Posts Tagged ‘Edward Snowden’

William Blum on the Economic Reasons behind the New Cold War

December 8, 2017

William Blum, the veteran and very highly informed critic of American imperialism, has put up a new edition of his Anti-Empire Report. This is, as usual, well worth reading. In it he attacks the new Cold War being fought with Russia, and reminds us of the stupidity and hysteria of the first.

Blum does a great job of critiquing the claim that the Russians interfered in the American election. He points out that the American intelligence services actually know how to disguise the true origins of Tweets, and questions the motives imputed to the Russians. He states that the Russians presumably don’t think that America is a banana republic, which can be easily influenced and its government overthrown by an outside power. He also questions the veracity of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Clapper is one of those claiming that the Russians did influence the election. But as Blum reminds us, Clapper himself is a liar. He lied to Congress when he was asked if the American intelligence apparatus was spying on its citizens. He said ‘No’. The answer, as revealed by Edward Snowden, was very definitely ‘Yes’.

He then gives a long list of instances from the First Cold War where people were unfairly accused of Communism and persecuted. For example, in 1948 the Pittsburgh Press published the names, addresses and places of work of 1,000 people, who had signed the form backing the former vice-president, Henry Wallace’s campaign for the presidency, as Wallace was running for the Progressive Party.

Then there’s the case of the member of a local school board, who decided that the tale of Robin Hood should be banned, because he was a ‘Communist’. Which is good going, considering that the tales of Robin Hood date from the 14th/15th centuries and are about a hero who lived in the 13th – six centuries before Karl Marx. However, this woman wasn’t the only one to dislike the tales for political reasons. The compiler of a children’s book of stories about heroes deliberately left him out in favour of Clym of Clough, a similar archer outlaw, but from ‘Bonnie Carlisle’, partly because Hood was too well-known, but also because he thought there was something ‘political’ about the stories.

Blum also covers the way Conservatives claimed that the USSR was responsible for the rise in drug abuse in America, and was deliberately creating it in order to undermine American society. He also states that the Russians were also trying to destroy America through fluoridation of the water. As General Jack D. Ripper says in Dr. Strangelove: ‘We must keep our bodily fluids pure.’

Then there are the pronouncements that American universities were all under Communist influence, and the reason why American sports teams were also failing was because of Communist influence.

The anti-Communist hysteria was also used to denounce and vilify the United Nations. Blum writes

1952: A campaign against the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) because it was tainted with “atheism and communism”, and was “subversive” because it preached internationalism. Any attempt to introduce an international point of view in the schools was seen as undermining patriotism and loyalty to the United States. A bill in the US Senate, clearly aimed at UNESCO, called for a ban on the funding of “any international agency that directly or indirectly promoted one-world government or world citizenship.” There was also opposition to UNESCO’s association with the UN Declaration of Human Rights on the grounds that it was trying to replace the American Bill of Rights with a less liberty-giving covenant of human rights.

Oh yes, and rock and roll, pop music and the Beatles were also seen as part of a Communist plot to destroy American moral fibre. A few decades later, in the 1980s, the same right-wing pastors were saying the same thing, though this time the tendency was to blame Satanists rather than Commies.

And the list goes on, including instances from the 1980s when visiting Russians were subjected hostility and abuse because they were perceived as a danger to the US, thanks to films like Rambo and Red Dawn.

The report ends with Blum discussing Al Franken, a Democrat politician and broadcaster, who is now accused of sexual assault. Blum argues that the real issue that should get people angry at Franken is the fact that he backed the Iraq War, and went out there to entertain the troops, showing that he was perfectly happy with the illegal and bloody invasion of another country.

He also reveals that the list of people, who have been on RT, was compiled by a Czech organisation with the name European Values, which produced the report
The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West: An Overview of RT’s Editorial Strategy and Evidence of Impact. Blum states that it’s not exhaustive, as he’s been on it five times, and they haven’t mentioned him.

He also notes the RT’s Facebook page has four million followers and that it claims to be ‘the most watched news network’. It’s YouTube channel has two million likes. And so is this the reason why the American authorities have thrown away freedom of the press and forced it to register as a foreign agent.

He also comments on the way Theresa May has also got in on the act of blaming the Russians for everything, and is accusing them of interfering in Brexit.

But what I found interesting was this piece, where quotes another writer on the real reason the Americans are stoking another Cold War:

Writer John Wight has described the new Cold War as being “in response to Russia’s recovery from the demise of the Soviet Union and the failed attempt to turn the country into a wholly owned subsidiary of Washington via the imposition of free market economic shock treatment thereafter.”

https://williamblum.org/aer/read/153

This makes sense of a lot of murky episodes from the Cold War. I think Lobster has also commented several times on the way Conservative have accused the USSR of causing the drug crisis. I distinctly remember one of the columnist for Reader’s Digest, Clare Somebody, running this story in the 1980s. If memory serves me right, she also claimed that the Russians were doing so in cahoots with Iran. The Iranian theocracy are a bunch of thugs, but somehow I don’t think they can be accused of causing mass drug addiction in the West. They’re too busy fighting their own. I can’t remember the woman’s surname, but I do remember that she turned up later as one of the neocons frantically backing George W. Bush.

