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Parliament’s failure to investigate Tony Blair

Montesquieu: as naive as any other anglophile.

Montesquieu: as naive as any other anglophile.

Every single mainstream media outlet has today reported that a Parliamentary motion to investigate Tony Blair for misleading Parliament in order to win support for the invasion of Iraq has been defeated by 439 votes to 70.

In reality the motion put forward by the SNP was, contrary to all media reports, modest in the extreme. You may read all 145 words of it here: it is fourth on the prayers list. It amounts to little more than an appeal for the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which is currently examining the “lessons learned” from the Chilcot Inquiry, to pay particular attention to the misleading information Tony Blair gave to Parliament. That is all.

Some commentators have argued the thumping defeat of this motion by both Labour and the Conservatives reflects nothing more than the animosity both share towards the SNP. That argument could be true, which I very much doubt, and it would still reflect appallingly on the British Parliament. Probably it is no more then the reflexive apologia emitted by the mainstream media whenever a story demands they condemn the establishment.

Every single qualifying law degree in the UK has a public law module, and as far as I am aware, every single one of these public law modules teaches the importance of the separation of powers in maintaining any constitutional system. The executive, the legislature, and the judiciary must be independent. Indeed, their independence has been accepted since the days of Montesquieu. Well, it is about time this error was corrected.

Our legislature does not hold our executive to account. This mechanism, it it ever worked at all, has by now comprehensively failed. One may argue about the precise importance and validity of the reasons why it has failed, but its failure is incontestable. One could talk about party politics, and the payroll vote, and so on. Much has been said about these matters by commentators far more expert than I. But since the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has possessed the biggest membership of any political party in Europe, and I am sure this membership is, for the largest part, adamant that Blair receives the fullest possible condemnation for his singular role in the invasion of Iraq. Despite this, they cannot convince their parliamentary members, including Corbyn himself, to vote accordingly.

It is about time the textbooks were rewritten, otherwise law will become an academic subject as untrustworthy as economics. Parliament does not hold the government to account. Far from it. Parliament is a kind of public theatre where parties compete to appear equally credible to a corporate media. Peter Oborne was correct to write that there is now a political class. For those of us outside this class, our chief task lies in removing it, and the system that upholds it. Whatever we may individually believe, whether we are left-wing or right-wing, Brexit or remain, Sanders or Trump: we have to rescue our representative democracies from the fatal grip of the political class.

 

2016 Hamlyn Lectures: Dame Sian Elias and the origins of our criminal justice system

Tonight at Cardiff Law School I attended the first of Dame Sian Elias’ three Hamlyn Lectures. The second will be in Exeter, home of the Hamlyn Trust, and the third will be in Lincoln’s Inn. Elias is Chief Justice of New Zealand, and she was accompanied by our own Lord Chief Justice, John Thomas having agreed to act as a kind of senior judicial chaperone.

Elias reminded us that much of our criminal justice system is relatively modern. The right to silence, the privilege against self-incrimination, the right to legal representation, the availability of trial by jury and the requirement for jury unanimity, and the respective role of judge and jury were not firmly established as basic principles until the Victorian era. This is an interesting observation for lawyers from the former outposts of British Empire, because it means that in many colonial jurisdictions, the heavy weight of England’s legal history did not really press upon the development of criminal law as it did in other areas, like equity. As regards criminal law, we all grew up together.

Elias dwelled on 1842 trial of Wiremu Maketu, a young Maroi who would ultimately be the first person executed in New Zealand under British rule. It was the first major criminal trial to follow the Treaty of Waitangi, by which the Maori chiefs acceded to Britain’s declaration of sovereignty over the islands, and thus the trial was seen as a kind of show case for British justice. Whilst far from perfect (Maori apparently only secured legal counsel an hour before trial) it resembled in most aspects the sort of murder trial we would see today.

It is not apparent from the outset precisely what Elias may ultimately conclude in her upcoming lectures. However, I struck by her response to a question from the floor. A functional criminal justice system is, of course, essential to the rule of law, and one attendee wondered if it wasn’t the case that poorer countries, with societies of great material inequality, simply couldn’t sustain rule of law as we Westerners might conceive of it. Elias replied that it was precisely those sorts of countries where the rule of law was most needed. And this caused me to reflect on New Zealand.

At the time of Maketu’s trial, New Zealand’s ruling class were an ethnic minority, and they were as far from their homeland as they could possibly get (arguably, this has not much changed). The Maori chiefs were easily capable of hostile insurrection. The need for a reliable criminal justice system that could be seen to be fair to all was paramount. British sovereignty couldn’t function otherwise.

