Defence

Bad Spy, Bad – An American Narrative

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Karel Koecher was a horrible choice to become an intelligence officer for any self-respecting spy service. Born in 1934, he grew up in Czechoslovakia and was always in some kind of minor trouble with the authorities.

Disgruntled at the shackles placed on him by a repressive one-party state, he reasoned that he would have the greatest amount of personal freedom if he wormed his way into the Czechoslovak security service, the StB. Koecher did in fact land a job there. Then, in spite of the StB’s psychologists assessment of him as being “over-confident, hypersensitive, hostile toward people, money driven, showing a strong inclination toward instability, emotionally volatile, possessing an anti-social almost psychopathic personality, touchy, [and] intolerant of authoritarianism,” the service sent him and his wife Hana, who would support him in his operations, to the United States as illegals, deep cover officers meant to blend into society.

They departed Czechoslovakia in 1965, arriving in America pretending to be anticommunist political refugees. Karel snagged a job at Radio Free Europe, but unsurprisingly, his work was indifferent and his StB superiors began to grow disgruntled with their ill-chosen officer. That changed in 1973, when he got a job with the CIA as a translator/analyst, giving him access to sensitive foreign espionage operations.
This is just the surface of the remarkable story told by Benjamin Cunningham in his new book, The Liar: How a Double Agent in the CIA Became the Cold War’s Last Honest Man. Cunningham, a correspondent for The Economist, interviewed the Koechers and other major participants and exploited records from the Czech Republic’s State Security Archives. The book, while not without its flaws, is a useful contribution to the history of Cold War espionage and tells us much that we never knew about the Koechers and their work.

Sputtering Start

When Karel worked for the New York office of Radio Free Europe in the late 1960s, it was a CIA front organization. Of course, the StB pushed him to report on his coworkers at RFE. Karel resisted these demands, however. Years later, he claimed that he had some sympathy for the anti-Communist “dissent and opposition” RFE was supporting in his home country. “Because of the [Soviet] invasion, I was furious and hated the scum that took over,” he told Cunningham. He even made a tentative approach to the FBI with a view toward perhaps arranging a defection but after two inconsequential contacts circling around the issue, neither party moved to close the deal.

Whatever his sentiments, Koecher soon quit his job without having another one lined up—not ideal spy behavior. He also entered a Ph.D. program in philosophy at Columbia University. There he tried to develop relationships with people who had or might in the future have access to secrets. Indeed, he met Zbigniew Brzezinski, though the future White House national security adviser remained merely an acquaintance. After receiving his Ph.D., Koecher’s academic career never took off and, for a time, the family lived entirely on Hana’s salary from a retail job selling diamonds.

In 1971, Karel became a U.S. citizen and a year later applied for a job with the CIA. Perhaps because he had been trained on how to defeat the polygraph, he beat the machine, received a security clearance and began working as a contract translator processing recordings from audio surveillance of Soviet facilities.
Cunningham reports that among the things Karel worked on was the take from four phone lines into the Soviet Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. Karel was able to tell the StB that the CIA was preparing to recruit a Soviet diplomat and provided a description of the CIA officer in charge of the operation. Later, he reported that the CIA seemed particularly interested in two Soviet officials at the embassy, one of them a diplomat named Aleksandr Ogorodnik. This man had, indeed, been recruited in 1973 by the CIA, which code-named him TRIGON. The KGB would arrest Ogorodnik in 1977 and he would commit suicide with a poison pill provided by the CIA.

Despite having provided this remarkable information, in September, 1976 Karel was called back to Czechoslovakia over suspicions about his loyalty. In a safe house, he was subjected to interrogation by the StB and then by a KGB General. This was Oleg Kalugin, now a well-known figure who left Russia for the United States in 1995 and wrote critically of the Soviet Union but who does not consider himself a defector. At the time of Karel’s interrogation, he was the head of foreign counterintelligence for the KGB. (Full disclosure: I know Kalugin and am on friendly terms with him though we are not close.)

Remarkably, Cunningham found an audio recording of this encounter in the Czech State Security Archives and so is able to exactly reproduce portions of that confrontation. It unfolded politely, with no explicit accusations, but nevertheless Kalugin (incorrectly) assessed that Koecher had switched sides. Perhaps the StB didn’t fully agree with Kalugin: It allowed Koecher to return to the United States but demanded that he cut his ties with the CIA. Thus, their agent was sidelined during the entire Carter Administration. The timing was exquisitely bad because Zbigniew Brzezinski, whom Karel knew from Columbia, had become President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser.

Koecher was reactivated early in the Reagan Administration amid fears in Moscow, radiated throughout the Warsaw Pact, about Reagan’s bellicosity and even the possibility of a U.S. first strike. This time the KGB hoped he could pass along informed rumors about Reagan’s intentions.

At some point after his reactivation, Koecher and his wife realized they were under FBI surveillance. It is not clear how the FBI came to focus on them, though Cunningham plausibly speculates that the couple’s StB case officer was reporting to the bureau. In any event, in 1984, the FBI tried to double them back against the StB. When that failed, the Koechers were arrested.

Early Giuliani

The Justice Department, however, had a problem. It knew that the Koechers were spies but the U.S. attorney in charge of the case, Rudy Giuliani, realized he would not be able to prove it in court. As the affair played out, Koecher spent an extended time in prison, fearing all the while that U.S. authorities would have him killed. Eventually, he had the idea to ask his lawyer to float the idea of a swap for Soviet refusenik Anatoly Shcharansky (later Natan Sharansky). The Soviets agreed and after a swap at the Glienicke Bridge, the Koechers returned to Czechoslovakia, where they retired.

Cunningham tells this story in a sprightly way, giving the reader a good sense of the lives of Karel and to a lesser extent Hana. Mercifully, he discusses but does not dwell on the fact that Karel and Hana were swingers and he makes it clear that though this aspect of their lives is often the first thing to pop up in discussion of the pair—with insinuations that they gained valuable material swapping sex with Washington officials—swinging played little if any role in their espionage. Perhaps the most telling thing to emerge from this portion of the book is that Karel apparently was a selfish lover.

Despite its many positive points, however, the book is sometimes dissatisfying. Cunningham has a tendency to digress. He describes, for instance, the arts scene in mid-1960s Czechoslovakia, the growth of the Republican Party’s right wing in the late 1970s, and George Carlin’s monologue comparing football to baseball on the debut of Saturday Night Live. Such digressions seem intended to put the Koechers’ lives in the context of the times but seldom connect satisfactorily to the story. He also makes explicit his distaste for Kalugin and to a lesser extent a few other minor characters in the story, notably Rudy Giuliani and the FBI agents who worked on the Koecher case.

In one lengthy section of the book, Cunningham festoons the Ogorodnik case with “wilderness of mirrors” intrigues that don’t seem warranted by the evidence. Perhaps, Cunningham speculates, Oleg Kalugin, as head of foreign counterintelligence for the KGB, was merely incompetant when he seemingly failed to uncover the Soviet diplomat’s treachery. Or, as Karel Koecher believes, maybe Kalugin actually worked for the CIA and may have “used Ogorodnik to interface with the CIA” and then brought about his death “for fear that Ogorodnik would tell others about their collaboration.” Cunningham also explores the idea that Ogorodnik was a channel for CIA-produced disinformation. He hints at his guess as to which of these theories is true by referring to Kalugin as an “apparent double agent.” The problem is that none of these theories are supported by any evidence and, furthermore, they have nothing really to do with Karel Koecher.

Cunningham’s epilogue is a fascinating, if somewhat confusing, first-person narrative of his final interview with Koecher. The retired spy, now 88, spouts Russian talking points: “[I]t’s the Russians who are defending the basic Western values…family values. Possibly you could even say it about fighting terrorism and so forth, too.” He denounces political correctness, saying “the whole transgender thing is a bit too much,” and blithely refers to “no-go zones” in Western cities. Koecher also argues that the Soviet Union never had aggressive intentions toward the United States and he blames the Pentagon for the Cold War. When Cunningham challenges him with the fact that the Soviets supported leftist guerrilla movements, overthrew unfriendly governments, and even invaded his own country to squash a nascent democracy movement, Koecher dismisses all of these as defensive moves by Moscow.

