Sunday, December 20, 2009



The only story in the news last week, that the Copenhagen Climate Conference Proceedings (CCCP) continued unabashed, illustrates just how the entire dialogue on environmentalism has been usurped for cold, calculating political purposes. Two weeks back, in an unprecedented move 56 of the world's newspapers, using 20 languages, published a common editorial.

The article states that 'humanity faces a profound emergency' and that unless we do what's already been decided we should do that 'climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security'. This is the same conclusive, didactic tone that dominates most major media coverage of such questions and issues, a tone that can never be supported by scientific evidence, largely because scientific evidence just doesn't work that way. That evidence can be used to support a theory and make predictions on the basis of that theory, but it can't tell you the future behaviour of complex systems with any guarantee of accuracy. This is commonly known as the butterfly effect. A butterfly flaps its wings in New York and ten hours later the weather in Peking changes.

So why did 56 of the world's newspapers do this? Newspapers are very much in competition with one another for readership and advertising revenue. This, rather than any sense of democratic responsibility, is the reason why the same story will be told differently by different outlets. Guardian readers will as a rule not touch the Daily Mail, and vice versa, though to someone with no affiliation they're both pretty poor. This latest move is only the culmination of a longstanding policy of unanimity amongst the mainstream media when it comes to discussing the possibility of an anthropogenic origin of climate change and therefore the need for widespread economic policies to counter the deadly climate change that will allegedly result. The epistemological basis for such claims doesn't exist, and the economics of running a newspaper would dictate that at least a token difference in content is a good idea, and yet some force was at play that overcame that.  

Some versions of the editorial made mention of the awfully-named 'climategate' scandal, where the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia university was hacked. Various e-mails and other files that were obtained by the hacker(s) are now widely available online, and despite the attempts to deny their significance they have given a boost to many of those people who are skeptical about whether global warming is taking place, or whether it has a human cause.  

The most obvious aspect of the e-mails is their vocabulary in discussing anyone who is even skeptical about the CRU's conclusions. While science is meant to proceed in an atmosphere of mutual skepticism and questionning, anyone deviating from the 'global warming is real and serious and caused by humans' belief is evidently seen as hostile, an opponent to be overcome. One e-mail from Phil Jones, the head of the CRU, describes the death of sceptic John Daly as 'cheering news'. Though this was said in a once-private email, it betrays an ugly attitude on the part of people whose professional obligation is towards careful questionning, not rejecting disagreement in all its forms.

The same attitude is seen in the emails discussing those who were using the Freedom of Information Act to get the data and models on which the CRU formed their conclusions, including the infamous hockey stick graph. In one, Phil Jones talks about how he'd rather delete the data than give it out (which is a crime), and about finding ways to hide behind the Data Protection Act. He also mentions an e-mail sent to him by former head of the CRU Tom Wigley, 'worried' that he'd have to give up the source code for his model. Wigley is now retired, and Jones suggests that this should be enough to protect him and his contribution. In another, Jones asks another member of CRU staff to delete emails that were also subject to FOIA requests.

The Canada Free Press recently published an article by Tim Ball, the man in the video above, profiling Jones and Wigley and how they'd been at the centre of the CRU and the IPCC throughout the period when climate science became so politicised. Indeed, one of the most recent e-mails of all is from Wigley to Jones, stating that land warming since 1980 is double the ocean warming, and that sceptics might use this to argue that the urban heat island effect is more influential than is accounted for in the models. Other e-mails from Wigley to Jones illustrate that despite his retirement, Wigley is very much still running the show at the CRU, including this e-mail in which he expresses concern at the 1940s warming 'blip' which they cannot explain. Ultimately, concern is at how to make the 'blip' disappear so as to not threaten the desired conclusion, rather than a genuine scientific concern that their conclusion might be wrong.

Another exchange from 2005 shows considerably more dissent and disagreement within the scientific community that the 'consensus' would have us believe. This gives credence to the over 30,000 scientists (including 9000 PhDs) who have signed a petition saying they are not part of the consensus. Going back to 1997 we find an email discussing how to manipulate media coverage to make it seem like the scientific community were far more unified that they were in reality:

Mike, Rob,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sheikh, Rattle and Roll

In the build up to next month's UN-sponsored Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, President Obama is continuing a global tour which rivals anything the Rolling Stones have accomplished. With the president of the Maldives alleging that failure to negotiate an emissions reduction treaty constitutes a 'global suicide pact', the philosophy of making humans look like a planetary disease is becoming ever more firmly entrenched in the minds of global leaders. Climate Change hodbearer and UK Climate Secretary Ed Miliband has told us that a final treaty will probably not be signed at Copenhagen. Nonetheless, enhancements to the global governmental infrastructure are to be expected. Agreements will be made 'in principle' without any form of democratic representation, at a time when not even a bare majority believe that climate change is man-made. As detailed by former adviser to the PM Lord Monckton, a stern critic of climate change propaganda:

"I read that treaty. And what it says is this, that a world government is going to be created. The word 'government' actually appears as the first of three purposes of the new entity. The second purpose is the transfer of wealth from the countries of the West to third world countries, in satisfaction of what is called, coyly, 'climate debt' - because we've been burning CO2 and they haven't. We've been screwing up the climate and they haven't. And the third purpose of this new entity, this government, is enforcement." - Christoper Monckton

The road to hell is paved with (seemingly) good intentions. It is unclear if Obama will attend the Copenhagen conference, as he's stated that he will only turn up if his presence will help clinch the deal. This betrays the true purpose of the Obama administration, to use an easily accepted figurehead to help grease the wheels of processes that go far beyond his authority. Nonetheless, he has been in China greeting the natives and criticising the nation for its censorship of the internet and poor human rights record. Just as the West wallows in hypocrisy over the issue of Chinese industrialisation and pollution, it makes frequent use of the portrayal of China as a totalitarian dictatorship while conveniently ignoring what's going on at home.

While Obama has been visiting Asia and saying he'll lend his pretty face to the advance of world government if required to do so the rebranded War on Terror is continuing on the home front. The alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), along with four of his co-accused, will finally face a trial. The location? New York, which makes finding an impartial jury virtually impossible. Also significant is that according to the CIA torture memos released earlier in 2009 Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. This will not only cause a legal problem for the prosecution, as Mohammed's confessions were given while he was being tortured, but is a grotesque human rights abuse on the part of the US government, as bad as anything China has done.

Numerous defences of the CIA rendition and interrogation (torture) program have been offered, including one from former head of the CIA and the NSA Michael Hayden:

If you want an intelligence service to work for you, they always work on the edge. That's just where they work," - Hayden, BBC

Apparently buying into this view, Obama granted immunity to all CIA staff involved, in effect endorsing the very security policy from which his administration claims to be a departure. However, the treatment of KSM (and others) does not constitute merely 'working on the edge'. Even the report of the Inspector General of the CIA states that after 'several applications' such 'enhanced interrogation techniques' are ineffective. One can only assume that the interrogators continued to torture Mohammed for fun, or out of a sense of professional responsibility. Either way, it is sadistic.

If the investigations and trial of the previous major terrorist attack on New York are anything to go by, the KSM and co. trial should provide some fireworks for those examining the 'intelligence failures that led to 9/11'. Shortly after midday on February 26th, 1993, an explosion rocked the basement of the North Tower of the WTC. Initially thought to be an electrical transformer explosion, it killed six people and injured over 1000. It is now widely considered to be the first stateless international terrorist attack on the US, carried out by Islamic fundamentalists. However, various details have emerged which cast quite a different light on what happened.

The NY 'cell' were based in the Al Kifah refugee centre at the Al Farooq mosque in Brooklyn. This building was one of dozens of worldwide branches of the Maktab al-Khidamat, a network of charitable and religious organisations which serve as recruiting and fundraising hubs for the mujahideen. Founded by Abdullah Azzam in the mid 1980s, this network was a vital part of the CIA's misadventures in the Soviet-Afghan war as it provided many wild-eyed young men to fight to the death against the Commies. Assets of the CIA took it over at the end of the Afghan war when Azzam was killed in a car-bombing in Afghanistan, followed by the assassination of the Imam of the Al Farooq mosque, Mustafa Shalabi, in 1991. Bin Laden and Zawahiri came to dominate the mujahideen and a new Imam was installed in the NY mosque.

