Bellingcat

Sunday, 30 September 2012

John Yates And Neil Wallis - A Mutual Understanding

The latest piece by my regular contributor.

John Yates is back writing a column, for the Telegraph, with his old friend Neil Wallis playing cheerleader in the wings
Explosive! Betrayal! Shambles!

Yates' article - dubbed 'Enemy at the Gates' - uses the Andrew Mitchell bicycle debacle to aim a high-power snipe at the current Metropolitan Police (MET) Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe.  Yates compares him unfavourably to the superior tenures of "commissioners of the calibre of Lord Stevens or Sir Paul Stephenson" - something else Wallis enthusiastically endorses.  They do seem to have a lot in common, don't they...?

Both Yates and Wallis share a love of football, fine dining, and a staggering lack of self-awareness.  The irony of his own words is clearly lost on Yates if one compares what he says now, as opposed to what he said then - in his last few years in the MET. Here in 2012, Yates states
The Met looked far too ready to concede that any additional investigation into these matters was not worth the effort.
Hmmm.... 'Additional investigation not worth the effort' in comparison to what, exactly?  The awarding of a very lucrative MET contract to News of the World former Deputy Editor, Neil Wallis?
The total value of the contract was based on two days work per month at £1000 per day. This was funded jointly by the MPS’s Public Affairs Directorate and Specialist Operations, which was headed at this time by Assistant Commissioner (AC) John Yates....  following the award of the contract Mr Wallis’ fees were split evenly between AC Yates’ department and the Department for Public Affairs headed by Mr Fedorcio.
Or perhaps lax by comparison to a scant eight hours devoted to deciding no further investigation was warranted to contradict the News of the World's 'one rogue reporter' fairytale? Move along, nothing to see here. Or as Lord Justice Leveson described it, a "back-of-the-envelope job for the day"? Maybe that is what Yates is echoing in the Telegraph when he says
An investigation, as I know only too well, would have bought time, given everyone the space to breathe and allowed hitherto unknown facts to emerge before final conclusions were reached. By closing this down early, No 10 and the Met have created a problem that was avoidable.
Yates goes on to bemoan what he sees as the current lack of accountability of senior MET officers.  In Yates' good old days, he would have expected the MET Commissioner to be challenged on
live television, with the national and local media present, the commissioner would have had to explain all the circumstances of the incident to a committee whose membership was drawn from all the major political parties...He would then be questioned in detail about his decision-making...Who really challenges the commissioner now and who will challenge other chiefs in the future? Where is the transparency and the public accountability around key decisions?
Yates sounds almost nostalgic for his own appearances before the Parliamentary Select Committees for Home Affairs,  and for Culture, Media and Sport regarding MET accountability on Hackgate.  His evidence sessions were virtuoso performances of stonewalling and evasion, added to his obvious irritation at the impertinence of any Select Committee calling him to account.  Ditto his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, given by video link from Bahrain.

And what of the two previous MET Commissioners to whom Yates invidiously compares Hogan-Howe - Paul Stephenson and John Stevens?  Both had reason to owe Wallis a debt of gratitude
Former News of the World executive Neil Wallis advised two former senior policemen on how to get the job of Scotland Yard commissioner, the Leveson Inquiry heard today. Mr Wallis said he helped Lord Stevens "throughout" his successful application to become head of the Metropolitan Police, telling him to stress he was a "copper's copper" or "thief-taker".  The ex-tabloid executive also offered his opinions on what the post required to Sir Paul Stephenson, who took over as Met commissioner in 2009.
According to Leveson evidence, Dick Fedorcio informed Stephenson in advance of his intention to contract Neil Wallis.  Stephenson appears not to have disagreed with Fedorcio's decision, perhaps as Sir Paul had already been receiving counsel from an altruistic Wallis - for free - on key speech-making. Once contracted however, Wallis was paid for this advice retrospectively.  Unfortunately for him, Paul Stephenson was put into the position (at the behest of Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell) of asking Bob Quick to investigate serious allegations that John Yates may have been leaking MET Management Board level information to those in the media with whom Yates had over-close friendships.

John Stevens is the other 'high-calibre' Commissioner extolled in Yates' Telegraph piece.  He also enjoyed fine dining with Wallis and was appreciative of Wallis' grooming his public image.  On his retirement from the MET, Wallis proposed that the News of the World serialised Stevens' autobiography. Stevens was then offered a generous contract for a regular column entitled 'The Chief' - ghost-written by NotW's Deputy Editor - Neil Wallis.  For this, Stevens "was paid £5,000 for seven articles in the first year before his fee was upped £7,000 for the second." (Hacked Off)

Robert Jay's questioning of John Stevens revealed other interests shared by Stevens, Yates and Neil Wallis
The Birdcage, which is or appears to be a restaurant in W1... lunch...Sandersons, a hotel in Berners Street W1... lunch with Lord Alli and Neil Wallis... dinner with Neil Wallis... London's Brasserie... dinner with Rebekah Wade and husband, The Ivy... dinner with Mr Wallis, Convivio... News of the World, Scalini - Andy Coulson, editor, Neil Wallis, deputy editor ...
We get the picture - if only Yates and Wallis did.  Blithely unaware of perceptions, they still don't get it.  Their mutual admiration society is cemented by an unshakeable belief in their shared integrity and unchallengable 'objectivity'.  Countering any view that Yates may now be an discredited choice for newspaper columnist, Neil Wallis' eulogised on Twitter:
Ah, yes.  I believe Jung calls it 'projection' - no sense of irony or self-perception at all there from 'Wallis the Wolfman'.

