Despite government censorship, a far bigger story behind the Skripal poisoning is emerging

spies
Tom Coburg

The UK government issued two censorship notices in the immediate aftermath of the poisonings of the Skripals – Russian double agent Sergei and his daughter Yulia. But these notices were not about the apparent murder attempt, but the intelligence personnel linked to the Skripals. And while the mainstream media largely co-operated with the request, independent media outlets were less willing, revealing the real reasons why the notices were issued.

‘D Notices’

The ‘DA Notice’, or ‘D Notice’ as it’s commonly known, is a system of government censorship in the UK. Officially, the notices are not legally enforceable, though it’s usual for the mainstream media to acquiesce to such requests. On 8 May, Spinwatch published details of two such notices that reference ‘standing notice five‘, published by the DSMA (Defence and Security Media Advisory) Notice System.

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The first ‘D Notice’ was issued on 7 March 2018, three days after the Skripals had been poisoned. It advised media editors against:

inadvertent disclosure of Sensitive Personnel Information (SPI) that reveals the identity, location or contact details of personnel (and their family members) who have security, intelligence and/or counter-terrorist backgrounds, including members of the UK Security and Intelligence Agencies, MOD and Specials Forces.

A second ‘D Notice’ was issued a week later, reiterating the request.

Officers named

Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News broke ranks and was seemingly the first to let the cat out of the bag:

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, meanwhile, went on to name ‘Pablo Miller’ as Skripal’s handler. WikiLeaks summarised this in a tweet:

Miller was first named as an MI6 agent by the Guardian in March 2000. It’s alleged that Miller recruited FSB (Russian secret service) officer Vyacheslav Zharko.

Miller went on to work for Orbis Business Intelligence, headed by Christopher Steele – a high-ranking MI6 agent and head of the Russia desk before moving to Paris.

The mysterious professor

In an earlier and seemingly separate development, Prof Joseph Mifsud – who was director of the (now defunct) London Academy of Diplomacy – allegedly told George Papadopoulos (US president Donald Trump’s former foreign policy adviser) that Russia had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails’. The following month, a heavily inebriated Papadopoulos reportedly spoke with Alexander Downer – Australia’s former high commissioner to the UK – about this.

Mifsud has interesting associates. He was photographed (see tweet below) next to Claire Smith, a member of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee and who was also on the UK Security Vetting Appeals Panel. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed that Mifsud, together with Smith, trained Italian intelligence officers:

Mifsud was also photographed at an international conference on Brexit, with representatives from Chatham House (a UK-based international affairs thinktank), the London School of Economics, and Italy.

He also appears in photographs with British foreign secretary Boris Johnson and no less a person than prime minister Theresa May.

‘Russiagate’

Meanwhile, Washington-based political research company Fusion GPS tasked Orbis (employer of Pablo Miller and Christopher Steele) with the investigation of Donald Trump’s dealings with Russia. Fusion was initially commissioned by a conservative publication opposed to Trump. But after Trump unexpectedly won the Republican nomination for president, a Democrat-supporting law firm took over the funding of the Orbis brief.

The infamous ‘Trump dossier’ [pdf] – in effect, a series of ‘briefings’ – was personally produced by Steele. It includes [pdf, pp11-14] multiple references to Democratic National Convention (DNC) emails, which showed how the DNC allegedly conspired to undermine progressive candidate Bernie Sanders in the Democratic leadership election.

Given the Miller-Steele connection, Craig Murray went on to speculate that:

it seems to me even more probable that Sergei Skripal contributed to the Orbis Intelligence dossier on Trump.

Alexander Downer is key

This brings us back to those Mifsud-Papadopoulos-Downer conversations.

During 2008-14, Downer was a member of the advisory board of Hakluyt, a highly secretive intelligence ‘agency’. And it was Downer who apparently went on to alert the FBI to the ‘dirt’ on Clinton:

The Hakluyt connection: a very secret ‘agency’

Hakluyt was set up in 1995 by Peter Cazalet (former vice-president of BP) and Christopher James (a former MI6 officer). It has been described as a “retirement home” for ex-MI6 officers. One such officer was former soldier, spy, and diplomat Sir Fitzroy Maclean, who is believed to have been Ian Fleming’s model for James Bond.

And as is to be expected with an agency that specialises in intelligence matters, Hakluyt’s activities have not been devoid of controversy. The most documented example concerns Manfred Schlickenrieder, a film-maker who previously spied on urban guerillas Red Brigades (Italy) and Red Army Faction (Germany). Schlickenrieder was subsequently hired by Mike Reynolds, a director of Hakluyt and MI6’s former station head in Germany, to infiltrate and spy on Greenpeace on behalf of oil companies.

Hakluyt, together with Pelorus, now comes under the holding company Holdingham Group Ltd. As well as the intelligence establishment, Pelorus/Holdingham boasts strong links with the international business community, with an advisory board that includes the former chairman of Unilver, the former chairman of Mitsubishi, the former chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, and the former CEO of Vodafone. And not forgetting Sir Iain Lobban, formerly director of GCHQ.

The real story?

The fact that a former Hakluyt adviser tipped off the US authorities about the Clinton emails, and an Orbis founder exploited his Russian espionage contacts to compile a dossier for that same audience, could explain why the British government was so keen to limit publication about the intelligence personnel associated with Sergei Skripal.

This is the story within the story: how Hakluyt/Pelorus/Holdingham and Orbis, via their intelligence activities, protect the bastions of capitalism.

Featured image via Pixabay

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