled the continuation of oligarchic hegemony in the UK has been the destruction of the power to resist of organised labour. Thatcher quite deliberately undertook that as a massive project of social engineering, involving the deliberate destruction of all the UK’s major productive industries and replacement by a service based economy.

Blair continued the Thatcher revolution, in particular in removing government services to private providers where organised labour was weak or non-existent. The massive concentration of wealth into the hands of the rich and removal of wealth from ordinary people that ensued from the Thatcher/New Labour right wing revolution led to the reaction of Corbynism, but the roots of organised labour having been ruthlessly cut away, Corbyn found there was no longer a sufficient well of social solidarity which could support a counter narrative to the massively concentrated media propaganda.

Wealth inequality is fast heading back to levels Randolph Churchill would have recognised as he and his Bullingdon boys went whoring working class girls in Oxford. The gap between the top 1% and the 99% is shifting apart radically and is the key measure- not the gap between the 10% and 90% which the government points to disingenuously as not changing much.

Notions of social solidarity which made so much progress from 1800-1980 have gone backwards and their survival in isolated areas as a majority view is primarily as expression of national or cultural identity, notably of course in Scotland but also among immigrant groups and in cities with a strong sense of identity and civic pride. Outwith that, the UK has been engineered by unscrupulous politicians to revert to a society which delights in licking the shoes of the man from the Bullingdon Club.

Remind me, which century is this?

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

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Mourning A Terrorist

The aim of this blog is to put forward reasonable points of view not easily found elsewhere, and it is important not to shy away from saying things because they run directly contrary to the popular mood. The stabbing of three people in Streatham was a tragedy, and while all are recovering, the mental and perhaps physical damage will be life-changing. But the death of the terrorist, Sudesh Amman, is also a human tragedy. The government’s populist response – to lock up those convicted of terrorist offences for ever longer and to seek to ban early release, even retrospectively – is crass and will make the situation worse, not better.

Sudesh Amman died aged only twenty. He had been jailed at eighteen for crimes committed when he was just seventeen. It is vital to state that those crimes were thought crimes – before he went to jail, Sudesh Amman had never been accused of attacking anyone. He was jailed for the terrorist fantasies he harboured as a child. Whether he would ever actually have attacked anybody had he never been sent to jail is a question it is impossible to answer. That he attacked people after being sent to jail is a simple fact.

That is not to downplay the idea he was a dangerous child. He had expressed the ambition to be a terrorist, posted violent fantasy online, downloaded posts on bomb-making and had acquired a combat knife and an air pistol. He may have gone on to carry out an attack. Or it may all have been just the bluster and rage of a frustrated child in a single parent family of five kids living in unpleasant circumstances.

It seems to me that intervention by the state was entirely reasonable in view of the seventeen year old’s state of mind. It is not at all obvious to me that branding a child, who had never attacked anybody, as a “terrorist”, thus destroying his prospects in life, convicting him of terrorist thought crime as soon as he turned eighteen, and sending him to prison to mix with hardened criminals and actual terrorists, was a sensible way for the state to intervene. By fueling his sense of alienation and injustice, that seems to me a course of action almost guaranteed to ensure that this child would emerge from prison as a twenty year old determined to commit an actual terrorist attack. Which is of course exactly what happened, and the death of young Sudesh Amman himself was the inevitable end of the tragedy.

SUDESH AMMAN

A seventeen year old harbouring fantasies of gross violence, but who has not carried those fantasies into action, should be a mental health issue not a criminal law issue. The state intervention should have been aimed at making Sudesh well and with future prospects in life. That may have involved a period of involuntary in-patient treatment, and we should have facilities that can provide that without branding young people terrorists before they have done anything violent.

It is of course worth noting also that with Sudesh as with so many others, if the UK had not invaded or attacked Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, his sense of injustice towards Muslims, which he fantasised about fighting to correct, would never have arisen in the first instance.

The idea that in future the answer is to lock away youngsters for life for thinking wrong, is at the moment extremely popular and helping the Tories surf still higher on their wave of xenophobic acclaim. That will simply stoke more grievance and create more terrorism. No matter how unpopular, those of us who try to think calmly and sensibly have a duty to oppose the baying of the mob.

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

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Get Out and Vote Sinn Fein

A quick exhortation to my readers in Ireland to get out to the polling station and vote for Sinn Fein. Irish government has too long consisted of two centre right parties taking turns at the trough of public finance, and Varadkar’s slick disguise of his essential Thatcherism through social liberalism and identity politics is particularly nauseating. Martin’s platform of being a little bit less Thatcherite than Varadkar is scarcely appealing. In a country that is now significantly wealthier per capita than the UK, the levels of poverty and the growth of inequality are inexcusable.

But even more important than any of that is Irish unification. As Northern Ireland elects a majority of Nationalist MPs for the first time since partition, and as Brexit leads to support for reunification that reaches across communities, the traditional parties in Ireland are lukewarm and at best pay lip service to Irish unity, with no sign of any real intention to reach for it.

Those who oppose Irish unity lest it be expensive are a disgrace to their nation. People who will not take what their forbears were willing to die for, because it might cost them a little bit, are despicable. They are also missing the point entirely. Before Independence, Ireland was very impoverished compared to England. The free part of Ireland is now much richer than England. Once Northern Ireland escapes from the dead hand of UK economic centralism, it too will flourish and become much wealthier. Ireland will be a larger and more confident economic unit. Of course there will be initial dislocation effects, but Ireland is well placed to weather any short term pain – provided the rich take their fair share of the burden.

For all those reasons, do get out and vote Sinn Fein.

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

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Quick Thoughts from the Cesspool of London

I have been in London all week and very busy, largely on the Julian Assange campaign/Wikileaks but also researching a couple of other things. Back to Edinburgh tonight I hope.

Against the background of the appalling behaviour revealed in the Wikileaks DNC leaks, I find it impossible to look at the Iowa caucus fiasco without entertaining the suspicion that the Democratic Party machine is trying to cheat Bernie out of the nomination yet again.