So, Yates feels entitled to opine on the MET's handling of cycling in Downing Street, yet is stubbornly oblivious to the questionable closeness of past senior MET officers to Neil Wallis and News International. Ironically - Yates' own words in the Telegraph could equally reflect an alternative view of his role in Hackgate
It is, in the words of Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It, an 'omnishambles'.  The only way to resolve it is to turn back the clock and for there to be a proper investigation.
 No shit, Sherlock - on yer bike.  Move along.

Related Articles
Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
News Corp - Diplomatic Immunity?
The Cook-Hames Surveillance : A Watched Kettle...
Alastair Morgan On The Latest Hackgate Revelations

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Friday, 28 September 2012

News Corp - Diplomatic Immunity?

A new piece from my regular contributor:

A key deadline has just passed for new claimants in Hackgate litigation. A few 'Lead Cases' may be selected for first hearings tranche - to establish some common case principles - whilst others may choose to settle their claims with News International/News Group Newspapers (NGN) before their cases are due to come to court c. May 2013.  New case-management rules have now been advised which affect allegations over and above phone-hacking alone (Carter-Ruck):
A prerequisite to joining the Claimant Group is that the claim against NGN must be for a breach of privacy/confidence and/or harassment and/or a breach of the Data Protection Act. The claim does not, however, have to include phone hacking, but may involve a claim for computer hacking or “any other investigative method” (such as surveillance) carried out by NGN.... the vast majority of the claims to date and those in the new Claimant Group relate to phone hacking by the News of the World. However, there may well be claims emerging in the future that allege phone or computer hacking by The Sun, a separate NGN title. In an important decision, Mr Justice Vos ordered that cases against The Sun would also fall within the new Claimant Group. How this will work in practice will be interesting to see as NGN has now admitted many of the phone hacking allegations made against the News of the World but not in respect of The Sun. Claims against The Sun are therefore likely to be more contentious and may not fit neatly into the scheme of the litigation and so Mr Justice Vos has provided a mechanism whereby Claimants with claims which are only against The Sun may ask him for specific directions on how their case should be handled.
It is of course well known that victims include politicians.  Some have settled with NGN already, others are amongst new claimants, and a few have opted not to take any action.  Their names have trickled out into the public domain.  And that in itself is problematic. Their very names invoke our subjective responses, dependent on our likes and dislikes ot them individually or their party affiliations - focusing on WHO induces our gut feelings.  A different emphasis is revealed by looking at WHAT rather than who - what roles, what functions, what Offices of State etc were targeted during the relevant time period.
Looked at from this perspective, it's audacious. It's breathtaking. It's shocking.

a)  Peter Hain, MP (Lab), Leader of House of Commons, Secretary of State fro Northern Ireland, Secretary of State for Wales, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, junior minister Foreign and Commonwealth Office, candidate for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

b)  John Prescott, MP (Lab), Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions, candidate for Leader of the Labour Party

c)  Peter Mandelson, MP (Lab), European Commissioner for Trade, Minister without Portfolio, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

d)  Claire Ward, MP (Lab), Member of Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport

e)  Gordon Brown, MP (Lab), Prime Minister, Cabinet Member, Chancellor of the Exchequer

f)  Chris Bryant, MP (Lab), Minister for Europe, Parliamentary under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, member Home Affairs Select Committee

g)  Tom Watson, MP (Lab), Deputy Chair of Labour Party, Assistant Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Minister of Defence, member Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee

h)  Tessa Jowell, MP (Lab), Minister of State Department of Health, Minister of Health Department of Education and Employment, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Paymaster General, Minister for London, Minister for the Cabinet Office

i)  Neil Kinnock, MP (Lab) Leader of the Labour Party, Leader of the Opposition, European Commissioner, Vice-President of the European Commission, Chairman of the British Council

j)  Glenys Kinnock, MEP (Lab) Member of European Council for Foreign Relations, Minister for Europe, Minister of State for Africa and the Unkted Nations

k)  Stephen Byers, MP (Lab), Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, member of Home Affairs Select Committee, Whips Office

l)  David Blunkett, MP (Lab), Secretary for Education and Employment, Home Secretary, Secretary for Work and Pensions.  (Specifically named in Operation Weeting phone hacking charges)

m)  Charles Clarke, MP (Lab), junior Education minister, Minister of State for Education, Home Secretary.  (Specifically named in Operation Weeting phone hacking charges)

n)  Mark Oaten, MP (Lib Dem), Home Affairs spokesperson, candidate for Leader of Liberal Democrat Party

o)  Nigel Farage MEP, (UKIP), Party Leader

p)  Tommy Sheridan co-Convener (Solidarity Scotland), Holyrood MSP candidate, candidate for European Parliament

q)  Martin Salter, MP (Lab), member of Select Committee on Northern Ireland, member of Home Affairs Select Committee, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Schools Minister,

r)  Denis McShane, MP (Lab), junior Minister for Foreign Office, Minister for Europe

s)  George Galloway, MP (Respect), MP (Lab), Holyrood MSP candidate,

t)  Jack McConnell, MSP (Lab), First Minister, Minister of Finance, Minister for Education, Europe and External Affairs,  Prime Minister's Special Representative for Conflict Resolutions Mechanisms

u)  Boris Johnson MP (Con), Shadow Minister for the Arts, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, Mayor of London

v)  Simon Hughes, MP (Lib Dem), Deputy Leader of Liberal Democrat Party, President of Liberal Democrats, candidate for Mayor of London, candidate for Leader of Liberal Democrat Party

w)  Nick Brown, MP (Lab), Chief Whip, Agriculture Minister

x)  Joan McAlpine, MSP (SNP) Parliamentary Aide to First Minister Alex Salmond, member Scottish Parliamentary Committee for Education and Culture

y)  Alex Salmond, MSP, First Minister, formerly SNP MP for Banff and Buchan, (does not confirm or deny that his phone was hacked)

