Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What happened to David Shayler?

In 1997, David Shayler, a former member of MI5 (the UK's internal "intelligence" "service"), became a whistleblower, claiming to the Mail on Sunday that British "intelligence" "services" had, in 1996, paid money to assassinate Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi.

Thanks to our government's fantastic media-gagging powers, us lowly British proles had to hear about this from other countries' media. The British media was not even able to report that it had been gagged.

Because of the gagging of the British press, Shayler was not able to make a public interest argument, nor have his case heard in full publicly. Interestingly, it was our old authoritarian pals, David Blunkett and Jack Straw who signed the 'Public Interest Immunity certificates'. This is interesting because Straw, and other now senior Labour figures, had almost certainly been on the receiving end of domestic intelligence attention during their supposedly radical past. This kind of targetting of left wing individuals and groups has been comprehensively documented by Robin Ramsay over the years in his excellent journal, 'Lobster'. Straw was also the person to whom Shayler originally sent his dossier of evidence behind the allegations.

Because of cases like that of Katherine Gunn, many people seem to suppose that our "intelligence" agents have whistleblowing rights. They don't.

And if the following piece of reporting from the Australian paper, 'The Age' doesn't send a shudder up your spine, I don't know what will:

The British media widely reported on Monday that lawyers acting for Mr Shayler had accused the government of trying to "intimidate" Justice Moses. But on Tuesday the newspapers - many of which had mounted their own legal case against the application of the certificates - reported simply that the court had heard legal arguments relating to Mr Shayler's trial. "The judge ruled that they (the legal arguments) cannot be reported," The Guardian reported.
After the judge's ruling on Monday, several articles detailing Mr Shayler's anticipated evidence - and the government's efforts to keep it secret - were withdrawn from newspaper websites across the country.

Right from Shayler's original breaking of the story, through his flight to France, the attempted extradition and through to 2000 with his trial and conviction, one had the distinct impression that he was seen as a credible whistleblower. Even by the BBC (though, admittedly this was at the time the Tories were just passing the baton to ZanuLab, before it became such an obvious state propaganda machine).

Then something odd occurred.

Shayler got involved in the 9/11 Truth Movement. Now this covers a great many people, many of whom hold divergent and varying views, with equally varying scholarly or investigatory credentials. He didn't join the 'moderate' end of the group however, perhaps investigating the money trail, or supposed intelligence failures. Instead he dived straight into the 'No Plane' and 'Hologram' theories. He not only became an instant write off for whistleblower-watchers; he was also accused by others in the 9/11 Truth Movement of being a state agitator, who's modus operandi was to discredit the moderate 9/11 Truth elements. Given his background it doesn't seem an unreasonable accusation.

Yet the entire episode seems completely bizaare.

In early interviews Shayler came across as calm, articulate and critical. The treatment he received by the government and level of access he was given by the media meant he could have remained a staunch and credible critic of the government even once he begun moving beyond his particular areas of knowledge or expertise. This is the path other whistleblowers such as Craig Murray have taken.

Yet he chose to align himself with an incredibly derided group, derided even by other people who are furiously anti-government and critical of state and media. When you see the early Shayler, you don't see someone who in a few years, is likely to be promulgating the idea that no planes hit the WTC, only holograms.

Yet it gets worse. Much more recently, he has taken an even more bizaare turn. A few years after joining the Truthers, he then announces, in a very Ickean fashion, that he is the Son of God.

Sidenote on Icke: I met Icke a few years back, shortly after he returned from his U.S. adventures. He began promulgating the lizards idea shortly after this trip, seemingly having picked the idea up from some odd Americans. This, it turns out, is Icke's perpetual pattern. I happen to know three people he has received information and evidence from over the years (all three also have very different perspectives and backgrounds). What was striking is that he repeated almost verbatim, in his books and talks, whatever the person, or people he was spending time with at that moment were telling him. This explains the various phases he has had - flip flopping for example between anti-semitism and repudiation of anti-semitism; it was a reflection of the people who surrounded him at the time.

He came across as someone who was dangerously gullible, who also was able to present these ideas with a tremendous air of authority because of his feeling that he had 'inside connections'.

Here's the problem: Some of the things Icke has said and published are true. (N.B. I'm NOT talking about the lizards here....). I can vouch for three of his sources, though their contributions only cover quite a modest part of his various claims and theories. Yet its easy to discredit the lot in one go and even be wary of being associated with his more plausible claims - I was wary myself of writing the last three paragraphs because of this automatic association.

So it's here I find the comparisons with Shayler quite disturbing. Whilst Icke has been like a kite, bouncing around in whatever direction the prevailing winds took him, Shayler was more like a tree, rooted solidly at first, then suddenly caught by a hurricane, roots ripped out, and tossed into a stinking swamp. I can't help but ask what happened to either, or both men. The messianic turn in particular makes my head hurt. It was like Shayler had his bolt of truth right at the start, shot his load, then came up empty. Icke, not being a whistleblower, was like an empty vessel just waiting to be filled.

Whistleblowers like Murray and Edmonds have certainly been through some seriously tough times. Edmonds was more or less ignored by the MSM whilst her government engaged in an unprecedented level of censorship whilst Murray was purposefully driven out of his job and painted as mentally ill by his previous employers and colleagues. Both have been 'through the wars', and yet managed to come out the other side as prominent, and critically minded thorns in their respective governments' sides. What went wrong with Shayler? What prompted Icke to have a funny turn and suddenly become some kind of "conspiracy prophet"? There's no doubt that life is very difficult for whistleblowers or high profile dissidents after taking their stand, especially in employment terms. Yet as the likes of Murray and Edmonds have shown, its still entirely possible to get one's life together again.

And let's not forget the Panorama episode that almost wasn't from way back in 1998.

The British government has since expanded its powers of censorship - one can only wonder what else has escaped attention in the last, trying, decade. And that's only counting actual cases of 'hard stops' by the government - how much more of a chilling effect has this had more generally? I know I regularly excoriate the media for being useless self-censoring clowns, but when dangerous criminals such as Peter and Paul Griffin can win libel cases against the Guardian and the BBC, despite British Customs holding damning, smoking gun, evidence and the U.S. slapping sanctions on them, I can at least see mitigating factors (that's not an excuse by the way if any of you yellow bellies are reading - do your f**king job already instead of leaving it to us bloggers FFS....)

No comments: