Archive for the ‘crime’ Category

Update: I originally didn’t want to publish this because I didn’t think it was good enough, but I hit the wrong button. Anyway, Alistair Morgan read it and thinks one of the premises of the whole thing is wrong. Namely, the weapons were going in the same direction as the drugs, not the other way around. Well, at least the story moved on a bit, but this renders mostly useless a whole additional post I put together from reading a lot of crazy-but-interesting stuff out of the bottom of the Internet. Also, despite the Jessie J reference there’s better music at the bottom if you get that far.

So, Alistair Morgan’s twitter feed frequently hints at “cocaine, weapons, and Ireland” as well as police corruption as being factors involved in the case of his brother, Daniel Morgan, the private detective murdered in 1987, probably by people who were since employed by News International. It’s often been said that Morgan was on the point of publishing some sort of huge revelation when he was killed, but nobody knows what it was beyond his brother’s hints based on what the police told him at the time.

Since the eruption of the phone-hacking scandal, a number of sidelights have come up which linked the News of the World, its cadre of ex-police gumshoes, and its contacts inside the police force. Notably, it seems to have spied on the former Army intelligence agent-handler, Ian Hurst, on an NGO, British-Irish Rights Watch (because documents of theirs were on Hurst’s computer when they hacked it), and perhaps on the chief of police, Sir Philip Orde. It would have been hard for people working for the press not to have covered at least one Northern Irish story in the last 20-odd years simply because it was such a news staple, but it’s worth noting their interest.

The War Economy of Northern Ireland

So, what might link Morgan, cocaine, weapons, Ireland, and policemen? There are some fairly well-known stylised facts or stereotypes about the economy of the Troubles. The IRA mostly funded itself from money collected in the United States, from bank robberies, and from unofficial taxes it collected in the North. It also got contributions from friendly countries, specifically Libya. The Loyalists didn’t have a reliable source of their own money abroad like NorAid, and so specialised in protection and drugs. Both sides also got involved in smuggling across the border as a commercial exercise.

That’s a glib summary ‘graf; obviously, I collect a revolutionary tax for the struggle, you impose fines on drug dealers and dishonestly stick to some of the money, and they are merely thugs operating a protection racket. Traditionally, both Sinn Fein and the British tended to stereotype the Loyalists as basically criminal and the IRA as proper insurgents – there may be some truth in there, but the distinction is one of emphasis and degree and also of propaganda rather than of kind.

Having obtained money, they both needed to convert some of it into arms. The IRA got a famous delivery in the 80s from Libya in its role as Secret Santa, and also often bought guns in the US over the counter and smuggled them back. I don’t know how well characterised the sources of Loyalist arms are, which of course gives me license to speculate.

Permanently Operating Factors

Now for the cocaine, which has often been known to land in bulk quantities on the wilder, less populated bits of the Atlantic coast that also offer good harbours. This is a rare combination, as people live near ports. Two of the best bits on that score are northwest Spain and southwest Ireland. Having landed, you can move it on anywhere in the UK-Ireland common travel area without much more trouble. Since the creation of the Schengen area, Galicia is even better for this because there is such a choice of markets you can reach without a customs inspection. But in 1987 this was an un-fact, so you might as well go to Ireland.

This transit trade had important consequences – notably the rise of Martin “The General” Cahill, the assassination of Veronica Guerin, and probably a substantial chunk of the Irish property bubble via the laundering of profits and also by the boost to those ol’ animal spirits the drug provides.

Imagine, then, that an important criminal actor supplying the London market with cocaine also had access to a reliable surplus of weapons. There is the potential for trade here.

However, it’s not that simple – the famous Libyan shipment would have fit in a couple of shipping containers, and it kept the IRA going up until peace was signed, with a fair bit left over to be buried in concrete by the international commissioners on decommissioning. It is very unlikely that any plausible flow of arms to Northern Ireland would have paid for the flow of cocaine into the South-East.

