Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Simpsons On Trump

Trump’s America!

Courtesy of Harper’s Magazine:

May 26, 2017
By Joe Kloc

U.S. president Donald Trump, who was once implicated alongside a Saudi arms dealer in a scheme to avoid paying sales taxes at a Manhattan jewelry store, visited Saudi Arabia, where he ate steak with ketchup, participated in a sword dance, and announced plans to sell the country more than $110 billion in U.S. arms. Trump then visited Israel, where he said in a meeting in Jerusalem that he had “just got back from the Middle East,” canceled a speech before Israel’s parliament because he didn’t want to be heckled, and visited and signed the guestbook of the country’s Holocaust museum. “SO AMAZING + WILL NEVER FORGET!” wrote Trump, whose administration once omitted mention of Jewish people in a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Trump visited Belgium, where he reportedly ate “lots of” chocolates and then complained he did not have a positive impression of the European Union because it took him two and a half years to get a license to open up a golf course in Ireland; a poll found that 54 percent of Americans believe Trump is “abusing the powers of his office”; and Trump shoved the prime minister of Montenegro. It was reported that the FBI warned GOP congressman Dana Rohrabacher that the Russian government was attempting to recruit him as a spy; a recording was released of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he believed Russian president Vladimir Putin “pays” Trump and Rohrabacher; Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that Congress “really actually isn’t” in “chaos”; and a congressional GOP candidate body slammed, punched, and broke the glasses of a journalist in Montana, was charged with assault, and then won the election. The Congressional Budget Office concluded that the House GOP’s American Health Care Act would cost 23 million Americans their health insurance by 2026, and a federal budget proposal submitted by the Trump Administration was found to have contained a $2 trillion math error. A leaked transcript of a recent call between Trump and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte revealed that Trump told Duterte, who once said he would “be happy to slaughter” as many drug addicts as Adolf Hitler did Jewish people, was doing an “amazing job,” and that the United States had clandestinely stationed two nuclear submarines near North Korea and that he’ll “see what happens” with regard to their usage. Israel changed its intelligence-sharing protocols with the United States after Trump divulged secret Israeli intelligence about the Islamic State to Russian officials, and a team of hackers reported that it would take only five minutes to infiltrate the Wi-Fi network of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Florida, where he has spent about one fifth of his presidency. U.S. officials named Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a “person of interest” in the FBI’s investigation into whether the president’s campaign colluded with the Russian government; it was revealed that Trump told Russian officials that the “great pressure” he faced over his campaign’s ties to Russia had disappeared after he fired the FBI director overseeing the bureau’s investigation into those ties; and it was reported that Marc Kasowitz, an attorney who has represented Trump’s companies in bankruptcy and fraud litigation, would serve during the Russia probe as private counsel to Trump, who once acquired a race horse named Alibi from a known mob associate, changed Alibi’s name to D.J. Trump, and then refused to pay for it.

Was The Manchester Bomb Blowback From Britain’s War Against Gaddafi?

A fascinating piece here from Middle East Eye (MEE) suggesting that last week’s Manchester bomb may be the outworking of Britain’s policy to oust the Gaddafi regime from power in 2011.

According to the magazine, the British internal security service MI5 reversed its policy of hostile surveillance of Libyan jihadi, many of them living in Manchester, and allowed/assisted them to make their way to Libya to join the fight against Gaddafi. Confiscated passports were returned and assistance given at airports.

The article implicitly addresses one of the unacknowledged truths of the anti-Gaddafi ‘revolution’ which was that the movement against the secular government in Tripoli was largely spearheaded by Islamic extremists, rather than the popular uprising portrayed uncritically in much of the Western media.

In its effort to overthrow Gaddafi, who had long been an enemy of the West even though he had negotiated a new modus vivendi with former foes, it seems that the British government was prepared to deal with the ‘Islamic devil’, even though the military experience, training and further radicalisation might come back to bite them.

Under the 2004 agreement between Tony Blair and Gaddafi, in which sanctions were lifted in return for the surrender of Libyan agents accused of the Lockerbie bombing, the British government agreed to keep a close watch on Libyan jihadists in the UK, forcing them to register with the authorities and curtailing their freedom to travel.