A similar straw in the wind on party “management”; I was told yesterday the SNP is cancelling its Spring Conference to avoid a membership revolt over the acceptance of the Westminster veto on Indyref2. Has anyone else picked this up?

Back home and hopefully posting something substantial tomorrow.

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Scottish Independence is Within our Grasp if We Heed the Lesson of Toom Tabard

There will never again be a route to Scottish Independence deemed legal by Westminster. 2014 will never be repeated. The UK will never willingly give up a third of its land, most of its fisheries, most of its mineral resources, its most marketable beef, soft fruit and whisky, most of its renewable energy potential, a vital part of its military including its primary nuclear base, its best universities in a number of key fields including life sciences, its ready pool of intellectual and professional talent. Johnson is for once honest when he says keeping the Union together is his top priority. It is the top priority of the entire British establishment.

David Cameron only agreed to the 2014 referendum because he thought the result would humiliate and kill off Scottish nationalism. Support for Independence was at 28% in the polls at the time he agreed. Westminster had the most enormous and horrible shock when support for Independence grew to 45% during the campaign as many people for the first time in their lives heard the real arguments. The Whitehall panic of the last week of the 2014 referendum campaign is not something the British Establishment ever intend to repeat.

There is a charmingly naive argument put forward by some that, if support for Independence can be grown to 60% in the opinion polls, Johnson and Westminster will have to “grant” a referendum. This is the opposite of the truth. If support for Independence is at 60%, the very last thing that the Tories will do is agree a referendum they will lose. Their resistance will be massively hardened. Remember, the Tories could have zero Tory MPs in Scotland and still have a majority of 73 in Westminster. There is no political damage for Johnson in unpopularity in Scotland. In England, his anti-Scots stance is very popular with their Cummings core support base of knuckle-dragging, ill-educated racists.

The “intellectual justification” for this stance was trailed by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on the Marr programme this morning. Irrespective of the wishes of the majority in Scotland, the UK has a duty to stop Scottish Independence, to prevent anarchic secessionist forces being unleashed across Europe; he named Italy, France and Spain.

Westminster will never agree another referendum, and the more we look like winning it, the less they will agree to it.

Nor is there a route to a “legal” referendum through the courts. If a court rules that a consultative referendum is legal under the current Scotland Act (which it might well be), then the Tories will simply pass new legislation at Westminster to make it illegal. They have already done this at Westminster to overturn Scottish parliament decisions, and the UK Supreme Court have already made clear that the Sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament cannot be challenged.

Scotland can become independent, but becoming independent is, without doubt, going to be illegal in terms of UK law – which is to say Westminster law. There will not be a route to Independence agreed with Westminster.

If you believe in Scottish Independence, you believe that the Scottish nation are a “people” within the meaning of the UN Charter, and thus have an inalienable right of self-determination. That means that Westminster has no right, by legislation or by any other means, to prevent the Scottish people from exercising their self-determination.

I am sorry, but this is the fact: If you believe Scotland should only move to Independence in a Westminster-approved process, you do not really believe in Scottish Independence at all.

Which brings us to Nicola Sturgeon. Her much-trumpeted speech on the way forward following Brexit was disgraceful in explicitly stating that any referendum must be held with Westminster agreement, and that any referendum held without Westminster agreement could be “illegal”. She used the words “illegal” and “wildcat” to denigrate the idea of Scotland acting without Westminster permission.

Even the most loyal to Sturgeon of all major Independence bloggers, like James Kelly and Paul Kavanagh, could not support Sturgeon on this point.

What Sturgeon said amounts to an explicit acknowledgement of UK sovereignty over the Scottish people as both legitimate and immutable. She is accepting that the Act of Union did permanently alienate the right of self-determination. Sturgeon should heed the tale of Toom Tabard as to what respect English rulers show to Scottish leaders who accept their authority. Her speech reinforced my view that she really is much too comfortable in her role of colonial governor.

And yet…

When Sturgeon started talking about calling a Constitutional Convention I first scoffed thinking she was merely fulfilling my prediction that her “plan” would be to start yet another talking shop. But then I was astonished when she outlined the potential membership – the elected representatives of Scotland sitting together, constituting MSPs, MPs, (former) MEPs and council leaders.

I have explained at length over the last two years my proposal for a route to Independence that would lead to recognition by the international community. Donald Tusk today confirmed all I have been saying about the enormous sympathy there will be in the EU towards welcoming Scotland back, now the UK has switched status to third country state. [I knew Donald Tusk reasonably well when I was First Secretary of the British Embassy in Warsaw in the 1990s and he was an out of office politician the same age as me. I should like to think I had an effect!]

But the heart of what I was proposing is this, as I put it in December 2018

The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

Or as I put it again two weeks ago:

We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.

Please do read the articles linked if you have not already done so. They explain how Scotland can legitimately become an Independent nation without regard to UK domestic law.

Now, until Sturgeon’s speech, I had never seen anybody else but me put forward the proposal that the way forward is via an assembly of all MPs, MSPs and MEPs, giving the triple legitimacy of democratic election. Sturgeon has enhanced this by adding council leaders.

There is a huge difference between an assembly – or convention – of elected representatives, and an appointed one of the great and the good. This new assembly proposed by Sturgeon is very different indeed in that respect from the Convention of the same name that helped formulate devolution.

Now I do not think for one moment that Sturgeon has convened this Convention to declare Independence. But an assembly of Scotland’s MPs, MSPs, MEPs and council leaders will have a clear Independence majority numerically and a massive Independence majority intellectually. It will have an extremely strong claim to be a properly representative assembly whose members each have a democratic mandate. The French Revolution was of course similarly precipitated by constitutional innovation convening a National Assembly combining the different Estates, and that Assembly was swept along by fervour to take proto-revolutionary measures which went far beyond the initial positions of any of its members.

The dynamic of a new constitutional body whose members feel they command legitimacy, should not be underestimated. The convening of this body will be a real constitutional innovation. We need to make sure, that like that French National Assembly, they can clearly hear a huge mob outside their windows, demanding radical and speedy change.

