#JigsawIdentification? #Whistleblower #CitizenJournalist: Craig #Murray’s jailing is latest move in battle to snuff out independent #journalism!

Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move in a battle to snuff out independent journalism | Jonathan Cook | 30 July 2021

Craig Murray, a former ambassador to Uzbekistan, the father of a newborn child, a man in very poor health and one who has no prior convictions, will have to hand himself over to the Scottish police on Sunday morning. He becomes the first person ever to be imprisoned on the obscure and vaguely defined charge of “jigsaw identification”.

Murray is also the first person to be jailed in Britain for contempt of court in half a century – a period when such different legal and moral values prevailed that the British establishment had only just ended the prosecution of “homosexuals” and the jailing of women for having abortions.

Murray’s imprisonment for eight months by Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge, is of course based entirely on a keen reading of Scottish law rather than evidence of the Scottish and London political establishments seeking revenge on the former diplomat. And the UK supreme court’s refusal on Thursday to hear Murray’s appeal despite many glaring legal anomalies in the case, thereby paving his path to jail, is equally rooted in a strict application of the law, and not influenced in any way by political considerations.

Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with the fact that he embarrassed the British state in the early 2000s by becoming that rarest of things: a whistleblowing diplomat. He exposed the British government’s collusion, along with the US, in Uzbekistan’s torture regime.

His jailing also has nothing to do with the fact that Murray has embarrassed the British state more recently by reporting the woeful and continuing legal abuses in a London courtroom as Washington seeks to extradite Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, and lock him away for life in a maximum security prison. The US wants to make an example of Assange for exposing its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and for publishing leaked diplomatic cables that pulled the mask off Washington’s ugly foreign policy.

Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with the fact that the contempt proceedings against him allowed the Scottish court to deprive him of his passport so that he could not travel to Spain and testify in a related Assange case that is severely embarrassing Britain and the US. The Spanish hearing has been presented with reams of evidence that the US illegally spied on Assange inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he sought political asylum to avoid extradition. Murray was due to testify that his own confidential conversations with Assange were filmed, as were Assange’s privileged meetings with his own lawyers. Such spying should have seen the case against Assange thrown out, had the judge in London actually been applying the law.

Similarly, Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with his embarrassing the Scottish political and legal establishments by reporting, almost single-handedly, the defence case in the trial of Scotland’s former First Minister, Alex Salmond. Unreported by the corporate media, the evidence submitted by Salmond’s lawyers led a jury dominated by women to acquit him of a raft of sexual assault charges. It is Murray’s reporting of Salmond’s defence that has been the source of his current troubles.

And most assuredly, Murray’s jailing has precisely nothing to do with his argument – one that might explain why the jury was so unconvinced by the prosecution case – that Salmond was actually the victim of a high-level plot by senior politicians at Holyrood to discredit him and prevent his return to the forefront of Scottish politics. The intention, says Murray, was to deny Salmond the chance to take on London and make a serious case for independence, and thereby expose the SNP’s increasing lip service to that cause.

Relentless attack

Murray has been a thorn in the side of the British establishment for nearly two decades. Now they have found a way to lock him up just as they have Assange, as well as tie Murray up potentially for years in legal battles that risk bankrupting him as he seeks to clear his name.

And given his extremely precarious health – documented in detail to the court – his imprisonment further risks turning eight months into a life sentence. Murray nearly died from a pulmonary embolism 17 years ago when he was last under such relentless attack from the British establishment. His health has not improved since.

At that time, in the early 2000s, in the run-up to and early stages of the invasion of Iraq, Murray effectively exposed the complicity of fellow British diplomats – their preference to turn a blind eye to the abuses sanctioned by their own government and its corrupt and corrupting alliance with the US.

Later, when Washington’s “extraordinary rendition” – state kidnapping – programme came to light, as well as its torture regime at places like Abu Ghraib, the spotlight should have turned to the failure of diplomats to speak out. Unlike Murray, they refused to turn whistleblower. They provided cover to the illegality and barbarism.

For his pains, Murray was smeared by Tony Blair’s government as, among other things, a sexual predator – charges a Foreign Office investigation eventually cleared him of. But the damage was done, with Murray forced out. A commitment to moral and legal probity was clearly incompatible with British foreign policy objectives.

Murray had to reinvent his career, and he did so through a popular blog. He has applied the same dedication to truth-telling and commitment to the protection of human rights in his journalism – and has again run up against equally fierce opposition from the British establishment.

Two-tier journalism

The most glaring, and disturbing, legal innovation in Lady Dorrian’s ruling against Murray – and the main reason he is heading to prison – is her decision to divide journalists into two classes: those who work for approved corporate media outlets, and those like Murray who are independent, often funded by readers rather than paid big salaries by billionaires or the state.

According to Lady Dorrian, licensed, corporate journalists are entitled to legal protections she denied to unofficial and independent journalists like Murray – the very journalists who are most likely to take on governments, criticise the legal system, and expose the hypocrisy and lies of the corporate media.

In finding Murray guilty of so-called “jigsaw identification”, Lady Dorrian did not make a distinction between what Murray wrote about the Salmond case and what approved, corporate journalists wrote.

That is for good reason. Two surveys have shown that most of those following the Salmond trial who believe they identified one or more of his accusers did so from the coverage of the corporate media, especially the BBC. Murray’s writings appear to have had very little impact on the identification of any of the accusers. Among named individual journalists, Dani Garavelli, who wrote about the trial for Scotland on Sunday and the London Review of Books, was cited 15 times more often by respondents than Murray as helping them to identify Salmond’s accusers.


https://twitter.com/CraigMurrayOrg/status/1356926031551152129

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Rather, Lady Dorrian’s distinction was between who gets protected when identification occurs. Write for the Times or the Guardian, or broadcast on the BBC, where the audience reach is enormous, and the courts will protect you from prosecution. Write about the same issues for a blog, and you risk being hounded into prison.

In fact, the legal basis of “jigsaw identification” – one could argue the whole point of it – is that it accrues dangerous powers to the state. It gives permission for the legal establishment to arbitrarily decide which piece of the supposed jigsaw is to be counted as identification. If the BBC’s Kirsty Wark includes a piece of the jigsaw, it does not count as identification in the eyes of the court. If Murray or another independent journalist offers a different piece of the jigsaw, it does count. The obvious ease with which this principle can be abused by the establishment to oppress and silence dissident journalists should not need underscoring.

And yet this is no longer Lady Dorrian’s ruling alone. In refusing to hear Murray’s appeal, the UK supreme court has offered its blessing to this same dangerous, two-tiered classification.

Credentialed by the state

What Lady Dorrian has done is to overturn traditional views of what constitutes journalism: that it is a practice that at its very best is designed to hold the powerful to account, and that anyone who engages in such work is doing journalism, whether or not they are typically thought of as a journalist.

That idea was obvious until quite recently. When social media took off, one of the gains trumpeted even by the corporate media was the emergence of a new kind of “citizen journalist”. At that stage, corporate media believed that these citizen journalists would become cheap fodder, providing on-the-ground, local stories they alone would have access to and that only the establishment media would be in a position to monetise. This was precisely the impetus for the Guardian’s Comment is Free section, which in its early incarnation allowed a varied selection of people with specialist knowledge or information to provide the paper with articles for free to increase the paper’s sales and advertising rates.

The establishment’s attitude to citizen journalists, and the Guardian’s to the Comment is Free model, only changed when these new journalists started to prove hard to control, and their work often highlighted inadvertently or otherwise the inadequacies, deceptions and double standards of the corporate media.

Now, Lady Dorrian has put the final nail in the coffin of citizen journalism. She has declared through her ruling that she and other judges will be the ones to decide who is considered a journalist and thereby who receives legal protections for their work. This is a barely concealed way for the state to license or “credentialise” journalists. It turns journalism into a professional guild with only official, corporate journalists safe from legal retribution by the state.

If you are an unapproved, uncredentialed journalist, you can be jailed, as Murray is being, on a similar legal basis to the imprisonment of someone who carries out a surgical operation without the necessary qualifications. But whereas the law against charlatan surgeons is there to protect the public, to stop unnecessary harm being inflicted on the sick, Lady Dorrian’s ruling will serve a very different purpose: to protect the state from the harm caused by the exposure of its secret or most malign practices by trouble-making, sceptical – and now largely independent – journalists.

Journalism is being corralled back into the exclusive control of the state and billionaire-owned corporations. It may not be surprising that corporate journalists, keen to hold on to their jobs, are consenting through their silence to this all-out assault on journalism and free speech. After all, this is a kind of protectionism – additional job security – for journalists employed by a corporate media that has no real intention to challenge the powerful.

But what is genuinely shocking is that this dangerous accretion of further power to the state and its allied corporate class is being backed implicitly by the journalists’ union, the NUJ. It has kept quiet over the many months of attacks on Murray and the widespread efforts to discredit him for his reporting. The NUJ has made no significant noise about Lady Dorrian’s creation of two classes of journalists – state-approved and unapproved – or about her jailing of Murray on these grounds.

But the NUJ has gone further. Its leaders have publicly washed their  hands of Murray by excluding him from membership of the union, even while its officials have conceded that he should qualify. The NUJ has become as complicit in the hounding of a journalist as Murray’s fellow diplomats once were for his hounding as an ambassador. This is a truly shameful episode in the NUJ’s history.

Free speech criminalised

But more dangerous still, Lady Dorrian’s ruling is part of a pattern in which the political, judicial and media establishments have colluded to narrow the definition of what counts as journalism, to exclude anything beyond the pap that usually passes for journalism in the corporate media.

Murray has been one of the few journalists to report in detail the arguments made by Assange’s legal team in his extradition hearings. Noticeably in both the Assange and Murray cases, the presiding judge has limited the free speech protections traditionally afforded to journalism and has done so by restricting who qualifies as a journalist. Both cases have been frontal assaults on the ability of certain kinds of journalists – those who are free from corporate or state pressure – to cover important political stories, effectively criminalising independent journalism. And all this has been achieved by sleight of hand.