These restrictions were lifted when the ‘uprising’ against Gaddafi began seven years later, led in Benghazi by jihadists. Registered Libyan extremists were allowed to travel to the North African state where they even received training from British forces.

The Manchester bomber Salman Abedi was too young to fight in Libya but his father did, joining the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. The decision to return passports to the jihadists and to allow them to fly to Libya via UK airports was taken when the current Tory prime minister, Theresa May was Home Secretary.

So many young jihadists came to Libya from Manchester that a mural was erected in their honour in the capital Tripoli.

Here is the MEE article. Enjoy:

‘Sorted’ by MI5: How UK government sent British-Libyans to fight Gaddafi


Fighters say government operated ‘open door’ policy allowing them to join rebels, as authorities investigate background of Manchester bomber

A mural in Tripoli paying tribute to fighters from Manchester who joined the 17 February Martyrs’ Brigade during Libya’s revolution against Gaddafi (AFP)
Amandla Thomas-Johnson's picture

The British government operated an “open door” policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Several former rebel fighters now back in the UK told MEE that they had been able to travel to Libya with “no questions asked” as authorities continued to investigate the background of a British-Libyan suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Monday’s attack in Manchester.

Salman Abedi, 22, the British-born son of exiled dissidents who returned to Libya as the revolution against Gaddafi gathered momentum, is also understood to have spent time in the North African country in 2011 and to have returned there on several subsequent occasions. British police have said they believe the bomber, who returned to Manchester just a few days before the attack, was part of a network and have arrested six people including Abedi’s older brother since Monday.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said that Abedi was known to security services, while a local community worker told the BBC that several people had reported him to the police via an anti-terrorism hotline.

Salman Abedi travelled to Libya during the country’s 2011 revolution (Police handout)

On Wednesday, authorities in Tripoli said that Abedi’s younger brother and father, who had resettled in Libya after the revolution, had also been arrested on suspicion of links to the Islamic State (IS) group, which claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack.

Sources spoken to by MEE suggest that the government facilitated the travel of Libyan exiles and British-Libyan residents and citizens keen to fight against Gaddafi including some who it deemed to pose a potential security threat.

‘No questions asked’

One British citizen with a Libyan background who was placed on a control order – effectively house arrest – because of fears that he would join militant groups in Iraq said he was “shocked” that he was able to travel to Libya in 2011 shortly after his control order was lifted.

“I was allowed to go, no questions asked,” said the source, who wished to remain anonymous.

He said he had met several other British-Libyans in London who also had control orders lifted in 2011 as the war against Gaddafi intensified, with the UK, France and the US carrying out air strikes and deploying special forces soldiers in support of the rebels.

“They didn’t have passports, they were looking for fakes or a way to smuggle themselves across,” said the source.

But within days of their control orders being lifted, British authorities returned their passports, he said.

“These were old school LIFG guys, they [the British authorities] knew what they were doing,” he said, referring to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an anti-Gaddafi Islamist militant group formed in 1990 by Libyan veterans of the fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

The British government listed the LIFG as a proscribed terrorist organisation in 2005, describing it as seeking to establish a “hard-line Islamic state” and “part of the wider Islamist extremist movement inspired by al-Qaeda”. Former members of the LIFG deny that the group had any links with al-Qaeda and say it was committed only to removing Gaddafi from power.

Belal Younis, another British citizen who went to Libya, described how he was stopped under ‘Schedule 7’ counter-terrorism powers on his return to the UK after a visit to the country in early 2011. Schedule 7 allows police and immigration officials to detain and question any person passing through border controls at ports and airports to determine whether they are involved in terrorism.

He said he was subsequently asked by an intelligence officer from MI5, the UK’s domestic security agency: “Are you willing to go into battle?”

“While I took time to find an answer he turned and told me the British government have no problem with people fighting against Gaddafi,” he told MEE.

Travel ‘sorted’ by MI5

As he was travelling back to Libya in May 2011 he was approached by two counter-terrorism police officers in the departure lounge who told him that if he was going to fight he would be committing a crime.

But after providing them with the name and phone number of the MI5 officer he had spoken to previously, and following a quick phone call to him, he was waved through.