That man was Omar Abdul Rahman, commonly known as the Blind Sheikh. He was the leader of Al Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the Islamic Group of Egypt. The Islamic Group was one of two main terrorist splinter organisations from the Muslim Brotherhood, the other being Zawahiri's Islamic Jihad. The Blind Sheikh came to the USA several times throughout the late 1980s on visas arranged for him by the CIA, with whom he was working as a recruiter and 'spiritual leader' for the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Despite being on the State Department's terrorist watchlist he entered the USA on a new visa in July 1990 and gained permanent residence status within two years. Despite his conviction for his role in a 'seditious conspiracy' in 1995 his visas were not revoked until five years after that. After Shalabi's death he took over the Al Kifah centre, and became notorious in New York for his rabid fundamentalist preachings. He is considered to be the ideological leader of the group initially convicted of the WTC bombing.

By the time of the 1993 bombing two significant events happened that strongly indicate ongoing protection for the Blind Sheikh from within the US security services, and their culpability in the attack. The first was the murder of racist Rabbi Meir Kahane by El Sayyid Nosair, a protege of the Blind Sheikh. In November 1990 Kahane was giving a speech at the Marriot Hotel in New York when Nosair shot him twice, fatally wounding the Rabbi. Kahane was leader of the militant Jewish Defence League, in effect the Zionist equivalent of the Blind Sheikh's Islamic Group. Two other members of the Al Kifah 'cell' were waiting in a taxi outside the hotel but were moved along shortly before Nosair came running out. Nosair set off down the road but was halted by an armed postal worker who took a bullet in the shoulder before shooting Nosair in the neck. Doctor's saved the Egyptian's life and he was remanded in custody. Though his two cohorts Mahmud Abouhalima and Mohammed Salameh were arrested, they were quickly released and the FBI ignored all evidence of a wider plot and pursued Nosair as a lone gunman. While Nosair was acquitted of murder (no witness had actually seen him pull the trigger, and there were others in the room who were armed) he was convicted on gun charges and sentenced. However, the FBI's investigation didn't sprawl into the role of the Blind Sheikh, who used Al Kifah money to contribute to Nosair's legal defence, or Abouhalima and Salameh, who would go on to be convicted for the 1993 WTC bombing.

Also ignored was Ali Mohamed, an Egyptian army officer who had been thrown out because of he was a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. He then worked for the CIA as an informant, though officially they fired him because his mistakes ruined the operation. However, he then went to the US in 1985 on a similar CIA-sponsored visa as the Blind Sheikh. In 1986 he joined the US Army and was posted to the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where the US Special Forces are trained. Given the rank of Supply Sergeant he was also responsible for running a series of lectures explaining MIddle Eastern history and politics. In 1988 he told his superiors, including Lt.Col. Robert Anderson, that he was planning to use his vacation time to go and fight in Afghanistan. He returned after a month claiming to have killed two Spetsnaz Russian special forces soldiers, and showed off two army uniform belts he claimed to have taken from them. This should have caused great controversy as officially no American-enlisted soldier fought in the Soviet-Afghan war. Mohamed's superior Anderson wrote reports to try to get him investigated by Army intelligence and potentially court-martialed, but they were ignored.

Anderson said all this convinced him that Mohamed was "sponsored" by a U.S. intelligence service. "I assumed the CIA," he said. - San Francisco Chronicle
Ali Mohamed completed his term of service in 1989 but remained part of the US Army reserve for a further five years. In 1990 he became an FBI informant and remained one until his eventual arrest in 1998 after the African Embassy bombings. Though he then confessed to his role as an 'Al Qaeda operative' who was so close to Bin Laden that he trained the 'emir's' personal security men, Ali Mohamed has apparently never been sentenced and full details of his plea bargain are sealed.

Mohamed had various connections with the Blind Sheikh's group in New York, having met with them regularly at the Al Kifah centre during his time at Fort Bragg. He brought with him training materials - manuals, documents and videos - and taught the recruits the essence of guerilla warfare. Nosair was only one of his trainees, others included virtually the entire group responsible for the 1993 WTC bombing. However, Ali never faced any investigation for his involvement with the NY 'cell'. When Nosair, the Blind Sheikh and others were prosecuted for a 'seditious conspiracy' including the 1993 bombing and the assassination of Kahane, Ali was subpoenaed as a witness for the defence by Nosair's lawyer Roger Stavis, but couldn't be found.

As if those military and intelligence service connections weren't enough, the second major event on the road to the WTC bombing was the recruitment by the FBI of an informant called Emad Salem. Like Ali Mohamed he had been in the Egyptian army, though he had no affiliations with the Muslim Brotherhood. He was first recruited in the late 1980s, though the FBI didn't entirely trust him as they suspected he was working as a double agent for Egyptian intelligence so soon stopped using him as an asset. Eventually he came to work under a Texan agent, Nancy Floyd, initially providing information on KGB and Russian Mafia activities in New York. Salem then convinced Floyd that the greater danger came from the Blind Sheikh and his followers, and was transferred over to two members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a multi-agency group in New York.

According to Peter Lance's lengthy accounts of this story Salem never got along too well with John Anticev and Lou Napoli, his two handlers, and was often debriefed by Floyd even though she was not officially responsible for him and worked in a different department. He successfully penetrated the Sheikh's group but he refused to wear a wire and insisted on not having to testify in court. Throughout this second period, from his first contact with Floyd in August 1991 to July 1992, when the FBI formally ended contact with him, Salem was largely unsupervised and the information he provided unconfirmed. He was let go by the FBI in the summer of 1992, apparently due to the new head of the JTTF not approving of Nancy Floyd's involvement in the case. Salem was recruited a third time to inform on the Blind Sheikh after the bombing in February 1993. Floyd, however, was hit with an internal investigation by the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility, and accused of various charges including having an affair with Salem and cooking the books on her expenses.

During his third period working for the FBI, Salem was paid over a million dollars and agreed to wear a microphone to record his conversations with the Blind Sheikh and his merry band of mujahideen. However, he also covertly recorded many of his conversations with his FBI handlers, and openly discussed just how involved he was with the WTC bombing plot. One particular dialogue between Salem and Anticev caused tremendous controversy.

Anticev: But, uh, basically nothing has changed. I'm just telling you for my own sake that nothing, that this isn't a salary, that it's—you know. But you got paid regularly for good information. I mean the expenses were a little bit out of the ordinary and it was really questioned. Don't tell Nancy I told you this.
Salem: Well, I have to tell her of course.
Anticev: Well then, if you have to, you have to.
Salem: Yeah, I mean because the lady was being honest and I was being honest and everything was submitted with a receipt and now it's questionable.
Anticev: It's not questionable, it's like a little out of the ordinary.
Salem: Okay. Alright. I don't think it was. If that's what you think guys, fine, but I don't think that because we was start already building the bomb which is went off in the World Trade Center. It was built by supervising supervision from the Bureau and the D.A. and we was all informed about it and we know that the bomb start to be built. By who? By your confidential informant. What a wonderful, great case!
Anticev: Well.
Salem: And then he put his head in the sand and said "Oh, no, no, that's not true, he is son of a bitch." [Deep breath.] Okay. It's built with a different way in another place and that's it.
Anticev: No, don't make any rash decisions. I'm just trying to be as honest with you as I can.
Salem: Of course, I appreciate that.

You can listen to the except here. Note that not only does Salem state that he started the building of the bomb that went off in the World Trade Center, but his FBI handler does not contradict him. Not only is Salem, and therefore the FBI, implicated in helping produce the bomb, but other tapes indicate he was also the origin of the New York Landmarks plot, of which the Blind Sheikh and several others were eventually convicted. In a 1993 interview with William Kunstler, a defence lawyer for members of the NY 'cell', he told WBAI's Paul DeRienzo:

He [Salem] is the only real conspirator in this case...

