German spies ‘can’t be trusted’: Relations between the UK and Berlin intelligence chiefs hit after comments by London

Germany’s spy agency BND is being frozen out by GCHQ as well as in America
Both believe insecure servers have led to Wikileaks taking classified documents

Berlin officials are angry that secret intelligence data has not been handed over

The freeze-out also applies to the Metropolitan Police and UK Border Force

Relations between British and German spy chiefs have hit rock bottom because London says its counterparts in Berlin cannot be trusted to keep secrets.

At a time of escalating Islamic terror threats across Europe, Germany’s spy agency BND is being frozen out by GCHQ and the National Security Agency in the US.

Both London and Washington believe insecure German data servers have contributed to the leaking of tens of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks.

And they have infuriated Berlin by refusing to hand over secret intelligence data demanded by left wing and Green politicians which they fear will be aired in the German parliament.

At a time of escalating Islamic terror threats across Europe, Germany’s spy agency BND is being frozen out by GCHQ (base pictured)
At a time of escalating Islamic terror threats across Europe, Germany’s spy agency BND is being frozen out by GCHQ (base pictured)

It is claimed in Germany that a tranche of 500,000 sides of files put out by Wikileaks this month were GCHQ documents on covert mobile phone policy for British intelligence agents dated June 2010 and classified as secret.

They believe that the documents, once shared with Germany, were transferred to hackers – possibly Russian – who then fed them to the whistleblowing group.

Also listed as top secret was a briefing paper for attendees at a pre-G20 meeting held in London between September 2 and 5 2009 in which Turkey’s role in Europe was on the agenda.

It is understood that in November 2014 there was a meeting in Berlin between Sir Simon McDonald, the then British ambassador to Germany, together with Patrick McGuinness, Deputy National Security Adviser for Intelligence, Security, and Resilience at the Cabinet Office, and high security officials in Angela Merkel’s government.

In November 2014 there was a meeting in Berlin between Sir Simon McDonald, the then-British ambassador to Germany, and high security officials in Angela Merkel’s government
In November 2014 there was a meeting in Berlin between Sir Simon McDonald, the then-British ambassador to Germany, and high security officials in Angela Merkel’s government

The British made it plain at the meeting that co-operation between Britain and Germany was becoming increasingly problematic because of leaks.

A source familiar with the meeting said: ‘They stressed that a secret service is just that and that its workings and operations must remain secret and they felt that Germany was leaking them like a sieve.

Britain told the Germans that the freeze on information would not only apply to MI6 and GCHQ but also to the Metropolitan Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and the UK Border Force.

The source said: ‘It has now reached the point where there is virtual radio silence between the two biggest and most important intelligence services of the western world and the BND of Germany.

‘Germany is worried because it needs the umbrella protection of these agencies. It is virtually blind without it.’

Another crisis meeting was held in Berlin in February last year to discuss the biggest rift between secret services since the end of the Second World War. It failed to placate the British and the Americans.

High-grade information on jihadists, their movements and terror plans as discovered by London and Washington and directly involving Germany, are no longer being passed on as a matter of routine.

The upheaval has been caused in part by left-wing and green politicians still fuming over the spying activities carried out in Germany by America’s National Security Agency, which involved the eavesdropping on Mrs Merkel’s personal mobile telephone.

The German government requested Britain to release details of the secret operations to a committee probing the NSA and other foreign spy agency activities in the country.

The move was forced by politicians of the hard-left Die Linke and the environmentalist Green parties.

Left-wing and green politicians are still fuming over the spying activities carried out by the National Security Agency, including eavesdropping on Mrs Merkel’s personal mobile
Left-wing and green politicians are still fuming over the spying activities carried out by the National Security Agency, including eavesdropping on Mrs Merkel’s personal mobile

Both the UK and America refused to send any of the requested files to Germany. Included among them was a demand for information about a 2013 operation handled by both countries – and in co-operation with the BND – which was, and remains, top secret but was known to involve a massive surveillance programme on suspected Islamic terrorists across Europe.

Britain fears a ‘big debate’ in the German parliament which would lay open secret sources and intelligence gathering techniques.

A BND insider said: ‘Never has a friendly nation been asked to divulge its secrets in this way. It is outrageous and we completely understand the fury that this has unleashed in Whitehall. But it has left us vulnerable.’

By ALLAN HALL IN BERLIN and IAN DRURY IN LONDON FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 00:22 GMT, 16 December 2016 | UPDATED: 01:36 GMT, 16 December 2016

Find this story at 16 December 2016
© Associated Newspapers Ltd

German spy inquiry could demand access to British intelligence secrets

Exclusive: Chairman warns German parliamentary inquiry into spying known as NSA Committee could force Angela Merkel’s government to disclose files on joint intelligence operations with UK

German spy inquiry could demand access to British intelligence secrets
The German inquiry was set up last year in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosure that the US spied on Mrs Merkel’s mobile phone Photo: Reuters

A German parliamentary inquiry into spying is demanding access to classified information on British intelligence, its chairman has said.
Prof Patrick Sensburg told the Telegraph his committee of MPs could go to court to force Angela Merkel’s government to disclose files on joint intelligence operations with Britain.
He also called for a new Europe-wide agreement to limit powers on data surveillance.
Britain has reportedly threatened to end intelligence cooperation with Germany if the files on joint operations are opened to the inquiry.
“In the end, we can go to our highest court and ask them to decide. We have a right as a parliamentary inquiry to get information from our government,” Prof Sensburg said.
“But I hope it won’t come to that point because that’s not a good situation for our partners.
“There’s no agreement with the British yet. There are a lot of documents we want to see that we’re looking for their agreement on.”
• Head of German inquiry into spying claims his own phone may have been hacked
• Britain ‘threatens to stop sharing intelligence’ with Germany
The warning presents the latest security threat to British intelligence, after officials warned that Russia and China had cracked the encryptions on secret files leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, forcing MI6 to withdraw compromised agents from operations in dangerous countries around the world.

Former U.S. defence contractor Edward Snowden (Reuters)
The German inquiry was set up last year in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosure that the US spied on Mrs Merkel’s mobile phone.
German prosecutors on Friday closed a criminal investigation into that case, citing lack of evidence.
But the parliamentary inquiry continues, and has taken on a wider remit, to investigate spying in general.
Prof Sensburg said the German government was in discussions with Britain to find an acceptable way of sharing the information with the inquiry.
His committee is facing a similar stand-off with the US over requests for files on joint operations with American agencies.
“I never expected a lorry full of lever arch files from the British Embassy to arrive outside my office,” Prof Sensburg said.
“Of course, we’re dealing with an issue that concerns intelligence. I understand that a lot of the information is top secret.
“It comes to a question of the branches of government: does it include parliament? We have a duty as MPs to monitor our government.”
The issue has underlined how decisions made in a committee room in Berlin can have a serious impact on British intelligence operations.
Prof Sensburg declined to comment on reports the British government sent a letter to Mrs Merkel’s office earlier this year threatening to end all intelligence cooperation if the files were shown to the inquiry.
Angela Merkel with her mobile phone
“I can’t talk to the British government as chairman of the committee,” he said, adding that he was relying on the German government to fnd a solution acceptable to Britain.
Mrs Merkel’s government is proposing solving a similar impasse with the US by appointing a special commissioner to read the classified files, according to reports.
The commissioner would then report back to the MPs.
The Americans have reportedly already frozen intelligence cooperation with German soldiers in Iraq over the inquiry, and declined to respond to requests for help locating a German hostage in Afghanistan.
The British and American concerns are believed to centre on a series of leaks of classified information suspected to have come from the inquiry.
Mrs Merkel’s office wrote to its members last year threatening them with prosecution if there were further leaks.
But Mr Sensburg denied his committee was the source of the leaks.
“None of those documents had stamps on them from the inquiry,” he said. “They could have been leaked from abroad, or by our own government. One has even been proved to be a fake.”
Initially set up in the wake of disclosures that the US National Security Agency spied on Mrs Merkel, the inquiry is known in Germany as the “NSA Committee”.
But it has found itself at the centre of an ever-widening spy scandal after allegations emerged that Germany’s own BND intelligence service spied on French government officials and other European targets – at the NSA’s request.
“I think these days we should rename it the BND Committee,” Prof Sensburg joked.
The dispute with the US is over the inquiry’s request to see a list of the phone numbers and email addresses the NSA asked the BND to monitor.
European countries including Austria and Belgium have opened their own investigations in the wake of allegations.
“I think it’s time for all of us in Europe, including the UK, to find a common policy on limits for data surveillance,” Prof Sensburg said.
Currently, different national intelligence agencies all have their own rules on what they’re allowed to spy on.
The BND filters out German results but not those from friendly European countries.
“It’s no good if Germany agrees to filters out European results, but other countries don’t,” Prof Sensburg said.
A member of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats, Prof Sensburg has often had to act as a moderating voice on the committee against the shriller demands of opposition members.
He is quick to distance himself from criticism of the UK after reports there was a listening post on the British Embassy in Berlin, for instance.
“I don’t know why the UK and the US were singled out for that, and not Russia or China,” he said.
Opposition inquiry members have already taken the German government to court once, to try to force it to allow Mr Snowden to come to Germany and testify in person.
The court rejected that bid, ruling that the government couldn’t give Mr Snowden immunity from extradition to the US.
“I think what Edward Snowden did is he gave this issue a face,” Prof Sensburg said.
“Without Snowden it would have been an issue for experts and freaks, not the wider public.”

