Category: Intelligence Services

From the Zinoviev letter to Richard Dearlove’s comments about Jeremy Corbyn: MI6 have a long history of interfering with UK politics & democracy

 

dearove 2

Sir Richard Dearlove, controversial former head of MI6, who was “senior advisor” to the Monitor Group – a consultancy and private equity firm which has been scandalously implicated in undertaking three million pounds worth PR work for the Libyan regime and Muammar Gaddafi

A controversial  former MI6 chief, Sir Richard Dearlove, claims Jeremy Corbyn’s “far-left past” and “relationships with extremists” made him unfit to enter number 10″. He said exactly the same thing just before the last general election.

Dearlove is a signatory of the right wing neo-Conservative Henry Jackson Society principles. He was also a “senior advisor” to the Monitor Group – a consultancy and private equity firm which has been implicated in undertaking three million pounds worth PR work for Libya and Muammar Gaddafi. In April 2013, it was announced that Dearlove joined the advisory board of Ergo, an intelligence, PR and advisory firm.

The Labour party pointed out that Dearlove lacks credibility because his own past raised questions about his judgement. 

And MI6 has a history of interfering in UK elections.

Dearlove wrote in the Mail on Sunday that the Labour leader would pose a “present danger to our country” if he became PM.

But a Labour source told said: “As head of MI6 he was involved in the infamous dodgy dossier that helped take us into the illegal Iraq War.

“He has no credibility whatsoever on the subject of security.”

Dearlove wrote almost exactly the same thing in the Daily Telegraph in June 2017 – the day before the last general election. He’s the establishment’s ‘damage limitation’ PR wheel-out.

It’s a well-established fact that the opposition leader has always preferred the use use of diplomacy in resolving conflicts, working to broker peace with all sides involved, in much the same way as others who were involved in bringing about the Good Friday agreement, for example.

In December 2017 Corbyn was one of three recipients awarded the Seán MacBride Peace Prize “for his sustained and powerful political work for disarmament and peace”.

Dearlove 1

Dearlove wants to expand NATO and increase its funding. Personally, if we were confronted with a threat, I’d prefer a Prime Minister who understands that the use of nuclear weapons are the VERY last resort, following exhaustive diplomatic efforts. It’s absurd and horrific that party leaders are expected to demonstrate they would press the nuclear button without any hesitation,  triggering the mass destruction of millions, and of our environment, as a ‘mark’ of ‘strength’.

Real strength is taking a pause for thought for citizens, for our planet, fostering good diplomatic relations in the first place – you know, talking to people you with courtesy and respect, especially those you fundamentally disagree with. That takes strength and courage. Pressing a button while cowering in a bunker, and incinerating millions isn’t ‘strong leadership.’

On 29 November 2018 Dearlove co-signed an open letter, published in a British national newspaper, condemning Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiated Withdrawal Agreement for the UK from the European Union after the 2016 Referendum on the issue, as the matter was passing through the House of Commons at the time to be voted upon. In its text, Dearlove alleged the Withdrawal Agreement as negotiated undermined MI6‘s nationally independent global intelligence power.

In a published response, dated the same day, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a public “rebuttal” to the letter’s content, singling out Dearlove personally from the named list of several signatories to the open letter, stating the Withdrawal Agreement “absolutely does not” compromise the national independence of the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service’s capacity.

However, in early December 2018,in a jointly authored text, Dearlove and Major-General Julian Thompson, published on the website ‘Briefings for Brexit’ an extensive reply to the Prime Minister’s Office’s statement entitled ‘The Prime Minister is misleading the country on defence and security’, citing a ‘worryingly poor understanding of the issues’ by the Prime Minister’s office.

On 8 January 2019, in an extraordinary intervention in the political sphere by figures from the S.I.S. and the military quarter, Dearlove sent a letter, co-signed by Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, to all Chairs of Conservative Party Parliamentary Constituency Associations with sitting Members of Parliament stating that the passage through the House of Commons of Prime Minister Theresa May’s European Union Withdrawal Agreement contained decisions which fundamentally undermined the integrity of the Defence of the Realm, and requested that they take measures to discourage their parliamentary representatives from voting for it imminently in the Commons.

The letter advocated as an alternative the case upon national security grounds that the United Kingdom should fully withdraw from the European Union without an Intergovernmental relationship between the two persisting after the process.

Senior allies of Jeremy Corbyn have previously suggested that the security services are attacking Corbyn, not out of security concerns, but self-interest in defending the establishment.

Dearlove in 2018, making the same claims about Jeremy Corbyn. He’s certainly persistent.

You can watch John McDonnell’s response to Dearlove’s comments about Jeremy Corbyn last year below. The comment about “every government has been loyally supported [by the Intelligence Services]” is untrue of course. There is a trail of documented evidence of MI6 and MI5 interference in political and democratic processes, from the first ever Labour government and the faked Zinoviev letter to the attempts to destabilise Harold Wilson’s government. 


Last year the Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey said he supported the view that “the security forces play an unhealthy role in the democratic processes that exist in our nation, both in trade unions and indeed in our political life”.

McCluskey is absolutely right. There are very good reasons why the public should never trust the pro-establishment interference in our democracy by MI6 or ANY account of ANY Labour party leader, not least because of the fact that the faked Zinoviev letter originated from MI6 and was ‘leaked’ to the Daily Mail, with the sole intention of bringing the first ever Labour party down. It succeeded.

Britain’s most senior security and intelligence officials had discussed the smearing of the Labour party just as it was emerging as a major political force according to previously secret documents.

The potential repercussions of attempts by the intelligence agencies to damage the Labour party were debated at length by the little-known Secret Service Committee, later research – now released at the National Archives – shows. You can read my extensively researched article on the Zinoviev letter here: From Spycatcher and GBH to the Zinoviev letter – an emergent pattern and the real enemy within.

There is a very long history of the Labour party’s struggle on our behalf against a monstrously ruthless and powerful establishment that is determined to maintain the status quo.

The real threat to our national security and democracy is the Conservative government in office

Dearlove’s comments about the opposition leader emerge as senior government officials are currently furious at “leaks” from the top-secret Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), after details emerged of the committee’s investigation into allegations of Russian interference in UK democracy. The government has been accused of presiding over a cover-up after it emerged that No 10 refused to clear the publication of a potentially incendiary report examining Russian infiltration in British politics, including the Conservative party.

Downing Street indicated that it would not allow a 50-page dossier from the intelligence and security committee to be published before the election, prompting a string of complaints over its suppression.

The committee’s chairman, Dominic Grieve, called the decision “jaw dropping”, saying no reason for the refusal had been given, while Labour and Scottish National party politicians accused No 10 of refusing to recognise the scale of Russian meddling.

According to the BBC, the ISC took evidence from members of the intelligence services accusing the Kremlin of trying to influence the outcome of the EU referendum in 2016 and the following year’s general election. It also hit the news that Russian oligarchs with links to the Kremlin have been making massive donations to the Conservative party. Fresh evidence also emerged of attempts by the Kremlin to infiltrate the Conservatives by a senior Russian diplomat suspected of espionage, who spent five years in London cultivating leading Tories including Johnson himself. Sergey Nalobin – who has described the future prime minister as “our good friend” – lives in a Moscow apartment block known as the “FSB house” because it houses so many employees from the Kremlin’s main spy agency.

It is understood the dossier had already been approved by the intelligence agencies themselves as part of a long clearance process that began in late March. Downing Street was sent a final draft on 17 October and had been expected to sign off  before parliament was dissolved.

Grieve said: “The protocols are quite clear. If the prime minister has a good reason for preventing publication he should explain to the committee what it is, and do it within 10 days of him receiving the report. If not, it should be published.”

