Inside the FBI’s secret relationship with the military’s special operations

When U.S. Special Operations forces raided several houses in the Iraqi city of Ramadi in March 2006, two Army Rangers were killed when gunfire erupted on the ground floor of one home. A third member of the team was knocked unconscious and shredded by ball bearings when a teenage insurgent detonated a suicide vest.

In a review of the nighttime strike for a relative of one of the dead Rangers, military officials sketched out the sequence of events using small dots to chart the soldiers’ movements. Who, the relative asked, was this man — the one represented by a blue dot and nearly killed by the suicide bomber?

After some hesi­ta­tion, the military briefers answered with three letters: FBI.

The FBI’s transformation from a crime-fighting agency to a counterterrorism organization in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been well documented. Less widely known has been the bureau’s role in secret operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations around the world.

With the war in Afghanistan ending, FBI officials have become more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The relationship benefited both sides. JSOC used the FBI’s expertise in exploiting digital media and other materials to locate insurgents and detect plots, including any against the United States. The bureau’s agents, in turn, could preserve evidence and maintain a chain of custody should any suspect be transferred to the United States for trial.

The FBI’s presence on the far edge of military operations was not universally embraced, according to current and former officials familiar with the bureau’s role. As agents found themselves in firefights, some in the bureau expressed uneasiness about a domestic law enforcement agency stationing its personnel on battlefields.

The wounded agent in Iraq was Jay Tabb, a longtime member of the bureau’s Hostage and Rescue Team (HRT) who was embedded with the Rangers when they descended on Ramadi in Black Hawks and Chinooks. Tabb, who now leads the HRT, also had been wounded just months earlier in another high-risk operation.

James Davis, the FBI’s legal attache in Baghdad in 2007 and 2008, said people “questioned whether this was our mission. The concern was somebody was going to get killed.”

Davis said FBI agents were regularly involved in shootings — sometimes fighting side by side with the military to hold off insurgent assaults.

“It wasn’t weekly but it wouldn’t be uncommon to see one a month,” he said. “It’s amazing that never happened, that we never lost anybody.”

Others considered it a natural evolution for the FBI — and one consistent with its mission.

“There were definitely some voices that felt we shouldn’t be doing this — period,” said former FBI deputy director Sean Joyce, one of a host of current and former officials who are reflecting on the shift as U.S. forces wind down their combat mission in Afghanistan. “That wasn’t the director’s or my feeling on it. We thought prevention begins outside of the U.S.”

‘Not commandos’

In 1972, Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, exposing the woeful inadequacy of the German police when faced with committed hostage-takers. The attack jolted other countries into examining their counterterrorism capabilities. The FBI realized its response would have been little better than that of the Germans.

It took more than a decade for the United States to stand up an elite anti-terrorism unit. The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team was created in 1983, just before the Los Angeles Olympics.

At Fort Bragg, N.C., home to the Army’s Special Operations Command, Delta Force operators trained the agents, teaching them how to breach buildings and engage in close-quarter fighting, said Danny Coulson, who commanded the first HRT.

The team’s mission was largely domestic, although it did participate in select operations to arrest fugitives overseas, known in FBI slang as a “habeas grab.” In 1987, for instance, along with the CIA, agents lured a man suspected in an airline hijacking to a yacht off the coast of Lebanon and arrested him.

In 1989, a large HRT flew to St. Croix, Virgin Islands, to reestablish order after Hurricane Hugo. That same year, at the military’s request, it briefly deployed to Panama before the U.S. invasion.

The bureau continued to deepen its ties with the military, training with the Navy SEALs at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, based in Dam Neck, Va., and agents completed the diving phase of SEAL training in Coronado, Calif.

Sometimes lines blurred between the HRT and the military. During the 1993 botched assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., three Delta Force operators were on hand to advise. Waco, along with a fiasco the prior year at a white separatist compound at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, put the FBI on the defensive.

“The members of HRT are not commandos,” then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh told lawmakers in 1995. “They are special agents of the FBI. Their goal has always been to save lives.”

After Sept. 11, the bureau took on a more aggressive posture.

In early 2003, two senior FBI counterterrorism officials traveled to Afghanistan to meet with the Joint Special Operations Command’s deputy commander at Bagram air base. The commander wanted agents with experience hunting fugitives and HRT training so they could easily integrate with JSOC forces.

“What JSOC realized was their networks were similar to the way the FBI went after organized crime,” said James Yacone, an assistant FBI director who joined the HRT in 1997 and later commanded it.

The pace of activity in Afghanistan was slow at first. An FBI official said there was less than a handful of HRT deployments to Afghanistan in those early months; the units primarily worked with the SEALs as they hunted top al-Qaeda targets.

“There was a lot of sitting around,” the official said.

The tempo quickened with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. At first, the HRT’s mission was mainly to protect other FBI agents when they left the Green Zone, former FBI officials said.

Then-Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal gradually pushed the agency to help the military collect evidence and conduct interviews during raids.

“As our effort expanded and . . . became faster and more complex, we felt the FBI’s expertise in both sensitive site exploitation and interrogations would be helpful — and they were,” a former U.S. military official said.

In 2005, all of the HRT members in Iraq began to work under JSOC. At one point, up to 12 agents were operating in the country, nearly a tenth of the unit’s shooters.

The FBI’s role raised thorny questions about the bureau’s rules of engagement and whether its deadly-force policy should be modified for agents in war zones.

“There was hand-wringing,” Yacone said. “These were absolutely appropriate legal questions to be asked and answered.”

Ultimately, the FBI decided that no change was necessary. Team members “were not there to be door kickers. They didn’t need to be in the stack,” Yacone said.

But the FBI’s alliance with JSOC continued to deepen. HRT members didn’t have to get approval to go on raids, and FBI agents saw combat night after night in the hunt for targets.

In 2008, with the FBI involved in frequent firefights, the bureau began taking a harder look at these engagements, seeking input from the military to make sure, in police terms, that each time an agent fired it was a “good shoot,” former FBI officials said.

‘Mission had changed’

Members of the FBI’s HRT unit left Iraq as the United States pulled out its forces. The bureau also began to reconsider its involvement in Afghanistan after nearly a dozen firefights involving agents embedded with the military and the wounding of an agent in Logar province in June 2010.

JSOC had shifted priorities, Joyce said, targeting Taliban and other local insurgents who were not necessarily plotting against the United States. Moreover, the number of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan had plummeted to fewer than 100, and many of its operatives were across the border, in Pakistan, where the military could not operate.

The FBI drew down in 2010 despite pleas from JSOC to stay.

“Our focus was al-Qaeda and threats to the homeland,” Joyce said. “The mission had changed.”

FBI-JSOC operations continue in other parts of the world. When Navy SEALs raided a yacht in the Gulf of Aden that Somali pirates had hijacked in 2011, an HRT agent followed behind them. After a brief shootout, the SEALs managed to take control of the yacht.

Two years later, in October 2013, an FBI agent with the HRT was with the SEALs when they stormed a beachfront compound in Somalia in pursuit of a suspect in the Nairobi mall attack that had killed dozens.

That same weekend, U.S. commandos sneaked into Tripoli, Libya, and apprehended a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist named Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai as he returned home in his car after morning prayers. He was whisked to a Navy ship in the Mediterranean and eventually to New York City for prosecution in federal court.

Word quickly leaked that Delta Force had conducted the operation. But the six Delta operators had help. Two FBI agents were part of the team that morning on the streets of Tripoli.

By Adam Goldman and Julie Tate, Published: April 10 E-mail the writers

Find this story at 10 April 2014

© 1996-2014 The Washington Post

CIA’s Pakistan drone strikes carried out by regular US air force personnel

Former drone operators claim in new documentary that CIA missions flown by USAF’s 17th Reconnaissance Squadron

A regular US air force unit based in the Nevada desert is responsible for flying the CIA’s drone strike programme in Pakistan, according to a new documentary to be released on Tuesday.

The film – which has been three years in the making – identifies the unit conducting CIA strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas as the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron, which operates from a secure compound in a corner of Creech air force base, 45 miles from Las Vegas in the Mojave desert.

Several former drone operators have claimed that the unit’s conventional air force personnel – rather than civilian contractors – have been flying the CIA’s heavily armed Predator missions in Pakistan, a 10-year campaign which according to some estimates has killed more than 2,400 people.

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said this posed questions of legality and oversight. “A lethal force apparatus in which the CIA and regular military collaborate as they are reportedly doing risks upending the checks and balances that restrict where and when lethal force is used, and thwart democratic accountability, which cannot take place in secrecy.”

The Guardian approached the National Security Council, the CIA and the Pentagon for comment last week. The NSC and CIA declined to comment, while the Pentagon did not respond.

The role of the squadron, and the use of its regular air force personnel in the CIA’s targeted killing programme, first emerged during interviews with two former special forces drone operators for a new documentary film, Drone.

Brandon Bryant, a former US Predator operator, told the film he decided to speak out after senior officials in the Obama administration gave a briefing last year in which they said they wanted to “transfer” control of the CIA’s secret drones programme to the military.

Bryant said this was disingenuous because it was widely known in military circles that the US air force was already involved.

“There is a lie hidden within that truth. And the lie is that it’s always been the air force that has flown those missions. The CIA might be the customer but the air force has always flown it. A CIA label is just an excuse to not have to give up any information. That is all it has ever been.”

Referring to the 17th squadron, another former drone operator, Michael Haas, added: “It’s pretty widely known [among personnel] that the CIA controls their mission.”

Six other former drone operators who worked alongside the unit, and who have extensive knowledge of the drone programme, have since corroborated the claims. None of them were prepared to go on the record because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Bryant said public scrutiny of the programme had focused so far on the CIA rather than the military, and it was time to acknowledge the role of those who had been carrying out missions on behalf of the agency’s civilian analysts.

“Everyone talks about CIA over Pakistan, CIA double-tap, CIA over Yemen, CIA over Somalia. But I don’t believe that they deserve the entirety of all that credit for the drone programme,” he said. “They might drive the missions; they might say that these are the objectives – accomplish it. They don’t fly it.”

Another former drone operator based at Creech said members of the 17th were obsessively secretive.

“They don’t hang out with anyone else. Once they got into the 17th and got upgraded operationally, they pretty much stopped talking to us. They would only hang out among themselves like a high school clique, a gang or something.”

Shamsi said the revelations, if true, raised “a host of additional pressing questions about the legal framework under which the targeted killing programme is carried out and the basis for the secrecy that continues to shroud it.”

She added: “It will come as a surprise to most Americans if the CIA is directing the military to carry out warlike activities. The agency should be collecting and analysing foreign intelligence, not presiding over a massive killing apparatus.

“We don’t know precisely what rules the CIA is operating under, but what we do know makes clear that it’s not abiding by the laws that strictly limit extrajudicial killing both in and out of traditional battlefields. Now we have to ask whether the regular military is violating those laws as well, under the secrecy that the CIA wields as sword and shield over its killing activities.

“Congressional hearings in the last year have made it embarrassingly clear that Congress has not exercised much oversight over the lethal programme.”

In theory, the revelation could expose serving air force personnel to legal challenges based on their direct involvement in a programme that a UN special rapporteur and numerous other judicial experts are concerned may be wholly or partly in violation of international law.

Sitting 45 miles north-west of Las Vegas in the Mojave desert, Creech air force base has played a key role in the US drone programme since the 1990s.

The 432d wing oversees four conventional US air force Predator and Reaper squadrons, which carry out surveillance missions and air strikes in Afghanistan.

There is another, far more secretive cluster of units within the wing called the 732nd Operations Group, which states that it “employs remotely piloted aircraft in theatres across the globe year-round”.

This operations group has four drone squadrons, which all appear to be linked with the CIA.

The 30th Reconnaissance Squadron “test-flies” the RQ-170 Sentinel, the CIA’s stealth drone which made headlines after one was captured over Iran in December 2011.

The 22nd and 867th Reconnaissance Squadrons each fly Reaper drones, the more heavily armed successor to the Predator.

But it is the last of the four units – the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron – that is now under the most scrutiny.

It is understood to have 300 air crew and operates about 35 Predator drones – enough to provide five or six simultaneous missions during any 24-hour period.

It operates from within an inner compound at Creech, which even visiting military VIPs are unable to access, say former base personnel. Former workers at Creech say the unit was treated as the “crown jewels” of the drone programme.

“They wouldn’t even let us walk by it, they were just so protective of it,” said Haas, who for two years was a drone operator. He was also an operational trainer at Creech.

“From what I was able to gather, it was pretty much confirmed they were flying missions almost exclusively in Pakistan with the intent to strike.”

In the Operations Cell, which receives video feeds from every drone “line” in progress at Creech, mission co-ordinators from the 17th were kept segregated from all the others.

Established as a regular drone squadron in 2002, the unit transitioned to its new “customer” in 2004 at the same time that CIA drone strikes began in Pakistan, former personnel have said.

The operators receive their orders from civilian CIA analysts who ultimately decide whether – and against whom – to carry out a strike, according to one former mid-level drone commander.

Creech air force base would only confirm that the 17th squadron was engaged in “global operations”.

“The 732nd Operations Group oversees global operations of four squadrons – the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron, 22nd Reconnaissance Squadron, 30th Reconnaissance Squadron and the 867th Reconnaissance Squadron. These squadrons are all still active … their mission is to perform high-quality, persistent, multi-role intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in support of combatant commanders’ needs.”

Although the agency’s drone strikes have killed a number of senior figures in al-Qaida and the Taliban, the CIA also stands accused by two United Nations investigators of possible war crimes for some of its activities in Pakistan. They are probing the targeting of rescuers and the bombing of a public funeral.

• Tonje Schei’s film Drone premieres on Arte on 15 April.

• Chris Woods is the author of Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars, which is published next winter in the US and Europe.

Chris Woods
The Guardian, Monday 14 April 2014 14.30 BST

Find this story at 14 April 2014

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

Exclusive: Inside the Army Spy Ring & Attempted Entrapment of Peace Activists, Iraq Vets, Anarchists (2014)

More details have come to light showing how the U.S. military infiltrated and spied on a community of antiwar activists in the state of Washington. Democracy Now! first broke this story in 2009 when it was revealed that an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance was actually an informant for the U.S. military. The man everyone knew as “John Jacob” was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. He also spied on the Industrial Workers of the World and Iraq Veterans Against the War. A newly made public email written by Towery reveals the Army informant was building a multi-agency spying apparatus. The email was sent from Towery using his military account to the FBI, as well as the police departments in Los Angeles, Portland, Eugene, Everett and Spokane. He wrote, “I thought it would be a good idea to develop a leftist/anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro.” Meanwhile, evidence has also emerged that the Army informant attempted to entrap at least one peace activist, Glenn Crespo, by attempting to persuade him to purchase guns and learn to shoot. We speak to Crespo and his attorney Larry Hildes, who represents all the activists in the case.

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: More details have come to light showing the U.S. military infiltrated and spied on a community of antiwar activists in the state of Washington and beyond. Democracy Now! first broke the story in 2009 that an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance was actually an informant for the U.S. military. At the time, Port Militarization Resistance was staging nonviolent actions to stop military shipments bound for Iraq and Afghanistan. The man everyone knew as “John Jacob” was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. He also spied on the Industrial Workers of the World and Iraq Veterans Against the War. The antiwar activist Brendan Maslauskas Dunn helped expose John Towery’s true identity as a military spy. In 2009, Dunn spoke on Democracy Now!

BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: After it was confirmed that he was in fact John Towery, I knew he wouldn’t call me, so I called him up the day after. This was this past Thursday. And I called him up; I said, “John, you know, what’s the deal? Is this true?” And he told me; he said, “Yes, it is true, but there’s a lot more to this story than what was publicized.” So he wanted to meet with me and another anarchist in person to further discuss what happened and what his role was.
So, when I met him, he admitted to several things. He admitted that, yes, he did in fact spy on us. He did in fact infiltrate us. He admitted that he did pass on information to an intelligence network, which, as you mentioned earlier, was composed of dozens of law enforcement agencies, ranging from municipal to county to state to regional, and several federal agencies, including Immigration Customs Enforcement, Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, Homeland Security, the Army in Fort Lewis.
So he admitted to other things, too. He admitted that the police had placed a camera, surveillance camera, across the street from a community center in Tacoma that anarchists ran called the Pitch Pipe Infoshop. He admitted that there were police that did put a camera up there to spy on anarchists, on activists going there.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Brendan Maslauskas Dunn speaking in 2009 on Democracy Now! He’s now a plaintiff in a lawsuit against John Towery, the military and other law enforcement agencies.

Since 2009, there have been numerous developments in the case. A newly made public email written by Towery reveals the Army informant was building a multi-agency spying apparatus. The email was sent by Towery using his military account. It was sent to the FBI as well as the police departments in Los Angeles, in Portland, Eugene, Everett and Spokane, Washington. He wrote, quote, “I thought it would be a good idea to develop a leftist/anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro.” Towery also cites “zines and pamphlets,” and a “comprehensive web list” as source material, but cautions the officials on file sharing becase, quote, “it might tip off groups that we are studying their techniques, tactics and procedures,” he wrote. The subject of the email was “Anarchist Information.”

Meanwhile, evidence has also emerged that the Army informant may have attempted to entrap at least one of the peace activists by attempting to persuade him to purchase guns and learn to shoot.

We’re joined now by two guests. Glenn Crespo is a community organizer in the Bay Area who used to live in Washington state, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the military and other agencies. He’s joining us from Berkeley. And with us in Seattle, Washington, longtime attorney Larry Hildes, who represents the activists in the case.

The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs Office declined to join us on the program, saying, quote, “Because this case is still in litigation we are unable to provide comment.”

Let’s go first to Washington state, to Larry Hildes. Can you talk about the latest developments in this case, and what has just come out?

LARRY HILDES: Sure. Good morning, Amy. It’s interesting. What came out did not come out from this case. It came out from a Public Records Act request from a different client of ours who was arrested in an anti-police-brutality march and falsely charged with assaulting an officer, that the civil case is coming to trial in a couple weeks. He put in a Public Records Act request because he was active with PMR and was concerned that he had been targeted, and he was then subject to a number of citations and arrests.

And, yeah, the Army’s investigative reports claimed that, well, there may have been some rules broken, but Towery was doing this off the job in his off-hours, unpaid, for the sheriff—for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office and the fusion center. Here he is at his desk, 10:00 in the morning, using his military ID, his military email address, and identifying himself by his military titles, writing the law enforcement agencies all over the country about forming this mini-group to target and research anarchists and leftists, and it’s coming out of what’s called the DT Conference that the State Patrol was hosting here in Washington, Domestic Terrorism Conference. They created a book for this conference based on information largely from Towery that included Brendan Dunn and one of our other plaintiffs, Jeff Berryhill, and two other activists with PMR, listed them as domestic terrorists and a violent threat because of their—basically, because they were targeted by Towery and because of their activism and their arrests for civil disobedience. So, he’s taking something he created, labeling these people as terrorists, going to a conference with this information, and saying, “We should disseminate this and work on this more broadly.”

It also puts the lie to Towery’s claim and his supervisor Tom Rudd’s claim that Towery was simply working to protect troop movements from—between Fort Lewis and the public ports of Stryker vehicles going to the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re not shipping out of L.A. They’re not shipping out of Portland or Eugene. And they’re not—none of these are agencies that are directly involved in protecting military shipments from Fort Lewis. So it’s clear there’s a much larger agenda here.

And we’ve seen that in some other ways. There are extensive notes that we’ve received of Towery’s spying on a conference of the Evergreen State College in Olympia about tactics for the protests at the DNC in Denver in ’08, Republican—Democratic National Convention, and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in ’08, and who was going to do what, the red, yellow and green zones, and specifically what was going to happen on the Monday of the convention. And it was the RNC Welcome Committee, which then got raided and became the RNC 8—claimed that they were planning acts of terrorism, which were in reality acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. So this goes way beyond Fort Lewis and PMR, and there’s a full—there seems to be a much larger agenda, as we’ve seen in other places, of nonviolent activism equals terrorism equals anarchism equals justification for whatever spying or law enforcement action we want to take.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to—

LARRY HILDES: And obviously this is not—sorry, go ahead, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read from your lawsuit. You write, quote, “In addition to the Army, Coast Guard, and Olympia Police Department, the following agencies are known to have spied on, infiltrated, or otherwise monitored the activities of PMR and/or related or associated activists: Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Tacoma Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, Ft. Lewis Police Department, 504th Military Police Division, Aberdeen Police Department, The Evergreen State College Police Department, the Lacey Police Department, the [Tumwater] Police Department, the Seattle Police Department, the King County Sheriff’s Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Protective Service, other Divisions of the Department of Homeland Security, Naval Investigative Services, Air Force Intelligence (which has created a special PMR SDS taskforce at McGwire Air Force Base in New Jersey), The Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Seattle Joint Terrorism Taskforce, as well as the previously discussed civilian employees of the City of Olympia. This list is likely incomplete,” you write. That is a very extensive list, Larry Hildes.

LARRY HILDES: It is. And it turns out it is incomplete. And those were all agencies that we had documents obtained from Public Records Act requests showing that they were directly involved. So now we’re finding out there’s more agencies. The Evergreen State College was giving regular reports to the State Patrol, to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and to Towery and Rudd about activities of SDS on campus at Evergreen. And there’s an extensive discussion about the conference about the DNC and RNC protests and that the chief of police is the source for the information. But, yeah, now we’ve got L.A. This gets bizarre. And we received 9,440 pages of sealed documents from the Army as a Christmas present on December 21st that—that I can’t even talk about, because they insisted that everything was privileged. It was supposed to be privileged as to private information and security information, but it’s everything, all kinds of emails. So, yeah, I mean, it starts out sounding very encompassing, and we’re finding out we were conservative about what agencies were involved.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Glenn Crespo into this conversation, a Bay Area community organizer. You were the peace activist who John Towery, you say, attempted to persuade you to purchase guns, to learn to shoot. How did you meet him, and what happened when he tried to get you to do this?

GLENN CRESPO: Well, this kind of relationship spanned over a two-, maybe two-and-a-half-year period of time. I first met him at a weapons symposium demonstration in Tacoma, Washington, in downtown Tacoma. I didn’t introduce myself to him at that point, but I saw him there. He came out—he actually came out of the symposium, and this was a conference where Lockheed Martin and all these other weapons manufacturers and distributors were showing their wares. He came out of that, and it appeared to me as if other activists in Olympia had already become friends with them. He was very friendly with them, they were very friendly with him. That was the first time I saw him. That was in mid-2007. Not long after that, he organized a Tacoma PMR meeting, and I wasn’t really involved—

AMY GOODMAN: Port Militarization Resistance.

GLENN CRESPO: Yeah, exactly. And I wasn’t very involved in that, but I did get the mass email. So I figured, because I lived in Tacoma, I might as well go check it out. He was the first person there. I was the second person there. He introduced himself. I introduced myself. And he asked me about a poster that he had made regarding an upcoming demonstration, and he said he was going to bring it to the group and see if we could get consensus on whether or not it was OK if he put it up. And I told him that—I looked at the poster and said, you know, “This is pretty general.” There’s no particular reason I really think that he has to get consensus on whether or not he can put a poster up that’s kind of basically just time and place and description of the event. And that was the first time I met him.

He later on used that conversation as a way to boost our rapport between each other, when he said that he thought that that conversation was really profound to him, that he believed that it was interesting that I kind of wanted to—or suggested that he bypass some sort of consensus process regarding this poster, so that he can just do—you know, that he could do what he wants. You know, he could put the poster up if he wants to. That was very interesting. I realized that in retrospect, that that was a way that he tried to broaden or expand upon our friendship in the beginning.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, where did the guns come in?

GLENN CRESPO: Probably within the six to seven months after meeting him, so late—late 2007. He had started coming to events at the house I was living at in Tacoma. We were doing—we did a lending library. And we were doing a lot of organizing regarding the Tacoma Immigration and Customs detention center, so the ICE detention center. He would go to those meetings. He would come over for potlucks. So both public and private events, he kind of worked his way in as a friend.

He produced handgun to me in our kitchen, just between he and I. He carried it in his side pocket. He said he always carried a handgun on him. And he emptied it. He put the magazine out. He cleared the chamber, and he handed it to me. And he said he always carries one on him. And that, that was the first time he really talked about guns with me. And I was caught off guard, because at the time I was in my early twenties. I had never held a—I don’t even think I had seen a handgun, really, like that before. And that was kind of the beginning of him starting to talk more about guns. And he said—he had said that if we ever wanted to go shooting, being me and my friends, or myself in particular, that he would take us shooting, or, you know, he knows where all the gun shows are at, so we could go to gun shows if—you know, if we’re interested. And then, later on, these things did happen, when he prompted myself and others to go to the Puyallup Gun Show and purchase—purchase a rifle. And then, that went into going to shooting ranges that he was already a member of. He would drive us to all of these things, take us to these shooting ranges.

And this seemed fairly innocuous to me, in the beginning. I mean, Washington is a pretty gun-owner-friendly state. It didn’t—it didn’t really surprise me, because he wasn’t saying anything crazy or really implying anything crazy at that point. But about a year into that, there was a significant shift in his personality. Whereas in the beginning he was very optimistic and very—seemed very hopeful and kind of seemed lonely—I mean, he was, you know, in his early forties, early to mid-forties. He primarily surrounding himself with people who were in their early twenties. And he just came off as if he was kind of a sweet, harmless guy and was kind of lonely and wanted to hang out with people that he felt like he had something in common with, as far as his ideas went. But like I said, into a year into that relationship, he started to become a little bit more sinister and dark in his demeanor, in his—the things he would talk about.

And this continued to go into him giving myself and another friend a set of documents that were military strategy documents, and he said that he—he suggested that “we,” whatever that meant, use those documents in “our actions.” And these were documents on how to properly execute military operations. And then, following that, he showed people at my house, including myself, how to clear a building with a firearm. And these things were prompted by him. He would basically say, “Hey, do you—you know, check this out. Look, I could explain this stuff.” And he would just go into it, on how to, for example, in this case, clear a building with a firearm. So he had a mock—you know, he would hold a rifle up, or a make-believe rifle, and clear—stalk around the lower levels of our house and up the stairwell, all the way up the second stairwell into the attic, and the whole time talking about how he would—you know, how he was clearing corners and checking angles and all this stuff that nobody particularly had any interest in.

And around the same time, he had, you know, conversations with me about how he believed that anarchists were very similar to fascists, in a—almost in a positive light, where he was saying that they both don’t care about the law and don’t use the law to get what they need or what they want, and that he believed that the only way anarchism or anarchy would ever work, in his words, would be if five billion people died. So this is kind of in his—in the midst of his weird, sinister behavior that started to happen, that I thought that he was depressed. I thought that he was basically going through some sort of like maybe existential crisis, or maybe he was fed up with things. I wasn’t really sure. He always talked about him having issues at the house—at his home. He had implied that his wife was concerned that he was cheating on her, and that’s why we could never go to his house, because his wife didn’t like us, his other friends, or whatever.

He submitted an article in the same—like the last—you know, that last half of the time that I knew him as a friend. He submitted an article to a magazine that I was editor of in early 2009, that was written from the perspective of 9/11 hijackers. And I remember this very specifically, because he gave me a copy, a physical copy, when we were on our way to go get coffee. And I remember reading it, and probably about a quarter of the way through realizing I didn’t even feel comfortable touching it, like touching the physical document with my hands. It was the weirdest thing in the world, because it was kind of—it was basically implying—or seeming sympathetic with the 9/11 hijackers. And he wanted me to publish this in his—in the next issue of the magazine I was editor of. So I just—I actually—because he was being so forceful, I just didn’t do the magazine again. That first issue was the last issue. And once he submitted that paper, I didn’t publish it ever again.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask your lawyer, Larry Hildes, is this entrapment, I mean, when you’re talking about this whole progression that Glenn Crespo went through with the man he thought was named John Jacob, who in fact is John Towery, working at Fort Lewis? He’s military personnel.

LARRY HILDES: I think, absolutely, it was an attempted entrapment. He went step by step. He misjudged our folks. He thought our—he correctly saw that our folks were angry and upset about what was going on, but misjudged them. It feels like we could have ended up with a Cleveland Five or an 803 situation very easily, if he had had his way. Fortunately, our folks’ reaction was: “This is really weird and creepy. Get away from me.” And it speaks to how little he understood the nature of the antiwar movement and how little he understood people’s actual commitment to nonviolent action, to not seeing the troops themselves as the enemies—

AMY GOODMAN: Larry—

LARRY HILDES: —but seeing the war—yeah, I’m—yeah, go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Larry Hildes, we don’t have much time, but I just want to ask about Posse Comitatus and the laws that separate the military—I mean, they’re not supposed to be marching through the streets of the United States.

LARRY HILDES: Yeah, right.

AMY GOODMAN: What about this issue of investigating? And how far and extensive is this infiltration campaign, where you put in people, they change their names, and they try to entrap or they change the nature of what these actions are?

LARRY HILDES: I think they crossed the line. They claim they’re allowed to do some level of investigative work to protect military activities, military shipments. But entrapping people—attempting to entrap people into conspiracies where they can get charged with major felonies they had no intention of committing, dealing with law enforcement agencies around the country to keep tabs on activists, following them to protests in Denver and St. Paul that have absolutely nothing to do with military shipments, they crossed the line into law enforcement, into civilian law enforcement.

And they did so quite knowingly and deliberately, and created this cover story that Towery was working for the fusion center, reporting to the sheriff’s office, not doing this during his work time, because they were well aware—in fact, he got paid overtime for attending the RNC, DNC conference at Evergreen, by the Army. So the Army was expressly paying him to monitor, disrupt and destroy these folks’ activism and their lives. I mean, we had—at one point, Brendan Dunn had four cases at the same time in four counties, because they kept stopping him. Seven times he got arrested or cited; Jeff Berryhill several times; Glenn Crespo. People would get busted over and over and over. Towery was attending their personal parties, their birthday parties, their going-away parties, and taking these vicious notes and passing them on about how to undermine these folks, how to undermine their activities, how to destroy their lives. This is way into Posse Comitatus. This is way beyond any legitimate military role.

