Blair government’s rendition policy led to rift between UK spy agencies MI5 chief’s complaint over MI6 role in ‘war on terror’ abductions caused prolonged breakdown in relations

British involvement in controversial and clandestine rendition operations provoked an unprecedented row between the UK’s domestic and foreign intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, at the height of the “war on terror”, the Guardian can reveal.

The head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, was so incensed when she discovered the role played by MI6 in abductions that led to suspected extremists being tortured, she threw out a number of her sister agency’s staff and banned them from working at MI5’s headquarters, Thames House.

According to Whitehall sources, she also wrote to the then prime minister, Tony Blair, to complain about the conduct of MI6 officers, saying their actions had threatened Britain’s intelligence gathering and may have compromised the security and safety of MI5 officers and their informants.

The letter caused a serious and prolonged breakdown of trust between Britain’s domestic and foreign spy agencies provoked by the Blair government’s support for rendition.

The letter was discovered by investigators examining whether British intelligence officers should face criminal charges over the rendition of an exiled Libyan opposition leader, Abdul Hakim Belhaj.

A critic of Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan dictator, Belhaj was seized in Bangkok in March, 2004 in a joint UK-US operation, and handed over to the CIA. He alleges the CIA tortured him and injected him with “truth serum” before flying him and his family to Tripoli to be interrogated.

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, centre, speaks during a press conference in Tripoli in 2012.
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Abdul Hakim Belhaj, centre, speaks during a press conference in Tripoli in 2012. Photograph: Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images
According to documents found in Tripoli, five days before he was secretly flown to the Libyan capital, MI6 gave Gaddafi’s intelligence agency the French and Moroccan aliases used by Belhaj.

MI6 also provided the Libyans with the intelligence that allowed the CIA to kidnap him and take him to Tripoli.

Belhaj told the Guardian that British intelligence officers were among the first to interrogate him in Tripoli. He said he was “very surprised that the British got involved in what was a very painful period in my life”.

“I wasn’t allowed a bath for three years and I didn’t see the sun for one year,” he told the Guardian. “They hung me from the wall and kept me in an isolation cell. I was regularly tortured.”

The secret role played by MI6 was revealed after the fall of Gaddafi, when documents were found in ransacked offices of his intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa.

One, dated 18 March 2004 was a note from Sir Mark Allen, then head of counter-terrorism at MI6, to Moussa Koussa. It said: “I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abd Allah Sadiq [Abdul-Hakim Belhaj]. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years. I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week.”

Allen added: “[Belhaj’s] information on the situation in this country is of urgent importance to us. Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from [Belhaj] through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing. The intelligence on [Belhaj] was British. I know I did not pay for the air cargo [Belhaj]. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful for the help you are giving us.”

Scotland Yard has concluded its investigation into the alleged involvement of intelligence officers and officials in Libyan rendition operations and an announcement about whether or not to prosecute is imminent.

Whitehall sources have told the Guardian that police and prosecutors have been reviewing the issue for months. They say investigators have been frustrated by the way potentially key witnesses have said they were unable to recall who had authorised British involvement in the rendition programme, who else knew about it, and who knew the precise details of the Belhaj abduction.

“This is an extremely difficult area for police and prosecutors,” said one source. “The problem is, the CPS cannot bring a charge against a government policy.”

The letter to Blair sent by Manningham-Buller, who was director general of MI5 from 2002 to 2007, reflected deep divisions within Britain’s intelligence agencies over the methods being used to gather information after the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Though MI5 has been criticised about some of the tactics used, the letter suggests Britain’s security service had serious misgivings about rendition operations and the torture of suspects.

The Guardian has been told the MI5 chief was “shocked and appalled” by the treatment of Belhaj and vented her anger at MI6, which was then run by Sir Richard Dearlove.

“When EMB [Manningham-Buller] found out what had gone on in Libya, she was evidently furious. I have never seen a letter quite like it. There was a serious rift between MI5 and MI6 at the time.”

She has since said the aim of engaging with Gaddafi to persuade him to abandon his chemical and nuclear weapons programme was not “wrong in principle”.

However, she added: “There are clearly questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”

The police files with the CPS are understood to describe how Belhaj, his pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, and children, and Sami al-Saadi and his family were abducted from the far east to Gaddafi’s interrogation and torture cells in Tripoli in 2004.

The British government paid £2.2m to settle a damages claim brought by al-Saadi and his family. Belhaj has refused to settle unless he receives an apology.

Jack Straw, who as foreign secretary was responsible for MI6, and Allen have always denied wrongdoing.

UK government ‘seeking to avoid responsibility’ for renditions
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In December 2005, when the first evidence emerged that Britain was colluding in CIA rendition operations, Straw told MPs: “There is simply no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop.”

When the Libyan renditions came to light, Straw said: “No foreign secretary can know all the details of what its intelligence agencies are doing at any one time.”

He has been interviewed by the police but only as a potential witness. Government officials, insisting on anonymity, said MI6 was following “ministerially authorised government policy”.

Blair said he did not have “any recollection at all” of the Belhaj rendition.

The Blair and Straw denials appeared to be contradicted by Dearlove.

He has said: “It was a political decision, having very significantly disarmed Libya, for the government to cooperate with Libya on Islamist terrorism. The whole relationship was one of serious calculation about where the overall balance of our national interests stood.”

Neither MI5 nor MI6, nor Manningham-Buller, wanted to make any public comment. Whitehall sources insist the relationship between MI5 and MI6 has now been repaired after a difficult period.

Belhaj is demanding an apology and an acceptance of British guilt. He has taken his case to the supreme court, which has yet to hand down a judgment.

Last year, the court was confronted with the prospect of Straw and British intelligence officers deploying the “foreign act of state doctrine” – that is to say, the courts here cannot rule on the case since agents from foreign countries, notably the US and Libya, were involved, and they are granted immunity.

Section 7 of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act, sometimes described as the “James Bond clause”, protects MI6 officers from prosecution for actions anywhere in the world that would otherwise be illegal. They would be protected as long as their actions were authorised in writing by the secretary of state.

However, lawyers for Belhaj say many cases involving deportation or asylum seekers, for example, relate to actions of foreign states and that, in any case, torture overrides all legal loopholes.

An inquiry under Sir Peter Gibson, a retired senior judge, into earlier rendition programmes in which British intelligence was involved, was abandoned because of the new and dramatic evidence about Belhaj’s abduction.

After insisting that the issues were so serious that it needed a judge-led inquiry rather than one carried out by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, David Cameron reversed his position. After the Gibson inquiry was dropped, he said the issues should be taken up by the committee after all.

Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general and now chair of the committee, said shortly after he was appointed last October: “Our longer-term priority is the substantial inquiry into the role of the UK government and security and intelligence agencies in relation to detainee treatment and rendition, where there are still unanswered questions.”

The Gibson inquiry published a damning interim report before it folded. It concluded that the British government and its intelligence agencies had been involved in rendition operations, in which detainees were kidnapped and flown around the globe, and had interrogated detainees who they knew were being mistreated.

It said MI6 officers were informed they were under no obligation to report breaches of the Geneva conventions; intelligence officers appear to have taken advantage of the abuse of detainees; and Straw, as foreign secretary, had suggested that the law might be amended to allow suspects to be rendered to the UK.

It raised 27 questions they said would need to be answered if the full truth about the way in which Britain waged its “war on terror” was to be established.

The questions include:

• Did UK intelligence officers turn a blind eye to “specific, inappropriate techniques or threats” used by others and use this to their advantage in interrogations?

• If so, was there “a deliberate or agreed policy” between UK officers and overseas intelligence officers?

• Did the government and its agencies become “inappropriately involved in some renditions”?

• Was there a willingness, “at least at some levels within the agencies, to condone, encourage or take advantage of a rendition operation”?

Nick Hopkins and Richard Norton-Taylor
Tuesday 31 May 2016 17.56 BST Last modified on Wednesday 1 June 2016 17.20 BST

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© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

‘Jihadi John’ case raises questions about UK counter-terrorism strategy (2015)

Emails released by CAGE revealed how MI5 repeatedly tried to recruit Mohammed Emwazi as an informant and put him on a terror watchlist to stop him leaving Britain

The identifying of “Jihadi John”, a masked militant who has beheaded and tortured hostages held by the Islamic State in Syria, as 26-year-old British national, Mohammed Emwazi, has ignited a debate about the young recruit’s life, identity and path to Islamist militancy.

Observers have pointed to Emwazi’s privileged upbringing – Emwazi came from a “well-to-do family,” growing up in West London and graduating from college with a degree in computer programming, according to the Washington Post – as proof that poverty did not fuel his radicalism.

Jihadi John is middle class & educated, demonstrates again that radicalisation is not necessarily driven by poverty or social deprivation.

— Shiraz Maher (@ShirazMaher) February 26, 2015
Less attention has been paid to the alleged interactions between Emwazi and the British security services and how, if at all, these may have impacted on the young militant.

Emails exchanged between Emwazi and Asim Qureshi, director of CAGE, a group which primarily lobbies on behalf of detainees held on terrorism charges, suggest that, before he travelled to Syria in 2012, Emwazi had several encounters with British authorities.

In Amsterdam in 2009 an officer from MI5, Britain’s domestic security agency, tried to recruit Emwazi after accusing him and two others of trying to reach Somalia, where the militant group al-Shabab is based, according to emails he sent to Qureshi.

“Listen Mohammed: You’ve got the whole world in front of you; you’re 21 years old; you just finished Uni – why don’t you work for us?” Emwazi recalled an MI5 officer asking him in Amsterdam’s airport in a June 2010 email he sent to Qureshi.

CAGE has been accused of sympathising with some of the foreign fighters it is regularly in contact with.

Qureshi, a graduate of the London School of Economics, has taken part in rallies by Islamist groups in the UK who call for “jihad” in Chechyna and Iraq.

He told Middle East Eye he had met with Emwazi in the fall of 2009 shortly after he returned to the UK to discuss what had happened.

“Mohammed was angry about the way he had been treated, he felt they (MI5) had bullied and disrespected him,” Qureshi said.

In 2010 counterterrorism officials in Britain detained Emwazi again – fingerprinting him and searching his belongings – and later preventing him from travelling to Kuwait, his birthplace, where he had landed a job working for a computer company.

“I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started,” Emwazi wrote in a June 2010 e-mail to Qureshi. But now “I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London. A person imprisoned & controlled by security service men, stopping me from living my new life in my birthplace & country, Kuwait.”

Qureshi said he last heard from Emwazi in January 2012.

“Mohammed was harassed repeatedly by MI5 from the summer of 2010 until 2013. He told me he was once strangled by an officer at Heathrow airport during interrogation,” said Qureshi.

Qureshi said that Emwazi, who has been described by those who knew him as “polite with a penchant for wearing stylish clothes while adhering to the tenets of his Islamic faith,” had used “every means possible” to try and change his personal situation.

“Suffocating domestic policies aimed at turning a person into an informant but which prevent a person from fulfilling their basic life needs would have left a lasting impression on Emwazi,” said Qureshi.

“When are we going to finally learn that when we treat people as if they’re outsiders they will look for belonging elsewhere?”

We have an entire system of injustice that allows peoples lives to be ruined. Security services create suspect communities #MohammedEmwazi

— CAGE (@UK_CAGE) February 26, 2015
Analysts have dismissed CAGE’s assertion that the security services had a role in Emwazi’s radicalisation.

“I think it’s a bit rich that Jihadi John has decided to go to Syria and participate in this conflict because of some interaction with the security services,” Shiraz Maher, a senior fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, told the Telegraph. “As if he (Jihadi John) is resolved of all responsibility, as if he is not a salient individual capable of making his own decisions.”

Haras Rafiq, managing director of the anti-radicalisation think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, called the claim that Britain was in anyway to blame “rubbish.”

“It’s not the British or Kuwaitis fault. It is his fault and the people who radicalised him. Jihadi John is a cold-hearted killer,” he said.

Moazzam Begg, a British-Pakistani citizen and former Guantanamo Bay detainee, said that British security forces were not to blame but that their increasingly intrusive strategies had contributed to a “climate of fear and alienation” amongst Muslims in Britain.

“It’s not an excuse, it’s part of an explanation why this man must have felt greatly alienated,” said Begg.

“Scores and scores have been harassed, stopped whenever they travel, approached by security services … There are people who feel they are stuck, they have nowhere to turn to, it’s crucial we get this point across, some of us have had our lives completely destroyed.”

Begg said the British government was still refusing to engage with the idea that British policies, foreign and domestic, might be influencing potential jihadists.

“When people get alienated, they feel unwelcome and afraid … I feel that way all the time, I’ve been arrested, I’ve had my house turned upside down, I’ve been prosecuted and made to feel like I don’t belong here. If I was to leave tomorrow for Syria would it be right to say that the security services drove me away?”

Thursday 26 February 2015 22:48 UTC
Last update: Tuesday 3 March 2015 22:30 UTC

Find this story at 26 February 2015

© Middle East Eye 2014

Knowing too much: My disastrous Syria trial (2015)

On the first anniversary since my arrest for Syria-related terrorism I explain just why the trial against me was heading for disaster
It was the early morning of 24 February 2014. The doorbell rang. My wife answered and called my name, sounding scared. I was out of bed and already half-dressed when the police walked into my room. It seemed like they had filled the house. They asked me to confirm my name and then told me I was under arrest for terrorism.

I had been on edge since police seized my passport on my return from South Africa, so I was half expecting this. The police herded all my family into one bedroom. They allowed me to hug them all and say goodbye – unlike the Americans did. I told them to be strong, not to cry and have hope in Allah. I promised I would be back soon.

After dispersing my family between four households, the police scoured every inch of my house and filled 50 large evidence boxes with literally anything they could find. I didn’t know it at the time, but my car had been bugged since September 2012 and my every conversation recorded.

I was taken to a police station and kept there for four days. This was very serious. Over 150 police officers were involved. Additionally, the Home Office, the Treasury, the intelligence services and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had gone to extraordinary lengths to refuse me bail, freeze my assets and classify me as a Category A high-risk prisoner in HMP Belmarsh, five hours away from home.

The Government must have also anticipated the damage my arrest would have done to community relations and predicted allegations that they were doing this to prevent me from exposing British complicity in torture.

And after all that effort – it cost the taxpayers over £1million – they just gave up, apparently because of a meeting I had with MI5? The police claimed that my trial collapsed because they were not aware that I had met with MI5 before I travelled to Syria, but that’s not true because the article in which I mention my meeting was served as evidence by the prosecution. Surely, if the police and CPS truly believed I was involved in terrorism how could MI5 allow me to travel abroad for the purposes of terrorism?

The truth is the case was going to collapse on its own merits and was going to set a precedent that successfully challenged Britain’s policy on Syria and the meaning of terrorism.

I first became aware of the probes during police interrogation and like most people, I was horrified at the idea of having my personal conversations recorded. My reality, however, was that I could have been facing up to 15 years in prison for providing fitness training and a generator to the Syrian rebels, if found guilty.

After arriving at prison, the task of preparing for trial began in earnest. I knew I’d committed no crime and I was ready for a fight. The CPS case, however, was served in a disjointed and inconsistent manner. My lawyers had never seen anything like it in decades of advocacy.

The prosecution tried to create a narrative that didn’t exist because they were missing the key component: mens rea – the guilty mindset. After eight months of this, the desperation of their case coupled with the inability to understand their own evidence became apparent.

One example of this was regarding a train journey home with a military historian friend of mine who’d given a presentation at the CAGE office about the contribution of Indian subjects to the British war effort in both world wars. While we were on the train, unbeknown to us, an ex-British soldier seated opposite overheard us – two Asian-looking men talking about soldiers and war. That was enough for him to secretly photograph us and report it to the police. The incident was served in evidence by the prosecution – which is how I found out.

My copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, an article explaining the difference between jihad and terrorism and my piece entitled Syria: Britain’s new war on terror explaining the UK’s confused Syria policy were all served in evidence against me. The CPS’s 183-page expert witness report by Matthew Wilkinson was scrapped before the trial because it couldn’t show a terrorist mindset.

In November 2013, UK border police were prepared to potentially facilitate my travel to Syria after making me miss my flight to Istanbul where I was to attend a conference. They had wrongly assumed my trip was for onward travel to Syria. They offered to rebook my flight despite the reason they’d stopped me.

Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) translations of my Arabic conversations were a cause of hilarity:

Me: “nusrat al-mustadhafeen (help the oppressed)”

CTU: Name of a jihadi group

Me: “Free Syrian Army Battalion 313” (number of fighters at historic 7th century Battle of Badr)

CTU: Battle in Syria, 2013, in a town called Badr

Me: “Here is the generator and some [spare] parts”

CTU: Here is the generator. It has many uses.

Me: “He’s gone to Lattakia” [Syrian city]

CTU: He’s gone through the attack list

Me: “Even if you are completely jahil (ignorant)”

CTU: Even when you do jihad

The CPS didn’t care about my beliefs, even though they had recorded them, because they needed the charges to fit their narrative and not the truth. These are just two of numerous examples:

CTU probe, 24/06/2013: “I am telling you…they [ISIS] will commit numerous atrocities in the name of jihad and mujahideen.”

CTU probe, 24/06/2013: These people are very scary…and they all do it in the name of shariah…Where is the mercy in your people? It’s all about killing…with enemies and friends

The night before my arrest I had posted on social media and called ISIS extremists after they had killed a rendition victim I’d met in Syria in 2012. I spent much time responding to one of their supporters who objected to my description. Western media was not particularly concerned with ISIS back then because they were only killing Muslims. But I was very concerned.

This is taken verbatim from my last Facebook conversation before my arrest:

“I saw people who went on to join ISIS beat and torture brothers, with ridiculous allegations. They claimed beating them was from the Sunnah, I challenged them after I heard the brother’s screams.

“I saw muhajireen (foreigners), locked in cages, by Allah worse, than my Guantanamo cell.

“They beat people to make them confess…just like the Arab regimes, there is no difference.

“I have been to many places, Bosnia, Afghan… but never seen this kind of fitnah [turmoil] and such dangerous extremism and readiness for takfeer.

“Syrians on the ground have started to hate foreigners because of them.

“ISIS have even detained and killed aid workers…brothers from UK who have taken convoys [have] been looted by ISIS, guns shoved in faces of brothers who have crossed Europe to bring aid.