Allegations that Moscow money has flowed into the Conservative party via emigres living in the UK making high-profile donations, were also heard by the committee – although the party has consistently denied receiving money ‘improperly’.

In 2014, Lubov Chernukhin – the wife of the former Russian deputy finance minister – paid £160,000 to play tennis with Johnson and David Cameron. The match was the star lot at a Conservative summer party auction. Another guest at the 2013 fundraiser was Vasily Shestakov, Vladimir Putin’s judo partner.

Committee members were also briefed on an extraordinary – and for a while an apparently successful – attempt to penetrate Conservative circles by Nalobin, who instigated a pro-Kremlin parliamentary group, the Conservative Friends of Russia.

During his time in the UK, Nalobin went to exclusive Tory fundraising events and met senior Conservatives. In January 2014 he posed for a photograph with Johnson at an event at city hall in London. Nalobin posted it on Twitter, writing in a caption that the then mayor was “our good friend” who said “warm words” about Russians.

Conservative Friends of Russia held its 2012 launch party in the Russian ambassador’s Kensington garden, with about 250 Russian and British guests present, including Tories who went on to play a prominent role in the referendum campaign. One was Matthew Elliott, now chief executive of pro-Brexit group Vote Leave, alongside Dominic Cummings, now the prime minister’s chief strategist.

I have to say that I am almost surprised that Dearlove is so concerned about the ‘security threat” posed by a party leader who is not taking donations from Russian oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin, while remaining supremely unconcerned about the PM who is.

Back in 2016, speaking to reporters at MI6’s headquarters in Vauxhall, central London, Alex Younger used his first major public speech as head of the Secret Intelligence Service to attack the Kremlin for creating a human tragedy in Syria and to warn of the threat to the UK from high tech subversion by Moscow. He said: “The connectivity that is at the heart of globalisation can be exploited by states with hostile intent to further their aims deniably. They do this through means as varied as cyber-attacks, propaganda or subversion of democratic process.

He went on: “The risks at stake are profound and represent a fundamental threat to our sovereignty; they should be a concern to all those who share democratic values.”

The role of the Secret Service is supposedly limited to countering genuine threats to national security, and controls are needed to govern how it may use, but not abuse, its powers. The service should not do anything which would favour one political party over another. called into question the Service’s political impartiality

However, MI6 have a shameful history of subverting our democracy and Dearlove’s comments also call into question the Service’s claimed political impartiality. It’s not such a big stride, after all from “protecting democracy” to stage managing it.

Related 

The biggest threat to our national security and safety is authoritarian Conservative posturing and their arms deals with despotic states

From Spycatcher and GBH to the Zinoviev letter – an emergent pattern and the real enemy within

 


I  don’t make any money from my work. But you can help if you like by making a donation to help me continue to research and write free, informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

DonatenowButton

Defending disinformation against democracy: the Integrity Initiative

Inside the Integrity Initiative, the UK gov’s information war on the public with Journalists Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and Professor David Miller.

The Institute for Statecraft and its offshoot, the Integrity Initiative, constitute a secret propaganda network tied to the UK security services. They bring together high-ranking military and intelligence personnel, journalists and academics to manufacture and disseminate propaganda serving the geopolitical and economic aims of the UK and those of its allies.

The Integrity Initiative is a self declared ‘charity’, funded by the UK Foreign Office, British Army and Ministry of Defence, which has been described by the Sunday Mail as a right wing infowars unit.

The Institute for Statecraft, which “led” the Integrity Initiative, was traced to this mill in Fife (Image: Sunday Mail.)

Created by the NATO-affiliated, UK-funded Institute for Statecraft in 2015, the Integrity Initiative was unmasked in November after Anonymous hackers released a volume of documents detailing a web of politicians, journalists, military personnel, scientists and academics involved in purportedly fighting ‘Russian disinformation.’

The highly secretive, government-bankrolled “network of networks” has found itself under scrutiny for smearing Her Majesty’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘Kremlin stooge’ – ostensibly as part of its crusade against ‘Russian disinformation.’ The Initiative has received more than £2.2million from the Foreign Office in two years to – in one minister’s words – “defend democracy against disinformation.”

The latest leaks indicate that the organisation played a central role in shaping media narratives after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were mysteriously poisoned in Salisbury last March. It’s notable that many of the draconian anti-Russia measures that the group advocated as far back as 2015 were swiftly implemented following the Skripal affair – even as London refused to back up its blame frame with evidence.

Within days of the Skripal poisonings, the Institute solicited its services to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), offering to “study social media activity in respect of the events that took place, how news spread, and evaluate how the incident is being perceived” in a number of countries.

After receiving the government’s endorsement, the Integrity Initiative launched Operation Iris,’ enlisting the “global investigative solutions” company Harod Associates to analyse social media activity related to the Skripal incident. 

The latest release of hacked documents also revealed a curious link between the Integrity Initiative and Skripal himself – a connection made all the more suspicious by the group’s central role in coordinating a determined and evidence-free  campaign to implicate and punish Moscow for the alleged nerve-agent attack.

One document from July 2018 contains contact details for Pablo Miller, Skripal’s MI6 recruiter, handler and (conveniently) neighbour in Salisbury. Miller, it seems, had been invited to a function hosted by the Institute. The plot sickens.

I have wondered what happened to Yulia Skripal. Worryingly, she has dropped off the media radar.

David Miller, Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol School for Policy Studies, has said that despite being ignored by the media, leaks from Integrity Initiative have paralysed the operations of this UK-funded covert influence network, and could ultimately lead to its dismantling.

Miller also believes that: “People have a right to know how the Government are spending their money, and the views being promoted in their name.”

I agree. I think it’s obscene that our money is being spent on covert military grade psyop operations designed specifically to micromanage our perceptions of reality and to stage-manage our democracy. 

He adds: “This [leak] has made a mess of [Integrity Initiative’s] operations, they are spending most of their time now trying to fire-fight on the coverage this is getting. And they are not doing essentially what they are being paid to do, which is to counter the Russians.

“The British government is getting bad value for money, if it was ever getting ‘better’ value.”

As part of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, which studies Western attempts to control media coverage of key international events, Miller has played a crucial role in studying the four tranches of data anonymously uploaded and sourced from the previously little-known group, which has been backed by the UK Foreign Office, NATO and Facebook, to the tune of over £1 million per year.

The documents, whose authenticity has not been denied by government, contain details of psyops against public figures, of the manipulation of media coverage from leading outlets, and have also revealed worldwide networks of prominent journalists and academics, secretly engaged to discredit, at every turn, pro-Moscow points of view and left wing political developments.

Despite the refusal by all of those named to either admit their connection or to say that there was nothing untoward in their activities, Miller believes that the exposure has made it more difficult for them to push and publish anti-Russian content.

The Integrity Initiative has waged an information and propaganda war on the public. Yet nothing has been done to address the scandal surrounding this McCarthyist UK government-funded think tank, which has attacked Jeremy Corbyn and the anti-war left and laundered disinformation through the corporate media under the guise of ‘countering Russia’. 

“Most of the people named are trying to pretend that this is not all of great significance, but the revelation of the involvement of the government in manipulating other countries, and the political process in the UK, is extremely damaging for them,”  Miller says. 

Miller has also said that Parliament needs to conduct a more sustained inquiry into Integrity Initiative, and Jeremy Corbyn smears. 

For Miller, the “cardinal sin” from a UK perspective was the smearing of the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, as a potential ‘Kremlin ally’ in Whitehall, which means that a state-paid intelligence operation has been manipulating domestic politics.

Miller also points to the absence of coverage of what he calls a “real, genuine scandal” in top news sources, which, he says, are themselves implicated in the scandal fallout.

Miller also sates that, at the very least, this exposure should lead to a crucial national dialogue about the role intelligence agencies should play in public life and in influencing politics.