And it’s exactly why Posse Comitatus exists. The job of the military, as they see it, is to seek out the enemy and destroy them, neutralize them. When the enemy is nonviolent dissenters and the First Amendment becomes the enemy, as Chris Pyle, our expert, who was the investigator for the Church Committee, put it—the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment are an inconvenience to the Army; they ignore them; they’re not sworn to uphold them in the same way—it becomes a very dangerous situation. And yes, they are way over into illegal conduct. They’re into entrapment operations. They’re into trying to silence dissent against them, and apparently much larger. This case just keeps getting bigger as we go. And we’re set for trial, I should say, on June 2nd—

AMY GOODMAN: And we will continue to cover this.

LARRY HILDES: —at this point.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Larry Hildes, lead attorney representing the antiwar activists spied on by the military, civil rights attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, speaking to us from Seattle, Washington. And Glenn, thank you so much for being with us. Glenn Crespo is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, a community organizer in the Bay Area of California.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, spies in the movement. We’re going to go back some time to the civil rights movement. Stay with us.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2014

Find this story at 25 February 2014

Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Christopher Pyle, Whistleblower Who Sparked Church Hearings of 1970s, on Military Spying of Olympia Peace Activists (2009)

The news of peace activists in Olympia, Washington exposing Army spying, infiltration and intelligence gathering on their groups may strengthen congressional demands for a full-scale investigation of US intelligence activities like those of the 1970s. We speak with law professor and former Army whistleblower Christopher Pyle, whose 1970 disclosure of the military’s widespread surveillance of civilian groups triggered scores of congressional probes, including the Church Committee hearings, where he served as an investigator. [includes rush transcript]

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to a follow-up on our exclusive broadcast yesterday. We spent the hour looking at a story out of Olympia, Washington, where antiwar activists exposed Army spying and infiltration of their groups, as well as intelligence gathering by the Air Force, the federal Capitol Police and the Coast Guard. Declassified documents obtained by the activists revealed that an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance in Washington state was actually an informant for the US military. The man everyone knew as “John Jacob” was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis.
The infiltration appears to be in direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act preventing US military deployment for domestic law enforcement and may strengthen congressional demands for a full-scale investigation of US intelligence activities, like the Church Committee hearings of the ’70s.
Well, Christopher Pyle was a captain in Army intelligence in 1970, when he first disclosed the military’s widespread surveillance of civilian groups. The disclosure triggered fifty congressional inquiries within a month. Pyle went on to work for Senator Sam Ervin’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights and Senator Frank Church’s Select Committee on Intelligence, that led to the founding of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Christopher Pyle joins us now from Chicopee, Massachusetts. He teaches constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke College, and he’s the author of four books. His most recent is called Getting Away with Torture.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted you to first start off by talking about the significance of these revelations yesterday, with the young activists on Democracy Now! having simply applied under Freedom of Information Act [ed: public records request] for any information on anarchists or on their organizations in Olympia, Washington, and finding this one email inside that referred to this man named John Towery. They started doing some digging, and they realized it was their friend. Well, they knew him as “John Jacob.” He came out of Fort Lewis base. Christopher Pyle, the significance of this?
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: I think the significance is less that the Army is monitoring civilian political activity than that there is a network, a nationwide network, of fusion centers, these state police intelligence units, these municipal police intelligence units, that bring together the services of the military, of police, and even private corporations to share information about alleged terrorist groups in cities throughout the country. I was fascinated by the story of the Air Force officer from New Jersey making an inquiry to the police in the state of Washington about this group. This is an enormous network. It’s funded by the Homeland Security Department. Police departments get a great deal of money to set up these intelligence units. And they monitor, largely, lawful political activity, in violation of the First Amendment and, when the military is involved, in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play just two clips from yesterday. This is one of the activists in Olympia who exposed that his friend John Jacob was actually John Towery, a military informant and a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. I asked Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, the Olympia activist with Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance, what his first reaction was when he found out.
BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: John Jacob was actually a close friend of mine, so this week has been pretty difficult for me. He was — he said he was an anarchist. I met him over two years ago through community organizing and antiwar organizing I was involved with in Tacoma and Olympia with other anarchists and other activists.

And he was really interested in Students for a Democratic Society. He wanted to start a chapter of Movement for a Democratic Society, which is connected to SDS. He got involved with Port Militarization Resistance, with Iraq Vets Against the War. He was — you know, knew a lot of people involved with that organization.

But he was a friend of mine. We hung out. We gave workshops together on grassroots direct democracy and anarchist struggle. I mean, he was a friend. A lot of people really, really did like him. He was a kind person. He was a generous person. So it was really just a shock for me this week when all of this was determined.

AMY GOODMAN: Brendan Maslauskas Dunn went on to describe exactly what his so-called friend, John Towery, said when he confronted him with the evidence.
BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: He admitted that, yes, he did in fact spy on us. He did in fact infiltrate us. He admitted that he did pass on information to an intelligence network, which, as you mentioned earlier, was composed of dozens of law enforcement agencies, ranging from municipal to county to state to regional, and several federal agencies, including Immigration Customs Enforcement, Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, Homeland Security, the Army in Fort Lewis.

So he admitted to other things, too. He admitted that the police had placed a camera, surveillance camera, across the street from a community center in Tacoma that anarchists ran called the Pitch Pipe Infoshop. He admitted that there were police that did put a camera up there to spy on anarchists, on activists going there.

He also — one other thing he spoke of — I don’t know if this is true. I mean, honestly, I don’t know what to believe from John, but he said that the police in Tacoma and Olympia had been planning for a while on raiding the anarchist Pitch Pipe Infoshop and also the house I lived in with several other activists in Olympia. And they had approached John several times, saying, you know, “Do they have bombs and explosives and drugs and guns and things like that?” which is just disgusting to even think that they would suggest that. They’re just trying to silence us politically. They’re going after us for our politics and for our work, you know, around Port Militarization Resistance and around antiwar organizing. And, of course, John told them, no, we didn’t have any of those stuff. He told them the truth.

But he also mentioned that there were other informants that are amongst us.

AMY GOODMAN: Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, the Olympia activist with Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance, the one who put in the Freedom of Information Act request [ed: public records request] and found out his friend, who he thought was named “John Jacob,” was John Towery out of Fort Lewis base in Washington state.
Christopher Pyle, you’re now a professor. You were in military intelligence, a captain. When you started to uncover the military, what, almost forty years ago, investigating civilian groups, give us the history.
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Well, I was teaching law at the US Army Intelligence School, and I was asked to teach a class on CONUS intelligence and spot reports. CONUS is the acronym for continental United States. So I delivered a lecture about the need for the use of the military to put down riots, which did not require identifying any persons. You simply go in, clear the streets, declare a curfew, quiet things down, restore order.
And an officer came up to me after class and said, “Captain Pyle, you don’t know much about this, do you?” And I said, “No.” And he said, “Well, I can arrange a briefing.” And he did.
He took to me across the post to the headquarters of the US Army Intelligence Command’s CONUS Intelligence Section. There I discovered thirteen teletype machines reporting on every demonstration around the country of twenty people or more. The reports were coming from 1,500 Army plainclothes agents working out of 300 offices. They had it all covered.
They showed me a mug book of persons who could be rounded up in case of a civil disturbance. The military really believed that if you had a civil disturbance or a protest, it was very important to know the names of the people who might be protesting, because, you never know, they might be connected with a cadre of agitators and communists behind them.
Well, the same pattern is now developing under the Northern — the US Army’s Northern Command, which coordinates domestic intelligence work for the US Army and tries to prepare for what they call “military assistance to civil authorities.” It was out of this that the TALON reports came, but I also helped to disclose, reports on lawful, constitutionally protected antiwar activities. And so, history is repeating itself.
AMY GOODMAN: Who were some of the people in the mug shots, Christopher Pyle?
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Well, the first one —-
AMY GOODMAN: Who did they say could be rounded up?
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: The first volume, under letter A, was Ralph David Abernathy, who was head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King. And there were many more of that type.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re saying -—
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Perfectly law-abiding citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re saying some protest happened somewhere, or a riot, and they can go to where Ralph David Abernathy is, in a wholly different place, and round him up.
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Yes, today, particularly, with the power of computers and internet communications and monitoring the public airwaves, this network of seventy-two fusion centers, plus all of the subordinate groups that provide information and seek information, can follow you and me and just about anybody all around the country. They don’t have to put transponders in our cars. They could use E-ZPass on the highway. But in your case from the state of Washington, they apparently used a transponder in an antiwar protester’s automobile. This is the kind of surveillance society this country does not need.
AMY GOODMAN: Who else was listed at the time?
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Say that again?
AMY GOODMAN: Who else was listed at the time, both individuals and organizations that you saw targeted?
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Well, one of the printouts that the military gave me of their surveillance for a particular week in 1968 included the infiltration of a Unitarian Church. In more recent years, surveillance of Quaker groups, the infiltration of Quaker groups in Florida, who were planning to protest military recruitment in their local high school. These are the people who, according to the TALON reports, are considered to be potential threats to military security.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what you mean by TALON.
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: TALON is a collection of intelligence reports of threats to military bases that were collected by an unknown group for many years after 9/11 called the Counterintelligence Field Activity. It had a thousand employees. It was located in the Pentagon. And it was monitoring civil disturbances around the country, following a pattern very much like the 1960s and ’70s.
The idea was that if you could follow enough protesters in the — protests in the country, or enough disturbances, you could tell when the country was going to overheat and the military would have to be called in. In the 1960s, they thought that if they could tell how many protests there were on college campuses, they could then predict riots in the black ghettos of the major cities of the United States. It was ludicrous intelligence work, but that’s what they had in mind.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you left there that day, saying you were going to write an article. You were going to expose this. You learned about huge databases, places like in — where? In Baltimore, Maryland.
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Well, a big center was in Baltimore, Maryland, and — but there were six other computer databanks back then. Computers were still in their infancy. They were still being fed with computer punch cards. Nothing like we have today. They were bush league compared to what now exists in these fusion centers, that you’ve reported on, from the state of Washington.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened as a result of this information? You’re a military intelligence captain. You’re appalled by what you see: the targeting of civilians. You write an article. What ensued?
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Well, what was really interesting is I began to hear from my former students, who had been doing this work on active duty. And I eventually recruited 125 counterintelligence agents to tell what they knew about the domestic intelligence operations of the US Army. I shared this information with the press and with congressional committees. Senator Ervin, in the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, held hearings, which I organized and disclosed the existence of this system. The military was embarrassed by the system and eventually disbanded it and burned all the records. I checked on that by interviewing the guys who did the burning of the records.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s a discussion right now among the people who are involved — Congress member Barbara Lee; in New Jersey, Rush Holt, congressman; chair of the Judiciary Committee, Conyers — weighing a committee be set up to once again investigate, as the Church Committee did, intelligence in this country and its far-reaching effects. For example, the example we brought out yesterday of the military infiltrating peace groups, and this was just one individual that we looked at. Talk about what came from the Ervin and the Church Committee hearings.

CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Well, the Church Committee did the most extensive investigation of all the agencies. Ervin’s committee just did Army intelligence. But nobody had ever done anything to investigate intelligence agencies before Senator Ervin took it upon himself to do so. Once Ervin proved that there was extensive misconduct and abuse of authority, then others got interested. And the House created a committee under Otis Pike, and the Senate created a special committee under Frank Church. They had to create special committees, because there were no standing committees to oversee the intelligence agencies.
And as the result of the work of those two committees, we now have standing congressional committees whose job is supposed to be to oversee the work of the intelligence committees. So the proposal for yet another select committee to do the work of existing committees seems to me a political nonstarter, but maybe Barbara Lee knows something more about the politics of Capitol Hill than I do.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to be done right now?
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: I think that we need to prosecute the torturers. I think that’s the biggest single message that we could give to the intelligence community, that it is not above the law. That’s even more important than the domestic intelligence, and the domestic intelligence, to me, is extremely important. That’s the untold story that you’ve begun to tell, but there have been many other abuses of authority. And when you get into torture, kidnapping, secret illegal detention and assassination, it seems to me you’ve gone over the hill to the most serious abuses any intelligence community can possibly commit, and that’s the place to start. Don’t lose our focus on that.
And then, after that, we need to investigate ways of curbing domestic intelligence activity. And there’s an area of this which has not yet become publicly known, and that is the role of corporations working with the intelligence agencies, corporations which do data processing and data mining, which are totally exempt from any state or federal privacy laws. There’s no control on them at all. And when they’re part of this network, they can use Google and techniques like Google, sophisticated techniques, to gather a great deal of information on the personal lives of the young men you had on your program yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Pyle, this is just the beginning, and we’re going to have you back. Your new book, Getting Away with Torture

. Christopher Pyle was a military intelligence captain when he exposed the surveillance of civilian groups in this country, now a professor at Mount Holyoke College. Thank you for being with us.

Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 29, 2009

Find this story at 29 July 2009

Democracy Now! Broadcast Exclusive: Declassified Docs Reveal Military Operative Spied on WA Peace Groups, Activist Friends Stunned (2009)

Newly declassified documents reveal that an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance in Washington state was actually an informant for the US military. The man everyone knew as “John Jacob” was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. The military’s role in the spying raises questions about possibly illegal activity. The Posse Comitatus law bars the use of the armed forces for law enforcement inside the United States. The Fort Lewis military base denied our request for an interview. But in a statement to Democracy Now!, the base’s Public Affairs office publicly acknowledged for the first time that Towery is a military operative. “This could be one of the key revelations of this era,” said Eileen Clancy, who has closely tracked government spying on activist organizations. [includes rush transcript]