In Assange’s case, Judge Vanessa Baraitser largely assented to US claims that what the Wikileaks founder had done was espionage rather than journalism. The Obama administration had held off prosecuting Assange because it could not find a distinction in law between his legal right to publish evidence of US war crimes and the New York Times and the Guardian’s right to publish the same evidence, provided to them by Wikileaks. If the US administration prosecuted Assange, it would also need to prosecute the editors of those papers.

Donald Trump’s officials bypassed that problem by creating a distinction between “proper” journalists, employed by corporate outlets that oversee and control what is published, and “bogus” journalists, those independents not subject to such oversight and pressures.

Trump’s officials denied Assange the status of journalist and publisher and instead treated him as a spy who colluded with and assisted whistleblowers. That supposedly voided the free speech protections he constitutionally enjoyed. But, of course, the US case against Assange was patent nonsense. It is central to the work of investigative journalists to “collude” with and assist whistleblowers. And spies squirrel away the information provided to them by such whistleblowers, they do not publicise it to the world, as Assange did.

Notice the parallels with Murray’s case.

Judge Baraitser’s approach to Assange echoed the US one: that only approved, credentialed journalists enjoy the protection of the law from prosecution; only approved, credentialed journalists have the right to free speech (should they choose to exercise it in newsrooms beholden to state or corporate interests). Free speech and the protection of the law, Baraitser implied, no longer chiefly relate to the legality of what is said, but to the legal status of who says it.

A similar methodology has been adopted by Lady Dorrian in Murray’s case. She has denied him the status of a journalist, and instead classified him as some kind of “improper” journalist, or blogger. As with Assange, there is an implication that “improper” or “bogus” journalists are such an exceptional threat to society that they must be stripped of the normal legal protections of free speech.

“Jigsaw identification” – especially when allied to sexual assault allegations, involving women’s rights and playing into the wider, current obsession with identity politics – is the perfect vehicle for winning widespread consent for the criminalisation of the free speech of critical journalists.

Corporate media shackles

There is an even bigger picture that should be hard to miss for any honest journalist, corporate or otherwise. What Lady Dorrian and Judge Baraitser – and the establishment behind them – are trying to do is put the genie back in the bottle. They are trying to reverse a trend that over more than a decade has seen a small but growing number of journalists use new technology and social media to liberate themselves from the shackles of the corporate media and tell truths audiences were never supposed to hear.

Don’t believe me? Consider the case of Guardian and Observer journalist Ed Vulliamy. In his book Flat Earth News, Vulliamy’s colleague at the Guardian Nick Davies tells the story of how Roger Alton, editor of the Observer at the time of the Iraq war, and a credentialed, licensed journalist if ever there was one, sat on one of the biggest stories in the paper’s history for months on end.

In late 2002, Vulliamy, a veteran and much trusted reporter, persuaded Mel Goodman, a former senior CIA official who still had security clearance at the agency, to go on record that the CIA knew there were no WMD in Iraq – the pretext for an imminent and illegal invasion of that country. As many suspected, the US and British governments had been telling lies to justify a coming war of aggression against Iraq, and Vulliamy had a key source to prove it.

But Alton spiked this earth-shattering story and then refused to publish another six versions written by an increasingly exasperated Vulliamy over the next few months, as war loomed. Alton was determined to keep the story out of the news. Back in 2002 it only took a handful of editors – all of whom had risen through the ranks for their discretion, nuance and careful “judgment” – to make sure some kinds of news never reached their readers.

Social media has changed such calculations. Vulliamy’s story could not be quashed so easily today. It would leak out, precisely through a high-profile independent journalist like Assange or Murray. Which is why such figures are so critically important to a healthy and informed society – and why they, and a few others like them, are gradually being disappeared. The cost of allowing independent journalists to operate freely, the establishment has understood, is far too high.

First, all independent, unlicensed journalism was lumped in as “fake news”. With that as the background, social media corporations were able to collude with so-called legacy media corporations to algorithm independent journalists into oblivion. And now independent journalists are being educated about what fate is likely to befall them should they try to emulate Assange or Murray.

Asleep at the wheel

In fact, while corporate journalists have been asleep at the wheel, the British establishment has been preparing to widen the net to criminalise all journalism that seeks to seriously hold power to account. A recent government consultation document calling for a more draconian crackdown on what is being deceptively termed “onward disclosure” – code for journalism – has won the backing of Home Secretary Priti Patel. The document implicitly categorises journalism as little different from espionage and whistleblowing.

In the wake of the consultation paper, the Home Office has called on parliament to consider “increased maximum sentences” for offenders – that is, journalists – and ending the distinction “between espionage and the most serious unauthorised disclosures”. The government’s argument is that “onward disclosures” can create “far more serious damage” than espionage and so should be treated similarly. If accepted, any public interest defence – the traditional safeguard for journalists – will be muted.

Anyone who followed the Assange hearings last summer – which excludes most journalists in the corporate media – will notice strong echoes of the arguments made by the US for extraditing Assange, arguments conflating journalism with espionage that were largely accepted by Judge Baraitser.

None of this has come out of the blue. As the online technology publication The Register noted back in 2017, the Law Commission was at the time considering “proposals in the UK for a swingeing new Espionage Act that could jail journalists as spies”. It said such an act was being “developed in haste by legal advisers”.

It is quite extraordinary that two investigative journalists – one a long-term, former member of staff at the Guardian – managed to write an entire article in that paper this month on the government consultation paper and not mention Assange once. The warning signs have been there for the best part of a decade but corporate journalists have refused to notice them. Similarly, it is no coincidence that Murray’s plight has also not registered on the corporate media’s radar.

Assange and Murray are the canaries in the coal mine for the growing crackdown on investigative journalism and on efforts to hold executive power to account. There is, of course, ever less of that being done by the corporate media, which may explain why corporate outlets appear not only relaxed about the mounting political and legal climate against free speech and transparency but have been all but cheering it on.

In the Assange and Murray cases, the British state is carving out for itself a space to define what counts as legitimate, authorised journalism – and journalists are colluding in this dangerous development, if only through their silence. That collusion tells us a great deal about the mutual interests of the corporate political and legal establishments, on the one hand, and the corporate media establishment on the other.

Assange and Murray are not only telling us troubling truths we are not supposed to hear. The fact that they are being denied solidarity by those who are their colleagues, those who may be next in the firing line, tells us everything we need to know about the so-called mainstream media: that the role of corporate journalists is to serve establishment interests, not challenge them.

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#NI #GoodFriday #UnionistFantasy or #QuestForJustice? “There is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended!”

“There is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended.” | Terry Wright | Slugger O’Toole | 28 July 2021

geometry, zirkel, setsquare
“The time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.”
– Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano

There have been proposals for ‘Dealing with the Past.’ None of them appear to work either in securing prosecutions or in allowing the community to future-proof political, social and economic life.

Solutions collide as political intent, perceived victim hierarchy and contentious narratives produce unchallenged trust in their own ideological flatness. Blame and justification are voiced accordingly; accusation and counter-accusation ensue within a deeply adversarial, fragmented and disconnected process that continues to present as ‘not yet’ post-conflict.

Progress towards resolution is erratic and piecemeal: strewn with unrealistic expectations, with denial and silence as the moral options.

For politicians, it is never far beneath the surface, if at all. For individuals and families impacted by loss, injury and lack of atonement and remorse, it slumbers, if at all.

The recent proposals for measures including the highly publicised Statute of Limitations by the Secretary of State, the debate at a recalled but less than consensual Stormont and now the court pronouncement with regard to the Omagh bombing are all a case in point.

There is little evidence of any significant movement forward as only one element of the proposal is highlighted to the neglect of other provisions and addressed in politically loaded and charged atmosphere. Uniformity of opposition failed to produce any harmony of values. Agreement breaks apart.

It also flows into local politics.

The Business and Culture Committee of Derry and Strabane District Council last week recommended support for a request by the Bloody Sunday Trust, based in the city, for £50,000 funding and assistance in kind to support events commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the deaths resulting from actions on 30 January 1972.

3 Unionist representatives on the committee withheld their support, 8 independents and nationalist Councillors, of different hues, took an opposite view.

Claiming lack of detail in what is being planned, the Unionist representatives referred to inequality and marginalisation in how legacy is addressed in the city and Council area. They have since expressed discontent at, in their view, some deaths being highlighted above others and prioritised by media and justice campaigners in academia and NGOs; seemingly of most interest when it relates to the state.

The organisers, the Bloody Sunday Trust have intimated a desire to promote reconciliation through the commemoration but there does not appear to be any specific or equally- weighted reference to other ‘bloody days’ in the Council area, not least in Strabane, Castlederg and Claudy.

Inevitably, it is seen as running counter to addressing the shared tragedy of conflict; as lacking inclusivity and sensitivity in acknowledging the hurt of the ‘other.’

Those withholding approval do not see why an event should be funded by the Council if it is likely to have a negative impact on community relations and prove detrimental to collaborative governance going forward at a time when there a need for co-operation on economic recovery and jobs.

The situation serves as a microcosm of how sensitive issues of inequality and a level playing field linked to ‘dealing with the past’ and left unresolved in the Good Friday Agreement emerge to stall the community in moving forward.

Anyone who is surprised at this has not been paying attention.

Many in Northern Ireland have shared the experience of conflict and violence but those experiences have not been the same. There are many pasts and many narratives. There are different views of who or what is right and who or what is wrong; whether or not the war was justified. The champions for the differing views are absolutist and unyielding.

This is a situation which has run like a fault line within the community since 1998.

In its acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement and the promise of a new beginning, the majority of people chose the extent to which they were prepared to adjust and risk their respective stances to nurture a moral fudge that facilitated and continues to inform what remains a process.

The unorthodox became the new orthodoxy.

The previously unacceptable was mainstreamed.

It became right to do what seemed the wrong thing as representatives of armed groups, yet to de-commission, were accepted into politics and prisoners were released.

For their part, paramilitary groups, particularly republican, judged it necessary to promote a peace process as a strategic ‘other means’ of continuing the struggle to make acceptable the futility of the loss and injury of its soldiers. It became necessary to steal the dead for political purposes; to pursue the demonisation of the perceived enemy both to justify past actions and promote the open secret of the ‘Trojan Horse’ agenda.

