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Decoding Richard Dearlove’s “popular uprising” speech

Since I last blogged (senior spooks briefing against Brexit), none other than Richard Dearlove, another former head of MI6, has surfaced on the BBC, espousing his own views on the European referendum. Dearlove gave a brief lecture during the broadcaster’s World On The Move Day, “a special day exploring how the movement of people is changing the world”.

Dearlove describing immigration as a terrorist threat.

Dearlove believes: a) immigration presents a terrorism threat, b) Europeans present a terrorism threat, c) terrorism, terrorism everywhere.

In Dearlove’s speech he repeated arguments he had earlier made in article for Prospect magazine this March: that the UK’s national security would not be jeopardized by leaving the EU. In fact, “there would be some gains if we left”, including the chance to dump the European Convention on Human Rights (an argument later echoed by the Home Secretary, although of course the ECHR is not an EU institution) and the ability to restrict inward immigration from the EU – because Dearlove, whatever his protestations to the contrary, directly and explicitly conflates immigration and terrorism.

As I blogged earlier, this view is not shared by David Omand (ex-GCHQ), John Sawers (ex-SIS), Jonathan Evans (ex-MI5), the European Union, NATO, President Obama, David Cameron, and a few others. Dearlove is a lone voice. He’s under absolutely no compulsion to stick his head above the parapet like this. Why is he doing it? Who is making him?

I don’t know, and neither does any other commentator, including those who speculate that it must have something to do with the Chilcot Inquiry. The publication of the Chilcot Inquiry has been delayed until after the EU referendum, something Dearlove knew before the rest of us. His public comments about Brexit would appear to have begun around the time he knew the referundum would be happening first. So what?

Dearlove is member of the Henry Jackson Society. I can tell you one thing from this, apart from the obvious: Richard Dearlove is not an intellectual. He is not a thinking man. Throw away any prejudice or presumption you might have about the sort of person who you think rises to the top of MI6 and replace it with the sort of prejudice you have about the sort of person who rises to the top of, say, the Environment Agency, or a local authority, or a chancellorship in a redbrick or former poly. I wonder about the extent of his self-awareness.

Close-reading a Dearlove speech is frustrating. Nevertheless, here is my run-down on Dearlove’s recent Brexit speech for the BBC:

0:37 Dearlove disavows that intelligence agencies form government policy

“Intelligence and security services are simply contributors to a strong policy-making,” he says, fluffing the line. This is an echo of his assertions at the Chilcot Inquiry, assertions that are palpably untrue, especially and particularly in the case of Iraq. Note also that he speaks of intelligence agencies generally. He doesn’t specify an agency or a country.

0:53 Continued justification for Middle East regime change

“History tells us that human tides are irresistable unless the gravitational pull that causes them is removed.” He then goes on to shoehorn in an awkward and clichéd Edward Gibbon reference about how the Roman Empire collapsed because it couldn’t manage the free movement of Europe’s tribes. Is this for the yanks? UK spooks love the America-as-Rome analogy, it makes them Ancient Greeks

3:18 The UK provides the EU’s counter-terrorism intel

The UK is the EU’s only member state whose intelligence agencies have a counter-terrorism capability, Dearlove argues, tacking on the usual riders about the tremendous global reputation of British intelligence-gathering. Neither of those points are true, they are sales puffs. But what is he selling, and to whom?

3:00 Bi-lateral intel-sharing arrangements with the UK

Dearlove signed up Hungary to one such arrangement after the end of the Cold War. The inference appears clear to me: the UK can act as a disributing centre of EU intelligence inside or outside the EU. I am beginning to think this is essentially an American-facing presentation about protecting the “special relationship” from any referendum fallout.

5:26 Dearlove actually refers to the UK as the US but corrects himself halfway through.

Freudian slip #1 (yes, this speech is about the special relationship)

5:50 “Intelligence and security liaison is highly pragmatic and outside the military sphere is not subject to formal treaty agreements.”

This is a key line. It stresses the idea that as well as being secret, undemocratic and unaccountable, intelligence liaison is essentially about perception: what you think you might get and who you think might supply it. Hence all these sales puffs. Hence all the crackpot realism and bullshit. These things are the lifeblood of intelligence as per Dearlove’s model. It also suggests the possiblity that there may be key negotiations underway right now, between the UK and the EU, using the UK’s impending EU referendum as leverage. If so, these negotiations have already been presented to the US as added value by their junior British partners.

