Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: Rupert Murdoch

The Mysterious Death of Daniel Morgan -Part Two

This article was published in Ceylon Today on June 25, 2021.

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/daniel-morgan-s-mysterious-death

the criminal/ media/political nexus – Gordon Brown

 

Daniel Morgan was found dead in the carpark of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham at 9.40 pm on 10 March 1987 with an axe in his head. Morgan was a private investigator operating an agency called Southern Investigations based in Thornton Heath near Croydon in Surrey. Despite five police investigations, still no-one has been convicted of the murder. Morgan’s family have been waiting 34 years for some answers.  An independent inquiry, the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel (DMIP), chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, into the Metropolitan Police’s investigation of the murder was set up eight years ago. The panel also investigated “the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the former News of the World and other parts of the media, and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them”. The report was published without redactions on June 15, 2021.

Rees at the time of the murder.

The main suspect in the case was Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees. Because of horrendous procedural failures by corrupt and/or monumentally incompetent Met policemen, Rees is still a free man, living with Margaret Harrison, the Thornton Heath estate agent whose affections he shared with Daniel Morgan back in 1987.

Rees and Margaret Harrison today

Rees was convicted in 2005 of planting drugs on an innocent woman. Rees had used email hacking to expose an undercover agent in Northern Ireland and Derek Haslam who had been penetrating Southern Investigations for nine years. On his release he was paid handsomely by Andy Coulson to do dirty work for the News of the World. In one year alone, the News of the World paid Rees £150,000. Andy Coulson was later paid handsomely to do dirty work for Tory leader David Cameron.

Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson was the editor of the News of the World from 2003 until 2007.  Coulson got on well with David Cameron (who became leader of the Conservative Party in 2005) and his former Bullingdon Club buddy George Osborne (who became Chancellor of the Exchequer when Cameron became prime minister in 2010) despite publishing stories about them taking drugs. A PR man had said that one of Coulson’s most useful attributes was his ability to “screw you over and make you feel good about it”.

When current prime minister, Boris Johnson, was running for mayor of London in 2007, Coulson helped with the campaign but still wrote about Johnson: “for a posh bloke who went to Eton, he has an uncanny popular touch. He also has an uncanny habit of cheating on his wife.” Coulson cheated on his own wife with Rebekah Wade (now Brooks) when she was his editor at the News of the World.

Coulson resigned the editorship following the conviction of one of the News of the World’s reporters for phone-hacking. Despite this, David Cameron saw fit to give Coulson a £140,000 a year job as his communications director. Coulson did eventually lose that job when he was sent to prison. In June 2014 at the Old Bailey, Coulson was found guilty of a charge of conspiracy to intercept voicemails (phone-hacking).  One of the phones hacked was that of Milly Dowler, the thirteen-year-old girl who was brutally raped and murdered by Levi Bellfield. Coulson was sentenced on 4 July 2014 to 18 months in prison. He only served five months.

Coulson copped

Rebekah Brooks

Brooks was born Rebekah Wade. She married actor Ross Kemp (who played the thuggish Grant Mitchell in the teledrama EastEnders) in June 2002 in Las Vegas, while she was editor of The Sun.

On 3 November 2005, it was reported that Brooks had been arrested following an alleged assault on Kemp. She was released without charge, and the police took no further action. The Sun had been running a campaign against domestic violence at the time. She married former racehorse trainer and author Charlie Brooks in 2009. The couple are key members of the so-called Chipping Norton set, which includes David Cameron.

Brooks has something in common with our beloved CBK – in her entry in Who’s Who, she claimed, to much amusement, that she had studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. Brooks joined the News of the World in 1989 as a secretary. She became a features writer and then deputy editor. In 2000, she became the UK’s youngest editor. She prepared for an interview with James Hewitt, a lover of Princess Diana, by bugging his hotel room.  She oversaw the News of the World’s campaign of “naming and shaming” suspected sex offenders launched in the wake of the murder of Sarah Payne. As part of the campaign the phone of Sarah’s mother was hacked. The campaign was described as “grossly irresponsible” journalism by the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, Tony Butler. 

In March 2003, Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun, and Andy Coulson, editor of News of the World testified together before the Commons media select committee. Brooks responded to a question about payments to the police saying that the organization paid the police for information in the past. Asked if she would do so again in the future, her answer was pre-empted by Coulson who stated that, if there is a clear public interest, they would continue with that practice. It was pointed out to Coulson that it was always illegal to pay police officers, regardless of public interest.

In September 2015, Brooks was confirmed as CEO of News UK, the renamed News International, re-establishing the working relationship with News Corp founder and chairman Rupert Murdoch. Brooks and Murdoch’s daughter, Elizabeth, were frequent guests at David Cameron’s Chipping Norton home.

Phone Hacking

By 2002, British newspapers were making frequent use of an organised trade in confidential personal information acquired by Illegal means. The tabloid press routinely used information illicitly gained from hacking private voicemail accounts on mobile phones and hacking computers.