This was facilitated by a process lacking in any consensually-agreed moral compass or narrative. Sectarianism, political attrition and competing constitutional outcomes from all sides have been embedded into the institutions as a result.

The past has become weaponised and factional as politicians fail to show courageous leadership and bring resolution to establishing truth, delivering closure, in so far as this is possible, and meeting the financial, welfare and personal needs of those affected by loss and injury.

Community allegiance is paraded as a commodity but serves only to camouflage failure.

At times, legitimising a preferred narrative appears to be the real priority as initiative after initiative edges towards a state of inertia.

Victims and survivors who, in their words, wish to move on are continually dragged back by the belligerency.

To sustain peace and work towards a future from which fresh generations should benefit, these ‘legacy ‘politics and what flows from them need to be de-commissioned.

Attempts have been made through enquiries and court actions. They are costly and in the main focus on the actions of the state. There is no even- handed strategy offering enquiries into similar incidents perpetrated by paramilitary organisations so they create as many problems as they solve.

Any audit of their effectiveness would indicate that the time is now probably past for such a measure to be meaningful.

Better practice is seen in the approach of those groups who are not leaving the work of reconciliation and restoration to the politicians. They choose to work in the space provided by the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements, to build reconciliation through often raw discourse and interaction aimed at resolving difference.

It is rarely easy but they are re-establishing a stable, humane and civility-focused base, firmer than in the past, for taking society forward with a more inclusive and determined focus. Theirs is the methodology and agenda more likely to ensure that there will be no return to the past. They take a hard look at themselves. The scales fall off to see the other without pre-judgement. Relationships are built on what people are for rather than what they are against.

The emphasis is on learning from the hurt; developing a contextual understanding of the troubles to bring healing and ensure that as a community we never repeat what we have done in the past; that younger generations will construct a different history.

For this to continue, requires support through political leadership embedded in the necessity of doing what must be done to re-build shared moral and ethical values, the absence of which promotes an imperfect peace and political instability.

For this to continue requires grace and compassion from those who were the orchestrators and perpetrators of conflict. It requires atonement and truth telling on all sides. It requires remembrance where it is practised to be repentant. It requires honesty and openness for no person can be their own mediator. It requires all to test their actions, past and present, against measures that are robust in terms of humanity and social justice.

The resources lie within and acted upon without selection may begin to repair the brokenness of victims left on the margins of the political Agreements.

Some victims seek retribution, whilst others seek information, justice and closure or a combination of these. They are not all attainable in every instance.

However, all need truth and it should not be beyond our capacity to create processes wherein this can happen. Not without difficulty, this is the most achievable and once underway and completed may diminish the demand for other actions.

In his proposals currently tabled, the Secretary of State may not have provided all the answers but he is posing the right questions as have others like John Larkin on previous occasions.

Ending access to lawful recourse is highly problematic. It challenges our sense of justice but is this already compromised, not least by letters to OTRs, secret deals and the arbitrary decision-making of governments, not just within the United Kingdom?

The pursuit of justice is not achieving for all if it shuts down other ways of knowing.

Without truth and information recovery, justice is reserved for a few.

It seems clear at present that the community and politicians, publicly at least, are unwilling to endorse the proposals by the Secretary of State. Privately, views are less robust as individuals and groups realise the current situation is unsustainable.

There are issues within the proposals to be resolved within a framework of rights and responsibilities but there are aspects which emulate previous good work in Eames-Bradley and the Stormont House Agreement. These need to be energised and brought in from the side-lines to build unity across the whole community, with victim and survivors central, around core purpose.

A quality of response more constructive, transparent and considered, than that which has so far emerged from political forums, could build hope for a future better than our past.

Northern Ireland has had enough of the tyranny of selective hearing.

The task is not to consign present opportunities to a list of past failings.

The words of Senator George Mitchell have not lost their challenge:
“There is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended.”

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Price of #Conscience — #US sentences #Drone #WarCrimes #Whistleblower Daniel #Hale to 45 Months #Jail!

Hedges: The Price of Conscience | CHRIS HEDGES | ScheerPost | 27 July 2021

Drone warfare whistleblower sentenced to 45 months in prison for telling the American people the truth.

Daniel Hale, a former intelligence analyst in the drone program for the Air Force who as a private contractor in 2013 leaked some 17 classified documents about drone strikes to the press, was sentenced today to 45 months in prison.

The documents, published by The Intercept on October 15, 2015, exposed that between January 2012 and February 2013, US special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. For one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. The civilian dead, usually innocent bystanders, were routinely classified as “enemies killed in action.”

The Justice Department coerced Hale, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, on March 31 to plead guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917 designed to prosecute those who passed on state secrets to a hostile power, not those who expose to the public government lies and crimes. Hale admitted as part of the plea deal to “retention and transmission of national security information” and leaking 11 classified documents to a journalist. If he had refused the plea deal, he could have spent 50 years in prison. 

The sentencing of Hale is one more potentially mortal blow to the freedom of the press.  It follows in the wake of the prosecutions and imprisonment of other whistleblowers under the Espionage Act including Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, who spent two-and-a-half years in prison for exposing the routine torture of suspects held in black sites.  Those charged under the act are treated as if they were spies.  They are barred from explaining motivations and intent to the court. They cannot provide evidence to the court of the government lawlessness and war crimes they exposed.  Prominent human rights organizations, such as the ACLU and PEN, along with mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and CNN, have largely remained silent about the prosecution of Hale. The group Stand with Daniel Hale has called on President Biden to pardon Hale and end the use of the Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers. It is also collecting donations for Hale’s legal fund. The bipartisan onslaught against the press — Barack Obama used the Espionage Act eight times against whistleblowers, more than all other previous administrations combined — by criminalizing those within the system who seek to inform the public is ominous for our democracy.  It is effectively extinguishing all investigations into the inner workings of power.

Daniel Hale. Screenshot from “National Bird” documentary film.

Hale, in a handwritten letter to Judge Liam O’Grady on July 18, explained why he leaked classified information, writing that the drone attacks and the war in Afghanistan “had little to do with preventing terror from coming into the United States and a lot more to do with protecting the profits of weapons manufacturers and so-called defense contractors.”

At the top of the 11-page letter Hale quoted US Navy Admiral Gene LaRocque, speaking to a reporter in 1995: “We now kill people without ever seeing them. Now you push a button thousands of miles away … Since it’s all done by remote control, there’s no remorse … and then we come home in triumph.”

“In my capacity as a signals intelligence analyst stationed at Bagram Airbase, I was made to track down the geographic location of handset cellphone devices believed to be in the possession of so-called enemy combatants,” Hale explained to the judge. “To accomplish this mission required access to a complex chain of globe-spanning satellites capable of maintaining an unbroken connection with remotely piloted aircraft, commonly referred to as drones. Once a steady connection is made and a targeted cell phone device is acquired, an imagery analyst in the U.S., in coordination with a drone pilot and camera operator, would take over using information I provided to surveil everything that occurred within the drone’s field of vision. This was done, most often, to document the day-to-day lives of suspected militants. Sometimes, under the right conditions, an attempt at capture would be made. Other times, a decision to strike and kill them where they stood would be weighed.”

He recalled the first time he witnessed a drone strike, a few days after he arrived in Afghanistan.

“Early that morning, before dawn, a group of men had gathered together in the mountain ranges of Patika province around a campfire carrying weapons and brewing tea,” he wrote. “That they carried weapons with them would not have been considered out of the ordinary in the place I grew up, much less within the virtually lawless tribal territories outside the control of the Afghan authorities. Except that among them was a suspected member of the Taliban, given away by the targeted cell phone device in his pocket. As for the remaining individuals, to be armed, of military age, and sitting in the presence of an alleged enemy combatant was enough evidence to place them under suspicion as well. Despite having peacefully assembled, posing no threat, the fate of the now tea drinking men had all but been fulfilled. I could only look on as I sat by and watched through a computer monitor when a sudden, terrifying flurry of hellfire missiles came crashing down, splattering, purple-colored crystal guts on the side of the morning mountain.”

Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/GETTY

This was his first experience with “scenes of graphic violence carried out from the cold comfort of a computer chair.” There would be many more.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t question the justification for my actions,” he wrote. “By the rules of engagement, it may have been permissible for me to have helped to kill those men — whose language I did not speak, customs I did not understand, and crimes I could not identify — in the gruesome manner that I did. Watch them die. But how could it be considered honorable of me to continuously have laid in wait for the next opportunity to kill unsuspecting persons, who, more often than not, are posing no danger to me or any other person at the time. Never mind honorable, how could it be that any thinking person continued to believe that it was necessary for the protection of the United States of America to be in Afghanistan and killing people, not one of whom present was responsible for the September 11th attacks on our nation. Notwithstanding, in 2012, a full year after the demise of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, I was a part of killing misguided young men who were but mere children on the day of 9/11.” 

He and other service members were confronted with the privatization of war where “contract mercenaries outnumbered uniform wearing soldiers 2 to 1 and earned as much as 10 times their salary.”

“Meanwhile, it did not matter whether it was, as I had seen, an Afghan farmer blown in half, yet miraculously conscious and pointlessly trying to scoop his insides off the ground, or whether it was an American flag-draped coffin lowered into Arlington National Cemetery to the sound of a 21-gun salute,” he wrote. “Bang, bang, bang. Both served to justify the easy flow of capital at the cost of blood — theirs and ours. When I think about this, I am grief-stricken and ashamed of myself for the things I’ve done to support it.”

He described to the judge “the most harrowing day of my life” that took place a few months into his deployment “when a routine surveillance mission turned into disaster.” 

“For weeks we had been tracking the movements of a ring of car bomb manufacturers living around Jalalabad,” he wrote. “Car bombs directed at US bases had become an increasingly frequent and deadly problem that summer, so much effort was put into stopping them. It was a windy and clouded afternoon when one of the suspects had been discovered headed eastbound, driving at a high rate of speed. This alarmed my superiors who believe he might be attempting to escape across the border into Pakistan.”