By Justin Huggler, Berlin10:17AM BST 18 Jun 2015

Find this story at 18 june 2015

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2017

Going global: the UK government’s ‘CVE’ agenda, counter-radicalisation and covert propaganda

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts, the government tells us, “address the root causes of extremism through community engagement”. But could this globalising project have counter-productive consequences?

Earlier this week the advocacy group CAGE and the Guardian both published revelations concerning a covert propaganda programme run by the UK Home Office as part of the Prevent programme.

We have been investigating the government Research and Information Communications Unit (RICU), the PR agency Breakthrough Media and the many ‘grassroots’ campaigns they worked with for almost a year with varying degrees of complicity. We have only published a small amount of the information we amassed and expect the Guardian and other journalists to reveal more in the coming days.

In this article we show how those orchestrating the campaigns have global ambitions – and despite the abject lack of debate – how the UK’s “industrial scale propaganda” programme is already being held up as best practice by the EU and UN.

The story so far
Over the past five years, the Home Office and a secretive government department called RICU, the Research, Information and Communications Unit, has been cultivating a network of ‘grassroots’ Muslim voices to promote ‘counter-narratives’ that combat the appeal of an ill-defined ‘extremism’ among Britain’s Muslim youth. Parliament has not been informed of these activities and the policy has been kept from public scrutiny by draconian secrecy legislation and the veil of ‘national security’.

Working with specialist PR agencies and new media companies to target young people who fit the profile of ‘vulnerable young Muslim’, RICU’s interventions represent the first concerted foray into cyberspace by the British state with the aim of covertly engineering the thoughts of its citizens. In practice this means the chosen ‘grassroots’ organisations and ‘counter-narratives’ receive financial and technical support from the government for the production of their multimedia campaigns (videos, websites, podcasts, blogs etc).

These state-sponsored ‘counter-narratives’ are in turn promoted to specific groups of internet users, chosen on the basis of their demographics, the websites they visit, the social media accounts they ‘follow’, and the search terms they use.

It has now been revealed that the following ‘grassroots’ campaigns have received some kind of support from the Home Office, RICU or Breakthrough Media: My 2012 Dream, Return to Somalia, Help for Syria, Faith on the Frontline, Families matter, Imams online, Not another brother, Ummah Sonic, The fightback starts here, Open Your Eyes: Isis Lies, The truth about Isis, and Making a Stand. At issue is not what these initiatives stand for, or even that they are government supported, but that they are presented as independent, community-based campaigns.

While the government has defended RICU’s programme as some kind of ‘necessary evil’, we should not be duped. When democratic governments start using community groups and NGOs to disseminate government propaganda and hoodwink the public into believing they are authentic ‘grassroots’ campaigns, it damages everyone in civil society. Democracy requires clear lines between the security state and the police on the one hand, and civil society, public and social services on the other.

Breakthrough Media – an official secret no more

Fair use.
Breakthrough Media is the government’s go-to creative media agency for its “counter-narratives”. It specializes in “emotionally driven films, campaigns and other communications products” and its clients include government and intergovernmental agencies (UK, US, European Union, African Union, United Nations) and various NGOs. It has offices in London, Nairobi and Mogadishu and employs 100 people across Europe and East Africa.

Some of Breakthrough’s work for the UK government has been protected by the Official Secrets Act – an extraordinary use of national security legislation to conceal the activities of a government-contracted PR company.

Breakthrough was founded by Managing Director Robert Elliot, and originally called “Camden Creative”, which was incorporated in 2008. Camden Creative operated as a drama and documentaries production company that delivered a ten-part reality drama series for Channel 5 and a one-off documentary about the Mayor of Mogadishu for Al Jazeera English. The name of the company was changed to “Breakthrough Media” on 27 November 2012. Breakthrough’s CEO is Scott Brown, appointed on 17 August 2012. Brown was formerly an account director at M&C Saatchi and Deputy Chief of Staff at Bell Pottinger (the UK’s biggest PR company) in Nairobi.

Breakthrough has earned £11.8m from the UK government since 2012. Lest there be any doubt about the commitment of the UK government to this cause, it has just asked PR companies to pitch for a further £60 million.

Horizon PR

Fair use.
Horizon PR was incorporated in March 2015 and is part of the M&C Saatchi Group, the international PR and advertising group formed by Maurice and Charles Saatchi after they were ousted from their original firm, Saatchi and Saatchi. Horizon has five directors: Robert Elliot and Scott Brown of Breakthrough Media, and Andrew Blackstone, Molly Aldridge and Marcus Peffers from the M&C Saatchi group. Blackstone and Aldridge are senior executives at M&C Saatchi, while Peffers was a senior account director who founded the company’s World Services division in 2011 to bring the “experience and creative capabilities” of the agency to “help tackle complex behavioural and social issues in fragile states and developing markets”. M&C Saatchi’s World Services works with a range of national and international governments, IGOs, INGOs and foundations and is among the group’s most successful divisions. Feffers has also worked at a senior advisory level with successive UK governments, including HMT, the FCO, the Home Office, HMRC and Number 10, and oversaw M&C Saatchi’s campaign to keep Scotland in the Union on behalf of the three main UK political parties.

Horizon provides PR solutions to “ethnic, social and faith based issues” to clients including “non-government and civil-society groups who want to improve and increase the impact and scale of their activity and better reach audiences at a local, regional, national and international level”. This is achieved through “creative news generation, traditional and social media campaigns and targeted events”. In launching Horizon, Breakthrough and the Saatchis are clearly betting on a big future in communicating government messages on sensitive issues such as “terrorism” and “extremism”.

Hand-in-hand: censorship and propaganda
The lengths of the UK’s covert propaganda programme appear even more extraordinary in the context of the government’s mass censorship of the internet – something which can only be achieved with the cooperation of internet service providers and social media companies.

Since the Edward Snowden revelations, and having realized that working hand-in-glove with the “Five Eyes” global surveillance system was not good for their reputation or business prospects, Silicon Valley appears to have enjoyed a much less comfortable relationship with western governments. Some of its biggest names have taken formal positions that distance themselves from government surveillance, and introduced corresponding procedures designed to reassure and protect their users.

But Silicon Valley has been unable to extricate itself from the broader ‘war on terror’ and ad hoc public-private partnerships have emerged to address demands from law enforcement and intelligence agencies to block “terrorist propaganda”. In the UK, this process has essentially replicated the model developed to combat the proliferation of child pornography on the internet.

As with child porn, states have passed laws banning the production and dissemination of terrorist propaganda, providing grounds for the state to request companies to close accounts or block websites (so-called “notice and take-down” requests) said to contravene national law. In the absence of obvious legal breaches, the censors argue that the content breaches the provider’s terms of service.

The UK has pioneered the censorship of “terrorist” content, having established the world’s first Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CITRU) in 2010, modelled on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency. CITRU is the central contact point for police and intelligence officers seeking to block web pages or close social media accounts, and refers their requests to service providers, search engines and content platforms. By December 2015, CITRU claimed to have taken down “more than 120,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content online” since 2010, with one-third removed in 2015.

In practice, content hosted outside the UK (as most “terrorist propaganda” is) is not actually “taken down” – access is instead blocked by British ISPs (and can therefore be easily circumvented). Nor do these figures include independent action by social media companies. In February 2016, Twitter announced that it had shut down more than 125,000 ISIS related accounts.

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the EU launched a Europe-wide blocking system modelled on CITRU. The EU Counter-terrorism Internet Referral Unit began operating in July 2015 and is housed at Europol.

You would instinctively think that “terrorist propaganda” means the horrific videos of ISIS beheadings and such like, yet violent material is said to make up just 2% of what is blocked. Regardless, the level of censorship of terrorists and extremists has now reached levels that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. But this is only one side of the story.

Silicon Valley and counter-narratives
Having played ball with content take-down, the Silicon Valley behemoths have also increasingly embraced the “counter-narrative” agenda – an agenda they are of course uniquely placed to implement. In February 2015, a “White House Summit To Counter Violent Extremism” gathered foreign leaders, United Nations officials, and “a broad range of international representatives and members of civil society”.

Following the summit, the White House announced several new initiatives. First, the US government would organize “technology camps” alongside social media companies, which will “work with governments, civil society and religious leaders to develop digital content that discredits violent extremist narratives and amplifies positive alternatives”. Second, the US will partner with the United Arab Emirates to create a “digital communications hub that will counter ISIL’s propaganda and recruitment efforts, both directly and through engagement with civil society, community, and religious leaders”. In other words: the stratosphere that includes organisations RICU, CITRU, Breakthrough, ‘grassroots’.

While Facebook and Google were tight-lipped, a Twitter spokesman stated that they “support counterspeech efforts around the world and we plan to participate in this effort through third-party NGOs”. Twitter has also run a series of workshops for UK NGOs concerned with countering extremism to help them enhance their presence on social media.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee in February 2016, Google announced that it was going one step further and “piloting two pilot programmes. One is to make sure that these types of videos [counter-narratives] are more discoverable on YouTube. The other one is to make sure when people put potentially damaging search terms into our search engine… they also find this counter-narrative”. It was later clarified that the programme took the form of “free Google AdWords” to enable NGOs to place “counter-radicalisation adverts against search queries of their choosing”.

To be clear about what this means in practice, imagine an internet user fitting the profile of ‘impressionable young Muslim’ (as defined by Prevent), searching Google for “Syria war” (or clicking on a Facebook link about it) and being referred to Breakthrough’s Open Your Eyes: Isis Lies campaign, among others. And as we know from the Snowden revelations, these searches will be logged and investigated by the intelligence services.

The symbolism of all of this cannot be understated. Removing one kind of ‘propaganda’ and promoting another at the request of governments – or via government-backed NGOs or contractors – is a far cry from the free speech-cum-great leveller Silicon Valley told us to believe in.