As he waited to board the plane, he said the same MI5 officer called him to tell him that he had “sorted it out”.

“The government didn’t put any obstacles in the way of people going to Libya,” he told MEE.

“The vast majority of UK guys were in their late twenties. There were some 18 and 19. The majority who went from here were from Manchester.”

But he said he thought it was unlikely that Abedi, who would only have been 16 at the time, would have been recruited as a fighter.

“The guys I was fighting with would never put a 16-year-old boy anywhere near the frontline.”

Younis said he did not think that the policy of allowing British-Libyans to fight againt Gaddafi had been a contributing factor in Monday’s attack, pointing out that IS was not present in the country at the time – and said he had no regrets about his decision to fight.

“What inspired me to go to Libya was the liberty of civilians. There’s no way that that can morph into killing children,” he said.

Another British citizen with experience of fighting in both Libya and in Syria with rebel groups also told MEE that he had been able to travel to and from the UK without disruption.

“No questions were asked,” he said.

The majority of the fighters flew to Tunisia and then crossed the border into Libya, while others travelled via Malta, he said.

“The whole Libyan diaspora were out there fighting alongside the rebel groups,” he added.

Libyan rebel fighters pictured in the oil port of Brega in March 2011 (AFP)

One British-Libyan man from Manchester who also wished to remain anonymous told MEE that he had travelled frequently to Libya during the 2011 revolution to undertake humanitarian aid work.

“I never got prevented from going to Libya or stopped when I tried to come back,” he said.

The man said that he had come across Salman Abedi at their local mosque in the Didsbury neighbourhood but that he had “kept himself to himself” and was not an active member of the community.

His family, who were originally from Tripoli, had returned to Libya, he said.

“I guess if your family is away from you that sense of belonging dissipates. For us Libyans in Manchester – they’re trying to imply we knew. He was just an individual and he’s nothing to do with us.”

Another person who knew Abedi described him as a “hot head” with a reputation for involvement in petty crime.

“Yesterday they’re drug dealers, today they’re Muslims,” he said, adding that he believed Abedi had also been friends with Anil Khalil Raoufi, an IS recruiter from Didsbury who was killed in Syria in 2014.

‘Elite SAS training’

One of the British-Libyans spoken to by MEE described how he had carried out “PR work” for the rebels in the months before Gaddafi was overthrown and eventually killed in October 2011.

He said he was employed to edit videos showing Libyan rebels being trained by former British SAS and Irish special forces mercenaries in Benghazi, the eastern city from where the uprising against Gaddafi was launched.

“They weren’t cheap videos with Arabic nasheeds [songs], they were slick, professional glossy films which we were showing Qataris and Emiratis to support troops who were getting elite SAS training.”

He was also tasked by rebel commanders with training young Libyans to use cameras so that they could sell packages to international media.

A volunteer fighter from Manchester pictured in Ajdabiya in eastern Libya in April 2011 (AFP)

On one assignment at a rebel base camp in a Misrata school, he came across a group of about eight young British-Libyans. After joking about their northern accents he found out that they had never been to Libya before.

“They looked about 17 or 18, maybe one was 20 at most. They had proper Manchester accents,” he said. “They were there living and fighting and doing the whole nine yards.”

Many Libyan exiles in the UK with links to the LIFG were placed on control orders and subjected to surveillance and monitoring following the rapprochement between the British and Libyan governments sealed by the so-called “Deal in the Desert” between then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Gaddafi in 2004.

According to documents retrieved from the ransacked offices of the Libyan intelligence agency following Gaddafi’s fall from power in 2011, British security services cracked down on Libyan dissidents in the UK as part of the deal, as well as assisting in the rendition of two senior LIFG leaders, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, to Tripoli where they allege they were tortured.

Belhaj later returned to Libya and was a leading figure in the uprising against Gaddafi, while another former Libyan exile subjected to a control order in the UK was later tasked with providing security for visiting dignitaries including British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, MEE understands.

‘When the revolution started, things changed’

Ziad Hashem, an LIFG member granted asylum in the UK, said in 2015 that he had been imprisoned for 18 months without charge and then restricted to his home for a further three years based on information he believed had been supplied by Libyan intelligence.

