Amid leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, senior intelligence source reveals worries were voiced in 2008 Senior figures inside British intelligence have been alarmed by GCHQ‘s (Government Communications Headquarters) secret decision to tap into transatlantic cables in order to engage in the bulk interception of phone calls and internet traffic. According to one source who has been directly involved in GCHQ operations, concerns were expressed when the project was being discussed internally in 2008: “We felt we were starting to overstep the mark with some of it. People from MI5 were complaining that they were going too far from a civil liberties perspective … We all had reservations about it, because we all thought: ‘If this was used against us, we wouldn’t stand a chance’.” The Guardian revealed on Friday that GCHQ has placed more than 200 probes on transatlantic cables and is processing 600m “telephone events” a day as well as up to 39m gigabytes of internet traffic. Using a programme codenamed Tempora, it can store and analyse voice recordings, the content of emails, entries on Facebook, the use of websites as well as the “metadata” which records who has contacted who. The programme is shared with GCHQ’s American partner, the National Security Agency. Interviews with the UK source and the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden raise questions about whether the programme: ■ Exploits existing law which was passed by parliament without any anticipation that it would be used for this purpose. ■ For the first time allows GCHQ to process bulk internal UK traffic which is routed overseas via these cables. ■ Allows the NSA to engage in bulk intercepts of internal US traffic which would be forbidden in its own territory. ■ Functions with no effective oversight. The key law is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Ripa, which requires the home secretary or foreign secretary to sign warrants for the interception of the communications of defined targets. But the law also allows the foreign secretary to sign certificates that authorise GCHQ to trawl for broad categories of information on condition that one end of the communication is outside the UK. According to the UK source: “Not so long ago, this was all about attaching crocodile clips to copper wires. And it was all about voice. Now, it’s about the internet – massive scale – but still using the same law that was devised for crocodile clips. Ripa was primily designed for voice, not for this level of interception. They are going round Ripa. The legislation doesn’t exist for this. They are using old legislation and adapting it.”
Truth is Treason in Britain's Empire of Lies
Take the latest disclosure that the Saudis tried to bribe Russia into abandoning its long-time ally, Syria. Given their own venal form of feudal rule, the Saudis seem to think that everyone else can be bought at a price. Apparently, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan dangled a $15-billion arms deal in front of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin if the latter would jettison his country’s strategic alliance with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
From past Saudi arms deals with British Premier Margaret Thatcher, involving multi-million-dollar bribery, kickbacks and other corruption, it is a fair bet that Prince Bandar also gave a nod and a wink for personal funds to be arranged for President Putin. To his credit though, Putin reportedly rebuffed any such treachery with the Saudis.
But what is significant here is that the disclosure of this sleazy business - thanks to Saudi unintelligence - represents a fatal gaffe for the whole Western-coordinated conspiracy against Syria.
For the past two years, the US, Britain and France have sedulously contrived a narrative that they are supporting “a pro-democracy uprising” in Syria. In this “noble endeavor”, the purportedly law-abiding and human-rights-upholding Western states are ostensibly supporting “freedom-loving rebels” out of the sheer goodness of their hearts.
In one fell-swoop, however, the Saudi gaffe-machine has blown a giant hole in the Western narrative over Syria. This is not the first time that the Saudi loose cannon has swung around on its Western patrons. A few months back, a Saudi “thinker” close to the House of Saud let it slip to the media that a top concern motivating Riyadh’s interference in Syria was to neutralize the regional influence of Iran.
In the meeting between Prince Bandar and Vladimir Putin, the Saudi spy chief went on to say that “whatever regime comes after” Assad will be “completely” in Saudi hands.
So, there you have it. It’s not about supporting democracy in Syria. It’s about installing a regime in Damascus that will be under the boot of Riyadh, which in turn, means that any such regime will be under the geopolitical control of Washington and its allies, and thus aligned in the imperialist axis of antagonism against Tehran.
Of course, astute observers are already aware of the Western criminal conspiracy against Syria, and we should know this anyway from the preposterous notion that feudal-style Persian Gulf dictators are claiming to champion the cause of democracy in Syria.
Nevertheless, it is valuable when this conspiracy is exposed and admitted to by the co-conspirators themselves. Western political leaders, diplomats and media tend to be more savvy in the art of sophistry and deception. We can analyze and identify their criminal agenda, but it is rare to uncover an admission. But the reliably hapless Saudi rulers have done just that in their bribery attempt with Russia’s Putin.
Not only that, but in the same encounter Prince Bandar revealed much more about the criminal collusion against Syria. Another sweetener offered to Putin by the Saudis was that “Saudi Arabia would not sign any contracts damaging Russian interests by allowing [Persian] Gulf countries to transport gas across Syria to Europe”.
Prince Bandar, in his zeal to grease Putin’s hand, inadvertently tells the world of a major strategic reason why the Persian Gulf monarchs are so keenly sponsoring criminal regime change in Syria. Apart from isolating Iran, there is evidently an important oil and gas incentive. It’s worth reading Bandar’s words again: “Saudi Arabia would not sign any contracts damaging Russian interests by allowing [Persian] Gulf countries to transport its gas across Syria to Europe”.
It has been speculated before that the Persian Gulf oil and gas sheikhdoms want to obviate the narrow Strait of Hormuz on the eastern side of the Gulf through which most of their hydrocarbons are transported - some 17 million barrels of crude every day or nearly 20 per cent of the world’s daily total. Safe passage through the Strait is the gift of Iran, which controls most of the territorial waters. The Persian Gulf Arab dictators and their Western patrons know that if Iran is antagonized too far, then this maritime lifeline can be cut off and with that the petrodollar capitalist world economy will be sunk.