And as well-intentioned as their interventions may be, having embarked on this slippery slope, can or should we now expect the likes of Google to assist in re-directing would be white supremacists to #blacklivesmatter websites, or Europe’s growing army of neo-Nazis to #hopenothate?

Your answer to this question should help you think through the legitimacy of what has been revealed to address ‘radicalisation’ among Muslims.

Against Violent Extremism Network

Fair use.
The Against Violent Extremism (AVE) Network is a partnership between Google Ideas, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and Gen Next Foundation (GNF). GNF, which initially described itself as an “exclusive membership organization and platform for successful individuals” committed to social change through venture capital funding, “aspires to solve the greatest generational challenges of our time using a unique hybrid of private sector and non-profit business models – called a venture philanthropy model”. Its core areas are education, economic opportunity and global security.

AVE was hatched at the 2011 Google Ideas (now ‘Jigsaw’) Summit Against Violent Extremism and is managed by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. It claims to have brought together “hundreds of former extremists and survivors of violent extremism to fight back against online extremist messaging and recruitment”. In 2015, AVE claimed to have “over 2,000 members globally”, “over 60 counter-extremism projects” and “partnerships with global technology firms including Twitter and Facebook”.

The counter-narratives projects incubated and assisted by AVE are believed to include myextremism.org, a juvenile platform for “extremists against extremism”, and Abdullah X, the former extremist turned ‘down with the kids’ cartoon ‘Jihobbyist’.

‘Abdullah-X’ – the counter-narratives’ poster boy
Abdullah-X says: “I am here to deliver awareness, develop and divert young Muslims from the path of relying solely on information that can take them on a journey towards extremism and hate. You will find me in content that is created to instil critical thinking and understanding in the minds of those who are often vulnerable to the messaging of extremist ideologies.”

The ‘street-savvy’ looking cartoon character, complete with chains and corn-rows, is given a Muslim name with the suffix ‘X’, an obvious reference to Malcolm X, and a means of co-opting a legacy that disenfranchised youth may respect. Abdullah-X’s videos attempt to take on contentious issues within the Muslim world, providing a ‘counter-narrative’ to questions that many Muslims have. In one video, he considers Palestine and the growing call to boycott Israel, by questioning what it can achieve: “I wonder, is all my plaque waving and shouting in anger to others a Sunnah? I mean in truth, will my ‘peaceful protest’ for Gaza truly aid the Palestinian people or does it aid my ego… What is the bigger picture?”

For Abdullah-X, the bigger picture is not Israeli occupation and apartheid, but the failure of the Arab world to intervene in Gaza: “Because they live in the shadow of their paymasters… sadly their paymasters are not those who follow the Sunnah.” This ahistorical presentation is part of a wider trend in which Abdullah-X seeks to depoliticise British Islam in favour of shallower spiritual reflection.

Abdullah-X claims that he was a former adherent of Abu Hamza al-Masri and Omar Bakri Mohammed. He claims that his position as a former extremist uniquely places to deter others from following similar routes. He now has a female sidekick in Muslimah-X.

One of the most astonishing achievements of the counter-radicalisation industry is its burial of the idea that the people best-placed to deter individuals from extremism, might actually be those who have never engaged in any form of it.

In an interview with On the Media on 19 June 2015, Abdullah-X was asked if he is funded by MI6 or some other entity. He responded with the claim that the cartoon is “…a self funded project of myself and a few like-minded people.”

Fair use.

Going global
The 2015 White House Summit on Combating Violent Extremism was more a product than a catalyst of the global CVE agenda, which has been developing under the auspices of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF). The GCTF is an informal group of 29 states plus the European Union launched in no small part because of resistance to the dominant security and counter-terrorism paradigm at the UN on the part of many developing countries, which served to prevent those states most invested in the ‘war on terror’ from enhancing their operational cooperation through UN mechanisms.

The UK co-chairs, in partnership with the United Arab Emirates, the GCTF’s CVE working group, which held its inaugural meeting in Abu Dhabi in April 2012. The minutes report that “The UK opened the session by underscoring the belief common to many GCTF members: that countering violent extremism is a battle of ideas; in such a battle, altering the grounds of debate and countering radical messages are vital.”

The following year, the GCTF organised the UN Conference on “Best Practice in Communications” in June 2013 in London. The meeting was co-chaired by Richard Chalk, then head of RICU. It recommended that “practitioners must take a strategic approach to CVE communications work and articulate the totality of a government’s engagement on a given issue”; that “messages should be simple, concise, tailored, and delivered by credible messengers”; and that “policies must be aligned with messages in order to be credible”.

Countering violent extremism… with our friends in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh
The GCTF has also launched the Hedayah Center of Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism, based in Abu Dhabi, to which at least one British government official is seconded. Hedayah’s publications include “National CVE Strategies: Guidelines and Good Practices”, a document that draws heavily on the Prevent school of counter-extremism. Hedayah has been lavished with US, EU and Gulf state funding, and is the obvious home for the UAE-based “digital communications hub” to counter ISIL propaganda announced by the White House last year.

Hedayah also hosted the GLOBAL CVE EXPO in December 2014, which stressed the need for “more effective collaboration on counter-narratives, drawing from experiences of policymakers, practitioners and industry/private sector representatives”. The month before it held an expert workshop on counter-narratives which extolled the virtues of using “victims, formers and ex-prisoners” in counter-narrative products.

The irony of establishing an International Center of Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism in a country whose CVE efforts include a strict ban on the regime’s political opponents, the Muslim Brotherhood, the mass deportation of Shi’a residents, and hiring Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater (now Academi), to form secret, mercenary armies, is not lost on all observers. In advance of the White House CVE summit, Steven Hawkins, director of Amnesty International USA, warned that abusive regimes could take advantage of ‘CVE-mania’ and use international funding to violate human rights in the absence of appropriate safeguards.

The UK is also exporting its counter-narratives programme through the EU and the UN. The former has established the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) under the ‘PREVENT’ strand of the EU Counter-Terrorism strategy, which has a dedicated Communication and Narratives Working Group. The WG is co-chaired by Najeeb Ahmed, a Home Office Prevent coordinator, and Guillaume de Saint Marc, CEO of the French Association of Victims of Terrorism. The RAN network also has a Working Group on the Internet and Social Media, co-chaired by Yasmin Green (Google Ideas) and Rachel Briggs (Institute for Strategic Dialogue). RAN’s Issue Paper on Counter Narratives and Alternative Narratives reads as if it was written by RICU.

Similarly, the UN had a Working Group on the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes, under the auspices of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force. This appears to have been disbanded, and its work taken-up the GCTF, but not before it had staged the Riyadh Conference on “Use of the Internet to Counter the Appeal of Extremist Violence” in 2011. This in a country declared an “Enemy of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders and notorious for the mass beheading of alleged terrorists, apostates and blasphemers.

The Riyadh conference, which was co-funded by the German government and the Saudi royal family, brought together around 150 policy-makers, experts and practitioners from the public sector, international organisations, industry, academia and the media. The speakers included Christopher Wainwright (RICU) and Jared Cohen (Google Ideas). Top of the list of summit Recommendations was to “Promote counter-narratives through all relevant media channels (online, print, TV/Radio)”.

Under the heading “Credible Messengers as Important as the Message”, the summary of the proceedings produced by the CTITF records:

Leaving aside the many dubious assertions in this passage, when a UN Working Group meets in Saudi Arabia to recommend that security and intelligence agencies recruit former extremists and provide them with institutional homes in fake NGOs to produce state propaganda, things have clearly gone badly awry.

Do as I say not as I do
As we said in our report, there is nothing objectionable in principle about grassroots activism that tries to steer people away from violence and ‘extremism’ – or any form of other ‘-ism’ for that matter. Indeed, freedom to engage in whatever kind of non-violent activism one chooses gets to the heart of what it means to live in a democracy that holds freedom of expression dear.

But there has to be a basic degree of transparency and accountability, without which communities will not trust government, and people will not trust anyone. They need to be confident in the difference between government propaganda and genuine activism. They need to know that non-governmental organisations and grassroots organisations are independent of government and corporations, or otherwise open about their relationship to them. When civil society organisations become tools of government or business, it damages the non-profit sector as a whole.

This week’s revelations are symptomatic of the capture of government policy by an increasingly influential counter-radicalisation industry. Yet for all the best practice and international recommendations described above, radicalisation theory is still mired in Islamophobic bunkum, with no reliable metrics through which to substantiate its claims of effectiveness, and no evidence to support the assertion that the UK’s Prevent programme has been anything other than a divisive failure.

As a paper by the International Centre for Counter-terrorism in the Hague suggests: “Doing the right thing rather than saying the right thing produces, ideally, the stronger narrative and in that sense the interaction patterns between host community and vulnerable youth constitute a non-verbal message that might better manage to prevent extremists gaining more ground in a community”.

BEN HAYES and ASIM QURESHI 4 May 2016

Find this story at 4 May 2016

British anti-extremism agencies are working at an ‘industrial scale and pace’ and using Cold War tactics to combat ISIS propaganda

Terror group puts out around 18 messages a day to its followers
Government has set up covert group to counter radical propaganda
David Cameron is to announce new laws targeting hate preachers

A covert unit set up to tackle extremism is working ‘at an industrial scale and pace’ as it attempts to counter the barrage of ISIS propaganda online.

The Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU), a little-known group set up by the UK government, is using Cold War tactics to stop the spread of radical jihadism.

Some of the methods used by the unit emerged today as David Cameron prepares to announce tough new laws to crack down on extremism.

