Wednesday, March 25, 2015

PROTEST! Scott Morrison Address To Sydney Boys High School

I am a former student of Sydney Boys High School (class of 1982) and I am appalled to hear that former student Scott Morrison MP has been invited to address a Sydney Boys High School fundraiser on 15th April.

I urge all students, staff, parents and old boys to not only boycott but also protest loudly against this event. Mr Morrison is a shame upon the school and the nation.



There has been widespread media coverage of Scott Morrison's heartless and criminal treatment of desperate asylum seekers. Unfortunately the ALP is trying to be as tough as the LNP on these issues, so only the Greens and a few Independents are speaking out in parliament, but there are lots of outraged human rights groups and even the UN has condemned Australia's actions.

The most well known case involves Reza Barati, a 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker who was bashed to death at the detention centre on Manus Island on 17 February 2014. Morrison totally washed his hands of the incident, refusing to keep the Australian public and media informed about the murder, even though Australia was responsible for Barati's well being (and all asylum seekers).

http://www.theguardian.com%2Faustralia-news%2Freza-barati

Another case involved a 24 year old Iranian named Hamid Kehazaei, who got a cut on his foot while awaiting processing in Manus Island. Due a lack of medical treatment, Kehazaei contracted cellulitis, which developed into septicemia on Manus. He was finally flown to Brisbane, but it was too late -he was declared brain dead after a heart attack. His family had the unhappy task of switching off his life support. Again Morrison washed his hands of responsibility, with his own department of course taking over another useless inquiry.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/03/asylum-seeker-declared-brain-dead-medical-evacuation-manus-island

The UN has repeatedly condemned Australia's treatment of asylum seekers, saying Australia is systematically violating the international Convention Against Torture by detaining children in immigration detention and holding asylum seekers in dangerous and violent conditions on Manus Island. Among many other things, the UN cites 2 asylum seekers who say they were tied to chairs by security staff and threatened with “physical violence, rape, and prosecution for ‘becoming aggressive’” if they refused to retract statements they had made to police about the murder of Reza Barati.

http://mg.co.za/article/2015-03-12-un-australia-violates-torture-laws

The 31-year-old United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is one of the most widely supported conventions in the world. Some 157 countries have signed the convention. Australia ratified the treaty in 1989 and is legally bound by it.

The recently released Moss Review shows that that allegations of sexual abuse of children and of women in the Australian-run detention centre on Nauru were known from as early as June 2014. At least one rape allegation was reported in August 2014, while other asylum seekers told staff they’d been threatened with gang rape. But it was not until October, as days of combative protest seized the detention centre, and acts of self harm by children spiked dramatically – from seven in 12 months, to 10 in three days – that the government chose to act.

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/24/leaked-transcripts-from-moss-review-reveal-nauru-at-risk-of-dramatic-meltdown

All this happened on Scott Morrison's watch, even though he has now been moved to the Education portfolio. More stories about Scott Morrison here: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/scott-morrison

And all this time Scott Morrison and the Abbott government have condemned whistle-blowers like Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs, or Save the Children, rather than deal with the horrors being unleashed against innocent children and some of the world's most desperate refugees (many fleeing countries like Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, where the Australian government has helped contribute to chaos and destruction).

I do not care that many uninformed, uncaring or racist Australians willfully ignore or even celebrate such horrific activity: it is still evil and criminally wrong.

I *do* care that my old school, which should be teaching good values to the next generation of Australians, is elevating the stature of the man who oversaw these horrendous policies.

Sydney Boys High School should cancel Scott Morrison's invitation to speak on 15th April - he is a shame upon the school and the nation. 

I urge all caring staff, students and ex-students to not only boycott this event but also protest loudly against it until it is canceled. 

Regards,
Gary Lord,
Class of 1982.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Freedom, Flight and The Falcon

Reposting here my July, 2013 interview with Christopher Boyce, whose experiences as a US whistle-blower were documented in the 1985 Sean Penn movie “The Falcon and The Snowman.” As previously published at WLP site.