Clearly, the majority of politician victims are Labour and allegedly subject to a variety of illegalities - phone hacking, blagging, computer hacking, burglary. The range of political office holders is remarkable, and includes one Prime Minister and two Scottish First Ministers.  Of course these are just the national politicians. The list does not include others who could also be deemed 'political' eg Alistair Campbell, Cherie Blair, political opponents and defenders of Tommy Sheridan or union leaders such as the late Sir Gavin Laird, Andy Gilchrist and Bob Crowe.

If another nation state had targeted the democratic functioning of the UK in the same way - rather than News Corporation - there would be calls for a United Nations Security Council resolution on sanctions, and their diplomats would be deported.

But we'd best leave it there - for one thing, we're running out of alphabet...

Related Articles
Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
The Milly Dowler Hacking - Part 1: Questions Still Unanswered
Operation Tuleta - A Second Look
Some Intriguing Hackgate "Known Unknowns"
Alastair Morgan On The Latest Hackgate Revelations

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Syrian State Propaganda - From Terrorist To Peacemaker

At a conference organised by the opposition groups tolerated by Assad’s regime in Damascus a group of what was claimed to be 11 former rebels, led by a "Captain Khaled Abdel Rahman al-Zamel" declared their intention to turn their back on the armed opposition and to "return to the army and cooperate with the Ministry of National Reconciliation".  In the below photograph we see the men who appeared alongside him


The man on the far right was described in Russia Today's coverage as "Yaser al-Abed, another FSA officer who attended the conference, formerly commanded a rebel group in Aleppo province", who you can see speaking here (thanks to @THE_47th)


Russia Today quotes him saying
Work your minds and know that holding weapons is nothing but a violation to the minds and freedom alike...  Syria is our home and honor, but they wanted to burn it. The most targeted things are our religion, nation and land...  I have known all that, and that is why I have decided to lay down my weapon to be a loving person who seeks the good and the humanity.
Very moving words from a man who was six months earlier being described by Syrian State news agency SANA as "Terrorist Yasser Fouzi al-Abd", with his confession broadcast of State TV


SANA's article on the March 2012 confession provides details
Terrorist Yasser Fouzi al-Abd on Tuesday confessed to assassinating businessmen Mahmoud Ramadan and Mahmoud al-Sourani, in addition to committing acts of killings, robbery and sabotage in Aleppo Province and its countryside.

In confessions broadcast by the Syrian TV, al-Abd said " Mohannad Jafala and I were close friends, we had the same salafi ideas."

He added that Jafala was a jihadist in Iraq, adding that he had stayed in Tikrit city for three months during the war.

"We made a group and named it 'Abu Amara Battalion', its members were Mohannad Jafala, Hassan Othman, Abdul-Fattah Abdu-Majid, Said Hajj Othman and I." He confessed.
This seems to rather contradict many of the claims made in the press conference, particularly al-Abd's claims at 2:00 in the video of his speech to the conference where he says that he voluntarily handed in his weapons after the calls of the Minister of National Dialogue.  You'd also imagine a murdering, Salafi terrorist would at best still be in prison (if not executed), not attending press conferences and receiving rounds of applause.

As the Russia Today articles points out:
Al-Zamel’s statement sparked debate among anti-regime activists – some argued that al-Zamel was forced to make his statement; others claimed that they had no idea who he was.
Which really isn't that surprising when one of the other people speaking at the press conference appears to be unsure of whether or not he's a Salafi terrorist or recently handing in his guns to become a peacemaker.  The other question to ask is how complicit the organisers of the conference were, seeing they are meant to by the only opposition that's viable in the eyes of the Assad regime, and if they are helping to produce propaganda it says a lot about where their loyalties lie.

Related Articles
Syrian State TV Lies About Turks In Tremseh
More Syrian Propaganda - Fake Al-Qaeda Members
Syrian Regime Propaganda at Work
Russia Today And Their Anti-FSA Propaganda
Alex Jones' InfoWars And Their Anti-Free Syrian Army Propaganda

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The DIY Weapons Of The Syrian Opposition

One increasingly common sight in the Syrian conflict are DIY weapons manufactured and used by the Syrian opposition.  CJ Chivers has recently written two fantastic articles on the subject detailing four examples; truck mounted guns and DIY artillery in part one, and mortars and rockets in part two.  Here I hope to give examples of some of the other DIY weapons I've discovered on my regular trawls through Syrian opposition Youtube channels.

Pipe Bombs


In the above video we see opposition fighters using what is becoming a popular DIY weapon, pipe bombs, simple metal tubes filled with explosives ignited by a simple fuse.  In the following video we see how unexploded bombs (in this case an OFAB) are used as the source of the explosives for this weapon

There's also been several example of the pipe bombs being used in conjunction with slingshots to send them even further


How effect and accurate this is seems pretty questionable, but the use of slingshots like this has been spotted in a number of locations, so it seems a popular combination.