Radical material is now available to anyone wanting to access it as jihadists flood the web with propaganda
+3
Radical material is now available to anyone wanting to access it as jihadists flood the web with propaganda

RICU was set up in response to the July 7 terror attacks in 2005, but the importance of its role has increased with the rise of ISIS, who now put out an estimated 18 messages a day to their followers.

The slick production techniques behind ISIS’s infamous beheading videos and the terrorists’ use of social media to spread them has meant even the most extreme propaganda can be accessed in homes, schools and workplaces around the world.

It emerged today that RICU often conceals the origin of information it sends out over fears that knowing it came from the government would undermine its credibility in the eyes of some young Muslims.

One initiative, which portrays itself as a campaign providing advice on how to raise funds for Syrian refugees, has spoken to thousands of students at university freshers’ fairs without any of them realising they were engaging with a government programme.

The Help for Syria campaign has distributed leaflets to 760,000 homes without the recipients realising they were government communications.

Meanwhile, some of the group’s work has been outsourced to a communications firm, Breakthrough Media Network, which produced websites, leaflets and social media pages with titles such as The Truth about ISIS,The Guardian revealed.

The tactics used by a government counter-extremism group, which include setting up the Help for Syria campaign (website pictured), emerged today as the government plans a new crackdown on hate preachers
The tactics used by a government counter-extremism group, which include setting up the Help for Syria campaign (website pictured), emerged today as the government plans a new crackdown on hate preachers

The methods have been criticised as ‘deceptive’ by critics, with human rights lawyer Imran Khan telling the newspaper: ‘This government needs to stop thinking of young British Muslims as some sort of fifth column that it needs to deal with.’

But the Home Office insisted RICU’s work could involve ‘sensitive issues’ and some of the organisations it worked with did not want to publicly reveal the relationship with the Government.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘The battle against terrorism and extremism must be fought on several fronts including countering its twisted narrative online and in our communities. The need for this work is recognised at a national and international level.

Videos including those of Jihadi John, since killed, have been used by ISIS to spread hate
Videos including those of Jihadi John, since killed, have been used by ISIS to spread hate

‘As the Prime Minister has said, we face a generational challenge and it is vital we work in partnership with communities, civil society groups and individuals to confront extremism in all its forms.

‘This has been a key part of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy since publication of the Prevent review in 2011.

‘We are very proud of the support RICU has provided to organisations working on the front line to challenge the warped ideology of groups such as Daesh [ISIS], and to protect communities.

‘This work can involve sensitive issues, vulnerable communities and hard to reach audiences and it has been important to build relationships out of the media glare.

‘We respect the bravery of individuals and organisations who choose to speak out against violence and extremism and it is right that we support, empower and protect them.

‘Our guiding principle has to be whether or not any organisation we work with is itself happy to talk publicly about what they do. At the same time we are as open as possible about RICU’s operating model, and have referenced the role of RICU in a number of publications and in Parliament.’

By RICHARD SPILLETT FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 08:16 GMT, 3 May 2016 | UPDATED: 10:02 GMT, 3 May 2016

Find this story at 3 May 2016

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The questions include:

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

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

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

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

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

Find this story at 31 May 2016

© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

UK spy agencies have collected bulk personal data since 1990s, files show Agencies privately concede that ‘intrusive’ practices can invade privacy and that data is gathered on people ‘unlikely to be of interest’

Britain’s intelligence agencies have been secretly collecting bulk personal data since the late 1990s and privately admit they have gathered information on people who are “unlikely to be of intelligence or security interest”.

Disclosure of internal MI5, MI6 and GCHQ documents reveals the agencies’ growing reliance on amassing data as a prime source of intelligence even as they concede that such “intrusive” practices can invade the privacy of individuals.

A cache of more than 100 memorandums, forms and policy papers, obtained by Privacy International during a legal challenge over the lawfulness of surveillance, demonstrates that collection of bulk data has been going on for longer than previously disclosed while public knowledge of the process was suppressed for more than 15 years.

The files show that GCHQ, the government’s electronic eavesdropping centre based in Cheltenham, was collecting and developing bulk data sets as early as 1998 under powers granted by section 94 of the 1984 Telecommunications Act.

The documents offer a unique insight into the way MI5, MI6, and GCHQ go about collecting and storing bulk data on individuals, as well as authorising discovery of journalists’ sources.

Bulk personal data includes information extracted from passports, travel records, financial data, telephone calls, emails and many other open or covert sources. Often they are “fused” together to help pinpoint suspects.

The frequency of warnings to intelligence agency staff about the dangers of trespassing on private records is at odds with ministers’ repeated public reassurances that only terrorists and serious criminals are having their personal details compromised.

For example, a newsletter circulated in September 2011 by the Secret Intelligence Agency (SIS), better known as MI6, cautioned against staff misuse. “We’ve seen a few instances recently of individuals crossing the line with their database use … looking up addresses in order to send birthday cards, checking passport details to organise personal travel, checking details of family members for personal convenience,” it says.

“Another area of concern is the use of the database as a ‘convenient way’ to check the personal details of colleagues when filling out service forms on their behalf. Please remember that every search has the potential to invade the privacy of individuals, including individuals who are not the main subject of your search, so please make sure you always have a business need to conduct that search and that the search is proportionate to the level of intrusion involved.” Better where possible to use “less intrusive” means, it adds.

Theresa May unveils UK surveillance measures in wake of Snowden claims
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There has been disciplinary action. Between 2014 and 2016, two MI5 and three MI6 officers were disciplined for mishandling bulk personal data. Last year, it was reported that a member of GCHQ’s staff had been sacked for making unauthorised searches.

The papers show that data handling errors remain a problem. Government lawyers have admitted in responses to Privacy International that between 1 June 2014 and 9 February this year, “47 instances of non-compliance either with the MI5 closed section 94 handling arrangements or internal guidance or the communications data code of practice were detected.” Four errors involved “necessity and proportionality” issues; 43 related to mistransposed digits, material that did not relate to the subject of investigation or duplicated requests.

Another MI5 file notes that datasets “contain personal data about individuals, the majority of whom are unlikely to be of intelligence or security interest”.

The documents have been disclosed before a trial due later this summer at the investigatory powers tribunal, which hears complaints about state-authorised surveillance and the intelligence agencies. IPT sessions hear secret evidence behind closed doors.

Release of these internal records follows admissions by David Cameron and by parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) last year in the wake of revelations by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The most recent documents refer to a “more onerous authorisation process” after the prime minister’s avowal of the “use of bulk personal data”. They provide fresh detail of what is happening in the intelligence agencies.

Web and phone companies are required to retain data for official access for 12 months, but the intelligence agency documents make clear that acquired bulk data sets can be held far longer.

An MI5 memorandum says retention of “low intrusion” material needs to be reviewed only every two years. Some key words are missing from the memo, but it adds: “In MI5, a maximum retention period [redaction] is applied to [bulk personal data]. This can be increased in exceptional circumstances via a policy waiver. This waiver must be authorised by a senior MI5 official and agreed by the BPDRP [bulk data retention review panel] but shall be subject to a detailed review.”

Bulk personal data is exchanged with “foreign agencies”, presumably mainly those from other countries in the UK’s traditional “Five Eyes” alliance – the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

European court to consider legality of UK surveillance laws
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The documents do not specify every type of information exploited but give examples and broad categories: population data and passports, travel records, financial data and communications information. “Some of this data is publicly available, some of it is purchased and some of it is acquired covertly in accordance with SIS statutory functions,” according to an MI6 note.

Monetary information is held. “The fact that [MI5] holds bulk financial, albeit anonymised data is assessed to be a high corporate risk since there is no public expectation that the service will hold or have access to this data in bulk. Were it to become widely known that the service held this data, the media response would most likely be unfavourable and probably inaccurate.

“In some cases, it may be necessary for the relevant team to approach the data provider to examine whether any unnecessary/extraneous parts of the dataset can be removed prior to acquisition. Such extraneous data might include large numbers of minors, details of earnings or medical information.”
Death provides no escape. “Policy and processes in relation to bulk personal data is the same for both the living and the dead,” a combined agencies memo records.

Each intelligence service has its own database, it appears from the documents. For MI5, storage of bulk data is at their London HQ, Thames House. “In order to ensure the security and integrity of the datasets that the service relies upon for its enhanced analytical capabilities and to reassure data providers that their data will be handled securely, it is essential that the necessary physical controls are in place to mitigate unauthorised access to, or loss of, this information during transportation to and subsequent storage in Thames House.”

The justification for assembling such sophisticated databases, according to an MI5 document, is that it speeds up the process of detecting suspects. “By integrating bulk data [redaction] with information about individual subjects of interest from other sources of intelligence (liaison relationships, agent reporting, intercept, eavesdropping, surveillance) and from ‘fusing’ different data-sets in order to identify common links, we can better understand target networks, locations and behaviours, enabling a greater depth and breadth of target coverage.

“The fragmentary nature of many intelligence leads and the magnitude of the threat all mean that there is currently no effective method of resolving identities in a timely fashion without using bulk data.”

The standard MI5 form for acquisition of bulk data requires agency staff to a tick box if it holds sensitive personal data such as “biometric, financial, medical, racial or ethnic origin, religious, journalistic, political, legal, sexual or criminal activity” and membership of a trade union. MI5 officers also need to explain why acquisition is “necessary and proportionate”.

The documents show how alert the agencies are to their legal obligations. They refer to the agencies’ “ethics team”, the need for “proportionality” and “necessity”. One note stresses that GCHQ employees’ conditions of employment state that “unauthorised entry to computer records may constitute gross misconduct”.