Now, whenever I encounter an individual who thinks that drone warfare is justified and reliably keeps America safe, I remember that time and ask myself how could I possibly continue to believe that I am a good person, deserving of my life and the right to pursue happiness.

— Daniel Hale, of learning about children killed by indiscriminate US drone attacks he participated in.

“A drone strike was our only chance and already it began lining up to take the shot,” he continued. “But the less advanced predator drone found it difficult to see through clouds and compete against strong headwinds. The single payload MQ-1 failed to connect with its target, instead missing by a few meters. The vehicle, damaged, but still driveable, continued on ahead after narrowly avoiding destruction. Eventually, once the concern of another incoming missile subsided, the driver stopped, got out of the car, and checked himself as though he could not believe he was still alive. Out of the passenger side came a woman wearing an unmistakable burka. As astounding as it was to have just learned there had been a woman, possibly his wife, there with the man we intended to kill moments ago, I did not have the chance to see what happened next before the drone diverted its camera when she began frantically to pull out something from the back of the car.”

He learned a few days later from his commanding officer what next took place. 

“There indeed had been the suspect’s wife with him in the car,” he wrote. “And in the back were their two young daughters, ages 5 and 3 years old. A cadre of Afghan soldiers were sent to investigate where the car had stopped the following day. It was there they found them placed in the dumpster nearby. The eldest was found dead due to unspecified wounds caused by shrapnel that pierced her body. Her younger sister was alive but severely dehydrated. As my commanding officer relayed this information to us, she seemed to express disgust, not for the fact that we had errantly fired on a man and his family, having killed one of his daughters; but for the suspected bomb maker having ordered his wife to dump the bodies of their daughters in the trash, so that the two of them could more quickly escape across the border. Now, whenever I encounter an individual who thinks that drone warfare is justified and reliably keeps America safe, I remember that time and ask myself how could I possibly continue to believe that I am a good person, deserving of my life and the right to pursue happiness.”

“One year later, at a farewell gathering for those of us who would soon be leaving military service, I sat alone, transfixed by the television, while others reminisced together,” he continued. “On television was breaking news of the president giving his first public remarks about the policy surrounding the use of drone technology in warfare. His remarks were made to reassure the public of reports scrutinizing the death of civilians in drone strikes and the targeting of American citizens. The president said that a high standard of ‘near certainty’ needed to be met in order to ensure that no civilians were present. But from what I knew, of the instances where civilians plausibly could have been present, those killed were nearly always designated enemies killed in action unless proven otherwise. Nonetheless, I continued to heed his words as the president went on to explain how a drone could be used to eliminate someone who posed an ‘imminent threat’ to the United States. Using the analogy of taking out a sniper, with his sights set on an unassuming crowd of people, the president likened the use of drones to prevent a would-be terrorist from carrying out his evil plot. But, as I understood it to be, the unassuming crowd had been those who lived in fear and the terror of drones in their skies and the sniper in this scenario had been me. I came to believe that the policy of drone assassination was being used to mislead the public that it keeps us safe, and when I finally left the military, still processing what I’d been a part of, I began to speak out, believing my participation in the drone program to have been deeply wrong.”

Hale threw himself into anti-war activism when he left the military, speaking out about the indiscriminate killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of noncombatants, including children in drone strikes. He took part in a peace conference held in Washington, D.C. in November 2013. The Yemeni Fazil bin Ali Jaber spoke at the conference about the drone strike that killed his brother, Salem bin Ali Jaber, and their cousin Waleed. Waleed was a policeman. Salem was an Imam who was an outspoken critic of the armed attacks carried out by radical jihadists.

“One day in August 2012, local members of Al Qaeda traveling through Fazil’s village in a car spotted Salem in the shade, pulled up towards him, and beckoned him to come over and speak to them,” Hale wrote. “Not one to miss an opportunity to evangelize to the youth, Salem proceeded cautiously with Waleed by his side. Fazil and other villagers began looking on from afar. Farther still was an ever present reaper drone looking too.”

Advertisement for the General Atomics Aerospace drones the US Air Force deploys abroad.

“As Fazil recounted what happened next, I felt myself transported back in time to where I had been on that day, 2012,” Hale told the judge. “Unbeknownst to Fazil and those of his village at the time was that they had not been the only watching Salem approach the jihadist in the car. From Afghanistan, I and everyone on duty paused their work to witness the carnage that was about to unfold. At the press of a button from thousands of miles away, two hellfire missiles screeched out of the sky, followed by two more. Showing no signs of remorse, I, and those around me, clapped and cheered triumphantly. In front of a speechless auditorium, Fazil wept.”

A week after the conference Hale was offered a job as a government contractor.  Desperate for money and steady employment, hoping to go to college, he took the job, which paid $ 80,000 a year.  But by then he was disgusted by the drone program.

“For a long time, I was uncomfortable with myself over the thought of taking advantage of my military background to land a cushy desk job,” he wrote. “During that time, I was still processing what I had been through, and I was starting to wonder if I was contributing again to the problem of money and war by accepting to return as a defense contractor. Worse was my growing apprehension that everyone around me was also taking part in a collective delusion and denial that was used to justify our exorbitant salaries, for comparatively easy labor. The thing I feared most at the time was the temptation not to question it.”

“Then it came to be that one day after work I stuck around to socialize with a pair of co-workers whose talented work I had come to greatly admire,” he wrote. “They made me feel welcomed, and I was happy to have earned their approval. But then, to my dismay, our brand-new friendship took an unexpectedly dark turn. They elected that we should take a moment and view together some archived footage of past drone strikes. Such bonding ceremonies around a computer to watch so-called “war porn” had not been new to me. I partook in them all the time while deployed to Afghanistan. But on that day, years after the fact, my new friends gaped and sneered, just as my old one’s had, at the sight of faceless men in the final moments of their lives. I sat by watching too; said nothing and felt my heart breaking into pieces.”

“Your Honor,” Hale wrote to the judge, “the truest truism that I’ve come to understand about the nature of war is that war is trauma. I believe that any person either called-upon or coerced to participate in war against their fellow man is promised to be exposed to some form of trauma. In that way, no soldier blessed to have returned home from war does so uninjured. The crux of PTSD is that it is a moral conundrum that afflicts invisible wounds on the psyche of a person made to burden the weight of experience after surviving a traumatic event. How PTSD manifests depends on the circumstances of the event. So how is the drone operator to process this? The victorious rifleman, unquestioningly remorseful, at least keeps his honor intact by having faced off against his enemy on the battlefield. The determined fighter pilot has the luxury of not having to witness the gruesome aftermath. But what possibly could I have done to cope with the undeniable cruelties that I perpetuated?”

“My conscience, once held at bay, came roaring back to life,” he wrote. “At first, I tried to ignore it. Wishing instead that someone, better placed than I, should come along to take this cup from me. But this too was folly. Left to decide whether to act, I only could do that which I ought to do before God and my own conscience. The answer came to me, that to stop the cycle of violence, I ought to sacrifice my own life and not that of another person. So, I contacted an investigative reporter, with whom I had had an established prior relationship, and told him that I had something the American people needed to know.”

Hale, in “National Bird” documentary.

Hale, who has admitted to being suicidal and depressed, said in the letter he, like many veterans, struggles with the crippling effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, aggravated by an impoverished and turbulent childhood.

“Depression is a constant,” he told the judge. “Though stress, particularly stress caused by war, can manifest itself at different times and in different ways. The tell-tale signs of a person afflicted by PTSD and depression can often be outwardly observed and are practically universally recognizable. Hard lines about the face and jaw. Eyes, once bright and wide, now deep-set, and fearful. And an inexplicably sudden loss of interest in things that used to spark joy. These are the noticeable changes in my demeanor marked by those who knew me before and after military service. To say that the period of my life spent serving in the United States Air Force had an impression on me would be an understatement. It is more accurate to say that it irreversibly transformed my identity as an American. Having forever altered the thread of my life’s story, weaved into the fabric of our nation’s history.”


To read more about Daniel Hale and his crucial role as a whistleblower, see Chris Hedges’ July 12 article, “Bless the Traitors.”


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ALSO SEE:
https://twitter.com/i/status/1420867661752381440
Thurs 29 July 2021

Damning inquiry report reveals 40 years of horrendous #ChildSexualAbuse and #racism by #LambethCouncil in #London!

Damning inquiry report reveals 40 years of horrendous child sexual abuse and racism by Lambeth Council in London | davidhencke | 27 July 2021

Lambeth Town Hall

The independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse today published its worst ever findings of the scale of child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom. It looks like large numbers of paedophiles got away with the mass sexual abuse of children.

An investigation into Lambeth Council’s children in care revealed that over 700 children had alleged they had been sexually abused and treated as worthless by council staff. And this is certainly an underestimate. The scandal continued from the 1960s right through to the late 1990s.

The report which only looked at five of the council’s closed homes makes incredibly grim reading. The report said:

Cruelty and sexual abuse ” hard to comprehend”

“It is hard to comprehend the cruelty and sexual abuse inflicted on children in the care of Lambeth Council over many years, by staff, by foster carers and their families, and by volunteers in residential settings. With one or two exceptions, a succession of elected members and senior professionals ought to have been held accountable for allowing this to happen, either by their active commission or complicit omission. Lambeth Council was only able to identify one senior Council employee, over the course of 40 years, who was disciplined for their part in this catalogue of sexual abuse.”

It goes on: “By June 2020, Lambeth Council was aware of 705 former residents of three children’s homes in this investigation (Shirley Oaks, South Vale and Angell Road) who have made complaints of sexual abuse. The biggest of these homes – Shirley Oaks – was the subject of allegations against 177 members of staff or individuals connected with the home, involving at least 529 former residents. It was closed in 1983.

“Frontline staff employed to care for these most vulnerable children frequently failed to take action when they knew about sexual abuse. In so many cases they showed little warmth or compassion towards the child victims, who were left to cope with the trauma of their abuse on their own. 

Hostile and abusive treatment of black children

…”There were many black children in Lambeth Council’s care. In Shirley Oaks in 1980, 57 percent of children in its care were black. During 1990 and 1991, 85 percent of children who lived at South Vale were black. Racism was evident in their hostile and abusive treatment by some staff.

