There has been an epidemic of outrage in the United Kingdom over the last few days, most of it coming from the great and not so good. The original cause was the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria. With no hard evidence as to what the attack involved and who was actually responsible, our leaders had no hesitation in blaming President Assad, and suddenly we were awash with demands for ‘intervention’, military of course, as if the West hadn’t been intervening from the start.
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and the Bank of Scotland have been pillars of Scotland’s economy and culture for over three centuries. So when the RBS was nationalized by the London-based UK government following the 2008 banking crisis, and the Bank of Scotland was acquired by the London-based Lloyds Bank, it came as a shock to the Scots. They no longer owned their oldest and most venerable banks.
RussiaToday | October 10, 2010
Meet the people who build ecological settlements to live in harmony with the natural environment. Are they just escaping big city life for a short break, or rejecting modern civilization altogether? And are such ecological settlements a refuge for misfits and outcasts, or a place for the independent and strong-minded?
The Anti-Empire Report
Things which don’t go away. Things the American government and media don’t let go of. And neither do I.
“They’re leaving as heroes. I want them to walk home with pride in their hearts,” declared Col. John Norris, the head of a US Army brigade in Iraq. 1
It’s enough to bring tears to the eyes of an American, enough to make him choke up.
Enough to make him forget.
But no American should be allowed to forget that the nation of Iraq, the society of Iraq, have been destroyed, ruined, a failed state. The Americans, beginning 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, killed wantonly, tortured … the people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … Continue reading
by Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent
2 Oct 2009
Two key figures in the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber were secretly given rewards of up to $3m (£1.9m) in a deal discussed by Scottish detectives and the US government, according to legal papers released today.
The hysteria over the release of the so-called Lockerbie bomber reveals much about the political and media class on both sides of the Atlantic, especially Britain. From Gordon Brown’s “repulsion” to Barack Obama’s “outrage,” the theater of lies and hypocrisy is dutifully attended by those who call themselves journalists. “But what if Megrahi lives longer than three months?” whined a BBC reporter to the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond. “What will you say to your constituents, then?”
Horror of horrors that a dying man should live longer than prescribed before he “pays” for his “heinous crime”: the description of the Scottish justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, whose “compassion” allowed Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi to go home to Libya to “face justice from a higher power.” Amen.
The American satirist Larry David once addressed a voluble crony as “a babbling brook of bullsh*t.” Such eloquence summarizes the circus of Megrahi’s release.
In December 1988, I was living in the United Kingdom when the searing news of the Lockerbie bombing exploded into the global consciousness.
With 270 victims, Lockerbie was at once the worst act of terrorism on British soil and the most heinous act of terrorism yet perpetrated against Americans. Twelve years later, Lockerbie would produce one of the most expensive trials in world history (75 million pounds sterling, circa $120 million) and what has become a highly contentious verdict.
At the time of the tragedy, an extremist group of Palestinians backed by Iran was selected as the primary suspect, but two years later when Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait the spotlight of suspicion shifted to Libya. Bush, Sr. needed Iranian support for the invasion of Kuwait – a nation courted assiduously by the Reagan-Bush administration through the notorious Iran-Contra Scandal and beyond.
CACI Grabs Scottish Census Contract, Ignites Political Firestorm Over Torture Allegations
Glasgow’s Sunday Herald reported July 27 that a British subsidiary of CACI International was awarded an £18.5 million ($36.6) contract by the Scottish government to carry out the country’s next census. The announcement ignited a political firestorm.
Leading human rights and antiwar organizations have condemned the deal and threatened the Scottish National Party (SNP) government with a mass boycott should the agreement stand.
On June 30, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other law firms filed a series of civil lawsuits against CACI International, Inc., CACI Premier Technology and L-3 Services Inc., a division of L-3 Communications over allegations of torture at Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison. AFC has previously reported on these landmark cases, see: “Abu Ghraib Torture Claims Spook CACI, L-3 Communications.”
Sunday Herald investigations editor Neil Mackay writes,
Granting CACI (UK) — a subsidiary of the firm accused of torture — the £18.5 million contract has not only badly wounded the SNP government’s claims of being more ethical than Labour and putting human rights at the top of its agenda, but has also led to fears personal data on millions of Scots collected by the company might be sifted by the US government given the close relationship between the Bush administration and the CACI head office in Arlington, Virginia. (“Scottish Government Hires Firm Accused of Torture in Iraq,” Sunday Herald, 27 July 2008)
As strategic partners in Washington’s “global war on terror,” private corporations, particularly those in the defense and burgeoning “homeland security” industries, have been incorporated into the state’s intelligence apparatus–with little or no accountability and even less oversight.