As for the campaign against the United Nations on the grounds that internationalism is unpatriotic, that’s still very much the stance of the Republicans in America. It’s part and parcel of the culture of American exceptionalism, which angrily denounces and rejects any attempt to hold America accountable to international justice, while upholding America’s right to interfere in everybody else’s affairs and overthrow their governments. ‘Cause America is a ‘shining city on a hill’ etc.

As for wishing to bring down Putin, because he’s shaken off the chains of American economic imperialism, that’s more than plausible. American big business and the state poured tens of millions into Yeltsin’s election campaign back in the 1990s, including his crash privatisation of the Russian economy. Which just about destroyed it. In which case, it shows that Lenin was right all those decades ago, when he described how pre-Revolutionary Russia was enchained by western economic imperialism. And perhaps the world, or at least, anybody who does not want their country to be bought up by American capitalism, should be grateful to the Archiplut for showing that a nation can defy American capitalism.

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Jimmy Dore and Abby Martin Discuss Whether Rachel Maddow Is A Danger to Journalism: Part 1

November 19, 2017

It’s isn’t just Rachel Maddow. They go on to talk about how the whole of the American mainstream media, including MSNBC, has been corrupted by corporate power, and now reflects nothing but establishment propaganda. Just like the corporatist, Clintonite wing of the Democrats. They also talk about the terror Black and Latino neighbourhoods are living in, thanks to Trump, ICE and the anti-immigrant rhetoric. They conclude by discussing how whole neighbourhoods in Houston and elsewhere in Texas have been gutted by Hurricane Harvey, but aren’t receiving any help, because they’re working class areas and only the business and affluent centres are prioritised. And the immense environmental damage that has been caused by Big Oil, but which goes unchallenged and undocumented, because Big Oil owns everything in those areas, right down to schools and hospitals.

Abby Martin is the courageous and fiercely intelligent host of The Empire Files on TeleSur English and previously, RT. This series unflinchingly exposes what the American military-industrial complex is doing across the world through coups, ‘regime change’ and foreign wars and military interventions. Including the real situation in Israel, where the Israelis have subjected the indigenous Palestinians to nearly 70 years of massacres, brutality and ethnic cleansing.

She also shows how ordinary Americans are being exploited at home, as big business seeks to strip them of welfare, workers’ rights and shift the tax burden on to them, while further destroying any affordable healthcare provision and privatising the public schools. She was so much a threat to the American establishment, that half the report concocted to show that RT was just a propaganda operation being used by Putin to destabilise America was about Martin personally.

I’ve already put up a three-part blog post about a previous 30-minute long segment from the Jimmy Dore Show, in which he and Martin discuss her work and the crimes of American imperialism. I think this segment may have been part of the same interview, but the two have been edited and split into separate parts.

The two begin by discussing how MSNBC, the formerly liberal network, is now just the mirror image of the right-wing Fox Network. Martin is particularly unimpressed by the way MSNBC tried to discredit Bill Binney by calling him a ‘conspiracy theorist’. Bill Binney was the NSA official, who constructed the ‘Thin Spread’ mass surveillance software keeping tabs on people’s electronic information and communications. He’s been praised by Edward Snowden, one of the other whistleblowers on the use of mass surveillance software by the intelligence agencies. They then talk about the lies and propaganda about RT, and how the government is trying to shut it down by having it register as a foreign agent. Martin states that MSNBC is now just the other arm of Fox News, but just parrots Democrat propaganda.

As for Rachel Maddow, one of the lead presenters on MSNBC, and a staunch supporter of Killary and the corporatist Democrats, Martin states that she’s a careerist hack. However, she and the other hacks with her realised that they have to double down and try to explain away why Killary lost to Trump. But they’re so trapped in the elitist bubble, that they have absolutely no idea. One of the reasons Clinton lost was because she didn’t bother going to certain states, like Wisconsin. Martin and Dore joke about whether it was Putin, who stopped her going there. Did he steal her map, hack into her computer and wipe the entry for it?

They then move on to the question of the future of journalism. Martin states that journalism has always been antithetical to business, this is why it’s been corrupted by government and folded into big business conglomerates through mergers. It’s why Martin herself joined RT. She talks about how it was a long time before she realised how compromised journalism actually was, however. She talks about how she went on tour with John Kerry. But journalism hasn’t just been corrupted by the Democrats, nor the Republicans. She states that the future of journalism lies with us, referring to alternative media and the power of the internet. She states that now we don’t need to get a press handout from Monsanto to talk about what they’re doing, or get a statement from the government: they can just talk to the government’s victims.

She then goes on to talk about ‘fake news’, and how this is being hijacked by the establishment to close down alternative media. Bill Kristol, one of the founders of the Neocons and the head of the Project for the New American Century, has said that he’s going to set up a thinktank to combat ‘fake news’. She and Dore also talk about how the alternative media are being forced to brand themselves to survive, so they have to set up Patreon accounts so people can fund them. But she has a lot of hope for citizen journalism. There is just a need to invest in it, and to follow those journalists we admire. We have to create our own networks. The Intercept, which has done some good work, was forced to rely on a billionaire, and now they have to go begging for money.

