The following memoirs are based on the author’s records and recollection of the events depicted. The author has taken all reasonable steps to verify his recollection against contemporaneous records. It is, however, possible that he has misremembered or misinterpreted some events. Dialogue may be paraphrasing of actual conversation. The author would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers matters differently with a view to correcting any errors or omissions. The author has asserted his moral right to be identified as the author of this work. Copyright 2015 by Mininganalyst. All rights reserved.
This material is being released as work in progress in draft form that is evolving, will be updated and extended over the coming year or so and once completed will be published as a book. The material has not yet been edited.
This story starts with what the US (and Australian) intelligence agencies did to me, a Wall Street mining analyst at the time, and my long term girlfriend while we were living and working in New York. It is set against the background of the killings of indigenous protestors at the massive Freeport McMoran Grasberg mine in West Papua, Indonesia and subsequent human rights investigations. The intelligence agencies have been actively interfering in my life ever since, now nearly 18 years’ later, using their vast powers of surveillance and the dark arts to send a chilling message to others that might speak out.
Table of Contents
There is no hard and firm definition of what makes someone a dissident in the US, no red line one crosses on the journey as a regular citizen to becoming a political target of the state. But once that line is crossed, one is sanctioned, “kneecapped”, the silent, democratic way, in secret, isolated and cast aside socially and economically as effectively as if renditioned to a remote halfway house enroute to a gulag archipelago somewhere in Siberia.
In my case, I found where the line is drawn after publication of a standard work report to global fund managers and analysts that touched on the US mining company Freeport McMoran Grasberg mine killings in West Papua in the mid 1990s – killings written about by the New York Times. I thought the report could possibly meet with professional rebuke from within the corporate hierarchy and a chance I would lose my job if the world were truly corrupt, but that proved to be a gross understatement. The actual response it drew was considerably more vicious. I had not envisaged the full-on onslaught the US and their allied foreign intelligence agencies were inclined to launch against a regular citizen, led by the FBI.
It was hard to believe this was happening to me, though it is not about me per se; it is about American power and the disturbing way it is deployed. What happened to me could happen to any young professional doing their job if they come up against people in power who have something to hide.
Dr Steve Garber’s disclosure to me was in the days before mass social media networking and the FBI assumed this story would never be heard.
Dissidents on Wall Street
At the time, I was a young mining analyst, with a recent Wharton MBA working in the New York equity research division of SG Warburg (now part of UBS). One of my research reports (published 12 March 1996: FCX analyst report) had raised the issue of US mining company Freeport McMoran which was under investigation by the US Department of State following widely reported eyewitness allegations it was involved in the killing of indigenous protestors at its massive Grasberg gold and copper mine in remote West Papua, Indonesia.
The research report I wrote on Wall Street dated 12 March 1996 followed international media reports of further killings and strike activity at the Grasberg mine. The 1994 Christmas Day massacre in which 7 people were killed, and which was widely reported in the world media, represented just a small portion of the 37 indigenous protesters reported killed in the vicinity of the mine in 1994 and 1995.
Below is a paragraph from the 12 March 1996 report:
“Our view is that increased military presence poses potential for escalation of the violence in the mid term, heightening the political risk of Freeport’s investment in Irian Jaya. Ultimately, Freeport needs to deal with the civil aspects of this situation to allay investors concerns, and possibly also those of the US Department of State. The timing is unfortunate for Freeport as it coincides with the arbitration over whether $100 million in OPIC political risk insurance should be rescinded. The company has increasingly come under scrutiny following reported human rights abuses in the area of the mine and also concerns over its environmental record. The latter was cited by OPIC last November as the basis for withdrawing the $100 million in insurance.”
The report touched on the Grasberg killings and environmental concerns and indicated a civil rather than military solution was preferable in resolving labour disputes at Grasberg. In the scheme of things it was a relatively mild rebuke, but the extremity of the response of the authorities shows how sensitive they were, and remain, to the issues. With people like Henry Kissinger a former US secretary of state on the board, former American Ambassadors to Indonesia, military advisers and company security department staffed with former US military personnel, CIA and FBI agents – the company seemed to appreciate its tenuous position on the political and security fronts.
The mere mention of Freeport in the context of human rights and environmental abuses raised the company’s profile with investors in a way that had potential to create a negative financial backlash against it. Indeed, over the years, substantial investment funds have dumped their holding in Freeport on ethical concerns about the company’s activities, including the large Government Pension Fund of Norway which dumped and blacklisted Freeport’s shares in 2006 amid global publicity. Other government funds to blacklist Freeport shares include New Zealand (2012) and Sweden (2013).
The project has had a long history of killings continuing up to the present (2013) with many hundreds of deaths documented by human rights agencies. In 1994, the brutality seemed to be spiralling out of control with seven indigenous protestors shot and killed in a short period around Christmas Day. Some of the protestors were reportedly killed at point blank range, inside steel shipping containers on Freeport property. For a sensitive topic it received unusually wide publicity and the US State Department had taken the unusual step of launching a formal investigation.
However, Freeport’s problems weren’t limited to eyewitness allegations of company personnel being directly involved in human rights abuses (click), a notion “reinforced by overwhelming evidence” provided in two independent human rights reports in 1995 (ACFOA, and the Catholic Church). The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a US government agency that supports US investment offshore, in a letter dated 10 October 1995 cancelled its US$100 million political risk insurance to Freeport citing environmental degradation. In setting out its reasons for doing so, OPIC implied the company had misled both it and the market on its environmental record.
Indeed, it appeared Freeport was increasingly apprehensive about the prospects of a backlash and potential for shareholders (some with very deep pockets) to launch a lawsuit against the company for misrepresentation of its activities in West Papua. The last thing, it seemed, the FBI and Freeport wanted was Wall Street analysts to factor these issues into their valuations and publish details that are sent directly to fund managers around the world, despite commentary by the wider media within the US.
Little is known of the Indonesian province of West Papua located on the western half of the island of New Guinea, just north of Australia. Indeed many people confuse it with the adjacent independent country of Papua New Guinea (PNG) which is located on the eastern half of the same island. West Papua has been the subject of an official media blackout by the Indonesian government since its military invaded in 1962. It was not till the advent of the internet in the early 1990s that word of the plight of the indigenous people and the atrocities inflicted on them reached the rest of the world, including the shocking reports of the 1994-95 massacre.
The FBI and Freeport were nervous about the impact of this shift in media influence and the obvious potential for serious political and financial market backlash against the company – including in NY, where the financial community played a key role in the financing of Freeport’s activities.
The human rights abuses committed against the indigenous people of West Papua are extensive and include arbitrary detention, torture, rape and extra-judicial killings. Transmigration is also an insidious part of West Papuan history under Indonesian rule – an Indonesian government policy whereby large numbers of people, mostly ethnic Asians, from other parts of Indonesia are relocated to West Papua on a scale that makes the original Melanesian inhabitants minorities in the province and which has prompted claims of genocide (including a report by Yale Law School). Further, the new arrivals historically have received benefits and opportunities not available to the indigenous people.
In 2003 Freeport publicly acknowledged it had been directly paying Indonesian military and police units and officials who were involved in maintaining security around the mine. As disturbing as the payments themselves was the startling scale of the amounts of money involved. In 2005, the New York Times reported that the company had paid US$20 million between 1998 and 2004 for these services including paying one individual US$150,000. The size of the payments to the military and police appear to have increased significantly over time: Freeport’s SEC filings, for example, indicate spending on internal civilian security in 2011 was US$37 million plus an additional US$14 million paid directly to the Indonesian government and military – a total of US$51 million spent in relation to Grasberg – just in 2011 alone. It seems surprising that these payments pass muster with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and are not in breach of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which the US government aggressively enforces against foreign corporations. Indeed the US United Steelworkers union in 2011 asked the DOJ to investigate Freeport’s payments but never heard back on the matter.
Indeed, Freeport CEO Jim-Bob Moffett reported security matters relating to the mine as the “new cold war”, and said there was “no alternative to our reliance on the Indonesian military and police…”. Anthropologist and academic Hugh Brody poignantly referred to the large sums of money and Freeport’s close links to the Indonesian military as the “militarization of mining” in an article published in 2011 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Indonesian occupation of West Papua.
With the killings of 1994-96 attracting worldwide attention, Freeport’s public relations machine went into overdrive. It paid for a full page ad in the New York Times, made an infomercial, threatened to sue journalists and academics covering the matter and withdraw a financial donation made by the company to endow a chair in environmental communications at the local Loyola University in New Orleans.
But what is little known, and never reported is the role the FBI played during this time to lower the profile of Freeport’s controversial Grasberg operation and silence discussion in the US that included targeting Wall Street analysts.
The use of FBI power in this way is all the more disturbing given the agency’s dual role in helping to identify and interview eyewitnesses to the alleged Freeport human rights abuses on location in West Papua. (Alleged human rights abuses were never proven in relation to Freeport in U.S. courts.)
The killings in West Papua of indigenous people have continued to the present day with recent activity attributed to the Indonesian military.
Meeting with the FBI and Freeport
In response to the analyst report and question I asked during a Wall Street analysts’ briefing a couple months later in Freeport’s boardroom, the FBI’s threat came promptly – delivered by their man who had been sitting among the analysts in Freeport’s New Orleans’ boardroom where CEO James (Jim Bob) Moffett had just conducted the annual Wall Street analyst briefing and Q&A. It was May 1996, and my brief report had gone out to fund managers two months before.
The FBI’s man came up to me and threatened me in an icy tone that left no uncertainty as to its ill intent. He was around my age (early 30s) and dressed in a business suit. He had stood beside me as I spoke briefly with the CEO after the meeting and in which I had asked a question about the State Department’s ongoing investigation into the killings, key details of which had been reported, from recollection, in the NYT just prior to my report coming out.
As I started to move away from the CEO and out of the boardroom alcove, the FBI’s man moved with me. Emerging from my shadow, he stepped squarely into my space and without introducing himself said directly, using my first name, “…I respect you for asking that question but you might wish you hadn’t,” referring to my question to the CEO during the briefing.
I replied, “So what, what do I care? What can they do to me?”
He said, “You might not want to find out”. I held his gaze for a moment and then moved away. It was a threat in no uncertain terms. More accurately, it was an absolute decree, a disclosure from which there was no turning back. It was as if a nest of tarantulas had awoken; the FBI and its agents, the supposed protector of democratic freedoms in the US, had emerged from their dark cover and were on the prowl.
At the time the FBI and ASIO campaign commenced I was young, 33 years old – on the cusp of establishing a career and on the verge of committing to a life partner with the intention of having a family. I was still new to Wall Street, a relatively unknown analyst with limited influence which made me an easy target. Certainly I had no connections into the political world at a level that could be called upon to pull strings and potentially haul the FBI into line on this issue. With former secretary of state Henry Kissinger (of Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor, Chile and Nixon era fame) on the board, former US Ambassadors to Indonesia advising the company, and the US heavily involved in supplying and supporting Indonesia’s military, the company’s interests seemed well protected in Washington.
Vetted by girlfriend’s superior at the FBI
Autumn 1994: Within the seed of all things lies their destruction. And the relationship with my girlfriend Susan was no different. In 1994, shortly after we started going out, she introduced me to Steve Garber, someone she said was a friend of hers, a naturalist with an interest in reptiles, a subject in which I had an interest. Only years later did I find out that this was actually not the case. In fact, he was her ranking officer at the FBI and he wanted to meet me. It was 18 months before a research report I was to publish at work on US mining company Freeport McMoran was to draw me formally into the FBI’s orbit and after which I would get to know Steve Garber much better, as the agent case managing my payback.
Susan said to me that Steve had suggested the three of us go for a hike one weekend to look for reptiles, something I had had a childhood interest in, which we did. Steve was a herpetologist (an expert in reptiles and amphibians) and had done a doctorate studying a local species of turtle.
It was autumn 1994, and we drove out to Harriman State Park, a large expanse of forested reserve about an hour from Manhattan. It was mid morning by the time we arrived, and embarked on a 3 or 4 hour walk. Early on, Steve’s questions turned to his unannounced agenda for our being together that day. He asked me a few sharp questions with an abruptness and firmness of authority that was not in keeping with the purported social setting. Out of the blue he asked me to list the type of snake toxins with which I was familiar. He then asked me a rather more disturbing question – to whom had I told that I was going out on this walk that day and had I told anyone where I was going? It was an early introduction to the FBI personality archetype: arrogant, threatening and intimidating.
It was a pleasant, sunny day. I had enjoyed walking through the forest, along the edge of streams and through a small swamp. We saw a chipmunk frozen on a log – a close inspection revealed a highly camouflaged large snake on the same log nearly within striking range, before our distracting presence gave it a chance to run off. We saw a lot of other reptiles, many types of lizards and snakes – a good representation of the area’s herpetofauna, as well as birds – success in the minds of both an amateur and professional herpetologist! Nonetheless, when I was dropped off to my apartment in the city late that afternoon, I had the feeling I had just met a terrible, evil adversary. A dark cloud filled my psyche. It was visceral and overwhelming, a strange, unusual sensation where the emotion was tangible but its cause was not. Indeed it was a bleak omen that was to prove correct, revealing its full meaning only later, unfolding over many years. It was as if I had just come into contact with some mysterious ancient totem hidden deep in my mind that could see into the future and was sending me a warning. Unfortunately, I had no idea at the time what it meant or what its significance might be.
The unstated purpose of our walk had been to give Steve an informal opportunity to test and vet me – counterintelligence at the FBI – something to do with Susan’s previous work assignments for the FBI it seems in hindsight. It isn’t entirely clear why, the reason was never divulged. Perhaps because I am an Australian (dual citizen – Australian/American), and Susan had spent time overseas for a while (though in Ireland not Australia). Perhaps I was being vetted on account of some other assignment she had worked on, or maybe the FBI just vets all their agents ongoing love interests as a precaution! The FBI is not the most efficient organisation – it has a massive budget for its legitimate activities but it also channels funding into its very active and not so legitimate involvement in civil society, and therefore I was not surprised to see that it would allocate its resources in this way!
Evidently I had passed the FBI’s vetting. Not long after the walk with Steve Garber, maybe a few days, Susan showed me her FBI ID card. I didn’t have a good understanding of what the FBI did, its culture, recruits, and dual mandates. Set-up as a federal policing body, Hoover had also positioned the FBI to take control of a wide range of political targets or other opponents of the powerful and those with vested interests through blackmail, and a variety of well tested dirty tricks. It is notoriously difficult for political masters to keep the FBI on straight and narrow, partly for the reason that the politicians themselves are frequently targeted by the FBI’s control tactics using dirty tricks. It is not an organisation I care much for, I certainly didn’t want to get close to it, either as one of its agents or as a target.
What is certain is that the FBI had no interest in me at that time beyond vetting me as Susan’s partner. She was not a honey trap and I was not a target; our discussions about her work at the FBI, disclosures and confessions make this clear. This all changed though a year and a half later after publication of the Freeport note which triggered the FBI’s interference with me.
When Susan first told me she worked for the FBI my immediate reaction was one of dismay, you must be kidding! I thought hopefully.
I had the instantaneous thought rush through my mind, I want nothing to do with it or with you. Please may it not be true. I saw her, in an instant, as a gateway into the dark void of a totalitarian dystopia. Unfortunately, it was an intuition that came chillingly true. She seemed to have everything else going for her, I wondered perplexed, why would she want to work for the FBI? Suddenly, in terms of our relationship, a chasm loomed before us.
What sort of people want to work for the FBI – hasn’t everyone read Orwell? Why would someone choose to work there? Why do people select the careers they do; what does it say about their personal talents and aspirations given the alternative possibilities? Why would Susan choose to work for an oppressive secret police – surely there was no one that didn’t know the FBI had a reputation and documented history of abuse, especially political abuse of ordinary Americans – and any contemplating working there must have known they would have to be involved with this – perpetuating illegal state activities against their fellow citizens. Is it a James Bond syndrome? Of course crime fighting is noble but what control does a recruit have over the balance of fighting crime and “fixing” political opponents. No control I assumed. They were to be obedient, loyal servants, and do what they were told like in any other job, or leave.
Had she been deceived? Susan had said she had been taught and believed the FBI’s political targets were wayward dissidents – she had been inculcated to believe they were obnoxious, loud, unrelenting, ungrateful malcontents intent on undermining the welfare and wellbeing of America. She genuinely believed they deserved harsh treatment and got what they deserved. Little did she realise at the time that she would soon experience the other side of this dissident suppression treatment. The authority and power of the FBI combined with her privileged upbringing may have resulted in blindsiding her critical reasoning about the agency’s activities. Steve Garber had once said that the FBI selection process continued through the training process which often resulted in people self selecting out of the agency – that is people who didn’t believe in the mission once they knew more about it. Presumably, this process of the FBI gradually revealing the full details of its motivations and extent of its control programs is a career long process.
Who hasn’t been readied for the head to head with the totalitarian hydra. As high school kids we read George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Our reading list was preparing us for a world we wanted to avoid. Each described dystopias where personal relationships took second seat to priorities enforced by abstract state ideals. These were states where the worth of our universal and deep human values are displaced and supplanted by state decree – pursuit of abstract ideologies being experimented with at the time and enforced by those in power: in our lifetime, personal relationships subverted to the goals of economic growth.
I had visions of Susan flash through my mind as a poster child of the Nazi youth movement in another time and place, recruited at a young age to spy on her parents and friends, wearing knee length khaki socks and cravat over an open neck shirt! All of a sudden, this environmentalist had taken on a new hue, from noble advocate to henchmen of the state, undermining human rights and social justice, as well as the environmental movement, the very ideals she professed to be working for. Against this sombre fact as a backdrop to our relationship, the relevance of polemic around our personal overt career differences with me in mining finance and her an environmentalist paled into insignificance.
We sat at Citrus, a neighbourhood restaurant, awaiting dinner, and our conversation turned for the first time to her role with the FBI. Perhaps she’s crapping on, I thought hopefully attempting to retain my enamoured vision of her. I decided to test her. When the waiter came by to take our dinner order, I casually said to him half joking and pointing to Susan, “She’s an undercover FBI agent, why don’t you start with her?” I wanted to see her reaction. It was instantaneous; she nearly fell off her chair and in the process gave me the dirtiest look. That confirmed it – she really was FBI.
After the waiter had moved on, Susan looked at me aghast and said, “Why did you do that! I can’t trust you. I am not really an FBI agent!”
Good. I have no interest in the possibility you work for the FBI, I thought. It was better to believe that than the alternate reality. I was ready to change topic. The deceptive, sly, manipulative, megalomaniac FBI image did not sit comfortably in my vision of an ideal partner for a relationship. I was happy to get back to thinking of her as a straight forward, down to earth, good and honest environmental activist. While this was a more pleasant version of reality, easier to live with, as Alduos Huxley said it doesn’t shield you from the facts: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” And indeed, the reality came back to bite me!
Over the coming days and weeks, the conversation in which she initially revealed her involvement with the FBI faded into the background of our relationship and lives. There were things about her that I did not need to go into at the moment. Just like her old relationships and boyfriends did not need to be pried into, there was no need to know and discuss everything about each other. Not that there were secrets but there are areas in a relationship that can be siloed and tacitly, agreeably avoided. I put her FBI role into this category. Whatever she did in this capacity was her business, and at that point I did not want to know anything about it. I bent her revelations, watered them down, and assumed she partly misconstrued or misunderstood the facts. In the worst case scenario, I imagined she was perhaps an occasional informant. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. With time, I had hoped the whole issue would go away, disappear into the past. There was something deep inside that explained the shock of my disbelief and denial that I could not put my finger on, when she told me on one of our early dates that she worked for the FBI; and I didn’t want to believe it could be her.
The topic of the FBI didn’t come up again for some months. The relationship moved on in blissful avoidance, blissful ignorance, as if shear will power could erase memories and change facts of the world!
The next time I saw her FBI card was one evening about 2 years when we went to a show at Hammerstein Hall. After joining the FBI, Susan was posted to Ireland for 6 months where she had acquired a taste for the Irish culture, loved the Irish people, and as an avid harp player and singer had taken enthusiastically to the Irish music scene.
While in Ireland, she had been introduced to some influential and well known people in Irish folk music, including Mary Black, and met a host of accomplished but less established performers. Introductions were arranged through her work to help her establish the right cultural credentials and standing in her temporary role. A bit of name-dropping might go a long way in trying to infiltrate or establish a small network of informants.
Six or seven years later, she would occasionally receive a call from a musician as they passed through NY. In mid 1996, one such associate, Mary someone, I forget her name now, was playing a gig at Hammerstein Hall in Midtown. The venue is best known for hosting visiting religious leaders and speakers of all religious faiths and convictions. It was rather Spartan inside but provided a suitable ambience for high-spirited Celtic folk music.
Susan and Mary were ostensibly friends and Susan enjoyed going to her concerts. I went with her to attend one of Mary’s New York shows, and after it finished Susan said she wanted to go back stage to say hello. But it was not the social visit I was expecting. It turned out Susan had a different purpose in mind – she had been collecting evidence of Mary’s use of soft drugs, something she was prosecuted for some months later.
The security guard would not let us backstage at first and blocked the access ramp. Susan told me to wait behind her, out of the way, pulled out a card from her wallet and handed it to him. He took a very close look at it, indeed he scrutinised it very intently in the dim light for a good 30 seconds. Satisfied, he waved us through, upon which Susan sped off, calling back to me, “Come on, hurry up!”
I followed her down a slightly inclined ramp at the edge of the stage to a locked door that led to a room underneath. Susan had moved quickly down the ramp, half skipping and walking fast. After trying the handle and realising the door was locked she knocked loudly, several times. I had continued at my more leisurely pace and when I caught up to her, I stood and waited as she knocked.
No answer. She knocked loudly again. We waited. On the third attempt, the door opened and we walked in. The room was silent, there was virtually nobody there. Mary stood in the middle of what was otherwise a very large empty room, maybe three or four other people around her. No big party, not even all the crew was there, let alone other fans.
Susan walked casually over to Mary and said hello and introduced me as her boyfriend. Mary called Susan by name saying dryly “Hi Susan, your cover is blown.” She looked at me and back to Susan to see what her response might be. Susan didn’t say anything clear, but mumbled something like “Oh” under her breath. Susan had been expecting a big crowd and wasn’t sure what to say or do next.
Mary broke the awkward silence explaining, “security called down, said there was an FBI agent coming down with a tall blonde guy”. I was the only tall blonde guy in the room and Susan and I were the only two people to have come through the door anytime recently! It was conclusive. Susan’s cover was indeed blown. A few awkward, stilted pleasantries were exchanged. Clearly Susan wasn’t welcome and we said goodnight after a minute or two and left.
There was no sign of drug use anywhere. As we walked back up the ramp and outside Susan said to me, “that could have been dangerous. I was expecting a lot more people to be there’. I asked her what that whole exchange had been about, as she hadn’t forewarned me at all. She simply said, “I really am an FBI agent. Mary has been using drugs after her shows and I have been collecting evidence.”
Not sure where to start, I asked “Why bother? Is it really worth the effort of pursuing a visiting Irish folk singer for using marihuana back stage. Does anybody really care?” It was late, though a nice, warm summer evening and we decided to walk the 20 or 30 minutes back to my place. Susan said sternly, “Well, if they did it in private maybe so. But they do it in the middle of big parties, right out in the open. They can’t do that.”
“Haven’t you tried marijuana?” I asked.
“Yes, but not flaunting it out in the open. That’s asking for trouble. It has to be policed.” I couldn’t disagree, but nor did I really sympathise.
“Isn’t she your friend?” I asked naively.
“Yes, she is a friend, but it is really work. I don’t like doing it …..” With that, the conversation trailed off into the summer evening, leaving only the sounds of our footsteps and the late night city traffic.
On our walk from Hammerstein Hall on that balmy New York evening in 1996, Susan told me a lot about her work at the FBI. We spoke for 10 or 15 minutes as we walked up Amsterdam Avenue, hand in hand. She had joined the FBI at 27 after attempts to establish herself in a number of other careers. One evening when home visiting, she had spoken with a friend of her parents who had been an undercover FBI agent and suggested she might like to consider applying. She had applied, was subsequently accepted and spent several months doing the required training at Quantico.
Susan’s current focus for the FBI was targeting environmental extremists. The Unabomber case was high profile at the time. I asked about it, but she said it was outside her jurisdiction. Her turf was the eastern half of the US. The Unabomber investigation was being handled out of the west. It prompted me to ask whether her main career was FBI or environmentalist. She said she was FBI working as an environmentalist but really she was an environmentalist by sympathies.
Susan had also been invited to a party on Adnan Khashoggi’s boat when in NY on one occasion. He was a Saudi Arabian businessman and international arms trader implicated in money laundering and the US Iran-contra scandal. Susan was not the only FBI agent in attendance, a handful of other agents had been “invited” to the party as well, mostly young women. They had just shown up as regular guests, mingled, but none of them handed out their “day job” cards; if asked for a card they replied they hadn’t one with them. They did not plant bugs but they did take note of who was there.
On another occasion, she was one of about 30 young female FBI agents that gathered in a bar where through prior surveillance the FBI knew the son of a target had arranged to meet some of his friends. The intention was that one of the women might bait and strike up an ongoing relationship with the son, which indeed occurred as a way of then getting an introduction to the father and the family home.
I learnt some interesting things about the FBI, not only from her, but also from the many other agents I subsequently met over the years, including Steve Garber. On a personal level, the FBI is evidently a job description with a broad remit! Training ludicrously and bizarrely includes “kissing practice” classes and other sexual activities that are used to arouse and seduce in order to deceive and compromise their targets – useful in collecting dirt for the state files. Female agents practice undressing in erotic ways to increase their targets’ desire, slowly pulling their tops up over the top of their head to exhibit a full profile of their chest; and yes – FBI agents sleep with their targets and the sex is covertly recorded or videoed. This type of activity is de rigour as one agent told me later, saying this kind of activity “is much more common than you think.”
The FBI employs far more people than it reports on its website – instead of being under 100,000 people, the actual number, including the army of what can best be described as undercover, part time agents like Susan and Steve, and informants and collaborators, is closer to 10 times that. The lowball count on the website is intended to deceive the public as to the extent of its operation, twisting at every opportunity public perceptions about its reach and extensive interference in civil society – the police state activities it wants to hide. Many very normal, very average and, many less than average, people are agents, informants and collaborators. They represent the complete spectrum of society and walk among us inconspicuously, blending in with the varied social circles that comprise our complex communities, waiting quietly in position to target anyone when the call comes.
While notionally employed “full time” by the FBI, they hold their normal day jobs, if they have one, be it priest, nun, housewife, office worker, corporate exec, congressional staffer – whatever, and they are in effect utilised “part time” by the FBI, a form of “sleeper” agent and generally not much is asked of them. They are recruited from a wide variety of backgrounds and locations across the country, are paid a low wage, but combined with their regular day job income, the combined earnings enable a marginally elevated lifestyle. Despite their day jobs, they are nonetheless available to attend the needs of the FBI when called upon – mostly for surveilling and reporting on colleagues.
They are, in essence, the fake or “useful idiot” patriots, motivated to “serve” for money and self interest, the safest ideal to serve. Not motivated by passion for some abstract ideal that promises to create a better world like capitalism, communism or fascism; not Catholicism nor Protestantism, or any other religion, political or economic system. It is unadulterated self interest that is appealed to, recognising that our communities are bristling with moral confusion, nihilists who eschew all labels, who accept the moral equivalence of all actions, with the exception that secretly they believe in their own superiority.
In an existential contortion, the deepest underlying motive these people have for signing up with the agencies is to achieve stronger human relationships – a sense of acceptance and inclusion, new companionship and support – but these are the very things they have to sell out in the personal sphere to achieve in the state sphere. Deep in the human psyche is a desire to be compassionate, to serve others and diminish suffering. But the work of an “agent” frequently requires they sacrifice these natural human drives in the short term, notionally for longer term rewards which never arrive.
In another time or place, these “great patriots” of ours would have served any state interest with the same zeal and for the same reason, the pull from within, the indomitable will of that elusive but ever present force – the self: the Stasi, Stalin or Suharto, or Pinochet; any military dictator or autocrat who clings to power at any cost, where every aspect of civil society is overtly or covertly riddled with military or police and intelligence agents. It makes no difference. The only common character trait that unites patriots through these organisations is their unashamed self-interest. These decorated patriots recruited and trained by our intelligence agencies would have worked for payment to support any of these other ideologies when these were in their zenith of power, each claiming in earnest the core values of justice and freedom.
In exchange for their meagre wage, agents are expected to put the state before self, ironically in their own perverted sense of self-interest, swapping their strongest human loyalties for family and friends, with new ones for the state. Perversely, caught up in their dependency and the power the agency has over them as employees, they sell out the most valuable things in their lives, their family and friends if it is demanded of them. Sometimes, they do this without even realising it has occurred. It is a powerful, regressive, psychological transformation, bit by bit – almost imperceptible, a sleight of hand by the intelligence agencies, it is the effect of their training and it affects more than their employees and targets.
It ends up shaping the society we live in: saddling it with moral collaboration, but moreover imbuing it with a weary acceptance of such twisted loyalties and values.
There are numerous pithy statements that describe the pre-eminent power of money in ruling people’s hearts: “cash is king”, “money talks”, “power of the dollar”. Yes – it happens, more commonly than you think: they sell out others and unintentionally themselves, in the one stroke.
Those narcissistic and naive Hollywood versions of the quintessential spy as James Bond, debonair, educated, more than capable and a little dangerous, gives lie to a different reality: to millions of struggling ordinary citizens leading their droll urbane lives trying to make a living. Like the bus drivers who were given stripes in Hitler’s 3rd Reich, the overlooked, the downtrodden and those with low self esteem are empowered by their new official “status” in the special security forces. Those corporate and government officers that wear these stripes become unbearable demigods, unassailable, rightwing, and arrogant.
The patriots America once had, those who fought for truth, equality and righteousness, have been supplanted in a modern world by those beholden to narrow, self defeating, short-sighted self interests.
Susan and I, and subsequently the multitude of FBI agents I have come to know, including Steve Garber, discussed some of the strategies to unsettle and destabilise dissidents. The FBI plants bugs, surveillance, in their homes, holiday houses, offices and cars or wherever else, and hope to video their targets in any kind of compromising act. A common tactic was to covertly video in peoples bedrooms, film them masturbating or having sex, preferably illicit sex, and then distribute the material to friends and colleagues of the target specially recruited for that purpose and given security clearance. It is deeply intrusive and intended to be so. It is then exploited – x-rated video clips shown to bosses, or former employees or friends or colleagues and associates – silenced under pang of jail terms for unauthorised disclosures, by gag clauses in contracts purporting to protect national security.