“And what’s the basis of detaining the non-Muslim aid worker [Alan Henning] who came in as a guest of Muslims, under their protection? They’ve probably murdered him too, just like many Muslims they’ve done that to.

“You have no idea how dangerous these people are and I will be writing about it in detail.”

That night I changed my Facebook status: “Sometimes knowing too much can be a curse.” Perhaps now it makes sense.

– Moazzam Begg is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and currently the director of outreach for UK-based campaigning organisation CAGE.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Protesters demonstrate outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London, on March 1, 2014, as former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg appeared (AFP)

Moazzam Begg
Tuesday 24 February 2015 17:28 UTC

Find this story at 24 February 2015

© Middle East Eye 2014 –

Cooperation between British spies and Gaddafi’s Libya revealed in official papers (2015)

Links between MI5 and Gaddafi’s intelligence during Tony Blair’s government more extensive than previously thought, according to documents

Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of previously unknown joint operations with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government and used the information extracted from rendition victims as evidence during partially secret court proceedings in London, according to an analysis of official documents recovered in Tripoli since the Libyan revolution.

The exhaustive study of the papers from the Libyan government archives shows the links between MI5, MI6 and Gaddafi’s security agencies were far more extensive than previously thought and involved a number of joint operations in which Libyan dissidents were unlawfully detained and allegedly tortured.

At one point, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Previously, MI6 was known to have assisted the dictatorship with the kidnap of two Libyan opposition leaders, who were flown to Tripoli along with their families – including a six-year-old girl and a pregnant woman – in 2004.

However, the research suggests that the fruits of a series of joint clandestine operations also underpinned a significant number of court hearings in London between 2002 and 2007, during which the last Labour government unsuccessfully sought to deport Gaddafi’s opponents on the basis of information extracted from people who had been “rendered” to his jails.

Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
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UK intelligence agencies sent more 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders.
In addition, the documents show that four men were subjected to control orders in the UK – a form of curfew – on the basis of information extracted from victims of rendition who had been handed over to the Gaddafi regime.

The papers recovered from the dictatorship’s archives include secret correspondence from MI6, MI5 reports on Libyans living in the UK, a British intelligence assessment marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret” and official Libyan minutes of meetings between the two countries’ intelligence agencies.

They show that:

• UK intelligence agencies sent more than 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders, Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, despite having reason to suspect they were being tortured.

• British government lawyers allegedly drew upon the answers to those questions when seeking the deportation of Libyans living in the UK

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• Five men were subjected to control orders in the UK, allegedly on the basis of information extracted from two rendition victims.

• Gaddafi’s agents recorded MI5 as warning in September 2006 that the two countries’ agencies should take steps to ensure that their joint operations would never be “discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”.

In fact, papers that detail the joint UK-Libyan rendition operations were discovered by the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch in September 2011, at the height of the Libyan revolution, in an abandoned government office building in Tripoli.

Since then, hundreds more documents have been discovered in government files in Tripoli. A team of London-based lawyers has assembled them into an archive that is forming the basis of a claim for damages on behalf of 12 men who were allegedly kidnapped, tortured, subject to control orders or tricked into travelling to Libya where they were detained and mistreated.

An attempt by government lawyers to have that claim struck out was rejected by the high court in London on Thursday , with the judge, Mr Justice Irwin, ruling that the allegations “are of real potential public concern” and should be heard and dealt with by the courts.

The litigation follows earlier proceedings brought on behalf of the two families who were kidnapped in the far east and flown to Tripoli. One claim was settled when the government paid £2.23m in compensation to al-Saadi and his family; the second is ongoing, despite attempts by government lawyers to have it thrown out of court, with Belhaj suing not only the British government, but also Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of his kidnap.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
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Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
Belhaj has offered to settle for just £3, providing he and his wife also receive an unreserved apology. This is highly unlikely to happen, however, as the two rendition operations are also the subject of a three-year Scotland Yard investigation code-named Operation Lydd. Straw has been questioned by detectives: his spokesman says he was interviewed “as a witness”.

Last month, detectives passed a final file to the Crown Prosecution Service. No charges are imminent, however. The CPS said: “The police investigation has lasted almost three years and has produced a large amount of material. These are complex allegations that will require careful consideration, but we will aim to complete our decision-making as soon as is practicably possible.”

The volte-face in UK-Libyan relations was always going to be contentious: the Gaddafi regime had not only helped to arm the IRA, bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives in 1988, and harboured the man who murdered a London policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, four years earlier; it had been responsible for the bombing of a French airliner and a Berlin nightclub, and for several decades had been sending assassins around the world to murder its opponents.

The Tripoli archives show that the rapprochement, which began with the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1999, gathered pace within weeks of the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time, has said that these links were always authorised by government ministers.

The week after the attacks, British intelligence officers met with Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan intelligence, who offered to provide intelligence from Islamists held in the regime’s jails.

Two months later, British intelligence officers held a three-day conference with their Libyan counterparts at a hotel at a European airport. German and Austrian intelligence officers also attended.

According to the Libyan minutes, the British explained that they could not arrest anyone in the UK – only the police could do that – and that there could be difficulty in obtaining authorisation for Gaddafi’s intelligence officers to operate in the UK. They also added that impending changes to UK law would give them “more leeway” in the near future.

Other documents released under the Freedom of Information Act detail the way in which diplomatic contacts between London and Tripoli developed, with a British trade minister, Mike O’Brien, visiting Tripoli in August 2002, the same month that the dictator’s son, Saif, was admitted as a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics. Blair and Gaddafi spoke by telephone for the first time, chatting for 30 minutes, and in December 2003 the dictator announced publicly that he was abandoning his programme for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

With the war in Iraq going badly, London and Washington were able to suggest that an invasion that had been justified by a need to dismantle a WMD programme that was subsequently found not to exist had at least resulted in another country’s weapons programme being dismantled.

Three months later, in March 2004, the new relationship was sealed by a meeting between Gaddafi and Blair, during which the British prime minister announced that the two countries had found common cause in the fight against terrorism, and the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell announced that it had signed a £110m deal for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast.

However, the Tripoli archive shows that beneath the surface of the new alliance, the Blair government was encouraging ever-closer co-operation between the UK’s intelligence agencies and the intelligence agencies of a dictatorship which had been widely condemned for committing the most serious human rights abuses; MI5 and MI6, and the CIA, would begin to work hand-in-glove with the Libyan External Security Organisation.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 during most of the period that the UK’s intelligence agencies were working closely with the Libyan dictatorship, has defended the decision to open talks with Gaddafi on the grounds that it helped to deter him from pursuing his WMD programme. However, when delivering the 2011 Reith Lecture, she added: “There are questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”

The archive clearly shows that Gaddafi hoped that this intelligence co-operation would result in British assistance in his attempts to round up and imprison Libyans who were living in exile in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Mali. All of these men were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an Islamist organisation that had attempted to assassinate him three times since its foundation in the early 90s. A largely spent force since the late 90s, many of the members of the LIFG had been living peacefully in the UK for more than a decade, having arrived as refugees. Some had been granted British citizenship. Koussa’s agency asked British intelligence to investigate 79 of these men, whom they described as “Libyan heretics”.

Two weeks before Blair’s visit to Libya, Belhaj and his four-and-a-half-months pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, were kidnapped in Thailand and flown to Tripoli. Bouchar says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher, for the 17-hour flight.

In a follow-up letter to Koussa, Allen claimed credit for the rendition of Belhaj – referring to him as Abu Abd Allah Sadiq, the name by which he is better known in the jihadi world – saying that although “I did not pay for the air cargo”, the intelligence that led to the couple’s capture was British.

Three days after Blair’s visit, al-Saadi was rendered from Hong Kong to Tripoli, along with his wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
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Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
Both men say that while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened.

Belhaj says he was twice interrogated at Tajoura by British intelligence officers. After gesturing that the session was being recorded, Belhaj says he made a number of gestures to show that he was being beaten and suspended by his arms. One of the British officers, a man, is said to have given a thumbs-up signal, while the second, a woman, is said to have nodded.

Belhaj alleges that following one of these encounters he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK after being threatened with a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk, provoking extreme claustrophobia and fear as well as discomfort.

According to the claim being brought against the British government, the attempt to track down other leading members of the LIFG resulted in the intelligence agencies of Libya and the UK throwing their net still wider.

In late 2005, a British citizen of Somali origin and a Libyan living in Ireland were arrested in Saudi Arabia and allegedly tortured while being questioned by Saudi intelligence officers about associates who were members of the LIFG. The men say they were shackled and beaten. The British citizen says he was also interrogated by two British men who declined to identify themselves and who appeared uninterested in his complaints of mistreatment.

Many of the questions put to the two men concerned the whereabouts of Othman Saleh Khalifa, a long-standing member of the LIFG. Khalifa was detained in Mali a few months later and rendered to Libya. The Tripoli archive shows that summaries of his interrogations were sent to British intelligence, and that both MI5 and MI6 submitted questions that they wished to be put to him. A memorandum from MI6 to Koussa’s deputy, Sadegh Krema, was accompanied by questions “which you kindly agreed to pass to your interview team”.

Khalifa says that he was beaten during interrogations for around six months during the second half of 2006 and that he did not see daylight.

The Tripoli archive shows that during the same week that Khalifa was being rendered to Libya, MI5 and MI6 officers met Libyan intelligence officers in Tripoli and informed them that they were to be invited to the UK to conduct joint intelligence operations. The Libyan minutes of the meeting say that MI5 informed them that “London and Manchester are the two hottest spots” for LIFG activity in the country. The aim was to recruit informants within the Libyan community in the UK.

The Libyan minutes of the meeting also say that the British told them: “With your co-operation we should be able to target specific individuals.” The Libyans, meanwhile, said that potential recruits could be “intimidated” through threats to arrest relatives in Libya.

The following August, senior MI5 and MI6 officers and two Libyan intelligence officers met at MI5’s headquarters in London. According to the Libyan minutes, MI5 warned the Libyans that individuals could complain to the police if they believed they were being harassed by MI5, and could also expose the British-Libyan joint operations to the media.

The minutes also state that the British suggested that Libyan intelligence officers should approach potential recruits in the UK, and that if they refused to cooperate, arrangements could be made for the targets to be arrested under anti-terrorism legislation, accused of associating with those same Libyan intelligence officers, and threatened with deportation.

Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
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Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
One of the targets was a 32-year-old Libyan, associated with the LIFG, who had lived in the UK for 10 years and had been a British citizen for six years. The Libyan intelligence officers repeatedly telephoned him, claiming to be consular officials, and he eventually agreed to meet them at the Landmark hotel in Marylebone, London, on 2 September 2006. According to the Libyan notes of this meeting, the British insisted that two MI5 officers, one calling herself Caroline, should be present, so that the target should know that he was the subject of a joint UK-Libyan approach.

The target was told that he was to be given time to think about the approach. In Libya, meanwhile, the target’s brothers, sisters and mother say they were each detained in turn and told that they should persuade him to return to the country.

The Libyan intelligence officers also visited Manchester, calling at the home of another man targeted for recruitment. According to their notes, MI5 warned them not to enter the house but to persuade him to go with them to a public place where they could be photographed together. As he was not at home, the Libyan spies went instead to a mosque in the Didsbury district, where they told the imam that they were importing and exporting books.

On 5 September, shortly before the two Libyan intelligence officers returned home, they had another meeting with their British counterparts. Their notes show that the British warned that steps should be taken jointly to “avoid being trapped in any sort of legal problem [and] to avoid also that those joint plans be discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”. The Libyans assured MI5 and MI6: “We have effectively reassured them that we will stick by the joint plan to avoid any blame if the operation fails.”

The target says he was approached by “Caroline” and a second MI5 officer on a number of other occasions, but declined to travel to Libya and still lives in west London.

Six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin are bringing a number of claims, which include allegations of false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault.

The case is being brought against MI5 and MI6 as well as the Home Office and Foreign Office. Government departments declined to comment on the grounds that the litigation is ongoing.

When making their unsuccessful bid to have the case struck out, government lawyers admitted no liability. They argued that the five claimants who were subjected to control orders were properly considered to pose a threat to the UK’s national security, and denied that the government relied on information from prisoners held in Libya in making that assessment. They also argued that the LIFG had been a threat to the UK. They are expected to appeal Thursday’s high court decision.

Allen has declined to comment on the rendition operations, while Straw says: “At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law, and I hope to be able to say more about this at an appropriate stage in the future.”

Thursday 22 January 2015 14.24 GMT Last modified on Saturday 7 May 2016 11.17 BST

Find this story at 22 January 2015

© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

The circus: How British intelligence primed both sides of the ‘terror war’ (2015)

‘Jihadi John’ was able to join IS for one simple reason: from Quilliam to al-Muhajiroun, Britain’s loudest extremists have been groomed by the security services
Every time there’s a terrorist attack that makes national headlines, the same talking heads seem to pop up like an obscene game of “whack-a-mole”. Often they appear one after the other across the media circuit, bobbing from celebrity television pundit to erudite newspaper outlet.

A few years ago, BBC Newsnight proudly hosted a “debate” between Maajid Nawaz, director of counter-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, and Anjem Choudary, head of the banned Islamist group formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, which has, since its proscription, repeatedly reincarnated itself. One of its more well-known recent incarnations was “Islam4UK”.

Both Nawaz and Choudary have received huge mainstream media attention, generating press headlines, and contributing to major TV news and current affairs shows. But unbeknown to most, they have one thing in common: Britain’s security services. And believe it or not, that bizarre fact explains why the Islamic State’s (IS) celebrity beheader, former west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi – aka “Jihadi John” – got to where he is now.

A tale of two extremists

After renouncing his affiliation with the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), Maajid Nawaz co-founded the Quilliam Foundation with his fellow ex-Hizb member, Ed Husain.

The Quilliam Foundation was set-up by Husain and Nawaz in 2008 with significant British government financial support. Its establishment received a massive PR boost from the release of Ed Husain’s memoirs, The Islamist, which rapidly became an international bestseller, generating hundreds of reviews, interviews and articles.

In Ed Husain’s book – much like Maajid Nawaz’s tome Radical released more recently to similar fanfare – Husain recounts his journey from aggrieved young Muslim into Islamist activist, and eventually his total rejection of Islamist ideology.

Both accounts of their journeys of transformation offer provocative and genuine insights. But the British government has played a much more direct role in crafting those accounts than either they, or the government, officially admit.

Government ghostwriters

In late 2013, I interviewed a former senior researcher at the Home Office who revealed that Husain’s The Islamist was “effectively ghostwritten in Whitehall”.

The official told me that in 2006, he was informed by a government colleague “with close ties” to Jack Straw and Gordon Brown that “the draft was written by Ed but then ‘peppered’ by government input”. The civil servant told him “he had seen ‘at least five drafts of the book, and the last one was dramatically different from the first.’”

The draft had, the source said, been manipulated in an explicitly political, pro-government manner. The committee that had input into Ed Husain’s manuscript prior to its official publication included senior government officials from No. 10 Downing Street, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the intelligence services, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.

When I put the question, repeatedly, to Ed Husain as to the veracity of these allegations, he did not respond. I also asked Nawaz whether he was aware of the government’s role in “ghostwriting” Husain’s prose, and whether he underwent a similar experience in the production of Radical. He did not respond either.

While Husain was liaising with British government and intelligence officials over The Islamist from 2006 until the book’s publication in May 2007, his friend Nawaz was at first in prison in Egypt. Nawaz was eventually released in March 2006, declaring his departure from HT just a month before the publication of Husain’s book. Husain took credit for being the prime influence on Nawaz’s decision, and by November 2007, had joined with him becoming Quilliam’s director with Husain as his deputy.

Yet according to Husain, Nawaz played a role in determining parts of the text of The Islamist in the same year it was being edited by government officials. “Before publication, I discussed with my friend and brother-in-faith Maajid the passages in the book,” wrote Husain about the need to verify details of their time in HT.

This is where the chronology of Husain’s and Nawaz’s accounts begin to break down. In Radical, and repeatedly in interviews about his own deradicalisation process, Nawaz says that he firmly and decisively rejected HT’s Islamist ideology while in prison in Egypt. Yet upon his release and return to Britain, Nawaz showed no sign of having reached that decision. Instead, he did the opposite. In April 2006, Nawaz told Sarah Montague on BBC Hardtalk that his detention in Egypt had “convinced [him] even more… that there is a need to establish this Caliphate as soon as possible.” From then on, Nawaz, who was now on HT’s executive committee, participated in dozens of talks and interviews in which he vehemently promoted the Hizb.

I first met Nawaz at a conference on 2 December 2006 organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) on the theme of “reclaiming our rights”. I had spoken on a panel about the findings of my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, on how British state collusion with Islamist extremists had facilitated the 7/7 attacks. Nawaz had attended the event as an audience member with two other senior HT activists, and in our brief conversation, he spoke of his ongoing work with HT in glowing terms.

By January 2007, Nawaz was at the front of a HT protest at the US embassy in London, condemning US military operations in Iraq and Somalia. He delivered a rousing speech at the protest, demanding an end to “colonial intervention in the Muslim world,” and calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate to stand up to such imperialism and end Western support for dictators.

Yet by his own account, throughout this very public agitation on behalf of HT from mid-2006 onwards, Nawaz had in fact rejected the very ideology he was preaching so adamantly. Indeed, in the same period, he was liaising with his friend, Ed Husain – who at that time was still in Jeddah – and helping him with the text of his anti-HT manifesto, The Islamist, which was also being vetted at the highest levels of government.

The British government’s intimate, and secret, relationship with Husain in the year before the publication of his book in 2007 shows that, contrary to his official biography, the Quilliam Foundation founder was embedded in Whitehall long before he was on the public radar. How did he establish connections at this level?

MI5’s Islamist

According to Dr Noman Hanif, a lecturer in international terrorism and political Islam at Birkbeck College, University of London, and an expert on Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group’s presence in Britain likely provided many opportunities for Western intelligence to “penetrate or influence” the movement.

Dr Hanif, whose doctoral thesis was about the group, points out that Husain’s tenure inside HT by his own account occurred “under the leadership of Omar Bakri Mohammed,” the controversial cleric who left the group in 1996 to found al-Muhajiroun, a militant network which to this day has been linked to every major terrorist plot in Britain.