While Cunningham seems unconvinced by these arguments, the two do share the idea that the Cold War was pointless and that intelligence services are useless or worse. From Cunningham, the assessment is surprising: It comes largely without context in a book that has focused on the day-to-day aspects of espionage and the psychology of a particular spy. It would make more sense coming from Koecher, a man who seems to believe in little except himself.

“I don’t give a fuck about belonging,” he says in the book’s final lines. “Sure I would like to belong, but there is nothing to belong to.”

Does that make him “the Cold War’s Last Honest Man”? How so?

One is left with the conclusion that the StB psychologists were right in their intitial, damning assessment of Karel Koecher. He is a fascinating, complicated and contradictory figure. But “honest,” as Cunningham dubs him in the book title? You be the judge.

This article was originally published in Spy Talk. Click here to read the original

A Preface to Biden’s National Security Strategy

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The Biden administration will soon release its National Security Strategy, which is being revised in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The document will no doubt trigger a renewed debate about how the United States should gear up for a new Cold War against Russia and China. But before we plunge into a global great-power competition, it’s worth recalling President Biden’s promise to create a “foreign policy for the middle class” and take a look at what most concerns Americans.

Congress is about to add tens of billions of dollars to the military budget. Unrepentant hawks scorn this as inadequate, urging a 50 percent increase, or an additional $400 billion or more a year. Aid to Ukraine totals more than $40 billion this year, and counting. A new buildup is underway in the Pacific. Biden summons Americans to the global battle between democracy and autocracy, implying that U.S. security depends on spreading democracy—and, implicitly, regime change—worldwide.

Americans, it is safe to say, have different—one might suggest more practical—concerns, as revealed in a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Asked about the most urgent issue facing the country today, 27 percent of respondents—the highest number—ranked inflation as No. 1, while only 2 percent ranked Ukraine at the top. In a range of Economist-YouGov polls over the past month, the top foreign-policy concerns included immigration and climate change.

The foreign policy “blob” may be gearing up for a global Cold War, but Americans are focused on security at home. According to a survey by the nonpartisan Eurasia Group Foundation, nearly half of Americans think the United States should decrease its involvement in other countries’ affairs; only 21.6 percent would increase it. Nearly 45 percent would decrease U.S. troop deployments abroad; only 32.2 percent would increase them.

Polls, of course, are merely snapshots—and war fever can transform opinion. However, a 2021 report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs reported many of the same priorities. Far more Americans (81 percent) said they were concerned about threats from within the country than from outside the country (19 percent). Among foreign policy goals, more than 75 percent of respondents ranked protecting American workers’ jobs and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, respectively, as very important. Ranked lowest were “helping to bring a democratic form of government to other nations” (18 percent) and “protecting weaker nations against foreign aggression” (32 percent).

What would a sensible strategy for the middle class look like? A recent paper from the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft—“Managed Competition: A U.S. Grand Strategy for a Multipolar World”—offers a good start. The author is George Beebe, a former head of the CIA’s Russia analysis unit who is currently director of grand strategy at the institute.

Beebe argues that over the past three decades, “yawning gaps” have emerged not only between “America’s ambitions in the world and its capacity for achieving those goals,” but also between a “Washington foreign policy elite too focused on promoting U.S. primacy” and “ordinary Americans yearning for greater stability and prosperity at home.”

He echoes the priorities of most Americans, arguing that “the chief strategic challenge Washington faces today is not to win a decisive battle between freedom and tyranny but to gain a breathing spell abroad that will allow the country to focus on desperately needed internal recovery.”

He then outlines the core of a strategy for this time: a “managed competition” with Russia and China. Recognizing that our economic health is intertwined with China’s, and that Russia’s nuclear arsenal demands prudence, he would “avoid promoting regime change” or otherwise “undermining political and economic stability in Russia and China.” Instead, in a managed competition, our rivals would be countered not only by American power and alliances, but also by rebuilding “agreed rules of the game,” beginning presumably with efforts to revive nuclear arms agreements and create cyber agreements to limit these growing security challenges.

For this to occur, he notes elsewhere, there must be an agreed end to the war in Ukraine. Beebe concedes that Vladimir Putin’s attack required a strong American-led response. But as when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Beebe would distinguish between repelling Putin’s aggression and efforts to foster regime change in Moscow or to bring Ukraine into the Western orbit.

In the current euphoria over Russian reversals in Ukraine, this caution is likely to fall upon deaf ears. But a foreign policy for the middle class must find a way to curb our adventures abroad so that we can rebuild our democracy and strength at home. A Cold War against Russia and China might empower the foreign policy elite, enrich the military-industrial-congressional complex and excite our bellicose media, but it ignores the American people’s common sense.

This article is distributed by Globetrotter in partnership with The Nation.

How Russia See CIA on its Diamond Jubilee

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In the Russian journal Natsionalnaya Oborona (National Defence), the chief of Russia’s foreign intelligence Sergey Naryshkin has written a riveting essay on the 75th anniversary of the Central Intelligence Agency, which falls on Sunday. It is an unusual gesture, especially in the middle of the hybrid war in Ukraine.
Probably, it serves a purpose? Most certainly, it serves to remind the Russian people and foreigners alike that nothing has been forgotten, nothing forgiven.

The title of the essay — 75 candles on the CIA Cake — is somewhat misleading, as Naryshkin’s concluding remark is that

In the Russian journal Natsionalnaya Oborona (National Defence), the chief of Russia’s foreign intelligence Sergey Naryshkin has written a riveting essay on the 75th anniversary of the Central Intelligence Agency, which falls on Sunday. It is an unusual gesture, especially in the middle of the hybrid war in Ukraine.
Probably, it serves a purpose? Most certainly, it serves to remind the Russian people and foreigners alike that nothing has been forgotten, nothing forgiven.

The title of the essay — 75 candles on the CIA Cake — is somewhat misleading, as Naryshkin’s concluding remark is that “Anniversary congratulations and wishes there will not be. As there can be no compromise in assessing its (CIA’s) role in history and ‘merits’ to humanity.”

Naryshkin’s essay will be closely studied by the western intelligence for any “clues.” Indeed, what is he messaging? Naryshkin and President Vladimir Putin go back some 40 years. Naryshkin had just graduated from one of Moscow’s most prestigious institutions, the Felix Dzerzhinsky Higher School of the KGB and Putin was already working in the foreign intelligence department of the Leningrad KGB when they bumped into each other in the corridors of the Big House (as KGB’s regional headquarters in Leningrad was known).

Unsurprisingly, Naryshkin writes about the CIA with an easy familiarity. As he put it, “The CIA was created at the beginning of the Cold War era in order to conduct intelligence activities around the world as a tool to counteract the existence and strengthening role of the USSR in the world, the formation of a bloc of socialist states, and the rise of the national liberation movement in Africa, Asia, and South America.”
Funnily enough, nonetheless, the CIA began with a colossal intelligence failure when it predicted on 20th September 1949 that the first Soviet atomic bomb would appear in mid-1953, when, actually, 22 days before the publication of that forecast, the Soviet Union had already conducted its first test of a nuclear device.

The CIA was once again clueless when Putin announced in March 2018 in an address to the Russian Parliament that Russia had developed a new hypersonic missile system, which “will be practically invulnerable.” US officials and analysts were taken aback. The CIA has a history of getting Russia all wrong, including about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill Oct. 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. [Photo: AFP]

But the CIA had its successes too — for example, the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1951 after his move to nationalise Iranian oil fields. By the 1950s, CIA already turned into a “multi-disciplinary monster” when besides traditional intelligence activities, it was also “tasked with tracking and suppressing any political, economic, military processes in all parts of the planet that could threaten the world hegemony of the United States and its allies.” Naryshkin gives credit to Allen Dulles for this metamorphosis. Dulles introduced “aggressiveness and lack of morality into the activities” of the CIA. He was just the man to do so, having been station chief of the OSS (CIA’s predecessor) in Bern in 1942-1945, who had clandestine dealings with the Nazis behind the back of the US’ Soviet ally.

Naryshkin takes us through the chronicle of CIA’s “coups d’etat, direct military interventions, provocations of all kinds, assassinations of objectionable politicians, terror, sabotage, bribery” and all that cloak and dagger stuff, which prompted President Lyndon Johnson’s famous condemnation of the agency as the “damn murder corporation.” Like in Banquo’s ghost scene at Macbeth’s banquet table in Shakespeare’s play, the victims appear — Patrice Lumumba, Salvador Allende.