6:12 Dearlove describes mass immigration as mass co-ordination but then corrects himself.

Freudian slip #2 (European mass co-ordination are what these negotiations are about)

6:30 The EU may have run its course. Our choice is going to be strategic.

“If Europe cannot act together to persuade a majority of its citizens that it can gain control of its migratory crisis then the EU will find itself at the mercy of a populist uprising which is already stirring. The stakes are very high and the UK referendum is the first roll of the dice in a bigger geopolitical game.”

The irresponsible puffs of a perception-centred former spymaster. Apparently a lot of the old Kremlinologists were prone to this kind of melodrama. It’s sales talk.

In short, I don’t think this has that much to do with Dearlove wanting to protect his reputation from the looming Chilcot Report. Chilcot won’t alienate Dearlove from his American sponsors, they expect him to get slated and they value him all the more for taking the hit. I think this is just Atlanticism, which, of course, is why we went to war in Iraq in the first place. The Henry Jackson Society, the Hudson Union Society (co-founded by Louise Mensch) and whatever other unsubtle proxies exist for concentrated neoconservative power are happy to have him.

I understand there was a panel Q and A afterwards in which Dearlove stated that “to offer visa-free access to 75 million Turks to stem the flow of migrants across the Aegean seems perverse, like storing gasoline next to the fire.”

Gasoline is not, of course, a British word. Immigration and counter-terrorism would present far smaller problems had we not helped destroy the sovereign nations of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, conflicts which are all conpsicuously absent from his speech. Dearlove bears a key responsibility for the problems he is taking money to advise us on, offering solutions you can rest assured will be either impossible or counter-productive. Thus the cycle of perception-led intelligence perpuates. When will the circle be unbroken? When the dollars stop.

Why senior spooks are faking Brexit worries

On the front page of today’s Sunday Times comes a carefully controlled release from John Sawers, ex-C of SIS,  and Jonathan Evans, ex-head of MI5. They warn that Brexit would leave the UK in a more dangerous position, as intelligence-sharing arrangements with Europe would suffer.

The real reason Sawers and Evans have been ordered to go on-record is that the UK has to pretend that all the intelligence it sucks up via bulk intercept is done with EU permission, and thus some belated concern has to be shown that we care.  You need to remember that MPs Tom Watson and David Davies will soon have their day in court over the UK’s secret mass surveillance programmes – and they have chosen (for reasons not entirely clear) to go to Luxembourg, not Strasbourg. The EU has expedited the case with unusual and deliberate efficiency. The hearing is not far off.

In fact, the UK’s EU membership makes little difference. Britain is going to scoop all that information up regardless, from the UK and the EU and everywhere else Five Eyes can get access to. Remember that a few days after Bataclan another ex-C, Richard Dearlove, wrote in Prospect that “whether one is an enthusiastic European or not, the truth about Brexit from a national security perspective is that the cost to Britain would be low.” That’s the truth of it. Omand has been more cautious about Brexit, but then he is compelled to by dint of the warning he earlier issued against Scottish independence: it would (supposedly) give “rUK” a borders problem.

Sadly, senior spooks can never be taken at face value.

What underpins today’s release from Sawers and Evans is the drive to maintain and protect the mass surveillance machine. Bulk interception is a behemoth that has come to dominate the entire intelligence community, and this is already having a constitutional effect. It is a monster that cannot be stopped unless the West can tame or redefine the concept of national security, or find some way of subjecting it to the rule of law. You’ll know if that happens when judges start sending the odd senior spook to prison (for things like contempt of court, obstructing the course of justice, or perjury).

Alas, judges have always shown extreme deference to the intelligence community, and have done ever since the days of Mansfield Cumming. And so it is inevitable, given the rapid acceleration in growth which the IC has experienced through the War on Terror and bulk intercept, that the spooks present a real and growing constitutional concern.

It is becoming common for senior spooks to weigh in on all kinds of public policy issues. Other civil servants hold their tongue, but the spies enjoy special priviliges: lying to the public for the executive is part of their job description. If you’re in any doubt about that, I refer you to the history of Iraq.

