Shutting them up. That’s what it’s about. The hangman’s drop – the crackle of the firing squad – and their secrets go to the grave.
Saddam Hussein didn’t get the chance to tell us about his dealings with the US and German companies who provided the gas he used on the Kurds. And now Gaddafi’s spymaster Abdullah al-Senussi will be shot in Libya before he has a chance to tell us about the cosy relationship he had with our Western security services when he liaised between his boss the CIA and MI6.
Not surprising, is it – despite Amnesty’s outrage at the charade of a trial and the UN human rights office being ‘deeply disturbed’ by the sentences – that the Brits and Americans have not batted an eyelid since Senussi – Gaddafi’s son Saif and a bunch of other regime cohorts were sentenced to death last week without defence counsel or testimony or documents or witnesses?
All those secret nudge-nudge agreements between Gaddafi’s odious torturers and our intelligence services will remain safe for ever. So everything is hunky-dory. Thank God for Libyan ‘justice’.
The war on terror – that campaign without end launched 14 years ago by George Bush – is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions. On Monday the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting.
The prosecution abandoned the case – apparently to avoid embarrassing the intelligence services. The defence argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an ‘affront to justice’ when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing ‘extensive support’ to the armed Syrian opposition.
That didn’t only include the ‘non-lethal assistance’ boasted of by the government (including body armour and military vehicles) – but training, logistical support and the secret supply of ‘arms on a massive scale’. Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a “rat line” of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.
Clearly the absurdity of sending someone to prison for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves became too much. But it’s only the latest of a string of such cases. Less fortunate was a London cab driver Anis Sardar, who was given a life sentence a fortnight earlier for taking part in 2007 in resistance to the occupation of Iraq by US and British forces. Armed opposition to illegal invasion and occupation clearly doesn’t constitute terrorism or murder on most definitions – including the Geneva convention.
But terrorism is now squarely in the eye of the beholder. And nowhere is that more so than in the Middle East – where today’s terrorists are tomorrow’s fighters against tyranny – and allies are enemies – often at the bewildering whim of a western policymaker’s conference call.
Google – Facebook – and other big internet companies will be forced to hand over encrypted conversations of suspected terrorists and criminals under plans to bolster surveillance powers in Britain.
New laws will require applications to hand messages sent by their users to MI5 – MI6 – and GCHQ – if they are under investigation.
The power will be included in an Investigatory Powers Bill which will overhaul the spy agencies’ ability to monitor suspects.
The Bill – announced in the Queen’s Speech – will revive the so-called ‘snoopers’ charter’ but is much wider than previously planned.
The Conservatives are pushing ahead with legislation blocked by the Liberal Democrats. The Government has promised to ‘address ongoing capability gaps’ that it says hinder the ability of the security services to fight terrorism and other serious crime.
It will also seek to allow the intelligence agencies to ‘target’ the communications of terrorists – paedophiles – and serious criminals.
The Tories said they would also push ahead with plans to allow Ofcom to take ‘tough measures’ against broadcasters that air interviews with extremists.
Schools – nurseries – and organisations working with children will be able to check whether a potential member of staff is an extremist.
The security and intelligence agencies are concerned that the encryption of conversations is now so sophisticated that they cannot discover what suspects are planning.