There are chilling references to the CIA’s practice of using cancer spreading technology to eliminate “objectionable” Latin American leaders — Argentina’s Kirchner (thyroid cancer), Paraguay’s Lugo (lymphoma), Brazil’s Lula da Silva (laryngeal cancer) and D. Dilma Rousseff (lymphoma) — and, of course, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (tracheal cancer). According to Naryshkin, “In 1955, the CIA attempted to eliminate Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who was perceived by the Americans as “a maniacal fanatic seeking to take over the world,” but failed miserably. Agents blew up the plane on which Zhou was supposed to fly to a conference of Asian and African leaders in Indonesia.” Thereupon, Dulles developed a plan to poison Zhou but gave up fearing that CIA’s involvement might get exposed!

A US Senate commission in 1975 uncovered and confirmed CIA involvement in contract killings and coup d’état. It counted 8 cases of assassination attempts by CIA agents and mercenaries on Fidel Castro during 1960-1965 alone. Havana later revealed the full tally — from 1959 through 1990, CIA planned 634 assassination attempts on Fidel. To quote Naryshkin, “With maniacal persistence, the CIA officers developed simply exotic ways to eliminate the Comandante. They tried to kill him with the help of suicide pilots, paratrooper agents, recruited agents from the inner circle, shelling cars and yachts from ships, boats and subversive saboteurs, with the help of scuba gear with a tubercle bacillus brought there, poisoned cigars, poisonous pills for food and much more.”

“The CIA used every opportunity to inflict maximum damage on the Soviet Union, including economic damage. CIA director W. Casey personally addressed the king of Saudi Arabia and persuaded him to sharply increase oil production, which caused world prices for the most important export resources for the USSR to fall by almost three times. For the budget of the Soviet Union, this was a huge loss, which seriously influenced further political events in the USSR.”

Naryshkin throws some riveting insights into the saga of Ukraine in the 1948-1949 period when the CIA “actively used the experience of Hitler’s special services for launching subversive work against the USSR with recruits in the camps of displaced East Europeans who included quarter of a million Ukrainians. “Almost all the leaders and top functionaries of the Ukrainian nationalists were in one way or another bound by cooperation with the Nazis and therefore were completely controlled” by the CIA and British intelligence. In November 1950, the head of the CIA’s Policy Coordination Office, Frank Wisner bragged that CIA was capable of deploying up to 100,000 Ukrainian nationalists in case of a war with the Soviet Union.

The U2 incident — shooting down the CIA spy plane — in the Urals on May 1, 1960 was a dramatic incident when Washington accused the USSR of destroying a scientific aircraft and a pilot-scientist, but was profoundly embarrassed when Moscow presented not only the wreckage of the aircraft and spy equipment to the media, “but also the living pilot Francis Gary Powers, who frankly told what he was doing in the sky over the USSR and on whose instructions.”

On the other hand, the masterstroke of a South Korean Boeing entering Soviet airspace and getting shot down in 1983 provided just the “propaganda basis” for President Reagan “to announce another ‘crusade against communism.’ The policy of detente was thrown aside, and a new round of the arms race began.”
Naryshkin’s final reflection is calm and collected with no trace of hyperbole: “Evaluation of the effectiveness of any special service is always relative. The US Central Intelligence Agency, entering its 76th year of existence, has been and remains a zealous executor of the will of the ruling circles of its country. Despite the significant changes taking place, they continue to imagine themselves as the only hegemon in the unipolar world. The organisation is intelligence, based on its name, but with a sensitive focus on conducting subversive actions against sovereign states.”

To Indians, CIA has become a benign creature, no longer feared. Having links with the CIA carries no stigma among Indian elites. They regard “CIA phobia” as a legacy of the Indira Gandhi era. And they can be thriving as mainstream columnists and think tankers — and opinion makers. Naryshkin’s essay is a sobering reminder that history has not ended — and it never will.

The essay (in Russian) is here.

Reflections on this essay were originally published on the author’s website, indianpunchline.com. Click here to read the original

The Roar of a U.S. Warplane Over a Civilian Airport

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“This is not a regular airport,” Margaretta D’Arcy said to me as we heard a C-130T Hercules prepare to take off from Shannon Airport in Ireland after 3 p.m. on September 11, 2022. That enormous U.S. Navy aircraft (registration number 16-4762) had flown in from Sigonella, a U.S. Naval Air Station in Italy. A few minutes earlier, a U.S. Navy C-40A (registration number 16-6696) left Shannon for the U.S. military base at Stuttgart, Germany, after flying in from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia. Shannon is not a regular airport, D’Arcy said, because while it is merely a civilian airport, it allows frequent U.S. military planes to fly in and out of it, with Gate 42 of the airport functioning as its “forward operating base.”

At the age of 88, D’Arcy, who is a legendary Irish actress and documentary filmmaker, is a regular member of Shannonwatch, comprising a group of activists who have—since 2008—held monthly vigils at a roundabout near the airport. Shannonwatch’s objectives are to “end U.S. military use of Shannon Airport, to stop rendition flights through the airport, and to obtain accountability for both from the relevant Irish authorities and political leaders.” Edward Horgan, a veteran of the Irish military who had been on peacekeeping missions to Cyprus and Palestine, told me that this vigil is vital. “It’s important that we come here every month,” he said, “because without this there is no visible opposition” to the footprint of the U.S. military in Ireland.

According to a report from Shannonwatch titled “Shannon Airport and 21st Century War,” the use of the airport as a U.S. forward operating base began in 2002-2003, and this transformation “was, and still is, deeply offensive to the majority of Irish people.”

Article 29 of the Irish Constitution of 1937 sets in place the framework for the country’s neutrality. Allowing a foreign military to use Irish soil violates Article 2 of the Hague Convention of 1907, to which Ireland is a signatory. Nonetheless, said John Lannon of Shannonwatch, the Irish government has allowed almost 3 million U.S. troops to pass through Shannon Airport since 2002 and has even assigned a permanent staff officer to the airport. “Irish airspace and Shannon Airport became the virtual property of the U.S. war machine,” said Niall Farrell of Galway Alliance Against War. “Irish neutrality was truly dead.”

Pitstop of Death

Margaretta D’Arcy’s eyes gleam as she recounts her time at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, located in Berkshire, England, and involving activists from Wales, who set up to prevent the storage and passage of U.S. cruise missiles at this British military base. That camp began in 1981 and lasted until 2000. D’Arcy went to jail three times during this struggle (out of a total of at least 20 times she was in prison for her antiwar activism). “It was good,” she told me, “because we got rid of the weapons and the land was restored to the people. It took 19 years. Women consistently fought until we got what we wanted.” When D’Arcy was arrested, the prison authorities stripped her to search her. She refused to put her clothes back on and went on both a hunger strike and a naked protest. In doing so, she forced the prison authorities to stop the practice of performing strip searches. “If you act with dignity, then you force them to treat you with dignity,” she said.

Part of this act of dignity includes refusing to allow her country’s airport to be used as part of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2002, several brave people have entered the airport and have attempted to deface U.S. aircraft. On September 5, 2002, Eoin Dubsky painted “No way” on a U.S. warplane (for which he was fined); and then on January 29, 2003, Mary Kelly took an axe onto the runway and hit a military plane, causing $1.5 million in damage; she was also fined. A few weeks later, on February 3, 2003, the Pitstop Ploughshares (a group of five activists who belonged to the Catholic Worker Movement) attacked a U.S. Navy C-40 aircraft—the same one that Mary Kelly had previously damaged—with hammers and a pickaxe (a story recounted vividly by Harry Browne in Hammered by the Irish, 2008). They also spray-painted “Pitstop of Death” on a hangar.

In 2012, Margaretta D’Arcy and Niall Farrell marched onto the runway to protest the airport being used by U.S. planes. Arrested and convicted, they nonetheless returned to the runway the next year in orange jumpsuits. During the court proceedings in June 2014, D’Arcy grilled the airport authorities about why they had not arrested the pilot of an armed U.S. Hercules plane that had arrived at Shannon Airport four days after their arrest on the runway. She asked, “Are there two sets of rules—one for people like us trying to stop the bombing and one for the bombers?” Shannon Airport’s inspector Pat O’Neill replied, “I don’t understand the question.”