Martin then turns to Project Censored, which she praises as a very good, worthwhile alternative to mainstream journalist training. She advises aspiring journos not to go to journalism school, as they will just get into debt up to their behinds, and will be hit over the head with how to be journalists. Only to get a job as an unpaid intern at the end of it. Project Censored, on the other hand, takes in anyone, and you can go in at different levels – as a researcher, or writer, for example. Every year they published the five most censored stories. One of these is that there are 3,000 towns in America, whose water has a higher lead content than that of Flint in Michigan. She and Dore then discuss the alternative, drinking bottled water. Martin refuses to drink most of these brands, because they’re all owned by Nestle. Nestle owns the majority of water bottling plants. They just suck out the aquifers of local towns, which get nothing in return, except for a councillor, who’s on their payroll. And this is apart from the slave labour involved in their chocolate. She states that there is now only one party, and that she has always advised against voting for the lesser of two evils.

Continued in Part 2.

Theresa May Wants Greater Regulation of the Internet after Terror Attacks

June 6, 2017

Here’s another threat to liberty in the UK: the further expansion of the massive surveillance state erected by New Labour and the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

After the terrible atrocity in Manchester last week, Theresa May and the Tories demanded greater regulation of the internet in order to crack down on terrorism. At first, this doesn’t look too unreasonable. ISIS and al-Qaeda before it have disseminated their propaganda through the Net. Several British converts, including the stupid schoolgirls, who ran off to the Middle East to be jihadi brides, were drawn to the terrorists through the loathsome beheading videos these butchers put out.

However, there are dangers as well. Further regulation means that the state has greater powers to spy on all of us, and presents a danger to free speech and conscience generally.

In this clip from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and his producer, Patrick Ford, point out the dangers of such legislation. They cite the intelligence whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who made the point that despite the massive expansion in the American surveillance state after 9/11, there is no evidence that the increased policing of the net prevented further terrorist attacks. They also ask their audience to imagine what would happen, if a generation arose, who believed climate change did not exist because all references to it had been scrubbed from the Net, or if the government used its regulation of the Web to whip up support for another war.

Pakman and Ford state clearly that they are afraid we Brits are going down the same road America went down after the attack on the Twin Towers.

Pakman and Ford are absolutely right to be very worried about this. Blair stood for the expansion of the surveillance state in Britain before 9/11, as did John Major, the Tory prime minister before him. And privacy and civil liberties groups have been extremely worried about this intrusion into the lives and private matters of innocent citizens and the threat it poses to genuine freedom.

The terror attack in Manchester was just the latest pretext to take more of our freedoms away. A few years ago it was the threat of paedophilia and pornography. Tom Pride, of Pride’s Purge, found that some of his readers were finding it difficult to view him, because their internet provider had decided that his blog was ‘adult’ and so not suitable for children. The blog is indeed adult, but only in the sense that it’s a political blog, dealing with an adult topic. Which sometimes involves very forthright language from Mr Pride. But it certainly ain’t porn, and its blocking – and those of similar left-wing blogs – looked very much like an attempt by the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers to clamp down on left-wing bloggers.

Just as YouTube has taken the campaign against fake news as the opportune to demonetise left-wing vloggers. This will force left-wing news programmes off YouTube by denying them the advertising money they need to support them.

Britain has some of the harshest anti-terror legislation in Europe. Thanks to Blair, Cameron and Clegg, British law now provides for secret courts, where you can be tried without knowing the precise charges, the evidence against you, or who your accuser is, and where the press and the public are excluded, if the government decides that a normal, public trial would be a threat to national security.

As I’ve pointed out time and again, this is the travesty of justice the great Czech writer, Kafka, described in his book The Trial and The Castle, and which became horrific realities in Nazi Germany and Stalinist USSR.

As Pakman and Ford point out, no-one is arguing that governments shouldn’t have the tools they need to prevent terrorism. But this should not mean a further erosion of civil liberties.

I believe we are very much at that point now.

Don’t let May use the terror attacks to create a totalitarian surveillance state, where the only material allowed on the Net is right-wing, Tory propaganda.

Vote Labour on June 8th for a sensible approach to terrorism.

More on US Military Funding of al-Qaeda and Islamist Militants

January 9, 2016

I’ve received a couple more extremely interesting comments from Michelle Thomasson about the wars in the Middle East and the US funding of Islamist militants. She writes

You probably already have this info… but just in case it is also relevant here. One of the three most important military officials re the war on terror, General Flynn (was head of the Defence Intelligence Agency), is caught admitting on video what the U.S. government already knew in 2012 about the establishment of a caliphate by Islamic extremists and then still supplying them the arms (though not mentioning they may have been supplying some clapped out weaponry). Clip from Democracy Now, https://youtu.be/MQDRGrA9I7A?t=3m17s

If people really understood!

and

The information is out there, yet still most of our mainstream media peddle devastating misinformation for the war mongers!!

