Hoover, the NSA and the Art of Blackmail

Contents

The Banyan Tree and Realpolitik. 1

Who really runs America?. 1

Hoovers’ legacy: establishing the tools of a police state. 3

Leaks and Power 3

Privacy and Power 4

The Banyan Tree and Realpolitik

Who really runs America?

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.” [1]

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.[2] 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.

The Banyan tree model also aptly describes the way our western intelligence agencies are subsuming the democratic institutions and democracies that spawned them. In this model, applied to the US, the domestic intelligence agencies secretly unite disparate, notionally independent and unconnected institutions and links them together by recruiting “individuals occupying high ranking positions in different institutions”.

Individuals in positions of power who are secretly joined together can include “journalists, professors, pastors, corporate executives, and development workers” – the list is extended to include any individual, organisation, or institution in a position to influence public opinion – from lawyers, members of the judiciary, the executive, legislators and their staffers, civil society leaders, academics, bankers and scientists to folk singers, actors, poets and writers. Their secret “latticed network of connections” constructed “inside key structures of power” is a powerful tool of subversion. Their links enable co-ordinated control by the chain of command they secretly report to – the intelligence agencies – and “quietly working together” use “subtle tactics to influence the agenda of the national dialogue” and beyond.

The network, connected via “unofficial channels”, is invisible to outsiders. Together, “these people form[ed] a latticed network of connections…that are difficult to disrupt”. In the US, this network is vast, billions of dollars are invested annually to maintain it and over 3 million people reportedly have security clearance representing a complete cross section of society.

The increased power of intelligence agencies has diminished the political relevance of elected officials, public opinion and political debate. In this new system, much more is achieved through hidden channels than the public forums of earlier times, and the human rights of the governed are increasingly ignored and difficult to defend.

Who is ultimately calling the shots in our political system now? Domestic spying makes a mockery of the separation of powers that is the keystone of democracy. The security forces have gone way beyond using their power to protect legitimate democratic national security interests to target the judiciary, media, and legislators. The intelligence agencies have discarded democratic freedoms, we are told in the name of “national security”, but really they have set their sights on the high economic growth achieved in China and Singapore. A unilateral decision has been made on our behalf to dispense with the “democratic experiment” in favour of more authoritarian government.

Journalist Kurt Opsahl of Electronic Frontier Foundation reports

The administration keeps on attempting to justify the NSA spying by claiming there is oversight from the other branches of government. But, as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg noted in the Why Care About NSA Spying[3] video, spying makes a mockery of that separation. 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.”[4]

This vast latticed network of secretly interconnected individuals and the ever expanding power of technology gives our intelligence agencies ever easier and deeper reach to collect information, influence and control us – as private individuals and as public officials. It is a system in which duty is redefined, personal morality and human relationships are surrendered to a different loyalty: the people running the intelligence agencies – the self decreed masters of the state.

NSA whistleblower Russel Tice revealed to the New York Times in 2005 that the NSA was targeting key US officials. Below is an interview with Tice in which he discusses the extent to which the NSA targeted officials from judges to oversight committees, with the intent of potentially blackmailing them, and coercing and controlling them:

“They went after high-ranking military officers; they went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and some of the–and judicial. But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. All kinds of–heaps of lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court that I had his wiretap information in my hand. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House–their own people. They went after antiwar groups. They went after U.S. international–U.S. companies that that do international business, you know, business around the world. They went after U.S. banking firms and financial firms that do international business. They went after NGOs that–like the Red Cross, people like that that go overseas and do humanitarian work. They went after a few antiwar civil rights groups. So, you know, don’t tell me that there’s no abuse, because I’ve had this stuff in my hand and looked at it. And in some cases, I literally was involved in the technology that was going after this stuff.”[5]

If the public remains apathetic and passive as the intelligence agencies move our political system away from democratic values to a non representative model of government, the general population will likely find it has a heavy burden to carry. History has shown how authoritarian, non representative governments respond in times of great social stress with ruthless treatment of individuals which democracies are designed to protect. Populations that want the benefits of centralised control in the good times, give up the benefits of being part of a democracy in difficult times. If the public is too apathetic or too inclined to accept the erosion of its democratic rights in exchange for marginally higher economic growth, it risks a confrontation with the political reality that people in power cannot be trusted, are corrupted and it is difficult to rein in their excesses. No system is perfect, or near perfect but democracy offers powerful checks and balances – as Churchill said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Hoovers’ legacy: establishing the tools of a police state

 Leaks and Power

 There is a fundamental tendency in men and women to individualism, a “will to power” as Nietzsche called it, to live life freely and follow their personal dreams. In theory the masses are the ultimate source of law and authority but to represent an effective bulwark against tyranny they must be well informed and politically engaged:

“Give the people the facts and the Republic will be saved.” (Abraham Lincoln).

Hoover, the founding director of the FBI, realised immediately the potential of using the FBI’s vast and secretive power to undermine existing power relationships in civil society between leaders and their populist support base:

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” so disturbed the American power structure that the F.B.I. started spying on him in what The Washington Post called “one of its biggest surveillance operations in history.” The speech even moved the head of the agency’s domestic intelligence division to label King “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of Communism, the Negro and national security.”

Of course, King wasn’t dangerous to the country but to the status quo.”[6]

Even CNN has weighed in recently with a recap and reminder of the sordid political history of the FBI, reflective of the terrible, abusive methods that still scar and serve as a warning about the tactics of the agency. For good reason, many people believe the agency still uses these tactics today, but under a different code name:

“Governments that have the power to secretly watch their citizens and are not subject to meaningful legal constraint have proven, time and time again, that this power can be abused.

Just look at our own history. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI put the Rev. Martin Luther King under surveillance, seeking to discredit him politically. This was part of a broader program called COINTELPRO. Hoover told FBI agents to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” the activities of a wide range of individuals and groups, including communists, civil rights organizations, anti-Vietnam War groups, and so on.

A society that cannot trust its citizens with ideas — dissenting, different, or even dangerous — is a society that is incapable of governing itself.”(CNN) [7]

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. My experience is that secrecy claims like a poison pill are used with a sugar coating to hide the illegal FBI and other intelligence agency tactics that are at the heart of their political activities today.

The power of state resides with those who most deeply pierce individuals’ privacy – the intelligence agencies. The J Edgar Hoovers of the world hold the real power, the faceless men and women that control much of the media, legislators and the executive: leaking salacious gossip, building and breaking careers.

Privacy and Power

In 21st century America, these tactics have become a staple of mainstream power. One of the most troubling aspects of the NSA as revealed by Snowden and reported by Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian was the effort the agency went to in hiding its true intent and ambitions regarding its mass collection and use of personal information from congress and the American people:

“The general revelation that the objective of the NSA is literally the elimination of global privacy: ensuring that every form of human electronic communication – not just those of The Terrorists™ – is collected, stored, analyzed and monitored.

The NSA has so radically misled everyone for so long about its true purpose that revealing its actual institutional function was shocking to many, many people, and is the key context for understanding these other specific revelations.”[8]

Greenwald went further in a 2013 article pointing out Clapper “repeatedly deceived the American people”, he lied to congress and his agency appeared to be complicit in the CIA’s spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Despite this, he was not prosecuted. On the contrary, he was shielded, protected and defended by Washington:

“Indeed, if I had to pick the single most revealing aspect of this entire NSA scandal – and there are many revealing ones about many different realms – it would be that James Clapper lied to the faces of the Senate Intelligence Committee about core NSA matters, and not only was he not prosecuted for that felony, but he did not even lose his job, and continues to be treated with great reverence by the very Committee which he deliberately deceived. That one fact tells you all you need to know about how official Washington functions.”[9]

The agencies have the surveillance tools to access and threaten people where they are most vulnerable, their private lives. It is the most fundamental door to power – to understand people’s desires and fears in relation to wealth, power, influence, status, the protection of family – and be able to collect information to threaten or enhance these outcomes. As J Edgar Hoover demonstrated, targeting and revealing individuals’ privacy is the realm where real power resides; the files that allow its keepers to coerce presidents and senators, indeed anyone who gets in the way.

That separation ensures power is distributed and kept in check. Attacking people’s privacy is a key weapon of abuse as Kurt Opsahl of Electronic Frontier Foundation reports:

“As Cato Fellow Julian Sanchez points out, there is a lengthy and disturbing history of abuse. FBI Director “J. Edgar Hoover maintained a notorious ‘Sex Deviate’ file filled with salacious bits of information on the sexual proclivities of prominent Americans: actors, columnists, activists, members of Congress, and even presidents.” Hoover used that information to ensure appropriations for the FBI and expand his political power.[10]

Author and journalist Richard Kessler describes how Hoover opened fissures and breached privacy at the FBI, establishing a way of doing business that today is still very much a part of the FBI’s modus operandi:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator,” said William Sullivan, who became the number three official in the bureau under Hoover, “he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter. But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

Lawrence J. Heim, who was in the Crime Records Division, confirmed to me that the bureau sent agents to tell members of Congress that Hoover had picked up derogatory information on them.

He [Hoover] would send someone over on a very confidential basis,” Heim said. As an example, if the Metropolitan Police in Washington had picked up evidence of homosexuality, “he [Hoover] would have him say, ‘This activity is known by the Metropolitan Police Department and some of our informants, and it is in your best interests to know this.’ But nobody has ever claimed to have been blackmailed. You can deduce what you want from that.” [11]

Kessler goes on to say that President Truman, a month after taking office in 1945, sounded the alarm bells about Hoover’s FBI, “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex life scandals and plain blackmail.” He followed this up 2 years later adding, “all Congressmen and Senators are afraid of him.” [12]

The NSA leaks might be news, but none of what is described is new. This kind of political targeting has been going on for decades, ever since Hoover perfected the techniques to support his and the agency’s agenda and gradually turned the intelligence agencies from crime fighters and technocrats defending the national security into king makers and political henchmen. Kurt Opsahl continues:

[While the intelligence agencies] support using surveillance to tarnish the reputation of people the NSA considers “radicalizers,” U.S. officials have in the past used similar tactics against civil rights leaders, labor movement activists and others. Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI harassed activists and compiled secret files on political leaders….[13]

Further, NSA documents released by Snowden exemplify how individuals’ “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target’s credibility, reputation and authority.” [14] Private information gathered through surveillance, including collection of communications content, metadata (the time, duration, location of communications, but not its content) is exploited to neutralise targets, by leaking that information publicly, or to a closed network of friends, work and industry colleagues, peers and associates of the target specially recruited at great effort by the agencies for that purpose; or the target might be blackmailed depending on what the information is. Once they have the information, the agencies have multiple options in how it can be used.

“Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said these revelations give rise to serious concerns about abuse. “It’s important to remember that the NSA’s surveillance activities are anything but narrowly focused — the agency is collecting massive amounts of sensitive information about virtually everyone,” he said.

“Wherever you are, the NSA’s databases store information about your political views, your medical history, your intimate relationships and your activities online,” he added. “The NSA says this personal information won’t be abused, but these documents show that the NSA probably defines ‘abuse’ very narrowly.””[15]

The methods of the intelligence agencies are highly susceptible to abuse. How can the government justify, among other things, the targeted collection of video surveillance of innocent Americans’ in their bedrooms – the targeting of “embarrassing sexually explicit information.” This is not a tactic reserved only for high profile leaders – like Martin Luther King. I know from my FBI contacts that where the FBI is surveilling political targets, activists, dissidents, etc – with a view to undermining their influence, that secret surveillance extends into bedrooms. Evidently, the FBI had my apartment under video surveillance based on what Susan subsequently disclosed to me concerning specific trysts and events during an official covert FBI interview.