“This is a civilian airport,” D’Arcy told me as she gestured toward the runway. “How does a government allow the military to use a civilian airport?”

Extraordinary Renditions

The U.S. government began illegally transporting prisoners from Afghanistan and other places to its prison in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and to other “black sites” in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. This act of transporting the prisoners came to be known as “extraordinary rendition.” In 2005, when Dermot Ahern, Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs, was asked about the “extraordinary rendition” flights into Shannon Airport, he said, “If anyone has any evidence of any of these flights, please give me a call and I will have it immediately investigated.” Amnesty International replied that it had direct evidence that up to six CIA chartered planes had used Shannon Airport approximately 50 times. Four years later, Amnesty International produced a thorough report that showed that their earlier number was deflated and that likely hundreds of such U.S. military flights had flown in and out of the airport.

While the Irish government over the years has said that it opposes this practice, the Irish police (the Garda Síochána) have not boarded these flights to inspect them. As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights (signed in 1953) and the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (adopted in 1984 and ratified in 1987), Ireland is duty-bound to prevent collaboration with “extraordinary rendition,” a position taken by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. In 2014, Irish parliamentarians Mick Wallace and Clare Daly were arrested at Shannon Airport for trying to search two U.S. aircraft that they believed were carrying “troops and armaments.” They were frustrated by the Irish government’s false assurances. “How do they know? Did they search the planes? Of course not,” Wallace and Daly said.

Meanwhile, according to the Shannonwatch report, “Rather than take measures to identify past involvement in rendition or to prevent further complicity, successive Irish [g]overnments have simply denied any possibility that Irish airports or airspace were used by U.S. rendition planes.”

In 2006, Conor Cregan rode his bicycle near Shannon Airport. Airport police inspector Lillian O’Shea, who recognized him from protests, confronted him, but Cregan rode off. He was eventually arrested. At Cregan’s trial, O’Shea admitted that the police had been told to stop and harass the activists at the airport. Zoe Lawlor of Shannonwatch told me this story and then said, “harassment such as this reinforces the importance of our protest.”

In 2003 and 2015, Sinn Féin—the largest opposition party in the Northern Ireland Assembly—put forward a Neutrality Bill to enshrine the concept of neutrality into the Irish Constitution. The government, said Seán Crowe of Sinn Féin, has “sold Irish neutrality piece by piece against the wishes of the people.” If the idea of neutrality is adopted by the Irish people, it will be because of the sacrifices of people such as Margaretta D’Arcy, Niall Farrell, and Mary Kelly.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

ISKP Calls for Jihad Against India

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On September first week, the Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP) published issue 13 of its Voice of Khurasan magazine which featured an article scorning India and a separate profile of an Indian jihadist, according to the report published in Militant Wire. As part of ISKP’s strategy of expanded regionalization and internationalization, India has become a higher priority enemy of the group, and recruitment efforts targeting Indian Muslims have been boosted, the report added.

The article, titled “A Message for the Oppressed Muslims in the Cow Worshippers’ State”, says there is a “genocide” occurring “under the nose of [the] UN”. ISKP says “Hindu fanatics” have subjected Muslims to “systematic oppression” for the last 75 years.

ISKP says it is up to individual Muslims to turn the situation around since actors such as “the taghut of Pakistan” do not intend to help their supposed coreligionists in Kashmir. Indian Muslims, they say, are the targets of “state-sponsored Hindu terrorism”. The author(s) warns that “our enemies are well prepared to destroy us” and that “they will not show us mercy”.

The solution, according to ISKP, is to “throw away the shackles of humiliation” and “return to your religion – i.e. jihad in the way of Allah.” ISKP says “the only way you will be able to reclaim your glory is to pledge your allegiance to our Khalifah and clean the historical land of Khilafah from the filths of idolatry and idolaters.”

Public Centric Police: How to Get There?

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In every civilised society, a police system exists for the common good of the community. World over, the primary duty of any Police Force is the prevention and the detection of crime and criminal law enforcement with the view to apprehending perpetrators of crime and collecting evidence against them, enabling them to be prosecuted in courts of law and to maintain public tranquility.

Of course, based on the nature of the structure of the State and its organs and the system of law and justice, the structure and the powers and functions of the Police vary from country to country. Due to 130 years of British colonial rule, Sri Lanka inherited a police system similar to its former colonial ruler — the United Kingdom.

In many countries, including Sri Lanka, laws and statutes specify the functions of the Police Force, the obligation for it to be an institution for crime prevention and to function in this capacity. However, it meets with misunderstanding and often veiled opposition when it seeks to assert its preventive and social role. This attitude which is widespread among the public must be changed. The Police essentially need to secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the Rules of Law.

Law and order is the basic foundation of any civilised society. The most fundamental issue for the Police is dealing with the community. Over the passage of time, the tasks of the Police in serving the community have become more complex and extensive. The Police have to accomplish the impossible and therefore have to develop an operating mode that is acceptable to most of the people most of the time. The role of the Police is vastly different to the approaches of other State apparatus with a totally divergent “culture” and an arduous 2 x7 duty to perform, which needs to be understood by society.

The fundamental duty of the Police is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and properties; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence and disorder, and to respect the Constitutional rights of all people to liberty, equality and justice.

Nevertheless, people most of the time seem to be unaware that they expect the Police to perform an arduous and difficult task. Moreover, they are often a scapegoat for the community’s social and moral default.

Police in Sri Lanka are primarily responsible for the maintenance of law and order, prevention of the commission of crime, detection of crime, investigation of crime with the view to identifying and apprehending suspects, collecting evidence and thereby facilitating their prosecution in courts of law
When exercising this primary duty, Police are often criticised for their coercive role, while on the other, their attempts at purely preventive and social work are ill-received. “That’s not their job” is often heard with allusion to the alleged incompatibility between their coercive functions and their preventive aspirations.

Due to serious security threats faced by the country as a result of separatist terrorism perpetrated by the LTTE up until mid-2009, the Sri Lanka Police were compelled to assume additional responsibilities for the protection of the State, sovereignty, its national leaders, the civilian population, and property. In this regard, the Sri Lanka Police were required to perform unconventional duties similar to those performed by the security forces. The deployment of Police personnel to perform national security functions did lead to virtually one-half of the entire 85,000 odd Police Force deployed either in the Northern and Eastern Provinces referred to as ‘Operational Areas’.

As a result, the number of Police personnel available to perform conventional Police duties such as patrolling for the purpose of preventing the commission of crime, early detection of crime and receiving intelligence and conducting criminal investigations, became far less than the actual number required to carry out such duties and responsibilities effectively.

Be it either the former or the latter reason, the Police alone cannot solve the crime problem or establish Order. Police certainly could do better with the active participation of the community. The civic community must support compliance with the rule of law, instead of looking to the Police as merely an institution responsible for controlling criminality, public tranquility and/or Law and Order. An excellent case in point is the last General Election. The public well understood the importance of good behaviour and obedience to Law and Order, except in a few isolated negligible number of incidents. This perceptive approach of the public made the role of the Police relatively uncomplicated and helped them to discharge their duties towards enforcement of Law and Order with a positive note for the conduct of a fair and peaceful election. This undoubtedly enhanced the public trust in the Police.

Going by this illustration, for the Police as the enforcing arm of the Law, it is needless to say that the public adherence to discipline and observance of the rule of law undoubtedly rest as pre-requisites, they being the main stakeholders to achieve this objective. This is the most important fabric and foundation, essentially needed if we are to progress as a nation.

C. Wright Mills in his book “Sociological Imagination” has referred to social problems quite correctly as a threat to values. The high level of literacy, social mobility and the long history of exercising the adult franchise cannot be single-handedly considered as influencing forces to transform the behavioural patterns of individuals. Efforts to prevent crime must therefore include the teaching of conventional values. In this context, it is also necessary to find ways to strengthen individual bonds to society, commitment to the conventional order and participation in conventional activities. The best way is to strengthen the institutions that socialise people and continue to regulate their behaviour throughout life — the family, the school, and the workplace — address the individuals as part of society and teach necessary values for social wellbeing. In this backdrop, personal or inner controls are as important as social or external controls in keeping people from committing crimes and for the observance of the Rule of Law.