Here is a very telling clip from Joe Biden talking to people at Harvard. I can imagine he thought they were too smart to try and fool hence the honesty to appear ‘informed’ but he has tried to withdraw comments since his admission. The clip is just over 2mins and the Biden mishap comes in at 1 min:

Interestingly, Qatar mentioned in the link above was involved in paying a very large ransom to IS for UN peacekeepers under the scrutiny of the Israelis, it is a rather unusual way to openly give militants a big wad of money: https://youtu.be/PMDc_NBsfi0

And with Israel that brings up a conundrum, as ISIS/IS (Daesh) is just an extension of Wahhabism why have these recent medieval-like slaughterers not included Israel in their target sights? Wahhabism was always against Zionist goals…

And for your records here is Hilary Clinton admitting how they used the “Wahhabi brand of Islam to go beat the Soviet Union” makes it sound like a baseball match! This information is so terrible, when are they going to wake up to what they are doing re the havoc, desperation and destruction they have designed for millions of people?

I also have some short notes I wrote up on the roots of Wahhabism if you want them with an interesting quote re Zionism from John McHugo the author of ‘A Concise History of the Arabs'(2014)

I’d be very interested in the notes on the origins of Wahhabism, as well as the quote about Zionism from John McHugo. And it is very strange that Israel has not been attacked by ISIS or al-Qaeda, when so much Arab and Islamic politics is fiercely hostile to the Jewish state. If you look on Youtube, there are a number of pieces on there claiming that ISIS is the creation of the Israelis and funded by Mossad. I haven’t looked at them, because it’s too much like some of the stupid, genocidal conspiracy theories about Jews and Zionism that influence and motivate the Neo-Nazis, ever since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

And the mainstream media is silent about nearly all of this. The award-winning American journalist, Glenn Greenwald, speaking on one of the clips, explains why mainstream American journalists are hostile to blowing the lid off this particular can of worms. He states that journalists are just as susceptible to the hyper-patriotism as the rest of society; that many of them come from the same socio-economic groups as the politicians, generals and business leaders they interview. They’re dependent on them for stories, and so don’t press them or criticise them, for fear of losing leads or stories. He also adds that much of it is motivated by professional jealousy after the Snowden revelations. They were angry at the way they were excluded from the material Snowden revealed, and bitter about the way he received journalism awards while they didn’t. So they’re personally hostile against him, and against the journalism he represents.

Lobster, the parapolitics magazine, has also been discussing the issue, and the reason why mainstream historians by and large are hostile to taking into account the role of clandestine groups in politics. Any mention of conspiracies is excluded from respectable academic discussion as it recalls all the murderous and stupid fantasies about vast, global conspiracies by Jews and Freemasons, fantasies that have resulted in the deaths of millions. But real conspiracies – by corporations, secret political groups and the secret state, do exist. You only have to look at the way the CIA orchestrated coups in Latin America and the Middle East. Or simply at the way the CIA again funded much radical art and movements in the 1950s through to the 1970s, in order to present the West as much more culturally pluralistic and democratic, in contrast to the monolithic, totalitarian East.

Some of this reluctance to concede the role of clandestine groups is probably due to academic inertia. Doctoral students are placed under the supervision of academic supervisors, who made demand major changes to their work if they don’t agree with it. Doctoral students are required to show they can make an original contribution to research, and while students obviously do need advice and guidance, it also puts limits on how original or radical an academic dissertation can be. Also, some of the academic institutions are in receipt of monies from the intelligence services. Lobster also published a list of these some time ago.

I also think part of the problem is that the whole notion of the role of powerful, secret interest groups controlling politics is unacceptable because it problematizes vast areas of contemporary politics. The dominant ideal of the democratic West is that our rulers are essentially benign, and however beneficial or detrimental their particular party politics may be, the foundation of their power is that of the sovereign individual, as established by liberal political theorists going back to John Locke. It is also tacitly assumed that government and corporations will also work for the public good, despite obvious scandals involving political corruption.

Genuine parapolitics raises profound question marks about all this, by showing how secret groups or factions within political parties, in concert with allies in the media and the military-industrial complex, can and do manipulate public opinion, and world affairs without reference to any kind of democratic mandate. Instead of the Whig view of history, which sees it as the gradual march of progress, culminating in the establishment of liberal democracy, or the Marxist view, which sees history as produced by impersonal economic forces producing inevitable changes to the social fabric, and hence the ruling ideologies, it shows history to be made by big business and political factions, with the sovereign people there only to provide a democratic façade for decisions that have already been made by their social superiors for their own class political and economic benefit. It explicitly raises the problem that you can’t trust what politicians and big business tell you. And not just in the superficial, cynical sense, but right to the core of the political process and the nature of the democratic state itself.

And that’s unacceptable to large parts of the media and the academic establishment, embedded and nurtured as they are by the status quo.

