I thought this was hilarious. Hope you do too.
I thought this was hilarious. Hope you do too.
As I write this only the very early reports of the political deal reached in Belfast are publicly available and what aspects have been put into circulation are sparse on detail.
However one feature of the reported agreement on dealing with the past jumped out at me: a proposed oral history archive. The Irish Times initially reported it but then dropped it for no apparent reason; but Reuters have reported it thus:
It (the deal) also sets a framework for dealing with the “corrosive legacy of the past”, as (Irish Foreign Minister) Flanagan put it. This would include an oral history archive and a dedicated unit to investigate deaths during the Northern Irish conflict.
It took me more than a moment to recover from the shock. My first thought was ‘what a staggering piece of hypocritical cheek by the powers-that-be’, stealing an idea from the Boston College archive on one hand while trying to imprison people with it on the other!
The second thought, or rather a number of questions, was, if anything, more alarming. If an oral history archive is to be created who will control it and who will run it?
I ask these questions not just because I have a suspicious mind, which I do, but because there is no way that one of the parties to this agreement, in particular, would have put their hand to this deal unless they thought that somehow they could control the archive, decide who would give testimony to it, what questions would be asked and ground covered – or not covered – and by so doing therefore determine how history will judge their and their leaders’ contribution – or lack of it – to the Troubles.
If this archive is constructed it will be an important tool for future historians and in the case of the party I refer to in the preceding paragraph it will probably be the only archive extant in the future – thanks to the efforts of the PSNI and the US Department of Justice.
As most of my readers will have guessed by now, I am talking about Sinn Fein. They are not the only control freaks in the Northern Ireland political firmament – the DUP could run them a close second – but in their determination to mould an alternative version of their leaders’ careers and life stories they are in a league of their own.
The party’s apparatchiks would be less than human if they hadn’t viewed this part of the deal with absolute rapture. Not only is the Boston College archive likely to be relegated to the sidelines but a heaven-sent opportunity has been produced to create an archive that will be Sinn Fein-friendly, blessed by the peace process and approved by all the governments.
Which is why this proposal must be judged on the detail. If an oral history archive is to be established – and let the record show not only that I favour such a project but that this idea was first proposed, at my suggestion, to the Eames-Bradley commission by Boston College some years ago – then it is absolutely vital not only that it be completely independent but that it be seen to be completely independent.
If any of the political parties at Stormont – and I mean any – have any sort of control or influence over the archive then it will be not just a useless exercise; it will, I will wager, be fraudulent, disingenuous and mendacious.
Only an honest oral history archive, free of interference, will do, one that an American judge, for example, could read and proclaim to be ‘a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit’.
Anything less would be unacceptable.
A note to ‘sherdyme’, or Paul Larkin, or Paul Larkin Coyle or Paul Coyle Larkin or whatever you are calling yourself nowadays: no matter how many comments you send they will never, ever appear on this blog. Okay?
I notice that the ever-repulsive Niall O’Dowd, editor of the Irish Voice empire, was one of the first out of the traps to attack NY Mayor Bill de Blasio in the wake of the killing of two NYPD cops in Brooklyn at the hands of an evidently deranged gunman.
De Blasio’s crime, in O’Dowd’s eyes, was to give voice, albeit a very mild voice, to the growing concern aroused by the almost casual killing recently of Black Americans by police forces in Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, NY and Cleveland, Ohio.
De Blasio is married to an African-American and has a teenage son of mixed race, so when it comes to experience of police antagonism towards racial minorities Hizzonor knows a little of what he speaks!
But this counts for nought as far as Mr O’Dowd is concerned. The NYPD is, after all, an Irish-American redoubt so its members can do no wrong!
It wouldn’t be so bad if the Irish Voice supremo was consistent in his attitude towards policing and Irish policemen. But he is not. Not too long ago the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was, in his view, so unacceptably bigoted that only its disbandment could cure the disease.