We Don’t Need Your Money, Money, Money, We Just Wanna Make The World Dance…

There’s something else going on – Diego Gambetta would have already pointed out that you need to understand the trade in protection. To sell protection, you need weapons, which are the capital equipment of the business of private protection. In so far as the buyers in the UK were paying in guns as well as cash, they were arguably expressing a protector-protectee relationship. While on our territory, we protect you, and license you to provide protection. This was also reciprocated. In accepting them, were the sellers of the cocaine undertaking to protect it in transit on their own territory?

Another way of looking at this, which Gambetta would also approve of, would be in terms of costly signalling. Being both a supplier and a protector is a powerful position, but it might be worth letting the other side have it as a guarantee or hostage, to signal that you didn’t intend to break the agreement and deal with some other supplier. This makes even more sense given that you still have a regular supply of guns you could cut off or use against them, and therefore both parties have something to lose.

Now, Gambetta’s work mostly deals with Sicily, where a very important protection supplier has often been irrelevant. London is a very different society from this point of view. Whatever you think of the police, you can’t just ignore them as a factor. In some other societies, the police might be protection consumers, but here, police corruption usually takes the form of policemen selling protection. (In a sense, the more effective the police, the more tempting this will be. Nothing sells like the good stuff.)

So, gazing down on this complex, neo-medieval exchange of cash, credit, and protection, there is a sort of Sun King whose permission is required for any protection contract to be signed. It’s like a feudal society. My liege lord is only so, because he is the King’s subject, and the King at least theoretically owes duties to the Emperor, or later, directly to God. Our buyer is in a position to offer protection for his end of the business because he enjoys protection supplied by the police.

Who were the recipients, the sellers? They might have been drug dealers who needed to buy protection from one or other paramilitary group. They might have been drug dealers who wanted to build up enough arms that they could stop buying protection, or rather, change protector. Or they might have been paramilitaries who sold protection to the drugs trade. The distinction is surprisingly unimportant.

So, to put the pieces together, there was some group of South-East London villains importing cocaine from transit providers in Ireland, who were also exporting weapons in the opposite direction as part of an exchange of protection for their common business. This required buying protection from the police. Where did the weapons come from? And why is News International involved?

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I don’t quite know what to make of this:


Q What other sites, remember any particular internet sites you looked at?

A When I was doing research about MPs, I looked at one called theyworkforyou.com and I think another one was called publicwhips [publicwhip.org.uk].

Q So, have you carried out any research to … about Stephen Timms.

A Yeah, on … I looked up, I found, I Googled him, I found out he had a website, I found a page about him on theyworkforyou.com … if you follow that link it shows information about how he voted on different things related to the Iraq war and the build up towards it. I found out that … he very strongly agreed with the invasion of Iraq and they said very strongly because they worked out all his votes for everything related to that and it came up to something like 99.9% support or something like that.

Q How does that make you feel?

A That made me feel angry because the whole Iraq war is just based on lies and he just voted strongly for everything as though he had no mercy. As though he felt no doubts that what he was doing was right, even though it was such an arrogant thing to do and I just felt like if he could treat the Iraqi people so mercilessly, then why should I show him any mercy?

Q What, what makes you think that it’s your place to go and stab him?..

Here’s an interesting follow-up on the recent raid on the Iraqi central bank, from Joel Wing. You may recall that the attack, a classic NOIA multi-layered assault using suicide bombers, snipers, and infantry, successfully took over the building and held off the Iraqi army for some time before disengaging, and that although a large quantity of documents and computers were destroyed, no money was taken.

I read that as being an insurgent effort to project incorruptibility, in the style both Tomas Masaryk and Mao advised their followers to adopt, in the context of an operation designed to wreck the bank as an institution. Wing’s follow-up suggests that there may have been other motives at work – the fire began in the office of the Inspector-General, and the files destroyed include the records of an inquiry into a huge fake-cheque fraud ($711 million – a reminder that frauds in Iraq grow to enormous size). Further, there was a previous unexplained fire in the bank’s archives in 2008 which destroyed evidence in a corruption case.