Kipper Candidate for Hendon Wants Israelis to Kidnap and Try Obama

March 30, 2015

Hope Not Hate have this story, UKIP Would Be MP Calls For The Kidnapping Of President Obama, reporting the comments made by the Jeremy Zaid, UKIP’s parliamentary candidate for Hendon, on his Facebook page. Zaid was outraged at the release of secret government papers on the Israeli nuclear programme by Obama’s government. He said

” Once Obama is out of office, the Israelis should move to extradite the bastard or “do an Eichmann” on him, and lock him up for leaking state secrets. After all what’s sauce for the Pollard goose is sauce for the Obama gander, don’t you think? ”

He then added ” nah, just kidnap the bugger, like they did to Eichman, who suddenly found that he’d woken up in Israel. The problem is that Israeli jails are far more humane and adherent to human rights than American ones.”

The article also mentions that Zaid is no stranger to controversy. He claimed on Twitter last year that parts of London are being ethnically cleansed of Whites, and that the local MP, Mike Gapes, was either ‘blind to or complicit in’ the ethnic cleansing of Ilford.

The articles at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/ukip-would-be-mp-calls-for-the-kidnapping-of-president-obama-4354. Go there for further information, and piccies of the offending post and Zaid himself, grinning with the Purple Duce.

Now it seems to me that someone with such an unusual surname as ‘Zaid’, should be very careful about stirring up racial prejudice. For many of the knuckledraggers looking for a reason to attack Blacks and Asians, Mr Zaid’s monicker would mark him out as some kind of foreigner, who deserves the same treatment. The mob mentality whipped up by preachers of hate isn’t terribly pernickety when it comes to ethnic differences. I’ve reblogged Tom Pride’s piece this morning about a Sikh chap, Pritpal Singh, who was racially abused as a ‘Bin Laden ****’, despite the fact that he belongs to a completely different religion and ethnicity from the notorious terrorist.

As for Israel’s nuclear programme, that’s been known about for a very long time, despite the fact that it breaks international treaties. Way back in 1990 or thereabouts, Mordechai Vanunu was thrown in the slammer by the Israeli authorities because he leaked details of it to Robert Maxwell’s Mirror.

As for the reason why Obama’s government leaked their secret documents on it, it looks to me like it was partly in revenge for Netanyahu’s government leaking information on his administration’s talks about nuclear power with Iran. The Iranians claim they wish to develop nuclear power simply as a supply of domestic power. The Americans wish to bind them with an international agreement, which will prevent them from using it to develop weapons.

The Republicans don’t trust the Iran, and don’t want them to have nuclear power, full stop. The talks between Obama and the Iranians are supposed to be secret, but they were spied on by the Israeli. Who then went on to pass the information to the Republicans in Congress in order to derail them.

And how does Obama’s government know this? Because they were spying on the Israelis.

Now as The Young Turks themselves point out, nobody comes out of this looking good. Neither the Israelis nor America should have been spying on each other. From what I understand, you’re not supposed to spy on your allies. When Thatcher caught the Israelis doing this in Britain back in the early 1990s, she threatened to close the Mossad base down and have them thrown out of the country. That stopped promptly stopped that. And the Americans – and us- have hardly endeared themselves and ourselves to our continental partners and allies with Snowden’s revelations that the US with British complicity was spying on them.

And The Young Turks also point out how undemocratic it is, that the American government should be keeping secrets from members of the government – that is, the other lawmakers in Congress.

This spying and duplicity by Netanyahu’s government seems to me to be the explanation for Obama’s leaking of documents on the Israeli nuclear programme, and Zaid’s subsequent anger and demands for Obama’s kidnapping and trial.

The Republicans seem to want some kind of pre-emptive strike on Iran, rather than using a kind diplomacy to settle the question. It looks from Zaid’s comments and actions here that this is his attitude too. If so, it’s grossly irresponsible. The last thing the Middle East needs is another Western invasion and further warfare with Iran itself. If Zaid does support pre-emptive war against Iran, then this should automatically disqualify him from government.

Not Just Russians: Britain’s Webcam Computer Spies

November 23, 2014

One of the major stories over the past week or so has been that a Russian website is showing hacked images from webcams from around the world, including about 600 or so from Britain. This has naturally caused alarm at the way the potential exists for people’s private computers to be attacked and used to spy on them.

The Russians, however, are not the first or only people to have developed and used such software. In its ‘In the Back’ section for the 22nd August – 4th September issue of this year, Private Eye published a story about the use of similar software developed by a British company. This was being used by the Bahraini government to spy on and persecute dissidents. Here’s the story.

Bahrain Shower

New documents reveal that expensive British spy software – marketed as a means of tracking “paedophiles and terrorists” – has been used by the Bahraini Ministry of the Interior to hack the phones and computers of activists and lawyers.

The software, sold by Gamma Group, a company based out of serviced offices in Winchester, works by sending malware called FinSpy to “target” computers and phones (see Eyes 1368 and 1351). This allows content to be harvested and turns the computer or phone into a mobile spying device by secretly activating the microphone and webcam and intercepting Skype calls.

