Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bud Smokers know how to Roll UP

Marijuana users are often times confused as hippies or dirt heads. Both terms are not accurate for this day and age, you see, we have the occasional pot head, and we have the habitual smoker. Not to say that one is better than the other, he’s not, they both at the end of the day do what we think they do, they smoke weed. So why does society and those who influence us most think that if someone takes a pipe, loads up some bud into it, and hits it while the bowl is burning nice and slow, he is getting high for no reason. The truth is, when he inhales all that deep green dank THC into his lungs, the weed starts to expand his mind. It is a very potent substance, or as others classify it, an herb. Of course he wouldn’t of had those powerful hits like he did if he didn’t properly know how to roll a joint and not get any seeds and stems in it. Cheech and Chong, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Marley are just a few of the famous chronic smokers who have developed that perfect rolling skill.

The word pot head derives from someone getting so high that he takes a pot and smashes his own head with it. Not actually the case though, the real reason came about when a guy was hotboxing his car, blowing smoke rings into the air, and vaporizing some legal dank bud with his bong. Marijuana smokers have gotten more adapt these days when it comes to their toking needs, for instance there are those who only puff when they have a fatty spiff or roach at their hands, there are others who prefer blunts and cigars to use as rolling papers.

If you want the least amount of residue buildup on your ash tray, or on your hookah you can be sure to compact all the green mary jane inside of the cigar tube while you pack it. It’s more of a science and an art form than a hard skill to perform, not all people realize that though. To get a top quality clean crisp smoke from your weed you need to be able to have the attitude that marijuana is not just for people in Canada or California, but also those outside of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. High Times Magazine is an attachment to the diversity of bud smokers all over the world.

Friday, September 16, 2011

7/7: Crime and Prejudice

With the 7/7 inquests having concluded with the most ridiculous and predictable of judgments the responsibility of ordinary citizens to investigate and ask questions about the London bombings has grown. In solidarity with the July 7th Truth Campaign's excellent research and analysis on their dedicated 7/7 Inquests blog, Howard Beale's News Hour is pleased to present the sequel to 7/7: Seeds of Deconstruction, 7/7: Crime and Prejudice.

The first film, 7/7: Seeds of Deconstruction largely focused on the history of covert operations and official deceptions as a context for understanding the failings of the Home Office narrative, the aim in this film was slightly different. This two-hour production explores not only the crime of the bombings in London in July 2005, but also the police investigation of that crime. The context for this exploration is threefold: the role of the British police and security services in different kinds of covert actions; the post-7/7 miscarriages of justice and instances of police violence against predominantly Muslim 'terror suspects'; and the various simulations of terrorism both before and after 7/7 that helped conditioned people into accepting one or another narrative of what happened.

The film begins by looking at the case of Victorian Anarchism, in particular the tale of the Walsall Anarchists, who were set up by Special Branch via an agent provocateur. You can find further information in a previous essay on this blog. The plot appears to have been masterminded by William Melville, who went on to head up the Secret Service Bureau, which then became the original MI5. Through his proxy provocateur, Auguste Coulon, Melville succeeded in obtaining convictions of four innocent men, three of which were sentenced to ten years hard labour. At the trial the lawyers for the defence asked Melville about Coulon, but the Special Branch man refused to answer the questions, and the judge ruled in his favour. This is an early example of how the spying game, which at that time was reviled by the population as underhanded and not becoming of gentlemen, affects the integrity of the justice system.
Coulon was a police spy, paid from July 1890 until some time in 1904, with the Walsall case coming in the spring of 1892, when he received extra money. The suspicions were well-founded, and confirmation at the time could have exonerated the men on trial, but that was of less concern to the judge than preserving the ability of the police to run or 'handle' such spies. According to Andrew Cook's excellent book on Melville called M: MI5's First Spymaster, the Walsall case was the only time that Melville practised such dark arts but Alex Butterworth's The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents illustrates how the anarchists were frequently infiltrated and manipulated. The Walsall case was not exceptional.

By the time of World War 2 MI5 had grown into a significant organisation, usurping the police Special Branches in secrecy, and hence in what they could get away with. 7/7: Crime and Prejudice details the example of Mutt and Jeff, two Norwegians who were sent to Britain by the Nazis to be spies and saboteurs. Upon arriving in this country they gave themselves up and quickly became double agents. They participated in deception operations, sending back disinformation to their Nazi handlers.

The security services also carried out false flag sabotage attacks, making the Nazis believe that Mutt and Jeff were still loyal and following orders. On one occasion a firebomb attack on a food depot was bungled. Security Service operatives snuck in and set off a couple of incendiary bombs, but the fire was quickly spotted by the local police, who were of course 'compartmentalised' and 'out of the loop'. The police called in the fire brigade, who put out the fire and discovered the remains of the bombs, which were of the type used by the British Security Services. The now-declassified files available at the National Archives record how 'This led to a very delicate situation in connection with the inquiry being made by Scotland Yard. Ultimately the inquiry died out.' Clearly MI5 trumped Scotland Yard by this time. Once again, the integrity of the justice system (the police, the prosecution service and the judiciary) was compromised so that the integrity of the secret National Security State could be maintained.
This same phenomenon was evident in Northern Ireland, where for years collusion between militants and the security services was a popularly believed 'conspiracy theory', now confirmed as historical fact. There is some reason to be cheerful - there have been a number of pretty hard-hitting inquiries into the issue of collusion, though there is still plenty of resistance to investigation and we're still waiting for even one member of the FBI, MI5, RUC Special Branch or FRU to be prosecuted for their role in the atrocities. The Pat Finucane Centre has obtained some very telling paperwork in this regard, detailing a meeting in 1971 between the Attorney General and 'J.M. Parkin, Head of C2' at the British army's Northern Ireland HQ. The documents note how Parkin had, 'no doubt the Attorney General is doing all within his power to protect the security forces against criminal proceedings in respect of actions on duty.'
We can see much the same process going on in today's War on Terror. Inasmuch as there is an international radical Islamist movement, some members of whom are willing to carry out acts of violence, it is riddled with informers, double agents and provocateurs. From Omar Saeed Sheikh to Ali Mohamed to Luai Sakra to Junaid Babar to David Headley to Edwin Angeles, from the Philippines to Algeria the unifying factor in these disparate militant and radical groups is the infiltration by those in the pay of the security services. The violence seen in Mumbai, Istanbul, Manila and beyond is one result of this covert policy. The other is miscarriages of justice.

Several significant incidents are examined in 7/7: Crime and Prejudice, all of which happened after 7/7. There are two reasons I chose post-7/7 events - firstly, to show how the attacks made it easier for the judiciary to obtain ridiculous and obscene convictions against innocent people, and also to show how whatever failings and corruption existed before 7/7 continued to exist after 7/7. Nothing has fundamentally changed. The murder of Jean Charles de Menezes by British security forces was followed by one of the most obvious attempts at a cover-up ever witnessed in this country. The have simply got away with gunning down an indisputably innocent man and then repeatedly lying about it.

