Daily Archives: May 27, 2007

Secret stalker squad to detain religious believers and others under mental health laws to protect elites

Daily Mail | May 26, 2007

The upshot of this is that anyone who criticizes corrupt government officials, degenerate royalty or the financial elite robber barrons will be arrested and thrown into a mental institution. Why? Because they are scared to death that you will find out the truth about them and try to hold them accountable to the hand of justice. Neofeudalism plain and simple.

PW

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “The Government is trying to bring in a wider definition of mental disorder and is resisting exclusions which ensure that people cannot be treated as mentally disordered on the grounds of their cultural, political or religious beliefs.

“Combined with the idea that someone could be classed as mentally ill on the grounds of their religious beliefs, it is a very worrying scenario.”

Fears that doctors could be used to lock up terror suspects without trial

The Government has established a shadowy new national anti-terrorist unit to protect VIPs, with the power to detain suspects indefinitely using mental health laws.

The revelation is set to reignite the row over the Government’s use of draconian measures to deal with terror suspects amid accusations they are abusing human rights.

The Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) was quietly set up last year to identify individuals who pose a direct threat to VIPs including the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Royal Family.

It was given sweeping powers to check more than 10,000 suspects’ files to identify mentally unstable potential killers and stalkers with a fixation against public figures.

The team’s psychiatrists and psychologists then have the power to order treatment – including forcibly detaining suspects in secure psychiatric units.

Using these powers, the unit can legally detain people for an indefinite period without trial, criminal charges or even evidence of a crime being committed and with very limited rights of appeal.

Until now it has been the exclusive decision of doctors and mental health professionals to determine if someone should be forcibly detained.

But the new unit uses the police to identify suspects – increasing fears the line is being blurred between criminal investigation and doctors’ clinical decisions.

It also raises questions about why thousands of mentally ill individuals have been allowed back into the community – including some who have attacked and killed members of the public – while VIPs are being given special protection.

Scotland Yard, which runs the shadowy unit, refuses to discuss how many suspects have been forcibly hospitalised by the team because of “patient confidentiality”.

But at least one terror suspect – allegedly linked to the 7/7 bomb plot and a suicide bombing in Israel – has already been held under the Mental Health Act.

The suspect, who was subject of a control order and cannot be named for legal reasons, later absconded from the hospital and his whereabouts are unknown.

The existence of FTAC, part of the Metropolitan Police’s specialist operations department which oversees anti-terrorist investigations and royal and diplomatic protection, slipped out in the fine print of a Home Office report.

The report makes it clear FTAC is a counter-terrorism unit and says: “We aim to make the UK a harder target for terrorists by maintaining effective and efficient protective security for public figures.”

NHS documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal the unit’s role “concerns the identification and diversion into psychiatric care of mentally ill people fixated on the prominent”.

The purpose of the centre is “to evaluate and manage the risk posed to prominent people by…those who engage in inappropriate or threatening communications or behaviours in the context of abnormally intense preoccupations, many of which arise from psychotic illness.”

The Mental Health Act requires two doctors or psychiatrists to approve someone’s forcible detention for treatment.

So-called ‘sectioning’ allows a patient to be held for up to six months before a further psychological assessment. Patients are then reviewed every year to determine if they can be released.

FTAC’s senior forensic psychiatrist Dr David James, who has made a study of attacks on British and European politicians by people suffering pathological fixations, is qualified to order such a detention, as are other members of his team.

Also on the staff is Robert Halsey, a consultant forensic clinical psychologist who is a specialist in risk assessment.

The centre, which is based at a secret Central London location, has a staff of four police officers, two civilian researchers, a forensic psychiatrist, a forensic psychologist and a forensic community mental health nurse. Job descriptions make it clear they implement “interventions”.

Human rights activists fear the team, whose existence has never been publicised, may be being used as a way to detain suspected terrorists without having to put evidence before the courts.

It also comes amid a continuing row over proposed mental health legislation which will make it easier to ‘section’ someone deemed a threat to the public.

Last night human rights group Liberty said the secret unit represented a new threat to civil liberties.

Policy director Gareth Crossman said: “There is a grave danger of this being used to deal with people where there is insufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution.

“This blurs the line between medical decisions and police actions. If you are going to allow doctors to take people’s liberty away, they have to be independent. That credibility is undermined when the doctors are part of the same team as the police.

“This raises serious concerns. First that you have a unit that allows police investigation to lead directly to people being sectioned without any kind of criminal proceedings.

“Secondly, it is being done under the umbrella of anti-terrorism at a time when the Government is looking at ways to detain terrorists without putting them on trial.”

FTAC was set up following an NHS research programme based at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, Middlesex, which looked at the threat to prominent figures from “fixated” people.

The team examined thousands of cases and liaised with the FBI, the US Secret Service, the Capitol Hill Police, which protects Congressmen and Senators, and the Swedish and Norwegian secret services.

The Swedish authorities gave the team access to files on the murder of foreign minister Anna Lindh who died from multiple stab wounds after being attacked by a stalker in a Stockholm store in 2003.