” Shirley Oaks and South Vale were brutal places where violence and sexual assault were allowed to flourish. Angell Road systematically exposed children (including those under the age of five years) to sexual abuse. 

“Nor did foster care routinely provide a safe alternative for children in care. For many years, foster carers were not adequately vetted by the Council and were not the subject of criminal record checks.”

Some of the cases described are horrendous.

Children screaming at night while they were raped

“LA-A307 was taken to Shirley Oaks at the age of nine. He described hearing other children screaming at night and he himself routinely experienced violence and sexual assault, including being photographed whilst being raped.

LA-A147 was in the care of Lambeth Council in the 1990s and 2000s, from the age of three. Over ten years, she was placed in nine children’s homes and with four sets of foster carers. She described being raped by a foster carer’s teenage son at the age of nine, and was also frequently sexually abused by older men she met whilst in care. By the age of 13, she had developed a drug addiction and was “selling herself” to fund it.

LA-A2 was found dead in a bathroom at Shirley Oaks in 1977. Lambeth Council did not inform the coroner that he had alleged being sexually abused by Donald Hosegood, his ‘house father’. In the course of Hosegood’s employment at Shirley Oaks, six out of eight children looked after by him and his wife alleged sexual abuse by him.

LA-A7 described sexual abuse by three male members of staff, including two from South Vale. Two of them separately photographed him at their private homes when he was either naked or wearing only his underwear. One of them, Leslie Paul, was convicted of indecent assaults against LA-A7.”

Only six perpetrators prosecuted

Extraordinarily just SIX people have been successfully prosecuted by the police, meaning that hundreds of people must have got away with the vile sexual abuse of children.

All this took place against a background of fraud, corruption, racism, nepotism by both staff and some councillors. Those who tried to stop it were intimidated and threatened. The report shows even two chief executives, Herman Ouseley and Henry Gilby were the subject of intimidation.

Lord Ouseley – staff bugged his home and office when he was chief executive and his family was threatened

“Lord Ouseley described how both his office and home were ‘bugged’ at the instigation of one of his own staff. He also received threats to his family. Mr Gilby’s office was the subject of a serious arson attack. His home and office were broken into and computer records were stolen during a time when he was attempting to deal with corrupt practices. Dame Heather Rabbatts was Chief Executive from 1995 to 2000. She described how she inherited a Council with a culture of “fear and sexism and racism”. No witness identified which individuals or groups were the driving force behind this vicious and regressive culture, but there was little doubt that a succession of leading elected members were mainly responsible, aided and abetted in some instances by self-serving senior officials.”

The inquiry has decided to ask the Met Police to investigate whether there are grounds for a criminal investigation into Lambeth Council’s actions when providing information to the coroner about the circumstances surrounding LA-A2’s death.

Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, who is representing the sister of a teenage boy who killed himself in a care home after making allegations of abuse against staff member Donald Hosegood, told Mail On Line: ‘It is clear from today’s report that Lambeth Council deliberately withheld information from the coroner in order to give the impression that our client’s brother was happy in care.”

All in all this report shows why it was necessary to have a full scale inquiry into child sexual abuse – which despite naysayers trying to deny the extent of the problem – was obviously rampant in some parts of the country. The council has apologised .The real tragedy is that so many people have got away with it leaving their victims with broken lives.

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#FamilyLaw #ManufacturingRisk: More “Experts” Are Telling Us We Don’t Know How to Parent Our Own Children!

More “Experts” Are Telling Us We Don’t Know How to Parent Our Own Children | Dr LEON KOZIOLJD | Parenting Rights Institute | 22 July 2021

We’ve been doing it since the beginning of humanity, centuries upon centuries, raising our children against odds much greater than we face today. Yet, apparently, we still don’t have it right according to a growing number of self-appointed experts.

Okay, so there are a small percentage out there who are raising their children poorly. But is that any reason to generalize them to the vast majority who parent properly in an increasingly complex society? Who are these so-called experts, do they have any children of their own, can they cite parenting experience of a meaningful kind (not a substitute nanny or relative), and why are they obsessed with placing child authority over that of the real moms and dads?

These are only some of the questions that must be answered before these gurus can be allowed to troll for more legitimacy. Their pontifications for profit are only doing more harm than good as readers are duped into following their diverse advice. It’s all part of this New World Order, Hillary Clinton and her 1990s book, It Takes a Village (to raise our children).

Today that village takes on a number of new faces that include communism, socialism, crime infested neighborhoods and fringe reform groups rioting for causes they do not even understand. School districts constitute yet another “village” that is being targeted as children are programed to adopt evil ways like never before.

As parents struggling to protect our children from this evil and its tentacle-like expanse, how do we come to grips with the kind that appeared last week in a headline article of my local newspaper in upstate New York? It featured a federal court lawsuit brought by a victimized family against a county prosecutor who sent out gruesome photos of a staged teen murder to national documentary groups like CBS 48 Hours and even social media.

As the July 16, 2021 article goes in the (Utica) Observer Dispatch, this prosecutor, Scott McNamara, disseminated crime photos across state lines that showed a 17-year old girl in the process of being raped and stabbed to death by her boyfriend after returning from a concert. Even the bodily remains were included among those photos in an apparent attempt to gain national attention without official purpose.

The murderer was convicted in 2019, but that does not end the public inquiry. Where does this kind of twisted, murderous conduct originate? How does a young lover concoct such an elaborate and premeditated homicide with the sadistic pleasure of publishing his photos on the internet? And where does an adult prosecutor, a parent himself, find the audacity to disseminate such photos without so much as a motion for a limiting court order?

The answers are not yet in because the lawsuit is in its infancy, but you would think that the victimized family who commenced it had suffered enough. And that brings us to the “trillion” dollar question that we all face as parents: How do we protect our children at any age from this kind of heinous behavior? Well, here’s how the “experts” are answering us:

According to Maura Priest, a “candidate professor” at Arizona State University, “parents should lose their veto power over children going trans.” Parental supervision somehow became a veto power with deference to be given to children as young as six years of age. According to the relevant medical journal article first published on June 8, 2021, our government should defer to children’s wishes once it decides that they are “informed and competent.”

That defies the very definition of children. Why is anyone giving the time of day to this “candidate professor?” But that’s just the opening act to this scary trend. In another article in Buzzfeed published on July 10, 2021, staff writer Asia McLain writes that “People Are Revealing The Single Hardest Lesson For Parents To Learn About Raising Kids. And There’s So Much Truth Here.” Her subheading states: “You have to parent the kid you have, not the one you want.” She then goes on to enumerate her advice on how we should essentially comply with an inverted order of child rearing.

In prior posts here at http://www.leonkoziol.com, I warned of this New World Order and its agenda of institutionalizing parenthood much like education was over time. But maybe it was treated as fringe or futuristic. Well it’s too late for that conversation, because it is staring us in the face now. Our government is looking more and more like communism and tyranny every day. We’re just not taking these trends seriously enough, like it’s going to disappear all by itself.

I continue to trace much of this highly censored phenomenon to our highly lucrative divorce and family courts. This is where we are told that our government acting in the “best interests of our children” before they bankrupt us in a needless contest over that almighty and antiquated custody title. This contest leaves the same children devoid of college funds. Such New World thinking has been breeding suicides, murders, and domestic violence for decades, yielding such freaks as the killer of that 17-year old girl.

This is why we can never let our guard down as parents, even those of us alienated by this equally twisted court system that values lawyer profits and federal incentive funds over the true interests of our children. To that end, I have completed a book manuscript which will be published soon and available on various national book sites. It’s titled Whistleblower in Paris to document my horrific ordeal as an aggrieved parent and civil rights attorney.

Unfortunately I learned that the publishing industry can be as corrupt as the family court industry. But with a newly signed publishing contract, I can now offer an advanced hard copy of my new release with a contribution of $30 on this site. Your name and address will appear with your credit card payment and an autographed copy will follow by mail. Electronic versions will not be available for another two months.

Educate yourself to the realities of this parenting epidemic and the intrigue which can dominate any effort to reform a corrupt court system. Order your book now and spread the word as part of your civic obligation to circumvent the censorship of this valuable site and its vital message.

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Service to your country may cost you your children: Iraq war veteran on track for severe parental alienation

July 11, 2021

Refusal to Authorise Deprivation of Liberty

“This article in Community Care involving references to Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s national director for social care having urged DfE to distribute children’s homes funding ‘at pace’ to tackle secure place shortage

This study, by Cardiff University’s CASCADE centre, which found that of 527 children referred to the specialist facilities between 1 October 2016 and 31 March 2018, only 319 were placed in a secure children’s home with the rest ending up in alternative accommodation.

This report, which provides a picture of young people in England referred to secure accommodation for welfare reasons – their pathways; their placement in either a secure children’s home or alternative accommodation; and their outcomes following referral.

More than 220 groups have criticised UK review of Human Rights Act reported in The Guardian”

The High Court, in the face of no other option for, a 12 year old child ‘Y’, has had no alternative than to make a judgement not based on the child’s best interests as laid down by law, not having regard to the child’s welfare as the paramount consideration, but instead having to countenance “the lesser of two acknowledged evils” a hospital ward or the street.

Y was removed from his father’s care after reports of neglect and abuse, but the authority could not find an appropriate therapeutic care provision for him, given his significantly challenging and complex needs. Justice MacDonald found that despite the lack of a suitable alternative care arrangement for Y, the care regime being used in a hospital setting was not in his best interests, as it was ‘demeaning and … brutal’, and was therefore in breach of Y’s Article 5 rights under the European…

View original post 389 more words

#LIES by #UK #PM Boris #Johnson + #Ministers in the #Commons: July 2019 – December 2020 @OborneTweets @DawnButlerBrent #FoxesRunningTheHenhouse!!

A Selection of Misleading Statements Made by Boris Johnson & Ministers on the Floor of the House of Commons: July 2019 – December 2020 | Peter Oborne | BYLINE TIMES | 11 March 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA Images

“It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” ~ Ministerial Code

A selected list of misleading statements that Peter Oborne has sent to the Speaker of the House of Commons:


25 JULY 2019
“We kept [the murder rate in London] at fewer than 100 a year for four or five years running.”
Boris Johnson, first statement to the Commons as Prime Minister

The Metropolitan Police collects data on the number of homicides (murder, manslaughter and infanticide) and not murder specifically. We assume that Johnson is referring to homicide statistics.