Wing’s sources speculate that employees at the bank might have taken the opportunity of the raid to start the fire, that the attackers were involved in the original fraud, or that those behind the fraud hired the attackers to destroy the evidence.

Fascinatingly, almost a year ago, The Guardian reported that similar motives might have played a role in the kidnapping of British IT consultant Peter Moore and the murder of his bodyguards. Moore was working on a new accounting system for the Finance Ministry, that would track all the Iraqi government’s income and expenditure in detail, when he was kidnapped from the Ministry’s data centre by a platoon-sized force of gunmen posing as Ministry of the Interior forces. It is rarely obvious in Iraq whether the fake policemen are fake policemen, or real policemen posing as fakes, but several different kinds of insurgents had the capability to manoeuvre forces that size in central Baghdad at the time.

Among other things, this is a reminder that the recent history of Iraq cannot be written without paying serious attention to its aspect as the biggest robbery in human history, a fat city for every crook in the Middle East and far beyond.

ye olde scamme

Charlie Stross feels that the Bernie Madoff case has put the sequel to Halting State behind the curve of criminal weirdness. I disagree strongly. Madoff was an American classic, as perfect an artefact of his society as aerosol cheese or moon landings. His fraud was a simple, well-executed example of the tried and trusted Ponzi scheme, a crime which was actually invented in the US by the eponymous Charles Ponzi in the 1920s. Like Ponzi’s original, Madoff’s homage surfed on the history of US immigration; Ponzi sold his paper to recent immigrants who trusted him as a fellow-Sicilian, Madoff to people who trusted him as a fellow Jewish New Yorker and a Wall Street figure in good standing.

In fact, his crime looks almost old-fashioned; the style of it is reminiscent of the 1950s, pitching an inside track on his wholesale brokerage to rich old Jews at country clubs and Miami Beach hotels. It could be a scene from The Producers. No computers; the investment operation, and fraud, ran from a cluttered office and a suburban accounting practice. It was all handshakes, and for the more sophisticated marks, the tacit understanding that his returns came from front-running his wholesale clients. You can’t con an honest man, etc.

The only new element in it was brute size, but then, when has that not been an American tradition?

Compare the Sergei Aleynikov case; now that is thoroughly modern. The guy codes in Erlang, for the sake of all that is holy. And the most telling detail is that nobody is certain if there has even been an actual fraud. No money is missing, and the source code in question is so proprietary it’s impossible to say if it’s worth anything. Is it possible to write an EULA that would make you eat your own head if you looked at it? That really is the size of it; he’s accused of violating software copyright, the most modern of possible crimes.

This is a marker of the times; things happen, but the motives are so overdetermined that it is impossible to pin agency or blame with any accuracy. Outrages and outages occur, but nobody squeals, as with the Israeli air raid on the “Box on the Euphrates” or the Libyan ELINT zorch of the Thuraya satellite they were part-owners of. The Jerome Kerviel case had a similar taste; he’s on the out, and is suing SocGen for unfair dismissal. Even Bernie Madoff would have called that chutzpah.

Tories. I’m in full agreement with Matthew here; I really suspect that the mood music about “austerity” (plays well with the demographics) and “IMF” is actually preparing the ground for the Conservatives to pull a deliberate financial freakout once in office. Osborne has been pushing a line that We Have No Idea How Bad It Really Is for some time.

One of the main uses of this institution is as a combined reason and excuse to push through horrible right-wing bollocks that you’d never get away with in normal politics, and the total collapse of its influence in the 2000s seems to have had remarkably little effect on it. They are still ordering countries like Iceland and Hungary to put up interest rates in order to pull in hot money, something which just isn’t ever going to happen now and is only explicable in economic terms by a desire to push down wages. It is also explicable in anthropological terms as a cargo cult – do the same things in exactly the same way and maybe we’ll be important like we were in the 80s!