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

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Non-Condemnatory International Reaction to Trump’s Bantustan Lite Palestine Plan Shows the “Two State” Solution Was Always a Lie

I have read through the entire 181 pages of Trump’s “peace deal” for Israel, and it is breathtaking. It is not just that the “solution” it proposes is ludicrously one-sided, it is the entire analysis of the problem to be solved which reads as pure, unadulterated zionist propaganda.

For example, the word “violence” is used repeatedly. But it only ever refers to violence by Arabs. There is not one single mention of violence by Israel against the Palestinians, even though the ratio of killing between Israelis and Palestinians over the last ten years is approximately 80:1 . The only mention of violence against Palestinians at all relates to Kuwaiti expulsion of Palestinian refugees after the first Gulf war.

The analysis of the refugee issue is the same. Nowhere can the paper bring itself to note the key historic fact, that the Palestinian refugees were expelled from Israel. The paper treats Palestinian refugees as if they had simply materialised as an inconvenient phenomenon, like a plague of locusts. This “othering” of Palestinian refugees permeates the entire paper:

It must be stressed that many Palestinian refugees in the Middle East come from war torn countries, such as Syria and Lebanon that are extremely hostile toward the State of Israel

No. Palestinian refugees were driven by violence from the land that is now Israel. Families who lived there two generations ago have been displaced in favour of families who claim the land because their ancestors lived there eighty generations ago. That is a matter of indisputable fact.

You can claim that displacement of the Palestinians from Israel was justifiable because of the urgent need for a state for Jewish people after the Holocaust. You can claim that the displacement of Palestinians from Israel is justifiable because it is divinely ordained. You can claim the displacement of Palestinians from Israel is regrettable but irreversible. Make what argument you wish, but to refuse to acknowledge the basic fact that the Palestinian refugees were driven from Israel is a pathetic act of cowardice that underlines the sheer intellectual shoddiness of the paper.

The “deal” makes a direct equivalence between Palestinian refugees and “the Jewish refugees who were forced to flee from Arab and Muslim countries”. The language here is extremely revealing. The Jewish refugees “were forced to flee”. There is no hesitation about this claim of victimhood. Whereas there is no acknowledgement at all that the Palestinian refugees “were forced to flee” by the Israelis.

It is undoubtedly a valid point that many Jews were disgracefully and involuntarily driven out by Arab nations, and their suffering is too often overlooked. However to claim the numbers are equivalent is to ignore the fact that a significant portion of the Jewish population of Arab states moved voluntarily to the new homeland, whereas none of the Palestinians expelled from Israel left voluntarily. But the more glaring fact ignored in the paper is that the majority of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands were given the property of Palestinian refugees in Israel. The claim that both sides are in equal need of compensation is therefore a nonsense.

The failure to admit the Palestinian refugees were driven out of Israel panders disgracefully to the most extreme zionist propaganda, which claims that the land was empty before the Israelis settled it in 1948. This is a classic colonist origin myth, used repeatedly by the British Empire, by white settlers in the USA, and of course by apartheid South Africa. When the Trump deal was first published, I was genuinely astonished to find twitter awash with thousands of tweets claiming the Palestinians do not exist as a people. This is an extraordinarily prevalent racist trope among zionists and appears to be not policed on the internet at all. I have read hundreds of articles about the hateful phenomenon of anti-semitism in the mainstream media. I don’t think I have ever seen this extreme zionist racism of “there is no such thing as Palestinians” ever mentioned in the MSM as a problem. But zionist racism is a huge problem, and it underlies the fundamental analysis of the Trump paper.

If you cannot bring yourself to acknowledge, even once in 181 pages, that the Palestinian inhabitants were driven out of Israel, there is no chance the proposals built on these fundamentally dishonest foundations will be solid.

The Trump paper has three fundamental “solutions” to the Palestinian refugee issue.

1) Only those originally displaced to be deemed refugees, not their families.
2) Not one single refugee to be allowed to return to Israel (yes, it does actually say that)
3) No compensation to be paid to refugees by Israel

I have often pointed out that the proposed “two state solution” for Palestine has always been no more and no less than the old apartheid policy of “Bantustans” in South Africa, where the indigenous population were herded into six self-governing and four supposedly “independent states”.

It is worth pointing out that the apotheosis of the apartheid system, the Bantu Self-Governing Act of 1959, was given Royal Assent by Queen Elizabeth II, a point now rather skated over by a false narrative that apartheid was a solely Afrikaaner project post-Independence.

The major similarity that I had been pointing out with Bantustans was revealed by the map: fractured lands, not forming any kind of economically viable unit. Trump proposes Israeli annexation of the whole of the Jordan Valley, of North Jerusalem and large areas of the West Bank, the remnant of which is to be shattered by 15 Israeli sovereign settlements connected by Israeli only roads. Trump’s “Palestine” is very plainly not viable.

But the Trump proposals for how “Palestine” will run, make the Bantustan comparison still more stark. Indeed, the restrictions on the so-called “state” of Palestine under the Trump plan from having its own military or security forces are even greater than those imposed on the Bantustans by apartheid South Africa. Trump also proposes that Israel should have the right to stop Palestinian refugees from the wider diaspora entering the new “state” of Palestine.

A “state” not permitted to define its own citizens is not a state.

It does not stop there. The “state” is to have no right to a territorial sea or exclusive economic zone, with its sea to be given to Israel in contravention of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is not to be allowed to conclude treaties without Israeli consent. It is not even to be allowed to open a port but to be forced to import and export goods through Israeli ports – in other words, the Israeli economic blockade is to continue on the new “state”. Plainly, even apart from the unviable fracturing and the shrunk territory, the administrative arrangements proposed make no attempt to reach the level of statehood.

Surely, then, the proponents of the “two state solution” must have reacted strongly to this betrayal of their proposal?

Well, no.

In many ways the most incredible thing about the Trump proposals is how welcoming the western powers were. The general reaction from all European governments was that these are serious proposals with which the Palestinians must engage. While the ridiculous assessment from Dominic Raab that “this is clearly a serious proposal” is perhaps what you would expect from a state looking to the US for economic crumbs, the Palestinians might legitimately have expected better from the EU than the official response, which welcomed Trump’s “commitment to a two state solution”, of France which “welcomes Donald Trump’s efforts”, and of Germany which “appreciates that the president is sticking to the two state solution”.