But he said: “When the revolution started, things changed in Britain. Their way of speaking to me and treating me was different. They offered to give me benefits, even indefinite leave to remain or citizenship.”

Control orders were introduced as part of counter-terrorism legislation drafted in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings.

They allowed authorities to restrict the activities of people suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activities by requiring them to remain at a registered address for up to 16 hours a day, subjecting them to electronic tagging, limiting their access to telephone and internet communications, and banning them from meeting or communicating with other people deemed to be of concern.

At least 50 people were subjected to the measure with at least 12 Libyan exiles among them.

Control orders were replaced with Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs), which allow authorities to impose many of the same restrictions while limiting their term to two years, in 2011.

The Home Office told MEE it did not comment on individual cases. It said that TPIMs were a robust and effective means for dealing with terrorism suspects who could not be prosecuted or deported.

It said that arrangements involving the police, the Home Office and the Security Service (MI5) had been put in place in 2011 during the transition from control orders to TPIMs to ensure that national security was maintained.

Areeb Ullah contributed to this story.

One Millionth View On Yesterday!

Many thanks to’s faithful and growing readership!

Sean O’Callaghan – Pimping For The Tory Party But Selective In His Memory

Sean O’Callaghan’s critique of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, coming as it does as the British Tory party seeks to halt the swing to Labour evident in recent general election opinion polls, would be more credible if he was to tell the full truth about his own past in the IRA.

Here is what Vincent Browne wrote in The Irish Times two decades ago about O’Callaghan’s involvement in the IRA execution of alleged informer John Corcoran, a crime which O’Callaghan has left out of the account of his life in the IRA:

WRITING in this newspaper on Monday, the self-proclaimed IRA “informer”, Sean O’Callaghan, stated:

As a Kerry teenager, I joined the IRA and became a bomber, a robber and a double murderer. When I came to my senses and realised I was committing criminal acts for a vicious sectarian organisation I left, but my conscience drove me to rejoin in order to work against it. I served as an informer for the Irish government and in the course of six years I helped to stop a huge IRA arms shipment and I sabotaged many “violent and criminal plans.”

Were this the whole truth, the lionising of Sean O’Callaghan would be understandable. But it is not the full truth and many of those most enthusiastically engaged in the lionising know it is not the full truth.

In his Irish Times article on Monday, which purported to be a rebuttal of a column written by me three weeks ago, Sean O’Callaghan also wrote: “The IRA has a straightforward policy about informers, it murders them.” He might have been a little more frank about what he knows about the treatment of IRA informers.

At 4p.m. on Saturday, March 23rd, 1985, a body was found in a green sleeping bag beside old car tyres near Ballincollig, Co Cork. The hands and legs were tied and a hood was placed over the head. The body was identified as that of John Corcoran of Riverview Estate, Ballyvolane, Cork. He was 45, married to Eileen Corcoran and the couple had eight children.

The State pathologist, Dr John Harbison, undertook a post mortem and found that a bullet, fired from a high-velocity weapon, had entered John Corcoran’s head close to the left ear and had gone through the right side of his skull, breaking his jaw.

The killing was acknowledged by the IRA to have been perpetrated by one of its members. The Examiner reported the following Monday: “The IRA in Belfast last night admitted killing the 45-year-old father of eight, John Corcoran, and alleged that he was scheming with a named Cork Garda detective to trap members of the organisation in a bogus robbery.”

The IRA member who committed the murder later spoke chillingly about the killing.

The IRA killer said that Corcoran had driven to Kerry to meet him – the meeting place was near Milltown in south Kerry. “Sean Corcoran chatted with me in a house for ages for two days. Nobody raised a hand to him. I said `Sean if you don’t tell me the name of your contact in the Irish Army we are going to shoot you’. He said `that is not very nice’.”

HE IRA murderer said Corcoran admitted he had been an informer and following this the IRA murderer travelled to Monaghan to get permission to kill Corcoran from the IRA chief of staff.

He returned to south Kerry with permission. “Sean Corcoran spoke to me. I taped most of what he said. I sent the tape to his family.”