Months later, in Forest Gate, the police shot another indisputably innocent man, Mohammed Abdulkahar. He survived, only to face accusations of being a terrorist. The police were forced to admit their 'mistake' but when the IPCC published a laughable disgrace of a report saying that the shooting was accidental, the police just so happened to choose that very same day to re-arrest Mr Abdulkahar on child pornography charges. These were also dropped due to lack of evidence. At no stage has anyone been held responsible for the 'intelligence failure' that led to the raid, which led to the shooting, which led to the trumped up charges. Indeed, we still have no real idea what information MI5 and Special Branch had in the weeks leading up the raid, or who took the decision to mount the 'robust operation'.

Though 7/7: Crime and Prejudice did not make this explicit, the case of Mohammed Hamid et al is in many ways comparable to that of the Walsall Anarchists. The defendants were (and are) fundamentally innocent, and yet one of them confessed for reasons that aren't particularly clear. The case against them was bolstered by the use of an undercover policeman known as 'Dawood. He made covert recordings of the defendants, Hamid in particular, saying some admittedly unwise and insensitive statements, though nothing substantially different to what anyone else has said in private conversation. By maintaining that the undercover policeman was not actually an undercover policeman when he met Hamid, the prosecution argued that Hamid's statements were effectively made in public and hence constituted incitement to murder.

The other part of the trial was the charge of providing or receiving terrorism training within the UK, which only became a crime after 7/7. Hamid was accused of running training camps during several trips he and his friends made to countryside areas, and on one trip paid for by the BBC where they went paintballing. As far as terrorism or guerrilla warfare goes, one could learn a lot more from playing games like Call of Duty: Black Ops than one could from going camping with Mohammed Hamid but that didn't stop the 'independent' judiciary deciding to prosecute a group of men for playing with sticks, jumping over rivers, and slicing a melon.

A wider issue that I have with this case is that even if Hamid were providing jihad training then prosecuting him would be an enormous hypocrisy, as the primary trainers of Islamic militants over the last 30 years or so have been the military and intelligence services of the Western powers. When Abu Hamza and 'ex' British army soldiers were training recruits in the Brecon Beacons in the 1990s to help fight the dirty wars in the Balkans, the authorities did nothing. But when one small and independent group of men who have nothing to do with the security services go to the woods and jump over rivers shouting 'Allah Akbar', somehow it is a crime.
7/7: Crime and Prejudice also covers the case of Khalid Khaliq, arrested and prosecuted because a terrorism training manual written by a CIA double agent was found in his house, and that of three men accused of being co-conspirators in the 7/7 plot. Waheed Ali, Sadeer Saleem and Mohammed Shakil were subjected to two trials, on the barely-even-circumstantial evidence of them having visited London about 8 months prior to the 7/7 bombings. The prosecution maintained that the sites they visited - The London Eye, the London Aquarium and the Natural History Museum - bore a 'striking similarity' to the targets on 7/7, which were of course three tube stations and a bus. How a 443 ft ferris wheel resembles an underground railway station is not clear to me, and obviously wasn't clear to the juries in the trials. The men were eventually found innocent, but like so many others will have to live with the stigma of accusation for the rest of their lives.

As such, the judiciary cannot be seen as independent from political influence, or from the machinations of the National Security State. For over a century, and continuing right up until the present day, innocent people have been wrongly convicted for serious crimes, or seriously convicted of trivial non-crimes. Those who are most consistently responsible for the most horrific crimes are almost invariably state actors and agents, and virtually without exception they have got away with it. And so, prospects for the 7/7 inquests did not look good. Five months of hearings recorded the testimony of hundreds of witnesses, and vast quantities of information was adduced as evidence. However, the most basic requirements of establishing who died, how and whether their deaths could have been prevented were ignored or categorically fudged.
The process by which bodies were recovered from the explosion sites and then identified was ruled to be 'outside of the scope of these proceedings'. This is extremely fortunate for proponents of the official narrative because of 56 people who died in the attacks, only 15 were pronounced dead at the scenes, and those 15 did not include any of the alleged bombers. The question of how the people died was inevitably answered with a verdict of 'unlawful killing' (a verdict denied to the jurors in the Menezes inquest), and the medical cause of death listed in each case as 'injuries caused by an explosion'. The problem is that precisely what exploded is not a question the inquests could answer, as no trace of primary explosive was found at any of the bomb sites. Nor were any bomb cases or bomb initiators found. Nor was any forensic evidence adduced that linked the alleged bombers to the tubs of allegedly explosive sludge found in the alleged bomb factory.

The question of preventability was dealt with by portraying the London emergency services as hopelessly incompetent and mismanaged, but failing to name even a single policy or budgetary decision or specific official as responsible. A few recommendations were made but even the mainstream media recognised that it is highly unlikely that any of them will be adopted. The other aspect to the 'preventability' issue is examined in some detail in 7/7: Crime and Prejudice. Among the findings outlined by J7 and presented in the film is that the security services did not tell the truth about the pre-7/7 intelligence when asked about it by the Intelligence and Security Committee. They had a phone number connected to alleged 7/7 ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan several months before the ISC's report claims they had it. They came across the number during phone surveillance of Q, a supposed Al Qaeda facilitator who, like Auguste Coulon, the police refuse to answer questions about. According to a Security Service document made available at the inquests a subscriber check on the phone was carried out on March 11th 2003. According to the ISC's second report ('Could 7/7 have been prevented?') the British Security Services didn't start monitoring Q's phone until 'late March 2003' after receiving a tip-off from the National Security Agency about him. So where did they get the number from, and why were they doing a subscriber check on it before they had any reason to care about who was using it? The implication is that they were monitoring Mohammed Sidique Khan, and possibly others around him, more closely and for a longer timeframe than they've admitted.

Of course, this could just be covering-up for incompetence, but this is doubtful for two reasons. Firstly, it is not what the government and their friends have used as their excuse. According to them, and repeated in the inquest verdict, there was no intelligence failure. As far as they are concerned, they did everything right. Rather than make a half-assed confession of incompetence, but fail to fire anyone or change anything (the preferred PR response to questions about 9/11), the British cover-up strategy has been to deny that there's even been a cover-up, or that anything went wrong. This bizarre and implausible argument has, in the manner of doublethink, been used alongside the strategy to say that things did go wrong, that there was an intelligence failure, but that the only answer is to give more power, funding, resources and protection to the Security Services. So we go round and round, caught in a dialogue between two (likely) false propositions, having an argument that takes place in terms defined by the very people we're trying to hold to account. If we lack the vocabulary to even ask the questions in the right way then we've got no chance of ever getting a proper answer.
The same is true of the battle between conspiracy theories. The official conspiracy theory of 7/7 is a joke, indeed, it doesn't really exist. The conspiracy theory told by the police that they claim to have derived from investigating the crime contradicts the conspiracy theory told by the anonymous Home Office civil servant who wrote the official narrative. But many people take these two stories as being only one story, and reject it wholesale in favour of alternative narratives, usually revolving around terrorism training exercises and patsy suicide bombers. The 'independent' media has uncritically accepted and promulgated the alternative narratives, subjecting them to almost no scrutiny whatsoever, let alone the crackpot Jesus-freak cross-dressing intelligence agents who promote them.