...I’ve read a lot of the tapes by now–transcriptions of the tapes, which were just furnished to me today. Before I came here, I read some of them, and they are things like… having him [Salem] say:
"Well, I think we ought to bomb the George Washington Bridge. That’s a very good target. It would make the commuters raise hell with this Government of ours."
And so then Siddig Ali says:
[Salem]: "And I think" so and so…
[Ali]: "Yeah?"
…. and so on. That’s the way it goes, virtually throughout these hundreds of pages of transcriptions. - WBAI interview with William Kunstler

However, the man apparently responsible for finishing the job of building the WTC bomb was freelancing international terrorist and all round ladies man Ramzi Yousef. Educated in electrical engineering in the UK, Yousef apparently finished his training as a bomb maker in Afghanistan in between semesters at college. The nephew of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, he was perhaps the most 'successful' terrorist of the 1990s and now resides in a maximum security prison serving a 240 year sentence.

Ramzi came to New York in September 1992, a couple of months after Salem's second FBI-sponsored involvement with the Blind Sheikh came to an end. He flew in with Ahmed Ajaj, a Palestinian, who was holding a blatantly forged Swedish passport in the name of Khurram Khan. Ramzi's passport identified him as Azan Mohammed. When asked for further identification by the INS official, he produced an ID card in the name of Khurram Khan, the same nom de guerre as in Ajaj's passport. When asked his full true name he said it was 'Ramzi Ahmed Yousef', itself a pseudonym for a man born Abdul Basit Mahmoud Abdul Karim. He stated his intention to claim political asylum and after a brief detention and filling in a form he was turned loose. According to Peter Lance's narrative in 1000 Years for revenge, this is because Ajaj's arrest had taken up the last available bed in the INS detention facility. However, according to Simon Reeve's version in The New Jackals, it was because Yousef had help from the Pakistani ISI.

For the following five months Ramzi Yousef, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammed Salameh, Nidal Ayyad and Abdel Yasin obtained the ingredients for and built a Urea Nitrate Fuel Oil bomb, enhanced by large gas cylinders packed around the main charge. However, this US prosecution story is far from conclusive. In 1995 the Department of Justice, of which the FBI is a part, began investigating their crime laboratory amid allegations that forensic investigations had been manipulated to support desired prosecution cases. After an eighteen month investigation the DOJ concluded that the problems were 'extremely serious and significant', and that in the WTC bombing investigation the investigator David Williams:

"gave inaccurate and incomplete testimony and testified to invalid opinions that appeared tailored to the most incriminating result." - NY Times

You can read the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General's report here. At the 1994 WTC bombing trial of four conspirators (Salameh et al.) the most specific allegations came from Special Agent Frederic Whitehurst:

Q: "During your examination of the bomb residue materials and the chemicals associated with the defendants, you became aware that the FBI agents investigating the case had developed a preliminary theory that the bomb that blew up the World Trade Center was a urea nitrate bomb?"
A: "Yes, that is correct."
Q: "Did there come a time when you began to experience pressure from within the FBI to reach certain conclusions that supported that theory of the investigation?"
A: "Yes, that is correct."
Q: "In other words, you began to experience pressure on you to say that the explosion was caused by a urea nitrate bomb?"
A: "Yes, that is correct."
Q: "And you were aware that such a finding would strengthen the prosecution of the defendants who were on trial, who were going on trial in that case, correct?"
A: "Absolutely." - Testimony of Frederic Whitehurst

As such, any conclusion about exactly who built the bomb that was used to attack the World Trade Center in 1993 is questionable. In May 1994 Salameh, Ayyad, Abouhalima and Ajaj were convicted of carrying out the attack. In October 1995 the Blind Sheikh was convicted of masterminding a 'seditious conspiracy' including the 1993 bombing and the Kahane murder. Ramzi Yousef remained at large until February 1995, and was convicted in January 1998. It was at this time that KSM was first announced as a 'major Al Qaeda operative'.

While Yousef was on the run from US authorities investigating the WTC bombing, one of his various activities was to develop 'Project Bojinka'. This included the creation of an improvised explosive device that could be smuggled past airport security. It used a Casio watch as the trigger so the alarm could be set hours or even days in advance, and a nitroglycerine main explosive charge designed to rupture the fuel tanks of an airliner and thus destroy the whole craft. This was 'successfully' tested in December 1994 on Philipines Airline flight 434. The aircraft wasn't destroyed, probably due to the bomb being put under the wrong seat, but a Japanese businessman was killed by the explosion. Another element of Bojinka, the plan to crash a small plane laden with explosives into the CIA headquarters at Langley is identified by some as a smaller version of the eventual 9/11 plot several years later.

Bojinka became known to US authorities after a fire in the block that Ramzi and his partner in crime Hakim Murad were using as a 'bomb factory'. After they fled the apartment block, Ramzi sent Murad back into the building to retrieve his laptop, and in the course of doing so Murad was arrested. During his interrogation he explained both a plan to destroy up to 11 Asian-Pacific airliners simultaneously using the Casio-Nitroclycerine bomb, as well as a plot to steal or hijack a plane and crash it into the CIA headquarters. All of this information was passed to the FBI by the Philippines National Police, including details suggesting an expansion of the latter plot to include targeting the Sears Tower, the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

One of Ramzi's co-conspirators in Bojinka was his uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. KSM was initially indicted in 1996 but the indictment remained sealed until 1998, when Yousef was convicted. Despite the then $2 million bounty on his head an arrest warrant for KSM wasn't issued until over two and a half years later, in November 2000. In the summer of 2001, at the same time as the CIA was continuing to keep the FBI in the dark about Nawaf Al-Hamzi and Khalid Al-Mihdhar, the NSA intercepted communications between KSM and alleged lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta but didn't bother to tell the FBI. Given the past history of protecting the Blind Sheikh as long as he remained useful it is a fair bet that similar treatment was being extended to Mohammed.

The 9/11 Commission largely ignored Bojinka and identified the genesis of the 9/11 plot as taking place around the time of the African embassy bombings in August 1998. Indeed, the Commission concluded that the attacks happened due to a failure of imagination, which along with their portrayal of KSM as the mastermind of the plot presumably means we're supposed to think that Mohammed's imagination was greater than that of the entire Western military and intelligence infrastructure. In the Executive Summary the report states:

By late 1998 or early 1999, Bin Ladin and his advisers had agreed on an idea brought to them by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) called the "planes operation". It would eventually culminate in the 9/11 attacks. - 9/11 Commission Report

On the basis of reports of interrogations with KSM, the Commission did briefly acknowledge Yousef but tells an elaborate tale of Mohammed's plan for a 'new kind of hijacking', including the following comment:

Beyond KSM's rationalizations about targeting the U.S. economy, this vision gives a better glimpse of his true ambitions. This is theater, a spectacle of destruction with KSM as the self-cast star-the superterrorist. - 9/11 Commission Report, ch5

This is not just KSM's apparent 'true ambition', but one shared by the Bush and Obama administrations. However, in making the 'superterrorist' the focus of all the blame the 9/11 Commission did not only skip over Bojinka. Prior to Murad's arrest in January 1995 there were a series of events which may have, directly or indirectly, inspired what happened on 9/11.

In February 1993, while Ramzi Yousef was still in New York apparently building the UNFO bomb for the WTC attack, Lufthansa Flight 592 was hijacked. The perpetrator was initially identified as 31 year old Somalian Shuriye Farah Siyad, though this was a mistake. The actual hijacker was 20 year old Ethiopian Nebiu Zewolde Demeke, who was apparently seeking asylum and US intervention in Bosnia. The young man clearly didn't know that via the likes of the Blind Sheikh that the US was already deeply involved in Bosnia. Demeke had smuggled a starting pistol on board by putting the gun in an Indiana Jones-style hat on a table as he walked through the metal detectors. After he ordered the plane to 'the West' it flew to JFK airport in New York, where after a long negotiation Demeke surrendered. At the time both passengers on the plane and officials were concerned that the plane would be crashed into Manhattan. It is highly likely that Ramzi Yousef was aware of this event. Perhaps in response, an expert panel was commissioned by the Pentagon in 1993 which discussed the possibility of airplanes being used to bomb national landmarks. Though a report was issued to Congress, the State Department and FEMA in June 1994, it was never made public, partly in fear of inspiring terrorists.