Yet the RUC was peopled by Irishmen too. So why support Irish policemen in New York but not in Belfast. Could it have been because the guys in Belfast were Protestants in the main but those Irish cops who patrol Staten Island are Catholic? Could the Irish Voice editor be just a little bigoted himself? Surely not!
Or is he saying that it’s wrong for police to come heavy with White Irish Catholics but no-one should complain when Black African-Americans are on the receiving end?
Anyway here is an excellent piece by Corey Robin, who places the De Blasio row and the reaction of the NYPD – and implicitly Mr O’Dowd as well – in proper context.
If you haven’t been following the situation in New York City since Saturday, things are getting tense.
On Saturday, a gunman shot and killed two police officers at close range in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.
The murders come on the heels of weeks of protest in New York (and elsewhere) against the rampant lawlessness and brutality of the police.
Instantly, the police and their defenders moved into high gear, blaming the murders on the protesters; NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, who had been gesturing toward the need for police reform; and US Attorney General Eric Holder. Many have called for the mayor’s resignation.
The police union and its head, Patrick Lynch, were the most forthright:
“There is blood on many hands, from those that incited violence under the guise of protest to try to tear down what police officers did every day,” Mr. Lynch…
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This is from Peter Sefton’s blog and arises from email correspondence between us today. This is an outrageous lie by the PSNI. No-one from the police in Northern Ireland has ever attempted to speak to me about the contents of my book ‘A Secret History of the IRA’. I will support Peter in whatever action he chooses to take against the PSNI over this matter.
Readers may know that on more than one occasion I asked the police to investigate McGuinness’s part in the murder of my parents and the allegations made by Ed Moloney, in his book, ” A secret History of the IRA”, page 347.
Here is what ACC Harris [now DCC Harris] wrote to me on 11 August 2104:
“The author Ed Moloney has previously been spoken to and is unwilling to disclose the identity of his sources”.
Here is what Ed Moloney told me today, when I put Harris’s version to him:
“No-one from the RUC or PSNI has ever approached me about anything I wrote in ‘secret history’ and certainly not about your parents’ terrible deaths…if they are telling you that , they are lying to you and you have my permission to say so in whatever arena you choose”
I will be writing to the Chief Constable, seeking an explanation and possibly taking the matter further, depending on his answer. So much for ACC Kerr telling the PPS that my parents’ case had been thoroughly investigated.
Other inconsistencies are emerging in information supplied by senior officers and this will be the subject of future blogs.
Where would we be without the opportunity to put these matters in the public domain , by blogging?
I say this because the Bar Council avidly reads my blogs!
Any journalist who covered U.S. policy on Northern Ireland in recent decades and failed to cross paths at some point with Kendall Myers probably wasn’t doing his or her job very well.
The State Department diplomat cum academic was to all external appearances a loyal servant of the United States who, like quite a few in that branch of government, had morphed into an Anglophile. He had developed an unusual interest in the Irish Troubles, although never betrayed a preference for any side, and was never far away from the centre of Anglo-Irish policy-making during the Clinton and Bush years when the White House had an ambassador attached to the peace process.
Myers even looked British – he could easily have been mistaken for a retired Brigadier in the British Army – so you can imagine the surprise and shock (a not unpleasant one for some) when he and his wife were outed as Cuban spies in 2009. It was like discovering that David Cameron was in the employ of Bejing or that Enda Kenny was in reality a Provo mole.
It remains to be seen whether Myers and his wife will be released as part of the rapprochement with Havana or whether the State Department will refuse to let him go since he was one of their own, in class as well as nationality and profession, making his sin in their eyes all the more unpardonable.
That would be a pity. A few years ago I wrote to him expressing the hope that he would speak to me from prison about his motives for becoming Castro’s man in Foggy Bottom; not only would it be a fascinating tale but an important one.
