Category Archives: UK

Drone Terror: Welcome to the Barbarism of ‘Civilisation’

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

[…] According to four former US drone operators who had participated in kill missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the slaughter of civilians in drone strikes was widely celebrated as part of an institutional culture in the Air Force. Children were seen as “fun-size terrorists”, and assassinating them by drone was equated with “cutting the grass before it grows too long”.

Michael Haas, a former senior Air Force officer, said that the killings were legitimised by dehumanising the victims: “There was a much more detached outlook about who these people were we were monitoring.” Drone operators were encouraged to develop “bloodlust,” and a trigger-happy approach to missions.

The leaked documents show how technocratic bureaucracy aided this process. As noted by Arjun Sethi, a professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, “dossiers of targets are condensed into ‘baseball cards,’ targets are called ‘objectives,’ objectives killed by drone strike are called ‘jackpots’ and a completed drone strike is consolidated and memorialised in a ‘story board’. All these terms trivialise drone strikes and dehumanise their victims.”

IS fighters use religious ideology, language and symbolism to dehumanise the “apostates” (murtadeen) and “disbelievers” (kuffar) they oppose. But “war on terror” warriors don’t need religion. They prefer the secular language of militarised technology, institutionalised bigotry and political ideology to dehumanise innocents as de facto ‘enemy combatants’.

The results are similar: mass deaths of innocents.


John Pilger on the War on Terror and Western Foreign Policy

Afshin Rattansi interviews award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger on the War on Terror, the birth of the Islamic State and Western foreign policy. (Going Underground)

Peter Hitchens On David Cameron’s ‘Delusional’ Case For War in Syria

James O’Brien interviews author and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens on British Prime Minister David Cameron’s “delusional” case for war in Syria. (LBC)

Europe Is Harbouring The Islamic State’s Backers

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

[…] The ripple effect from the attacks in terms of the impact on Western societies is likely to be permanent. In much the same way that 9/11 saw the birth of a new era of perpetual war in the Muslim world, the 13/11 Paris attacks are already giving rise to a brave new phase in that perpetual war: a new age of Constant Vigilance, in which citizens are vital accessories to the police state, enacted in the name of defending a democracy eroded by the very act of defending it through Constant Vigilance.

Mass surveillance at home and endless military projection abroad are the twin sides of the same coin of national security, which must simply be maximized as much as possible.

“France is at war,” Hollande told French parliament at the Palace of Versailles.

“We’re not engaged in a war of civilizations, because these assassins do not represent any. We are in a war against jihadist terrorism which is threatening the whole world.”

Conspicuously missing from President Hollande’s decisive declaration of war however, was any mention of the biggest elephant in the room: state-sponsorship.


From Paris to Boston, Terrorists Were Already Known to Authorities

map-3Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

Whenever a terrorist attack occurs, it never takes long for politicians to begin calling for more surveillance powers. The horrendous attacks in Paris last week, which left more than 120 people dead, are no exception to this rule. In recent days, officials in the United Kingdom and the United States have been among those arguing that more surveillance of Internet communications is necessary to prevent further atrocities.

The case for expanded surveillance of communications, however, is complicated by an analysis of recent terrorist attacks. The Intercept has reviewed 10 high-profile jihadi attacks carried out in Western countries between 2013 and 2015 (see below), and in each case some or all of the perpetrators were already known to the authorities before they executed their plot. In other words, most of the terrorists involved were not ghost operatives who sprang from nowhere to commit their crimes; they were already viewed as a potential threat, yet were not subjected to sufficient scrutiny by authorities under existing counterterrorism powers. Some of those involved in last week’s Paris massacre, for instance, were already known to authorities; at least three of the men appear to have been flagged at different times as having been radicalized, but warning signs were ignored.

In the aftermath of a terrorist atrocity, government officials often seem to talk about surveillance as if it were some sort of panacea, a silver bullet. But what they always fail to explain is how, even with mass surveillance systems already in place in countries like France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, attacks still happen. In reality, it is only possible to watch some of the people some of the time, not all of the people all of the time. Even if you had every single person in the world under constant electronic surveillance, you would still need a human being to analyze the data and assess any threats in a timely fashion. And human resources are limited and fallible.