It is government harassment designed to humiliate, discredit and marginalise targets by depriving them of privacy and confidentiality, and isolating them socially and professionally. Once the material had been viewed, whatever its contents, it was very hard to hold the target with the same level of respect or maintain the same level of rapport that had existed.
I asked her whether such sordid and tawdry tactics didn’t backfire on the FBI, causing the targets’ friends and colleagues to question the FBI’s methods and integrity. Wasn’t there some kind of backlash against the FBI? She simply said “No, most people like to see that stuff!” Besides, she continued, the FBI often recorded the target in advance saying something derogatory, even minor things, any negative remark about a friend or colleague, and then they would play the recording to those people, having recruited them or in some other manner secured their services and given them security clearance. The FBI presents the comments out of context or any way it likes, with the intention, and frequently the result, that it annoys and turns the targets’ friends or colleagues partially or fully against them. This makes them receptive to receiving further dirt on the target.
I was curious, interested in the methods and assignments of the FBI as we walked home that balmy night in 1996. But mostly, I was tired. My Freeport research note that mentioned the Grasberg killings (discussed below) had come out several months before, and as a result of the raw nerves it seems to have touched I was on the griller at work, being jerked around with mind games in preparation for being shown the door. Now my girlfriend was telling me more mind twirling stuff. I asked if we could stop talking about it – suggesting we pick it up in the morning when I would be fresher. The FBI was already messing with me at work, and also messing with Susan, quietly in the background, but neither of us knew it at the time. She was proud about her work at the FBI, including her role in helping sideline what the FBI deemed dissidents.
The next morning, over an early breakfast near my place at the Utopia diner, as I thought about the coming day at work, I still didn’t feel like discussing her role at the FBI. She had asked, “…is this a good time to continue talking about it?” I replied, “no, not really, can we hold it till the weekend?” I wasn’t ready for more mind twisters, I had had enough of that with what was going on at work. She looked disappointed and I could tell she wanted to talk about it. I wasn’t sure what she thought of my reticence; maybe that I was not interested in her, or that I was opposed to her FBI work – I couldn’t tell what was going through her mind as I again deferred the conversation.
I was just tired of mind puzzles. I knew my phone at work was being tapped by the company; that certain people in the office were privy to the private content of my calls. My employer, Warburg, as with other corporations, used what seemed like psychological warfare tactics, or psy-ops, to unsettle and confuse people they wanted to get rid of. Whispered conversations by management or coopted peers just within ear shot alluding to imminent departure of some unnamed person, credentials of the new person sought or already hired – enough to make you think they were talking about you – but not mentioning you by name. Lots of mind puzzles, innuendo, tapped phones and read email fuelled opportunities for management’s mind games and interference – work appointments to clash with personal appointments, sensitive or matters of a personal nature repeated back to you by others but in a different context – they have a friend experiencing XYZ, anything was fair if it encouraged the person to leave. Any open admission of the agenda on their part could be fodder for a law suit, so stealth, and slippery tactics, were their weapons of choice giving them relative advantage and control. From the company’s point of view the problem would, hopefully, just go away without any need for confrontation, or payouts, not to mention court action.
To start the day with more perturbing disclosure from my girlfriend, before the office day had even began, was too much to contemplate. Having to get my head once again around the “new” Susan and loss of the “old” was too taxing emotionally. Each time Susan opened up about her role with the FBI, she gave me a few more details, but she never completed her disclosures to me before I cut her off or she self censored sensing my distance on the topic; as such, she never fully brought me in on her life and work as an agent.
When the weekend came, early on the Saturday morning, we again went to the Utopia diner for breakfast where we were regulars and the waiters gave us a personal welcome by name. It was one of the defining characteristics of life in Manhattan that, despite being a massive city, there were myriad local neighbourhoods, bite sized, self contained spheres in which one lives and gets to know the local shopkeepers and other service providers, imbuing daily routines with a very human face and feel. The barber shop and a Chinese laundry at street level in my building, the doormen and mailman, a newsagent in the next block and a multitude of restaurants, bars and cafes – a nod and friendly hello to the members of our community as we went about our daily routines.
Susan and I each said a friendly good morning to the various waiters, casually addressing each by name, and showed ourselves to a booth. Out of long habit, Angelo an amiable and charismatic Mexican waiter brought us coffee as we sat down. He poured it from a metal pot, a weak percolated coffee, but its warm aroma always caught my attention sufficiently to displace the sounds of clattering plates and orders being delivered across the bar. Angelo took our breakfast orders – I normally had a toasted bagel with cream cheese and jam, or the French toast with maple syrup and a side order of ham and Susan an omelette. As he walked off, we took a sip of coffee, and quietly observed the morning buzz around us. Given everything that was happening at the time, I think back on the name “Utopia” with Orwellian irony.
I turned to Susan and asked if she now wanted to further discuss her role at the FBI. But my question was met only with silence. She ruefully declined to say anything and appearing mildly annoyed she looked away. She was offended I hadn’t shown more enthusiasm for her undercover work earlier in the week. It was odd, there was always something that blocked one or the other of us from advancing the conversation to its conclusion – either I didn’t want to know at the times she was keen to talk or she didn’t want to tell me at the times I was ready to listen. That day did eventually come, but not for a number of years and under very different circumstances.
The details of the drug stake-out and our conversation as we walked home that summer evening gradually faded into the background of my mind. Life events that seemed more significant or pleasant to think about took over. In the end, I was left with a vague notion that Susan did some kind of work for the FBI – but I didn’t really understand the capacity or the nature of what an undercover agent was. I remained an outsider! For me, her work life, and our relationship, remained about her role as an environmentalist.
However, her link to the FBI hovered over us like a storm cloud rolling in over a distant horizon somewhere out in the future. She brought it up 5 or 6 times over the years – in all sorts of places and for different reasons – up front disclosure to a new love interest in a restaurant over dinner, after an active drug stakeout, over breakfast early one morning, in the car on the Strzelecki Track during a camping trip and long drive through the Australian outback.
In 1996, the Grasberg killings two years earlier had seemed like a distant memory and of no apparent connection to my life in NY. Nor did it seem of particular relevance for my girlfriend. But we were innocent and naïve! It was payback. The FBI honed in and targeted my various personal relationships – work, social and family – looking for dirt on me, but also in an attempt to undermine my career, undermine my support network and isolate me. Through compromising my relationships and mentoring betrayals, they chipped away at the basis of my trust – a fundamental component of living an economically and socially connected, satisfying life. As Joseph Stiglitz says:
“Trust is what makes contracts, plans and everyday transactions possible; it facilitates the democratic process, from voting to law creation, and is necessary for social stability. It is essential for our lives. It is trust, more than money, that makes the world go round.” 
The FBI (and ASIO) have worked hard to estrange me from the people close to me by strategies that include selective leaks of secret recordings, offering employment opportunities to some, blackmail and deceit – as described in more detail further on. Not everything has a dollar value; relationships are things you can’t value with money, but they mean a great deal to us – for most people there is nothing more important – family and friends. From the outset, the FBI focused their attack on my relationship with Susan, my long term girlfriend; a central prong in their attack to try to separate me from everything I held close.
What we had not realised at the time was that the political – intelligence agency – corporate establishment was targeting individuals with expertise in any topic with potential to influence public opinion on controversial matters. Individuals with any potential public influence, which includes those with influence within the investment community such as analysts, were a primary target of the government and were being selectively viciously targeted in a general attempt to control and constrain controversial discussion, to shape culture through intimidation and self censorship. What applied in Australia was also true in the US and UK:
Personal attacks have always been part of the rough and tumble of Australian politics, but in recent years there seems to have been a shift in the use of this tactic. Instead of the target being fellow politicians (for whom it comes with the territory), individuals citizens have been targeted with the apparent aim of driving them out of the public domain. The targets are most likely to be individual experts who are critical of controversial government policy.
Relationships are prime targets in intelligence agency attacks on dissidents; the FBI is capable of inflicting significant psychological, career and social harm on their targets while not being visible to most people. They isolate, destabilise and marginalise their target and in the process demonstrate their power to others to intimidate – by which they shape culture and silence dissent. Sometimes their motive is nothing more than payback, doing favours for people in high places – neutralising a political target. They do so without leaving traditional evidence of a crime; without an independent investigation there is no smoking gun found – they evade detection and accountability. They also have the means which is access to everyone’s telecommunications, computers and they have a budget that enables them to buy the loyalty of pretty much anyone they want. Most people have a price – they can be bought, blackmailed, threatened or deceived into complying. The high minded, hardcore whistleblowers like Assange, Elsberg, Snowden, etc, who do things out of pure intellectual and compassionate principle are, unfortunately, a rare breed.
The agencies also have the element of surprise on their side – no one expects to have their key relationships intentionally and maliciously tampered with, their friends recruited to spy on them, their phones tapped and their social and professional network intricately mapped, analysed and targeted. People take care to secure the things that they think are valuable and vulnerable – like their property, house, car, computer, securities and bank account; but we don’t think that a criminal element might want to systematically separate us from our relationships – not even one or two, let alone as many of them as they can define and reach. But this is exactly what the government does to dissidents through its intelligence agencies and collaborative oversight bodies. My girlfriend and I were now about to experience firsthand how the FBI, ASIO and other domestic intelligence agencies operate.
Susan graduated from Dartmouth in the mid 80s with a liberal arts degree and was now a professional environmental advocate living in NYC. She was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club. Complicating matters, she was an undercover FBI agent and had been for around 6 years, since she was 27. She told me about her work and at the time she was involved with pursuing environmental outlaws on the east side of the US. I did not fully appreciate what her role as an FBI agent entailed in the context of her environmental work and I was keen to have as little to do with that aspect of her life as possible. With the benefit of hindsight, I realise her undercover work gave her access to the “eco-warriors” the FBI was keen to target. But it also gave the FBI the means to dilute key environmental organisation agendas. With Susan serving on the board of directors of the Sierra Club, she was in a position to influence key policy decisions at the national, regional or local way and to potentially limit projects to those that would not seriously challenge the status quo.
However, her life with the FBI was another world which I all but blocked out from my consciousness, and our relationship blossomed around her more innocent and ennobling life’s work as an environmentalist. From early on, it seemed we were a good match and we had both assumed we would get engaged and married in due course.
My report on Grasberg had been well received by investors, but evidently, not so well received by the CIA, the DOJ (Department of Justice) and the FBI where it apparently was a matter of grave concern or embarrassment to certain people. Since its publication and Freeport’s analyst briefing, I have faced strange and unpredictable headwinds.
Over time, I learned this was the FBI playing the heavy hand of what can most accurately be called “police state” payback, with vast numbers of undercover operatives – in the hundreds of thousands – many earning only a small wage. They are engaged in numbers that greatly exceed the agent head count disclosed on the FBI website, a misleading number, intentionally understated so as not to alert and alarm the public as to the scale of their police state activities. Their reach is without parallel using new technology and tactics more commonly associated with the former Stasi of East Germany or the KGB of Russia, or indeed, the Grand Inquisitors of the Middle Ages identifying and ridding the world of heretics.
The FBI’s dark arts were turned against me for reasons that have nothing to do with protecting democracy, freedom or justice, and everything to do with bending American law to the will of power and money.
I suddenly was face to face with new headwinds that affected my career, my relationships and ultimately forced me to leave the US. Throughout their reprisal attack on me, the FBI has worked closely with its counterparts in the Australian intelligence agency ASIO (I am a dual American/Australian citizen). Contrary to expected protections when living in a democracy against government abuses, there is no recourse, no protection against the egregious and illegal incursions of their intelligence agencies. Their activities are officially hidden, protected by state secrecy laws and an oversight culture in the US (and Australia) that looks the other way.
Going out with an FBI agent had offered me no protection from their illegal onslaught; indeed it may have had the opposite effect, raising my profile within the agency, bringing me to their attention. They take an interest in their agents’ partners, scrutinising them – and if Susan accidentally let something insignificant slip she technically shouldn’t have while confiding in me, she may have inadvertently triggered the agency’s interest. Irrespective, the FBI ought to have better things to do than expend their scarce resources on their agents partners and love interests.
March 1996: Steve Garber had resurfaced after the publication of my Freeport equity research report in March 1996 and was now actively on the scene. I had not seen much of him in the preceding 18 months, since he vetted me on a walk looking for reptiles in Harriman State Park shortly after Susan and I had started going out in the fall of 1994. Suddenly he had started showing-up on a regular basis – at Sierra Club meetings, occasionally at functions Susan and I were attending, and sometimes he simply showed up where I was as if by coincidence.
They were in the process of turning every detail of my life inside out. Going back as far as I could remember or anyone could remember me: to preschool and before, neighbourhood friends, school, university, work, flat mates, old friends and new, right up to my present life. They simply walked straight into my present life, undercover agents approaching me, male and female, with one offer or enticement after the next, or ridicule and abuse. People would befriend me in backpacker hotels – you just meet people when you are travelling, work situations, civic groups – like the Sierra Club, or a large group with whom I had undertaken some Buddhist studies in New York. We are social beings, we meet people and we get to know, like, dislike or are indifferent to them.
We meet people all the time; that doesn’t make them FBI! If agents that blend into the crowd were sprinkled in among the people you encountered would you be able to pick them apart? I can assure you the answer is no. If that new acquaintance is targeting you, making a special effort to befriend you, has been briefed on who you are, instructed on your interests, likes and dislikes, you wouldn’t know. But their job of breaking the ice and establishing rapport is made considerably easier.
An attractive girl approached me at a desert bush camp during a meditation retreat – a honey trap – one I didn’t fall for; an anthropologist, or herpetologist, or someone else with specialist knowledge of a topic that I am interested in, or have been interested in – I have been more open to getting to know and trust, friendlier. But these are not chance encounters; these have been targeted, intentional, well planned spoilers. After a varying periods in which these people cultivate and gain my trust, they double cross or reveal their inside knowledge and association with an intelligence agency. They say something personal to me that is significant to me, something about my background, or something that I’ve been recently involved with, something that they couldn’t have known about unless someone had informed them; something trivial perhaps – that so and so just filled their water bottle at Mexican Hat, or that their “friend” had had a run-in with the CIA or FBI on account of some mining company. They mention a few aspects, a few different things so coincidence can eventually be ruled out with certainty. They will do something similar on subsequent meetings till there is no doubt about their intent, leaving their invisible their signature, and then I will never hear from them again.
Sometimes when first meeting someone, or sometimes months later, their associations are revealed; likewise, out of the many people I have known, some long term friends and acquaintances are successfully recruited by the FBI and this unfortunate but bleak truth is gradually revealed.
The intelligence agencies, like a dating service, know the rudimentary elements of how to win friends, how and who to match make, which topics to go deeper on; which to avoid.
The intention was not just to find out anything and everything in the hope of uncovering something in my past or present for which they could prosecute me – an intrusive, belligerent fishing expedition by a psychotic government agency with excess power and resources, and too little judicial oversight. Their intention was also to destroy, reverse engineering relationships and memories, to damage by dredging up people from my past and recruiting them to reappear and harass me in my present; to embarrass and humiliate. Done frequently enough, it starts to poison the social well, bitterness, hurt and disappointment that could make it difficult to trust people, and over time I found I needed to take great care not to rashly label people. In fact it evolved into a form of mindfulness training, a mental vigilance, being non judgemental, and perversely, a deeper, more compassionate understanding of others arises.
In 1996, this new aspect of my social and professional life was only just beginning. Steve Garber was now trying to befriend me, to win my trust, so he would have a box seat to make it easier for him to conduct, orchestrate and measure the impacts on me of his deconstruction efforts.
I had had an interest in reptiles since childhood, and the FBI’s appointment of Steve Garber was well chosen – he stood a good chance to strike up a friendship with me based on common interest. He had a PhD in herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians) from Rutgers University where his dissertation, he said, had been on a local species of turtle – something that I found of interest. However, as one might suspect with such a dissertation topic, his career choices had been somewhat limited. When I first met him his “day job” was at the NY Port Authority where he was involved with a program to reduce bird strikes on airplanes at JFK airport. Some years later, in 1997, he was featured in a full 2 page spread in the weekend New York Times that described this project and his role in it.
Steve was around 10 years my senior, in his early 40s at the time, rounded, with still dark though balding hair. He lived with his wife, Andrea, who I met on occasions, on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, which was also my neighbourhood. Over the coming years he had two sons, Micah and another whose name I now forget, possibly Jeremiah.
He suggested it might be interesting to take late afternoon walks, after work some days, to look for birds in Central Park. Central Park is on a major migratory route for birds migrating along the Atlantic Coast and is known among ornithologists for the diversity of birds it attracts. Steve would often carry his young son on his back and bring a pair of binoculars. We did a couple of day trips, one up to his mother’s place where he was very familiar with the forests, and on another occasion we did the Audubon Christmas Bird Count out in one of the counties.
He invited me up to his apartment one day to meet his wife and showed me his library and some of the things he was working on. He had published a number of books, including The Urban Naturalist (1987, John Wiley and Sons). When they moved to Prescott, AZ for a couple of years, from recollection it was late 1998, they invited me stay if I was out west, which frequently I was. Steve looked terribly stressed prior to leaving NY. His job at the NY Port Authority for some reason had come to an end. He had put on a lot of weight and looked unwell. The FBI required agents maintain their body mass index (BMI) below certain limits – something checked every few years, so Steve evidently had time to get fit again, which he did after the move.
Steve was tasked by the FBI, in a mission reminiscent of a totalitarian state’s secret police, in a payback that targeted me and which was intended to deter others from speaking out. Neither Susan nor I knew at the time that he was the lead protagonist for the FBI in a covert attack to disrupt the harmony of our lives. For now he was simply her FBI superior, and for me he was a naturalist and one of Susan’s environmentalist colleagues. He set about consciously to dismantle what he could of my life, and he was prepared to inflict whatever collateral damage was necessary, including that which would hurt Susan. In working to break us up, it was not only me he was interfering with, but also her, something he was prepared to do, despite the fact that she was an agent in his team!
The undermining and harassment of dissidents is one of the key purposes for which undercover FBI agents are employed. In large numbers and widely dispersed, part of the FBI’s negative impact on dissidents comes from seemingly random engagement with agents or collaborators that have the potential to crop up in unexpected places – with any kind of day job, cultural background and education level: a guy who runs a seasonal canoe business on the side of a NY state lake; an aging nun in a Buddhist monastic group; the owner of a large second hand furniture store somewhere between NYC and Shelter Island; an office colleague, and as in Steve’s case, a biologist for the NY Port Authority.
The FBI’s invisible network overlays and intertwines with the visible spectrum of corporate and government activity, and gives the agency direct access, to institutions and people across the country. To this randomness is added the deliberate recruitment of as many of the targets family members, peers and associates as possible; like expanding concentric circles, the agency throws rings around their targets relationships at every level, effectively coming at them from all angles. The FBI has great capability to interfere with people through their personal contacts and also through monitoring and interfering with electronic communications – despite the illegality of doing so.
Steve Garber and the team had been busy. Aside from interference with corporate management, I found clients interfered with or recruited, head hunters or others offering career advice and services were contacted and co-opted or recruited.
Work, let alone a well paying career, for most people provides a necessary income, self-esteem and social ties. Professionals have frequently trained many years for their career and, like the rest of the population, also have financial commitments, like mortgages. Hence the FBI focus on black listing – their coup de grace in the currency of “payback” that results in inflicting significant mental and financial burden. Subject to a vigilante-like FBI vendetta, modern day political dissidents lose the right of access to the system they have been deemed to fall outside of.
In addition to my career and income, the FBI was to directly interfere and attempt to destroy my relationship with Susan. Indeed, the FBI set out to interfere with and destroy as many of my relationships as it could. It has deliberately set out to stifle as many of my dreams and dismantle as much of my life as possible without leaving a physical trace of its involvement.
Their efforts aimed at advancing these goals are described below.
Late 1996: Susan took a pre-election visit to California in late 1996 apparently as a “femme fatale” for the FBI to rendezvous with, and generate the dirt on, a Californian congressional hopeful. It was the run-up to the November 1996 federal election that saw Bill Clinton returned to office for his second term as US President.
After returning from California, Susan provocatively mentioned to me, without disclosing the FBI link, that she had met a congressional candidate, she told me his name, and spoke in terms that implied a high degree of intimacy without being specific. It was intentional provocation, designed to raise doubt in my mind about her fidelity without self disclosing intimate details. It was odd and out of character for her to try to make me jealous or provoke me intentionally. This was not characteristic of her. The most consistent explanation for her strange behaviour was that she was blindly following FBI work orders on what to tell me about her trip.
Some months later, a picture of her Californian “friend” appeared in a widely distributed environmental magazine. The FBI knew we both subscribed to this magazine and that there was a good chance we would see the article. Indeed, one afternoon in early 1997 I showed the article to Susan while she was in my apartment. When I pointed out the photo and name to her, reminding her he was the “friend” she had told me about meeting in California, her face turned as white as a sheet and she stood transfixed, stone silent. She was clearly embarrassed and surprised by the publication. But why – was it on account of an illicit affair or was it something else?
January 1997: we had just returned from our second trip to Australia over the Christmas holiday period – having spent 2 out of the past 3 Christmases in the southern hemisphere summer. The time together had been great: we got on well visiting family, and it had been romantic travelling and camping for a week through the South Australian Outback and into the remote semi arid western parts of New South Wales with seasonal thunderstorms, hot days and pleasant evenings. The area was abundant in Australian wildlife – myriad kangaroos and birds, and we camped out along Cooper Creek with friends following the famed historic Burke and Wills expedition. But the FBI had staged and timed a small bombshell to go off on our return to NY relating to one of Susan’s work assignments in late 1996.
With the benefit of hindsight, it seemed that Susan was the one set up by the FBI on this occasion. On a routine work assignment, the FBI not only collected whatever dirt it could on her target but also put Susan in a vulnerable position that the agency then exploited by betraying her. Susan was the obedient messenger, evidently instructed to talk to me about this intimate assignment, with the FBI knowing it could be readily misinterpreted by me – her boyfriend. Her surprise and embarrassed response to the photo and article to confirmed to me that she seemed to be hiding something. Susan was clearly not expecting to see it, and the FBI seemed to be counting on the possibility that, coupled with Susan’s disclosure to me, it would prompt an uncomfortable, confusing situation for us, something that I might interpret as infidelity but that she did not intend that way. The FBI was messing with us – they were targeting my relationship with Susan and using her work to do it!
Susan too was now beginning to understand, a second career with this organisation led to more than she bargained for. Far more than a second, albeit small pay check, this career also came with a few strings attached for Susan’s personal life! The FBI was puppeteer and Susan the puppet.
Susan’s reaction to the article went to the heart of our relationship. It was unsettling, I had been surprised and my trust in her diminished. I found the strength of her reaction odd, and I began to wonder if she had lied. At best, the situation left a lot of room for ambiguity and armed with that doubt, the FBI had set the booby trap; that I might be the one to wreck the relationship, turning my dismay at Susan’s behaviour to revenge. In this way Susan and I were being played against each other, in a way that increased the risk we would undermine our own relationship – the very thing we had both wanted to protect.
But back in New York things were a little strained. That evening, after viewing the photo and article, we went for dinner to one of our frequent haunts, Café Fiorello, an Italian pub, bistro and brasserie across the road from the Lincoln Center. The décor is warm, with a classic tiled floor, dark timbers, mirrors and brass fittings, with seating options at tables, booths or the less formal antipasti bar. We normally sat at a table for two, but this night we sat at the round bar with an overview of the different antipasti dishes on offer. The food on display offered a comfortable distraction from facing each other directly. There was a mixed aroma of chilled and cooked foods set out on open platters in front of us, the varied textures and array of colours of peppers, mushrooms and various vegetables, olives, meats, and squid and fish dishes, around fifty offerings in total. The bar staff behind were a distraction too – busy taking orders, preparing plates, serving beer and wine.
She placated my doubts with reassurance but offered no detail around the issue of what had happened in California. I was not entirely convinced. Her earlier response had been too strong, too odd, freezing in space like she had. For now, we let it go and waited for time to reveal all. It was the first major incident that contributed to a gradual slide in our relationship. The situation was well engineered, ambiguous and confusing but the clear signature of FBI manipulation emerged over time.
Steve Garber, a couple of years later, after Susan and I had broken up, pointedly asked me about the “California” incident, wanting to know the details of Susan’s embarrassed reaction to the article and what I had thought it meant. I had never raised the issue with him and he had initiated the conversation from a cold start. I assumed Susan might have mentioned something it to him in passing. At the time, I was a guest spending two days with Steve and his family at their home in Prescott, AZ where he had recently taken a teaching job at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. I hadn’t realised Steve was with the FBI, and was working with a team whose purpose was to manipulate my life and attempt to drive wedges into my key relationships with friends, family and at work.
In relation to his question, I said it was possible it had signalled a fling of sorts. It was an interpretation consistent with the way Susan had reacted, though contrary to her personality and strength of our relationship. Again, it was odd that Susan had baited me over it and it all seemed out of character. Steve however was quite persistent. He asked prodding, pointedly, wanting to know the details of how I had responded and what I had thought. It is a hallmark of the FBI, drilling into the thought process, dissecting the emotions and reasoning behind an action. It was also part of a process intended to dehumanise me, when I realised in the future what they had done: treating me like a medical science experiment, a psychology study, I was being abused and then mined as a source of data to help them plan and interpret their future attacks, on me or others.
The “California incident” was really only just the beginning of the FBI’s manipulations. Susan, being an agent, was obedient and trusting of the FBI’s directives to her. If they asked her to do something, even if it seemed a bit strange, or out of place, dubious or confusing, she dutifully complied. And with this trust, they set about ravaging her life to get to me. She unwittingly became the FBI’s foil, ruthlessly used to attack her own personal relationship, a relationship she held central to her own future, and ultimately to her plans for a family.
Putting in the boot: March 1997: With the FBI on the case, my work situation quickly turned from ascendency to unemployed at break neck speed. It was four months between the FBI’s threat to me in Freeport’s boardroom alcove and being laid off, enough time for Warburg to find and hire my replacement. I was informed of my layoff around September 1996 and given 6 months to find a new job.
The reason Warburg gave me for my retrenchment was ‘administrative reorganisation’, but it applied only to me. [As an acknowledgement of the ease of manufacturing reasons to fire someone] NY has spared employers the burden for pantomime, and cut to the chase saying an employer need offer no reason for terminating any employee. About the only grounds for employee defence are discrimination – that is they can’t fire someone on account of their race, gender, religion etc. Employment in NY is at will, and the company did not need to give me any reason at all – they were free to fire me anytime, without cause, and without providing a reason. To the extent there was any plausible reason provided, its primary motivation was to preserve morale among my surviving work colleagues than for my benefit!
FBI meddling in my work place had clear signs – someone from the FBI had evidently been speaking with management. Indicators included strange occurrences such as the inexplicable timing of withdrawal of company support for me following publication of the Freeport note, the FBI’s threat to me in Freeport’s boardroom, the tactical undermining of subsequent work product, including support staff who were secretly instructed to stay home on critical publication days, aspects of my personal life were inexplicably known at work – particularly about my relationship with Susan, and work colleagues were asking questions about it – well informed personal questions about her personal movements with the background details presumably supplied by the FBI.
Below I detail some of the more conspicuous entangled interferences by the FBI and bank management:
Oyster Bar, Grand Central Station – in a small room about the size of a large double garage, three research assistants worked across the narrow hallway from the office bathrooms in what was a very well resourced research library at Warburg. The room was internal, low cost space, with no windows, lit by glazing intense fluorescent tubes. There were book shelves with hard copy material in addition to the fathomless electronic databases, two work tables and dedicated computer terminals for “customers”. It was the librarians job to know the vast collection of powerful commercial databases the company subscribed to, and the peculiarities of efficiently searching each of them to extract the most information in the shortest time and lowest cost. The databases went way beyond what are available in public libraries and top business school libraries and spanned specialist topics in marketing, business, finance, current affairs, some industry specific – it was an amazing resource to be able to call on, and the people operating it were friendly and approachable. Whatever the topic, they could find and deliver a treasure trove of documents with up to date information, facts, data and expert commentary – pretty much about any commercial issue globally.
It was a resource I frequently used and was on good working terms with the librarians who worked there. It was here I briefly showed off an ancient yoga pose one lunchtime – the only one I knew, but I had learnt it because it looked quite amazing – elevating oneself horizontally, balanced on ones forearms positioned mid body, raising oneself 12-18 inches parallel to the floor or desk or whatever object I was balanced on.
In any event, late one afternoon, one of the librarians asked me if I would like to go down to the Oyster Bar for a drink after work. It was a friendly invitation, not in any way suggestive, she knew I was in a steady relationship. I assumed it was just a chance to unwind after work and debrief – an assumption that turned out to be wrong, but for a very abnormal rendezvous.
She suggested the Oyster Bar which is well known by commuters in Manhattan, just off one of the subterranean concourses in Grand Central Station only a short walk from our offices in Park Avenue. We walked in and sat down in a pair of comfortable lounge chairs across a small round table from each other. The waiter arrived in formal attire with a glass of water for each of us, and took our drink orders. He watched while I picked up my glass, take a sip and then put it back down again on the table, still nearly full. Bizarrely, almost showman style, he flicked open a fresh white linen napkin, and carefully picked up the glass, careful not to touch it directly with his hand and walked off with my water. He did not take my companions glass, and eventually I had to ask for another glass of water.
His taking my glass in that strange way seemed very odd at the time but I put it out of my mind till many years later when the FBI asked me about it and reminded me of it.
Secretary at Warburg diverted: one of the affable personal assistants who supported my work and a number of other analysts in the department and with whom I was on good terms. Like many support staff in New York who are personable and intelligent, they are well qualified university graduates, working in the arts and support their incomes with a day job, or are moving on to more advanced degrees and saving a bit of money – from recollection Marie was such a person.
Not long after the Freeport note – about a month – I was finalising a major, extensive report on the US aluminium sector which I had been working on for a number of months – and I depended greatly on her help to update and insert all the financial market tables and charts to be synchronised with the reports publication date. We had diarised the release date and she had set aside much of that day to assist me and circulate the completed report. However, normally extremely very reliable, she inexplicably missed work that day and didn’t call in. When she showed up next day, she sheepishly apologised to me, seeing the report had gone out without her assistance. Shortly after her apology she came back and said to me, that she had been strangely directed not to come to work that day – she had been told to have the day off, on full pay, and she had been told not to tell me the reason for her absence. Why would the bank tell a support person to stay at home for a day, on full pay, to miss a key publication day release? There was no answer. She was baffled, as was I.