The Palestinians were probably less disappointed by the support of the traitorous dictatorships of the Saudi and other Gulf States for their close Israeli ally, which is par for the course. But the fact that the international community recognises as a proposed “two state solution” a paper which in no sense whatsoever establishes a Palestinian state within any normal definition of the word, should tell us something important.

As I have repeatedly stated, those who trumpeted the “two state solution” have always been con-artists who do not believe in a viable Palestinian state at all. The fact that Blair and Bush, two dedicated ultra-zionists, stood in the Rose Garden and promised a “two state solution” as part of their propaganda for the Iraq War and other Middle East invasions, really should have shown people of goodwill this was a blind alley. The Trump proposals are a betrayal of the Palestinians, of course. But they are not unique to Trump and they are exactly what Blair, Bush and all the zionist apologists intended all along.

The “two state solution” was always a con.

There is no viable two state solution. To create a viable Palestinian state alongside a viable Israeli state would now involve highly undesirable further forced movements of population. The only long term solution for Palestine/Israel is, as with South Africa, a single state in which everybody has a vote and everybody is treated equally, irrespective of ethnicity, creed or gender.

Trump may, peculiarly, have done one good thing with these ludicrously unfair proposals. He has exposed the hollowness of the “two state solution”, and the pretence that it offers any justice to the Palestinians of way forward towards peace.

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

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The FBI Has Been Lying About Seth Rich

A persistent American lawyer has uncovered the undeniable fact that the FBI has been continuously lying, including giving false testimony in court, in response to Freedom of Information requests for its records on Seth Rich. The FBI has previously given affidavits that it has no records regarding Seth Rich.

A Freedom of Information request to the FBI which did not mention Seth Rich, but asked for all email correspondence between FBI Head of Counterterrorism Peter Strzok, who headed the investigation into the DNC leaks and Wikileaks, and FBI attorney Lisa Page, has revealed two pages of emails which do not merely mention Seth Rich but have “Seth Rich” as their heading. The emails were provided in, to say the least, heavily redacted form.

Before I analyse these particular emails, I should make plain that they are not the major point. The major point is that the FBI claimed it had no records mentioning Seth Rich, and these have come to light in response to a different FOIA request that was not about him. What other falsely denied documents does the FBI hold about Rich, that were not fortuitously picked up by a search for correspondence between two named individuals?

To look at the documents themselves, they have to be read from the bottom up, and they consist of a series of emails between members of the Washington Field Office of the FBI (WF in the telegrams) into which Strzok was copied in, and which he ultimately forwarded on to the lawyer Lisa Page.

The opening email, at the bottom, dated 10 August 2016 at 10.32am, precisely just one month after the murder of Seth Rich, is from the media handling department of the Washington Field Office. It references Wikileaks’ offer of a reward for information on the murder of Seth Rich, and that Assange seemed to imply Rich was the source of the DNC leaks. The media handlers are asking the operations side of the FBI field office for any information on the case. The unredacted part of the reply fits with the official narrative. The redacted individual officer is “not aware of any specific involvement” by the FBI in the Seth Rich case. But his next sentence is completely redacted. Why?

It appears that “adding” references a new person added in to the list. This appears to have not worked, and probably the same person (precisely same length of deleted name) then tries again, with “adding … for real” and blames the technology – “stupid Samsung”. The interesting point here is that the person added appears not to be in the FBI – a new redacted addressee does indeed appear, and unlike all the others does not have an FBI suffix after their deleted email address. So who are they?

(This section on “adding” was updated after commenters offered a better explanation than my original one. See first comments below).

The fourth email, at 1pm on Wednesday August 10, 2016, is much the most interesting. It is ostensibly also from the Washington Field Office, but it is from somebody using a different classified email system with a very different time and date format than the others. It is apparently from somebody more senior, as the reply to it is “will do”. And every single word of this instruction has been blanked. The final email, saying that “I squashed this with …..”, is from a new person again, with the shortest name. That phrase may only have meant I denied this to a journalist, or it may have been reporting an operational command given.

As the final act in this drama, Strzok then sent the whole thread on to the lawyer, which is why we now have it. Why?

It is perfectly possible to fill in the blanks with a conversation that completely fits the official narrative. The deletions could say this was a waste of time and the FBI was not looking at the Rich case. But in that case, the FBI would have been delighted to publish it unredacted. (The small numbers in the right hand margins supposedly detail the exception to the FOIA under which deletion was made. In almost every case they are one or other category of invasion of privacy).

And if it just all said “Assange is talking nonsense. Seth Rich is nothing to do with the FBI” then why would that have to be sent on by Strzok to the FBI lawyer?

It is of course fortunate that Strzok did forward this one email thread on to the lawyer, because that is the only reason we have seen it, as a result of an FOI(A) request for the correspondence between those two.

Finally, and perhaps this is the most important point, the FBI was at this time supposed to be in the early stages of an investigation into how the DNC emails were leaked to Wikileaks. The FBI here believed Wikileaks to be indicating the material had been leaked by Seth Rich who had then been murdered. Surely in any legitimate investigation, the investigators would have been absolutely compelled to check out the truth of this possibility, rather than treat it as a media issue?

We are asked to believe that not one of these emails says “well if the publisher of the emails says Seth Rich was the source, we had better check that out, especially as he was murdered with no sign of a suspect”. If the FBI really did not look at that, why on earth not? If the FBI genuinely, as they claim, did not even look at the murder of Seth Rich, that would surely be the most damning fact of all and reveal their “investigation” was entirely agenda driven from the start.

In June 2016 a vast cache of the DNC emails were leaked to Wikileaks. On 10 July 2016 an employee from the location of the leak was murdered without obvious motive, in an alleged street robbery in which nothing at all was stolen. Not to investigate the possibility of a link between the two incidents would be grossly negligent. It is worth adding that, contrary to a propaganda barrage, Bloomingdale where Rich was murdered is a very pleasant area of Washington DC and by no means a murder hotspot. It is also worth noting that not only is there no suspect in Seth Rich’s murder, there has never been any semblance of a serious effort to find the killer. Washington police appear perfectly happy simply to write this case off.