Human rights’ lawyer John Scott told Mackay, “The government is opening itself up to significant and justified protest. Ordinary members of the public could refuse to have anything to do with the census. A boycott is something to be considered. It would be a legitimate step. We cannot ignore our principles.”
As outrage grows over the deal, The Stop the War Coalition, a UK-wide organization that has mobilized mass opposition to the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, launched a petition drive against the contract. The SWC petition states “awarding millions of taxpayers’ money to a subsidiary of a firm that has benefited from a contract at Abu Ghraib, profiting from an illegal and immoral occupation, is contrary to the views of the majority of the Scottish public.”
Private Spies: A Cautionary Tale
Anwar’s concerns are indeed justified. In May, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the case of Col. Larry Richards, a Marine reservist stationed at Camp Pendleton. According to investigative journalist Rick Rogers, Richards, a group of fellow Marines and law enforcement officers, including the cofounder of the Los Angeles County Terrorist Early Warning Center (LACTEW), stole secret files from the Strategic Technical Operations Center.
While Col. Richards and the other conspirators described below had no relationship to CACI or its web of worldwide affiliates their case however, is illustrative of the inherent dangers of employing private corporations with ties to the military-industrial-surveillance complex to perform sensitive public functions.
Created in 1996, the LACTEW has been described by the FBI and the Office of National Intelligence as “a model for others to emulate,” according to the ACLU. The LACTEW has since “evolved” into the the Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC) in Los Angeles. When not on active duty, Richards worked as a “top specialist” at LACTEW, according to the Union-Tribune.
But when he was working at Camp Pendleton, Richards’ private spy ring stole hundreds of classified files, including those marked “Top Secret, Special Compartmentalized Information,” the highest U.S. Government classification. The files included surveillance dossiers on the Muslim community and antiwar activists in Southern California.
Members of the ring included a Marine Gunnery Sgt., Gary Maziarz, who was given access to Richards’ “logon and password to access confidential computer accounts on the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System and Secret Internet Protocol Router Network,” while Richards was deployed to Iraq, the Union-Tribune reported.
Another conspirator was Lauren Martin, an intelligence analyst at U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. NORTHCOM manages information about potential terrorism operations nationwide, and “Martin was responsible for the region that included Southern California, Maziarz testified” during his court martial.
While the private spies claimed they were acting on “patriotic motives” and were seeking to “minimize the threat of a terrorist attack,” Richards and the others, Rogers reported, “shared anti-terrorism intelligence with defense contractors in exchange for future employment.”
Among the firms being “scrutinized” for possible links to the ultranationalist spy ring are Kroll Associates, described as “a risk-management firm,” and MPRI International Group, a “private military contractor” owned by L-3 Communications, a codefendant in the CCR lawsuit. According to Richards’ account to investigators, MPRI allegedly offered him “$300,000 to work in Afghanistan,” the Union-Tribune reported.
Rogers reported that Kroll’s clients included the city of San Diego and that some of its employees have had ties to the Los Angeles County Terrorist Early Warning Center. MPRI denied that Richards ever worked for the firm. Kroll refused to comment on the allegations to the Union-Tribune.
As the American Civil Liberties Union documents in their update on the groups’ November 2007 report on Fusion Centers, which LACTEW served as a “model,”
In the six months since our report, new press accounts have borne out many of our warnings. In just that short time, news accounts have reported overzealous intelligence gathering, the expansion of uncontrolled access to data on innocent people, hostility to open government laws, abusive entanglements between security agencies and the private sector, and lax protections for personally identifiable information. (Mike German and Jay Stanley, “Fusion Center Update,” ACLU, July 29, 2008)
While there was no CACI involvement in the scandal, the question must still be asked: will the “abusive entanglements between security agencies and the private sector” be replicated in Scotland?
Considering the breathtaking reach of the Official Secrets Act and the shocking abuses perpetrated by British intelligence agencies against their own citizens, many of which have been documented by the Pat Finucane Centre for Human Rights and Social Change, this is not an issue that should be taken lightly.
Will Data Be More Secure in Scotland?
Given serious and well-documented data-security breaches in the United States and elsewhere, egregious civil liberties violations, as well as the seamless relationships that exist among the military, law enforcement and private security contractors with a vested interest in hyping the “terrorist threat,” the concerns of Scottish human rights’ campaigners are hardly misplaced.