The report met with accolades from the companies covered with one CEO from a large US corporation exclaiming in a letter that “This is the best report I have seen in my 20 years in the industry.” The trading desk put through a very large block trade in aluminium company Alcoa on the back of my report – managing both sides of the trade, resulting in an eruption of cheers and applause on completion of the transaction which earned the sales people and traders a healthy sales commission.
Steve the Warburg IT guy: At the time of my termination from Warburg, the IT support person for the equities research department approached me asking which of my computer files I wanted downloaded to take with me. The system was locked to external downloads, making it impossible to download any files without permission from and IT support. In offering me this assistance, Steve provocatively used rather deliberate and strange wording, warning me that I should be sure to take only the files I was entitled to, otherwise “the police would come”, and he said with emphasis, “to investigate”. Steve was a close ally of the head of equities Nick Duthie, who the FBI later asked me about, and it was as if he were mocking me about what he already knew to be going on in the background about my targeting by, and the company’s co-operation with, the illegal Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attack on me. Steve subsequently downloaded the work files I was entitled to, and I emailed a handful of managers and also copied it to my personal email address at home confirming what files had been downloaded that I was taking. There was no objection, and verbal permission and confirmation had been given and sometime later confirmed in writing.
While there was never any specific accusation, innuendos were made that possibly I had stolen something that wasn’t mine, and the FBI subsequently sometime later surreptitiously borrowed my home (laptop) computer through Susan who had asked to borrow it for what she said was personal use on a short trip she was taking with FBI connection not disclosed. When the computer was returned a few days later it was broken under bizarre circumstances (recounted elsewhere) and the email messages no longer visible. Whether the FBI wanted to destroy the evidence I held about permission to remove the files, or whether they were on a broader ranging fishing trip to see what else they might uncover isn’t clear. the fact that they returned the laptop so that it no longer functioned suggests they were intending to remove evidence.
Job interview – FBI input: I had put out some job feelers and interviewed mining sector specialist investment banking job at a large American investment bank in NY. I was called back for a third round interview. One morning before heading in I was having my usual breakfast down at the Utopia diner and two people came and sat at a booth across the aisle from me. They spoke loudly, a middle aged woman and a guy around my age. They were speaking about investment banking jobs in New York, the culture of the big banks, what it was actually like. The woman was asking questions and the fellow answering and discussing his experience working in such a firm. They spoke at length about the culture, described it as a rather militarised, inflexible and strict – something I later learnt is a description vehemently denied by the banks, even if it might be true. Revealingly, some years’ later Susan revealed the FBI was familiar with the content of that conversation – she asked me about whether I had noticed those two people and overheard them. I said I had and she repeated some of the topics of conversation and asked if I remembered. I did. I was under surveillance at the time it seems, and it is possible the FBI may have staged the conversation as a form of negative background briefing on banking careers to discourage my enthusiasm. This seems a widely used tactic – concocting a staged conversation within clear ear shot of the target on a topic you want them to be influenced by. In any event, this incident remains a source of conjecture as to how the FBI knew so much about it and why.
My replacement at Warburg, a former commodities trader was hired prior to my termination and placed initially in Toronto. He was less qualified, less experienced and new to equity research. On joining the firm, he was immediately dispatched to West Papua to visit Freeport’s Grasberg mine, joining an analyst tour from Australia. This was ‘bankspeak’ – Warburg telecasting to other analysts in the know and reassuring Freeport that it now had a new mining analyst covering the company. It was sending the message to Freeport that the former analyst’s embarrassing questions around the Grasberg killings had been effectively ‘managed’, with the implication that Warburg expected a slice of the company’s lucrative business when the next capital injection was required.
Adding to the absurdity of the situation, she had even tried to recruit me for the FBI not long after I had been sacrificially pushed out at Warburg. Whether she was taking her own initiative to do so or was acting at the suggestion of someone at work I do not know for certain. Nevertheless, she was adamant I should apply and strongly encouraged me to do so outlining the benefits (but not the disadvantages) of undercover work with the agency.
The recruitment pitch went like this:
We were in my apartment hanging out one day when she said something to the effect, “I have a friend who works for the FBI and they can talk to you about getting a job there if you like. It is something I want you to consider very seriously. The FBI would take you. You have a Wharton MBA and work on Wall Street and they are trying to expand their presence there”. She said the work was not well paid but then nor did it ask much of you. Most of the FBI work involving sleeper, undercover agents was counterintelligence related, much of it directed against domestic political interests and “dissidents” in the US.
Susan went on to say the techniques used by the FBI to unsettle targets and manipulate people share much in common with corporate management techniques: that the FBI training is relevant to people pursuing corporate careers as it overlaps with, and extends, corporate management principles of people at work! It seems that corporate underlings and state targets are united as minions of sophisticated psychological manipulations.
Another benefit she mentioned of working for the FBI was access to a second professional network, a secret parallel network to help support one’s “day job”. In her case she could draw on this for her work as an environmentalist which gave her otherwise unlikely access to a range of people and skills.
She reminded me that being between jobs, I had time to slip away to Quantico for the initial training program. She said it was fairly common for the FBI to target, recruit and train people between jobs. People are more vulnerable and susceptible to the recruitment pitch when they are unemployed and they also have time to go to Quantico and be trained inconspicuously for a number of months. Once they find a new job, they can then re-enter the work place as an undercover agent with no one aware that they had been absent.
What she didn’t mention was that agents automatically get an FBI file; data is collected on them and this can be turned against them at any point as with any “dissident” or any other person targeted by counterintelligence. Agents’ personal lives, as was Susan’s, can be interfered with if the agency decides something beneficial to “national security”, or just as likely, beneficial to their personal careers, could be derived from it. Agents do not only scrutinize others but they too are closely scrutinized, with the consequent prospect of unannounced interference! Recruits spy on, interfere with and disseminate propaganda about the target. The security forces agenda, beyond blacklisting/financial hardship, isolating and humiliating their targets is simply to interfere with their self image – to make them feel worse about themselves, to bring them down a notch, or more, compared to their peers.
The main personal signs I saw of her work, aside from the personal betrayals it required, was the unexplained stress that led to her frequent migraine headaches. She frequently seemed unable to fully relax, to switch off and wind down from it. It was as if she were on duty, or on call, and some days she was obviously under stress from her FBI work. In particular, I noticed it when she had to testify against friends and acquaintances in court, like her Irish friend, Mary, mentioned above.
Despite her pitch, I had no interest in working for the FBI. A key disadvantage I saw was in having a second boss to answer to. One boss for my “day job” was already enough! But there was that central issue of trust in the FBI’s agenda – I did not trust the FBI or the ability of politicians to hold the agency to account. I didn’t want to be peripherally involved with the organisation, let alone work for it! Too many people milk the system, despite the touted safeguards, and take advantage of whatever power and authority they have. The lack of transparency and nefarious methods used by the FBI seemed a perfect breeding ground for the worst of these bad habits.
I came to realise that it was not a job opportunity people generally opted into from a position of strength. In Susan’s case, I think she did it to top up her regular paycheck, to supplement the meagre earnings as an environmental advocate. In exchange for financial self gain, agents target political “dissidents”, and their personal proximity to the target can be the undisclosed purpose for their recruitment. The spies that are closest to us can be the ones hardest to spot.
In any event, her involvement with the FBI was ultimately to destroy our relationship. If I had fully believed her earliest disclosures, right after the relationship started, I would have detested it and left before I got to know her. As it was, the lack of full disclosure and the FBI’s own interference slowly ate away at our bond causing the relationship to eventually succumb.
For now, however, Susan and I were in the blissful throes of a passionate relationship. We had spoken about marriage on occasions over the past 2.5 years. We shared much in common, enjoyed long conversations, went on holidays together; early on we camped in Clayquot Sound, Vancouver Island – hiked part of the magnificent Witness Track for several days enjoying each others’ company in a massive natural cathedral surrounded by cascading, towering cliffs; we hiked and camped elsewhere over the years. She came to Australia, on two occasions to join my family for Christmas, and she in turn invited me to her mother’s home in Detroit in 1997 for the family Christmas in the year we broke up.
Should undercover agents’ disclose the nature of their work to love interests? In some respects they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Partners quickly sense when there is a lack of honesty and frankness in the relationship: conversations are avoided, explanations half baked, certain things don’t gel. Ultimately, a level of synchronised thinking about planning and life goals is not shared, and with the lack of trust, doubt creeps into the relationship and opportunities for soul mate bonding lost.
Where agents disclose aspects of their work and the relationship breaks up, the risk is the former partner discloses any revealed injustices or abuse, as I am doing here. But public disclosure is often the last avenue for seeking accountability. As in my case, I have approached the various FBI (and ASIO) oversight bodies directly, including my elected representatives – but these have all turned out to be toothless tigers when it comes to investigating and holding the FBI to account. It is only after people realise the oversight process is thoroughly corrupted, that regulators are frequently captive to the underlying agency or industry they are meant to oversight – or don’t work for some other reason, that they go public. If the integrity of the oversight process were restored, much of the need for unauthorised public disclosure and other disclosures would vanish.
Nonetheless, for the most part, the nearest a young or new FBI agent ever gets to national security issues is through low level security access – which about 3 million people in the US have – giving them access to low level facts and insights – probably akin to what in the old days would have been considered the domain of a good national newspaper. More contentious is the FBI’s harassment of what it considers to be domestic dissidents – the methods the agency uses and the people they target. (These are not criminal cases, terrorist or military – these are soft political targets, who in a democracy where a strong civil society is desired should be free of government harassment). History reveals the FBI’s involvement in domestic political operations is dirty and frequently abused – directed against politicians and activists in civil society, like environmentalists, or those leaders, for example, of groups that anti discrimination laws have been passed to protect. Many of these targets and the tactics the FBI deploys should not be used the way they are and a bit of unauthorised disclosure, aka whistleblowing, is long overdue.
I have included details in this section on my travels that summer of 1997 as a positive, unintended consequence of the FBI’s efforts to interfere and derail my life; a counterweight to their meddling – an outcome that reinforces the notion the intelligence agencies can’t control every outcome no matter how much surveillance and interference.
Warburg retrenched me in March 1997. Helping to remove me from my job was the first significant, concrete result the FBI achieved after the Freeport note, and one of the easiest and most effective ways to potentially unsettle someone. Unfortunately, there is a litany of other professionals all too eager to avail themselves to the FBI’s requests and help them in the hope of endearing themselves to power and progressing their own careers. Losing my job deprived me of an income and career trajectory and lowered my status among some friends and peers. It damaged my CV and professional reputation.
In response to the work uncertainty, while Susan and I maintained our relationship, we tacitly put any thought of formalising our future plans on hold, at least for the time being.
If there was any doubt my report and questions had embarrassed, scared or unsettled some powerful people, the savagery of the FBI response put rest to that. Now out of all sense of proportion, the payback was to use the vast network and resources at its disposal to harass me, undermine or damage my livelihood and relationships. The fact is it is not really “payback”, more an opportunity for the FBI to flex its muscle and send a chilling message to others who might speak out – this is their way of creating the sort of model capitalist employee the system desires.
But, from my point of view, on a personal level it was a case of as one door closes another opens. I had suddenly the opportunity to do something I had for a long time dreamed of – to spend time meandering through amazing country – in this case the American West.
In relation to the loss of my job, I briefly reflected on the rather peculiar and extreme bad treatment I experienced as I left – the management lies and deceptions, the provocations and intrusions, phone calls intercepted; I was not remorseful, indeed I was optimistic, I let it go, and the excitement of the new opportunity in front of me was all absorbing. It was a case of applying the insight of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. I quickly found new meaning and deeper purpose doing what I had sought to do.
I left Warburg at the end of March and spent a few weeks in the UK. I had some established job leads in London where I had previously been offered a position. I caught up with friends, and spent a couple of weeks out in the beautiful, craggy, windswept areas of coastal Scotland and Ireland staying at backpackers and B&B’s and spent my time doing day hikes and reading.
On returning to New York, I met with head hunters, got my CV out to some companies and advanced my job search establishing a base which I could expand on later. I had a few irons in the fire, and one or two head hunters I was able to stay in touch with. Then with the weather warming as it moved into the second half of spring I headed out to the American West.
I took a one way flight to Albuquerque, New Mexico and was open to the possibility of staying out West indefinitely.
I disembarked from my flight from New York with a visceral sense of excitement that comes with fulfilling a long desired goal: to spend a summertime, and maybe longer, meandering between towns and wilderness without constraint of time or fixed agenda. I had a sense of unlimited freedom. It just so happened that the setting in which this opportunity arose was the great American wilderness with its extraordinary landscapes, partially portrayed in the often hauntingly beautiful images of Ansel Adams, and shaped by a mindset stamped with Muir, Emerson and Thoreaux, and the rich history and culture of indigenous people. And indeed, the arrival in Albuquerque was like the dissolution of old boundaries and stepping out into the timeless desert cultures and landscapes of the “land of enchantment”
It was as if in stepping outside the borders of the city the constructed borders around my life were rolled up seamlessly and discarded in the one movement. The seemingly important career commitments I had held till then were replaced and surprisingly easily dispensed with in the presence of something liberating that had now arrived. With the excitement of breaching new frontiers, the mountains, national parks, forests and towns of the West – I had the intention of experiencing it all – and in particular hiking and camping out in its deep wildernesses.
I dropped the fixed routine of daily life in New York and in its place arose spontaneity, freedom laced with new opportunities. Most of all, I was mindful of the preciousness of the time in front of me and had gratitude for having found my way to this magnificent place. It was spring, the snow was melting, and the air was clear and teeming with the sounds of new life. There it was, an awakening to the dawn of summer, it felt like the edge of eternity, and in an elated state of mind I had it all before me. Like in my late teens and twenties, I travelled alone; hiking, camping and backpacking, wandering freely and meandering between forests and towns.
The American West made a huge impact on me. It possesses some of the world’s great natural treasures, largely overlooked right in the heart of America. As things turned out, it was one of the best summers of my life: I had sufficient funds to travel low budget for as long as I wanted, outdoors in interesting towns and magnificent wilderness, no constraints and what seemed like an infinite time horizon. My camping gear had been well tested and broken in over a number of trips in the North American backcountry in previous years and I felt confident that with the right preparation I could now get out into some of the most amazing places on earth.
The thought of being out here sent an excited tingle down my spine. I had experienced such tingles before, listening to rock music in my adolescence; and reading certain pivotal passages in Shakespeare for the first time, struck by the power of a brief verse to reveal such depth of psychological insight. If I had felt alive and buzzing in NY, this trip had taken my enthusiasm and exuberance, and ratcheted it up a notch. It was a unique opportunity to indulge my passion for wunderlust, and it turned out to be a brilliant summer. It was one of the greatest times of my life.
I hiked, camped out for days on end, and explored. The landscapes, parks and wilderness areas of the western US are superb, among the most stunning places on earth, they are extraordinarily beautiful and varied from top to bottom, spanning the hot sandstone deserts and canyonlands of New Mexico and Arizona all the way up to the glacial peaks and mountain ranges of Montana and Alaska. The parks and wilderness areas are without a doubt one of America’s most outstanding features and at the same time, one of its best kept secrets!
As much as I had wanted and identified with a corporate career and loved New York, I was surprised at how easily I let the whole idea fall away. My career had been important to me, but it was now in hiatus and possibly at a significant turning point. It wasn’t clear whether I would ever get another job on Wall Street, or where I might work, and it seemed strange that it didn’t really bother me. I felt confident that sooner or later I would find something I wanted to do, whatever and wherever it might be. I had a good skill set, and for now my concerns lay with hiking into and experiencing the sublime, pristine deserts of the Southwest.
I hadn’t planned much beyond just getting the trip started in Albuquerque. It was late spring, and beautiful weather at altitude in the high desert. I checked into an older motel, Route 66 style, for a few days on the edge of the CBD near the main street that had a modest amount of activity, sprinkled with half deserted cafes, restaurants and bars. Once again in my life I was aware I had time on my side. As far as I was concerned, there was no end date for this trip. I didn’t have to be anywhere, anytime.
I bought an old 1973 model Subaru hatch back from a local dealer in Albuquerque for a few thousand dollars. From recollection, it was the cheapest car in their range, it had all the inspection certificates, seemed fine in a test drive and the model had the endorsement of a ranger friend of mine who knew about aging cars. The car had character. Its original orange colour had faded in its 20 something years. It had been well baked and weathered in the desert sun, the duco was covered with hairline cracks and it now almost looked like a dry desert salt pan. But the car proved extremely reliable – even as it approached some massive number of miles on the odometer. The boot section was large enough to hold my backpack with a little spare space to use for extra gear. It was the perfect car for what I had in mind: in addition to being reliable, a necessity in remote country, I could leave it at isolated trail heads for a week or so at a time without much concern of it being stolen or vandalised.
I left Albuquerque and set out for the Gila wilderness, a 6 hour drive. On the way, I overnighted in the small desert town of Truth or Consequences, and stayed in a backpackers that had thermal springs on the banks of the Rio Grande; then headed to Silver City the next morning, an old 1870s mining town in high-desert, Ponderosa clad country on the edge of the Aldo Leopold and Gila Wilderness areas. This was the beginning of weeks that turned into months of travelling, hiking and camping out.
The desert conjures the image of scorpions, rattle snakes, cacti, mesas, salt bush and searing heat – hot and dry without water or respite. Indeed temperatures frequently reach 40 to 45 degrees celcius or over (115 degrees fahrenheit). Water and shade are critical to enjoyment of the desert in the summer: and as if by alchemy, they completely transform a hostile desert environment into a sublime inviting oasis.
The mid Fork of the Gila River in the Gila Wilderness is one such oasis – it is one of my favourite camping places. I walked along the track on the river’s edge for a few hours, making numerous stream crossings, and set up camp on the edge of a small tributary near hot springs. I camped there off the track and out of site for about a week. It was peaceful and serene. The quiet trickle of stream was occasionally broken by a hummingbird buzzing by my tent or hammock. These colourful small birds’ wings beat so fast they sound like oversized insects, bees or mosquitoes, as they hover in front of flowers to drink the nectar. I have seen a mountain lion in the area, been warned off by rattle snakes, and there is potential to encounter the Central American Jaguar – this being its most northerly range. The stream edge where I camped is a lush riparian zone, shaded by large trees, on a wide canyon floor, bounded by miles and miles of stunning sunset coloured sandstone escarpment. I camped by the cool water, welcome relief from the heat of the day, swam and was shaded by the trees from the hot sun. It is paradise. Since first going there in 1997, I have returned a number of times over the years.
I moved on to other towns, forests and desert streams. I slept in the desert on the outskirts of towns, in fields and backcountry in national parks and state forests, rolled my sleeping gear out in convenient locations wherever I was. I had a tent with me but often didn’t need it, instead I slept out using a ground sheet, light inflatable hiking mattress and a sleeping sheet directly under the stars. A week or two at a time would go by without seeing the inside of a room, or tent, to sleep in.
The night skies were brilliant, bright with a million stars illuminating the desert landscape; mesas and plains in the moonlight stood still and silent. Occasionally the silence was pierced by a coyote yelp somewhere in the distance.
Initial concerns about desert life crawling over me in my sleep went away after the first night out, and only the beauty of sleeping under the fabulous night sky was left. The air smelt faintly sweet, and it was dry and warm against my skin, and even a sleeping sheet was unnecessary to stay warm. There was no dew and the silhouette of desert plants frequently formed my night bower. I loved being out in the deserts and New York was a million miles from my thoughts.
I found new uses for my office attire that were more flexible, less constrained than previously. Shirts, once worn to the office were ideal for desert hiking. Light weight, long sleeve cotton shirts with collars protected against sun burn, and let air circulate freely in the summer desert heat. They worked particularly well with hiking shorts and a broad rimmed hat. Thin business socks worked well as inners, liners underneath thicker hiking socks to stop blisters forming.
There are large drainage basins in the western deserts created by several mountain ranges, the largest being the Rocky Mountains, the source of large rivers that cut deep swathes though otherwise parched country. In the high altitude American deserts of the southwest, at an altitude of a mile or so, there is a surprising amount of accessible water and shade – streams that have carved their way through the soft desert floor over geologic time, forming broad sunken chasms, gorges and canyons that now provide protection and shelter from the harsh desert elements.
Water is a transformative and powerful force in the desert, and in addition to establishing sublime oases, it is capable of creating the most massive and spectacular canyons, including Copper Canyon in Mexico and the Grand Canyon in the US. Multiple rivers have carved and continue to carve passage ways through the deserts of the American west with spectacular results. They provide transport routes and vital water for desert communities, wildlife and plants, and reveal deep rock sequences containing fossil records of evolving life on earth dating back millions of years. The Colorado River, Rio Grande and a host of smaller rivers in the catchment criss-cross the desert creating a myriad network of narrow canyons and pathways with sustaining water and trees for shade and shelter for animals. It is the most perfect environment for camping and hiking; warm, blue skies, water, spectacular canyons and riparian forest strips with shade. One could spend a life time in such country.
There are myriad dry creek washes with sandy beds which only have water running in them for brief moments after storms and are otherwise dry for most of the year. These make great natural pathways for hiking through the desert. In the cool fresh air of the early morning or late in the day they provide a near clear corridor to move into a cacti forest teeming with bird and plant life with vibrant sounds and colours. The desert has remarkable and surprising qualities. There is an emerald luminescent light caste by the Mesquite tree as the sun filters through its needle like leaves creates a light filled bower. The vegetation is quite lush and the succulents in places difficult to walk through if not in a dry sandy creek, on account of the thick wall of branches and thorns.
The crepuscular hours stand in stark contrast to the heat of the day when the desert is still to the horizon and it seems that there is nothing in its entire expanse that has the will to move. There is not any breeze and everything waits still as the bedrock of the earth for the heat of the day to pass. It is as if the desert itself, taking its cue from the sun, is conserving all its energy to survive the heat of midday as if a single organism controlled by a single will. Every movement is deliberate, carefully gauged, no wasted effort. The bird calls plentiful at day break quickly come to a stop as the morning heat rises.
It is not surprising mystics and monastic activity from a multitude of spiritual traditions have such a rich history associated with desert dwelling. In the dry heat one feels alive, alert, reluctant to make unnecessary movement. Even the air is free of movement, no breeze, not even the vibration of sound ripples over ones ears. It is completely silent.
Contemplatives, meditators, mystics and shamans have lived in desert environments for millennia. In the surrounding stillness only the mind moves, consciousness straining to hear. Finding nothing it moves to assess what can be sensed through touch, taste and smell, but these are neutral, nothing stands out. Finally, in the eyes there is movement of the eye itself, and here the consciousness rests looking at the desert.
One becomes mindful of every move. When the heat of the day comes one has natural single pointed concentration it seems without effort. The heat itself sears and focuses the mind. There is silence, no bird sounds, no crickets or other animal sounds. The vegetation is still, even if there is ever a breeze, it is slight and has no effect, no ability to move the woody, waxy, fibrous plants. The desert is both silent and still, while full of richness and life.
In this place, one takes an easy step inwards. Almost by default the boundary between self and world is broken, dissolved. Land forms look like they have evaporated and reformed in dust and blue haze. Big mountain ranges sitting low on the horizon and magnificent broad sweeping valleys that were once sea floors seem to be made of the same mind that is observing them.
The heat, stillness and quiet focus the mind and the world stands still. It is clear; as the self and world simultaneously arise forged from the same press. The two become indistinguishable and disappear in the utter stillness. Hours and hours of the day pass in this way. It is as if the mind and the desert move together, each evolving with and shaping the other in mutual dependence.
It is as if the desert itself holds the magic to enchant, to form the minds of inhabitants with the same strokes that shapes the landscape: earth against earth, mind against mind; movement, hot and cold, rain and wind, over time, becomes a cradle. From the deserts many great figures have emerged, moving beyond renewal to reform and transform society and politics across the world: religious figures, Moses, Abraham, Christ, Zarathustra, Gurdjieff and many sought refuge, building strength and resilience with their 40 days in the wilderness. Indigenous cultures have a close spiritual tie to nature and the Southwest has been a fertile crucible for development of their rich worldviews.
Much of the Southwest feels enchanted, spacious with vast sweeping basins and craggy mountain ranges – it has a sacred feeling to it. It is a landscape that looks holy and enchanted under moonlight or in a dark thunderstorm with multiple highly charged lighting strikes across the landscape electrifying the air prior to a wild monsoonal downpour of rain. Ansel Adams captures the feeling perfectly in his classic photo of a moonrise over Hernandez. It evokes Coleridge’s famous poem Kubla Khan – images of a fertile mythical land in a barren realm replete with sunny pleasure domes and caves of ice. It also evokes the region in Tibet where Padmasambhava lived, a Tibetan saint and author of the Tibetan book of the Dead.
The summer rains bring life to the desert and the ancient people who have lived here for thousands of years, the Hopi, Apache, Navajo and Tohono O’odham among others – Desert People, the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi, and major centres like Chaco Canyon of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples, whose inhabitants had an advanced calendar that tracked the sun and moon and who traded goods with other civilizations as far afield as Central America.
I stayed in the Southwest for most of the summer, spending time camping in Chaco Canyon, Zion and Canyonlands National Parks, days camped out in deserts of the Maze and Owl and Fish Creek Canyons before heading up to Santa Fe and Taos.
There are myriad deserts in the Southwest including the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, Great Basin, and Mojave, spanning from Southern California through Arizona, New Mexico, into Texas and up into Utah and Colorado. Scattered throughout these, there are secretive, remote monasteries, churches and religious retreats inhabited by men hoping to undergo transformation and emerge as new and different beings in Christ’s image. Some of these Spanish structures in New Mexico are several hundred years’ old and still stand, dating back to the days when Santa Fe was the capital of Spanish territory in North America, the capital from where what remains of their territory in today’s modern Mexico was governed.
The Spanish left behind beautiful adobe churches where early practitioners practiced abstinence and self flagellation, as a form of penance. Faded blood stains from their practice are still detectable on the adobe white washed walls. Nor was it the only blood spilt in that time of territorial acquisition. Blood, it seems, is spilt freely by conquistadors in pursuit of new wealth, something we are now witnessing in West Papua.
Santa Fe and the surrounding mountains are sprinkled with early mission churches built by the Spanish starting in the early 1600s to the 1800s. This area is also full of indigenous history, culture, and cultural conflict creating a dynamic synthesis of indigenous, Spanish and Anglo cultures. Some of the ancient towns of the indigenous people such as those who lived at Chaco Canyon and the Cliff Dwellers date back nearly a thousand years or more. The indigenous cultures, in particular, have proved very resilient despite several centuries of being in the minority. Some indigenous cultures appear to have survived remarkably intact, remnants of a once thriving civilisation, found in isolated little towns, ancestral worldview and shamanic traditions imbued with animism, nature and spirits, spared from the western onslaught.
This area of northern New Mexico is where artist Georgia O’Keeffe had lived at Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu. She was a major figure in American art, with a distinctive style depicting subject matter inspired by the local environment in northern New Mexico.
Later in the summer I rafted the Colorado River (with Susan, discussed below), and went up to Grand Teton National park in Wyoming; and Glacier National Park in Montana, hiking 15 to 20 miles some days, swimming and camping in the backcountry during the peak of summer. In Glacier, the mountain meadows were green and full of light, with small valleys filled with meadow grasses, flowers and insects; and the possibility of encountering a foraging grizzly bear – to be avoided given the danger of fatal attack! I didn’t come across any grizzlies though I did come across a curious brown bear in the wild and had a very personal face off with on a track while hiking in Colorado.
It is difficult to explain how much strength and renewal being out West gave me – Gila, Zion, Grand Teton, Glacier – the locations, the people. I met fascinating characters, read intriguing Buddhist philosophical texts, and had freedom to wander; and what I took with me – the love of my key relationships with family and friends, including Susan, but little else did I hold onto – the next job or new career, and the rest of my life could wait.
It was a superb and extraordinary summer. It felt superb to be alive and the summer went from strength to strength.
The narratives of history can be retold, reinvented over and over again; and the FBI is adept at creating the narratives that help it fulfil its goals and aspirations. Histories and biographies are full of content fictionalised by the agency intentionally using lies, misinformation, selective disclosure, and at times accounts of actions that were in fact not “historical” events, but rather the staged acts of its paid agents.
In this vein, drawing on my association with Susan and her role policing aspects of the environmental community, the FBI early on saw an opportunity. Before I had left Warburg in March 1997, Susan invited me on an all expenses sponsor paid, 3 night rafting trip down the Colorado River set for late July, which as it turned out, coincided with my travels out west. The rafting trip was billed as totally funded by a Salt Lake City surgeon – apparently an FBI twist, modelled on Edward Abbey’s well known eco-warrior novel The Monkey Wrench Gang where the main financial backer is also a surgeon and the decommissioning of which was now the purpose of the high profile rafting trip down the Colorado that summer intending to draw publicity to the cause.
Abbey’s novel portrayed the sabotage and removal of Glen Canyon Dam, the very same dam Sierra Club legend David Brower, whom I had met that summer in a background meeting with Susan, had lamented as his greatest defeat. It had been the subject of a fierce environmental campaign in the 1950-60s.
Brower had said the destruction of Glen Canyon would come to be seen as “America’s most regretted environmental mistake.” It was a trade off he never forgave himself for. However, he had not given in lightly and his opposition was so fierce it prompted President Nixon to despair and remark “Thank God there is only one David Brower!”
Various campaigns and stunts, calling for the dismantling of Glen Canyon Dam have ensued ever since, including Dave Foreman’s Earth First! which unrolled a large black plastic sheet to look like a crack down the front of the dam wall to great visual affect and media coverage in 1981.
Susan and my meeting with Brower provided a timely and appropriate backdrop to the rafting trip that summer down the Colorado River that advocated for the dismantling of Glen Canyon Dam.
One of the biggest threats Brower saw to the environmental movement was from corporate interests and corporate backed foundations co-opting the boards and management of mainstream influential environmental groups. The larger mainstream environmental groups, in particular, were at risk of being corrupted he believed.
It is not clear whether Brower saw a similar threat coming from federal government agencies, such as the FBI, infiltrating the board of the Sierra Club and co-opting its agenda. Brower had several stints as a Director of the Sierra Club but he fell out over strategic direction and resigned on more than one occasion in frustrated disagreement, including in 2000 for the last time. The NYT reported him as saying in his 2000 resignation: “The world is burning, and all I hear from them is the music of violins. May the Sierra Club become what John Muir wanted it to be and what I have alleged it was.” Whether the FBI had agents planted on the board at that time, as they had Susan in the mid 1990s, and if so what effect it might have had in dampening the Sierra Club’s mission, I do not know.