Before the killing, the murderer and Corcoran were, according to the latter, sitting in a field “chatting for three or four hours. He was not arguing. He was not blindfolded. He knelt on the ground and I shot. I said a prayer, an act of contrition before I shot him … He turned his back. He was shot in the back of the head. He [Corcoran] said `go easy’ and that was it. He knew he was in the shit for three years and it had come home to roost.”

Asked if he felt any sorrow, the IRA murderer said: “I felt human compassion.” He said he felt no remorse for the murder. “I felt at the time he [John Corcoran] was a very weak guy who had been inhumanely used by the security forces at the time.”

The IRA murderer was none other than Sean O’Callaghan. That awful murder was done precisely at the time that O’Callaghan now claims he was acting as an agent of the Irish Government seeking to sabotage “violent and criminal plans”.

His account of that brutal murder was not given at a time when he was pretending to be a loyal member of the IRA. It was given at the time when he had decided to give himself up to the British police in November 1988.

He gave this account, along with his story of his involvement in the IRA generally and how he had become an informer, to the editor of the Kerryman, Gerard Colleran, and the interview with republished in the Kerryman on December 20th.

Sean O’Callaghan was subsequently convicted of two murders in Northern Ireland, which were perpetrated before his alleged “conversion” from the commission of “criminal acts for a vicious sectarian organisation”.

BUT the horrific murder of John Corcoran took place several years after this alleged conversion and while, according to him, he was engaged in sabotaging “many violent and criminal acts”.

The Sunday Independent and other media that have lionised Seiln O’Callaghan in the few weeks since his release from Maghaberry prison in Northern Ireland, were fully aware of O’Callaghan’s involvement in the murder of John Corcoran in 1985 – Independent Newspapers would have had special knowledge of this because it owns the Kerryman and yet it published not a sentence from that remarkable interview.

O’Callaghan has been lauded by Conor Cruise O’Brien, Eoghan Harris, Ruth Dudley Edwards and others for “informing” the security forces of the murderous plans and operations of the IRA. But surely John Corcoran is no less deserving of commendation and admiration. And, by necessary inference, the murderer of John Corcoran is deserving of contempt and condemnation, all the more so given the self-acknowledged cold-bloodedness of the murderer.

But there is more at stake than the hypocrisy of the agenda-bearers, there is the complicity or at least the negligence of the Irish State in the murder of John Corcoran.

Sean O’Callaghan first admitted his involvement in the murder of John Corcoran in 1988. He repeated this admission in newspapers interviews in 1993 and 1994. And yet it appears that the gardai made no efforts to interview O’Callaghan in connection with this murder and of course no warrant was issued to have him extradited to the Republic after his release from prison in Northern Ireland in November.

In at least one of those newspaper interviews, O’Callaghan claimed that he informed his Garda contact of where Corcoran was being held before his murder and of the urgent necessity for Garda intervention to prevent the murder of Corcoran. If this is true – and of course O’Callaghan would have good reason now to lie about this – the question arises, why did the gardai not intervene?

I will be returning to this.


As Corbyn Rises In Polls, Tories Press Panic Button Marked ‘IRA’

An RUC Special Branch View Of The Peace Process

William Matchett is a former Detective Inspector in the old RUC Special Branch, who stayed on for a bit with the PSNI, then wrote a thesis for a PhD which he has turned into a book, published recently, called ‘Secret Victory: The Intelligence War That Beat The IRA’.

The two videos below are derived from his appearance at a recent seminar organised by the Conservative Party think tank, Policy Exchange in London at which Dr. Matchett gave a talk and then answered questions from the audience.

I don’t know how the audience felt at the end of his contribution but if it was anything like myself, most of them probably wished they had stayed at home and watched a movie on Netflix.

My gripe with him was not that he was a bad speaker, which I’m afraid he is, nor that he has, at Policy Exchange and elsewhere, trotted out all the old familiar RUC kvetches about events since 1994: it was the Special Branch which beat the Provos and obliged them to embrace the peace process, nothing to do with Tony Blair or Bertie Ahern or Redemptorist priests; there was no such thing as collusion with Loyalists; the intelligence war was played like cricket, according to a rule book which most everyone followed; there were some ‘bad apples’ but far fewer than in the Gardai or the London Met and the legal authorities should lay off investigating old soldiers and cops for things they probably never did. And so on.