Is it not the case that the United Kingdom may owe much of its criminal justice system to its nineteenth century imperial responsibilities? I have no idea how Elias’ lectures will ultimately conclude, but it seems to me that Britain’s global presence that may have necessitated the dramatic improvement of its criminal law. These reforms certainly can’t be attributed to popular demand. The British public were as authoritarian then as they are today. Hangings were massively popular.

By this token, is it a complete coincidence that Britain’s criminal justice system is declining just as our responsibilities abroad evaporate? There is some significant overlap, is there not, between those who would withdraw from the EU and the ECHR, and those who want harsher prisons, heavier sentences, the further curtailment of legal aid, the admissibility of all prosecutorial evidence, etc?

Full Circle: MANPADS, Mi-8s and Muslim fundamentalists

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan the CIA helped fund and train Islamist guerillas. Despite the fact they were totalitarian religious fanatics and terrorists to boot, the US gave them money and material, including personal, portable, surface-to-air rockets known as Stingers, enabling them to take down Russian helicopters like the Mi-8.

Islamists down Mi-8 in Afghanistan, 1988.

Islamists down Russian Mi-8 in Afghanistan with US rockets, 1988.

It didn’t turn out too well.

During the Syrian Civil War, the CIA are helping to fund and train Islamist guerillas. Despite the fact they are totalitarian religious fanatics and terrorists to boot, the US are giving them money and material, including personal, portable, surface-to-air rockets known as MANPADS, enabling them to take down Russian helicopters like the Mi-8.

Islamists down Russian MI-8 in Syria with US rockets, 2016

Islamists down Russian Mi-8 in Syria with US rockets, 2016

There is no reason at all to think this will work out any better than it did last time.

Sadly the policy is supported by not just the current US President, but by his likely Democrat successor Hillary Clinton, the UK government and – at the time of blogging – most of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing, as Talleyrand said.

Mythology as Propaganda: lessons from the Ring of Brodgar

I rarely watch broadcast television. When I do I tend to watch documentaries from the previous century, all of which seem more intelligent and civil than the tosh we put out today (thank god for the iPlayer archives). However, I recently caught the Sacred Wonders of Britain on repeat, which was presented by Neil Oliver and originally broadcast in 2014. It really wasn’t too bad. In fact, Oliver’s passion for neolithic Orkney is intellectually contagious.

It is a very welcome passion, because our culture and identity has never been able to fathom the henges, monoliths and barrows which still dot our landscape. Our prehistory might be self-evident but it is indigestible. One may glimpse its ruins from almost any A-road, but they remain eternally exotic and foreign and alien. Our failure to make sense of the neolithic – to draw some meaningful, human line from the people of these monuments to us – parallels a centuries-old inability to accept the landscape around us. Hence the ultimate failure of the romantics, who, heads stuffed full of pastoral nonsense, could never accept modernity any more than Wordsworth could accept the liberté, égalité, fraternité of the French Revolution. It echoes too the Marxist notion of capitalist alienation, a palpable sensation for any sentient being who has ever spent any time at all in an out-of-town retail centre or industrial estate. Behind all this stand the stones, saying something we cannot understand.

The mystery of Orkney's perfect circle

The mystery of Orkney’s perfect circle

Neolithic Orkney saw continuous occupation and development between 3000BC and 2000BC. Its most famous site may be the amazing ruins of Skara Brae, but the Ring of Brodgar, less than seven miles away, is generally regarded as the finest stone circle in the British Isles, as well as one of the oldest. Oliver explained that the stones which formed the Ring came from many different parts of the island. Individual slabs were probably brought to the Ring by every extended family who formed part of the island community, from each stead of land. Like every other neolithic monument, its purpose remains unknown, but its curious composition suggests an essential element. From what I understand of Oliver’s theory, the Ring has to be understood as a polity made physical. It was the construction of a symbol of community, and in that act of construction an actual community was forged. Generations would speak of the travails of the stones, of which stone was theirs, of how arduous or comical or tragic its transport, and so on. Therein lies the true meaning of the Ring of Brodgar, although people are also inclined to add on additional and hypothetical elements.