Bakri’s leadership of HT, said Dr Hanif, formed “the most conceptually deviant period of HT’s existence in the UK, diverting quite sharply away from its core ideas,” due to Bakri’s advocacy of violence and his focus on establishing an Islamic state in the UK, goals contrary to HT doctrines.

When Bakri left HT and set-up al-Muhajiroun in 1996, according to John Loftus, a former US Army intelligence officer and Justice Department prosecutor, Bakri was immediately recruited by MI6 to facilitate Islamist activities in the Balkans. And not just Bakri, but also Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was recently convicted in the US on terrorism charges.

When Bakri founded al-Muhajiroun in 1996 with the blessings of Britain’s security services, his co-founder was Anjem Choudary. Choudary was intimately involved in the programme to train and send Britons to fight abroad, and three years later, would boast to the Sunday Telegraph that “some of the training does involve guns and live ammunition”.

Historian Mark Curtis, in his seminal work, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, documents how under this arrangement, Bakri trained hundreds of Britons at camps in the UK and the US, and dispatched them to join al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.

Shortly before the 2005 London bombings, Ron Suskind, a Wall Street Journal Pulitizer Prize winning investigative reporter, was told by a senior MI5 official that Bakri was a longtime informant for the secret service who “had helped MI5 on several of its investigations”. Bakri, Suskind adds in his book, The Way of the World, reluctantly conceded the relationship in an interview in Beirut – but Suskind gives no indication that the relationship ever ended.

A senior terrorism lawyer in London who has represented clients in several high-profile terrorism cases told me that both Bakri and Choudary had regular meetings with MI5 officers in the 1990s. The lawyer, who works for a leading firm of solicitors and has regularly liaised with MI5 in the administration of closed court hearings involving secret evidence, said: “Omar Bakri had well over 20 meetings with MI5 from around 1993 to the late 1990s. Anjem Choudary apparently participated in such meetings toward the latter part of the decade. This was actually well-known amongst several senior Islamist leaders in Britain at the time.”

According to Dr Hanif of Birkbeck College, Bakri’s relationship with the intelligence services likely began during his “six-year reign as HT leader in Britain,” which would have “provided British intelligence ample opportunity” to “widely infiltrate the group”. HT had already been a subject of MI6 surveillance abroad “because of its core level of support in Jordan and the consistent level of activity in other areas of the Middle East for over five decades.”

At least some HT members appear to have been aware of Bakri’s intelligence connections, including, it seems, Ed Husain himself. In one passage in The Islamist (p. 116), Husain recounts: “We were also concerned about Omar’s application for political asylum… I raised this with Bernie [another HT member] too. ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘On the contrary. The British are like snakes; they manoeuvre carefully. They need Omar in Britain. More likely, Omar will be the ambassador for the khilafah here or leave to reside in the Islamic state. The kuffar know that – allowing Omar to stay in Britain will give them a good start, a diplomatic advantage, when they have to deal with the Islamic state. Having Omar serves them well for the future. MI5 knows exactly what we’re doing, what we’re about, and yet they have in effect, given us the green light to operate in Britain.”

Husain left HT after Bakri in August 1997. According to Faisal Haque, a British government civil servant and former HT member who knew Ed Husain during his time in the group, Husain had a strong “personal relationship” with Bakri. He did not leave HT for “ideological reasons,” said Haque. “It was more to do with his close personal relationship with Omar Bakri (he left when Bakri was kicked out), pressure from his father and other personal reasons which I don’t want to mention.”

Husain later went on to work for the British Council in the Middle East. From 2003 to 2005, he was in Damascus. During that period, by his own admission, he informed on other British members of HT for agitating against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, resulting in them being deported by Syrian authorities back to Britain. At this time, the CIA and MI6 routinely cooperated with Assad on extraordinary rendition programmes.

Husain then worked for the British Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from late 2005 to the end of 2006.

Throughout that year, according to the former Home Office official I spoke to, Husain was in direct contact with senior Whitehall officials who were vetting his manuscript for The Islamist. By November, Husain posted on DeenPort, an online discussion forum, a now deleted comment referring off-hand to the work of “the secret services” inside HT: “Even within HT in Britain today, there is a huge division between modernisers and more radical elements. The secret services are hopeful that the modernisers can tame the radicals… I foresee another split. And God knows best. I have said more than I should on this subject! Henceforth, my lips are sealed!”

Shortly after, Maajid Nawaz would declare his departure from HT, and would eventually be joined at Quilliam by several others from the group, many of whom according to Nawaz had worked with him and Husain as “a team” behind the scenes at this time.

The ‘ex-jihadists’ who weren’t

Perhaps the biggest problem with Husain’s and Nawaz’s claim to expertise on terrorism was that they were never jihadists. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent movement for the establishment of a global “caliphate” through social struggle, focusing on the need for political activism in the Muslim world. Whatever the demerits of this rigid political ideology, it had no relationship to the phenomenon of al-Qaeda terrorism.

Nevertheless, Husain and Nawaz, along with their government benefactors, were convinced that those personal experiences of “radicalisation” and “deradicalisation” could by transplanted into the ongoing “war on terror” – even though, in reality neither of them had any idea about the dynamics of an actual terrorist network, and the radicalisation process leading to violent extremism. The result was an utterly misguided and evidence-devoid obsession with rejecting non-violent extremist ideologies as the primary means to prevent terrorism.

Through the Quilliam Foundation, Husain’s and Nawaz’s fundamentalist ideas about non-violent extremism went on to heavily influence official counter-terrorism discourses across the Western world. This was thanks to its million pounds worth of government seed-funding, intensive media coverage, as well as the government pushing Quilliam’s directors and staff to provide “deradicalisation training” to government and security officials in the US and Europe.

In the UK, Quilliam’s approach was taken up by various centre-right and right-wing think-tanks, such as the Centre for Social Cohesion (CCS) and Policy Exchange, all of which played a big role in influencing the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism programme (Prevent).

Exactly how bankrupt this approach is, however, can be determined from Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to express his understanding of the risk from non-violent extremism, a major feature of the coalition government’s Orwellian new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. The latter establishes unprecedented powers of electronic surveillance and the basis for the “Prevent duty,” which calls for all public sector institutions to develop “risk-assessment” profiles of individuals deemed to be “at-risk” of being drawn into non-violent extremism.

In his speech at the UN last year, Cameron explained that counter-terrorism measures must target people who may not “encourage violence, but whose worldview can be used as a justification for it.” As examples of dangerous ideas at the “root cause” of terrorism, Cameron pinpointed “conspiracy theories,” and most outrageously, “The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy.”

In other words, if you believe, for instance, that US and British forces have deliberately conducted brutal military operations across the Muslim world resulting in the foreseeable deaths of countless innocent civilians, you are a non-violent extremist.

In an eye-opening academic paper published last year, French terrorism expert and Interior Ministry policy officer Dr Claire Arenes, noted that: “By definition, one may know if radicalisation has been violent only once the point of violence has been reached, at the end of the process. Therefore, since the end-term of radicalisation cannot be determined in advance, a policy intended to fight violent radicalisation entails a structural tendency to fight any form of radicalisation.”

It is precisely this moronic obsession with trying to detect and stop “any form of radicalisation,” however non-violent, that is hampering police and security investigations and overloading them with nonsense “risks”.

Double game

At this point, the memorable vision of Nawaz and Choudary facing off on BBC Newsnight appears not just farcical, but emblematic of how today’s national security crisis has been fuelled and exploited by the bowels of the British secret state.

Over the last decade or so – the very same period that the British state was grooming the “former jihadists who weren’t” so they could be paraded around the media-security-industrial complex bigging up the non-threat of “non-violent extremism” – the CIA and MI6 were coordinating Saudi-led funding to al-Qaeda affiliated extremists across the Middle East and Central Asia to counter Iranian Shiite influence.

From 2005 onwards, US and British intelligence services encouraged a range of covert operations to support Islamist opposition groups, including militants linked to al-Qaeda, to undermine regional Iranian and Syrian influence. By 2009, the focus of these operations shifted to Syria.

As I documented in written evidence to a UK Parliamentary inquiry into Prevent in 2010, one of the recipients of such funding was none other than Omar Bakri, who at the time told one journalist: “Today, angry Lebanese Sunnis ask me to organise their jihad against the Shiites… Al-Qaeda in Lebanon… are the only ones who can defeat Hezbollah.” Simultaneously, Bakri was regularly in touch with his deputy, Anjem Choudary, over the internet and even delivered online speeches to his followers in Britain instructing them to join IS and murder civilians. He has now been detained and charged by Lebanese authorities for establishing terror cells in the country.

Bakri was also deeply involved “with training the mujahideen [fighters] in camps on the Syrian borders and also on the Palestine side.” The trainees included four British Islamists “with professional backgrounds” who would go on to join the war in Syria. Bakri also claimed to have trained “many fighters,” including people from Germany and France, since arriving in Lebanon. Was Mohammed Emwazi among them? Last year, Bakri disciple Mizanur Rahman confirmed that at least five European Muslims who had died fighting under IS in Syria had been Bakri acolytes.

Nevertheless in 2013, it was David Cameron who lifted the arms embargo to support Syria’s rebels. We now know that most of our military aid went to al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists, many with links to extremists at home. The British government itself acknowledged that a “substantial number” of Britons were fighting in Syria, who “will seek to carry out attacks against Western interests… or in Western states”.

Yet according to former British counterterrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge, despite this risk, authorities “turned a blind eye to the travelling of its own jihadists to Syria, notwithstanding ample video etc. evidence of their crimes there,” because it “suited the US and UK’s anti-Assad foreign policy”.

This terror-funnel is what enabled people like Emwazi to travel to Syria and join up with IS – despite being on an MI5 terror watch-list. He had been blocked by the security services from traveling to Kuwait in 2010: why not Syria? Shoebridge, who was a British Army officer before joining the Metropolitan Police, told me that although such overseas terrorism has been illegal in the UK since 2006, “it’s notable that only towards the end of 2013 when IS turned against the West’s preferred rebels, and perhaps also when the tipping point between foreign policy usefulness and MI5 fears of domestic terrorist blowback was reached, did the UK authorities begin to take serious steps to tackle the flow of UK jihadists.”

The US-UK direct and tacit support for jihadists, Shoebridge said, had made Syria the safest place for regional terrorists fearing drone strikes “for more than two years”. Syria was “the only place British jihadists could fight without fear of US drones or arrest back home… likely because, unlike if similar numbers of UK jihadists had been travelling to for example Yemen or Afghanistan, this suited the anti-Assad policy.”

Having watched its own self-fulfilling prophecy unfold with horrifying precision in a string of IS-linked terrorist atrocities against Western hostages and targets, the government now exploits the resulting mayhem to vindicate its bankrupt “counter-extremism” narrative, promoted by hand-picked state-groomed “experts” like Husain and Nawaz.

Their prescription, predictably, is to expand the powers of the police state to identify and “deradicalise” anyone who thinks British foreign policy in the Muslim world is callous, self-serving and indifferent to civilian deaths. Government sources confirm that Nawaz’s input played a key role in David Cameron’s thinking on non-violent extremism, and the latest incarnation of the Prevent strategy; while last year, Husain was, ironically, appointed to the Foreign Office advisory group on freedom of religion or belief.

Meanwhile, Bakri’s deputy Choudary continues to inexplicably run around as Britain’s resident “terror cleric” media darling. His passport belatedly confiscated after a recent pointless police arrest that avoided charging him, he remains free to radicalise thick-headed British Muslims into joining IS, in the comfort that his hate speech will be broadcast widely, no doubt fueling widespread generic suspicion of British Muslims.

If only we could round up the Quilliam and al-Muhajiroun fanatics together, shove them onto a boat, and send them all off cruising to the middle of nowhere, they could have all the fun they want “radicalising” and “deradicalising” each other to their hearts content. And we might get a little peace. And perhaps we could send their handlers with them, too.

– Nafeez Ahmed PhD, is an investigative journalist, international security scholar and bestselling author who tracks what he calls the ‘crisis of civilization.’ He is a winner of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Friday 27 February 2015 14:35 UTC

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© Middle East Eye 2014

Lost in translation: Moazzam Begg reveals intelligence blunders (2015)

The case against Begg ‘was going to set a precedent that successfully challenged Britain’s policy on Syria and the meaning of terrorism’

A series of what appears to be translation mistakes and failure to grasp common sense by intelligence services have cost the British government over £1 million and could have landed an innocent man in jail, revealed former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg.

In an opinion column published in the Middle East Eye on Tuesday, Begg, who is currently the director of outreach for UK-based campaigning organisation CAGE, detailed what appears to be unprofessional methods of investigation by the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU).

“I could have been facing up to 15 years in prison for providing fitness training and a generator to the Syrian rebels, if found guilty,” he wrote.

Begg was further astonished to learn how serious were the accusations levelled against him, given what seemed to be a lack of credible evidence.

“Over 150 police officers were involved. Additionally, the Home Office, the Treasury, the intelligence services and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had gone to extraordinary lengths to refuse me bail, freeze my assets and classify me as a Category A high-risk prisoner in HMP Belmarsh, five hours away from home,” he wrote.

It remains unclear why the authorities went to so much trouble when Begg posed no threat, nor was he involved in any wrongdoing. But he did hint in the article the reason for his release.

“The truth is the case was going to collapse on its own merits and was going to set a precedent that successfully challenged Britain’s policy on Syria and the meaning of terrorism,” he wrote.

“The CPS didn’t care about my beliefs, even though they had recorded them, because they needed the charges to fit their narrative and not the truth,” he added.

Tuesday 24 February 2015 19:46 UTC
Last update: Wednesday 25 February 2015 9:17 UTC

Find this story at 24 February 2015

© Middle East Eye 2014

Former MI5 head: Torture is ‘wrong and never justified’ (2011)

The use of torture is “wrong and never justified”, the former head of the security service MI5 has insisted.
Eliza Manningham-Buller said it should be “utterly rejected even when it may offer the prospect of saving lives”.
Giving the second of her BBC Radio Reith lectures, she acknowledged recent disclosures about alleged British intelligence operations in Libya would “raise widespread concerns”.
“No-one could justify what went on under Gaddafi’s regime,” she added.
Baroness Manningham-Buller’s lectures examine the issues of terrorism and security on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
She said that the use of torture had not made the world a safer place, adding that the use of water-boarding by the United States was a “profound mistake” and as a result America lost its “moral authority”.
Allegations have recently emerged that the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) was involved in the rendition of Libyan terror suspects, following the discovery of papers suggesting close ties between MI6, the CIA and the Gaddafi regime.
Find out more

The second of Eliza Manningham-Buller’s Reith Lectures will be broadcast on Tuesday 13 September 2011 at 09:00 BST on BBC Radio 4.
Listen via the Radio 4 website
Download the Reith Lectures podcast
Explore the Reith Lectures archive
Baroness Manningham-Buller, who was director-general of the security service MI5 between 2002 and 2007, stated that she “would like to say more” on the recent allegations.
However, her position made it difficult to do so as she anticipates being called to give evidence to the Gibson Inquiry which will investigate the subject.
Sir Peter Gibson is chair of the ongoing detainee inquiry, which was set up last year by Prime Minister David Cameron to investigate the alleged involvement in torture by UK security agencies.
A statement issued by the inquiry said it would also be considering the new allegations of UK involvement in rendition to Libya. Some of the inquiry will be held in secret to protect intelligence sources and methods.
Following the lecture, which was held in Leeds City Museum, Lady Manningham-Buller answered questions posed by members of the audience.
The Conservative MP, David Davis, asked the former MI5 head if she thought Britain’s resistance to the use of telephone intercept evidence in court had hindered the conviction rate of terrorists in the UK.
Baroness Manningham-Buller replied that MI5 had first suggested the use of intercept evidence in 1988, and she would “still like to see that happen” – but successive British governments have found the idea “procedurally difficult”.
The second of Eliza Manningham-Buller’s Reith Lectures, which is entitled Security, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, 13 September.

8 September 2011

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Copyright © 2016 BBC

The circus: How British intelligence primed both sides of the ‘terror war’ (2015)

‘Jihadi John’ was able to join IS for one simple reason: from Quilliam to al-Muhajiroun, Britain’s loudest extremists have been groomed by the security services
Every time there’s a terrorist attack that makes national headlines, the same talking heads seem to pop up like an obscene game of “whack-a-mole”. Often they appear one after the other across the media circuit, bobbing from celebrity television pundit to erudite newspaper outlet.

A few years ago, BBC Newsnight proudly hosted a “debate” between Maajid Nawaz, director of counter-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, and Anjem Choudary, head of the banned Islamist group formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, which has, since its proscription, repeatedly reincarnated itself. One of its more well-known recent incarnations was “Islam4UK”.

Both Nawaz and Choudary have received huge mainstream media attention, generating press headlines, and contributing to major TV news and current affairs shows. But unbeknown to most, they have one thing in common: Britain’s security services. And believe it or not, that bizarre fact explains why the Islamic State’s (IS) celebrity beheader, former west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi – aka “Jihadi John” – got to where he is now.

A tale of two extremists

After renouncing his affiliation with the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), Maajid Nawaz co-founded the Quilliam Foundation with his fellow ex-Hizb member, Ed Husain.

The Quilliam Foundation was set-up by Husain and Nawaz in 2008 with significant British government financial support. Its establishment received a massive PR boost from the release of Ed Husain’s memoirs, The Islamist, which rapidly became an international bestseller, generating hundreds of reviews, interviews and articles.

In Ed Husain’s book – much like Maajid Nawaz’s tome Radical released more recently to similar fanfare – Husain recounts his journey from aggrieved young Muslim into Islamist activist, and eventually his total rejection of Islamist ideology.

Both accounts of their journeys of transformation offer provocative and genuine insights. But the British government has played a much more direct role in crafting those accounts than either they, or the government, officially admit.

Government ghostwriters

In late 2013, I interviewed a former senior researcher at the Home Office who revealed that Husain’s The Islamist was “effectively ghostwritten in Whitehall”.

The official told me that in 2006, he was informed by a government colleague “with close ties” to Jack Straw and Gordon Brown that “the draft was written by Ed but then ‘peppered’ by government input”. The civil servant told him “he had seen ‘at least five drafts of the book, and the last one was dramatically different from the first.’”

The draft had, the source said, been manipulated in an explicitly political, pro-government manner. The committee that had input into Ed Husain’s manuscript prior to its official publication included senior government officials from No. 10 Downing Street, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the intelligence services, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.

