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Voutenay sur Cure, France.
In some of Shakespeare’s plays there was ambivalence about spying on people, but in one instance there has been an obvious follow-on to modern times, when in Hamlet he has Polonius demand of his servant Reynaldo that he should act as a spy and
Inquire me first what Danes are in Paris;
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep
What company, at what expense.
Which was a bit like the Brits’ comically amateur efforts at spying on foreign missions before and during the G20 International Summit in London in 2009, after which the intercept spooks boasted in a bizarre Power Point Presentation about
What are our Recent Successes?
Blackberry at G20
Delivered messages to analysts at the G20 in near real-time
Provided timely information to UK ministers
Enabled discovery of 20 new e-mail selectors
Gee Golly Gosh. Oh what fun, you must have had, you pointy-headed tummy-rubbing finger-lickin’ techno-dweebs, listening to all the foreign delegates’ Blackberry transmissions, and, as your Power Point had it, “reading people’s email before/as they do.” What were your orders? No doubt something like
Inquire me first, what Foreigners are in London;
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,
What company, at what expense.
The orders, barely believably, came from the British government, and it’s sad to realize that it ordered spying on its allies, because Turkey — a main target of British G20 spookery — is, after all, a longtime fellow member of Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But that sort of association is meaningless when the Brits want, as the orders went : “to establish Turkey’s position on agreements from the April London summit” by spying on this faithful military partner which has a thousand troops in Afghanistan.
Britain, and all the other G20 members boast that their Group is “the premier forum for our international economic development that promotes open and constructive discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on key issues related to global economic stability.” But how on earth can you have “open discussion” when you can’t trust the host country of the gathering? How could you be “constructive” with Britain when you know its spooks are bugging your BlackBerry? And what else are they finding out from your conversations that will be most useful to other spooks?
There is no loyalty and no allegiance among allies in the Brave New World of BlackBerry buggers. The old-fashioned ideas of having honorable union to join in defending freedom is ditched in the interests of knowing what an ally might think or plan — in order that these thoughts and plans can be destroyed by the friend who spies on an ally.
Britain and Turkey signed the Nato Treaty which says, with optimistic ingenuousness, that
The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations . . . They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
But the principles of democracy, rule of law, and all that sort of starry-eyed stuff are thrown out of the window when it’s considered necessary by the Brits to find out what is being done by Turkey. And by who else, one wonders? If you can spy on one Nato ally, you are probably spying on others. Or all of them?
And you wonder about the people who do all this stuff. What can they be like, deep down, these operatives who have cast aside all moral scruples? What do they look like, these programmed robots who consider themselves above the laws of nations and immune to the ideals of humanity and decency? Do they ever think, as Shakespeare had Polonius say to his son, that
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
And speaking of being false, it seems to have been forgotten that a British Cabinet Minister stated on February 26, 2004, that her country was spying on the UN Secretary General. This barely believable admission of criminality was only a five-minute wonder, of course, but it’s no less serious for that. The Minister, Clare Short, was being questioned by a BBC interviewer about the squalid deception leading up to the war on Iraq by America and Britain. In the course of discussion she was asked if US and UK pressure was being brought to bear on nations and individuals to fall in with their war plans, and part of her reply was that “The UK in this time was also getting spies on Kofi Annan’s office and getting reports from him about what was going on . . . These things are done and in the case of Kofi’s office, it was being done for some time . . . Well, I know — I’ve seen transcripts of Kofi Annan’s conversations.”
Then she was asked “So in other words British spies — let’s be very clear about this in case I’m misunderstanding you — British spies have been instructed to carry out operations inside the United Nations on people like Kofi Annan?” She answered “Yes, absolutely.”
So Britain, which signed the United Nations Charter almost 70 years ago “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person,” chose to show its concern for fundamental human rights by planting listening devices in the office of the UN Secretary General. And Washington was in all this, right up to its earphones.
The interview with Clare Short came after dismissal of a criminal charge against a British government employee who informed the public in 2003 that a US National Security Agency official had asked British Intelligence to tap the telephones of UN Security Council delegates during the lead-up to the war on Iraq.
The person whose conscience would not permit her to accept a national policy of criminality was Katherine Gun, and she was charged with disclosing information contrary to national security. To be sure, she wasn’t treated as brutally and despicably as the pitiable Bradley Manning, against whom the mighty United States has brought all its power to crush. She wasn’t menaced by gigantic intimidating prison guards, or kept in solitary confinement, or subjected to a regime of endless menace that would have excited the admiration of any Nazi interrogator seeking to destroy the mind and body of a Jew or a Gypsy. No : she couldn’t be thrown in jail while awaiting trial, because Britain still has some citizens, thank God, who have a robust sense of decency and fair play — as well as a few most energetic newspapers. The slavering hyenas who rip at the body and mind of the vulnerable and wretched Manning wouldn’t get away with such persecution in Britain — not yet, anyway.
So after many months of waiting, Katherine Gun was brought to trial — and the case against her was dropped and she walked free. The charges were not publicly heard, examined and judged upon, as they should be in a democracy. Of course not — because that would have drawn the government and its pathetic little techno-dupes from the murky shadows into the light of truth and decency and open justice. And the really funny thing — the only funny thing, in fact, about the whole farcical shambles — was the statement by the prosecution (in Britain called ‘The Crown’), about its reason for refusing to go any further. The little puppet prosecutor told the judge that “You will understand that consideration had been given to what is appropriate for the Crown to say. It is not appropriate to give further reasons. I am reluctant to go further than that unless the court requires I do.” And the judge caved in. The Regime of secrecy and deception had won yet again, and justice suffered another blow.
After Clare Short’s disclosure that Britain spies on the UN Secretary General the then prime minister of Britain, the devious liar Tony Blair, pronounced that “I really do regard what Clare Short has said this morning as totally irresponsible.” And he justified his stance by declaring “she must know, and I think everyone knows, you can’t have a situation where people start making allegations like this about our security services.”
His message was clear, and remains clear from the recent statements by James, the Happy Clapper, the director of US national intelligence who lied to the Senate about spying on American citizens and then told the world that he gave the “least untruthful” answer to Senate questions because, of course, the end justifies the means. He knows that the intelligence industry will never be held accountable for breaking the law and spying on allies and fellow citizens — because the intelligence industry gets its orders from government.
As an anti-Obama placard had it in Berlin the other day : “Democracy: Citizens watch government. Tyranny: Government watches citizens.” We now realize that tyranny is approaching, in Britain and America. So be afraid; Be very afraid — because many of the people in power in our very own democracries intend that their fellow citizens should believe, in the words of Orwell, that “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.” And they’re getting there.
Brian Cloughley’s website is www.beecluff.com