He reportedly fought his battles with ‘evangelical zeal’ that brought him wide renown. The Bureau of Reclamation was responsible for building and managing dams and otherwise securing water, and associated hydroelectric power in the American West, and it in particular bore the brunt of Brower’s opposition. The Bureau presided over the Flaming George Dam, Hungry Horse Dam, Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, Friant Dam, Shasta Dam, Vallecito Damand Grand Coulee Dam among others. It had also made vigorous attempts to dam the Colorado River including at two places in the Grand Canyon and another at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers – tributaries to the Colorado.
John McPhee writes in Encounters with the Archdruid (p87):
“There are conservationists (a few anyway) who are even more vociferous than Brower, but none with his immense reputation, none with his record of battles fought and won – defeater of dams, defender of wilderness. He must be the most unrelenting fighter for conservation in the world. Russell Train, chairman of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, once said, “Thank God for Dave Brower. He makes it so easy for the rest of us to be reasonable. Somebody has to be a little extreme. Dave is a little hairy at times, but you do need somebody riding out there in front.”
McPhee explains (p159):
“The conservation movement is a mystical and religious force, and possibly the reaction to dams is so violent because rivers are the ultimate metaphors of existence, and dams destroy rivers.”
The rafting trip in 1997 received quite a lot of publicity, with involvement of Dave Foreman, Martin Litton, representatives of various environmental groups including the young Chairman of the Sierra Club Board of Directors, and high profile journalists, including from Time magazine – around 20 or so people in all.
It was the presence of Dave Foreman, the counter cultural icon, on the trip, in particular, that caused some excitement in local communities and among other rafters along the Colorado and a key to anchoring media coverage of the event. People had heard and spread the word that Dave Foreman was on the river rafting with an environmental protest group for a few days. We had started the trip near the confluence of the Green River, and the desert township of Moab and over several days recreational rafters, outdoor enthusiasts, and those with a cultural or political affinity made special trips down the river to say hello. Dave handled the attention with a congenial, natural nonchalance, and more than ever, on the rapids of the Colorado River, rowing his dory, he seemed in his element as the counter cultural hero – the Ned Kelly (Australian bushranger and folk hero) of the modern day American West environmental movement.
The river trip itself was superb. Summer, was well advanced, and the river torrents had calmed somewhat from the peak volumes which come with the heavy snow melt from the peaks of Colorado early in the summer. The water volume that flowed when we area there, while still maintaining enough white water to tip a boat, was not enough to test the mettle of the experienced river runners in the group.
The days on the river were mostly spent riding the flowing current in various ways; riding the boats in different positions, at times jumping in the Colorado and floating along side the flotilla of boats and rafts in the cool water during the heat of the day, buoyed by life jackets and some mid day beers as we floated along.
The canyon walls towered above us and the sky was deep blue. We stopped at Spanish Flat, only accessible from the river, and hiked up to the Doll House, a remarkable grouping of large rock protrusions, irregular vertical shapes rising out of the ground, perched high up on a canyon ledge – for me a highlight of the trip. Everything from the bottom of the main canyon a mile deep to the uppermost rim has been carved by the Colorado over vast aeons of time which for now appears deceptively solid and unchanging. This feeling of permanence and solidity imbued the smaller hidden canyons set high above the Colorado as well – including the Dolls House – reinforcing the impact of the overwhelming scale of the Grand Canyon itself. The silence and stillness of these high up and forgotten canyons seemed almost as permanent and unshakeable as the massive and timeless stone blocks and canyon walls.
As mentioned, the rafting trip was part of a campaign intended to generate publicity for the dismantling of Glen Canyon Dam, the massive dam which blocks the Colorado River, forming Lake Powell, in Arizona; and which Sierra Club luminary David Brower had fought so tenaciously to defeat. There were a number of boats in our group and I had been allocated to Dave Foreman’s crew with a few others. In hindsight I don’t think this was simply a pleasant coincidence.
In extending the invitation to me, Susan had said that the various participants partners’ were all invited, of which I was to be one among many. As it turned out, however, I was the only outside partner in attendance. From recollection, there was another partner, possibly two on the trip, but they also had work reasons for being there. It appears my invitation had been extended out of special consideration by the FBI. I was invited innocently by Susan, but it was after the FBI’s Freeport payback had commenced.
My attendance was evidently part of the FBI campaign to reinvent history. It was a Trojan horse, a razor blade coated in honey, the licking of which was nice at the time but the real purpose of the invitation was to create a smokescreen, to portray me as a legitimate person of interest, an environmental extremist. They were seeking to create a “plausible” alternative to the Freeport issue to substantiate their interference with me and attempting to portray me as having close personal ties and association with other people the FBI has, or once had, a “genuine” interest in.
Steve Garber’s bizarre behaviour in late 1997 was a further extension of this constructed illusion. A few months after the rafting trip when I was back in New York with a new job, Steve Garber invited me on a local walk and after an hour or so of general chat proceeded to ask me numerous ridiculous, oddball questions about dams and how they could be sabotaged. We were walking along 72nd Street, it was late afternoon, and he wanted to know how I would blow up a dam wall if I “had” too. “Blow it up” seemed clear enough – I had seen a few war films over the years; but what was meant by if I “had too”? Was conscription something the government was again considering?
He asked something like, “What if you were a demolition engineer for example?” He knew I had started my career as a mining engineer and had some work experience with explosives in the mining industry.
I said I still had no idea – and I asked him why was he asking all these inane questions about blowing up dams?
As time passed his questions became increasingly ludicrous and personal – wanting to know if I had ever thought about blowing up a dam, dreamt about it, what mining industry technology could be applied, hypothetically he said. Though he pushed for firm answers. Surely there was something he insisted.
I said to Steve, “I assume you’re trying to stop this sort of thing,” to which he said “Yes”. Eventually, after a tedious conversation, we came up with a completely implausible, impractical Walt Disney “Roadrunner” cartoon style scenario and he seemed satisfied.
Some years later at a dinner in NY secretly recorded by the FBI, Susan working on duty undercover for the agency, asked me to clarify points on the same topic and asked me if I remembered that conversation with Steve. It seemed as if the FBI had done some research and determined the scenario Steve had come up with, with my input, was implausible and impractical – which was the same point on which the conversation with Steve had ended at the time.
If it weren’t for the effort the FBI has gone to and the problems they have caused me, one would almost be inclined to laugh at their idiocy. I must be a dam saboteur, otherwise why would the FBI be asking me all these questions, why would I have been on a river trip that promoted the dismantling of Glen Canyon Dam, and why would I have had personal meetings, albeit as a companion to Susan, with well known environmental advocates who wanted to remove dams, in particular, Glen Canyon Dam. It is a strategy approved by senior ranks of the FBI because they know they can get away with it; they understand the pervasiveness of the corruption in the system and the ineffectiveness of weak, captive regulators to stop it.
The FBI’s repeated tactic in attacking me has been to camouflage its tracks, brazenly deceive, lie and deny the real reason for its harassment of me, the publication of the research note that touched on the Freeport killings and question to Jim Bob Moffett, the Freeport CEO. Given Susan’s job with the FBI, pursuing environmental extremists in the US, the agency did not have to work hard to misrepresent circumstances to potentially paint me as a legitimate target.
I now suspect the only information likely to remain in the FBI files documenting the rafting trip are photos of the people in attendance, and whatever spin the agency wants to attribute to events in a written report, a subject Susan raised cryptically, in relation to me, some years later (at the same dinner in NY mentioned above) – indicating she had photos of me rowing Dave Foreman’s dory down the Colorado with Dave and a few others as passengers. Indeed, Dave very generously had given everyone assigned to his boat a chance to row it. Susan implied the photos were some centre piece in an FBI collection.
Like many of the FBI’s attacks, the circumstances in which it occurred felt good at the time; indeed, I enthusiastically participated in the rafting trip. Who wouldn’t enjoy such a trip? My girlfriend had invited me, it was an interesting group of people, the trip was all expenses paid, and the Colorado is one of the world’s sublime and classic rivers to raft, it was beautiful summer weather, magnificent scenery, and exciting.
Presuming there is some method to the FBI’s madness, I can only assume that it is to give the agency the “circumstantial” evidence it needs to justify and defend the attack on me to any oversight body that might ever take a passing interest in my case. The FBI could try to argue, by reference to the “evidence”, excluding the context and all contrary evidence, that their continued “interest” in me is warranted, based on well documented, legitimate concerns. Anything more than cursory scrutiny by an oversight agency would have little difficulty unravelling the FBI’s ruse and abuses. But it doesn’t happen. This is not the way the US (and Australian) political system operates now.
After the rafting trip down the Colorado we flew to Detroit and stayed with her mother. We were in town for a wedding, friends from the New York environmental community. One of the last times the topic of Susan’s role with the FBI came up while we were going out was in her mother’s home in Detroit – a large, old sprawling but well maintained two story house. After dinner one evening, talking with Susan’s mother in the kitchen, with Susan present, perhaps sensing the destructive potential of Susan not having me fully onboard about her FBI career, said to me, “you ought to ask Susan about her second career. She has her environmental career, but also her second career with the FBI. I am sure she would like to tell you all about it.” It was a heartfelt remark over a beer while she and her new husband stuffed envelopes for DEK, an influential fraternity of which he was then president and which included among its members George W. Bush.
Susan’s face screwed up in annoyance, and lightly stamping her foot for emphasis, she exclaimed, “Mom! I’m not.” There was a brief silence, no follow up and she turned and walked out.
Her mother turned to me and said in a hushed voice, “Ask her about it. She works with the FBI”.
As I walked after Susan, she was standing in the stairwell. Our eyes connected and locked, we exchanged intense searching glares, she refused to yield a word, and after a few seconds I kept going. The situation, in addition to being perverse, was also uncomfortable, and now finally required resolution. We could no longer avoid the issue.
Her reticence in discussing her work with me while we were in Detroit was inexplicable, at odds with her earlier enthusiasm. I could only assume the FBI had got to her about the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of it from me. It was not for another year that she was to learn I was on an FBI hit list, and it was not till some years after that that she learnt the real reason for my listing. In any event, she didn’t elaborate and I didn’t push. Though I had resolved that on my return to NY I would revisit it with her – and it became a central issue for me and of our relationship.
By the time this occurred, in the summer of 1997, Susan, herself, had been being played by the FBI for over a year. They were exploiting Susan’s silence and partially disclosed career secret to progress the agency’s own agenda. By now, I assume Susan’s bosses at the FBI had sounded her out about what I knew of her career there; and true to FBI style they were leaving little to chance – a young male environmentalist Susan had supposedly given a hard time to at a weekend camp we attended used that as a pretext for asking me about what I knew of Susan’s work at the FBI.
My summer in the west had come full circle. I sold my car to the same dealer in Albuquerque from whom I had purchased it several months earlier and returned to New York. It was the same weekend Princes Di was killed in a car crash in August 1997. I flew in on the Sunday, the morning after the crash, in preparation for a new job starting the next day. I spent the first few nights at Susan’s as the tenant subleasing my NY apartment was still within their notice period.
My return to New York seemed seamless and life simply picked up where it had left off. My new job was better paying and I had had an amazing spring and summer.
During the summer, I had stayed in frequent contact with Susan and caught up with her a number of times either out west or back in NY on return trips – the rafting trip in Utah, Detroit at her mother’s place, and a couple times in New York – including for the interview for the job I had now been offered back on Wall Street as a Vice President in the equity research division of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson (DKB), a German investment bank, working as a mining analyst. I had been off work for 5 months and out west for much of that time.
I returned to NY and started the new job in September 1997. I was fit, relaxed and fresh. The summer out west had been brilliant, everything I had done was like a dream fulfilled, and although I had thought about staying out west, I returned to my life which remained centred in NY. My new job paid better than the one I had departed earlier in the year, and financially I was better off than if I hadn’t had the summer off. However, the FBI assault was about to intensify, they were evidently not pleased I had secured another job, and shortly after I returned, Susan and her mother, in a joint call to me at work, invited me to the family home in Detroit for Christmas.
In the second half of 1997, the FBI knew Susan had invited me to her parents’ home for Christmas, a potentially significant event. Irrespective, the agency callously continued its political attack directed squarely at her, me and the relationship as part of their police state punishment. The fact that Susan was an agent only made it easier for the FBI to manipulate us.
[Further details to come]
The FBI did not initially tell Susan they were targeting me. They kept the details quiet from her and obviously from me. In fairytales true love prevails, but in real life love has cracks and relationships have periods of respite – cracks which the FBI helped to engineer in my relationship with Susan, then ruthlessly exploited.
Once the FBI had helped facilitate the split between Susan and me in late 1997, through tactics we later learned included the deletion of phone messages to each other, and had me distracted and her miffed, they gave her access to the FBI file they had been building on me since March 1996, the date of the offending Freeport report. Mischievously, they told her I was the subject of a criminal investigation in relation to my work; but this was a false justification for the file, it was an outright lie, and the “investigation” in fact political payback.
The FBI got the result it intended, by late 1997 the three-year relationship between Susan and me was damaged and never recovered. But their payback did not end there, it was just beginning.
The FBI and DOJ Inspector’s General, supposed protectors of the public against agency abuses, were nowhere to be seen; ditto, congressional judicial oversight committees with responsibility for the FBI. AWOL. MIA.
Many years later Susan told me I could not imagine how surprised she was at the moment she saw my name on the FBI files. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing…but she did believe it! That she was one of “their own”, an undercover FBI agent, only made it easier for them to betray her. She was young, inexperienced and foolishly did not doubt the integrity of the FBI! She accepted their word and their files as legitimate, took them at face value because she was in the habit of trusting and being obedient to them. And now, they had turned on her too.
Her response at the time she was given the files, however, paled in comparison to how she reacted when she found out later that they were part of an FBI setup – a hatchet job. She said she had been physically sick and vomited.
The FBI’s attacks on domestic political targets are intended to intimidate and shape key US institutional cultures. In a leaf taken from the mafia, the agency establishes its authority by maliciously attacking those who stray “outside” its political boundaries and ensures the people it seeks to influence “witness” or know of the attack in order to sow fear, subservience and self-censorship into key institutions and industries. It culls and pursues its targets where it calculates there is little risk of political ricochet, blowback that might result in unintended repercussions, and the corollary to that, potential political ramifications or criminal prosecution of the agency.
However, there are other potential ramifications to its actions. Targeting analysts’ opinions on Wall Street potentially distorts economic signals to the wider market, which includes investors, regulators and politicians. One wonders if the S&P and Moody credit rating agency analysts whose companies published reports prior to the GFC on the financial stability of the mortgage brokers had operated in a culture free of state interference and were at liberty to write what they thought without fear of reprisal, whether the devastation subsequently wreaked by the GFC on so many innocent people might have been averted or mitigated through earlier preventative action.
[Further details to come]
Governments everywhere, no matter what country one lives in, use force against freedom and innocence, with the means to interfere varying according to the tools the government has at its disposal and the strength of their motivation. Each government defines and deals with their dissidents differently. Some countries kill their political opponents openly, and others “disappear” them. More sophisticated countries, like the US, Australia and the UK, have developed effective techniques that are not so blunt but are equally devious and achieve the same chilling effect.
June 1999: I left the USA after an intrusive vendetta led by the FBI that blacklisted me from work in my chosen field, interfered with my social and professional networks, compromised all my communications and deprived me of my right to privacy. I sought to flee US government political persecution.
With so much interference evident in NY, no prospect of a new job to advance my career, and no encouragement from Susan who had been blindsided by the FBI to stay, I moved back to Australia in search of firmer ground. In particular, my inability to resolve things with Susan was a source of frustration and, given the earlier strength of our relationship, some confusion. Susan now seemed to be driven by a force beyond my reach. And indeed she was! She had become a puppet zombie in the grip of the FBI.
I grew up in Australia but I also feel very connected to the US, harbour a lot of warmth for the country, and consider myself very much a citizen of both. I have strong family roots in the US with my mother and three of my four grandparents being from there and I vote in both countries. My US ancestors on one side of the family were from Massachusetts. The other side of the family were pioneers in Ohio in the early nineteenth century. They picked up land there and the farm they established near Plattsburg remained in the family for nearly two hundred years until 2009. I had frequently visited the farm growing up and visited my grandmother who lived in a regional centre near there. We visited my cousins in Cleveland and later in Washington DC. I like to think that the Pacific Ocean represents a seamless boundary between the US and Australia which I can cross at ease as readily as if I were crossing a state line.
In some respects, I am a political refugee having uprooted my home and life in the US, after eight years living there, due to pervasive and unconscionable government harassment. I had thoroughly enjoyed life in NY, they were some of the best years of my life. I love America, I love Americans and I believe in the American dream set forth by the founding fathers. I would have stayed in the US without a doubt, but the FBI made it untenable, interfering with my ability to make a living, plans for a family and social and professional networks.
The waves that radiated from the FBI’s blows rippled out in a across my life in clear, predictable patterns. The immediate impact of their blacklisting was that if I wanted to work and progress a career, which I did, I could not do it in the US, and the high cost of living in New York meant, at the very least, I needed to move from there sooner rather than later. So I took a job back in Sydney where I was able to get work in my profession.
Does this make me a political refugee? I would say yes. It satisfies the conditions of state interference making it impossible for me to make a living in my chosen field which forced me to go to another country to seek work, where I might be free of persecution. In this case, I sought asylum, albeit informal, from a real oppressor. I was an exile, in search of refuge, relief and freedom from the FBI. My life was probably not threatened by staying in America though my livelihood and social networks certainly were.
Susan and I caught up a number of times after my move back to Australia; including several times in NY when I travelled back for short visits, and once in Hawaii. The FBI’s manipulation and interference had taken its toll on both of us. It had affected Susan, as well as me, resulting in disappointment, insecurity and uncertainty for each of us, with the futures we might have had ending with the relationship. She showed signs of personal stress, she had put on weight, but we were never back in a serious relationship.
My mistake, if I can call it that, was in thinking Australia was free of this sort of thing. But it isn’t. Indeed, it is very close to the US and the elite’s share intelligence data almost freely with each other, along with Canada, the UK and NZ – creating a virtually seamless nexus – which has earned them the totalitarian moniker – “The Five-Eyes”.
The FBI (and ASIO – the Australian secret intelligence organisation) has thrown nets over all my communications, identifying and targeting friends, associates and colleagues. The public now knows from Ed Snowden’s NSA leaks in 2013 that the government has undertaken illegal mass surveillance, without specific warrants or meaningful oversight, of domestic and foreign telephone calls, email, online chats and browser histories. According to the NSA leaks, the government spies on contacts with up to 3 degrees of separation: that would mean targeting my contacts, my contacts, and in cases their contacts.
That being the case their surveillance of me could sweep up in the order of one million people, extending to a large chunk of my Wharton MBA class and a huge number of my finance industry peers, including analysts, sales people and fund managers. Such a wide sweep allows the FBI to identify where it may already have agents in place in relation to their new target. It is potentially a starting point from which the agency can plan a recruitment pathway, instigate extensive and wide ranging follow up surveillance of the target’s network and develop specific recruitment strategies “specially” tailored person by person, so the FBI can eventually reach the core people that are close to, and encircle their main target. It is a process that takes time, extensive intrusive and illegal surveillance, and money.
The FBI has put me under extensive surveillance, and also my contacts, and from the outset went way beyond just watching passively. They have turned and recruited whoever they could, bugging my apartment, telephone, intercepting emails, and recording conversations. They have taken considerable pains to delve deeply into all aspects of my present and past, identifying and approaching old friends and current, and in cases they succeeded in recruiting them.
Over the course of my life, I have had many hundreds of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Several dozen of these I am now aware have been approached, and in cases interfered with and recruited. In addition to people I already knew, others have made themselves known to me, in cases befriending me, only later to reveal their involvement with an intelligence agency.
One of the more intrusive things the FBI did was to plant an agent in my New York apartment where the person had access to all my stuff. Unbeknownst to me at the time, after I advertised for a sublet tenant, one of their agents applied – he was the only one of two applicants to come by for an inspection. The agent, Michael Mills, occupied the apartment at 170 West 74th Street (Upper West Side) for a number of years after I departed New York and returned to Australia.
Years after I broke-up with Susan, they sent her to Australia to interview a host of people I had known over the years (from places like school, university and work) including adversaries and detractors, and prepared her with extensive notes for a secretly recorded covert interview in 2003 during a catch-up dinner between us in New York. Susan was fronting for the FBI, a turn which would have taken me completely off guard if not for a tip-off from someone, and over the course of the dinner she touched on and probed aspects of my entire life. It was evident the preparation by the agency for this covert interview had been extensive and very well resourced. It was also clear the FBI had done this sort of thing before; I was not the first person they had ever gone after!
Susan deliberately and persistently steered the conversation to discuss people I knew, friends, family whoever, and to record me saying negative things about any of them – in earnest, mock, or joke – it made no difference – the words were all that mattered for what the FBI had planned. She probed for details of people I had known over the years, people who may harbour slow burning or hidden resentment against me, issues that might enable the FBI to open old wounds that can be easily stirred up to manipulate the person. They sought my opinions on matters that could be used to stir the pot also – political, social, religious views, etc to later present selectively my opinion to people who hold opposing views. There is no shortage of hotbed issues in the world, eg Palestine/Israel; Ireland/England; Greens/Republicans; taxation; abortion, etc, etc. However, at the time I was being asked these questions it did not seem particularly threatening.
At the time, I could not conceive of the agency’s ability to reach into personal aspects of my life and broadcast aspects of it selectively or fabrications of it in a highly targeted way to my family, friends and others as they did, as a way to harm me. I have been surprised by their power to reach people in my life and past, to sway people who are close to me of things that are not true about me, and at the very least that cause me problems, personal complications and the like. To credit them with such access and power did not seem plausible at the time.
Indeed, some of the revelations by Snowden about the NSA has in part explained this reach. Illegal phone tapping and extensive tracking of metadata – who we are phoning, who is phoning us, numbers, times, dates, locations – they pick all of this up with complicity from phone companies, internet servers and the like. This is just one of the ways they can track our social contacts.
Over the coming years, the people I discussed with Susan at that secretly recorded dinner have been tracked down by the FBI (ASIO in Australia), given security clearance (and sometimes recruited) and played back any of the material where the FBI could convey an offensive meaning to disaffect people I knew – a tactic intended to damage some of my relationships. In cases the FBI completely misrepresented what was said, or stated it out of context, but in all cases they violated my confidence and privacy, with the intention of souring or complicating my personal relationships – offending select family members, friends, and professional contacts. In general, they have achieved what they set out to do – some of the people they have accessed or recruited I no longer speak with, in other cases it has caused discomfort and waves in our relationship which we overcame. An excellent opinion piece in the NYT (15 June 2013) “I know what you think of me” discusses the damage of personal betrayal in its various forms: NYT opinion piece
I learned the truth about the FBI’s involvement in this revenge attack from Steven Garber, one of Susan’s colleagues and a ranking officer at the FBI who had managed the operation for the FBI. In 2004, on one of my return trips to NY, he told me all during a long walk in Central Park. He had been closely involved in managing the payback for the FBI and his intention in telling me was malicious, like twisting the knife in a stabbing victim: to rattle and perturb my psyche.
The FBI’s timing in its disclosure was deliberately chosen, once Susan was married and pregnant with her first child, for maximum impact and to ensure there was no way back for our relationship, just in case any ember remained that could re-ignite the fire that once burned.
My head spun with the revelations. I wondered how much of my life they had interfered with, when had it started and what they wanted with me. I wondered if I had inadvertently done something illegal. It didn’t take long to connect it to West Papua and Freeport. I could barely believe it – the audacity and corruption! For me it confirmed the ruthless conspiracy of US involvement and support for Freeport in West Papua. If it weren’t all true, why would they care so much, why go to so much trouble?
Of course I was greatly disturbed and upset to learn of the FBI’s interference in my personal life, their role in undermining my long term relationship with Susan and the sabotage of my career which directly led to my exile from the US; as well as ongoing interference in all aspects of my life.
I had always thought my life and ambitions typical of my generation; find a life partner, establish a career, make a contribution and try to find happiness from within the culture and system I was born into. It had never occurred to me that any of my political opinions were particularly controversial nor any serious threat to entrenched interests. But just as the FBI’s interference in my life changed its outcomes in significant ways, my attitude to the US government was also altered irrevocably by their actions, as if a blindfold had been removed.
Some readers might say:”What did you do? You must have done something to deserve this. It must be your fault. The world doesn’t work this way.”
But that is naive. I had a front row seat to global fund managers and relayed to them information about sensitive but public domain problems facing a large US mining company. People in power did not like that. Indeed, major fund managers the world over have voted with their feet and blacklisted the shares of Freeport McMoran – they will not hold the company’s shares in their funds on ethical grounds generally related to human rights and environment.
West Papua is situated on the island of New Guinea at the eastern end of Indonesia. Source DW
West Papua is recognised for its enormous economic potential with oil, minerals and timber in abundance. However, its great wealth has been both a blessing and a curse, as the region has been plagued with security challenges since the Dutch withdrew in 1962 and was formally annexed by Indonesia in 1969.
In 1972, Freeport commenced large scale open pit mining initially at the Ertsberg mine. In 1988, a massive discovery at Grasberg, about 1.9 miles from Ertsberg, catapulted Freeport into the league of global mining majors. Today, Grasberg is one of the world’s largest, most profitable copper and gold mines; and one of the world’s most valuable mining assets with one of the world’s largest reserves of copper and gold. In 2011 these amounted to 31.6 billion pounds of copper and 32.2 million ounces of gold with an in-ground value approaching US$200 hundred billion. It is expected to remain in operation for at least another 30 years – beyond 2040.
Production in 2011 was 882 million pounds of copper and 1.4 million ounces of gold, contributing US$5.4 billion dollars to Freeport’s revenues and US$2.9 billion dollars to gross profit. It is a significant component of Indonesian GDP and the company has deep political connections at the highest levels in Jakarta, with the military and the government, and Washington.
The project is owned and operated by Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold Inc through its 90.64% interest in PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI). Freeport’s head office is in Phoenix (previously in New Orleans) and the company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Parts of the project are held in joint venture with Anglo-Australian mining major Rio Tinto.
History of violence
There have been extensive and ongoing military and intelligence agency abuses in West Papua in and around the Freeport concession since inception in 1967. These abuses have been well documented intermittently by human rights agencies and over the years there has been intermittent media coverage. The Atlantic published an interesting update in 2011 with the chilling headline: “Is a U.S. Mining Company Funding a Violent Crackdown in Indonesia?” detailing Freeport-McMoRan’s payments to the “local police who have used violence against mine workers asking for better wages.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said “these latest incidents [in 2013] are unfortunate examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force in Papua. I urge the Government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold accountable those involved in abuses.”
The Freeport project is associated with an astonishing level of violence. Confrontations and military conflict have flared repeatedly since the Dutch departed, with the Indonesian government well supported by the US government with military training, advisers and weapons sales. The Australian government also provided military hardware, including helicopters, and training. There have been multiple instances of military deployment of modern warfare techniques against local indigenous traditional cultures with peaks occurring in 1977, 1980 and 1996.
The US Embassy in Jakarta provided Freeport officials with talking points for their frequent media briefings.
The original occupiers of Freeport’s concession had no legal recourse to financial compensation for spiritual loss of their lands, though housing and rudimentary infrastructure was compensated. The Indonesian government merely handed their ancestral lands over to Freeport to explore and mine in a contract of work that was signed by Freeport and the Indonesian government in 1967. The contract, signed under Suharto, gave Freeport “the exclusive right to enter upon and to take possession of and to occupy the Project Area.” and the “right to arrange for their resettlement of any indigenous inhabitants who may be found permanently residing on any part of the Project Areas”.
US backed military aggression – Vietnam War tactics: Reflecting the dissatisfaction of the local Traditional Owners to the presence of Freeport’s mine, a key slurry pipeline was sabotaged in 1977 by the indigenous independence movement OPM, which caused the mine to temporarily close. In response to the sabotage, the military unleashed a brutal operation against the locals, ruthless tactics including use of cluster munitions and napalm reminiscent of a US style Vietnam War offensive – a war which the US had recently lost.
A Yale Law School report for the Indonesia Human Rights Network (April 2004) reported:
“Strafing and bombing missions killed numerous West Papuan villagers and caused thousands to flee their homes into the jungles. In May 1977, OV-10 Broncos dropped antipersonnel “Daisy Cluster” bombs near the village of Ilaga, located on the other side of the Puncak Jaya mountain chain from Freeport’s mine. At the end of August, two OV-10 Bronco Bombers shelled the region of Akimuga. Soldiers also destroyed most of the food gardens belonging to Papuans in the region. As a result, many Papuan children suffered severe malnutrition.”
A footnote stated: “Daisy Cluster” or “Cluster bombing” is a high-altitude delivery of a 15,000-pound conventional bomb designed to kill everyone present within a huge area. Originally it was designed to create an instant clearing in the jungle.
Australian academic Denise Leith reports the operation against the indigenous OPM independence movement, in and around the Freeport concession:
“American Broncos and helicopter gunships carpet bombing, strafing, and reputedly napalming the surrounding villages. This operation was aimed at punishing the perpetrators and deterring further attacks on the mine.”
The Yale Law School report also cited a report by Amnesty International:
“The military arrested and detained local Papuans, many for months. According to Amnesty International, the army used steel containers to incarcerate thirty men in total darkness for three months in the Freeport mining site, where night temperatures approached the freezing point.”
1994-97 escalation of violence: Not surprisingly, as a response to the expansion of the Freeport concession area in 1994, the indigenous people protested the loss of their lands and local opposition to the company led to an escalation in conflict in the area in and around the concession. Following the discovery in 1988 and subsequent commencement of operations at Grasberg, Freeport’s concession was expanded in 1994 to over 9 million acres, up from 6.5 million acres in 1991, which compares with the relatively smaller 24,700 acres in the original Ertsberg (Black A) concession granted in 1967. Freeport’s massive land holding was granted without requirement to compensate the traditional owners, and forced relocations were undertaken by the military reportedly with Freeport’s material assistance. Further, the concessions were granted without stringent environmental controls. The ensuing conflict, starting in 1994, and including the 1994 Christmas Day massacre, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of indigenous protestors.
In March 1996, riots broke out around the Grasberg mine in which 3 people were killed. The riots lasted 3 days, closing the mine for the duration. In response, by April the military had expanded its operation around the mine adding 3,000 to 4,000 additional troops and positioned a warship off the coast at the port of Amamapere. The riots and mine closure were reported globally in the mainstream media, and also featured in the analyst report I authored dated 12 March 1996 which triggered the FBI’s response.