When I put the question, repeatedly, to Ed Husain as to the veracity of these allegations, he did not respond. I also asked Nawaz whether he was aware of the government’s role in “ghostwriting” Husain’s prose, and whether he underwent a similar experience in the production of Radical. He did not respond either.

While Husain was liaising with British government and intelligence officials over The Islamist from 2006 until the book’s publication in May 2007, his friend Nawaz was at first in prison in Egypt. Nawaz was eventually released in March 2006, declaring his departure from HT just a month before the publication of Husain’s book. Husain took credit for being the prime influence on Nawaz’s decision, and by November 2007, had joined with him becoming Quilliam’s director with Husain as his deputy.

Yet according to Husain, Nawaz played a role in determining parts of the text of The Islamist in the same year it was being edited by government officials. “Before publication, I discussed with my friend and brother-in-faith Maajid the passages in the book,” wrote Husain about the need to verify details of their time in HT.

This is where the chronology of Husain’s and Nawaz’s accounts begin to break down. In Radical, and repeatedly in interviews about his own deradicalisation process, Nawaz says that he firmly and decisively rejected HT’s Islamist ideology while in prison in Egypt. Yet upon his release and return to Britain, Nawaz showed no sign of having reached that decision. Instead, he did the opposite. In April 2006, Nawaz told Sarah Montague on BBC Hardtalk that his detention in Egypt had “convinced [him] even more… that there is a need to establish this Caliphate as soon as possible.” From then on, Nawaz, who was now on HT’s executive committee, participated in dozens of talks and interviews in which he vehemently promoted the Hizb.

I first met Nawaz at a conference on 2 December 2006 organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) on the theme of “reclaiming our rights”. I had spoken on a panel about the findings of my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, on how British state collusion with Islamist extremists had facilitated the 7/7 attacks. Nawaz had attended the event as an audience member with two other senior HT activists, and in our brief conversation, he spoke of his ongoing work with HT in glowing terms.

By January 2007, Nawaz was at the front of a HT protest at the US embassy in London, condemning US military operations in Iraq and Somalia. He delivered a rousing speech at the protest, demanding an end to “colonial intervention in the Muslim world,” and calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate to stand up to such imperialism and end Western support for dictators.

Yet by his own account, throughout this very public agitation on behalf of HT from mid-2006 onwards, Nawaz had in fact rejected the very ideology he was preaching so adamantly. Indeed, in the same period, he was liaising with his friend, Ed Husain – who at that time was still in Jeddah – and helping him with the text of his anti-HT manifesto, The Islamist, which was also being vetted at the highest levels of government.

The British government’s intimate, and secret, relationship with Husain in the year before the publication of his book in 2007 shows that, contrary to his official biography, the Quilliam Foundation founder was embedded in Whitehall long before he was on the public radar. How did he establish connections at this level?

MI5’s Islamist

According to Dr Noman Hanif, a lecturer in international terrorism and political Islam at Birkbeck College, University of London, and an expert on Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group’s presence in Britain likely provided many opportunities for Western intelligence to “penetrate or influence” the movement.

Dr Hanif, whose doctoral thesis was about the group, points out that Husain’s tenure inside HT by his own account occurred “under the leadership of Omar Bakri Mohammed,” the controversial cleric who left the group in 1996 to found al-Muhajiroun, a militant network which to this day has been linked to every major terrorist plot in Britain.

Bakri’s leadership of HT, said Dr Hanif, formed “the most conceptually deviant period of HT’s existence in the UK, diverting quite sharply away from its core ideas,” due to Bakri’s advocacy of violence and his focus on establishing an Islamic state in the UK, goals contrary to HT doctrines.

When Bakri left HT and set-up al-Muhajiroun in 1996, according to John Loftus, a former US Army intelligence officer and Justice Department prosecutor, Bakri was immediately recruited by MI6 to facilitate Islamist activities in the Balkans. And not just Bakri, but also Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was recently convicted in the US on terrorism charges.

When Bakri founded al-Muhajiroun in 1996 with the blessings of Britain’s security services, his co-founder was Anjem Choudary. Choudary was intimately involved in the programme to train and send Britons to fight abroad, and three years later, would boast to the Sunday Telegraph that “some of the training does involve guns and live ammunition”.

Historian Mark Curtis, in his seminal work, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, documents how under this arrangement, Bakri trained hundreds of Britons at camps in the UK and the US, and dispatched them to join al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.

Shortly before the 2005 London bombings, Ron Suskind, a Wall Street Journal Pulitizer Prize winning investigative reporter, was told by a senior MI5 official that Bakri was a longtime informant for the secret service who “had helped MI5 on several of its investigations”. Bakri, Suskind adds in his book, The Way of the World, reluctantly conceded the relationship in an interview in Beirut – but Suskind gives no indication that the relationship ever ended.

A senior terrorism lawyer in London who has represented clients in several high-profile terrorism cases told me that both Bakri and Choudary had regular meetings with MI5 officers in the 1990s. The lawyer, who works for a leading firm of solicitors and has regularly liaised with MI5 in the administration of closed court hearings involving secret evidence, said: “Omar Bakri had well over 20 meetings with MI5 from around 1993 to the late 1990s. Anjem Choudary apparently participated in such meetings toward the latter part of the decade. This was actually well-known amongst several senior Islamist leaders in Britain at the time.”

According to Dr Hanif of Birkbeck College, Bakri’s relationship with the intelligence services likely began during his “six-year reign as HT leader in Britain,” which would have “provided British intelligence ample opportunity” to “widely infiltrate the group”. HT had already been a subject of MI6 surveillance abroad “because of its core level of support in Jordan and the consistent level of activity in other areas of the Middle East for over five decades.”

At least some HT members appear to have been aware of Bakri’s intelligence connections, including, it seems, Ed Husain himself. In one passage in The Islamist (p. 116), Husain recounts: “We were also concerned about Omar’s application for political asylum… I raised this with Bernie [another HT member] too. ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘On the contrary. The British are like snakes; they manoeuvre carefully. They need Omar in Britain. More likely, Omar will be the ambassador for the khilafah here or leave to reside in the Islamic state. The kuffar know that – allowing Omar to stay in Britain will give them a good start, a diplomatic advantage, when they have to deal with the Islamic state. Having Omar serves them well for the future. MI5 knows exactly what we’re doing, what we’re about, and yet they have in effect, given us the green light to operate in Britain.”

Husain left HT after Bakri in August 1997. According to Faisal Haque, a British government civil servant and former HT member who knew Ed Husain during his time in the group, Husain had a strong “personal relationship” with Bakri. He did not leave HT for “ideological reasons,” said Haque. “It was more to do with his close personal relationship with Omar Bakri (he left when Bakri was kicked out), pressure from his father and other personal reasons which I don’t want to mention.”

Husain later went on to work for the British Council in the Middle East. From 2003 to 2005, he was in Damascus. During that period, by his own admission, he informed on other British members of HT for agitating against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, resulting in them being deported by Syrian authorities back to Britain. At this time, the CIA and MI6 routinely cooperated with Assad on extraordinary rendition programmes.

Husain then worked for the British Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from late 2005 to the end of 2006.

Throughout that year, according to the former Home Office official I spoke to, Husain was in direct contact with senior Whitehall officials who were vetting his manuscript for The Islamist. By November, Husain posted on DeenPort, an online discussion forum, a now deleted comment referring off-hand to the work of “the secret services” inside HT: “Even within HT in Britain today, there is a huge division between modernisers and more radical elements. The secret services are hopeful that the modernisers can tame the radicals… I foresee another split. And God knows best. I have said more than I should on this subject! Henceforth, my lips are sealed!”

Shortly after, Maajid Nawaz would declare his departure from HT, and would eventually be joined at Quilliam by several others from the group, many of whom according to Nawaz had worked with him and Husain as “a team” behind the scenes at this time.

The ‘ex-jihadists’ who weren’t

Perhaps the biggest problem with Husain’s and Nawaz’s claim to expertise on terrorism was that they were never jihadists. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent movement for the establishment of a global “caliphate” through social struggle, focusing on the need for political activism in the Muslim world. Whatever the demerits of this rigid political ideology, it had no relationship to the phenomenon of al-Qaeda terrorism.

Nevertheless, Husain and Nawaz, along with their government benefactors, were convinced that those personal experiences of “radicalisation” and “deradicalisation” could by transplanted into the ongoing “war on terror” – even though, in reality neither of them had any idea about the dynamics of an actual terrorist network, and the radicalisation process leading to violent extremism. The result was an utterly misguided and evidence-devoid obsession with rejecting non-violent extremist ideologies as the primary means to prevent terrorism.

Through the Quilliam Foundation, Husain’s and Nawaz’s fundamentalist ideas about non-violent extremism went on to heavily influence official counter-terrorism discourses across the Western world. This was thanks to its million pounds worth of government seed-funding, intensive media coverage, as well as the government pushing Quilliam’s directors and staff to provide “deradicalisation training” to government and security officials in the US and Europe.

In the UK, Quilliam’s approach was taken up by various centre-right and right-wing think-tanks, such as the Centre for Social Cohesion (CCS) and Policy Exchange, all of which played a big role in influencing the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism programme (Prevent).

Exactly how bankrupt this approach is, however, can be determined from Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to express his understanding of the risk from non-violent extremism, a major feature of the coalition government’s Orwellian new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. The latter establishes unprecedented powers of electronic surveillance and the basis for the “Prevent duty,” which calls for all public sector institutions to develop “risk-assessment” profiles of individuals deemed to be “at-risk” of being drawn into non-violent extremism.

In his speech at the UN last year, Cameron explained that counter-terrorism measures must target people who may not “encourage violence, but whose worldview can be used as a justification for it.” As examples of dangerous ideas at the “root cause” of terrorism, Cameron pinpointed “conspiracy theories,” and most outrageously, “The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy.”

In other words, if you believe, for instance, that US and British forces have deliberately conducted brutal military operations across the Muslim world resulting in the foreseeable deaths of countless innocent civilians, you are a non-violent extremist.

In an eye-opening academic paper published last year, French terrorism expert and Interior Ministry policy officer Dr Claire Arenes, noted that: “By definition, one may know if radicalisation has been violent only once the point of violence has been reached, at the end of the process. Therefore, since the end-term of radicalisation cannot be determined in advance, a policy intended to fight violent radicalisation entails a structural tendency to fight any form of radicalisation.”

It is precisely this moronic obsession with trying to detect and stop “any form of radicalisation,” however non-violent, that is hampering police and security investigations and overloading them with nonsense “risks”.

Double game

At this point, the memorable vision of Nawaz and Choudary facing off on BBC Newsnight appears not just farcical, but emblematic of how today’s national security crisis has been fuelled and exploited by the bowels of the British secret state.

Over the last decade or so – the very same period that the British state was grooming the “former jihadists who weren’t” so they could be paraded around the media-security-industrial complex bigging up the non-threat of “non-violent extremism” – the CIA and MI6 were coordinating Saudi-led funding to al-Qaeda affiliated extremists across the Middle East and Central Asia to counter Iranian Shiite influence.

From 2005 onwards, US and British intelligence services encouraged a range of covert operations to support Islamist opposition groups, including militants linked to al-Qaeda, to undermine regional Iranian and Syrian influence. By 2009, the focus of these operations shifted to Syria.

As I documented in written evidence to a UK Parliamentary inquiry into Prevent in 2010, one of the recipients of such funding was none other than Omar Bakri, who at the time told one journalist: “Today, angry Lebanese Sunnis ask me to organise their jihad against the Shiites… Al-Qaeda in Lebanon… are the only ones who can defeat Hezbollah.” Simultaneously, Bakri was regularly in touch with his deputy, Anjem Choudary, over the internet and even delivered online speeches to his followers in Britain instructing them to join IS and murder civilians. He has now been detained and charged by Lebanese authorities for establishing terror cells in the country.

Bakri was also deeply involved “with training the mujahideen [fighters] in camps on the Syrian borders and also on the Palestine side.” The trainees included four British Islamists “with professional backgrounds” who would go on to join the war in Syria. Bakri also claimed to have trained “many fighters,” including people from Germany and France, since arriving in Lebanon. Was Mohammed Emwazi among them? Last year, Bakri disciple Mizanur Rahman confirmed that at least five European Muslims who had died fighting under IS in Syria had been Bakri acolytes.

Nevertheless in 2013, it was David Cameron who lifted the arms embargo to support Syria’s rebels. We now know that most of our military aid went to al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists, many with links to extremists at home. The British government itself acknowledged that a “substantial number” of Britons were fighting in Syria, who “will seek to carry out attacks against Western interests… or in Western states”.

Yet according to former British counterterrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge, despite this risk, authorities “turned a blind eye to the travelling of its own jihadists to Syria, notwithstanding ample video etc. evidence of their crimes there,” because it “suited the US and UK’s anti-Assad foreign policy”.

This terror-funnel is what enabled people like Emwazi to travel to Syria and join up with IS – despite being on an MI5 terror watch-list. He had been blocked by the security services from traveling to Kuwait in 2010: why not Syria? Shoebridge, who was a British Army officer before joining the Metropolitan Police, told me that although such overseas terrorism has been illegal in the UK since 2006, “it’s notable that only towards the end of 2013 when IS turned against the West’s preferred rebels, and perhaps also when the tipping point between foreign policy usefulness and MI5 fears of domestic terrorist blowback was reached, did the UK authorities begin to take serious steps to tackle the flow of UK jihadists.”

The US-UK direct and tacit support for jihadists, Shoebridge said, had made Syria the safest place for regional terrorists fearing drone strikes “for more than two years”. Syria was “the only place British jihadists could fight without fear of US drones or arrest back home… likely because, unlike if similar numbers of UK jihadists had been travelling to for example Yemen or Afghanistan, this suited the anti-Assad policy.”

Having watched its own self-fulfilling prophecy unfold with horrifying precision in a string of IS-linked terrorist atrocities against Western hostages and targets, the government now exploits the resulting mayhem to vindicate its bankrupt “counter-extremism” narrative, promoted by hand-picked state-groomed “experts” like Husain and Nawaz.

Their prescription, predictably, is to expand the powers of the police state to identify and “deradicalise” anyone who thinks British foreign policy in the Muslim world is callous, self-serving and indifferent to civilian deaths. Government sources confirm that Nawaz’s input played a key role in David Cameron’s thinking on non-violent extremism, and the latest incarnation of the Prevent strategy; while last year, Husain was, ironically, appointed to the Foreign Office advisory group on freedom of religion or belief.

Meanwhile, Bakri’s deputy Choudary continues to inexplicably run around as Britain’s resident “terror cleric” media darling. His passport belatedly confiscated after a recent pointless police arrest that avoided charging him, he remains free to radicalise thick-headed British Muslims into joining IS, in the comfort that his hate speech will be broadcast widely, no doubt fueling widespread generic suspicion of British Muslims.

If only we could round up the Quilliam and al-Muhajiroun fanatics together, shove them onto a boat, and send them all off cruising to the middle of nowhere, they could have all the fun they want “radicalising” and “deradicalising” each other to their hearts content. And we might get a little peace. And perhaps we could send their handlers with them, too.

– Nafeez Ahmed PhD, is an investigative journalist, international security scholar and bestselling author who tracks what he calls the ‘crisis of civilization.’ He is a winner of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Nafeez Ahmed
Friday 27 February 2015 14:35 GMT

Find this story at 27 February 2015

© Middle East Eye 2014

MI5 says rendition of Libyan opposition leaders strengthened al-Qaida

Intelligence assessment concludes abduction of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi allowed dissident group to be taken over by exponents of al-Qaida
Abdel Hakim Belhaj

A secret UK-Libyan rendition programme in which two Libyan opposition leaders were kidnapped and flown to Tripoli along with their families had the effect of strengthening al-Qaida, according to an assessment by the UK security service, MI5.

Prior to their kidnap, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi had ensured that their organisation, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), focused on the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi, the classified assessment says. Once handed over to the Gaddafi regime, their places at the head of the LIFG were taken by others who wanted to bring the group closer to al-Qaida.

The two men were seized in Thailand and Hong Kong in March 2004 with the assistance of the UK’s intelligence service MI6, and were “rendered” to Tripoli along with Belhaj’s pregnant wife and Saadi’s wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

In an assessment made 11 months later, MI5 concluded that the capture of the pair had cast the group “into a state of disarray”, adding: “While these senior-ranking members have always jealously guarded the independence of the LIFG, providing it with a clear command structure and set goals, the group is now coming under pressure from outside influences.

“In particular, reporting indicates that members including Abu Laith al-Libi and Abdallah al-Ghaffar may be pushing the group towards a more pan-Islamic agenda inspired by AQ [al-Qaida].”

Two years after MI5 made this assessment, Libi announced the LIFG had formally joined forces with al-Qaida. He became a leading member of the merged organisation and is believed to have orchestrated a series of suicide bomb attacks across Afghanistan, including one in 2007 that killed 23 people at Bagram airfield north of Kabul during a visit by then US vice-president Dick Cheney. Libi was killed in a drone strike the following year.

The classified MI5 intelligence assessment was among hundreds of highly sensitive Libyan and British files that were discovered in official buildings that had been abandoned during the 2011 revolution that led to the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi.

The end of his 42-year dictatorship was hastened by Nato air strikes, and was followed by a period of brief and heady optimism. At a rally in Benghazi in the east of the country in September 2011, the British prime minister, David Cameron, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, addressed enormous crowds waving their countries’ flags. “It’s great to be here in free Benghazi and in free Libya,” Cameron told them.

But Libya’s new leadership was already struggling to impose its authority on the country. And since then, the country has descended into violence and economic instability, with rival militias shelling residential areas and destroying infrastructure in their fight for supremacy.

Fears that Islamist militants would fill the yawning power vacuum appeared to be realised on Tuesday when gunmen claiming allegiance to Islamic State said that they were responsible for an attack on a Tripoli hotel in which at least five guards and five foreigners were killed.

The papers that were recovered during the revolution show that Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of joint operations with Gaddafi’s government and that some of the information extracted from victims of rendition was used as evidence during control-order and deportation proceedings in UK courts.

They also show that in 2006, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Another of the recovered documents is a letter that Tony Blair wrote to Gaddafi in April 2007, and whose existence publicly emerged last week. Addressed “Dear Mu’ammar”, Blair expressed his regret that the British government had failed in its attempts to have a number of Gaddafi’s opponents deported from the UK, and thanked the dictator for his intelligence agencies’ “excellent co-operation” with their British counterparts.