Why, it’s as if the role of MI6 in the faked Zinoviev letter has habituated the Establishment to maintain the status quo at all cost, including the stage-managing of our democracy, using anti-Russian sentiment as a template. It’s also apparently become such normalised behaviour that it’s hiding in plain view.

“Integrity Initiative are beyond the realms of sense. The activities they are engaged in are morally and ethically dubious, and will certainly – as we can see already – backfire on them,” Miller continued.

“This will result hopefully in the ending of this operation, and if we are lucky, a sensible discussion in parliament about controlling the future of British covert operations.”

Funding shot up to £2.6 million in 2018-19, with £1.96 million from the FCO and the rest from the US State Department, NATO and the American neoconservative Smith Richardson Foundation. Facebook, which plays in integral role in imposing censorship on behalf of the US, donated £100,000. See: UK Integrity Initiative heavily involved in Skripal affair.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has said: “It is one of the cardinal rules of British public life that official resources should not be used for party political purposes.

“So, it is simply outrageous that the clearly mis-named ‘Integrity Initiative’ – funded by the Foreign Office to the tune of £2.25 million over the past two years – has routinely been using its Twitter feed to disseminate personal attacks and smears against the Leader of the Opposition, the Labour Party and Labour officials.”

Andrew Fisher, an aide to the Labour leader, said: “This astonishing story really deserves attention.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “Such clear political attacks and propaganda shouldn’t be coming from any charity.

“We need to know why the Foreign Office have been funding it.”

Isn’t it obvious?

Surveillance capitalism: citizens as a means to an end

So far I haven’t seen anyone make the connection between the exposure of the Integrity Initiative and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Or the fact that the government hired several murky companies plying the same methods as Cambridge Analytica in their election campaign, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of citizens’ money so the Conservatives could target them with personalised dark ads and psyop-crafted strategic comms

As soon as the Conservatives casually announced their ‘behaviour change’ agenda back in 2010, and instituted the ‘Nudge Unit’, a scandal of the type surrounding  Cambridge Analytica/SCL was inevitable. How could anyone expect that an increasingly authoritarian government, somewhat defined by resistance to change, would resist the temptation to draw on ‘behavioural science’ techniques to manipulate citizens’ perceptions, cognitions, behaviours, choices, and ultimately, their voting decisions?

‘Surveillance capitalism’ was the term coined in 2015 by Harvard academic Shoshanna Zuboff to describe this large-scale surveillance and modification of human behaviour for profit. It involves the predictive analysis of big datasets describing the lives, choices and behaviours of tens or hundreds of millions of people, allowing correlations and patterns to be identified, information about individuals inferred and analysised, and future behaviour and decisions to be predicted. This is then used to influence behaviours through personalised and ‘dynamic’ targeted advertising. 

This whole process is refined by an experimental approach – testing a range of variations of adverts on different demographics to determine what works best. Every time we log on we potentially become the unwitting and thus non consenting subject of trials designed to determine how to most effectively extract money from us or to persuade us of something. The common denominator is the covert use of powerful behavioural modification strategies: psyops. 

Our personal data is being used to construct ‘persuasion profiles’, using sets of estimates – based on probabilities – on the effectiveness of particular influence-strategies on individuals, which are also based on past responses to these strategies. Some of these companies are also experimenting with biometrics.

We are led to believe that it is other states that seek to meddle in the UK’s elections. The use of data analytics and psychological profiling to target people on social media with political content, has had a profound political impact, but it remains largely unappreciated. Political campaigning has shifted from being a public process to being a private, personalised series of micro-monitoring strategies, enabled by access to the apparatus and mechanisms of surveillance capitalism. It’s a process that has led to the government regarding citizens as a means to an end – that being simply maintaining power, upholding the status quo.

The Snowden leaks in 2013 concerning GCHQ and the NSA’s covert activities made controversial headlines around the world. GCHQ’s stated aim was to compile a profile of the internet habits of every user on the web.  The Investigatory Powers Act, commonly known as the “snooper’s charter, permits the security and intelligence agencies legal authority to acquire personal datasets from technology companies in bulk, and the UK government is reported to be exploring an agreement with the US that would give British intelligence agencies better access to these databases.

Data sharing between surveillance companies and state security and intelligence agencies is well established. In the US, tech companies have been forced to hand over data about their users to the NSA for some time. When Yahoo refused, they were threatened with a $250,000 fine, every day, with the fine doubling every week that their non-compliance continued, faced with the prospect of financial ruin, they acquiesced.

Clearly, monitoring and surveillance practices have changed the relationship between the citizen and the state, shifting the balance of power and distorting democracy.

It cannot be right for either private companies or governments to use citizens as Pavlovian dogs. Such personalised psychological persuasive strategies seriously undermine the human autonomy that is central to human dignity and democracy.  

Related

 Documents of the “Integrity Initiative” Part 4  – Anonymous (4 January 2019)

The chilling manipulations of the Institute for Statecraft are straight out of the cold war playbook – Chris Williamson, Morning Star Online

Social media is being used to stage manage our democracy using nudgebased strategies

Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Interim Repor–  House of Commons
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee 

The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations – The Intercept

Controversial GCHQ Unit Engaged in Domestic Law Enforcement, Online Propaganda, Psychology Research – Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman

The government hired several murky companies plying the same methods as Cambridge Analytica in their election campaign


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I have a very limited income. But you can help if you like, by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others affected by the Conservative’s welfare ‘reforms’. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

DonatenowButton

From a nerve agent attack to a nuclear threat in 3 days – the very worrying collapse of international diplomacy

Image result for skripal poisoning

Update

Another Russian exile, Nikolai Glushkov, who was close friends with the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky has been found dead, aged 68, in his London home.

Counter terrorism officers are leading the inquiry into his death. They have said  that there was no evidence to link it to events in Salisbury, though it has been treated as ‘suspicious’. So far this year, deaths registered for men aged 65-74 in England and Wales have averaged 1,179 a week (according to the Office for National Statistics data).

Amber Rudd, the home secretary, decided to announce an inquiry into allegations of Kremlin links to 14 other deaths in Britain in the past two decades. 

The prime minister was said to be confident last night that she had succeeded in rallying key European and US allies before a meeting of the National Security Council to be followed by a statement to the Commons this afternoon. 

One very worrying comment in the Times caught my eye: “On Monday the prime minister cleared the way in a statement to MPs for a cyberattack on Russia as she challenged President Putin to explain how a ‘Russian’ toxin came to be used on British soil.” However, Robert Hannigan, the former director of GCHQ, warned against a cyber-offensive because of the likelihood of escalation.

“Starting a cyberconflict is not in anyone’s interests,” he said. “We need to be sure that anything we do is consistent with our values.”  

That the prime minister felt such a blatant act of aggression and provocation was appropriate at all is VERY concerning, given the fact that she has refused to share the evidence that her allegations are based on with Russia, and has refused to permit Russia to contribute to an inquiry. 

Earlier this year, defence think tank Chatham House warned that US, British and other nuclear weapons systems are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. The threat has received scant attention so far from those involved in nuclear military planning and the procurement of weapons.

It blames this partly on failure to keep up with fast-moving  technological advances, lack of skilled staff and the slowness of institutional change.

“Nuclear weapons systems were developed before the advancement of computer technology and little consideration was given to potential cyber vulnerabilities. As a result, current nuclear strategy often overlooks the widespread use of digital technology in nuclear systems,” the authors of the study said.

Nuclear weapons systems are vulnerable and at risk from hostile states, criminal groups and terrorist organisations exploiting cyber vulnerabities. The report goes on to say:

At times of heightened tension, cyber attacks on nuclear weapons systems could cause an escalation, which results in their use.

