State sponsored, unaccountable blackmail - backround to Mohammed 'Jihadi John' Emwazi

Zenaan Harkness zen at
Sat Nov 14 23:53:20 PST 2015

Why Britain won’t talk about crucial elements of Jihadi John’s story
Ben Hayes 28 February 2015

The role of our security services in the actions of 'Jihadi John'
needs grown up discussion – we must not forget the lessons of Northern

In “Suspect Community: People’s Experience of the Prevention of
Terrorism Acts in Britain”, Professor Paddy Hillyard produced what
remains the world’s most detailed ethnographic study of the impact of
repressive laws and state policies on what we now call
“radicalisation”. That was 1993. Hillyard, a former chair of the
National Council of Civil Liberties (now Liberty), had interviewed
more than 100 people of Irish catholic descent and provided
unequivocal evidence that their everyday treatment at the hands of the
British state had boosted support for Irish republicanism, acted as a
recruiting sergeant for the IRA and fuelled “the Troubles”. Of course
it wasn’t the only “radicalising” factor: Bloody Sunday, a
shoot-to-kill policy and state collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries
also played their part. As of course did the violence, propaganda and
popularity of organisations like the IRA.

We could learn a lot from people like Paddy Hillyard and the
incremental moves toward truth and reconciliation in the north of
Ireland. Instead, this valuable insight is being steadily exorcised
from public debate – as are the similar experiences of Muslim
communities at the hands of the British state.

Yesterday the identity of “Jihadi John”, the ISIS
executioner-in-chief, was revealed to belong to British citizen
Mohammed Emwazi. The human rights group CAGE – the only organisation
in Britain who offers legal support to Muslims who have been
interrogated or harassed by the security services (support which is
readily available to most others questioned by the UK authorities) –
produced a 3,000 word dossier detailing his treatment between 2009 and
2013. This included, inter alia, the surveillance of his movements,
the interception of his telecommunications, the orchestration of his
arrest in Tanzania and transfer to the Netherlands where he was
interrogated by MI5, attempts to coerce him into becoming an MI5
informer, harassment of his family and fiancé, and the prevention of
his resettlement in Kuwait – all in the absence of any formal
allegation, charge or prospect of official recourse.

Since this occurred well before Mohammed Emwazi’s departure from the
UK and appearance in Syria as “Jihadi John”, one might have thought
our media duty bound to ask whether this and other encounters played
any part in his decision to go there. Indeed the most revealing
exchange, which should surely have been on the lips of any journalist
worth their salt, is the following, spoken by MI5 agent “Nick”:
“Listen Mohammed: You’ve got the whole world in front of you; you’re
21 years old; you just finished Uni – why don’t you work for us?” When
Mohammed declines, he is told: “You’re going to have a lot of
trouble... You’re going to be known... you’re going to be followed...
life will be harder for you.”

Let us be clear that whatever else may have transpired since this
exchange, here is a credible allegation of state-sanctioned blackmail
of one of our citizens upon pain of having his life ruined by
unaccountable security forces. When things like this happen to Muslims
in Arab dictatorships, we talk about “secret police” and “fearsome
security apparatuses”. When they happen here, we put our fingers in
our ears and demand that Muslims “get over themselves” and condemn
acts of terrorism.

And so it was that Kay Burley of Sky News duly began her interview
with a CAGE spokesman by asking “What level of harassment by the
security services here in the United Kingdom justifies beheadings?” –
a plainly preposterous straw man argument that literally no-one was
making. Liberal pin-up Jon Snow also glossed over the evidence
produced by CAGE, before getting down to the most important business
of the day: demanding that their spokespeople condemn terrorism, and
seeking to belittle them when they question why this demand is only
ever made of Muslims, or worse still, refuse to participate in the
ridiculous spectacle.

It was already a nailed-on certainty that the government and the media
would turn the “extremist” spotlight onto CAGE and its supporters in a
witch hunt that would make McCarthy blush. But having anointed Peter
Oborne the Supreme Ruler of Media Integrity for taking on the
Telegraph, perhaps they should ask him what he thinks about CAGE’s
treatment at the hands of the establishment. Or reflect on CAGE’s
founder and director’s own experience at the hands of MI5, or his
three-and-a-half years of illegal detention in Guantanamo Bay and
Belmarsh prisons. Nope: they’re just “apologists for terrorism”,
guilty until proven innocent.

Human rights and social justice groups should be supporting CAGE in
its endeavours to uncover the extra-judicial prosecution of the “war
on terror” in this country. They won’t because they’re scared of the
“public perception”. Much easier to support free expression from
behind the comfort of a “Je Suis Charlie” banner. The country should
be having a serious conversation about the way “intelligence-led
policing” has undermined our national security and human rights by
linking the treatment of Mohammed Emwazi to the discredited use of
informants and double agents in Northern Ireland, to the links between
MI5 and extremist groups, and to an undercover culture that has
perverted the pursuit of social and legal justice in this country. It
won’t, because we’ll turn a blind eye to anything at the drop of the

Something fundamental has to change if we’re to have the grown-up
conversations that can inform these policies, and that can temper the
appeal of extremism and violence in all quarters.

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