But the papers also reveal how much latitude the law – notably Ripa, the Telecommunications Act, and the Data Protection Act – in practice gives them.

Investigatory powers bill: the key points
Read more
The documents include for the first time certificates under section 28 of the Data Protection Act – signed by David Blunkett and Jack Straw in 2001 when they were home and foreign secretary respectively – which provided secrecy about authorised bulk data interceptions under section 94 of the Telecommunications Act. The existence of such directions were not disclosed until last year.

The quantity of information the agencies have been forced to release suggests their long-established position of “neither confirming nor denying” any operational details may be crumbling at the edges.

In parliamentary debate over the investigatory powers bill, the government has argued that the security services only conduct targeted searches of data under legal warrants in pursuit of terrorist or criminal activity and that bulk interception is necessary as a first step in that process.

Millie Graham Wood, a legal officer at Privacy International, said: “The information revealed by this disclosure shows the staggering extent to which the intelligence agencies hoover up our data.

“This highly sensitive information about us is vulnerable to attack from hackers, foreign governments and criminals. The agencies have been doing this for 15 years in secret and are now quietly trying to put these powers on the statute book for the first time in the investigatory powers bill, which is currently being debated in parliament. These documents reveal a lack of openness and transparency with the public about these staggering powers and a failure to subject them to effective parliamentary scrutiny.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Bulk powers have been essential to the security and intelligence agencies over the last decade and will be increasingly important in the future.

“The acquisition and use of bulk provides vital and unique intelligence that the security and intelligence agencies cannot obtain by any other means. The security and intelligence agencies use the same techniques that modern businesses increasingly rely on to analyse data in order to overcome the most significant national security challenges.”

Owen Bowcott and Richard Norton-Taylor
Thursday 21 April 2016 00.01 BST Last modified on Saturday 7 May 2016 15.01 BST
Find this story at 21 April 2016

© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qureshi said he last heard from Emwazi in January 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find this story at 26 February 2015

© Middle East Eye 2014

Revealed: How torture was used to foil al-Qaeda 2010 plot to bomb two airliners 17 minutes before explosion (2015)

Exclusive: Information from terror suspects about 2010 plot was used in a ‘Jack Bauer real-time operation’

The former head of MI6 has revealed that torture “does produce intelligence”

The former head of MI6 has said torturing suspected terrorists produces “useful information”, as The Independent on Sunday reveals that “real-time” intelligence understood to have been obtained by torture in Saudi Arabia helped to thwart a terrorist bombing on British soil.

In his first interview since stepping down from Secret Intelligence Service in January, Sir John Sawers told the BBC yesterday that torture “does produce intelligence” and security services “set aside the use of torture… because it is against the values” of British society, not because it doesn’t work in the short term. Sir John defended the security services against accusations they had played a role in the radicalising of British Muslims, including Mohammed Emwazi, who it is claimed is the extremist responsible for the murder of hostages in Syria.

The IoS can reveal details of a dramatic “Jack Bauer real-time operation” to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two airliners in 2010. According to a well-place intelligence source, the discovery of a printer cartridge bomb on a UPS cargo aircraft at East Midlands airport was possible only because two British government officials in Saudi Arabia were in “immediate communication” with a team reportedly using torture to interrogate an al-Qaeda operative as part of “ticking bomb scenario” operation.

4-John-Sawers-AFPGet.jpg
Sir John Sawers has advised increasing defence spending to counter the security threat posed by Russian aggression (AFP/Getty)
The terror plot was to use cartridge bombs to bring down two aircraft over the eastern United States. However, British authorities intercepted the first device at the cargo airport hub after what they described as a “tip-off” from Saudi Arabia. A second device was intercepted aboard a freight plane in Dubai; both aircraft had started their trips in Yemen.

The IoS understands there was a frantic search prompted by “two or three” calls to Saudi Arabia after the tip-off, with security services battling to find the device. French security sources revealed the device was within 17 minutes of detonating when bomb disposal teams disarmed it.

One intelligence source said: “The people in London went back on the phone two or three times to where the interrogation was taking place in Riyadh to find out specifically where the bomb was hidden. There were two Britons there, in immediate communication with where the interrogation was taking place, and as soon as anything happened, they were in touch with the UK. It was all done in real time.”

There is growing frustration on the part of some UK security officials at Britain’s lack of candour about aspects of intelligence work. “There is a lack of understanding in that most people, if they knew about a ticking bomb scenario, would say torture was defensible, yet we insist on saying ‘we never do it’. Yet we are very happy beneficiaries of it,” one official said.

CIA torture report: The 10 most harrowing stories
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show all

The human rights group Cage said the use of torture by MI5 and MI6 allegedly played a role in radicalising young British Muslims, including Michael Adebolajo, convicted of murdering soldier Lee Rigby in London in 2013. In the interview, Sir John said blaming the security services for radicalisation was “specious” and offered a vigorous defence of the methods used by MI5 and MI6. He said torture had been used for “thousands of years in order to extract useful information”.

He said: “The whole problem about torture and maltreatment is sadly is that it does produce intelligence. And that’s why in a civilised society like ours we have to set aside certain methods, even though they might be effective in the short term. In the longer term they are very counterproductive; they are undermining the values of our society.”

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of campaign group Liberty, said: “That is a low ebb, even for a senior spook in this country. After 9/11, I could have predicted internment without charge or trial. I could predict more invasions of privacy and blanket surveillance, but the one thing I could never have predicted is in 2015 we would be having to talk about torture in the UK.”

4-lee-Rigby-memorial-get.jpg
Floral tributes to Fusilier Lee Rigby at the spot where he was killed (Getty)
According to a source close to the East Midlands bomb operation, the British officials “would have made sure they were not actually in the room” where the torture was allegedly taking place, but there was “no way” the intelligence that thwarted the bombing “wasn’t procured under duress”. “It is a fair inference to say he was being tortured. He wasn’t volunteering the information, that’s for sure,” the source said. “Of course we use intelligence from torture. We take it from wherever we can get it, but we are never, ever going to say ‘we don’t want that’. Or ask too many questions about where it has come from. It is the difference between intelligence and evidence.”

Earlier this month, in what aides confirmed as a reference to the plot, Prime Minister David Cameron alluded to a “piece of information” from Saudi Arabia that “saved potentially hundreds of lives”.

While in office Sir John described torture as “illegal and abhorrent”, but in 2010 said the security services faced “real, constant operational dilemmas” to avoid using information which has been gathered by torture. Two year later, he admitted British agents went “close to the line” when questioning alleged terrorists.

4-Shami-Chakrabarti-TP.jpg
Shami Chakrabarti is shocked that in 2015 “we would be having to talk about torture in the UK.” (Teri Pengilley)
However, senior Tories said the case raised serious issues. Dominic Grieve, the Conservative former attorney general, said: “History shows us that torture can work but that it also often results in completely misleading information. It’s utterly unlawful, totally repugnant, and contrary to our national practices.”

Andrew Tyrie MP, chair of the Parliamentary all-party group on rendition, said: “Allegations of British complicity in rendition, torture and kidnap just keep coming. The case for an independent judge-led inquiry into them has been overwhelming for years.”

There are growing calls backing Mr Tyrie’s long-held argument that the next chair of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) be elected by MPs and not the Prime Minister.

Social media and terrorist threats

Facebook, Twitter and other technology firms have been savaged by a former spy chief for refusing to “fulfil their responsibilities” by protecting people from terrorists.

Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, told Radio 4’s Today programme that the leaks by Edward Snowden had “driven a wedge” between the security services and social media companies which had hampered counter-terrorism efforts.

His comments were echoed by the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, who said social media firms “can’t just stand back and ignore” evidence of their users engaging in extremist activity.

Sir John said: “Before the Snowden leaks took place, there was a good working relationship between technology companies and the intelligence agencies that kept us all safe. That has now gone down to the absolute legal minimum.

4-Edward-Snowden-AP.jpg
Edward Snowden’s revelations sparked outrage about the scope of government snooping (AP)
We cannot just leave the security of society to the intelligence agencies. Technology companies have to find a way whereby they can fulfil their responsibilities and play their part.

“They need to have mechanisms whereby they can identify this dangerous activity, and they are sitting on a mine of data which they use extensively for commercial purposes, but which they are not allowing to be used for purposes of public good like national security.”

Ms Cooper told The IoS: “At the moment, some of the online social media organisations will do more around child abuse than on counter-terror or terrorist threats. I don’t think people can just stand back and ignore it.”

Jamie Merrill, James Hanning, Mark Leftly, Nick Clark @Jamie_Merrill Sunday 1 March 2015

Find this story at 1 March 2015

Copyright http://www.independent.co.uk/

The “Torture Works” Story (2015)

After Adam Goldman exposed the identity of Jihadi John, ISIL’s executioner, as Mohammed Emwazi, it set off an interesting response in Britain.

CagePrisoners — the advocacy organization for detainees — revealed details of how MI5 had tried to recruit Emwazi and, when he refused, had repeatedly harassed him and his family and prevented him from working a job in Kuwait (where he was born).

While that certainly doesn’t excuse beheadings, it does raise questions about how the intelligence services track those it has identified as potential recruits and/or threats.

And seemingly in response to those questions, the former head of MI6 has come forward to say that torture has worked in a ticking time bomb scenario — that of the toner cartridge plot in 2010.

In his first interview since stepping down from Secret Intelligence Service in January, Sir John Sawers

…defended the security services against accusations they had played a role in the radicalising of British Muslims, including Mohammed Emwazi, who it is claimed is the extremist responsible for the murder of hostages in Syria.

