Thursday, 5 April 2012

Money, Global Power and Gareth Williams

After a preliminary hearing by the Westminster Coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, to prepare for this month's inquest into the death of Gareth Williams, a mathematician and GCHQ technician on secondment to MI6, Counsel for the Williams family said that they feared he had been murdered by someone "schooled in the black arts", possibly MI6 or some other intelligence service.

It's beyond question that not only was the scene of death systematically cleaned of evidence, possibly over a period of days, but also that the subsequent police investigation, and those of any newspapers showing a non-prurient interest, was systematically and very persistently subverted amidst a barrage of smears about the deceased and his supposed lifestyle. The smears were not trivial things: investigating officers were following theories based on Mr Williams being a gay bondage fetishist, when in fact he had a girlfriend. They managed not to be aware of the girlfriend, because in the course of recording evidence and statements volunteered by witnesses, including the girlfriend, other officers had mis-recorded her name, so she seemed to the coroner to be three different people, and also mis-recorded and evidently mis-represented what she had said. Strangely enough, this interference helps Medawar part the mists on who is behind the cover-up, and who, therefore, might reasonably be a suspect in Mr Williams' murder, for that is almost certainly what his death was.

Just like serial killers, individuals who organise a succession of cover-ups and miscarriages of justice, develop a signature. A highly distinctive signature in the matter of the cover-up would tend to suggest someone whose mastery of the black arts is self-taught, perhaps over many years, with increasing sophistication mingling with one or two tell-tale bad habits.

The first thing to note when analysing the cover-up, is that the Russian intelligence services, the FSB and the SVR, usually kill people in order to frighten others into line, and a cover-up would be self-defeating. They try not to leave evidence that would implicate any individual operative, but they usually like the world to know it was their work, hence the frequent employment of high-technology methods of murder not available to anybody else. There is evidence of a Russian surveillance operation around Mr William's flat in Alderney street. However, Mr Williams died in the interval between an SVR general going missing whilst swimming near Tartrus in Syria, and his body being found on a beach in Turkey. The building that Mr Williams' flat is in, is owned by an apparent MI6 front company "Rodinia" registered in the Caribbean, and whilst the SVR general was officially "missing", the SVR and FSB would have been watching anxiously in case he appeared at some such species of MI6 safehouse. They might even have been relieved when his death was confirmed.

The cover-up was also very well-informed, not just in the black arts of murder, but in the methods used by the Metropolitan Police Service to investigate murder. Many aspects, such as mis-recording the girlfriend's name and her testimony, required ongoing access to the police inquiry, from within the police rather than from outside or above. This would have been very problematic for the FSB and SVR, in terms of political and diplomatic risk as well as operational difficulty. It would have been tricky for MI6 and MI5, too: Medawar would expect them to try and get a target to go to a foreign country before doing them in, rather than have to risk dabbling in an UK police investigation with the power to arrest even their respective directors general. Investigations with a genuine national security aspect tend to be suppressed with D Notices and Public Interest Immunity Certificates (signed by Secretaries of State), rather than subverted, too.

Systematic mis-recording and mis-filing of evidence, witnesses statements and even the names and address of volunteering witnesses, is precisely what happened to make the Stephen Lawerence murder inquiry go so badly wrong. It's also what happened to allow the gangster Kenneth Noye, to get away with a plea of self-defence after he'd killed the police officer, John Fordham, who was investigating Noye's part in the Brinks-Mat bullion robbery. (The police simply couldn't give prosecutors enough properly-correlated evidence to rebut Noye's claim, despite the obvious convenience to Noye of killing an officer, in self-defence, who was trying to discover where Noye had hidden millions of pounds worth of gold.) Interestingly, Kenneth Noye was a friend and colleague of gangster Clifford Norris, the father of one of those very belatedly convicted for the murder of Stephen Lawerence.