“Inadvertent nuclear launches could stem from an unwitting reliance on false information and data. Moreover, a system that is compromised cannot be trusted in decision-making.”

At best, cyber insecurity in nuclear weapons systems is likely to undermine trust and confidence in military capabilities and in the nuclear weapons infrastructure.

“At worst, cyber attacks could lead to deliberate misinformation and the inadvertent launch of nuclear weapons.

“In times of crisis, loss of confidence in nuclear weapons capabilities would factor into decision-making and could undermine beliefs in nuclear deterrence – particularly in extending nuclear deterrence to allied countries.”

The report, titled Cybersecurity of Nuclear Weapons Systems: Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences, said the issue required “urgent attention” from the governments of nuclear-armed states and those that could be affected by the use of nuclear weapons.

Chatham House also urged governments to be open about their discussions, adding: “After all, it is the public that will pay the ultimate price for complacency regarding cyber security of nuclear weapons systems.”

Counter terrorism policing statement

The UK’s head of counter-terrorism policing has issued a statement regarding the nerve agent attack in Salisbury. Neil Basu, speaking at Scotland Yard, said:

“We are exploring all investigative avenues. This includes extensive CCTV footage from across the city and over 380 exhibits so far.

In particularly I’m appealing for anyone who saw Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Sergei’s car which is a red BMW with a registration plate: HD09 WAO, in the Salisbury area between approximately 1pm and 1.45pm on Sunday 4 March.

The police are going to continue to see a great deal of police activity in and around city, including potentially more cordons being erected. But please don’t be alarmed. It is necessary as part of this major investigation. In truth it may last many weeks.

It is a painstaking operation to identify anyone of interest and eliminate them or include them, but at this stage we are not declaring person of interest or a suspect at this time.”

No mention of ‘the Russians’, then.

Novichok nerve agents 

Image result for skripal poisoning

It was certainly a nerve agent that was used in the attack on the Skripals. The raw materials to make such chemical weapons are inexpensive and generally not difficult to obtain. 

Novichok nerve agents – also known as the “N-series” – were secretly developed by the former Soviet Union beginning in the 1970s. They followed the “G-series” of nerve agents made by Germany in the 1930s and the “V-series” made by the UK in the 1950s. Novichok means “newbie” in Russian. There are no previous reports of the Novichok nerve agents being used in battle or assassinations. However, Andrei Zheleznyakov, a Russian scientist involved in their development, reportedly died not long after being exposed to a small amount that leaked out of a rubber tube in the laboratory.  

The scant details that we know about these agents are largely based on reports from Russian chemist Vil Mirzayanov, who exposed the Russian chemical weapon development programme in 1991. However, he never gave any formulae or protocols for synthesis of this deadly class of chemical agents that he referred to. 

Nerve agents are made from two precursor chemicals that are mixed together just before use. These precursors could be made at pesticide or fertiliser manufacturers without arousing any suspicion at all, as this class of chemical weapon is made with organophosphates as a key component. Some insecticides, including carbamates organophosphates such as dichlorvos, malathion and parathion, are nerve agents. At high enough doses, acute toxicity and death can occur through the same mechanism as other nerve agents. 

As binary chemical weapons are those which contain the toxic agent in its inactive state in the form of chemical precursors, which are significantly less toxic than the agent itself. Using precursors improves the safety of storing, transporting, and disposing of the weapon. Commonly, when used, the barrier between the two precursors is removed. These compounds then react to form the intended toxic agent. 

The Russians created two main types of Novichok nerve agent – A-230 and A-232.  We know these are chemicals that also contain carbon and phosphorus like the G-series nerve agents – which includes sarin, tabun, soman, and cyclosarin, and the V-series – which includes VX, VR, VE, VG and VM. However, their exact structures have allegedly remained a mystery in the West. 

As stated, A-232 (also called Novichok-5) is an organophosphate, like many pesticides. Phosphates are not listed among the controlled chemicals on the Chemical Weapons Convention lists. The Novichok class of agents were reportedly developed in an attempt to circumvent the Chemical Weapons Treaty (chemical weapons are banned on the basis of chemical structure and therefore a new chemical agent is not subject to past treaties). Novichoks have reportedly been engineered to be undetectable by standard detection equipment and to defeat even standard chemical protective gear, it has been said.

According to Mirzayanov, both the Novichoks are binary agents, meaning they are made from two precursor chemicals that are mixed together just before use  He also said that many of the less potent derivatives were reported in the open literature as new organophosphate insecticides, so that the secret chemical weapons programme could be disguised as legitimate pesticide research. Mirzayanov confirmed that Novichoks all feature an organophosphorus core.

Nerve agents are a class of organic chemicals that disrupt the mechanisms by which nerves transfer messages to organs. The disruption is caused by the blocking of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that catalyses the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitterNerve agents attack the nervous system, muscles are prevented from relaxing, so they spasm are effectively paralysed. This includes the heart and the muscles used for breathing. Because of this, the first symptoms usually appear within seconds of exposure and death can occur via asphyxiation or cardiac arrest in a few minutes. 

Initial symptoms may be excessive sweating, a runny nose, tightness in the chest, and constriction of the pupils. Soon after, the victim will have difficulty breathing and will experience nausea, involuntary, excessive salivation and fluid accumulation and sometimes, blistering, in the lungs – often producing frothing at the mouth – burning, watering and sometimes blistering eyes, gastrointestinal pain and vomiting. This phase is followed by initially myoclonic jerks (muscle jerks) followed by status epilepticus – type epileptic seizure. The effects of nerve agents are long-lasting and increase with continued exposure. Survivors of nerve agent poisoning almost invariably suffer chronic neurological damage and related psychiatric effects. 

Atropine and related anticholinergic drugs act as antidotes to nerve agent poisoning because they block acetylcholine receptors, but of course, they are poisonous in their own right. Pralidoxime chloride, also known as 2-PAM chloride, is less toxic but it works more slowly than other antidotes.

No standard test exists for Novichoks. It’s possible to detect exposure to nerve agents more generally by checking blood samples to monitor any significant decrease of activity of an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. However, UK intelligence agencies must have knowledge of the exact Novichok structures, otherwise they would not have been able to detect a match, as claimed. 

It is generally considered impossible to cure people who are exposed to it. Novichok is reported to be 5–8 times more lethal than VX nerve agent and effects are very rapid, usually within 30 seconds to 2 minutes. How it was deployed in the attack on the Skripals remains unclear.

At the moment, there is no evidence that Russia was not respecting the treaty that has come to the attention of the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons). Russia has previously destroyed quite a large amount of its chemical weapons stock – more than 400,000 tons. 

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said during a televised press conference earlier that Russia was not responsible for the poisoning and demanded that Britain seek to mediate the case under the chemical weapons convention. 

He said: “We have already made our statement on this case. Russia is ready to cooperate in accordance with the convention to ban chemical weapons if the United Kingdom will deign to fulfil its obligations according to the same convention.”

Lavrov also remarked that under the convention, Russia would have 10 days to reply to an official accusation by the UK over the use of a banned substance within its borders.

Russia summoned the UK’s ambassador to Moscow to protest against accusations that it ordered last week’s nerve agent attack in Salisbury and to warn that any British sanctions against Russia would be answered in kind. 

The prime minister said in parliament on Monday that the UK would consider punitive measures if Russia did not meet a (rather unreasonable) deadline of the end of Tuesday to explain itself. Possibilities include revoking the broadcast licence of the Russian state-funded broadcaster RT, expulsions of diplomats, or greater scrutiny of Russian investments in the UK.

The Russian foreign ministry said: “Any threats to adopt ‘sanctions’ toward the Russian Federation would not remain without a response.”