Rockets


CJ Chivers covers the production of rockets in great detail in his previously mentioned article, but what I'd like to highlight is how these are becoming an increasingly common sight in Syria, in particular Aleppo, such as these rockets recently used to attack the infantry school


Or this attack on a checkpoint in Aleppo


BMP Turrets


In the above video the Salman Al Farisi brigade show off a BMP turret they've attached to a trailer, something some of you might remember being done in the Libyan Civil War, as shown below


Rifle Grenades


This video demonstrates the more sophisticated end of Syrian opposition weapon manufacturing, showing rifle grenades being manufactured in a machine shop, then demonstrated.

Recoilless Rifles


Again, another example of a machine shop being used to manufacture a weapon and ammo, this time a DIY recoilless rifle.  Judging by the amount the barrel jumps when it's fired it's questionable how accurate this is, but it's certainly got a hell of a kick to it.

Related Articles

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Alastair Morgan On The Latest Hackgate Revelations

In this past week it seems the Hackgate scandal has begun to make comeback, with new claims in the Independent and Evening Standard which have included allegations that the News of the World ordered Southern Investigations to carry out burglaries on their behalf, a police mole at Southern Investigations being exposed by a hacker with links to the News of the World, and other allegations relating to the blackmailing of ministers and MPs using information obtained by Southern Investigations.

This has all been of great interest to Alastair Morgan, whose brother, Daniel Morgan, set up Southern Investigations in 1984 with Jonathan Rees, and was murdered in 1987 after attempting to expose Southern Investigations' involvement in alleged police corruption.  A number of police investigations into the murder were seemingly undermined by the police's close relationship with Southern Investigations, and the latest revelations in the press are linked to the work of a police undercover operative, Derek Haslam, who was supposedly placed at Southern Investigations as part of an inquiry into Daniel Morgan's murder.  Earlier today I spoke to Alastair Morgan about the latest allegations in the press:

What do you think of this quote from Jonathan Rees' video interview in the Independent, re Daniel's murder?
I think that's one of the biggest deceptions of all time.  I don't think any of the senior MET police officers whatsoever cared less about the Morgan murder - they couldn't care less.
I never comment on anything that Mr Rees says.

Do you believe then that Operation Nigeria was just used as an excuse to get a listening probe into Southern Investigations to find out what information they were gathering about the MET and senior officers?

I believe that this was part of the Met’s motivation.

Firstly, Operation Nigeria was carried out behind our backs after a meeting between my former MP (now Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury) and the then Deputy Commissioner John Stevens. My family were not allowed to know what was going on in that inquiry. That alone creates suspicion, given the history of the case up to that time. We also know since the Leveson Inquiry that Lord Stevens (as he is now) says he was not briefed about the evidence of extensive police/media (NoW) corruption that was uncovered during that investigation, despite the fact that Bob Quick - who took over responsibility for that operation from John Yates in January 1999 - wrote a report recommending further investigation and prosecutions for his superior, Andy Hayman. Mr Quick told the Leveson Inquiry that Scotland Yard had refused to provide him with a copy of his report to help him prepare his statement for Leveson. As Deputy Commissioner, John Stevens was responsible for force discipline and, given the evidence of extensive police/media corruption uncovered, he must at the very least have not been in control of his command. The fact that he was coached for his interview for the Commissioner’s post by Neil Wallis and took on a columnist contract for NoW after he left the Met has left  a very bad taste in my mouth. 

At this time, I know of only one instance when the probe deployed in Southern Investigations was used specifically to gather evidence on Daniel’s murder. This took place at a time when police knew they were going to have to close the operation down to make arrests  in an ongoing conspiracy by Jonathan Rees and others (including a serving police officer, Austin Warnes) to plant cocaine on an innocent woman in order to discredit her in a child-custody battle.

Tom Watson MP has called for all Operation Nigeria tapes to be transcribed. What other action do you now think is needed?

This would be very much in the public interest, as would a full judicial inquiry into the police’s handling of Daniel murder.

How does this new information help your call for a full inquiry into Daniel's killing?

Much of the recently publicised allegations only amplify the deeply unhealthy relationship between the Met, NoW and Southern Investigations that became evident during the Leveson inquiry, most specifically in the evidence that NoW interfered with an investigation into Daniel’s murder in 2002, when DCS David Cook and his family were placed under surveillance by journalists from NoW. Since the collapse of the prosecution in March 2011, we have become aware that two witnesses allege that Daniel actually approached NoW with an expose of police corruption shortly before he was murdered. The most recent allegations only underline the need for a full judicial inquiry. 

With new and increasingly serious accusations against Southern Investigations being made all the time do you think it's time for there to be an inquiry in to their activities, including their possible links with the murder of your brother?  If so, what form would you like that inquiry to take?

A full judicial inquiry or a possibly panel of inquiry as in the Hillsborough disaster are the only real options, in my view.

You can read more about the Morgan family's campaign at the Justice 4 Daniel Website, as well as following the campaign on Twitter.

Related Articles
Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
The Milly Dowler Hacking - Part 1: Questions Still Unanswered
Operation Tuleta - A Second Look
The Cook-Hames Surveillance : A Watched Kettle...
Hackgate for Beginners - The Murder of Daniel Morgan

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Cook-Hames Surveillance : A Watched Kettle...

The latest piece from my regular contributor.