My experience is FBI abuse is rife, not kept in check by the oversight agencies. This “oversight” takes a great toll on the target. I have been repeatedly surprised as a target at how close the intelligence agencies are able to recruit to one’s inner circle. Like anyone that came from a loving and strong family and social environment, I expected that my friends, family and others in my inner circle would be inaccessible, beyond influence and recruitment by the agencies. Unfortunately I was wrong. It turns out the agencies have very persuasive recruitment methods indeed. They offer well researched, highly focused incentives based on detailed understanding of each targeted recruit’s personal circumstances gleaned from intrusive surveillance, no doubt augmented with threats where required. Based on my experience, inducements vary from “do it for your country”, cash, employment, payment in kind, referrals, placing a good word to help you get promoted, win an award, or a new contract; threats include physical harm to self, family or business, to fully prejudicial “you’re either with us or against us”, “if you don’t help us with this, it must be because your protecting so and so” or a more prosaic – “you might not want to do that”.

With the wall of privacy dismantled the most valuable things to an individual, things that have no price tag and no market value, are accessible to government interference: our relationships are no longer protected from interference; our memories can be scandalised and exploited; and the government manipulates our careers, reputations and status. Once the agencies have the information on a target they control the timing and extent of the leaks. With it, they maliciously poison their personal environment – stirring up domestic, professional and social problems, causing conflict on multiple fronts, economic and potentially legal problems, to produce instability and insecurity.

Secret cameras in peoples bedrooms, maligning reputations and making people out to be predators, deviants, abusers, addicts or possessing some other cocktail of other socially undesirable traits does not protect the state’s military interests. The claims to secrecy around these domestically targeted “techniques and methods” is fraudulent, made to protect the agencies’ techniques and methods in the war of propaganda and control at home – creating heroes and villains and encouraging behavioural norms that serve their goals. With these techniques – video, secret recordings, dodgy dossiers, and the like – they influence work place culture, public policy and broader society to reflect the interests of the wealthy and politically connected.

Author: John Wilson

[1] 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/

[2] Eben Kirksey, 2012 Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Architecture of Global Power, Duke University Press, p68-p73.

[3] Brian Knappenberger, 25 November 2013 Why Care About NSA Spying, The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000002571435/why-care-about-the-nsa.html

[4] Kurt Opsahl, 27 November 2013 The NSA is Tracking Online Porn Viewing to Discredit “Radicalizers”, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

[5] Washingtonblog, 20 June 2013, NSA Whistleblower: NSA Spying On – and Blackmailing – Top Government Officials and Military Officers

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/06/nsa-whistleblower-nsa-spying-on-and-blackmailing-high-level-government-officials-and-military-officers.html

[6] Charles M. Blow, 28 August 2013 The Most Dangerous Negro, The New York Times.

[7] Neil M. Richards 18 August 2013, Don’t let U.S. government read your e-mail, CNN.

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/18/opinion/richards-lavabit-surveillance/index.html?iid=article_sidebar

[8] Katie Rogers, 2 October 2013 Glenn Greenwald and Janine Gibson: 10 highlights from their Reddit AMA, Guardian.  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/01/glenn-greenwald-janine-gibson-reddit-nsa

[9] Glenn Greenwald, 27 September 2013 Sen. Ron Wyden: NSA ‘repeatedly deceived the American people’, Guardian.  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/27/ron-wyden-nsa-systematically-deceived

[10] Kurt Opsahl, 27 November 2013 The NSA is Tracking Online Porn Viewing to Discredit “Radicalizers”, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

[11] Ronald Kessler, 2011 The Secrets of the FBI, Crown Publishers, NY as reported by Jay Stanley, 15 October 2013 On the Prospect of Blackmail by the NSA, American Civil Liberties Union.

[12] Jay Stanley, 15 October 2013 On the Prospect of Blackmail by the NSA, American Civil Liberties Union.

[13]

[14] Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher, Ryan Grimryan, 26 November 2013 Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’, Huffington Post.

[15] Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher, Ryan Grimryan, 26 November 2013 Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’, Huffington Post.

Posted in ASIO, Cold War, corruption, dissident, FBI, foreign affairs, human rights, Indonesia, intelligence agency, Kissinger, national security, non fiction, West Papua | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ANZ and Westpac: employees in close network with ASIO

Wall Street assesses the Freeport damage

Concerns about Freeport were discussed quietly on Wall Street. It was generally perceived that the company had massive potential social and environmental liabilities. As a result, Freeport was shunned as a target in the merger and acquisition wave that swept the world copper sector in the mid 1990s. No one wanted to take them over. The perceived risks of acquiring Freeport were too great – in financial terms, it was considered a toxic target with an unsustainable business model and massive potential liabilities. Further, under the US Alien Tort Claims Act, which was widely realised for the first time in 1995 to be a threat to US corporations, foreigners – including indigenous people in Indonesia, were potentially able to sue U.S. corporations in U.S. courts for damages committed outside the U.S.

Freeport critics rightfully claim that lending agencies, and institutions such as Australian commercial banks Westpac and ANZ which were part of the syndicate of banks that financed Freeport 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, foreign banks lending money to finance Freeport and Grasberg appear to accept the corrupt business practices that prevailed under Suharto and subsequent governments.

Indeed, ANZ was lambasted in The Sydney Morning Herald as recently as 2014 for its failure to uphold reasonable social and environmental standards of the projects it finances, as it claims it does. A confidential 58 page social and environmental audit was leaked of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company’s massive plantation project the bank had funded in Cambodia that used child labour and involved the forced removal of villagers from their land. The article called into question ANZ’s due diligence and sincerity of its commitment to environmental and social standards which appear to be a marketing ploy for retail customers in Australia rather than as a core value despite the bank being a signatory to the ‘Equator Principles’ a voluntary code for which 78 financial institutions globally have committed to avoid financing projects that were socially and environmentally unsound. It appeared as if little had changed in a practical sense from the days the bank openly financed egregious resource projects in out of the way places like Freeport McMoran in West Papua.

David Pred, the managing associate of Inclusive Development International, said ANZ should explain to its shareholders why it financed Senator Phat’s company, especially when the English-language Cambodian press had regularly reported on its links to the army and role in forced evictions.

“Since ANZ does not disclose any of the corporate loans it makes, its shareholders are only left with its good word that it actually upholds the rigorous standards that it purports to apply to its corporate lending operations,” Mr Pred said.[1]

Companies, such as Freeport McMoran, that are listed on the New York Stock Exchange and followed by Wall Street, hold analyst conference calls once a quarter, or more often if required. For these, stockbroking and fund manager analyst’s, sitting at their desk in New York, Boston or wherever, telephone into a company presentation of results. There might be 20, or 50 or 100 analysts’ listening to the call, after which the brokers generally send a report to their firms’ clients.

On one such teleconference call in 1996, Freeport management was presenting the results of the Dames and Moore environmental audit of the Grasberg mine. One of the criticisms of the various environmental audits undertaken by Freeport, including the Dames and Moore report, aside from it not being strictly independent as it was paid for by Freeport, was that the consultant did not take its own measurements and collect its own environmental data but relied on Freeport’s data which was not in the public domain.

Some of the analysts on that conference call expressed disbelief at the way Freeport management represented the audit findings, as if it gave the company a clean bill of health. Management, however, acknowledged that aspects of the report remained inconclusive and that further follow up work had been recommended.

It took many years, but Wall Street concerns were partially vindicated when in June 2006, the Government Pension Fund of Norway, a sovereign wealth fund, announced it had dumped and blacklisted the Freeport’s shares in a widely reported statement due to concerns over Grasberg’s environmental track record. (report).

ANZ and Westpac employees’ connection to ASIO

Companies that had commercial relationships with Freeport acted in other ways to further their commercial interests and some of their employees [names to be provided] aligned with ASIO in a further indication of their disregard for observing even basic human rights.

ANZ, an Australian commercial bank has a specialist natural resources investment banking team and large investment in Freeport through its loan portfolio of many tens of millions of dollars. Its senior mining finance employees engaged in bizarre, hostile behaviour towards me. Senior ANZ staff whom I had never met bad mouthed me to my boss at the company I was working at in Sydney. It came back to me – people asked me if I knew so and so from ANZ and why might he be making such toxic remarks about me. I had never heard of this guy or his sidekick. It made no sense at the time.

I did not stay long with the company. After leaving, a well connected consultant to the firm called me at home and asked: “Who is doing this to you? We want to know.” Directors at the company wanted to know who was behind this assault and why. I could only point to the savage response that had originated from my years at Warburg (now part of UBS). At the time, I did not know that behind all the interference was an attack being co-ordinated by ASIO and their allied foreign intelligence agencies. He asked if I knew certain individuals in the ANZ mining team. I did not. never heard of them. But ANZ had played a significant role in financing Freeport and likely at that time continued to carry that exposure on its books.

Later, ANZ senior employees were exceedingly hostile in response to my job search. It was very tightly managed – harsh and flippant multi pronged response from different team members intended to be disruptive and counterproductive to my job search. Some of the specific details of their behaviour was recounted back to me by the FBI during an interview in 2003.

Similarly senior mining finance employees at Westpac, a lender to Freeport, behaved inexplicably. While I was still living and working in NY, after publishing the report on Freeport I started to receive strange and unexpected visits from a Westpac fund manager from Sydney and was contacted by another Westpac fund manager – both of whom later revealed a connection to ASIO. Another executive in the resource advisory section, some years later after I had moved back to Sydney, [K] stood me up at an interview, he was a no show without explanation. When I did catch up with someone there briefly, they were rude, dismissive and wasting my time; the executive excused himself and left me to speak with a junior. It was odd and unusual treatment. [Further details to come].

Author: John Wilson

[1] Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie, 23 January 2014 ANZ ethics under scrutiny over Cambodian sugar plantation, Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/national/anz-under-fire-for-loans-to-controversial-cambodian-sugar-plantation-20140122-3196z.html

Posted in ASIO, FBI, foreign affairs, human rights, mining, West Papua | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A new model of government: The West pivots towards authoritarian control for economic security.

 

 Contents

Introduction: the slow death of democracy.. 2

Australia: A US test market for authoritarian conversion?.. 5

The US is no Longer a “Functioning Democracy”. 8

Who are “They”?.. 11

Hoovers’ legacy: taking the US towards a police state.. 13

The Problem Has Got Worse Not Better. 16

Separation of Powers.. 19

Dodgy Dossiers.. 21

The Banyan Tree: A model of intelligence agency domestic subversion   25

Five-Eyes: Outsourcing domestic surveillance to foreign governments  26

Intelligence agencies: a long history of wilful breaches.. 29

As the world pauses to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, it might also reflect that the fall marked the beginning of a slow, slippery slide towards authoritarianism for many western democracies – now a fortress of myriad electronic walls and secret keys. No longer concerned about winning the hearts and minds of the world as a key strategy to stop the spread of communism, our leaders focused on maximizing economic growth and were more prepared to turn a blind-eye to abuses of human rights and civil liberties, and economic inequality at home.

Envious of the high growth rates achieved in authoritarian capitalist systems like Singapore and China our intelligence agencies, sometimes with and sometimes without the knowledge or consent of our governments, moved to steadily erode and override the rights, freedoms and civil liberties that form the basis of our democracies. In doing so, they have weakened many of the social and environmental protections that bind our communities. The result is social polarisation, increased environmental damage and militarization of the police to deal with the ever increasing social and political tensions.

The intelligence agencies and military are inciting and exploiting the public fear of foreign adversaries such as ISIS and Al Qaeda to remove our freedoms in the name of national security, key American freedoms and values which are now deemed impediments to economic growth. While these foreign groups pose only moderate threats, we must guard against surrendering our way of life and the ability to question what our government, military and intelligence services are doing.

The threat is now within as well as without, the lines between good and bad increasingly blurred and confused as the vision of the Founding Fathers based on maximising human potential and freedom is replaced by today’s leaders’ objectives of higher economic growth.