Among other measures, Moscow is ready to ban all British media outlets if London revokes the state-funded Russia Today’s right to broadcast in Britain, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry said on national television on Tuesday evening.

Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they close Russia Today,” Maria Zakharova said. 

A foreign ministry statement said it had summoned Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador, to also declare that Russia would not comply with Theresa May’s demand that it explain its role until the Russian government had been given samples of the nerve agent that left the Skripals critically ill.

“Without this, any statements by London are senseless,” the ministry said in the statement given to journalists.

Meanwhile, May is preparing to chair a meeting of the national security council after the midnight deadline she set Moscow passed.

The prime minister is said to be preparing to set out a range of reprisals against the Russian state, including calls for fresh sanctions, visa bans and crackdowns on Russian money in the UK. She is expected to set out plans to build a coalition of international support – from the European Union, NATO and even the United Nations. However, given Brexit, Europe’s response is quite likely to be limited when it comes to practical support and retaliation.

Until Tuesday evening, Donald Trump had remained silent over the Kremlin’s “probable role”. However, he has since told Theresa May in a phone call earlier today that his support is conditional on the facts supporting her case. Downing Street said Trump had agreed that “the Russian government must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used”.

The problem with the ultimatum is that there is a possibility the nerve agent did not come from Russia. 

Only one senior member of Trump’s administration had acknowledged that Russia may be responsible: Rex Tillerson. On Tuesday, however, Trump fired Tillerson as secretary of state, possibly underlining that May is likely to receive little or no help from the US. Not that Trump’s brand of ‘diplomacy’ would be of any value to us, things are fraught enough without any further bragging about big red buttons.

The Russian Embassy have said that “Britain must comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention which stipulates joint investigation into the incident, for which Moscow is ready.”

That seems fair, but the UK government have refused to permit such a joint investigation so far.

The Russian Embassy said Moscow will only respond once it is given access to samples of the nerve agent used to poison the Skripals. Again, the UK government has refused. There will have to be a degree of negotiation to escape the current impasse, otherwise the situation will simply escalate into one of increasing hostilities, provocation, retaliation, retaliation and more retaliation. This is the signposted, short and deadly road to war. 

Is the UK government playing provocation roulette with Russia?

The complete breakdown of diplomatic relationships has already led, it is reported, to a warning issued from Russia that the UK should not threaten a nuclear power last night, as tensions mounted ahead of an announcement today of measures against the Kremlin.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, was quoted as saying “one should not threaten a nuclear armed country.” 

Russia Slams UK PM’s ’Circus in Parliament’ on Skripal Poisoning Case

Maria Zakharova

There are many things that world leaders should not do or say. History is littered with the destruction and devastation of precious, ordinary human lives caused by the disregard and lack of conscience of those in positions of power. But that doesn’t ever seem to stop them, and always, it seems, to our utter surprise and horror.

There has been a dangerous escalation in both rhetoric regarding nuclear weapons and military strategy recently. For example, Vladimir Putin’s state of the union address earlier this month, showed a mock-up missile seemingly heading for the coast of Florida. Last year the British government disclosed that under certain (undefined) circumstances, nuclear strikes would be considered, even if our nation wasn’t under direct nuclear threat.  

Donald Trump has pledged to “spend freely” on upgrading the American nuclear arsenal. Last month, a review of nuclear “posture” set out plans to develop new “low-yield” nuclear weapons and for the first time consider nuclear strikes in response to non-nuclear threats – such as a devastating cyber attack. Russia has long possessed smaller nuclear weapons, with a military doctrine that conceives of their tactical use to counter conventional threats.

However we are witnessing a departure from a deterrence policy towards first strike posturing at a global level that could significantly lower the threshold for nuclear war.

Nuclear weapons protect no-one. They reflect an era of leaders who regard the lives of others as somehow expendable, including their own citizens. This disregard for the lives of others by those in positions of power and privilege shapes so much human suffering, it reflects everything that is wrong in the world.

“Cutting edge nuclear deterrence”, according to Trump’s most recent posture statement, apparently requires “tailored strategies” and “flexible capabilities.” These are not new concepts. They sound reasonable enough. Until we see that the flip side of deterrence is detonation. Tailored strategies and flexible capabilities require assigning nuclear weapons to “targets.” You can reason that most targets will probably be military  bases or ports and so on. At first. However, even one nuclear detonation will release radioactive material that will inevitably travel to densely populated areas, unconstrained.

The logic and cohesion of nuclear posture reviews break down when we shift from the declaration part to the operational level of nuclear deterrence. What are the humanitarian consequences of targeting plans for nuclear weapons? And how is escalation to be controlled once the nuclear threshold is crossed? See?

Because nuclear orthodoxy cannot withstand public scrutiny, especially on the fundamental questions of humanitarian consequences and escalation control, citizens in nuclear states seek refuge underneath the warm, comfort blanket statements of deterrence. Our personal comfort depends on presuming that deterrence is somehow robust and safe.

However it is fragile.

Recently I have written about the elements of human error, such as misinterpretation of mundane events such as solar flares, moon rises, intelligence miscalculation, and near accidents – the close calls we have somehow managed to survive so far. These events demonstrate what a fine margin of error there is and just how fragile the boundary actually is between deterrence and the sudden blinding, instant, searing heat followed by an utterly devastating blast and a mushroom cloud composed in part from the dust of corpses and crushed buildings,

It should be unthinkable for any person in a position of power to make such a horrific threat. Not so long ago, it would have been, in the age of ‘nuclear deterrence.’ But now we have the leaders of superpower states casually hint at first strikes, mentioning their nuclear buttons and arsenals whenever they feel like blowing off steam. 

In the event of a nuclear exchange, the UK government will be cowering in underground fallout shelters, as no doubt will Trump and the Russian officials. If that wasn’t so, I think perhaps they may hesitate before posturing so aggressively and potentially, catastrophically, while bargaining and bullying with lives of respective populations.

Update

I did some further research following on from this observation I made: “No standard test exists for Novichoks. It’s possible to detect exposure to nerve agents more generally by checking blood samples to monitor any significant decrease of activity of an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. However, UK intelligence agencies must have knowledge of the exact Novichok structures, otherwise they would not have been able to detect a match, as claimed. 

I came across Craig Murray’s latest article on novichok, which also makes similar and some addition observations.

In summary, he says:

1) Porton Down has acknowledged in publications it has never seen any Russian “novichoks”. The UK government has absolutely no “fingerprint” information that can safely attribute this substance to Russia.
2) Until now, neither Porton Down nor the world’s experts at the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were convinced “Novichoks” even exist.
3) The UK is refusing to provide a sample to the OPCW.
4) “Novichoks” were specifically designed to be able to be manufactured from common ingredients on any scientific bench. The Americans dismantled and studied the facility that allegedly developed them. It is completely untrue only the Russians could make them, if anybody can.
5) The “Novichok” programme was in Uzbekistan not in Russia. Its legacy was inherited by the Americans during their alliance with Karimov, not by the Russians.

You can read Craig’s full article here.

Related

PM says ‘highly likely’ Russia is responsible for nerve agent attack, without any conclusive evidence

From the age of nuclear ‘deterrence’ to an era of first-strike posturing – a creeping escalation

 


 

I don’t make any money from my work.  But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

DonatenowButton

 

From Spycatcher and GBH to the Zinoviev letter – an emergent pattern and the real enemy within

File:MI5 crest and logo.png

A scene from Alan Bleasdale’s perceptive GBH, a much misunderstood, darkly comedic series from 1991. Some felt that Bleasdale was attempting to discredit the militant left, but what he portrayed is an infiltation of the Labour Party by MI5, ordered by the Conservative government at the time. Their aim was to recruit, manipulate and indoctrinate local “young bulls” with quasi left-wing ideology to have them assist, unknowingly, in destablising and discrediting the Labour Party in its entirety.