In doing so, all of these supposedly independent researchers remained ignorant of the fact that in the couple of years before 7/7 there were numerous training exercises, films and TV shows that simulated terrorist attacks and helped establish this polarised dialogue about such attacks. The exercises are the only thing that have been considered, and only in the context of whether they were practice runs for the real attacks. The psychological effect of these attacks, their role as simulations (bridges between the real and the paranoid nightmares inflicted on us by the ruling class) has been under-examined, and 7/7: Crime and Prejudice seeks to put that right.
A quick run-down of events looked at in the film goes as follows:

17th June 2002 - Spooks episode shows MI5 staging a fake attack on a London train station. 
9th June 2003 - Spooks episode shows Muslim suicide bombing. 
7th July 2003 - Spooks episode shows bomb attack on London at the same time as a security service exercise. 
7th September 2003 – 'Osiris II' exercise based around chemical attack on London underground. 
3rd February 2004 – BBC broadcasts Crisis Command pilot episode featuring attack on Waterloo underground station and a plane crashing into the houses of Parliament. 

11th March 2004 - 3/11 bombings in Madrid. 
16th May 2004 - Panorama episode 'London Under Attack' features attacks on three underground stations and a large road vehicle. 
16th May 2004 - 'Operation Transit Safe' exercise in New York based around multiple bombings on the subway. 
24th September 2004 - BBC/HBO production 'Dirty War' is broadcast, featuring two pairs of Muslim suicide bombers, one pair attack Liverpool Street station in a suicide bombing, the other pair are shot dead by police.
13th December 2004 - Spooks episode shows Muslim 'proxy bomb' and shows terrorist mastermind being shot dead by special forces.
5th to 8th April 2005 - Atlantic Blue exercise based around bombings on London trains and buses. US exercise includes fake news footage and a fake terrorist suspect who is a Muslim.
June 2005 - Spooks episode filmed based around attack on London train station, also shows terrorist being shot dead by special forces. 

12th June 2005 - Emergency service training exercise at Tower Hill underground station. 
Early July 2005 - Tabletop exercises based on multiple bombings on the tube run by the Metropolitan Police and Deutsche Bank. 
7th July 2005 - Actual attacks in London on multiple tube trains/stations and on a bus. Training exercise closely replicating real attacks takes place in London shortly after the tube train explosions. Training exercise based around attacks on subway take place in New York.
As detailed in 7/7: Crime and Prejudice, however, this conditioning did not end on 7/7. The simulations continued.

21st July 2005 - Four men set off fake bombs in rucksacks on three tube trains and a bus.
22nd July 2005 - 'Police' shoot dead Jean Charles de Menezes, apparently because they thought he was a suicide bomber.
8th January 2006 - 'Northstar V' exercise in Singapore, based on 7/7. News broadcasts carry images of the arrest of a mock suicide bomber. 
25th September 2006 - Spooks episode features Islamic 'unwitting suicide bomber' duped by terrorist mastermind. Also features a terrorist being shot dead by police. 
16th October 2007 - Spooks episode shows Muslim MI5 agent planting bomb underneath a train in a false flag attack. 

30th October 2007 - Spooks episode features unwitting suicide bomber from Sept 
2006 episode, who has been turned into an MI5 informant. He is again duped into being an unwitting suicide bomber by a terrorist mastermind.
5th November 2007 - Internet documentary 7/7 Ripple Effect claims 7/7 was a inside job, with patsies believing they were taking part in a training exercise who were then shot by police snipers, and that the bombs were planted underneath the train, probably by MI5.
28th October 2008 - Spooks episode features quadruple Muslim suicide bombings on London. Four men, one of whom is an undercover MI5 agent, are watched closely by the security services. An informant in Pakistan intelligence tells MI5 that the men are only doing a practise run, with dummy bombs, and that others will carry out the real attacks. The informant double crosses MI5 and the men are given real bombs, One of the would-be bombers is shot dead by police, two of the bombs are stopped, and the fourth bomb is detonated by remote.

When considering all this it may also be illuminating to throw in the cases of Nicky Reilly and Taimur al-Abdaly. Reilly is a young white convert to Islam who apparently attempted a suicide bombing in Exeter in May 2008. His mother has said that he must have been brainwashed and given help putting his device together, citing his having Aspergers syndrome, which would make him an obvious target for provocation. His device went off in the toilet of the restaurant he admits to having targeted, injuring him seriously, though not grievously, and causing no other injury or loss of life. Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly was 'Sweden's first suicide bomber', though as with 7/7, and Martial Bourdin, it is far from clear whether he intended to kill himself. In December 2010, right in the middle of the 7/7 inquests, there were two explosions in Stockholm. The first, in a car, caused two people minor injuries and didn't even destroy the vehicle. 

The second, about 12 minutes later, killed al-Abdaly and caused no other injuries. You can watch not-particularly-revealing CCTV of the second explosion here. What is obvious is that if al-Abdaly had been a conventional suicide bomber, i.e. one who is trying to kill members of the public as well as himself, then he failed miserably. Despite this, the mainstream media are unanimous in saying Reilly was a failed suicide bomber and al-Abdaly was Sweden's first suicide bomber. The independent media have had little to say about either case.
Looking to the future the hope for an official but independent public inquiry into 7/7 may be optimistic, but it remains a possibility. The Gladio case, and the investigations into the collusion in Northern Ireland both found that the suspicions about state involvement in terrorist crimes were well-founded. Many of those who were wrongly imprisoned during the Irish War on Terror and the Europe-wide Strategy of Tension are now freed and exonerated. Vindication and true investigation is possible. Rather than taking the easy and lazy route of propagating our favourite conspiracy theories we should find ways to apply pressure on the state and to feed information to the growing number of sceptical people.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Headley-Rana Drama

Terrorism is aimed at the people watching, not at the actual victims. Terrorism is a theater - Brian Jenkins, RAND corporation

The trial of Tahawwur Rana concluded a couple of days ago with the Pakistani-Canadian found guilty of providing material support to Lashkar-e-Toiba and of supporting a conspiracy to carry out a terrorist attack against the offices of the Jyllands-Posten. Rana was found innocent of conspiring with David Headley to enable Headley's role in the 2008 26/11 massacre in Mumbai. The background to this trial is extraordinarily complex and intricate, and there are many questions that can't yet be answered. Several things are certain.

Rana was accused of helping David Headley, a lifelong friend, set up a branch of Rana's business in Mumbai to provide cover for Headley's surveillance missions. Rana ran a travel business/immigration advice company. He was accused of providing similar help for the proposed attack on the Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper who caused a storm by publishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. The trial exhibits, available at least for a while on the US Justice Department website, include videos and transcripts of Rana's interrogation by the FBI, emails between Rana, Headley, and members of the ISI and LeT, and Headley's surveillance videos and photos.