Gamma Group, which had not applied for an export licence from the UK authorities, denied last year that is product was being used in Bahrain. A spokesman told the Observer: “It appears that during a demonstration one of our products was stolen and has been used elsewhere. I believe a copy of FinSpy was made during a presentation and that copy was modified and then used elsewhere.

However, new documents obtained from the Gamma Group customer support server include logs sent to Gamma, showing a list of Bahraini targets and whether or not all their files had been “archived” – in other words, pinched Gamma says it only sells to government agencies.

Mohammed Al-Tajer, Bahrain’s leading human rights lawyer, has been on the wrong end of Gamma-inspired snooping. Having once defended a group of Shia Muslims accused of throwing a petrol bomb at a police car, and having also published evidence of torture of detainees, shortly before Bahrain’s Arab Spring uprising, in January 2011, he received a recording of himself having sex with his second wife, accompanied by a message telling him to watch his step. The new documents show that, on the same day in January, Gamma spyware was successfully installed on Al-Tajer’s computer, archiving all his files, in contravention of illegal privilege and most likely turning his computer into a mobile spying device.

In April 2011, Al-Tajer was then arrested and held by the Bahraini Ministry of the Interior for four months. Every morning he was made to stand against a wall and was beaten until he fainted. A subsequent report5 into the security services, commissioned by Bahrain’s King Hamad Al-Khalifa and carried out by human rights lawyers and others, found evidence of widespread torture, including “beating; punching; hitting the detainee with rubber hoses (including on the soles of the feet), cables, whips, metal, wooden planks or other objects; electrocution; sleep-deprivation; exposure to extreme temperatures; verbal abuse; threats of rape; and insulting the detainee’s religious sect Shia).” It also found evidence of deaths at the hands of the security forces.

In late 2011, Bahrain thought it had better do something to reform its police forces, bringing in a hired hand from overseas to ensure the force met international codes of practice. It wasn’t long before this new adviser was hailing the “substantial progress” being made, detailing a “new police code of conduct” and “comprehensive programme of training in human rights”, adding: “I am bewildered by the level of criticism aimed at a nation that has acknowledged its mistakes, but has plans in place to put things right.”

This state of bewilderment was presumably nothing new to the adviser, John “Yates of the Yard” Yates (for it was he”, who as Met Police assistant commissioner in London had overseen the Met’s brilliant early phone-hacking investigation and had personally declared that there were only a “handful of victims”. He later resigned when the number approached 4,000.

Even after Yates had begun his reforms in Bahrain, Al-Tajer continued to receive text message threats from anonymous telephone numbers; and in June 2012 the sex recording was finally published on YouTube, as was footage of Al-Tajer eating and praying.

Yates told the Eye he had never heard of Mohammed Al-Tajer (he was only the leading lawyer defending police cases, after all), nor of Gamma Group, and that he had had no operational involvement in police matters, acting solely as a “strategic adviser”.

* The hacker who posted internal Gamma documents on the internet showing how it FinSpy, aka FinFisher, software had been sold to the oppressive regime and used to spy on the Bahrain Independent Commission of Investigation (BICI), which was investigating torture and killings in the country, also revealed that the kit wasn’t quite as effective as Gamma likes to claim.

“After infecting a target’s [computer]the targets [sic] works for few days only then he never comes online and we have to infect him again,” the Bahrainis complained. “We can’t stay bugging and infecting the target every time since it is very sensitive. And we don’t want the target to reach [sic] to know that someone is infecting his PC or spying on him.”

I can’t say that the information that webcams could be hacked came as news to me. I can remember being told by a member of staff in one of Bristol’s computer shops that they had a friend, who was a hacker. This individual used to tap their victim’s webcams, so he could see them through the computer. The staff member, who told me this, didn’t approve of it himself, and really didn’t want anything to do with such activities. Nevertheless, hackers were still doing it.

This is very much the world of 1984, where Big Brother used the televisions in people’s homes to spy on them. In the case of the Russian hackers, despite their protestations that they are doing it to make people aware of the existence and the dangers posed by the software, it looks to me very much like the Russian secret services making veiled threats about their capability for cyberwarfare, espionage, and ability to intimidate foreign nationals in their own homes.

As for Gamma Group and the Bahrain government, Britain has, unfortunately, a long history of supplying arms and spying equipment to oppressive governments around the world, including the Middle East. This includes BAE selling weapons banned under international law, like electronic batons and shields, to places like Saudi Arabia. Gamma Group is merely the latest to join this long and infamous list.

Other foreign companies are no better. Nokia sold software it had developed to allow governments to hack into and monitor private mobile phones to various despotic governments in the Middle East, including Iran.

This does, however, raise the chilling question of whether this software is being used domestically to gather information on people the British and American states consider politically awkward. The Snowden revelations showed the truly massive extent to which both countries’ secret services were monitoring and spying on the phone calls and electronic communications of their citizens. The Coalition has attempted to censor politically inconvenient websites, like Pride’s Purge, using legislation it has attempted to pass under the pretext that this would protect children from internet paedophiles. The police have also been used by UKIP and fracking companies to harass and intimidate Green protestors and documentary film-makers.

