Welcome to Bennett's World: a collection of articles and references covering a wide variety of topics in which I am involved. I am a very political person but I have no allegiance to any political party. Follow me on twitter @colinhove

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The dreadful injustice being done to whistleblowers

This article speaks for itself:

Lift Assange out of legal limbo: Column

WikiLeaks editor remains unjustly holed up in Ecuadoran Embassy two years later.

A whistle-blower living in exile in Russia. A publisher seeking the asylum he has already been granted while his sources are imprisoned. This isn't the cast of a summer blockbuster. It's a perfect storm of real-life cases that make it clear that constitutional guarantees of a free press and government accountability are rhetorical devices, not political realities.

The whistle-blower is Edward Snowden. This month marks the first anniversary of his disclosures of massive National Security Agency surveillance. The publisher is Julian Assange. Thursday marks two years since he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Meanwhile, two of Assange's sources, Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) and Jeremy Hammond, remain in prison for providing WikiLeaks with confidential documents. Manning, who exposed atrocities from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including evidence of U.S. war crimes, was sentenced to 35 years. Hammond is serving a 10-year sentence for hacking into the e-mails of a private intelligence company.

Harassment, targeting and prosecution of whistle-blowers, journalists and publishers have become a dangerous new normal — one we should refuse to accept, especially in a time when governments are becoming more powerful and less accountable. It's time to end this assault, starting with granting Snowden amnesty and withdrawing the threat of U.S. criminal prosecution of Assange.

Stuck in embassy 

In the two years Assange has spent cloistered in the Ecuadorian Embassy, the British extradition law under which he was ordered to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct has changed. With this change, the allegations that originally secured Assange's extradition order to Sweden would no longer suffice. Now, a decision to charge Assange with a crime is necessary for extradition, but Sweden has never made that decision.

That hasn't kept Britain from ignoring Assange's right to asylum by clinging to the now-invalid law. Instead, British police and security forces keep watch on the entrance, windows and surroundings of the Ecuadorian Embassy around the clock, which has cost $10 million.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to investigate Assange and might have secretly charged him without his knowledge. A grand jury empaneled in 2010 remains open, keeping Assange in legal limbo. Under such conditions, leaving the embassy would mean a stop in Sweden before Assange is given a one-way ticket to a U.S. prison to likely face inhumane treatment and a sentence similar to Manning's, including extended solitary confinement.

Similar harsh treatment and excessive punishments haven't applied to the people in government who perpetrated the crimes exposed by these whistle-blowers and published by WikiLeaks. In fact, people such as national intelligence director James Clapper, who lied under oath to Congress, have avoided consequences altogether.

Outdated espionage laws

It's no wonder publishers and whistle-blowers such as Assange and Snowden live in isolation and exile abroad. The United States and other governments have created a dangerous system of outdated espionage laws and shadow governments, severely restricting options for publishing classified documents and whistle-blowing free from outsized punishment.

It isn't a matter of "manning up," as Secretary of State John Kerry recommended Snowden do, when a superpower that regularly uses its authority to erode any sense of privacy calls you home to face punishment for what is a public service. Damning public comments by U.S. politicians have made fair trials for Assange and Snowden impossible. Submitting to this unbalanced system constitutes an almost-guaranteed threat to their safety.

It's astonishing that Assange is in this situation at all. He and WikiLeaks have done remarkable work, uncovering secret governments, exposing war crimes and diplomatic chicanery, and opening up a new world — one that Snowden stepped into. WikiLeaks then worked to ensure Snowden would not face imprisonment in the U.S., helping him leave Hong Kong and attempt to seek asylum.

Britain should respect Assange's asylum and allow him to leave the embassy unmolested. Whistle-blowers such as Snowden and Manning should not face the impossible decision between living in exile and spending decades imprisoned. We deserve a justice system that holds governments accountable and considers the public service done by whistle-blowers and the people who publish their information.

Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, is the U.S. attorney forJulian Assange and WikiLeaks.

What's really happening with our NHS

Readers will be interested to learn what lies behind the nonsense that the Government spouts about what it's doing with the NHS.

Here is a useful item from 38 Degrees, the campaigning organisation that I recommend you plug into:

"Did you hear what the Conservative health minister, Jane Ellison said about our NHS?

"I don't know how much any of you realise that with the Lansley act we pretty much gave away control of the NHS ...it is a bit like being on a high wire without a net at times, it can be quite exciting." [1]

So, it's finally come out. The government have admitted that they've washed their hands of our NHS, and apparently, it's "exciting".