There is no doubt that we live in a dangerous world and that intelligence agencies and the police have a difficult job to do, particularly in the current geopolitical environment. They know about hundreds or thousands of individuals who sympathize with terrorist groups, any one of whom may be plotting an attack, yet they do not appear to have the means to monitor each of these people closely over sustained periods of time. If any lesson can be learned from studying the perpetrators of recent attacks, it is that there needs to be a greater investment in conducting targeted surveillance of known terror suspects and a move away from the constant knee-jerk expansion of dragnet surveillance, which has simply not proven itself to be effective, regardless of the debate about whether it is legal or ethical in the first place.


Strikes on Raqqa in Syria Lead to More Questions Than Results

Anne Barnard reports for The New York Times:

First France and then Russia answered Islamic State attacks on their citizens with a strategy of direct reprisal: intensified airstrike campaigns on Raqqa, the militants’ de facto capital within Syria, meant to eliminate the group’s leadership and resources.

But on Tuesday in the early hours of those new campaigns, there seemed to be more questions than decisive results. Chief among them: Why, if there were confirmed Islamic State targets that could be hit without killing civilians, were they not hit more heavily long ago? And what, in fact, was being hit?

More broadly, the Raqqa airstrikes are renewing a debate about how effective such attacks can be in defeating or containing the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, without more commitment to measures like drying up its financial support, combating its ideology or — what outside forces on all sides so far appear to have ruled out — conducting a ground assault.

Several people in Lebanon, Syria and Turkey who have been able to make contact with relatives in Raqqa say the recent French airstrikes — a barrage of about 30 on Sunday night and seven more on Monday — did not kill any civilians. But neither did they inflict serious military damage, those people said, instead hitting empty areas or buildings, or parts of the territory of factory complexes or military bases used by the Islamic State.


After Paris, Rights Groups Warn Against Knee-Jerk ‘National Security’ Overreach

Nadia Prupis reports for Common Dreams:

As some European leaders pitch a reactionary response to Friday’s brutal attacks in Paris, human rights and civil liberties groups are warning against the expansion of surveillance and other government powers under the guise of “national security.”

On Monday, French President François Hollande announced that he would propose a bill to extend the country’s state of emergency by three months as the manhunt for suspects spreads across Europe. The bill would also implement changes to the French Constitution that would strip citizenship of convicted terrorists, increase surveillance, and employ “more sophisticated methods” to curb the weapons trade.

Also on Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the UK would add 1,900 new security and intelligence staff—and that he would consider speeding up a vote on the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill, introduced to Parliament earlier this year, which would allow unprecedented mass surveillance of internet users.

“I am determined to prioritize the resources we need to combat the terrorist threat,” Cameron said.

In the U.S., meanwhile, CIA director John Brennan warned that the Paris attacks should serve as a “wake-up call” to surveillance opponents and criticized “a number of unauthorized disclosures, and a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists.”

But as critics pointed out, Friday’s attacks were carried out despite the fact that France passed an expansive surveillance law earlier this year following the January shootings at Charlie Hebdo magazine headquarters and other sites. Further, French police stated over the weekend that at least one suspect in Friday’s attacks had been known to them for some time—yet these safeguards were apparently insufficient in thwarting those plans.


The Age of Despair: Reaping the Whirlwind of Western Support for Extremist Violence

Chris Floyd writes for CounterPunch:

parisattacks[…] The hellish world we live in today is the result of deliberate policies and actions undertaken by the United States and its allies over the past decades. It was Washington that led and/or supported the quashing of secular political resistance across the Middle East, in order to bring recalcitrant leaders like Nasser to heel and to back corrupt and brutal dictators who would advance the US agenda of political domination and resource exploitation.

The open history of the last half-century is very clear in this regard. Going all the way back to the overthrow of the democratic government of Iran in 1953, the United States has deliberately and consciously pushed the most extreme sectarian groups in order to undermine a broader-based secular resistance to its domination agenda.

Why bring up this “ancient history” when fresh blood is running in the streets of Paris? Because that blood would not be running if not for this ancient history; and because the reaction to this latest reverberations of Washington’s decades-long, bipartisan cultivation of religious extremism will certainly be more bloodshed, more repression and more violent intervention. Which will, in turn, inevitably, produce yet more atrocities and upheaval as we are seeing in Paris tonight.