However, official figures show that the number of homicides only fell below 100 once during his tenure as Mayor of London, to 95 in 2014. In his last full year in office, 2015, it was 120.


25 JULY 2019
“We reduced knife crime in London with a very active policy of stop and search.”
Boris Johnson, first statement to the Commons as Prime Minister

Johnson’s claim is contradicted by a Home Office impact assessment of Operation Blunt 2 – the crackdown on knife crime that began shortly after he became Mayor in 2008. While knife crime did come down during his time as Mayor, the assessment found that “there was no discernible crime-reducing effects from a large surge in stop and search activity at the borough level during the operation”.


22 OCTOBER 2019
“There will be no checks between NI and GB.”
Boris Johnson, House of Commons

Only the previous day, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay had said that paperwork would be required for goods sent between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Government’s own impact assessment on the Brexit withdrawal agreement states: “Goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be required to complete both import declarations and Entry Summary (ENS) Declarations because the UK will be applying the EU’s UCC (Union Custom Code) in Northern Ireland.”

Furthermore, in 2021, the first goods crossed the new trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK on 1 January, with lorries being met by officials and directed to new border control posts. Many food products from Great Britain now have to enter Northern Ireland through these border posts where they can be inspected by the Department of Agriculture. These products also need health certificates, though some of the new certification processes will be phased in over the next three months.


23 OCTOBER 2019
“They said that we would never get it through Parliament, and they did their utmost to stop it going through Parliament, but we got it through Parliament last night.”
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister’s Questions

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson claimed that he had got his Brexit withdrawal agreement through Parliament.

However, he was referring to the vote on its second reading. The Government then lost the vote on the timetable for passing the bill, which was subsequently pulled.

It is nonsensical to claim that passing one vote on a bill amounts to the bill passing through Parliament.


29 JANUARY 2020
“The SNP has not had a debate in its Parliament on education for two years.”
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister’s Questions

Since 29 January 2018, there have been six debates on motions about schools, two members’ business debates, and four statements by ministers followed by questions.

Topics covered have included subject choice, music tuition, reforms, Catholic schools and autistic children’s experiences of school.

The fact-checking organisation, Full Fact contacted Downing Street to ask for clarification, but did not receive a response.


29 JANUARY 2020
“The economy, under this Conservative Government, has grown by 73%.”
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister’s Questions

Under Conservative-led governments since 2010, the UK’s GDP has grown by around 20% (depending on exactly when in the year you start counting) – not 73% as Johnson said.

73% is how much the economy grew between 1990 and 2017, which comprised 13 years of Labour Government, more than 10 years of Conservative Government and five years of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government.

The fact-checking organisation Full Fact asked Number 10 to provide the data that could stand up Johnson’s claim, but received no response.


25 FEBRUARY 2020
“Life expectancy is rising.”
Matt Hancock, House of Commons

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, which calculates life expectancy on behalf of the UK pension industry, cut forecasted life expectancy by five months in last year’s analysis.

Furthermore, for the first time since the 1980s, we are seeing a slowdown in health improvements including a flatlining in life expectancy, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Compared with 2015, projections for life expectancy are now down by 13 months for men and 14 months for women. ONS figures also show that, in comparison with the 2016- based projections, cohort life expectancy at birth is 2.6 years lower for males and 2.7 years lower for females in 2043 than previously projected.

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams called for Matt Hancock to correct the record in February 2020. He is yet to do so.


4 MARCH 2020
“We have restored Nurses’ Bursary.”
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister’s Questions

This refers to legislation that was introduced in 1968 and provided a financial allowance to people who were studying for medical degrees.

While this Government will offer a new educational grant of £5,000 per year (increasing to £8,000 in some cases) for all nursing students on courses from September 2020, it is significantly less than the bursary system scrapped by the Conservative Party.

Under the system Johnson is referring to, which falls significantly short of what was previously offered, nursing students will still graduate with up to £60,000 worth of debt. Johnson’s claim that his Government has “restored” the bursary is misleading.


5 MAY 2020
“I think that the Right Hon. and learned Gentleman was right last week when he paid tribute to the amazing work of the NHS, the logistics team and everybody involved in getting up from 2,000 tests a day in March to 120,000 by the end of April.”
Boris Johnson, House of Commons

This echoed a claim made by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock at the daily Coronavirus press briefing, when he said that “the number of tests yesterday, on the last day of April, was 122,347”.

However, Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, suggested that these figures may be misleading because, instead of reflecting the actual numbers of tests carried out, they reflect how many tests were sent to people.

Professor Newton said: “For any tests which go outside of the control of the programme, they are counted as soon as they leave the programme. That’s for the tests that go out to people at home and in satellite centres.”

Of the 122,347 tests that the Government has said were completed on April 30, 27,497 were home tests and 12,872 were sent out to satellite sites. This suggests that just 81,978 of the tests were actually processed on this day.

The lack of clarity on tests was highlighted by the fact that the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, wrote to Hancock asking him to clarify whether his new target of 200,000 tests referred to testing capacity; tests that have been administered; test results receivedor the number of people tested.


13 MAY 2020
“It wasn’t true that the advice said that.”
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister’s Questions

Boris Johnson was responding to the following statement made by Labour Leader Keir Starmer: “Earlier this year, and until 12 March, the Government’s own official advice was, and I’m quoting from it, ‘it remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home will become infected’.”
https://www.youtube.com/embed/f4PeSRx8xbs?start=152&feature=oembed

Starmer was correct. Boris Johnson was misleading the Commons.

Government guidance published on 25 February twice stated that it was “very unlikely” that people receiving care in care homes or in the community would be infected with the new Coronavirus. This advice was withdrawn on 13 March and replaced with new guidance about what to do in the event of an outbreak at a care home or other supported living environment.

Starmer has since written to Johnson, asking him to correct the record in the House of Commons. Although Johnson responded to Starmer, he did not correct the record.


13 MAY 2020
“We brought in the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown.”
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister’s Questions

Boris Johnson claimed in the Commons that he brought in a lockdown on care homes before the rest of the country.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters later that day that he had been referring to Government advice to care homes, issued on 13 March. This advice, he said, was “recommending essential visits only, that obviously came before we took steps nationwide in relation to social distancing”. The Government issued a general lockdown order to the nation on 23 March.

However, there is no evidence that such a lockdown was ordered. Instead, the document from Public Health England advised care home providers to “review their visiting policy by asking no one to visit who has suspected COVID-19 or is generally unwell, and by emphasising good hand hygiene for visitors”. Balancing those restrictions, it said that care home policies “should also consider the wellbeing of residents, and the positive impact of seeing friends and family”.

Reuters, which spoke to three care home providers, said that there was “no evidence that any such early lockdown was ordered”.


20 MAY 2020
“The reality is that already 125,000 care home staff have been tested, 118,000 – perhaps he didn’t know that Mr Speaker – 118,000 care home workers have been tested and we are absolutely confident that we will be able to increase our testing not just in care homes but across the whole of the community.”
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister’s Questions

The Department of Health and Social Care clarified, when asked by fact-checking organisation FullFact, that these figures included staff in all care settings, not just care homes.

Furthermore, new transparency data, released on 16 July, included a section that specifically addressed the claims made by Johnson about the testing in care homes. This clearly showed that the figure of 125,000 (or, to be precise, 124,906) care workers relates to the number of tests done, rather than the number of people tested.

This is an important distinction because people often receive more than one test. Therefore, it is very likely that the actual number of people tested at this point was considerably lower than 125,000.

The Government’s own testing methodology notes: “For clinical reasons, some people are tested more than once. Therefore, the number of tests will be higher than the number of people tested.”


23 JUNE 2020
“No country currently has a functioning track and trace app.”
Boris Johnson, House of Commons

GermanyFranceAustraliaSingapore and Latvia, had already launched apps at the time of Johnson’s statement.


19 OCTOBER 2020
“There are many areas in which we can co-operate more effectively to safeguard our borders outside the European Union than we ever could inside. Through a variety of methods and arrangements open to us, open to Border Force and open to our security and intelligence services, we can intensify the security that we give to the British people.”
Michael Gove, House of Commons

However, as a result of Brexit, the UK no longer benefits from the same real-time sensitive data-sharing agreements and it has automatically forfeited its membership of Europol, Eurojust and the European Arrest Warrant.

Although the Brexit deal allows co-operation on security and policing issues, Brussels said that the UK will no longer have “direct, real-time access” to sensitive information.

Crucially, the UK has lost access to the EU’s Schengen Information System II (SIS II) database of alerts about wanted or missing people and items such as stolen firearms and vehicles.

Michael Gove was not telling the full truth.


2 NOVEMBER 2020
“In April, on schedule, we delivered the target of 100,000 tests a day.”
Matt Hancock, House of Commons

This figure is misleading.

Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, confirmed that tests that are sent to people at home or to satellite centres are counted at the point that they are sent, rather than when the tests are completed.

He said: “For any tests which go outside of the control of the programme, they are counted as soon as they leave the programme. That’s for the tests that go out to people at home and in satellite centres.”

According to Full Fact, “of the 122,347 tests that the Government has said were completed on April 30, 27,497 are home tests and 12,872 were sent out to satellite sites. This suggests that just 81,978 of the tests were actually processed”.

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#Pegasus: #Israeli #spyware was used to hack journalists’ phones – including staff at #FinancialTimes, #CNN, #AP + Arab royal families + politicians around the world!

Israeli spyware was used to hack journalists’ phones – including staff at Financial Times, CNN and AP – plus Arab royal families and politicians around the world RORY TINGLE FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and AFP | 18 July 2021

  • Software, called Pegasus, was developed by Israel’s NSO group, a private firm
  • List of more than 50,000 phone numbers included journalists and politicians 
  • Women on list close to murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi
  • Editor of the Financial Times Roula Khalaf also on list, reportedly UAE target

Activists, journalists and politicians around the world have been spied on using cellphone malware developed by a private Israeli firm, it emerged Sunday, igniting fears of widespread privacy and rights abuses.