Back when 38 Degrees members campaigned to stop Andrew Lansley's NHS plans we were told that it did not stop the government from having control. But, like we suspected, it has.

Can you share this story with your friends and family? We need as many people as possible to read the truth about what is happening with our NHS.

Please share on Facebook:

Please share on Twitter:

 You might be interested in this petition:


This is where you can find out about 38 Degrees:


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Solidarity demo for Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, 19 June

19 June 2014 was the second anniversary of the unnecessary 'incarceration' inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London of Julian Assange. He is the founder of Wikileaks and a great crusader for freedom.

I and a goodly number of other people gathered outside the embassy near Knightsbridge to show our support for Julian and our dismay at the UK government's failure to give Julian safe passage to a country where he can access better asylum conditions, eg. Ecuador. At present he is confined to one room.

Although we are all enormously grateful to the generosity of the Ecuadorian government, two years in one room is very trying to say the least. I would like those readers of my blog who are outraged at the behaviour of the governments of the UK, Sweden and the USA to show solidarity with Julian and with Wikileaks. The most direct way to do this is to donate to Wikileaks through this link:

Here is a link to the photos taken on the day by my new chums.


You can be a chum of mine and I would welcome you!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Follow up on alleged barrel bomb reports in Syria

In an earlier post I described a letter of complaint I made to the BBC about their reporting on the Today programme about 'barrel bombs' being dropped from helicopters onto Aleppo in Syria.

Here is the response I received from the BBC:

Dear Mr Bennett

Reference CAS-2691041-FGBTXD

Thank you for contacting us regarding Today broadcast on 28 April 2014.

I understand you feel that a report by Ian Pannell regarding the air bombardment 
on Syrian civilians is false. I note you feel he’s not been to Syria and spends 
all of his time in Turkey.

I appreciate your concern and it was reported that a BBC team has witnessed the 
devastating effects of air bombardment on Syrian civilians after gaining rare 
access to rebel-held areas of Aleppo. It was also stated during the introduction 
that Ian spent three days in Aleppo.

The report explained that “Thousands of people are reported to have been killed 
or maimed in a campaign of aerial bombardment in northern Syria this year.”

Ian going on to state:

“The Syrian Government insists when they drop these bombs it’s targeting rebel 
positions and attacking those who have chosen to take over the country. What he 
calls terrorists.”

While I appreciate you may continue to feel the report was propaganda and that 
Ian Pannell wasn’t reporting from inside Syria. BBC journalists are well aware 
of our commitment to impartial reporting. They are expected to put their own 
political views to one side when carrying out their work for the BBC. They seek 
to provide the information which will enable viewers and listeners to make up 
their own minds; to show the political reality and provide the forum for debate, 
giving full opportunity for all viewpoints to be heard. Senior editorial staff, 
the Executive Committee and the BBC Trust keep a close watch on programmes to 
ensure that standards of impartiality are maintained.

It is not always possible or practical to reflect all the different opinions on 
a subject within individual programmes. Editors are charged to ensure that over 
a reasonable period they reflect the range of significant views, opinions and 
trends in their subject area. The BBC does not seek to denigrate any view, nor 
to promote any view. It seeks rather to identify all significant views, and to 
test them rigorously and fairly on behalf of the audience. Among other evidence, 
audience research indicates widespread confidence in the impartiality of the 
BBC's reporting.

Nevertheless, I acknowledge the strength of your complaint and I can assure you 
that I've registered your comments on our audience log.

This is the internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily for all 
programme makers and commissioning executives within the BBC, and also their 
senior management. It ensures that your points, and all other comments we 
receive, are made available across the BBC.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

Patrick Clyde

BBC Complaints

I've recently discovered the MediaLens message board and the like-minded people who post there. I've presented this item and others to them and it has gathered some discussion. I think this forum might be of interest to some of my readers as it is to me.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Four letters: to and from the BBC and the OPCW

Many of us are concerned about the BBC's strident support of the war against Syria's government and people and its backing for the aggressive designs of the US, UK, French, Turkey and the Gulf tyrannies.

These emails are revealing. I suggest you might consider making contact with the BBC about the issue. Read on!

1. Here is my complaint I made to the BBC:

Subject:     Complaint to the BBC about chlorine attacks alleged on Today
Date:     Thu, 29 May 2014 13:29:55 +0100

I'm complaining about an item on Today (24 May 2014) purporting to be an account by an unnamed Syrian doctor of a chlorine gas attack in Kafr Zita,
Hama, Syria.