PS The President of the European Commission has announced that the EU should form its own intelligence agency. Newspaper reports in the mainstream media are at unusual pains to make clear this is a product of his own internal think-tank. I doubt that. I suspect the proposal has come about because the USUK bulk interception boys have decided to offer the EU some of their intelligence take as a way of keeping Brussels on board with their covert data collection. Such an agency would provide the mechanism by which this product could be shared.

Judas Iscariot is the Secret Saint of Spooks and Agents

“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” John 1:10.

“Not one, but all of the things attributed by tradition to Judas Iscariot are false.” Thomas De Quincey

The man who really gave us the Easter Bank Holiday probably isn’t the guy you think he is.

It was never about the money.

It was never about the money.

At Sunday School children are told that Judas Iscariot is the arch-betrayer, the fallen apostle who gave Jesus to the Romans, consigning the Son of God to a public and excruciating death for thirty pieces of silver. Like all mainstream media narratives, that tale is useful to certain powerful parties, but it doesn’t really make much sense, does it?

Let us forget for a moment the theological paradox that it is impossible to betray an all-knowing deity, and focus on the prosaic. As certain intrepid Gnostics have pointed out, Jesus Christ was a famous preacher who gave daily performances to audiences of thousands. Roman security services hardly needed a visual id on the suspect. They couldn’t possibly have required the services of Judas Iscariot. Judas, as he is officially portrayed, is entirely superfluous.

Many of the Gnostic texts, dismissed by the early church as heretical, described him as the best of the apostles (whether he was the best or the worst, he was still selected by an omnipotent deity, so one can safely assume Judas possessed at least some virtue). De Quincey later postulated that Judas must have led the authorities to Jesus so that the Son of God would be forced to reveal his true divinity, in all its powers, thereby triggering a mass uprising against the Roman Empire. Others have resorted to philosophy in order to justify the story. Some argue Judas vilified and mortified his own flesh so as to glorify Christ, some offer that Judas believed himself unworthy of being good and acted out of humility, some maintain Judas sought hell because he thought happiness and morality to be divine attributes only, some consider him to be an instrument in the mystery of humanity’s pre-planned redemption. That last viewpoint is perhaps the only one which is broad enough to be irrefutable, and it makes clear that Judas Iscariot was a tool. He was an agent, and not of the Roman Empire.

The true nature of Judas’ actions are unknown. His motivation is a mystery, and his ultimate fate is widely disputed. Matthew has him hanging himself in the Potter’s Field, as per the conclusion of some vague prophecy. In the Acts of the Apostles he simply falls down and bursts asunder. The Codex Tchacos, found in Egypt in the seventies, says he was stoned by the other disciples. The early Christian leader Papias told his followers Judas wandered about like a tramp until he was run over by a chariot. I like to think he went to ground somewhere and died in his old age.

In Three Versions of Judas, a short story of characteristic genius by the brilliant Jorge Luis Borges, he is revealed to be… well, I think you should read that yourself, if you’re interested.

But a famous, vilified, individual, about whom we know nothing except that the official version cannot be true, an individual who appears, pivotally, at a turning point in history? Judas Iscariot’s canonization is officially refuted by all organised Christian religions, but somewhere a very small circle of people knew what he did and why. The reasons are all gone now: forgotten, lost to history. The truth of it will never be known. The only thing we have is the outcome. I wonder if it all worked out as intended. I doubt it. Life never does.

So here’s to all the Judases, to the mysterious and despicable names which confound us, the Mohammed Emwazis and Lee Harvey Oswalds and Saad Al Hillis and Jonathan Moyles and Edward Snowdens and Kim Philbys and Hafizullah Amins, and to their handlers, the Sarah Davies’ and Anthony Arnolds and Michael Savages. May the secret policemen of the world keep their distance a little while longer yet.

Ends and means, my readers. Enjoy your eggs.

Litvinenko and British “spy dust”

There is a very curious omission from the final report which the Litvinenko Inquiry released this morning. It relates to a key fact which all parties, Russian and British, appear to have deliberately ignored.

It has been common knowledge since the eighties that intelligence agencies – the old KGB in particular – used minute quantities of radioactive or otherwise carcinogenic materials as tracing agents. You would sprinkle a bit over a door handle or a car seat or a menu, your target would come into contact with it, and would then leave a chemical or radiological trail behind him for as long as the material remained viable. The Americans called it “spy dust”.