The IoS can reveal details of a dramatic “Jack Bauer real-time operation” to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two airliners in 2010. According to a well-place intelligence source, the discovery of a printer cartridge bomb on a UPS cargo aircraft at East Midlands airport was possible only because two British government officials in Saudi Arabia were in “immediate communication” with a team reportedly using torture to interrogate an al-Qaeda operative as part of “ticking bomb scenario” operation.

The terror plot was to use cartridge bombs to bring down two aircraft over the eastern United States. However, British authorities intercepted the first device at the cargo airport hub after what they described as a “tip-off” from Saudi Arabia. A second device was intercepted aboard a freight plane in Dubai; both aircraft had started their trips in Yemen.

The IoS understands there was a frantic search prompted by “two or three” calls to Saudi Arabia after the tip-off, with security services battling to find the device. French security sources revealed the device was within 17 minutes of detonating when bomb disposal teams disarmed it.

One intelligence source said: “The people in London went back on the phone two or three times to where the interrogation was taking place in Riyadh to find out specifically where the bomb was hidden. There were two Britons there, in immediate communication with where the interrogation was taking place, and as soon as anything happened, they were in touch with the UK. It was all done in real time.”

At the time, multiple sources on the Saudi peninsula revealed that authorities learned of this plot — and therefore learned about the bombs — from an apparent double agent(and former Gitmo detainee), Jabir al-Fayfi, who had left AQAP and alerted the Saudis to the plot. If so, it would mean what was learned from torture (if this account can be trusted) was the precise location of the explosives in planes that boxes that had already been isolated.

that may mean this “success” prevented nothing more than an explosion in a controlled situation, because it had already been tipped by a double agent who presumably didn’t need to be tortured to share the information he had been sent in to obtain.

The toner cartridge story significantly resembles the UndieBomb 2.0 plot, which was not only tipped by a double agent, but propagated by it …in that case, the double agent came not via Gitmo and Saudi “deradicalization,” but via MI5, via a recruitment effort very like what MI5 used with Emwazi.

Indeed, it is not unreasonable to imagine that Emwazi knew that double agent

the treatment of a range of people implicated in Yemeni and/or Somali networks (MI5 accused Emwazi of wanting to travel to the latter) derives from the growing awareness among networks who have tried to be recruited who else might have been recruited.

Which might be one reason to tie all this in with “successful torture” — partly a distraction, partly an attempt to defer attention from a network that is growing out of control

2015-03-01 / N/A / www.emptywheel.net

Find this story at 1 March 2015

© 2016 INFOSOURCES

British authorities foiled ink cartridge plot to bring down two planes ‘after tip-off obtained from torture’ (2015)

British authorities intercepted bomb at East Midlands airport after ‘tip off’
Plastic explosives discovered on cargo planes travelling to the US
Intelligence from Saudi Arabia ‘came after torture of al-Qaeda operative’
Ex-spy chief says torture ‘does produce useful information’

Information obtained using torture was used to help foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two planes, it has been claimed.

British authorities intercepted a bomb at East Midlands Airport after being ‘tipped off’ by Saudi Arabian security forces, reportedly following the interrogation by torture of an al-Qaeda operative.

The claim comes as former MI5 head Sir John Sawers said torture does produce ‘useful information’ and can be ‘effective in the short term.’

Intelligence obtained via torture was reportedly used in a ‘Jack Bauer real-time operation’ to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two planes and intercept a bomb at East Midlands Airport (pictured)
+5
Intelligence obtained via torture was reportedly used in a ‘Jack Bauer real-time operation’ to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two planes and intercept a bomb at East Midlands Airport (pictured)

A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is the package found at East Midlands Airport
A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is the package found at East Midlands Airport

A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010.

It is believed the bombs were designed to go off mid-air and bring the huge planes down over the US.

After what was described as a ‘tip-off’ from Saudi Arabian security forces, the planes were stopped at East Midlands Airport in Leicestershire and the United Arab Emirates and the bombs uncovered.

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A group called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) later took responsibility for the plot.

Now it has been claimed the discovery at East Midlands Airport was only possible because British officials in Saudi Arabia were in communication with a team believed to have been using torture on a member of terror group al-Qaeda.

‘The people in London went back on the phone two or three times to where the interrogation was taking place in Riyadh to find out specifically where the bomb was hidden. There were two Britons there, in immediate communication with where the interrogation was taking place, and as soon as it happened, they were in touch with the UK. It was all done in real time,’ an intelligence source told Jamie Merrill, James Hanning, Mark Leftly and Nick Clark at The Independent On Sunday.

A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is a packaged being launched onto a police helicopter at East Midlands Airport
A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is a packaged being launched onto a police helicopter at East Midlands Airport

It is claimed the discovery at East Midlands Airport was only possible because British officials in Saudi Arabia were in communication with a team believed to have been using torture on a member of al-Qaeda
It is claimed the discovery at East Midlands Airport was only possible because British officials in Saudi Arabia were in communication with a team believed to have been using torture on a member of al-Qaeda

A source close to the operation said there was ‘no way’ that the information which led to the plot being exposed ‘wasn’t procured under duress’, but that the British officials would have ensured they were not present.

He added: ‘Of course we use intelligence from torture. We take it from wherever we can get it, but we are never, ever going to say “we don’t want that”. Or ask too many questions about where it has come from. It is the difference between intelligence and evidence.’

Last month, following the death of King Abdullah, Prime Minister David Cameron defended Britain’s ties with Saudi Arabia – despite the country’s record on human rights.

He also said that a piece of counter-terrorism intelligence supplied by the Arab state had ‘saved potentially hundreds of lives’ in the UK, which aides have confirmed was a reference to the bomb plot.

He added: ‘Now, you can be Prime Minister and say exactly what you think about every regime in the world and make great headlines, and give great speeches.

Former MI5 head Sir John Sawers said yesterday that torture does produce ‘useful information’ and can be ‘effective in the short term’
Former MI5 head Sir John Sawers said yesterday that torture does produce ‘useful information’ and can be ‘effective in the short term’

‘But I think my first job is to try and keep this country safe from terrorism and if that means you have to build strong relationships sometimes with regimes you don’t always agree with, that I think is part of the job and that is the way I do it. And that is the best way I can explain it.’

Former spy chief Sir John, who was head of MI6 from 2009 to 2014, yesterday hit back at claims that security services played a role in the radicalisation of British jihadist Mohammed Emwazi.

Asim Qureshi, research director of Cage, claims Emwazi, who was nicknamed Jihadi John, was interrogated by MI5 and subjected to security agency harassment before becoming a militant.

But Sir John said arguments that harassment drove Emwazi to join IS were ‘very specious’.

‘The idea that somehow being spoken to by a member of MI5 is a radicalising act, I think this is very false and very transparent,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Sir John also told presenter Mishal Husain: ‘Torture had been used for “thousands of years in order to extract useful information.

‘If you decide in 2015 that it doesn’t work at all then that would be to misunderstand the problem.’

He added: ‘The whole problem about torture and maltreatment is sadly is that it does produce intelligence. And that’s why in a civilised society like ours we have to set aside certain methods, even though they might be effective in the short term. In the longer term they are very counterproductive; they are undermining the values of our society.’

By LUCY CROSSLEY FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 14:28 GMT, 1 March 2015 | UPDATED: 14:32 GMT, 2 March 2015

Find this story at 1 March 2015

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

Knowing too much: My disastrous Syria trial (2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CTU: Name of a jihadi group

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

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

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

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

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

CTU: He’s gone through the attack list

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

CTU: Even when you do jihad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moazzam Begg
Tuesday 24 February 2015 17:28 UTC

Find this story at 24 February 2015

© Middle East Eye 2014 –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They show that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find this story at 22 January 2015

© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

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

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

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

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

A tale of two extremists

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

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

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

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

Government ghostwriters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MI5’s Islamist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘ex-jihadists’ who weren’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 27 February 2015 14:35 UTC

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© Middle East Eye 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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© Middle East Eye 2014

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

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

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

8 September 2011

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Copyright © 2016 BBC

Where Does This End?”: After Drone Papers Leaks, U.K. Gov’t Has a Kill List of Its Own

Last week, The Intercept published the most in-depth look at the U.S. drone assassination program to date. “The Drone Papers” exposed the inner workings of how the drone war is waged, from how targets are identified to who decides to kill. They reveal a number of flaws, including that strikes have resulted in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is unreliable. We are joined by Clive Stafford Smith, founder and director of the international legal charity Reprieve, who says the British government also has a secret kill list in Afghanistan.

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, The Intercept published this in-depth look at the U.S. drone assassination program, called “The Drone Papers,” exposing the inner workings of how the drone war is waged, from how targets are identified to who decides to kill. They reveal a number of flaws, including that strikes have resulted in large part from electronic communications data, or “signals intelligence,” that officials acknowledge is unreliable. We spoke to Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, one of the lead reporters on the series.

JEREMY SCAHILL: One of the most significant findings of this—and my colleague, Cora Currier, really dug deep into this—is we published for the first time the kill chain, what the bureaucracy of assassination looks like. And what you see is that all of these officials, including people like the treasury secretary, are part of signing off on all of this, where they have these secret meetings and they discuss who’s going to live and die around the world. And at the end of that process, it is the president of the United States who signs what amounts to a death warrant for whoever they’ve decided should die.

AMY GOODMAN: The kill list is what Jeremy Scahill is talking about. Clive Stafford Smith, as we wrap up, your response?