No, these are all familiar gripes from RUC veterans of a certain type.

My problem with Dr Matchett is that the Troubles he describe are almost entirely devoid of a political context and therefore unrecognisable. In fact there is not even a hint of a concession in his various expositions, especially this one delivered to Policy Exchange, that the Provos had roots in the political slum that was Northern Ireland between 1921 and 1968.

He regards the Provos as a criminal conspiracy, a terrorist group no different than Baader-Meinhof, who could be bested by good detective work and professional undercover operatives.

The possibility that the IRA had organic roots that reached deep into their community, wholly unlike Baader-Meinhof type groups, seems not to occur to him.

Nor that the grievances of which Nationalists complained and which encouraged many of them to take up the gun, were in no small way related to the behaviour of the force, and the particular unit of the force of which he was a member.

I do not disagree with his claim that by the end the intelligence war had been almost entirely lost by the IRA, or that the Special Branch, MI5 and Military Intelligence had thoroughly infiltrated the organisation.

But the truth is that is took the British, with all their experience and power, the best part of a quarter century to overwhelm a group whose major recruitment pool had a population equivalent to the Bronx in New York where I now live.

The only possible explanation for this failure – and it was a monumental failure – is that the IRA was a self-replicating group nurtured in a factory of grievances. The rest of the world arrived at that conclusion a long time ago but not, seemingly, the RUC Special Branch, if Dr Matchett is at all representative.

His analysis, as deficient in its way as ‘Blair-Ahern brought the Provos to peace’ theory of the peace process, entirely leaves out of consideration the reality that the terrorism which he describes had a political foundation and that it could not be brought to an end solely or even mostly by security methods.

It is no accident that Dr Matchett was invited by Policy Exchange to explain his views. Policy Exchange is a leading, some say the leading Tory think tank in Britain and these days it is headed by Dean Godson, best known in Ireland for his acclaimed biography of David Trimble, ‘Himself Alone’.

Although we probably disagree about every important subject, Dean is a friend of mine and I know him well enough to know that he is an unashamed, indeed unreconstructed neoconservative and that this political stance has deeply affected his view of Ireland and the peace process.

Like his friends and counterparts in Israel’s Likud party, Dean believes that terrorist groups should never, ever be engaged with politically, only militarily. The IRA, to Dean’s mind, is the European version of the PLO or Hamas.

Unsurprisingly he, like others in the British Tory party, disagreed with my view, expressed implicitly in the pages of ‘A Secret History of the IRA’, that Gerry Adams was sincere in his pursuit of the peace process.

Like other neocons with whom I clashed rhetorical swords, Dean believed that Adams’ peace process expedition was a journey steeped in trickery that would culminate in the IRA’s return to violence when Britain’s political will had been sufficiently sapped.

The passage of time, and the course of events have obliged them to modify that view – but only a little bit.

And so, like Dr Matchett, his preferred approach when dealing with the Gerry Adams’ of this world is extirpation. A pity for him then, that in William Matchett, he has such a poor champion.

I was going to enjoin my readers to enjoy the videos below. But in all honesty I could not do that.

Is John Finucane a SF/IRA dupe?

Peter Sefton asks a question I guess a lot of people asked themselves when they heard that John Finucane was standing for the Shinners in the upcoming UK general election. My own reaction was one of dismay born out of a belief that John has damaged the campaign for the truth about his father’s death. The ‘told you so/he got what he deserved’ brigade will be delighted and so will the UDA on the Shankill…..


It’ s hard to imagine [almost] the horror that John Finucane witnessed, although  he was not by any means an isolated case.

I knew, worked with and liked his father, who was a contemporary.

Since then, John has qualified and practised as a solicitor, seemingly uninterested in politics, till now.

It would be difficult for an impartial observer to conclude otherwise than he is anti-British.

He and I have a common interest . As his mother put it, who sent the gunmen? I want to know who sent the bomb team that murdered my parents. Our common suspicion is that the State was involved.

Here, the stories diverge.

The other night, John shared a platform with two IRA volunteers, Kelly and Na Chullin. Worse, he was photographed beside Sean Maguire, who was part of the operation that killed my parents. Maguire was a prominent member of PIRA in 1990 and…

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Are America’s Spymasters Conspiring Against Donald Trump?