Thus, it would be seen that the solution to control crime is not only in the hands of the Police. It has a combination of multiple factors, to put it very simply, the public behaviour, their perception; attitudes; more importantly obedience to the law, respect for authority, upholding values, investment in customs and traditions – they all too play a major role, a role that will certainly be supportive in the maintenance of Law and Order by Police. Therefore, Civil society essentially plays a pivotal role and needs to be a driving force to support the Police in the flow of information to curb crime or could group together to support crime prevention mechanisms, stop other violations adversely affecting the wellbeing of the community and respect and observe the Rule of Law.

In the light of what is said, the conception of its vocation in the field of crime prevention must, at the outset, be shared by all those who are capable of helping the Police either through moral influence in the country or through their professional relations with the Police such as judges, sociologists, criminologists, social workers, probation officers, and, above all, peace-loving citizens.

It must be regarded with no separation that Policing in a democratic society is a Public Political function. It emanates from the three divisions of the Government, namely, the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary. All of this is subjected to civilian oversight, with the community finally responsible for all the processes dealing with crime and criminals. What the Police are, what they do, how they do, how well they fulfill the expectations, how professional they are, and what improvements they need are political questions, that inevitably need to be viewed as prerequisites for enhancement and enforcement of the laws.

On the other hand, reinforcements of informal controls on individual behaviour are the most vital way to reduce the incidence of crime. Compliance with most laws does not depend upon the likelihood of them being enforced, but upon the acceptance of informal norms and a concern for the feeling of others. The participation of all social institutions in the maintenance of peace and public order is a must and they could be partners in systematic crime preventive action through more effective Police-Community cooperation, which is seriously lacking in our country.

If you look back, history reveals that crime has been analysed in the last century from every aspect; biological, theological, sociological, psychological and economical. The evolution theory has taught us that we evolved from an animal state where killing and being killed were part of nature’s design. Millions of years have passed and we have shed more of our instinct. Our minds are, however, still preoccupied with the most predatory instincts, and society is pervaded by overt and covert forms of violence generating a general climate of irrationality.

No police system in this world has ever succeeded by functioning in isolation. No Police Force in the world has been able to effectively deal with crime and other Law and Order problems without the active support of the community it serves. Therefore, as leaders of civil society, as conscientious community and social leaders, as responsible citizens of Sri Lanka, all should help the Police in the discharge of their duties and functions.

Given this orientation, crime and disorder are major concerns to be dealt with by Police and could be termed “Community Malignancies” that would imperil the quality of living and morality to a very harmful extent. It is in this theoretical matrix that the community’s role and responsibility in crime prevention have to be viewed as decisive.

Unlike in totalitarian systems, in a democratic society, the police function depends, to a considerable degree, on self-policing by every citizen. This dictum comes into play a pivotal role as law observance is the most salient part of law enforcement. Traffic management is a case in point. The Police spend a great deal of time and resources doing it, but most of the actions (tasks) are done by motorists who have to abide by road rules. Hence, the order cannot be secured only through fear of punishment and the public too have an important role to play to obey the “Rules of Law”

Ironically with the social changes, the approach of the Police in dealing with Law and Order has to be generally one of professional development, including elevation of recruitment standards, extensive training covering a wide range of subjects including Police-community relations, strengthening against submissions to the demands of politicians and expansion of specialised training, resources to some degree and the gradual emergence of police-community relations.

The purposes of these areas and developments in the recent past have been to strengthen the implementation of equal protection under the law for all citizens, to foster and improve communication and mutual understanding between the Police and the community and to enhance Police education and training especially to deal in social and behavioural attitudes to meet the ever-changing challenges, vastly different to the conditions of yesteryears.

Against this backdrop, the social behaviour of people must be also well understood. The current social behaviour is that many people become so preoccupied with their own personal issues that they pay little attention to larger community problems. This situation has distanced the people from supporting the Police by way of providing true and genuine information and responsiveness to curb crime and for productive enforcement action.

Further, as in the past, large numbers of today’s youth do not submit to traditional behaviour controls, in or out of school. Problems of discipline loom large in and around classrooms. School behaviour, to say the least, especially at the upper levels, is often marginally criminal, often violent, as many witness during big matches and in the newly emerged ‘demonstration culture’, turning dangerous and frightening and even to the extent of students manhandling the teachers. Therefore, obviously, the maintenance of order continues to be important in a school setting. The fact is that if anger or hostility is accompanied by physical attack upon school staff, fellow students or property, the optimum atmosphere for teaching or learning is bound to rapidly deteriorate. Teachings at school levels and in homes and improving the quality of instructions and monitoring the activities and behaviours of students will improve the discipline and order to make children good citizens.

Public support, community-wide interest and individual participation, therefore are important to be enlisted. In other words, the information that allows the Police to exert formal control must be supported by the people.

Therefore, mutual assistance among the various components of society will certainly encourage the Police to become more functional. The best solution is to have only one urge and that should always be allowed to exit; the urge to live in peace. In this context, not only the Police but the people too have a vital role to play.

The community must understand that Police need the community in their role and that such participation is equally beneficial to all segments of the community. Public interest in the Police-community relationship at times surmounts adversely when civic peace and order are threatened by dissident groups in street demonstrations, confrontations and the like. Unfortunately, such treacherous actions have now become more common than in the past. Often these events spill over into violence and Police are quickly labelled as “villains”, forgetting the fact they are guardians of the law.

Today, people are used to a culture of taking to the streets, blocking the roads, thus inconveniencing the peace-loving public, to bring forth their grievances in the form of protests, seeking the intervention of the authorities to resolve their problems. Such situations have, of late, been a common site with no single day passing by without a demonstration taking place. The publicity drawn on such events for public consumption has also led to the replication of occurrences in the guise of democracy, little realising the ill effects to the community in particular and public tranquility in general.

Citizens must understand that the prevention of violent situations is not the responsibility of the Police alone. A just social order for all is the ultimate answer and reaching this goal is a vital responsibility also of the community. One of the most enduring Policing tenets attributed to Sir Robert Peel – the 19th Century British Home Secretary, who played a key role in the establishment Metropolitan Police Act is the adage “The Police are the People and the People are the Police”. The truth of the saying could be made real only when the community plays a hands-on role in making their neighbourhood safe and observing the Rules of Law. The citizens essentially need to understand the core values of the society they live and collaborate between them and the Police to uphold and maintain Law and Order.

It is unlikely that many instances of Police action have ever been completely satisfactory to everyone concerned; for no matter how brilliant or efficient may be, it is at most times not viewed with enthusiasm by the thwarted or apprehended offender or his or her family, friends and/or interest groups. Constructive criticism must come by way to improve the efficiency of the Police but certainly not in the way of destructive criticism to incapacitate and/or ridicule their image. Therefore, the community needs to alter this adversarial element in its relationship with the Police to understand that in all their functions, the Police carry out a multifaceted responsibility assigned to them by the community they serve. Public participation to assist the Police in their duties must be understood as a civic right of the community and not to enable the Police to win popularity contests.

Reduction of crime through community involvement, reduction of fear of crime, solicitation of information from the public, involvement of the community in Police functions and improvement of the image of the Police Force are some of the key factors that require to be listed.

The Police need the public in their role as a supportive body. The public has frequently taken the position of not wanting to get involved and then pointing the finger of blame at the Police for rising crime. This is not to say that the Police can simply point the finger of blame back at the public. What it means is that the responsibility of an efficient Police Force is two-way; it needs public support and participation to deter offenders from working against society and, on the other hand, the Police need to improve their professionalism to serve the public.

Public support, community-wide interest and individual participation, therefore are important to be enlisted. In other words, the information that allows the Police to exert formal control must be supported by the people. However, information must be truthful and should not be brought forth due to other dubious reasons, such as personal enmity, professional and personal jealousy, resentment and intervention of interest groups to fabricate evidence. Such irresponsible transgressions will only divert the attention of the Police on a wrong trail, making the end result pessimistic and negative.

Citizens must be the ones who are the major reporters of crime, witnesses of crime and accusers of wrongdoers; they are the information sources for the Police to act swiftly for the benefit of the community at large.