This meaning, however, has been eclipsed. It has been hidden for centuries until it was revealed by modern technology. In its place sprung mythology, the first of which apparently originated with the vikings, or some early precursor of the viking peoples. From this period comes the tale that the Ring was a circle of dancing giants, turned to stone by the sunrise. This sort of nonsense is common to most of Europe if not the world. One wonders if anyone ever really believed it. What really was its purpose? The Ring of Brogdar offers a clue.

Invaders from Scandinavia arrived in the ninth century and promptly projected their own theology onto the neolithic monuments of Orkney. But they also had to explain how such monuments had come into existence in the first place, and they could hardly admit to what the stones really signified – that they were the symbolic and literal fruition of an earlier and more advanced micro-civilisation, which the parasitic and less advanced vikings had helped to destroy. This was a reality that could not be admitted. An alternative explanation had to be found, and its plausibility was not important. What mattered was that it wasn’t the truth, because the truth would have destroyed the self-image of the people who now walked the land.

I don’t know how deliberately this mythology was crafted to serve that purpose, but there can’t be much doubt that this is exactly what the new story of the stones served to do. Was there some Machiavellian skald behind it all? I doubt that. Humanity’s collective need for delusion and denial probably surpasses its individual genius.

History, if done properly, should be strange. I agree with Patrick Kellier on this. I disagree with the safe, anodyne interpretation that the historic should essentially be like today but different. The frontiers of history always rest upon the profoundly unknown. That which makes history something other than alien is, more often than not, something other than the truth. This is the lesson of the Ring Of Brodgar.

It also causes me to reflect a little on “conspiracy theory”. The term has little value other than as a term of abuse, and anyone who is critical of British foreign policy or the work of our intelligence community will inevitably be labelled a conspiracy theorist. Since 9/11 much cultural capital and public money has been spent elucidating the dangers of “conspiracy theory”. Naturally, such voices feel compelled to advance the idea the term “conspiracy theory” has some intrinsic currency, that it is a concept capable of definition, beyond that of simply doubting establishment narratives. Conspiracy theory, they commonly offer, is “history for losers”. Well. Perhaps such voices might like to consider that the very fabric of history is itself “history for losers”. History is a deep grave made of loss and defeat, of the forgotten, the dead, the disappeared. That sheening gloss which the victors weave over it never lasts for long, and, as each winning generation succumbs to the next, only adds to the strata. Anyone who might offer that “conspiracy theory” is “history for losers” is a political animal who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near history. Or politics, for that matter.

 

Corbyn, Len McCluskey, conspiracy theory, and Omar Wahid

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite, raised eyebrows this week when he speculated that MI5 might be conspiring to tarnish the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. This was news to me. Admittedly, I don’t bother with Twitter, but as far as I could see, these slurs were entirely the work the Parliamentary Labour Party and their supporters. Anything that has been construed as vaguely threatening was instantly reported as death threat, and blamed on Corbyn, such is the authoritarian crybullying of Labour’s professional political class. The hand of the deep state, as far as I could see, was neither needed nor apparent… until this Sunday.

Firstly it must be said, because McCluskey’s comments have roused scorn in certain quarters, that anybody with the least knowledge of the trade union movement (or the intelligence services, for that matter) will know there is absolutely no question that during the Cold War it was infiltrated by police and the security service, working either as informants, agents, undercover officers, and agent provocateurs. This infiltration occurred over many, many years and sometimes at the highest levels. For example: Brian Nicholson, the former president of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, and a close ally of Neil Kinnock, was an MI5 informant. And Roger Windsor, the NUM’s chief executive during the miner’s strike, was regularly seeing a young woman called Stella Rimington. Len McCluskey spoke from institutional experience.

On the other hand, the PLP, in their effort to force Corbyn out, have really revealed their true colours. Accounts of death threats, hostility, aggression, violence, anti-Semitism, and Islamism have been fabricated in order to accuse the rank and file of their own party. Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire, who, when tweeted by a Bristol University student to “get in the sea”, reported it as a death threat – because “this person has just told me to drown and I believe that is a threat to kill”. Angela Eagle’s stalking-horse leadership bid had its launch meeting cancelled by the venue when the hotel she booked discovered who she was: her team blamed the change of venue on death threats from Corbyn supporters. She claimed Corbyn supporters bricked her office window: one window in the block her office occupied was broken in the middle of the night. It opened onto a communal stairway. Naturally, as New Labour do to everything, they turned it into a photo op.

"No, use the Vote Remain poster, it sends a better message."

“Use the Vote Remain poster, it sends a better message.”