In the long, long list of civil actions brought against  News Group Newspapers (NGN), Claim HC11C02844 stands out from all the others.  Most  claims are against NGN and Mulcaire. However, Claim HC11C02844 (p 9) reads:
David Cook and Jacqui Hames v (1) NGN (2) Glenn Mulcaire (3) Alex Marunchak (4) Greg Miskiw
Started in Aug 2011, this particular litigation tops the league as the sole action against FOUR names. The civil action relates to allegations that the News of the World was implicated in illegal information gathering and covert surveillance of Cook and his then wife, Jacqui Hames, in 2002.  Both were serving Metropolitan Police Service (MET) police officers.  This has been in the public domain for some time - for example, covered by C4 News.

Hames' evidence to the the Leveson Inquiry on the subject can be read here pp 97-110.  There are as yet no known arrests in relation to these specific allegations.

Campaigning group Hacked Off described the personal devestation caused as 'the triple betrayal of Jacqui Hames' - sold out bt the MET, sold out to News International, and kept in the dark for years by police investigators.

The role of Southern Investigations in the Cook/Hames surveillance has also been reported widely.  In summary, there was an alleged chain of actions initiated in summer 2002 by Jonathan Rees from prison. Rees conferred with Sid Fillery, Fillery made arrangements with News of the World's Alex Marunchak for the surveillance, Marunchak liaised with NotW's Greg Miskiw on illegally obtaining personal information, Miskiw commissioned another private investigator with computer hacking skills, and also commissioned Glenn Mulcaire to undertake blagging and phone hacking. For background, see this Guardian report.

Some months later, Rebekah Wade was said to have been confronted at Scotland Yard about NotW's complicity.  Dick Fedorcio (who was at the meeting) says that he mentioned it to then MET Commissioner John Stevens but Stevens disputes this.  Of additional note is the seeming ignorance and confusion evidenced by John Stevens and Dick Fedorcio about Southern Investigations and its well-known history of corruption.

Stevens' evidence to the Leveson Inquiry demonstrates a surprising inablity to join the dots.
Mr Jay: Were you aware, at the time when you were Deputy Commissioner and/or Commissioner, that the News of the World were extensively using a private investigation company called Southern Investigations?
A:  No.
Q. Did there ever come a time when you were aware of that?
 A. No.
Q. So does this follow: that you weren't aware that the News of the World made extensive use of Southern Investigations illegally to obtain information about police officers?
A. No.
...
Q. You say in your book: "At the end of the 1990s, an independent detective agency called Southern Investigations, based in Sydenham, was frequently coming up on the anti-corruption squad's radar." So when did you become aware of that?
A. As Deputy Commissioner, a presentation was made to me to try and get a probe into Southern Investigations' offices....
...
Q. ...your book goes on to say: "Eventually, it became possible to monitor conversations and the hidden microphones picked up much intelligence about the activities going on inside. Via the agency, corrupt officers were selling stories about their investigations to newspapers and being paid quite handsome amounts of money, an unsavoury business all around."
A. Yes.
Q. So when did you become aware of that?
A. When prosecutions took place, and one or two people were successfully prosecuted.
...
Q. Taking it forward then to Crimewatch in 2002. An appeal was made on Crimewatch. DCS Cook, I think, made the appeal on behalf of the Metropolitan Police. Was this in relation to reopening the inquiry into the murder of Mr Morgan?
A. Yes, where we put a considerable amount of resources into.
Q. Were you aware of that at the time, of the Crimewatch appeal, that is?
A. No.
Q. Were you aware that Mr Cook and his family, including, of course, Jacqui Hames, were placed under surveillance by the News of the World?
A. No.
Q. Did that come to your attention later or not at all?
A. I can't remember anyone mentioning that to me in person, no.
Q. Were you aware that in about 2004, Southern Investigations was gathering evidence on senior MPS personnel, and some of that evidence related to their private lives?
A. No. 
Well, at least Stevens is consistent about his ignorance.  Fedorcio's evidence (p 57 & p 58), by contrast, is markedly contradictory:
Q. So was the name "Southern Investigations" something you heard for the first time at the meeting?
A. I think I'd heard of them in previous anti-corruption activity. So when the name came up, it wasn't a surprise to me.
...
Q. Were you aware of the corruption investigation into MPS police officers leaking information to Southern Investigations?
A. I don't think so, no.
Mindful of any traducing of her reputation, Rebekah Brooks (as Core Participant) made a Closing Submission to Leveson which names Jacqui Hames (p5) as one whose evidence either (a) made assertions for which there is little or no evidential basis; (b) gave evidence as to matters which are yet to be tested in court; or; (c) appeared to be using the Inquiry to settle old scores.

And what does DCS Dave Cook have to say?  Nothing, as he was effectively silenced by the independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) when they arrested him last January.

The timing is very significant  Cook had just returned to duties for the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) after six months sick leave.  The arrest was reportedly executed the day that Cook requested an opportunity to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, and sought Core Participant status. The timing is therefore very reminiscent of the way that former-ICO investigator was raided and threatened with prosecution on the eve of his evidence to Leveson.

So Dave Cook is kettled in silent limbo - waiting for that tardy IPCC/CPS charging decision, or perhaps disciplinary or dismissal.

And still waiting for overdue and decisive MET legal action in relation to Case HC11C02844.