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

ANJALI KAMAT: We begin with a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive. Peace activists in Washington state have revealed an informant posing as an anarchist has spied on them while working under the US military. The activists are members of the group Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance, which protests military shipments bound for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Before his true identity was revealed, the informant was known as “John Jacob,” an active member of antiwar groups in the towns of Olympia and Tacoma. But using documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request [ed: public records request], the activists learned that “John Jacob” is in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at the nearby Fort Lewis military base.
The activists claim Towery has admitted to them he shared information with an intelligence network that stretches from local and state police to several federal agencies, to the US military. They also say he confirmed the existence of other government spies but wouldn’t reveal their identity.
The military’s role in the spying raises questions about possibly illegal activity. The Posse Comitatus law bars the use of the armed forces for law enforcement inside the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: The Fort Lewis military base denied our request for an interview. But in a statement to Democracy Now!, the base’s Public Affairs office publicly acknowledged for the first time that Towery is a military operative. The statement says, quote, “John Towery performs sensitive work within the installation law enforcement community, and it would not be appropriate for him to discuss his duties with the media.” Fort Lewis also says it’s launched an internal inquiry. We invited John Towery on the broadcast, but he didn’t respond to our interview request.
In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we’re now joined in Seattle by the two activists who exposed John Towery as a military informant. Brendan Maslauskas Dunn counted John Towery, or “John Jacob,” as a close friend. But he discovered Towery’s identity after obtaining government documents under a Freedom of Information Act request [ed: public records request]. Brendan is an Olympia-based activist with Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance. We’re also joined in Seattle by Drew Hendricks. He is an Olympia activist with Port Militarization Resistance who worked closely with John Towery, aka “John Jacob.” This is their first broadcast interview since coming forward with their story.
Brendan, let’s begin with you. Just lay out how you found out about this military spy.
BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: Well, thanks for having us, Amy.
I actually did a public records request through the city of Olympia several months ago on behalf of the union I’m in, the Industrial Workers of the World, and the records request I did, I had asked for any documents or emails, etc., that the city had, especially in discussions or any kind of communications between the Olympia police and the military in the city generally, anything on anarchists, anarchy, anarchism, Students for a Democratic Society or the Industrial Workers of the World. I got back hundreds of documents from the city.
One of the documents was an email that was sent between personnel in the military, and the email address that was attached to this email was of John J. Towery. We didn’t know who that was, but several people did a lot of research to find out who that was, and they identified that person as being John Jacob.
AMY GOODMAN: And what was your first reaction? Who was John Jacob to you?
BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: John Jacob was actually a close friend of mine, so this week has been pretty difficult for me. He was — he said he was an anarchist. I met him over two years ago through community organizing and antiwar organizing I was involved with in Tacoma and Olympia with other anarchists and other activists.
And he was really interested in Students for a Democratic Society. He wanted to start a chapter of Movement for a Democratic Society, which is connected to SDS. He got involved with Port Militarization Resistance, with Iraq Vets Against the War. He was — you know, knew a lot of people involved with that organization.
But he was a friend of mine. We hung out. We gave workshops together on grassroots direct democracy and anarchist struggle. I mean, he was a friend. A lot of people really, really did like him. He was a kind person. He was a generous person. So it was really just a shock for me this week when all of this was determined.
ANJALI KAMAT: And, Brendan, what did John Towery, who you used to know as “John Jacob,” say to you when you confronted him?
BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: Well, after it was confirmed that he was in fact John Towery, I knew he wouldn’t call me, so I called him up the day after. This was this past Thursday. And I called him up; I said, “John, you know, what’s the deal? Is this true?” And he told me; he said, “Yes, it is true, but there’s a lot more to this story than what was publicized.” So he wanted to meet with me and another anarchist in person to further discuss what happened and what his role was.
So, when I met him, he admitted to several things. He admitted that, yes, he did in fact spy on us. He did in fact infiltrate us. He admitted that he did pass on information to an intelligence network, which, as you mentioned earlier, was composed of dozens of law enforcement agencies, ranging from municipal to county to state to regional, and several federal agencies, including Immigration Customs Enforcement, Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, Homeland Security, the Army in Fort Lewis.
So he admitted to other things, too. He admitted that the police had placed a camera, surveillance camera, across the street from a community center in Tacoma that anarchists ran called the Pitch Pipe Infoshop. He admitted that there were police that did put a camera up there to spy on anarchists, on activists going there.
He also — one other thing he spoke of — I don’t know if this is true. I mean, honestly, I don’t know what to believe from John, but he said that the police in Tacoma and Olympia had been planning for a while on raiding the anarchist Pitch Pipe Infoshop and also the house I lived in with several other activists in Olympia. And they had approached John several times, saying, you know, “Do they have bombs and explosives and drugs and guns and things like that?” which is just disgusting to even think that they would suggest that. They’re just trying to silence us politically. They’re going after us for our politics and for our work, you know, around Port Militarization Resistance and around antiwar organizing. And, of course, John told them, no, we didn’t have any of those stuff. He told them the truth.
But he also mentioned that there were other informants that are amongst us.
AMY GOODMAN: Brendan, we’re going to break. Then we’re going to come back to this discussion. I really want to talk to Drew Hendricks about John’s involvement in IT, in the technical aspects, the coordination of the LISTSERVs.
Today, a Democracy Now! exclusive, an exposé on a military spy in peace groups in Olympia, Washington. Brendan Dunn is our guest, Olympia activist with Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance. He discovered that his friend, fellow activist “John Jacob,” was actually a military spy. And Drew Hendricks will be joining us in a minute, talking about his involvement. John Towery, their friend, “John Jacob.” Stay with us.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: Today, a national broadcast exclusive. A military spy in the ranks of antiwar activists in Olympia, Washington.
We have a number of guests. We’ve just been speaking with Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, Olympia activist with Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance. He discovered, through an FOIA request, a Freedom of Information Act request [ed: public records request], that his friend, fellow activist “John Jacob,” was actually working with Fort Lewis base in Washington state, was a military spy in his organizations.
Drew Hendricks is with us, as well, in Seattle, also an Olympia activist with the same groups, Port Militarization Resistance. He worked with John Towery, his real name — “John Jacob” is how they knew him — before the exposé that has now coming out.
Drew, tell us how you met John and how he was involved in the organizations.
DREW HENDRICKS: I first met John in September of 2007, and he approached me as somebody who claimed to have base access, which turned out to be true. He did admit that he was a civilian employee for the Army. And what he was offering me were observations and inside knowledge of operations on Fort Lewis.
I let him know that I wasn’t willing to have any classified information from him and that I wasn’t engaged in espionage. I was looking for open source information and looking for insight into movements of military materials over the public roads, so that people other than myself could organize protests or organize blockades, as they might see fit, and it wasn’t appropriate for me to be involved in their plans. It was only appropriate for him let me know things that I could confirm from open ground, from public spaces. He abided by those rules, for the most part.
And he did not reveal his role to me that he was actually part of a force protection cell, that he was actually reporting to DES fusion and part of the intelligence operation of Fort Lewis. He wasn’t admitting to me that his reports were going to Washington Joint Analytical Center, which is a function of the Washington State Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Intimidation — I’m sorry, Investigation.
But he did provide what he purported to be observations of operations on Fort Lewis, and he was involved with the group for a few months before I mistakenly and stupidly, in retrospect, trusted him with co-administration of our LISTSERV, our shared means of talking to each other over electronic media.
AMY GOODMAN: And the LISTSERV involvement, how much control he had over who was involved in your groups, Drew?
DREW HENDRICKS: Well, he could tell from that access who all was subscribed to the LISTSERV. He couldn’t control who was coming into or out of meetings, but he could find out who people were, if they were subscribed to the LISTSERV. And he did challenge some people who were attempting to get to the LISTSERV for their credentials, for people who could vouch for them being people who were not law enforcement or people who were not military intelligence who were coming into that activity. He wasn’t in control of what messages people could send, but as an administrator on RiseUp, he could have unsubscribed people, and there were some people that were disruptive that he did unsubscribe, in a way that the other LISTSERV administrators, for the most part, agreed with.
He wasn’t found to be abusing his authorities as a LISTSERV administrator directly, although he probably reported that list upwards in his chain of command or his chain of employment. And that served a significant chilling role for him as a military employee. He’s a civilian employee, but he is a former military-enlisted person. And so, he understood, or should have understood, that what he was doing was legally inappropriate. I’m not a lawyer, but in my opinion and from the history I’ve read, what he was doing was rather extraordinary, from the histories that I’ve read.
ANJALI KAMAT: I want to bring three others into this discussion. Joining us from Washington, DC is Mike German. He’s the National Security Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He previously served as an FBI agent specializing in domestic counterterrorism from 1988 to 2004.
Also joining us here in New York is Eileen Clancy. She’s a founding member of I-Witness Video, a video collective that has documented government surveillance of activist groups for years. Her group was targeted by police raids last summer during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.
And on the line with us from Bellingham, Washington is Larry Hildes, an attorney and National Lawyers Guild member who has represented Washington state-based activists with Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance in criminal and civil cases.
Larry, I want to go to you. Can you talk about your involvement with this and on what bases you have represented these activists?
LARRY HILDES: Absolutely. Good morning, by the way.
Yeah, I’ve been — I got involved — there was a sit-in at the gate of the Port of Olympia back in May of 2006 to protest use of the port for military shipments to Iraq and Afghanistan. And it’s been a wonderful experience. I have represented these folks through several rounds of criminal cases throughout Pierce and Thurston Counties, Tacoma and Olympia. And now we are suing, based in part on spying, in conjunction with the Seattle office of the ACLU.
And it got strange fairly early. We were in trial in March of 2007, arguing that these folks were not guilty of criminal violations for sitting at the gate, when they weren’t allowed into the port itself. The prosecutors kind of hinted that there was — that they had inside information that they shouldn’t have had. And the fourth day of the trial, as it’s clear that we have the jury, prosecutor’s office came out with a confidential jury analysis sheet that my office had done, that was circulated only on the internal attorney-client LISTSERV that was exclusively for the defense team, and announced that this was all over the internet and got a mistrial.
And we’re trying to figure out in the courtroom what’s going on here. Never seen anything like this. We know it’s not on the internet. And the person who set up the LISTSERV — so we’ve got LISTSERV stuff going on even before Mr. Towery’s involvement — person on the LISTSERV discovers that there’s two people who we never heard of, who they had not subscribed, he had not allowed onto the list. Those two turned out to be Tacoma police officers. And we’ve now found that the Tacoma police knew that this document was going to be revealed, knew it would probably be a mistrial, and was speculating — and knew exactly when it would be and was speculating what the effects would be. So, the spying started early.
It was very clear that they treated these folks — the worst thing they’ve ever done is acts of civil disobedience, peacefully, nonviolently trying to stop military blockades by standing in front of tanks and Strykers — that they were treating this like a very, very serious situation. So we knew that early. And it’s become clear that there was a lot of spying going on throughout this process. We kind of knew that this was coming.
Right now I’m defending a group of demonstrators who were arrested in Olympia in November of ’07, allegedly trying to block a troop convoy or a Stryker convoy from coming out of the port to go back to Fort Lewis to be repaired and sent back to Iraq again. And the police reports talk about —- the incident commander talks about the fact that they had Army intelligence sources reporting to them detailed discussions that were going on in private meetings that Port Militarization Resistance was having, where they were discussing tactics and strategies. And based on that information, they decided that our clients from that action, who were sitting in an empty road outside of a closed gate, with no military vehicles in sight, were intending to blockade traffic and were arrested for attempted disorderly conduct, a charge we’ve never seen in our lives.
So we started trying to find out what’s going. We got the judge to agree to sign subpoenas, which were immediately refused by the head of the civil division of the US attorney’s office in Seattle, Brian Kipnis, saying they had no standing and they weren’t going to respond, and ordered the Army not to give us this information. So -—
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us more about this US attorney. And also, isn’t he the attorney who prosecuted Ehren Watada —-
LARRY HILDES: That’s exactly -—
AMY GOODMAN: — the first officer to say no to going to war in Iraq, refusing to lead young men and women there for a war he felt was immoral?
LARRY HILDES: That’s exactly right, Amy. He handled the Ninth Circuit appeals and stood up in the courtroom and said, “OK, he’s had his appeal. Now we need to go forward. He needs to be prosecuted. We want a second court-martial,” and continued to argue that. And the day that the decision came — Ninth Circuit decision came down saying, “No, this was double jeopardy; you can’t do this,” he said, “Well, we’re going to prosecute him on the remaining claims anyway,” which, of course, has not happened.
He was also involved in a number of the Guantanamo cases and has been arguing that evidence of torture shouldn’t come out, because it would reveal confidential information about how Guantanamo was set up. So, his role has been, throughout this, to obstruct.
I sent him a letter saying, “OK, now we have this information. I ask for your help in investigating this, because this is a crime.” Under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1887, it is a crime for the US military to become involved in civilian law enforcement. And they’ve chipped away at it, but it’s still a crime. I got a letter back now telling me I have to ask the Army. I got this yesterday, saying, “You have to go through channels with the Army.” I’ve gone through channels with the Army, and the Army has told me they’re not allowed to talk to me, because he told them not to. So we’re going back and forth with this guy.
He has been in the US attorney’s office throughout much of the Bush administration. And apparently his job is to obstruct and punish those involved in protesting the war and those protesting torture. Interesting character. I had never heard of him before this. Apparently has a close relative — there aren’t that many Kipnises, but there are some —- who runs a security firm that specializes in analysis of national security issues. So it’s a cozy little family network there. So -—
ANJALI KAMAT: I’d like to turn to Mike German and bring him into the conversation, National Security Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, DC. Mike German, what’s your response to all of this?
MIKE GERMAN: Well, I think his analysis is exactly right. This is a pretty clear violation of Posse Comitatus. Now, what the military would argue, and has argued, is that they have a right to engage in force protection, which obviously, in its normal understanding of that term, is a defensive sort of capability, i.e. they can put guards at the gates of military bases and protect from threats from without. But they seem to have been, since 2002, considering that as an offensive capability, where they’re actually sending operatives out to spy on community activists, which is, of course, prohibited and something that, you know, the First and the Fourth Amendment become engaged.
And, you know, this is something that we found out through a FOIA back in 2005 the military was engaged in through a group called the Counterintelligence Field Activity. And they had a database of activists called TALON that, again, collected this US person information that the military has no business collecting. And that was shut down. But unfortunately, you know, they just created a new mechanism. This appears to be the fusion centers and these fusion cells that they’re using that, they seem to think, give them a method of circumventing Posse Comitatus and the restrictions on military intelligence gathering in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean, Mike, by fusion centers.
MIKE GERMAN: About two years ago, me and a colleague at the ACLU started investigating a lot of federal money going to what were called intelligence fusion centers. And I was only two years out of federal law enforcement at that point, and I had never heard this term, so I became concerned. And what these centers are is multi-jurisdictional intelligence centers that involve state, local and federal law enforcement, as well as other government entities — you know, a lot of times there are emergency services type of entities, but actually can’t involve any government entity — but also involve oftentimes the military and private companies.
So we produced a report in November of 2007 warning of the potential dangers that these multi-jurisdictional centers had, because it was unclear whose rules applied. Were we using federal rules? Were we using state rules? Local rules? And what was military and private company — what rules govern their conduct? So we put out this report in November of 2007. At that point, there were forty-two fusion centers. By July of 2008, we had found so many instances of abuse, we put out an updated report. At that point, there were fifty-eight fusion centers. Today, the DHS recognizes at least seventy-two fusion centers. So these things are rapidly growing, without any sort of proper boundaries on what activities happen within them and without really any idea of what it is the military is doing in these fusion centers and what type of access they have to US person information.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn back for a moment to the two activists in Olympia. They’re speaking to us from Seattle today, first time they’re speaking out nationally, Brendan Dunn and Drew Hendricks. Just give us a sense, Brendan, of why you got involved in activism. People might be listening and watching right now and wondering, “I’ve never even heard of Port Militarization Resistance,” or perhaps the new Students for a Democratic Society, based on the old. What’s your background, Brendan?
BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: Well, I guess I really started to get involved with activism and organizing — it was in high school, but it wasn’t until after high school, when my friend’s brother was shot and killed by the police in Utica, New York. His name was Walter Washington. And the community developed a response to that, and, you know, that’s what really started to get me thinking and actively organizing. That’s really when I got involved.
I moved to Olympia a little over three years ago. Since then, I’ve been involved with a lot, with Students for a Democratic Society. And, you know, the more police repression I’ve learned about or experienced and just repression, generally, that it’s moved me in a more radical direction. That’s when I started to pick up anarchist politics and organizing.
So I’ve been involved with Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance — just makes sense to me, because the military — this is one of the most highly militarized areas of the country, if not the world, western Washington is. And it just makes sense to me that if we want to throw a gear in the war machine, the best way to do it is in our own backyard, our own towns. And in our case, it’s in the Port of Olympia, the Port of Tacoma, the Port of Grays Harbor in Aberdeen. And that’s where direct action makes sense and community struggle makes sense.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Drew Hendricks, your involvement in Port Militarization Resistance, known for trying to stop some of the — for example, the Stryker vehicles from being sent to Iraq?
DREW HENDRICKS: Yes. My primary activity with Port Militarization Resistance is as a coordinator for intelligence collection, so that people have the time that they need to make good decisions about what it is that they’re going to do. I’ve taken one direct action myself against said activity early on in the end of May 2006. I blocked a couple of gates shut overnight and was arrested during that action and found and put in jail for a few hours. But for the most part, my role has been to collect information and disseminate it to the people who need to know, so that they can make timely decisions.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, then come back to this conversation. We are doing a national exposé today on a person who worked in the military spying on peace groups in Washington state. His name — well, they thought his name was John Jacob. His name is John Towery. We asked that he come — we wanted him to come on the broadcast, but he didn’t respond to our request. We also asked the military to join us; we read the statement earlier, yes, admitting that John Towery worked with them. We’ll continue this conversation in a minute.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: We bring you this exclusive on peace activists in Washington state revealing an informant posing as an anarchist has spied on them while working under the US military — the activists, members of the group Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance, which protests military shipments bound for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yes, this is Democracy Now!, and we urge you to go to our website at democracynow.org, where we’re video and audio podcasting, where you can see the documents that they got under Freedom of Information Act [ed: public records request].
Anjali?
ANJALI KAMAT: The government documents also show that intelligence officers from other government and military agencies inquired Olympia police about the Washington state peace activists. In an email to an Olympia police officer from February 2008, Thomas Glapion, Chief Investigations/Intel of New Jersey’s McGuire Air Force, writes, quote, “Good Morning, first let me thank you for the effort. To the contrary you were quite the help to me. You are now part of my Intel network. I’m still looking at possible protests by the PMR SDS MDS and other left wing anti war groups so any Intel you have would be appreciated…In return if you need anything from the Armed Forces I will try to help you as well,” end-quote.
Now, we contacted the McGuire Air Base, and they also denied our interview request. They released a short statement saying only, quote, “Our force protection specialists routinely research local and national groups in response to potential risks and threats to Air Force installations and to ensure the safety of our personnel,” end-quote.
Another declassified email from February 2008 comes from Andrew Pecher of the US Capitol Police Intelligence Investigations Section in Washington, DC. The email is also addressed to an Olympia police contact. It says, quote, “I am just droppjng [sic] in to see if you had a problems with the below action that we had talked about a few weeks ago. Any information that you have would be helpful. Thank you!!” end-quote. The “action” Pecher refers to is the “Northwest DNC/RNC Resistance Conference,” an event that was held at Evergreen State College to prepare for protests at last summer’s Democratic and Republican conventions.
I want to go to Brendan Maslauskas Dunn. Brendan, how did you find this information? When you first saw this information, can you talk about your reaction?
BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: Well, when it all surfaced through the public records requests, I wasn’t surprised. I guess I had been expecting this, especially with the level of activity that activists have been involved with in Olympia, in the last few years, especially. But, I mean, it still was a shock. I didn’t know it was that extensive. I guess that’s why it was a shock to me.
I didn’t know that the Air Force from New Jersey was interested in activities that activists in Olympia were involved with. And I didn’t know that the Capitol police in Washington, DC was trying to extract information from people in Olympia, as well.
So I always suspected that there was surveillance going on. It was obvious it was going on locally from local agencies and local police agencies. I had no idea how widespread it is. And I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have no clue what’s below the water.
AMY GOODMAN: Eileen Clancy, I’d like to bring you into this conversation. You have long been documenting police and federal authorities’ activities in antiwar and peace protests at the conventions in 2004 and then 2008. You, yourselves, at I-Witness were targeted. You were detained by police. The places that you were setting up video to video police actions on the streets were raided by the police in St. Paul. Your reaction to what you’re listening to and watching today?
EILEEN CLANCY: Well, I have to say, I think this is one of the most important revelations of spying on the American people that we’ve seen since the beginning of the Bush era. It’s very clear that there’s no such thing as one spy, especially not in the Army. So — and it’s very clear that this problem is national in scope, in that sort of casual manner that these folks are interacting with each other.
It’s really like in January 1970. Christopher Pyle, who was a former US Army intelligence officer, revealed in Washington Monthly that there was an extraordinary program of spying by the Army on political protest groups. And he said that — well, what was written in the New York Times was that the Army detectives would attend some of these events, but the majority of material that they gathered was from police departments, local governments and the FBI. And at that time, they had a special teletype, pre-internet, that connected the Army nationwide and where the police could load up their information on this stuff. They also published a small book that was a blacklist, which is similar now to the terrorist watch list, where the police share information about activists with maybe no criminal basis whatsoever. And at the time, in January 1970, Pyle said that there was a hope to link the teletype systems to computerized databanks in Baltimore, Maryland, which, of course, is the general area of the National Security Agency, which does most of the spying for — it’s supposed to be foreign, but apparently they do domestic spying, as well.
So this now, what we have here — and after these revelations, there was a Church Committee. There was a great deal of investigating that went on. And while a lot of it was covered up, the military was pushed back for a while on this front. But because now we have the capability of gathering an extraordinary amount of information and holding onto it and sharing it, through the internet and through other means, we really have this 1970s problem amped up on steroids, twenty-first-century-style. And this had been going on for a while.
Something terrible has been going on in the Pacific Northwest in terms of police spying. There are other documents that had been revealed — the Tacoma police, Homeland Security, meetings, minutes. And you can see that one of the essential problems with this kind of model and the fusion center model is that in the same meeting, they’re talking about a Grannies Against the War group handing out fliers at the local mall, and they’re talking about new information about what al-Qaeda is going to do. It’s a model that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, and it’s a model that’s based really on hysteria.
When you see those pictures that were just shown on the screen, pictures of people with no weapons standing in the middle of a road with giant Army vehicles in front of them, you know, it’s clear that the protest is of a symbolic nature. There’s no violence involved on the part of the activists. It’s a traditional sit-in type of protest. The idea that the Army, the Navy and the Marines would become hysterical at this threat, I mean, it is the Army, it’s the Navy, it’s the Marines. And when — that’s the reason the Army shouldn’t be involved in this, because the job of an army — and they’ll tell you this — is to kill people and break things. The motto of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team that’s housed at Fort Lewis, that this force protection cell was trying to protect, their motto is “strike and destroy.” They’re really built for one thing, and it’s certainly not policing. It’s certainly not dealing with community activist groups, Grannies Against the War, or local activists in Olympia.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask about Rush Holt, the New Jersey congressman — we’re talking about McGuire Air Base, actually, in New Jersey — who has just in the last weeks been calling for a Church-like, Pike-like investigation of the intelligence community, starts by talking about the CIA. He’s raised this with the Washington Independent, with the Newark Star-Ledger, even raised it on Lou Dobbs a few days ago. And the significance of something at this level of the Church Committee hearings that investigated spying — Sy Hersh exposed it decades ago in a major article in the New York Times. Mike German, at this point, the significance of something like this? And do you think we would see this under President Obama?
MIKE GERMAN: I would hope so. You know, when we first came out with our report on fusion centers and warned about the military presence, you know, people told us that that wasn’t something we needed to be concerned about. And, you know, so this is a very important revelation, that there is actual evidence of abuse, that hopefully will open the eyes of the people who are responsible for overseeing these types of activities. And I believe something like a select investigative committee to investigate such activities is certainly called for. And, in fact, Representative Barbara Lee had introduced back in April a bill that would allow a select committee to investigate national security policy and practices. So, we’re hoping that this will bring support to that effort.
AMY GOODMAN: I also wanted to ask Brendan Dunn about the evidence of other spies in your organization. In fact, didn’t John — “John Jacob,” now known as John Towery, who worked at Fort Lewis — didn’t he tell you about others that he actually wanted out of the organization sometimes and called the military to get them out?
BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, that’s his story, at least. He admitted that there were a few other informants that were sent.
He had a weird story, which, you know, we know isn’t true, based on the public records and the documents that we have in our hands, that he was, you know, forced into this position to spy on us, that he didn’t do it for pay, that he only reported to the Tacoma police and wasn’t connected to the military whatsoever. I mean, it’s a good cover story to, you know, let the military free and blame it on a bunch of Keystone cops in Tacoma, but there was actually another email I got through the records request that was sent between a couple Olympia police officers, and they had mentioned something about their Army guy that was working for them and something else about someone in the Coast Guard that was also perhaps, still perhaps, currently acting as an informant.
AMY GOODMAN: We also, in doing research on John Towery, have information, addresses that he had at both Fort Drum, Upstate New York, and also in Brussels, which we associate with NATO. Is there any understanding or knowledge you have of this, either Brendan or Drew? Did he talk about this in his past?
BRENDAN MASLAUSKAS DUNN: This is actually the first I’ve heard of it. I’m actually surprised, because I used to live near Fort Drum. I used to go to school near Fort Drum before I moved out to Olympia. So this is news to me. I’ve never heard anything.
AMY GOODMAN: Right now, in figuring out how you go forward, I wanted to bring Larry Hildes back into this conversation. Information about one activist actually having a locator put in his car to figure out where he was going from one protest to another, can you tell us about Phil Chin, Larry?
LARRY HILDES: Yes, I can. And we’re actually suing about this in conjunction with the Seattle ACLU now. Mr. Chin was on his way to a demonstration at the Port of Aberdeen. It was going to be a peaceful march, not even any civil disobedience. His license plate was called in, and Washington state patrol sent an attempt-to-locate code — we didn’t know what an attempt-to-locate code was until this — saying, “There are three known anarchists in this car, in this green Ford Taurus. Apprehend them, and then let the Aberdeen police know.”
So he gets pulled over for supposedly going five miles an hour under the speed limit in heavy traffic and charged with DUI, despite the fact he hasn’t had anything to drink, hasn’t done any drugs, total — every single test comes up absolutely negative, except for the fact that he had trouble standing on one foot because he had an inner ear infection. The lab tests come up negative. And they still go forward with this, until we move to dismiss and ask what this attempt-to-locate code is. And we find out that it’s — we’ve got the tape, the dispatch tapes of them calling in this car with the three known anarchists — by the way, none of whom was Phil. But on the dashboard of the car that takes him away is a picture of Phil’s other car.
ANJALI KAMAT: Eileen Clancy, we just have a minute left. What does this, all of this information that’s come out, what does this do for activists? Does it create a climate of fear? What you, who have been spied on, who have had so much experience with this — what are your final words?
EILEEN CLANCY: I think people should try not to be afraid. They should consider what these fine activists have done here, which is done an extraordinary public service by putting this information out. This could be one of the key revelations of this era, if this is followed up on. It’s very important that people be aggressive about this. And thank goodness they did it.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you all for being with us, Eileen Clancy of I-Witness Video; Mike German of the American Civil Liberties Union; Larry Hildes, National Lawyers Guild, based in Bellingham; and the two activists who have exposed this story through their Freedom of Information Act request [ed: public records request], Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, Olympia-based activist, and Drew Hendricks, as well. Thank you both very much for being with us.