Many politicians do this sort of thing nowadays, of course, it’s not just confined to Labour. After the vote on bombing Syria, the Tory MP for Telford, Lucy Allen, personally altered a Facebook message she’d received so she could tell everyone she’d been sent a death threat too. They’re all at it. Really we should be very worried that in an age of mass surveillance, detention without trial, and restricted speech our political class have decided that their biggest enemy is the electorate, but I digress. Can the deep state smear the Labour membership more malevolently than Labour MPs are? And why would they want to?

The alarmism of Labour MPs, no matter how dishonest and self-serving it is, forces the Security Service to do something. A few of these MPs are privy councillors. The defence of the realm comes into play. I realised the line had been crossed when I discovered that Omar Wahid had been pulled from his jihadi beat at the Mail on Sunday.

Wahid has filed nineteen pieces for the Mail since July 2015, although he has clearly written them for the MOD, SIS and MI5, who provide almost all of his sources and material. His output until now has been the usual propaganda about the dangers of Islamic extremism and how we’re defeating it both at home and in Middle East. Well not any more. Today the Mail printed two articles by Omar Wahid about Jeremy Corbyn supporters, whom Wahid described as another form of domestic extremism. You can read them here and here. The latter claims that Momentum is “described as Corbyn’s Praetorian Guard” (it doesn’t say by who); that it is “a hardline left-wing group” which has “secret links” with extremist Islamist organisations to “promote anti-Semitism” and “boost his support among Muslims.” It describes Momentum as a “cult-like cadre” having an “armed police” division and “a militant wing”. I have been to the odd Momentum meeting. Any Corbyn supporter – and there are a lot of them – knows that these articles are a disgrace. Yes, the Mail is a terrible right-wing paper, but what you must bear in mind is that Wahid is a client journalist of the intelligence community. This story comes from the same place as all his other stuff.

I don’t know how effective or widespread their efforts will be, but as regards the battle to take-down Corbyn, it’s clear the spooks now have some skin in the game.

*          *          *

On a similar note, I see that our state broadcaster has been rather selective of the footage it chose to use when reporting Corbyn’s leadership rally in Salford today. They used a shot which portrayed his audience at about twentieth of its actual size. Come to think of it they did the same thing when he spoke at Cardiff last year. I was reminded of what they did to the footage of the Battle of Orgreave. Labour’s problems today are far different to those it faced in the early eighties, contrary to what people might try and tell you, but the deep state has grown exponentially since then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chilcot’s out

And it is very long. I intend to read it all, in a thorough and critical manner, as is appropriate. The report is, quite explicitly, not a document that lends itself to the bitesize, instantaneous communications of social media. The mainstream media, whose categorical and inherent failures have only worsened since the drums of the Iraq war began beating, has no resources nor inclination to mount a meaningful appreciation (I understand the Guardian has put out an appeal for help, of all things).

The Chilcot Report is politics, politics of the most immense and important scale, disguised as history. To process it on its own terms is an academic project.

The executive summary alone is 150 pages. I have already spotted a couple of errors, which are worrying things to find in a frontispiece. I’m not 100% sure about Chilcot’s opening statement either, his confident assertion that “Saddam” was in breach of a UN resolution specifically.

I have said for some years that criticism of the Inquiry must be suspended until its report was published. Well, that time has come. But it must be read first. It would be ironic to rush to judgement.

Naturally, those who seek to wield and mould public opinion will not wait to project their decided viewpoint onto the airwaves and column inches. That endeavour is already underway, as part of the general daily thrum of the west’s cultural hegemony. Distrust anything or anybody pretending to offer you the findings at a glance. Those journalists at the pre-publication lock-in had two and a half hours, at most, to digest over two and a half million words and Chilcot has been careful not to offer up any headline conclusions. Whatever meat there is in this lies under the skin.

That only real battle we can fight now is the right to ensure the coming generations understand what really happened here. The establishment aleady know. They knew at the time, and they have been spinning ever since.

The loudest voices are the least honest.

Only a mounting civic activism can counter them.