In the meantime here is a link to a piece on Toby Harnden’s blog which deals with the Irish connection to Kendall Myers’ diplomatic career and below an interesting backgrounder that appeared in the Miami Herald at the time of the couple’s trial:
The Miami Herald
Sun, June 14, 2009
The curious case of alleged Cuban spy Kendall Myers
BY CAROL ROSENBERG AND LESLEY CLARK
Retired State Department employee Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, told friends they had summer plans to take their 37-foot yacht north last weekend, up the picturesque coastline to New England.
Instead, the couple waits in a federal jail for trial, charged with 30 years of spying on the United States for the country’s longtime antagonist, the communist regime of Cuba.
And friends and colleagues are left to reconcile the gregarious, well-read couple they knew with federal charges that allege a life of duplicity — of shadowy intrigue involving coded messages to Havana and clandestine contacts with Cuba’s spy agency.
”They were always very personable. Gwen told me about the yacht they were having built by this company in the Netherlands, that Kendall had retired,” said Woody Reagan, who lived upstairs from the couple for more than a decade in The Westchester, a fashionable co-op near the Washington National Cathedral.
”They were planning to sail the Caribbean,” he said. “I didn’t know they’d be saying hi to Fidel. They never discussed politics.”
Even as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered an assessment of any national security damage the couple may have caused, a week of interviews with those who knew them said they never mentioned Cuba.
Myers — who goes by Kendall — had two grand passions: Europe and sailing. Gwendolyn was an avid sailor, too.
In court Wednesday, but for matching navy blue jail uniforms, they looked like any other retirees, tan and thin. Kendall Myers had his trademark thick white walrus mustache and a bit of an academician’s air. Next to him sat Gwendolyn, petite, with blonde hair turning to gray.
None of those interviewed detected the fawning affection for Fidel Castro ascribed to the couple in court documents — Myers gushing after a 1978 visit to Cuba that Castro was a ”brilliant and charismatic leader,” and decades later talking in a sting operation of a desire to sail ”home” to Havana and teach at Cuba’s intelligence school.
The FBI alleges long-standing ties to Cuba, saying in an affidavit that the pair agreed to spy after a Cuban diplomat from the country’s mission to the United Nations visited them in South Dakota in 1979 or 1980. He had earlier invited Kendall Myers to visit the island, and Myers did so in 1978, praising the Cuban revolution in a diary the FBI uncovered.
A CIRCUITOUS LIFE
A Washington, D.C., native, Kendall Myers traced his family’s roots through Gilbert Grosvenor, president of the National Geographic Society, to great-grandfather Alexander Graham Bell, credited with inventing the first practical telephone. At one time, the family had an estate in Coconut Grove near Kampong, the estate owned by renowned botanist David Fairchild.
Myers earned a doctorate in European Studies from Johns Hopkins University’s prestigious School of Advanced International Studies, or SAIS, in 1972. His dissertation: A Rationale for Appeasement, on Britain’s policy toward Nazi Germany before World War II.
Records suggest that the years preceding his involvement with Cuba were turbulent. Myers in 1975 crashed his car in Washington, killing a 16-year-old girl, The Washington Post reported. In 1977, he divorced the mother of his son and daughter.
He got a job at the State Department, his on-again, off-again employer for 30 years, working first as a contract instructor at the Foreign Service Institute, a training program that prepares diplomats for overseas assignments with history, politics and language classes.
What led him for a brief time to South Dakota, and the woman who would become his next wife and alleged partner in espionage, is not known. A South Dakota newspaper says that Gwendolyn Steingraber, a former legislative aide to then-South Dakota Sen. James Abourezk, was working at a state public-utilities authority. Kendall Myers was writing a biography about Neville Chamberlain, friends of Gwendolyn’s told The Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Chamberlain is the former British prime minister and diplomat widely blamed for Britain’s policy of appeasement toward Nazi Germany, which failed to avert World War II.