The use of the software, called Pegasus and developed by Israel’s NSO group, was exposed in a data leak containing 50,000 phone numbers that belong to people targeted by NSO’s clients since 2016.

Among those clients are some of the world’s most-repressive government regimes, including Hungary, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco.

One of those targeted was Hanan Elatr, the wife of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by a Saudi hit squad in 2018

Her phone – as well as that of a second female associate – was allegedly targeted before his death. The leak appeared to confirm Saudi involvement in the murder.

Another key figure on the list was Roula Khalaf, who became the Financial Times’ first female editor last year, and according to The Guardian was selected as a potential target throughout 2018.

Analysis of the data suggests Khalaf’s phone was selected as a possible target by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while she was deputy editor at the Financial Times.  

One of those targeted was Hanan Elatr, the wife of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi (pictured together before Khashoggi was assassinated inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018)
One of those targeted was Hanan Elatr, the wife of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi (pictured together before Khashoggi was assassinated inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018)
Roula Khalaf (pictured), who became the Financial Times' first female editor last year, was selected as a potential target throughout 2018. Analysis of the data suggests Khalaf's phone was selected as a possible target by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while she was deputy editor at the Financial Times
Roula Khalaf (pictured), who became the Financial Times’ first female editor last year, was selected as a potential target throughout 2018. Analysis of the data suggests Khalaf’s phone was selected as a possible target by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while she was deputy editor at the Financial Times

The data was initially leaked to human rights group Amnesty and not-for-profit group Forbidden Stories, which helps promote the work of persecuted reporters.

It was then shared with a consortium of other newspapers, including the likes of the Washington Post whose journalists were targeted.

If a number appears on the leaked list, then it means that phone was targeted for hacking – though it cannot be conclusively proved whether the hack was successful.

However, Amnesty did confirm that at least 15 people on the list were successfully hacked after they handed over their phones to the group to be examined.

Among those confirmed cases were Siddharth Varadarajan and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, of Indian news site Wire, who have worked on stories about the Indian government spreading disinformation online. 

Omar Radi, a Moroccan journalist who has published repeated exposes of government corruption, was also among those successfully hacked. 

The data also shows that the phone of Mexican freelance journalist Cecilio Pineda Birto was also selected a month before he was murdered by gun-wielding attackers at a car wash. His phone was never found and it was not clear if it had been hacked. 

Another was award-winning Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who was confirmed to have been hacked in 2019. 

For years, she has reported on a network of corruption surrounding president Ilham Aliyev who has ruled since 2003.

As a result of her work, she has long been the target of a harassment and intimidation which has included a hidden camera being installed in her home and a 2014 arrest on alleged tax evasion and ‘illegal business’ offences.

‘I feel guilty for the sources who sent me [information], thinking that some encrypted messaging ways are secure. They did it and they didn’t know my phone was infected,’ Ismayilova told The Guardian.

‘My family members are also victimised, people I’ve been working with. People who told me their private secrets are victimised. It’s not just me.’ 

Devices that are successfully hacked by Pegasus are effectively turned into 24-hour monitoring devices, allowing whoever sent the virus to keep constant tabs on them.

Hackers are given full access to all the phone’s data, including previous text messages and contact lists, along with stored audio, video and photo files.

They are able to take over the phone’s camera to record video, turn on the microphone to record audio, and can record any new calls made or received.

Hackers can even access the phone’s location data to see where the owner has been and potentially who they met with. 

The revelations also appeared to confirm Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the murder of Khashoggi, who until his killing in 2018 was a Saudi Arabian journalist, author, columnist for The Washington Post and critic of the Saudi regime, an NSO client.

Based on leaked data and forensic analysis of phones, media outlets have found new evidence that the shows the company’s spyware was use in an attempt to monitor people close to the journalist before and after his death.

In one instance, a person close to Khashoggi was hacked four hays after his murder, according to forensic analysis of her device confirmed by multiple organisations.

The investigation suggests Saudi Arabia and its close ally the UAE attempted to use NSO’s technology to after Khashoggi’s death to monitor both his known associates and the Turkish investigation into his murder.

The phone of Istanbul’s chief prosecutor was even selected for possible surveillance.

Intelligence agencies in the US have already confirmed that Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for ordering the murder of Khashoggi. 

Among the numbers on the list are journalists for media organisations around the world including Agence France-Presse, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, France 24, Radio Free Europe, Mediapart, El País, the Associated Press, Le Monde, Bloomberg, the Economist, Reuters and Voice of America.

The use of the software to hack the phones of Al-Jazeera reporters and a Moroccan journalist has been reported previously by Citizen Lab, a research centre at the University of Toronto, and Amnesty International.   

The Washington Post said numbers on the list also belonged to heads of state and prime ministers, members of Arab royal families, diplomats and politicians, as well as activists and business executives. 

The list did not identify which clients had entered the numbers on it. But the reports said many were clustered in 10 countries – Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Guardian wrote that the investigation suggests ‘widespread and continuing abuse’ of Pegasus, which NSO says is intended for use against criminals and terrorists. 

A successful Pegasus hack would given NSO customers full access to all data stored on the targeted device. 

By hacking a journalist’s phone, for example, the customer could view their confidential sources, their address book, listen to their calls, track their movements precisely and even record their conversation by remotely activating the microphone.

Varadarajan, who was hacked in 2018 while he was investigating how the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi was using Facebook to spread disinformation among Indian citizens, told The Guardian he felt ‘violated’.

The phone number of Indian Journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, pictured in 2020, was among those on the Pegasus list. Varadarajan and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, of Indian news site Wire, have worked on stories about the Indian government spreading disinformation online
The phone number of Indian Journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, pictured in 2020, was among those on the Pegasus list. Varadarajan and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, of Indian news site Wire, have worked on stories about the Indian government spreading disinformation online
Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was confirmed to have been hacked in 2019. She has reported on a network of corruption surrounding president Ilham Aliyev who has ruled since 2003
Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was confirmed to have been hacked in 2019. She has reported on a network of corruption surrounding president Ilham Aliyev who has ruled since 2003
Mexican freelance journalist Cecilio Pineda Birto (pictured) was also selected a month before he was murdered by gun-wielding attackers at a car wash in 2017. His phone was never found and it was not clear if it had been hacked
Mexican freelance journalist Cecilio Pineda Birto (pictured) was also selected a month before he was murdered by gun-wielding attackers at a car wash in 2017. His phone was never found and it was not clear if it had been hacked

‘This is an incredible intrusion and journalists should not have to deal with this,’ he said. ‘Nobody should have to deal with this, but in particular journalists and those who are in some way working for the public interest.’   

Also included on the leaked records was a UK-based phone number belonging to American investigative journalist Bradley Hope, who at the time of his number being selected was working for the Wall Street Journal.

In 2018, Hope and his colleague Tim Wright contacted parties that would be named in their book about the 1MDB corruption scandal involving theft of $4.5bn from the state of Malaysia.

The released Pegasus records show that around the same time, one of NSO’s government clients began selecting Hope’s phone as a potential surveillance target, with his number being included on the list until the spring of 2019.

‘I think probably the number one thing that anyone targeting my phone would want to know is: who are my sources?’ Hope said to The Guardian. ‘They would want to know who it is that is providing this insight.’ 

Since then, Hope said that he regularly changes his mobile device, updates the operating system, and does not take his phone into high-risk countries such as the UAE, believed to be the government that selected him as a target. 

Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based media non-profit organisation, initially had access to the leak, which they then shared with media organisations.

NSO, a leader in the growing and largely unregulated private spyware industry, has previously pledged to police for abuses of its software.

It called the allegations exaggerated and baseless, according to The Washington Post, and would not confirm its clients’ identities.

Citizen Lab reported in December that dozens of journalists at Qatar’s Al-Jazeera network had their mobile communications intercepted by sophisticated electronic surveillance.

Amnesty International reported in June of last year that Moroccan authorities used NSO’s Pegasus software to insert spyware onto the cellphone of Omar Radi, a journalist convicted over a social media post.

Read more:


Pegasus: How powerful spyware used to hack journalists works 

Pegasus is a powerful piece of ‘malware’ – malicious computer software – developed by Israeli security firm NSO Group.

This particular form of malware is known as ‘spyware’, meaning it is designed to gather data from an infected device without the owner’s knowledge and forward it on to a third party.

While most spyware is limited in scope – harvesting data only from specific parts of an infected system – Pegasus appears much more powerful, allowing its controller near-unlimited access to and control over an infected device.

This includes accessing contact lists, emails, and text messages, along with stored photos, videos and audio files.

Pegasus can also be used to take control of the phone’s camera or microphone to record video and audio, and can access GPS data to check where the phone’s owner has been.

And it can also be used to record any new incoming or outgoing phone calls. 

Early versions of the virus infected phones using crude ‘phishing’ attacks in which users are conned into downloading the virus on to their own phones by clicking on a malicious link sent via text or email.

But researchers say the software has become much more sophisticated, exploiting vulnerabilities in common phone apps to launch so-called ‘zero-click’ attacks which can infect devices without the user doing anything.

For example, in 2019 WhatsApp revealed that 1,400 people had been infected by NSO Group software using a so-called ‘zero day’ fault – a previously unknown error – in the call function of the app.

Users were infected when a call was placed via WhatsApp to their phones, whether they answered the call or not.

More recently NSO has begun exploiting vulnerabilities in Apple’s iMessage software, giving it backdoor access to hundreds of millions of iPhones. 

Apple says it is continually updating its software to prevent such attacks, though human rights group Amnesty says it has uncovered successful attacks on even the most up-to-date iOS systems – carried out this month.

NSO Group says that Pegasus can also be installed on devices using wireless transceivers located near the target, or can be booted directly on to the device if it is stolen first.  

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#Undemocratic #Unethical #Pegasus #Spyware #Surveillance #Espionage #CriminalState #Israel: What is #PEGASUS + how does it hack phones?