As anybody can see from this inquiry, Polonium 210 makes perfectly viable spy dust. Had Litvinenko not digested it in fatal quantity, the invisible trails the authorities subsequently picked up would have lain there for weeks, requiring only a swipe or close Geiger reading to expose them. It was a perfect cobweb, its strands extending to every meeting and journey its marked men conducted for ages afterwards. The detailed, intricate, and deeply incriminating pattern the Polonium 210 created is described in depth, but the report makes no mention whatsoever that this is exactly what spy dust is supposed to do. In the world of the Litvinenko Inquiry, spy dust doesn’t exist. These trails, which just so happen to connect a Russian defector to an exiled Russian oligarch to an MI6 sub-office to two more potential Russian defectors to a series of safe houses in Germany, are simply the accidental by-product of a deeply eccentric choice of poison.

The omission is particularly startling when you consider that radioactive spy dust was a British invention in the first place. Kristie Mackrackis, of Michigan State, has written about how British security services first settled on Scandium 46, a gamma emittor, as their first tracer of choice. Caesium 137, a deeply penetratative isotope, was later used by the Stasi on East Germany’s borders. The East German ‘Cloud’ programme experimented with dozens of isotopes. Polonium 210, in contrast a very weak alpha emittor, is actually far safer, unless it happens to be consumed in quantity, which is what happened to Litvinenko. As the report states, he collected a dangerous quantity on the cuff of his jacket first, then it made its way into a teapot, then into his stomach. That has the signs of something accidental and indirect.

I am often told, was repeatedly told, during the writing of Dark Actors, that cock-up is more common than conspiracy. I don’t see any reason to assume otherwise here. MI5 and MI6 hailed it as a deliberate Putin-sanctioned assasssination from the start, but that’s exactly what they would do. We pay them to do that. Vilifying Putin was something Litvinenko did for a living too, and he worked at that right up until the very end of his long and difficult death.  I know there are some in, or on the apron of, MI6 who have had to adapt the rationale that the reason Putin picked Polonium 210 is because he wanted everyone to know it was him. Well, perhaps. But it isn’t the most rational theory, is it?

Meanwhile, the idea that intelligence services expose sections of the public to dangerous substances on an operational basis is something every spymaster would probably like to keep quiet about. And make no mistake, it is the spymasters who have shaped this report.

Sir Robert Owen relies, inevitably, on secret evidence, which he cannot disclose, and which was supplied to him entirely by the ever-growing community on the other side of Britain’s Offical Secrets Act. Owen appears to have taken it all on faith. I find his blanket acceptance of the character and reliability of informant D2 to be entirely at odds with his skepticism over Bruce Burgess. Burgess administered a polygraph test to Lugovoy, which the Russian passed. Owen discounts this because Burgess has a criminal conviction for perverting the course of justice (Burgess tried to get out of a speeding ticket in 2009). Owen also opines that Lugovoy has probably been given expert training in how to beat lie detector tests by the FSB. But D2, by definition, lies for personal gain, and has been effectively trained in deception by his SIS handlers. If he’s anything like the average non-UK informant, he’ll have a rap sheet far worse than Burgess’. These facts, like the spy dust, have apparently eluded Sir Robert Owen.

Meanwhile the confederacy of dunces thunder on. Asset freezes occured within minutes of the report’s delivery. This isn’t justice. This is policy. It was the same with Hutton.

 

 

 

Simon Danczuk

“I’m a great admirer of The Sun, over the years it has carried out the kind of investigations into corruption in politics, business and sport which have shown British journalism at its finest. That is the reason it is the best read newspaper in the country.

For a long time it has been popular in Labour circles to criticise the tabloid press and in particular The Sun newspaper. There are those who look down on the red tops as “low-brow” and “sensationalist” and refuse to co-operate with their journalists. But I’m not one of them.

I believe The Sun at its best is not only a great newspaper but a national treasure and provides MPs like me with the opportunity to get our messages across to a wide audience.” Simon Danczuk, 25 November 2015.

danczuksun

He who sups with the devil needs a long spoon.

The British Government At War, 2015

Before our aircrew conducted their attacks, as is normal they used the aircraft’s advanced sensors to confirm that no civilians were in the proximity of the targets, who might be placed at risk.

Civilian proximity detectors. Yeah, sure.