“I did what I did because I was 21 years old and full of myself,” says Christopher Boyce. “My main motivation, at that point, was to hurt the secret apparatus of the federal government. That’s what I wanted to do.”

Boyce, now aged 60, spent 25 years in prison after being convicted of selling US government secrets to the Russians. In January 1980, after three years in custody, he escaped from a California penitentiary and went on the run, robbing several banks before being recaptured 19 months later.  He now readily concedes that both the sale of the information and the robberies were major mistakes.

“My revelations would certainly have had far more impact if I hadn’t done what I did,” Boyce admits. “Because ultimately, the crimes became the story, and not what was actually revealed.”

“It’s the easiest thing in the world to condemn someone who commits treason, or somebody who runs around with a gun robbing banks. It’s another thing entirely to look beneath the veil at their motives and see what those motives reveal.”

In 1974, Boyce found himself working in the secretive “Black Vault” communications center of a US aerospace firm, where he had free access to allegedly “misrouted” Central Intelligence Agency cables. And like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden some 40 years later, he became increasingly angry at his government’s covert actions around the world.

What particularly incensed Boyce, however, were CIA discussions about removing Australia’s Prime Minister from power, along with CIA infiltration of Australian workers unions. At the time, Gough Whitlam was proposing the withdrawal of Australian troops from the Vietnam War and the closure of US military bases including Pine Gap. But Australia was nevertheless a loyal US ally, whom Boyce believed deserved to be treated with more respect.

So, given that Whitlam was deposed anyway in 1975, does Boyce think his revelations had any real effect?

“I do think that my revelations did have some sort of an impact,” says Boyce today. “Immediately following my trial for espionage in 1977, President Carter sent Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Australia for the express purpose of promising former Prime Minister Whitlam that the United States would never again interfere with the domestic affairs of Australia. To me, that was an accomplishment.”

Until very recently, Boyce believed that the USA was staying true to its word. But Edward Snowden’s recent revelations of massive NSA global surveillance – including Australia – have prompted him to wonder if he has been na├»ve.




“Most of the time, American domination of Australia is not heavy-handed in regards to Australian internal affairs,” suggests Boyce, who maintains an interest in “all things Australian” but only follows Canberra politics closely during elections.

“Nevertheless, Australia always fights in America’s wars. Australian foreign policy is American foreign policy. From the American standpoint, Australian status as an American client state is not about protecting Australia. America doesn’t have friends. It has interests.”

Boyce believes the USA “replaced the Brits” after Pearl Harbor and Australia today is a client state “like a very autonomous Alaska, so lightly harnessed as to make waywardness infrequent.”

So given all that, would he do it all again?

“No. I think Australians can take care of themselves. I think that Australian power brokers knew perfectly well of American interference in their internal political affairs, but I don’t believe the average Australian knew about it. I think alerting them to that was a good thing.”

What if WikiLeaks had existed back in the 1970s?

“The fact is, WikiLeaks didn’t exist back then, so it’s hard to answer that. Some people have asked me why I didn’t take what I learned to the press but the fact was I didn’t have the connections that someone like Daniel Ellsberg had. I didn’t know anybody at the New York Times and I probably wouldn’t have been taken seriously if I had approached someone there.”

Of course, that is exactly what happened to young Bradley Manning, who tried unsuccessfully to contact the New York Times and Washington Post before finally sending his files to WikiLeaks. And Christopher Boyce, who survived years of confinement in isolation, along with a savage gang beating and a murder attempt, is well aware of Manning’s plight.

“The government has treated Manning in a manner that amounts to torture for the express purpose of discouraging anyone else from doing what he did,” says Boyce, who particularly deplores Manning’s long spell of solitary confinement.

“Month after month of that becomes torture. It becomes destructive to a person’s psyche and to their sanity.”



But as he also notes, courage is contagious. “There would not have been an Edward Snowden if there hadn’t been a Bradley Manning. The next Snowden who comes along will be following in both of their footprints.”

So what would Christopher Boyce advise anyone thinking of blowing the whistle on the U.S. government today?