I anticipate two responses to this article in terms of irrelevant and illogical whataboutery:

Firstly, it is very often the case that family members are extremely resistant to the notion that the murder of a relative may have wider political implications. This is perfectly natural. The appalling grief of losing a loved one to murder is extraordinary; to reject the cognitive dissonance of having your political worldview shattered at the same time is very natural. In the case of David Kelly, of Seth Rich, and of Wille Macrae, we see families reacting with emotional hostility to the notion that the death raises wider questions. Occasionally the motive may be still more mixed, with the prior relationship between the family and the deceased subject to other strains (I am not referencing the Rich case here).

You do occasionally get particularly stout hearted family who take the opposite tack and are prepared to take on the authorities in the search for justice, of which Commander Robert Green, son of Hilda Murrell, is a worthy example.

(As an interesting aside, I just checked his name in the Wikipedia article on Hilda, which I discovered describes Tam Dalyell “hounding” Margaret Thatcher over the Belgrano and the fact that ship was steaming away from the Falklands when destroyed with massive loss of life as a “second conspiracy theory”, the first of course being the murder of Hilda Murrell. Wikipedia really has become a cesspool.)

We have powerful cultural taboos that reinforce the notion that if the family do not want the question of the death of their loved one disturbed, nobody else should bring it up. Seth Rich’s parents, David Kelly’s wife, Willie Macrae’s brother have all been deployed by the media and the powers behind them to this effect, among many other examples. This is an emotionally powerful but logically weak method of restricting enquiry.

Secondly, I do not know and I deliberately have not inquired what are the views on other subjects of either Mr Ty Clevenger, who brought his evidence and blog to my attention, or Judicial Watch, who made the FOIA request that revealed these documents. I am interested in the evidence presented both that the FBI lied, and in the documents themselves. Those who obtained the documents may, for all I know, be dedicated otter baiters or believe in stealing ice cream from children. I am referencing the evidence they have obtained in this particular case, not endorsing – or condemning – anything else in their lives or work. I really have had enough of illogical detraction by association as a way of avoiding logical argument by an absurd extension of ad hominem argument to third parties.

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

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Of Coronavirus and Chartism

I am cheerfully optimistic that this Coronavirus, like asian swine flu and SARS before it, will prove not to be as deadly as may be prognosticated by journalists wanting to fill column inches. One day the human race will become extinct; but it is unlikely to be a virus that does it, as wiping out your host is not a clever survival policy for a virus. Even a disease as vicious as ebola proved not to be so potent against subjects who were not malnourished nor struggling with other health issues. So far this coronavirus seems to have a mortality rate of about 3%, which is probably an over high estimate as it is only a percentage of those who died after testing, whereas it appears there are large numbers with milder symptoms who are unlikely to have been tested in the first place. So coronavirus is not looking vastly different to ordinary influenza, which has a mortality rate of about 1%.

When you or I get flu we don’t normally panic as though we have a 1% chance of dying from it. That is again because we are well nourished, live in good conditions and have not been much weakened by other disease. Like this coronavirus, influenza generally carries off the old and frail. Whether the infamous Spanish flu after the First World War that killed so many was a particularly potent strain is open to doubt. A more powerful factor is probably that the population it wracked was suffering greatly from malnourishment, stress and disease already as a result of the war. But unlike this coronavirus, that one did attack children badly.

Which is not to say the current coronavirus might not yet mutate into something much more lethal, but as yet there is no sign of that happening.

I was educated both at school and university very much in the liberal tradition of history. At both levels, the curriculum featured a view of historic political development very much as “progress”. The “years of revolution”, 1830 and 1848, were landmarks in this, where liberal and national movements made some progress against monarchist autocracy across the whole of Europe. These political waves of convulsion on a continent wide basis undoubtedly happened, and in the UK resulted in the Great Reform Act and the Chartist Movement. They were taught in the Macaulay/Trevelyan historical tradition as very much the product of development in thought, as a product of political philosophy, as though the masses were moved by the elegantly turned phrases of a Benthamite pamphlet.

At university, I did add to this the knowledge that poor harvests had helped precipitate events, and indeed those had featured in my A level lists of “Causes of the French Revolution”. But it was only really a few years ago, when I was researching Sikunder Burnes, that I came to focus properly on the role of epidemiology in these human convulsions. Both the 1830 and 1848 European wave of revolutions coincided with the first and second ever cholera pandemics sweeping across Europe. The reason I came across this while studying Burnes is precisely that it was the opening up of Central Asia to trade in this period, largely through Russian exploration and expansion, that brought the disease into Europe. Burnes was in 1832 in a Bokhara ravaged for years by cholera. Its great canals – which are still there – were only being opened to fresh water once a month, and they served as both water supply and sewer, as Burnes documented in detail.

Without the misery inflicted by cholera, both directly and in economic impact, the desperate urban mobs may not have existed which enabled middle class liberals – and their own auto-didactic leadership – to start the establishment of western European democracy. It seems a very strange thing to suggest that cholera pandemics forwarded social progress. But there you are. I am now proceeding to an audacious discussion as to whether a lack of effective pandemics may retard social progress. Hang on to your hats.

[As a complete aside, I also discovered while researching Alexander Burnes that the great British liberal historical tradition was founded on a truly remarkable incestuous household menage a trois between Macaulay, his sister and Charles Trevelyan, father of the historian George who may well have been Macaulay’s son and nephew, rather than the official version of just nephew, and that Macaulay had also been having sex with his other sister. So much for Victorian respectability. Sikunder Burnes is a difficult book to describe because it presents an extremely detailed and painstaking account of the life of a 19th century British imperial functionary, and then from that framework sprout all kinds of exegeses on my wider intellectual interests. I hope it reads better than that sounds].