The classified MI5 document was prepared in advance of a five-day visit to Tripoli by senior agency staff in February 2005. Marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret”, it explains that members of the LIFG had been permitted to settle in the UK in the 1990s. This was at a time when Gaddafi, whom the group was plotting to overthrow, was considered to be an enemy of Britain.

The document adds that MI5 reassessed the LIFG’s UK-based members following the change in the group’s leadership that resulted from the detention of Belhaj and Saadi.

“We are actively investigating key individuals in the UK and are seeking to disrupt their activities,” the document says. This action was part of a new strategy “for countering the threat from the LIFG to the UK and its allies” – allies which, by 2005, included the Libyan dictatorship.

Accompanying the document was a list of questions that MI5 wanted Libyan interrogators to put to Belhaj and Saadi. A total of more than 1,600 questions were sent from the UK to Tripoli, in four batches, with MI6 at one point thanking the Libyan intelligence agents for “kindly agreeing” to pass the questions to their “interview team”.

Belhaj and Saadi both say they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli.

They say they were also interrogated by British intelligence officers, and Belhaj says he made it clear, by sign language, that he was being tortured.

After one of these encounters, he says, he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK to avoid being subjected to a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk.

The discovery of the documents that exposed the existence of the UK-Libyan rendition operations had caused widespread dismay in Westminster, even before the emergence of the latest report, which makes clear that one consequence of these operations was that the terrorist organisation that posed the greatest threat to the UK at that time was strengthened.

A criminal investigation into the affair was opened in January 2012 after Dominic Grieve, the then attorney general, wrote to the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe. After a three-year investigation codenamed Operation Lydd, detectives handed their report to the Crown Prosecution Service last month.

Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time, is among the people who have been questioned by police. His office says he was interviewed as a witness.

The rendition operations also led to damages claims being brought by Saadi – who received £2.2m in compensation from the British government – and by Belhaj. Belhaj is claiming damages on behalf of himself and his wife. She was four-and-a-half months pregnant when the couple were kidnapped, and Belhaj says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher for the 17-hour flight to Tripoli, before being jailed for several months.

Belhaj says he would settle his claim for just £3, as long as he and his wife also receive an apology. With the CPS currently considering the police file, this is unlikely to happen.

Ian Cobain
Thursday 29 January 2015 11.27 GMT Last modified on Friday 30 January 2015 00.05 GMT

Find this story at 29 January 2015

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

Cooperation between British spies and Gaddafi’s Libya revealed in official papers (2015)

Links between MI5 and Gaddafi’s intelligence during Tony Blair’s government more extensive than previously thought, according to documents
Blair visit to Africa

Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of previously unknown joint operations with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government and used the information extracted from rendition victims as evidence during partially secret court proceedings in London, according to an analysis of official documents recovered in Tripoli since the Libyan revolution.

The exhaustive study of the papers from the Libyan government archives shows the links between MI5, MI6 and Gaddafi’s security agencies were far more extensive than previously thought and involved a number of joint operations in which Libyan dissidents were unlawfully detained and allegedly tortured.

At one point, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Previously, MI6 was known to have assisted the dictatorship with the kidnap of two Libyan opposition leaders, who were flown to Tripoli along with their families – including a six-year-old girl and a pregnant woman – in 2004.

However, the research suggests that the fruits of a series of joint clandestine operations also underpinned a significant number of court hearings in London between 2002 and 2007, during which the last Labour government unsuccessfully sought to deport Gaddafi’s opponents on the basis of information extracted from people who had been “rendered” to his jails.

Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
UK intelligence agencies sent more 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders.
In addition, the documents show that four men were subjected to control orders in the UK – a form of curfew – on the basis of information extracted from victims of rendition who had been handed over to the Gaddafi regime.

The papers recovered from the dictatorship’s archives include secret correspondence from MI6, MI5 reports on Libyans living in the UK, a British intelligence assessment marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret” and official Libyan minutes of meetings between the two countries’ intelligence agencies.

They show that:

• UK intelligence agencies sent more than 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders, Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, despite having reason to suspect they were being tortured.

• British government lawyers allegedly drew upon the answers to those questions when seeking the deportation of Libyans living in the UK

• Five men were subjected to control orders in the UK, allegedly on the basis of information extracted from two rendition victims.

• Gaddafi’s agents recorded MI5 as warning in September 2006 that the two countries’ agencies should take steps to ensure that their joint operations would never be “discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”.

In fact, papers that detail the joint UK-Libyan rendition operations were discovered by the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch in September 2011, at the height of the Libyan revolution, in an abandoned government office building in Tripoli.

Since then, hundreds more documents have been discovered in government files in Tripoli. A team of London-based lawyers has assembled them into an archive that is forming the basis of a claim for damages on behalf of 12 men who were allegedly kidnapped, tortured, subject to control orders or tricked into travelling to Libya where they were detained and mistreated.

An attempt by government lawyers to have that claim struck out was rejected by the high court in London on Thursday , with the judge, Mr Justice Irwin, ruling that the allegations “are of real potential public concern” and should be heard and dealt with by the courts.

The litigation follows earlier proceedings brought on behalf of the two families who were kidnapped in the far east and flown to Tripoli. One claim was settled when the government paid £2.23m in compensation to al-Saadi and his family; the second is ongoing, despite attempts by government lawyers to have it thrown out of court, with Belhaj suing not only the British government, but also Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of his kidnap.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
Belhaj has offered to settle for just £3, providing he and his wife also receive an unreserved apology. This is highly unlikely to happen, however, as the two rendition operations are also the subject of a three-year Scotland Yard investigation code-named Operation Lydd. Straw has been questioned by detectives: his spokesman says he was interviewed “as a witness”.

Last month, detectives passed a final file to the Crown Prosecution Service. No charges are imminent, however. The CPS said: “The police investigation has lasted almost three years and has produced a large amount of material. These are complex allegations that will require careful consideration, but we will aim to complete our decision-making as soon as is practicably possible.”

The volte-face in UK-Libyan relations was always going to be contentious: the Gaddafi regime had not only helped to arm the IRA, bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives in 1988, and harboured the man who murdered a London policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, four years earlier; it had been responsible for the bombing of a French airliner and a Berlin nightclub, and for several decades had been sending assassins around the world to murder its opponents.

The Tripoli archives show that the rapprochement, which began with the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1999, gathered pace within weeks of the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time, has said that these links were always authorised by government ministers.

The week after the attacks, British intelligence officers met with Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan intelligence, who offered to provide intelligence from Islamists held in the regime’s jails.

Two months later, British intelligence officers held a three-day conference with their Libyan counterparts at a hotel at a European airport. German and Austrian intelligence officers also attended.

According to the Libyan minutes, the British explained that they could not arrest anyone in the UK – only the police could do that – and that there could be difficulty in obtaining authorisation for Gaddafi’s intelligence officers to operate in the UK. They also added that impending changes to UK law would give them “more leeway” in the near future.

Other documents released under the Freedom of Information Act detail the way in which diplomatic contacts between London and Tripoli developed, with a British trade minister, Mike O’Brien, visiting Tripoli in August 2002, the same month that the dictator’s son, Saif, was admitted as a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics. Blair and Gaddafi spoke by telephone for the first time, chatting for 30 minutes, and in December 2003 the dictator announced publicly that he was abandoning his programme for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

With the war in Iraq going badly, London and Washington were able to suggest that an invasion that had been justified by a need to dismantle a WMD programme that was subsequently found not to exist had at least resulted in another country’s weapons programme being dismantled.

Three months later, in March 2004, the new relationship was sealed by a meeting between Gaddafi and Blair, during which the British prime minister announced that the two countries had found common cause in the fight against terrorism, and the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell announced that it had signed a £110m deal for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast.

However, the Tripoli archive shows that beneath the surface of the new alliance, the Blair government was encouraging ever-closer co-operation between the UK’s intelligence agencies and the intelligence agencies of a dictatorship which had been widely condemned for committing the most serious human rights abuses; MI5 and MI6, and the CIA, would begin to work hand-in-glove with the Libyan External Security Organisation.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 during most of the period that the UK’s intelligence agencies were working closely with the Libyan dictatorship, has defended the decision to open talks with Gaddafi on the grounds that it helped to deter him from pursuing his WMD programme. However, when delivering the 2011 Reith Lecture, she added: “There are questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”

The archive clearly shows that Gaddafi hoped that this intelligence co-operation would result in British assistance in his attempts to round up and imprison Libyans who were living in exile in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Mali. All of these men were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an Islamist organisation that had attempted to assassinate him three times since its foundation in the early 90s. A largely spent force since the late 90s, many of the members of the LIFG had been living peacefully in the UK for more than a decade, having arrived as refugees. Some had been granted British citizenship. Koussa’s agency asked British intelligence to investigate 79 of these men, whom they described as “Libyan heretics”.

Two weeks before Blair’s visit to Libya, Belhaj and his four-and-a-half-months pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, were kidnapped in Thailand and flown to Tripoli. Bouchar says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher, for the 17-hour flight.

In a follow-up letter to Koussa, Allen claimed credit for the rendition of Belhaj – referring to him as Abu Abd Allah Sadiq, the name by which he is better known in the jihadi world – saying that although “I did not pay for the air cargo”, the intelligence that led to the couple’s capture was British.

Three days after Blair’s visit, al-Saadi was rendered from Hong Kong to Tripoli, along with his wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
Both men say that while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened.

Belhaj says he was twice interrogated at Tajoura by British intelligence officers. After gesturing that the session was being recorded, Belhaj says he made a number of gestures to show that he was being beaten and suspended by his arms. One of the British officers, a man, is said to have given a thumbs-up signal, while the second, a woman, is said to have nodded.

Belhaj alleges that following one of these encounters he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK after being threatened with a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk, provoking extreme claustrophobia and fear as well as discomfort.

According to the claim being brought against the British government, the attempt to track down other leading members of the LIFG resulted in the intelligence agencies of Libya and the UK throwing their net still wider.

In late 2005, a British citizen of Somali origin and a Libyan living in Ireland were arrested in Saudi Arabia and allegedly tortured while being questioned by Saudi intelligence officers about associates who were members of the LIFG. The men say they were shackled and beaten. The British citizen says he was also interrogated by two British men who declined to identify themselves and who appeared uninterested in his complaints of mistreatment.

Many of the questions put to the two men concerned the whereabouts of Othman Saleh Khalifa, a long-standing member of the LIFG. Khalifa was detained in Mali a few months later and rendered to Libya. The Tripoli archive shows that summaries of his interrogations were sent to British intelligence, and that both MI5 and MI6 submitted questions that they wished to be put to him. A memorandum from MI6 to Koussa’s deputy, Sadegh Krema, was accompanied by questions “which you kindly agreed to pass to your interview team”.

Khalifa says that he was beaten during interrogations for around six months during the second half of 2006 and that he did not see daylight.

The Tripoli archive shows that during the same week that Khalifa was being rendered to Libya, MI5 and MI6 officers met Libyan intelligence officers in Tripoli and informed them that they were to be invited to the UK to conduct joint intelligence operations. The Libyan minutes of the meeting say that MI5 informed them that “London and Manchester are the two hottest spots” for LIFG activity in the country. The aim was to recruit informants within the Libyan community in the UK.

The Libyan minutes of the meeting also say that the British told them: “With your co-operation we should be able to target specific individuals.” The Libyans, meanwhile, said that potential recruits could be “intimidated” through threats to arrest relatives in Libya.

The following August, senior MI5 and MI6 officers and two Libyan intelligence officers met at MI5’s headquarters in London. According to the Libyan minutes, MI5 warned the Libyans that individuals could complain to the police if they believed they were being harassed by MI5, and could also expose the British-Libyan joint operations to the media.

The minutes also state that the British suggested that Libyan intelligence officers should approach potential recruits in the UK, and that if they refused to cooperate, arrangements could be made for the targets to be arrested under anti-terrorism legislation, accused of associating with those same Libyan intelligence officers, and threatened with deportation.

Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
One of the targets was a 32-year-old Libyan, associated with the LIFG, who had lived in the UK for 10 years and had been a British citizen for six years. The Libyan intelligence officers repeatedly telephoned him, claiming to be consular officials, and he eventually agreed to meet them at the Landmark hotel in Marylebone, London, on 2 September 2006. According to the Libyan notes of this meeting, the British insisted that two MI5 officers, one calling herself Caroline, should be present, so that the target should know that he was the subject of a joint UK-Libyan approach.

The target was told that he was to be given time to think about the approach. In Libya, meanwhile, the target’s brothers, sisters and mother say they were each detained in turn and told that they should persuade him to return to the country.

The Libyan intelligence officers also visited Manchester, calling at the home of another man targeted for recruitment. According to their notes, MI5 warned them not to enter the house but to persuade him to go with them to a public place where they could be photographed together. As he was not at home, the Libyan spies went instead to a mosque in the Didsbury district, where they told the imam that they were importing and exporting books.

On 5 September, shortly before the two Libyan intelligence officers returned home, they had another meeting with their British counterparts. Their notes show that the British warned that steps should be taken jointly to “avoid being trapped in any sort of legal problem [and] to avoid also that those joint plans be discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”. The Libyans assured MI5 and MI6: “We have effectively reassured them that we will stick by the joint plan to avoid any blame if the operation fails.”

The target says he was approached by “Caroline” and a second MI5 officer on a number of other occasions, but declined to travel to Libya and still lives in west London.

Six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin are bringing a number of claims, which include allegations of false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault.

The case is being brought against MI5 and MI6 as well as the Home Office and Foreign Office. Government departments declined to comment on the grounds that the litigation is ongoing.

When making their unsuccessful bid to have the case struck out, government lawyers admitted no liability. They argued that the five claimants who were subjected to control orders were properly considered to pose a threat to the UK’s national security, and denied that the government relied on information from prisoners held in Libya in making that assessment. They also argued that the LIFG had been a threat to the UK. They are expected to appeal Thursday’s high court decision.

Allen has declined to comment on the rendition operations, while Straw says: “At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law, and I hope to be able to say more about this at an appropriate stage in the future.”

Ian Cobain
Thursday 22 January 2015 14.24 GMT Last modified on Monday 26 January 2015 14.03 GMT

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MI5 spied on Libyan torture victims, documents reveal (2011)

BRITAIN’S security service MI5 asked Muammar Gaddafi’s secret services for regular updates on what terrorist suspects were revealing under interrogation in Libyan prisons, where torture was routine.

MI5 also agreed to trade information with Libyan spymasters on 50 British-based Libyans judged to be a threat to Gaddafi’s regime.

The disclosures come from secret intelligence documents left lying around in the ruins of the British embassy in Tripoli for anyone to find.

They include an MI5 paper marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only Secret”, which shows that the service provided Gaddafi’s spies with a trove of intelligence about Libyan dissidents in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester.

Other documents seen by The Sunday Times in the abandoned offices of British and Libyan officials reveal that:

– The Ministry of Defence invited the dictator’s sons Saadi and Khamis Gaddafi, whose forces have massacred civilians during Libya’s revolution, to a combat display at SAS headquarters in Hereford and a dinner at the Cavalry and Guards Club in Mayfair;

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– Tony Blair helped another son, Saif Gaddafi, with his PhD thesis, beginning a personal letter with the words “Dear Engineer Saif”;

– The Foreign Office planned to use Prince Andrew in a secret strategy to secure the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, from prison in Scotland and offset the risk of retaliation if he died in jail. In fact, Megrahi was released anyway.

The cache of documents shows how close the British governments of both Blair and Gordon Brown were to a brutal regime that was overthrown last month when pro-democracy rebels seized Tripoli.

Nowhere is this closeness more evident than in the intelligence sphere. The MI5 paper for Gaddafi’s security services contains detailed information about members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a militant dissident outfit with cells in Britain.

The document, prepared ahead of an MI5 visit to Tripoli in 2005, formally requested that Libyan intelligence should provide access to detainees held by secret police and to “timely debriefs” of interrogations.

It added: “The more timely (the) information the better … Such intelligence is most valuable when it is current. It is notable that LIFG members in the UK become aware of the detention of members overseas within a relatively short period.”

The request was made despite widespread evidence of torture in Libyan prisons and assassinations of dissidents in other countries, including Britain. Torture practices identified by the US State Department included “clubbing, setting dogs on prisoners, electric shocks, suffocation by plastic bags and pouring lemon juice into open wounds”.

The disclosures will reignite the debate on the alleged complicity of British security services in the torture of terrorist suspects abroad. Last year David Cameron announced a judge-led inquiry into separate claims that M15 and MI6 were complicit in the torture of British citizens by foreign interrogators.

Some of those named in the documents found in Tripoli are thought to have been arrested subsequently in Britain and placed on control orders, a form of house arrest that is due to be debated in parliament this week.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: “These chilling revelations show just how cosy British authorities became with a regime known for torture. How on earth did they think these timely detainee debriefs were going to be obtained?

“The thought that people [who were] discussed with Gadaffi’s henchmen may have been placed on control orders as a result of ‘detainee debriefs’ should prey on the mind of every MP who votes on the new control order regime tomorrow.”

Other documents that have emerged show how America’s CIA sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya. One letter from an MI6 officer to his Libyan counterpart reported the release from detention in Britain of a key LIFG member.

The MI5 document makes clear the key area of mutual interest to both countries was the LIFG, the most powerful radical faction waging war against Gadaffi’s regime. The group aimed to replace his dictatorship with a hardline Islamist state. Its main external base was in Britain, where 50 members lived.

MI5 believed the group had growing links to al-Qa’ida. It was suspected of supplying a “pipeline” of finance and false documents for the group’s international operations and of facilitating trips by jihadists from Britain to fight against western forces in Iraq.

MI5 also feared the LIFG might be planning terrorist attacks against the West.

A rider to the report says the information is being sent to the Libyans “for research and analysis purposes only and should not be used for overt, covert or executive action” – an apparent reference to kidnapping or execution.

A senior Whitehall official declined to discuss details of the agreement to share intelligence. He said: “We do not engage in, or encourage others to engage in, or contract out in situations where we knowingly, or have a very strong reason to believe that someone is being maltreated or is at risk of, maltreatment.”

William Hague, the foreign secretary, said intelligence documents emerging in Tripoli “relate to a period under the previous government, so I have no knowledge of those, of what was happening behind the scenes at that time”.