 Introduction: the slow death of democracy

 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 certain 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. The threat from 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 Orwell. At the very least, ramped up personal intrusions should be accompanied by the strongest possible oversight. But they aren’t, reinforcing the notion that there real purpose 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 like 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 now being dispensed with. These characteristics are now considered impediments to higher economic growth in America, Australia and other Anglo Bloc countries.

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: deflect and fortify.

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 are America and its Western allies now prepared to extract on society to bring about a transformation in values at home?

How far are our leaders prepared to go to achieve even modest goals? How large a sacrifice will they demand of the governed in order to satisfy their ambitions?  There is no limit to what the use of reason might justify in the hands of the authorities as they use the terms “national security” and “economic rationalism” – often interchangeably. As philosopher David Hume succinctly explains: “‘Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.” Devoid of compassion; economic models set no limits on the secret, and increasingly overt, violation of human, environmental and social rights if it serves economic interests.

There is no universal validity in their worldview, it is just one more of a virtually infinite number of worldviews pitted against each other, just an endless flow of conflict, wars, violent regime change, supply of armaments and advice to foreign insurgents. Bloodshed and killing reduced to an historical phenomenon of human nature, a narrative they tell to absolve themselves of moral responsibility for their handiwork in the death and misery of so many innocents. Bound by dogmatism to Kissinger’s notion of American exceptionalism, their worldview no more legitimate, and possibly less so, than the dogmatism that formed the crutch of the medieval Catholic church which also ruled with the illusion of possessing absolute legitimacy.

How much collateral damage do they demand our society turn a blind eye to in exchange for the next incremental gain in creature comforts and entertainment – victories from military force, not won with education, innovation and dynamism, though these do exist too.

The Anglo bloc insights reflected in the Magna Carta in 1215 that authority must be acquired through trust and respect has in recent decades, certainly since the end of the Cold War, reverted to the notion that authority can be imposed, held in place with force.

Australia: A US test market for authoritarian conversion?

             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.” [1]

 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.” [2] 

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.

 The US is no Longer a “Functioning Democracy”

The US government and FBI get away with the abuses I described previously in this exposé following the Wall Street analyst report I authored on US mining company Freeport McMoran’s activities in West Papua (click here or here click for more background) because the US is no longer a representative, two-party democracy, in the sense it once was.

The institutional fractures and political collusion evident from the Snowden NSA disclosures in 2013, and the official response to those disclosures, prompted former US President Jimmy Carter to comment:

“America has no functioning democracy at this moment.” [3]

 Indeed, a joint study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern universities reported in 2014 that America was no longer a democratic republic, but a republic governed by an aristocratic oligarchy controlled by a small group of influential elites that exert total control over the country.[4] With this shift, the inner logic of managing public sentiment has moved from cultivating honour and virtue to instilling fear, the favoured tool of despots and oppressors.

The power of executive discretion – decisions made in secret and without potential for review – is steadily expanding, diminishing the role for judicial and media scrutiny, and public accountability.  The role for the expanding rule of law that took root in the Anglo world with the sealing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215 has in more recent years reversed, so as once again to give rulers increased scope to rule by force through which they hope to maximise their influence, control, profits and the support of vested interests.

In a free society, citizens’ security extends to the invasion of personal privacy and the protection of the institutions of civil society from internal and external state forces. The concept of a free society is not consistent with the “almost Orwellian” National Security Agency (NSA) blanket surveillance of Americans’ communications revealed in internet leaks by whistleblower Ed Snowdon in June 2013. His leaks exposed the self-serving lies of NSA Director James Clapper who told the a March 2013 meeting of the American Congress’ select committee on intelligence that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect and store data on American people.

The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald found the agency’s efforts to hide its true intent and ambitions from congress and the American people the most troubling and revealing aspect of all.

“The general revelation that the objective of the NSA is literally the elimination of global privacy: ensuring that every form of human electronic communication – not just those of “the Terrorists”™ – is collected, stored, analyzed and monitored.

 The NSA has so radically misled everyone for so long about its true purpose that revealing its actual institutional function was shocking to many, many people, and is the key context for understanding these other specific revelations.” [5]

Despite this serious breach of the Constitution, the 72 year-old Clapper was not fired nor retired. In fact, President Obama, in a tacit admission he knew about the program, merely admonished the Director of National Intelligence for not choosing his words more carefully. Greenwald went further in an article the same year entitled, Sen. Ron Wyden: NSA “repeatedly deceived the American people.”

“James Clapper lied to the faces of the Senate Intelligence Committee about core NSA matters, and not only was he not prosecuted for that felony, but he did not even lose his job, and continues to be treated with great reverence by the very Committee which he deliberately deceived. That one fact tells you all you need to know about how official Washington functions.” [6]

Another former US President, Bill Clinton said of the intelligence agency abuses, including Clapper’s lying to congress:

“….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.” [7]

State security laws and secrecy are being used in ways never intended by the constitution, the legislature and the people to surveil and manipulate its citizens, hide mistakes, and cloak routine and egregious violations of the law. It keeps the public and the judiciary from exposing and convicting suspect officials who abuse the law and public trust. The government has failed to ensure that national security powers and secrecy are used responsibly, failed to protect the media, make appropriate use of the judiciary and legislature, and has prosecuted whistleblowers that have acted in the public interest. The main oversight of the intelligence agencies is internal to the agencies themselves, they are “captured regulators” operating within the executive branch.

Americans have already given up too many civil liberties and freedoms in the hope of increasing national security and too many others stolen by intelligence agency bureaucrats hoping to enhance their careers by drawing positive interest from the FBI and other security agencies.

The FBI in the US and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in Australia is already using targeted surveillance tactics in violent, secret attacks on political critics and to expand the number of “targets” they wish to influence, secretly manipulate, “payback,” or isolate; indeed, the blacklists have grown exponentially in recent years. It seems the foundations of a police states are already firmly in place in the West, including the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

The frightening part is this is not some blundering, hapless error, but a wilful, highly sophisticated, carefully conceived and executed assault on our democracy. It is a shift in accountability and power away from the people into the hands of powerful oligarchs as complete as under any coup d’état. And new, tough legislation is continuing to be passed that transfers further power to our effectively unaccountable, authoritarian and secretive spy agencies.

In recent decades, this “creeping totalitarianism” in America has undermined civil liberties, influenced and groomed political candidates for election and undermined the separation of powers 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 experienced for the past seventeen years.

Who are “They”?

Abandoning the high ideals of the Founding Fathers like Benjamin Franklin has been a necessary expedient for a post-war generation of American intelligence agencies and politicians that brought us the Vietnam War, the “War on Terror” and many other lesser-known catastrophes in places such as West Papua and Guatemala. “They” are the aggressive, hardline warriors, hawks – the sort of people the intelligence agencies find young, groom and then champion. In their ranks are men like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger, and George W. Bush: hand selected “culture carriers” of America and Western civilisation; self-serving hardliners. However, their reckless, ideology-fuelled aggression has delivered American’s into the uncompromising hands of state – secretive intelligence officials, militarized police and captive bureaucrats – the oligarchs that rule obsessed with economic growth, the fruits of which flow through almost exclusively to those at the top.

 

It moved John Tirman, Executive Director at the MIT Center for International Studies to declare there has been a “coup d’etat” in the US by what he described as a “parallel state” that has existed for the past dozen years and which operates “….by its own rules, in secret, and in ways that would be considered unconstitutional.“ However, it is not the violation of Fourth Amendment rights, covering the right of the people to be secure in their persons and homes against unwarranted searches, seizures or the serving of egregious and intrusive warrants, that troubles him alone. He says:

 

“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…. 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.

 

…’the deep state’ — those hidden, powerful, extralegal agencies and cadres that would act on their own authority. Other countries would have them too, usually enabled by police ministries or intelligence agencies. Dissidents, out-of-line newspaper editors, priests and nuns speaking truth to power, union organizers — these types would come under the scrutiny and often the harsh reprisals of the deep state.

 

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.” [8]   

 

Tirman further argues that their power comes from our naïve belief that our personal information is secret and will not be used against us. The, state, he maintains, has a long track record of using personal information in tandem with new and ever-more intrusive surveillance technology to intensify its infiltration of civil society. As I can testify, few people even realise they have been targeted with friends, work colleagues and even family recruited to interfere in their lives.

 

Once this power is established  it is difficult to take back. 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 given to them with increased secrecy around everything they do. Even the laws they act under are protected by state secrecy laws…. 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. 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.

 

This is not the vision for America imagined by the Founding Fathers. It is not an environment that nourishes and enables individual potential to flourish, to challenge injustices, to create a world that reflects a kaleidoscope of values, dreams and visions. It is a system vulnerable to capture by a despot, not easy to rectify, a government that operates with no meaningful checks or balances, no transparency or accountability. It is a form of governing where the loyalty each individual gives to the government is the key standard by which we are measured.

 

Before the Snowden leaks on the extent of the NSA domestic digital dragnet implemented with the assistance of some of America’s biggest corporations in IT, finance and other institutions that hold private personal data, the public had little clue as to the extent and sophistication of the domestic intelligence operations directed at them. The Snowden revelations of the NSA’s activities make no representation about the scope and scale of operations conducted by other US intelligence agencies such as the FBI and CIA against the US public and political system.

 

Hoovers’ legacy: taking the US towards a police state

 

The NSA leaks and Clapper’s lies might be news, but none of it is new. This kind of political targeting has been going on for decades. Its principal architect and founder was the despotic J. Edgar Hoover, founding Director of the FBI for an unprecedented 48 years (1924-72), whose legacy is arguably more enduring than many of the eight US Presidents he served under. Hoover perfected the art of surveillance to support his and the FBI’s agenda and gradually turned the intelligence agencies from technocrats defending the national security into kingmakers and political henchmen.

 

His critics accused him of turning the FBI into his own personal police force, exceeding its jurisdiction to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leader and collect evidence using illegal methods to even intimidate and threaten elected Presidents.

 

Agencies like the NSA, FBI and the CIA have the surveillance tools to access and threaten people where they are most vulnerable, their private lives. As Hoover knew, targeting and revealing individuals’ privacy is the realm where real power resides; the files that allow its keepers to coerce presidents and senators, indeed anyone who gets in the way. Understanding people’s desires and fears in relation to wealth, power, influence and status and to be able to collect information to control these outcomes is the real key to power.

 

In his book Secrets of the FBI, author Robert Kessler revealed some of Hoover’s tactics describing how Hoover opened fissures and breached privacy at the FBI, establishing a way of doing business that today is still very much a part of the FBI’s modus operandi:
“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator,” said William Sullivan, who became the number three official in the bureau under Hoover, “he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter. But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

 

Lawrence J. Heim, who was in the Crime Records Division, confirmed to me that the bureau sent agents to tell members of Congress that Hoover had picked up derogatory information on them.