My guesses for the targets are three well-known TLAs – the NHS, the BBC, and the MOD, especially those bits of it that represent independent enabling capabilities with regard to the US. After all, we can do nothing; the IMF made us do it. There is an alternative view that Gideon will be given the boot by a Ken Clarke-led wave of realism, but then, a lot of people have been made fools of hoping for the Tories to listen to Ken Clarke.

How can we resist this? IMF riots may be traditional, but they have the fault that they usually happen after Jeffrey Sachs is called in and the damage is done. After all, as “RickDFL” points out in comments at the Washington Monthly, the lack of universal healthcare in the US is a major structural advantage for the Right.

This is wrong;

Gitmo will be closed. Binyam Mohammed will be returned to Britain, or put on trial in the USA. Either way the details of his treatment, and that of all the other inmates, will become public. What are Foggy Bottom and the CIA playing at? Get it over with

Consider this BBC story. The interesting thing here is that Miliband’s position requires him to argue two mutually impossible things at once; first, he can’t possibly let evidence of Mohammed’s torture appear in court, for fear of terrible retaliation from the United States, second, that the United States has not threatened such a thing.

The two are mutually dependent, because if the first one was allowed to stand on its own, who would imagine that good relations with the United States were anything worth having? Therefore, it’s necessary for the protection of the self-regard of the political classes that the US threat be both unambiguous and invisible. It is like the chapter in The Art of Coarse Rugby about fields with bulls in them; eventually they conclude that the ideal scenario is a field next to the rugby ground with a large sign in it, reading BEWARE OF THE BULL, but no bull.

That way, if you need to play for time, you can hoof the ball into the field and count on your opponents’ fear of the bull to waste time – but should you find yourself a couple of points down as time runs out, you can always declare that the bull was taken away years ago and just get on with it. Similarly, no evidence was ever provided of Saudi threats back when this legal dodge – the BAE gambit as I call it – was invented.

Providing evidence of the threats would spoil it. If the government had to admit it was being bullied into covering up for appalling torture or spectacular financial corruption, this would alter certain political facts. But that is not all. The beauty of the BAE gambit is that it’s so flexible; because the evidence of the risk is itself secret, it can be invoked whenever required. I said this at the time, and now they’re doing it. If they had to demonstrate the threat, this would spoil its effectiveness.

I see no reason to think that the Government is lying now about the Americans’ position. In fact, it’s very likely that the Obama administration has not contacted them; for example, here’s the new CIA director explicitly stating that he considers torture and refoulement to states that practice it illegal. Here are his own words:

On January 22, 2009, the President issued an executive order directing all U.S. agencies to use Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions as the baseline for the treatment and interrogation of persons detained in any armed conflict. The executive order also states that agencies must notify the International Committee of the Red Cross of such detainees and provide the Red Cross with access to them. The intelligence community must follow the executive order.

With respect to renditions, the intelligence community must comply with U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, including Article 3 prohibiting the rendition of a person to a country where it is more likely than not he will be subjected to torture.

Here’s the relevant paragraph in the executive order:

Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441; the Federal assault statute, 18 U.S.C. 113; the Federal maiming statute, 18 U.S.C. 114; the Federal “stalking” statute, 18 U.S.C. 2261A; articles 93, 124, 128, and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 893, 924, 928, and 934; section 1003 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. 2000dd; section 6(c) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Public Law 109 366; the Geneva Conventions; and the Convention Against Torture. Nothing in this order shall be construed to diminish any rights that any individual may have under these or other laws and treaties.”

No torture; no handover to states that torture. So it would be surprising if they were to do so. And, indeed, Miliband explicitly says that no approach to the new administration has been made.