I wonder if the Syrian government will ever get its oilfields back. I doubt it. The Iraqi government lost the oilfields of Kurdistan a couple of years ago. The former Shell CEO, the disgraced Tony Hayward, was entrusted to steal all of that. No doubt he has been briefed about Syria.

There will be British banks handling the financing.

Turning the airspace over the Syrian oil fields into a permanent bombing zone is obviously how the West hopes to lever Assad out. According to one MP the aerial campaign is expected to run for three years. Presumably that’s how long the Asfari Foundation has to groom some plausible-looking puppets.

Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. Iraq survived having its oil exports commandeered by the UN. It took a ground invasion to bring down Saddam. In another five to ten years I suppose Damascus will be weak enough for Operation Syrian Freedom. Sometime after the 2020 election, say. It will be justified by a humanitarian catastrophe or a terrible terrorist incident, neither of which can actually be attributed to the Assad government. As usual, Western fatalities will mostly consist of friendly fire incidents and traffic accidents. The same suspects you saw braying for war yesterday will deliver the traditional rhetoric (Benn is obviously counting on still being around). It will prove just as disastrous as the invasions of Iraq and Libya and Afghanistan.

I can’t see how it can stopped. I suppose Syria might decide to abandon its sovereignty and prostate itself before wholly predatory forces, but countries can’t really do that any more than pigs can fly. They have to be crushed first, and only an escalation into global war or the complete collapse of the financial markets can now prevent this from happening. While both are ultimately inevitable at some point, they hardly constitute a preferable alternative.

Britain could perhaps delay things (and salvage some of its own conscience) if it developed a truly responsible government. This would require the widespread rejection of the mainstream media, and for enlarged party memberships to effectively control the political class. How likely do you think that is?

Ukrainian nationalism as a vehicle for racial identity

Those, like me, with an interest in the history of the Ukraine might be interested to discover (if they haven’t already) the words of Gary Luepp, Professor of History at Tufts University, himself a man of Ukrainian heritage…

There are all kinds of people of “Ukrainian heritage,” including the significant Russian, Tatar, Jewish, Polish and Hungarian minorities (whom are being disparaged in some official Kiev propaganda as “subhumans”). The DNA of people living in what now constitutes Ukraine includes contributions from Celts, Goths, Khazars (a Turkic people), the Mongols of the Golden Horde and many others.

And the whole region east of the Dnieper, the region described in the western media as “controlled by pro-Russian separatists” was in fact only incorporated into Ukraine in the twentieth century. The Russian language has been prevalent there for centuries.

Anyone positing the existence of a “pure” Ukrainian “race” requiring defense against outside inferiors is obviously attacking science and history. Mein Kampf is not a good model for ethnological thinking. Stephan Bandera is not a hero. Anyone demanding that there be just one official language in Ukraine is attacking millions of people at a fundamental level of identity, telling them they don’t belong.

The Doblers left Ukraine in 1884 because the tsar had reneged on the original promise to German settlers that they would be exempt from military conscription. They came to the U.S. seeking “freedom.”

Now the U.S. is firmly allied to a regime in Ukraine that includes in the most crucial positions people who oppose the mixing of “races” and even advocate—with shocking openness, met with shocking mainstream media indifference—the elimination of communities they call “vermin” and “filth.”

A regime whose first legislative action last February was to repeal the law protecting minority linguistic rights.

 

It cannot be sheer coincidence that the parts of the world engulfed in war and conflict are those regions which have a shrouded and occluded history. History is a battlefield too.

The west has not brought peace, prosperity, or even democracy to the Ukraine.

Current MI5 rates: visit a mosque over six weeks, earn two grand.

I argued earlier in the month that MI5 is more than adaquately funded and must be running at least two to three thousand Muslim agents. Much Islamist activity in the UK is paid for by the Security Service, which is a way of making sure it is monitored, but this also means that the threat of Muslim terrorism will never go away, because it pays very well to pretend it exists. I was not in the least surprised to read in today’s papers that the going rate for reporting on a mosque is about two grand for six weeks.

Incidentally, there are at least a thousand working mosques in the UK. If MI5 has an agent in each one, the bill for mosque informers alone runs to over £17m per year, and that still leaves perhaps a further two thousand or so pseudo-Islamists on the payroll. But considering MI5’s annual budget must exceed five hundred million, that’s chicken feed.