 

He [Hoover] would send someone over on a very confidential basis,” Heim said. As an example, if the Metropolitan Police in Washington had picked up evidence of homosexuality, “he [Hoover] would have him say, ‘This activity is known by the Metropolitan Police Department and some of our informants, and it is in your best interests to know this.’ But nobody has ever claimed to have been blackmailed. You can deduce what you want from that.” [9]

 

Kessler goes on to say that President Truman, a month after taking office in 1945, sounded the alarm bells about Hoover’s FBI, “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex life scandals and plain blackmail.” He followed this up 2 years later adding, “all Congressmen and Senators are afraid of him.”  [10]

 

But Hoover’s reach expanded way beyond elected representatives, the rich and the politically powerful. Paranoid about subversion by foreign agents, activists and civil libertarians. While Senator Joe McCarthy and the investigations of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) were given free reign, the courts and the Attorney General were unwilling to sanction Hoover’s demands that thousands of Americans be arrested and habeus corpus, the legal cornerstone of democratic justice, be suspended. Hoover founded the infamous COINTELPRO (an acronym for counter intelligence program) a “dirty tricks” campaign to surveil, infiltrate, discredit and disrupt domestic political organizations. The FBI’s methods included burglaries, illegal wiretaps, planting forged documents and spreading false rumours about key members of target organizations, inciting violence and even murder. It was first used to disrupt the Communist Party, where Hoover went after everyone from everyday spies to celebrity figures such as Charlie Chaplin and later, leaders and their organizations such as the Black Panther PartyMartin Luther King, Jr.‘s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and others. The FBI also targeted leading Americans opposed to the Vietnam War, including senators, journalists and athletes among anyone who had public influence. The FBI justified these tactics claiming they were necessary for “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.”[11]

 

The intelligence agencies frequently see domestic threats and use their powers to disrupt and interfere with political targets in secret claiming national security; whereas the public, arguably more astute, optimistic and progressive, sees only opportunity, justice and equality. Sometimes the FBI’s perceived “threats” are nothing more than to the entrenched status quo:

 

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” so disturbed the American power structure that the F.B.I. started spying on him in what The Washington Post called “one of its biggest surveillance operations in history.” The speech even moved the head of the agency’s domestic intelligence division to label King “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of Communism, the Negro and national security.”

 

Of course, King wasn’t dangerous to the country but to the status quo.”[12]

 

Many of these FBI tactics came to light when an activist group, the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI broke into an FBI field office and stole dossiers that incriminated the agency.

The bigoted claims by the FBI about King as a leading threat to US national security were no more a “national security” issue than the absurd claims made by the church in England that Charles Darwin was the most dangerous man in England after publication of his theory of evolution by natural selection. He postponed publication for many years fearful of incurring the church’s wrath. His work was a brilliant scientific theory that represented a threat to the established order; and the establishment’s neanderthal response clearly revealed that a shakeup in that order was long overdue.

 

The Problem Has Got Worse Not Better

Despite the outlawing of the tactics used by the FBI in its counter intelligence operations there is a wide consensus based on experience that illegal and highly abusive FBI tactics are still at the heart of their political activities today. These have been taught to, and adopted by, other intelligence agencies other countries, such as Australia and the UK, as well as other US agencies, such as the NSA. These programs continue to build on Hoover’s legacy made all the more powerful by the advent of the internet which makes for much easier data gathering and aids more secret and cost-efficient surveillance, which only came to light through Ed. Snowden who revealed the NSA’s covert data-gathering program, not just involving political rivals, dissidents and activists, but tens of millions of US citizens.

NSA documents released by Snowden exemplify how individuals’ “personal vulnerabilities” were gathered through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target’s credibility, reputation and authority.” [13] As it was in Hoover’s day, private information gathered through surveillance is exploited to neutralise targets, by leaking that information publicly, or to a closed network of friends, work colleagues, peers and associates of the target specially recruited for that purpose. Once they have the information, the agencies have multiple options in how it can be used, by whom and when. They now control a realm of your life previously controlled only by you.

 

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said these revelations give rise to serious concerns about abuse.

 

“Wherever you are, the NSA’s databases store information about your political views, your medical history, your intimate relationships and your activities online,” he added. “The NSA says this personal information won’t be abused, but these documents show that the NSA probably defines ‘abuse’ very narrowly.”[14]

 

An insightful blog from American journalist and author Naomi Wolf on the new shadowy security state we now inhabit in America:

 

“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, and both reporters and commentators need to lose their naivete about this interpenetration.

 

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…

 

…the things that spies were tasked with doing overseas, to destabilize ‘enemies’ in foreign countries through various kinds of hidden interventions and fake identities — are now legal to direct against ‘enemies’ of the government, or of the police state, or of the intelligence services, here at home. (Or are made legal, as we see, through secret law).”[15] 

 

Personal surveillance is not a tactic reserved only for high-profile leaders like Martin Luther King. The FBI has a history of watching anyone of potential influence on issues they have an interest in. And the list of issues today that they have an interest in is growing rapidly to extend economic protections, even for small gains, at the expense of social and environmental protections we once took for granted across America.

 

The State is targeting ordinary people as domestic political dissidents. Funding provided by our tax dollars, we are told, is used to direct resources to defend the country against foreign threats to our values, like terrorism, but increasingly these funds are diverted into domestic programs that target regular citizens and paradoxically subvert the very values they claim to be defending. It is deliberate, systematic and widespread and it is directed to serving vested interests and big business. The FBI is enforcing values, not the law; in a secret “cultural” police war against citizens – the American establishment version of sharia law – enforced to shape western capitalist values and morality. The FBI and other western intelligence agencies have spearheaded a crackdown on the citizens of formerly free Anglo democracies.

 

There is a naïve view that if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. But what if the security agencies get it wrong – intentionally, through incompetence, or through vast expansion of their mission and definition of who is considered a “threat” – and you become a political target for illegitimate reasons as has happened to many before you across the world and through history. Something imperceptibly shifts on the political front and that slippery line is crossed in America and Australia and elsewhere in the West? Who will stop them if they come after you? What happens if it occurs as a result of doing your job, informing ethical investment funds about concerns with Freeport McMoran, for example, as happened with me, or defending your rights and interests under the constitution? Do you expect your employer to go out on a limb for you; or even your congressman or senator? They don’t and they won’t.

 

What happens if you make an off-the-cuff remark about some political or social issue, for example, and it is recorded at a party, in a bar, over the phone or in an email and that remark is taken at face value or misconstrued by a spy who is listening? They decide when to interfere in your life, or when to leave you alone. But there is no due process. You do not know what their trigger points are, what issues they are concerned about today, whether they have a stake in a minor, let alone major issue that might affect you – social, economic, environmental. Only, you now find yourself in their way, opposed to something they want – national healthcare, chemical contamination limits for aquifers and drinking water in your neighborhood, opposition to a new easement for a large road, fracking, social inequality, some hitherto right to civil society involvement you thought you had reflected in red- or green-tape protection of your interests – now put you, and your small community group of resisters, squarely in the sights of the new internal micro national security agenda.

 

If you challenge the new status quo, you, and hundreds of thousands or millions of people like you, on aggregate will be categorized, labelled and accused of, or blamed for, causing economic adversity that impacts the profits of state coffers and those of certain oligarchs, an impediment to progress and a breach of the redefined “national security” in this new world. You will be part of a new, burgeoning class of political offender which the authorities have huge capacity to contain, the electronic age analogue to the boom in the criminal prison population.

 

In this new state, the battleground is located on new ground, the frontline moved further down the economic chain. Do you have a favourite beach you don’t want built up, a local patch of forest you love and don’t want bulldozed, an industrial or retail site you don’t want built at the end of your street? That makes you a potential activist.

 

From this humble provocation begins the infiltration of, and interference with, your group, or the quiet undermining of your life in defence of their goals for “national security” and economic growth. They help themselves to your private information, to your list or friends, family members and work colleagues, medical records, academic records, library, video and browser history. They take what they want and use it in ways that help them. Once placed on a list, agents will work to harness or undermine your influence; secret surveillance might even extend into bedrooms or hotel rooms and routinely does. All of these tactics I can attest to, and Susan, as an undercover FBI agent, on occasion alluded to (see first section of book).

 

Your secretly recorded statements, sarcastic or caustic humour, taunts, provocations, angry or frustrated remarks, mocking, – the sort of thing that might get you hauled off and interrogated by security if you make such comments at the airport check-in counter, but now said in private make you vulnerable. You might be subjected to a smear campaign, with or without a quiet investigation to support it, or your cause may be derailed by a commanding new leader secretly designed on acting as saboteur and spoiler, a newcomer or existing insider recruited to double cross you.

 

When you realise you or your group have been targeted, played, and diminished or purged, your rights enshrined in the contract between you and the state seriously violated, do you hope the captive oversight regulators will suddenly find a way to help you when they have ignored everyone else in your situation? You will find there is no recourse available to you, no way to verify and correct a terrible “error”, or even to know what allegations have been made against you.

 

Separation of Powers

 

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[16] 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.

 

Dodgy Dossiers

 

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 non-existent 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”[17]

 

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.”[18]

 

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.[19]

 

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.[20] 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.'” [21]

 

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.” [22]

 

[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.

 

 

The Banyan Tree: A model of intelligence agency domestic subversion

 

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.[23] 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.”

 

Five-Eyes: Outsourcing domestic surveillance to foreign governments

 

As I discovered, even if a political target is forced to move overseas, the American intelligence agencies have international arrangements and relationships they use to subvert any jurisdictional constraint on their activities. They share secrets within a circle of cronies and collaborators outside the purview of oversight.

 

In the Anglo bloc, this cabal is known as the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance, and consists of: USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This so-called “Anglo Club” is led by the US and UK and has brought our much-vaunted democracies to the point of brutish tyranny. Are we past the point of no return? Writing in 2005 former Australian spies Lance Collins and Warren Reed were prescient about the internal threats posed by these agencies, and optimistically, back then, they thought we still had time:

 

Without the benefit of hindsight, it is premature to say we are irrevocably at such a point. Nonetheless, there are indicators in the Anglo Club that are both perplexing and concerning. The most noticeable and relevant is the continuation of political and military violence.

 

Other indicators are subtler, like the increasingly intrusive surveillance of a docile public by and through government; like spin, dazzling official lies, and a level of deceit before Parliament and Congress that was unimaginable a few decades ago. Truth and accountability seem despised by those handling the governance of some Anglo nations. And then there’s increasing national and personal debt, job insecurity, the decay of infrastructure and services.” [24]

 

In 2014 it is not so clear that we have not already passed that “tipping point” and lost the critical features of our democracy that protects civil liberties and respect for human rights.

 

Concerns about a docile public and aggressive state surveillance have been shown to be correct in light of the NSA blanket surveillance disclosures. There have been disturbing disclosures about the West’s path to war in Iraq, and there have been even more disturbing disclosures about how that war was fought, including the secret existence of CIA “black sites” and torture of detainees. Ironically, while Iraq was found to have had no weapons of mass destruction, the US made rampant use of depleted uranium in its munitions during the war, which contaminated vast tracks of Iraq and will cause illness and deformity to civilians that live there for generations to come. Tellingly, these are part of a long list of recent US traits that have more in common with a totalitarian state than an accountable, representative democracy.

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 to one of its partnering agencies out of the jurisdiction out of the oversight agencies and courts. As former MI5 operative, Annie Malcolm, observed,

 

“….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 General Communications Headquarters (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. [25]

 

She adds that the UK’s GCHQ has received NSA funding to the tune of $100 million over the last few years and has a long and dishonourable history of circumventing US constitutional rights by spying on US citizens (as foreign nationals) and then passing on the information to a grateful NSA. Indeed, the US and closely allied Anglo Club countries routinely collect and share intelligence with each other, potentially circumventing each nations’ domestic restrictions and allowing agencies to circumvent legal boundaries on what can be collected and disseminated in country. It is an insolent and cynical disregard by bureaucrats of lawmakers in parliament and congress.

 

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 in 2013 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.”[26]

 

Intelligence agencies: a long history of wilful breaches

 

As a sign of how prickly the increasingly emboldened conduct of the agencies is becoming, even the conservative Murdoch/News Limited publication The Australian said of ASIO in discussing its activities during the Cold War: “ASIO got a lot wrong during the Cold War. It sometimes abused its power. It monitored people who posed no risk to security.” [27]

ASIO has a long history of operating outside its mandate. In my opinion, ASIO’s track record is no better these days, especially given their close association with the activities of foreign intelligence services over which Australian oversight regulators have no jurisdiction. However, in jumping to the defence of the security agencies conservative commentator for The Australian, Gerard Henderson, attempted to distance comparisons of ASIO operations in Australia to the Stasi in East Germany made the misleading assertion that, “…ASIO has not murdered or tortured Australian citizens.” [28]

This defence has been repeated by Attorney-General George Brandis as the Abbot government sought to push its draconian national security laws through a hostile Senate that contained provisions for tortures such as waterboarding, sensory depravation and drugging.[29] The Green and the Labor parties raised immediate concerns and were entitled to be sceptical given recent cases involving Australians during the decade-long “War on terror” campaign.

