David Miliband gave MI6 the green light to proceed with intelligence-gathering operations in countries where there was a possible risk of terrorism suspects being tortured, the Guardian has learned.
During the three years Miliband served as foreign secretary, MI6 always consulted him personally before embarking on what a source described as “any particularly difficult” attempts to gain information from a detainee held by a country with a poor human rights record.
While Miliband blocked some operations, he is known to have given permission for others to proceed. Officers from MI5 are understood to have sought similar permission from a series of home secretaries in recent years.
Due to the reports of the website Kamtarin about the trial of the famous Iranian blogger and Journalist Hossein Derakhshan, his case has once again become a much discussed issue. Salman, a writer with the website Kamtarin, conducted an interview with Ozra Kiarashpour, the mother of Hossein Derakhshan about her son’s situation:
Hello Ms. Derakhshan, thank you for agreeing to the interview with us
Hello, I really don’t know what will help Hossein and what will harm him, and the only thing I can do is to pray for him. These days I am really bewildered and so is Hossein’s poor dad.
How is Hossein doing psychologically these days?
He is extremely overwhelmed and listless. He seems really depressed. He is really tired of being in limbo, being in jail, and being alone for two years. He says he spends most of the day sleeping. He recently requested to at least be transferred to the general ward but instead they agreed to move him to a different and better room, and potted a rose plant for him.
Are you able to visit Hossein?
For over a year we’ve had routine visitation with him once a week, but during the first eight months of his detention we had no visitation and didn’t know where he was.
How do the prison authorities behave during your visitation?
It depends on who is there on any particular day but the majority of time they are respectful.
There are still some who doubt that Hossein is in Prison and there were even some who were saying that Hossein is staying at a villa in Zafaraniya [a wealthy area of Tehran] where he is helping the government. Don’t you think the reason for these rumors is linked to the fact that you haven’t really dealt with the media?
I pray that those people never have to endure the pain that we are going through. During the early months of Hossein’s detention we were very confused, didn’t know what was going on, and didn’t know what we should do. On the one hand, Hossein had requested that we not speak to foreign media. And the domestic media wasn’t interested in us. Even with all of this, Hossein’s father and I wrote a letter to the Head of the Judiciary that was published in a number of places. And once the air cleared a bit, my daughter set up a blog to provide information about Hossein’s situation. These two years have been very difficult for us. Hossein’s father had several cardiac episodes. At the time when they told Hossein that his father had had a heart attack, he wasn’t allowed to use the phone. My child cried so much and blamed himself so much, which was even more painful for Hossein’s father and I. But we didn’t even tell Hossein that his father was upset because half of what upset Hossein in prison has to do with us.
You wrote a post for the blog that you said was called “Justice for Hossein Derakhshan,” are you familiar with blogging and with computers?
Since my children are often travelling abroad, I have to use the internet as a means of communication. Could it be possible that I know nothing about blogging? The truth is that Hossein used to talk our heads off about blogging. All that we are suffering unfortunately started with Hossein’s blogging.
Had Hossein come to Iran by invitation of the government?
Hossein had had some conversations with Press TV about working in their Tehran office. Even during the days before his arrest, he would sometimes go to their office since we didn’t have high speed internet at home. Before his return to Iran, the High Council of Iranian Affairs Abroad promised Hossein that his trip would be without problem. He had cleared his trip with this Council which is governmental and which is in contact with the Intelligence service. That’s why even though Hossein knew that they would call him to be questioned, he did not expect to be arrested like this and hadn’t told us what to do in case he was arrested. A representative from the Council told us that they pursued his case on behalf of the Council but that unfortunately they couldn’t do anything further. Why are there such splits in the country’s security apparatus?
Is Hossein accused of espionage?
Absolutely not, I don’t know how these people who constantly accuse Hossein of these things can live with their own conscience. If Hossein is a spy and had a security project, then why hasn’t the documentation for this turned up anywhere? And why wasn’t espionage part of Hossein’s charges?
What do you think the Judge’s ruling will be?
We can’t do anything about the judge’s ruling except to pray since other than God no one knows what the future will bring. The prosecutor has asked for the severest sentence possible to punish Hossein and to make an example of him. As Hossein’s mother, and not as someone whose family has sacrificed much for the sake of the Revolution, I want to ask why are they making an example of Hossein rather than making a role model of him? He is someone who repented and returned to serve his country and is ready to criticize his past thoughts and actions. Are you making an example to prove to people that repenting is useless? To show that supporting the ruling system will have this outcome? All these years, this family has been a steadfast supporter of this ruling system, and Hossein is one of us. It is not fair that you should punish him so severely for honestly conveying his life experiences over these years.
If Hossein is freed, will he leave Iran?
Hossein had grown really tired of living abroad and even now to make us feel better he says, I may have been in prison these past two years in Iran but before that I was in prison abroad.