Much, if not most, terrorist activity in Northern Ireland was funded by MI5 too. Of course the IRA, and its rivals, are capable of signing a ceasefire agreement. This is not the case with lone wolf domestic Islamism. There are thousands of Islamist agents who have carte blanche to distribute illegal copies of Inspire (which is probably written by spooks in the first place) and pretend they want to blow up the Stock Exchange/Buckingham Palace/Ministry of Sound etc. British anti-terrorism efforts have created and sustained a network of dangerous posers with no command structure. What happens when, like Adebolajo, some decide to turn on their masters? How does the Security Service expect to get the genie back in the bottle?

Answer: it doesn’t. It will run forever. The money is there, after all. This is how institutions work. They can accept anything, except that which undermines the institution. The RUC was not so different.

 

 

 

There Are No Cleanskins: running agents in the age of social media

For as long as humint as existed, agents have supplied it. Defectors and refugees provide human intelligence, sometimes for very long periods of time prior to their actual departure from theatre. Other human intelligence comes from what you might call infiltration, through men and women who are enticed to join target organisations, or occupy other designated areas, using real or assumed identities.

That used to be the model, anyway. Problematically, assumed identities in an age of social media are impossible. You will be found out. Somebody will see you, and remember you. State-level intelligence agencies already have some capability to run automated facial recognition programmes on all popular social media. Indeed, this is one of the key reasons why employees of MI5, SIS and GCHQ are specifically forbidden to post or update social media profiles. Direct infiltration under cover, like the Metropolitan Police were doing with protest groups in the nineties, is no longer a viable technique. You cannot live long under alias if you are on the internet.

With that in mind, let us consider the sheer volume of agents which the British intelligence community is likely to be handling. MI5 used to state in its own recruitment literature that its handling officers are expected to run between twenty and thirty agents a head (remember the vast majority of these will be using their real identities). That sort of workload is probably similar to that found in SIS. Budgets for running agents have increased dramatically since 9/11, so it is reasonable to assume that networks have been growing since then. MI5 employ around 4,000 people. Assuming it can task one thousand operational intelligence officers with Islamic extremism, the Security Service’s biggest concern, they could very easily be expected to be running somewhere between two and three thousand agents. Almost every one of these will be people using their own identities, pretending to be committed jihadis.

In 2007 Jonathan Evans, then Director General of MI5, publicly announced that his officers were monitoring two thousand potential Islamic terrorists (“potential”, nota bene). In February of this year, “highly placed MI5 sources” told the Financial Times there were now 3,000 on the “watchlist”. You will notice that both these figures bracket exactly the likely range of MI5’s Islamist agent population. And I do not think this is a coincidence.

Ponder the history of Northern Ireland, a field in which MI5 applied far less resources than it currently does to combating Islamic extremism. By the time of the Good Friday Agreement, British intelligence was collectively running not hundreds, but thousands, of agents and informers in Ulster. Military personnel I knew often complained to me that “we know who all the bad guys are, we could take them all out in one weekend” but politics made it impossible. This was partly true. We didn’t just know who all the bad guys were, we were paying them. They were agents, also known as Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS).

In Northern Ireland, collusion between paramilitaries and the intelligence community was rife. British intelligence officers bloodied their hands. They protected informants even when they killed innocent civilians, and they continue to protect them today. As astonishing as it may seem, there are many cases where operational officers knew innocents would be killed, and they did nothing to stop it. They even actively helped facilitate it. According the De Silva Report, 85%  of UDA targeting was done by the British intelligence community. Although the BBC’s Panorama programme is often hyperbolic, asinine and biased, Darragh Macintyre’s Britain’s Secret Terror Deals was a superb recap of what we know.

Information about agent handling in Northern Ireland continues to drip into the public domain. The three reports of Lord Stevens are all still classified, but he has let slip some incredible revelations. During his investigations into collusion between terrorists and the British intelligence community, the former Met commissioner arrested 210 former paramilitaries.

“Of the 210 people we arrested,” Stevens told the press, “only three weren’t agents.”

Please, please ponder that statistic. Stevens’ sample shows an infiltration rate of 98.6%. At least half of the IRA were actually British informants. Now apply that ratio to the number of potential Islamist terrorist suspects mentioned above, bearing in mind that we are dedicating far more resources to this newer threat. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of jihadi suspects and jihadi agents, I suspect you would have two circles that almost exactly overlap.