In April 1994 a disgruntled Federal Express employee hijacked a plane, apparently aiming to crash it into a company building in Memphis. In August 1994 Tom Clancy published Debt of Honor. In that story a Japanese airline pilot, angry at the deaths of his son and brother in a fictional war between Japan and the US, crashed his Boeing 747 into the US Capitol building. Though Clancy's novel had a much wider readership than any Pentagon-commissioned report in history he apparently had no trouble getting this content published. On September 11th 1994 an alcoholic cocaine user and depressed US Army veteran Frank Corder stole a tiny Cessna 150 aircraft from Churchville, Maryland. After flying it around for a couple of hours he ended up crashing it into a tree on the White House lawn at about 2 a.m., killing himself in the process.

Then in December 1994 members of Algeria Armed Islamic Group hijacked an Air France airliner and demanded it be taken to Marseille. There, they demanded it be heavily fuelled and while this was taking place the plane was stormed by French special forces who killed the hijackers. French authorities later said that the hijackers' intention was to either blow up the plane in midair, or to crash it into the Eiffel Tower. However, by this time the GIA were heavily infiltrated and manipulated by the Algerian intelligence services, and their leader Djamel Zitouni was a double agent.

As such, even prior to the Bojinka plot being uncovered in the Philippines there were several examples of the sort of planes-as-weapons attack that occurred on 9/11, mostly involving people connected to military or intelligence institutions. Indeed, Tom Clancy's novel was obliquely referred to during CNN's live coverage of the 9/11 attacks. From novelists to state-sponsored terrorists, if indeed Ramzi Yousef was the true origins of the planes-as-weapons plot of 9/11 then he had more than enough inspiration. The above examples also demonstrate how the 9/11 Commission's version of events, where the plot was purely the brainchild of KSM, is at best an incredibly partial explanation, and at worst a total fabrication.

So what can we learn from the WTC bombing in 1993 in terms of how this trial is likely to proceed? Most obviously, the butchering and bastardisation of science. It is unlikely that the government will seek to build a strong forensic case against KSM and his co-accused, after all, if the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11 then the Department of Justice probably has no hard evidence connecting KSM to 9/11. They will be aware that his apparent confession under torture might not even be admitted as evidence, so it is likely that they'll trot out a few so-called experts to try to provide an intellectual basis for a prejudice (towards conviction) already present in the jury. This will likely consist of the same tired nonsense about how the planes caused the towers to collapse and the discovery of passports belonging to the alleged hijackers. The primary role of such experts is not to maintain standards of investigation and proof, but to give credence to a desired narrative.

This was displayed once again with the convenient pre-Copenhagen publication of a report speculating that global temperatures could rise by six degrees centrigrade by the end of the century. Initially published by the Guardian under the headline 'Global Temperatures will rise by 6C by end of century, say scientists' they modified the online version so it now reads 'could rise by 6C'. Nonetheless, the 'scientists' who are saying this aren't identified until the fifth paragraph, by which time the paper in which this speculation was made has been categorised as 'a major new study' and 'the most comprehensive analysis to date'. Before any explanation of who these scientists are and what they've done the reader is set up not only to accept them as an authority, but by extension accept the narrative that there's a need for 'for urgent action by leaders at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen to agree drastic emissions cuts in order to avoid dangerous climate change.' However, the Guardian does quote one of the scientists as saying:

"The global trends we are on with CO2 emissions from fossil fuels suggest that we're heading towards 6C of global warming. This is very different to the trend we need to be on to limit global climate change to 2C." - Corinne Le Quéré, Guardian

Someone should tell this scientist that centigrade is a unit for measuring temperature, and at best temperature change, but not climate change. Moreover, the Climate Research Unit where the scientist works has become embroiled in a major scandal after a hacker obtained e-mails and other material. The files, which are widely available to download, apparently show that in private the scientists are deeply concerned by the difference between their data and models and the actual temperature in recent months and years, and have colluded to delete and manipulate information, and corrupt the peer-review process on which the 'consensus' is built. So far only the Telegraph have managed anything like adequate coverage of this story, with many outlets' coverage being truly embarassing.

Back to the KSM trial, if the comments of various officials are anything to go by, the trial will also proceed on the assumption of guilt, rather than of innocence. This is despite there being no straightforward account of what happened on 9/11, let alone who was responsible, just as with the 1993 WTC bombing. Though the BBC reported there being a 'row' about whether the 9/11 attacks constitute a crime or an act of war, the underlying assumption was that the accused will be found guilty, and presumably sentenced to death.

Senator John McCain: 'They are war criminals, who committed acts of war against our citizens and those of dozens of other nations.'

John Boehner, House of Representatives Republic Leader: "The possibility that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be found not guilty due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause [for thought]."

Howard McKeon, Senior Republic on the House Armed Services Committee: "The president's decision to bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the United States for trial in the United States federal courts will once again delay bringing justice to the victims and their families."

Carolyn Maloney, NY Democratic Representative: "I thank President Obama for his leadership and for taking this important step to hold these terrorists accountable for their despicable actions." - BBC

The comments of Debra Burlingame, sister of the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 which allegedly hit the Pentagon, illustrate how the grief of relatives has been turned into a vicious hatred by those seeking to capitalise on it:

"We have a president who doesn't know we're at war"...
...She told AP news agency she was sickened by "the prospect of these barbarians being turned into victims by their attorneys" if the trial focused on torture allegations. - BBC

I'm sure that she has suffered immensely because of what happened on 9/11, but in turning that pain into a disregard for someone that a propaganda campaign has convinced her was responsible she has become a megaphone for those selling the Commission's story.

The final thing we should expect from this trial is that no matter what evidence is brought forward, no matter what connections are demonstrated between the accused and the accusers, no matter how obvious the participation of US authorities in what happened, and continues to happen, there will be a steadfast refusal to acknowledge it. The purpose of this trial is not justice. The purpose of this trial is not to find out the truth. The purpose of this trial is not to hold responsible the truly guilty. The purpose of this trial is to reinforce the telling of a story, a version of events, which continues to be conducive to the political, economic and social forces dominating America. 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trans Human Express

Robocop was released in 1987, at the tail-end of the Reagan years. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, it adopts a similar aesthetic and themes to two of his other dystopian action movies - Total Recall and Starship Troopers. The story centres around a futuristic Detroit, a city where a privatised police force fight against sadistic organised criminals for control of the streets. Into this context comes Murphy, a cop who transfers in from another district to Old Detroit, a particularly violent and crime-ridden area due to be torn down and replaced by newly built skyscrapers. One firm, Omni Consumer Products, are in charge of the policing and the construction of the new 'Delta City'.  As such, the movie is probably Verhoeven's most prescient, foreseeing the kind of corporate monopoly over entire cities which is now the norm in America and the militarisation and privitisation of domestic security which is becoming the norm the world over. 

Early on in the movie, Murphy and his partner pursue a group of bankrobbers in a disused factory, a setting used numerous times in the course of the film and presumably a reference to Detroit's gradually dying heavy industry. He is caught by the gang and slain in the graphic manner that has become typical of Verhoeven's movies, though it passes over into humour in some of the 'bug battles' in Starship Troopers. Meanwhile, Omni Consumer Products test out their ED-209, a fully automated policing robot not at all unlike those being deployed in Iraq. More up to date images bear an even more uncanny resemblance. Indeed, contemporary robot soldiers can even be fuelled by biomass, leading to the company's CEO stating:

“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission.” - Harry Schoell

The ED-209 test goes horribly wrong, leading to the slaughter of a corporate executive (yay) in a manner very similar to Murphy's death. Subsequently, the dead Murphy's body is then used as the basis for a cyborg, an organism comprising both artificial and organic elements, supposedly the 'best of both worlds' in terms of robotic policing. He becomes the eponymous Robocop, created by a corporation to serve its interests. Although Murphy's memory is supposedly erased and replaced by four directives he rapidly starts showing residual signs of humanity, dreams and memories in particular. After a flashback to being killed he sets out to wreak revenge on the criminal gang.

