Dear Great Britain – Blame Your Intelligence Agencies & Government, Not The Internet
But, as Liberty Blitzkrieg’s Mike Krieger notes, the dishonest and dangerous response of Theresa May’s UK government to the horrific terrorist attacks of the past month is unfortunately all too common when it comes to those in power.
Rather than look inward at the glaring shadiness and corruption inherent throughout UK government polices, its “leaders” are looking to use these barbaric acts as a excuse to push through an authoritarian and illiberal expansion of state power. Specifically, Theresa May’s government is despicably using the attacks to push for regulation and censorship of the internet.
As reported by the Independent:
New international agreements should be introduced to regulate the internet in the light of the London Bridge terror attack, Theresa May has said.
The Prime Minister said introducing new rules for cyberspace would “deprive the extremists of their safe spaces online” and that technology firms were not currently doing enough.
“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide,” Ms May said.
The Conservative manifesto pledges regulation of the internet, including forcing internet providers to participate in counter-extremism drives and making it more difficult to access pornography.
Silly me, I thought this was about terrorism.
The Act, championed by Ms May, requires internet service providers to maintain a list of visited websites for all internet users for a year and gives intelligence agencies more powers to intercept online communications. Police can access the stored browsing history without any warrant or court order.
Ms May’s speech is thought to be the first time she has publicly called for international cooperation in bringing forward more red tape to cyberspace, however.
The intervention comes after the introduction of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 – dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter” – which expands the powers of spying agencies and the Government over the internet.
It’s important to understand that May’s government was aggressively pushing for internet censorship well before both the recent terror attacks. For example, here’s some of what I highlighted in last month’s post, UK Government Moves Aggressively to Censor and Control the Internet:
Theresa May is planning to introduce huge regulations on the way the internet works, allowing the government to decide what is said online.
Particular focus has been drawn to the end of the manifesto, which makes clear that the Tories want to introduce huge changes to the way the internet works.
“Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet,” it states. “We disagree.”
It would be bad enough if the UK government was actually doing its best to prevent terrorist attacks, but harsh reality paints precisely the opposite picture. Moreover, today’s post proves without a doubt that the UK government is not only in bed with terrorists, but seems to be actively covering it up.
In that regard, over the weekend I read one of the most disturbing and enlightening pieces on just how complicit UK intelligence agencies are when it comes to supporting terrorism and allowing terrorists to come back to Great Britain.
The piece is a collaboration between Nafeez Ahmed and Mark Curtis, and is a lengthy must read. It’s titled, The Manchester Bombing: Blowback from British State Collusion with Jihadists Abroad. Prepare to be outraged:
(This briefing will be updated as more evidence emerges. Sources are overwhelmingly from mainstream media, except where clearly stated).
The evidence suggests that the barbaric Manchester bombing, which killed 22 innocent people on May 22nd, is a case of blowback on British citizens arising at least partly from the overt and covert actions of British governments. The British state therefore has a serious case to answer. We focus primarily here on UK policies towards Libya but also touch on some of those related to Iraq and Syria.
In summary, the evidence so far shows that there are six inter-related aspects of blowback:
- Salman Abedi and his father were members of a Libyan dissident group—the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)—covertly supported by the UK to assassinate Qadafi in 1996. At this time, the LIFG was an affiliate of Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and LIFG leaders had various connections to this terror network.
- Members of the LIFG were facilitated by the British ‘security services’ to travel to Libya to fight Qadafi in 2011. Both Salman Abedi and his father, Ramadan, were among those who travelled to fight at this time (although there is no evidence that their travel was personally facilitated or encouraged by the security services).
- A large number of LIFG fighters in Libya in 2011 had earlier fought alongside the Islamic State of Iraq—the al-Qaeda entity which later established a presence in Syria and became the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These fighters were among those recruited into the British-backed anti-Qadafi rebellion.
- UK covert action in Libya in 2011 included approval of and support to Qatar’s arming and backing of opposition forces, which included support to hardline Islamist groups; this fuelled jihadism in Libya.
- One of the groups armed/supported by Qatar in 2011 was the February 17th Martyrs Brigade which, some reports suggest, was the organisation which Ramadan Abedi joined in 2011 to fight Qadafi.