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TUESDAY, JULY 28, 2009

Find this story at 28 July 2009

Obama’s Military Is Spying on U.S. Peace Groups (2009)

Anti-war activists in Olympia, Wash., have exposed U.S. Army spying and infiltration of their groups, as well as intelligence gathering by the U.S. Air Force, the federal Capitol Police and the Coast Guard.

The infiltration appears to be in direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act preventing U.S. military deployment for domestic law enforcement, and may strengthen congressional demands for a full-scale investigation of U.S. intelligence activities, like the Church Committee hearings of the 1970s.

Brendan Maslauskas Dunn asked the City of Olympia for documents or e-mails about communications between the Olympia police and the military relating to anarchists, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) or the Industrial Workers of the World (Dunn’s union). Dunn received hundreds of documents. One e-mail contained reference to a “John J. Towery II,” who activists discovered was the same person as their fellow activist “John Jacob.”

Dunn told me: “John Jacob was actually a close friend of mine, so this week has been pretty difficult for me. He said he was an anarchist. He was really interested in SDS. He got involved with Port Militarization Resistance (PMR), with Iraq Vets Against the War. He was a kind person. He was a generous person. So it was really just a shock for me.”

“Jacob” told the activists he was a civilian employed at Fort Lewis Army Base, and would share information about base activities, which could help PMR organize rallies and protests against public ports being used for troop and Stryker military vehicle deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2006, PMR activists have occasionally engaged in civil disobedience, blocking access to the port.

Larry Hildes, an attorney representing Washington activists, says the U.S. attorney prosecuting the cases against them, Brian Kipnis, specifically instructed the Army not to hand over any information about its intelligence-gathering activities, despite a court order to do so.

Which is why Dunn’s request to Olympia and the documents he obtained are so important. The military is supposed to be barred from deploying on U.S. soil, or from spying on citizens.

Christopher Pyle, now a professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College, was a military intelligence officer. He recalled: “In the 1960s, Army intelligence had 1,500 plainclothes agents watching every demonstration of 20 people or more. They had a giant warehouse in Baltimore full of information on the law-abiding activities of American citizens, mainly protest politics.”

Pyle later investigated the spying for two congressional committees: “As a result of those investigations, the entire U.S. Army Intelligence Command was abolished, and all of its files were burned. Then the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to stop the warrantless surveillance of electronic communications.”

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Rush Holt, D-N.J., and others are pushing for a new, comprehensive investigation of all U.S. intelligence activities, of the scale of the Church Committee hearings, which exposed widespread spying on and disruption of legal domestic groups, attempts at assassination of foreign heads of state, and more.

Demands mount for information and accountability for Vice President Dick Cheney’s alleged secret assassination squad, President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, and the CIA’s alleged misleading of Congress. But the spying in Olympia occurred well into the Obama administration (and may continue today). President Barack Obama supports retroactive immunity for telecom companies involved in the wiretapping, and has maintained Bush-era reliance on the state secrets privilege. Lee and Holt should take the information uncovered by Brendan Dunn and the Olympia activists and get the investigations started now.

See/hear/read the full exclusive hour broadcast exposé on Democracy Now!:

Declassified Docs Reveal Military Operative Spied on WA Peace Groups, Activist Friends Stunned

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman Amy GoodmanHost, executive producer of Democracy Now!, NYT bestselling author, syndicated columnist
Posted: July 28, 2009 08:20 PM

Find this story at 28 July 2008

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The Military Spies on Anarchists in Olympia (2009)

Amy Goodman on Democracy Now just broke a story that is a piece of a larger puzzle: and that puzzle is the spying on dissidents right here in the United States.

This time it was done by someone working for the U.S. military, which may be illegal.

It happened out in Olympia, Washington, where a guy who went by the name of John Jacob infiltrated a group of anarchists working with Students for a Democratic Society and the Port Militarization Resistance. This went on for a couple of years.

When the activists found him out just last week, they were shocked.

“John Jacob was actually a close friend of mine,” Brendan Maslauskas Dunn told Amy Goodman. “We hung out. We gave workshops together on grassroots direct democracy and anarchist struggle.”

But John Jacob was not who he purported to be.

His real name is John Towery, and he’s no anarchist. He’s a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis.

This is just the latest case of domestic spying on political groups that may be happening all over.

A few months ago, it came out that an undercover FBI agent had infiltrated some peace groups in Iowa City.

The case in Olympia is even more troubling, as it involves the U.S. military, which is supposed to be banned by the Posse Comitatus Act from engaging in law enforcement.

But this isn’t the first time that the military has been caught with its hand in the spying jar.

Back in 2004 at the University of Texas Law School in Austin, two Army lawyers attended, under cover, a conference entitled “Islam and the Law: A Question of Sexism.”

On Mother’s Day, 2005, the National Guard in California was keeping tabs on the Raging Grannies and Code Pink.

And last year at the Republican Convention in St. Paul, the U.S. Northern Command provided support. (See democracynow.org, and “What Is NorthCom Up To?”; in the February 2009 issue of The Progressive.)

The Pentagon also was involved in spying on activists through its notorious Talon database.

Though the Pentagon shut down Talon, the national security state is still involved in gathering intelligence through so-called fusion centers.

The Olympia activists were surprised at the extent of the spying. It turns out that the head of investigations and intelligence at New Jersey’s McGuire Air Force contacted an Olympia police officer about the anarchists, saying he was looking into “leftwing anti-war groups” himself and would appreciate “any Intel.” And the U.S. Capitol Police Intelligence Investigations Section sought information from the Olympia police about an event at Evergreen State College that was planning protests at the Democratic and Republican conventions last year, according to Democracy Now.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Dunn told Amy Goodman. “I have no clue what’s below the water.”

For more information on hundreds of similar incidents, go to McCarthyism Watch at The Progressive’s website.

Published on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 by The Progressive
by Matthew Rothschild

Find this story at 28 July 2009

© 2009 The Progressive

Mysterious space plane spent a year orbiting Earth on secret mission

A year after the Air Force blasted it into orbit, an experimental space drone continues to circle the Earth.

Its mission and hush-hush payload, however, remain a mystery.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, which looks like a miniature unmanned version of the space shuttle, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Dec. 11, 2012.

At the time of launch, Air Force officials offered few details about the mission, saying that the space plane simply provided a way to test new technologies in space, such as satellite sensors and other components.

It was set to land on a 15,000-foot airstrip at Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara. But the Air Force has never announced an exact landing date.

Although the X-37B program is classified, some of the particulars are known.

More than 10 years ago, it began as a NASA program to test new technologies for the space shuttle. But when the government decided to retire the aging fleet of shuttles, the Pentagon took over the program and cloaked it in secrecy.

Two X-37B vehicles were built by Boeing Co. in Huntington Beach. Engineering work was done at the company’s facilities in Huntington Beach and Seal Beach. Components also came from Boeing’s satellite-making plant in El Segundo.

The spacecraft is 29 feet long and has a wingspan of 15 feet. It draws solar power from unfolding panels.

This is the third time that the Air Force has sent an X-37B into orbit.

The first X-37B was launched in April 2010 and landed 224 days later at Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara. The second X-37B spent 469 days in space.

Some industry analysts have theorized that because of the program’s clandestine nature, the X-37B could be a precursor to an orbiting weapon, capable of dropping bombs or disabling foreign satellites as it circles the globe.

The Pentagon has repeatedly said the space plane is simply a “test bed” for other technologies.

Brian Weeden, a former Air Force officer and expert in space security at the Secure World Foundation, said the X-37B is most likely testing new sensor technologies and satellite hardware. It may even be performing some surveillance over the Middle East region.

“It’s obvious the Air Force is finding some value there,” Weeden said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t keep sending vehicles up.

By W.J. Hennigan

December 11, 2013, 1:22 p.m.

Find this story at 11 December 2013

Copyright 2013 A Tribune Newspaper website

India’s Nuclear Scientists Keep Dying Mysteriously (2013)

Indian nuclear scientists haven’t had an easy time of it over the past decade. Not only has the scientific community been plagued by “suicides”, unexplained deaths and sabotage, but those incidents have gone mostly underreported in the country, diluting public interest and leaving the cases quickly cast off by police.

Last month, two high-ranking engineers – KK Josh and Abhish Shivam – on India’s first nuclear-powered submarine were found on railway tracks by workers. They were pulled from the line before a train could crush them, but were already dead. No marks were found on the bodies, so it was clear they hadn’t been hit by a moving train, and reports allege they were poisoned elsewhere before being placed on the tracks to make the deaths look either accidental or like a suicide. The media and the Ministry of Defence, however, described the incident as a routine accident and didn’t investigate any further.

This is the latest in a long list of suspicious deaths. When nuclear scientist Lokanathan Mahalingam’s body turned up in June of 2009, it was palmed off as a suicide and largely ignored by the Indian media. However, Pakistani outlets – perhaps unsurprisingly, given relations between the two countries – kept the story going, noting how quick authorities were to label the death a suicide considering no note was left.

Five years earlier, in the same forest where Mahalingham’s body was eventually discovered, an armed group with sophisticated weaponry allegedly tried to abduct an official from India’s Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC). He, however, managed to escape. Another NPC employee, Ravi Mule, had been murdered weeks before, with police failing to “make any headway” into his case and effectively leaving his family to investigate the crime. A couple of years later, in April of 2011, when the body of former scientist Uma Rao was found, authorities ruled the death as suicide, but family members contested the verdict, saying there had been no signs that Rao was suicidal.

Trombay, the site of India’s first atomic reactor. (Photo via)

This seems to be a recurring theme with deaths in the community. Madhav Nalapat, one of the few journalists in India giving the cases any real attention, has been in close contact with the families of the recently deceased scientists left on the train tracks. “There was absolutely no kind of depression or any family problems that would lead to suicide,” he told me over the phone.

If the deaths of those in the community aren’t classed as suicide, they’re generally labelled as “unexplained”. A good example is the case of M Iyer, who was found with internal haemorrhaging to his skull – possibly the result of a “kinky experiment”, according to a police officer. After a preliminary look-in, the police couldn’t work out how Iyer had suffered internal injuries while not displaying any cuts or bruises, and investigations fizzled out.

This label is essentially admission of defeat on the police force’s part. Once the “unexplained” rubber stamp has been approved, government bodies don’t tend to task the authorities with investigating further. This may be a necessity due to the stark lack of evidence available at the scene of the deaths – a feature that some suggest could indicate the work of professional killers – but if this is the case, why not bring in better trained detectives to investigate the cases? A spate of deaths in the nuclear scientific community would create a media storm and highly publicised police investigation in other countries, so why not India?

This inertia has led to great public dissatisfaction with the Indian police. “[The police] say it’s an unsolved murder – that’s all. Why doesn’t it go higher? Perhaps to a specialist investigations unit?” Madhav asked. “These people were working on the submarine programme – creating a reactor – and have either ‘committed suicide’ or been murdered. It’s astonishing that this hasn’t been seen as suspicious.”

Perhaps, I suggested, this series of deaths is just the latest chapter in a long campaign aiming to derail India’s nuclear and technological capabilities. Madhav agreed: “There is a clear pattern of this type of activity going on,” he said.

INS Sindhurakshak (Photo via)

The explosions that sunk INS Sindhurakshak – a submarine docked in Mumbai – in August of this year could have been deliberate, according to unnamed intelligence sources. And some have alleged that the CIA was behind the sabotage of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Of course, the deaths have caused fear and tension among those currently working on India’s various nuclear projects. “[Whistleblowers] are getting scared of being involved in the nuclear industry in India,” Madhav relayed to me. Their “families are getting very nervous about this” and “many of them leave for foreign countries and get other jobs”.

There are parallels here with the numerous attacks on the Iranian nuclear scientist community. Five people associated with the country’s nuclear programme have been targeted in the same way: men on motorcycles sticking magnetic bombs on to their cars and detonating them as they drive off. However, the Iranian government are incredibly vocal in condemning these acts – blaming the US and Israel – and at least give the appearance that they are actively investigating.

The same cannot be said for the Indian government. “India is not making any noise about the whole thing,” Madhav explained. “People have just accepted the police version, [which describes these incidents] as normal kinds of death.”

If the deaths do, in fact, turn out to be premeditated murders, deciding who’s responsible is pure speculation at this point. Two authors have alleged that the US have dabbled in sabotaging the country’s technological efforts in the past; China is in a constant soft-power battle with India; and the volatile relationship with Pakistan makes the country a prime suspect. “It could be any of them,” Madhav said.

But the most pressing issue isn’t who might be behind the murders, but that the Indian government’s apathy is potentially putting their high-value staff at even greater risk. Currently, these scientists – who are crucial to the development of India’s nuclear programmes, whether for energy or security – have “absolutely no protection at all – nothing, zero”, Madhav told me. “Which is amazing for people who are in a such a sensitive programme.”

By Joseph Cox Nov 25 2013

Find this story at 25 November 2013

© 2013 Vice Media Inc

Mysterious deaths, freedom of information, Marconi and the Ministry of Defence (2006)

Under the Freedom of Information [FOI] Act publicly-funded organisations have 20 working days to answer or notify the applicant if they need more time to answer. Some organisations with well managed records answer more quickly than others but none has been quite as slow as the Ministry of Defence. Its first response to my FOI request came more than six months later.

And there was no acknowledgment of my application, although this is a legal requirement.

I had asked about the mysterious deaths of computer programmers and scientists, some working for Marconi, some for other defence contractors, and others for the MoD and the government communications headquarters GCHQ.

The 25 deaths in the 1970s and 1980s led to countless articles in many countries around the world, including France, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Australia. Separate TV documentaries were made by crews in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. The MoD’s press officers received countless calls from journalists about the deaths; and Lord Weinstock, the then managing director of GEC, one of the government’s biggest defence contractors and at that time Marconi’s parent company, set up an inquiry.

It was carried out by Brian Worth, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner at New Scotland Yard. He concluded that “on the evidence available that the suicide verdicts reached were credible on their own facts, and in the four cases where open verdicts were returned the probability is that each victim took his own life”.

One of the Marconi computer programmers, from London, had gone to Bristol where he tied his neck to a tree and apparently drove off in his car. Less than three months earlier another Marconi programmer from London had travelled by car to Bristol where he apparently jumped off the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Police stopped the cremation of his body as the service was taking place, to investigate further.

Letters to the coroner from the dead man’s friends were unanimous in their scepticism that the programmeer had committed suicide. Police found a tiny puncture mark on the man’s left buttock.

The local coroner alluded to a possible “James Bond” link. He said: “As James Bond would say, ‘this is past coincidence,’ and I will not be completing the inquest today until I know how two men with no connection with Bristol came to meet the same end here.” He did not discover why.

The two dead programmers had been working on highly sensitive projects for the government.

If the MoD had been so swamped with information that it could not answer my FOI request quickly, this would have explained its late reply. In fact the poor official who spoke to me had spent months looking for material and found nothing at all. Not one piece of paper. The official reply was that the MoD has no recorded information on any of the cases I had mentioned. So much for the ministry’s record-keeping.

It was as if the deaths had never happened.

By Ted Ritter on November 29, 2006 9:40 AM | 2 Comments

Find this story at 29 November 2006

© www.computerweekly.com

Scientists` Deaths Mystify British (1988)

LONDON — In this trench-coated city, where real-life stories of spies and moles and double agents often rival the best fiction, the peculiar deaths of nine British defense scientists in the last 20 months have stirred suspicions that the cases might be connected-and that espionage might be involved.

Those who have studied the deaths-among them opposition politicians, a Cambridge University counterintelligence specialist and some investigative journalists-are loathe to draw any definitive conclusions, because the evidence, although intriguing, is scant.

But they do believe that the seemingly isolated cases bear enough connections and similarities to at least warrant a government investigation into whether some terrorist group or foreign government is involved.

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, however, insists that the deaths, most of them apparent suicides, are mere coincidences, at best attributable to the unusually high stresses associated with secret defense research.

“The idea that they might have been bumped off by foreign agents is just straight out of James Bond,“ scoffed a Defense Ministry spokesman.

To be sure, the facts would seem to be the stuff of a crackerjack spy novel. Five of the dead scientists worked at classified laboratories of the Marconi electronics company, a defense subsidiary of General Electric Corp. that happens to be the subject of an ongoing fraud investigation into alleged overcharges on government contracts.

Several of the scientists reportedly were working on top-secret research into submarine detection and satellite defenses related to the “Star Wars“

antimissile program. Marconi has declined to comment on their fates.

While some of the deaths appeared to be suicides, circumstances surrounding others were decidedly bizarre. One Marconi computer scientist, Vimal Dajibhai, 24, plunged to his death from a Bristol bridge in August, 1986. He was found with his pants lowered around his ankles and a tiny puncture wound in his left buttock.

The Bristol coroner returned an open verdict in the case, and the puncture wound, according to a coroner`s spokesman, “was a mystery then and remains a mystery now.“

Another Marconi scientist, Ashad Sharif, 26, was found inside his car in October, 1986. He was nearly decapitated, with one end of a rope tied around a tree and the other end around his neck.

The coroner ruled the death a suicide. But Computer News, a weekly London publication that first drew attention to the series of scientists` deaths, reported that a relative summoned to identify the body said he saw a long metal shaft lying on the floor of the car, near the accelerator pedal. The shaft, the relative said, could have been used to wedge down the accelerator. A third Marconi scientist, David Sands, 37, was killed in March, 1987, when his car-containing two full gasoline cans in the trunk-slammed into the wall of a building. Sands` body was burned beyond recognition, with identification made from dental records. The coroner in the case returned an open verdict, ruling that there was neither sufficient evidence of suicide nor of foul play.

What has complicated the arguments of those who would dismiss the espionage theories as mere fantasy is the fact that stranger things have actually happened in Britain.

Ten years ago, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident who broadcast anticommunist programs on the British Broadcasting Corp. world radio network, was murdered when an unknown assassin, presumed to be a Bulgarian spy, jabbed him in the leg with an umbrella.

The umbrella carried a microscopic pellet laced with a deadly poison that killed Markov within a few days but left no trace in his bloodstream. The pellet is on display at Scotland Yard`s famed Black Museum.

The British have had a more recent reminder of the spies among them every Sunday for the last month, courtesy of the venerable Sunday Times. The paper has been carrying a serialized interview with Harold (Kim) Philby, the infamous Soviet KGB double agent who managed to infiltrate the highest levels of Britain`s intelligence service 30 years ago and betray the entire Western alliance.

It is knowledge of such history that leads Randall Heather, a counterintelligence researcher at St. Edmund`s College, Cambridge, to at least entertain the possibility that the Soviets are capable of a sophisticated attack on Britain`s defense scientists.

“I restrain myself from engaging in conspiracy mania,“ said Heather.

“But it is possible that we are seeing a very quiet type of terrorism here, directed at very specific targets. It is possibly an attempt to intimidate the small group of scientists who work in these fields.