Around halfway through the film it emerges that a senior executive at OCP is in cahoots with the leader of the gang, when he hires him to kill to the young upstart executive (yay) who masterminded the Robocop product which rivalled the senior executive's ED-209. As such the movie is not only a tale of privatisation, media and corporate monopolies and transhumanism, it is also contains elements of the conspiracy thriller. It resists easy generic classification, which is in my view very much part of its charm. It culminates in the OCP boardroom, with Murphy unable to arrest the senior executive due to a directive in his programming. Murphy presents his recorded memory of the executive admitting his guilt, so the executive takes the chair of the board hostage. The chair then fires the executive, allowing Murphy to summarily execute him (yay) by shooting him through a window.

Of all the themes the one this movie speaks about most is transhumanism, the development of artificial intelligence and the like which will enhance or replace human functions. In Robocop the principal message is that technology can spin out of control, not just in terms of the protagonist turning against his masters in the form of OCP. Interjecting at various points in the film are brief news bulletins which tend to feature three stories - an ongoing foreign war, domestic crime, and the constant problems with an earth-orbiting space station. One of these bulletins features a story of a misfiring laser aboard the space station which killed over a hundred people on the ground, including two former presidents. While Murphy is ostensibly the hero of the piece it is his humanity which ultimately wins, not just his technology. In one sequence towards the end he fights against an ED-209, which has no organic parts, and is mostly beaten by its superior weaponry until it tries, and fails, to follow him down a flight of stairs. Robocop is later seen easily destroying an ED-209, firmly placing the partly organic and human over the purely robotic and inhuman. Indeed, the apparent aim of the movie is to warn against the potential dangers of technological advancement, particularly in terms of military cyborgs and the automising of domestic security i.e. policing.

The year after Robocop's release postmodern philosopher Jean Francois Lyotard published The Inhuman, a series of essays on what he terms 'development' through 'techno-science', or the the collaboration between elite technological and capitalistic interests and institutions. The opening chapter queries how human thought could continue beyond the lifespan of the sun, estimated at 4.5 billion years. Lyotard was being literal in describing this quandary as to him it represents the only logistical barrier to the unfettered progress and expansion of this 'development' if we humans do not provide resistance to it. However, for most people not only is this development largely free from criticism, it is often seen as an achievement. As described by Stuart Sim in the Postmodern Encounters book on this subject:

"Development has become an end in itself in this reading...

...Nor will development ever be satisfied: it will always want to push on to a higher level than the one it has already attained. If left unchecked, development will lead to a culture based on inhuman principles - hence Lyotard's call for mass resistance to its plans." - Stuart Sim, Lyotard and the Inhuman, p28

This call for resistance is somewhat out of character given the 'type' of philosopher Lyotard is recognised as being. In much of postmodern and poststructuralist philosophy, of which Lyotard is firmly a part, humanism is largely torn to shreds. Subject to particular criticism was the secular humanism of the 19th and 20th centuries, whereby belief in metaphysical destiny (heaven, the afterlife) was replaced by belief in scientific fate, that the human purpose is not to worship a god or gods, but worship future technological development as a manifestation of our own greatness, our own virtue. However, a running theme in Lyotard's work, made explicit in The Inhuman, is the failure of this 'grand narrative' of humanism, that rather than these narratives explaining why we believe what we do, they seek only to legitimise it. In The Postmodern Condition (1979), Lyotard explained how the narrative of the spirit (science, discovery, revelation) is legitimised not through a logical explanation of what empirical evidence can provide, but through the institutionalising of such beliefs through a consensus of people taken to be experts.

To see this in action one only has to look at how anthropogenic global warming theory advocates such as George Monbiot treat those experts who disagree. Renowned botanist David Bellamy, also a long-serving broadcaster, is a perfect example. In March 2009, Monbiot wrote a hit piece on Bellamy that sought to attack him personally and involved very little by way of describing and presenting evidence. Numerous references to Bellamy as the 'bearded bungler' and as a 'climate change denier' in the article's URL, betray the accuracy of Lyotard's analysis. If Monbiot's aim were driven by a desire to investigate and explain then he would have made more effort to present the evidence. However, his article is littered with comments like:

The evidence suggests that global average temperatures between 900 and 1100AD were warmer than in subsequent centuries but cooler than today's. Most of the recent hockey stick graphs do in fact show a medieval warm period, but the temperature anomaly was smaller than that of the past 30 years - see the IPPC and this graph. - Monbiot, The Guardian

Note firstly that Monbiot labels what he's about to say a 'fact' yet opens with 'the evidence suggests', when what the evidence suggests depends on how it is interpreted, and a 'suggestion' has a very different status to a 'fact'. He goes on to cite two authorities, the IPCC (which he mistakenly calls the IPPC) and a graph courtesy of Ultimately, he defers his argument not to the evidence, but to interpretations of the evidence by the IPCC and others. Thus, his narrative is one of granting authority to those experts who say what Monbiot wants to hear, and using such experts to decry others who say what he doesn't want to hear. The evidence is mere detail to be subjected to human authority.

Despite Lyotard's near-rejection of humanism as one grand narrative that had been shown to have failed, in The Inhuman he turns from the past to the future, where humankind's present indicates we are going, and how the failings of the past might be repeated.

Inhumanism calls for a reassessment of the significance of the human, and a realignment of our relationship to technology. It is just such a process that Lyotard, for all his post-humanist bias, was so afraid of, and which he was repeatedly warning us against in his late career. - Sim, Lyotard and the Inhuman p12

Technology as it is presented in the mainstream is almost entirely shown to be an enabler and liberator, something that benefits humankind. Only a couple of weeks ago renowned scientist and futurologist Ray Kurzweil predicted that immortality was only 20 years away via to developments in nanotechnology. However, it is not just our medical condition that Kurzweil thinks will improve:

"Nanotechnology will extend our mental capacities to such an extent we will be able to write books within minutes.

"If we want to go into virtual-reality mode, nanobots will shut down brain signals and take us wherever we want to go. Virtual sex will become commonplace. And in our daily lives, hologram like figures will pop in our brain to explain what is happening.

"So we can look forward to a world where humans become cyborgs, with artificial limbs and organs." - The Telegraph

Kurzweil is another example of the narrative of the spirit described and criticised by Lyotard, in that he sees such potential developments as a good thing, and only a good thing. However, the possibilities for social control and indoctrination are clearly advanced by such technologies, making it more possible to predict and dictate to the population. As noted by Edward Bernays:

Universal literacy was supposed to educate the common man to control his environment. Once he could read and write he would have a mind fit to rule. So ran the democratic doctrine. But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber stamps, rubber stamps inked with advertising slogans, with editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of history, but quite innocent of original thought. Each man's rubber stamps are the duplicates of millions of others, so that when those millions are exposed to the same stimuli, all receive identical imprints. - Bernays, Propaganda

While the Telegraph's article on Kurzweil contains an image from the popular Terminator films a more responsible comparison would be to 1974 film The Terminal Man, adapted from an early Michael Crichton novel. In that story, an epileptic psychotic is given brain implants which are designed to prevent violent seizures by detecting their early stages and stimulating pleasure centres in the nervous system to prevent the seizures from taking hold. In reality the patient becomes gradually more and more prone to seizures as his body becomes addicted to the stimulation of the pleasure centres. This sort of foreseeable consequence is typically not discussed by those whose authority derives almost entirely from technological 'progress'.

A technology that is supposedly a progressive move can end up regressive - allowing greater dominion by the ruling class while exacerbating instead of solving social problems. Through the 20th century the masses have not become better educated, more rational beings more capable of participating in a peaceful and democratic society. They have become ever easier to manipulate, to set upon each other in often violent ways and to subject to ideological and psychological conditioning.

In spite of this, or probably because of it, humans still widely believe in the grand narratives, though the narratives have undergone something of a shift. Modernity would have it that technology is an example of human ingenuity and achievement, that progress is a good thing because it demonstrates that humans are virtuous. The postmodern shift on this story is that technology is the means for liberation, combing the narratives of spirit and emancipation into one. Under modernity, humans are the origin of technology, its master and creator and they are largely given the god-image of the pre-Enlightenment period. Technology is merely the means to an end defined by humans. Under postmodernity, technology is our master, as it is capable of much more than we are alone, and we are a means to developing it as far as possible, potentially even to the extent where AI becomes capable of developing itself (the singularity).