Related Articles
Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
The Milly Dowler Hacking - Part 1: Questions Still Unanswered
Operation Tuleta - A Second Look
Some Intriguing Hackgate "Known Unknowns"

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Recommended Arab Spring And Hackgate Articles Week Ending September 23rd

Here's a round up of some of the more interesting articles you may have missed in the past week:

Arab Spring

The past week has provided us with a interesting selection of articles about equipment and make up of the Syrian opposition, with CJ Chivers starting an excellent series of articles about the DIY weapons being used by the opposition, with part three promising details of the DIY weapons being used by Assad loyalists:

Syria’s Dark Horses, With Lathes: Makeshift Arms Production in Aleppo Governorate, Part I
Syria’s Dark Horses, With Lathes: Makeshift Arms Production in Aleppo Governorate, Part II

Louisa Loveluck examined the lethal consequences of the non-lethal aid provided by a number of countries to the Syrian opposition in What's non-lethal about aid to the Syrian opposition?, and The Rogue Adventurer blog looks at the different RPG-7 projectiles being spotted in Syria.  For my part I've put together a post examining the different types of bombs being used by the Syrian Air Force.

Two studies of the beliefs and motivations of the Syrian opposition are worth taking a look at, first the Institute for the Study of War published an excellent detailed report on Jihadists in Syria, which was followed by The International Republican Institute's survey into the attitudes of opposition members and activists, which pointed to more moderate views among the Syrian oppositions.

One article that caught my eye on Libya was Reuters piece on the attitudes of staff at a hospital towards the Ansar al-Sharia militia, blamed for the violence at the US consulate in Benghazi, but regarded by the staff as protectors of the hospital, Militants or no, Islamist fighters praised at Benghazi hospital.

Hackgate

With the latest accusations levied by the Independent and Evening Standard and promises of more to come it appears the Hackgate scandal might be returning with even worse revelations in the offing.  The BBC put together this helpful chart showing the current arrests by the various Hackgate related police operations, with Slate asking Why Hasn’t Eric Holder Charged News Corp. With Foreign Corrupt Practices?.

More trouble for News Corp was hinted about the Socialist Worker Online asking Did News International order burglary of Hillsborough campaigner’s home?, while Tom Watson MP wrote Rupert Murdoch a letter asking questions about the latest allegations.  Finally, a audio recording of a conversation between Derek Haslem and Ian Hurst was posted online where it's claimed that Southern Investigations blackmailed MPs, Ministers, and the Home Secretary with a suggestion of collusion with Alex Marunchak of the News of the World.


You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Quick Visual Analysis Of Hackgate Coverage

Firing Cirrus of the Something Awful forums posted this interesting set of graphs looking at coverage of the UK phone hacking scandal:

So there's been a couple of mentions of the network graphs that were put up in the last thread. I'm planning on getting back into working on them, now that I've finally got some time to do so again. Work has been especially hectic in the past six months and in that time there has been a lot revealed that can be mapped out. These two issues combined have resulted in a disastrously complex graph (simple version, last updated at the end of May) because I kept on throwing in extra connections as they arose, without any real plan or theory. The new plan is a focus on clarity and smaller networks that can be interlinked, if needed.

In the meantime, I took a look at some different data today as some people have been wondering whether the current revelations are going to have much exposure in the press. I ran a quick search of "phone hacking" in a newspaper archive database and have plotted the number of articles published each month. The graph below shows a y-axis log plot of average number of articles published a day in each month from Jan 2010 (the month before the first CMSC report was published) up until today. As would be expected, spikes in the number of articles match up very nicely with events in this timeline. I've marked a few of the big ones:

I've adjusted the data so it's articles per day because months aren't uniform in length, Spetember isn't finished yet, and I'm a pedant. I've used a log y-axis in that graph because of this:

and just for 'fun' here's how article publication rate about phone hacking fares against article publication about something nicer. There's no correlation, sadly:


Will this new stuff coming out be another bump, like Sean Hoare's? I guess it's just a case of wait-and-see for now. 

Related Articles
Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
The Milly Dowler Hacking - Part 1: Questions Still Unanswered
Operation Tuleta - A Second Look
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BBC News - Lord Mandelson approaches police over 'e-mail hacking'
Daily Telegraph - Investigation over ex-Met chief's missing diary
The Independent - After 25 years and five inquiries, who did murder Daniel Morgan?

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Monday, 17 September 2012

Collected ODAB Thermobaric Bomb Evidence

Back in August Bjørn H Jespersen examined evidence that pointed towards thermobaric bombs being used in Syria.  These bombs, also known as vacuum bombs, function by first dispersing a cloud of fuel shortly before a secondary detonation that ignites the fuel, creating a powerful shock wave.

Bjørn H Jespersen was first alerted to these after coming across this very unusual video from Talbiseh that clearly showed two large bombs moments before impact


Since that video 4 more videos have been found they appear to be the same style of bomb, if not the same model, 3 of which are from Talbiseh


By examining the damage to the three bombs in Talbiseh it appears they are different, not the same bomb filmed on 3 separate occasions.