“These are not normal types of accidents and suicides. These are not normal types of people who are dying.“

The most recent death did appear to be a “normal“ suicide. On March 25, the body of a Marconi computer scientist, Trevor Knight, was found in his car inside his garage, with a hose connected to the exhaust. A coroner`s inquest ruled that Knight, 52, committed suicide and died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

But normal or not, Knight`s case prompted a call in the British Parliament for an official government inquiry into the scientists` deaths.

“Some of these cases are very, very strange indeed,“ said Douglas Hoyle, a Labor Party member of Parliament who is pressing for the government inquiry.

“I mean, does anyone really commit suicide with his trousers halfway down? What was the mark on (Dajibhai`s) buttock? A lot of these deaths just don`t look like ordinary suicides. The question is: is there some common element?“

April 17, 1988|By Howard Witt, Chicago Tribune.

Find this story at 17 April 1988

© www.chicagotribune.com

A British Mystery: 4 Defense Scientists Dead And 1 Missing (1987)

LONDON — Even considered individually, the mysterious and brutal deaths cry out for attention.

Vimal Dajibhai plunged 250 feet from a suspension bridge in southwest England, 100 miles from home, in August. When his body was discovered on the hard ground below, small, unexplained puncture marks were found on his buttocks.

A month later, Ashad Sharif died after he looped one end of a rope around his neck, attached the other end to a tree, got into the driver’s seat of his car and sped away.

Then at the end of March, David Sands loaded his car with cans of gasoline and drove it at 80 miles an hour into an abandoned roadside cafe south of London, where it exploded in a fireball so furious that his body had to be identified by dental records.

Considered together, the deaths of these young, apparently well-established professional men share some disturbing characteristics that many in Britain say cry out for explanation.

All were defense researchers working for the sprawling Marconi organization, a major electronics defense contractor. All three were involved in sensitive, defense-related projects. All apparently were suicides, although in none of the cases has a convincing motive been advanced, and there were no witnesses to any of the deaths.

These deaths – along with the unexplained death in February of a fourth defense scientist and the disappearance in January of yet another – have caused no end of speculation and concern in the tightly knit, highly secretive world of defense research.

“I do not wish to be accused of inventing plots more suited to a television thriller than real life,” said John Cartwright, parliamentary defense spokesman for the opposition Liberal-Social Democratic alliance. ”But I think the circumstances of these . . . cases and the possible links between them stretch the possibility of coincidence too far.”

But the government has steadfastly resisted Cartwright’s calls for an official inquiry, contending that there is no evidence of a conspiracy.

“I agree that it is odd that all three were computer scientists working in the defense field,” said Lord Trefgarne, the junior defense minister, “but there any relationship stops.”

*

Marconi, which employed Dajibhai, Sharif and Sands before their deaths, said an internal investigation disclosed no connection among the three men.

“We employ 35,000 people in 18 separate sister companies,” said a spokesman. “These individuals were working on separate programs for separate companies at separate locations.”

And yet many questions remain unanswered. Why should Dajibhai and Sharif die in Bristol, a city far away from their homes and with which they had no apparent connection?

Why should Avtar Singh-Gida, a Ph.D. student working on a Ministry of Defense-funded project at Loughborough University in central England, disappear without a trace in January two days before his wedding anniversary, when he had already bought his wife a gift and a card?

Tony Collins, a reporter who has investigated the incidents for the weekly Computer News, says that his work has led him to conclude that the three Marconi scientists were all involved in a narrow field of underwater-simula tion projects, an area in which he says Britain leads the world.

“I have no evidence to link them at the moment, but I believe there is a case for investigation,” Collins said in an interview. “The government probably feels there’s not enough evidence. It wouldn’t be like the British to rush into an inquiry.”

Others have raised questions about the fact that the names of two of the men who died and the one who is missing – Dajibhai, Sharif and Gida – indicate that they are from the Indian subcontinent or are of Indian origin.

“I’m very suspicious of this. For a fluke there’s too much in it,” Andreas Fingeraut, a defense economist at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said in an interview.

“Some of the top computer programmers in the U.K. happen to be people of Indian descent. They have specialized in it and are very good,” he said.

“I’m not saying they’re a security risk, but maybe somebody, somewhere thought they were.”

Others who may not believe in a conspiracy theory have suggested that the deaths and disappearance could be saying something else: that the world of high-technology defense research has become so competitive that it is driving some of its youngest and brightest workers to suicide.

“People in the defense industry are under tremendous pressure all the time. Competition is tough. The pressure is on for people to come up with new ideas,” said Anthony Watts, who writes about maritime defense research for a publication called Navy International, based in Surrey, England.

“The question of whom you can talk to about your work, and how much you can say is uppermost in people’s minds,” he continued. “It’s a strain on people’s families. Perhaps in the end, some of them crack up.”

Martin Stott, Cartwright’s aide in Parliament, also brought up that theme in an interview last week.

“We wonder whether there was something about the work they were doing that might force them to come out and take their lives. Maybe we’re putting too much pressure on these people,” he said.

Yet those looking for some theme, some reason behind the deaths and disappearance, are finding it difficult to know where to begin.

The first death was reported on Aug. 5, when Dajibhai, 24, was found in the gorge below Clifton Bridge near Bristol. Marconi officials say he worked for Marconi Underwater Systems at Watford, near London, as a junior software engineer checking torpedo-guidance systems. It is not known why he traveled so far from his home in London.

The police inquest into his death returned an open verdict, meaning that it could not be determined whether he was killed, died accidentally or committed suicide.

But in the March 5 edition of Computer News, Collins reported that Dajibhai’s family was not satisfied with the police investigation. And people familiar with the case said that Dajibhai seemed happy, had just purchased a new suit and new shoes, and was looking forward to beginning a new career in London’s financial district.

Although Sharif’s death officially was ruled a suicide, many believe it is just as puzzling. Sharif, 26, worked on electronic test equipment as a computer analyst with Marconi Defence Systems at Stanmore, north of London.

Police in Bristol said that a tape recording found in his car lent support to the verdict that he took his own life. But Collins quoted a member of Sharif’s family who contends that the taped message had “nothing to do with death.”

Sands, 36, was employed by a Marconi subsidiary, Easams Ltd., when he drove his car at high speed into the roadside restaurant in the early morning of March 31. A coroner’s ruling on his death is expected next month.

Police were reported to have said that he was depressed and had argued with his wife, but others said Sands had just returned from a vacation in Venice with his wife and showed no signs of depression.

Marconi officials contend that Sands’ work, although classified, had nothing to do with underwater research. But that certainly was the area of expertise for Gida, 26, who was working on an unclassified government-funded contract on sonar transmission.

He was last seen Jan. 8, when he and a colleague were testing acoustic equipment at a reservoir near the University at Loughborough. Both men went for separate lunches, and Gida did not return. Police are still investigating his disappearance.

Dajibhai and Gida lived in the same building at Loughborough University when they both were students, and a Marconi spokesman said they were “nodding acquaintances.” But there is no evidence to link the others.

The mystery appeared to deepen last weekend, when police in Oxfordshire reported details of the death of Peter Peapell, 46, a lecturer at the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham and a former Defense Ministry employee.

He was found dead Feb. 22 under the car in the garage at his home. The car engine was running and the garage door was shut, but an inquest returned an open verdict, which means it could not determine whether Peapell’s death was murder, suicide or an accident.

Yet even those who are searching for some link among these deaths are cautious about adding Peapell’s name to the list. He did not work for Marconi, nor was he involved in underwater research. “I’m rather wary of lumping all these people together,” said Stott, Cartwright’s aide.

Still, Peapell’s death notice seemed to add to the sense of unknown permeating all these cases. Stott and others believe the only way to clear the air is through an official inquiry.

“It may well be that this is all coincidence, a series of mysterious but isolated incidents,” he said. “But it is very strange, and we ought to get to the bottom of it.”

By Jane Eisner, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: April 12, 1987

Find this story at 12 April 1987

© http://articles.philly.com

Police Confirm Death Of Fifth Scientist Under Unusual Circumstances (1987)

LONDON (AP) _ Police on Sunday confirmed the death of a metallurgist involved in secret defense work – the fifth such case in the past eight months in which authorities have been unable to establish the cause of death.

A sixth scientist, a research expert on submarine warfare equipment at the University of Loughborough, vanished in January.

The government has rejected opposition demands for an investigation, saying there was ”no evidence of any link (in the deaths) at this stage.” But Home Secretary Douglas Hurd has ordered police involved in the individual cases to contact each other about the deaths.

John Cartwright, the defense spokesman for the centrist Liberal-Social Democratic Party alliance, renewed his call for an inquiry by the governing Conservative Party following Sunday’s confirmation of the metallurgist’s death.

Even if all the cases were suicides, he said, ”it must raise some question about the pressures under which scientists are working in the defense field.”

Police in Thames Valley confirmed Sunday that Peter Peapell, 46, a lecturer at the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham near Swindon, died on Feb. 22 from carbon monoxide poisoning.

An inquest returned an open verdict, making no ruling on the cause of death. Police said Peapell was found underneath his car in the garage of his home. The car’s engine was running and the garage door was shut, according to the report. His wife told reporters he was happy and had no reason to commit suicide.

Cartwright said he believed there were ”grounds for concern” and urged police to reinvestigate Peapell’s ”worrying” death.

Last Monday, David Sands, 37, a computer expert at a subsidiary of the British defense contractor Marconi Co. Ltd., was killed when he drove his car, loaded with gasoline cans, into an abandoned cafe in Surrey.

Press Association, Britain’s domestic news agency, said Sands had just completed three years’ work on a secret air defense radar system for the Royal Air Force at Easams, a subsidiary of Marconi and part of Britain’s giant General Electric Company.

Last year, two other Marconi scientists also died.

Vimal Dajibhai, 24, a programmer with Marconi Underwater Systems who reportedly was working on Britain’s self-guided torpedo Stingray missile, was found dead last August beneath a suspension bridge spanning the River Avon in Bristol, western England.

Relatives and friends testified he had no reason to commit suicde and an inquest returned an open verdict.

Ashad Sharif, 26, a computer expert with Marconi Defense Systems, died near Bristol in October. A police report said he apparently tied one end of a rope to a tree, the other around his neck, got into his car and drove off, strangling himself. An inquest returned a verdict of suicide.

Richard Pugh, a computer design expert, was found dead in his home in Essex in January. The circumstance of his death have never been explained.

A seventh scientist, Avtar Singh-Gida, 26, disappeared in January in northern England while conducting experiments on underwater acoustics. His disappearance is still under police investigation.

AP , Associated Press
Apr. 5, 1987 11:34 PM ET

Find this story at 5 April 1987

© 2013 The Associated Press.

PMO unconcerned about scientist deaths (2013)

Scientists working in BARC have been particularly liable to ‘suicides’ and murders.

hile there has been substantial international media comment on the unnatural deaths of several scientists working in Iran’s nuclear program, similar attention has not been paid to the (much larger) number of unnatural deaths that have taken place of scientists and engineers working in India’s own nuclear program. The latest casualties were discovered on 7 October, when the bodies of K.K. Josh and Abhish Shivam were discovered near the railway tracks at Penduruthy near Vishakapatnam Naval Yard. The two were engineers connected with the building of India’s indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, Arihant. They had apparently been poisoned and their bodies placed on the tracks to make it seem like an accident. However, they were discovered by a passer-by before a train could pass over the bodies. In any other country, the murder of two engineers connected to a crucial strategic program would have created a media storm. However, the deaths of the two were passed off both by the media as well as by the Ministry of Defence as a routine accident, with only the ordinary police officer tasked with investigations into the cause of death. The inquiries went nowhere.

Scientists working in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) have been particularly liable to “suicides” and murders, with several being reported during the past five years. In each case, the unnatural death in question gets passed off as either a suicide or an unexplained killing. This far, there has been no report of the police having identified any of the perpetrators of the murders of personnel whose brainpower has been crucial to the success of several key programs. On 23 February 2010, M. Iyer, an engineer at BARC, was found dead in his residence. The killer had used a duplicate key to enter the house and strangle the engineer in his sleep. Interestingly, efforts were made by some of the investigating police officers to pass the death off as a suicide. Finally, the Mumbai police decided to register a case of murder. However, as is usual in such cases, no arrests were made and the investigation ran into a stonewall. Forensics experts say that in all such unexplained deaths of scientists and engineers involved in the nuclear program, fingerprints are absent, as also other telltale clues that would assist the police in identifying the culprit. These indicate a high degree of professionalism behind the murders, such as can be found in top-flight intelligence agencies of the type that have been so successful in killing Iranian scientists and engineers active in that country’s nuclear program.

Unlike Iran, however, which now protects its key personnel, thus far the Government of India has not taken any appreciable steps to protect the lives of those active in core strategic programs relating to the country’s nuclear deterrent.

While it is true that at least one of the unnatural deaths — that of former BARC scientists Uma Rao on 29 April, 2011 — seems to be a case of suicide, the other suicide verdicts are challenged by the families of the deceased engineers and scientists, who say that there was no indication that their loved ones were contemplating such an extreme step. What is surprising is the inattention of the Government of India towards what many believe to be a systematic outside effort to slow down India’s march towards nuclear excellence by killing those involved in the process. Such a modus operandi differs from that followed in the case of the cryogenic engine scandal in 1994, when key scientists working on the program to develop an indigenous cryogenic engine were picked up by the Intelligence Bureau and the Kerala police on false charges of espionage, together with two Maldivian women. The Bill Clinton administration had sought to scupper the Russian sale of such engines to India, but Russian scientists friendly to India had secretly handed over blueprints relating to the making of such engines. This soon became known to the CIA, which is believed to have orchestrated the plan to paralyse the program by sending its key scientists to prison. Although the charges were found to be entirely false, that vindication took a decade to come about, and in the process, the Indian program was slowed down by an equivalent number of years. Thus far, none of the IB or Kerala police officers who acted as the apparent catspaw of a foreign intelligence agency in slapping false charges on key scientists has suffered even a minor punishment, much less be arraigned for treason.

According to the Government of India, over just a three-year period, there have been at least nine unnatural deaths of scientists and engineers at just BARC as well as the Kaiga nuclear facility, of which two have been categorised as suicide, with the rest unexplained in terms of bringing to book those responsible.

MADHAV NALAPAT New Delhi | 26th Oct 2013

Find this story at 26 October 2013

© sunday-guardian.com

Israel’s secret intel unit spawns high-tech tycoons

TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 9 (UPI) — The Israeli military’s top-secret Unit 8200, the Jewish state’s equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency, has spawned a generation of high-tech start-ups and more technology millionaires than many business schools, and these days the cyber security sector is booming.

Unit 8200 is now the Israeli military’s biggest branch in manpower terms. It has grown swiftly in recent years as cyberwarfare has become one of the major security threats to military organizations and industrialized states whose vital infrastructure is vulnerable to cyberattack.

But Unit 8200 remains the most secretive of Israel’s military units. Even the name of its commander is a state secret, as is its annual budget .

It has a major, highly secure base in the Negev Desert south of Tel Aviv. But little is known about its work in what’s known as signals intelligence, intercepting and analyzing other forces’ communications and data traffic from mobile phones chatter and emails to flight paths and electronic signals.