Police require community-based support in crime prevention and enforcing the Rule of Law. This approach of the public will exemplify the problem-solving nearness to Police and community relations, in which citizens could function as the eyes and ears of the Police. The public should not remain passive, only to protect individual interests. Public support is few and far between. Although one can observe a descending trend in civic engagement across the globe, it is amply clear that at least a minimum level of civic participation is essential to sustain effective implementation of the Rule of Law. The civic consciousness indisputably still holds great value and correspondingly needs citizen mobilisation as a driving force, if we are to translate the enforcement of Law and Order.

Citizen involvement in crime prevention and control cannot be considered an unrealistic expectation in today’s context; many citizens are apathetic and prefer that Police alone be responsible for maintaining law and order. Citizens must, therefore, should not forget the fact that all policing is community policing and the job of the Police will be easy if the citizens obey the Rules of Law.

Abraham Maslow has said that “when one’s only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”. The public participation in assisting the Police is twofold: to be disciplined and to cooperate with the Police in the prevention of crime and the preservation of public tranquility.

The creation of this kind of community participation requires the collaborative effort of all social agencies as a complementary option to conventional law enforcement. The impetus of building a Police-Public partnership will certainly bring forth success in civilian policing for the wellbeing of the community and is bound to ameliorate the maintenance of Law and Order to enhance the quality of life.

India Commissions its First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier

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“Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the new Naval Ensign for Indian Navy at Kochi on 2 September 2022 on the sidelines of the commissioning of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant,” Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a statement.  

“The new Naval Ensign has done away with the Saint George’s Cross in centre which is symbolic of Indian Navy’s historic association with United Kingdom. The first change to the Indian Navy Ensign, post-independence was made in 1950, where in the Indian tri colour was inserted on the left top corner,” it added.

The statement further reads as follows;

It may be recalled the other aircraft carrier of Indian Navy INS Vikramaditya had visited Colombo in January 2016, generated huge interest amongst the locals and strengthened the bonds of friendship between the two countries. In continuation of India’s maritime cooperation with Sri Lanka, a Dornier Maritime aircraft was gifted to Sri Lanka Air Force on 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence on 15 August 2022. The Dornier will enhance endeavours of Sri Lanka for maritime security in the region.

The commissioning of the first indigenous 45,000 Tons Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant has showcased the quantum leap by India to design, build and operate an Aircraft Carrier, which is the most advanced and extremely complex platform operated at sea. The ship is 262m long and can cruise upto 28 knots. The ship can carry more than 30 aircraft and helicopters onboard including indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH).

Indian Navy has been actively engaged with Sri Lanka Navy in facilitating engagements like Deck Landing Practice and Copilot experience on indigenous ALHand Sail Training Experience onboard INS Tarangini for SLAF/ SLN personnel in March 2022.In line with the Government of India’s ‘Neighbourhood  First Policy’ spares for SLNS Sagara, SLCG Suraksha and AN 32 are being, provided on grant basis byGovernment of India to ensure optimal operational availability of platform and thereby improve security in the region.

Supporting Sri Lanka’s fight against COVID-19, Indian Naval Ship Shakti arrived in Colombo on 22 August 2021 carrying100 tons of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) from Visakhapatnam.Further, Indian Naval Ship Gharial was specially tasked for expeditious delivery of medical supplies to Sri Lanka in April and June 2022. To commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence, an Artificial Limb Camp, sponsored by Government of India was conducted by Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), an Indian NGO for the disabled defence personnel of Sri Lanka Armed Forces in Colombo and Jaffna in February-March 2022.

Towards capability and capacity building measures for Sri Lankan Armed Forces, agreements were signed for provisioning of 4000T Floating Dock and installation of Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre for SL Navy in March 2022. The initiatives by Government of India would help in realisation of the vision ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’ (SAGAR).

Sri Lanka’s First Firm Steps at Economic Reforms

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe took tentative steps to bring a semblance of orderly governance during the month. He ended the month presenting an interim budget to stabilize economic growth with the aim to create a surplus by 2025. After the exit of the Rajapaksa’s, the hopes of Wickremesinghe restoring democratic governance were belied when the government used the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to rounded up the Aragalaya leaders, drawing severe criticism from civil society and the UNHRC. There is a sense of disappointment among the people to see parliamentarians reverting to riding their hobby horse – jockeying for power, tinkering with legislation in the name of curbing executive powers of the president and endlessly talk of the elusive “all party government”.

On the positive side, the young energy minister Kanchana Wijesekara seems to be making honest efforts to tame and rationalise energy pricing and distribution. The talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have progressed, though efforts to reschedule creditors is making halting progress, with China playing truant. President Wickremesinghe seems to have succeeded in his tightrope act in foreign policy so far, despite the India-China differences coming alive over China berthing its spy ship in Hambantota port in spite of India’s security concerns.

Interim budget and economic reforms

Presenting the Budget, President Wickremesinghe said the government’s aim is “to create a surplus in the primary budget by the year 2025.” The Daily FT listed six salient aspects of the budget. These included the announcement on billions of rupees-worth social safety measures, quit notices to public servants over 60, restructuring for key 50 state owned enterprises (SOE), measures to kickstart revival in agriculture, industry and tourism, write off default loan of farmers and announcement of wide-ranging revisions to many existing legislations. Every Sri Lankan would agree with his remark that the country “can no longer be a nation dependent on loan assistance, we can also no longer be used as a tool of interference by other countries with strong economies. All our collective vision should be to make our country strong and stable, in order to stand independently.”

However, Wickremesinghe’s reiteration of the call to political parties to join the “All Party Government” probably has only some cosmetic value to the political discourse as the APG is a non-starter. While this may be the need of the hour, much will depend upon how the political cookie crumbles. As he said, if Sri Lanka “miss these opportunities, we will be marginalized globally.” But the credibility of his remarks is weakened as the same tainted political class is still calling the shots in the present government. There is talk of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa returning home on September 24 from his self-exile in Thailand. If that comes true, Wickremesinghe should get ready to handle the unsavoury task of yet another socio-political turbulence.

The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has welcomed the budget. SJB MP and economist Dr Harsha de Silva saw it as an attempt by the President to change the course of the country into a ‘modern productive enterprise’ by undertaking serious reforms to stabilise and restructure the economy. To achieve this, the President has proposed the introduction of new laws like the Public Finance Management Act to run the affairs of the government and amendments to the Monetary Law Act to reduce the pressure on the Central Bank from Treasury and reduce money printing. The introduction of the new laws will have a more disciplined system of governance.

Well entrenched political and trade union interests in SOE and among public servants, Wickremesinghe is likely to face a tough task at every step in fulfilling this part of the agenda. As Dr de Silva pointed out “They (SLPP) opposed every type and every time reforms were brought up for four decades. It is a quirk of circumstances and fate almost that is them who will have to do these reforms now.” The state-owned Sri Lankan airlines is a case in point. It has accumulated a staggering $ 1 billion debt and dues comprising of $ 175 million government guaranteed international bond, $ 380 million payable to state banks, BOC and Peoples Bank and $ 80 million loan taken from BOC by mortgaging shares of Sri Lankan Catering. The government can no longer fund the national carrier given the country’s financial, forex and economic crisis.

However, the privatisation of this white elephant is going to be an uphill task, as leftist trade unions rule the roost in most of the SOEs and see a red flag in any talk of privatisation. Already, there are protests voiced against the proposed privatisation of retail distribution of fuel. Ultimately, when IMF’s structural reforms come into full play, Sri Lankans will have no option but to corral and weed out 60 odd white elephants of SOE. As PM in the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government, Wickremesinghe had co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 adopted in 2015. To retain his international credibility, he will have to bring the issue to a logical conclusion by establishing a credible judicial process to bring to book alleged right abusers. This is a humongous task as the President is dependent upon the SLPP support.

The first step in improving the government’s accountability process would be to abolish the PTA “one of the key enablers of arbitrary detention for over decades” as described by a UN body. Unfortunately, the government has used it to arrest Aragalaya protestors. Instead of doing away with PTA, the government efforts are on subsume its provisions in a National Security Act (NSA). This could only bring international criticism to the government, when it is trying to maximise its economic support. Of course, the larger question of implementing 13th Amendment in full is still lingering and this is yet another pressure point.