- Qatar’s arms supplies to Libya in 2011 also found their way to Islamist fighters in Syria, including groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The evidence points to the LIFG being seen by the UK as a proxy militia to promote its foreign policy objectives. Whitehall also saw Qatar as a proxy to provide boots on the ground in Libya in 2011, even as it empowered hardline Islamist groups.
Both David Cameron, then Prime Minister, and Theresa May—who was Home Secretary in 2011 when Libyan radicals were encouraged to fight Qadafi—clearly have serious questions to answer. We believe an independent public enquiry is urgently needed.
This combination of Anglo-American policies across the region has contributed to further instability and the rise of violent jihadism. In fact, an even stronger conclusion may be warranted based on the evidence of the extent of UK covert and overt action in the region in alliance with states consistently supplying arms to terrorist groups: that agencies of the British government itself have, in some senses, become part of the broader ‘terrorist network’ with which the British public is now confronted.
That was just part of the summary. Here’s some stuff from the heart of the piece:
The Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, then aged 16, is reported to have fought against the Qadafi regime with his father Ramadan in the uprising of 2011. The group that Salman Abedi joined, fighting alongside his father, was reportedly the LIFG. Ramadan Abedi is reported as having been a prominent member of the LIFG, which he joined in 1994.
Leaders in the LIFG had fought together in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, helping the Afghan mujahidin to overthrow the Soviet-backed government in Kabul. The British government and CIA then covertly supported the mujahidin.
In the mid to late 1990s, the LIFG was most active in the eastern province of Cyrenaica, was involved in violent clashes with the Benghazi police, and attempted to assassinate Qadafi. In 1996, there is evidence, now widely-known, that MI6 funded an operation to assassinate Qadafi using the LIFG. (See Box 2) The plot failed but the LIFG continued its violence in eastern Libya and sent fighters to at least two military training camps in Sudan in 1996, in which al-Qaeda was also present, thus helping the LIFG make contacts with al-Qaeda.
When Qadafi clamped down on the LIFG following the assassination attempt, the UK gave refuge to some of its members and dozens were allowed to settle in Britain.
By the end of the 1990s, LIFG activity had slowed drastically and many LIFG members relocated to join al-Qaeda. In 2001, the US Treasury Department listed LIFG as a foreign terrorist organisation linked to al-Qaeda. In 2002, LIFG’s al-Qaeda ties came under increasing scrutiny when Anas al-Libi, a senior LIFG commander and companion of Osama bin Laden, was detained by US forces for the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In May 2003, the LIFG reportedly worked with the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GCIM) to plan five synchronised suicide bombings that killed 45 people in Casablanca, Morocco.
LIFG members played a key role in the opposition forces that toppled Qadafi in 2011. But Britain also facilitated the flow of LIFG dissidents from the UK to fight Qadafi. It also approved massive arms supplies to the opposition to Qadafi by Qatar, much of which went to hardline Islamist groups.
Middle East Eye has reported that the British government operated an ‘open door’ policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Qadafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders. Several former rebel fighters now back in the UK told Middle East Eye that they had been able to travel to Libya with ‘no questions asked’. These dissident were then members of the LIFG and most were from Manchester. One said that, as he was travelling back to Libya in May 2011, he was approached by two counter-terrorism police officers in the departure lounge who told him that if he was going to fight he would be committing a crime. But after providing them with the name and phone number of an MI5 officer he had spoken to previously, and following a quick phone call to him, he was waved through. As he waited to board the plane, he said the same MI5 officer called him to tell him that he had “sorted it out”.
The Daily Mail reported that:
“when they returned to the UK, having spent months alongside groups thought by British intelligence to have links with Al-Qaeda, rebels were said to have been allowed back into the country without hesitation.”
The Daily Mail also reported:
“Libyan officials have backed up the claims, saying the British government were ‘fully aware’ of young men being sent to fight, turning the North African country into an ‘exporter of terror’”.
Peter Oborne, also writing in the Mail, has written that Libyan dissidents were “undoubtedly encouraged” to travel to Libya to oust Qadafi and that this was with the “encouragement of MI6” which released terror suspects from control orders.
Read that over and over and over again. And the solution is to regulate the internet? What a complete joke.