By 1980, the couple returned to Washington, where Gwendolyn found work as an analyst at Riggs National Bank. They married in 1982, and Kendall Myers began working again for the State Department — at the urging of the Cuban government, the FBI affidavit says.
Across those years, Myers was an adjunct professor at the School of Advanced International Studies, a Washington institution along Embassy Row.
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Former students say they, too, saw no signs of a secret life. There were ”no hints whatsoever,” said 2009 graduate Aki Kachi, 27, who took Myers’ Modern British Politics course. “He never mentioned Latin America.”
”It was clear he wasn’t really a fan of Margaret Thatcher,” Kachi said. “But you don’t have to be a communist to not be a fan of Margaret Thatcher.”
At the State Department, Myers moved from the Foreign Service Institute to what would become an eight-year stint as an analyst at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
A fellow State Department retiree, Wayne White, said Myers’ area of expertise — Western Europe — was rarely in the spotlight, so his colleague often found himself relegated to rounding up speakers for new employee orientation classes.
White, who considered Myers ”affable, gregarious and incredibly pleasant,” said he and co-workers are bewildered at the notion that Myers would “develop a sympathy for an otherwise loathsome Communist regime.”
The FBI says it was at the Foreign Service Institute that Myers met his first Cuban government official, a U.N. envoy lecturing there during the Carter administration, which was experimenting with engagement with Havana.
Was Myers a bored bureaucrat? A disaffected, wannabe diplomat? Fading hippie? He struck people as more of an egghead academic than the fiery ideologue FBI documents suggest the sting operation exposed.
London Daily Telegraph reporter Toby Harnden met him in 2003 to discuss developments in Northern Ireland. Harnden, the paper’s Washington correspondent, had written a book on the Irish Republican Army. Myers invited him to lunch. They analyzed an upcoming election, what the Irish political party Sinn Fein would do.
”He was good company. He definitely saw himself a diplomat,” Harnden said. He said he viewed his host as “quite English, actually. Tall, academic, stooped.”
The same year, the FBI claims, the professor and his wife took vacations to Mexico and Brazil to meet clandestinely with Cuban handlers.
But Myers had his sights on becoming a full-fledged diplomat, not an office-bound paper-writing analyst. He sought out Northern Ireland expatriate Michael McDowell at social events in Washington in 2005 and plainly told him he aspired to become the next U.S. envoy to to that country.
McDowell, now a consultant at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, thought Myers’ aspirations ”slightly eccentric.” These were the Bush years, and McDowell assumed that a Republican appointee would get the job. Myers and his wife are both registered Democrats.
McDowell declared himself ”gob-smacked” by the emerging FBI narrative of the couple’s life of duplicity. He had the Myerses to dinner one night with a Lord in Britain’s House of Parliament, and he said the couple left the impression they had no children.
In court last week, though, their lawyer asked the judge to grant the couple bail so they could see their children, two each from earlier marriages. Gwendolyn Myers’ middle-aged son, Brad, was the lone one there. He declined to speak with reporters.
”He never at all mentioned Cuba,” said McDowell. “I’m a Canadian citizen, I traveled to Cuba. But if you think about it, that would make sense, wouldn’t it? It was probably the last thing he wanted to talk about.”
FBI agent Brett Kramarsic, an eight-year employee who specializes in counterespionage, suggests in the affidavit that Cuban intelligence agents targeted Myers as ripe for recruitment during his 1978 visit. His guide for the trip, Kramarsic writes, worked at Cuba’s Foreign Service Institute.
LEFT TO WONDER
In the week that followed the arrest, friends and colleagues have reached for some kind of an explanation. McDowell says — with hindsight — that the tale the FBI has spun reminded him of Kim Philby, the British intelligence double agent who betrayed his country to Josef Stalin.
The same thought occurred to White, Myers’ retired State Department colleague: “He seems to resemble this pattern of ideological upper-class obsession for a supposedly idyllic totalitarian system.”
Moreover, counterintelligence experts wonder which U.S. national security secrets the Myerses may have compromised.
Kendall Myers had a Top Secret clearance. Their alleged spy work started in the Cold War, causing people like McDowell to question whether any information they gave Havana helped the war effort in Angola or was repurposed and peddled back to the Soviets.
Clinton has ordered an internal investigation. Federal prosecutors said in court last week that they’ll assess the damage and, if there is a conviction, use that information during the penalty phase of the trial.
One of Myers’ former students, Tom Murray, said he found clues in lectures that Myers may have admired Philby and other prep-school elites who in the Cold War became Soviet double agents to “save Europe.”
”Myers favored the underdog, according to my notes,” Murray, who studied at the School of Advanced International Studies in the 1990s, wrote in a blog posting on The Daily Beast. ‘Besides his admiration for Soviet double agents, he was a Neville Chamberlain man. While he compared Winston Churchill to the liberals’ bogeyman of the early 1990s, Jesse Helms, Chamberlain was ‘savvy, knowledgeable’ and ‘faced the situation as best he could,’ despite the obviously flawed outcome.”
At a 2006 SAIS lecture, Harnden was there as Myers assailed then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair for marching in lockstep with President George W. Bush toward the war in Iraq.
Myers had argued that Britain should have aligned with Europe in questioning the necessity of the war. The remarks triggered news articles raising questions about the State Department employee criticizing Blair.
Such talk was not unusual in the apartment building where the couple lived. ”Nobody was happy with the last administration,” said neighbor Jacqui Gallagher.
Still, Myers retired 11 months later.
In April, the couple reportedly told a covert FBI operative posing as a Cuban intelligence agent that they enjoyed retirement — but missed their work with Cuba.
They had stopped traveling after returning from a professorial exchange with China in 2006, worried that work had put Kendall Myers on a “watch list.”
”You, speaking collectively, have been a really important part of our lives,” Kendall Myers was quoted as saying. “I mean, we really love your country.”
Former members of the Provisional IRA will be very familiar with the chilling soubriquet ‘Burke & Hare’, that was applied to the two figures who dominated the IRA’s spy-catching Internal Security Unit during the latter part of the Troubles.
Like the Irish-born grave-robbers of early 19th century Edinburgh in Scotland, the IRA’s Burke & Hare instilled terror wherever they roamed in their mission to catch spies (although as it turned out the British more than the IRA command were often the beneficiaries of their grisly work).
Falling into the hands of the IRA’s Burke & Hare very likely meant being tortured, both mentally and physically, and those unfortunate enough to cross their paths considered themselves lucky to survive the experience. Many didn’t. In the case of one of the pair there is compelling testimony to suggest that he was a psychopath who derived pleasure from his work.
Unsurprisingly, the Senate report on CIA torture, which was partially released yesterday, makes a similar claim about the mental background of those at the cutting edge of the US torture programme: “This group of officers (involved in interrogations) included individuals who, among other issues, had engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues, and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault.”
It turns out that the CIA also had its Burke & Hare who were identified in the Senate report as military psychologists who were hired as contractors by the CIA, at a cost of $80 million, to devise, oversee and run the torture programme. They have become symbols of all that is wrong about America’s privatised and corporatised Global War On Terror (GWOT).
Today, courtesy of Science of Us, more details have emerged about these two gentlemen which can be read below:
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page executive summary of its report on the CIA’s torture program offers some horrifying details about U.S. treatment of detainees captured in the post-9/11 years. It also highlights and adds some details about the important role two psychologists had in both developing the “enhanced interrogation” program and carrying it out.
Within the report, the duo in question are referred to with the pseudonyms “Grayson Swigert” and “Hammond Dunbar.” But both the New York Times and NBC News have identified them as Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists who have been previously singled out for their roles in developing and legitimizing the torture program.