How do we know that the Tories and their corporate backers aren’t using this already to track and monitor left-wing groups and individuals they consider subversive?

Resign, Tyrant, Said the Type-Type Man

September 23, 2014

Harlan Ellison on being spied on by Big Brother in Reagan’s 1984 America

Okay, so I’ve been away from blogging for a few months now. I’ve been working on a book. It’s my doctoral thesis on the origins and growth of the town of Bridgwater in Somerset from prehistory to 1700. It’s now with the publishers, and hopefully it shouldn’t be too long before it comes out. I’ve also been taken up and somewhat distracted by a few other projects. Nevertheless, I hope to get back to blogging regularly.

Edward Snowden’s revelations of the sheer size and scale of the American intelligence agencies’ surveillance of their citizens, and British complicity with it, has raised questions about the gradual diminution of personal freedom and the transformation of our societies into Orwellian surveillance states. This is just part of process that has been going on for a very long time, since the 1980s. Alan Moore, the veteran comics writer and co-creator of the V for Vendetta comic strip with the artist David Lloyd, stated has stated in interviews how amazed he is by the complete acceptance of CCTV cameras on Britain’s streets. When he included them in the strip as a visible sign of the totalitarian Fascist state in which the strip was set, he was absolutely sure it would terrify everyone to the point where they simply wouldn’t accept them. Now, as he remarked, they’re everywhere. Niall Ferguson, the right-wing historian and columnist, has also made the same point. He remarked in an interview on how he first noticed them after he came back from a visit to China. He too felt that they were a threat to individual liberty, and could not understand why no-one else was alarmed by them or saw them this way.

This concerns have become more acute with the Tory and Lib Dem decision to establish secret courts, functioning as a Kafkaesque travesty of justice. In these courts, people will be able to be tried without knowing the evidence against them, nor who their accuser is. All for reasons of ‘national security’. It’s frighteningly like the corrupt and murderous judicial system of the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It also bears more than a passing resemblance to Saddam Hussein’s legal code. In addition to the laws, which were made known to the Iraqi public, there were also six pieces of legislation which were kept secret. Very secret. They were so secret that even knowledge of these laws was a crime that could land you in prison or worse. For all their claims to be the defenders of personal freedom, with the establishment of these secret courts the Coalition is laying the foundations of the kind of totalitarian state described by Kafka and Moore, only in 21st century Britain. And the surveillance of citizens by the Western intelligence agencies, for merely having political views the authorities considered dangerous or subversive, goes back even further.

Looking through Youtube, I found this interview with Harlan Ellison, the veteran SF author and screenwriter, from 1984. It’s part of a discussion about the relevance of Orwell’s dystopian novel of the same name in contemporary America. When asked about this, Ellison states that he thinks it’s extremely relevant, because he’s lived through it in Reagan’s America. He described how, shortly after Reagan became governor of California, he began to hear clicks and noises on his telephone, suggesting that it was being tapped. He dismissed the idea, until he went out to empty his wastepaper basket in the trash one morning, and discovered an engineer for the telephone company outside, connected to the wire leading into his house. Checking with people he knew, who were in a position to know, he found out that it was indeed true, and his phone was indeed being tapped.

Ellison made sure, however, he had his revenge. Knowing that whatever he said on the phone would be written down and filed, he made sure that his phone conversations included some interesting and highly derogatory comments about the then leader of the free world and star of Bedtime for Bonzo, whose title character was a chimpanzee, and arguably the better actor. For example, the great author would remark that Reagan beat his mother and did not confine his romantic interests to those with the two legs, but also those with four, a wagging tail and wet nose. Here’s the interview:

It’s not hard to see why Reagan and his cohorts should view Ellison as a potential subversive. He’s an outspoken atheist and a card-carrying liberal. This was in sharp contrast to Reagan’s administration, which was strongly based on the American religious Right. Ellison had been a strong supporter of the Civil Rights movement. On one of his own videos on Youtube, he discusses his participation on the Civil Rights March on Selma with Martin Luther King. Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI was hostile and deeply suspicious of the Civil Rights Movement, which they suspected was a Communist initiative. So Ellison’s participation in that would have been enough to arouse the authorities’ interest and suspicions in him. In addition to writing some of the most outstanding episodes of the original Star Trek series, such as ‘City on the Edge of Forever’, Ellison was one of the major figures in the SF New Wave, whose other leading writers included Norman Spinrad, Brian Aldiss and Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds in Britain. This was markedly countercultural, and attacked contemporary literary and social conventions. In one of Ellison’s best known short stories, Repent, Harlequin, Said the Tick-Tock Man, for example, the hero is a lone, vigilante prankster. The story is set in a dystopian society in which time is rigidly controlled, the Tick-Tock Men of the title making sure that everyone perform their allotted tasks rigorously according to the time table. The hero, Harlequin, tries to subvert this by performing practical jokes deliberately intended to upset the time table, and the rigid social order that it supports. These include releasing a torrent of jelly beans all over people as they go to work in the morning. Ellison himself declared of the SF writers in the New Wave that ‘these guys is blasphemous!’ In Britain too the movement caused outcry, and questions were raised in the Houses of Parliament about Moorcock’s New Worlds. There was concern about the allegedly obscene nature of Norman Spinrad’s story, ‘Riders of the Purple Wage’, which was then being serialised in the magazine.