Abdelhakim Belhaj, was LIFG’s emir from 1995 to 2010. In 1998, when LIFG members fled to Afghanistan to help the Taliban, Belhaj developed close relationships with Taliban chief Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda leaders. He also wrote a glowing letter of support to the al-Qaeda mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing. Yet Belhaj would go on to become a military commander for the NATO-backed National Transition Council in Tripoli to bring down Qadafi in 2011.
During the 2011 war, the Gulf state of Qatar armed the Libyan opposition and in the process supported various hardline Islamist groups. Britain specifically backed the Qatari role in arming the opposition and worked closely with Qatar, supporting its provision of arms and support to fighters on the ground. Indeed, there is evidence that the Qatari role in Libya was specifically proposed by Britain. Qatari arms went to Islamist groups such as the 17 February Martyrs Brigade, a militia comprised in part by Islamist fighters who had fought against Qadafi. Qatari support also went to Rafallah al-Sehati, a group whose extremists later broke away to form Ansar al-Shariah, the militant group that played a role in the death of the American ambassador, Christopher Stevens (see Box 5).
The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilising force since the fall of the Qadafi regime.
It was also reported that Sufyan Ben Qumu, a Libyan army veteran who worked for Osama bin Laden’s holding company in Sudan and later for an al-Qaeda-linked charity in Afghanistan, ran the training of many of Darnah’s rebel recruits. Qumu spent six years at Guantanamo Bay before he was turned over to Libyan custody in 2007; he was released, along with al-Hasidi, from a Libyan prison in 2008 as part of Libya’s reconciliation with the LIFG. Al-Hasidi, who had fought against the US in Afghanistan in 2001, had been arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and turned over to the US, imprisoned probably at the US base at Bagram, Afghanistan, and then mysteriously released. The US Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg, told Congressmen he would speak of al-Hasidi’s career only in a closed session.
Other commentators recognised the Islamist nature of some of the rebels. Noman Benotman, a former member of the LIFG who had fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, estimated that there were 1,000 jihadists fighting in Libya. Sir Richard Dearlove observed that the rebel stronghold of Benghazi was “rather fundamentalist in character” and Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said that US intelligence had picked up “flickers” of terrorist activity among the rebel groups; this was described by senior British government figures as “very alarming”. Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said in parliament that since there was evidence of the presence of al-Qaeda-linked forces among the rebels, Britain should “proceed with very real caution” in arming them. In response, Foreign Secretary William Hague downplayed the concern, saying that
“Of course we want to know about any links with al-Qaeda, as we do about links with any organisations anywhere in the world, but given what we have seen of the interim transitional national council in Libya, I think it would be right to put the emphasis on the positive side”.
Look how that turned out.
They were “more antidemocratic, more hardline, closer to an extreme version of Islam” than the main rebel alliance in Libya, said a former Defense Department official’. Qatar’s chief-of-staff, Major-General Hamad bin Ali al-Atiya, later said: “We acted as the link between the rebels and NATO forces”. Qatar also played a key role alongside Britain in the ‘Libya contact group’ that coordinated policy against the Qadafi regime; the first meeting of the group, in April 2011, for example, was convened by Qatar and co-chaired by Britain in Doha..
As the New York Times reported: ‘The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilising force since the fall of the Qaddafi government”.Indeed, some of Qatar’s arms were subsequently moved from Libya to militants in Syria and Mali.
NATO’s intervention in Libya effectively created the conditions by which the country became a safe haven for jihadists sympathetic to al-Qaeda and ISIS, despite doctrinal disagreements. Far from the LIFG having been simply “deradicalised” as it had claimed in 2009, the documentary and public record evidence suggests that significant numbers of LIFG members remained sympathetic to the violent Islamist cause.
A large number of LIFG fighters in Libya in 2011 had earlier fought alongside the Islamic State of Iraq—the al-Qaeda entity which later established a presence in Syria and became the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS (and later the Islamic State). They were then recruited into the British-backed anti-Qadafi rebellion.
Box 7: Arming the Syrian jihad
Document releases under FOIA from the Pentagon and Department of State show that the CIA was well aware of how weapons from anti-Qadafi rebels in Benghazi were covertly shipped to Islamist rebels in Syria by the Gulf states and Turkey.
A September 2012 Pentagon Defence Intelligence Agency document confirmed that the Gulf states and Turkey, with Western support, were supporting Syrian rebel groups consisting of “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq].” Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s role among “the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” was noted in the context of anticipating that the support would lead to the creation of a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria. The document even predicted the possibility that al-Qaeda in Iraq’s main vehicle, ISI, “could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria.”