Unlike other branches of the Israeli military, virtually all its research and development is conducted in-house by its huge cadre of engineers, programmers and technicians.

Unit 8200 headhunts the brightest students from high schools and colleges, and there seems to be no shortage of volunteers.

So it’s no surprise that many veterans of Unit 8200 — invariably known as “eight-two hundred” — have been behind a host of successful high-tech start-ups in the commercial sector after they leave the service.

These enterprises provide a unique contribution to Israel’s high-tech sector, widely recognized as one of the most advanced in the world.

The country’s high-tech exports total an estimated $25 billion a year, a quarter of Israel’s exports.

The high-tech sector currently boasts 5,000 companies that employ 230,000 people and earn

Recent Israeli success in the field include the Zisapel brothers, Yehuda and Zonhar, who sold and floated a dozen companies for hundreds of millions of dollars; and Yair Cohen, a former brigadier general who once commanded Unit 8200, who heads the intelligence cyberdivision of Elbit Systems, a major defense company.

Then there’s Aharon Zeevi Farkash, another former Unit 8200 chief, founder and chief executive of FST21, which employs a mix of technologies, combining hardware and software to suit specific needs that are in the hands of young men and women hardly out of their teens.

Yossi Vardi, who founded Israel’s first software company in 1969, says “more high-tech millionaires have been created from 8200 than from any business school in the country.”

Israeli tech firms like Nice, Converse and Check Point were all set up by Unit 8200 alumni or based on technology developed by the unit which cyber insiders say is in some cases decades ahead of the U.S. and Europe

A measure of these companies’ success is that many are bought out by the titans of the field.

IBM announced in August that it’s buying Trusteer, a privately owned Israeli cloud-based cybersecurity software provider whose customers include many of the largest banks in the United States and Britain.

The terms of the deal have not been disclosed. But the Financial Times reported that IBM, which will form a cybersecurity software laboratory in Israel with more than 200 researchers from both companies, is believed to be forking up $800 million-$1 billion for Trusteer.

The Israeli outfit says its equipment can identify security threats that escape more traditional security software.

Trusteer software is designed to help ensure that bank customers can safely transfer funds on mobile devices by detecting malware that can infect a smartphone, allowing the bank to prevent fraudulent transactions taking place.

“The way organizations protect data are quickly evolving,” observed Trusteer’s chief executive, Mickey Boodaei, who founded the firm in 2006.

“As attacks become more sophisticated, traditional approaches to securing enterprise and mobile data are no longer valid.”

Unit 8200’s success as an incubator for Israel’s high-tech venture is likely to grow since under the military’s new strategic plan it’s downsizing conventional land, sea and air forces to meet the challenges of a new era of warfare with more agile, technology-oriented forces.

Farkash says 8200’s alumni are so successful because its organizational ethos encourages out-of-the-box thinking.

“We’re very tolerant of mistakes,” he explains. “It’s impossible to be creative when fear leads you.”

Published: Sept. 9, 2013 at 11:51 AM
TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 9 (UPI) —

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© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Drones zijn inbreuk op privacy

ALMERE / JITSKE BOKHOVEN – D66 Almere vindt het gebruik van de Raven, onbemande vliegtuigjes (drones) die sinds enige tijd worden ingezet om inbrekers te pakken, een vergaande inbreuk op de privacy van Almeerders. Fractievoorzitter Jan Lems heeft dan ook schriftelijke vragen aan het college van burgemeester en wethouders gesteld om erachter te komen wat hier de argumenten voor zijn.

De drones zijn door Defensie beschikbaar gesteld. Met behulp van de vliegtuigjes kunnen agenten live beelden van een hoogte van 300 meter bekijken. ,,Ik vind het op z’n zachts gezegd opmerkelijk dat je hier ineens vliegtuigjes ziet vliegen die je boven Afghanistan verwacht’’, reageert Lems. ,,Ik vraag me af wat hier de argumenten voor zijn.’’

Lems vindt het ook opmerkelijk of Almeerders niet vooraf geïnformeerd hadden moeten worden. ,,Dat moest bij het cameratoezicht wel, vanwege de wet op de privacy. Had dat niet hier ook gemoeten? Ik hoor het graag’’

Gepubliceerd op 01 februari 13, 12:00 Laatst bijgewerkt op 01 februari 13, 20:42

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© 2013 Almere Vandaag

Bloody Sunday murder inquiry planned

Police to launch criminal investigation into deaths of 14 people after British paratroopers opened fire on crowd, in 1972

British troops behind a wire barricade in Derry, on Bloody Sunday, when 13 people were killed at a protest march, in 1972. Photograph: Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images

A murder inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry is to begin in the new year.

Senior commanders from the Police Service of Northern Ireland on Thursday briefed relatives of the 14 people who died after British paratroopers opened fire on demonstrators in the city, in 1972.

Earlier this year, police signalled an intent to investigate the incident after they and prosecutors reviewed the findings of the Saville public inquiry into the controversial shootings. Until now it had been unclear when such an investigation would start.

After the 12-year inquiry, Lord Saville found that the killings were unjustified and none of the dead posed a threat when they were shot.

That contradicted the long-standing official version of events, outlined in the contentious 1972 Widgery report, which had exonerated soldiers of any blame.

Press Association
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 20 December 2012 17.31 GMT

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© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Iraq abuse inquiry was a ‘cover-up’, whistleblower tells court

Louise Thomas gives evidence ahead of judicial review into government’s refusal to hold public inquiry into troop abuse claims

Iraqi prisoners stand behind razor wire. Lawyers say they have received complaints of abuse from more than 1,100 Iraqis. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/AFP/Getty Images

A former investigator into allegations that British troops abused Iraqi prisoners resigned because she did not want to be implicated in “a cover-up”, the high court has heard.

Louise Thomas, 45, left the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) in July because she thought it was not a genuine investigation but a “face-saving inquiry”, she told the court on Tuesday.

Her evidence came at a preliminary hearing in advance of a judicial review, expected next month, into the government’s refusal to hold a public inquiry into allegations of mistreatment of Iraqis between 2003 and 2008.

Lawyers say they have now received complaints of abuse from more than 1,100 Iraqis and that IHAT’s investigations are insufficiently independent because they have been conducted by Royal Military Police (RMP) officers and other members of the armed forces.

Thomas, whose claims were highlighted by the Guardian in October, is a former police constable who worked for six months with IHAT at its British headquarters in Pewsey, Wiltshire.

She admitted in court she did have second thoughts at one stage and asked for her job back.

“After speaking to a few colleagues and realising we could make a difference I asked if I could stay,” she said. “[They] said they would try to change things. It was very frustrating working at IHAT.”

Thomas denied she was angry when she was refused permission to withdraw her resignation.

Her job at IHAT had been to review evidence taken from video sessions of recordings of interrogations of Iraqi suspects. One of the exercises was to see how they matched up to standards set by the Istanbul Protocols, which assess methods of torture.

Thomas alleged that many of the sessions had been misrecorded by earlier forensic investigators.

But Philip Havers QC, for the Ministry of Defence, accused her of exaggerating the number of misrecordings and said that notebooks showed only seven such alleged occurrences out of 181 videos she had assessed – a rate of 4%.

Thomas denied she was exaggerating and said other records would show there were more occasions.

If the high court agrees in January that there should be a full inquiry into the latest allegations of military abuse during the occupation of Iraq, it will be the third such investigation following the Baha Mousa and al-Sweady inquiries.

Asked by Havers whether she was still saying that “IHAT is not a genuine investigation but merely a face-saving inquiry”, Thomas replied: “Yes, I am.”

She said she believed IHAT was a “cover-up” and that she had resigned because she no longer wanted to be implicated in it.

The court was told that the hearing would not identify any of the soldiers who worked for the Joint Forces Interrogation Team (Jfit) in Iraq, any of the military operations involved or any of the Iraqi detainees.

“The reasons for the redactions is so as not to prejudice the ongoing (IHAT) criminal investigations,” Havers said.

John Birch, a former RMP officer who has been working with IHAT, said there were seven main strands of investigations being pursued, including a “murder review team” that was looking at Iraqi deaths.

He acknowledged that tapes from the early years of the occupation before 2005 were still missing. A shortage of digital video tapes meant that some of the later sessions had been recorded over.

Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent
The Guardian, Tuesday 11 December 2012 19.44 GMT

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British agents ‘facilitated the murder’ of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane during the Troubles

 

David Cameron deeply sorry for ‘shocking’ state collusion

They went to London in hope more than expectation. The family of Pat Finucane never supported this review of evidence by a “lawyer with strong links to the Conservative Party”, demanding instead the public inquiry they were initially promised by Tony Blair.

They leave with the personal apology of a Prime Minister for the “collusion” of British agents in Pat’s murder. But not, they say, the truth.

Mr Finucane’s wife Geraldine was in the House of Commons chamber to hear David Cameron say he was “deeply sorry” after the findings of the Da Silva report were made public today. But, ultimately, she was there to hear him refuse the public inquiry she believes her family needs and deserves.

“This report is a sham. This report is a whitewash. This report is a confidence trick dressed up as independent scrutiny and given invisible clothes of reliability. Most of all, most hurtful and insulting of all, this report is not the truth,” she told reporters afterwards.

She said the family wanted to be in the Commons to hear the words from Mr Cameron’s own lips. “We could have watched it on a television screen at home but we felt that was important. We felt that, after all this time, we needed to be there,” she told the Independent.

The sombre mood in the chamber this afternoon matched the occasion: a British government denied any “over-arching state conspiracy” but admitted to the collusion of agents of the state in the murder. “It was measured, rather than being raucous. [The Commons] can often come across very rowdy on television but this was not the occasion for that,” said Mrs Finucane.

Appearing before reporters dressed all in red, she said this latest report into her husband’s murder at the hands of Loyalist paramilitaries in 1989 was the result of a “process in which we have had no input; we have seen no documents nor heard any witnesses”. In short, she said, the family has had no opportunity to see the evidence for themselves.

“We are expected to take the word of the man appointed by the British government,” she said.

Flanked by her sons Michael and John and her brother-in-law Martin Finucane, she added: “Despite all these misgivings, we have tried our best to keep an open mind until we have read and considered the final report. We came to London with the faint hope that, for once, we would be proved wrong. I regret to say that, once again, we have been proved right.

“At every turn, it is clear that this report has done exactly what was required: to give the benefit of the doubt to the state, its cabinet and ministers, to the Army, to the intelligence services, to itself.

“At every turn, dead witnesses have been blamed and defunct agencies found wanting. Serving personnel and active state departments appear to have been excused. The dirt has been swept under the carpet without any serious attempt to lift the lid on what really happened to Pat and so many others.

Michael Finucane, dressed – like his brother and his uncle – in a dark suit and tie, said that the public inquiry the family seeks has been promised to them by Ed Miliband, if he becomes Prime Minister. The refusal to grant one by successive governments, he said, was because the British state “has the most to hide”.

He said he accepted the use of the word ‘collusion’ in the report, as opposed to the stronger accusation of conspiracy because the former more accurately encapsulated “not just the deliberate acts of people who decide to do something, but also a culture that encourages and fosters them”.

Kevin Rawlinson
Wednesday, 12 December 2012

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© independent.co.uk

 

 

David Cameron admits ‘shocking levels of collusion’ in Pat Finucane murder

Prime minister apologises to Finucane’s family after report reveals special branch repeatedly failed to warn lawyer of threat

The prime minister’s frankest admission yet that the state colluded in the 1989 murder of the Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane has failed to quell demands from his family, human rights organisations and the Irish government for a full public inquiry.

Fresh revelations on Wednesday – about special branch’s repeated failure to warn Finucane that his life was under threat, the RUC’s “obstruction” of justice, and MI5’s “propaganda initiatives” that identified the lawyer with republican paramilitaries who were his clients – only reinforced calls for a more thorough investigation.

David Cameron’s apology to Finucane’s family in the Commons followed publication of a scathing report by the former war crimes lawyer Sir Desmond de Silva QC that cleared ministers but blamed “agents of the state” for the killing. The prime minister acknowledged there had been “shocking levels of collusion” in what was one of the most controversial killings of the Troubles.

The extent of the co-operation between the security forces and Finucane’s loyalist killers was unacceptable, Cameron added. “On the balance of probability,” he admitted, an officer or officers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary did propose Finucane as a target to loyalist terrorists.

The report made for extremely difficult reading, Cameron said. “I am deeply sorry,” he told the Finucane family, who were in the Commons gallery to hear his statement. He said he “respectfully disagreed” with the demand for a full, independent public inquiry, citing the cost of the Bloody Sunday tribunal as one reason.

Cameron, however, tried to divert blame away from the Tory former cabinet minister Douglas Hogg over comments he made before the murder in which Hogg said some solicitors in Northern Ireland were unduly sympathetic to the IRA.

The Ulster Defence Association was responsible for shooting Finucane dead in front of his family at their north Belfast home in February 1989, but de Silva said state employees “furthered and facilitated” the murder of the 38-year-old father-of-three.

The family and human rights campaigners have insisted over the past 23 years that there was collaboration between the UDA in west and north Belfast and members of the security forces.

In his report, de Silva concluded: “My review of the evidence relating to Patrick Finucane’s case has left me in no doubt that agents of the state were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder.

“However, despite the different strands of involvement by elements of the state, I am satisfied that they were not linked to an overarching state conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane.”

Dismissing the report and Cameron’s statement as a “confidence trick” and a sham, Finucane’s widow Geraldine said: “At every turn, dead witnesses have been blamed and defunct agencies found wanting. Serving personnel and active state departments appear to have been excused. The dirt has been swept under the carpet without any serious attempt to lift the lid on what really happened to Pat and so many others.”

She demanded that the government order a public inquiry so witnesses can be cross-examined and account for their actions. Her calls were echoed by the Irish government and human rights groups. The Irish premier, Enda Kenny, said he supported the Finucanes’ campaign. He said: “I spoke with prime minister Cameron … before his statement to the House of Commons, and repeated these points to him once again. I have also spoken today with Geraldine Finucane and I know that the family are not satisfied with [the] outcome.”

Micheal Martin, the current Fianna Fáil leader, who was Ireland’s foreign minister during a critical time of the peace process, said the UK government was still obliged under an international agreement to set up a public inquiry into the murder.

He said the UK government under Tony Blair had committed itself to such an inquiry.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s director in Northern Ireland, said: “The Finucanes, and indeed the public, have been fobbed off with a ‘review of the paper work’ – which reneges on repeated commitments by the British government and falls short of the UK’s obligations under international law.”

Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin president and Irish deputy, said: “The information provided by Desmond de Silva is a damning indictment of British state collusion in the murder of citizens. It reveals some of the extent to which this existed. It does not diminish the need for a public inquiry. On the contrary, it makes such an inquiry more necessary than ever.”

The SDLP MP Mark Durkan questioned the idea in the report that there was no overall, structured policy of collusion. He said: “Between special branch, FRU and secret services we had a culture of anything goes but nobody knows. And as far as Desmond de Silva is concerned now we still have to accept that nobody knows!”

Henry McDonald and Owen Bowcott
The Guardian, Wednesday 12 December 2012 21.17 GMT

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© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.