In August activists claimed these bombs were being used, and the massive destruction caused by two bombs in Azaz has led some people to believe they were used in that attack.  It seems clear from the above videos and Bjørn H Jespersen's research that these bombs are in use, and I aim to collect more evidence of their use in this post.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com


Derek Haslam Confirms To Ian Hurst Southern Investigations Targeted MPs, Ministers, And The Home Secretary

Following the publication of the Independent's exclusive story that the "News of the World hired detective firm linked with murder to spy on Met Chief ", detailing Derek Haslam's accusations that Southern Investigations had targeted a number of politicians and senior members of the Metropolitan Police an audio recording of a conversation between Derek Haslam and Ian Hurst providing more details of what he discovered during his time working undercover at Southern Investigations has been put online (thanks to @iTraceUK)

Here's the transcript
Hurst - The point is that MPs, ministers, the Home Secretary, they were targets, and that information was communicated to your handlers.
Haslam - And the reason is they fell into two two camps of target, one that could be made, they could, er, financially make money from, and the other type was one that they could use, blackmail, or influence for their own benefit to do with their own thing, because they were so anti that squad.
Hurst - So, yeah, you mean they see...
Haslam - Yeah, anything that could put the Met into a bad light, or anybody they could implicate, or blackmail into helping them, you know, in two.  One would have been for earning money like Marunchak's end, and two would have been for influence.
Hurst - But you can put your hand on your heart and you can say categorically that all intelligence which you generated which demonstrated a threat to posed against an MP, a minister, or the home secretary was communicated to your handler?
Haslam - That's right, and you look at my motivation [cut]
This seems to show that according to Derek Haslam Southern Investigations allegedly targeted MPs, Ministers, and the Home Secretary for the purposes of manipulation and blackmail, with the assistance of Alex Marunchak of the News of the Wolrd.  It seems that the Independent story could be the tip of the iceberg.

Related Articles
Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
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Operation Tuleta - A Second Look
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BBC News - Lord Mandelson approaches police over 'e-mail hacking'
Daily Telegraph - Investigation over ex-Met chief's missing diary
The Independent - After 25 years and five inquiries, who did murder Daniel Morgan?

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Sunday, 16 September 2012

New Bomb Identified In Syria - BETAB

Earlier today I came across this video from a village outside of Aleppo, which shows an unexploded example of a previously unseen bomb, which is closely (and dangerously) examined by the men in the video


Bjørn H Jespersen of the excellent .processing blog assisted greatly in identifying this as a BETAB-500M62 free-fall 500kg bomb, primarily used to attack concrete and hardened structures, as seen here [source]

According to Jane's the "bombs are believed to be cleared for carriage on MiG-21 'Fishbed', MiG-27 'Flogger', MiG-29 'Fulcrum', Su-22 'Fitter', Su-24 'Fencer', Su-25 'Frogfoot', Su-27 'Flanker', Tu-95 'Bear', Tu-16 'Badger', Tu-22 'Blinder' and Tu-22M 'Backfire'", which includes the aircraft used by the Syrian Air Force.

Update September 19th The second half of this video shows the same BETAB as filmed above



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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The FSA In Aleppo Kill An Iranian Officer, Or Do They?

During the Syrian conflict it has been often claimed that members of the Iranian military and security forces are inside Syria, assisting the Assad government against the opposition.  Videos have been posted in the past of men the opposition claim to be members of the Iranian military or security forces, but, as of yet, there has been no solid proof.

This video filmed in Salahedin, Aleppo shows members of the armed opposition claiming to have an ID card from a Iranian officer they've killed


The details of the card are unclear in this video, but the group posted a photograph of the ID on their Facebook page


The card clearly states it's for the Fajr International Cultural and Sports Tournament, which seems to cover a number of competitive events taking place in Iran on a regular basis with international competitors, so clearly this is not a military ID.

The ID card is also for a Syrian citizen, Ali Ibrahim, not an Iranian citizen, which is acknowledge by the group who killed him on the Facebook page, but they go on to claim this is proof he took a martial arts training course in Iran.  However, his position is described as "player", so it seems far more likely he competed in an international event in Iran, and then returned to Syria.

This hasn't stopped the video from being reposted on Youtube with the description "Syria Freedom Fighters Show Iran Passport of Iranian Army Officer Battle Casualty", and being spread around social media sites claiming to show proof of Iranians in Syria.  As always anyone watching videos from Syria should always think twice about unquestionably accepting claims about the content of a video or photograph, and always try to find the original source of a video rather than relying on whatever spin the person reposting the video puts on it.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Monday, 10 September 2012

Alleged Mass Execution By The FSA And Al-Nusra Front In Aleppo

This video showing what appears to be around 20 bound, blindfolded, and mostly shoeless men apparently executed was posted on the Salman Al Farisi Battalion Facebook page


It's described as "The end of the security (forces) at the hands of Salman Al Farisi battalion, Free Al Bab Brigade", and the writing on the bonnet of the vehicle at the beginning of the video reads "Brigade of the Free of Al Bab and the East, Sulliman Al Farisi Battalion" and "FSA". The location of the video appears to be "Saba'a Bahrat" in Aleppo.

A post made a few minutes later claims that the Salman Al Farisi Battalion destroyed 3 tanks, and killed a bus load of army and shabiha members, in a joint operation with Al-Nusra Front.  It's unclear if it's related to the above video.

The Facebook account appears to have been opened on June 10th, 2012, and has used other Youtube channels in the past, so it appears to be a genuine opposition battalion.

Thanks to @ali_alsanah, @ArarMaher, and @HasanSari7 for help with translation.