The far-right, racism and social conflict always bloom and flourish under Conservative governments.

Fueling social tensions, MI5 agents provocateurs were prepared to manipulate the ethnic communities to foster social division, in the hope of causing riots and ultimately, the hardened right-wing thugs (MI5 were eventually revealed as the real thugs here) dismissed the minority groups as collateral damage, a callous, calculated move that was deemed necessary to destroy the Labour Party.

MI5 staged a series of violent racist assaults on the city’s ethnic minorities, using hired local hardcases posing as police officers. They “made things happen.” Ultimately to preserve the status quo. In the drama, it’s eventually revealed that the plot to destablise the Left involves Britain’s entire intelligence community.

Some commentators at the time felt that Bleasdale was portraying the end of socialism, but if he was, it was ultimately at the hand of the Tories – the real enemy within – not the militant left. 

I watched the mini series again recently, and it made me think of the Zinoviev letter – one of the greatest but almost forgotten British political scandals of last century – it was forged by a MI6 agent’s source and almost certainly leaked by MI6 or MI5 officers to the Conservative Party, according to an official report published in 1999.

Britain’s most senior security and intelligence officials discussed the smearing of the Labour party just as it was emerging as a major political force according to previously secret documents.

The potential repercussions of attempts by the intelligence agencies to damage the Labour party were debated at length by the little-known Secret Service Committee, later research – now released at the National Archives – shows.

Of course it was not the only time Britain’s intelligence agencies were implicated in attempts to destabilise a Labour government. A group of right-wing intelligence officers attempted to destabilise Harold Wilson’s administrations in the 1960s and 70s.

One newly released document at the National Archives is a minute of the Secret Service Committee, dated 11 March 1927. It quotes Sir William Tyrrell, top official at the Foreign Office, referring to a conversation he had with the prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, about politically inspired leaks by the police special branch as well as the security and intelligence agencies.

Baldwin’s main concern, said Tyrrell, was the fear that the political work done at Scotland Yard might at any moment give rise to a scandal, owing to the Labour party obtaining some “plausible pretext to complain that a government department was being employed for party politics.”

On October 8, 1924, Britain’s first Labour government lost a vote of confidence in the House of Commons. The next day the Foreign Office was evidently sent a copy of a letter, purportedly originally sent from Grigori Zinoviev, the president of Comintern, addressed to the central committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The letter urged the party to stir up the British proletariat and the military in preparation for class war.

On October 25 the letter appeared in the heavily Conservative-biased Daily Mail just four days before the election. The political and diplomatic repercussions were immense.

The Daily Mail published a series of sensationalist headlines:

  • Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters
  • Moscow Order to Our Reds
  • Great Plot Disclosed Yesterday
  • Paralyse the Army and Navy
  • Mr. MacDonald Would Lend Russia Our Money

Here is the entire fake Zinoviev ‘letter’:

Very secret

Executive Committee, Third Communist International.

To the Central Committee, British Communist Party.

Presidium, September 15, 1924. Moscow.

Dear Comrades,

The time is approaching for the Parliament of England to consider the Treaty concluded between the Governments of Great Britain and the S.S.S.R. for the purpose of ratification. The fierce campaign raised by the British bourgeoisie around the question shows that the majority of the same, together with reactionary circles, are against the Treaty for the purpose of breaking off an agreement consolidating the ties between the proletariats of the two countries leading to the restoration of normal relations between England and the S.S.S.R.

The proletariat of Great Britain, which pronounced its weighty word when danger threatened of a break-off of the past negotiations, and compelled the Government of MacDonald to conclude the treaty, must show the greatest possible energy in the further struggle for ratification and against the endeavours of British capitalists to compel Parliament to annul it.

It is indispensable to stir up the masses of the British proletariat to bring into movement the army of unemployed proletarians whose position can be improved only after a loan has been granted to the S.S.S.R. for the restoration of her economics and when business collaboration between the British and Russian proletariats has been put in order. It is imperative that the group in the Labour Party sympathising with the Treaty should bring increased pressure to bear upon the Government and Parliamentary circles in favour of the ratification of the Treaty.

Keep close observation over the leaders of the Labour Party, because these may easily be found in the leading strings of the bourgeoisie. The foreign policy of the Labour Party as it is, already represents an inferior copy of the policy of the Curzon Government. Organize a campaign of disclosure of the foreign policy of MacDonald.

The I.K.K.I. (Executive Committee, Third [Communist] International) will willingly place at your disposal the wide material in its possession regarding the activities of British Imperialism in the Middle and Far East. In the meanwhile, however, strain every nerve in the struggle for the ratification of the Treaty, in favour of a continuation of negotiations regarding the regulation of relations between the S.S.S.R. and England. A settlement of relations between the two countries will assist in the revolutionising of the international and British proletariat not less than a successful rising in any of the working districts of England, as the establishment of close contact between the British and Russian proletariat, the exchange of delegations and workers, etc., will make it possible for us to extend and develop the propaganda of ideas of Leninism in England and the Colonies. Armed warfare must be preceded by a struggle against the inclinations to compromise which are embedded among the majority of British workmen, against the ideas of evolution and peaceful extermination of capitalism. Only then will it be possible to count upon complete success of an armed insurrection. In Ireland and the Colonies the case is different; there is a national question, and this represents too great a factor for success for us to waste time on a prolonged preparation of the working class.

But even in England, as other countries, where the workers are politically developed, events themselves may more rapidly revolutionise the working masses than propaganda. For instance, a strike movement, repressions by the Government etc.

From your last report it is evident that agitation-propaganda work in the army is weak, in the navy a very little better. Your explanation that the quality of the members attracted justifies the quantity is right in principle, nevertheless it would be desirable to have cells in all the units of the troops, particularly among those quartered in the large centres of the country, and also among factories working on munitions and at military store depots. We request that the most particular attention be paid to these latter.

In the event of danger of war, with the aid of the latter and in contact with the transport workers, it is possible to paralyse all the military preparations of the bourgeoisie, and make a start in turning an imperialist war into a class war. Now more than ever we should be on our guard. Attempts at intervention in China show that world imperialism is still full of vigour and is once more making endeavours to restore its shaken position and cause a new war, which as its final objective is to bring about the break-up of the Russian Proletariat and the suppression of the budding world revolution, and further would lead to the enslavement of the colonial peoples. ‘Danger of War’, ‘The Bourgeoisie seek War’, ‘Capital fresh Markets’ – these are the slogans which you must familiarise the masses with, with which you must go to work into the mass of the proletariat. These slogans will open to you the doors of comprehension of the masses, will help you to capture them and march under the banner of Communism.

The Military Section of the British Communist Party, so far as we are aware, further suffers from a lack of specialists, the future directors of the British Red Army.

It is time you thought of forming such a group, which together with the leaders, might be in the event of an outbreak of active strife, the brain of the military organisation of the party.

Go attentively through the lists of the military ‘cells’ detailing from them the more energetic and capable men, turn attention to the more talented military specialists who have for one reason or another, left the Service and hold Socialist views. Attract them into the ranks of the Communist Party if they desire honestly to serve the proletariat and desire in the future to direct not the blind mechanical forces in the service of the bourgeoisie, but a national army.

Form a directing operative head of the Military Section.

Do not put this off to a future moment, which may be pregnant with events and catch you unprepared.

Desiring you all success, both in organisation and in your struggle.

With Communist Greetings,

President of the Presidium of the I.K.K.I.

ZINOVIEV

Member of the Presidium: McMANUS

Secretary: KUUSINEN

Some historians say that the letter aided the Conservative party in hastening the collapse of the Liberal party which led to a decisive Conservative victory. Curiously, a now familiar tactic.