The Scottish government for its part, have denied the charges and defended its actions by claiming CACI (UK) was not involved in defense work and was a “separate legal entity from its US parent company. Allegations of improper conduct made against the parent company have been vehemently denied, but in any event there is no link between these allegations and the work of CACI (UK),” the Sunday Herald reported.
Claiming the government “would never be a party” with any company “convicted” of human rights abuses, SNP spokespeople asserted that their choice of the firm was based solely on claims that CACI’s offer represented “the best and most competitively priced of the bids we received, delivering best value for tax-payers’ money.”
The government contended it “could not take unproven allegations into consideration”. The SNP government also claimed that personal information would be protected through “independent audits of security,” according to Mackay’s report.
CACI (UK) maintained that allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib “was not substantiated by any evidence or proof, and subsequent investigations by both CACI and the US government could not confirm it. No CACI employee was ever depicted in the shocking and disturbing photos seen in the press.”
Despite CACI assertions to the contrary, photographic evidence indeed exits and was published more than two years earlier. In April 2006, Salon investigative journalist Mark Benjamin published a photograph of CACI International interrogator Daniel Johnson, a defendant in CCR’s lawsuit against the company, interrogating an Iraqi prisoner in what Army investigators described as “an unauthorized stress position.” According to Benjamin,
The Army investigated the circumstances behind the photograph, found “probable cause” that a crime had been committed, and referred the case to the Justice Department for prosecution. (Salon obtained the photo from someone who spent time at Abu Ghraib as a uniformed member of the military and is familiar with the Army investigation there.) But in early 2005, a Department of Justice attorney told the Army that the evidence in the case did not justify prosecution. (“No Justice for All,” Salon, April 14, 2006)
Indeed, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) told Salon their office had “investigated the circumstances” surrounding the incident and found “probable cause to believe a crime was committed by civilian contractors.” However, after the case was referred to the Department of Justice, “an assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia told the Army that he had reviewed the Johnson case and found there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to prosecute.”
There the case against Johnson and other contractors languished until this May when CCR initiated a lawsuit in Los Angeles federal district court, brought by a former “ghost” detainee at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and torture center. That case was filed against another former CACI contract employee, Steven Stefanowicz, aka “Big Steve.”
As I reported in July, CCR attorneys were forced to file separate civil suits only after a federal District of Columbia judge in 2004 refused the attorney’s petition to consolidate some 237 victims’ abuse claims as a class-action lawsuit. The judge ruled he “lacked jurisdiction,” not that the charges were “baseless allegations,” as CACI maintains. The original complaint is still pending. Why then, was CACI less than forthcoming?
How Is this Relevant to the Issue of the Scottish Census?
As the ACLU forcefully argues, “the elements of [a] nascent domestic surveillance system include: Watching and recording the everyday activities of an ever-growing list of individuals; channeling the flow of the resulting reports into a centralized security agency; sifting through (‘data mining’) these reports and databases with computers to identify individuals for closer scrutiny.” (ACLU, op. cit.)
A centralized database of census information culled by a private corporation with long-standing ties to the military-industrial-surveillance complex sets up a system ripe with the potential for abuse, particularly if such data were to fall–or drop–into the wrong hands, as feared by human rights, antiwar and civil liberties advocates.
CACI is not some eager start-up; rather the firm has been described as “one of the Pentagon’s favorite contractors” by Tim Shorrock in his essential book, Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.And according to Washington Technology’s “Top 100 Federal Prime Contractors: 2008,” CACI International, Inc. clocked-in at No. 17 with some $1,337,472,153 in total revenue. Some $1,105,765,855 or 82.6% was a result of defense-related contracts for IT and network services, data information, management services and what the publication terms “integrated security and intelligence solutions.”
Meanwhile, the victims of heinous abuse and torture that resulted from policies crafted at the highest levels of the Bush administration, and with the alleged complicity of many of their “outsourced” partners, are still awaiting their day in court and a modicum of justice.For more information on CCR’s lawsuits see: “New Abu Ghraib Torture Claims Filed Against Military Contractors,” Press Release, May 5, 2008 and “CCR Files Four New Abu Ghraib Lawsuits Targeting Military Contractors in U.S. Courts,” Press Release, June 30, 2008.
Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.