Lyotard broached this question in The Inhuman, outlining his two main concerns in the introduction:

What if human beings, in humanism's sense, were in the process of, constrained into, becoming inhuman? And, what if what is 'proper' to humankind were to be inhabited by the inhuman? - Lyotard, The Inhuman, p2

Before going on to ask:

What else remains as 'politics' except resistance to this inhuman? - Lyotard, The Inhuman, p7

The tale told in Robocop in part answers these questions. Murphy is classed as legally dead and so what remains of his mind and body is converted by OCP into a tool for their political machinations and desires. When he starts showing signs of residual humanity it is seen as a crisis because he cannot be controlled, is no longer subject to OCP's whims. The more reliant we become on technology, the more subservient we are to it and to who ultimately control it. As such, resistance to the imposition of technology has become of paramount importance.

The rise of abortion is one of the best examples of how these shifts and tensions are playing out, and hint at the possible dangers to come if we fail to heed the warning of Lyotard and others. Abortion was 'sold' to women as a liberating technology, as was the contraceptive pill and ultimately the abortion pill too. Instead of having to be bound by biologically determined (but very human) processes of gestation and childbirth, women could now have as much sex as they liked, thanks to the new technology. However, as medical technology has got 'better' it is now possible not only to keep alive a child born below 24 weeks of age, but also to perform abortions later and later in pregnancy, thus getting ever closer to the naked, systematic slaughter of babies.

In defence of this is the essentially humanist notion of 'the woman's right to choose', and the debate is phrased in terms of largely Christian/other religious 'pro-life' groups versus largely secular 'pro-choice' groups, as though one can either be in favour of human life or in favour of human choice, but not both, never both. In a return to a modernist philosophy, 'freedom' is the end aim of the grand narrative of emancipation, and if that means life is less important than choice then so be it. It is precisely this sort of logic that, without hyperbole, led to the Nazi holocaust, as the self-determination of Germany rendered the lives of Jews, homosexuals, blacks, the homeless and so on less important than the Nazi's state's 'right to choose'. Even the humanist concept of individual choice is subjugated to the pressures of the advance of the inhuman, though by a twisted logic it is largely humanists who are acting as apologists for this.

Why should we have to 'choose' between 'choice' and 'life'? There is a third option, as indicated by Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. In that story children are produced artificially, in wombs outside of the body. If no one gets pregnant, there is no need for abortion, thus allowing for the potential reconciliation of the tensions in the combined postmodern narrative of technology as liberator. However, it would be the ultimate invasion by the inhuman of the human, particularly for women who are distinguishable from men largely in the sense that they have the capacity to carry children in their bodies. No doubt if such a technology did become the norm, this would be accomplished by convincing women that it was setting them free from the trammels of having to bear children. However, what would then remain of female identity to distinguish it from male?

The difference between genders is crucial in many ways to a healthy society, it helps provide for dispute and disagreement and ultimately helps people to accept that not everyone is the same nor should be the same. We can have equality (of sorts) while being different to one another. But some feminists don't see it that way. Donna Haraway is a philosopher with a predominantly scientific, evolution-based background so perhaps it is unsurprising to find her seeing cyborg technology as a useful tool for feminism.

'The cyborg is created in a post-gender world', Haraway declares, leading her to conclude 'I would rather by a cyborg than a goddess.' - Stuart Sim, Lyotard and the Inhuman, p46

To Haraway, quoted from her tract Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, cybernetic organisms would be a way for women to overcome their biologically determined roles. However, she does concede that in many ways the cyborg is already here, with bionic limbs and organs. As such her contention that the cyborg is 'created in a post-gender world' is simply not true, if we create a cyborg now or in the near future it will very much be in a gendered world, where the differences between men and women are used to subjugate one, the other, or both. Just because a cyborg is conceptually genderless does not mean the world it inhabits will be too, and this is a recurring flaw in Haraway's otherwise compelling arguments.

So, what does it mean that we are willing to place human life and identity in a binary opposition to the techno-liberation imperatives? What does it mean not only to place them in a binary opposition but to rank the latter as the preferred of the two? As we become more accustomed to technological involvement in our everyday lives, we become ever more like the technology we use. We think in modes taught to us by television broadcasts, we run our businesses according to spreadsheets, we converse with one another only within the limitations dictated by our communications devices.

Consider as a final example that of mobile phones and other near-instant messaging technology. In the past a friend, or partner, or parent could not expect someone to be available to them on a minute by minute basis, and so if a child came home after curfew or a boyfriend was unavailable it was mostly accepted as going to happen, though obviously lots of arguments did take place. However, we now have the same expectation of our friends and relatives that a computer has of its processors - that they will simply act as required, when required. Instead of bollocking their kids when they come home late with the typical 'you could have called', the parent sits and calls their child's mobile, getting increasingly worried and frustrated each time the kid fails to answer because they're up to whatever it is they're doing. Likewise, the inconsiderate boyfriend who doesn't call his girl to tell her he's going to be home late has been replaced by the near constant suspicion of cheating. Again, 'you could have called' turns into 'he isn't answering his phone, he must be with that slut' or 'he isn't answering his phone, he must be on'.

One question largely not answered by the postmodernists, whether it be apparent neo-humanists like Lyotard or ardent transhumanists like Haraway, is why this 'invasion of the inhuman' is taking place, precisely what it is behind it. According to the story in Robocop the technology can spin out of control, whether automated or cyborganic, but this is accidental and unintended. In Haraway's narrative the use of technology is very deliberate, as a means of creating a less gendered, more equal society. In Lyotard's view, technology is subservient to capitalist motives in what he calls 'development'. Each involves its own understanding of cause and effect, and in reality none are full explanations of what is happening. As the 'most conspiratorial' end of the scale is Aldous Huxley, who explicitly outlined the transhumanist movement's motives in a 1962 lecture at Berkeley.

A number of techniques about which I talked seem to be here already. And there seems to be a general movement in the direction of this kind of ultimate revolution, a method of control by which a people can be made to enjoy a state of affairs by which any decent standard they ought not to enjoy. This, the enjoyment of servitude. - Huxley, The Ultimate Revolution

In Huxley's analysis the sort of scientific dictatorship envisioned in Brave New World (contrasted with Orwell's 1984 where people are motivated by fear rather than pleasure) occurs as means by which a ruling class can placate those it limits and enslaves, that this is intended, even premeditated. He went on to explain that the scientific dictatorship is in his opinion more likely to follow the Brave New World model than the 1984 model:

[N]ot because of any humanitarian qualms of the scientific dictators but simply because the BNW pattern is probably a good deal more efficient than the other. - Huxley, The Ultimate Revolution

He concluded, in a statement similar to the concerns outlined in Lyotard's The Inhuman:

Our business is to be aware of what is happening, and then to use our imagination to see what might happen, how this might be abused, and then if possible to see that the enormous powers which we now possess thanks to these scientific and technological advances be used for the benefit of human beings and not for their degradation. - Huxley, The Ultimate Revolution

You can download the entire lecture via, or listen to it below.

Monday, September 7, 2009


On December 21st 1988 a bomb exploded aboard Pan Am 103, a transatlantic flight going over Scotland, headed for New York. The plane was destroyed in mid air, and sections of it rained down in and around the town of Lockerbie. 270 people were killed, including 11 on the ground, and as such it was, and remains, the most devastating act of terrorism to occur on British soil. Over a decade later in January 2001, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi was convicted of murder, though his co-accused was acquitted. Megrahi contested the conviction for years and numerous allegations arose of a corrupt investigation and a biased trial. There are good reasons to believe he is innocent.