I do hope that I am right that coronavirus will prove, like SARS, not a great threat to us. The ability of modern nutrition, living conditions and medicine to ward off serious risk of epidemic and other illness has of course resulted in a very significant increase in human longevity. The relentless increase in longevity has slowed slightly as a result of the post 2008 economic crash, but I expect it to pick up again as it is a centuries old trend. In the UK, much has been written about the economic effects of this. In the UK, the concentration of wealth in the hands of old people who are not dying and passing it down, coincides with economic changes which have made it very difficult for young people to have good secure employment and to accumulate wealth, particularly property.

At the same time, the old people may own wealth but do not much generate it. With the increasingly aged demographic profile boosted by both people living longer and by historic falling birth rates, the percentage of the population in employment is in decline. The Office of National Statistics projects that while in 2007 there were 244 pensioners for every 1000 adults of working age, by 2041 there will be 419 per 1,000. This is a well understood economic problem to which, within the UK, the answer has lain in immigration.

It is not my purpose here to touch on these economic questions. I wish rather to look at the political effects. The UK has become a gerontocracy. The proportion of British adults eligible to vote who were aged over 55 in 2007 was approximately 37%. By 2041, that will be a majority of voters aged over 55. It is quite possible that a majority of those who do cast their vote in the UK are already over 55, as voter turnout is much higher among the elderly. So by 2040 it is perfectly possible that 60% or more of all votes actually cast will be cast by people aged 55 or over.

This is significant because it is a matter of indisputable fact that voting patterns are different between the old and the young. It was, to a truly remarkable degree, only the votes of the over 55s that stopped Scottish Independence, voted for Brexit, and elected Boris Johnson. Now any time I write on this subject I get offended older people saying “well I am old but I am not a Tory”. I know. I am not claiming every old person is a Tory. But Unionism, Brexitism and Toryism all are much more predominant among older voters. And while the issues may differ by 2040, I very much doubt there will cease to be differentials between the views of the old and the young.

The long term effects of western political systems which become increasingly dominated by geriatric voters are very unlikely to include a greater willingness to adopt progressive or innovative political approaches. I do not see how there can fail to be a stultifying effect on social progress. Again, I am 61 myself. Of course there are many radical older people. But there is overwhelming evidence that is not the norm.

Gaia has ways of restoring balance. It seems to me a fascinating speculation that, as the planet’s apex predator, mankind has succeeded in increasing individual longevity by increased nutrition and an ability to stave off pandemics which nature would use to keep down the numbers, and which normally would particularly kill older people. But the result of this may be a profound reduction in the adaptability and flexibility of mankind’s political hive mind as it becomes encrusted with geriatric thought, leading to seriously bad political decisions which ultimately will impact population anyway. Climate change is the most obvious example, but the process could have long term subtle effects in many ways.

Thomas Malthus was pilloried for centuries, but his critique of the dangers of human over-population now chimes with envronmentalist concerns. I have no desire to underestimate the suffering of those unfortunate enough to be affected by coronavirus. I do not actually wish to see elderly Tories and unionists carried off by flu. But I suspect you, like me, may very seldom get to read an article referencing the interrelationship of epidemiology, longevity and political systems. As the avowed purpose of this blog is to make people think, I thought readers and commenters may care to stretch their brains on this one.

Finally, as a restorative affirmation of the fact that older people can have very positive contributions to make to political thought, here is last week’s debate between George Galloway and myself on the subject of Scottish Independence. It has become unusual in British politics to see two people with fundamentally different views on a major political issue, discuss the matter with mutual respect and absolutely no rancour. It is a practice that appears to have deserted most professional politicians, as the last disintegrating days of the UK state become increasingly acrimonious.

——————————————

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

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The Troubling Decline of International Law

While it is true that rogue states – most notably the USA – have always posed a threat to the rule of international law, I see no serious room to dispute that the development of the corpus of international law, and of the institutions to implement it, was one of the great achievements of the twentieth century, and did a huge amount to reduce global conflict.

The International Court of Justice, the Law of the Sea Tribunal, the European Court of Justice, the World Trade Organisation, these are just some of the institutions which have played an extremely positive role, helping resolve hundreds of disputes during their existence and, still more importantly, helping establish rules that prevented thousands more disputes from arising. Regional Organisations, dozens of them including the EU, the African Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, have also flourished.

The judgement of the ICJ in the 160 cases it has heard has almost always been respected by the parties to the case. That has applied even when the dispute is radical, inflammatory and had already led to fighting and deaths, such as the settlement of the Nigeria/Cameroon border. The ICJ has been a massive success story.

The foundation of the International Criminal Court in 2002 was the high water mark in establishing the rule of law as the guiding principle of international affairs. As with all the major worldwide institutions of international law, the UK had played a leading role in the establishment of the ICC. I was in the FCO at the time, and I remember the quiet confidence that eventually the USA would join up, just as they had with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea after decades of havering. In fact, the ICC has been a major disappointment, of which more later. I refer to 2002 as the high water mark for the rule of international law, because subsequently the tide has turned decisively against it.

When Blair and Bush invaded Iraq, not only without the sanction of the UN Security Council but in the certain knowledge the Security Council was against it, and in Blair’s case against the unanimous opinion of the FCO’s entire cadre of Legal Advisers who stated that the war was illegal, they not only precipitated a crisis that has resulted in millions of deaths, they dealt a killing blow to the entire fabric of international law.

The results are now becoming every day more visible. We have just survived for now, thanks to Iran’s remarkable sense and restraint, a dangerous crisis in the Middle East following the illegal assassination of General Soleimani, who was travelling on a diplomatic mission at the time. The use on a massive scale of execution by drone – including execution of UK and US nationals – by the British and American governments, often without the permission of the government in whose territory the execution takes place, is an appalling breach of international law for which there appears to be no effective remedy.

The FCO Legal Advisers refused to advise that the killing of Soleimani was legal in international law. However the UK government no longer cares if something is legal in international law or not. The government line was originally that there was an “arguable case” that the assassination was legal, then after objections from legal advisers the line changed to “it is not for the UK to determine whether the drone strike is legal”.