David Davis: ‘We haven’t had a Stasi or a Gestapo in Britain, so are intellectually lazy about surveillance’

Stephen Moss writes for The Guardian:

David DavisDavid Davis looks tired and puffy-eyed. It’s the morning after Theresa May’s unveiling of the government’s flagship investigatory powers bill, and he has spent the night getting to grips with its 296 pages. The battle over the bill is going to last for months and Davis, who from the Conservative backbenches has become one of the foremost defenders of civil liberties, will be leading the critics, but he knows this initial period is crucial in shaping public attitudes.

“The government had the most amazing propaganda blitz,” he says. “GCHQ had a three-day advertorial in the Times with gushing pieces from young journos, so we knew we were going to get some sort of heavy-duty spin on all of this, and the spin was in my direction – we’re going to be more transparent, we’re going to have more accountability, we’re going to bring in the judiciary, we’re going to limit it. All of it turns out to have been overstated. They’re making lots of rhetorical moves in the right direction, but the substance doesn’t add up. There are loads and loads of holes in it. My impression is they didn’t finish writing the bill until the day before they published it.”

Davis, who with Labour deputy leader Tom Watson mounted a successful legal challenge to controversial aspects of the 2014 act that currently governs the retention of communications data, is now readying himself to try to fill in those holes. But the problem for critics of the bill, he says, is that the public doesn’t care enough about encroachments on their freedom.

“It’s astonishing how few people take an interest in this country,” he says. “In every other country in the world, post-Snowden, people are holding their government’s feet to the fire on these issues, but in Britain we idly let this happen. We’re the country that invented James Bond and we like our spies. We have a wonderful illusion about our security services, a very comforting illusion. But it means we’re too comfortable. Because for the past 200 years we haven’t had a Stasi or a Gestapo, we are intellectually lazy about it, so it’s an uphill battle. Even people who are broadly on my side of the political spectrum in believing in privacy and liberty tend to take the state at its word too often.”


The snooper’s charter: One misspelled Google search for ‘bong-making’ and you’ll be in an orange jumpsuit

Frankie Boyle writes for The Guardian:

Theresa May, with the general air of a hawk that had a This Morning makeover, has launched the new investigatory powers bill. No more drunken Googling: all it takes is a misspelled search for “bong-making” and suddenly you’ll be in an orange jumpsuit getting beaten with a pillowcase full of bibles. Also, pay attention when searching for a child’s prom.

This law will create lots of new jobs, as the person charged with reading all our communications (who will see more unsolicited erections than customer services at Skype) will regularly feed their screaming face into a meatgrinder.

The government insists, as it tries to scrap the Freedom of Information Act, that only people who have something to hide should worry. People who run for public office will be afforded privacy, while our private lives will become public property. Having our privacy exposed is particularly crushing for the British – a nation for whom the phrase: “How are you?” really means: “Please say one word, then leave me alone.” So why have they just accepted this? Well, for a lot of people it’s the only hope that anyone will ever read their tweets.

The PR push for this bill’s launch has shown how similar the legislative process has become to the lobbying one. In fact, it’s not even lobbying, really, as most things that get lobbied for at least have some notional utility. This is more like phishing, asking us to sign up to something that looks helpful, but is actually a data breach.


WW2 Veteran Says The ‘Politicised’ Red Poppy Is Used To ‘Sell’ The Government’s War On Terror

Kathryn Snowden reports for The Huffington Post:

harry leslie smith

[…] Harry Leslie Smith, a former RAF serviceman, does not wear a red poppy. He announced in 2013 that he would no longer allow his “obligation as a veteran” to be manipulated by governments to promote present-day wars.

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Mr Smith said: “Unfortunately, since we fell into the quagmire of the Iraq war and the ubiquitous war on terror, Armistice Day and the wearing of the poppy have been not only politicised but also commercialised.

“It is now almost a month long dirge of patriotism without context and without understanding the true cost of war.”

But the Royal British Legion maintains that the red poppy raises funds for veterans and their families and is “non-political and does not depict or support war”.