Former CIA officer, Philip Giraldi, writing in The American Conservative, thinks they are, and bases this belief on the quality of the leaks damaging to Trump that have appeared in the US media. Such high-grade intelligence, he believes, could only have come from the very upper reaches of the CIA and FBI.

The release of such intel to media outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post therefore suggests America’s spymasters are working to remove Trump from office, he argues.

What their motives are can only be guessed at – restoring Russia to its usual spot as enemy No 1 may be one – but those who may be ambivalent about this purported soft coup by the CIA and FBI should bear in mind that if Trump falls, he will be replaced by right-wing Christian zealot, Mike Pence, whose foreign and domestic policy priorities will cause no sleepless nights for either the FBI or CIA.

Giraldi’s hypothesis also carries implications for the American media. The aggressive coverage of Trump, reflected in the fierce competition between the Times and the Post for daily, damaging exclusives on the beleaguered President, is being seen as a new golden age for US journalism, one that contrasts in particular with the dismal stenography of the ‘Dubbya’ Bush era.

If Giraldi is correct then the reality is somewhat more prosaic and humdrum: picture a puppy being rewarded with kibbles for good behaviour.

I have no idea whether Giraldi is correct but he does advance a quite powerful proposition, one that had been forming in my own mind, sans the insights only a former spy can bring to the subject.

It is a good read, whatever you may think at the end. Enjoy:

Do High-Level Leaks Suggest a Conspiracy?

National-security officials may see themselves as patriots, but their methods set a dangerous precedent.

Back in my time in the CIA, there were two places in the headquarters building one could go that were free speech zones—places where it was safe to vent about senior management without necessarily being admonished or even reported. They were the Historical Intelligence Collection room off the library, where no one ever went to look at the books, and the office supplies storage room in the basement. The supplies room had a lot of dark corners and concealing shelves where it was possible to be anonymous and it was completely unsupervised in the belief that true-blue CIA officers would never stoop to taking even a single pencil more than was actually needed to get the job done.

I don’t know if those rooms still exist, but I sometimes think of them when the subject of government conspiracies come up. I have this vision of two or three conspirators huddled in the corner behind the staplers back in 1975 discussing how one would go about eliminating the likes of Senator Frank Church, who at that time was heading a major congressional investigation into CIA improprieties.

If there had been such a gathering, I would imagine that the Washington Post would have found out about it on the next day as intelligence officers are gregarious and like to talk. This has been my principal problem with the debate in some quarters about the 9/11 Commission. Their report did indeed miss many important angles in order to protect certain governmental interests, but if there had been a genuine conspiracy involving what must have been hundreds of people to demolish the Twin Towers with explosives, it surely would have leaked long ago.

Two months ago, I would have dismissed as fantasy any thoughts of a conspiracy based in America’s national security agencies to bring down Donald Trump. But now I am not so sure. Many of my friends who are former intelligence officers are increasingly asking questions. It is worth pointing out that none of us are fans of what the White House has been doing and saying—quite the contrary. Still, alerting the country to concerns over what might be a developing soft coup orchestrated by the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to nullify the results of a national election in no way equates to trying to protect Donald Trump and his uncouth and ill-informed behavior. It is rather a defense of the Constitution.

Donald Trump said on Wednesday that “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” He might be right. He was referring to Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein’s appointment of the highly-respected Robert Mueller as independent counsel to investigate “any links and/or coordination between Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Trump’s bombast puts everyone but his most tone-deaf supporters on edge, but there are two points that he has been making repeatedly that are essential to any understanding of what is going on. First, the investigation into Russia and the Trumpsters has been a high priority at FBI and also in Congress for nearly a year. Yet so far no one has produced evidence that anyone broke any law or even that someone did something wrong. Second, and more importantly, the vilification of Trump and Russia has been driven by a series of leaks that come from the very top of the national security apparatus, leaks that appear not to have been seriously investigated.

This involvement of FBI and CIA in the campaign, whether inadvertently or by design, was particularly evident in the various reports that surfaced and were leaked to the press during the campaign and right up to the inauguration. The leaks of that type of information, to include technical intelligence and Special Access Program “codeword” material, require top-level access as well as the ability to arrange clandestine contacts with major players in the media, something far beyond the reach of most employees at CIA or the FBI.