The 26/11 Mumbai slaughter was more a paramilitary act of low-intensity warfare than it was a terrorist attack. For one thing, it was clearly state-sponsored by the Pakistani ISI, using the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) group as a proxy. The massacre was highly sophisticated - Headley made over half a dozen trips to India to carry out surveillance. The attack was not a crude bombing, but a brutal, closely targeted commando raid that lasted nearly three days. The perpetrators landed by boat, which is difficult to detect and impossible to stop. LeT gunmen stalked the streets, directed to specific GPS co-ordinates by handlers on the phone hundreds of miles away in Lahore. They gunned people down indiscriminately and set off numerous bombs. They killed over 160 people, and injured over 300. 9 of the terrorists were shot dead by Indian security forces. The member of the group that was captured alive, Ajmal Kasab, is the man in this well-known picture:

He has since been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death by the Indian authorities.

Almost from the off, the Indian government and media have said that the ISI were behind the attacks. Indeed, they were far too co-ordinated, too well planned and executed, too 'professional' to have been carried out by a 'retail' terrorist group. Any terrorist attack that kills over half as many people as it injures (i.e. over 1/3 of all casualties are fatal) is a very 'successful' attack. Even veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war would only have experience of insurgency, of guerrilla warfare, not paramilitary urban terrorist operations as occurred in Mumbai. The shoe fits the ISI, no doubt about that.

Indeed, this has been a central theme in the US vs Rana trial. Rana initially tried to offer the defence that everything he had done, he had done for the Pakistani government. The US ruled against him, saying that he had no immunity from crimes against Americans. You can read the ruling here, courtesy of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Throughout Headley's testimony he has referred to handlers within both LeT and the ISI who provided training and directed both the Mumbai attack and the Denmark plot. The charge sheet filed by the US government in the Chicago trial named co-conspirators including 'Major Iqbal' of the ISI. The Indian National Investigation Agency's report on their interrogation of Headley last year details how Major Iqbal was not satisfied by the training Headley got from LeT, so he arranged for further intelligence/reconnaissance training. He helped finance Headley's trip to India, and debriefed him and took copies of his photos/videos when he returned. Again, this was a highly sophisticated operation.

So, there is no real dispute that the ISI, or at least people within the ISI, had their hands all over the Mumbai plot. What this trial has largely ignored is that Headley was a secret agent of some kind, working for the US government, and may have been all along. Headley was born in the US in 1960, his mother a well-to-do white American socialite, his father a Pakistani working in the Pakistan embassy in Washington. Headley's original name was Daood Gilani. His parents split up and his father took custody of young Daood, returning home to Pakistani. Gilani was educated as an elite Pakistani cadet boarding school, where he first met and befriended Tahawwur Rana.

In 1977 there was a coup d'etat in Pakistan, when the Socialist(ish) Pakistan People's Party were accused of vote-rigging in the national elections, and the military seized control of the government. Daood's mother retook custody of him and brought him back to America. He worked in a couple of video stores and in his mother's pub (named the Khyber Pass) but clearly got involved with seedier enterprises because in 1988 he was arrested for drug smuggling. He was arrested at Frankfurt airport with two kilos of heroin in his suitcase. Gilani offered to co-operate and got a reduced sentence in return for helping set up two other men on drugs charges. He got out in 1992, but had a heroin addiction and wound up back in jail for a few months in 1995.

He was again arrested for drug smuggling in 1997, again with several kilos of heroin. What should have been a mandatory 10 year minimum sentence was commuted to 15 months in jail and five years of supervised release, i.e. parole. You can read the full docket for the 1997 drugs case here, and I strongly recommend TalkLeft's coverage of the Headley story, here. During his supervised release Headley was allowed to travel to Pakistan on several occasions, having gained permission from a judge to make the trips as part of his spying deal with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The question is, what happened next? In November 2001, two months after 9/11, Headley's lawyer, his parole officer and an assistant US attorney unanimously applied for early termination of his period of supervised release, roughly half way through the five year sentence. I found a transcript of this hearing on PACER and James Corbett has usefully published it on his site, here. Check for yourself, but the NY Times's reporting on this hearing appears to me to be very accurate:

The transcript of a Nov. 16, 2001, probation hearing in federal court in New York shows the government took great pains not to identify which agency was handling Mr. Headley, or whether he worked for more than one.

Mr. Caso, his former probation officer, recalled that Mr. Headley had been turned over to the D.E.A. Another person familiar with the case confirms this account. It was a world Mr. Headley knew well. After arrests in 1987 and 1998, he cooperated with the drug agency in exchange for lighter sentences. He specialized in the ties between Pakistani drug organizations and American dealers along the East Coast.

A September 1998 letter that prosecutors submitted to court after an arrest then showed that the government considered Mr. Headley — who had admitted to distributing 15 kilograms of heroin over his years as a dealer — so “reliable and forthcoming,” that they sent him to Pakistan to “develop intelligence on Pakistani heroin traffickers.”

The letter indicates that Mr. Headley, who faced seven to nine years in prison for his offense, was such a trusted partner to the drug agency in the 1990s that he helped translate hours of tape-recorded telephone intercepts, and coached drug agency investigators on how to question Pakistani suspects. The courts looked favorably on his cooperation, according to records, sentencing Mr. Headley to 15 months in prison, and five years’ probation.

While he was on probation, in October 2001, a woman told the F.B.I. that she believed her former boyfriend, Mr. Headley, was sympathetic to extremist groups in Pakistan, according to a senior American official who has been briefed on the case. The government was flooded with thousands of such tips at that time, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

William Headley, an uncle, recalled that agents called his sister to ask if her son had terrorist leanings. “She didn’t seem upset at all by the call,” William Headley said. “And I didn’t think much of it either because at that time, I thought the government was checking out anyone who had ties to Pakistan.”

It is unclear how widely disseminated the warning was. But in that probation hearing one month later, the government enlisted Mr. Headley’s help again, suspending his sentence in exchange for what court records described only as “continuing cooperation.” According to the transcript, it was a rushed affair. The probation officer apologized for not being properly dressed, and the lawyers explained that they had not been able to make their case in writing. Mr. Headley was a potential gold mine, according to an official knowledgeable about the agreement to release him from probation. One person involved in the case said American agencies had “zero in terms of reliable intelligence. And it was clear from the conversations about him that the government was considering assignments that went beyond drugs.” - NY Times

Given that Headley was perfectly useful as a DEA informant even while out of jail on supervised release, what happened that caused the US authorities to rush through this hearing? Why bother? The key is that while he was just an international spy for the DEA, he had to apply through the courts to get permission to travel to Pakistan, thus leaving a paper trail of what he was doing and when. Pakistani drugs gangs are not likely to be sending agents to New York courts to be checking records to confirm the background of a new contact, so it didn't matter, until November 2001. If Headley was, post-9/11, recruited by the CIA or a similar agency, as a terrorism/counterterrorism spy then it would be more important for him to be a deniable agent.

The implication of all this is that Headley was some kind of double agent, working for the FBI and/or CIA on a mission to infiltrate LeT, or possibly a triple agent, working to infiltrate the ISI's infiltration of LeT. Whether Headley was in reality seduced by LeT radicalism, or whether he was just playing along as part of his spying mission, is impossible to ascertain at this point. Nonetheless, that he is/was a US spy has been a relatively common accusation in the Indian media, and in the global independent media. Aside from the odd article, like this one in The Times, the Western mainstream media has mostly ignored this allegation.

Until this trial. Headley and Rana were arrested in October 2009 as a plan was coming together to attack the offices of the Jyllands-Posten. The newspaper came to prominence in late 2005/early 2006, after printing cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed. The cartoons 'row' was a cynical ploy on the part of Flemming Rose, the paper's cultural editor, designed to provoke exactly the reaction it got at the time. Rose is an associate of racist Zionist academic Richard Pipes, and was awarded the Sappho award by the Free Press Society of Denmark. All's well until you realise that another recipient of the award is Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist whose depiction of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban was a focal point for Islamic (and non-Islamic) objectors. And that the Free Press Society was founded by Lars Hedegaard, who co-published a book with cartoonist Westergaard. And that they belong to the same network as Geert Wilders and, of course, Daniel Pipes. And that even the latest recipient of the award felt obliged to pay lip service to the cartoons 'row' in her acceptance speech. Clearly it is not just the CIA and ISI who are playing dark and horrible games.

In the last couple of years a lot of news, most notably Wikileaks documents and the Osama Bin Laden 'death', has steadily turned the notion of ISI complicity in terrorism from a fringe suspicion into headline fact. We're now perfectly happy to believe that 'them', 'over there', the brown-skinned governments, they might sponsor terrorism for political ends with total disregard for the lives of innocent citizens, including their own. But of course our own government, over here, they wouldn't do such a thing. And so it has played out in this trial, with the ISI's role laid out in detail by the key witness, David Headley, but his own relationship to US authorities largely left a mystery.

Rana's lawyer did break the silence, accusing Headley of being a master manipulator, who had duped Rana into playing a fringe role in the conspiracy. He also pointed out that the emails between Headley, Rana and Major Iqbal were a textbook deception on Headley's part:

Swift asked Headley if he "kept compartmentalized secrets." That question was in reference to a series of e-mails Headley exchanged with Rana and co-conspirators Saajid Mir and Major Iqbal discussing a plan to gain access to top leaders of a right-wing Hindu organization in Mumbai. Headley shared piecemeal information with his co-conspirators, so that no one except he knew the whole story.

"The only person who knew everything was you," Swift said. "You did well in espionage school."

"Thank you," Headley replied. - Investigative Project on Terrorism
So, what are the major reasons for suspecting that Headley was a US secret agent, who either went rogue, or was on a very ugly mission? Firstly, Headley's father worked for the diplomatic service in the Pakistani embassy in Washington, and for Voice of America, a US sponsored foreign propaganda media organ, a bit like Russia Today. Voice of America has long been a means for the CIA to conduct covert action and recruit assets. It is therefore highly plausible that Headley's father worked for the CIA. His half-brother also worked as a press officer for Pakistan's Prime Minister.

Secondly, Headley was repeatedly reported to the authorities by his numerous wives and girlfriends as a possible radical with terrorist sympathies. Though these warnings took place regularly from late 2001 through to December 2008 - just after the Mumbai attack - Headley was not arrested until October 2009. Even that was months after a tip from British authorities in July 2009 about the Danish newspaper plot. Headley pleaded guilty after several months of debriefing, in March 2010. It wasn't until June that he was finally turned over to be interrogated by the Indian authorities. You can download the Indian NIA's interrogation report here. The US authorities are defending the deal they struck with Headley, saying that the intelligence they garnered was too valuable not to strike a pact.

So, they ignored warnings about him, even after he was still officially employed by the DEA, and even though they very much had him on their books as a person of interest. They took months to arrest him even when another intelligence service told them he posed a threat, and they then let him plead guilty and 'turn' co-operator for what will presumably be a massively reduced sentence. He was looking at life (30 years+) and a $3 million fine. On the basis of past cases I guess he'll get about 1/3 of that. He has also talked himself out of extradition to Pakistan, India or Denmark to face charges over any of his actions, and will certainly avoid the death penalty. At each stage he has been protected by the authorities in some way or another, and he is now a source of raw intelligence for the Americans alone. They didn't even let the Indian government talk to him until 3 months after he'd pleaded guilty, presumably so he could be adequately prepared to lay all the blame at Pakistan's door.

The November 16th 2001 hearing seems to be the point at which someone bigger than the DEA stepped in and took over running Headley for US intelligence purposes. Both the CIA and FBI deny ever employing Headley, but there are two key issues that bear thinking about. Anyone familiar with the global drugs trade knows that the CIA has some very dirty fingers in that particular pie. Headley, a man born into two worlds, with a drug dependence, with connections and the proven ability to use them, compromised by his criminal history, would no doubt have been on their radar as a possible asset for promotion from the DEA. He also fits the profile of a disposable intelligence asset (i.e. one who can end up being openly blamed and imprisoned) almost perfectly. The other key issues is Headley changing his name.

In February 2006 Daood Saleem Gilani became David Coleman Headley. You can read a copy of the legal decree effecting the change here. He also had a passport in the name of David Headley, though he did not change his Social Security Number at the time he changed his name. Headley told the NIA that the purpose was to avoid arousing suspicion:

The change of name, establishment of Immigration office in India on behalf of Tahawwur Hussain Rana, use of American passport to conceal my identity and so on were my ideas. The LeT appreciated these ideas. - NIA interrogation report

Note that Headley's actions would only be likely to avoid suspicion in countries like Pakistan and India. A white American man with an English-sounding name was much less likely to attract attention from immigration authorities, airport security and so on in such countries. But changing his name and getting a new passport in his new name would certainly arouse suspicion in the US authorities, assuming they were watching him. Given his prior work as a spy for the DEA, Headley would have been stupid to assume that they weren't watching him, and so the name change only really makes sense if he knew that the US authorities were nothing for him to worry about.

Then there is the media coverage of the trial, which has been almost exclusively either American or Indian, and very much sticks the boot into Pakistan for their role in the Mumbai massacre. There has been virtually nothing in the UK media about the trial, and absolutely nothing looking into his role as a secret agent. As such, there appears to be a tacit but unanimous agenda to only speak of Headley as a terrorist in cahoots with the ISI, and as a witness at the trial. No examination of the bigger questions has taken place. Among those in the independent media who have covered the story is the Corbett Report.

I was interviewed for this report and offered my thoughts as to what the hidden agenda is and why there is a refusal to examine the Headley story. Of the possibilities I mentioned, I think an invasion of Pakistan is highly unlikely. It is a huge country with a large population, nuclear weapons and an entrenched military government. A regime change is more likely, as the US seem to be covertly supporting the 'Arab spring' uprising across the Middle East, but would be risky as there is no guarantee of the new government doing as it is told. I think the most likely motive is that this is a chancy move to get into bed with the Indian government, as an economic-military bulwark against China. The Chinese and Indians don't get along, as major regional powers tend not to, and India is a nuclear power with huge economic potential and a massive population. It could be turned into the next Asian 'economic miracle' and usefully provide a new buyer for Western debt.