In 2010 the Australian Government made an undisclosed payout to Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib to avert a high-profile court case after he had detailed allegations of abuses by ASIO officers complicit in his kidnapping and rendition to Egypt and in attendance during his torture. His claims were substantiated by an Egyptian intelligence official, the ASIO agent present at the “interrogations” was named and it was revealed that there were recordings and video evidence.

Another Guantanamo Bay inmate, Australian citizen David Hicks, who was held by US authorities for six years on suspicion of having been trained by, and having fought with, Al Qaeda alleged he was tortured during his time in Cuba. Despite having broken no Australian law the then Prime Minister, John Howard, abandoned Hicks into detention conditions that did not accord with international law or the Geneva Conventions and did not press the Americans for his return as other nations did.

Whistleblowing has an honourable tradition in post-war western democracy. Although they were branded traitors and vilified at the time, history has judged the likes of Daniel Elsberg (Pentagon Papers), Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein (Watergate), Andrew Wilkie and Dr David Kelly (Iraq WMD) kindly and will do likewise for Assange, Snowden and Manning when we reflect on this era.

The emergence of whistleblowers and leakers in the US is a natural response by independent minded and resourceful people to an oppressive government that disrespects and ignores their rights as enshrined in the constitution. It is a sign of the depth of state repression that the abuses hiding behind state secrecy laws and revealed by whistleblowers could not find currency through official oversight channels. The powers that decide things unelected, behind closed doors, are neither transparent nor accountable, may need to gird their souls against deep embarrassment in the future as the technically gifted and morally motivated hackers and defenders of the public freedom find new ways to release their secrets to the public.

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. We will create for ourselves the sort of state that reflects the type of people we are.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin.

 Author: John Wilson

[1]Ben Grubb and Matthew Knott, 1 October 2014 New national security laws pave way for ‘police state,’ says Andrew Wilkie, SMH http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/new-national-security-laws-pave-way-for-police-state-says-andrew-wilkie-20141001-10ojxq.html

[2] Ben Grubb and Matthew Knott, 30 September 2014 Labor “picks battles” in backing new spy laws, SMH http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/labor-picks-battles-in-backing-new-spy-laws-20140929-10no60.html

[3] 18 July 2013, America has no functioning democracy, RT. http://rt.com/usa/carter-comment-nsa-snowden-261/

[4] Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, September 2014 Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, American Political Science Association 2014, p564.

[5] Katie Rogers, 2 October 2013 Glenn Greenwald and Janine Gibson: 10 highlights from their Reddit AMA, Guardian.  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/01/glenn-greenwald-janine-gibson-reddit-nsa

[6] Glenn Greenwald, 27 September 2013 Sen. Ron Wyden: NSA ‘repeatedly deceived the American people’, Guardian.  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/27/ron-wyden-nsa-systematically-deceived

[7] 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/

[8] John Tirman, Executive Director, MIT Center for International Studies, 9 July 2013 The Quiet Coup: No, Not Egypt. Here, Huffington Post.

[9] Ronald Kessler, 2011 The Secrets of the FBI, Crown Publishers, NY as reported by Jay Stanley, 15 October 2013 On the Prospect of Blackmail by the NSA, American Civil Liberties Union.

[10] Jay Stanley, 15 October 2013 On the Prospect of Blackmail by the NSA, American Civil Liberties Union.

[11] Final Report, S. Rep. No. 94-755 (1976), Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities, Book III, Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans. http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/churchcommittee.html

[12] Charles M. Blow, 28 August 2013 The Most Dangerous Negro, The New York Times.

[13] Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher, Ryan Grimryan, 26 November 2013 Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’, Huffington Post.

[14] Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher, Ryan Grimryan, 26 November 2013 Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’, Huffington Post.

[15] Naomi Wolf, 16 June 2013 Some aspects of Snowden’s presentation that I find worth further inquiry – an update, facebook.com. https://www.facebook.com/notes/naomi-wolf/some-aspects-of-snowdens-presentation-that-i-find-worth-further-inquiry-an-updat/10151561401552949

[16] Brian Knappenberger, 25 November 2013 Why Care About NSA Spying, The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000002571435/why-care-about-the-nsa.html

[17] Lance Collins and Warren Reed, 2005 Plunging Point: Intelligence Failures, Cover-Ups and Consequences, Harper Collins Publishers, p30.

[18] John Pilger, 16 November 2014 The siege of Julian Assange is a farce – a special investigation, johnpilger.com.

http://johnpilger.com/articles/the-siege-of-julian-assange-is-a-farce-a-special-investigation

[19] The betrayal of Dr David Kelly, 10 years on, Daily Telegraph (UK), 21 July 2013 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10192271/The-betrayal-of-Dr-David-Kelly-10-years-on.html

[20] ABC News, 22 September 2014 Former prime minister John Howard ’embarrassed’ by Iraq WMD intelligence; says Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech was ‘nonsense’ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-21/howard-embarrassed-by-intelligence-that-iraq-had-wmds/5759132

[21] Tom Carter, 7 August 2014 Washington Post Accuses Snowden of Aiding Al Qaeda, Global Research. http://www.globalresearch.ca/washington-post-accuses-snowden-of-aiding-al-qaeda/5395099

[22]7 August 2014 ‘History is a human right’: UK govt. Wikipedia edits obscure high profile killings, RT. http://rt.com/uk/178652-internet-censorship-police-uk/

[23] Eben Kirksey, 2012 Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Architecture of Global Power, Duke University Press, p68-p73.

[24] Lance Collins and Warren Reed, 2005 Plunging Point: Intelligence Failures, Cover-Ups and Consequences, Harper Collins Publishers, p300-301.

[25] 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/

[26] 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

[27] Troy Bramston, 11 January 2014 Communist Party’s shadow man pursued utterly discredited ideal, The Australian.

[28] Gerard Henderson, 11 January 2014, Totalitarian slurs ignore the truth of ASIO activities, The Australian.

[29] Anti-terror laws will open door to torture, says Senator David Leyonhjelm, SMH, September 18, 2014  http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/antiterror-laws-will-open-door-to-torture-says-senator-david-leyonhjelm-20140918-10inlj.html#ixzz3EwiULD4e

Posted in ASIO, Berlin Wall, Cheney, Cold War, corruption, dissident, FBI, foreign affairs, human rights, Indonesia, intelligence agency, Kissinger, national security, War criminal, West Papua | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The FBI (and ASIO) stole my girlfriend

The FBX Blog: The Unfolding Story

www.facebook.com/Mininganalyst

Overview

There is no hard and firm definition of what makes someone a ‘dissident’ in the US, no red line one crosses from being 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.

Dissidents on Wall Street

In my case, I found where the line is drawn after publication of a work report on the US mining company Freeport McMoran Grasberg mine killings. 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 as 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. They would attempt to take control of my life, isolate me and diminish my hopes, happiness, and “place in the world” across all aspects of my life.

At the time, I was a young mining analyst, with a recent Wharton MBA working in the NY equity research division of SG Warburg (now part of UBS). One of my research reports (published 12 March 1996; click) had raised the issue of NYSE listed 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, remote Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua, Indonesia. The project has had a long history of killings, and the brutality seemed to be spiralling out of control with seven indigenous protestors shot and killed in a short period around Christmas Day 1994. 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.

West Papua has been plagued with security challenges since Indonesia took control in 1969 and large scale open pit mining commenced in the Grasberg region in 1972. From the 1990’s, on the back of expansions at the Grasberg mine and subsequently huge increases in the price of commodities, in particular gold and copper – the mine’s major outputs, Freeport generated inordinate wealth and became the largest tax payer in Indonesia.

Security at the mine has always been an issue for a number of reasons, not least of which was the injustice of the brutal Indonesian military led annexation of the territory with support from the US prior to Freeport commencing mining operations there; and also the ongoing subjugation and abuse of the traditional Melanesian inhabitants, many of whom were indigenous tribespeople displaced by the mine where there remains unrequited landright claims.

In 2003 Freeport publicly acknowledged it directly paid Indonesian military and police units and officials. In 2005, the New York Times reported that the company had paid US20 million dollars between 1998 and 2004 for these services including paying one individual US150,000 dollars. The size of the payments Freeport makes to the Indonesian military and police appear to have increased significantly over time: the company’s SEC filings, for example, indicate spending on internal civilian security in 2011 was US37 million dollars plus an additional US14 million dollars paid directly to the Indonesian government and military – a total of US51 million dollars spent in relation to Grasberg – just in 2011.

Allegations of Freeport corruption are in regard to possible breaches of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The New York City pension funds had raised the issue of the legality of direct payments to Indonesian officials with Freeport since at least 2002 when they requested the company disclose full details of all its payments to the military and police. The requests were rebuffed by Freeport.[1]

Further, in 2011 the United Steelworkers (USW) sent a letter to the DOJ that the company be investigated following recent disclosures by the Indonesian police of receiving direct payments from Freeport: click.

Freeport says there is “no alternative to our reliance on the Indonesian military and police…” Indeed, Freeport CEO Jim-Bob Moffett reported security matters relating to the mine as the ‘new cold war’, and anthropologist Hugh Brody has called it the militarization of mining.

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 alone. With the killings of 1994-95 attracting worldwide attention, Freeport’s public relations machine went into overdrive. It paid for extensive advertising, including full page ads 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 Loyola University in New Orleans.

 

But what is little known and not 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. Numerous eyewitnesses over a period of time have reported multiple human rights abuses by Freeport claiming the company’s security personnel were involved in beatings and killings of indigenous people, at times colluding with the Indonesian military: click. (Claims of Freeport’s security personnel involvement, however, have not been tested and substantiated in court).

However, Freeport’s problems weren’t limited to eyewitness allegations of company personnel being directly involved in human rights abuses, a notion ‘reinforced by overwhelming evidence’ provided in two independent human rights reports in 1995. 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 the 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 valuation models of the company and pass comment directly to fund managers around the world, despite commentary by the wider media within the US about problems at Freeport.

The research report I wrote dated 12 March 1996 followed media reports of further killings and strike activity at the Grasberg mine. Indeed, from Freeport’s point of view, things were spiralling out of control at and around the mine, and Jim Bob had been summoned, under pressure from President Suharto to settle the disquiet. He arrived at Freeport’s Timika airport on the 13th March 1996 amidst a military lockdown.

Below is a paragraph from the 12 March 1996 Wall Street report that triggered the FBI’s interest:

“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 report, but the response of the authorities shows how extremely sensitive they were, and remain, to the issues raised.

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 received much publicity when it dumped and blacklisted the company’s shares in 2006. Other government funds to blacklist Freeport shares include New Zealand (2012) and Sweden (2013).

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.

The confluence of titans

Grasberg is one of the largest, most profitable mines in the world and is expected to remain in operation beyond 2040 – at least another 30 years. Production in 2011 was 882 million pounds of copper and 1.4 million ounces of gold, contributing US5.4 billion dollars to Freeport’s revenues and US2.9 billion dollars to gross profit.

The advent of the internet brought new transparency and enabled news of the 1994-95 killings to be relayed to media outlets and NGOs around the world. The FBI and Freeport were nervous about blowback – particularly in NY, where the financial community played a key role in the financing of Freeport’s activities. But it was impossible for corporate PR and the FBI to entirely stop the backlash against Freeport. Indeed, large investment funds have their own extensive research teams staffed with lawyers, sector analysts, and compliance officers, and their budgets extend to commissioning leading external technical experts to provide detailed opinions on any issue under consideration.