However, the Government has chosen to regard not being explicitly told to stop as equivalent to a reiteration of the threats (whose existence it denies, lest we forget) issued by the Bush administration in 2007. It has done this because it suits the Government’s interests. For once, William Hague is right – they should simply ask the Americans to state whether or not the non-threat is still not-in force.

Of course they will not, because it suits them to be able to kick the ball over the BEWARE OF THE BULL sign whenever they think fit. As Scott Horton points out, there are a lot of people about who desperately want a new US administration to be guilty, because it detracts from their own guilt.

Tim Ireland’s new project is more necessary than ever. It’s not quite achieved the same degree of punch and professionalism that the daddy of tab-bashing blogs, BildBlog offers readers of Germany’s biggest newspaper, but give them time. (This also bothers me. When I started this blog there were one million blogs, of which 50,000 updated on average daily. Now their numbers are beyond counting, and the top 50,000 churn out far more than before because so many are professional. I can remember when the only pro was Josh Marshall.)

Anyway, this didn’t seem to interest TSL despite my desperately flagging it, but it’s possibly the most Orwellian piece of writing in the history of British journalogasm. Link, if you can stomach it.

AN Iraqi terror boss is demanding legal aid to sue the MoD — over PORN left in his jail toilet. Ahmed Al-Fartoosi — blamed for the deaths of dozens of Brits — is to sue the Government for tens of thousands of pounds. On top of the loo claim, Fartoosi — accused of leading the fanatic Mehdi Army and masterminding a bombing campaign against Our Boys in Basra — wants “substantial damages” for:

HEARING porn videos being played on a soldier’s laptop;

BUMPING his arm and thigh when being put in an armoured vehicle; and

LOSING sleep in his cell due to noise and lights from a corridor.

Fartoosi — represented by anti-war lawyer Phil Shiner — also moaned his solitary confinement room was too hot.

Fortunately there are also newspapers that don’t aim for a reading age of seven (I’ve actually collapsed some of the paragraphs in that quote, if you can believe that). So…

Fartoosi was detained for more than two years, including nearly six months in solitary confinement. He was arrested in his Basra home in September 2005 and released late last year after British forces agreed to an Iraqi-sponsored deal with the militia.

He says he was beaten with rifle butts and blindfolded before he was put in a tank. For 12 hours he and his fellow detainees given no food and were prevented from going to the toilet.

He says he was taken to the British base at Shaibah, on the outskirts of Basra, where he spent 72 days in solitary confinement in a small cell with no ventilation, though he says he was provided with three cooked meals a day. On the third or fourth night, he says, soldiers brought a laptop and placed it on a window sill just outside his cell.

“After a short period of conversation in English it became clear to me that the DVD was showing porn. It was playing at the loudest possible volume. Thereafter for the next month the porn movies were played all night.”

So, when the Sun says he “bumped” his arm and thigh, they mean that he was beaten up with the butt of a rifle. When they say he lost sleep, and heard porn playing back on a laptop, they mean he was deliberately deprived of sleep as an interrogation tactic – one which is banned by Army doctrine on the handling of prisoners, by the way.

Note also that the “porn found in a jail toilet”, a comparatively puny charge, somehow got promoted into the lede, thus pushing the sleep deprivation down into the bottom end of the story. (After all, do you think you were meant to read any more than the first par?) Of course, associating it with a toilet tends to lend a sort of fnarr fnarr quality to the whole thing as well.

Nobody has any business writing like this. You might wonder as well what the Sun thought it was doing being “STAGGERED” by Colin Stagg’s compensation; let’s not forget that the Met is currently prosecuting another suspect in the Rachel Nickell case…the guy whose DNA was all over the crime scene. We can be as certain as anything in the law that Stagg is innocent; we’ve got the DNA after all. So what is their major malfunction? Can it be that they just like arbitrary state power?