Others say the letter was an example of Conservative deceit, which in 1924, enabled Britain’s Conservative party to cheat their way to a general election victory. Personally, I’m inclined to believe the latter. It’s not as if the Conservatives have a history of democratic engagement, transparency, accountability and honesty, after all.

The faked letter came at a sensitive time in relations between Britain and the Soviet Union, due to the Conservative opposition to the parliamentary ratification of the Anglo-Soviet trade agreement of 8 August 1924.

The publication of the letter was severely embarrassing to Prime Minister James Ramsay MacDonald and his Labour party. The chance of a victory was dashed as the spectre of internal revolution and a government oblivious to the red peril dominated the public consciousness, via the media.

MacDonald’s attempts to establish doubt regarding the authenticity of the letter were catastrophically in vain, hampered by the document’s widespread acceptance amongst Tory government officials. MacDonald told his Cabinet he “felt like a man sewn in a sack and thrown into the sea.”

New light on the scandal which triggered the fall of the first Labour government in 1924 is shed in a study by Gill Bennett, chief historian at the Foreign Office, commissioned by Robin Cook in 1998.

Bennett’s investigation implicates Desmond Morton, an MI6 officer and close friend of Churchill who appointed him personal assistant during the second world war, and also points to Major Joseph Ball, an MI5 officer who joined Conservative Central Office in 1926. Ball later went on to be one of the earliest spin doctors – for the Tories.

The exact route of the forged letter to the Daily Mail will probably never be known. There were other possible conduits, including Stewart Menzies, a future head of MI6 who, according to MI6 files, admitted sending a copy to the Mail.

In summary, the letter was purported to be from Grigori Zinoviev, president of the Comintern, the internal communist organisation, called on British communists to mobilise “sympathetic forces” in the Labour Party to support an Anglo-Soviet treaty (including a loan to the Bolshevik government) and to encourage “agitation-propaganda” in the armed forces.

As stated, on October 25, 1924, just four days before the election, the Mail splashed headlines across its front page claiming: Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters: Moscow Orders To Our Reds; Great Plot Disclosed. Labour lost the election by a landslide.

Ms Bennett said the letter “probably was leaked from SIS [the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6] by somebody to the Conservative Party Central Office.” She named Major Ball and Mr Morton, who was responsible for assessing agents’ reports.

“I have my doubts as to whether he thought it was genuine but [Morton] treated it as if it was,” she said.

She described MI6 as being at the centre of the scandal, although it was impossible to say whether the head of MI6, Admiral Hugh Sinclair, was involved.

Ms Bennett also said there was “no evidence of a conspiracy” in what she called “the institutional sense.”

Of course not. Such an act of deceit couldn’t possibly have been intended to damage the Labour party.

However, sarcasm aside, there was no evidence that refuted such a conspiracy either. The security and intelligence community at the time consisted of a “very, very incestuous circle, an elite network” who went to school together. Their allegiances, she says in her report, “lay firmly in the Conservative camp.”

Ms Bennett had full access to secret files held by MI6 (though some have been destroyed) and MI5. She also saw Soviet archives in Moscow before writing her 128-page study. The files show the forged Zinoviev letter was widely circulated, including to senior army officers, to inflict maximum damage on the Labour government.

She found no evidence to identify the name of the forger. The report says there is no hard evidence that MI6 agents in Riga were directly responsible – though it is known they had close contacts with White Russians – or that the letter was commissioned in response to British intelligence services’ “uneasiness about its prospects under a re-elected Labour government.”

The report does not tie up loose ends. But by putting a huge amount of material into the public domain, it at least allows people to make up their own minds. Important questions remain, and may always go unanswered – such as who actually forged the letter.

However, even if Ms Bennett is right in her suggestion that MI6 chiefs did not set up the forgery, her report claims that MI6 deceived the Foreign Office by asserting it did know who the source was – a deception it used to insist, wrongly, that the Zinoviev letter was genuine.

Ms Bennett claims that we cannot conclude the scandal brought down Ramsay Macdonald’s government, which had already lost a confidence vote and Liberal support on which it depended was disappearing.

“In electoral terms,” she says, “the impact of the Zinoviev letter on Labour was more psychological than measurable.”

I don’t agree. The despicable faked letter was an act that was intended to harm the party’s popularity and undermine public trust, AND to have a psychological impact. 

The media has always exercised enormously heavy influence on voters, I find it a little odd that such a connection was deemed insignificant. Especially given the wide use of black propaganda, very evident at the time.

Besides, this isn’t an isolated event, and there does appear to be an established relationship between Conservative governments and the Secret Service staging persistent attempts at “destabilising,” discrediting and smearing the left. And the media.

Fast-forward to more recent events, and low and behold, the mainstream media are still feeding us the fear-mongering and pseudo-warnings of an “evil Communist threat” in the form of Ralph Miliband, and his “influence” on his son, “Red Ed,” claiming that the Labour leader’s policies are founded on a “legacy of evil and a “poisonous creed.” That’s once again according to the very pro-establishment, corrupt Daily Mail, of course. (See also: Tory Fascist Lie Machine The Daily Mail Has Met Its Match.) Same old tactics.

The Comintern and Soviet government vehemently and consistently denied the authenticity of the document. Grigori Zinoviev issued a denial on 27 October 1924 (two days before the election), which was finally published in the December 1924 issue of The Communist Review, considerably well after the MacDonald government had fallen.

Zinoviev declared:

The letter of 15th September, 1924, which has been attributed to me, is from the first to the last word, a forgery. Let us take the heading. The organisation of which I am the president never describes itself officially as the “Executive Committee of the Third Communist International”; the official name is “Executive Committee of the Communist International.” Equally incorrect is the signature, “The Chairman of the Presidium.” The forger has shown himself to be very stupid in his choice of the date. On the 15th of September, 1924, I was taking a holiday in Kislovodsk, and, therefore, could not have signed any official letter. […]

It is not difficult to understand why some of the leaders of the Liberal-Conservative bloc had recourse to such methods as the forging of documents. Apparently they seriously thought they would be able, at the last minute before the elections, to create confusion in the ranks of those electors who sincerely sympathise with the Treaty between England and the Soviet Union. It is much more difficult to understand why the English Foreign Office, which is still under the control of the Prime Minister, MacDonald, did not refrain from making use of such a white-guardist forgery.”

 

Bugger, secret service spies are “weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.” Adam Curtis

Sounds like a very Conservative mindset to me. I think that it’s a fairly safe and balanced conclusion that the Intelligence Services lack diversity, with a strong tendency to recruit staunch establishmentarians.

Again, the Zinoviev letter is by no means the only attempt by the security and intelligence services to destabilised a Labour government.

Peter Wright, a former MI5 officer, showed in Spycatcher, a candid autobiography, how elements in his agency worked against the Wilson government in the 1970s.

Despite the Thatcher government’s attempts to prevent publication, the book gained worldwide attention. MI5’s own archives have shown there was a “permanent file” on the Labour leader throughout his time in office. He is the only serving prime minister to have a permanent Secret Service file.

MI5 opened the dossier in 1945 when Mr Wilson became an MP after communist civil servants allegedly suggested he had similar “political sympathies.”

His file was so secret that he was given the pseudonym Norman John Worthington.

Sir Michael Hanley, MI5 director general from 1972, went to even greater lengths to conceal its existence by removing it from the central index, meaning any search would result in a “no trace.”

Personal permission from Sir Michael was required to access it.

This is backed up by corroborating interviews with senior figures at the time.

These events unfolded at a time when the establishment, from the intelligence services down to parts of Fleet Street, were paranoid about the “threat of communism.” So paranoid it seems, they were prepared to believe a prime minister of Britain was an active Soviet spy.