A male voice claims to have witnessed a chlorine attack which he identifies by a strong smell of bleach in the locality. There is a strong
smell of bleach in my bathroom but I don't think it's down to chemical weapons.

The article seems to have been initiated by Hamish de Bretton-Gordon who is a well-known propagandist, always on the BBC. He was formerly
employed by the MoD on CW and now runs a company specialising in CW allegations.

The story lacks any credibility. The Syrian government has very modern weapons and it's hard to see why they would use chlorine gas which,
apart from being antiquated, is banned internationally. Why would the Syrian government use such weapons against villagers?

The voice made several dubious claims about the OPCW, which must be the world's most respected organisation. It has recently won the Nobel Peace
Prize and is currently overseeing the removal of 93% of Syria's chemical weapons. The interviewer (Sarah Montague?) suggested that his life was
in danger if his name were known to the OPCW. It is noteworthy that it was not asked to comment.

I shall be writing to the OPCW for their comments. I urge the BBC to seek a statement from that body. The BBC's commitment to the
anti-government forces in Syria is well known. However, the BBC should broadcast news and not propaganda.

2. And here is the reply they gave:

Dear Mr Bennett

Thank you for contacting us regarding Radio 4's 'Today' programme on 30/05/2014.

We understand you feel the service advocates foreign warfare, which was 
exemplified by personal comments from John Humphrys.

Please be assured, we strive to present accurate and relevant information 
throughout our news output. BBC journalists are well aware of our commitment to 
impartial reporting. They seek to provide the information which will enable 
listeners to make up their own minds; to show the political reality and provide 
the forum for debate, giving full opportunity for all viewpoints to be heard.

It is not always possible or practical to reflect all the different opinions on 
a subject within individual news programmes. Editors are charged to ensure that 
over a reasonable period they reflect the range of significant views, opinions 
and trends in their subject area.

Political figures and others in positions of responsibility should be given the 
opportunity both to explain their thinking on matters of public concern and to 
answer criticisms of it. The interviewer's job is to put the questions likely to 
be in the minds of informed listeners and to look for answers. The interviewer 
conducts the discussion with the proper combination of firmness and civility.

Nevertheless, we value your feedback about the content of the programme. All 
complaints are sent to senior management and programme makers every morning. We 
included your points in this overnight report. These reports are among the most 
widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your complaint has 
been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about 
current and future programmes.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

Alastair O'Donnell

BBC Complaints

3. The third and fourth letters are more interesting, my question to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Subject:                 Fwd: Complaint to the BBC about chlorine attacks 
alleged on Today
Date:            Fri, 30 May 2014 10:34:12 +0100
From:            Colin B Bennett 
To:              media@opcw.org

Dear Sir or Madam

Like many people, I am an admirer of the Organisation for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and consider it one of the few
organisations that has lived up to the original ideas of the Nobel Peace
Prize. I have heard representatives of the OPCW being interviewed on the
radio and they always give a very good account of themselves and deal
with loaded and negative questions very well. For example, when a BBC
interviewer suggested the Syrian government had been slow to facilitate
the removal of its stock of chemical weapons (I understand 93% have
already been removed) the OPCW spokesperson pointed out that the US is
years behind in its agreed programme to destroy its stock of chemical
weapons even though there is no war waging in that country.

Below is an email complaint that I made to the BBC on 29 May 2014. It is
self-explanatory. The BBC have not yet had time to reply but I will
furnish you with that reply when it arrives. I took an audio recording
of the BBC interview of which I complain and I would gladly send it to
you if you would like to have it. It is on an audio cassette and
although this recording method is somewhat antiquated I'm sure the
resources of Switzerland can assist you in finding a player or turning
it into another format.

I think it's very important that the OPCW makes every effort to deal
with these allegations of chlorine attacks. The BBC account is highly
questionable and the references to OPCW in it are not at all convincing.

Thank you very much

Yours faithfully

Colin Bennett

4. And here is the OPCW's reply:

Dear Mr Bennett,

Thank you for your email. My office has been in regular contact with the 
BBC from the outset of the Syria mission and is fully aware of its 
coverage, as we are of the activities of Mr de Bretton-Gordon.

Michael Luhan
Spokesman and Head, Media & Public Affairs
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons 
The Hague, The Netherlands
Tel:    +31 (0) 70 416 3710
Mob: +31 (0) 6 5356 8512
Fax:   +31 (0) 70 416 3280
Web:  www.opcw.org