Because of this strategic vulnerability, it seems that the Saudis, Qataris and Emiratis want an alternative oil and gas supply route out of the Persian Gulf, to the North West. Syria’s land offers a prime route for this Arab oil and gas to the Mediterranean and thence to the vast market of Europe. This would get the House of Saud and its cronies off the hook with regard to dependency on Iranian goodwill; and, further, the newfound geopolitical freedom would allow these adversaries to adopt an even more bellicose line towards Tehran - something that Washington and its allies would gladly approve of.
Prince Bandar’s admission in his meeting with Putin, held at the end of July, attests to this plan of the Persian Gulf sheikdoms breaking out of the Straits of Hormuz straitjacket via the Levantine territory of Syria. For the Arab monarchs to achieve that, they have to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad - a close ally of both Russia and Iran. That goal, by Bandar’s own admission, is one more explanation for why the Arab dictators have funneled at least $100 million to the mercenaries fighting in Syria to topple Assad. The latest expenditure was reportedly $50 million, spent by Saudi Arabia to buy weapons from Israel for supply to the militants. Most of those weapons are going to the Al Qaeda groups, such as Al Nusrah Front and Islamic State of Iraq and Shams.
Moreover, when Putin repudiated the Saudi bribery, it is reported that Prince Bandar then told Russian officials “the only option left in Syria is a military one - and that they should forget about the Geneva-2 international peace conference because the opposition would not attend”.
In other words, the Saudis are self-incriminating by openly declaring more state terrorism on behalf of the Western regime change plot against President Assad.
In this way, the Western propaganda façade over Syria is exploded more than ever by Saudi “intelligence”. The agenda is driven solely by geopolitics and oil and gas resources, involving state-sponsored terrorism to achieve these ends. In a word, it is criminal, and the criminals have just openly confessed.
In the war of information and truth over the conflict in Syria and the region, the Western co-conspirators just shot themselves in the foot. Clearly, having more money than brains can have a major downside.
Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. He is now based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring.He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio
Ex-MI6 officer Joins Guantánamo Inmate in Hunger Strike
Show of solidarity for camp's last UK resident, Shaker Aamer, will express officer's shame at service's 'support for torture'
Former MI6 officer Harry Ferguson. Photograph: Gerard Farrell
A former MI6 officer will begin a week-long hunger strike on Monday in solidarity with the Guantánamo Bay detention camp prisoner Shaker Aamer, a move he says is prompted by shame over the behaviour of the British intelligence service he once served.
Harry Ferguson, 52, will attempt to fast for a week to highlight the plight of Aamer, the last UK resident being held at the US military camp, who has been on hunger strike for more than 170 days. The former MI6 operative, who took part in the fight against terrorism, said he was motivated by a regret that the "organisation of which I was once proud to be a member now supports policies including assassination, rendition, torture and detention without trial".
He said that recent claims that British intelligence officers had been covertly campaigning against Aamer's repatriation had proved the final straw.
Ferguson said the shame he felt over such disclosures was heightened by recruitment work he had carried out for MI6 and lectures he had hosted defending the security services.
"Sadly, my advice today to any aspiring recruit who values the defence of human rights would be to stay away and do something better with their lives. The intelligence services are not what they were. Above all, they have forgotten the lessons that we learned during the struggle against Irish terrorism: that brutality and injustice are not the answer, they simply fuel the next generation of terrorists," he said.
Aamer has been on hunger strike since March to highlight his demands to be brought home to London. He is among a reported 60 Guantánamo detainees still refusing food, the majority of whom are being force-fed. The 47-year-old, whose wife and children still live in south-west London, has been detained in the military prison for 11 years without being charged or tried.
Clive Stafford-Smith, director of Reprieve and Aamer's lawyer, welcomed Ferguson's decision to draw attention to Aamer's plight. "It is a big deal that someone who is so linked in with MI6 is willing to make such a strong statement," he said.
Aamer has twice been cleared for release, once by President George W Bush in 2007, and once by Barack Obama in 2009. On the second occasion, six intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the FBI, agreed that he was no threat to the United States or its allies.
Shaker Aamer with two of his children, son Michael and daughter Johninh. Photograph: PA
The British government continues to insist that the decision regarding when Shaker is released is purely an American one. Yet Shaker remains a prime witness in a British police prosecution into torture and has already been interviewed by officers from Scotland Yard.
The UN convention against torture dictates that both Britain and the US co-operate fully in any such investigation, and suggests that the US would be in violation of international law if Aamer is not returned to London to be a witness. His supporters are baffled as to why the British government appears not to have sought to enforce the rule of law against the US.
Ferguson's hunger strike is part of a campaign by Reprieve, which is supporting the Guantánamo Bay hunger-strikers by encouraging supporters to give up food temporarily.
Stafford-Smith and celebrities, including actor Julie Christie and comedian Frankie Boyle, are among those so far to have completed a hunger strike in solidarity with Aamer.
Meanwhile Stafford-Smith has revealed that Aamer has recently shared some of the vivid dreams he has been experiencing during his hunger strike, one of which blends his prison experiences with Obama's efforts to reform America's healthcare system.Stafford-Smith said: "The dream is about Obamacare, the president is strapped tightly into a force-feeding chair. He is vomiting on himself because they are forcing the liquid nutrient into him at very high speed."