Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer for MI5, the UK Security Service, who resigned in the late 1990s to blow the whistle on the spies’ incompetence and crimes with her ex-partner, David Shayler. Drawing on her varied experiences, she is now a public speaker, writer, media pundit, international tour and event organiser, political campaigner, and PR consultant. She is also now the Director of LEAP, Europe. She has a rare perspective both on the inner workings of governments, intelligence agencies and the media, as well as the wider implications for the need for increased openness and accountability in both public and private sectors.
So there I was, poised to write an article about the illegal,
frightening and shameful shift in the international extradition
laws over the last 15 years - a move that potentially puts all of
us, everywhere, at risk of being snatched away to
republic show trial, sorry, the fairly-weighted and
constitutional process that is the US legal system.
How was I hoping to do this? Well, by comparing and contrasting
the "good old days", way back in the 1990s when MI5 whistleblower,
David Shayler, was able to rely on evidence to defeat an
extradition attempt by the Brits from France, and the current
treatment being meted out in New Zealand to Kim Dotcom of
How was I hoping to achieve this? By linking to media reports
from the late 1999s describing the Shayler extradition
But can I find them in media archives? No - they seem to have
been airbrushed out of history. The closest I can was a
article I had copied to my own website verbatim, even though
the link no longer works. Anyway, to recap: in 1998 the British
government asked the French to extradite Shayler "for being a
traitor and selling secrets to an enemy power".
At that time protocol dictated that the French had no option but
to arrest him and place him under stringent security measures
("mise au secret") so that he didn't see a lawyer for
three days and was forbidden any other visits. So, effectively, he
However, at that time the British government was required to
submit within 40 days its full evidence about why Shayler should be
extradited. On the fortieth day, the "evidence" was finally handed
over. The French government immediately saw that Shayler was not a
traitor; in fact he was a clearly whistleblower.
Under French law, whistleblowing is a political offence and the
French did not then extradite people for political acts. Simple. So
Shayler was eventually released after almost four needless months
But - imagine if that had happened today, when the say-so of a foreign government was enough to extradite someone completely without evidence. Shayler would have been parcelled up and shipped off back to the UK faster than you could say "Kafkaesque".
And this is why my ire has now been roused by the case of
in New Zealand. You may remember the headlines last year, when his
house was illegally raided
by a US FBI SWAT team, helicopters, body armour, guns and
Thinking he was under attack, Dotcom fled to a safe room. The
operation has since been
declared illegal and has caused a massive diplomatic, legal and
political stink. One court
has just ruled that Dotcom can sue the NZ intelligence agencies
for an illegal operation. Shades of Echelon,
Yet in the same week, it was
reported that the New Zealand Appeal Court has overturned an
earlier ruling that Kim Dotcom can see all the evidence of his
accusers in the run-up to his extradition hearing in
He argues that he needs to see all this evidence to have the
chance to provide a full defence; the US argues that in extradition
cases, they only need to provide evidence of probable cause, and
that the full evidence can be heard only in a US court of law
following a successful extradition. And that's what the New Zealand
law courts are apparently acquiescing to now.
The NZ courts do not need to know pesky bits of information,
such as the actual facts of the case and putative evidence against
Kim Dotcom. Oh no, they only need to be assured by the good old US
of A that Dotcom is a "wanted man" and then let's ship him
This Wild West, lynch-mob mentality is spreading like an
extra-legal fungus across the planet. In response, it appears that
the New Zealand legal system is becoming distressingly confused an
And what was the reason behind this extra-judicial cluster-fuck?
Merely to take down Dotcom's legitimate online business - Megaupload
- which was a service that allowed people to pay for space to
upload and share information in the "cloud".
Many companies and individuals used this to park corporate
documents that were worked on internationally or family photos that
could be shared with relatives on the other side of the world - a
common enough practice these days.
However, some people also uploaded films or music that was
copyrighted, to share with their contacts, and this is what
officially led to the raid. The corporatist entertainment industry
saw its outdated business model being further threatened and, lo,
the US military-security complex swung into action. The site was
shut down, its servers seized, and millions of legitimate companies
and individuals lost their information, with no redress.
The knock-on effect was that many other cyberlocker services
shut down or restricted services, for fear of the US
self-proclaimed global legal hegemony, and many more businesses and
individuals were adversely affected. So much for the global
village. Megaupload pretty much offered the same service as Google
Docs or Youtube, so why was it targeted?
One possibility is that, shortly before the brutal raid,
Megaupload announced a new service to artists: they could directly
publish their music a site called Megabox and
keep 90% of any money then made from sales of their creative
work; Megabox would only take a 10% commission. Something
similar was also apparently in the pipeline for films:
Well, you can imagine how this new internet business model would
be greeted by the Old Entertainment Industry - the middlemen, who
for decades have been growing rich on the work of artists.
Under the old business model, artists were lucky to receive
10-12.5% of the cover price for creative content they produced,
while the corporate pimps in the middle waxed fat on the profits.
This, it seems to me, was the real perceived threat of
And one of the most frightening aspects is that the US security
services could be called upon to conduct an illegal raid in a
foreign nation state to protect these corporatist bodies. This does
indeed seem to display, once again, what Benito Mussolini described
as fascism: the
merger of the corporate and the state.
I thought I had pretty much thrashed the extradition issue to death over the last two years, writing multiple times about the ghastly, asymmetrical extradition treaty between the US and the UK, and particularly focusing on the ordeals of Gary McKinnon, Richard O'Dwyer, and Julian Assange. But the issue keeps resurrecting itself like some Kafkaesque zombie nightmare.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.