With the March riots and killings in 1996 being reported worldwide, Suharto was feeling personal pressure from the international community in relation to the Indonesian military backed atrocities around the Freeport mine, and he in turn put pressure on Freeport to improve the situation.
Freeport’s CEO Jim Bob Moffett flew to Indonesia arriving 13 March 1996 to attend a three way meeting hastily convened between the military, indigenous representatives and Freeport. Freeport was feeling political pressure and in need of finding a solution to placate the locals. One aspect of the solution agreed, was that Freeport would establish the Integrated Timika Development Plan (superseded by the Freeport Partnership Fund for Community Development) whereby the company committed to contribute 1% of its annual gross revenues from Grasberg into a fund (“1% Fund”) primarily intended to assist the tribes that had been forcibly displaced by the mine.
However, Jim Bob was also secretly negotiating separately with the head of Kopassus – Indonesia’s Special Forces – a group with a well documented record of brutality and human rights atrocities throughout the country, to agree a significantly enhanced funding package that he knew would underwrite an oppressive military crackdown against the same indigenous people in the vicinity of the Grasberg mine he was simultaneously trying to placate with social inclusion and new development programs.
Human rights reports: Aside from the US State Department investigation, other groups were investigating the killings marked by a period that began around the 1994 Christmas massacre and extended into 1997.
The highest profile, independent human rights reports were prepared by the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) – an NGO umbrella group that monitors Australian foreign policy; and a report by the Catholic Church of Jayapura, led by the bishop of Jayapura Monsignor H.F.M. Munninghoff, both published in 1995. These reports found their way out of West Papua and international scrutiny of Freeport increased substantially.
In addition to the ACFOA and bishop Munninghof reports, there have been multiple other investigations into human rights abuses committed in and around Freeport’s Grasberg mine.
In May 1998, the local churches released a report (p203) attributing the elevated military presence to an escalation in tensions with the locals and reported that between December 1996 and October 1997 over 137 people were killed. The churches’ report details extrajudicial killing, and terrorising of local villages by the military.
By the end of 1998, there had been at least seven investigations into human rights abuses that occurred between 1994 and 1997, in and around the Grasberg mine. In addition to the three reports mentioned above, there was one by the International Red Cross, and another by Komnas HAM – the Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights. There were also reviews undertaken by the Australian and US embassies. Not one of these investigations and reports absolved the company of involvement in human rights abuses, though none of them proved it either, with one of the investigations (Komnas HAM) specifically excluding within its terms of reference investigation of Freeport involvement in the abuses.
While there are eye witness accounts of Freeport employee involvement in the killings, these have never been substantiated in court. The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights published a human rights report on the company in July 2002 – even though its investigators were denied entry into West Papua by the government, reportedly at the behest of Freeport.
The report states two civil lawsuits were filed against Freeport in the US. One, a federal suit launched by Amungme leader Tom Beanal, was not successful. The other, filed in Louisiana where the company was headquartered at the time, was dismissed in 2000. The New Orleans district court judge, Michael Bagneris said the case had failed to prove PTFI was the “legal alter ego” of Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold. The suits covered human rights abuses, personal injury, cultural genocide and environmental degradation, and had the support of thousands of Amungme along with many signed personal testimonies.
Irrespective of the cases being dismissed, many people hold the view that Freeport is nevertheless implicated in the killings and other abuses because it finances the Indonesian military in West Papua, has allowed the military to use Freeport property, as well as providing it with other material support such as transportation and accommodation.
Under Indonesian law, Freeport was able to call on the military to resettle the Traditional Owners, which the company did, and also gave material support to the military in removing the indigenous people from their ancestral homes.
Aside from Freeport co-operating with, financing and supporting the Indonesian military in West Papua, there have also been multiple reports alleging Freeport security took direct part in human rights abuses in the past, with multiple sources commenting on different occurrences in different places at different times.
Denise Leith notes multiple first person accounts including witnesses to killings, though these apparently all remain uncorroborated. There are many difficulties and challenges in proving allegations of Freeport employee’s direct involvement in human rights abuses, including, she indicates, the understandable reluctance of eyewitnesses to publicly testify.
In an illuminating section on human rights abuses, she provides accounts of multiple, independent eyewitness testimonies to numerous abuses by Freeport security which are summarised below:
The ACFOA report: contains various eyewitness accounts of Freeport security involvement in the shooting of multiple villagers.
Survival International: circulated an Amungme video of Jacobus Niwilingame testifying to detention and abuse at the hands of Freeport security.
LEMASA: documented in 1997 specific cases of “assaults, disappearances and rapes” it attributed to Freeport security.
A Freeport employee: Masmus Tipagau, reported to a journalist he had witnessed Freeport security beating a man for playing cards.
An unnamed source: from the Freeport concession claims Freeport security involvement in the death of Amungme villager Naranebalan Anggaibak who was tied and dragged behind a car on 24 December 1994.
An article in The Nation: said a Western traveller claimed he had been detained by Freeport security (and TNI – the Indonesian military) for several hours.
Documentary Blood on the Cross: testimony from Yudas Kogoya states a Freeport employee piloted the Freeport helicopter “in which the military travelled to Geselama, where it massacred innocent villagers on 9 May 1996”.
Leith also tells of an account by well regarded Australian scientist and Australian of the Year in 2007, Professor Tim Flannery of Freeport security abuses:
Tim Flannery account: in his book Throwim Way Leg (p284-291) describes a young Papuan boy Arianus Maripu who suffered a severe beating, and who had told Flannery before dying of his injuries that he had been beaten by Freeport security.
There are many difficulties and challenges in proving allegations of Freeport employee’s direct involvement in human rights abuses, including the understandable reluctance of eyewitnesses to publicly testify.
Irrespective of the fact that court cases brought against Freeport in the US have been dismissed and failed to implicate the company in any of the human rights abuses inflicted against indigenous protestors in West Papua, many people hold the view that Freeport is nevertheless implicated in the killings and other abuses because it finances the Indonesian military in West Papua, has allowed the military to use Freeport property, as well as providing it with other material support such as transportation and accommodation potentially leaving the company vulnerable to allegations of Bougainville style war crimes currently being defended by mining major Rio Tinto.
“While Freeport cannot be blamed directly for the human rights abuses the military commits, neither is it completely free of culpability. Despite what Freeport says, there is an undeniable connection. The military was charged with protecting the company; the company accepted, and indeed required this. The military culture is violent and lacking in accountability, and the company has always known this….and its continuing relationship with the Indonesian military leave the company vulnerable to accusations of human rights violations in the past, and the future.”
A speech to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 by U.S. congressman Faleomavaega directly informed congress of concerns about alleged Freeport human rights abuse:
‘‘Specific allegations have been made to Freeport’s direct association with human rights abuses undertaken by the Indonesian government on Freeport land. Freeport facilities are policed both by Freeport security and the Indonesian military; Freeport feeds, houses, and provides transportation for the Indonesian military; and after any incidence of indigenous resistance against Freeport, the military responds while Freeport looks on.
In 1977, when West Papuans attacked Freeport facilities, the Indonesian military bombed the natives using U.S.-made Broncos and a Freeport employee sent an anonymous letter to Tapol on August 6, 1977, writing ‘any native who is seen is shot dead on the spot.’ …. Although Freeport likes to shift blame onto the Indonesian government, Press reports that ‘One recent Western traveler was told by a Freeport security employee that he and his coworkers amuse themselves by shooting randomly at passing tribesmen and watching them scurry in terror into the woods and Amnesty International reported that the military used steel containers from Freeport to incarcerate indigenous people.’
Mr. Speaker, ultimately I believe in the goodness of people and in the goodness of the Members of this body. I believe that, as we are made aware of human suffering and gross injustice, we will rise to say enough is enough.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. Government has done very little to help the people of West Papua and justice seems a long way off.
Critics rightfully claim that US, UK and other foreign lending agencies, and institutions such as Australian commercial banks Westpac and ANZ which were part of the syndicate of banks that financed Freeport’s mining activities in West Papua in the 1990s, should demand environmental and social accountability from their clients and in turn provide accountability and transparency to their own shareholders about such investments. Without such demands, these banks and others that lent money to finance Freeport’s Grasberg mine appeared to have accepted the corrupt business practices that prevailed under Suharto and subsequent governments.
It has been my experience that certain institutions involved with the financing of Freeport, at least senior people employed by those institutions, viz Westpac and ANZ, and also Warburg for example, in the wake of my new found notoriety as a target of the FBI and ASIO, had aligned with the intelligence agencies and interfered with my career in obvious collusion. Penetrating financial institutions, indeed any organisation, is an easy ask of the intelligence agencies which have the power to covertly recruit any employee at any level within any organisation without disclosure.
My experience with ANZ and Westpac, as well as other banks, serves as a reminder, and another example, of the close link between bank employees and intelligence agencies and the manner in which they work collusively with each other.
Other mining companies (notably BHP and Rio Tinto), that have operated in reasonably similar, remote conditions in PNG with Melanesian tribal people, across the border from the Grasberg mine in West Papua, seem on the surface to be dealing with very similar issues of alleged human rights abuses and environmental degradation.
Indeed, international mining major Rio Tinto is accused of helping the government forces (as is Freeport McMoran in West Papua, Indonesia) during the Bougainville war by lending the military trucks, accommodation, secretarial services, communications equipment and other material support, and has been named in a US class action law suit for complicity in atrocities and war crimes. The allegations are denied by Rio. At the time of writing in 2013, the court action was ongoing.
At Ok Tedi gold and copper mine (also across the border in PNG, formerly owned by BHP up till 2002) the traditional communities were successful in prosecuting the company for environmental damage resulting from discharge of tailings into the local river system damaging the Ok Tedi and Fly Rivers and affecting 50,000 people who live downstream. After years of BHP denying the environmental impact, in 1999 Paul Anderson, CEO of BHP, stated that the project was “not compatible with our environmental values”. Environmental reports indicated toxic chemicals associated with the tailings poisoned the river system, killing fish, and entered the food chain, with negative consequences for the indigenous communities that depended on the river for their livelihood. Flooding caused by the deposition of tailings in the river destroyed the indigenous people’s agricultural plots where they grew saro, bananas and sago palm, key food sources for their communities. In 1996 after a tenacious court case, BHP was required to pay US$150 million dollars compensation and spend another US$350 million to US$450 million dollars on remediation of the Fly River.
In 2013, PNG reneged on BHP’s previous immunity for environmental damage at Ok Tedi opening up the prospect of renewed prosecution. Prime Minister O’Neill said “BP accepted responsibility for [the] disaster…Why not BHP?” referring to the British firm BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the US’s Gulf of Mexico where environmental damages have resulted in massive financial penalties. If Melanesian, independent state PNG holds Ok Tedi and other mining companies accountable for environmental damages, and the US holds BP and other companies accountable for environmental damages, one can only assume the annexed territory of West Papua, if independent, would hold mining companies responsible for environmental damages with the possibility of a large liability for Freeport. 
Unlike PNG, the large military presence in West Papua leaves no doubts about who holds the power. Under Suharto, Freeport and its mining interests in West Papua were recognised as national assets, and emblematic of the notion of militarised mining, the area around the mine became the most heavily militarised and arguably one of the most abused regions in Indonesia. The military was everywhere and permeated all facets of society including the bureaucracy, media and judiciary in West Papua, as with Indonesia more broadly.
Grasberg could potentially be subject to the same kind of social and environmental accountability as Bougainville and Ok Tedi if not for the heightened Indonesian military presence and politically captive judiciary.
The Indonesian government, Freeport and the US government are taking no chances in West Papua with the heavy militarization of the mine site in significant part paid for by Freeport, plus Freeport provides logistical support to the Indonesian military; and in the US, Freeport’s extensive, high level political connections protect it in the US, including a flanking strategy provided by the FBI to silence US commentators that might otherwise raise the unwelcome public profile of the matter in the US.
The 21st century started with the event now simply known as “9/11”, the first act of external terrorism on American soil since Pearl Harbour. It has made the West a more intolerant and, arguably, less free place than it was a quarter century ago when it stared down the nuclear threat of the Cold War. However, 9/11 has merely acted as a catalyst to a seismic change in America already underway since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 ushered in the end of the Soviet empire and the Cold War in 1991.
The politically astute, though flawed and morally tainted accused war criminal Henry Kissinger said at this time the greatest threat to world peace is now American unilateralism. Indeed, the US and its NATO allies have relentlessly advanced on the borders of energy rich Russia, tensions now escalating to crisis point in Ukraine, as Western interests encroach on former soviet territory placing missile bases and other military provocations, contrary to agreement. The Middle East has also borne the brunt US and allied aggression, the centrepiece of which was an illegal war to secure strategic, low cost oil interests in Iraq and help ward off the growth of Chinese influence in the region. Since the end of the Cold War, the US seems to have abandoned even the pretence of caring about the hearts and minds of the people of the world, including the mass of its own citizens.
If the Soviet Union and its call for a global revolution of the proletariat prior to 1991 represented the greatest threat to US status – as the preeminent economic, military and political influence in the world in the second half of the 20th century, the rise of China in the first half of the 21st century based on the success of its high economic growth and elite state model of authoritarian capitalism poses the greatest threat to American global prestige and influence now. The central self imposed challenge of American leadership in the 21st century is how to expand economic growth, even at the cost of jettisoning long cherished freedoms of civil society that defined American culture and history for centuries, weakening or removing social and environmental protections that have inconveniently, for them, also served to impede economic growth for powerful entrenched interests.
The paradigm shift in America over the past 25 years with the erosion of human rights and civil liberties has been dramatic, key freedoms lost in the service of extreme economic rationalism. Political scapegoats, Al Qaeda and ISIS stand falsely accused as the reason for these losses though in reality they represent relatively modest threats to US and Western interests and national security. Threats posed by foreign terrorists to establishment interests has been an issue numerous times in the past century and Western powers prevailed without sacrificing formerly cherished freedoms. There are numerous examples of vanquished threats, including the Red Brigades in Italy, ETA – the Basque separatists in Spain, the IRA in England, the Red Army faction; Baader Meinhof in Germany, and the Nazis and Soviets. In each case, key rights were staunchly defended and protected. The deeper reason for the official withdrawal of our rights and liberties today therefore lies elsewhere and not with claims of an inevitable national security response to a foreign terrorist threat – a dishonest propaganda ploy from the pages of Orwellian leaders. At the very least, ramped up personal intrusions should be accompanied by the strongest possible oversight. But they aren’t. In fact oversight is being increasingly sidelined, which reinforces the notion that the real purpose of undermining the freedom of the masses is the accretion of power.
Today’s real enemies to “homeland security” appear to be those who resist giving up their freedoms and rights to further the nation’s economic growth. Those who would have once been considered true blue American patriots are now the enemies who stand in the way of economic outcomes – higher GDP; who stand in the way of the US aspiration of closing the gap with economic juggernauts, in particular China. The social and environmental protections legislated or regulated in federal, state and local government and variously bureaucratised in taxes, transfer payments and red- and green-tape are to varying extents being dispensed with. These social and environmental protections are now considered impediments to higher economic growth in America, Australia and other Anglo Bloc countries. They are perceived as standing in the way of economic victory over China, necessarily to be dispensed with in pursuit of a futile hope that these sacrifices will prevent the relative outperformance and ascendancy of China over the West.
The State well understands that by clawing back freedoms a significant human and environmental toll will be extracted that strikes at the heart of our communities – and which will be met with resistance. To mitigate the coming pushback a two throng strategy is place: deflection and fortification.
The deflection response is classic Orwellian – to incite fear in the public about the threat posed by a distant foreign enemy – in this case Middle Eastern military groups to focus people’s anger, frustration and disappointments away from events at home. The fortification aspect involves the expenditure of vast sums of money on the militarization of the country’s police with weapons and training provided by the Pentagon to confront head on any resulting unrest. If the Occupy Wall Street Movement was the initial peaceful wave of protestor pushback against this transition to less freedom, the government appears to be expecting the main social and political upheaval is yet to come.
The militarization of the police is an alarming indication of the force the government has built at home. The US has reportedly provided over US$5bn in military grade weapons and training, much of it coming via the Pentagon, to domestic police units across the country. We have seen alarming scenes of militarized police action from one skirmish to the next across the US. The most recent dramatic images have come from Ferguson, Missouri where protestors took to the streets following the police killing of a black youth. Police and SWAT teams flooded the streets; eerie night time photos showed lasers beams and search lights piercing a fog of tear gas to depict a chaotic scene of police and protestors clashing. Widely aired footage shows heavily armed officers wearing body armour and helmets, camouflage fatigues, powerful assault rifles, armoured personal carriers, and the liberal use of tear gas clashing with protestors to give a sense of overwhelming force. Individuals’ houses are raided in similar style in the middle of the night – often innocent people are affected – on the pretext of looking for drugs or concern about some terrorist threat. Some local police units have even been armed with grenade launchers.
At the time of writing the media and TV news are dedicating their formats to updates about the Islamic State (IS) gaining purchase in Iraq, Syria and even Iran and political commentators make ominous warnings while all but ignoring the legislative assault and police crackdown at home.
While the publics’ attention is directed to the Middle East, to ISIS and Al Qaeda, it is the Far East, China, that has Washington’s spies fixated. In the meantime, shocking and disturbing new security legislation is passing in the legislatures of major Anglo Bloc democracies removing citizens’ rights to privacy, legal due process and weakening media powers and freedom of speech. Harsh jail terms have been imposed for what were formerly minor infractions. Whistleblowing, for example, previously viewed as a necessary activity to government accountability in support of a vibrant civil society and democracy now in Australia carries a prison term of up to 10 years and the public interest defence removed. The question is quickly becoming what price is America and its Western allies now prepared to extract on society to bring about a transformation in values at home?
“Give the people the facts and the Republic will be saved.” (Abraham Lincoln).
How could all the issues raised in this expose occur right under our very noses, in the America we like to think of as having the wholesome values defined by the Founding Fathers – truth, freedom, and justice? The US government and FBI can get away with the sort of abuses described here because the US is no longer a representative democracy in the sense it once was.
In recent decades, there has been a creeping, quiet revolution in America that has undermined civil liberties and the independence of democratic institutions. The public is only just beginning to get a taste of what the US has become – something I have been experiencing now for 17 years – since 1996.
In 2013, after Ed Snowden leaked details of the NSA‘s extensive domestic and foreign surveillance programs and exposed the lying of self serving NSA Director James Clapper to congress, former US President Jimmy Carter commented:
“America has no functioning democracy at this moment.”
Around the same time that Carter commented on the NSA leaks another former US President, Bill Clinton stated:
“I think we should be on guard for abuses…by our government. You can destroy freedom with false claims that you have to do it to make everybody secure, but usually when somebody’s doing it, they don’t give a rip about security, they’re just trying to get more power.”
“And so the key here is accountability, transparency and protection….”
Former conservative Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser expressed similar, though more specific concerns that Australia was on the cusp of becoming a police state after parliament passed a raft of new ultra-pro ASIO legislation and the Australian Human Rights Commission undertook an inquiry into children in detention with findings understood to be highly critical of the Australian government.
The SMH (and The Age) published an article by Malcolm Fraser in 2015 in which he said this about the Australian government:
The government has also further extended the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s [ASIO] powers curtailing basic rights and freedoms Australians have too easily taken for granted. It is consistent with the government’s clear wish to place its actions outside the rule of law.
These actions make the Australian Human Rights Commission even more important to safeguard remaining freedoms and to prevent a full introduction of a police state. Even so, the powers available to the government and to security authorities in Australia would rest more comfortably with old fashioned tyrannies from Europe than with any democracy in the 21st century.
Fraser was writing against a background of new legislation passed in 2014 by parliament that makes it illegal to disclose the identity of any ASIO agent and details of their special operations (for unauthorised disclosures by insiders); illegal for the media to write and publish the details of any such disclosures, even when it is in the public interest to do so. Violations are punishable by up to 10 years’ in jail. On the flip side, the new legislation permits ASIO agents to break the law with impunity without threat of prosecution, no matter how corrupt their purpose or egregious the offence, with a few notable exclusions, viz, murder, torture and sexual assault. Physical and mental assault, theft, illegal detention, tampering with candidates and the electoral process – all blocked from public scrutiny and agents granted legal amnesty in advance from personal responsibility. Already, in Australia, there is a public sense of injustice and impotence to act against the government and its agencies in the face of child detentions, indefinite detention of asylum seekers, high indigenous death tolls in prisons, and the treatment of high profile dissidents.
The intelligence agencies have been eating away at our democracy and constitution for many decades. Their corrosive impact has reached the point that they are now the country’s unchallenged power base – the American culture carriers – at home and abroad. But their aggression and reckless mistreatment of others has delivered America an economic, social and foreign policy mess that it now finds difficult to extricate itself from.
The intelligence agencies in the West, like their kin in parts of the world with more notorious reputations, use their powers “strategically” – for institutional advancement or to embellish individual career paths, but not necessarily to protect and advance American (and Western) values – values we still like to think of as truth, justice, and human rights. These values have now been surrendered to political expediency, replaced with the realpolitik sophistry of the wealthy and political elite. As MIT professor Noam Chomsky said:
“The governments seek to extend power and domination and to benefit their primary domestic constituencies – in the U.S., primarily the corporate sector…We see that all the time.” (Chomsky, 2013) 
The increased power of intelligence agencies has diminished the political relevance of public opinion. In this new system, human rights of the governed are far more readily ignored and abused.
Who is ultimately calling the shots in our democracy now? The security forces have way overstepped the mark targeting the judiciary, media, legislators, and anyone in a position to influence public opinion from folk singers and actors, to poets, scientists and bankers; and now with new technology, they have gone after the masses. The methods of the FBI and ASIO, as well as other Western security forces, are driven by ideological factors and are extrajudicial.
Where the Constitution or national legislation precludes invasive wiretaps and data harvesting, by whichever country whether it be Australia, America or any other allied country, it is simply outsourced out of the jurisdiction out of the oversight agencies and courts:
“…if the capability continues to exist to watch the rest of the world, how can Americans be sure that the NSA et al won’t stealthily go back to watching them once the scandal has died down – or just ask their best buddies in GCHQ to do their dirty work for them?
I’m sure that the UK’s GCHQ will be happy to step into the breach. It is already partially funded by the NSA, to the tune of $100 million over the last few years; it has a long history of circumventing US constitutional rights to spy on US citizens (as foreigners), and then simply passing on this information to the grateful NSA….In fact, this is positively seen to be a selling point to the Americans from what we have seen in the Snowden disclosures.”
An excellent blog from journalist and author Naomi Wolf on the new shadowy security state we now inhabit in America (June 2013, typos corrected) (click):
“There is not ‘reality’ and ‘spy novels’ any more, with no interpenetration. On the contrary — the surveillance/security world and ‘the real world’ are being more closely knit all the time….”
“The security state and its apparatus is a now a massive part of our economy; billions and billions of dollars…the hiring of vast numbers of people whose job is to do what they do while not appearing to do what they do, in terms of surveillance and other forms of domestic scrutiny of dissent…”
“….ordinary life in America is now at times subjected to the same kinds of targeting, surveillance and harassment by operatives that used to be confined to our ‘enemies’ overseas.”
It is as if a silent, bloodless coup d’etat over the past decades has taken the America of our Founding Fathers and handed it to a small, secretive group of intelligence agency leaders that have transformed the country from a democracy into a highly controlled security state. They have manipulated the legislature, ushering in new restrictive laws, one by one, stripping Americans of their freedoms and Constitutional rights. New powers have been demanded and received with increased secrecy around everything they do, including even the laws they act under. They have escalated infiltration of civil society; used new intrusive surveillance technologies; recruited and placed operatives in key institutional positions – corporate, NGO and government, including oversight. With great care and secrecy they have established a new version of the American dream – a vision now imbued with extensive inequality, unexplained “truths”, and military and social injustices.
US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) in 2012 stated that “[w]e are seeing our country move toward an oligarchic government.” And another senator referred to the US as practicing a new form of fascism. Indeed, Hillary Clinton, while a Senator from NY, observed a “vast right wing conspiracy” in the US, commenting on the inexorable force pushing the country to the political right. There is a massive disconnect between public opinion and government policy, irrespective of which party is governing. Indeed, President Obama’s grand rhetoric and promises frequently fail to translate into action, and as Chomsky says “elections are close to meaningless”.
This new America is discussed by John Tirman, Executive Director, MIT Center for International Studies:
“So we have had now for at least a dozen years the growth of a parallel state that operates by its own rules, in secret, and in ways that would be considered unconstitutional. (I know we needn’t remind our readers of what the Fourth Amendment guarantees, but just to refresh your memories: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”) Again, what’s important here is not the mere incidence of the government violating the Constitution, but the creation, nurturing, shielding, and rapid growth of structures that institutionalize an alternative authority, set of rules, and permissible action.
Now we know: the United States of America is partially governed by a deep state, undemocratic, secret, aligned with intelligence agencies, spying on friend and foe, lawless in almost every respect.
If this doesn’t constitute a coup d’etat, it’s hard to imagine what would. People we barely know of — the director of NSA, the eleven judges on FISC, who knows who else — are running the deep state. The actual president seems just fine with everything it’s doing, or is so weak-kneed he can’t see fit to put an end to it. I’m not sure which is worse.
Oversight is completely inadequate in the US to the point that the separation of powers has all but collapsed. US intelligence agencies have gone rogue by the standards of the Constitution and of the UN universal declaration of human rights and have taken the Anglo and NATO allies with them.
In Australia, the case of former Australian MP is revealing of western intelligence agency methods: ASIO in a thinly veiled age old ploy, appeared to utilise the services of a honey trap in the setup and downfall of Ross Cameron, an elected representative, and an outspoken critic of the Howard government’s push to war in Iraq in 2003. The public exposure of this during his re-election campaign, while not officially acknowledged, bear the indelible fingerprints of ASIO and resulted in the removal of Cameron from political life as payback for his opposition: click.
My experience is that illegal and highly abusive FBI tactics are still at the heart of their political activities today. This has not changed since Hoover. If anything, FBI abuses have expanded and become more sophisticated with new technologies enabling the intelligence agencies’ unprecedented infiltration of our country, accreting power with a momentum that seems unstoppable.
The powerful vested interests that suppress the truth do so to protect themselves from the masses, who they want to keep in the dark as uninformed spectators. As Samuel Huntington, professor of political science at Harvard said: “power remains strong when it remains in the dark. Exposed to sunlight, it begins to evaporate”.
The emergence of whistleblowers and leakers in the US is a natural response from a nation of independent minded and resourceful people to an oppressive government which disrespects and ignores their rights as enshrined in their constitution.
If citizens don’t stand up for the principles of truth, justice and human rights, then we will get the society we deserve: a society that reflects the sort of people it governs – ignorant of and indifferent to the abuse of human rights, one in which the government has no respect for the governed and their lives, where military and social injustice becomes the norm. Indeed the people of this society will have no rights to speak of.
President Obama’s Secretary of Defence, Chuck Hagel, appointed at the beginning of his second term in 2013, was weary of the prior Bush administration’s hawkish reliance on the pentagon to solve America’s problems. On coming into office, Hagel described the pentagon’s budget as “bloated”. He was a Vietnam vet, and knew the evil and carnage of war. Mindful of American fatigue with war following the belligerence of the Bush administration’s pre-emptive and illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and decade plus long war in Afghanistan in 2001 he was determined to reintroduce democratic values back into American politics and foreign policy.
Hagel hoped to redefine what it meant to be a culture leader in America: not a warrior with a weapon and stated that, “…challenging, probing and questioning is what is patriotic.” American national security does not rest with violence and war, where a few intelligence officers claim they can, privately, personally, as individuals take the hard moral decisions for their country; decisions to torture, kidnap, kill, detain people in hellish secret prisons. They declare with their narcissistic superiority that they will magnanimously, personally bear the moral burden for all of us for their deplorable decisions so that we do not have to. They say they make immoral decisions knowing the ghastly ramifications it may have for innocent civilians living in other parts of the world; they kill other people’s children and families, for us they claim, and they expect a medal and various honors in return for their self defined patriotism. These individuals with their strong convictions of righteousness in their own self interest act mostly unopposed by a cowed or indifferent public where those who ask questions are deemed subversive.
Hagel’s tone is reflected by Bishop Desmond Tutu archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in helping overcome the apartheid era regime in South Africa. He is commenting on the US announcement that the targeted drone killings of US citizens believed to be terrorists would be overseen by a special review US court, but that the killing of foreign nationals would go unchecked. Two standards – one for Americans, one for everyone else:
“I am deeply, deeply disturbed at the suggestion in “A Court to Vet Kill Lists” (news analysis, front page, Feb. 9) that possible judicial review of President Obama’s decisions to approve the targeted killing of suspected terrorists might be limited to the killings of American citizens.
Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.
I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.” (New York Times, 12 February 2013, Letters to the Editor)
Let us see if the CIA, FBI and other hawkish American intelligence institutions agree with Hagel’s preferred definition of what it is to be a patriot, and that, with this new way of thinking, they relax the grip they hold on the American media, justice system and civil society. Let’s see if he can uphold this position. It will indeed be interesting to see what kind a defence secretary Hagel turns out to be! [Afterword: Hagel’s tenure was short lived. He left office less than two years’ later in November 2014 over “differences of opinion” with the entrenched powers.]
As one of America’s Founding Fathers’ Benjamin Franklin said:
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
My various efforts to have the agencies held to account have failed. Attempts to do so in the US include:
- Letters to the FBI’s and DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General – the offices responsible for FBI oversight. My allegations and complaints have been rebuffed with deceitful and disingenuous responses.
- I have approached my New York federal elected representatives Senator Schumer and Congressman Nadler – but on both fronts I have been stonewalled. Any effort made by my representatives to engage the agencies on my behalf was rebuffed, again with deceitful and disingenuous responses from the agencies, and subsequently my matter was then dropped by my elected representative. Nadler’s correspondence email log.
- My representations to the two Judiciary Committees have been rebuffed. In the case of the House Judiciary Committee, preliminary interview records and case files in relation to my allegations and complaint have disappeared. It appears that the FBI has insiders positioned within the oversight agencies to circumvent the complaints process and undermine accountability (click).
Oversight of the FBI’s activities in the US is a rigged game, fixed, like a crooked sports match by an inside cabal. Likewise with ASIO in Australia: IGIS refuses to investigate claims.