Both men came from an Air Force background, where they worked on the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program in which military personnel are trained to resist enemy questioning by enduring oftentimes brutal mock interrogations. Beyond that, though, they seemed otherwise poorly suited for the task of interrogating al-Qaeda detainees. “Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator,” the report notes, “nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.” Despite their lack of experience in these key areas, Mitchell and Jessen “carried out inherently governmental functions, such as acting as liaison between the CIA and foreign intelligence services, assessing the effectiveness of the interrogation program, and participating in the interrogation of detainees in held in foreign government custody.”
So how did these two men come to play such an outsized role in developing and enacting the CIA’s torture program? Much of the story is captured in a 2009 Times article by Scott Shane. Shane writes that Mitchell, who after retirement “had started a training company called Knowledge Works” to supplement his income, realized that the post-9/11 military would provide business opportunities for those with his kind of experience and started networking with his contacts to seek them out.
Eventually, Shane writes, Mitchell got himself an audience with the CIA, won some of its members over with his toughness-infused ideas for dealing with terrorists, brought his old friend Jessen onboard, and developed a proposed interrogation method of dealing with al-Qaeda detainees that would grow into the frequently brutal program described in the Senate report summary. Shane writes that Mitchell participated in the 2002 CIA interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, al-Qaeda’s purported third in command, in Thailand:
With the backing of agency headquarters, Dr. Mitchell ordered Mr. Zubaydah stripped, exposed to cold and blasted with rock music to prevent sleep. Not only the F.B.I. agents but also C.I.A. officers at the scene were uneasy about the harsh treatment. Among those questioning the use of physical pressure, according to one official present, were the Thailand station chief, the officer overseeing the jail, a top interrogator and a top agency psychologist.
From there, the business would only grow. “In 2005,” the Senate report states, “the psychologists formed a company specifically for the purpose of conducting their work with the CIA. Shortly thereafter, the CIA outsourced virtually all aspects of the program.” And while the company’s contract was terminated in 2009 amid a growing national outcry over government-sanctioned torture, by then Mitchell and Jessen’s years-long relationship with the CIA had already proven extremely profitable. The Senate report notes:
In 2006, the value of the CIA’s base contract with the company formed by the psychologists with all options exercised was in excess of $180 million; the contractors received $81 million prior to the contract’s termination in 2009. In 2007, the CIA provided a multi-year indemnification agreement to protect the company and its employees from legal liability arising out of the program. The CIA has since paid out more than $1 million pursuant to the agreement.
One of the strangest subplots here is the unwitting role of Martin Seligman, a psychologist viewed as one of the leading modern researchers on human happiness. As the Times reported, Mitchell attended a small gathering at Seligman’s house two months after 9/11 conceived of as a brainstorming session to fight Muslim extremism. There he “introduced himself to Dr. Seligman and said how much he admired the older man’s writing on ‘learned helplessness.’ Dr. Seligman was so struck by Dr. Mitchell’s unreserved praise, he recalled in an interview, that he mentioned it to his wife that night.”
The concept of learned helplessness, a psychological phenomenon in which people who face persistent adversity effectively give up and lose the capacity to attempt to improve their situations — Seligman’s original research on the subject, from the 1960s, involved shocking dogs — was put to use by Mitchell and Jessen in their dealings with the CIA, and it echoes in the report: “SWIGERT had reviewed research on ‘learned helplessness,’ in which individuals might become passive and depressed in response to adverse or uncontrollable events. He theorized that inducing such a state could encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information.” Many interrogation experts vehemently disagree: This level of detainee mistreatment, they argue, increases the risk that the subject will simply say whatever the interrogator wants to hear, leading to unreliable intelligence.
Seligman, for his part, has repeatedly expressed sorrow that his research was used in this manner. Reached via email by Science of Us, he responded with a statement that he’s used previously when questioned about his research’s role in the torture program: “I am grieved and horrified that good science, which has helped so many people overcome depression, may have been used for such bad purposes.”
Great piece of television documentary making by Bill Moyers. A must-watch.