“I would advise them that if they are going to do it, don’t do what I did. Don’t cooperate with a foreign intelligence outfit. Figure out what your ultimate destination is. Go there first and then speak out. That way, that which you are revealing will be the story, and not the chase.”

Boyce says this is exactly what is happening to Edward Snowden today.

“The media is focusing too much on the chase instead of focusing on what he has revealed – which is a huge, secret apparatus of the federal government spying on the American people. I think that the excitement of the chase is causing the media to lose sight of what Snowden attempted to achieve.”

No doubt drawing on his own experiences as a whistle-blower on the run, Boyce is particularly concerned for Snowden’s safety.

“He’s going to have a difficult time even getting to Ecuador, or anywhere else. He’s going to discover that the police and the military there are not the friends of the left wing President. They are the friends of Washington. And eventually, that left wing government will be replaced.”

“When they capture him, they’re going to throw him into an isolation cell in a supermax prison and his life will become hell,” says Boyce.

“Their effort will be to, in effect, torture him before the world just as they have tortured Bradley Manning. Their aim is to put fear in the hearts of anyone else who is thinking of doing the same thing. So that anyone who even considers it will think: ‘How can I endure that?’”

It’s a brutally honest assessment from a man who has experienced the horrors of the US prison system first hand. And he doesn’t see much hope of Snowden escaping this destiny.

“The only way that he’s really going to be safe from the United States will be to just vanish on his own and not rely on the help of any government. In order for him to do that, he will have to maintain a total discipline in his personal actions – he will have to utterly cut himself off from everyone he has known, from his family, from his friends, and just go into deep cover. I personally think that’s the only true safety he’ll ever find.”

But Boyce also recognizes that Edward Snowden is acting on higher principles, with more important considerations than his own safety.

“I don’t think Snowden’s greatest fear is that the federal government is going to get him. I think his greatest fear is that he will have accomplished nothing, and that nothing will have changed.”

“As my wife Cait says, the average young American is more interested in if he has enough cream in his latte than in protecting his own civil liberties. I’m sure there are tens of millions of Americans that are outraged that they’re being spied on by their own government, but I don’t really think they’re ever going to do anything about it.”

“The secret apparatus of the United States government is organized and it’s powerful, whereas the American people are not. They’ve become like soft sheep. And if they decided to complain, how would they do that? I don’t see anyone in Congress calling for huge reforms.”

If that sounds like a bleak conclusion, consider the life experiences that inform it. Christopher Boyce today is a man who cherishes each day of freedom, even as the freedoms we all take for granted become increasing threatened. If we want to see a brighter future, it’s up to all of us to make it happen.


Cait and Christopher Boyce with Vince Font

NOTE: Chris and his wife Cait, who acted as his lawyer before marrying him when he was released from prison in September 2002, are about to release a book about his experiences in jail and on the run, her 15 year battle with cancer (she postponed treatment to help him get paroled), and their life together ever since. For news about their new book “The Falcon and The Snowman: American Sons” (co-authored by their friend Vince Font) please follow @CodenameFalcon on Twitter or their highly readable blog.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Anti-WikiLeaks Troll Gets BBC World Service Platform

I was gobsmacked this week when the BBC World Service invited Sandra Eckersley, a notorious anti-WikiLeaks online troll, to a radio discussion forum about (of all things) Australian counter-terrorism measures. Obviously this had nothing to do with WikiLeaks - so why was the BBC giving her a platform to air her views? Was there more to Sandra Eckersley than I knew?



The BBC World Service "Have Your Say" radio program was being broadcast live from Sydney, for the first time ever, and the discussion was titled "How Big Is Australia's Terrorism Threat"?

Sandra Eckersley (center, with sunglasses) and the BBC panel.

Panel guests included Neil Fergus, CEO of Intelligent Risk, Clare Murphy and David Connery from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, plus constitutional and civil rights lawyers. Media was represented by infamous Murdoch shill Miranda Devine and the Guardian's Paul Farrell, who has done some good reporting on anti-terror laws and events. So what qualifications or expertise did Sandra Eckersley bring to this discussion?