Tellingly, oversight bodies refuse to effect recommendations of various independent commissions and enquiries that called for the establishment of a mandatory Royal Commission into the intelligence agencies every 5 to 8 years with broad terms of reference to look thoroughly and properly into their operations. Unfortunately, the various oversight bodies protect what they consider to be their exclusive area of influence; they hold steadfast against the standing involvement of an independent judiciary, even where such involvement would clearly be in the public interest. They know what the masses suspect the secret truth is, that the intelligence agencies’ methods and processes cannot be justified and do not stack up under scrutiny.
The world has clearly seen with Iraq and elsewhere the impact of the “dodgy dossiers” prepared by intelligence agencies that salt their causes with independent experts’ opinions. Reports are conflicted, inappropriately influenced by the intelligence agencies in an undisclosed relationship involving payment or some other undisclosed benefit to their “independent” experts. Their agents and captive “independent” experts construct their reports from fabricated derivative material, hearsay, and use sleight of hand insinuation, inference and innuendo to intentionally induce readers to draw incorrect conclusions favourable to the agency’s agenda. They present unsubstantiated, distorted material that excludes retractions, corrections or contrary evidence to achieve some intended result to isolate, humiliate, attack and weaken their target. Like a fragile house of cards, their dossiers are constructed on the mutual understanding with oversight bodies that they will never be subject to independent scrutiny that would expose just how dodgy some of their dossiers can be.
The oversight agencies (in the US and Australia) are a public deception. They blatantly deceive and shamelessly lie, protected from higher standards expected by the public by a cloak of secrecy that shrouds their self defined “national security” activities. Statutory authorities and their “team” bound bureaucrats are neither sufficiently independent nor culturally free to act impartially. Furthermore, the intelligence agencies are able to recruit, or place their operatives, within the various oversight institutions undermining their independence and efficacy.
As reported in The Guardian, the British newspaper that in June 2013 broke the NSA surveillance scandal:
“The [US] congressional committees charged with oversight of the intelligence community have long been captive to, and protective of, the intelligence agencies,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight.
“Many of the congressional staff, in fact, come from those agencies. This latest revelation demonstrates the harm caused by that conflict of interest. When the congressional oversight committee is more loyal to the agency it oversees than to the legislative chamber its members were elected to serve in, the public’s interest is seriously compromised.” (The Guardian, Intelligence committee urged to explain if they withheld crucial NSA document, Spencer Ackerman, 15 August 2013).
The only partial political win I have had is when my Sydney MP (Tanya Plibersek) raised the matter in 2007 in the Australian Parliament HANSARD transcript. However, there was no official response from the ASIO to parliament. It seems the only response was from the mainstream media which ran a series of personal attacks shortly after this, seen in the headlines below, about her husband’s career in state public administration. In a signature style ASIO attack, the articles had her name clearly associated with them and large, prominent photographs of the two of them together (The Daily Telegraph 14 April 2007 (Saturday Interview, Roger Coombs, p78); 15 April 2007 (Politics; “I didn’t think I would survive being in jail”, Linda Silmalis, p3); and The Sun Herald 15 April 2007 (New education boss doesn’t have the expertise, Brian Chudleigh, p31). It is not clear at what level collaboration with the agency occurred: journalist, editor, publisher, or elsewhere.
However, it was a rebuke with ASIO’s claw mark’s all over it; plausibly deniable by ASIO, but clearly a dig at her, bringing an unrelated, and potentially sensitive element of her private life into the public domain. The timing and substance of the articles just over two weeks after she had raised my case in parliament cannot be irrefutably proven as payback for breaking silence on ASIO abuses. But viewed with other such instances, it fits a chilling pattern of ASIO’s unfettered access to the media to plant stories and control, contain and reward people.
My Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon also raised the matter in 2012, this time in Senate Questions on Notice (SQON) directed to the Australian Prime Minister and the Attorney General but which produced the typical blow-off answers (here and here). At least one of Senator Rhiannon’s staffers I dealt with is an ASIO operative. I sent a letter to the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) in protest (shown below, names of alleged ASIO agents redacted). An earlier letter I sent to the PJCIS apparently, according to feedback, raised heads but resulted in no action: Letter to PJCIS.
Many of the breaking stories disclosing government misconduct have come from whistleblowers. Viable, alternative channels of disclosure do not exist for whistleblowers; it is a false notion; repeated government assurances to the contrary are not credible. Indeed, official channels for complaint have trapped would be whistleblowers naive enough to believe the government’s safe harbour protections.
The backlash against whistleblowers who find a public outlet reflects the threat they pose to the defective oversight bodies that can now be seen for what they are, those who have stood in the way of justice to advance their relationships and their careers within government, preventing truthful disclosures in the public interest. Ed Snowden’s father said after visiting his son in Moscow that there had been a vicious effort to demonise him by the people he most put at risk, not just the cowboys in the intelligence agencies but the politicians in the oversight committees: “He is someone who shared the truth; he has enraged many politicians. Not only has he enraged them, he has put their political careers at risk, as they should be. People who were in positions of responsibility, of oversight.”
I can personally attest to the weakness and duplicity of the oversight regimes, including the various departments’ Inspectors General (IG). I have experienced push back and retaliation from the very agencies oversighted where they ratcheted up their harassment following disclosures and complaints I have made through official channels.
The oversight bodies are paper tigers:
“After the infamous New York Times article that revealed NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of Americans, the Justice Department launched an investigation—not of the U.S.’s vast lawbreaking, but for those who exposed the secret surveillance. That multi-million dollar investigation spanned five years, required five full-time prosecutors and 25 FBI agents.”
The IG that had promised them protection and confidentiality sold them out to the Justice Department, and Congress failed to protect its witness…. This was just one element of ruinous retaliation that went on for years and in some respects has not yet ended. Reprisals included getting fired, having security clearances pulled, armed raids on their homes, shattered relationships with friends and family, and depletion of retirement accounts and second mortgages to pay attorneys’ fees.” [click]
The Guardian describes the shocking implication of the oversight committees’ lack of efficacy as revealed by the NSA disclosures. Most disturbing, committee members, echoing their counterparts in the U.S., admitted that there are important issues they didn’t have a clue about what the intelligence agencies were actually up to:
“In our system, parliament is meant to be sovereign. Yet here, in GCHQ [depending on your country substitute NSA, FBI, ASIO], is a state agency operating apparently beyond the reach of parliament, extending its remit without the permission or even the knowledge of MPs. Of all the revelations of the last few months, among the most shocking was Chris Huhne’s admission that he had had no idea what GCHQ was up to – even though he was a cabinet minister with a seat on the national security council. MPs need to put aside the issue of the Guardian, which merely switched on a light in a darkened room, and realise that all this is an affront to parliament.”
Not only do these agencies act illegally and without accountability, they do so wilfully, in a highly organised way and with utter contempt for the law and disregard of individual freedoms. In response to revelations of the egregious, illegal spying programs developed by the NSA in the USA and its allies (including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and Anthony Romero Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union in a joint statement said:
“The Guardian’s publication of information from Edward Snowden has uncovered a breach of trust by the US and UK Governments on the grandest scale. The newspaper’s principled and selective revelations demonstrate our rulers’ contempt for personal rights, freedoms and the rule of law.”
Why aren’t national governments acting to protect their citizens from the menacing antics of a police state; why aren’t they establishing the judicial enquiries they are empowered to and prosecuting wayward officials? Aside from the hold the domestic agencies already have over the homefront’s key institutions of accountability – the media, to some extent the legislators and a swathe of mid tier lawyers, the international agencies as a network, and in particular the powerful capabilities of the US and UK, are an effective bargaining chip that keeps any desire by our government to hold the spy agencies accountable in check.
The Australian government has developed a dependency on global intelligence, especially that originating from US and UK technical capabilities, but also from the network as a whole, and it is not prepared to act unilaterally to ensure domestic agencies act within the law. Australia receives illegal data from that network and provides illegal data in return. Domestic intelligence agencies have become a proxy representing global interests and our government is no more prepared to hold them to account than it is to directly hold the US and UK governments to account. Our representatives have sold out the public interest in individual justice and human rights in exchange for entry to the American led intelligence “Club”. This leaves individuals caught in the sites of intelligence agencies in countries that are part of thet “Club” stranded without recourse to legal or political solutions.
Individuals that have somehow gone down the rabbit hole, for whatever reason, find themselves trapped, their only hope of an exit – that is justice and protection – is at the discretion of the “Responsible Minister”. Discretion means the “Responsible Minister” decides the outcome of individual matters in a process that is internal to their mind only, and outside the bounds of external due process and review. Their decisions are not beholden to any form of due process and visibility. They are free of accountability. The outcome is the “Responsible Minister’s” choice; the decision is absolute; beyond challenge. The “Responsible Minister’s” decisions can be imparted bearing the marks of partialness, favour, with extreme prejudice and bias, to the benefit of the politically connected and the powerful; and exclude those who are not. Ross Cameron is freed; Pauline Hanson is not; Julian Assange is not. But who sees how this justice done, or if it is not? Not the public. The majority, those innocents caught up in the vast web, entangled web of intelligence agency goals suffer the consequences of this degraded system. Political dissidents. Asylum seekers. Anyone in the agencies sights – caught and held at the pleasure of the “Responsible Minister”. No matter the reason.
As an example of international pushback on sovereign efforts to hold domestic intelligence agencies accountable, the US and UK governments were so alarmed in February 2015 they threatened to stop sharing information with their German counterparts after the German government launched a parliamentary enquiry into Germany’s federal spy agency the BND.
The US in response has threatened Germany that it would be cut off from the Anglo bloc intelligence network if it gets in the way of its goals. That is, if Germany attempts to hold to account its own intelligence agencies, as it is attempting to do, which indirectly involves the uncovering and review of international networks and capabilities, its place in the global intelligence alliance would be cut-off. Germany has been clearly warned that if it proceeds to hold the US and UK intelligence agencies to account, even indirectly, it will “put a grave and permanent strain” on relations between their countries.
German’s have learnt from their dark past that the threat posed by powerful, invasive secret police agencies is real and present. But the many nations that lack this recent history have responded far more passively to the obvious threats posed by the NSA spying scandal. The unsettling details of the extensive surveillance of public and officials revealed by American NSA officials have largely been ignored by complacent and naive governments and publics around the world. Those nations that have seen how dangerous out of control spy agencies can be for their own people, countries like Germany and Brazil with a dark history, have pushed back hardest.
However, it is clear that Germany, even with its tragic history of police state abuses and its powerful modern day influence that stems from its economic might, struggles against US and UK pressure in choosing how and when to hold its internal spy agencies to account. What hope is there that the individual citizens or electorates in Australia, NZ and Canada, or for that matter the US and UK, can rely on their national governments to offer any meaningful resistance to and protections against this threat. Indeed, what is becoming clear is that national sovereignty and domestic laws are meaningless in the face of this emerging powerful nexus of global intelligence agencies.
The leaders of our intelligence agencies first deny they act with barbarity and treachery at home and abroad, then when public denials no longer work because irrefutable evidence of their activities has been disclosed by whistleblowers, they implore us to trust them, assuring us that their crimes are necessary and derive from their paternalistic love for each of us. They lead us to believe their motivation is always altruistic, informed by the common interest of the nation, the Utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. But even accepting this rhetoric reveals their true motivation, which is doubtful, given their conflicted, personal yearning and competition for job security and advancement within the system. They tell us with a heavy heart that they have no choice but to sacrifice the rights of every individual citizen (except those they themselves personally depend on for their career advancement and personal income security).
In prioritising the state, or common good, ahead of protecting individual rights, the agencies cement the means of their control over us while unleashing a tyrannical menace: once a system debases individual rights and justifies abuse and sacrifice of individuals in the name of the whole, individuals are rendered superfluous, each readily replaceable by the next, because any human will do that fulfils a particular function in the system. Each person is seen as part of a standing resource – a human resource – redundant and disposable as individuals – nothing sacred, nothing to be cherished. The state runs amok, its leaders insulated from, and its technocrats oblivious to, the plight of the mass of the populous.
The public’s vulnerability to wayward intelligence agencies is not some abstract threat, but imminent and real. The former chief justice of the Family Court in Australia, Alastair Nicholson affirmed the vulnerability and concern this way in an article about the shame of the “Australia way”. He was speaking directly about the travesty of “border protection” through indefinite detention and abuse of refugees who came to Australia as “boat people” seeking asylum. He warned that a system that permits the egregious abuse of detaining men, women and children indefinitely in isolated prison camps is a totalitarian danger beyond the reach of law “lying in the path of us all”:
“How did we get ourselves into this state? Australia is rapidly becoming an international pariah, riding roughshod over solemn treaty obligations into which it has entered like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Refugee Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
…we are all extremely vulnerable to the abuse of power by our governments which have and are engaging in such abuse but directing it to a small and unpopular minority of non-citizens that they are able to demonise.
Let there be no mistake however that legally, there is little to stop our government treating us in this way as well. The current behaviour by successive governments to asylum seekers should be a salutary lesson of the dangers lying in the path of us all.”
In a system that permits these egregious abuses, and which ASIO oversees, there is not a single person that is safe from its reach, no one has protection if ASIO turns its sights to a new target. We naively think each of us is safe from secret police abuses in Australia for example, or the UK or the US because we don’t have a history of such abuse against common citizens. People think that living in a first world democracy they are somehow guaranteed due process, freedom and justice. Just look to the well known example of Germany: it too was a country that once had no history of gross secret police abuses. Prior to the great stress that country went through in the 1920s and 1930s the public was naive, blissfully ignorant of the threat they lived under. When they were swept up in the violence and injustice that followed there was no easy way out.
It seems that in good times democracy can endure constraints on freedom. However, in times of great stress, history has shown people and societies do terrible things to each other if democratic protections do not exist. The triggers to such breaking points can be many – including, for example, major biological events, a severe financial crash or a major war.
Anglo bloc citizens, Australians included, could all find themselves marooned from rights to due process, treated like refugees in their own country. Our supposed safeguards against secret police incursions are already weak and broken; most people don’t see it because we are currently living in good times, but when and if stressful times arrive, it will be too late to do anything about it: the morning after Kristallnacht is not an opportunity for populist reform. The time to fix the threat from our agencies is now.
I can confirm form direct personal experience that seeking accountability through official channels has been a frustrating and so far a waste of time. The sole potential domain for justice, if there is any at all in such matters in holding US (and Australian) intelligence agencies to account, appears to be the courts. As yet, this is not an avenue I’ve tested, though some of my lawyers in Australia have been interfered with by ASIO leading me to have early doubts about the judicial system’s integrity. If the judiciary is corruptible, if judges sign warrants without carefully reviewing their content for example, then the separation of powers has been breached and public safeguards all but fully dissolved.
Domestic spying is also making a mockery of the separation of powers – enabling unchecked power to be concentrated in the hands of the few – the antithesis of democracy.
Insiders try to justify spying by claiming there is adequate oversight and regulation by other branches of government, but as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Elsberg notes in the Why Care About NSA Spying video current oversight is grossly inadequate:
“How can that oversight be meaningful if the NSA’s huge storehouse of information contains the private…habits of every senator, representative, and judge? When the only protection against abuse is internal policies, there is no serious oversight. Congress needs to take action now to rein in the spying.”
In 2014, the CIA was caught spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee which oversights it, breaking into its internal computer system and removing files. The Committee at the time was preparing a secret report on the CIA’s controversial and illegal use of torture. No one in the CIA was punished, no one went to jail – indeed the scandal was dead and buried without ever receiving the media attention it deserved. The Committee and even the President of the US refused to investigate these brazen alleged abuses of the CIA.
The intelligence agency apparatus is closed, circular and self-referencing. The complex marks its own homework and anyone, such as myself, that has tested the effectiveness of the oversight safety net, knows that the official oversight mechanisms do not work. As a result, unauthorised disclosure is the only safety valve outlet that seems to partially function in this democracy, and accordingly, there has been a spate of damaging revelations about the government and agencies leaked in recent years. Disturbingly, even these seem to have had little or no impact, no enforcement action against those whose crimes were revealed, and no new policy commitments from legislators to stem the abuse. The deafening silence and apathy to oppose this disturbing trend is profound.
There is a value to having intelligence agencies – there are legitimate needs for certain of their capabilities, 9/11 makes that clear; but their long term value only accrues to the public good if there is effective, independent oversight. This oversight must be able to separate legitimate uses of state secrecy from abuses and be prepared and able to hold the officials that transgress, such as Clapper, accountable.
Secrecy claims, however, are being widely used for political ends, to hide the techniques and methods the agencies use and whom they target. The general population has little clue about the agencies’ techniques, methods and extent in the war of propaganda and control at home; no clue about how heroes and villains are created and rewarded or punished. With these techniques the agencies strive to influence work place culture, public policy and society at large to reflect their interests – those of the oligarchs – the wealthy and politically connected. Often, this may be to the detriment of weaker, though far more numerous, members of broader society.
The path to the Iraq War in 2003 showed in disturbing, slow motion detail how the US and allied governments and their agencies used dodgy dossiers to devastating effect; in this case to conjure non-existent weapons of mass destruction as a justification for going to war. The world saw the manipulation and impact of the “dodgy dossier” scam where the intelligence agencies had misrepresented or pressured independent experts to include allusion to weapons of mass destruction which were later shown to be a nonexistent threat.
Disturbingly, western intelligence agencies manufacture dodgy dossiers to create propaganda that justifies their own legitimacy, which often does otherwise not exist, to justify nefarious activities – from smearing their targets to justification for illegal war.
This is how former intelligence officers, Lance Collins and Warren Reed, described the use of dodgy dossiers – “bulletins”:
“These bulletins can simply tell the story as ‘things’ rather than ‘facts’ become known. But this sort of narrative is highly susceptible to individual preconceived notions, organisational bias and hostile-force deception measures – when ‘misleading evidence’, or bait, is deliberately trickle-fed to…[readers], who are then lured along an intellectual false trail”
Intelligence agencies also use this tactic against regular citizens. Just as the motive above was to win public support for a war that would destroy the leadership of Iraq, the FBI and ASIO play to destroy domestic political targets at home. Instead of a military war, they wage their battle against their political targets through available civilian channels such as prison, or psychiatric and physical injury, suicide, or by marginalising them using the most expedient means available, including the doctoring and distribution of dodgy dossiers.
Directed at individuals on a personal level, conniving schemes incorporate misinformation into reports prepared by experts – a weapons inspector, a forensic physician, a psychiatrist, chemist, or any relevant authority – a secondary theme, misplaced emphasis, innuendo or commentary about unrelated matters. It’s an alternative story within a story, incorporating other people, themes and topics. The author engages in a deceptive ploy, a feint that makes it look like a minor, unintentional and incidental fact and therefore that it is not concocted with an eye to manipulating the reader – like a boxer feinting with a forward jab while the knockout punch comes from a blind spot, takes the target by surprise to get the result intended. Subtle secondary themes woven into the fabric of a report through abstract, generalised statements from experts, industry wisdoms espoused with great authority entangled with speculation about the target. A secondary, subtle theme emerges, planted to make it look unintentional, and subtly diverts attention.
An intricately constructed hatchet job built on deliberately crafted fiction and misconstrued facts with the sole intention being to mislead readers and to cause personal embarrassment and discomfort to the target. The document is placed as part of a permanent record, on file indefinitely, a part of history, in a court or other repository, a situation not lost on the agencies that deliberately put it there for that reason. It is a common ploy, one of the tactics used to undermine the target; to damage the messenger in an effort to undermine the message.
Denigrating and smearing a target with allegations of sexual abuse was a key tactic of the FBI (and other western intelligence agencies), something Susan had said was not hard to do. It merely involves finding someone from which allegations could be concocted or extended. If adult and college life threw up no opportunities for smearing, the FBI would then look very closely, investigate in detail the people a target knew around the puberty years, both prepubescent and adolescent, class mates, neighbourhood kids, any kind of association – sports, church, extracurricular, in the hope of finding something that could be magnified or exploited.
The agencies draw from derivative material they know to be tainted, because they themselves tainted it with hearsay, they quote a canned sound bite from a collaborator or present fabricated evidence and brazenly lie, on the assumption they will never be held to account, never face independent judicial scrutiny, be subject to discovery and sanction. They understand their power and the practical limits on others of constraining it. Merely their act of raising certain allegations or making insinuations can leave a lasting smear, even when retractions, corrections, clarifications or exaggerations are made. Even once a ruse is uncovered or facts corrected, toxic residue remains in some peoples’ minds. As Susan described it, in the worst case, if the target is convicted of sexual offences and goes to jail, they will be are at the bottom of the prison hierarchy and treated abysmally; in the best case, a niggling doubt will remain in some peoples’ mind. The target is damaged no matter the outcome, it is just a question of degree.
It is a widely held belief that this strategy is being used in the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who has received political asylum and is currently confined in Ecuador’s London embassy, hounded by authorities in the US, Sweden, UK and Australia over unsubstantiated, contradictory, and retracted or concocted, statements regarding encounters he had with apparently consenting women. John Pilger reports:
“One of the women’s messages makes clear that she did not want any charges brought against Assange, ‘but the police were keen on getting a hold on him’. She was ‘shocked’ when they arrested him because she only ‘wanted him to take [an HIV] test’. She ‘did not want to accuse JA of anything’ and ‘it was the police who made up the charges’. (In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been ‘railroaded by police and others around her’.)
…a war on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the ‘Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch’. It described a detailed plan to destroy the feeling of ‘trust’ which is WikiLeaks’ ‘centre of gravity’. This would be achieved with threats of ‘exposure [and] criminal prosecution’. Silencing and criminalising this rare source of independent journalism was the aim, smear the method. Hell hath no fury like great power scorned.”
Perhaps the most shameful and notorious example of the personal impacts of the “dodgy dossier” scam in recent times involved British weapons inspector and authority on biological warfare, Dr David Kelly, who disputed the “facts” in the British Joint Intelligence Committee report making the case for an invasion of Iraq in 2003. He alleged the government had transformed reports on the existence and capabilities of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, making it “sexier” for the purposes of securing a mandate to go to war. What happened next, murder or suicide, is still hotly disputed, but either way Kelly was found dead in a wood on July 17 2003. Some used the official verdict of suicide to discredit his good reputation and original claims. Even after the truth that a report had been “sexed up” by Blair’s “spin-doctor,” Alistair Campbell, the former Prime Minister still described Kelly as a “…crazy person…[who]… had probably gone over the edge” in his memoirs. The coroner’s report, which allowed the 2004 Hutton Inquiry to absolve the British government of complicity and to controversially declare that Kelly committed suicide, was put under a secrecy order for 70 years. The full truth behind the most infamous personal “dodgy dossier” of recent times will only finally be known after all the antagonists are long dead.
Ironically, former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, recently said he was “embarrassed” that the intelligence used to send Australia to war in Iraq was inaccurate, implying he was not involved in applying political pressure to doctor reports as widely alleged. Irrespective, if Howard’s confession signals that there needs to be more transparency, and not just in moments of national crisis, his successor, Tony Abbott, ensured that no Australian Prime Minister will ever be embarrassed again because such matters will now be covered under new secrecy laws that will see future Andrew Wilkie and David Kellys jailed.
Even public domain documents are brazenly altered by government agents. Inconvenient data, records and facts simply disappear from the internet and blatant fabrications inserted. It is a double edged sword; censorship and propaganda. There have been routine covert and abusive alterations made to Wikipedia profiles to alter public perceptions about individuals and events – multiple cases have been formally documented and reported in the media. Examples include this one from the Washington Post in the US:
“On August 5, a watchdog computer program that monitors the activity of the Internet addresses on Capitol Hill caught someone with an anonymous address in the US House of Representatives editing Wikipedia to smear Snowden. A Wikipedia article was edited to refer to Snowden as ‘the American traitor who defected to Russia.'”
And in the UK:
“With respect to Jean Charles de Menezes [the innocent Brazilian chased and gunned down by police in a London tube station in 2005], an official government computer was reportedly used to delete a crucial section of a Wikipedia article that criticized the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) handling of the deceased man’s case….[O]fficial government computers were also used to incorporate slanderous information into one section of his Wikipedia article. On this occasion the editor alleged the deceased had “a high level” of Class A drugs in his system. Wikipedia editors were also approached to alter the rationale followed for employing the decision to shoot the young man.”
[A spokesman for the de Menezes family said:] “Like all ordinary members of the public, I’m shocked. This is yet one more smear and attack on the family. We’ve seen over many years lies, misinformation and smears during the family’s attempt to find the truth and justice and answers about how an innocent young man on his way to work was gunned down by police officers,” he said.”
In Australia, the Wikipedia entry for former liberal MP, Ross Cameron, excludes reference to his courageous, outspoken opposition to the Iraq War, while directing primary focus to his subsequent downfall. This case relating to Ross Cameron, while not documented in the mainstream media, is further considered elsewhere in this book.
If a target can’t be nailed through misinformation they can do it through the deep penetration of undercover intelligence agents and their comprehensive networks of informants and collaborators.
The intelligence agencies in the West, like their kin in parts of the world with more notorious reputations, use their powers ‘strategically’ – for institutional advancement or to embellish individual career paths, but not necessarily to protect and advance American (and Western) values – values we still like to think of as truth, justice, and human rights. These values have been surrendered to the political expediency of realpolitik by wealthy and political oligarchs. As MIT professor Noam Chomsky said:
“The governments seek to extend power and domination and to benefit their primary domestic constituencies – in the U.S., primarily the corporate sector…We see that all the time.”
Through the deep penetration of undercover intelligence agents and their comprehensive networks of informants and collaborators, anthropologist and sociologist Eben Kirksey accounts for how the “architecture of power” is constructed using the metaphor of the Banyan tree – a strangler fig from Indonesia that chokes and kills its host. This alternative architecture of power as Kirksey describes it, sheds light on the construction and institutional growth of alternative power structures right over the top of existing structures. It is a model of political “subversion, replication, and domination” which describes the Indonesian subjugation of West Papua, as an example.
In this model, the domestic US intelligence agencies secretly links together disparate, notionally independent and unconnected institutions by recruiting high ranking and strategically positioned individuals from different institutions.
As Kirksey points out, examples of these individuals include “…journalists, professors, pastors, corporate executives, and development workers” or any individual, organisation, or institution of influence right down to folk singers and actors and poets. In the US, this network is vast, with over three million people reportedly having security clearance representing a complete cross – section of society. These secret “latticed network of connections” constructed “inside key structures of power” are invisible to outsiders and are a powerful tool of subversion. They work together in subtle ways to influence the national dialogue. In this new system, much more is achieved through hidden channels rather than the public forums of earlier times. Public opinion and political debate is blunted, human rights increasingly ignored and abuses difficult to defend against. The intelligence agencies are calling the shots in our new system of government in the name of “national security”.
The methods of the FBI and ASIO, as well as other Western security forces, are driven by ideological factors. If the public is apathetic and passive in its acceptance of the intelligence agency decision to move away from democratic values to a state controlled system of government, they only have to look at history to see how centralised governments respond in times of great social stress. Populations that want the benefits of centralised control in the good times, give up the benefits of being part of a democracy, with the protection of due process for individuals, in difficult times.
Spies have brought their tradecraft home, particularly since the end of the Cold War. Careers uprooted and caught flatfooted by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, what was once an overseas focused preoccupation is now being directed against new found “enemies” of the government and intelligence services here at home under the cover of terror legislation and they are forging strong alliances with their international partners. Jurisdiction of oversight and responsibility is blurred through internationalisation and outsourcing of their operations: We are now living in what Wikileaks refers to as the “transnational security state.”
The European scourge of the 20th century is making its way to the US in the 21st century: uncontained power of national intelligence agencies unchecked by weakened or dismantled democratic safeguards. Further to the inability to hold the agencies to account, counter threats have been made to me to desist. Threats include those of personal harm; harming my marriage or family; negative media delivered by agency aligned/paid journalists; damaging my business; and jailing for treason (in Australia) for naming government agents that have been involved in this abuse. They will use their various channels, including their imbedded journalists, to call my character into question in ways I might not even be aware of yet!
The most bizarre and sick warning of all, something conveyed through FBI sources, when Susan and I were still going out, and before I had become an FBI target myself, was the threat posed by US (and Australian) government agencies that have the power to mobilise and break up or destabilise families, fabricating reasons to remove children from their parents. This was not some absurd joke; the FBI was deadly serious. It is not a description of Soviet Russia, this is the USA today in 2013. Indeed, government agencies using Machiavellian tactics can at their discretion maliciously disrupt and split families, terrorising small children by forcibly removing them from their families as a weapon to punish their parents – traumatising all involved: read here (Children taken from medical marijuana-prescribed parents in California, RT) and here (4-year-old Texas girl taken from parents and heavily drugged by Child Protective Services, RT).
The removal of children, of all ages, down to newborns, from their families, is considered a fair tactic by the FBI, specially reserved for “dissidents” who the agency believes are deserving of such treatment. Intelligence agencies like the FBI are able to recruit anywhere, unnoticed, including within the rank and file and at senior levels in other government agencies, including child protection services. This gives them unfettered access to the community and great power to corrupt, with their activities and meddling impenetrable to the outside world. With some semi plausible cause, or hiding behind feigned bureaucratic incompetence, a family’s fate, maliciously targeted, is sealed on the grounds of an FBI construct (or ASIO in Australia). Even if the family’s separation lasts “only” for 12 months while the mess is sorted out in the courts, the parents and children are traumatised and great pain is inflicted on the children placed in foster care and new schools.
I occasionally encounter former citizens of Soviet era Eastern Europe, mostly from Poland and Hungary. When I tell them my personal story of Western intelligence agency abuse they are genuinely shocked. They fall silent and their faces freeze over momentarily as they recollect a distant time and place from their own lives when this kind of abuse was a common occurrence. Their reaction was like a patient who after a long remission had learned that their cancer had returned. After a moment their attention returned to the present and the realisation that we are in the West – and in this, the “real world”, a new, safe frontier with blue skies and shining sun. We are far removed in time and place from their memories, and we are “free” – but the chilling flashback has left its mark, the realisation that it is only a thin veil between what was and what might be.
They understand the need to be vigilant of their government. Indeed, their leading questions to me confirm their familiarity with the tactics and methods of the secret police under communist Russia: the blacklisting, the recruitment of family and friends, intrusive surveillance and interference – they know it all, nothing surprises them, they’ve lived it all before, in darker times. While it is not clear that Western intelligence agencies are targeting their citizens in the same mass volume the Soviets did, former citizens of the Soviet bloc know how hard it is to contain abusive intelligence agencies once they are out of control – and it frightens them to glimpse where things could so easily head. It seems the only thing that protects us from that fate today is some bizarre but favourable cost benefit analysis by bureaucratic economic rationalists who care nothing about human rights and individual liberty.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange seems to agree with the nature of the threat posed as revealed by the NSA leaks, saying the West is:
“getting pretty close in the practical elements” to being a totalitarian regime. “It’s a threat to U.S. democracy and to democracy more broadly in the West to have a surveillance apparatus on every single person that would have been the dream of East Germany. What type of place is Western democracy going to be? Is it going to be a place with a collapsing rule of law, with mass surveillance of entire populations?”