Thank you for the interview, we hope that Hossein’s situation is resolved soon
Just in case it wasn’t clear, America’s “war on terror” in Afghanistan may last, well, for decades. Here’s Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, quoted in Bob Woodward’s new book:
You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It’s a little bit like Iraq, actually. . . . Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.
Take that Jew-haters, anti-Semitics and dead Palestinians:
“Israel is a democratic and law abiding country that carefully observes international law and, when need be, knows how to investigate itself,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ygal Palmor said in a statement.
“The Palestinian Authority (PA) forces came late at night and started shooting inside the camp,” Shihab said. “They came in, shooting, acting like the Israeli military. They wanted to make the people afraid. Everyone went to the main street and started throwing stones, because people thought they were the Israelis, not the PA forces.”
Shihab, who didn’t want to give his last name, is a spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist political party, in Dheisheh refugee camp in southern Bethlehem in occupied West Bank. He told The Electronic Intifada that in the last few weeks, the PA’s security services have been waging a campaign of intimidation and violence inside Dheisheh, intent on what he called “destroying the unity and community within the camp.”
According to Shihab, on 31 August, PA forces attacked the camp in an attempt to find a member of Hamas hours after an armed attack by Hamas activists on a car near a settlement in Hebron during which four Israeli settlers were killed. Since then, PFLP members who intervened by negotiating with the PA forces to convince them to cease their attack and leave the camp during the subsequent clashes inside Dheisheh, have been summoned to the PA police stations and subsequently arrested and thrown in jail.
Laugh or cry, your call. Here’s Fox News’ Glenn Beck explaining why Murdoch loves and trusts him. Murdoch “keeps me on the air because I have the proof” that progressives want to “control every aspect of your life”:
Beyond the internal battles, the book offers fresh disclosures on the nation’s continuing battle with terrorists. It reports that the C.I.A. has a 3,000-man “covert army” in Afghanistan called the Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, or C.T.P.T., mostly Afghans who capture and kill Taliban fighters and seek support in tribal areas. Past news accounts have reported that the C.I.A. has a number of militias, including one trained on one of its compounds, but not the size of the covert army.
In other words, US-backed death squads are roaming the country. All for winning hearts and minds, of course.
I visited Villawood on Sunday — alongside a delegation of union leaders and Greens Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon — and met several asylum seekers subsequently involved in the protest that ended peacefully last night with the arrival of UNHCR officials. We spent hours conversing with men in their 20s and up from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
They all said they couldn’t understand why the Immigration Department had told them personally that it was now safe enough for them to return home as any objective examination at the rate of violence in these war zones would indicate the exact opposite. For example, in Afghanistan killings have only escalated this year despite a “surge” of American troops.
The contradictions and obfuscation of the Labor and Liberal policies towards refugees is one reason the Greens capitalised at the recent election and are now urging a thorough review of the entire detention process. The mental deterioration of detainees is a major issue needing examination, a point powerfully made last week by some of the country’s leading doctors.
But what remains mostly ignored is the company that runs all of Australia’s detention centres, the British multinational Serco. In the past days, its name is mentioned in passing at best, save for statements such as this that featured in The Australian online on September 20: “Detention services provider Serco will provide a report to the police and the department on the circumstances surrounding the [Fijian] man’s death.”
But that’s it. Even when the Murdoch broadsheet sends reporter Paige Taylor to visit the remote Curtin detention centre in Western Australia, there is no mention of Serco; what it does, how it operates, how much more money the company receives now that the facility is being expanded or whether such places should be privatised in the first place. Today’s editorial in The Australian questions the adequacy of mental health services in detention but doesn’t name the company running the show.
The mainstream media barely reported the Labor government signing a contract with Serco in 2009 and today many details of the agreement remain “commercial-in-confidence”.
Earlier this week, when a detainee escaped the Darwin detention centre, the ABC news report simply stated: “Serco, the company responsible for security at the centre, is preparing a report on the escape.” No follow-up and no further questions. I am well aware of the difficulty in obtaining accurate and timely information from the corporation but this is no excuse to place entire blame for the current dysfunctional culture on the Immigration Department.
Today saw yet another roof protest at Serco’s Villawood detention centre and a very brief but welcome mention in the Australian about the company’s role in the detention centre in Cape York. However when it came to providing comment from Serco the article noted:
“Serco, the British-based private security contractor in charge of the centre, already holds the contract for security at every Australian immigration detention facility. It has refused to be interviewed.”
Crikey spoke to Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan for comment about the actions of Serco in Australia. He said contractually Serco would only speak publicly over a “fairly substantial issue” — he mentioned the recent News Ltd story over Serco bringing in front-line staff from overseas — but his department gave the bulk of comments over the firm’s actions.