China’s Wolf Warrior diplomacy in action

China’s “spy ship” Yuan Wang-5 docked in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port from August 16 to 22 disregarding the security concerns of both India and the US and turning down Sri Lanka’s request to defer the visit. The research ship belonging to the PLA’s 5th branch – the Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) – created in December 2015, can carry out space, cyber and electronic warfare. It also has the capability to assist PLA’s land-based stations in tracking satellite, rocket and ICBM launches within a range of 750 km. There is more to China’s insistence on docking Yuan Wang-5 in Hambantota port than refuelling and replenishment.

China was testing the depth of India-Sri Lanka relations which have become closer than ever before. It is also a strong affirmation of China’s influence on Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean Region. This was indicated in an op-ed the Chinese ambassador to Colombo Qi Zhenhong wrote in Sri Lanka media. Hinting at India, he warned “any infringement on the national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka shall not be tolerated” (obviously by China). He further added, “External obstruction based on the so-called ‘security concerns’ but without any evidence from certain forces is de facto a thorough interference into Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence.”

The Chinese ambassador also reminded Sri Lanka of the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council to be held in Geneva where human rights issues of Sri Lanka might be stirred up, where China could help. India took strong exception to the Chinese envoy’s article. The Indian High Commission in Colombo departing from the norm, let loose broadsides on the article saying, “His violation of basic diplomatic etiquette may be a personal trait or reflecting a larger national attitude.” It added, “His views of Sri Lanka’s northern neighbour may be coloured by how his own country behaves. India, we assure him, is different. His imputing a geopolitical context to the visit of a purported scientific research vessel is a giveaway.”

It is evident, India is not prepared to tolerate any more needling from China. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar during his South American tour explained that the relationship (with China) cannot be a one-way street. “They are our neighbour, and everybody wants to get along with their neighbour…But everybody wants to get along with their neighbour on reasonable terms. I must respect you and you must respect me.” He stressed that each one will have their interests and we need to be sensitive to what the concerns are of the other party.

Tailpiece: Yuan Wang-5 is currently 400 nautical miles South-Southeast of Dondra Head at the southernmost tip of the island nation. It is a matter of detail that the vessel is mapping the ocean bed in an area close to the US military base in Diego Garcia.

This article is a part of Sri Lanka Guardian Syndication. This was originally published in Security Risks Asia, a Delhi-based Think Tank. Click here to visit the original source.

Views are personal

Brussels: Hideaway of Espionage

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Conjure up a list of cities considered world capitals of espionage. Those featured in movies and television, with their romantic atmosphere and scenery, include Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, London, Cairo, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Bangkok, and Saigon.

Not to ignore the less romantic but important cities of Moscow, Beijing, and Washington, DC.
By comparison, Brussels seems overlooked by spy novelists and film directors, but its unusual concentration of diplomatic missions to the European Union, NATO, and to Belgium itself brings a high ratio per square kilometer of diplomats and lobbyists—as well as spies. “Washington and Brussels compete for the largest number of embassies and other representations on earth” remarked an ICT (information and communications technology) executive close to the Belgian authorities. He added that the spy agencies of numerous countries, including America, Russia, and China “do whatever they want here; there are so many [espionage] issues going on that Belgian authorities don’t know where to start.”
His view was not contradicted by other Belgians in the private sector and in government, including the police, who requested anonymity when interviewed in July, commenting only on background. Another frustrated business person asked, in relation to China’s efforts, “When will we wake up?”

The observation that Brussels is teeming with foreign agents is not new: several stories appeared during 2018 and 2019, with Politico calling the city a “prime target for spooks,” and Bloomberg, calling it a “gateway for China.” A September, 2019 article in the German daily Die Welt quoted EU sources saying that the streets of Brussels were swarmed by at least 250 Chinese and 200 Russian operatives. According to Die Welt, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Union intelligence arm, warned EU officials to avoid certain restaurants and bars in the “EU District.” Supposedly the lunchtime crowds include Chinese agents trying to listen in on conversations at adjoining tables.

“The Belgians are frankly overwhelmed,” said Nigel Inkster, former director of operations for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6), now the senior advisor for Cyber Security and China at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “They have neither the resources nor the political backing they need to deal with a challenge on this scale.”

Though this problem has been under discussion for years, it seems to be getting worse because there is little action by Belgian policy makers.

One problem, said the ICT executive, is political inertia in Belgium, a country long mired in existential crisis between its Flemish- and French-speaking halves. Due in part to this fragmented political scene, it can take months to assemble a government in Belgium’s parliamentary system after the votes are counted: the most recent example is a 400-day lag between the May, 2019 election and the seating of a government in September the following year. “During this sort of standstill security is not a topic (and) we lack a security mindset in general,” the executive added. “There is insufficient organization and fragmented decision making.”

China Rising

“The power of China is much more than those who are running around here” said another ICT executive. He pointed out that equipment from Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE is still being used in all three major Belgian mobile telephone networks. From an engineering perspective, he opined that the software in telecom switches and other equipment is almost certainly updated remotely with new releases from China. “That means the network could be shut down at will,” disabling communications for the EU, NATO, SHAPE, and Belgian authorities during an emergency. And with frequent software updates being a normal part of operations, “it is virtually impossible to monitor each of them up to the last feature.” [SHAPE, which stands for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, is a NATO command with its own building in Brussels.]

The effect of unreliable communications was painfully demonstrated during the March 2016 terrorist bombings in Brussels, when mobile networks became basically unusable for several hours—including the national emergency network—leaving first responders virtually in the dark. “Belgian policy is merely declarative,” added this ICT executive, “based on all the more studies and promises, but no implementation.” This begs the question, how real is the risk that EU and NATO will be unable to communicate during a crisis if telecommunications are crippled or lost.

The specter of foreign interference with Belgium’s infrastructure was underlined this week when a foreign hack against the prime minister’s office was exposed. The affected equipment housed there serves not only the PM’s chancellery, but also the federal and local police forces, whose officers lost access to their data either briefly or for extended periods.

Belgian cybersecurity officials were uncertain of the origin. Though the sophistication of the hack suggested a major power, “the truth is we don’t know. The investigation has just begun,” said Michel Rignanese of Belgium’s Center for Cybersecurity.

A Belgian executive, speaking confidentially, expressed the similiar uncertainty about about solar modules imported from China—which make up an increasing share of the Belgian power grid that supplies Brussels. He opined that embedded semiconductors could in theory be used from afar to shut off or significantly reduce power to Brussels if desired by the manufacturer during a dispute between NATO and a hostile power.

Ralph Ahlgren, the President and CTO of the Silicon Valley solar company Soleeva, confirmed manipulation of solar technology is a technically feasible. “Megawatt-scale solar installations should always be carefully examined” to measure the risk that “backdoor channels could be used to disable or disrupt” a power network, Ahlgren said, adding that a large percentage of solar inverters used in utilities could be vulnerable in this way, with semiconductors that have a secret purpose. “For that reason, we don’t use products sourced entirely from China.”

“In Belgium there is no safety and security culture,” stated Dr. Kenneth Lasoen, a Belgian Research Fellow specializing in intelligence and defense at Clingendael, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. “The Americans do urge the Belgians to rectify the security situation from time to time,” in particular after the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, which were planned and executed from Belgium. “But then, nothing happens.”

Unfortunately, American counterintelligence training for its personnel in Brussels may not be as robust as one would expect in this target-rich environment: besides the EU and NATO, there is also SHAPE. One experienced American service member commented that they had received no security training since arrival months before, and was surprised to hear that EEAS warned of spies listening in at certain eateries. “It does seem like the Americans may need additional OPSEC training for this environment,” observed Dr. Lasoen.

The Belgian National Security Strategy of 2021 signaled the intent to make the nation a “hostile environment for espionage,” added Lasoen, “but if we also came down hard on the Americans, they might retaliate.”

Another ICT executive also wondered if Washington itself might be behind the lack of action in Brussels. “Why do the Americans let this continue? Are they part of it? Do they actually benefit from it?”

By contrast, in neighboring Holland the Americans “don’t do anything …without notifying Dutch authorities,” said Lasoen, whose work has brought him into regular contact with both Dutch and Belgian intelligence. “Dutch counterintelligence is sufficiently performative to catch operations on their soil.”

Low-Key Response

For its own reasons, Washington may not have chosen to cultivate such a close relationship with Brussels—perhaps because of the plethora of agencies on the Belgian side and the difficult political culture of a small divided country.