But the Indians aren't really buying it. The US Director of National Intelligence produced a report into the 'intelligence failure' over David Headley, and sent a copy to Indian authorities, but they are still prying into the case and attempting their own prosecutions of Rana and Headley. Secretary of Internal Security U K Bansal said of the failure to convict Rana of involvement in the Mumbai attack:

I do not see it as a setback as our case (India) is still under investigation... Prosecution in India against Rana and his co-accused David Headley depends on our own investigations which is being done by Indian investigating agencies... In our handling of terrorism in India, we do not rely overtly on prosecution in other countries. We have to rely on our own strength - Times of India
Indeed, exactly what India have made of the failed Mumbai prosecution is a matter of some contention. There's a very provocative discussion of the issue on the forum, here. However, what is for me the most important aspect of this case and the whole Headley story is just how much we know about it. In similar prior cases, Egyptian Islamic Jihad trainer/CIA, FBI and US Special Forces man Ali Mohamed pleaded guilty to training Al Qaeda and helping bomb the African embassies but was never publicly sentenced, and has now pulled a Keyser Soze and disappeared off the map. Mohammed Junaid Babar, the only man to have been held responsible in any way for the 7/7 attacks in London, served a little over 4 years in prison, and a couple of years on parole. Most of the court documents in his case remain sealed.

Yet in the Headley case we have vast quantities of information at our fingertips. The Investigative Project have a page of court documents on the case, the Chicago Sun-Times have the Santiago proffer and response for Rana, where the US government tried to make him a co-operator, IBNLive have a whole batch of primary sources too. Much of this story is available to us for the cost of an internet connection and a few hours on a search engine. Despite this, very little qualitative analysis has taken place, and unless there's a diplomatic storm over India's attempts to prosecute Headley, this story will likely be forgotten, save for a lingering suspicion towards Pakistan. And maybe that's the point.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama Bin Lazarus

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Not exactly a new story, but now President Obama's telling it people are finally believing it is true. Bin Laden was reported dead in 2001, and then again in 2006, and then again in 2007 (twice), as well as on a few other occasions. Virtually nothing has been heard of him recently, with the media preferring to cover the likes of Anwar Al-Awlaki and Adam Gadahn - both Americans. There are, of course, the usual doubts and theories as to who Awlaki and Gadahn really work for and what they represent. One story in particular has Awlaki dining at the Pentagon within months of 9/11:

You can read an extract from FBI documents on this story here. Awlaki was supposedly invited to dinner as part of an 'outreach program' to 'moderate Muslims', though I would guess that most people's memory of the immediate post-9/11 period was one where all Muslims were branded potential terrorists. As such, this excuse for Awlaki going to dinner at the Pentagon doesn't make much sense.

So, how did Osama Bin Laden die? The details aren't clear. He was apparently holed up in a 'compound' in Abbotabad, Pakistan and was tracked to there by US intelligence in the last few days. They launched a dual operation with Pakistani special forces, and somehow Bin Laden died. According to the BBC, a strike team carried out a forty minute assault against the 'compound' and Bin Laden was shot during the fight. A different BBC story says he was 'shot in the head while resisting'. They note how:

At some point in the operation one of the helicopters crashed, either from technical failure or having been hit by gunfire from the ground. - BBC

So they don't tell us whose helicopter crashed, or when, or why. Remarkably, The Sun (a journalistic entity with far less reach and reputation than the BBC) were more certain:

An American helicopter crashed during a brief firefight at the complex involving Navy Seal Team Six, an elite counter-terrorism unit, and bin Laden's body was carried away on foot. - The Sun

This implies that in fact Bin Laden's body was in the helicopter when it went down, and was recovered and taken away. There are many other reports to this effect. The Chinese English language news service had different information:

At about 1:20 a.m. local time a Pakistani helicopter was shot down by unknown people in the Sikandarabad area of Abbotabad. The Pakistani forces launched a search operation in the nearby area and encountered with a group of unknown armed people. A fire exchange followed between the two sides.

When the fire exchange ended, the Pakistani forces arrested some Arab women and kids as well some other armed people who later confessed to the Pakistani forces they were with Osama Bin laden when the fire was exchanged and Bin Laden was killed in the firing. - Xinhuanet

As per usual with these sorts of heavily-promoted events, the reporting is at best a bit sloppy and contradictory, and at worst a total sham. Was the helicopter Pakistani or American? Was it shot down early on, which then caused a search and rescue operation, or was it shot down during the firefight? Were forces drawn to the area by the helicopter crash or had they been tipped off by an informant? Was Bin Laden shot in the head while resisting, or was he killed as part of the lengthy firefight? Was it even Bin Laden? The BBC casts a bit of doubt citing the AP:

It says CIA experts analysed whether it could be anyone else but they decided it was almost certainly Bin Laden. - BBC

Only almost certain? But according to the Telegraph and others, Bin Laden was identified via DNA taken from his sister's brain (she died of brain cancer a few years ago). This does pose the question of how did they get a DNA match so quickly. Again, the officials have cast doubt on the evidence, according to ITN:

US officials say that initial DNA results prove that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead.

The officials said the test showed a "very confident match" that it was bin Laden who was killed in the US special forces raid at a luxury compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan. - ITN
Indeed, we have only one decidedly dodgy picture of a dead Bin Laden, being widely used by the mainstream media as part of the story. See for yourself:

Note that in the first picture the major trauma is to 'Bin Laden's' left eye, whereas in the second picture the trauma is to his right eye.

The Defense Dept has apparently admitted that this picture is a photoshopped fake that has been around for a while. A Telegraph article confirms this, linking to a composite of the images used to fake the Bin Laden image above.

Casting further doubt, it has been unanimously reported that the US dumped Bin Laden's body at sea, supposedly in accordance with Islamic rites requiring burial of the dead within 24 hours. This seems to be a ridiculous decision. Islamic scholars are already saying that a burial at sea is a violation of Islamic practices, and if Bin Laden was the mass murderer they claim then why pay him such respect? After all, this is a man they admit to summarily executing without any sort of trial whatsoever. The decision to dump the body makes much more sense if this whole thing is a deception operation of some kind, as there would be a need for a cover-up.

The media also unanimously referred to the location of the firefight as a 'compound'. The video of the building suggests otherwise:

It appears to be nothing more significant than a large house with a wall running round the outside, not unlike many wealthy peoples' houses.

British Royal Family Compound, London

The word also has echoes of the state-sanctioned murder of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, in February 1993.

As noted in this documentary, the use of the word 'compound' helped militarise the situation, making the state's massacre seem more justified. The celebratory speech by Barack Obama admitted that:

A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body. - Obama Speech in Full
Despite admitting to extra-judicial murder, and in a foreign sovereign state no less, he claimed:

On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaida's terror: Justice has been done. - Obama

It is worth watching Obama's speech, embedded below, alongside Paul Bremer's 'we got him' moment when the US said they caught Saddam Hussein, and Bush's speech on the same.

Notice the difference in management styles - the Neocons openly vainglorious and self-congratulatory, the Neolib Obama deferential and authoritarian. As appears to be the Modus Operandi of the Obama military PR strategy, here the celebrating was done by apparently ordinary people.