Employees of the News of the World were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of stories. It seems likely that reporters were engaging in illegal activities as long ago as 1987, when Daniel Morgan was killed, even though mobile phones as we know them did not exist then. (Morgan did have a car phone.) Between 1999 and 2003, several reporters were convicted for crimes including drug distribution, the theft of drugs, child pornography, planting evidence, corruption, and perverting the course of justice.

Press Intimidation

During the fourth investigation into Daniel Morgan’s death, the senior investigating officer, David Cook, told Rebekah Brooks, that he and his family were under surveillance by News of the World journalists.

Cook’s wife, also a police officer, alleged that there was a campaign of intimidation against them. The staff involved were promoted not reprimanded. The DMIP report says,  “the circumstantial evidence suggests very strongly that intrusive activity suffered by DCS Cook, his wife Jacqui Hames, and their family was arranged by former DS Sid Fillery and Alex Marunchak.”

Jacqui Hames on Crimewatch

 

Alex Marunchak was the star crime writer at the News of the World, who became an executive.

He was the main point of contact at the newspaper for Rees and Fillery. It was alleged that Marunchak commissioned surveillance by shady investigator Glen Mulcaire on Cook in order to “subvert” the detective’s investigation into Morgan’s murder.

Mulcaire was the lowlife who hacked Milly Dowler’s phone. He was jailed for hacking in 2007.

Millie Dowler

Cook has been described as the only policeman the Morgan family trusted and has been described as a scapegoat by many commentators on the Morgan case, but the DMIP report is harshly critical of his actions and say they have information which makes a strong case for him being prosecuted.

According to the Guardian, two executives at the News of the World set up a business registered at Southern Investigations’ address. Former senior Met officers were given jobs writing columns in Murdoch’s papers. Lord Stevens, the former Met commissioner, went on to write for the News of the World after his retirement in 2005.

A witness told detectives that Morgan was in discussions with the News of the World to sell a story about police corruption. News UK, the company that owns Murdoch’s British newspapers, including the august Times, as well as the gutter Sun, declined to comment.

The Death of Daniel Morgan Part One

 

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on June 18, 2021

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/daniel-morgan-s-unsolved-murder

Daniel Morgan was found dead in the carpark of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham in 1987 with an axe in his head. Three blows had been delivered with the blade of the axe to the back of the head followed by a final blow to the side. The murder weapon was a £45 Chinese-manufacture Diamond Brand chopping axe.

Morgan’s family have been waiting 34 years for some answers.  An independent inquiry chaired by Baroness O’Loan was set up eight years ago. The panel started work formally on 17 September 2013 and expected to report within a year of “the documentation being made available”. The final documents were not received from the Metropolitan Police until March 2021. Publication of the panel’s report, which was due on May 25, 2021, was further delayed, because the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, insisted that the report be handed to her for vetting before publication.

Southern Investigations

Daniel Morgan had an exceptional memory for small details, such as car registration numbers. In 1984, he set up a detective agency, Southern Investigations, in Thornton Heath, southern Greater London near Croydon and ran it with his business partner Jonathan Rees. Morgan had some police contacts, and his work was mainly low-level. 

At the time of his murder, Morgan was having an affair with a woman named Margaret Harrison, an estate agent with two teenage daughters, and had met her at 6:30pm at Regan’s Wine Bar on Brigstock Road, in Thornton Heath shortly before the murder.

 

Before his body was found at around 9.40, Morgan had been drinking in the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham with Jonathan Rees. At 8.00pm on the evening of 9 March, the day before his murder, Morgan met Rees in the Golden Lion, a pub he did not usually frequent, and was surprised to find to find Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery of Catford CID with Rees. Morgan got into an argument with the other two because he thought dealing with corrupt policemen was bad for business.

After Morgan’s body was found, the detective assigned to take the lead in the investigation was none other than Sid Fillery. Fillery failed to disclose that he was moonlighting for Southern Investigations or that he and Rees were close friends. A month later, Fillery and two other Catford officers were arrested and questioned on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

Jonathan Rees

Rees was married to a divorcée called Sharon, with whom he had two children. Sharon Rees had two brothers called Garry and Glenn Vian, described in a Crown Prosecution Service document as “part of the criminal fraternity”. The Vian brothers were employed by Rees at Southern Investigations as “security guards”. Three weeks after the murder, Rees, Fillery, the Vian brothers, and two other CID officers were arrested on suspicion of murder, but all were later released without charge. Garry Vian was jailed for 14 years in 2005 for drugs smuggling. Former Met constable Dean Vian, nephew of Garry and Glenn, said on camera for a TV programme, “My mum told me that Glenn had killed him, and he was paid by Jonathan Rees to do that. … Jonathan Rees and Daniel Morgan had a falling out because they were both with the same woman.” Alastair Morgan, Daniel’s brother, told the programme he absolutely didn’t believe the “love triangle”, Morgan/Harrison/Rees, had anything to do with the murder.