When the Government Pension Fund of Norway dumped their holdings in Freeport on ethical concerns, it did so following a thorough analysis of the impact of riverine tailings disposal at Grasberg on the environment and health and safety of local communities (report).[2] From their point of view, this was the most accessible issue to get data on, and while not the only concern they had about Freeport, it was sufficient to come to a decision. With US240 billion dollars under management it is the highest profile fund to blacklist the company.

Indeed critics rightfully claim that 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 lend money to finance Freeport’s Grasberg mine appear 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 new job search, and career.

My experience on this issue 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 co-operatively with each other.

 

 

Meeting with the FBI and Freeport

In response to the analyst report, 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 analyst briefing and Q&A. It was May 1996, and my report had been published 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 investigation into the killings.

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 a disclosure, that like tarantulas walking over one in their sleep, the FBI, the supposed protector of democratic freedoms in the US, had emerged from its dark cover and was now on the prowl.

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. From the outset, they focused their attack on my relationship with Susan, my long term girlfriend.

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 discussed her work with me on occasion and at the time she was involved with pursuing environmental outlaws on the east side of the US.

 

Threats and interference from the FBI

My report 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 embarrassment. 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 agents in the hundreds of thousands, each earning a pittance, employed in numbers that greatly exceed the agent head count disclosed on the FBI website, using 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. These headwinds affected my career, my relationships and ultimately forced me to leave the US.

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.

 

Throughout their reprisal attack on me, they have colluded with and liaised closely with their counterparts in the Australian intelligence agency ASIO (I am a dual American/Australian citizen). And there is no recourse, no protection against them. Their activities are officially hidden, protected by state secrecy laws and an oversight culture in the US (and Australia) that looks the other way.

The intelligence agencies in the West, like their kin in parts of the world with more notorious reputations, use their powers ‘strategically’ – for institutional enhancement or to embellish individual career paths, but not necessarily to protect and advance American (and Western) values of the masses which expect justice, truth and equality. These values have now been surrendered to political expediency, replaced with the sophistry of the new elite: realpolitik – where policy choices are made on the basis of how far into the future the decision maker’s calculus can forecast benefits accruing to their self interest.

At the time the FBI and ASIO campaign commenced I was young, 33 years old, new to Wall Street, a relatively unknown analyst with limited influence. I had no connections into the political world that could be called upon to pull strings and haul the FBI into line on this issue. The FBI seeks targets where it calculates there is little risk of political ricochet, blowback that might result in unintended repercussions for the agency, such as increased scrutiny and accountability of its activities – and the corollary to that, criminal prosecution.

While my Freeport McMoran research report and questions obviously hit a sensitive chord with certain powerful people, one of the key factors in the agency choosing to target me seems to have been my ‘new boy on the block’ status with lack of political connections to hit back and cause them problems. I was an easy target.

In the FBI’s calculation, it is a one sided fight – the FBI builds its influence and power, like a schoolboy bully – attempting to crush someone in full view of select analysts, bankers, journalists and those who shape institutional and corporate cultures; they send a message that to speak out in this democracy against vested financial and political interests will result in ‘unregulated’ retribution. In the FBI’s calculus, there was virtually nothing I could do about their attacks, though this changed with the advent of social media, the power of which the FBI did not foresee.

FBI targets my girlfriend

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, 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. However, the FBI got the result it intended, the three year relationship between Susan and me was damaged and never recovered. But their payback was just beginning.

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.

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.

I learned the truth about the FBI’s involvement in this revenge attack from Dr Steven D. Garber (White Plains, NY; formerly NYC – see details below), one of Susan’s colleagues and a ranking officer at the FBI who had apparently 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.

Steve’s disclosure to me was in the days before mass social media networking and the FBI assumed this story would never be heard.

The hollowing out of FBI oversight

My various efforts to have the agencies held to account have failed. Attempts to do so in the US include:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. Further, it appears the FBI has co-opted a staff member within Congressman Nadler’s office.
  3. 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. Again, it appears that the FBI has insiders positioned within the oversight agencies to circumvent the complaints process and undermine accountability.

My Sydney Member of Parliament, Tanya Plibersek raised my concerns about abusive ASIO surveillance and interference in a speech to the Australian Parliament in 2007. A transcript is available in Hansard (28 March 2007); click to read. 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. Neither ASIO nor the Government responded to the concerns she had raised which remain unanswered to this day.

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. A letter I sent to the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security apparently raised heads but resulted in no action: Letter to PJCIS.

Oversight of the FBI’s activities in the US is a rigged game (likewise with ASIO in Australia). The oversight agencies are a tease; a public deception. They blatantly deceive and shamelessly lie, protected from higher standards 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 position their agents within the various oversight groups and undermine their independence. It is my experience that intelligence agency accountability has been thoroughly undermined, completely hollowed out, like termites with an insatiable appetite, the agencies have invisibly hollowed out the grand old structures for accountability that our democracy depends on.

Following revelations of the NSA leaks by Ed Snowden that started June 2013, The Guardian describes the shocking implication of the oversight committees’ lack of efficacy, and most disturbing, the committee members admitted they didn’t have a clue 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.”[3]

In Australia, Ian Barker QC, 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.”

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 something I’ve tested, though some of my lawyers in Australia have been interfered with leading me to have early doubts about the system’s integrity.

ASIO interference with lawyers in Australia

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.

In each case I complained 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 looked into none of the illegal activities I reported despite having vast powers to do so.  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 the evidence in Australia, he had advised me over a 12 month period and knew it well. 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.

I sent a complaint letter about my lawyers and ASIO interference to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) – the Australian watchdog that is meant to constrain ASIO. He wrote 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 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.”[4]

Indeed, it is not only lawyers that our intelligence agencies appear to be interfering with but parliamentarians and the parliamentary process itself. One high profile, courageous and up-and-coming Member of Parliament, Ross Cameron, Liberal MP for Parramatta broke ranks with the governing Liberal Coalition under Prime Minister John Howard and, guided by his conscience and electorate, spoke out against the Iraq War in 2003. In Cameron’s case he found out how ASIO operates without ever realising the agency had targeted him in retribution for his outspoken opposition to the Howard government’s push to war in Iraq.

This post on Ross Cameron is included on Mininganalyst as it vividly demonstrates the overreach, hidden role and abusive power of domestic intelligence agency activity in Australia. ASIO hatchet job on Ross Cameron

The Wikileaks Party’s election prospects in the September 2013 federal election also seems to have drawn ASIO’s attention and interference. Sydney based party candidate and academic Alison Broinowski found herself fending off ardent attacks from unlikely and unexpected aggressors such as Sydney University Professor John Keane (Director, Institute for Democracy and Human Rights at Sydney University) who at other times was an ardent supporter of Wikileaks in what is reminiscent of a classic undercover ASIO attack on the political prospects of an unfavoured political party. click

 

 

The European scourge

The European scourge of the 20th century is making its way to the US in the 21st century: unlimited power of national intelligence agencies. 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; negative media delivered by agency aligned/paid journalists; damaging my business; jailed for treason for naming government agents that have been involved in this abuse; and the most bizarre and sick warning of all – the threat posed by government agencies that have the power to mobilise and break up or destabilise families, that they can fabricate reasons to remove children from their parents – something Susan said was considered a fair tactic by the FBI – specially reserved for ‘dissidents’ who the agency believes are deserving of such treatment. Susan was not joking; she was deadly serious.

The FBI (and ASIO) has thrown nets over all my communications, identifying and targeting friends, associates and colleagues. They have approached old friends and current, and in cases 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 of 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.

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. The names of these agents, wedged between the government, the constitution and the people, are gradually being disclosed below in successive updates of this note.

Conclusion

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, it seems forever.

America is full of good people, it is a great country. Its leaders, if allowed to govern with the support of strong democratic institutions to ensure accountability to the wider electorate, to good people, will take America, and the world, to a better place.

The plight of indigenous people caught in military conflict zones, with domestic and foreign backers funding armed violence to secure resources, deserves much greater public attention: West Papua, Nigeria, DRC and elsewhere. It is moral bankruptcy for the world’s most powerful to target indigenous people for their resources on account they are easy military targets; no match for the US or other industrialised societies and their modern weaponry. 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. Indeed, international mining major Rio Tinto is accused of helping the government forces during the Bougainville war in PNG, 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.

Further details to come

This story starts with what the US (and Australian) intelligence agencies did to my girlfriend and me while we were living and working in New York, set against the background of the killings of indigenous protestors at the Freeport McMoran Grasberg mine in West Papua, Indonesia and subsequent human rights investigations.

The details are set out below [details to be posted].

Postscript        [Updated 27 March 2014]

I have sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the FBI on a number of occasions, most recently in 2014. The FBI has lied to me and my attorney in its processing of my request to release files it holds about me, and in cases it has taken them over 12 months to respond. It denies it has done anything untoward, denies any of its agents are involved despite my providing them with names and details. I have no doubt of their involvement following agent’s disclosures to me, and have no doubt that the cause of their interest is in protecting the public image and financial market credibility of Freeport McMoran. Further, the FBI sent the following tersely worded statement following a complaint I sent to the Department of Justice, which they forwarded to the FBI: “[the FBI] has determined that your complaint does not warrant the initiation of an investigation. We consider this matter closed”.

I have sought to work through the official channels for accountability and truth from the FBI, only to be thwarted at every turn. The FOIA and intelligence agency oversight system in the US (and Australia) is thoroughly broken, a sentiment shared by all attorneys I have spoken to who have experience dealing with these agencies. As a result, I am disclosing details of my case publicly, including the names of FBI agents and collaborators.

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.

(http://www.cwdowner.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=42&Itemid=23)

  • 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.
  • Robert Schultz – Albuquerque based head hunter. MRC Mining Search.

http://www.miningsearch.com/mining-search/our-team/

  • 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. 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:

(to be disclosed)

[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 them.”]

The above 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.

This material is being released as work in progress in draft form that will be updated and extended over the coming year.

Author: John Wilson

Copyright 2014 by Mininganalyst. All rights reserved.

[1] Jane Perlez and Raymond Bonner, 28 January 2006 New York Urges U.S. Inquiry in Mining Company’s Indonesia Payment, The New York Times

[2] Council on Ethics for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global, Recommendation of 15 February 2006. http://www.regjeringen.no/pages/1956975/F%20Recommendation%20Final.pdf

[3] Jonathan Freedland, 19 October 2013, The GCHQ scandal is not about the Guardian. It is an insult to parliament, The Guardian.

[4] 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

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Reports of eye witness accounts of Freeport human rights abuses

Freeport, by its own account, has co-operated with, financed and supported the Indonesian military in West Papua. More disturbing, there have been multiple eye witness reports of Freeport security taking direct part in human rights abuses in the past, with multiple sources commenting on different incidences, in different places at different times. (However, to date, allegations of Freeport’s involvement in human rights abuses have not been proven in court).

Denise Leith notes multiple first person accounts including witnesses to killings. In an illuminating chapter on human rights, she describes 8 eyewitness accounts of abuses by Freeport security summarised below[1]:

The ACFOA report contains eyewitness accounts of Freeport security involvement in the shooting of villagers.

  1. Survival International circulated an Amungme video of Jacobus Niwilingame testifying to detention and abuse at the hands of Freeport security.
  2. LEMASA documented in 1997 specific cases of ‘assaults, disappearances and rapes’ it attributed to Freeport security.
  3. Masmus Tipagau, a Freeport employee, reported to a journalist he had witnessed Freeport security beating a man for playing cards.
  4. 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.
  5. An article in The Nation said a Western traveller claimed he had been detained by Freeport security (and TNI – Indonesian armed forces) for several hours.
  6. In the documentary Blood on the Cross, 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’.

Well regarded Australian scientist and Australian of the Year in 2007, Professor Tim Flannery also reported an eye witness statement about Freeport security abuses:

  1. In his book Throwim Way Leg Tim Flannery describes a young Papuan boy Arianus Maripu who died after a severe beating (p284-291), and who had told Flannery before he died that he had been beaten by Freeport security.