Harry Patch: Anti-War Hero

The British Legion and the Control of Remembrance

Rod Tweedy writes for Veterans for Peace UK:

With its links to the arms trade, increasingly militarised presentation of Remembrance, and growing commercialisation and corporatisation of the poppy “brand”, it’s time to reconsider whether the Royal British Legion is still suitable to be the “national custodian of Remembrance”.

My Name is Legion: The British Legion and the Control of Remembrance explores how the Royal British Legion’s status as the self-appointed “national custodian of Remembrance” has been compromised through its collaboration with some of the world’s most controversial arms dealers, its increasingly militarised presentation of Remembrance, and its commercialised and trivialising corporatisation of the poppy “brand”.

It draws on the work of a number of journalists, campaign groups, veterans, and religious organisations who have expressed concern at the direction the Legion is taking, and asks whether the charity is still fit to be the “national custodian of Remembrance”.


Puritan poppy-shamers should find a better use of their time

Simon Kelner writes for The Independent:

Poppy fascists[…] We never used to worry, or possibly even notice, whether someone was wearing a poppy or not. Now, the outcry starts weeks before Remembrance Day if anyone in public life, newsreaders and politicians especially, appears with an unfurnished lapel.

Why Sienna Miller should be subject to the same reactionary tendency is beyond me. I only wish that the actress, brave enough to take on the big media battalions over phone hacking, could have faced down those who criticised her and told them to mind their own business.

Opinions don’t need to be worn like badges, or indeed poppies.

Feeling compassion for fallen servicemen is no more noble a sentiment than supporting our fellow citizens to express their opinions without fear or favour. After all, that was one of the freedoms our soldiers were fighting for.



The Pillage of Egypt by Sisi and Britain Inc.

Omar Kassem writes for CounterPunch:

In echoes of Britain’s support of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s along with the US, and Margaret Thatcher’s thanks to August Pinochet for “bringing democracy to Chile”, Britain will host Egyptian junta leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi on a state visit in November.

This follows a trip by British Defence Secretary and MP for Sevenoaks, Michael Fallon, to Egypt to attend the August 6 function for the opening of a new branch of the Suez Canal. Fallon, writing an op-ed in the local Egyptian state paper, hailed the ‘rejection of authoritarianism’ by the régime of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, while some 46,000 of the best minds and the most active people in Egypt languish in the régime’s prisons on trumped up charges, in filthy conditions and without medical care. 176 of those are parliamentarians.

As Fallon towered over the pathetic figure of François Hollande at the ceremony, he seethed visibly as French Rafale fighter-jets screamed overhead. France had been looking for buyer for the Rafales for twenty years. Now the French defence industry is ahead of the British one. The $5.2bn Rafale contract signed in February effectively bails out Dassault, the French arms manufacturer. France will also relieve itself of two Mistral amphibious assault ships destined for Russia, but withheld from the Western antagonist due to European sanctions, bringing $1.1bn into state coffers from a further Egyptian deal.


Why Does the West Need Sisi?

Al Jazeera’s Jane Dutton is joined by several guests to discuss the visit of Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the UK this week. Khalil Al-Anani is an Associate Professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies and Resident Senior Fellow at Middle East Institute, David Hearst is the editor of the Middle East Eye, and Marwa Maziad, a specialist on Middle East Politics and civil-military relations in the Middle East. (Inside Story)

Stop the War Debate: The uncomfortable truth about Syria is that Assad is still popular

Alastair Sloan writes for

Stop the War[…] One of the many uncomfortable truths about the Syrian conflict is that Assad still has many fans… The reasons are obvious. If you were peering out from the ramparts of Assad-held territory in the early to middle stages of the war, witnessing a sea of Islamist fighters apparently backed by foreign powers, you might be nervous. The “good guys,” the Free Syrian Army, soon became the minority. The obvious comparison was and is with President Saddam Hussein, who had fallen in the country next door a decade before, also at the hands of foreign powers. When Hussein fell, the Iraqi people lost out, big time. Many Syrians fear the same will happen to their country.