At a time of continuing Cold War tensions, industrial unrest was rife, the country had suffered power cuts and a three-day working week and in 1975 the government was being warned privately that the consequences would be severe if it could not curb inflation.

Whilst some on the hard left believed revolution was imminent, former military figures, angry at the extent of union control, were building private armies, in preparation for the coming conflict, according to the then BBC investigative journalist Barrie Penrose. (Penrose co-authored The Pencourt File with another journalist, Roger Courtiour.)

Meetings with Wilson were secretly recorded in 1976 by both the journalists (Penrose and Courtiour) weeks after his shock departure from Number 10.

“Wilson spoke darkly of two military coups which he said had been planned to overthrow his government in the late 1960s and in the mid 1970s,” Penrose writes.

Wilson told the journalists they “should investigate the forces that are threatening democratic countries like Britain.”

In his book, Peter Wright also outlines a plot to force Wilson’s resignation by MI5 agents who were convinced he was a Communist spy. Wright’s account is often dismissed as an exaggeration, but fresh evidence of plots surfaced in 2006.

Penrose says that witnesses confirm such plotting “wasn’t in the fevered imagination of an embittered ex-PM.”

Writing about the drama documentary The Plot Against Harold Wilson, shown on BBC Two at 21:00 on Thursday 16 March, 2006, Penrose concludes:

“You may ask, at the end of the programme, how much of it can be believed. My view now, as it was then, is that Wilson was right in his fears…. in answer to the question ‘how close did we come to a military government’ I can only say – closer than we’d ever be content to think.”


Harold Wilson, Aneurin Bevan, Ian Mikardo, Tom Driberg and Barbara Castle of the Keep Left Group (1951)


A very British Coup

Chris Mullins, a former Foreign Office minister and author, writes:

“By the time A Very British Coup was published, in 1982, the political climate was even more propitious. Prompted by the imminent arrival of cruise missiles, CND demonstrations were attracting crowds in excess of 200,000. The establishment was getting so twitchy that, as we later learned, Michael Heseltine had set up a special unit in the Ministry of Defence to counter the impact of CND.

The US was getting a relapse of McCarthist twitchiness too. When A Very British Coup was published I was editor of the political weekly Tribune, and we were selling the book by mail order through the paper. A few days after the first advert appeared we were intrigued to receive an order from the US embassy. We duly dispatched a copy and waited to see what would happen next. We did not have to wait long.

An invitation arrived to lunch with the minister, the most important man at the embassy after the ambassador. He even sent his bullet-proof Cadillac to Tribune’s modest headquarters in Gray’s Inn Road to convey me to his mansion in Kensington.

At first I assumed that I was one of a number of guests, but no: there was just the minister, two of his colleagues, an Asian butler and myself.

“Why are you interested in a minnow like me?” I inquired.

“I reckon,” he drawled, “that you are among the top 1,000 opinion formers in the country.”

“Well, I must be about number 999.”

“The other 999 have been here too.”

A year or two later I received from an anonymous source an envelope posted in Brussels. It contained an internal US state department memorandum addressed to US diplomats in London listing a number of questions they were to put to “authorised contacts” in London regarding the balance of power within the Labour party and opinion regarding the US bases in general and the impending arrival of cruise missiles in particular. Although, in retrospect, we can see they had no cause for concern, there is no doubt that alarm bells were ringing in Washington.

A Very British Coup attracted attention elsewhere too. It was helpfully denounced in the correspondence columns of the Times, and as a result sales in Hatchards of Piccadilly almost matched those at the leftwing bookshop Collets. (When it comes to selling books, a high-profile denunciation is worth half a dozen friendly reviews and I have always done my best to organise one).

Thereafter interest might have faded, but for events conspiring to make it topical. In August 1985 the Observer revealed that an MI5 officer, Brigadier Ronnie Stoneham, was to be found in room 105 at Broadcasting House. His job? Stamping upturned Christmas trees on the personnel files of BBC employees he deemed to be unsuitable for promotion. Students of A Very British Coup will know that my head of MI5, Sir Peregrine Craddock, was also vetting BBC employees. What’s more, he also had a spy on the general council of CND – and in due course the MI5 defector Cathy Massiter revealed that there had indeed been such a spy. His name was Harry Newton.

Finally, in 1987 Peter Wright, a retired MI5 officer, caused a sensation with his claim that he and a group of MI5 colleagues had plotted to undermine the Wilson government. Suddenly the possibility that the British establishment might conspire with its friends across the Atlantic to destabilise the elected government could no longer be dismissed as leftwing paranoia.”

The Enemy Within.

Margaret Thatcher branded Arthur Scargill and the other leaders of the 1984-5 miners’ strike the enemy within. With the publication of Seumas Milne’s bestselling book a decade later, the full irony of that accusation became clear. There was an enemy within. But it was not the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) that was out to subvert liberty. It was the secret services of the British state – operating inside the NUM itself.

Seumas Milne reveals the astonishing lengths to which the government and its intelligence machine were prepared to go to destroy the power of Britain’s miners’ union. Using phoney bank deposits, staged cash drops, forged documents, agents provocateurs and unrelenting surveillance, MI5 and police Special Branch set out to discredit Scargill and other miners’ leaders.

Now we know that the Tory prime minister intended to extend the charge of seditious insurrection, not only to left wing Labour councils in Liverpool and London resisting cuts in services, but against the Labour party as a whole.

Planted tales of corruption were seized on by the media and both Tory and Labour politicians in what became an unprecedentedly savage smear campaign. This is one of the UK’s most important postwar class confrontations.

Seumas Milne has highlighted the continuing threat posed by the security services to democracy today.

Milne describes the Conservative government’s systematic resort to anti-democratic measures to break the resistance of Britain’s most powerful union: from the use of the police and security services to infiltrate and undermine the miners’ union to the manipulation of the courts and media to discredit and tie the hands of its leaders.

He says:

“A decade after the strike, I called the book I wrote about that secret war against the miners The Enemy Within, because the phrase turned out to have multiple layers of meaning. As the evidence has piled up with each new edition, the charge that Thatcher laid at the door of the National Union of Mineworkers can in fact be seen to fit her own government’s use of the secret state far better.

It wasn’t just the militarised police occupation of the coalfields; the 11,000 arrests, deaths, police assaults, mass jailings and sackings; the roadblocks, fitups and false prosecutions – most infamously at the Orgreave coking plant where an orgy of police violence in June 1984 was followed by a failed attempt to prosecute 95 miners for riot on the basis of false evidence.

It’s that under the prime minister’s guidance, MI5, police Special Branch, GCHQ and the NSA were mobilised not only to spy on the NUM on an industrial scale, but to employ agents provocateurs at the highest level of the union, dirty tricks, slush funds, false allegations, forgeries, phoney cash deposits and multiple secretly sponsored legal actions to break the defence of the mining communities.

In the years since, Thatcher and her former ministers and intelligence mandarins have defended such covert action by insisting the NUM leaders were “subversive” because they wanted to bring down the government. Which of course they did – but “legitimately,” as Scargill remarked recently, by bringing about a general election – as took place in the wake of the successful coal strike of 1974.

In reality, as 50 MPs declared when some of these revelations first surfaced, Thatcher’s government and its security apparatus were themselves guilty of the mass “subversion of democratic liberties”. And, as the large-scale malpractices of police undercover units have driven home in the past couple of years, their successors are still at it today.”

See also:

Wilson, MI5 and the rise of Thatcher – Lobster

Bugger – Adam Curtis

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations – Glenn Greenwald

Controversial GCHQ Unit Engaged in Domestic Law Enforcement, Online Propaganda, Psychology Research – Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman

inconImage courtesy of Robert Livingstone

 


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

DonatenowButton