I questioned why Serco is given political and media cover plus the fact that transparent access to the company’s facilities is severely restricted. Logan didn’t deny my analysis but simply repeated the contractual obligation between Serco and the Australian government.
The Australian government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to outsource these essential tasks. A leading refugee lawyer recently told me that Canberra would be incapable of now managing detention centres as years of privatisation had resulted in a massive deterioration of ability within the public service. Besides, he lamented, the government had no desire to run these places again. Note how rarely Immigration ministers or their opposite number even mention Serco.
The British press are far more persistent when it comes to Serco. There are still hundreds of children in detention in the country and Serco runs one of the most notorious centres, Yarl’s Wood. Collusion between the British government and Serco is rampant with cover-ups of abuse, hunger strikes, mental problems and violence.
I asked the detainees at Villawood whether Serco staff treated them with respect. Some said they did, while others claimed Serco employees often showed disdain for their culture. Aggression was occasionally reported. Effective mental health services, despite Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan saying they are first class, are sadly lacking because mandatory detention exacerbates trauma. I heard weeping Afghan Hazaras literally begging me to not allow Australia to send them back to certain death at the hands of the Taliban.
There is a degree of unreality at Villawood where the visiting centre for detainees is now decked out with flat-screen TVs, yellow couches, Aboriginal dot paintings and photos of trains racing through the desert.
Serco — “bringing service to life” — is the convenient firm that’s always there to manage “clients” — but providing comfortable seats simply masks the mental torture of waiting for months or years for government decisions.
Behold! The local media (in today’s Australian) briefly mention the role of British multinational Serco but watch how quickly it’ll be buried again. Nothing to see here, all hail privatised cruelty:
The government has ruled out using the military as a crisis response force in the event of trouble at a new immigration detention centre at Cape York Peninsula, giving police that role.
An Immigration Department spokesman confirmed that officials and private security contractor Serco had undertaken contingency planning to deal with potential security issues at the planned detention centre at the Scherger airforce base near Weipa, 2500km north of Brisbane.
“This is standard operating procedure for all of (the department’s) immigration detention centres and facilities,” the spokesman told The Australian yesterday.
“We are not going to discuss details of our contingency planning other than to say that the use of defence forces is not a part of contingency plans.”
In two to three weeks, Scherger will be opened to house up to 300 single adult male asylum-seekers currently held on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.
Serco, the British-based private security contractor in charge of the centre, already holds the contract for security at every Australian immigration detention facility. It has refused to be interviewed.
As well as using Scherger, additional immigration detention accommodation is being added at the Curtin Immigration Detention Centre in remote Western Australia, and at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, for families and children.
This sparked criticism from West Australian Premier Colin Barnett, who said WA police had raised concerns about their capacity to deal with riots and escapees from the base at Derby, in the Kimberley region of WA.
Weipa is more than 800km from Cairns and is more than one hour by plane from the far north Queensland city.
A spokesman for the Queensland Police Service said the QPS would work with “relevant state and federal authorities to provide an appropriate policing response” when required at Scherger.
There are 12 police officers permanently based at the Weipa police station. The next closest police station to the Scherger base is at Aurukun, an indigenous community about 100km south of Weipa, at which 10 police officers are stationed.
Earlier this month, nearly 100 asylum-seekers broke out of the detention centre in Darwin and staged a peaceful protest outside the fence before being rounded up by Northern Territory police.
The FBI in recent years opened investigations into some U.S. activists with little basis, unjustifiably extended the duration of the probes, improperly retained information about activist groups in its files, and classified its investigations of “nonviolent civil disobedience” as investigations into “acts of terrorism,” according to a report released today  (PDF) by the Justice Department’s Inspector General.
The FBI activities reviewed by the Justice Department took place from 2001 to 2006, and involved groups including the Thomas Merton Center (a Pittsburgh social justice center), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Greenpeace, The Catholic Worker (communities of religious pacifists) and a Quaker peace activist.
The report by the Justice Department watchdog didn’t find that the FBI targeted these groups on the basis of their free speech activities — which would be a serious violation  of FBI guidelines — but did fault the agency for other reasons, most notably a “factually weak” basis for opening investigations.
Security officers in settlements are confiscating Palestinian workers’ identity cards and holding them while they are in the Jewish communities, under IDF orders, even though there is no legal basis for their action. The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman told Haaretz that the matter is being investigated.