Glenn Vian died in June 2020.

Police Corruption

It seems likely that Morgan was about to expose a case of extensive drug-related police corruption implicating Rees, Fillery and other South London Met officers. Understandably Morgan did not trust the police to investigate; he himself had influential press contacts (among them, at the Daily Mirror, Alastair Campbell, who later became Tony Blair’s press secretary) and might eventually have decided to sell his story.

Morgan was prepared to be “flexible” about the law while pursuing his routine trade of debt collection and snooping on errant spouses. However, Rees seems to have operated at a different level of sleaze. Morgan had a low opinion of the police. Rees loved to socialize with Met officers at Masonic gala events in Croydon.

Failed Investigations

In April 1987, Jonathan Rees was arrested on suspicion of the murder of Daniel Morgan but was released without charge. Between Morgan’s death in 1987 and 2008, five police inquiries were conducted. There were allegations of police corruption, drug trafficking and robbery. Later, police arrested Jonathan Rees and several others on suspicion of murder, along with a serving police officer suspected of leaking information. In 2009 the trial began at the Old Bailey. In March 2011, the Director of Public Prosecutions abandoned the case, and the three accused were acquitted, including Jonathan Rees. The case involved some of the longest legal arguments submitted in a trial in the English criminal courts. Nicholas Hilliard QC, for the prosecution, said that defence lawyers might not be able to examine all the documents in the case (750,000 pages dating back over 24 years) in order to ensure a fair trial.

In 2017, four men sued the Met in the high court alleging malicious prosecution. Among them were Rees and his brothers-in-law, Glenn and Garry Vian. They denied charges of murder. Those three lost their case against the Met but won an appeal in 2018 and were awarded £414,000 between them. Sid Fillery worked on the first murder investigation. He had close ties to Rees, and he went on to replace Morgan at Southern Investigations.  A report by the Metropolitan Police Authority, the body that used to oversee the Met, said: “In the following months there were rumours and allegations of high-level police corruption and masonic links surrounding the investigation, but no charges resulted.”

Corrupt Journalists

It seems likely that reporters were engaging in illegal activities as long ago as 1987, when Daniel Morgan was killed, even though smart phones did not exist then. Between 1999 and 2003, several reporters were convicted for crimes including drug distribution, the theft of drugs, child pornography, planting evidence, corruption, and perverting the course of justice. When he was editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson hired Jonathan Rees after he was released from a five-year prison sentence in 2005 and paid him £150,00 a year for dubious services. Rees had been convicted of planting cocaine to incriminate an innocent woman. Andy Coulson later became David Cameron’s press secretary.

During the fourth investigation into Morgan’s death, the senior investigating officer, Dave Cook, told Rebekah Brooks, when she was editor of the News of the World, that he and his family were under surveillance by News of the World journalists. Cook’s wife, also a police officer, alleged that there was a campaign of intimidation against them. The staff involved were promoted not reprimanded. Brooks and her husband were frequent guests at prime minister David Cameron’s house.

David Cook

 

O’Loan Inquiry

An independent panel chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan was tasked to look at “police involvement in Daniel Morgan’s murder; the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder … and the failure to confront that corruption”. The panel also investigated “the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the former News of the World and other parts of the media, and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them”. Morgan’s killing might be connected to his knowledge of extensive and high-level corruption within the Metropolitan Police and dirty dealings by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Former prime minister Gordon Brown coined the term “criminal media nexus”. Rupert Murdoch acquired the News of the World way back in 1969. News UK, the company that owns Murdoch’s British newspapers, including the august Times, declined to comment.

Where Are They Now?

Current home secretary Priti Patel was a guest at Rupert Murdoch’s 2016 wedding in London to Jerry Hall, former wife of Mick Jagger. Fellow cabinet minister Michael Gove was also an honoured guest.

Sid Fillery was subsequently convicted of child porn offences and now helps to run a pub in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk; Jonathan Rees lives with his mistress Margaret Harrison, yes that Margaret Harrison, in Weybridge, Surrey.

More on the “criminal/ media/political nexus” next week.

Careless People Part Two

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on June 2, 2021.

https://ceylontoday.lk/category/print-edition/columns

“They were careless people … they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Indolent, Shambling Greed

I am not the only writer to have used the phrase “careless people” in relation to Tory politicians. The philosopher John Gray wrote a scathing article in the New Statesman in which he said that the Greensill scandal illuminates a larger truth about David Cameron’s character: “It is not so much the spectacle of indolent, shambling greed that is remarkable; it was only to be expected that a life of mere affluence would fail to satisfy Cameron’s mammoth sense of entitlement. Instead, it is the credulity he displayed.” New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, writes: “It was under Mr Cameron that the UK pursued destructive austerity, a doomed renegotiation with the EU, a botched reorganisation of the NHS, dysfunctional welfare reform, an unworkable net migration target and a delusionary ‘golden era’ with China. The bid to make Greensill Capital a virtual arm of the British state is but the latest fantasy that has unravelled.” Cameron was foolish enough to claim in a new foreword to the paperback edition of his memoirs that austerity left Britain better-prepared for the pandemic! As Cowley explains, “austerity enfeebled the state. Real-terms reserves for public health spending in England fell by 30 per cent from 2015 to 2019, while the prevalence of diabetes and obesity rose. Local authorities, which in less centralised countries were crucial to the pandemic response, lost an average of 60p in every pound of government grants from 2010 to 2020. Cuts to schools increased class sizes, making social distancing harder.”

Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian was also recently quoting the “careless people” passage from F Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby, but he was onto this theme eight years ago. “The top 1% of Britons were taking 15% of all income received in the country. This cash is then turned into houses, shares and other assets so that now the top 1% hold over 50% of all Britain’s marketable wealth. And so, inequality is passed down the generations. Today’s headlines offer endless examples. The average London house now costs over half a million, or more than 19 times what the average British worker makes in a year.” 

Cameron Family Money

Cameron’s grandfather Donald was a director at the stockbroking house Panmure Gordon. When he died in 1958, he left £57,000, which would be worth a million today. David Cameron’s father, Ian, also worked at Panmure Gordon and was reported to have trousered £2m when the company was sold to an American firm. He set up Blairmore Holdings Inc in 1982. In 2009, his personal fortune was estimated by the Sunday Times as £ ten million. There have been credible allegations that he had large amounts buried in tax havens.

Cameron is now pleading hard times. “There isn’t really a roadmap for an ex-prime minister…particularly a young one …”   

Bullingdon Bullies

George Osborne and Natalie Rowe 1994

 

The grand old days of Osborne and Cameron’s austerity.

 

Cameron, his Chancellor George Osborne and current prime minister Boris Johnson were all members of the exclusive Bullingdon Club at Oxford. The Wisden Cricketer reports that the Bullingdon is “ostensibly one of the two original Oxford University cricket teams but it actually used cricket merely as a respectable front for the mischievous, destructive or self-indulgent tendencies of its members”. On 12 May 1894, after dinner, Bullingdon members smashed almost all the glass of the lights and 468 windows in Peckwater Quad of Christ Church, along with the blinds and doors of the building, and again on 20 February 1927. Today, the club often books private dining rooms under an assumed name, as most restaurateurs are cautious of the Club’s reputation as being the cause of considerable drunken damage during the course of their dinners. Andrew Gimson, biographer of Boris Johnson, reported about the club in the 1980s: “I don’t think an evening would have ended without a restaurant being trashed and being paid for in full, very often in cash. […] A night in the cells would be regarded as being par for a Buller man and so would debagging anyone who really attracted the irritation of the Buller men.” In December 2005, Bullingdon Club members smashed 17 bottles of wine, “every piece of crockery,” and a window at the 15th-century White Hart pub in Fyfield near Oxford.

Chippings off the Old Block

In 2012, The Daily Telegraph identified a number of people as being part of a “Chipping Norton Set”. The set included the Camerons, Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband Matthew Freud, Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of Murdoch’s News International and her husband, old-Etonian racehorse trainer and thriller writer Charlie Brooks. Stephen Glover, columnist with the Daily Mail, first coined the term ‘Chipping Norton set’ to describe a privileged bunch of residents and their elite habits. The main protagonists quickly became synonymous with the public view of an out-of-touch ruling class, pandering to their own whims while the nation suffered austerity. Scott Fitzgerald would have found much material here.

Elizabeth Murdoch and former husband Matthew Freud

Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch

 

Hackers

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks arrive at the Old Bailey on March 3, 2014.She escaped jail and continues to flourish.

Brooks was involved in a phone hacking scandal for which News of the World editor Andy Coulson went to jail. These awful people hacked the phone of 13-year-old Milly Dowler who had been raped and brutally murdered.

In October 2013, it was revealed that Coulson had had an affair with Rebekah Brooks that lasted from 1998 to 2007. After David Cameron became Prime Minister in May 2010, he appointed Coulson as Director of Communications for the government at 10 Downing Street. His pay was £140,000, making him the highest paid special advisor. The judge hearing Coulson’s trial was critical of the prime minister, pondering whether the intervention was out of ignorance or deliberate, and demanded an explanation.

Private investigator Daniel Morgan was found dead in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham in 1987 with an axe embedded in his head. His killing is thought to have been motivated by his knowledge of extensive and high-level corruption within the Metropolitan Police and dirty dealings by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Former prime minister Gordon Brown coined the term “criminal media nexus”.

When he was editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson hired Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees after he was released from a five-year prison sentence in 2005. He had been convicted of planting cocaine to incriminate an innocent woman. Rees was a suspect in the Morgan investigation.

Current home secretary Priti Patel is insisting that the independent panel, chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, investigating the murder of Daniel Morgan, hand its report to her for vetting before publishing it.