A document found in the office of Saadi Gaddafi, head of Libya’s special forces, showed the Ministry of Defence made elaborate plans for him to visit Britain in 2006 with his brother Khamis, whose commandos killed dozens of detainees before retreating from Tripoli as the regime fell.

The Sunday Times
MILES AMOORE AND DAVID LEPPARD THE SUNDAY TIMES SEPTEMBER 04, 2011 1:13PM

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Libya: Gaddafi regime’s US-UK spy links revealed (2011)

US and UK spy agencies built close ties with their Libyan counterparts during the so-called War on Terror, according to documents discovered at the office of Col Gaddafi’s former spy chief.
The papers suggest the CIA abducted several suspected militants from 2002 to 2004 and handed them to Tripoli.
The UK’s MI6 also apparently gave the Gaddafi regime details of dissidents.
The documents, found by Human Rights Watch workers, have not been seen by the BBC or independently verified.
Meanwhile, the head of Libya’s interim governing body, the National Transitional Council, said its soldiers were laying siege to towns still held by Col Gaddafi’s forces.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Sirte, Bani Walid, Jufra and Sabha were being given humanitarian aid, but had one week to surrender.
The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Benghazi says there have been unconfirmed reports that Bani Walid has now been taken by anti-Gaddafi forces.
But witnesses on the edge of Bani Walid say the opposition fighters are still on the outskirts although our correspondent adds that it appears as if Gaddafi loyalists have abandoned many of their outlying positions.
‘Protecting Americans’
Thousands of pieces of correspondence from US and UK officials were uncovered by reporters and activists in an office apparently used by Moussa Koussa, who served for years as Col Gaddafi’s spy chief before becoming foreign minister.
Prime Minister Tony Blair embraces Colonel Muammar Gaddafi after a meeting on May 29, 2007 in Sirte, Libya

He defected in the early part of the rebellion, flying to the UK and then on to Qatar.
Rights groups have long accused him of involvement in atrocities, and had called on the UK to arrest him at the time.
The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Tripoli says the documents illuminate a short period when the Libyan intelligence agency was a trusted and valued ally of both MI6 and the CIA, with the tone of exchanges between agents breezy and bordering on the chummy.
Human Rights Watch accused the CIA of condoning torture.
“It wasn’t just abducting suspected Islamic militants and handing them over to the Libyan intelligence. The CIA also sent the questions they wanted Libyan intelligence to ask and, from the files, it’s very clear they were present in some of the interrogations themselves,” said Peter Bouckaert of HRW.
The papers outline the rendition of several suspects, including one that Human Rights Watch has identified as Abdel Hakim Belhaj, known in the documents as Abdullah al-Sadiq, who is now the military commander of the anti-Gaddafi forces in Tripoli.
Alleged CIA letter

Text of letter
Dear Musa
I am glad to propose that our services take an additional step in cooperation with the establishment of a permanent CIA presence in Libya. We have talked about this move for quite some time and Libya’s cooperation on WMD and other issues, as well as our recent intelligence cooperation, mean that now is the right moment to move ahead. I am prepared to send [XXX] to Libya to introduce two of my officers to you and your service, arriving in Tripoli on 20 March. These two officers, both of whom are experienced and can speak Arabic, will initially staff our station in Libya. [XXX] will communicate the details via fax. I will call to confirm this with you.
We are also eager to work with you in the questioning of the terrorist we recently rendered to your country. I would like to send to Libya an additional two officers and I would appreciate if they could have direct access to question this individual. Should you agree I would like to send these two officers to Libya on 25 March. Again [XXX] will communicate the details to you.
Steve
The Americans snatched him in South East Asia before flying him to Tripoli in 2004, the documents claim.
Mr Belhaj, who was involved in an Islamist group attempting to overthrow Col Gaddafi in the early 2000s, had told the Associated Press news agency earlier this week that he had been rendered by the Americans, but held no grudge.
The CIA would not comment on the specifics of the allegations.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said: “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”
The documents also reveal details about the UK’s relationship with the Gaddafi regime.
One memo, dated 18 March 2004 and with the address “London SE1”, congratulates Libya on the arrival of Mr Belhaj.
It states “for the urgent personal attention of Musa Kusa” and is headed “following message to Musa in Tripoli from Mark in London”, according to the Financial Times. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.
The UK intelligence agency apparently helped to write a speech for Col Gaddafi in 2004, when the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair was encouraging the colonel to give up his weapons programme.
And British officials also insisted that Mr Blair’s famous 2004 meeting with Col Gaddafi should be in his Bedouin tent, according to the UK’s Independent newspaper, whose journalists also discovered the documents.
“[The prime minister’s office is] keen that the prime minister meet the leader in his tent,” the paper quotes a memo from an MI6 agent as saying.
“I don’t know why the English are fascinated by tents. The plain fact is the journalists would love it.”
In another memo, also seen by the Independent, UK intelligence appeared to give Tripoli details of a Libyan dissident who had been freed from jail in Britain.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague played down the revelations, telling Sky News that they “relate to a period under the previous government so I have no knowledge of those, of what was happening behind the scenes at that time”.
Mr Blair and US President George W Bush lobbied hard to bring Col Gaddafi out of international isolation in the years after the 9/11 attacks, as Libya moved to normalise relations with former enemies in the West.
Bani Walid
In a press conference in Benghazi, Mr Jalil said four Gaddafi-held towns had one week to surrender “to avoid further bloodshed”.
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Media caption
UN envoy Ian Martin on measuring the “expectations” of Libya
But our correspondent, Jon Leyne, says there are reports Bani Walid has now fallen without a fight, with Gaddafi loyalists either melting away or regrouping further south. However, these reports have not been confirmed.
One anti-Gaddafi commander, Abdulrazzak Naduri, had earlier told AFP that Bani Walid had until just 08:00 on Sunday or face military action.
Col Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unconfirmed. It was believed that two sons, Saadi and Saif al-Islam, had been in Bani Walid recently.
The NTC is stepping up its efforts at reconstruction, setting up a supreme security council to protect Tripoli.
Ian Martin, a special adviser to the UN secretary general, arrived in Libya’s capital on Saturday to try to boost international efforts in the country’s redevelopment.
The NTC has also said its leadership will not now move from Benghazi to Tripoli until next week, with Mr Jalil the last to go.
Our correspondent says this could mean a delay in the opposition formally assuming the role of the new government and raise fears of a power vacuum in the capital.

4 September 2011

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Copyright © 2015 BBC.

Files Note Close C.I.A. Ties to Qaddafi Spy Unit (2011)

TRIPOLI, Libya — Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.

Although it has been known that Western intelligence services began cooperating with Libya after it abandoned its program to build unconventional weapons in 2004, the files left behind as Tripoli fell to rebels show that the cooperation was much more extensive than generally known with both the C.I.A. and its British equivalent, MI-6.

Some documents indicate that the British agency was even willing to trace phone numbers for the Libyans, and another appears to be a proposed speech written by the Americans for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi about renouncing unconventional weapons.

The documents were discovered Friday by journalists and Human Rights Watch. There were at least three binders of English-language documents, one marked C.I.A. and the other two marked MI-6, among a larger stash of documents in Arabic.

It was impossible to verify their authenticity, and none of them were written on letterhead. But the binders included some documents that made specific reference to the C.I.A., and their details seem consistent with what is known about the transfer of terrorism suspects abroad for interrogation and with other agency practices.

And although the scope of prisoner transfers to Libya has not been made public, news media reports have sometimes mentioned it as one country that the United States used as part of its much criticized rendition program for terrorism suspects.

A C.I.A. spokeswoman, Jennifer Youngblood, declined to comment on Friday on the documents. But she added: “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”

The British Foreign Office said, “It is the longstanding policy of the government not to comment on intelligence matters.”

While most of the renditions referred to in the documents appear to have been C.I.A. operations, at least one was claimed to have been carried out by MI-6.

“The rendition program was all about handing over these significant figures related to Al Qaeda so they could torture them and get the information they wanted,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, who studied the documents in the intelligence headquarters in downtown Tripoli.

The documents cover 2002 to 2007, with many of them concentrated in late 2003 and 2004, when Moussa Koussa was head of the External Security Organization. (Mr. Koussa was most recently Libya’s foreign minister.)

The speech that appears to have been drafted for Colonel Qaddafi was found in the C.I.A. folder and appears to have been sent just before Christmas in 2003. The one-page speech seems intended to depict the Libyan dictator in a positive light. It concluded, using the revolutionary name for the Libyan government: “At a time when the world is celebrating the birth of Jesus, and as a token of our contributions towards a world full of peace, security, stability and compassion, the Great Jamhariya presents its honest call for a W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East,” referring to weapons of mass destruction.

The flurry of communications about renditions are dated after Libya’s renouncement of its weapons program. In several of the cases, the documents explicitly talked about having a friendly country arrest a suspect, and then suggested aircraft would be sent to pick the suspect up and deliver him to the Libyans for questioning. One document included a list of 89 questions for the Libyans to ask a suspect.

While some of the documents warned Libyan authorities to respect such detainees’ human rights, the C.I.A. nonetheless turned them over for interrogation to a Libyan service with a well-known history of brutality.

One document in the C.I.A. binder said operatives were “in a position to deliver Shaykh Musa to your physical custody, similar to what we have done with other senior L.I.F.G. members in the recent past.” The reference was to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was dedicated to the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, and which American officials believed had ties to Al Qaeda.

When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the group, a case officer wrote back on March 4, 2004, that “we are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services,” and promised to do their best to locate him, according to a document in the C.I.A. binder.

Two days later, an officer faxed the Libyans to say that Mr. Sadiq and his pregnant wife were planning to fly into Malaysia, and the authorities there agreed to put them on a British Airways flight to London that would stop in Bangkok. “We are planning to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” the case officer wrote.

Mr. Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said he had learned from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader for the rebels.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Belhaj gave a detailed description of his incarceration that matched many of those in the documents. He also said that when he was held in Bangkok he was tortured by two people from the C.I.A.

On one occasion, the Libyans tried to send their own plane to extradite a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Abu Munthir, and his wife and children, who were being held in Hong Kong because of passport irregularities.

The Libyan aircraft, however, was turned back, apparently because Hong Kong authorities were reluctant to let Libyan planes land. In a document labeled “Secret/ U.S. Only/ Except Libya,” the Libyans were advised to charter an aircraft from a third country. “If payment of a charter aircraft is an issue, our service would be willing to assist financially,” the document said.

While questioning alleged terror group members plainly had value to Western intelligence, the cooperation went beyond that. In one case, for example, the Libyans asked operatives to trace a phone number for them, and a document that was in the MI-6 binder replied that it belonged to the Arab News Network in London. It is unclear why the Libyans sought who the phone number belonged to.

The document also suggested signs of agency rivalries over Libya. In the MI-6 binder, a document boasted of having turned over someone named Abu Abd Alla to the Libyans. “This was the least we could do for you to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years,” an unsigned fax in 2004 said. “Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu Abd through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing.”

By ROD NORDLANDSEPT. 2, 2011

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Documents show ties between Libyan spy head, CIA (2011)

Associated Press= TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies worked closely with the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi, sharing tips and cooperating in handing over terror suspects for interrogation to a regime known to use torture, according to a trove of security documents discovered after the fall of Tripoli.

The revelations provide new details on the West’s efforts to turn Libya’s mercurial leader from foe to ally and provide an embarrassing example of the U.S. administration’s collaboration with authoritarian regimes in the war on terror.

The documents, among tens of thousands found in an External Security building in Tripoli, show an increasingly warm relationship, with CIA agents proposing to set up a permanent Tripoli office, addressing their Libyan counterparts by their first names and giving them advice. In one memo, a British agent even sends Christmas greetings.

The agencies were known to cooperate as the longtime Libyan ruler worked to overcome his pariah status by stopping his quest for weapons of mass destruction and renouncing support for terrorism. But the new details show a more extensive relationship than was previously known, with Western agencies offering lists of questions for specific detainees and apparently the text for a Gadhafi speech.

They also offer a glimpse into the inner workings of the now-defunct CIA program of extraordinary rendition, through which terror suspects were secretly detained, sent to third countries and sometimes underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation tactics like waterboarding.

The documents mention a half dozen names of people targeted for rendition, including Tripoli’s new rebel military commander, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, which helped find the documents, called the ties between Washington and Gadhafi’s regime “A very dark chapter in American intelligence history.”

“It remains a stain on the record of the American intelligence services that they cooperated with these very abusive intelligence services,” he said Saturday.

The findings could cloud relations between the West and Libya’s new leaders, although Belhaj said he holds no grudge. NATO airstrikes have helped the rebels advance throughout the six-month civil war and continue to target regime forces as rebels hunt for Gadhafi.

Belhaj is the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a now-dissolved militant organization that sought to assassinate Gadhafi.

Belhaj says CIA agents tortured him in a secret prison in Thailand before he was returned to Libya and locked in the notorious Abu Salim prison. He insists he was never a terrorist and believes his arrest was in reaction to what he called the “tragic events of 9/11.”

Two documents from March 2004 show American and Libyan officials arranging Belhaj’s rendition.

Referring to him by his nom de guerre, Abdullah al-Sadiq, the documents said he and his pregnant wife were due to travel to Thailand, where they would be detained.

“We are planning to arrange to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” they tell the Libyans. The memo also requested that Libya, a country known for decades for torture and ill-treatment of prisoners: “Please be advised that we must be assured that al-Sadiq will be treated humanely and that his human rights will be respected.”

The documents coincide with efforts by the Gadhafi regime over the last decade to emerge from international isolation, even agreeing to pay compensation to relatives of each of the 270 victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The documents show the CIA and MI6 advising the regime on how to work to rescind its designation as a state sponsor of terror — a move the Bush administration made in 2006. Both agencies received intelligence benefits in return.

The validity of the documents, not written on official letterhead, could not be independently verified, but their content seems consistent with what has been previously reported about intelligence activities during the period.

Later correspondence deals with technical visits to Libya to track the regime’s progress in dismantling its weapons programs.

In one undated memo, the CIA proposes establishing a permanent presence in Libya.

“I propose that our services take an additional step in cooperation with the establishment of a permanent CIA presence in Libya,” it says. It is signed by hand “Steve.”

Another memo is a follow-up query to an apparent Libyan warning of terror plots against American interests abroad.

One document is a draft statement for Gadhafi about his country’s decision to give up weapons of mass destruction.

“Our belief is that an arms race does not serve the security of Libya or the security of the region and contradicts Libya’s great keenness for world peace and security,” it suggests as wording.

But much of the correspondence deals with arrangements to render terror suspects to Libya from South Africa, Hong Kong and elsewhere. One CIA memo from April 2004 tells Libyan authorities that the agency can deliver a suspect known as “Shaykh Musa.”

“We respectfully request an expression of interest from your service regarding taking custody of Musa,” the memo says.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood declined to comment Saturday on specific allegations related to the documents.

“It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats,” Youngblood said. “That is exactly what we are expected to do.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also declined to comment on intelligence matters.

In Tripoli, Anes Sherif, an aide to Belhaj, said the documents provided little new information: “We have known for a long time that (the British and U.S. governments) had very close relations with Gadhafi’s regime.”

Amid the shared intelligence and names of terror suspects are traces of personal relationships.

In one letter from Dec. 24, 2003, a British official thanks Gadhafi’s spy chief Moussa Koussa — who later became foreign minister and defected early in the uprising — for a “very large quantity of dates and oranges” and encourages him to continue with reforms.

“Your achievement realizing the Leader’s initiative has been enormous and of huge importance,” the British official says. “At this time sacred to peace, I offer you my admiration and every congratulation.

AP foreign, Saturday September 3 2011
BEN HUBBARD

Find this story at 3 September 2011

© 2015 Guardian News

Top-secret MI5 files released online to mark first world war centenary

Spies such as Mata Hari, heroic nurse Edith Cavell, suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst and the Boy Scouts feature in documents

Exotic spies, heroes, and known and suspected communists feature in top-secret MI5 files available online for the first time on Thursday to mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war.

Mata Hari, Edith Cavell, Sir Roger Casement, Arthur Ransome, Sidney Reilly, a leading suffragette and the Boy Scouts were among those MI5 kept under surveillance in its early years as Britain’s Security Service.

Mata Hari, one of history’s most celebrated honey-trap spies, first came to MI5’s attention in December 1915 when she arrived at Folkestone on the Dieppe boat train. She admitted her destination was The Hague to be near her lover Baron Van der Capellen, a colonel in the Dutch Hussars.

The following year, MI5’s informant in The Hague, codenamed “T”, reported: “Mata Hari is a demi-mondaine who is in relation with highly placed people and during her sojourn in France she made the acquaintance of many French and Belgian officers. She is suspected of having been to France on an important mission for the Germans.”

In November 1916, questioned by MI5, Mata Hari claimed that a French consul in Spain had subsequently asked her to go to Austria to spy on that country’s forces.

A renowned dancer, Mata Hari was a Dutch divorcee born Marguerite Gertrude Zelle in the Dutch East Indies. A French intelligence report dated 22 May 1917, shown to a MI5 officer in Paris, noted: “Mata Hari today confessed that she has been engaged by Consul Cremer of Amsterdam for the German Secret Service. She was paid 20,000 francs in advance.”

She was shot by a French firing squad in 1917.

Edith Cavell, a British nurse at a Red Cross hospital in Belgium, was executed by a German firing squad in October 1915 for helping 200 allied soldiers to escape. The files in the National Archives show that British diplomats clung to the hope that Germany would not execute a woman who was regarded as a heroine.

An MI5 agent in Liège said he had been told by a reliable source that “the two spies who denounced Nurse Cavell have both been killed, one by a bullet in the head, the other by a dagger thrust in the chest”.

Sir Roger Casement, a British consul in Africa and South America knighted for his work in exposing the exploitation and slaughter of Africans and South American Indians, and Sidney Reilly, a naturalised Russian Jew dubbed the Ace of Spies, are other victims of espionage who feature among the 150 MI5 files.

Casement was arrested on a beach in Co Kerry, three days before the 1916 Easter rising, after landing in a boat that had picked him up from a German submarine. A trawler accompanying the submarine and carrying 20,000 guns was scuttled after being intercepted.

The MI5 documents show Casement knew the Easter rising was doomed to failure after Germany reneged on its promises to send troops to help the rebels. The UK government used his “black diaries” to smear him and sabotage a campaign to save his life.