[…] It is therefore imperative that room be given in the Western debate for those Syrians who support Assad, alongside those who do not. No political settlement is possible without their voice being heard, nor is it possible without Assad’s own consent. If he wants to – Assad can hold on for many more years. The killings will go on. It may be that we end up with a smaller Syria, an Assad enclave where his supporters can gather. Carrots can be offered for democratic reform, if necessary. If Assad ends up in power over a smaller Syria – he will need money. Neither Iran nor Russia can afford a Marshall plan – but the West can, and with offers of aid they can attach strong conditions. As for whether Assad will ever face a war crimes tribunal – it seems unlikely. Most alleged war criminals never do.

Stop the War were wrong not to let Syrian refugees speak. If they ever offered a platform to pro-Assad voices, they would be smeared as apologists. Yet the reality is – like many dictators, Assad has his supporters. Political settlement means settlement with them too.


Last British Prisoner Released From Guantanamo: Interview with Shayana Kadidal

Sharmini Peries talks to Shayana Kadidal, senior attorney with the Centre for Constitutional Rights. Kadidal discusses how Shaker Aamer was cleared for release in 2007, but US military officials held him all these years because he was a charismatic leader and negotiator. (The Real News)

Andy Worthington on Shaker Aamer finally being released from Guantanamo

From the Scott Horton Show:

Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, discusses British resident Shaker Aamer’s reunion with his family in the UK after his long-delayed release from Guantanamo, and how he survived being locked away for 14 years without charge or trial, often in solitary confinement.


Million Mask March: How Guy Fawkes became the global face of modern protest

Kate Brady reports for DW:

Man wearing V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes MaskAs night falls across the UK on November 5, thousands of families will be heading out to their nearest park to enjoy the local bonfire and fireworks display, whilst likely tucking into some bonfire specialities such as Parkin or toffee apples.

The British tradition marks the day in 1605 when Catholic would-be terrorist Guy Fawkes was arrested after attempting to assassinate King James I by blowing up the Houses of Parliament in London.

On the same night, in cities both in the UK and around the world, thousands of people are also due to take to the streets for the global “Million Mask March” and don their “Guy Fawkes” masks – a pale bearded face, made famous by Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s 1980s graphic novel “V for Vendetta” and the 2006 Warner Bros. film of the same name.

In the last scene of the film, a crowd of citizens – fighting against a dystopian fascist authoritarian state – watch the British Houses of Parliament explode while wearing their “Guy Fawkes” masks.

Illustrator of “V for Vendetta,” David Lloyd, previously described the mask as a “convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny … it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way.”

For the fourth consecutive year, “Anonymous” – which describes itself as “a truth advocating hacktivism as self-defense for unconstitutional government – have called on citizens worldwide to protest against authoritarianism, austerity and mass surveillance.


MI5 ‘secretly collected phone data’ for decade

BBC News reports:

Woman on phoneMI5 has secretly been collecting vast amounts of data about UK phone calls to search for terrorist connections.

The programme has been running for 10 years under a law described as “vague” by the government’s terror watchdog.

It emerged as Home Secretary Theresa May unveiled a draft bill governing spying on communications by the authorities.

If it becomes law, the internet activity of everyone in Britain will be held for a year by service providers.

Police and intelligence officers will then be able to see the names of sites suspected criminals have visited, without a warrant.

Mrs May told MPs the proposed powers were needed to fight crime and terrorism but civil liberties campaigners warned it represented to a “breathtaking” attack on the internet security of everyone living in the UK.


Seven Major Takeaways From the U.K.’s Proposed Surveillance Rules

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

The British government on Wednesday published a proposed new law to reform and dramatically expand surveillance powers in the United Kingdom. The 190-page Investigatory Powers Bill is thick with detail and it will probably take weeks and months of analysis until its full ramifications are understood. In the meantime, I’ve read through the bill and noted down a few key aspects of the proposed powers that stood out to me – including unprecedented new data retention measures, a loophole that allows spies to monitor journalists’ and their sources, powers enabling the government to conduct large-scale hacking operations, and more.


We don’t need to wait for Chilcot, Blair lied to us about Iraq – here’s the evidence

Peter Oborne writes for Open Democracy:

As background to our work, I asked my friend Dr David Morrison to prepare a series of background narratives on the four crucial questions. These are published today by openDemocracy and they address four key questions:

Question 1: Did Tony Blair enter into a secret agreement with George W Bush that the UK would support US military action, come what may?