The profile of Islamist terrorists supports this conclusion. There are no cleanskins. Every attempted act of terrorism, every terrorist sympathiser, everyone is already known and on file. But, we are told, the Security Services somehow overlooked them. Do you believe this? Do you believe the argument made by Evans and others, that “we simply don’t have the resources to follow everyone all of the time”? I believe the reverse is more likely. Our intelligence community is more than adequately resourced, and the vast majority of so-called jihadis have existing operational relationships with the police and/or the Security Service and/or some other branch of the intelligence community. Given the sheer scale of Britain’s agent network, mistakes in handling will be made, which explain instances like the murder of Lee Rigby (the Intelligence and Security Committee has yet to deliver its promised report on the mishandling of Michael Adebolajo).

Agents know their job requires that they break the law, and agents expect they will be protected from the consequences. This is the essence of the deal. In the words of one former Belfast agent, they “walked on water”. Some were effectively state-sponsored serial killers. Their successors exist today, paid recruits of SIS and MI5, in Iraq and Syria. I cannot and will not pretend I know that Jihadi John is a British agent, but he is the son of a former agent, and if I was a non-cleanskin Islamist agent in place I would behave exactly as he has done. Indeed, such behaviour may have been expected of me by my target, as a kind of test or induction. You could speculate on any number of reasons why Mohammed Emwazi became “radicalised”, but the most likely is surely that some intelligence agency was paying him. There is even a 2009 audio recording in circulation in which Emwazi claims he isn’t an extremist, and that MI5 are harassing him.

It is absolutely par for the course that Emwazi’s family is protected by the UK government. They have been given safe houses in Britain and Kuwait, where his father is voluntarily talking to Kuwaiti intelligence.

I think I know what will happen to the majority of UK Islamists who left to join ISIS. They will disappear, like all the Iraqi WMD scientists did. They will just vanish. They will be exfiltrated and offered new lives. It won’t be hard to get them out: the SAS are already driving around ISIS territory in fancy dress. Emwazi may already have left. Similarly, I am confident the bodies of Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin will never be found. Undoubtedly, their families have been or will be offered settlements by the government.

“We’re confident [Khan is] dead but not absolutely categoric,” tweeted Shiraz Maher of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization. Of course you can’t be categoric. Very few agents can be accommodated on re-entry as comfortably as Majiid Nawaz or Tommy Robinson.

 

FOOTNOTE Agents who were recruited in the late nineties, before the dawn of social media, and who are still in place, will have been compelled to continue under their assumed identities. There are probably still a couple in the trade union movement. Indeed I can think of one very likely candidate, who is currently demonstrating a puzzling solidarity with Ukrainian nationalists. I doubt any of his communist/anarchist colleagues have ever met a single member of his family.

 

 

On The Bombing Of Markets

Forget about the brokers in Shanghai.

On Sunday the 16th of August the market in Douma, an outer suburb of Damascus, was bombed. The news was first reported by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, in a series of escalating bulletins until it finally arrived at the headline “more than 330 civilians killed and wounded in the genocide committed by the regime warplanes in Duma”.

Doumas market hours later. Credited to Firas Abdullah, who is reported by Al Jazeera and others to be a local photographer, but who is known to the Austrian police as a Tunisian Al Qaeda supporter.

Doumas market hours later. Credited to Firas Abdullah, who is reported by Al Jazeera and others to be a local photographer, but who is known to the Austrian police as a Tunisian Al Qaeda supporter.

The “international community”, as the West and its satellites are fond of calling themselves, was quick to voice its outrage, as it has been throughout its five year campaign for Syrian regime change.

The UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien (ex-Cambridge, ex-Conservative MP), said he was “particularly appalled” at this “unlawful, unacceptable” targeting of non-combatants. The US State Department formally “condemns, in the strongest terms, the recent deadly airstrikes… on a market in the Damascus suburb of Douma that killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds, including innocent women and children.”

National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price said: “This latest tragedy is just another reminder of the inhumane acts perpetrated daily by the Assad regime against the Syrian people.  The regime is responsible for killing thousands of innocent Syrian civilians and destroying entire towns and cities, historical sites, schools, mosques, markets, and hospitals.  These abhorrent actions underscore that the Assad regime has lost legitimacy and that the international community must do more to enable a genuine political transition.”

