Extradition zombie

Annie Machon
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 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.
Extradition zombie
The Kim Dotcom case proves American lynch-mob mentality is spreading like an extra-legal fungus across the planet. It's high time governments re-read the Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and reacquainted themselves with the fundamental principles.

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 some banana 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 Megaupload fame.

Ex-British MI5 spy David Shayler (AFP Photo)

How was I hoping to achieve this? By linking to media reports from the late 1999s describing the Shayler extradition case.

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 was disappeared.

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 in prison.

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 Kim Dotcom 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 all.

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, anyone?

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 August.

Kim Dotcom (Reuters/Nigel Marple)

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 out.

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 inconsistent.

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.

Reuters/Nigel Marple

The knock-on effect was that many other cyberlocker services then voluntarily 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: Megamovie.

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 Megaupload.

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.