Eventually, Ellison says, the clicking noises simply faded away and the authorities presumably lost interest. This was probably when they realised that, no matter how objectionable they found his politics, one of SF’s greatest writers was not actually planning to overthrow the government of the US, invade Guatemala, or even deluge the sidewalk with a tide of jelly beans. They may even have agreed with his comments about Ronald Reagan. It does, however, show that under Reagan, prominent intellectuals that didn’t share the president’s highly reactionary and paranoid views could be spied upon, simply for having those views, regardless of whether they were innocent of any crime. And as Snowden’s revelations showed, the surveillance state has expanded massively since then.

We do need the security and intelligence services. According to today’s I, Isis, the Islamist terrorist organisation Iraq and Syria, has called on its supporters to attack and kill citizens of the US, Britain, France and the other coalition countries. The work of the various intelligence agencies and their surveillance is necessary to stop ISIS and other terrorist organisations from carrying out their threats. But individual freedom – freedom of conscience, speech and publication also needs to be preserved. These are also under threat from the Right, though legislation like the Coalition’s secret courts. They need to be strongly rejected, and proper safeguards against further encroachment on our civil liberties put in place. The answer to the old question ‘Who watches the watchers’ has always been: ‘The price of liberty is eternal vigilance’.

Is This the Real Reason for the Tories’ Gagging Laws?

February 17, 2014

Cameron Pic

Nick Clegg

David Cameron and Nick Clegg: have attempted to regulate and clamp down on free speech and democratic criticism.

The Coalition has shown itself to be consistently opposed to free speech. Mike over at Vox Political, the Void, Another Angry Voice, and Tom Pride at Pride’s Purge have blogged on the way the Conservatives are attempting to stifle dissent and criticism through the Gagging Laws and other legislation. The act regulating political lobbying would make political campaigning by groups, which are not political parties illegal, while allowing the big corporations that lobby MPs to carry on as usual.

They have attempted to censor the internet, with the full backing of the outraged, Middle class authoritarians of the Daily Mail, on the pretence of protecting children and the vulnerable from accessing pornography and the other horrors out on the Net. This frightened and outraged the Neo-Pagans, ritual magicians and other occultists, who found that one of the subjects the Coalition wanted to restrict access to was ‘the esoteric’. This is a term frequently used to describe the occult. Here it probably means something like ‘weird stuff we don’t like, but haven’t thought of yet’, though as the late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickinson was utterly convinced that there were intergenerational groups of witches and Satanists abusing and sacrificing children, it may well indeed have been intended to attack contemporary occultism.

Tom Pride in particular has found himself the victim of such legislation, after his blog was censored by one internet provider because it contained ‘adult material’. Politics are adult business, and so this is an attack, not just on Mr Pride, but on the continued discussion of politics on the Net.

And a few days ago Mike over at Vox Political described how Britain had fallen from 29th to 33rd place in the index of international press freedom through the government’s persecution of the Guardian for publishing the revelations of mass surveillance by the British and American intelligence services by Edward Snowden.

Clearly, the Coalition is desperately afraid of free speech.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler: Private Industry needs dictatorship to defend it from democracy.

In his address to a group of 20 German industrialists on 20th February 1933, Hitler urged them to fund the Nazi party as a way of protecting private enterprise from the threat of democracy.

Private enterprise cannot be maintained in the age of democracy; it is conceivable only if the people have a sound idea of authority and personality. Everything positive, good and valuable, which has been achieved in the world in the field of economics and culture, is solely attributable to the importance of personality. When, however, the defence of the existing order, its political administration, is left to a majority, it will go under irretrievably. All the worldly goods which we possess we owe to the struggle of the chosen. Had we the present conditions in the Middle Ages, the foundations of our German Reich would never have been laid. The same mentality that was the basis for obtaining these values must be used to preserve these values… It is, however, not enough to say: We do not Communism in our economy. If we continue on our old political course, then we shall perish. We have fully experienced in the past years that economics and politics cannot be separated. The political conduct of the struggle is the primary, decisive factor. Therefore, politically clear conditions must be reached…

Cameron and Clegg also lead an elite government, composed of aristocrats, with the express purpose of defending private industry from state interference, and extending it into areas previous considered to be that of the state. Nazi Germany had a dirigiste, centrally-planned economy, though one which preserved and operated through private, rather than state-owned industry as in the Soviet Union. Cameron and Clegg have also showed themselves eager to suppress free speech and democratic political campaigning by groups outside the parties. Is this because they similarly share Hitler’s fear that

‘Private enterprise cannot be maintained in the age of democracy’, but only if the people are led by a strong, dictatorial personality, like a Right-wing, authoritarian Prime Minister and his deputy?