 

Baroness O’Loan

Publication of the report, which was due on May 25, eight years after the inquiry was set up, will be further delayed. Patel was a guest at Rupert Murdoch’s 2016 wedding in London to Jerry Hall, former wife of Mick Jagger.

 

 

Priti Patel, the poison dwarf, at St. Bride’s Church on Fleet Street,  05 March 2016

More about the Daniel Morgan case next week.

An Australian Coup Part 2

Colman's Column3

This article was published in Ceylon Today on June 19 2015.

NAAGough

Rule by  Minority

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister voiced doubts about the value of this country’s long-standing commitment to the Non-Aligned Movement. The US Secretary of State is taking a strong interest in moving Sri Lanka away from China and into the US orbit. Perhaps we should remember what happened to Gough Whitlam, who, despite being democratically elected as prime minister of Australia, was deposed by the representative of the Queen of England with the connivance of the US government. Imagine if the Queen decided to sack David Cameron if he failed to get a bill through the House of Lords and replaced him with the leader of the opposition – whoever that might be.

Before Whitlam, the Australian people had been electing the “right people,” namely the Liberal-National Country Party Coalition headed for many years by Robert Menzies. Menzies was always happy to do the bidding of the US and the UK. He once said, “A sick feeling of repugnance grows in me as I near Australia.”

Three months after Whitlam’s election victory in December 1972, Senator Withers, the leader of the Liberals in the Senate warned: “the Senate may well be called upon to protect the national interest by exercising its undoubted constitutional power”. He said that the election mandate was ‘dishonest”, that Whitlam’s election was a “temporary electoral insanity” and that to claim that the Government was following the will of the people “would be a dangerous precedent for a democratic country”

Kerr’s Cur

After he was ousted, Whitlam made a speech: “Well may we say “God save the Queen”, because nothing will save the Governor-General! The Proclamation which you have just heard read by the Governor-General’s Official Secretary was countersigned Malcolm Fraser, who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr’s cur. They won’t silence the outskirts of Parliament House, even if the inside has been silenced for a few weeks … Maintain your rage and enthusiasm for the campaign for the election now to be held and until polling day”. However, Fraser easily won the election  and remained prime minister.

Murdoch Misinformation

Whitlam wanted an independent, free and democratic government for the people of Australia  and he was elected on that manifesto. Collusion between vested interests and those who believed they were born to rule destroyed his plan. The Murdoch media ran a virulent anti Whitlam campaign because Whitlam would not do as Murdoch ordered.

murdoch

Former CIA deputy director of intelligence, Ray Cline, denies that there was any “formal” CIA covert action programme against the Whitlam government during Cline’s time in office (Cline left the CIA in 1973). The method as outlined by Cline would be for the CIA to supply damaging information which the Australian security services would leak to the media. A US diplomat stationed in Australia at the time tells how CIA station chief in Australia, John Walker would “blow in the ear” of National Country Party members, and not long afterwards, the Whitlam government would be asked embarrassing questions in Parliament. An ASIO officer said he believed that “some of the documents which helped discredit the Labour Government in the last year in office were forgeries planted by the CIA.” In 1981, a CIA contract employee, Joseph Flynn, claimed that he had been paid to forge some documents relating to the loans affair, and also to bug Whitlam’s hotel room.

CIA Involvement

Whitlam at one point complained openly about the CIA meddling in Australian domestic affairs and tried to close Pine Gap, the CIA’s surveillance centre. When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Known as “the coupmaster”, he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia, to the Australian Institute of Directors, was described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government”.

marshallgreen

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, told John Pilger, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”

marchetti

Kerr had longstanding ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, a group exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige … Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.

Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were decoded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the decoders was Christopher Boyce, who revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the governor-general of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”. In 1977, Boyce was arrested in the US for selling secrets to the Soviet Union. Boyce was disillusioned by the state of America. One day, he discussing the Watergate scandal and the CIA inspired coup in Chile and  said, “You think that’s bad? You should hear what the CIA is doing to the Australians.”

kerr queen

Cline said, “I’m sure we never had a political action programme, although some people around the office were beginning to think we should.” He explains that the US and Australia had a very healthy relationship in the area of intelligence exchange. “But when the Whitlam government came to power, there was a period or turbulence to do with Alice Springs [Pine Gap].” He went on to say, “the whole Whitlam episode was very painful. He had a very hostile attitude.”

Cline outlined a scenario he saw as acceptable CIA behaviour. “You couldn’t possibly throw in a covert action programme to a country like Australia, but the CIA would go so far as to provide information to people who would bring it to the surface in Australia. For example, a Whitlam error “which they were willing to pump into the system so it might be to his damage.” Such actions do not, in Cline’s opinion, amount to a “political operation.”

Security Crisis

On 10 November 1975, Whitlam saw a top-secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier. The message said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA, where he was briefed on the “security crisis”.