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Well, it’s something that just horrifies me, that, you know, I voted for President Obama, twice, and yet every Tuesday they have “Terror Tuesday,” where there’s a PowerPoint display in the White House, and they decide, much like Nero did back in the Colosseum in Rome, whether to give the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down for human beings who we’re just going to murder around the world. And, you know, it begins with terrorism, but it will move on. The British, horrifyingly, have already got a list of people on their list in Afghanistan, where they’re saying they’re going to kill pedophiles, for goodness’ sake. I mean, where does this end, that we just murder people worldwide? I mean, we plan to do a lot to publicize that in the upcoming months.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: When did you learn that Britain has a kill list, to begin with?

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: It was only a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, I’m very pleased, because when both the Brits and the Americans are doing it, we can illustrate the folly of both instead of just picking on the U.S.

AMY GOODMAN: Clive Stafford Smith, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Clive Stafford Smith has been Shaker Aamer’s attorney for 10 years at Guantánamo. He’s a human rights lawyer, founder and director of the international legal charity called Reprieve.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’re going to talk about Benghazi. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to testify today for up to 10 hours in Congress. We’re going to be talking about the four men who died—the ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three of the other Americans who died. We’ll be speaking with their friends. Stay with us.

OCTOBER 22, 2015STORY

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Why Britain hasn’t Followed the US into Syria

It seems like a generation ago now, but it was only in late August 2013 that Britain’s House of Commons narrowly rejected launching airstrikes on Bashar al-Assad’s Syria in response to his military’s use of chemical weapons. While the U.S. and France noted their resolve to continue to push for military action in the wake of the vote, it is undeniable that this event had a significant impact in halting the rush to war. With accusations of a war-weary Parliament and fear for what the UK’s refusal to intervene would do to the Anglo-American “Special Relationship,” the vote has been the most high-profile and public foreign policy blow of David Cameron’s premiership.

There is no straightforward reason behind why MPs rejected the measure. Certainly, a degree of war-weariness was palpable in the context of Iraq and the imminent (and rather ignominious) withdrawal from Afghanistan. Parallels to Iraq were all too clear when the Government was attempting to press for action before a group of UN weapons inspectors reported their findings on the chemical attack; the idea that the British Military would become involved in another Middle East quagmire with no clear exit strategy was a bit too much for many MPs to stomach. In addition, the Syrian rebel groups Western powers supported were a large question mark; it was uncertain as to what they were about and, if supplied with weapons, would they go on to lose them to extremist groups, such as the al-Nusra Front? There was simply too much uncertainty surrounding an intervention – its legality, its exit strategy and its “allies” in Syria.

The Commons defeat two years ago has haunted Cameron’s foreign policy, with there being a distinct unwillingness for his Government’s to stick its neck out unless Parliamentary support is guaranteed. But the situation in Syria has changed dramatically over the past two years, as the self-styled Islamic State has overrun much of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, and inspired and aided in terrorist attacks around the Middle East and wider world.

While in 2013 the justification to intervene was primarily the responsibility to protect Syrian citizens from a dictator – and topple the regime in the process – in 2015 the justification also involves restoring stability to the Middle East and ensuring the wider world’s security from terrorist attacks. Despite this, Cameron’s Government has been constrained by the Commons defeat to only strike ISIS in Iraq (unless RAF pilots are embedded in allied air forces striking Syria). But, in a veritable Gulf of Tonkin moment – the killing of dozens British holidaymakers in Tunisia by a man with connections to ISIS – Cameron has been handed an opportunity to expand the RAF’s mandate to strike ISIS in Syria. It only took a few days before feelers to that effect were put out by the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon. With the opposition Labour Party in the middle of a leadership election, a repeat Commons vote is likely to be on hold until at least mid-September when a new leader is officially elected. Despite this uncertainty, it is expected that Labour will support the Government (unless the Party lurches to the left and elects Jeremy Corbyn – a prominent member of the Stop the War Coalition – as leader).

Despite the lack of a comprehensive solution to Syria’s problems, bombing when in doubt and having nothing else to do is not a viable solution. It may be enough to win the war, but it definitely will not be enough to win the lasting peace.

From what has been said, it would appear fairly reasonable to pass such a motion and bomb Syria – ISIS pose a more substantial threat to the region and national security than Assad did and Britain’s allies are already doing so. The only reason the RAF is not over Syria already is the legacy of the 2013 vote, before ISIS was even on the scene. But this is working under the assumption that bombing an entity into submission will bring about peace. To take a step back, bombing ISIS in Syria would appear to make no strategic sense; it will not resolve the conflict satisfactorily or the overt justification for the proposed intervention.

The Strategic Deficit

The doubts surrounding bombing Syria in 2013 are actually more acute today (on the whole). The issues surrounding the legality of bombing Syria have now largely been resolved. Coalition aircraft only strike ISIS forces and while Assad may preach Syria’s sovereignty, he is in desperate need of any sort of aid when fighting ISIS, the al-Nusra Front, moderate rebel groups and the Kurds. Despite this, the moderate Syrian opposition is in a much weaker position today than it was in 2013, primarily due to the advance of ISIS. The increasingly assertive Saudis are even said to be more willing to back the al-Nusra Front and other extremists instead of the moderate rebels to ensure the pro-Iranian and Shiite Assad does not regain control of Syria. While Turkey’s commitment to aid the rebels may yield some results, this is yet to be seen. If they were to succeed in taking control of Syria, there are a plethora of groups over as many fault lines to contend for power. The only question is whether the international coalition leaves these various factions to fight for power immediately, as in Libya, or wait nearly a decade, as in Iraq.

In reality, a clear international consensus needs to be reached at the UN and be fully implemented for stability to return to Syria, Iraq and the wider Middle East. While it may sound defeatist, this will not be reached due to various competing geopolitical interests and the desire to avoid intervention becoming a norm. Despite the lack of a comprehensive solution to Syria’s problems, bombing when in doubt and having nothing else to do is not a viable solution. It may be enough to win the war, but it definitely will not be enough to win the lasting peace. At least there is an Iraqi government in place to establish control when ISIS is defeated in Iraq (so long as it resolves its sectarian issues). In contrast, the people of Syria would be starting from scratch with a highly uncertain amount of international assistance. If the self-interest of nations in the conflict so far is anything to go by, international support would be minimal.

The reason why ISIS is a legitimate threat to British national security is twofold. First, the territory it controls can be used as a safe haven for planning terrorist attacks; second, its existence and prominence inspires and cultivates home-grown terrorists. In addition to the doubts surrounding the bombing of ISIS in Syria, neither of these issues would be resolved in the process.

One of the reasons behind the British Government calling for airstrikes on Syria is because it is suspected that the Tunisia beach attack was planned and coordinated from ISIS-controlled areas of Syria. Even if this is the case, one look at the simplicity of the attack highlights how it could be planned and executed anywhere – there were no specialist explosives or weaponry, there was no intricate set of demands and there was little originality. A man went onto a tourist beach, opened fire with a Kalashnikov rifle and left. It was a striking example of hit-and-run urban terrorism which has become all too familiar in recent years with the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the Charlie Hebdo shootings earlier this year. Whereas security forces are used to facing a long (stationary) standoff with terrorists, the game has changed. Simply killing as many indiscriminate targets as possible is the end goal of these shootings, not securing demands through a complex hostage-taking.

More than just unleashing terrorists on the world, with ISIS having such a high profile in the media and many foreign Muslims coming to Iraq and Syria to fight for them (including hundreds of Brits), the group has the potential to inspire Muslims in distant lands to commit terrorist attacks. But, again, simply bombing ISIS in Syria does not resolve the issue. The root of the matter is that there are disaffected young Muslims in Western states who have not been effectively integrated into society. It is known that ISIS do not look to recruit foreign Muslims with strong religious backgrounds as they cannot be moulded easily; instead, recruiters go after young, disenfranchised and vaguely religious Muslims who see ISIS as an escape from a world they do not understand. Attacking ISIS for this reason would be attacking a symptom of successive British governments’ failure to integrate young Muslims into British society.

Why Intervene?

In Syria, the UK has no horse in the race. The opposition is too weak and, like the international community, divided. Intervention will not lead to a lasting peace in Syria and the region, protect Syrian civilians or resolve the threat ISIS pose to national security. The only reason for the UK to intervene in Syria is to sure up the “Special Relationship” and prove that Britain will not shy away from a fight, reversing the damage done from the 2013 vote.

For many, while they may not say so in public, this will be enough, and why not? Fewer than 5% of coalition airstrikes in Iraq are made by the RAF’s ageing Tornado fleet, so expanding the mission to Syria would only be a token gesture of solidarity with little impact. It could also open up British bases in Cyprus to be used by other coalition partners (but Turkey recently allowing the U.S. to use some of its bases has largely resolved the issue of U.S. planes having to fly from outrageous distances to strike ISIS in Syria). It would mean Britain could do its part in this aspect of the war against ISIS, even if it does not win the peace and Syria’s chaos simply morphs into a new shape.

Bearing all of this in mind, here is something to consider. About fifty years ago, Prime Minister Harold Wilson refused to let British troops get entangled in the jungles of Vietnam, much to President Johnson’s anger and dismay. While the “Special Relationship” took a hit, British interests ultimately were not in a far off war with no clear exit strategy. In hindsight, Wilson wisely ensured that Britain avoided the South-East Asian quagmire and Britain’s relationship with the U.S. certainly rebounded. Later this year, British law-makers are likely to decide whether or not to intervene in Syria. Although it is tempting to blindly follow an ally into war, let us hope that they think carefully of where Britain’s interests truly lie in this conflict.