The raging questions about America’s role in Iraq came to a boil earlier this year with “Arqoub’s Promise,” a controversial music video which captured public debate. Invoking Arqoub, a legendary character infamous for his unfulfilled promises, the Iraqi singer Shadha Hassoun bemoans both her affair with a U.S. soldier and the U.S. invasion of her war-torn country. Double-entendre lyrics about love and betrayal combine with images of the singer crossing wind and sand-swept streets to end up in a poignant post-lovemaking confrontation with her lover in the back of a U.S. military truck, with a large screen playing images of military hardware, explosions and torn bodies. As the U.S. soldier walks away, the video concludes in black and white, with a street strewn with dozens of shoes — in homage to Bush shoe thrower Muntazher al-Zhaidi — and a haunting close-up of a fright-stricken baby face encircled with barbed wire. The release of the video in mid-January, 2010 set the Iraqi and Arab press ablaze: “Shadha Hassoun glorifies the occupation of Iraq!” accused one columnist; “A political or romantic message?” wondered another; “Shadha Hassoun expels occupier,” wrote a third, reflecting multiple and contrary readings of the video.
Such work simply shows that the Arab world is often forced to be far more political than the West, as war and occupation are daily on their door-steps, courtesy of the “liberating” US and her charming allies.
Tim Mathieson, the partner of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, has quit his job with ALP benefactor and prominent Melbourne property developer Albert Dadon.
A senior Jewish business figure last night told The Age his resignation had been ”inevitable” and that moving away from any such employment was ”the right thing to do”.
Last month, The Age reported that if Labor won the election, Mr Mathieson would resign, with senior figures in Labor and the Jewish community concerned about his position with Mr Dadon’s Ubertas property business.
The ALP increasingly regards Mr Dadon as a conduit to donations, including from the Jewish business community. On the last Sunday before polling day he hosted a large breakfast function at his home, where Ms Gillard met members of the Jewish community.
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said Mr Mathieson had decided to resign from his job only because he wanted to pursue more advocacy and charity work, in line with his responsibilities ”as the partner of a Prime Minister”.
During the election, Mr Dadon said the function at his home was not a fund-raising event and told ABC Radio that media coverage of his links with the ALP and Tim Mathieson were because of his [Mr Dadon’s] Jewish heritage. ”I feel that this whole thing is simply because I’m a Jew. And that’s what I resent.”
Business sources have told The Age that donations were not collected at the campaign function, but some attendees would later be asked for contributions.
The Prime Minister’s office says Mr Mathieson will spend his time working with groups such as beyondblue and in other roles related to indigenous health.
Since 2008, Mr Mathieson has been national charity ambassador with Kidney Health Australia. The charity’s chief executive, Anne Wilson, said she was contacted on August 31, more than a week after the election, about a possible significant donation from Mr Dadon. His company Ubertas has donated a mid-level apartment from a soon-to-be-developed city site, which the charity will auction or raffle to raise funds.
Mr Mathieson worked selling apartments for Ubertas, responding to inquires from potential buyers and dealing with existing customers.
The main topic up for discussion was the asylum seeker crisis at Sydney’s Villawood detention centre and the length of time refugees are locked up while claims are being processed. Mental anguish is almost guaranteed. I urged an examination of the role of private company Serco, the far-too-mysterious corporate running all the country’s centres. Nobody on the panel seemed to believe accountability with the current system was really possible. Who truly knows what Serco does and why? The Labor government is far too keen to give the firm the dirty work and blame them for incompetence. Finally, I urged Australia to release detainees into the community once checks are undertaken. In a country such as New Zealand, there’s far less hysteria over asylum seekers and there aren’t countless missing refugees running wild. Oh, is it too much to ask that a person, like fellow panellist Stella, not continually refer to refugees as “illegal”? They’re not, and have a perfect international right to seek safety and asylum here.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young was interviewed and called for an end to mandatory detention and a warning that the nation was descending back into a period of harming citizens in our care. She seemed open to the possibility, based on my question to her, to push for a robust debate in the Australian parliament on the gross human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and the threats faced by Tamils there, meaning we shouldn’t be sending them back from detention.
Finally, the war in Afghanistan was on the agenda following a leaked email detailing the lack of appropriate support for Australian troops in the country. I argued that a majority of Australians oppose the conflict, the West is backing a warlord infected and corrupt regime and simply staying there to “finish the job” – aka fellating Washington – was plainly offensive to our intelligence. We should withdraw immediately while providing reparations for the massive damage we’ve caused since 2001.
Israelis have the unique position (read privilege) to support the popular non-violent struggle of Palestinians in the West Bank against the occupation, settlements and separation wall. Palestinians have extended an open hand to Israelis to join their struggle which takes place only one hour from Tel Aviv. Many Israelis have answered this call but it has only been a drop in the sea compared with the number of people that harbour ‘left’ opinions about the occupation and prospects for co-existence through grassroots work. Shiekh Jarrah had the opportunity to energize these people with ‘left’ opinions and lead them in the direction of genuine solidarity with Palestinians struggling against the crippling occupation. Yet, the movement has made the decision to focus energy on exhibiting ‘solidarity’ in places where Palestinians by and large can’t enter. It comes down to one’s definition of solidarity.