The same powers that were involved in supplying Libya’s rebels, particularly Qatar, were active in Syria. Around the time that the DIA report circulated in the intelligence community, classified US intelligence assessments made available to President Obama and senior policymakers showed that most Saudi and Qatari arms were going to “hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups”.
In 2014, a senior Qatari official revealed that Qatar and Saudi Arabia had for years provided economic and military assistance primarily to both al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat al-Nusra, and to ISIS.
A secret memo written for then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in August 2014 (which appeared on the WikiLeaks website in 2016) noted that the Saudi and Qatari governments “are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [ISIS] and other radical Sunni groups in the region”.
Saudi Arabia’s neighbour Qatar, the world’s only other predominantly Wahhabi state with whom Theresa May’s government has recently signed large commercial deals, may have been the biggest funder of the Syrian rebels, with some estimates suggesting the amount may be as much as $3 billion.
While this does not justify labelling all the Syrian rebels as jihadists, it explains why the more secular, democratic forces among the rebels have often been supplanted by hardline Islamist forces.
Even more worrisome, the more you look, the deeper the rabbit hole goes. Indeed, it appears the UK government will go to remarkable lengths in order to specifically protect its terrorist supporting allies.
For instance, take a look at this article published by the Independent a few days ago:
An investigation into the foreign funding of extremist Islamist groups may never be published, the Home Office has admitted.
The inquiry commissioned by David Cameron, was launched as part of a deal with the Liberal Democrats in December 2015, in exchange for the party supporting the extension of British airstrikes against Isis into Syria.
But although it was due to be published in the spring of 2016, it has not been completed and may never be made public due to its “sensitive” contents.
It is thought to focus on Saudi Arabia, which the UK recently approved £3.5bn worth of arms export licences to.
Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, has written a letter to the Prime Minister pressing her on when the report will be published and what steps she proposes to take to address “one of the root causes of violent extremism in the UK”.
“You will agree with me that the protection of our country, of the British people, is the most important job of any government,” he wrote. “Certainly, more important than potential trade deals with questionable regimes, which appear to be the only explanation for your reticence.
Accusing the Conservatives of being “worried about upsetting their dodgy friends in the Middle East”, he said party had “broken their pledge to investigate funding of violent Islamist groups in the UK”.
He added: “That short-sighted approach needs to change. It is critical that these extreme, hard line views are confronted head on, and that those who fund them are called out publicly.”
This is straight up insanity, but it goes back a long way. For example, how about this from a 2008 Guardian article:
Saudi Arabia’s rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.
Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced “another 7/7” and the loss of “British lives on British streets” if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.
Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he himself took more than £1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE.
He was accused in yesterday’s high court hearings of flying to London in December 2006 and uttering threats which made the prime minister, Tony Blair, force an end to the Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribery allegations involving Bandar and his family.
But yeah, it’s the internet’s fault. Let’s blame YouTube videos.
Finally, the Saudis don’t only use the stick, they also brandish the carrot. As Lee Fang at The Intercept wrote yesterday:
New figures released by British Parliament show that, at a time when U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s ties to Saudi Arabia have become an election issue, conservative government officials and members of Parliament were lavished with money by the oil-rich Saudi government with gifts, travel expenses, and consulting fees.
Tory lawmakers received the cash as the U.K. backs Saudi Arabia’s brutal war against Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made the U.K.’s uneasy alliance with the Saudis an election issue, with voters going to the polls on June 8. The Tories’ ties to Saudi Arabia, Labour leaders charge, have resulted in record weapons sales — conservative governments have licensed £3.3 billion ($4.2 billion) in arms sales to the Saudi military since the onset of the Yemen campaign — and a reluctance to criticize human rights abuses.
While Tory politicians have defended the arms sales to Saudis as a move to shore up Britain’s allies in the region, Tory members of Parliament have collected £99,396 ($128,035) in gifts, travel expenses, and consulting fees from the government of Saudi Arabia since the Yemen war began.
Once the Saudis funded 9/11 and saw they could get away with it, they knew they could get away with anything.
Now let me just end this post with the following suggestion.
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Featured image: Reuters