“Eradicate Right-Wing Vermin” T-Shirt is NOT photoshopped by Right-Wing

*** EDIT: Error level analysis is not a sufficiently robust tool to reach the conclusion this image is photoshopped. There are other technical reasons which could produce the same result. I am withdrawing this claim. I believe I was wrong to make it. I leave the (angry) article below up as a record, and a warning. I intend to post on error level analysis in the near future. Apologies.***

***FURTHER EDIT: The sister of the man in the t-shirt has contacted me to verify the photo as genuine (see below). The man himself has given an interview with the Sqwawkbox Blog here. I’ve pulled the blog post because the photo has in any case been appropriated by professional political centrists who currently seek to portray half the electorate as a dangerous lynch mob. Indeed, Britain’s richest woman branded him a fascist. He’s actually a health and safety union rep.***

 

The Orlando shootings at Pulse nightclub

Four days have passed since the latest American massacre and I have been struck by the dearth of anything resembling proper reporting. The media appears to have been completely controlled by the Orlando Police Department. Journalistic efforts have thus amounted to little more then writing up official press releases, and a few dozen “death knocks” – approaching the traumatised survivors and asking them how they feel. These are never enlightening interviews. Consequently, the narrative is owned by the state, and it is consequently riven with a series of troubling holes.

Please note I’m not claiming this is a false flag, or some staged “fake crisis”. I am not endorsing any kind of conspiracy theory, but the current story is unbelievable, and the Orlando Police Department has contradicted itself numerous times. This is not unusual with shocking and violent events of this nature. Waco, for example, was serially misreported by the press and lied about by the state.

I find it incredible, given the number of deaths (49) and casualties (53?) that none were caused by parties other than the massacre’s perpatrator, Omar Mateen. There were, apparently, three seperate gun battles between Mateen and police over forty minutes or so. This happened in a crowded nightclub at closing time. According to the official story, every single bullet found its intended home. No accomplices, and no friendly fire or “blue on blue”. Every civilian victim was the result of one man’s murderous intent whilst every shot fired by the police was justified and accurate.  I doubt very much this can be true, but Western society and culture is now infantilised to the point where every armed official is automatically a hero.

Mateen himself remains a mystery – his methods, aims, motives and situation are relayed to us entirely by the Orlando Police department. I see no reason to believe any of their claims here any more than I would believe the Metropolitan Police when it claimed that Jean Charles de Menezes jumped a ticket barrier whilst wearing a big heavy coat, carrying a rucksack which had wires sticking out of it, that he refused to stop when challenged, and so was consequently shot. The Met then released a photo of de Menezes they had altered to make him look more like a Muslim, and when each of their claims was proven untrue, it then responded by labelling him a cocaine user and a rapist.

You are not a conspiracy theorist simply because you refuse to blindly believe everything you are told. As regards the shootings at Pulse, I would like to know what OPD officer Adam Gruler was really doing at the club when Mateen arrived, and what transpired between them. The Orlando Police Department has given a number of contradictory answers as to whether Gruler was in uniform or not, and whether he was on police time or working for the club, pulling “extra duty”. One source claimed Gruler was searching the club for an underage teenager who had entered using a false ID, others that he provided private security. Both of these mutually exclusive claims strike me as unlikely, and I don’t know why there is any confusion here at all. The Orlando Police Department certainly know the answers. But what appears certain is that Gruler was armed, and that the initial Pulse shootings involved a gunfight between himself and Mateen.

Officer Adam Gruler is a veteran of Orlando PD. In 2006, the Orlando Sentinel had this to say about him:

Adam Gruler is a hunter.

That’s one of the nicknames given inside the Orlando Police Department to the young, aggressive cops sent to patrol in and around Parramore, one of Orlando’s toughest and poorest neighborhoods. Their job: create a “no-tolerance zone” for crime of all kinds.

By police accounts, the 29-year-old Gruler is good at it. From 2003 to 2005, he averaged 156 arrests a year. He has won individual and unit citations. He has busted people for possession of everything from crack cocaine to an AK-47 assault rifle…Adam Gruler is on the hunt. In his Ford Crown Victoria cruiser, with a 12-gauge shotgun and an AR-15 assault rifle mounted beside him.

Gruler is as aggressive as any American cop. John Kurtz videotaped Gruler in 2011 as the officer repeatedly assaulted a suspect who was already handcuffed and prone. Gruler then arrested Kurtz for (incredibly) “resisting arrest without violence”. Surprise surprise, Kurtz’s video recording disappeared in the evidence locker. Kurtz himself was sentenced to 30 days in prison with a year on probation. This is how American police forces work. I have little difficulty in believing Mateen was a murderous lunatic, but what was Gruler doing there? What was the chronology and logic of the escalation?

The importance and significance of all these issues will soon become apparent. But they were apparent to the Orlando Police Department from the very start, and it is the OPD which is controlling the news.

 

 

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 it end? 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.