Bonus catch: this week, they also managed to report the horrible fate of a boy who fell off a block of flats he was trying to climb down to get away from his enemies with the strapline “BROKEN BRITAIN HORROR”; they are always so keen to churn out victim porn (see the Stagg story), but you have to wonder whether his relatives really wanted to be conscripted into a party political broadcast for the Conservative Party.

OK, so have you heard the one about the bloke from Goole who was planning to start his own race war? Probably not, because it’s not been on the news at all. Rather like the BNP guy in Burnley, whose trial was also shrouded in tebbly tebbly concerned silence. Martyn Gilleard, a 31-year old lorry driver, is currently standing trial for making nail bombs, as well as collecting a variety of weapons. The prosecution alleges that he’s a fascist who was planning to use them on his local mosque, and they seem to have a strong case – as well as the bombs, the bullets, and the knives, he collected American white-supremacist propaganda material. The BBC reports; I’m amused by his defence that he “said he had become less racist recently”. Indymedia has more, including photos.

Here’s the head of counter-terrorism in Scotland, making sense:

Fife’s assistant chief constable said the public is at risk because racism is being used to unite people into violent causes. He said this also undermines police work to reassure the Muslim community following the attack on Glasgow Airport last year.

Burnett said: “We’ve had a number of right-wing issues recently [in the UK] that again have raised their head in Scotland. There have been serious cases down south that have been really well dealt with by the police down there, but we shouldn’t be complacent about it. There’s no point promoting positive race relations if, in claiming to be everyone’s co-ordinator of counter terrorism, you take your eye off the right-wing.”

But it’s strange how little media/political attention is paid to the guy with the actual real explosives, compared to, say, the “Lyrical Terrorist”. Perhaps it proves that intellectualism really is valued in Britain, at least by the Security Service – and who is to say they are wrong? After all, it wasn’t the street fighters who put Hitler in power.

This is, however, another shot in the greater intellectual struggle of our times. I mean, of course, the debate between Dsquared, Jamie Kenny and myself about exactly how jihadi radicalisation works. Jamie has in the past argued that there is a sort of climate of nonspecific extremism abroad in our culture, which doesn’t have to fit any particular political world-view, but instead makes its way to earth by any handy conduit. I wasn’t very convinced of this to begin with, but I’m beginning to think there’s something in it.

Evidence: here we have an actual prison-gang jihadi recruiter, who’s being held in seg to stop him propagandising other prisoners. The key facts, however, are that his name is Stephen Jones and he used to be a member of the BNP. Clearly, Jamie’s thesis is valid at least for some people. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones were to become, or have been, a Maoist, a deep-ecologist who thinks getting rid of people in general would be a good thing, a hardcore libertarian nutcase, or just a random thug. 10 years ago, perhaps he might have become a road-protesting raver, given the right drugs and influences. I particularly like the statement from the Prison Officers’ Association rep that the sheer magnitude of the threat is shown because “if someone as right-wing as this can be radicalised, what could happen to the normal prisoners?” On that score, we’d surely want to worry about the screws.

Come to think of it, perhaps this free-floating extremism explains more than just the anglo-jihadis – there are the Decents, for one, and maybe even me. Dsquared has in the past expressed his concern at the speed with which Mohammed Sidique Khan, possibly the most capable person this movement produced, went from something approaching normality to suicide terrorist – come to think of it, it’s a bit like what I think of as the Decent Death Dive. Taken together with this post, perhaps our society is organising itself around a defining tension between free-floating authoritarianism and non-specific extremism?

Said Sir Michael Rose, speaking at the SAS passing-out parade in 1979: One intelligent soldier can achieve more than a fleet of B-52s. There’s some debate as to whether that statement could be applied to Rose himself, but I doubt many would disagree with it.

