Book cover

Book cover
There are some 'clues' if you wish to find them!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Alpha to Omega: fiction mirroring actual events.

"Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really more commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out this window.....and peep in at the queer things that are going on.....the strange coincidences.....the wonderful chain of events.....leading to the most fantastic would make all fiction, with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions, most stale and unprofitable."  (Sherlock Holmes - A Case of Identity)

The overlap of fact and fiction in Alpha to Omega, has made me accutely aware of the great detective's words. The number of times in recent months that I have been 'surprised' by a television news report or newspaper articles has amazed even me. Someone recently joked that I should change my middle name to Nostradamus!

If you are up to speed with the MI6 agent inquest, you will know that forensics say he probably wasn't poisoned; adding that because of the condition of the body, it was difficult to be certain. Those of you who have read Alpha to Omega will not be surprised that no poison was found. (I won't spoil it for the rest of you by saying why.) Another expert witness gave evidence today that he tried, unsuccessfully, to zip himself into a similar holdall. After several hundred attempts, he gave up. I am also told (but have not double checked this) that another witness suggested Gareth Williams was probably dead before being put into the bag. As suggested in a previous posting, contrast this with the 'official line' that no third party was involved.

We've also been told that there is no cctv evidence from near his flat to confirm the belief that he was being followed. Why should there be? If he was being tailed by professionals, they are very unlikely to follow him to his own front door. Unless someone believes they are being followed (or suspect they could be) they tend to behave predictably. So, if someone follows his usual route from the station, office or gym, there is a high probability that he is going home. And if the 'follower' knows or suspects that there are cctv cameras in the area, they are going to be particularly careful. Only a deranged stalker would ignore these simple precautions.

Keeping someone under 24 hour surveillance is a different matter - but even then, commonsense and reasonable precautions still apply. Modern technology generally permits remote listening, perhaps with the occasional 'walkthrough' if it was deemed necessary. Even then (as you will know from Alpha to Omega) an experienced 'spook' (which Gareth Williams was not) can give you the slip.

So the possibility that he was being tailed cannot simply be ruled out because of lack of cctv evidence. Nor have I yet heard any convincing argument against his being killed by his own people. In fact, there seem to be reasons to consider this option. Security Services do sometimes 'take out' their own people. I am aware, for example, of a fairly high-ranking Frenchman being killed in a car 'accident'. The reason: he was threatening to derail a Franco-German security collaboration.

Friday, 20 April 2012

'Spies' come in all shapes & sizes

There are all sorts of people employed by the security services. There are the so-called professionals at the top, with teams of specialists reporting to them. In this day and age, there is obviously a strong emphasis on technology: communications interception, cyber crime and the like.

But there is also a need for 'foot soldiers'. These are the people who travel around; meeting, talking, observing, recruiting and, of course, disposing of the opposition when it is necessary. They do not have formal identification and, more often than not, they are pursuing another career. That cover, plus the ability to travel unhindered, are key to the contribution they make. They may be businesspeople, academics, writers, ex military personnel or even semi-retired. That last one is near perfect. He sits on a the board of a few charities, occasionally has to travel up to London for a meeting, but otherwise is all his neighbours believe him to be. Most of them are not on any official government payroll and if they are paid, it is often in cash; available from a suitably anonymous office.

Despite the cover and/or the training, these are all human beings; with weaknesses, idiosyncracies and occasional dark secrets. In short, they make mistakes or create indiscretions. If they are important enough, they are rescued in some way; if not, they are abandoned or denied in a biblical manner. Here are just two of many examples I have personally experienced.

On one occasion, I was taking a fairly well-known person to lunch at a famous London restaurant. My reason was straightforward business. However, a few days before the meeting I was informed that this person had fairly strong links to the security services. More importantly, I was advised not to go into the gentlemen's washroom at the same time as him! I have never figured out whether this advice was imparted to save me embarrassment or pre-emptive, to keep him out of trouble.

The other was an elderly Belgian gentleman (not Poirot!) who still did a little work in his spare time. I think that he worked for the French, but cannot be certain. Anyway, on one of his fact-finding missions he discovered an address where a member of the UK security services resided from time to time. This person was known to him socially, but not through any 'spooks' network. At Christmas, they would exchange cards; sent to their home addresses. The mistake arose when the elderly Belgian gentleman sent his annual christmas card to the other address! Age catches up with all of us.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Espionage - A spider's web

Once Intelligence Services (and by association, governments) start to get 'worried', the shutters go up and the disinformation starts. There are two very current examples; although one turns out to be quite old, but has only recently come to light.

As expected, the British Government are pressing hard for much of the evidence in the Gareth Williams murder inquest to be heard in secret. It now appears that the murdered MI6 man also had links with the US National Security Agency (NSA) and had returned from the USA not long before his murder. So it's not just the Brits who are worried. Keep a careful eye on the inquest when it gets fully underway in a couple of weeks time.

The 'secret justice' debate in the UK has also recently brought to light what appears to be an awful example of what happens when the security services close ranks - often to cover up their own shortcomings and mistakes. Here we have what seems to be monumental failures by the CIA (pre-9/11) which are then covered up with what is known as State Secrets Privilege to influence the British courts. Stuart & Margaret Bentham were the recipients of 'secret justice'. Plenty is beginning to emerge, if you are interested. 

Is it surprising that conspiracy websites have sprung up over the years? The problem is, they are sometimes self-defeating. The participants become so paranoid, that they risk ridicule. The moment that happens, their story (however true) becomes devalued. And that plays straight into the hands of those who would see them silenced or marginalised.

My own knowledge of the security services (through association rather than participation!) led to events that could easily lead to paranoia. Once you know that you are in a room or sitting around a table with people who in another role are members of various security services (British, French, German and possibly Middle-Eastern) the feeling becomes quite surreal. They are people who wear 'two hats'; pretending they do not know what the others do, while all the time (of course) they do!

When my home phone was bugged, I wasn't quite sure who the interested parties might be. No, I'm not getting paranoid. It was in the days when the technology was not as sophisticated as today and rather gave itself away.