August 17, 2015 at 6:00 am
BY PETER STOREY

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MI6 spy Gareth Williams found dead in bag had ‘hacked Clinton secrets’

A MI6 spy who was discovered dead in a holdall at his apartment in 2010 had hacked into sensitive information about former US President Bill Clinton, it has been claimed. The spy had obtained Clinton’s diary for an event and passed it to a friend.
Gareth Williams, 31, hacked into the event’s guest list as it was to be attended by President Clinton, passing it to his friend who was also to be a guest at the party, according to sources speaking on condition of anonymity to the Sun on Sunday.
“The Clinton diary hack came at a time when Williams’s work with America was of the most sensitive nature,” one source said. “It was a diplomatic nightmare for Sir John Sawers, the new director of MI6 at the time.”
The death of Williams remains an unsolved case after five years. A three-year investigation by the Metropolitan Police ended in 2013, deciding that no one else was involved in Williams’ death and his being locked inside the bag, which was found in his bath. A coroner’s report following his death judged that he was killed unlawfully, however.
Another inside source told the newspaper that before his death, living with a new identity has been taking its toll on Williams. “Williams’s state of mind in the months before his death was worrying those closest to him,” the source told the paper. “He found the training so stressful and his mood blackened even talking about it.”
“Typically he’d be asked to learn a new identity then report to a country hotel to meet an interrogation team. There he would be grilled about his new ID for 48 hours without sleep, the source added. “His wrist was broken once after he was handcuffed to a metal bar inside a van that was driven around the country for several hours while he faced a barrage of questions.”
Last week, it was reported that spies may have broken into Williams’ flat in Pimlico, central London, through a skylight, re-entering the residence in order to destroy evidence while the property was under armed guard after the spy’s death. An anonymous source told the Mirror that forensic officers realised that equipment in the flat had been moved in their absence. Williams was a keen cyclist from Anglesey in North Wales and before his death had attended a hacking conference in the US and also a drag show by himself two days before his death.

International Business TimesBy Jack Moore | International Business Times – Sun, Aug 30, 2015

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MI6 spy Gareth Williams was ‘killed by Russia for refusing to become double agent’, former KGB man claims (2015)

Defector Boris Karpichkov claims Russia had a secret agent in GCHQ and Williams knew who it was

A Russian defector has claimed that the MI6 spy who was found dead in a padlocked holdall in his bath in Pimlico was “exterminated” by Russian intelligence agents because he refused to become a double agent and knew the identity of a Kremlin spy working inside GCHQ.

Codebreaker Gareth Williams was found dead at his home in 2010. He had been a cipher expert at GCHQ but was on secondment to MI6 when he died.

MI6 spy in a bag case: Gareth Williams ‘probably’ locked himself in
Scotland Yard boss Horgan-Howe warns MI6 over spy Gareth Williams
Spy Gareth Williams was probably the victim of a ‘criminally mediated’
Coroner criticises MI6 investigation into spy Gareth Williams’ death
MI6 spy Gareth Williams ‘poisoned or suffocated’
MI6 spy Gareth Williams tied himself to bed, says landlady
According to the coroner at the subsequent inquest, his death was likely a “criminally mediated” unlawful killing, though it was “unlikely” to be satisfactorily explained. Police investigating Williams’ death suggested he had died as the result of a sex game gone wrong.

But a defector, Boris Karpichkov, claims intelligence sources in Russia have admitted the MI6 spy was killed by the SVR, the current incarnation of the country’s espionage agency which was formerly known as the KGB.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Karpichkov claimed the SVR attempted to recruit Williams as a double agent, allegedly using details from the British cypher’s private life as leverage.

Police disclosed at the time of Williams’ death that he owned £15,000 worth of women’s designer clothing, a wig and make up. It had been suggested that Williams dressed as a woman outside of work, though a forensics expert has since said they believe the spy likely worked undercover as a woman.

Spy Gareth Williams was probably the victim of a ‘criminally mediated’ unlawful killing

Karpichkov, who is ex-KGB, claims the SVR threatened to reveal the Briton was a transvestite, before Williams in turn revealed he knew the identity of the person who had “tipped the Russians off” about him.

“The SVR then had no alternative but to exterminate him in order to protect their agent inside GCHQ,” he alleges.

Karpichkov, who also lives in the Pimlico area, said he had seen Russian diplomatic cars in the area around the time of Williams’ death but had believed they had been sent to monitor himself. He claims to have not seen the cars since Williams died.

Karpichkov has also claimed that Williams was killed by an untraceable poison which was pushed into his ear using a needleless syringe.

At the time of the inquiry the coroner said that the involvement of intelligence services in Williams’ death remained a “legitimate line of inquiry” but stressed “there was no evidence to support that he died at the hands” of a government agency.

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith Monday 28 September 2015 12:55 BST1 comment

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MI6 spy found dead in bag probably locked himself inside, Met says (2013)

Three-year investigation by Scotland Yard concludes Gareth Williams probably died as a result of a tragic accident

Gareth Williams: last year a coroner concluded that the spy was probably unlawfully killed and his death the result of a criminal act.

The MI6 spy found dead in a bag three years ago probably locked himself in the holdall and died as a result of a tragic accident, Scotland Yard has said.

Outlining the results of a three-year investigation on Wednesday, the Metropolitan police said Gareth Williams most likely died alone in his flat.

But Detective Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said the police could not “fundamentally and beyond doubt” rule out the possibility that a third party was involved in his death.

Williams’s naked body was found in the padlocked bag, with the keys discovered under his body, in the otherwise empty bath in his flat in Pimlico, central London, in August 2010.

Last year, a coroner concluded that Williams was probably unlawfully killed and his death the result of a criminal act. Following an eight-day inquest, the Westminster coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, said he was probably either suffocated or poisoned, before a third party locked and placed the bag in the bath.

But Hewitt said Scotland Yard’s three-year inquiry had come to a different conclusion and that Williams was “most probably” alone when he died.

“Despite all of this considerable effort, it is still the case that there is insufficient evidence to be definitive on the circumstances that led to Gareth’s death,” he said.

“Rather, what we are left with is either individual pieces of evidence, or a lack of such evidence, that can logically support one of a number of hypotheses.”

Hewitt added that the investigation had added “some clarity and detail” to the case, but that “no evidence has been identified to establish the full circumstances of Gareth’s death beyond all reasonable doubt”.

A forensic examination of Williams’s flat, a security service safe house, has concluded that there was no sign of forced entry or DNA that pointed to a third party present at the time of the spy’s death.

Scotland Yard’s inquiry also found no evidence of Williams’s fingerprints on the padlock of the bag or the rim of the bath, which the coroner last year said supported her assertion of “third-party involvement” in the death. Hewitt said it was theoretically possible for Williams to lower himself into the holdall without touching the rim of the bath.

Winding down the lengthy investigation, which has drawn interviews and statements from 27 of Williams’s colleagues in MI6 and GCHQ, Hewitt said the death remained a tragedy that would be kept under review by detectives.

In a statement, Williams’s family said they were disappointed with the police findings and that they agreed with the coroner’s conclusions that he was most likely killed unlawfully.”We are naturally disappointed that it is still not possible to state with certainty how Gareth died and the fact that the circumstances of his death are still unknown adds to our grief,” the family said.

“We note that the investigation has been conducted with further interviews upon some of the witnesses who gave evidence at the inquest and that the investigation team were at last able to interview directly members of GCHQ and SIS [MI6].

“We consider that on the basis of the facts at present known the coroner’s verdict accurately reflects the circumstances of Gareth’s death.”

In a press briefing at Scotland Yard, Hewitt admitted it was “a cause of some regret” that the police were not able to definitively explain the circumstances surrounding the 31-year-old’s death.

He rejected suggestions that the security services had “pulled the wool” over his eyes, following concerns over how MI6 and counter-terrorism officers had handled some evidence during the initial investigation. It emerged on Wednesday that police only gained access to Williams’s spy agency personnel and vetting files after the coroner’s inquest ended last May.

Williams, a maths prodigy and fitness enthusiast originally from Anglesey, was a private person with few other close friends aside from his family, police said. In interviews, MI6 and GCHQ colleagues described him as a “conscientious and decent man” and detectives were unable to identify anyone with any animosity towards him or a motive for causing him harm.

As part of the fresh investigation, a forensic sweep of Williams’s flat discovered 10 to 15 unidentified traces of DNA, which are being kept under examination, but none on the North Face holdall or around the bath area of the en suite bathroom of the flat’s main bedroom. There was also no evidence of a “deep clean” of the flat to wipe all trace of DNA.

Hewitt said: “There are really three hypotheses that you can use here. One is that Gareth, for whatever reason, got himself into that bag and then was unable to get himself out and died as a result of that.

“One is that Gareth, with someone else, got into the bag consensually, then something went wrong and he died as a result of that. The third is that someone murdered Gareth by putting him in that bag. I would argue that any physical absence [of evidence of] a third party being present tends to make the hypotheses that there is a third party present less likely.”

He added: “The coroner drew an inference. I am now drawing a different inference.”

At the coroner’s inquest, two experts tried 400 times to lock themselves into the 32in by 19in holdall without success, with one remarking that even Harry Houdini “would have struggled” to squeeze himself inside. But days after the inquest, footage emerged of a retired army sergeant climbing into the bag and locking it from the inside.

Hewitt said it was now established that it was theoretically possible for a person to climb into the bag and that it was “more probable” that Williams did this before suffocating as a result of the accident. It emerged during the inquest that Williams had an interest in escapology, but the police said it would be speculation to link his death to a failed attempt to escape from the locked holdall.

Josh Halliday
Wednesday 13 November 2013 14.44 GMT Last modified on Thursday 22 May 2014 09.11 BST

Find this story at 13 November 2013

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