David Davis apparently agrees. His resignation from Parliament should be understood as an exercise in the struggle for strategic influence, specifically directed at the growing decent/neocon faction in the Conservative Party. I have been a little surprised, and pleased, by how well the Tories have held up on the Counter-Terrorism Bill, ID cards, and related issues; I would have thought the Murdoch influence would be telling by now. And, indeed, there are signs of change within – Boris Johnston’s win seems to have hugely strengthened the Policy Exchange/Michael Gove current, while Cameron’s annoying press chief Steve Hilton has run off to California. His BlackBerry is unlikely to be enough to compensate for the distance, which must strengthen Andy Coulson’s role as Rupert Murdoch’s ambassador to the Tories.

But now: cazart! Davies’ replacement, Dominic Grieve is even talking about repealing the 28 day provisions. Stick that up your punter – I think not. There’s not going to be any cave-in now. It’s part of the Westminster traditional language that, to be considered principled, an act must also be ineffective or poorly executed, which is one of the reasons so many people have been at pains to accuse Davis of Machiavellianism or frivolity. People who want something that isn’t evil or dishonourable don’t get to pull off brilliantly outrageous triple-crosses, do they? Yes, of course it’s Machiavellian scheming – this is politics after all, and that’s how things get done, and the people who complain are usually the ones who were outschemed.

If you needed evidence that the Davis coup is significant, you need look no further than the emergence of an actual Murdoch candidate running against him. Yes, Kelvin McFuck is back, looking to add another name to his litany of post-Sun failures. He is one of very few men to actually fail to make money by underestimating the public’s taste – it’s not like News Bunny ever made a penny… But, this time, he is clutching a promise of actual financial support from News International, plus close air support from the paper itself. Inevitably, the media establishment is busy writing him off as a joke candidate, which makes as much sense as writing Davis off and is being done for precisely the same reasons.

Whether McFuck realises it or not, in a very serious sense Davis was running against the Sun Party from the word go. What does the Sun actually stand for, politically? Well, now we know – we can read it off McFuck’s public statements.

He also told the BBC he would be campaigning on three issues – hostility to the “sense that our country is somehow in the grip of some kind of security vice”, demanding that there be “the referendum for Europe”, and on more populist issues – like seeking changes to government spending on “things I don’t think we care about”.

In a BBC Radio 5 interview, he was slightly more specific about point three, saying that he wanted to ban BT from using “automatic voice responders and call centres”. You have to wonder whether a man who had just come from a late-night dinner with antisocial binge drinker Rebekah Wade was entirely sober, but there is a clear pattern here – he, and it, stand for authoritarianism, the Special Relationship in the worst sense, and fake populist gut-chafing (this latter, of course, is essentially content-free).

Putting it another way, McFuck’s candidacy is an exercise in the promotion of power-worship. It’s Schmittian conservatism; the permanent crisis requires an Ausnahmezustand, which demands a strong leader who may incidentally beat up the odd call centre to demonstrate their compassion for the weak, who are very much intended to stay that way. Note that McFuck’s not interested in the people who work in the call centre. Only a numskull like Geoff Hoon could think the Government ought to field a candidate – it should be clear enough to everyone else that the Government, in many ways, already is.

In this light, it’s clear why Davis is standing and why he deserves your support – it’s only contradictory that he believes in both the death penalty and habeus corpus in terms of generalised progressivism or liberalism, which he doesn’t believe in (or he wouldn’t be a Tory). In terms of classical conservatism, it makes perfect sense to think that the State should have the power to cut your head off, and that its power must be constrained by law as much as humanly possible. (After all, if the State *wants* to kill someone, it’s likely to find a way unless someone stops it.)

And, going by the polling data, this is likely to be your chance to help pour the proverbial vast bucket of shit back over McFuck’s head. Imagine the scene at the Murdoch summer party – McFuck, red-faced, holding forth, James Murdoch explaining to Rupert, ticking quietly on his death-support system, that there’s this thing called the Internet and it’s like TV that you read, Wade drooling slightly over Wendi Deng’s shoulder but still reasonably coherent, the plates of roast baby stewed in the juice of freshly squeezed minority shareholders well dug into but not quite down to the toying level yet. All seems well with the world…and then, the disruption. Forced to show their hand.