“I have done nothing dishonourable, as you will one day learn,” he told Frank Hall, a senior MI5 officer. Casement was hanged in Pentonville prison on 3 August 1916.

Reilly was recruited to work for the British secret intelligence service, MI6. When he died in 1925 the Russians claimed a guard had shot him as he crossed the border with Finland. MI5 documents suggest he was executed by Bolsheviks in 1925.

Reilly had many wives, according to MI5. A Special Branch informer reported that his second wife, actress Pepita Bobadilla, went to the Russian embassy in Paris following his death. As she applied for a visa, she told the Russians her husband had been “spying for the British government”.

Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, caught MI5’s attention as correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in Moscow who married Trotsky’s secretary, Evgenia Petrovna Shelepina.

British officials told MI5 that Ransome was “exceedingly clever and interesting fellow – but an out and out Bolshevist”. The British consul and MI6 officer in Moscow, Robert Bruce Lockhart, soon corrected them. Ransome, who was given the codename S76, was a valuable intelligence asset during the chaos of the Russian revolution, he said.

The files include one on the suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, one of MI5’s later targets. MI5 noted that in 1940 she wrote to Viscount Swinton, chairman of a committee investigating Fifth Columnists, sending him a list of active Fascists still at large and of anti-Fascists who had been interned. A copy of the letter includes a note by Swinton, saying: “I should think a most doubtful source of information.”

The files also show how MI5 was concerned that the Boy Scouts were being infiltrated by Communists after the first world war.

The files can be accessed at the National Archives link – First World War 100.

Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian, Wednesday 9 April 2014 22.43 BST

Find this story at 9 April 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Condemned spy Mata Hari glib during final interrogation: MI5 files (2014)

World War I spy Mata Hari refused to fully confess to espionage before facing French firing squad in 1917.

Mata Hari was a wildly-popular Dutch exotic dancer, who was executed as a German spy in 1917.

The spy known as “Mata Hari” was glib in her final prison interrogation before her life ended in front of a French firing squad in the First World War, according to formerly top secret files from the British intelligence agency MI5.
Mata Hari, once a wildly popular Dutch exotic dancer, didn’t appear fazed when an interrogator confronted her with a long list of her lovers, an MI5 report released earlier this month states.
“When faced with her acquaintances with officers of all ranks and all nations, she replied that she loved all officers, and would rather have as her lover a poor officer than a rich banker,” the MI5 files note.
Walking the Western Front:
• Where John McCrae wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’
• The ‘Trench of Death’
Her lovers included a wide range of ages and nationalities, including Germans, French, Russians, Swiss and Spaniards, the files state.
At the time of her execution on Oct. 15, 1917, in a muddy field outside Paris, she was accused of feeding Germany information that cost some 50,000 Allied troops their lives.
But two academics who have studied her case say they don’t believe she provided Germany with any useful information for its war effort.
“She really did not pass on anything that you couldn’t find in the local newspapers in Spain,” said Julie Wheelwright of City University in London, the author of The Fatal Lover: Mata Hari and the Myth of Women in Espionage.
Mata Hari was the stage name for Gertruda Margaretha Zelle, who was born July 8, 1876, in the Dutch East Indies to a Dutch father and a Javanese mother. Wheelwright said she became an exotic dancer after fleeing an abusive marriage.
Wheelwright described her as “an independent woman, a divorcee, a citizen of a neutral country, a courtesan and a dancer, which made her a perfect scapegoat for the French, who were then losing the war.”
“She was kind of held up as an example of what might happen if your morals were too loose,” Wheelwright said.
Wesley Wark, a security, intelligence and terrorism expert at the University of Ottawa, said Mata Hari provided France with a scapegoat when the country wrestled with emerging power for women and fears of losing the war.
“They needed a scapegoat and she was a notable target for scapegoating,” Wark said.
In the MI5 files, an intelligence officer sounds impressed with her attitude during her final days.
“She never made a full confession nor can I find … that she ever gave away anyone as her (accomplice),” the report states.
“She was a ‘femme forte’ and she worked alone,” the report concludes.
The newly released files show Mata Hari was trailed by Allied surveillance officers across France, Spain and England.
The officers noted that on Aug. 4, 1916, she wrote to a Don Diego de Leon and then met a Capt. Vladimir de Masloff, of the Russian army, stationed in France.
“He was very intimate with her from this date and constant letters pass between, he was her favourite lover,” the MI5 files state.
“Same day she met PROFESSOR MARIANI Captain Italian Army.”
While in custody in the ancient Prison de Saint-Lazare outside Paris, she admitted to having spied for the Germans, the MI5 files state.
A file dated May 22, 1917 states: “Matahari today confessed that she has been engaged in Consul CREMER of Amsterdam for the German Secret Service. She was paid 20,000 (francs) in advance and her number was H.21.”
That file also notes her German spymasters gave her vials of invisible ink.
Much of her prison interrogation statement concerns mundane thoughts, not troop movements.
Her MI5 file includes the note: “She had discussed the life led by people in Paris, as regards supply of food etc., had said that the English officers in Paris treated their French Allies badly, although the French went out of their way to treat them ‘like Kings’; that the French nation might live to regret that they had ever allowed the English into the country … .”
Even if she wanted to divulge information, there wasn’t much she could say, Wark said. “Politics wasn’t really part of her world.”
Accounts of her execution say she waved off the offer of a blindfold or the last sacrament. She was reportedly blowing a kiss — at her lawyer, a nun or the firing squad, depending on who’s telling the story — the instant her life ended.
Wheelwright thinks this was likely bravado on the dancer’s part.
“This was going to be her last performance and she was going to go out in style,” she said. “She was playing to the crowd, which is what she always did.”

By: Peter Edwards Star Reporter, Published on Thu Apr 24 2014

Find this story at 24 April 2014

© Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. 1996-2014

MI5 watched Mata Hari (1999)

Mata Hari: beautiful exotic dancer turned espionage agent
Mata Hari, the glamorous World War I spy shot by the French in 1917, was watched by MI5 for two years, according to the newly released secret government papers.
The former wife of a Dutch army colonel, she was recruited by German intelligence while performing as a stripper in Berlin.

Special Report: Wartime Spies The sultry spy, who was notorious in prewar Paris for her exotic dancing and libidinous lifestyle, was interrogated twice by the British secret service but they could not force her to reveal her activities.

She later confessed all to French authorities and was executed. Her MI5 files note however that there was never any evidence that she passed on anything of military importance.

‘Unfavourable impression’

Mata Hari was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.

She first attracted the suspicion of British officials in December 1915 and was arrested at the southern English port of Folkestone attempting to board a boat for France.

Under interrogation, she admitted she was heading for The Hague to live near her lover, a Dutch colonel. But MI5 could not pin anything further on her.

Her interrogator, Captain S S Dillon, noted at the time: “Although she had good answers to every question, she impressed me very unfavourably, but after having her very carefully searched and finding nothing, I considered I hadn’t enough grounds to refuse her embarkation.”

The report also noted that she was “handsome, bold … well and fashionably dressed” in a costume with “raccoon fur trimming and hat to match”.

Suspect

Mata Hari
MI5 decided to keep tabs
MI5 continued to monitored her after she settled in The Hague, and soon an informant revealed she was being paid by the German Embassy.

A February 1916 intelligence report noted that she was “in relation with highly placed people and during her sojourn in France she made the acquaintance of many French and Belgian officers”.

“She is suspected of having been to France on important mission for the Germans,” the report said. The report concluded that the matter was being followed up.

Wrongly suspected

In November 1916, British authorities removed Mata Hari from a steamer at the port of Falmouth en route from Spain to Holland, believing she was another German spy, Clara Benedix.

She was taken, along with her 10 travelling trunks, to be interviewed by MI5 and the police. She told them she had been recruited by a Belgian officer, to work for his country’s intelligence service.

She also alleged that the French consul in Vigo, Spain, had asked her to spy on Russian forces in Austria.

Death by firing squad

Once again there was insufficient evidence to detain her and she was sent back to Spain.

The following year she was arrested by the French authorities, court martialled and sentenced to death by firing squad.

A French intelligence report shown to MI5 noted: “Mata Hari today confessed that she has been engaged by Consul Cremer of Amsterdam for the German Secret Service.”

She admitted sending “general information of every kind procurable,” but mentioned no military secrets, it said.

Tuesday, 26 January, 1999, 23:22 GMT

Find this story at 26 January 1999

© BBC

MI5 and Liberal party allegedly ‘covered up’ MP Cyril Smith’s four decades of abusing children

Police received at least 144 complaints by victims about late Liberal MP Sir Cyril, but MI5 and Special Branch put pressure on officers to drop investigations, new book claims

Politicians, police and M15 covered up former MP Sir Cyril Smith’s sexual abuse of vulnerable boys as young as eight for four decades, it has been claimed.
Police received at least 144 complaints by victims about the late Liberal MP Sir Cyril, but MI5 and Special Branch put pressure on officers to drop investigations, according to a new book.
The 29st MP for Rochdale was able to continue his abuse while the authorities blocked prosecutions, and the Liberal Party even put his name forward for a knighthood in 1988 in spite of the rumours of his activities circulating around Westminster, it has been alleged.
Former Liberal party leader David, now Lord Steel, nominated Sir Cyril for the honour despite knowing of the allegations about the MP, it was reported.
Lord Steel’s involvement only emerged in recent weeks after a Freedom of Information battle.
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The current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg sent a celebratory message that was read out at Sir Cyril’s 80th birthday party, which said: “You were a beacon for our party in the ’70s and ’80s and continue to be an inspiration to the people of Rochdale.”
A new book, written by one of Sir Cyril’s successors as MP for the Lancashire constituency, Labour’s Simon Danczuk, also reveals that child porn was found in the late MP’s car but police were ordered to release him.
Sir Cyril, who died aged 82 in 2010, was arrested repeatedly for “acts of gross indecency with young lads” in public toilets but no action was taken, according to the book Smile for the Camera: the Double Life of Cyril Smith.
A member of the Liberal party, which later merged with the Social Democratic Party to become the Liberal Democrats, Sir Cyril was also a visitor to the notorious Elm Guest house in South-west London, which is now the focus of a Scotland Yard investigation into an alleged VIP paedophile ring, the Daily Mail reported.
Sir Cyril, who was MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992, was governor of almost 30 schools, and in the 1960s he helped to open Cambridge House children’s home, where he abused boys, often subjecting them to spurious medical examinations, according to the book.
But when police launched an investigation, a senior police officer intervened to stop it, it has been claimed.
The book, co-written by Matthew Baker, also claims that senior Labour figures’ support of the Paedophile Information Exchange helped keep Sir Cyril “hidden from scrutiny”.
It claims that police officers were threatened with dismissal and gagged by the Official Secrets Act if they tried to expose the Sir Cyril’s sexual abuse of boys.
Mr Danczuk, Rochdale MP since 2010, first raised Sir Cyril’s case in the House of Commons in 2012 after victims contacted him to tell of their ordeals.
Lord Steel was unavailable for comment. Last year, he said he had asked Cyril Smith about the allegations of child abuse and accepted his denial of wrongdoing, the Daily Mail reported.
A spokesman for Mr Clegg said: “Clearly he would never have paid tribute to Cyril Smith if he had had any idea about these horrible allegations.”
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “Cyril Smith’s acts were vile and repugnant and we have nothing but sympathy for those whose lives he ruined. His actions were not known to or condoned by anyone in the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democrats.”

By Melanie Hall11:22AM BST 12 Apr 2014

Find this story at 12 April 2014

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2014

Monstrous cover-up: How the Liberal party, police and MI5 concealed MP Cyril Smith’s industrial-scale child abuse

For four decades, 29st politician was free to prey on vulnerable children as young as eight
Police received at least 144 complaints from victims yet authorities blocked any prosecution
New book serialised in Daily Mail details how Smith – who died in 2010 aged 82 – was repeatedly protected despite being arrested for sex crimes
MI5 and Special Branch officers put pressure on police to drop investigations
Child porn was found in Smith’s car but police were ordered to release him
Liberal Party put his name forward for knighthood in 1988 in spite of rumours of his sordid activities swirling around Westminster

The shocking scale of the Establishment cover-up of former Liberal MP Cyril Smith’s sickening sex abuse of boys is revealed today

The shocking scale of the Establishment cover-up of former Liberal MP Cyril Smith’s sickening sex abuse of boys is revealed today
The shocking scale of the Establishment cover-up of former Liberal MP Cyril Smith’s sickening sex abuse of boys is revealed today.
For four decades, the depraved 29st politician was free to prey on vulnerable children as young as eight.
Police received at least 144 complaints by victims of the predatory paedophile yet the authorities blocked any prosecution – allowing Smith brazenly to continue his abuse.
The Liberal Party even put his name forward for a knighthood in 1988 in spite of the rumours of his sordid activities swirling around Westminster.
David, now Lord Steel nominated him for the honour despite knowing of the allegations about the bachelor MP for Rochdale, the ex-Liberal leader’s involvement emerging only in recent weeks after a Freedom of Information battle.
At Smith’s 80th birthday party, a gushing message from current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was read out, which said: ‘You were a beacon for our party in the ’70s and ’80s and continue to be an inspiration to the people of Rochdale.’
Now, an explosive new book serialised in the Daily Mail details how Smith – who died in 2010 aged 82 – was repeatedly protected despite being arrested for a string of sex crimes.
Written by one of Smith’s successors as MP for the Lancashire constituency, Labour’s Simon Danczuk, the book reveals:
MI5 and Special Branch officers put pressure on police to drop investigations;
child porn was found in Smith’s car but police were ordered to release him;
he was repeatedly arrested for ‘acts of gross indecency with young lads’ in public toilets but no action was taken;
Smith was a visitor to the notorious Elm Guest house in South-west London, now the focus of a Scotland Yard investigation into an alleged VIP paedophile ring;
senior Labour figures’ support of the Paedophile Information Exchange helped keep Smith ‘hidden from scrutiny’.
In his book, Smile for the Camera: the Double Life of Cyril Smith, Mr Danczuk details Smith’s ‘rapacious sexual appetite’ and highlights chilling similarities between the northern MP and fellow paedophile Jimmy Savile.
For four decades, the depraved 29st politician (pictured above in 1972) was free to prey on vulnerable children as young as eight
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For four decades, the depraved 29st politician (pictured above in 1972) was free to prey on vulnerable children as young as eight
David, now Lord Steel (centre) nominated Smith for a knighthood despite knowing of the allegations about the bachelor MP for Rochdale, the ex-Liberal leader’s involvement emerging only in recent weeks after a Freedom of Information battle
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David, now Lord Steel (centre) nominated Smith for a knighthood despite knowing of the allegations about the bachelor MP for Rochdale, the ex-Liberal leader’s involvement emerging only in recent weeks after a Freedom of Information battle
Like the DJ, Smith – who in 1973 appeared on Savile’s Clunk Click TV show – portrayed himself as a charitable man supporting young boys to provide cover for his sordid activities.
But unlike in the Savile scandal, police forces around the country repeatedly investigated sex abuse allegations against Smith yet their efforts to prosecute the MP were constantly blocked.
The book details how police officers were threatened with dismissal and gagged by the Official Secrets Act if they attempted to expose the politician’s sordid activities.

More…
‘I’ve come to examine you’: From bogus medical examinations to punishment beatings, how paedophile Cyril Smith used his powerful public image to abuse boys
The truth about Labour apologists for paedophilia: Police probe child sex group linked to top party officials in wake of Savile
Knighted by Steel and eulogised by Clegg: Cyril Smith and the indelible shame of the Liberal Party
How Cyril Smith evaded the law: Sickening folly of the Left who aided his cause by advocating paedophilia
Mr Danczuk, Rochdale MP since 2010, first raised Smith’s case in the House of Commons in 2012 after victims contacted him to tell of their ordeals at the hands of the ‘29st bully’.
One young Liberal activist was sexually assaulted in Smith’s office in the House of Commons in the 1980s as other MPs, including then Labour leader Michael Foot, walked by.
Days later, the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that his victims’ claims were investigated by police on three separate occasion – in 1970, 1998 and 1999 – but each time files were submitted to prosecutors, they were rejected.
The Liberal Party, bruised by the negative publicity surrounding the 1979 conspiracy to murder trial of its leader Jeremy Thorpe (right) and aware of Smith’s ‘electoral Midas touch’, was eager to sweep the problems under the carpet
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The Liberal Party, bruised by the negative publicity surrounding the 1979 conspiracy to murder trial of its leader Jeremy Thorpe (right) and aware of Smith’s ‘electoral Midas touch’, was eager to sweep the problems under the carpet
The CPS belatedly agreed that Smith should have been prosecuted and Greater Manchester Police publicly acknowledged, amid ‘overwhelming evidence’, that he did sexually and physically abuse young boys.
The book, co-written by Matthew Baker, reveals that as far back as the 1950s, Rochdale police had their suspicions about the politician.
Smith, MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992, was governor of almost 30 schools. In the 1960s, he helped to open Cambridge House children’s home, where he abused boys, often subjecting them to spurious medical examinations.
But when police launched an investigation, the chief constable of Lancashire personally intervened to stop it.
In the 1970s Smith was arrested on a number of occasions in public toilets in London’s St James’s Park, a regular haunt for young male prostitutes after dark, but always walked free.
The cover-ups continued in the 1980s when Smith’s car was pulled over on the motorway near Northampton and traffic officers discovered child porn in the boot.
At Smith’s 80th birthday party, a gushing message from current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was read out, which said: ‘You were a beacon for our party in the ’70s and ’80s and continue to be an inspiration to the people of Rochdale’
+12
Now, an explosive new book serialised in the Daily Mail details how Smith – who died in 2010 aged 82 – was repeatedly protected despite being arrested for a string of sex crimes
+12
At Cyril Smith’s 80th birthday party, a gushing message from current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was read out, which said: ‘You were a beacon for our party in the ’70s and ’80s and continue to be an inspiration to the people of Rochdale’
‘The police were naturally disgusted and wanted to press charges,’ says the book. ‘But then a phone call was made from London and he was released without charge.’
When Rochdale police first started investigating him in 1972 they were threatened by the council’s Liberal leader and, according to Mr Danczuk’s book, rumours of his activities were well known in Westminster for many years.
But the Liberal Party, bruised by the negative publicity surrounding the 1979 conspiracy to murder trial of its leader Jeremy Thorpe and aware of Smith’s ‘electoral Midas touch,’ was eager to sweep the problems under the carpet .
David Steel, who took over from Mr Thorpe as party leader, even recommended Smith for his knighthood despite knowing of the sordid rumours that surfaced in 1979 that the MP had abused young boys.
The Cabinet Office had previously refused to disclose who had put Smith forward – claiming it would breach data protection rules – but the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled earlier this year that there was a ‘legitimate public interest’ in it being disclosed.
Lord Steel was unavailable for comment. Last year, he said he had asked Cyril Smith about the allegations of child abuse and accepted his denial of wrongdoing
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Lord Steel was unavailable for comment. Last year, he said he had asked Cyril Smith about the allegations of child abuse and accepted his denial of wrongdoing
Lord Steel was unavailable for comment. Last year, he said he had asked Cyril Smith about the allegations of child abuse and accepted his denial of wrongdoing.
A spokesman for Mr Clegg said last night: ‘Clearly he would never have paid tribute to Cyril Smith if he had had any idea about these horrible allegations.’
The book also describes how Labour politicians’ support for a notorious paedophile group that campaigned to legalise sex with children helped Smith evade justice for years.
Earlier this year the Mail revealed the extraordinary links between the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Paedophile Information Exchange.
Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman, her MP husband Jack Dromey, and former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt held key roles in the NCCL, which in 1975 granted ‘affiliate’ status to the group of predatory paedophiles.
Smith was friends with PIE founding member Peter Righton and Mr Danczuk said the NCCL’s backing for PIE helped Smith’s crimes remain secret.
‘Worryingly, it seemed a fair few on the Left, including some who have subsequently become key figures in the Labour Party, were fooled into giving this hideous group shelter.
‘All of which helped Cyril’s cause and kept him hidden from scrutiny.’
Smith was a visitor to Elm Guest House, in Barnes, south west London, which is at the centre of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Fernbridge.
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: ‘Cyril Smith’s acts were vile and repugnant and we have nothing but sympathy for those whose lives he ruined. His actions were not known to or condoned by anyone in the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democrats.’