Also, in 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6, “were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office”. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told Pilger: “We knew MI6 was bugging cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

Sir John Kerr, the man who sacked Whitlam succumbed to alcohol. After a drunken performance at the 1977 Melbourne Cup winner’s presentation, he was forced by public outrage to relinquish an appointment as Australian Ambassador to UNESCO. He lived in England for some years and died on 7 April 1991. Whitlam did become Ambassador to UNESCO. He died last October at the age of 98.

memorial

Malcolm Fraser became involved in international relief and humanitarian aid issues and, domestically, as a forthright liberal voice for human rights. He resigned from the Liberal Party because he found Tony Abbott too right wing. He died in March 2015 at the age of 84.

 

Complicity Part Three

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Tuesday February 24 2015

Colman's Column3

It Can’t Happen Here

book

Here, There or Anywhere?

In 1930, Sinclair Lewis was the first writer from the United States to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. Lewis published It Can’t Happen in 1935. This dystopian satire imagines a Fascist dictatorship in the US. The book serves as a warning that political movements like Nazism can come to power when people blindly support a charismatic leader. Although the book is out-of-print (I am working from a Kindle edition downloaded for $3.99) and hard to find, its themes will be quite familiar to Americans (and other nationalities)

ilewish001p1

Contemporary readers would have seen the connection with Louisiana politician Huey Long who was preparing to run for president in 1936 elections when he was assassinated in 1935 just prior to the appearance of Lewis’s novel. Long’s career was used by Robert Penn Warren in his 1946 novel All the King’s Men. Later readers have noted resonances with the regime of GW Bush and Dick Cheney.

 

In Lewis’s novel, US presidential candidate Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip is going to rescue the USA from economic depression. He first wins the Democratic Party nomination, ousting Franklin D Roosevelt. He then becomes president by promising to tax the rich, and stop big business from abusing the common worker.

 

Windrip is a charismatic politician: a great showman, but not comfortable with intellectuals. He is  swept into office on a tide of revival tent enthusiasm and anti-intellectual populism. Despite the reformist facade, Windrip is really the candidate of big business.  He speaks of “liberating” women and minorities, as he gradually strips them of all their rights. Blacks and Jews do not fare well under his rule.

 

Soon after his election, Windrip puts the media under the supervision of the military. William Randolph Hearst, the Rupert Murdoch of his day and model for Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane, directs his newspapers to praise the government. The president forces Congress to provide unlimited funding to the military and to pass stringent, unconstitutional laws. He establishes military tribunals for civilians, and denounces critics as traitors. The most loyal followers become a private army, the Minute Men, answerable to no one. The book documents a rapid decline into barbarity and charts an  implosion of American culture: thanks to the weight of mass media,  the desire for security and comfort, and  endemic nationalism, civil society caves in at the touch of a charismatic politician.

 

Windrip is less a Nazi than a con-man-plus-Rotarian, a manipulator who knows how to appeal to people’s desperation, but neither he nor his followers are in the grip of the kind of world-transforming ideology like Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin. The message is that such an ideology is not necessary and besides, the USA has its own ideology that already dominates the world.

 

It Happened in Germany

 

Sinclair Lewis shows that it takes great courage to resist a totalitarian dictatorship. It even takes courage to withhold enthusiastic support. The novel, and the history of Germany in the 1930s, demonstrate that ordinary people can be persuaded to do extraordinary things out of fear or because they benefited from the system. In Nazi Germany, doctors planned, supervised and participated in sterilisation, unethical experiments on humans, torture, euthanasia and genocide. Ordinary policemen and nurses killed in cold blood even when they would not have been punished if they demurred.


Britain’s Imperial Image

 

I was a child in Britain in the 1950s. Much of the literature I was encouraged to read in my pre-teens was about the benevolence of the British Empire. The Boys’ Own Paper gave us tales of adventure in Africa. The Children’s Newspaper was a successful publication which ran for 46 years. During half  of that run of over 2,000 issues it was edited by Arthur Mee, a patriot and devout Christian whose Children’s Encyclopaedia also indoctrinated us with British Imperial values. Lord Baden-Powell was regular contributor. How different were the boy scouts from the Hitler Youth which counted Pope Benedict and UN General Secretary  Kurt Waldheim among its members.

I once asked a friend (we must have been about eight years old) what he would like as a career. I was thinking about being a footballer or a comedian (Max Bygraves was my idol at the time). My friend said he wanted to be a District Commissioner. I had a vague idea from BOP that this was a commendable vocation, which involved civilising savages.

 

The British Imperial brand had been burnished over many decades. The PR set the British brand apart from the brutal behavior of other European empires in Africa: King Leopold’s bloody rule in the Congo, the German genocide of the Herero in South-West Africa, and France’s disgrace in Algeria. The British were, quite simply, different.

 

Despite that, we have seen how British soldiers and police behaved in an inhumane fashion during the British Mandate in Palestine, participating joyfully in torture, summary executions and generalised thuggery. British “exceptionalism”’,   “the British way”,  is clearly a delusion. Chelsea fans continue to behave like British soldiers in Palestine. British soldiers in Iraq continued to behave like thugs.