What is Pegasus spyware and how does it hack phones? | David Pegg & Sam Cutler | THE GUARDIAN | 18 Jul 2021

NSO Group software can record your calls, copy your messages and secretly film you

Pegasus can infect a phone through ‘zero-click’ attacks, which do not require any interaction from the phone’s owner to succeed.
Pegasus can infect a phone through ‘zero-click’ attacks, which do not require any interaction from the phone’s owner to succeed. Composite: AFP via Getty

It is the name for perhaps the most powerful piece of spyware ever developed – certainly by a private company. Once it has wormed its way on to your phone, without you noticing, it can turn it into a 24-hour surveillance device. It can copy messages you send or receive, harvest your photos and record your calls. It might secretly film you through your phone’s camera, or activate the microphone to record your conversations. It can potentially pinpoint where you are, where you’ve been, and who you’ve met.

Pegasus is the hacking software – or spyware – that is developed, marketed and licensed to governments around the world by the Israeli company NSO Group. It has the capability to infect billions of phones running either iOS or Android operating systems.

The earliest version of Pegasus discovered, which was captured by researchers in 2016, infected phones through what is called spear-phishing – text messages or emails that trick a target into clicking on a malicious link.

Quick Guide

What is in the Pegasus project data?

What is in the data leak?

The data leak is a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that, since 2016, are believed to have been selected as those of people of interest by government clients of NSO Group, which sells surveillance software. The data also contains the time and date that numbers were selected, or entered on to a system. Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit journalism organisation, and Amnesty International initially had access to the list and shared access with 16 media organisations including the Guardian. More than 80 journalists have worked together over several months as part of the Pegasus project. Amnesty’s Security Lab, a technical partner on the project, did the forensic analyses.

What does the leak indicate?

The consortium believes the data indicates the potential targets NSO’s government clients identified in advance of possible surveillance. While the data is an indication of intent, the presence of a number in the data does not reveal whether there was an attempt to infect the phone with spyware such as Pegasus, the company’s signature surveillance tool, or whether any attempt succeeded. The presence in the data of a very small number of landlines and US numbers, which NSO says are “technically impossible” to access with its tools, reveals some targets were selected by NSO clients even though they could not be infected with Pegasus. However, forensic examinations of a small sample of mobile phones with numbers on the list found tight correlations between the time and date of a number in the data and the start of Pegasus activity – in some cases as little as a few seconds.

What did forensic analysis reveal?

Amnesty examined 67 smartphones where attacks were suspected. Of those, 23 were successfully infected and 14 showed signs of attempted penetration. For the remaining 30, the tests were inconclusive, in several cases because the handsets had been replaced. Fifteen of the phones were Android devices, none of which showed evidence of successful infection. However, unlike iPhones, phones that use Android do not log the kinds of information required for Amnesty’s detective work. Three Android phones showed signs of targeting, such as Pegasus-linked SMS messages.

Amnesty shared “backup copies” of four iPhones with Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto that specialises in studying Pegasus, which confirmed that they showed signs of Pegasus infection. Citizen Lab also conducted a peer review of Amnesty’s forensic methods, and found them to be sound.

Which NSO clients were selecting numbers?

While the data is organised into clusters, indicative of individual NSO clients, it does not say which NSO client was responsible for selecting any given number. NSO claims to sell its tools to 60 clients in 40 countries, but refuses to identify them. By closely examining the pattern of targeting by individual clients in the leaked data, media partners were able to identify 10 governments believed to be responsible for selecting the targets: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Citizen Lab has also found evidence of all 10 being clients of NSO.

What does NSO Group say?

You can read NSO Group’s full statement here. The company has always said it does not have access to the data of its customers’ targets. Through its lawyers, NSO said the consortium had made “incorrect assumptions” about which clients use the company’s technology. It said the 50,000 number was “exaggerated” and that the list could not be a list of numbers “targeted by governments using Pegasus”. The lawyers said NSO had reason to believe the list accessed by the consortium “is not a list of numbers targeted by governments using Pegasus, but instead, may be part of a larger list of numbers that might have been used by NSO Group customers for other purposes”.

They said it was a list of numbers that anyone could search on an open source system. After further questions, the lawyers said the consortium was basing its findings “on misleading interpretation of leaked data from accessible and overt basic information, such as HLR Lookup services, which have no bearing on the list of the customers’ targets of Pegasus or any other NSO products … we still do not see any correlation of these lists to anything related to use of NSO Group technologies”. 

Following publication, they explained that they considered a “target” to be a phone that was the subject of a successful or attempted (but failed) infection by Pegasus, and reiterated that the list of 50,000 phones was too large for it to represent “targets” of Pegasus. They said that the fact that a number appeared on the list was in no way indicative of whether it had been selected for surveillance using Pegasus. 

What is HLR lookup data?

The term HLR, or home location register, refers to a database that is essential to operating mobile phone networks. Such registers keep records on the networks of phone users and their general locations, along with other identifying information that is used routinely in routing calls and texts. Telecoms and surveillance experts say HLR data can sometimes be used in the early phase of a surveillance attempt, when identifying whether it is possible to connect to a phone. The consortium understands NSO clients have the capability through an interface on the Pegasus system to conduct HLR lookup inquiries. It is unclear whether Pegasus operators are required to conduct HRL lookup inquiries via its interface to use its software; an NSO source stressed its clients may have different reasons – unrelated to Pegasus – for conducting HLR lookups via an NSO system.

Since then, however, NSO’s attack capabilities have become more advanced. Pegasus infections can be achieved through so-called “zero-click” attacks, which do not require any interaction from the phone’s owner in order to succeed. These will often exploit “zero-day” vulnerabilities, which are flaws or bugs in an operating system that the mobile phone’s manufacturer does not yet know about and so has not been able to fix.

In 2019 WhatsApp revealed that NSO’s software had been used to send malware to more than 1,400 phones by exploiting a zero-day vulnerability. Simply by placing a WhatsApp call to a target device, malicious Pegasus code could be installed on the phone, even if the target never answered the call. More recently NSO has begun exploiting vulnerabilities in Apple’s iMessage software, giving it backdoor access to hundreds of millions of iPhones. Apple says it is continually updating its software to prevent such attacks.

Technical understanding of Pegasus, and how to find the evidential breadcrumbs it leaves on a phone after a successful infection, has been improved by research conducted by Claudio Guarnieri, who runs Amnesty International’s Berlin-based Security Lab.

“Things are becoming a lot more complicated for the targets to notice,” said Guarnieri, who explained that NSO clients had largely abandoned suspicious SMS messages for more subtle zero-click attacks.

For companies such as NSO, exploiting software that is either installed on devices by default, such as iMessage, or is very widely used, such as WhatsApp, is especially attractive, because it dramatically increases the number of mobile phones Pegasus can successfully attack.

As the technical partner of the Pegasus project, an international consortium of media organisations including the Guardian, Amnesty’s lab has discovered traces of successful attacks by Pegasus customers on iPhones running up-to-date versions of Apple’s iOS. The attacks were carried out as recently as July 2021.

Forensic analysis of the phones of victims has also identified evidence suggesting NSO’s constant search for weaknesses may have expanded to other commonplace apps. In some of the cases analysed by Guarnieri and his team, peculiar network traffic relating to Apple’s Photos and Music apps can be seen at the times of the infections, suggesting NSO may have begun leveraging new vulnerabilities.

Where neither spear-phishing nor zero-click attacks succeed, Pegasus can also be installed over a wireless transceiver located near a target, or, according to an NSO brochure, simply manually installed if an agent can steal the target’s phone.

Once installed on a phone, Pegasus can harvest more or less any information or extract any file. SMS messages, address books, call history, calendars, emails and internet browsing histories can all be exfiltrated.

“When an iPhone is compromised, it’s done in such a way that allows the attacker to obtain so-called root privileges, or administrative privileges, on the device,” said Guarnieri. “Pegasus can do more than what the owner of the device can do.”

Lawyers for NSO claimed that Amnesty International’s technical report was conjecture, describing it as “a compilation of speculative and baseless assumptions”. However, they did not dispute any of its specific findings or conclusions.

NSO has invested substantial effort in making its software difficult to detect and Pegasus infections are now very hard to identify. Security researchers suspect more recent versions of Pegasus only ever inhabit the phone’s temporary memory, rather than its hard drive, meaning that once the phone is powered down virtually all trace of the software vanishes.

One of the most significant challenges that Pegasus presents to journalists and human rights defenders is the fact that the software exploits undiscovered vulnerabilities, meaning even the most security-conscious mobile phone user cannot prevent an attack.

“This is a question that gets asked to me pretty much every time we do forensics with somebody: ‘What can I do to stop this happening again?’” said Guarnieri. “The real honest answer is nothing.”

Topics

The Pegasus project

The Pegasus project is a special investigation into NSO Group, which sells hacking spyware to governments

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Pegasus’ NSO “7” aka Q Cyber Technologies, et al

“Developers and owners of notoriously controversial Spyware “#PEGASUS”: Founded in 2010 by Niv Carmi, Omri Lavie, and Shalev Hulio, ie Company name “NSO” – based on first name initials (Niv Carmi allegedly quit company in initial stages of development).”

HUMANS 4 HUMAN RIGHTS

NSO Group Technologies Ltd. – which also goes by Q Cyber Technologies – (private company) – Developers and owners of notoriously controversial Spyware “PEGASUS”:

Founded in 2010 by Niv Carmi, Omri Lavie, and Shalev Hulio, ie Company name “NSO” – based on first name initials (Niv Carmi allegedly quit company in initial stages of development).

Located in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.

Board of directors:

1. SHALEV HULIO

2. OMRI LAVIE

3. STEFAN KOWSKI, is a Founding Partner at Novalpina Capital, an independent European Investment Firm, (private equity firm) registered in Westminster, London.

4. STEPHEN PEEL, is a Founding Partner at Novalpina Capital.

5. GÜNTER SCHMID, is a Senior Advisor to Novalpina Capital and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Olympic Entertainment Group AS.

6. MICKAEL BETITO, is a Principal at Novalpina Capital.

7. GERHARD SCHMIDT, is the Managing Partner of the German offices of the international law firm Weil, Gotshal…

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