‘I’ve come to examine you’: From bogus medical examinations to punishment beatings, how paedophile Cyril Smith used his powerful public image to abuse boys
By SIMON DANCZUK
The huge man, all of 29st, unlocked the door with his own key and burst into the teenager’s room.
‘Take your clothes off,’ he ordered the orphaned youngster, who was sick with the flu and had taken to his bed in the hostel instead of going to work.
‘I’ve been told you’re ill and I’ve come to examine you,’ the man declared. Yet this was no doctor, but a councillor and businessman, a respected and well-known figure in the local community.
Just like Jimmy Savile – whom he counted as a friend – Cyril Smith used his public image as a shield while manipulating his way into positions of influence over vulnerable young people he then ruthlessly abused. Above, Smith (bottom left) with children outside the House of Commons
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Just like Jimmy Savile – whom he counted as a friend – Cyril Smith used his public image as a shield while manipulating his way into positions of influence over vulnerable young people he then ruthlessly abused. Above, Smith (bottom left) with children outside the House of Commons
‘He was a colossus, more than three times my size,’ the lad recalled years later, in graphic and disturbing testimony. ‘I remember his eyes watching me like a beast sizing up its prey. In the folds of fat around his neck I could see rivulets of sweat.
‘Shaking with fear, I did as I was told. He bent down and clasped me with huge hands like shovels.
Suddenly he grasped my private parts and began to squeeze. I screamed.
‘Violence flashed in his eyes. “Now, now, lad. I’ll have none of your petulance. This is for your own good. I’m checking to see if there’s anything wrong with you,” he said, as he forced his way between my thighs again.
‘I don’t know how long it lasted, but it felt like hours.
‘When he rose there was a faint smile on his features, which twisted into a sneer as he said: “There’s nothing wrong with you, lad. You’re swinging the lead, trying to bunk off work.”
‘ “No,” I stammered. “I’ve never had a day off in my life. I’m sick.”
‘He lunged towards me and in one brutal movement threw me over his knee. Thwack, thwack, thwack.
‘His monstrous hand rained down on my bottom, smacking me until I thought I’d pass out. I cried out in pain, but that only made him hit me harder.
‘When he finished I was trembling and whimpering as he held me down and told me: “It had to be done, lad.”
‘Above his heavy breathing I could smell his rancid body odour. With a wet sponge, he then began to stroke me, rough hands sliding over the welts he had made.
‘He was humming to himself, broken every now and then by strange squeals of pleasure. “There, there,” he kept whispering, his breath bearing down on my neck.
‘When it was over he let me slide to the floor, cleared his throat and adjusted his braces. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and mopped his brow.
‘ “You’ll know better now,” he said, and made his way out.
‘The door clicked shut. For a while the only thought I entertained was death.’
When he calmed down, the shattered youngster pulled his wits together.
‘I dragged my clothes on, gathered my things into a duffle bag and ran. I spent the next night huddled in a bus shelter,’ he said.
‘That winter of 1963 was the coldest in 200 years. But that was nothing compared to the chill left in me for the rest of my life.’
The sadistic bully who administered this beating at Cambridge House, a boys’ hostel in the Lancashire mill town of Rochdale — and in the process tainted this bright young man’s life — was Cyril Smith.
Smith posed as a tireless worker for children – at one point he was governor of 29 local schools and set up a youth charity, Rochdale Childer – using it all as a cover to prowl from classroom to classroom and youth club to youth club
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Smith posed as a tireless worker for children – at one point he was governor of 29 local schools and set up a youth charity, Rochdale Childer – using it all as a cover to prowl from classroom to classroom and youth club to youth club
In 1963, he was already an enormously powerful local figure, a political godfather with fingers in many pies.
Known as Mr Rochdale, he later became the town’s mayor, then its Liberal MP, and for 20 years strutted the national stage.
At Westminster, on television and in the media, Smith was a big man in every sense.
He was one of the most popular faces in politics, using his oversized appearance, humour and in-your‑face northern bluffness to stand out in a world of grey, indistinguishable politicians.
But just like Jimmy Savile — whom he counted as a friend — Smith used his public image as a shield while manipulating his way into positions of influence over vulnerable young people he then ruthlessly abused.
And, like Savile, he deployed his professional success, powerful personality and highly placed contacts to ensure he was never held to account. It was only after his death in 2010 at the age of 82 that men like that victim from Cambridge House felt safe to speak out.
Yet Cyril Smith’s dark side has always been talked about in Rochdale — and the whispers echoed through British politics.
One of the most shocking elements of his story is how the truth was known to the police and in Westminster, yet concealed from the wider public, allowing a paedophile to hide in Parliament.
When I first arrived in Rochdale as its prospective Labour candidate in 2007, I, too, was taken in by him. It was 15 years since he’d stood down as MP but he continued to cast a spell over the town.
Case studies
I’d be woken at 2am by people asking for urgent help on a problem. When I pointed out it was the middle of the night, I’d be told: ‘Cyril would always help us whatever time it was.’
A working-class boy made good, he oozed supreme confidence and had a common touch that broke down barriers, shuffling around Rochdale market in carpet slippers to buy a bag of tripe.
Although he was officially ‘retired’ from politics, he still sat in an armchair on street corners, smiling like some saintly monk while people queued to hear his homilies. Councillors couldn’t get elected without his backing.
At first, I respected him for his homespun politics, his spit-and-sawdust grit and his passion. But in time, the scales fell from my eyes and I was confronted with absolute horror. Once you looked beyond the jolly clown playing for the camera, there was a sickening, dark heart.
‘He’d grope all the boys as he gave out awards’
I saw it in police files that had been hidden for years and I heard it in the desperate voices of grown men Cyril had abused as boys.
As soon as the first victim approached me, there was no turning back. Every email, every phone call, every meeting uncovered more about his double life.
And the more I found out, the more I came to realise that this wasn’t just about abuse, it was about power — and a cover-up that reached from Rochdale all the way to the very top of the Establishment.
Smith posed as a tireless worker for children — at one point he was governor of 29 local schools and set up a youth charity, Rochdale Childer — using it all as a cover to prowl from classroom to classroom and youth club to youth club.
His happiest hunting grounds were Cambridge House, a hostel for ‘working boys’ he helped set up with other politicians, and Knowl View, a residential school for children with learning difficulties, where he was a governor and had his own set of keys, coming and going at will.
To sit before the men he abused there and listen to them recount their ordeals is an experience no one can prepare for. There is anger, confusion and a deep sense of shame as they recall violence, spanking and groping that will never be erased from their memories.
His happiest hunting grounds were Cambridge House, a hostel for ‘working boys’ he helped set up with other politicians, and Knowl View (above), a residential school for children with learning difficulties, where he was a governor and had his own set of keys, coming and going at will
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His happiest hunting grounds were Cambridge House, a hostel for ‘working boys’ he helped set up with other politicians, and Knowl View (above), a residential school for children with learning difficulties, where he was a governor and had his own set of keys, coming and going at will
Smith would carry out bogus medical examinations as an excuse to fondle them, or beat them as supposed punishment for breaking the rules — then ‘comfort’ them afterwards.
Those who defied him were hit and smashed against walls. Boys’ teeth were knocked out and their bodies treated like playthings.
Other details of Cyril’s abuse filtered through to me almost casually. The cleaner in my office mentioned in passing how he once played for a football team as a teenager and Smith presented the awards every year.
‘He’d grope all the boys as he was presenting their medals,’ I was told. ‘We complained to the coach, but he said we’d have to put up with it because Cyril was the sponsor and paid for the do.’
I listened, horrified. It was presented as just another everyday story of Cyril abusing boys — as if everyone knew.
I began to wonder how many other public figures over the years had received calls and letters about Cyril and not acted on them. I imagine there were a few.
‘I cried out but it only made him hit me harder’

Certainly, when I started to ask questions after getting elected, a fellow Labour MP approached me and told me to leave Cyril alone. ‘Don’t attack him, steer clear of him,’ he said. ‘It’s not worth it.’
It wasn’t just the words that irritated me, it was the look that followed. It more or less said: ‘Play the game, this is how it works, and if you want to join our club then obey our rules.’
One of the most troubling whispers that repeatedly reached me was that Cyril had been protected by MI5. But, initially at least, no one was prepared to go on the record about it.
A former Labour MP I approached started to talk but went silent after a few sentences. ‘No good will come of this,’ he said nervously. ‘It’s best left.’ And then he shut the door on me.
A former police officer I tracked down to his pub in Cheshire went white when I mentioned Cyril’s name. ‘I can’t talk about that time,’ he said, and again the door was closed.
It was hard not to conclude that powerful forces were still at work to protect Smith’s name. But the voices of the victims could not be silenced, and in the autumn of 2012, in Parliament, I named Cyril as an abuser.
After I spoke publicly, more stories flooded in, and not just from victims.
Many — as I will describe in detail in the coming days of this series — were from police officers saying Smith’s crimes were widely known to them but their superiors refused to act.
I was told of officers who found child pornography in the boot of Smith’s car, only for a mysterious call from London to tell them not to charge him.
It’s now known that on three separate occasions files were passed by Lancashire Police to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service containing details of Smith’s abuse. Yet on each occasion no prosecution was pursued. It is as though Cyril was untouchable
+12
It’s now known that on three separate occasions files were passed by Lancashire Police to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service containing details of Smith’s abuse. Yet on each occasion no prosecution was pursued. It is as though Cyril was untouchable
I was told how Smith’s case was used during police training on child abuse, with one instructor admitting there had been 144 complaints against him. Mysteriously, when this became known to her superiors, the instructor was silenced and moved to another job.
I was told how Smith was repeatedly detained for acts of gross indecency in toilets in St James’s Park, London, only for orders to discontinue inquiries in each case.
And I was told how, when other inquiries were completed and revealed compelling and disturbing evidence that Smith was a serial paedophile, they were ignored.
It’s now known that on three separate occasions files were passed by Lancashire Police to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service containing details of Smith’s abuse. Yet on each occasion no prosecution was pursued. It is as though Cyril was untouchable.
On one now notorious occasion, files of evidence on Smith held by Special Branch were removed by MI5 officers from the safe at police headquarters in Preston and taken to London. They were never seen again. This was just one of several cover-ups which I will reveal in detail later in this series.
Some will no doubt argue that things have changed. The cover-up of Cyril’s abuse was a long time ago. The values of the Seventies are a lot different to the standards expected in public life today. People wouldn’t stand for that now. Awareness of child abuse has improved tenfold. No one would tolerate this kind of behaviour among colleagues, surely?
I would like to believe this view, but all the signs I’ve seen suggest it’s not the case.
Cyril wasn’t the only abuser in Rochdale, and he was influential enough to ensure that other abusers were allowed to hang on to his coat-tails and carry on, undetected by the authorities.
The problem that the town has to face up to, I believe, is that paedophile gangs have been operating there for years.
A leaked report to the local health authority, by a council HIV prevention officer named Phil Shepherd, warned that men from as far away as Sheffield travelled to Rochdale to abuse boys at Knowl View School.
I will tell the full, horrifying story behind this report, and how it became public, later in this series.
But it instantly invites the questions: Who was organising this? Who knew what was happening? Who chose to remain silent?
A number of police officers have told me that Cyril was just the tip of the iceberg and, unfortunately, I expect more stories of his abuse to emerge.
I think in time we’ll hear that there were more abusers in Parliament, more terrible cover-ups.
And it won’t be just one political party that’s guilty of harbouring abusers.

Additional reporting: Matthew Baker.
By MICHAEL SEAMARK and GUY ADAMS and DANIEL MARTIN
PUBLISHED: 21:01 GMT, 11 April 2014 | UPDATED: 20:18 GMT, 12 April 2014

Find this story at 12 April 2014

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

Senior Liberals ‘were aware of Cyril Smith child abuse allegations’ (2013)

Lib Dem candidate Dominic Carman says concerns about late MP’s behaviour were rife within Liberal party in 1970s

Liberal party grandees including the former leader Jeremy Thorpe were aware of allegations that Cyril Smith was a serial abuser of boys throughout the 1970s but failed to launch a formal inquiry, according to a Liberal Democrat candidate who has passed his concerns on to the police.

Dominic Carman, who has represented Nick Clegg’s party in two parliamentary elections, claimed that his father, the barrister George Carman, learned that concerns about the late MP for Rochdale’s behaviour were rife within the party while successfully defending Thorpe in a trial for conspiracy to murder in 1979.

Father and son discussed Liberal concerns about Smith at length in May 1979 as Thorpe prepared to go to trial, Carman said, amid concerns that their disclosure could harm the former leader’s defence.

The claims, which have been passed on to Greater Manchester police, will add to widening concern at institutional responses to allegations of abuse against the MP, who died in 2010. Officers believe that Smith was a prolific abuser of boys and should have been charged with crimes more than 40 years ago, it emerged in November.

They will also increase pressure upon the Liberal Democrats as they are forced to confront allegations of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard, one of the party’s most senior figures. Rennard denies any wrongdoing. There is no suggestion he was aware of the claims about Smith.

The party announced an inquiry last week into how it has handled past complaints of sexual impropriety. Tim Farron, the party’s president, has admitted that the party has “screwed up” inquiries into claims that Rennard groped or propositioned female activists.

Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP who first raised concerns about Smith’s activities in parliament in November, said that there is a pattern whenever allegations of sexual abuse emerge inside the Liberal Democrats. “They bury their heads in the sand and claim to know nothing. For the sake of Rochdale victims, Clegg has to stop stonewalling and now come clean on what his party knew about the sexual abuse carried out by Cyril Smith,” he said.

The Thorpe trial gripped the nation in 1979, amid claims of illicit affairs, greed, murder and revenge.

Thorpe, who led the Liberal party for nine years, was accused of plotting the murder of his alleged former lover, Norman Scott, for threatening to uncover their alleged affair. It was claimed that Thorpe and others had hired a hitman to kill Scott, but that the hitman had shot dead Scott’s dog, Rinka, instead.

George Carman’s reputation as a fearsome counsel was cemented after he cross-examined Scott. His son, Dominic Carman, who stood for the Lib Dems in 2010 in Barking and again at the Barnsley byelection in 2011, said that he discussed the Smith allegations with his father in May 1979 as the trial was about to begin.

These discussions were, he claimed, prompted by the publication in the week before the trial of allegations that Smith had abused boys in a children’s hostel printed in the Rochdale Alternative Press, a small circulation local magazine.

Thorpe’s legal team was concerned that the magazine’s report might be followed up by a national newspaper and have a negative impact upon the trial, Carman said.

“My father was told by Thorpe that senior Liberals knew of the serious nature of the allegations against Smith and that they dated back many years. I approached the police in December with information,” Carman said. A spokesman for Greater Manchester police confirmed that an officer has spoken to Carman.

Thorpe was cleared of plotting to murder Scott but failed to regain his political career.

Another source who also claimed to have spoken to George Carman during the trial said that the barrister was concerned about the possible impact of further revelations in the Thorpe trial.

“The reason that it was a genuine fear was because there were so many allegations against Smith involving boys that one assumed there was no smoke without fire,” the source said.

Smith was named by Danczuk in November on the floor of the House of Commons as a serial abuser of boys. Victims of Smith claim he abused many young boys in a hostel and a school in the late 1960s and continued to abuse others into the 1980s.

Police first investigated the claims in 1968, but the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was no case to answer.

In November, the Crown Prosecution Service re-examined their files but this time said that, if the same evidence was unearthed today, they would have prosecuted Smith.

Alan Collins, a solicitor who represents 11 men who claim they were abused by Smith, urged the Lib Dems to come clean about what it knew about Smith’s abuse of young boys.

“The fact is a group of sexual abuse victims were cheated of justice and the smell of cover-up hangs in the air and needs one way or the other to be dispersed,” he said.

Thorpe, 83, who has Parkinson’s disease, has been given a list of detailed questions asking what he knew of allegations surrounding Smith, but has not responded.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat chief whip, conducted an internal inquiry into what MPs knew about Smith’s abuse of young boys in December, and concluded that there was no case to answer.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said they would help police in any future inquiries into Smith: “We are a completely different party to the Liberals on 1979 – a different structure and different rules.”

Rajeev Syal
theguardian.com, Tuesday 26 February 2013 17.20 GMT

Find this story at 26 February 2013

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