Nothing.

The presenter brought Sandra Eckersley into the discussion (at 14:48 minutes) but did not explain why she was there - instead he invited her to personally explain "who you are and what you do". Sandra then introduced herself as "an event producer professionally, but also a bit of a social commentator on Twitter and um, ah, with the newspapers".

In other words, a nobody.

Just another shrill voice in the endless ocean of tweets and online media comments. Not even a popular voice: despite posting over 72,000 tweets, @SandraEckersley has only 1,233 followers. She has written a total of three Humour & Satire articles for an obscure opinion site, focussing on hairdressing and fashion.

So why did the BBC think she deserved a seat at a table discussing Australia's anti-terrorism issues?

Don't get me wrong: I am all for hearing more ordinary citizens' voices on air. But why Sandra Eckersley, of all people?

Sandra later tweeted that she was invited to the discussion by someone at the BBC in London. Who was that? How did they get her contact details? Why did they think she would be suitable?



WHO IS SANDRA ECKERSLEY?


It's no secret that the US government has a monster Grand Jury investigating WikiLeaks, with the NSA hoovering up as much information as they can collect on Julian Assange and his associates. They have also revealed a sizeable budget for online grassroots activism (aka propaganda) targeting perceived "enemies of the State" (as WikiLeaks and their supporters have been officially labeled). If you wonder what such initiatives might look like when implemented in real life, you only have to check out Sandra Eckersley and her online friends.




Sandra has dedicated years of her life to trolling the #WikiLeaks and #Assange hashtags on Twitter, spreading daily lies and misinformation. She also attends WikiLeaks events and rallies in person - so much so that after one Sydney event, Julian Assange's mother complained that Ms. Eckersley was stalking her. She made a live appearance in the audience of ABC TV's Q&A show to ask a misleading question about Julian Assange to WikiLeaks' lawyer Jennifer Robinson, and she made an official complaint (allegedly 70 pages long!) about the ABC's excellent Four Corners investigation into Assange's Swedish sex allegations.

Sandra also appears to have been involved in a fraudulent WikiLeaks Forum trick to gather information on Julian Assange supporters, then abort the deceptive Avaaz.com petition which lured them in. The willfully deceptive WikiLeaks Forum has connections to an exposed paedophile who infiltrated WikiLeaks as an undercover FBI agent.




Interestingly, when she is not tweeting about Assange, Sandra frequently post tweets that support Australian Labor Party (ALP) policy. Sandra became active against WikiLeaks while the ALP was in power, so if she is being paid by someone, there could be an ALP link.

Has Sandra also been to London? Has she stalked WikiLeaks supporters outside 3 Hans Crescent? Is that where she made contact with her BBC friends?

Is Sandra Eckersley being paid to spy upon, harrass and spread disinformation about WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks supporters? Or are we to believe she is just a normal (albeit strangely obsessed) citizen? Either way, the BBC World Service should explain why they invited her onto a show about terrorism in Australia, and who made that decision.

The BBC has a poor reputation as a UK Establishment tool. Elevating people like Sandra Eckersley to media commentariat positions only further damages the BBC's credibility.

UPDATE 1: 

Sandra responds on Twitter that she was invited onto the BBC World Service show by BBC World Service producer Chris Ancil:


I have now asked Chris Ancil to explain why he invited Sandra onto the show.

Sandra also attempts to prove her credentials as an anti-terror expert by citing this short comment that appeared on ABC "Insiders"... um... nine years ago (whoop de doop). Ironically, "Insiders" is regularly criticized for exclusive use of, erm, "insider" voices.

UPDATE 2:

BBC World Service producer Chris Ancil refuses to explain why Sandra Eckersley was invited on the show, who recommended her, or how he got to know her.

24.75 million people in Australia, over 4.75 million in Sydney, huge participation rates in social media, and we are supposed to believe that Sandra Eckersley was chosen at random to speak about a serious subject, despite her total lack of qualifications or experience in the area? Bullshit.