[ Further details:
Although this is bad news for Joe Citizen, it is good news for people in government who have always used fear to convey strength of leadership, jack up nationalism and deflect attention from awkward domestic issues. It is also good for the intelligence services keen to use any outside threat (internal/ external or otherwise) to exert ever more control over our lives, movements, opinions and thoughts.
Technology, particularly electronic communication devices, have also radically changed the human landscape during the past two decades, allowing us to access information from any source and to express our views as never before. However, our liberator may also increasingly become our oppressor as governments and the security services try to pass ever more draconian legislation to access and store our personal metadata and its content. Our zest for sharing our every thought via electronic communications makes surveillance, once a slow, hit or miss, labour-intensive business, much easier and vastly increases their ability to monitor the thoughts and content of all citizens, not just those under surveillance. In Australia, where I am now based, these factors are fuelling that creeping sense of Orwellian totalitarianism.
A rallying cry to join “Team Australia,” a singular national identity with uncomfortable overtones of Hitler’s “One Reich, one folk, one leader,” a proposal for telcos to retain personal metadata for two years and the reversal of the onus of proof that would require young men of Middle Eastern origin returning from overseas to prove that they had not engaged in terrorist activity were all fielded during the course of August 2014 alone. That all three were shouted down and rightly labelled “undemocratic” should bring cheer to us all, but the fact they were canvassed by an elected Federal government, not some shadowy, fundamentalist right-wing group, should not.
However, the creep continued during September in the wake of the “Islamic State crisis.” Following a series of “secret” police terror raids, at which the media were oddly present, the government pushed through new national security laws giving what the Sydney Morning Herald described as “…unprecedented powers to Australia’s spy agencies.”
They enable ASIO to access an unlimited number of computers with a single warrant, effectively allowing them to monitor the whole internet, and journalists or bloggers disclosing details of anything ASIO declares a “special intelligence operation” can expect five to ten years jail. It also grants intelligence officers immunity from prosecution or media exposure, even if an innocent member of the public was killed in a botched ASIO raid, similar to the 2005 shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian citizen mistaken for a terrorist, by the Metropolitan Police in London. There are also harsher penalties for former agents who leak confidential information. Public sector whistleblowers should report abuses to their superiors. Lawyers, human rights advocates and media organisations have all warned it will be even harder to report on national security stories in future.
Former Australian intelligence officer and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction whistleblower turned federal politician, Andrew Willkie, who would now likely face jail for his revelations, accused the government of exploiting the current security environment and described the new laws as a “blank cheque” for the security agencies.
“I can only assume the government is wanting to capitalise on and exploit the current security environment. I can only assume that the security agencies are delighted they have been invited to fill in a blank cheque.
….At some point in the future we’ll have spies kicking in doors and using force with no police alongside them and that is another step towards a police state.”
The Green Party’s Adam Brandt also feared for the fate of the common man.
“As the bill stands, the government can access your computer or mobile and even add files to it, despite the fact you’re not a suspect. If your computer is on the same network as a suspect’s, whether that’s at work, university or even the entire internet, the government will be able to access it.”
Edward Snowdon and Julian Assange, both currently living in exile, blew the lid on our comfortable complacency and the notion that we are safe from the sort of authoritarian state excesses we see on TV happening in other countries and have read about in history books. They crossed the Rubicon and allowed us a glimpse behind the black curtain of espionage, where they are not just spying on suspected criminals and terrorists, but on all of us. A state crackdown on freedoms and privacy. We are all suspects in as yet uncommitted crimes or potential political dissidents that can be re-defined by a government at any time in response to any crisis that may arise in the name of national, or Homeland security, as it is called in America.
This story is a cautionary tale about allowing the security services too much power and the difficulty of containing it once they have it, trapped within the pages of Kafkaesque Prague, psychologically “roughed up”, placed on a blacklist, career disrupted, privacy invaded, relationships meddled with, industrial strength intimidations and threats; and no access to resolution via oversight agencies, a marginalised media or courts. But it is not all negative: there have been some unintended positives, benefits that have come from all this, as outlined in the first section of the book, including amazing travel experiences, interesting entrepreneurial opportunities, a positive realigning of life priorities, new flexibility and a different type of personal freedom. (click)
However, what’s most surprising of all, given the brazen invasiveness, surveillance, analysis and interference in my life is that it has been done not while living in today’s China, or Prague in another time, but by American intelligence agencies today, with the collusion of the Australians, in direct contravention of all the principles that underpin our cherished democratic values – inculcated in us as sacrosanct and non-violable since we were infants. I was as surprised by the depth of my own naïveté as I was by the extent of the breathtaking betrayal of my government. I was never able to face my accusers, told what I was accused of, read what was written about me, or find out what my current status is. The evidence and reasons remain classified state secrets. This is the element of our agencies’ domestic activities that echo Stasi East Germany and Kafka’s Prague.
The few who have not been co-opted by the agencies among friends, family and journalists I’ve personally told my story to, have little trouble believing it, however routinely respond by asking incredulously about the lack of effective checks and balances; surely there are oversight committees they ask, well informed men and women, statesmen whose job it is to make sure that these type of totalitarian excesses don’t happen to regular and innocent people? That’s what we were brought up to believe. Then suddenly it dawns on them: they realise how the system works in practice – when jobs, reputations, favours, money, promotions and politics are in play; the purpose of oversight has itself metamorphosed and evolved, a grotesque disfigurement of its original form – no longer is their function to stop “them” getting at you, but to stop you getting at “them”. This is now how it works! Senior officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee couldn’t even stop the CIA’s illegal spying on them in 2014 during their investigation into the CIA’s use of torture; the President refused to launch a criminal enquiry, his hands tied when it comes to investigating the dark side of the CIA and NSA. This is the jarring realisation the average citizen doesn’t expect. The banality of evil is in evidence in modern day America where nearly no one is immune to the personal advances of the agencies and their persuasive means of co-option; and those in positions of authority – the powerless and pathetic modern day Adolf Eichmanns.
Maybe you think you have nothing to hide. Every time an issue of privacy arises the naysayers tell you, “if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to fear.” But this naive response is to miss the threat, to misunderstand your own vulnerabilities, the extent to which you are linked into and dependent on the system, on others. Embarrassment in the face of privacy violated; exposure and loss of status with peers, or undermining at work and lost job or promotion. Or worse still, they may not tell you what they seek; at some point they may choose to outlaw a religion, to come after Christians, Muslims or Jews; or some hitherto mainstream political affiliation. Or someone might decide they want your job, your land, your house, your wife or your children. Many lives have been lost establishing and protecting our freedoms and rights. Much is at stake. Without them, everything is at risk – without these rights enshrined into law, embedded in culture and actively enforced, as K. remarked in Franz Kafka’s The Castle:
“….all [the authorities] did was to guard the distant and invisible interests of distant and invisible masters.”
It was me today, but it could be you tomorrow. This is a chilling truth – especially given that intelligence agencies focus is now inwards as well as outwards and new authoritarian powers have been granted to them in America, UK, Australia and everywhere else in the West seems to be heading in this direction also. We are giving up personal freedoms, not in exchange for protection from a foreign terrorist threat, but in the hope of achieving higher national economic GDP growth.
In Australia, Ian Barker QC, at the time a leading lawyer, wrote of the lack of ASIO accountability:
“Any defence lawyer having anything to do with a case involving ASIO will know that its agents habitually act outside their powers and routinely abuse them, always in secret. It is rare indeed for their conduct to be exposed.”
I was most surprised by ASIO’s brazen interference with my solicitors and barristers in Australia. Lawyers I retained to advise me on ASIO related matters at various times revealed they were in possession of private details about me, and they tried to influence my instructions or discourage me in ways that benefited ASIO.
Between 2005 and 2012, three lawyers in Australia I had retained at various times collaborated with, and were conflicted by ASIO while they were assisting me on ASIO related matters. Two of the three used the tactic stated below.
Frequently, their tactic was to delay, waiting till the last minute to show me a draft for review of their submission to the courts. Invariably, the draft was full of errors, riddled with them – factual, grammatical, spelling, multiple repeats of paragraphs – it was a mess, and many pages of it. It was a long way from suitable for submission. At the same time the lawyer would express doubt about continuing to represent the matter and indicated they were inclined to pull out.
I raised each case in a complaint letter to IGIS – the Australian Inspector General of Intelligence and Security who has considerable statutory investigative powers and is meant to oversight, investigate and restrain ASIO. But IGIS has never investigated any of my complaints. Both Ian Carnell and his successor, Vivian Thom have stonewalled and provided no information – have directly looked into none of the illegal activities I reported despite having vast powers to do so. My lawyer told me that IGIS need do nothing more than ask the Director General of ASIO whether there is credence to my claims. If he answers no, then case closed. That is the end of the preliminary investigation. If he is correct, it is obviously woefully inadequate where citizens are expected a modicum of justice.
It is now my view that IGIS is culturally incapable of serving public justice. Its statutory existence seems only to serve as a public decoy, giving the public false confidence that justice occurs, but in reality it is a barrier which helps protect the intelligence agencies from justice and accountability.
Around 2008/09, I retained the services of a Sydney based barrister with a specialisation in human rights. After briefing him, he told me that he found all aspects of the background details provided to him credible. He said he believed it plausible that Freeport was directly involved in the killings in Indonesia, as per the eyewitness testimony, though not proven, and hence the sensitivity of the issue, and the possibly that the FBI or CIA were directly involved in, or had prior knowledge of the killings; that the FBI was involved in harassing me as a deterrent to others and as an effort to lower the profile of the matter; and that the FBI’s files about me collected over years in the US found their way to intelligence agencies in Australia. He accepted all this as possible and plausible. But perversely, and disingenuously, he said he wouldn’t accept that ASIO was in some way involved.
Once things started to heat up, he rejected all the evidence in relation to ASIO, without providing any reason, even though he accepted similar evidence pointing to the FBI’s involvement in the US. Despite him now giving voice to his views concerning the evidence in Australia, he had advised me over a 12 month period and knew the key details well from the outset. His excuse for not representing me further was that he did not accept ASIO would get involved in a matter that was ostensibly American. He made no case for denying their involvement, but he declined to do further work for me. It seemed blatantly clear he had been influenced by direct contact with ASIO and had decided not to assist me for nefarious reasons.
Again, ASIO operatives (which I define as anyone knowingly co-operating with ASIO operational directives is an agent of the government, whether it be an employee, contractor, collaborator or informant) convey a brash style of being untouchable, they goad and taunt, revealing personal knowledge of my taxes, my business ups and downs, or the sort of spelling and grammatical mistakes I might make in drafts of work unseen by him. Basically, they self reveal their association with ASIO, they out themselves intending to belittle the target. They do so to convey a sense of power, that they are unreachable. It is a bit like laughing in someone’s face when it appears there is nothing they can do about it.
I sent a complaint letter about my lawyers and ASIO interference to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS – the Australian watchdog that oversights ASIO). He wrote me back, not denying the relationship, but said only that there had been no “inappropriate” contact identified between them. IGIS evidently in its independent assessment did not consider it inappropriate that ASIO would target a lawyer retained by me to advise on ASIO related abuses and then enter into secret discussions with them on “national security” grounds. It is hard not to conclude that, at best, IGIS’s sense of justice contains a high degree of cultural bias.
In Australia, the definition of “national security” is determined by ministerial discretion, a flexible, moving definition, giving rise to a situation that undermines the rule of law and leads to injustices: It encourages the intelligence agencies to act illegally, unethically and outside their mandate in the comfort that the Minister will defend their misconduct.
Aside from legal and political barriers to justice, there are also cultural issues. One Australian lawyer said outright in refusing to represent me having seen my briefing documents – “We won’t represent you. This is a business first of all and defending your matter will harm our business due to the nature of the adversary”. He said his senior partners would not fight against another lawyer or law firm as this would be bad for business – in their view threatening referral work and may be damaging to their reputation in a culture that protects its own. Let alone would they consider an action that involved ASIO!
There seemed to be injustice at every level of government I dealt with.
Intelligence agency efforts to undermine the rule of law now seems to be getting attention, at least in the U.K. following the disclosures by Ed Snowden of the NSA’s capabilities and mass intrusions globally. Aware that information secretly gathered by the NSA is flowing back to allied governments, the U.K. Law Society is looking to take measures to protect the rights of individuals who are suing state security agencies:
“Lawyers representing people who make serious complaints against the police, army or security services fear the industrial-scale collection of email and phone messages revealed by the Guardian over the past four months is threatening the confidential relationship between them and their clients, jeopardising a crucial plank of the criminal justice system.
“These are absolutely fundamental issues,” said Shamik Dutta, from Bhatt Murphy lawyers in London. “The NSA revelations are having a chilling effect on the way a crucial part of the justice system operates….He said mass state surveillance had combined with the introduction of closed material proceedings in claims against the state and cuts to legal aid to drastically weaken citizens’ abilities to hold the authorities to account.”
“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.” (George Orwell)
The hunter hides undetected behind a camouflaged screen, a blind, or in a little covered bivouac, maybe up in a tree, to reduce their chance of detection, blending in with the surroundings, riffle fixed on the targeted killing zone awaiting its quarry. Likewise, the western “free press” offers camouflage for the propaganda of the intelligence agencies which produces and suppresses certain types of information to achieve secret, undisclosed objectives. Agents masquerading as part of the free press, undercover journalists and editors, others with security clearances giving seamless access to the depths of the intelligence agencies move freely within the ranks of the media and have their work published and broadcast undeclared to an all too often unsuspecting public. The co-option of the media as a critical tool of democratic accountability is arguably the biggest threat to national security faced by western nations.
We all know about the limited spectrum of debate and repetitive, narrow views expressed by our corporate media – we all feel that something is wrong, or at least not quite right: that this culture of blandness and self censorship did not arise by chance. This is not the vibrant, free market place of ideas it is billed as. The ubiquitous and virtually unanimous pro-war reporting in the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003 put paid to any doubt about this. Furthermore, this section reveals how Australian mainstream politicians have been targeted by the media to advance intelligence agency agendas.
The flow of propaganda in the mainstream media has disenfranchised and disempowered the public. This is how a teacher in a political focus group held by Naomi Wolf in America describes the feeling of alienation and frustration:
“We’re not having those debates anymore. It feels now as if we never really had those debates. We’re not talking anymore about when does life begin, what does it mean to go to war, what does it mean to be an American. You always feel there is a story behind the story when you are reading the news – a story that you are not privy to. Sometimes you feel that there is all this stuff going on behind our backs. I feel that, and I try to know what’s going on.”
I have approached multiple journalists in the USA and Australia with my allegations of FBI and ASIO interference and abuse following publication of the report on Freeport McMoran. One journalist picked up the story – an independent who also for many years had a column in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) – he was a prominent columnist in a prominent newspaper and it seemed like finally I was getting some mainstream media exposure for this story. However, for a number of reasons, I suspect that it was not his choice alone to cover it.
Firstly, the article (Ackland, Richard 26 February 2010, Secrecy is a denial of our rights, Sydney Morning Herald) contained a significant error that was to ASIO’s benefit – it said the information I had published in my note on Freeport McMoran had been provided to me in secret documents that somehow I had managed to obtain. This was wrong. I never received any documents and I had never indicated otherwise. Indeed, while I had spoken to a number of people about Freeport, it is not clear that anyone ever even gave me any anecdotal information, let alone a document, that was not already in the public domain on all issues concerning Freeport, the killings and the State Department investigation. It is not clear if the error in the Ackland article was intentional or not, or whether it was subsequently introduced by an editor or someone else, but it had the impact of falsely reassuring readers that the intelligence agencies only go after someone with good justification – if you receive a trove of classified documents for example. But this is absolutely not the case. I received no documents, but evidently, as a Wall Street analyst I had received good information from the people I had spoken with.
Further, the Ackland article seemed to come with certain additional baggage. The SMH ran an ASIO front page headline breaking story stamped “exclusive” in bold red letters within the next day or so. I wondered whether this had any bearing – such as a thank you gift to the SMH for helping out. As a follow up I offered Richard Ackland more details and information but he never wrote another instalment. However, in his weekly column over the next two weeks he published veiled references to my case though did not mention me by name. More mysteriously, in the week following his article I had lunch 3 times with someone who I knew well, at their invitation. Over lunch, they expressed interest in the article and encouraged discussion of events raised in it. Lunch, however, three times in the same week was very unusual and this particular person I knew had been pressured by ASIO in the past. It was all a bit odd and it left me wondering whether the article had been a plant, part of a fishing expedition, agreed with the SMH, to encourage me to talk about something ASIO might find of interest – though I can’t imagine what that might be.
The reality is if the agencies can target me and get away with it, they can target you, they can target anyone – any professional, for example, young or old, can be set upon if the result of their work or opinions offends, challenges or scares people in power. Every citizen is at risk – any of us can be targeted, whatever their position, anytime.
I have approached multiple journalists, only to find most associated with mainstream organisations, connected to the intelligence agencies and willing to promote their agenda, particularly so in the state owned media in Australia, the ABC.
My personal communications with many mainstream journalists reveals their close ties to ASIO or other Australian agencies. I had this email exchange with another journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald which he followed up with a veiled phone threat:
Me: What do you think of the royal commission angle?
Journalist: I think it’s interesting and worth exploring. But unfortunately my interest will turn on your ability to persuade me as to the credibility of your claim; notwithstanding my acknowledgement the other day that you will not have with you hard evidence, as I would expect in other spheres.
The sentiment of a journalist wanting to confirm credibility is to be expected but in this case, not genuine on their part. Reasonable inference, not verifiable evidence is the nature of exposing ASIO and other intelligence agency scandals. Allegations are constantly made and published in the media with attribution, disclosing with agreement, the names of sources. In my case, my MP had deemed my allegations credible and raised it in parliament, and lawyers I had engaged to review my case had affirmed it credible. However, this journalist took no efforts to verify I had worked on Wall Street as an analyst, or to review other verifiable aspects of my allegations. He had no intention of running my allegations, not because they weren’t credible, but because he had a conflict of interest – an unholy association with the intelligence agencies in surrender of his public duty. This same journalist called me, not long after this email exchange as part of a series of 3 back to back calls dovetailed with others, delivering a parsed message – each person revealing a different part of it, that I was at risk if I continued with my work exposing this story.
In another personal example, a journalist from the ABC I had been exchanging emails with and who I met on a few occasions mysteriously brought a random photo he said he found on the internet to a meeting with me. The photo showed a large group of volunteers at the Sierra Club from which he was able to point out my former girlfriend, unaided by me, based on a “lucky guess” he said. This journalist was acting more like a member of the secret police than a frank and fearless member of the Fourth Estate, delivering a message, taunting me and had no intention of pursuing the matter through an independent media exposé.
The Fourth Estate is captured by corporate-political interests, its independence critically compromised. It has been largely reduced to a sophisticated tool for propaganda: the Iraq War coverage in 2003 is a perfect example – all major news outlets fell in line with the US government in its illegal push to war; there was little if any dissenting opinion, no public debate. The supposedly diverse and free media spoke in unison, the deafening lack of dissent noticed everywhere.
The trail of intelligence agency intrusive activity domestically is very evident in the use of the media against elected officials. It is the attacks on government officials and other community leaders using the media that give the intelligence agencies one of their most powerful advantages but it also creates vulnerability – like leaving a calling card with a watermark evident to those who know how to look. They carry out reprisal attacks on their targets using the media to shame, humiliate or reward; they blackmail and intimidate; and help to bring about the election and rejection of the peoples’ representatives. Some of their signature attacks are described elsewhere here, including a brutal attack on a former Australian member of parliament Ross Cameron and the attack on the Wikileaks Party and its candidates in the lead up to the 2013 federal election in Australia, in particular Alison Broinowski – in both cases the scope of ASIO interference was not disclosed in the reporting, the public was duly deceived and democracy successfully undermined.
Over a number of years, I have approached my US representatives, at times with considerable persistence: my NYC congressman Jerrold Nadler sits on the House Judiciary Committee; and my NY senator Charles Schumer sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee (both committees have oversight responsibility for the FBI). My approaches were of no consequence to either. Neither Schumer nor Nadler took the matter before their respective committees, despite a member of Nadler’s staff, Celine Mizrahi, initially stating that the matter would be taken to the committee. It wasn’t and the office stopped taking my calls and returning correspondence.
This section looks at three cases of threats or payback delivered through the media; the first involving my MP Tanya Plibersek; the second, the staff in the Attorney General’s office; and third, the former Attorney General Philip Ruddock, MP.
It is rare indeed to find anyone in power who will speak out in an effort to hold the agencies to account, let alone be critical of them. My Sydney Member of Parliament, Tanya Plibersek raised my concerns about abusive ASIO surveillance and interference in a speech to the Australian Parliament 28 March 2007. She pointed out the injustice of Australian law, whereby Australian citizens have no rights to receive official confirmation of ASIO allegations against themselves and therefore no opportunity to respond to them:
“I do not know whether it is true that he is the subject of ongoing surveillance. The difficulty for him is that, despite his own contacts with officials in Australia and despite the fact that I have written to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, he cannot know whether he is or is not the subject of surveillance. If allegations have been made against him, he has had no opportunity to answer those allegations. This has put enormous stress on his family. The reason I am raising this in the parliament is not because I am convinced either way of the truth of his concerns but because we have a situation where an Australian citizen is convinced—he makes a convincing case—and he has no opportunity to know whether there are allegations against him and how he can respond to them.” click
Neither ASIO nor the Government responded to the concerns she raised. These remain unanswered to this day.
As an example of the problem of controlling agencies like ASIO, shortly after Ms Plibersek responsibly raised my concerns about them in the Australian parliament, the media ran a series of personal attacks that targeted her husband who held a senior position within the state bureaucracy. The articles highlighted some embarrassing aspects of his personal past, but in the interests of appearing balanced also mentioned that he was a talented individual. What is not clear is why an article about one independent government bureaucrat so prominently linked to his partner when it is an issue that has nothing to do with Ms Plibersek. Some of the articles include a very large photograph of the two of them together which no one could miss. Articles included: The Daily Telegraph 14 April 2007 (Saturday Interview, Roger Coombs, p78); The Daily Telegraph, 15 April 2007 (Politics; ‘I didn’t think I would survive being in jail’, Linda Silmalis, p3); and The Sun Herald 15 April 2007 (New education boss doesn’t have the expertise, Brian Chudleigh, p31).
The articles were a clear personal rebuke. Targeting family members sends a chilling message. The timing and substance of the articles just two and a half weeks after she raised my case in parliament cannot be proven as payback for breaking silence on ASIO abuses, but viewed with other such instances, described below, it fits a chilling pattern. It is not clear where the attacks originated – whether with the journalist, editor, sub editor, publisher, PR firm, or other, and it is not clear at what level complicity exists – only that the attack found its way into the mainstream media.
Other MPs, public bureaucrats and their family members have been chided, embarrassed, or had threats exposed in the media following my providing them with evidence of ASIO abuse, and their offers of assistance. Two cases are briefly described below, firstly concerning staff in the Commonwealth attorney general’s office; and secondly, a family member of former attorney general Philip Ruddock.
On 26 May 2011, I sent a complaint letter to the Australian Attorney General Robert McClelland outlining my dissatisfaction with ASIO and critical of the poor job IGIS was doing in oversighting the agency. I requested he review the matter since ASIO operates from within the Attorney General’s department, while IGIS reports to the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).
I was in periodic contact with the AG’s office staffers by telephone over the following months and I had several very positive and productive conversations with them. I found them to be genuine and helpful. They responded to my concerns with intelligent and relevant questions, assured me that this was an important matter and that they would advance it to higher levels within the department. It was evident they were aware of the risks posed to citizens by a wayward and poorly oversighted spy agency like ASIO.
However, the positive interactions with staffers abruptly came to an end. Inexplicably I was advised the matter had been forwarded to the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) to deal with the aspect of my complaint that concerned the poor performance of the oversight body IGIS. I felt I had been fobbed off by the AG’s office. They would have nothing further to do with my complaint, including that aspect of it directed against ASIO, which they are responsible for overseeing. It was a strange and unexpected about face.
I promptly received a curt letter from PM&C that annoyingly, dismissed my complaint and reaffirmed support for IGIS without investigating any of my claims. It references a full investigation, but a full investigation was never completed by IGIS. Indeed, IGIS had specified clearly that it had undertaken not to do a full investigation and had closed the case. It fortified the intelligence bureaucrats’ impenetrable stonewall and ended scornfully, saying: “The Government is satisfied with the IGIS inquiry and will not be pursuing the matter further.” The word “satisfied” is greatly overused by politicians and bureaucrats. It is intended to convey a sense of responsible review but is ultimately a meaningless statement. The word implies “due process”, “transparency and accountability”, and “fair and just” but is an empty, overused phrase. It in fact says nothing about the integrity of the officials and process that was followed, and hides the very real possibility the process of review consisted of nothing more than rubber stamping the IGIS statements.
Indeed, according to my lawyer, the preliminary investigation made by IGIS in 2004 need constitute none of the case facts or third party testimony, let alone consider my testimony and evidence; the preliminary investigation conducted by IGIS need not constitute anything more than asking the director general of ASIO if I am a legitimate ASIO target. The protection of the public by the office of IGIS need extend no further than this question. If the director general states that there was no substance to the complaint then IGIS had satisfied the obligation to conduct a “preliminary investigation” and the investigation was closed.
Despite the letter from PM&C, I stayed in touch with the AG’s staff hoping for possible further assistance from them. However the Canberra Times on 25 September 2011 published an article with headline “AG staff probed over rort allegations” that indicated a handful of the AG’s staff were now under investigation for false overtime claims and their jobs would be at stake in the event of an adverse finding:
“Senior staff in the Attorney-General’s Department with high-level security clearances have been investigated for allegedly rorting their overtime and obtaining financial benefits by deception, according to internal government files.”
There were never any follow up articles to the AG’s senior staff rort allegations in any of the papers. The timing and public nature of the announcement for an apparently common type of problem, was not particularly news worthy, particularly for a mainstream paper. But it appears to be another case of the media targeting individuals that had position and power over ASIO at a time they were investigating my complaint about ASIO misconduct – and it seems to have had the impact intended.
Communication with the AG’s office staff came to a prompt end. Despite attempts throughout September to November to re-invigorate the issue through conversations with the Attorney General’s department, no one would touch it – a surprising reversal in attitude given their initial support. My complaint subsequently went nowhere.
Media attacks, are very successful in sending people scampering for cover. The reality is no official with power over ASIO wants a full investigation of the matter for fear of what it might reveal and the difficult consequences that might result for those involved, no less so the captured regulators and their investigators.
Public perceptions of bias by captive regulators have only become more pressing since my communications with the AG in 2011. Disturbingly, from a human rights point of view, the newly elected conservative government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott appointed a former head of ASIO, Paul O’Sullivan, to the Attorney General’s department as Chief of Staff. The 2013 federal election, in which Abbott came to office, bore all the hallmarks of an ASIO hatchet job with the torpedoing of Wikileak’s electoral prospects by a critical media, again like the lead up to the Iraq war speaking in unison with an uncharacteristic and disturbing singularity; and, in selective instances, ASIO spoilers planted as trojan candidates that self destruct and masquerading as independent commentators. What hope is there that a complaint to the AG today about ASIO misconduct during O’Sullivan’s reign can be expected to be treated at arms’ length – independently and objectively; or for that matter complaints covering other periods of ASIO’s recent past? I would say next to none.
I have been treated like a character from Kafka’s novel The Castle – who expected due process but instead found themselves standing against the system in pursuit of a seemingly unobtainable goal – government accountability, truth and justice. Kafka’s character spent a lifetime in the castle lobby waiting for a meeting with the king that never occurred. One will grow old seeking justice and freedom, trying to hold the intelligence agencies to account in America, Australia and the other Five-Eye intelligence sharing partners (UK, Canada, NZ). Indeed, I am now in my 18th year since the FBI and ASIO set me in their scopes. It is like a medieval maze or a hall of mirrors, instructions with secret meanings and distorted representations of the path to accountability, which like a rainbow that never touches the ground where one is standing, one can forever be seeking out the right elected representative or regulator that one hopes will make a stand, that will represent you and your cause, that will investigate allegations. Even when it is their duty to do so, they do not.
The democratic promise of due process is sorely rebuffed by a constant stream of implausible excuses; stonewalled by officials with reasons that make one’s head spin as if that medieval maze were plastered with random arrows all over it each purporting to point to the exit, but point only to other arrows within the maze. The result is a vast entangled web of requests that go nowhere.
As if they didn’t already have enough stacked in their favour, guidelines issued by the AG in 2010 indicate ASIO in conjunction with the National Archives of Australia is permitted to destroy files about anyone it no longer deems a security risk. In the process, any evidence of wrong doing by the agency would also be destroyed: a practice that holds ripe potential for exploitation and abuse. [Frank Moorhouse, 2014 Australia Under Surveillance, Random House Australia]. The opportunities for collusion and access to ASIO’s capabilities by individuals across government departments and the private sector, whose motives may be less than pure “national security”, have low risk of discovery, and as I am finding out there is virtually no chance of accountability.
Moving on from efforts to work with the current attorney general’s staff, I was able to get a meeting with MP and former Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock in his Sydney electoral office after a mutual contact put us in touch. He was attorney general from 2003 to 2007 in the conservative Howard government. As AG he had departmental responsibility for ASIO during a historical period in which he oversaw the introduction of new legislation to expand ASIO powers in the “War on Terror”. He subsequently oversaw the prosecution of alleged terrorists in which tactics used by the department received harsh criticism from the judiciary for the investigative methods employed which forced the government to drop its cases in a blitz of negative publicity.
People say it takes an unusual sort of person to be a good attorney general, and many doubted Ruddock had the skills to get the balance right between civil liberties, human rights and security. Indeed, a leading lawyer, Phillip Boulten SC, who had defended several terrorist suspects was critical of his stewardship and the governments’ scruple. He said:
“Philip Ruddock abolished many procedural safeguards for refugees and asylum seekers and made an art of incarcerating innocent men, women and children who had committed no crimes. He called this “border protection”.
Governments of all types in Australia and in most western democracies have been camouflaging their policies on terrorism for the last 5 years. In an attempt to convince people that they are working towards the creation of a stable, just and secure political environment, governments have declared a seemingly never ending “war on terror”. In reality what they are doing is establishing the basis for a never ending state of fear where supposedly only those in power have the ability to keep people safe and secure.”
