The Iraq war saw British and American intelligence agencies fabricate and misrepresent evidence to justify an invasion in a process in which British and American governments were complicit. It worked perfectly well. Politicians and spooks reached into the magic hat called “intelligence” and pulled out whatever claims they needed. No one else was allowed to see into the hat, and those few people who had seen inside it would go to prison if they told you what was really in there.
None of that is honestly disputed by serious and sensible people. It has been the subject of much concern. However, most of this concern has been outward facing. That is to say, it has focused on the war’s disastrous and criminal effects upon the Middle East. Focused internally, this concern never developed much beyond a hatred of neoconservatives and corporate media. People never examined the constitutional impact of this “magic hat”, perhaps because it was felt the episode was a one-off. Sadly, as manifestly egregious as this process was, it was not a singular event. It is a built-in feature of the Western world. It’s an intrinsic capacity which cannot be removed without fundamentally altering the country we live in. Given what is currently happening in the US, it is absolutely vital that the constitutional impact of this system is considered as soon as possible.
The Hillary Clinton camp spent much of her doomed campaign blaming Vladimir Putin for Trump’s electoral successes, a deception which intensified once the election was decided. This dishonest Russia-bashing reflects terribly on the sort of President Hillary would have been, and in truth I am glad that she lost.But the important point is this: the intended effect of claiming Russia somehow rigged the election is not to vilify Putin. It is to de-legitimize a domestic democratic election. And like Blair and Bush, Hillary has been able to count on spooks in high places to back up fanciful claims.
The Director Of National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper issued an official statement this Friday that Russia somehow hacked the US election result. Here is the statement. Clapper was the same DNI who lied to the US Congress in order to conceal America’s mass surveillance programme (it was Clapper’s false testimony which prompted Edward Snowden to leak the truth). Like all politically helpful spooks in high places, Clapper has gone entirely without punishment for his crime, because that is simply what happens.
The system, or mechanism, which facilitated the Iraq War is not just alive and well. Its resources and powers have grown phenomenally. It is to Britain’s credit that the same thing has not happened here – yet. But it will. The political class tried to de-legitimize the last two leadership elections of the Labour Party in a way that is broadly similar to the way the political class in America are trying to defeat the President Elect. Those hundreds of thousands of incoming Labour members who voted for Jeremy Corbyn were hailed as anti-Semitic Trotskyist infiltrators, and while I am relieved that our own intelligence agencies were not a driving force in this, they did leave a footprint or two.
Any political party that wants to earn the trust of the electorate needs to make the politicisation of the intelligence services an urgent matter of reform. Western intelligence services have been influencing elections abroad for generations. It is only a matter of time until the chickens come home to roost.