Similar leaks have been appearing since that time. I confess to finding Monday’s detailed account of what President Trump discussed with Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov, which included corroborating material that likely did more damage than the information that was actually shared, highly suggestive of the possibility that something like a conspiracy is, in fact, functioning. Given the really tight-security control of that transcript after it was determined that it contained sensitive information, one might reasonably assume that the leaks to the media came directly out of Donald Trump’s own National Security Council or from the highest levels of the office of the DNI, CIA, or FBI.

Yesterday, the anonymous sources struck again, revealing that “Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.” That sort of information had to come from the top level of the FBI and would have been accessible to only a few, but even though the leaks of what constitutes highly-classified information have been recurring for many months, no one has been fired or arrested.

The emphasis on Russia derives from the government and media consensus that Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) computers that led to the exposure of what the DNC was doing to destroy the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. There is also a related consensus that the Russian hacking was intended to damage American democracy and also to help the Trump campaign, a narrative that the president has described as a “made-up thing,” a view that I share. All of these assertions are regarded as unquestionably true as measured by inside-the-beltway groupthink, with even the White House now conceding that there was Russian interference in the election.

Sometimes the hysteria over Russia produces over-the-top stories in the mainstream media, including last week’s completely speculative piece wondering whether the entourage of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had sought to sneak a recording device into the White House during his White House visit. It was the type of tale that might have been inspired by a leak from someone in the National Security Council who personally observed the context of the meeting and was able to provide corroborating details.

Nevertheless, in spite of the overwhelming groupthink, it has been repeated ad nauseam by people like myself that no actual evidence has been produced to support any of the claims being made about Russia and Trump. There is more evidence that the White House was penetrated by Ankara—through the good services of Michael Flynn—than by Moscow, but Congress has not called for an investigation into Turkey’s lobbying. Ray McGovern, a former senior CIA analyst, is even speculating that the Agency might have been the actual hacker into the DNC, leaving a trail behind that would have suggested that it was done by the Russians. His concern arises from the recent WikiLeaks revelation that the CIA had developed cyberwarfare capabilities to do just that.

McGovern, like myself, is also asking why former CIA Director John Brennan has not been summoned by the Senate Committee looking into Russia-gate. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has testified twice, while former FBI Director James Comey, current NSA Director Mike Rogers, and former Justice Department senior official Sally Yates have all appeared once. Brennan’s absence is conspicuous as he was the senior national security official most closely tied to the Obama Administration, may have had the tools at hand to fake the Russian connection, and has also been plausibly linked to “encouraging” British Intelligence to provide damaging information on Michael Flynn.

I now suspect that there is indeed a group at the top of the U.S. national security system that wants to remove Donald Trump and has wanted to do so for quite some time. If that is true, I believe that they have been operating with that goal in mind for at least the past year. It is not a traditional conspiracy or cabal in that it does not meet and conspire together, but I suspect the members know what they are doing in a general sense and are intervening whenever they can to keep Trump off balance. Their program is simple: convince the nation that the president and his team colluded with the Russians to rig the 2016 election in his favor, which, if demonstrable even if not necessarily true, would provide grounds for impeachment. They are motivated by the belief that removing Trump must be done “for the good of the country” and they are willing to do what they consider correcting a mistake made by the American voters. They are assisted in their effort by the mainstream media, which agrees with both the methods employed and the overall objective and is completely on board with the process.

Saving the country from Trump is certainly an attractive notion. I suspect the Comeys, Clappers, and Brennans, together with a host of former senior officers who appear regularly on television, if they were involved, see themselves as great patriots. But they must understand that the blunt instrument they are using is far more dangerous than the current occupant of the White House. A soft coup engineered by the national security and intelligence agencies would be far more threatening to our democracy than anything Donald Trump or even the Russians can do.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

Photo Contest – Put A Name To The Pic

A free lifetime subscription to the first reader to correctly identify the curly-headed bloke standing beside John Finucane (the Sinn Fein Westminster candidate for North Belfast) in this photograph.

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