One of the key pieces of evidence in the trial was a fragment of a circuit board from a timing device manufactured in Switzerland, a batch of which was said to have been sold to Libya. This turns out to be a complete fabrication. The owner of the Swiss company Mebo who manufactured the MST-13, Edwin Bollier, says that the FBI offered him $4 million in 1991 to testify that he had sold them to Libya. He refused, but one of his employees Ulrich Lumpert became a key witness at the trial. However, Lumpert now says that he lied in court, saying he stole a prototype MST-13 and gave it to someone investigating the Lockerbie bombing. Both a retired CIA officer and a former Scottish police chief have given statements that evidence was planted at the scene. Furthermore, the FBI investigator Thomas Thurman, who allegedly found the fragment on the ground, has been criticised for failing to properly oversee the forensic investigation of the 1993 WTC bombing, for routinely altering his scientific reports, and for lying in American murder trials.

Theories as to who really bombed Pan Am 103, and why, range far and wide, but unsurprisingly the name that keeps cropping up is the CIA. One story in particular is worth recounting. An attourney for the Pan Am airline hired Juval Aviv, president of a private intelligence firm called Interfor, to investigate the Lockerbie bombing. The airline was facing a lawsuit from victims families, alleging lax security, and needed to know whether to contest or settle. The Interfor report alleged that the bombing was carried out by the CIA against their own, to stop them from blowing the whistle.

The report says that Frankfurt was the centre for a CIA-protected Syrian heroin smuggling operation, whereby the CIA would ensure the Syrians could safely get their heroin into the US in exchange for the Syrians providing intelligence. Pan Am 103 was a regular scheduled flight through Frankfurt on the way to New York. This smuggling operation was run by probable triple agent Monzer al-Kassar and Mossad/PFLP-GC double agent Abu Nidal. At the same time (summer 1988) a separate CIA team went to Beirut to begin intelligence gathering for a possible hostage rescue.

Aviv goes on to say that Ahmed Jibril, founder of the PFLP-GC, a militant splinter group from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, knew about the Syrian-secured route through Frankfurt and decided to exploit it. He acquired a bomb and smuggled it through airport security by swapping it for luggage in the same manner as the Syrian heroin shipments. While this was in the works the second CIA team in Beirut discovered the protection their colleagues were giving to al-Kasser and Nidal's drug smuggling. They reported this to their superiors but received no word back.

According to the report, “The [McKee] team was outraged, believing that its rescue and their lives would be endangered by the double dealing.” - Lisa Pease, consortium news

By mid-December 1998, the Beirut team were planning to return to America to expose the smuggling operation. Around three weeks before the bombing Mossad warned the headquarters of the CIA and the German BKA (their equivalent of the FBI) that a major terrorist attack would happen at Frankfurt airport targeting a major US airline. Aviv's report says:

"Thereafter, the law enforcement presence, but not airline security, visibly increased around the other American carriers, but not Pan Am." - Interfor Report

Meanwhile, the CIA team in Frankfurt had learned of their being discovered by the group in Beirut through al-Kassar and around the same time both he and Nidal worked out Jibril's plan to bomb Pan Am 103. They wanted to protect their CIA-secured route so in the days prior to the bombing they tipped off the BKA about the danger to these flights, hoping Jibril would be intercepted and that they could carry on their smuggling. The BKA then told the CIA team in Frankfurt, who reported it to their superiors. CIA HQ then sent out warnings to various embassies and so on, but apparently not to Pan Am. By this time Al-Kassar's agents had discovered the Beirut team's plan to return to the US, including their travel plans which involved going through Frankfurt, and on Pan Am 103 to New York.

On the day of the bombing a BKA agent surveilling the baggage loading onto the plane noticed a bag very different to the ones normally used in the drug shipments. Concerned, he reported this to the CIA team on the job, who then reported it to their control.

Control replied: Don't worry about it. Don't stop it. Let it go. - Interfor Report

Among the dead at Lockerbie were five of the eight members of the Beirut team, on their way back to America. Also found was $500,000 in cash, an envelope marked '$547,000' containing travellers cheques, papers relating to the location of the hostages the team in Beirut were working to free and, according to local witnesses, large quantities of heroin. The Intefor Report concluded that the attack was enabled and allowed to happen by the CIA team in Frankfurt to prevent the exposure of the al-Kassar/Nidal drug smuggling. They considered the lives of their fellow CIA agents as worth less than the intelligence provided by the smugglers they were protecting. This and other stories are explored in Lockerbie and the CIA.

Libya is run by the military dictatorship of Col. Gaddafi, which recently celebrated 40 years in power. Despite, or in part due to the country's large oil and natural gas deposits, relations with this country are significant. In the early 1980s the US banned imports of oil from Libya, the start of a long period of economic sanctions by various White Houses. After Lockerbie, the UN and EU imposed their own set of sanctions. Gaddafi failed to cave. According to the model described by John Perkins, the economic hit men hadn't persuaded him to change his mind, so the jackals were sent in. In this case, MI6 funded Al Muqatila, a Libyan Islamic militant group, to carry out an assassination attempt in 1996. The attempt failed, killing civilians in the process.

However, Gaddafi does seem to have then changed his tactic and sought to reestablish relations with the West. In 1999 Libya handed over the two Lockerbie suspects for trial in Scotland. After Megrahi's conviction in 2001 they negotiated a compensation deal, formally accepting responsibility for Lockerbie and paying billions to the victims. ABC reported at the time:

Libya's Foreign Minister, Abdel Rahman Shalgham, has said that the Government will pay more than $16 million to each of the 270 victims after certain conditions are met.

He says Libya will pay the compensation in instalments after UN sanctions and then US sanctions against Libya are lifted. - ABC
The following year, in February 2004 then PM Tony Blair accepted a formal invitation to meet with Gaddafi, which he followed up in March with a visit to Tripoli. A further meeting took place in 2007.

The most recent chapter in these 'improved diplomatic relations' has seen Megrahi released from jail on 'compassionate grounds' after serving 8 years for the alleged murder of 270 people. Now, he is probably innocent, and so there's no problem with releasing an innocent man so he can live out his final months (he has cancer) in his homeland, but that isn't what has happened. Megrahi dropped his latest appeal against his conviction on August 18th, and two days later he was freed by Scotland's Justice Secretary.

This was a vastly unpopular decision among those who believe he is guilty - around two-thirds of Scots believe he shouldn't have been released. Likewise Ed Balls, the schools secretary who let the taxpayers foot the bill for his attendance at the 2007 Bilderberg club meeting, said that British ministers did not support the move. Most recently, details of a phonecall between president Obama and the unelected PM Gordon Brown were leaked, showing that contrary to the 'warm and substantive' conversation portrayed by Downing St. the president 'blasted' the prime minister.

As part of their coverage of the story the Daily Mail included a cartoon depicting a man rolling a barrel, Guy Fawkes-like, up to the door of 10 Downing Street. The suggestion seems to be that releasing a terrorist from jail is such a terrible decision that the Mail wants people to bomb the Prime Minister's house in protest. Truly ridiculous, even for doublethink.

On August 30th Jack Straw denied that Megrahi's release had anything to do with an oil deal, though leaked letters published the same day indicated the opposite was true. By September 5th, Straw had admitted the connection. Similarly, Gordon Brown initially refused to support the claims for compensation from victims of alleged Libya-assisted IRA bombings, but rapidly changed his mind and has now pledged his support. Royal Dutch Shell signed a deal with Libya at the time of Blair second visit in 2007, as did BP, largely to the exclusion of American Big Oil. The Megrahi release is one of Libya's pay-offs for that deal, reportedly also agreed at the time of Blair's 2007 visit. It will also help put an end to the 'conspiracy theories' about Lockerbie, as Megrahi is no longer appealing against his conviction.

There is another benefit, almost entirely overlooked in mainstream coverage of the case. Megrahi's release coincided with the culmination of the retrial of seven men accused of the airline liquid bomb plot. The Times, however, threw off some of the shackles and made the association.

The guilty verdicts returned against the key figures in the airline plot trial at Woolwich Crown Court were greeted with relief in Whitehall yesterday.

This had become the court case that could not be allowed to fail. The courts had to show that juries could handle complex terrorism cases and vindication was needed for stringent security at airports.

The Government also required a public declaration — more than ever now, given the damage done by the release of the Lockerbie bomber — that Britain was not soft on terrorism.

Questions persist, however, about why it has taken three years and more than £50 million to bring Abdulla Ahmed Ali and the other bombers to justice.