Update September 10th The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has picked up on this and posted an additional video from the scene apparently showing members of the group responsible with the bodies


Update September 11th The New York Times has a piece on the executions which includes this
In one of the videos showing the executed soldiers, a narrator claims that a rebel battalion called Salman al-Farisi was responsible for killing the men. A man who claimed to be a representative of the battalion, contacted through its Facebook page, condemned the killings but said he was not sure whether members of the militia were responsible for them. The video of the executions was subsequently removed from the battalion’s Facebook page.
Update October 4th Now Lebanon reports Al-Nusra Front has claimed responsibility for the executions, from their statement
God enabled the mujahedeen of the Al-Nusra Front in the city of Aleppo to capture and kill 20 heretic soldiers from the Hanano military post
The image described in the Now Lebanon article appears in this article, apparently showing a member of Al-Nusra Front in the process of executing the prisoners. 

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Alleged Shabiha Tried And Executed In Aleppo

Two videos have emerged from Aleppo showing a alleged shabiha in the custody of the FSA, then executed

A statement that was posted on the Aleppo Tawheed (Unification) Brigade Facebook page said that the man in the video, Mohammad Sa'ab, had been put on trial due to his involvement in the killing of dozens of protesters in Sukkari district of Aleppo.  He confessed to murdering the Zreig family, kidnapping, rape and further murders, financing Shabiha, and informing on Air Force intelligence on the activists Nur and Mohammed Khairallah from Andan.

The court ruled that he should be executed and the sentence was carried out in front of a crowd of 2000 people in the Sukkari district on September 5th, followed by celebrations among the local citizens.

The above is based on the statement provided by the brigade, so it's not possible to independently confirm the details, nor confirm the individual executed was guilty of the crimes he was accused of and confessed to, nor is it possible to confirm the events surrounding his confession and execution.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Reports Of An Aircraft Shot Down in Zamalka

Following yesterday's reports of a MiG-21 being shot down in Idlib there's now fresh reports of an aircraft being shot down in Zamalka, a town just east of the Damascus neighbourhood of Jobar
According to the Facebook page of Saif al-Islam brigade the aircraft was shot down during a raid on the "Al-Anadan checkpoint".  The video is pretty unclear, and it's not certain if the video is genuine or not, but I will be keeping an eye out for more evidence as the day goes on. 

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Updates On The Opposition Syrian National Army And Syrian Army

Back on August 8th the activists THE_47th reported on a number of changes to the structure of the Free Syrian Army, creating a new Syrian National Army, details of which can be found here.  Today he's Tweeted some updates about the situation with the Syrian National Army, and the current situation in the Syrian Army:


I've just had a one hour conversation with my source, and I have new information on the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Army.

As highlighted in my August 8th Tweets the major push to put all fighting factions that make up the opposition under the Syrian National Army is under implementation.  Yesterday's announcement of the creation of the Syrian National Army under the command of Major General Mohammed Hussein Haj Ali is big.  The Syrian National Army now commands major FSA factions across all Syrian Governorates, including, but not limited to
  • Attawheed (the largest in Aleppo)
  • Ansar Al Sham (Damascus)
  • All of Deraa (All of Horan Valley)
  • Most of Latakia (inc Costal Turkmen Brigade) 

Over the next few days (expected on Thursday) the Syrian National Army will announced it's new structure and what it encompasses (brigades and leadership).

Negotiations with the Al Farouq Brigade(s) have failed.  They still want to follow the command of the Syrian Military Coucil of Middle Syria (Mantika Al Wusta).  Al Farouq Brigade of Homs has become like a successful franchise, arming and training franchisee brigades in Rastan, Qusoor, and elsewhere in Homs.

Talks with FSA factions fighting in Idlib are ongoing, and are a little tough.  Given their track record it is hard to convince them to train.  Also, Idlib FSA factions usually have different financiers, so they can't be enticed to join the Syrian National Army via financial motives.  The FSA factions in Idlib have been operating autonimously since the beginning, and have the best track record against the Syrian Army since the beginning of the revolution.

In the mean time, the FSA confirm they have MANPADS, as I have confirmed before.  But you know how it is, it's better to say you don't have any for more to come.

Then we come to Assad's forces; to sum up what my source said eloquently: They are fucked.  Assad forces land supply lines are like walking on thin ice, almost every convoy is attacked.  Tanks can't be moved, no air freight, etc.  That's why you see more and more jets dropping barrels filled with screwdrivers, metal shrapnel, and TNT.  Assad can no longer transport big bombs.

Troops from the 4th, 5th, 9th & 17th Division (estimated around 100k) can mostly not leave their bases.  They can only shell towns from their news base, and the majority of these troops haven't taken a break from their tours since deployment.

In short, Assad Army morale is at an all-time low, the latest loses (including jets and military bases) have increase defection, and they are slowly getting desperate.  The lack of supplies (along with new arms) is exactly why FSA brigades can take over whole military bases like Abu Aduhoor, Taftanaz, etc.

The new commander of the Syrian National Army is from Horan, Daraa, and is one of the reasons all the Daraa factions joined.

Make no mistake, unlike the animosity in between political factions of the Syrian Oppostion, ALL FSA factions agree amicably to disagree.

One more thing my source sounded very sure of, he has been told directly by representatives of regional powers that the refugee problem is becoming really serious.  My source was really sure that Turkey will establish a safe-zone if refugees exceeds 100,000, and I can see he's right because of Syrian Government rhetoric.  Assad met with the Red Cross chief and promised help, Bashar Jaafari was pleading for refugees to return, seems like they know something as well. Yesterday the information minister spent a good 30 minutes begging refugees to come back, pitching safety, honour, rebuilding, etc.

Update September 5th The Guardian has interviewed General Muhammed Hussein al-Haj Ali, commander of the Syrian National Army.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com