Much, much more of the same technique was used to frustrate successive police investigations into the murder of the private investigator, Daniel Morgan, culminating in the collapse of the prosecution of former police officer, Jonathan Rees, and others, for this murder. Key evidence, which should have been shown to the defence (but was not necessarily of any value to the defence) went missing, and this allowed the defendants to claim they could not have a fair trial. Since they seemed to know a lot more about the missing evidence than the prosecution did, one wonders precisely by what agency did it disappear? (A remarkably similar thing happened at the trial, in Cardiff, of several former police officers accused of perverting the course of justice, leading to the false conviction of three men for the murder of a prostitute. Within weeks of their acquittal, the "destroyed" evidence was found to be safe and well in a police evidence room, but by then it was too late.)

Throughout the investigation into the death of Gareth Williams, every bit of progress, appeal for information, or even newspaper stories taking his death seriously, have provoked a tide of defamation against Mr Williams, all suggesting that his death was the direct result of bizarre and demeaning sexual perversions on his part. These smears have been launched predominantly through the Rupert-Murdoch-owned News International Group newspapers, and have all been attributed to "senior" police sources. They have also caused great anger and frustration to those senior police officers actually on the inquiry team.

A very similar thing has happened throughout the quarter of a century-long investigation into the disappearance and probable murder of Miss Suzy Lamplugh. Every time anyone tries to actually solve this, the "senior police source" dines with a News International Journalist and suddenly we're being told that Miss Lamplugh "may have had an affair with the sex-killer and gangster John Canaan" or some other fairy story, usually involving a burial site on the opposite side of the country to where she was last seen. Why the senior police source would not want her abduction to be solved is a matter of speculation, but might be similar to why a senior police source wouldn't want the Stephen Lawerence murder to be solved.

The commonality here, is a senior police officer, or perhaps a now-retired senior officer with a lot of loyal stooges still within the MPS, who has certain tried and trusted methods of frustrating a murder inquiry, and links to the sort of gangster who might want this to happen, and to the sort of media organization which might cheerfully publish the necessary smears and disinformation.

Now let us go on a completely different journey, and see if we end up anywhere near the same place...

What was it that made GCHQ technician turned MI6 officer, Gareth Williams, worth murdering? Obviously, most would think, his top-secret work for the intelligence agencies.

Except that, for nearly all of his intelligence work, he was a junior-middle ranking part of a team. He had, supposedly, started to take the lead on some matters, but however "brainy" he might seem to tabloid journalists, he does not seem to have been an exceptional talent by GCHQ standards. In addition, the technical experts at GCHQ and MI6 are not very visible at all to anyone outside the organizations. He had some recent contact with American counterparts, who tend to underestimate the importance and worth of any British person they meet. It's possible that a foriegn agency, such as the FSB or SVR, formed a higher opinion of him, but Medawar would expect him to disappear rather than die, if that had happened. His most recent assignments seemed to be to do with cyber crime, rather than actual intelligence work.

Since Mr Williams was recruited by GCHQ, he would seem to have been too invisible to become a murder target for the sort of seriously-determined party that could have carried off the cover-up and smear campaign. But, young as he was, his life did not start when Gareth Williams was recruited in 2000.

Thing is, before becoming a secret spy, Gareth Williams was actually famous within a small band of online games enthusiasts and an over-lapping circle of hackers. He had a reputation for being "unbeatable" at certain games and, apparently, at certain types of recreational hacking and amateur codebreaking. The crucial period in his life was between finishing a degree course at the university of Bangor in North Wales in 1996, and his recruitment by GCHQ in 2000. Because he did his first degree whilst still of school age, he was still living with his parents whilst studying at Bangor. He then went on to do a Phd at the University of Manchester, and then started, but did not complete, an advanced maths course at St Catherine's College, Cambridge.

His Phd dissertation was centered around computer games, but was not as trivial as that might sound. A lot of high-powered maths is connected to "game theory" and games are one way of determing what things are, and are not, mathematically possible. Some of the applications are of very immediate interest to organized crime, too.

With hindsight, and in the light of the BBC Panorama investigation into the activities of the News Corporation electronic security company "NDS", it would seem that Mr Williams was in greater danger of contact with "serious players" between 1997 and 2000, than at any time during his service within the protected environment of GHCQ and the (less well protected) world of MI6.