Neil Ascherson, in the New York Review of Books, described an encounter he had in Cyprus in the late 1950s with a man called Pordy Laneford from Kenya. Who had been a member of the Kenya Police Reserve, the paramilitary force recruited mostly from white settlers. “He explained to me how important it was to kill captured suspects at once, without waiting for the ‘red tape’ of trials and witness statements. ‘Killing prisoners? Well, it’s not really the same thing, is it? I mean, I’d feel an awful shit if I thought I’d been killing prisoners.’”

Ascherson wrote, “I had met other Pordys before, in different parts of the Empire. It was that schoolboy innocence which made them so terribly dangerous, because it was an incurable condition. They were worse, in many ways, than those compulsive sadists who emerge whenever licensed savagery is in prospect. For Pordys, torture was just a lark, a naughty sport like shooting pheasants out of season.”

“The myth that British colonialism guaranteed a minimum standard of behavior toward ‘natives’ cannot—or should not—survive the evidence of twentieth-century Kenya. In the field, the security forces behaved like Germans on an antipartisan sweep in occupied France. In the detention and work camps, and the resettlement villages, the British created a world no better than the universe of the Soviet Gulag.”

Many civilians took an active role in the torture of Mau Mau suspects and settler volunteers ran the concentration camps. Katharine Warren-Gash ran the women’s camps at Kamiti. There, suspects were interrogated, whipped, starved, and subjected to hard labour, which included filling mass graves with truckloads of corpses from other camps. Many Kenyan women gave birth at Kamiti and buried their babies in bundles of six at a time.

The “Hola Massacre” has become part of British, as well as Kenyan history. On March 3, 1959, 100 detainees in the remote Hola camp defied orders to go to work. When the prisoners refused to pick up their spades, a prearranged onslaught began. An hour later, ten prisoners had been clubbed to death and dozens lay dying or injured.

Can It Happen?

We are shocked to read that doctors in Nazi Germany could participate in experiments on living human beings and wholeheartedly carry out torture, sterilisation, euthanasia, and mass extermination.

The recently published US Senate report on CIA torture makes it clear that American doctors were enthusiastic participants happy to make a profit from inflicting pain. Two psychologists, Dr James Mitchell and Dr Bruce Jessen, were paid $81 million to design the torture programme, and medical officers and physicians’ assistants are cited throughout the report as consultants who advised on things like forcing detainees to stand on broken limbs and “rehydrating” via a rectal tube rather than a standard IV infusion.

Dr  Steven Miles is a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, a board member of the Center for Victims of Torture, and author of Oath Betrayed: America’s Torture Doctors. He has been studying doctors’ involvement in torture programmes since photos of the human rights violations at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were published in 2003. He maintains the website Doctorswhotorture.com, which tracks physician standards of conduct and punishments for doctors who aid torture around the world.

“The docs who get involved in this, number one, are careerists. They get involved for rank and career, and the regimes … extremely rarely coerce them. Instead, what happens is the regimes treat them as some kind of elite. The docs are generally not sadists. … docs seem to be entirely unaware, not only of the ethics codes, but also of the ineffectiveness of these interrogation strategies, that they never mount a protest.”

Public Complicity

During GW Bush’s presidency, Americans increasingly said they favored torture tactics, especially when they believed it would lead to vital information or save lives. Surveys showed that 47%   said the use of harsh interrogation tactics like waterboarding was “sometimes” or “always” justified, while only 22% said such torture tactics were “never” justified. Non-religious Americans were more easily convinced that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were, in fact, torture. Most Christians were in favour of torture. Non-religious Americans were one of the few subsets that opposed the torture techniques – and that includes breakdowns across racial, gender, age, economic, educational, and regional lines.

The researchers said. “We believe that torture may have become a partisan symbol, distinguishing Republicans from Democrats, that demonstrates hawkishness on national security in the same way that being supportive of the death penalty indicates that a person is tough on crime”.

Goebbels successfully used media, that might seem primitive to us in 2015, to ensure complicity of ordinary Germans in the Nazi project. TV shows like 24 and Homeland serve a similar function. Stephen King, an admitted fan of 24, wrote, “There’s also a queasily gleeful subtext to 24 that suggests, ‘If things are this bad, why, I guess we can torture anybody we want! In fact, we have an obligation to torture in order to protect the country! Hooray!’ “

Well that’s OK then.

Brigadier General Finnegan believed the show had an adverse effect on the training of American soldiers because it advocated unethical and illegal behavior. In his words: “The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about 24?’ The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do.”

 

Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were enthusiastic fans of 24.

 

 

More on torture next week

 

Austerity and Hypocrisy

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday April 8 2012

 

There have recently been many references in the press, both in Sri Lanka and the UK, to Marie Antoinette. She was the wife of Louis XVI of France who was deposed by the revolting peasants in 1792. Nine months after the execution of Louis, Marie Antoinette was herself tried, convicted of treason and guillotined.