State Department Spokesman John Kirby said, the “airstrikes, following its other recent market bombings and attacks on medical facilities, demonstrate the regime’s disregard for human life. As we have said, Assad has no legitimacy to lead the Syrian people. The United States is working with our partners toward a genuine, negotiated political transition away from Assad that brings an end to such attacks and leads to a future that fulfils Syrians’ aspirations for freedom and dignity.”

The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, inevitably chipped in. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (ex-Harrow, ex-Cambridge, son of Jock Colville, undisclosed relationship with the Foreign Office, wink wink), whose office has maintained since 2012 that they have “enough evidence of war crimes to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court”, was equally keen to voice his concern over “the outrageous bombing of a busy local marketplace.”

And so on, and so on.

Then the Douma Co-ordinating Committee, one of a network of committees set up on or before 2011, and funded by the US State Department and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, released a list of the dead (although it requires translation). It has 102 names on it. Ninety nine of them are men. Does that sound like a normal gender spread for an Arabic market? The Syrian government maintain they actually targeted a rebel HQ near the market. Given the fatalities, and Douma’s long-standing status as a rebel bastion, doesn’t that sound more plausible than the idea Assad’s air force are targeting Sunday markets?

For those keen to pore over pictures of this and other bombed markets, and ponder the damage and corpses therein, or lack therof, Eric Draitser has a compendium of links in this very relevant article. Draitser is of the opinion that the extant footage from Douma is far less gruesome than might be expected. What makes things murkier still is that soon afterwards all the bodies were buried in mass graves, so no identification or inquest is possible.What footage we do have reveals no sign at all of how the men were killed. They’re wrapped in blankets, and most do seem to be of fighting age. Draitser even speculates they might just as easily have been brought in from fighting elsewhere. Unsurprisingly it turns out that at least one of the Douma market victims miraculously survived.

Get into character Mohammad: you've just emerged from three days trapped in rubble.

Mohammad has just emerged from three days trapped in rubble.

In 2013 Douma was also the scene of another alleged war crime: a chemical weapons attack, one of several such attacks across Syria, attacks which were extensively recorded and reported. However, as with the market bombing, I’m not quite sure the evidence for these stacks up either (the UN feels the same way, so does Stratfor, and so does Gareth Porter, to name but a very few, while Mossad, the JIC and The Sun thought otherwise).

The story reminded me that despite the fact markets have no military value, they’re bombed all the time. Sometimes we presume it is simply an accident, like when the RAF bombed the market at Fallujah, killing between 50 people (the MoD’s figure, when they eventually admitted responsibility) and 200.  But in almost every case, with the exception of four or five relatively minor incidents in Israel, whenever markets have been bombed over the last twenty years or so, the victims have been Muslim (I have started to compile a spreadsheet). These bombings occur with incredible frequency, and an astonishing number of them are never claimed by any terrorist group. Isn’t that bizarre? It suggests a strategy of tension, or perhaps several of them. Certainly it warrants further study.

Most of all, the reports from Douma reminded me of the market bombings in Sarajevo, or the Markale massacres, as they are sometimes known. The market in Sarajevo was bombed three times: once in 1992, once in 1994, and again in 1995. Or perhaps more accurately, it was hit by 120mm mortar shells. On each occasion there was ambiguity about whether the Bosnian Serbs were actually responsible. General Michael Rose believed the shells actually came from the Bosnian side. Multiple sources (such as Michael Rose, David Owen, Boutros Boutros Ghali, President Mitterand, and Yasushi Akashi, the UN Special Envoy for Bosnia) refer to a secret UN investigation which found exactly that. A second, non-secret UN report (the one intended for publication) confined itself to saying the attack could not be confidently attributed to any particular faction.

I have visited the market in Sarajevo. An arc of attack was not apparent. Sightlines were few and very narrow. It would take exceptional skill, I think, to accurately and reliably hit it with the groupings and timings we are asked to believe in. I do not seek to exonerate the Bosnian Serbs, who seem to have sniped and shelled Sarajevo at will, but the mortar attacks in question reveal what you might call a tradition of unattributed, misreported, propagandistic attacks on Muslim markets. And the CIA and the Saudi-funded Islamists were present then just as they are today.

Sarajevo market bombed. What started here? (Patrick Chauvel, 5 February 1994).

The bombing of Sarajevo market. What started here? (Patrick Chauvel, 5 February 1994).

In memoriam.