The AG and oversight bodies do little to govern or rein in the excesses of ASIO. A subsequent Attorney General, Nicola Roxon (2011-2013) reported she refused to sign a warrant for an intercept requested by an ASIO agent because ASIO could not explain why the intercept was necessary. Astoundingly, the agency chided her, saying that never before had an Attorney General refused the agency a request for a warrant irrespective of whether or not an explanation was provided.
After the Howard government lost the 2007 election Ruddock retained his seat of Berowra in Sydney’s northern district and continued life in parliament as an opposition backbencher and senior figure in the Liberal party. Given the controversial period of history and the decisions of his office while he served as AG, I held little hope he would intervene on my behalf. However, people said he was a man driven by strong Christian values, and politics being politics, the changing winds of time and a new office in opposition, I thought I would take the opportunity to meet with him and present my case of ASIO abuse. The meeting, I hoped, had the potential to move my case forward, perhaps spark a belated push for accountability and justice from our intelligence community.
I met with him at his offices on three occasions in a large Sydney suburban office block off a busy road in Pennant Hills. The first meeting was in December 2011. He was running a few minutes late and I sat in the small reception area in front of a glass walled counter that felt a bit like a ticket counter in a railway station. There were historic black and white photographs of his electorate on the wall and a table full of policy statements and government pamphlets. The office manager opened the security door and invited me though. We walked by some work stations and into a large office with the desk across the room by the window, a separate table and work area, and a couple of couches facing each other near the door. The office was neither new nor showy, but quite comfortable and had a well used feeling to it, suitable to meet both dignitaries and members of the electorate alike. Work papers and files sat on the desk by the computer screen, and behind him were books on shelves and cabinets. Mr Ruddock got up from his desk to greet me. We shook hands and he showed me to the couch by the door which the office manager had left ajar after leaving.
He took the facing couch opposite me and broke the ice by mentioning our common connections including the person responsible for making our introduction. He gave me a long, standard summary of the structure of the Australian intelligence industry and some key dates, the sort of plain vanilla background that could be found on government websites, before we moved onto my situation. It was a cordial and relaxed meeting.
He indicated that he had read the background material I had sent him about my problems with ASIO I had experienced since 1996 but asked me recap. I briefly outlined the situation starting with my work on Wall Street as a mining analyst covering Freeport McMoran, the eyewitness testimony of the company’s alleged involvement in the killing of indigenous protestors at is Grasberg mine in West Papua, Indonesia and the US State Department investigation of the incidents alleging Freeport’s involvement. We touched on Henry Kissinger’s prominent role with the company, my former girlfriend’s role with the FBI, the lack of interest from IGIS to progress to a full investigation of my allegations ASIO concerning inappropriate ASIO involvement in the matter and abuse. I took the opportunity to mention QC Ian Barker’s comments in a letter to the editor published in the Sydney Morning Herald that any prosecutor dealing with ASIO could tell you that the agency frequently broke the law and was rarely held to account, to which Philip Ruddock replied only that he was friends with Ian Barker and caught up with him occasionally.
After completing the summary of my problems with ASIO, he appeared to be in thought for a moment as he looked up at the back corner of the office, then said he did not recall my case. Whether he said this because he had no choice as it would be illegal for him to disclose otherwise I don’t know; but he left me hopeful by saying he would take a closer look and there was potential for an investigation of ASIO in relation to this matter – something that had been denied me by IGIS. I was encouraged and hopeful that this first meeting may lead to some positive outcome. We corresponded a number of times in February and early March.
On the 23 February 2012 he sent me an email in which he offered to forward my complaint about ASIO and IGIS to the Prime Minister.
I’d certainly be happy to bring your detailed submission to the PM’s attention – so if you can put together a detailed complaint, including all the correspondence thus far, I’ll then forward that on with a covering letter.
The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP
In March 2012, I emailed to request a second meeting in follow up to the first and our interim correspondence, which he granted and scheduled for April. However, around this time, an article appeared in The Australian about alleged impropriety by his daughter and mentioned both her and Philip Ruddock by name. The article in The Australian (16 March 2012, Legal aid link to coal protest faces probe, p7: click) alleged she had attended a public meeting on an environmental matter in conflict with the government. It indicated that the government had threatened to launch an investigation into the allegations and cut funding to the small non profit organisation that employed her (NSW Environmental Defenders Office). The article prominently states that the NSW Premier had “…asked senior bureaucrats to report to him on Ms Ruddock’s involvement”.
It is never clear to the public where the impetus for a story originates, whether it be with the journalist, editor, publisher, PR agent or some other source. However, what is clear is this particular story lacked any significance, it was not a newsworthy item in its own right, certainly not for a national mainstream paper. But the threat of a discretionary investigation against his daughter for a trivial perceived impropriety – her attendance at a meeting, was a nasty public personal attack on one of his family members and therefore a personal attack on him.
When I subsequently met with Philip Ruddock in April, there was a noticeable change in his tone and demeanour from our previous meeting several months earlier. He said he had made some enquiries into my case – but clearly something had changed – the cordiality was still there in part but now there was also sneer and scorn. I do not know the reason, whether he received misinformation about my matter from his access to well placed people or whether he had been intimidated by the threat to his daughter, or a bit of both. In any event, he was no longer willing to offer assistance.
He reneged on the above offer to bring my matter to the attention of the Prime Minister saying that he had changed his mind as he now believed that the matter had been adequately reviewed by others. He provided some reasons, though I did not find them credible as we had discussed these together when we had met in December and I therefore remained unconvinced.
He indicated he knew much about my matter, and asked what proof of ASIO malfeasance I had. If I did have proof of malfeasance, he taunted, could I prove that any harm had resulted. Mockingly, he said he would talk to anyone I could bring forward as a witness, but he would not advocate for a formal enquiry – such as in a royal commission, where witnesses are legally protected when providing testimony against the agencies. Of course, as former AG, he knew that all ASIO operatives, collaborators, informers, etc., would be constrained by contract gag clauses, sometimes running to several pages in length, with criminal penalties for unauthorised disclosures. In effect, he was asking me to bring forward a whistleblower, someone to come forward on threat of incarceration – and trust him to do the right thing.
Again, I suggested a formal, wide sweeping investigation of the agencies, a royal commission, for example, might be a better way to go, as had been suggested by the Hope Royal Commission – a mandatory review of the intelligence agencies every 5 to 8 years or so. He scoffed at the suggestion! He taunted that ASIO cases take time to run their full course, many years sometimes, and if targets are ever declared innocent victims of agency abuse, it is only because the investigation likely didn’t run long enough! It is clear the oversight bodies, in wilful blindness look not to see. The reticence to impose a royal commission on the intelligence agencies smacks of appeasement that stems from fear.
I met with Philip Ruddock for a third time in May 2013, about a year after my second meeting with him. But nothing in his response to me had changed from our previous meeting – it too was disappointing and indicated I had hit another stonewalling dead end. He offered nothing of substance by way of assistance, and like a faithful ‘public’ servant demonstrated his obstinate solidarity with the agency he oversighted but no evident support for ensuring ASIO treated the public justly and acted with integrity. I told him I intended to publish the names of ASIO operatives and was writing a book. He eyed me with a quiet sneer and without looking at it described my list as “informants” and asked with a barely concealed enmity how I intended to publish and distribute my book. His sneer slowly morphed into a slight grin while he paused for my answer. As the former political head of ASIO, he knew the barriers and depth of ASIO penetration into the world of writing and publishing better than anyone. The NSW Writers Centre, for example, is a hornet’s nest of ASIO activity and no established publisher in Australia would be defiant enough to publish and distribute such material. It was clear from this meeting that he was not going to push for any kind of investigation of ASIO, no judicial oversight or royal commission.
After the meeting I sent him the below email, and later forwarded it to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which has oversight responsibility of ASIO (and which he is a member of).
From: XXX Wilson XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Sent: Thursday, 20 June 2013 10:37 AM
Subject: FW: XXXX Wilson – ASIO – PJCIS
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am forwarding an email I sent to Philip Ruddock last week related to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security oversight of ASIO in relation to a royal commission with broad terms of reference.
I would be pleased to brief you directly on the issues raised if you would like further information.
Thanks and regards.
From: XX Wilson XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Sent: Friday, 14 June 2013 5:08 PM
Subject: XXXXXXX Wilson – ASIO
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me again several weeks ago concerning the issues I have faced with intrusive ASIO interference. As you recall, this interference has occurred since I published a report as an analyst on Wall Street in 1996 that touched on the killings [of indigenous protestors] at the US listed Freeport McMoran’s massive Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua (note attached).
Following our conversation about Australian intelligence agency misconduct, it is interesting to note the recent media reports of former US National Security Agency (NSA) analyst Edward Snowden who has disclosed the extensive intelligence capability and abuses of the US government in operating an all encompassing communications dragnet domestically and abroad. Associated with this disclosure is that the US is targeting a large number of people everywhere in the world, including Australia, and in turn is sharing this information with its counterparts in foreign agencies, including Australian intelligence agencies.
The possibility of such foreign government intelligence activity in Australia was something we touched on when we spoke. Their direct involvement in Australia obviously makes the need for a warrant from the Australian Attorney General of no consequence in matters where Australian agencies can simply get such information through back door channels – ie, via their US counterparts in this instance. Based on the NSA leaks, there now seems to be little doubt that the US has the capability to bug my phone and all my communications, if they were inclined to do so, without need for the Australian government’s direct involvement or consent.
An example of recent media reports quotes Snowden telling the Guardian newspaper, “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President.” (Edward Snowden Search Began Days Before NSA Surveillance Program Reports Went Public, Reuters, posted: 06/12/2013 6:40).
It has also come to my attention, that an ASIO operative, who was aware that I had met with you on two previous occasions in 2011/12 was actively engaging staff at the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) in mid 2012. This person is active in a local XXXXXXXXXXX community group XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and engaged the EDO on the pretext of seeking legal assistance for this campaign. On several occasions this person (not named below), who I know has been actively recruiting for ASIO, has made reference to Kirsty Ruddock and taunted that they were getting to know at least one of her office colleagues well, taking them to lunch, etc – with the intended implication that ASIO was actively recruiting within the EDO’s office. Based on this, ASIO, it seems, considers its brief to include the targeting of family members of officials responsible for oversight of the intelligence agencies.
I believe that ASIO is operating without adequate constraints in Australia, that it is operating outside its mandate and abusing its powers. Lawyer Ian Barker, QC has maintained this point of view for some time as outlined in the attached letter I sent to the committee you sit on, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. I attach the letter as a reminder of my experiences with ASIO and my inability to obtain a commitment from any Australian oversight authority to investigate my allegations of intelligence agency abuse in Australia, despite persistent efforts. The current oversight process operates in a way that provides no protection to people subjected to ASIO abuses and offers no outlet that protects the rights and interests of people targeted by ASIO (I have attached Tanya Plibersek’s comments to parliament to this effect).
The current revelations about the NSA’s conduct and Australia’s involvement might serve as the required scandal you referred to as being a necessary catalyst to launch a wide sweeping royal commission into Australia’s intelligence agencies. As we discussed, the Hope Royal Commission recommended that there be a mandatory royal commission into the Australian intelligence agencies every eight years or so, but this was never put into effect.
When we met recently, you and I discussed that I would name various ASIO operatives – agents, collaborators and informants active in my case. I have provided you a list of names previously. Operatives I intend to name initially include:
XXXXXXXXXXX, son of former ASIO Director General XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXX, staff member of the Green’s Senator Rhiannon
XXXXXXXXXXX, Sydney, stockbroking analyst
XXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXX, Sydney businesspeople
XXXXXXXXXXXX, Melbourne, former lawyer
XXXXXX, Central coast NSW and Boston, USA
XXXXXXXXX, Sydney, former business consultant
XXXXXXXXXXX, Sydney, former stockbroking analyst
I would be pleased to discuss with you or provide further information on any of the above. Please let me know if you would like further details.
With no mainstream or official channels open for redress of the injustices of the intelligence agency abuses I released the above to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (around the world), various MPs, journalists and civil rights groups. The public, albeit restricted release of intelligence agents’ names in Australia is not considered in the public interest, unlike the US where covert FBI agents, for example, are treated under the law like any other government employee – if they reveal their covert status to someone that is a matter for them, but the media is free to publish it, in the public interest, if it sees fit.
In Australia, I approached a number of journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald, amongst other news media. One of the journalists called me a month or two later and made a veiled and menacing threat, barley concealing their undercover status, and told me to release no further names of either ASIO agents or their suspected minions.
The intelligence agency crackdown on the Australian public and media has continued to become more severe. In October 2014, draconian new ASIO legislation enables the agency, under a single, general Australia wide warrant to access computer “networks” and to enter anyone’s personal computer. The agency is authorised to alter files, remove and delete whatever it wants in any computer attached to the “network”. ASIO agents have been given immunity from the law – except for the specific offences of murder, torture and sexual assault. However, perjury, destruction of evidence and tampering with witnesses is evidently allowable. Details of ASIO’s “special operations” cannot be published by the media or bloggers – even where operations have gone seriously wrong; even if agents have killed, sexually assaulted or tortured people. Furthermore, names of ASIO agents cannot be leaked and revealed – under threat of prison terms of 5 or 10 years depending on the offence. And public interest has been removed as a possible defence in these cases.
Astonishingly, in the lead up to this new legislation, the media offered little resistance. Barley a whimper was heard despite the significant and disturbing risks the laws pose for journalists reporting on national security and crime, and the threat such restrictive legislation poses to one of the key institutional pillars of our democracy.
The role of the media in pushing intelligence agency propaganda is increasingly evident – both in what is published and what is not. The pattern of attacking non compliant politicians and other officials in newspaper articles and threats of investigation is compelling, however, one cannot state categorically that they were the interference of ASIO as opposed to mere coincidence. Nor can it be said that any bureaucrat or politician allowed the threat of payback or blackmail to intimidate them and influence their integrity and independence. What can be said, however, is that there is a pattern of well targeted specific attacks or threats that appeared in newspapers around the time I met with officials concerning intelligence agency abuses.
ASIO has ready access to the media and the articles follow an intimidating pattern, clearly threatening or humiliating the people targeted. The public exposure of officials and their families in the media to unsubstantiated or suspiciously timed allegations, and public threats of official investigation appears to be a key weapon of ASIO, used to deter politicians and stop bureaucratic enquiries into their activities.
Placing threats and smears in the media against politicians and other critics might be an effective way to stop enquiries into ASIO and to further the career interests of ASIO staffers, but not a great way to further Australian democracy and national security interests.
Those who control the media, have the power to control the people. And where there are opportunities to control and influence the people, the intelligence agencies will be found actively engaged. Agency influence over the media appears pervasive at every level – journalists, editors, publishers. The intelligence agencies it seems, have built myriad links into the media, such that the media behaves more like a state run enterprise than a free one. It would be interesting indeed to have an independent commission document and report on the extent of intelligence agency media relationships and influence.
In the link below, I review two hatchet jobs: one targeting former Liberal MP Ross Cameron who spoke out against the Iraq War of 2003, and the other targeting Wikileaks Party candidate in the Australian federal election 2013 – Alison Broinowski.
[Further examples: The media helping intelligence agencies target politicians and officials
It is now 2015. Not much has changed in the intervening years since 1996. The killing of indigenous people continues in West Papua, Freeport McMoran’s operations have at least another 30 years life there beyond 2040, and I will remain on the FBI target list (and therefore ASIO’s), it seems forever.
The plight of indigenous people caught in military conflict zones, with domestic and foreign backers funding armed violence to secure resources – the “blood commodities” – like diamonds, deserves much greater public scrutiny in places like West Papua, Nigeria, DRC and elsewhere.
It is moral bankruptcy for the worlds’ most powerful to target indigenous people for their resources. These people are easy military targets, no match for the US or other industrialised societies and their modern weaponry. Brazen disregard for extensive “collateral damage”: killing men, women, and children of all ages, as if they were legitimate military targets; indiscriminate killing of people who have no means of defending themselves is a war crime.
I have learnt there is a huge gulf in US politics between the rhetoric and its practice. It is one thing to have an intellectual understanding, that this difference exists is obvious, but quite another to have a visceral realisation based on personal experience. It is one thing to study this abstractly and resignedly acknowledge that this is how our system works; it is quite another thing to experience it, to viscerally, emotionally connect outcomes to real, suffering people, to bodies and graves containing men, women, and children around the world, and ask what you can do to stop it. “Real” subversives are now being defined by those who ask questions.
I have experienced what it means to live in a country where democratic values have been eroded, to have my dreams and hopes interfered with by the State and to live my waking life subjected to gross injustices and interferences by that State. I now find a deep and chilling resonance to the words of great democrats of the past and heed with conviction the profound wisdom that the price of democracy is eternal vigilance:
“But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.” [Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837]
Clearly, doing nothing has unintended consequences, not only for others, but for you too. To apathetically or nihilistically accept the power of the government to surveil you absolutely without protection; to surrender all your privacy by claiming you have nothing to hide may be an ideal aspired to in certain religious communes, or a communist political system, but otherwise leaves one at a distinct disadvantage in a competitive world and marketplace.
Our governments speak to us with double meaning, stated values that I had never been able to clearly see before, perhaps on account of a life lived in privilege and largely cloistered from the day to day realities of a broad cross section of peoples’ lives in the wider world. The bitter suffering that our Western governments’ brutally inflict on people at home and on others abroad (including West Papua) is business as usual.
At home, in the US, I do not believe the FBI’s response has been in any way legal, let alone appropriate or proportional, in retaliation against me for raising the sensitive issue of Freeport’s role in funding a violent crackdown against indigenous people in Indonesia, to say nothing of the violence in Indonesia itself.
However, I have learnt this about my government: that this democracy, once a bright beacon of freedom and liberty, ideals that stemmed from religious pilgrims and asylum seekers, is not that bright beacon it once was and still purports to be. Rigid structures have arisen from powerful, hard headed reason built upon unfounded axioms that mitigate the human values of truth, justice and compassion. Economic outcomes at times heavily dependent on the brute force of its military and intelligence agencies deployed with hegemonic impunity and with a liberal sense of Kissinger’s American exceptionalism delivered with a grandiose desire to be at the centre of world affairs irrespective of what good or evil it imparts to achieve this. Our government is not acting in good faith.
The US is developing unabashedly tyrannical tendencies. The intelligence agencies have set themselves beyond the law and boldly wage state wide intimidation. They fuel American’s insecurity and distrust of government. Their involvement in key decisions can be seen everywhere, for example: the repetitive, on message mainstream media voices and their lack of opposition to the highly contentious Iraq war in 2003; unrelenting retention of controversial government policies despite the changing of US administrations on matters such as the torture and illegal detention of prisoners; drone strikes for assassinations; and widespread state violence directed against peaceful US demonstrators at home (Occupy Movement). Despite Obama campaigning strongly on these issues nothing has changed. Why? Because the real power in the US increasingly and unabashedly resides with the intelligence agencies, not with the democratically elected Executive.
I did not create breaking news, this was not a new story back then, I merely considered the public information as an analyst and allowed it to influence my assessment of Freeport, and relay that to the global investment community. As is often the case, the breaking news here is in exposing the cover up, the role of the FBI in coming to Freeport’s assistance to silence legitimate, professional criticism on Wall Street.
I cannot say with certainty, philosophically speaking, that my life is better or worse for what has happened as a result of FBI interference – the timeframes in which outcomes are assessed can be determined arbitrarily, and in time, perceived losses turn into victories, and contrariwise, victories into losses. I have been hindered in, or denied the possibility of certain achievements, relationships, activities and opportunities. However, I can say this: that this awakening of sorts has brought to my life a deeper sense of personal satisfaction and meaning than my career had ever offered, in my own small way opening to a wider world helping secure the human rights of people in West Papua and by extension elsewhere, including this country, that are abused by the corruptions within our system. For this I am grateful.
As for moving forward, I think of the inspiring words from the old English ballad called “Sir Andrew Barton” paraphrased by President Reagan after an election disappointment:
“I am sore wounded but not slain
I will lay me down and bleed a while
And then rise up to fight again”
America is full of good people. It is a great country. Its leaders, if allowed to govern with the support of strong democratic institutions that ensure accountability to the wider electorate, to good people, will take America, and the world, to a better place.
Suppressing the truth, attempting to control communications and force feed the public the government’s sole version of reality is a priority agenda for Western security agencies, not open, vibrant societies. The security agencies act as if their brief is to protect the interests of their agency and the public elite, dispensing with the rule of law and accepted social values leading to greater injustices and social inequality, and lesser well being for the rest. At some stage a new cycle of emboldened public defiance will meet this elevated injustice; every new piece of oppressive legislation, every overreach and abuse of state authority slowly adds to a rising tide that, if not self corrected, will at some point create an unstoppable, wholesale cleanout.
The high value of personal liberty and how quickly liberty can be shanghaied should not be forgotten. We should remain mindful of the lessons of what happened to Germany in the 1930s and Eastern Europe under the Soviet Union. Citizens with memories of living in these places and times are aghast by what the NSA leaks reveal about the extent of the cultural slide in Western political attitudes towards the value of individuals’ liberty, and they are fearful for themselves, and us, of the possibilities.
As George Papandreou, the former Prime Minister of Greece said: “politics must again become the art of imagining a better world — and collectively finding the power to do so.”
If I were asked what needs to be changed in our political system in relation to the issues of abuse I have spoken of, I would say subordinate the various offices of IGIS (that oversight the DOJ, FBI, CIA and ASIO) and put them under an independent judiciary. The reason is that IGISs are unable to perform the tasks expected in defending our democracy because each is staffed with bureaucrats that are not culturally independent either of the broader government bureaucracy on which their careers depend, nor out of reach of the intelligence agencies they are expected to oversight. No matter what powers the IGIS is given, its benefit to the public is muted by human frailty that all too readily surrenders its duty within a corrupted institutional structure.
On the innate nature of corruption and the banality of evil, US president John Adams said this in 1788:
“It is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power.” [John Adams, 1788]
Indeed, there is no place for mediocrity in oversight. I would adhere to Andrew Jackson’s warning and by principle establish the strongest vigilance possible to oversight our intelligence agencies; and that is achieved through an independent judiciary, not by aligned bureaucrats.
Epilogue: Several years after I had left the USA, Susan moved in with her new partner in DC and married. She was 39 and had her first child in her early 40s.
As for me, I married several years later at 42 and now have two beautiful children.
While I wouldn’t go back in time, I wish aspects of that distant history had never occurred. That the “right” woman I thought I had found then lost, back then was an illusion, a vision of my own making, created and broken in a state matrix. It is a lesson in revisionism, spiritual and material, that even our most strongly held beliefs may be wrong, open to challenge, to some future revision as new information comes to light. And with revision comes the re-interpretation of one’s entire life – a recasting of the illusions in search of a firm reality.
This is an unfolding story, now in its seventeenth year. I continue to pursue justice in relation to agency abuses, but given the prevailing culture and attitude of those in power in this new America, one that seems to have gone through a silent revolution since the end of WWII, I do not anticipate resolution any time soon.
[Further story details to come]
(Updated 25 September 2013)
All up, I have had a dozen or two agents, or informants, collaborators, etc make themselves known to me, in each of the US and Australia, as part of the ongoing harassment and interference I have experienced since publishing the note on Freeport in 1996. I am gradually disclosing the names below of these agents that have revealed themselves to me – operatives wedged between the government, the governed, and the constitution – in successive updates of this note.
The details are set out below [details to be posted].
Aside from the above, other undercover FBI agents and collaborators self-disclosed include:
Michael Mills: the FBI agent who moved into my apartment in NYC and occupied it for several years when I sublet it before my return to Australia.
- Kathleen Walton: former mining analyst at Merrill Lynch in NYC.
- Matthew Levey – Kroll Associates, Inc (New York City midtown office): consulting work case manager 2003 and 2004. Former State Department employee.
- Jeffrey S Robards: corporate finance, formerly Ernst & Young (E&Y) NYC. Now working for C.W. Downer & Co – a boutique M&A firm in Boston.
Stephan Chenault and John Klotz: volunteers Sierra Club NYC Group since 1990s.
Ben Worden, Rob Haggerty and Allison Dey (Tucson area): FBI agents involved with Diamond Mountain Buddhist group in southern Arizona and California.
- George Schneider and Livingston Sutro (Sierra Vista, AZ); Jennifer Conner (NYC): Associated with Diamond Mountain Buddhist group in southern Arizona.
- Paul Whitby (Tucson): biologist.
- Leigh Freeman – Cherry Creek, Denver based head hunter. Downing Teal. http://www.downingteal.com/Our-People/Downing-Teal-USA
- Robert Schultz – Albuquerque based head hunter. MRC Mining Search.
Steven D. Garber – (wife Andrea – collaborator) additional details: biologist; lived in Manhattan for much of the 1990s, before taking a two year posting to teach biology at Embry Riddle in Prescott, AZ before returning to the New York area (White Plains). Books authored include The Urban Naturalist (New York. John Wiley and Sons. 1987). PhD in Ecology, Environmental Sciences – Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-Newark. B.S. in Natural Resources – Cornell University.
ASIO agents, informers and collaborators self-disclosed include:
[The names of 9 ASIO operatives were disclosed June 2013 to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, several journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald, a number of politicians, and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security – around 12 in total. This led to ASIO retaliation and further threats to destroy my family and business. As one well placed politician told me, “there is not really anywhere to turn: the police are in on it, they’re all part of it; you can’t rely on any of them.”]
Author: John Wilson
 Elizabeth Brundige, et al., Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic Yale Law School, April 2004, Indonesian Human Rights Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control.
 Joseph E. Stiglitz, 21 December 2013 In No One We Trust, The New York Times.
 Ed. Clive Hamilton and Sarah Maddison, 2007, Silencing Dissent, Allen and Unwin, p3.
 Samantha Michaels 29 November 2011, Is a U.S. Mining Company Funding a Violent Crackdown in Indonesia?, The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/11/is-a-us-mining-company-funding-a-violent-crackdown-in-indonesia/249164/
 Free West Papua 2 May 2013, UN expresses serious concerns over West Papua crackdown. http://freewestpapua.org/2013/05/02/the-un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-expresses-serious-concerns-over-west-papua-crackdown/ . The Free West Papua Campaign on facebook is a good source of current information on ongoing human rights abuses there.
 Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press
 Elizabeth Brundige, et al., Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic Yale Law School, April 2004, Indonesian Human Rights Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control, p23.
 Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press. P227
 Ibid, p23
 A Wall Street Journal News Roundup, Riots in Indonesia quelled; U.S. mine prepares to reopen, Wall Street Journal, Eastern edition, pA15.
 Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press. p235-236.
 Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press, p219.
 Sydney Morning Herald 21-22 September 2013, PNG takes control of Ok Tedi mine, p2.
 Severin Carrell 22 June 2013, Bill Clinton on NSA: Americans need to be on guard for abuses of power by US, The Guardian. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/06/22/bill-clinton-on-nsa-americans-need-to-be-on-guard-for-abuses-of-power-by-u-s/
 Malcolm Fraser, 4 February 2015 Did Gillian Triggs hit a raw nerve with her report? The Age.
 Noam Chomsky 17 August 2013, Chomsky: The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy, Salon. http://www.salon.com/2013/08/17/chomsky_the_u_s_behaves_nothing_like_a_democracy/
 Annie Machon, 5 October 2013 Intel union: Spy agency heads won’t roll with US and UK allied, RT. http://rt.com/op-edge/nsa-gchq-prosecute-spy-leaders-770/
 John Tirman, Executive Director, MIT Center for International Studies 9 July 2013, The Quiet Coup: No, Not Egypt. Here. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-tirman/nsa-deep-state_b_3569316.html
 Noam Chomsky 17 August 2013, Chomsky: The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy, Salon. http://www.salon.com/2013/08/17/chomsky_the_u_s_behaves_nothing_like_a_democracy/
 Phil Black and Tom Watkins, 16 October 2013 Snowden’s father pleased with son’s Moscow life, CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/16/world/europe/russia-snowden-dad/index.html?hpt=hp_t3
 Jesselyn Radack 17 August 2013, How to trap a whistleblower, Salon. http://www.salon.com/2013/08/16/how_to_trap_a_whistleblower/
 Jonathan Freedland, 19 October 2013, The GCHQ scandal is not about the Guardian. It is an insult to parliament, The Guardian.
 James Ball, 26 October 2013 Leaked memos reveal GCHQ efforts to keep mass surveillance secret, The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/25/leaked-memos-gchq-mass-surveillance-secret-snowden
 Justin Huggler, 6 February 2015 Britain ‘threatens to stop sharing intelligence’ with Germany, The Telegraph. http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/britain-threatens-to-stop-sharing-intelligence-with-germany/ar-AA91eGc
 Alastair Nicholson, 4 July 2014 Asylum seekers: my country, my shame, The Age. http://www.theage.com.au/comment/asylum-seekers-my-country-my-shame-20140704-zswgi.html
 The Nazi’s murderous blitzkreig clampdown on innocent mass society during a single night represented an unassailable political turning point – the advent of widespread persecution, oppression and provocation of arbitrarily selected groups and individuals in German society.
 12:35pm, 15 October 2013 Assange Calls NSA Spying ‘a Threat to U.S. Democracy’, AM 740 KVOR http://www.kvor.com/common/more.php?m=58&ts=1381692902&article=760036EF343C11E386DEFEFDADE6840A&mode=2
 Ian Barker 28 December 2007, Letters to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald.
 Matthew Taylor and Nick Hopkins, 14 October 2013, GCHQ mass surveillance putting right to challenge state at risk, say lawyers, The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/law/2013/oct/13/gchq-surveillance-right-challenge-state-law
 Naomi Wolf, 2008 Give me liberty: a handbook for American revolutionaries, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, p128-129.
 Tanya Plibersek, MP, 28 March 2007Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Surveillance, Australian federal parliamentary record Hansard, p 111 House Of Representatives, Main Committee. (Note: I never received any confidential details of the U.S. State Department investigation into Freeport’s alleged roles in human rights abuses in West Papua that were not already in the public domain.)
 20 September 2011, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet letter to Wilson.
 25 September 2011 AG staff probed over rort allegations, Canberra Times.
 Phillip Boulten SC, 8 November 2006 Debra Dawes: Cover Up/ Terror Wars, speech at SH Erwin Gallery.
 Meredith Bergmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p19.
 George Papandreou, 20 October 2013 Rediscover the lost art of democracy, Special to CNN updated 1430 GMT (2230 HKT). http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/20/opinion/papandreou-ted-democracy/index.html?hpt=hp_c1