Their first trial ended inconclusively a year ago with a jury acquitting one man portrayed by the Crown as a significant terrorist and failing to agree on whether or not the plan to blow up airliners had ever existed.

That state of affairs could not be allowed to stand and a retrial began in March under a new judge who fired off repeated warnings to the media to report the case with great care. - The Times

While the Times sees the Megrahi release as a political reason why the trial had to produce guilty verdicts, there is potentially another influence. Megrahi's release may have helped induce the jury to return guilty verdicts, as the obvious backlash against the 'soft' decision to release Megrahi gave the jurors a clear message as to the spirit of the nation. After all, Megrahi was convicted of putting a bomb on a plane. If indeed the Megrahi deal was struck back in 2007, around the time of the oil deals and the Blair visit, then his release happening just as the jury in a terrorism trial retired to consider their verdict is very convenient for those playing Terrorball. The end of the trial also coincided with the run-up to the 8th anniversary of 9/11. This provided yet more context in which the jury were supposedly remaining impartial.

Perhaps it is therefore unsurprising that they ended up convicting three of the eight re-accused of the liquid airline bomb plot, and one further on the charge of conspiring to murder persons unknown. Ali, Sarwar and Hussain were all found guilty of this mysterious murder conspiracy with an undeclared, undefined target at the first trial, where the jury couldn't come to a verdict on the main charge of targeting airliners. At the second trial they were found guilty of the airline plot, though how just the three of them could have accomplished such an elaborate scheme isn't clear. The jury was hung on the issue of Umar Islam's involvement in the airline plot, but convicted him for the magical mystical murder conspiracy.

Savant, Khan and Zaman were all found not guilty of the airline plot, after the original trial's jury couldn't come to a verdict, but they may all face yet another trial for the unknown murder conspiracy after the jury in effect repeated the indecision of their predecessors. In off the bench for possible provocateur Mohammed Gulzar, found innocent of everything at the first trial, was Donald Stewart-Whyte. Like many substitutions, it seems he was just there to make up the numbers, and possibly so people would forget about Gulzar. Whyte was also exonerated on all counts and it isn't clear why he wasn't prosecuted at the first trial but was at the second. Indeed, it isn't clear why he was prosecuted at all.

The so-called 'martyrdom' videos of the accused played a strange role in this trial. The defendants said they were for a protest documentary, but according to John McDowall, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command:

“They claimed the videos were threats designed to influence the Government and intimidate the public. The jury rejected this, instead accepting the clear evidence that they were a pre-cursor to their attempted martyrdom." - metpolice

However, Savant, Khan and Zaman all made 'martyrdom' videos and they were found not guilty of the airline plot by the same jury. Khan is of particular interest because he was approached by MI5 who apparently tried and failed to recruit him as an informant. Whether this was Khan or someone else, the Times reported during the original arrests in August 2006 that MI5 may have had a mole within the group. This is supported by the allegation made by Andy Hayman (former assistant commissioner of the met police) that the US-led arrest of the original alleged mastermind Rashid Rauf nearly bungled the ongoing surveillance of the alleged liquid bomb plotters. This chimes with reports from the time of the arrests saying they were hurried by pressure from Washington, and that the authorities wanted to monitor the men for longer.

Despite this extensive monitoring it is still uncertain where the plot originated, if indeed there was a plot. Evidence introduced at the second trial but not the first was used by the prosecution to intimate that shadowy forces in Pakistan were behind it all. A series of truly bizarre e-mails were presented as 'coded messages' between Ali and Sarwar in Britain and apparent Al Qaeda ringleaders in Pakistan. They were published by the BBC, who said:

One of Ahmed Ali's contacts is thought to have been a British man, Rashid Rauf, who helped plan plots for al-Qaeda. It's unclear whether he received any of these e-mails directly. - BBC

Rashid Rauf was the original alleged mastermind of the plot and seems to disappear, reappear, die and resurrect at the behest of the security services, as previously discussed here. He is now once again being reported as alive, and allegedly plotting a new wave of attacks on Britain involving airliners. Similarly, though he was acquitted at the original trial Mohammed Gulzar was used by the prosecution as part of their argument in the retrial.

From late July the cell's activities intensified, following the arrival of Mohammed Gulzar, a man the police said was the "superintendent" for the plot. He flew into the UK on 18 July on a false passport under the name of Altaf Ravat. At the first trial last year he was cleared of all charges, but the prosecution still maintained in court that he played a key role.

Gulzar, originally from Birmingham and a friend of Rauf, was wanted for questioning over a murder in the UK and had previously fled to Pakistan and later South Africa. He arrived at Heathrow airport with a new wife he had met at Islamabad airport just a few months before, which the crown said was part of his cover. The couple had spent a short holiday in Mauritius as part of their honeymoon. The court heard that in the days following Gulzar's arrival, cell members purchased equipment from stores such as Ikea and Tesco, including beakers, syringes, storage jars and suitcases to store materials in the woods near Sarwar's home. - Guardian

Exactly what has now happened to Gulzar isn't certain, but that the prosecution were still portraying a vindicated man as the 'superintendent' of the plot during the retrial not only adds weight to the suggestion that he was a provocateur, it also speaks volumes for the ludicrous nature of the retrial. If a man has been found innocent of the charges then the prosecution should not be able to continue to make such allegations. Indeed, the allegations should be classed not only as inadmissable evidence, but potentially as defamation. Gulzar could sue them, though obviously that won't happen if he's working for the same masters as the state prosecution lawyers.

Aside from Rauf and Gulzar, the press have now tried to introduce a third apparent Al Qaeda mastermind - Abu Ubaida al-Masri. He is another curious character. The Daily Mail published an article about him on September 8th, saying that the end of the liquid bomb (re)trial meant they could 'reveal his role' in orchestrating not only that plot, but apparently also 7/7, the 21/7 'bombings' where there were no bombs and the fertiliser plot. There is very little evidence for this, and al-Masri is conveniently dead as of April 2008, though like Rashid 'Lazarus' Rauf that status may be revised as time goes on.

However, it is worth noting that al-Masri fought in the West's dirty wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chechnya, linking him to the long history of involvement of mujahideen in black operations. He turned up in Munich in 1995 seeking asylum, and though he associated with various local 'Al Qaeda' members he lived there apparently without any problems for four years. In 1999 his claim for asylum was finally rejected and he was jailed pending deportation, but then released for no obvious reason. During the same period he also lived in Britain. Strangely, while the Daily Mail claims that they could only talk about his role after the end of the trial, American news outlets such as Foxnews and the LA Times have been banging on about him for over a year.

In sum, an investigation and prosecution lasting three years, costing over £100 million, called the 'biggest in British history', using two trials and four juries (two juries in the retrial were dismissed due to disagreements and fallings out, though the media widely report the fourth jury as the second), still required the 'coincidence' of the 8th anniversary of the world's most famous terrorist attack, and the 'coincidence' of the release of a man accused of blowing up an airliner, to convict three guys of plotting to blow up airliners.

A final 'coincidence' in this recent game of Terrorball is the release of a picture of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Having been imprisoned, and frequently tortured, in Guantanamo Bay for several years the new image is somewhat different from the old one, and may not even show the same person. KSM was the basis for much of the 9/11 Commission's version of events, or at least statements attributed to him by the CIA. He confessed to his involvement in the attacks, and some other stuff he wasn't even accused of, and dismissed his military-appointed lawyer in the hope of speeding up his 'trial' and execution.

He wants to be a suicide defendant if you like, as opposed to a suicide bomber. - Daily Mail

In keeping with this very convenient persona the new image shows him dressed like Osama Bin Laden, with an extraordinarily long beard. Also, the pictures have been doing the rounds on the internet for some weeks it was only on the day prior to the anniversary of 9/11 that the mainstream media started publishing the one of his looking like Bin Laden. Just in case you are in any doubt what reaction you are meant to have, the BBC quoted a 'terrorism researcher':

What's problematic for me is it really humanises the guy - BBC

The last thing the Terrorballers want is for us to see someone like KSM as a human being, because it might undermine the years of effort they've put into treating them like vermin and convincing us that that any concession to human rights for suspected terrorists is 'crazy'.