Question 2: Was the information presented by the Blair government on WMD and other matters an accurate reflection of the underlying facts?

Question 3: Was the war legal?

Question 4: Did our military action in Iraq increase the terrorist threat to Britain?

I have known Dr Morrison for more than 12 years. Back in 2003, I read the devastating evidence that he dispatched to the Foreign Affairs Committee, as it made its report into the Iraq war. The Foreign Affairs Committee ignored the thrust of Dr Morrison’s arguments. However, they did publish his brilliant paper as a memorandum to their own report.

His paper and a later one on the Committee’s findings, which are still worth reading today, provided devastating evidence that Tony Blair misled the British public about the threat from Saddam Hussein in order to make the case for war.

I have not accepted all of Morrison’s arguments. However, his narratives provided an invaluable basis for our work, because he has a remarkable gift for highlighting like nothing else the key issues.

These documents set out with great clarity the key facts that everyone will need in order to assess whether John Chilcot has produced a fair report. I have summarised Morrison’s most devastating points here.


The Pre-Terrorists Among Us

Simon Cottee reports for The Atlantic:

Philip K. Dick’s The Minority Report is a short story about a dystopian future in which there are “no major crimes,” but a mass of imprisoned “would-be criminals.” This is thanks to “Precrime,” a criminal-justice agency whose preventive efforts are directed by a trio of mute oracles called “precog mutants.” The inherent and dark illiberalism of this approach is not lost on Precrime’s chief John Anderton, who concedes, “We’re taking in individuals who have broken no law.” The film adaptation of the story was described by the film critic Peter Bradshaw as an “allegory for a hi-tech police state which bullies villains and law-abiding citizens alike with self-fulfilling prophecies of wrongdoing.”

To a certain degree, the future Dick envisioned has already arrived. It comes in the form of “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE), a set of “non-coercive” counterterrorism initiatives—embraced in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere—aimed not only at de-radicalizing or disengaging convicted terrorists, but also at preventing “at risk” individuals from becoming terrorists in the first place.

Unlike Precrime, CVE doesn’t license the mass imprisonment of would-be terrorists. But it does promote interventions that are intrusive and stigmatizing, targeting those who, to echo Anderton, have broken no law—but, as U.S. President Barack Obama recently put it, are “vulnerable … to violent extremist ideologies.” British Prime Minister David Cameron struck a similar note in a speech earlier this month, promising to introduce yet more measures in the United Kingdom to tackle extremism “in all its forms,” including the “non-violent,” insisting that it was necessary to “stop this seed of hatred even being planted in people’s minds.”


BBC Protects U.K.’s Close Ally Saudi Arabia With Incredibly Dishonest and Biased Editing

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

The BBC loves to boast about how “objective” and “neutral” it is. But a recent article, which it was forced to change, illustrates the lengths to which the British state-funded media outlet will go to protect one of the U.K. government’s closest allies, Saudi Arabia, which also happens to be one of the country’s largest arms purchasers (just this morning [Oct 26], the Saudi ambassador to the U.K. threatened in an op-ed that any further criticism of the Riyadh regime by Jeremy Corbyn could jeopardize the multi-layered U.K./Saudi alliance).

Earlier this month, the BBC published an article describing the increase in weapons and money sent by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf regimes to anti-Assad fighters in Syria. All of that “reporting” was based on the claims of what the BBC called “a Saudi government official,” who — because he works for a government closely allied with the U.K. — was granted anonymity by the BBC and then had his claims mindlessly and uncritically presented as fact (it is the rare exception when the BBC reports adversarially on the Saudis). This anonymous “Saudi official” wasn’t whistleblowing or presenting information contrary to the interests of the regime; to the contrary, he was disseminating official information the regime wanted publicized.

[…] The Saudis, says the anonymous official, are only arming groups such as the “Army of Conquest,” but not the al Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front. What’s the problem with this claim? It’s obvious, though the BBC would not be so impolite as to point it out: The Army of Conquest includes the Nusra Front as one of its most potent components. This is not even in remote dispute; [as] the New York Times’ elementary explainer on the Army of Conquest from three weeks ago states.