The United Kingdom used to be a pillar, arguably the most important pillar, of international law. Thanks to a series of neo-con politicians, including Blair, Straw, Cameron, May and Johnson, the UK scarcely makes a pretence any more abut giving a fig about international law. It simply ignores the instruction of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice to decolonise the Chagos Islands. It refuses to implement the binding international arbitration on debt owed to Iran. It mocks the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. It refuses to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women into asylum detention centres. I could go on. A direct consequence of this is sharply diminished UK influence in the world, and in particular for the first time in 71 years it does not have a seat on the International Court of Justice. As the UK has effectively spurned the authority of the ICJ, this is scarcely surprising.

It was the UK’s reputation as an upholder of international law that moderated outrage at the UN at the UK’s anachronistic permanent membership of the UN Security Council. That international respect no longer exists, and the British Government are deluded if they think that the UK’s privileged UN status will last forever, especially as it can no longer be represented as a proxy for EU foreign policy.

The UN itself is of course suffering a sustained threat to its authority. It is simply ignored on the dreadful Saudi led disaster in Yemen. By refusing the Iranian foreign minister a visa to attend a Security Council meeting on Soleimani, the USA struck at the very purpose of the UN. If the institution is to be held the hostage of its geographical host, what is its purpose? Ultimately, to regain relevance the UN would have both democratically to reform and to relocate, perhaps to South Africa. I do not see that happening in the near future.

As for the International Criminal Court, that has been a severe disappointment which in many ways symbolises the collapse of international law. Its failure to prosecute Bush and Blair for the war on Iraq set its direction from the beginning. Waging aggressive war is in itself a war crime and was indelibly established as such by the Nuremburg Tribunal. That it was not specifically mentioned in the Rome Statute was a flimsy pretext from judges not willing to take on power. The same judges have bottled out of investigation of US crimes in Afghanistan and appear to be in the same process over war crimes in Gaza, where astonishingly there has been no backing from states for the ICC against Netanyahu’s threat to institute sanctions against ICC staff if investigations continue. I used to defend the ICC robustly over accusations that it was simply a tool of neo-con policy. I now find it very hard to do so.

The UK is not the only country ignoring international law. Spain’s repudiation of the European Court of Justice decision that Junqueras must be released to take his seat in the European Parliament is a huge blow to the prestige and authority of that organisation. Spain’s vicious persecution of Catalonia is itself the most comprehensive challenge that “western values” have faced for decades in the European heartland, by a large measure worse than anything which Orban has done. Spain completely ignores its Council of Europe obligations.

The structure of international law is looking very shoogly indeed. It does matter, a very great deal. The world is becoming a significantly more dangerous place as a result.

——————————————

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

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Yes Minister Fan Fiction

I have been rather unwell this last week with atrial fibrillation, and at 5am last Sunday morning had the paramedics out and puzzling over the ECG results. This particularly severe episode was a result of being out in the cold and storm for hours on the AUOB march, and I felt so guilty at being a self-inflicted drain on the NHS that I declined their offer to take me into hospital and decided to recover at home.

I did however get to thinking about whether, had I indeed toddled off on my next great adventure, I would regret holding information which I had not imparted to you. Well, I couldn’t in those circumstances regret not having imparted it as I would be deid, but you know what I mean. As it happened the thing I found I was most worried about not being able to impart was not, at least on its surface, a case of world sweeping importance, but rather of individual injustice. Though the surface often hides a great deal.

Anyway, having recovered I was saddened by the death of Derek Fowlds, who to me was always Mr Derek of Basil Brush. In fact I remember my confusion when Mr Derek replaced Mr Rodney, who I only learnt this week was in fact Rodney Bewes, another great comic actor of whose wider work I was at primary school unaware. Derek Fowlds of course became most famous in his brilliant role as Bernard in Yes Minister. Lying in bed getting better, I decided to while away the time by writing some Yes Minister fan fiction in tribute.

As with the original series, although based on a realistic civil service scenario dealing with similar events to those the civil service actually deals with, this conversation between a Minister and Permanent Secretary is purely fictional. No real situation is alluded to and any resemblance between the people and situations portrayed here and anything that is happening in real life is entirely accidental. Please do not attempt in the comments section to relate this entirely fictional hommage to Yes Minister to any actual events involving any actual court cases. Because you might wander into contempt of court.

This is of course my first Yes Minister effort.