Flannery had worked in the Freeport concession and came to the conclusion that “…the company had little control over its security forces, which, he believed, received their orders from TNI.”

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.”[2]

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.”[3]

Unfortunately, the U.S. Government has done very little to help the people of West Papua and justice seems a long way off.

Author: John Wilson

[1] Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press, p235-236.

[2] Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press, p219.

[3] H9196 Congressional Record – House, 30 September 1999 Indonesia’s Shameful Military Occupation of East Timor and West Papua New Guinea. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/

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My experience with the media – targeting legislators and officials

 

Contents
Overview….p1

A personal account: meetings with the Fourth Estate…p2
The media and Elected Representatives…..p3
Reprisals against my Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek…..p4
Threats to the Commonwealth attorney general’s office…..p5
Former Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, MP…..p7
First meeting with Ruddock – December 2011:….p8
Second meeting with Ruddock – April 2012:….p8
Third meeting with Ruddock – May 2013:….p9
Conclusion….p12

Overview

The hunter hides undetected behind a camouflaged screen known as 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. Just so, the western “free press” offers camouflage for the propaganda of the intelligence agencies which produces and suppresses certain types of story to achieve secret, undisclosed objectives. Agents masquerading as part of the free press, undercover journalists and editors, move freely within the ranks of the media and have their work published and broadcast undeclared to an all too often unsuspecting public.

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. 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.

The flow of propaganda in the mainstream media has disenfranchised and disempowered much of 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.”

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. 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. People naively think we are 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 people were naive, blissfully ignorant of the threat they lived under.

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, including Australians, 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.

A personal account: meetings with the Fourth Estate

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 media and Elected Representatives

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 ejection 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.

Reprisals against my Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek

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, which 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.

Threats to the Commonwealth attorney general’s office

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.

I was being treated like a character from Kafka’s novel The Castle – who stood against the system in pursuit of a seemingly unobtainable and futile 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 trying to hold the intelligence agencies to account in America, Australia and the other Five-Eye intelligence sharing partners (UK, Canada, NZ) by attempting to find the right elected representative or regulator that will stand up for and represent you and your cause, that will investigate allegations, even when it is their duty to do so. The democratic promise of due process is sorely rebuffed by a constant stream of lame excuses and stonewalling officials that make one’s head spin as if in a maze with random arrows plastered all over the place each purporting to point to the exit, but all of which are false leads that go nowhere.

Former Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, MP

Moving on from efforts to work with the current attorney general’s staff, I met 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.

First meeting with Ruddock – December 2011:

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 he sent me an email in which he offered to forward my complaint about ASIO and IGIS to the Prime Minister:

“Dear XXXXX

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.

Yours sincerely

The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP”

However, he subsequently reneged on the above offer 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.

Second meeting with Ruddock – April 2012:

In March 2012, I emailed to request a second meeting in follow up to the first, 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 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.

Third meeting with Ruddock – May 2013:

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: XXXXX Wilson [mailto:XXXXXXXXXX]
Sent: Thursday, 20 June 2013 10:37 AM
To: ‘pjcis@aph.gov.au’
Subject: FW: XXXXXXXXWilson – 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.

XXX Wilson
Tel: XXXXXXXXXXXXX

From: XXXXXX Wilson XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX]
Sent: Friday, 14 June 2013 5:08 PM
To: ‘philip.ruddock.mp@aph.gov.au’
Cc: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Subject: XXXXX Wilson – ASIO

Dear Philip,

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 XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX community group XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 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:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX, son of former ASIO Director General XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX)
XXXXXXXXXXXX, staff member of the Green’s Senator Rhiannon
XXXXXXXXXXXX, Sydney, stockbroking analyst
XXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX, Sydney businesspeople
XXXXXXXXXXX, Melbourne, former lawyer
XXXXXXXXXXXX, Central coast NSW and Boston, USA
XXXXXXXXXXXX, 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.

Best regards.

XXXXXXX Wilson

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.

Conclusion

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 next section 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. https://mininganalyst.net/2014/09/29/australias-tryst-with-tyranny-asio-hatchet-jobs/

Author: John Wilson

Posted in corruption, dissident, foreign affairs, human rights, intelligence agency, national security | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Australia’s tryst with tyranny: ASIO hatchet jobs on politicians.

Contents
– Australia’s curious case of Ross Cameron, MP (page 1)
– The government’s lawyers weigh in on how elected representatives ought to behave: (page 3)
– Wikileaks Party, Professor Keane, ASIO and the September 2013 Australian federal election. (page 5)
– Australia’s criminalisation of political activity (page 6)

The Magna Carta in 1215 is considered to be the beginning of democracy in England. It is a legal document that imposed constraints upon the rule of the unpopular and absolute monarch King John who until then had ruled with arbitrary decrees and absolute power. Immediately prior to this, the king had been faced with a stark choice: share power or perish in the face of rebellion. The Magna Carta stripped him of absolute power and transferred certain rights and civil liberties to others in the kingdom. Democracy has since offered stability and a powerful, peaceful feedback loop to power elites in England and other countries around the world that have adopted it that is lacking in authoritarian regimes.

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 acceptance of the intelligence agency decision to move away from democratic values to a state controlled system of government the general population will find it has a heavy burden to carry – despite the current economic success of China and Singapore: history has shown how centralised governments respond in times of great social stress with ruthless treatment of individuals which democracies are designed to protect. Populations that want the benefits of centralised control in the good times, give up the benefits of being part of a democracy with strong protection for individual rights in difficult times. If the public is too inclined to accept the world as presented by those in power uncritically, and to accept the erosion of their democratic rights, it risks a confrontation with the darker side of political reality that people are corrupt and no system is perfect, or near perfect – as Churchill said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” And Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, warned, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Our democracy is increasingly controlled and undermined from all angles by faceless intelligence agencies. They help select, shape and mould our legislators, and through them foist their foreign and domestic policies on the public – no matter how unpopular, unjust or in the case of war, violent.
In Australia, the intelligence agencies systematically and secretly manage the pool of candidates presented to voters rooting out those they deem unacceptable: to those familiar with their techniques, it could be seen that they undermined the Wikileaks Party and its candidates who contested the 2013 federal election, among others, and conducted a covert operation against Ross Cameron in reprisal for his outspoken opposition to the Iraq war in 2003.

This segment is included here as it vividly demonstrates the overreach, hidden role and real world impact of power exercised abusively by domestic intelligence agency activity.

Australia’s curious case of Ross Cameron, MP

In Australia, parliamentarians have the right to vote their conscience, to cross the floor on any issue and vote with the opposition. However, parliamentary discipline is strong and members rarely do so. While members who cross the floor may be penalised by their party for doing so and find their career options constrained in the future, what is interesting is how this control is enforced by ASIO on matters it secretly declares to be national interest priorities.

ASIO, as an institution that reflects and shapes establishment values, acted in a way reminiscent of inappropriate Australian responses in past eras to political pressures of the day such as the White Australia Policy, the Stolen Generation, the Maralinga British nuclear test site in South Australia on Aboriginal traditional lands, the Vietnam War and today’s mandatory immigration detention of asylum seekers: it self-declared the national interest and unofficially took charge of Australia’s push to war as an issue of national importance – that the country must support the US in going to war no matter what – even an illegal, pre-emptive war as Iraq was.

The intelligence used to justify the war was falsified, and in hindsight the consensus of opinion is that the US invaded Iraq to secure access to low cost energy, to block the Chinese and give it lock in a key strategic advantage over the Chinese economy and geopolitical claims in the region. Energy is not such a pressing concern since the US discovered huge amounts of low cost energy at home in oil shale and coal seam gas reserves in the decade that followed the invasion of Iraq. It cost the lives of 500,000 innocent civilians in Iraq plus soldiers, and around 5,000 US and coalition soldiers and was a massive reputational blunder for leaders in the West. Indeed, in 2011 a War Crimes Tribunal in Malaysia found President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair guilty of war crimes in absentia.

It seems principles of truth, justice and freedom were the exceptional traits of the Founding Fathers and several generations of persecuted American pilgrims, than an enduring and defining trait, absent in modern day political America.

The problem with the intelligence agencies like ASIO and the FBI/CIA is that they are bestowed with totalitarian powers, free of effective oversight, and seemingly beyond the control of legislators. Restoring control of these agencies, potentially via judicial oversight seems to give the greatest chance of holding them accountable. In Australia, the Hope Royal Commission envisaged and recommended mandatory, broad ranging royal commission’s every 8 years’ or so that would investigate the intelligence agencies. A radical departure such as this from current practice, would be the closest thing to a revolution Australia has seen. Control of what is arguably Australia’s most powerful political authority, the kingmaker and destroyer, would pass from a secret cabal of unknown individuals to the public via an open and accountable judicial system of review, and no doubt uncover many jarring political and spy agency scandals.

The secrecy and associated lack of accountability gives the government and ASIO the power to selectively abuse the human rights of groups of Australians they want for political gain and hide their activities behind the mantra of “national security”. It is an egregious betrayal of Australian values and of our country’s legal commitment to UN treaties:

[T]he government wants to pick and choose whose rights it respects and whose it violates with impunity. This is not a democratic ”rebalancing”. It just gives more power to the powerful, and leaves the powerless with even less. It is perverse, facile and fanatical.

One high profile, courageous and up-and-coming Member of Parliament, Ross Cameron, Liberal MP for Parramatta broke ranks with the governing Liberal Coalition under Prime Minister John Howard and, guided by his conscience and electorate, spoke out against the Iraq War in 2003. In Cameron’s case he found out how ASIO operates without realising the agency had targeted him in retribution for his outspoken opposition to the Howard government’s push to war in Iraq. When ASIO’s ideals clash with the publics’, elected MPs are caught in the middle. With all of its unconstrained power, and collaborative oversight in tow, what did ASIO do when it wanted something against the moral will and best interest of the Australian people? Read below.

Ross Cameron: The below press clips reveal the public face of Cameron’s confession and infidelity but conceal the involvement of ASIO in his setup and downfall. Cameron acted honourably in calling for the truth before agreeing to declare war on Iraq and in doing so acted within his parliamentary powers, and in accordance with his duty and his conscience. Such leadership qualities resulted in an early end of his political career in a very ASIOesq way. The sordid and ruthless Machiavellian methods deployed to achieve this result are more generally associated with the behaviour of a despotic regime, not readily observable by a naive democratic public, not reported in the controlled mainstream media and virtually never find their way into the courts.

1. Some articles describing Cameron’s ‘convenient’ downfall:
The ‘convenience’ of the downfall and the precise timing of the release to coincide with the eve of Cameron’s re-election campaign, as well as the reliable, time tested deployment of ‘honey traps’- female agents briefed and trained to seduce their target, bear the hallmarks and motivations of an ASIO sting, which is a more credible explanation of the events than the ‘mere’ bad luck, poor judgement, career suicide, self confession and coincidence described by the mainstream media.

An editor of a mainstream newspaper would presumably not publish such a story without knowing there was an absolutely irrefutable source; concrete evidence behind such allegations that would stand up in court (presumably recordings/video). Conveniently, not one of the articles found on the web (nor elsewhere) name the woman involved in the scandal. Just as conveniently, none of the articles linked either the woman or her flatmate who just happened to be a journalist for a mainstream paper, to ASIO.