Former Head of GCHQ David Omand on the CIA, spying on Parliament, Snowden and James Bond

Afshin Rattansi speaks to David Omand, the former head of GCHQ (1997-2000), about the CIA and spying on our members of Parliament, Snowden and James Bond. (Going Underground)

I’m sorry: Blair takes blame for Iraq War, admits conflict caused ISIS

Simon Walters, Glen Owen, Martin Beckford and Daniel Bates report for the Mail on Sunday:

Tony Blair, who has finally said sorry for the Iraq War during an interview on CNN, which is due to be broadcast today Tony Blair has finally said sorry for the Iraq War – and admitted he could be partly to blame for the rise of Islamic State.

The extraordinary confession by the former Prime Minister comes after 12 years in which he refused to apologise for the conflict.

Blair makes his dramatic ‘mea culpa’ during a TV interview about the ‘hell’ caused by his and George Bush’s decision to oust Saddam Hussein.

In the exchange, Blair repeatedly says sorry for his conduct and even refers to claims that the invasion was a war ‘crime’ – while denying he committed one.

Blair is asked bluntly in the CNN interview, to be broadcast today: ‘Was the Iraq War a mistake?’


UK Goes Full Orwell: Government To Take Children Away From Parents If They Might Become Radicalized

Timothy Geigner reports for Techdirt:

If there are two edicts I try to follow whenever I’m writing, they are, first, write what is true and, second, avoid cliche at all costs. I bring that up only as a preface before saying the following: the UK is walking down an Orwellian path. It’s nearly the cliche of cliches to say something like this, and yet it happens that the cliche is true. While there is most certainly a real thing known as a threat from Islamic terrorism, there is also such a thing as overreaction. What started as the British government’s attempt to ban extremist thought from social media and television (under the notion that some thoughts are too dangerous to enjoy the freedom that other thoughts deserve) then devolved into the conscripting of teachers that were to be on the lookout for children that might become radicalized. To assist them with this, the government helpfully provided spy-software to use against students. Spy-software which itself was found to be exploitable in the most laughably easy of ways. This employed two of the most horrifying aspects of Orwell’s Oceania: the concept of thought-crime and the employ of citizens to fearfully surveil one another.

And now it seems the UK is going even further, adopting Oceania’s reputation for the swallowing up of citizens should they be found suspect of thought-crime by those watchful citizens. Specifically, the Family Division of the Judiciary has put out a memo declaring exactly how it will remove children from the homes of anyone it suspects might radicalize those children.


Are Tory Cuts to Services Playing with Fire? Interview with Paul Embery

Afshin Rattansi interviews Paul Embery, a firefighter and the Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union in London. Embery talks about the Conservative government cuts to the fire service that are increasing response times and putting lives at risk. They also discuss why the government wants to structurally change the fire service by completely amalgamating it with the police. (Going Underground)

UK-Saudi Arabia: the new special relationship

Richard Norton-Taylor reports for The Guardian:

Prime Minister David Cameron receives the King Abdullah Decoration One from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah, November 6, 2012.The Guardian reported last week how leaked documents revealed that Britain conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council (UNHRC).

The elevation of the Saudi kingdom to one of the UN’s most influential bodies in 2013 prompted fresh international criticism of its human rights record, the Guardian noted.

A year earlier, 2012, a Shia activist, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, then aged 17, was arrested. He faces death by crucifixion after being convicted of joining an anti-government demonstration.

Britain’s Ministry of Justice, meanwhile, has bidded for a £5.9m contract [which has since been cancelled] to provide prison expertise to the Saudis. The bid was put in by Justice Solutions International, the commercial arm of the MoJ set up by the last justice secretary, Chris Grayling.

Saudi Arabia is Britain’s largest arms market by far. It has sold 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft to the country in a contract worth an estimated £4.4bn, upgraded Saudi Tornado aircraft (part of the controversial £40bn al-Yamamah contract signed by Margaret Thatcher) in a contract worth an estimated £2.5bn, and upgraded 70 US F15 combat jets in the Saudi air force.