The French people had at first been charmed by her personality and beauty but  came to loathe  her, accusing “L’Autre-chienne” (“Autrichienne” meaning Austrian (woman) and “Autre-chienne” meaning Other Bitch) of being  a promiscuous, callous spendthrift, and of harbouring sympathies for France’s enemies, particularly Austria, her country of origin.

Contemporary sources, such as Mary Wolstencraft and Thomas Jefferson, place the blame for the French Revolution and the subsequent reign of terror on Marie Antoinette. This view is summed up by the phrase “let them eat cake”. There is no evidence that she ever uttered this phrase; It originally appeared in Book VI of the first part (finished in 1767, published in 1782) of Rousseau’s putative autobiography, Les Confessions. “Enfin je me rappelai le pis-aller d’une grande princesse à qui l’on disait que les paysans n’avaient pas de pain, et qui répondit : Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”When told the peasants had no bread the princess said ‘Why don’t they eat cake?’

Whenever I visit my local Sathosa, I see a framed photograph of Bandula Gunawardena. Judging from that picture, I would guess that he is not being compared to Marie Antoinette on grounds of charm, beauty or personality. It’s to do with the cake-eating thing. Minister Gunawardena apparently asserted that a family of three could live on  Rs. 7,500 a month. UNP MP Dr. Harsha de Silva responded: “Minister Bandula Gunawardene’s challenge for a debate on this matter is irrelevant, childish and a waste of time.  It is of no consequence to the people of this country that certain ministers and senior officials of this government have become the laughing stock, but what is unpardonable is that the unwise actions of such people bringing misery to the population.”

Over in the UK, The Sun newspaper, frothing for revenge over the Tories’ failure to protect Murdoch, described Chancellor George Osborne as the Marie Antoinette of the 21st century. Marie Antoinette has come to symbolise the indifference of the rulers to the sufferings of ordinary people.

 
Throughout the hard times of the 1970s, British citizens were exhorted by governments, both Labour and Conservative, to tighten belts and accept wages that did not keep up with inflation.

There was no evidence that the austerity was being shared across all classes. On 31 December 1973, Edward Heath’s Tory government enforced a three-day working week to preserve dwindling fuel supplies. Electricity was switched off on a rota basis between seven a.m. and midnight. Television companies switched off at 10.30pm. Energy Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, won notoriety for advising the nation to “clean our teeth in the dark”. His own house was photographed with all lights blazing.

In the UK currently, the question is not whether the masses should eat cake, but whether they can afford to eat Cornish pasties. The current coalition government have been savagely cutting public services to patch up the mess caused by greedy banksters who continue to draw large salaries and bonuses. In the recent budget, Osborne cut income tax rate for the 300,000 richest households, while 4.4 million pensioners are set to lose out by £84 a year. The strategy was to boost business and the rich by raising tax allowances – and forget about the unemployed and the lowest earners. That old ‘trickle down’ myth again.

Labour MP John Mann zeroed in on one particular aspect of the Budget and asked Osborne when he had last eaten a pasty at Greggs the bakers. Osborne was discombobulated by this and had probably forgotten that his Budget included a VAT increase on Cornish pasties. Greggs chief executive Ken McMeikan denounced Osborne as out of touch, and warned hundreds of jobs were at stake if pasty prices were raised by 20%.

 

One tweet suggested Osborne was then probably subjected to a Treasury presentation where he was told that pasties were “similar to mini boeufs en croute”.
The greasy spinmeisters went into action and Osborne’s fellow old-Etonian and Bullingdon member David Cameron was ready to fend off the pasty attacks from the press. “I think the last one I bought was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. I seem to remember I was in Leeds station at the time and the choice was whether to have one of their small ones or one of their large ones. I have got a feeling I opted for the large one, and very good it was too.”

Indefatigable investigative reporters ferreted out the information that the West Cornwall Pasty Company outlet where he thought he enjoyed his last pasty closed two years ago. Gavin Williams, the boss of the West Cornwall Pasty Company, was not interested in Cameron’s endorsement of his product. He wanted ‘clarity and leadership’ from the prime minister.

One disaffected Tory MP reminded The Guardian that it was Osborne who brought in Andy Coulson to handle the media for Cameron. Coulson’s effectiveness was hampered by the fact that he was arrested (and has since been imprisoned) for criminal activities on behalf of the Murdoch empire.

Another said that Osborne misjudged the budget by failing to spot the significance of what has become known as the ‘granny tax’. It is not immediately obvious what is more depressing, the inane antics of the press, the ham-fisted attempts at populism by wealthy politicians or the total disregard of those in power for what ordinary people’s lives are actually like. Politicians insensitive to the suffering of ordinary people while they themselves enjoy a VVIP life-style should remember what happened to Marie Antoinette.

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/feature-viewpoint/item/4829-austerity-and-hypocrisy.html#sthash.UZnFOuOi.dpuf

 

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