This is also to say that Dan Hardie was right. He’s been a Davis fan for some time; I was doubtful, especially after he reacted to the police crime figures going down by suddenly deciding the BCS was right all along. But when the time came…

There’s a PledgeBank here; and what’s this? Bob Marshall-Andrews and Colonel Tim Collins? And Kings of War. And Peter McGrath. It’s like going back to the 2005 general election, maaannnn.

If you can read you should read this if you read nothing else this decade. It’s all about how the Americans started torturing people, whose idea it was, how men like John Yoo came to provide the legal justifications, who was keen (the ideological core of the administration), who didn’t want to know (the FBI and, curiously, the US Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service). It is intensely depressing, and the only hope in it is the precedent from Nuremberg that a lawyer who is involved in a war crime in their legal capacity can be just as guilty as the torturer.

Here’s the most significant bit, if that means anything at this level of degradation:

On September 25, as the process of elaborating new interrogation techniques reached a critical point, a delegation of the administration’s most senior lawyers arrived at Guantánamo. The group included the president’s lawyer, Alberto Gonzales, who had by then received the Yoo-Bybee Memo; Vice President Cheney’s lawyer, David Addington, who had contributed to the writing of that memo; the C.I.A.’s John Rizzo, who had asked for a Justice Department sign-off on individual techniques, including waterboarding, and received the second (and still secret) Yoo-Bybee Memo; and Jim Haynes, Rumsfeld’s counsel. They were all well aware of al-Qahtani. “They wanted to know what we were doing to get to this guy,” Dunlavey told me, “and Addington was interested in how we were managing it.” I asked what they had to say. “They brought ideas with them which had been given from sources in D.C.,” Dunlavey said. “They came down to observe and talk.” Throughout this whole period, Dunlavey went on, Rumsfeld was “directly and regularly involved.”

Beaver confirmed the account of the visit. Addington talked a great deal, and it was obvious to her that he was a “very powerful man” and “definitely the guy in charge,” with a booming voice and confident style. Gonzales was quiet. Haynes, a friend and protégé of Addington’s, seemed especially interested in the military commissions, which were to decide the fate of individual detainees. They met with the intelligence people and talked about new interrogation methods. They also witnessed some interrogations.

Addington. Addington. At every ugly hinge of the Bush years, he’s there. I’d never heard of him until at least 2006, when the Stiftung turned me on to the story. I wonder if he was a member of the White House Iraq Group? Another one we never cleared up.

This depresses me for other reasons; at the end of 2001, I was just about still prepared to defend them. I never imagined they would want to keep the prisoners indefinitely; better in their hands than those of the Northern Alliance, right? The penny finally dropped for me with the decision to refuse them POW status in early 2002. But looking back, should I have been angrier earlier? Not that it would have helped; but I do think I consistently underestimated them. I was always opposed to Iraq – but right up to the end I didn’t really believe they meant it.

It seemed so crazed, the only explanation I could think of was that it was an exercise in madman theory (and you all know what I think of that); once the inspectors went back in, and they started cutting up rockets and flying Mirage F1-CR recce planes, wouldn’t this be the end? Or at least, wouldn’t it be enough for us? What I didn’t realise, of course, was that they wanted war for reasons that had very little to do with the war; for Blair it was presumably to cling to the US. And for Addington?

His significance, I think, is that it’s all been about law; they wanted and dreamed of escaping the constraints of the legal state, and no wonder they started at the top.

Update: Pathos to bathos in a flash. Yes, that should have been John Yoo, not Woo. Perhaps they should have hired John Woo; he’d have danced round his own arse on the tip of a Tomahawk missile while chop-socking Addington into diced wanker and collapsing Osama’s occiput with a diamond-edged writ. They’d have told all they knew, willingly.