Just as in the 'Twitter revolutions', it was the microblogging site that first broke the news of the assault on the house in Abbotabad. You can read the tweet about a helicopter hovering overhead here. Citizen journalism, or planted information? You decide. Within minutes of the news reaching America there were hundreds of citizens demonstrating in New York and Washington, at the former site of the WTC and outside the White House. In each case the crowds were large enough to make for good TV, but not so large that they were too obviously a rent-a-mob. Whether these were spontaneous demonstrations or not, they helped ensure the feelgood factor.

As did the details from Obama that there were no civilian casualties, and no US military casualties, in the forty minute firefight. This only begs further questions. If it was that easy, why did the firefight last for forty minutes? If they didn't kill anyone at that stage, including Bin Laden, who were they shooting at for nearly three quarters of an hour? If there were others around, protecting Bin Laden, then what happened to them? Did they just decide to give up? Did they run out of ammunition? Were they also killed and this was studiously unreported? If it sounds too good to be true then it's probably horseshit. From a PR point of view, this couldn't have gone any better. If they are capable of fomenting 'spontaneous' uprisings in the Middle East then they're more than capable of doing it in the comfort of home.

Nonetheless, they haven't pushed the good news too hard, as the story has come with rumours of revenge attacks by Islamists and another round of hyping the terror threat. British PM David Cameron gave a much briefer statement than Obama, and almost exclusively focused on the 'negative vibe' of the possibility of terrorist reprisals, and the victims of the wave of terrorism supposedly inspired and directed by Bin Laden.

So what is going on here? Is this all just electioneering PR to give a boost to a vastly unpopular president? This is without doubt the finest point of Obama's administration so far. It also comes only days after the defense reshuffle that saw head of US forces in Afghanistan David Petraeus (a man predicted to run against Obama in 2012) moved over to head the CIA, and Leon Panetta move to replace the retiring Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense. Was this a move to placate Petraeus and give a boost to US defense policy? One must wonder, of course, at why Obama would choose this week of all weeks to make such big changes in the leadership of key institutions, when the US was supposedly involved in its most important covert operation for decades.

There may be more at stake. The execution of a public hate figure is a popular but illegal move, and it is only due to its popularity that its illegality is largely overlooked. We saw this only hours before the Bin Laden news came in, with word that NATO strikes against Libya had resulted in the deaths of one of Col Gaddafi's sons and three pre-teen grandchildren. This was not just the extra-judicial assassination of a terrorist, but the premeditated murder of innocent people in the name of 'protecting civilians'. Opposition to the Libya 'intervention' has been swift, cutting and on a large scale, and then along came the biggest victory, at least in terms of public perception, that the Western powers could ask for. So, was this news a vain attempt to curry favour with a disillusioned public, so as to shore up a failed, corrupt foreign policy?

There is a yet wider possibility. Since at least 1979 the NATO pact have been encouraging, financing, training and facilitating militant Islam as a force of destabilisation and mercenary terrorism. While groups like Al Qaeda have overtly been targeted as a designated enemy, they have covertly been prodded and manipulated in the furtherance of geostrategic goals. It appears with the Libya intervention that this process is being accelerated, and more openly admitted to. 'Revelation of the method', perhaps. Early on in the Obama administration the term 'war on terror' was dropped in favour of phrases like 'the struggle with violent extremism' - a much broader concept, even harder to define. This struggle has so far taken the form of increased special forces operations (death squads), increased drone strikes against terrorist bases (murder of civilians) and now the decapitation of the major enemy network.

In fact, even the notion of Al Qaeda as a network has been dropped, it is now a 'franchise' or just an 'ideology'. Perhaps the controlled demolition of Osama Bin Laden is a key step in the redrawing of the lines of sight in this battle. After all, if there's no Bin Laden and Al Qaeda is a decentralised loose-knit bunch of crazy Muslims, then it is a lot easier to justify sponsoring this or that particular group of crazy Muslims for this or that particular goal. As the double deal that is the war on terror becomes ever more apparent to an ever largening number of people, simple denial won't wash. By redefining the enemy as less a paramilitary entity - Al Qaeda - with a general - Bin Laden, and more as an ideological confluence led by Awlaki and the like, the double deal becomes more palatable and acceptable.

Recall the words of Graham Fuller, former National Intelligence Council member:

The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against [the Russians]. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia. - Fuller

With the great Muslim bogeyman now officially out of the way, this policy can be more fully endorsed and enacted. Consider that the lines between 'us' and 'them' are now so blurred that various newscasts accidentally reported that in fact Obama, not Osama, had been killed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

7/7: Une Question

Progress is being made on a followup film to 7/7: Seeds of Deconstruction and among the discoveries that will be detailed in the sequel is the fact that July 7th 2005 was not the first time London had suffered a suicide bombing. To many people familiar with the 7/7 issues this may seem like it is a point that has already been made. As we know, within days of the explosions the police had already identified the supposed culprits and were describing the attacks as suicide bombings. This BBC report from the 12th July 2005 sums it up:

Police knowing whodunnit? Check. Suicide bombers? Check. Encouraging of Racial/Cultural/Religious disharmony? Check. Tedious Muslim analyst cowing to the media, being all apologetic, and failing to talk about the real questions? Check. The piece even says that this was the first suicide bombing in Western Europe, thus making the attacks a categorical game-changer or paradigm-shifter, and of course presuming the West vs Islam Clash of Civilisations idea. Indeed, if you're looking for a 4 minute summary of everything that's wrong about how the conversation on 7/7 progressed, this little video has it all.

But hang on a minute. A little over a year before 7/7 we had the Atocha bombings in Madrid, carried out by a bunch of crackpot Islaminformantists, killing nearly 200 people. On the 11th of March 2004 they attacked the Madrid public transport system early in the morning - in many ways identical to the 7/7 bombings. A few weeks later, so we're told, several of the suspects blew themselves up when cornered by the authorities, killing themselves and one special forces agent and wounding about a dozen other police. So, presuming that time didn't go backwards between April 2004 and July 2005, then the April 2004 incident was Western Europe's first suicide bombing? Right?

Wrong. The first suicide bombing took place over a century earlier, in 1894. In the period 1870-1930 the Western world fought a 'war on terror' against the first red menace - the radical and/or militant aspects of the labour movement, communism and anarchism. The anarchists in particular seemed to like bombing stuff - indeed, the first fatal bombing on the London underground was the work of anarchists, though it seems at the time they blamed the Irish. But their violence was in many ways the product of infiltrators and provocateurs. The head of the Russian secret police in Paris, Peter Rachkovsky, and senior members of the British Special Branch ran numerous double agents.

As with so many other stories of this kind throughout history, this process did not only produce violence including the death of random citizens, it also produced some woeful miscarriages of justice. The way justice systems deal with the fallout from covert operations will be the main underlying topic of the sequel to 7/7: Seeds of Deconstruction but the best example from the Victorian period is that of the Walsall Anarchists. They were six men arrested in 1892 who were accused of manufacturing bombs and running a bomb factory. Four were convicted and received sentences of up to ten years in prison.