Belgium has had it successes, such as the 2016 arrest of militants linked to the 2015 Paris attacks and more recent operations against European drug traffickers. But perhaps its most revealing success was, in retrospect, a stress test for its government: the April 2018 arrest and instantaneous extradition to the U.S. of Xu Yanjun.

Xu is the Chinese Ministry of State Security officer arrested in Brussels during his hitherto successful operation to steal jet engine technology from various sources including General Electric. Xu took one operational risk too many and was nabbed in Brussels, noted an experienced expert on the MSS, based in the U.S.

In spite of Xu’s unprecedented arrest in a Western capital, Beijing made little fuss over his case, with a few statements in English but seemingly none in its state-approved Chinese language media. A web search on the Chinese characters for Xu Yanjun, the Ministry of State Security, and Belgium (徐延军, 国安, 比利时) reveals zero coverage in mainland China’s media of Xu’s extradition to America, presumably to avoid a loss of face amongst the Chinese populace. By contrast, at the time there was wall-to-wall coverage, mug shots and all, from non-communist Chinese language sources outside of the PRC.

The low-key response contrasted sharply with Beijing’s apoplectic reaction in December that same year to the detention in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei, which led the Chinese Communist Party to arrest two Canadians living in China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. They were only released when Meng was allowed to return to China almost three years later. Given that hostage-taking is a longstanding Chinese practice, this was an alarming but unsurprising development.

It may seem odd that Beijing chose not to punish Belgium over Xu’s arrest as they did with Canada over Ms. Meng’s detention. But with an apparently robust and valuable Chinese espionage network on Belgian soil–that may have attracted the Xu operation in the first place–Beijing might logically have decided that squeezing Brussels too hard might blow back, instigate counterintelligence action spoiling the favorable, laisse faire espionage environment there.

More than one Belgian wondered if Washington has made the same calculation: that intelligence collection in Belgium is more important than helping improve the counterintelligence capabilities of an ally. Whether or not this is true, without a significant change of minds in several capitals, including Washington, it seems that Brussels, packed with assets vital to the West, will continue to be a city “pwned” by hostile spies for the foreseeable future.

This article is a part of our syndication and republished with the permission of Spy Talks, where this piece first appeared. Click here to read the original

Hunting Down al-Zawahiri – A Step towards Peace or a Move towards War?

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As two raging hellfire missiles fired from a US military drone slammed into the balcony of a compound in Kabul, the world grew less dark – another terrorist was slain. The death of al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri rang alarm bells across the world and the shock waves from this incident will be heard for time to come.

Al-Zawahiri rose to become the supreme leader of al-Qaeda after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Even during the life of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri was seen as his ‘right hand’ in terror attacks against the US and the world at large. Being one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks alongside Khalid Sheik Mohammed and bin Laden, al-Zawahiri was placed on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’listand suffered a $25 million bounty on his head. After 9/11, al-Zawahiri operated underground hiding in tribal Pakistan and Afghan hideouts.

The US security apparatus tracked him for decades as he was seen as the only 9/11 leader who had not yet been brought to justice. The US was desperate to hunt down al-Zawahiri as this would give (some) solace to the families of the victims of 9/11. US President Joe Biden announced after the strike that ‘justice has been delivered’ and that this was ‘one more measure of closure’ – something that must be answered by the very fragments of victimhood from the devastating attacks and not by someone reading a pre-written script off the teleprompter – but that’s a story for another day.

Like Anton Balasingham was the ideologue behind the LTTE, al-Zawahiri was the ideologue and theoretician that drove the al-Qaeda terror machine to wage international operational capabilities. While bin Laden was considered the ‘cave man’ leader, it was al-Zawahiri that pushed for international militancy and global jihad. Before and after the death of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri continued to function as one of the most influential leaders of al-Qaeda – or any terror group for that matter.

Al-Zawahiri hailed from a prosperous family in Egypt but fell into the ideological trappings of religious extremism – a haunting similarity to the stories of almost all Islamist suicide bombers who spilt innocent blood on that sad Sri Lankan Easter morning. Al-Zawahiri walked into the trap and then functioned as the trap by baiting tens of thousands of Islamists to fight for a rugged ideology of hate and destruction – including founding leader of the Islamic State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Portrait of the Terrorist as a Young Man: Egyptian-born Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, shown here in an undated photo published by London’s Al-Hayat on Oct. 10, 2001

Prior to becoming fixated on the Afghan-Pakistani window of war, al-Zawahiri functioned as the head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a terror cell in North Africa that also aimed to assassinate Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in the early 1980s. Having served briefly in the Egyptian military, al-Zawahiri rivalled against Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, who was a theoretician and advocate for defensive jihad in attracting the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets. After Azzam was assassinated in Peshawar, Pakistan in 1989, al-Zawahiri joined bin Laden as his physician and ideologue.

Al-Qaeda has always been a close ally of the Taliban. For years, the members of both groups have worked collectively against their ‘outsiders’, starting with the Soviets and then the Americans. Al-Qaeda was the primary bone of contention between the Taliban and the US which ultimately led the US to fight its longest war in Afghanistan. After bin Laden launched the 9/11 attacks, America made sure that the Taliban paid the price for harbouring the group. History seems to repeat itself as once again the US is hunting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, while its Taliban rulers are oblivious to international pressures.

From the perspective of geopolitical power play, the slaying of al-Zawahiri in Taliban-controlled territory questioned not just the legitimacy of the Taliban government but also the commitments of the US to establishing peace in Afghanistan. This incident has revealed a deepening gulf between the key stakeholders of the Afghan war. As per the Doha Agreement signed between the US and the Taliban, the Taliban provided assurances that Afghan territory would not be used as a launch pad for al-Qaeda – but who trusts the terrorist?

The simple fact that the leader of al-Qaeda was relaxing in the capital of the Taliban underpins how the Taliban continues to function as a state sponsor of terror. The Taliban government has repeatedly denied knowledge of al-Zawahiri’s presence. But who doesn’t realise a top-notch jihadist sitting in your living room? Can the international community ever trust terror groups or their proxies? Of course not. While the LTTE international network banks on widespread misinformation and falsehoods, the Taliban leadership attempts a fabrication strategy of their own, in hopes of taking a step closer to international acceptance. The Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance remains vigorous in the face of their Western adversaries and antagonist terror factions.

Experts claim that the killing of the al-Qaeda leader on Afghan soil will not bode well for the Taliban government, which is already struggling to stay afloat on multiple fronts. The potential failure to gain international ratification and an almost non-functional economic functionality places the Taliban in an even tighter position. However, it could be opined that the al-Zawahiri problem could actually benefit the Taliban. The assassination of al-Zawahiri, whilst punishing the Taliban, would also equip and strengthen its pragmatists who seek to move away from fundamentalist jihad and return to its original Pashtun roots. The negative international reaction that emanates from this incident will favour the sectionalisation and sidelining of hardcore al-Qaeda defenders within the Taliban ranks. The killing of al-Zawahiri thus presents a dual benefit of dismantling current al-Qaeda leadership, as well as providing a rude awakening for the Taliban to step back and move again – a blessing in disguise with a splash of terror.

Ayman al-Zawahiri led a life of malice, hatred and utter belligerence. His death could serve as an unclimactic end to the highly influential al-Qaeda network if proper leadership fails to ascend to the thrones of terror. However, the favourable situation in Afghanistan and shifting global focus away from the Middle East and towards the Indo-Pacific allows al-Qaeda and its allied cells to be nurtured, harboured and sustained.

The level of influence and intensification contributed by al-Zawahiri to the contemporary wave of terrorism that continues to plague the world remains unmatched. Although al-Zawahiri is assassinated and the world is a much better place without that epitome of terror, his teachings, writings and speeches will continue to radicalise and convert innocents into extremists and extremists into terrorists across the globe.

Like the attack on Pearl Harbour catapulted the US into the forefront of the Second World War, the September 11 attacks propelled America to launch its global War on Terror. However, the re-emergence of the Taliban in Central Asia under props the feared possibility of al-Qaeda’s return to its tyrannical despotic rule of Islamist fundamentalism. The killing of al-Zawahiri remains one of Biden’s few successful trophies to date, but it is the next moves of the intelligence and security communities that will actually determine the future of the global Islamist threat. The threat will not cease but its operational capabilities could be greatly dismantled by much-need intelligence sharing mechanisms in the Indo-Pacific and Central Asia.

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