FIRST YES MINISTER

Perm Sec. You see Minister, all you have to do is destroy your predecessor’s reputation. In the modern “Me Too” atmosphere, you accuse someone of sexual offences and politically they are finished. In fact you can do what you like to him.
Minister Like Julian Assange?
Perm Sec Exactly, Minister. Like Julian Assange. We yelled “rape” at him and then had to do nothing else. The left themselves destroyed him, led by the feminists of course. You see Minister, we feminists can be useful sometimes. (Canned Laughter)
Minister Yes, by the time they had finished with him, the government could torture him to death in plain sight and nobody cared.
Perm Sec Precisely Minister, and the hilarious thing was that there never was any rape and we never had to produce any evidence in court.
Minister Yes, brilliant. But it’s not an exact parallel with Orpheus though, is it Permanent Secretary? We don’t have any extradition request for Orpheus once any sexual charges fall.
Perm Sec The charges won’t fall, Minister, they won’t fall. We will get him found guilty.
Minister But he isn’t actually a rapist, you know. Not one of these incidents looks anything like rape. In fact they are all very flimsy. There isn’t one single independent witness and I don’t think any of them could be proven in court.
Perm Sec Please don’t worry yourself. It doesn’t matter, Minister. All we need is the word “rape” in the newspaper headlines. “Attempted rape” will do. You just tell the prosecutor to get the word out there, spread it in the media and Orpheus is finished.
Minister Even if he is not guilty?
Perm Sec He will be guilty. Whether he is guilty is irrelevant, he will be found guilty. This is where we use “more of”.
Minister “More of”?
Perm Sec Yes, “More of”. It’s not an official legal term, but all the lawyers know it as the oldest trick in the prosecutor’s book.
Minister What do you mean, Permanent Secretary?
Perm Sec Well look, we have the canoodling episode, the kiss in the office and a couple of suggestive remarks about sexy clothes.
Minister The sexy remarks are hardly illegal, are they?
Perm Sec Good God, Minister, what century are you in? (Canned Laughter). Sexual harassment, Minister. Kiss someone at the office party and tell someone else their figure looks good in that blouse, and you have established a pattern of behaviour. “More of” you see, Minister. The “more of” this stuff you throw, the better chance some of it will stick.
Minister But we don’t have that many instances. We went through absolutely everything. We had a team of 24 policemen working on it for 10 months and this was all we can find.
Perm Sec It is time to get creative then, Minister. We need more women to make allegations. In these circumstances it is always best to keep things close. Activate the women you know, Minister, activate the women you know.
Minister I don’t have that many friends, Permanent Secretary. I spend all my time reading books. (Canned Laughter).
Perm Sec Oh really, Minister, think. You must have some women very close to you.
Minister Well, there is Miss Barclay, my own Private Secretary.
Perm Sec Perfect, Minister perfect! Miss Barclay should be good for at least four allegations! Get her to say he tried to kiss her. Often.
Minister But surely nobody will believe my own Private Secretary – and she was involved in putting the dossier together and in discussions on handling the case. Nobody is going to believe her. And (gasps in horror) it really leads straight back to me being behind it, doesn’t it?
Perm Sec It can’t be traced back to you, Minister.
Minister Phew, that’s a relief. It can’t be traced back to me you say. How does that work?
Perm Sec Accuser anonymity, Minister.
Minister Accuser anon… oh yes! Oh yes! I am beginning to see!! They are sexual allegations so…
Perm Sec The identities of the accusers can be kept hidden by the court under penalty of severe jail sentences for anybody who reveals them so…
Minister …the accusers can just be my closest political cronies and the public will never be aware of that! That’s brilliant, Perm Sec!
Perm Sec Thank you, Minister (Canned Laughter)
Minister And thank God for that, because if the party faithful thought that I was trying to stitch up my predecessor they would have my guts for garters (Canned Laughter).
Perm Sec Heaven forfend, Minister!
Minister What? Oh too right. I was just thinking, Permanent Secretary, you know I am starting to get the hang of this. What about old Marmalade? He is very keen to get back into parliament and sees himself as a potential successor.
Perm Sec Marmalade? Well I suppose if we start adding in gay allegations, it does give a slightly more exotic tinge for the tabloids.
Minister I was thinking more of his wife, Permanent Secretary. If the old Marmalade family want a nice safe seat in the capital, let them do something to earn it.
Perm Sec Indeed, Minister. And is the wife not a former Special Adviser?
Minister Yes, is that a problem?
Perm Sec On the contrary, Minister. You see it is very useful. A SPAD is of course only a particularly spotty political hack whom politicians have conned the taxpayer into paying, but technically a SPAD is still a form of civil servant.
Minister Yes, and what of it?
Perm Sec Well, the words “civil servant” convey integrity, honesty and trustworthiness. (Canned laughter). We can leak to the tabloids that one of the accusers is a civil servant, and people will believe it must be genuine and independent. Very cunning idea if I may say so, Minister.
Minister Was it? Oh yes, I am cunning, aren’t I. (Canned laughter). But I still worry that none of the accusations is going to be individually convincing.
Perm Sec Doesn’t matter, Minister, doesn’t matter. Remember “More of”. Quantity not quality, Minister, quantity not quality. They don’t have to be individually convincing, just to give the impression of no smoke without fire.
Minister Oh well, I understand that now. In that case I can think of three or four more women very close to us indeed who can make allegations, if independence or credibility are not important and nobody will ever know who they were.
Perm Sec Volume is important, Minister, volume. It does not have to be heavy stuff. Just get them to allege an attempted kiss here, a brush of the hand on the bum as they were going out the door there.
Minister To build a pattern of behaviour.
Perm Sec Precisely, Minister, precisely. To build a pattern of behaviour. I see you have got it.
Minister But isn’t there a problem here, Permanent Secretary? If this man was a sexual predator on a large scale, there would be whispers for years and people in political circles would surely know. But he doesn’t have that reputation at all.
Perm Sec Don’t worry, Minister, he soon will have that reputation. (Canned Laughter). The media will believe it because we will tell them to believe it. And once the media believe something, the population will believe it too. Every politician has enemies, Minister, Orpheus more than most.
Minister But isn’t there a potential danger here, Permanent Secretary? I mean all of this is nonsense, so won’t he be acquitted and emerge possibly stronger than before?
Perm Sec Don’t worry, Minister, he won’t be acquitted. We have a legally invincible alliance on our side. “More of” is powerful, but “more of” combined with “home” becomes an irresistible force.
Minister (puzzled) “More of” and “home”.
Perm Sec Yes Minister. Answer me this. What does a jury want more than anything?
Minister To do justice?
Perm Sec Wrong, Minister, wrong. Home. A jury wants to go home. (Canned Laughter) Jurors are ripped away from their homes, jobs and families for weeks. At the end of it they are locked in a stuffy room with other jurors they don’t like, and not allowed to go home until they have all reached a verdict. So what do they do to reach agreement?
Minister Aaah, I see now. They compromise.
Perm Sec Exactly, Minister. They will compromise. It’s a natural human instinct to avoid conflict. There will be some people who think him totally innocent as nothing was individually proven, but there will be others who will think he must have done something wrong or there could not possibly be so many accusations. The power of “more of”. Of course they will chuck out the “attempted rape” very quickly as obvious nonsense. In the end they will find him not guilty on nearly all counts, but as a compromise will convict him of stroking someone’s hair, patting their bum or saying they look sexy.
Minister But surely he will hardly be jailed for that?
Perm Sec Doesn’t matter, Minister. “Rapist” will already be firmly printed on the public mind, and so long as we have the magic word “guilty” it does not matter what he is guilty of. And it can’t fail. With so many charges, the jury is simply bound to find him guilty of something so they can compromise and all go home.
Minister Brilliant, Permanent Secretary, brilliant.
Perm Sec Thank you.
Minister So that’s finally going to put a stake through his heart. No more Frank Sinatra comebacks and no more Quixotic campaigns chasing unicorns.
Perm Sec Yes, Minister.

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