The BBC discovered that NDS (mostly through the NDS offices in Haifa) had been part of a systematic operation to drive out of business, all rivals to pay-TV satellite broadcasters owned, or associated with, their parent company, News Corporation. The BBC focused on the main UK rival to News Corporation's "BSkyB", On Digital, which was relaunched as ITV Digital, before going bust with losses of £1bn. But several other European and global broadcasters were driven from the market by similar campaigns.

In 1996 to 1997, NDS, represented by a former MPS Chief Superintendent, Ray Adams, went round all of the most active and talented "famous" hackers in Europe, seeking recruits for an operation that was to crack, and keep cracking, the encryption methods by which On Digital and others ensured that only paying customers could view their service. Up until the service finally went bust, leaving BSkyB with an effective monopoly, NDS kept refreshing a hacker's website "THOIC" with up to date codes for breaking the encryption used by On Digital and other potential competitors. In the end, tens of thousands of fake smartcards using the codes were sold by hackers in pubs and at car boot sales (and through online auctions), and it was often said that On Digital had more non-paying customers than ones who paid the full whack to the proper party.

Given that Mr Williams was famous within that circle of talent, at precisely that time, it's unlikely that Mr Adams neglected to try him out, However, because Mr Williams doesn't appear to have been a greedy man at all, he might not have been as receptive to the offers being made as some of the others evidently were.

At the time, NDS and Mr Adams might simply have thought they were helping the Murdoch Empire put one over on the competition, but over the subsequent decade, it would have become apparent that the pay-TV hacking campaign against News Corporation's competitors had done far more than drive On Digital out of business with a billion pound loss.

That hacking campaign had made News Corporation a major world power. Fox News had some control of the news agenda in North America (by no means unchallenged) but in the UK, Sky News and News International between them were openly mulling over who they would support, politically, and who would win general elections: they had considerable influence over who came to power and what they would do when they did. In Italy, control of Pay-TV and especially sports channels, directly determined who was the government.

In Asia, it was News Corporation who ruled the roost and determined how the emerging powers of China and Malaysia would relate to the rest of the world.

The NDS hacking campaign ended up changing the distribution of money, and power, all around the world, more dramatically than any British Intelligence operation in the same period, or frankly, since the Second World War. Moreover, it's a much narrower field, in which Mr Williams must have seemed much more important than he did in the general run of national intelligence.
And, strangely, it changed that distribution of money and power conclusively in favour of News Corporation and its many subsidiaries.

And because Mr Williams also appeared to be the only one in that field not eager to accept large amounts of cash to perform extremely dodgy actions, he might well have seemed to be dangerous, especially when some of the key players found themselves increasingly under suspicion for other crimes and cover-ups. (In reality, it was a German hacker who'd been quite happy to take their money, who was equally happy to betray all that they had done, to the BBC.)

Isn't it strange that by taking a completely different journey, Medawar finds himself looking once again at a Chief Superintendent who left the Metropolitan Police Service in 1996?

More emerges about NDS and the global political and economic impact of its multiple illegal hacking campaigns. See this link. Interestingly, this particular newspaper started to investigate the issue four years ago, which means that Mr Williams was murdered about the same time that Ray Adams might have realized the game could be up.


Anonymous said...

For all of the reasons that you've explained, your explanation sounds far more reasonable and rational than the rather absurd explanations currently circulating.

Corruption in high places. It's time it ended so that a young and dedicated man can receive justice.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, the Coroner will be allowed to see the recruitment details for Mr Williams, even if these cannot be read out in open court.

The intriguing possibility is that, Adams might even have recommended him for recruitment to GCHQ: if he was recruiting hackers and found one unwilling to break the law, recommending him to GCHQ would allow him to pretend the hacking approach was a "test". Williams would have been an excellent choice for the work in any case, and a former head of criminal intelligence at the Metropolitan Police would be trusted by intelligence services.

Which is, of course, the problem, not just with the Williams case, but with perhaps dozens of others.