The whole thing was a set up. The key evidence at the trial were letters from members of the group to an police provocateur called Auguste Coulon. Coulon was an unemployed dreamer who was obsessed with dynamite and explosions who was recruited by Special Branch man William Melville. Melville went on to head up the forerunner to MI5. The letter included diagrams of possible bomb cases that Coulon provided advice on and encouraged the group to make. They never actually made any cases, though that didn't stop the police making some to be used as evidence at the trial. The judge supported the detectives who testified at the trial when they refused to answer any questions about Coulon, who of course was never arrested and got paid a large sum of money for his role in the plot. A nice summary of the case can be downloaded here, in the form of a fact sheet provided by the museum of Walsall.

A couple of years later, in February 1894, a young French anarchist called Martial Bourdin blew himself up in Greenwich Park, not far from the Royal Observatory. The explosion blasted off one of his hands and caused a large injury to his stomach but he was found moments after, still alive. He was taken to hospital and died about half an hour later. So what the hell was Bourdin doing? Various theories have been put forward. One is that the anarchists were targeting the Observatory, which the global meridian line runs through. As a symbol of modernity and global organisation, two things anarchists didn't like very much, it isn't a bad target. This became the basis for Joseph Conrad's fictional adaptation of the Bourdin story in his book The Secret Agent.

According to this version, Bourdin's brother-in-law HB Samuels, who was then-editor of the anarchist journal The Commonweal, gave the bomb to Bourdin so that he could go and throw it at the Observatory. Bourdin presumably tripped up or had some other accident and so the bomb went off prematurely, killing him. Another similar intepretation is that Bourdin was supposed to be delivering the bomb to other anarchists who were to use it overseas, perhaps in France or Russia, and again that Bourdin died in an accident. This account was put forward by Patrick McIntyre, another Special Branch officer who had fallen out with Melville over his role in setting up the Walsall Anarchists. McIntyre found himself demoted for his protests, so he quit the police and published his memoirs in the newspaper, blowing the whistle on the infiltration operations.

When writing about Auguste Coulon he commented:This same description could of course be applied to numerous such provocateurs. On the basis of what informants had told him, McIntyre offered this summary of the Bourdin plot:

A further alternative is that Bourdin did not know he was even carrying a bomb and thought he was delivering something else. This is the interpretation/adaptation of the story that appears in Alfred Hitchcock's film version Sabotage.

A yet further version is that Samuels set up Bourdin in a sting operation and that police were waiting nearby to arrest Bourdin in possession of a bomb. This is suggested by a contemporary NY Times article that details how police had seen Bourdin and another man leaving a house near the Autonomie Club (the London anarchist hub) earlier in the day.

So, what happened? For even more on the problems with the Bourdin story I recommend this paper, but there is some key information largely overlooked by the existing discussion. For one, confirming suspicion at the time, Bourdin's brother-in-law HB Samuels was an associate of Auguste Coulon and a police agent of some kind. Author Alex Butterworth used the FOIA to obtain a copy of a police ledger of informants that substantiates not only McIntyre's claims but many more.

Perhaps more importantly, there was political pressure for Bourdin's death to be ruled a suicide. From Hansard, the only mention of Bourdin is from Charles Darling (the 1st Baron Darling) who said:

MR DARLING: I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department a question of which I have given him private notice. It is whether his attention has been called to the statement that the coroner for Greenwich has been asked to deliver up the body of Martial Bourdin, and that the Anarchists of London propose to make it the occasion of a public funeral; whether there is not reason to suppose that Martial Bourdin came by his death in the course of a felonious act; and whether his own death, resulting from this, would not properly be found to be felo de se? In that case, does not the law provide for the disposal of the body? I wish further to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will interfere in this matter, having regard to the action which the French Government found it necessary to take in the case of the Anarchist Vaillant?

The reason was that at the time suicide was still a crime (felo de se, to be a felon against oneself, a self-murderer). If Bourdin's death were ruled a suicide then the State could confiscate his possessions and decide how to dispose of his body. Darling was concerned that a public funeral for Bourdin would provide a means for public demonstration by anarchists, hence he wanted the Home Secretary to 'interfere in this matter'. In the event, the Home Secretary refused the request, saying:

MR. ASQUITH: That would certainly be a most extraordinary proceeding, considering that the jury have not yet found a verdict of felo de se. I do not know whether the hon. Member proposes that either I or the coroner should keep the body above ground until the jury has found a verdict.
MR. ASQUITH: I certainly decline to do anything of the kind.
The funeral took place a few days later, and there was a large demonstration by anarchists who clashed with police. The New York Times reported that when one senior anarchist tried to deliver an oration when Bourdin's coffin was being lowered, he was seized by police and removed from the cemetery.

So what was the inquest verdict? From The Mercury:

Despite virtually no evidence showing that Bourdin had any intention of dying (and large amounts of money in his pockets suggesting he actively intended to live), the verdict was suicide. That's right, over a hundred years ago Britain suffered its first suicide bombing. Bizarrely, historian David Rooney denied this, saying in a 2009 podcast that 'It wasn't a suicide bomb, it had gone off by mistake'. One wonders if he would have said that before 7/7, or whether he is actually aware of the inquest verdict in Bourdin's case.

So, we have a supposedly radical movement heavily infiltrated by provocateurs and spies. We have a man in London blown to pieces by a bomb, who never explained what had happened and died shortly after the explosion. We have political pressure for a verdict of suicide that is born out at the inquest, and we have widespread ignorance/denial from both academics and the mainstream media. Even though Bourdin almost certainly did not intend to kill himself, by the official record he was Europe's first terrorist suicide bomber.

There is one other possibility, not explored above. Bourdin could have been what the IRA called a 'human bomb' or 'proxy bomb'. Typically, a man's family would be kidnapped and he would be threated with their torture or death and be forced to drive a car-bomb into a military checkpoint or other installation. Along with the 'real' suicide bomber there is the 'unwitting' suicide bomber and the 'unintentional' suicide bomber and the 'unwilling' suicide bomber. To the naked eye, after the explosion, it is virtually impossible to tell the difference which has occurred. Yet, as the video at the top of this article shows, it was only a matter of days before the police had decided not only who was responsible for 7/7, but that it was Britain's 'first' (to the very forgetful/ignorant) suicide bombing. We have to wonder: did they even consider any other possibility?

In a couple of weeks we will have the verdict from the inquests into the 52 certain victims of the 7/7 bombings, at which point Lady Justice Hallett will decide whether to hold inquests in the deaths of the four alleged bombers. The J7 group posted a lengthy explanation of the reason why inquests into the four should take place, indeed, must take place. They submitted the same to Hallett, who now has no excuses for deciding against holding them. If the last few months are anything to go by then what we'll get is more gameshow-style inquests where everyone in the audience knows what the answer is but for some reason none of the contestants, I mean witnesses and evidence, seem to be able to remember it.

To finish this time, another little extract from McIntyre's memoirs. He was a very early whistleblower into this sort of police/security service corruption, and therefore is of far more historical significance than he is recognised as being. This is his impression of the actual spirit of the anarchists and the danger they posed (or rather, didn't pose):