© Copyright Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling…, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9729
Any doubts that may still have been entertained about the seriousness of the New Labour government’s plight, were finally dashed by the Glasgow East by-election last Thursday (24th July).* The constituency has been a Labour stronghold for sixty years. It is one of those seats about which it used to be said that if the Labour Party stood a donkey as candidate, the donkey would get elected with a huge majority. On Thursday, a Labour majority of 13.500 was wiped out with a 22% swing to the Scottish National Party. The SNP won the seat with a majority of 365. The results were: SNP 11,277; Labour 10,912; Tories 1,639; Liberal Democrats 915. No-one accused SNP leader Alex Salmond of exaggerated hyperbole when he declared “The earth has moved in no uncertain terms. The earthquake has arrived”.
For the benefit of U.S. readers who may be unfamiliar with the peculiarities of the British electoral system and regional patterns of voting, a few words of explanation are necessary. Scotland and Wales both have their own parliaments with limited powers to legislate. This devolved government was introduced by New Labour after coming into office in 1997. The SNP is committed to full independence for Scotland, an objective which, if achieved, would break up the United Kingdom. Last year, the SNP, by a majority of one seat, won control of the Scottish Parliament, which sits in Edinburgh. The Tories were wiped out in Scotland in the 1990s and there is very little chance that they will be able to make a come-back there. But for the Labour Party, Scotland has always been a rock-solid base. Until now, that is.
It must be understood that the SNP is a radical party in the old social democratic tradition which has been abandoned by New Labour. Alex Salmond, is a former Labour Party left-winger. Since his party’s victory last year, he has been Scotland’s First Minister. His popularity has increased, largely because he has positioned the SNP to the left of Labour and introduced policies which have benefited some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged people. For example, National Health Service prescription charges have been abolished as have fees for university students in Scotland. As the SNP’s popularity has grown, Labour’s has plummeted. One of the SNP’s main demands is that Scotland should reap the benefits of North Sea Oil. An independent Scotland, it is claimed, would be transformed by its oil wealth.
In British national elections, the Scottish constituencies return MPs to Parliament at Westminster. Gordon Brown holds his parliamentary seat for a Scottish constituency. It is now clear that the Labour Party is in just as serious trouble in Scotland, where its support used to be rock solid, as it is in the rest of the U.K. Until recently it was assumed that Scotland would not in any foreseeable future, vote for full independence from the U.K. That can no longer be taken for granted. A year ago, as Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair, no-one would have imagined that his government would have so quickly sunk to its present level of unprecedented unpopularity. Scottish independence may be on the agenda sooner than many think. Should Scottish opinion swing decisively in favour of independence, it will not be easy for a U.K. government, either Labour or Tory, to stand against it. British governments have, since the early 1990s, championed the separatist movements in the Balkans and elsewhere, that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union. If it’s good for Kosovo, it might be argued, why not for Scotland?
But the electorate of Glasgow East did not vote for the SNP because of its nationalism – at least, that was not their main reason for turning against New Labour. The constituency is one of the most impoverished in Britain. Male life expectancy is below 70 years. Alcohol and nicotine related mortality rates are amongst the worst in the country – and in Europe. Improvements in terms of nursery provision and education over the past decade have been insufficient to alleviate the effects of post-industrial decline going back to the 1970s. Against this background of long-term decline there has also been the more immediate impact of rising food and fuel prices and the abolition of the 10 pence basic tax rate – all of which have hit the poorest hardest. Also, disenchantment with New Labour did not begin with Brown. However popular Blair may have been in the USA, he was always deeply unpopular in Scotland. The erosion of New Labour’s support north of the border started a long time ago.
So where does all this leave Gordon Brown and his government? Briefly, in a desperate situation. Let’s look at the details. The term “safe seat” refers to the size of the majority over the closest contender by which a member of parliament wins the election in a parliamentary constituency for his/her party. The larger the majority, the safer the seat. On this reckoning, Glasgow East was the 25th “safest” seat in Britain for Labour. It was the 3rd safest seat in Scotland. This was a by-election (see footnote), and it is usually assumed that by-elections are not fair indicators of what may happen in a general election, where voters’ minds are supposedly concentrated more acutely on the national outcome of their choices – that is, what kind of government they want to run the country for the next five years. But this received wisdom may not always hold. If the result of the Glasgow East by-election were to be replicated in a general election, the Labour Party’s representation in the Westminster parliament would be reduced to 24! Of those 24, only 2 MPs would represent Scottish constituencies. The Labour Party would be wiped out. It would be far worse than what happened in 1931 following Ramsay MacDonald’s treachery, when Labour representation was reduced to about 35 seats, because then, the majority of Labour MPs defected to the “National Government”. If things continue as they have been, such an outcome in a year or so from now cannot be ruled out.