Article 1: (click) I’ve cheated: ‘Family man’ MP’s bombshell, from The Sun-Herald, August 15, 2004

Article 2: (click) Scandal MP Ross Cameron plans a return to politics From: The Daily Telegraph, September 15, 2011

At the time of writing (Dec 2011), a google search for Ross Cameron turned up multiple press clips and entries on the web. But only negative stories had survived the censors cut and remained accessible – those related to his downfall in 2003; or those that contained otherwise disparaging comments about some aspect of his subsequent endeavours. The positive articles had been removed. There were no articles found, despite wide reporting in the mainstream press of the day (2002-03), that reveal the honourable defence Cameron posed in raising the level of public debate, the risk and sacrifice he made in articulating the shortcomings of the government’s arguments presented to the public by the then Liberal Prime Minister John Howard who repeatedly cited false intelligence in a series of ill-reasoned justifications for the push to war in Iraq. Indicative of ASIO’s involvement, this very positive part of Cameron’s history has been illicitly removed from the web.

2. Some articles describing Cameron’s attempt to hold his government accountable:
In an effort to rewrite history, the censors from ASIO have removed all mention of Cameron’s conscientious objection to the Iraq war from the web.

The current-day censors from ASIO appear to have stripped the internet bare of all material that could be construed as supportive of the honourable role Ross Cameron played in holding his Party and the Government of the day accountable for their decisions. It is expected that elected government representatives have a reliable and accountable debate in full view of the public, particularly about a matter that could see the country enter an unpopular, and possibly illegal, pre-emptive war. Cameron demonstrated political leadership, and his views reflected the general sentiment of many in his electorate and indeed the general sentiment of the country. He did the right thing to speak out; his undoing was that he did so in a country that does not have a genuinely free and healthy democracy; one that does not hold wayward intelligence officials to account.

It is unfortunate that our intelligence agencies remove such MPs and likeminded people from office, not to mention the methods they use to do so. Without a doubt, their methods are a national disgrace. ASIO’s covert heavy handedness deprives the country of healthy democratic debate and potential strong future political leadership.

The government’s lawyers weigh in on how elected representatives ought to behave:

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to hear the Australian Solicitor-General, Dr David Bennett speak. He was the government’s chief lawyer during the antagonistic Bush/Blair/Howard years. His legal opinion had great influence on government matters – contentious issues such as the Iraq War, as well as what legal constraints should be imposed on the country’s intelligence agencies.

It was 2006, and I was invited with a small group of 15 or 20 people to hear him talk at the Harvard Club in Sydney. Judging by my previous encounters with some of the other attendees present, the meeting was well represented by ASIO operatives.

Like many of Bennett’s contemporaries who held top political office at the time, he was suffocatingly arrogant I thought. He brashly declared that elected officials in parliament always ought to toe their party line. There was no room for compromise. It is not a unanimously held view, nor is it law, but he reduced a complex matter to a simple black and white outcome. He was unequivocal. In his view, a vote for an individual candidate is always a vote for the party they represent. As such, the candidate, if elected to office, is always duty bound to be on message and vote in accordance with their party’s dictates, on all matters, without room for individual electoral considerations.

Of course, an electorate’s reasons for voting a candidate into office is more complex than his assessment allows – but it is evidently a simplification that enables bureaucrats to make decisions, based on binary inputs, sometimes with devastating results.

No one in the US, or Australia for that matter, anticipated at the time of the 2000 US presidential election, the likelihood that in the next presidential term the US would launch an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated intelligence, and without UN sanction. Why should every electorate in the country, and every individual representative, blithely support such a war, particularly when the burdens and benefits accrue so disproportionately across different segments of the country. Why should party lines be automatically followed in such a case?

Certain electorates bear a disproportionate burden in sending their young to fight the country’s wars, especially in the US, but also in Australia – poor, uneducated adolescents take the brunt of bearing that burden – the nations’ shock troops and foot soldiers. Their elected representatives should be able to vote their conscience to reflect the overwhelming sentiment of their electorate when they vote to authorise sending their country to war or not. Conscription likewise – who could be expected to remain politically disengaged while the government, on a false pretext, forced their sons and daughters to go to war. What does ASIO (and the FBI) expect elective representatives to do? Turn a blind eye to matters that their constituents, and in the case of the Iraq war, the country, cared deeply about?

I saw the impact of war on these poorer communities firsthand – in the small desert town of Wilcox in southern Arizona which I visited a number of times from 2003 to 2008. It is an impoverished old western rail town. Its dry and dusty streets are mostly deserted and are lined with basic, low cost box like homes. I recall the disturbing image in its post office of a wall lined with photos of the community’s many young people who had died fighting for their country since 2003 in the Iraq War. The huge number of deaths, represented by multiple ethnicities, was a burden borne by this small community way out of proportion to the rest of the country.

What responsibility do elected representatives have to inform their constituents of the dangers – should they not serve as “safeguards against secret machinations” of state? Could it be expected that not even one representative could be found with the courage to stand up against nefarious state conspiracies, even when their own constituents’ lives, the very people who trusted and voted for them to represent their interests, are at stake? As Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of America, chief of staff to General Washington, and influential framer of the constitution asked in considering the redemptive power of the legislature, “Can it be supposed there would not be found one man, discerning enough to detect so atrocious a conspiracy, or bold or honest enough to appraise his constituents of the danger?”

The separation of powers should have protected Cameron from being ravaged by ASIO in standing up for his constituents. What did ASIO expect Cameron to tell his constituents (and the FBI the congressman whose district includes Wilcox)? The fact that Cameron wasn’t protected is an indication of how precariously we are positioned as a democracy and how damaging to our democracy the intelligence agencies have become.

Echoing Hamilton’s sentiment, prominent Australian lawyer, Tony Fitzgerald, QC who led the investigation that exposed massive state corruption in Queensland under Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, said in 2013 concerning politicians’ responsibility to the public:

“I cannot believe that people yield up the ability to act in accordance with their conscience in order to act in accordance with the directions of the party. It makes no sense to me that the faceless men tell you how to vote.”

Notwithstanding these electoral complexities of elected representatives having the right to vote their conscience and district’s constituent interests, the rigid response of the intelligence agencies was intent on one thing – to destroy the careers of dissenting elected representatives, and as much of their private lives as they could reach – family life, social life – as punishment for not toeing the line. And the government’s lead lawyers were in lock step.


Wikileaks Party, Professor Keane, ASIO and the September 2013 Australian federal election

I attended a presentation by Professor John Keane (Director, Institute for Democracy and Human Rights at Sydney University) at the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) in Sydney 19 November 2013.

The title of his presentation was “People Power in Global Politics”. I found it commendable that he praised the good works of Wikileaks for exposing government corruption and its role in helping to strengthen democracy, yet odd that he had been very critical of the Wikileaks Party during a previous presentation at Sydney University in the lead up to the earlier September Australian federal election, an election in which the Wikileaks Party was standing several highly qualified and credible candidates.

Why did professor Keane attack the Wikileaks Party in such an overtly political way by making detrimental statements in the lead up to the election given his evident ideological support now?

Alison Broinowski, a candidate for the Wikileaks Party, who was also in the AIIA audience, asked him a question about this inconsistency, however, in answering he evaded the substance of her question. Moreover, another member of AIIA in the audience, who had contributed nothing to the conversation, burst out very forcefully in his defence calling out something to the effect that Alison’s question was nonsense and didn’t need to be responded to. It was an attempt to disrupt the exchange and change the topic – evidently coming to the professor’s aid in an attempt to save him the embarrassment of having to respond to a very good, well targeted question.

Professor Keane’s inconsistent but well timed statements in public, at a critical time in the electoral cycle, damaging to the Wikileaks Party election prospects, and the odd defence he received from a member of the audience at the AIIA event who aggressively came to his assistance has the hallmarks of ASIO interference all over it, something I have become quite familiar with over the years. The only vehement attacks I heard against the Wikileaks Party and Julian Assange in the run up to the September federal election came from government intelligence minions.

Unfortunately, ASIO is not required to disclose its surveillance and interference operations in Australia, even when directed against a political party or any other of its equally nefarious activities designed to further establishment interests. Further, I think back to my college days, reminded of when some of these eccentric looking old men and women professors were quietly sounding out individual students on whether they might like to interview for an agency job – fulfilling the role of resident recruitment officer, a ‘talent-spotter’ or campus ‘agent provocateur’ for some intelligence agency on campus.

If democracy means freedom of the people to choose, then we fall short of the definition in Australia.

http://sydney.edu.au/arts/government_international_relations/staff/profiles/john.keane.php

Australia’s criminalisation of political activity

It is surprising the ways the legal system has been co-opted to penalise political activity in Australia criminalising reporting on ASIO operations by the media and disclosing agents’ names – even where those agents are likely operating outside the law; and very likely they are acting recklessly and outside of Australia’s wider national interests for short term commercial gains, with links to scandals such as the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) Iraq kickbacks and bugging of the East Timor parliament during a commercial negotiation over gas rights.

ASIO abuses these protections to its benefit, so as to give the agency illegitimate and widespread access to Australian power and decisions of policy, rightly the preserve of the parliament and its elected representatives. Any ASIO insider that breaks ranks and discloses ASIO interference with Australian political parties, their representatives or candidates, ASIO involvement in civil society and such like faces years in jail. Any newspaper editors and journalists that publish details of such leaks also face years in jail, even where ASIO is acting illegally and outside its mandate. What should be a free and open democratic process, transparent and accountable, has been brought in behind closed doors within the country’s powerful intelligence agencies. The agencies motives and agendas are not subject to verifiable scrutiny and its office holders not democratically elected, whose agenda’s are all too often self serving – concentration of power and political order, glory and reputation. It makes a mockery of democracy and due process.

People opposing ASIO interference in domestic politics risk being jailed if they expose ASIO shenanigans. Domestic politics is rightly the domain of civil, democratic society. Despite being billed as a free, democratic country and self righteously critical of countries that lock up political prisoners, Australian citizens risk being jailed for their political involvement. Any agent, informant or collaborator in the know – on the inside, about the setup and downfall of Ross Cameron would be faced with a jail sentence if they disclosed such activity, likewise relevant employees of any news organisation that ran the story.

The number of people jailed in Australia for exposing ASIO activities as insiders is not known. What is clear, however, is that where the jailing has occurred for exposing illegal or inappropriate ASIO interference in domestic political squirmishes and policy matters, it has created a class of Australian political prisoner. It a sophisticated ploy intended to hide and deny their existence. In outlawing such disclosure and effort to fight back on domestic political involvement by ASIO, Australia has criminalised legitimate political conduct. Like other countries that hide this disturbing reality, they are labelled criminals, are prosecuted in closed courts and are shunted off to a prison to spend time behind bars.

The ASIO Act is a draconian piece of legislation. Penalties for breaching the Act include jail terms for crimes such as unauthorised disclosure of the identity of officers, employees, or agents and publication of details of ASIO operations and operatives. Penalties for unauthorised exposure are 1 year in prison. If unauthorised disclosures are made by officers, employees, or agents, the penalty is 2 years’ in jail. These penalties and crimes are now being reviewed and extended by parliament – with 10 year prison sentences now likely to become law.

Former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in the foreword to his book in 2013, The Whitlam Legacy, made a profoundly important and timely insight that Australia should “never forget the primacy of parliament as the great forum for developing, presenting and explaining policy.” Like at all great politicians his timing, incisiveness and eloquence is superb. His comments reverberate as if in a steel bunker, at a time when the relevance and influence of the Australian parliament seems to be waning, supplanted by the 24/7 news cycle and ever tightening grip of the intelligence agencies on political and personal life in Australia. The prominence, indeed infamy of Australian spies was nationwide news following Snowden’s NSA leaks that Australia had bugged the telephones of the Indonesian president, his wife and senior officials which lead to a terse international backlash.

What is becoming evident, there are benefits to following democratic values and procedure. There are flaws too, but the alternative pursuit of totalitarian ideals, while producing short term benefits, is ultimately a road to ruin. Nowhere is this more profoundly understood than in Germany, where the response to NSA revelations about American spying on German leaders has met with the most astringent, repugnant backlash. The world does not trust these totalitarian tools and will rise against their users if they do not self implode first.

Author: John Wilson

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