Should there be such a result, the Tories would be the main beneficiaries in England. Even if the Liberal Democrats were to make substantial gains, there would be a Tory government with the largest majority in British parliamentary history, running into several hundreds. This would be a real “elective dictatorship.” But that would only be part of it. Even though the Tories might make some gains in Scotland, the real victors there would be the nationalists. Labour’s collapse would make the SNP’s case for independence irresistible. An independent Scotland could also re-activate the demand for independence in Wales.
In one of my recent columns I wrote that New Labour had no hope of being re-elected to office unless Gordon Brown was replaced as leader. Now, this is more evidently true than ever. His replacement is being openly discussed and I think it is likely to happen sooner rather than later. But will replacing Brown make any difference? Probably a little, but not enough to prevent Labour’s defeat in the next election, which now seems all but certain. Only one of the possible contenders for his office might stand a chance of clawing back substantial support, and that is the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. But his chances would be very slim.
The fault is not simply with Brown, as much of the media coverage would have us believe. As I have argued consistently in these columns, the fault is with the New Labour project itself. The Labour Party has been destroyed as a party of social democracy. Its destruction was intentional, but the intention of the New Labourites was to wipe out the old Labour Party and replace it with a completely new type of political machine, controlled and manipulated by a clique of neo-liberal “modernisers” determined to complete the destruction of the “mixed economy”, weaken the power of organized labour and complete the privatisation of public services begun during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. Those who hijacked the Labour Party, notably, but not solely, Tony Blair, were happy to subordinate Britain’s foreign policy to the overriding interests of the Bush administration. This has been a shameful enterprise. Although Blair himself cannot be accused of betraying the Labour Party, because he never had any affinity with it in the first place, this cannot be said of many of his accomplices. Far too many of them were prepared to go along with him. There were numerous occasions where they could have challenged him and, had they stood against him, could have stopped the betrayal in its tracks. But most of them didn’t. Only a minority were consistent in their opposition. The majority of Labour MPs have been complicit in the betrayal of their principles. They deserve little sympathy now as they sleepwalk towards electoral disaster.
As I see it there is only one possibility of stopping the rot. A new leader should be elected, committed to a radical change of course. He would have to be committed to at least the following:
A windfall tax on the huge profits of the privatised public utilities; re-nationalisation of the disastrously inefficient and expensive public transport system; a progressive taxation system targeting the wealthiest; substantially increasing the statutory minimum wage; cancelling of the Trident project, thereby saving £25bn; withdrawal of British forces from Iraq.
A new leader, democratically elected by the membership, might be able to turn things round. But it is unlikely to happen, because none of the obvious candidates is committed to such a course.
End Note. Barak Obama is in London, having just arrived from his triumphant progress through Europe and the Middle East. In Berlin he was rapturously welcomed by a crowd of 250,000 mostly young Germans, who have extremely high hopes of him. In London, his reception was rather more low key. Nevertheless, he was cheered enthusiastically by those who got a glimpse of him in Whitehall. He was asked by a reporter outside Downing Street, where he faced the TV cameras alone, whether he had any advice for Gordon Brown. For once, Senator Obama seemed at a loss for words. What he said, finally, was that all political leaders are more popular before they are elected than they are afterwards. I was reminded of a fateful evening in 1992, when Neil Kinnock, then leader of the Labour Party, greeted euphoric crowds of supporters on the night of a general election everyone thought he had won. When the results came in the next morning, Labour had lost and the Tories were in power for another five years.
Note. * By-elections. Between general elections, if a member of parliament dies or resigns, a by-election has to take place in his/her constituency. In such by-elections it is quite common for voters to express their feeling for the government in office, by voting against the governing party’s candidate. This rarely happens with such a vengeance as witness in the Glasgow East by-election. Gordon Brown’s government has suffered badly in three by-elections in recent weeks.
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I urge anyone who is aware of government lies over Flight 103 to come forward
After writing about the “ravers” who regularly turn up at lectures to claim that President Bush/the CIA/the Pentagon/Mossad etc perpetrated the crimes against humanity of 11 September, I received a letter this week from Marion Irvine, who feared that members of her family run the risk of being just such “ravers” and “voices heard in the wilderness”. Far from it.