The research led to FTAC being set up with a £500,000-a-year budget from the Home Office and Department of Health. NHS documents say: “It is a prototype for future joint services.”

No one from FTAC was willing to talk to The Mail on Sunday last week and few Whitehall officials seemed aware of the Centre’s existence.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “The Government is trying to bring in a wider definition of mental disorder and is resisting exclusions which ensure that people cannot be treated as mentally disordered on the grounds of their cultural, political or religious beliefs.

“When you hear they are also setting up something like this police unit, it raises questions about quite what their intentions are.

“The use of mental health powers of detention should be confined to the purposes of treatment. But the Government wants to be able to detain someone who is mentally disordered even when the treatment would have no benefit.

“Combined with the idea that someone could be classed as mentally ill on the grounds of their religious beliefs, it is a very worrying scenario.”

Last night a Home Office spokeswoman said there was “nothing sinister” about the unit or its role in counter-terrorism.

She said: “It comes under the remit of royal and diplomatic protection and is administered by that part of the Home Office.

“Psychiatric investigations are undertaken by psychiatric professionals only. Police officers do not assess people with mental health issues. The police provide the intelligence to ensure that psychiatrists have all the information available to make an assessment.

“This is done not only to protect public figures but also to protect the person fixated with the public figure.”

Details of FTAC are revealed as the Government faces a new row over its terrorist control orders after three suspects, supposedly under house arrest, absconded last week.

The suspects, who it is feared may have fled the country, include the brothers of Anthony Garcia, who was jailed last month for his role in a plot to bomb London nightclubs and shopping centres.

Putin the Terrible, we love you

The Times | May 27, 2007

putin_cold_warrior2

To the West, Moscow’s strongman is a despot out to crush democracy. That’s just why most Russians like him

Seven years after coming to power, Putin, who served a third of his life in the KGB, has few friends left in Europe and America. West of Moscow he is vilified as an authoritarian despot who has crushed opposition to his rule, turned independent media into a sycophantic tool of the Kremlin and jailed or chased his critics into exile.

Two days after the Crown Prosecution Service announced that Andrei Lugovoi, the former KGB agent, should be charged with the murder of his old colleague Alexan-der Litvinenko and demanded that Russia extradite him to face trial in Britain, I bumped into a Russian friend: worldly, pro-western and a fluent English speaker who has travelled dozens of times abroad.

I asked him who he thought had ordered the murder of Litvinenko, a fierce Kremlin critic who died of a massive polonium210 dose in London six months ago. My friend had no doubts. “Boris Berezovsky of course,” he said forcefully. It was the exiled oligarch and foe of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, who had smuggled polonium into Britain and ordered his protégé’s death. Why? To sully Russia’s image in the West.

However absurd that seems, many Russians would agree. Even in exile Berezovsky, once one of Moscow’s most powerful political players, is regarded as a Machiavellian figure whose influence, they believe, knows no boundaries. Those who do not share that view, including Litvinenko’s first wife, believe he was instead killed by the CIA or MI5, enemies of Russia bent on weakening it just as it is becoming strong again. Few here suspect the FSB, as the KGB is now known, or the Kremlin. Too small a fish for them to get involved, they argue.

The striking difference between public opinion in Russia and back in Britain could easily be overlooked if it concerned only Litvinenko’s cold-blooded killing. It is, however, just the latest example of divisions running between the Russians and the West which, 16 years after the collapse of communism, are set to become only deeper.

Seven years after coming to power, Putin, who served a third of his life in the KGB, has few friends left in Europe and America. West of Moscow he is vilified as an authoritarian despot who has crushed opposition to his rule, turned independent media into a sycophantic tool of the Kremlin and jailed or chased his critics into exile.

In Litvinenko’s case Putin has effectively been branded a murderer by parts of the western press.

In Russia, by contrast, Putin enjoys popularity ratings that must surely be the envy of George W Bush and Tony Blair. Well over 70% of Russians support him, according to the latest polls – by any standards a record for a leader at the end of his tenure.

Listen to the likes of Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster turned fierce Kremlin opponent, who is now the darling of western liberals who berate Putin, and you will be led to believe that the president’s regime “would collapse in two weeks” if Russia had a free media. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Under the current leadership this is an authoritarian country run mostly by a clique of former KGB agents. And yes, the control of the media is so draconian and pervasive that even the launch of a national children’s TV channel has become a political issue. Nor would many dispute that the country’s judiciary is a travesty and that corruption in Russia has become far more endemic than it ever was even during the turbulent years when Boris Yeltsin was in the Kremlin.

But like it or not, Putin is genuinely popular. Ask most Russians and they will tell you that they would happily vote for the constitution to be changed so as to allow him to stay on a third term (he is due to step down in 10 months’ time), a feeling shared by western investors whose primary concern is high returns and political stability rather than democracy and a free press.

Putin’s record is not the only issue on which Russian and western public opinion do not see eye to eye. Europe and America increasingly look to Russia with mistrust but, as always when a relationship sours, both parties feel injured. Most Russians are deeply disillusioned with the West. They believe that it has a vested interest in Russia being weak. There reigns a siege mentality and a conviction that the country is surrounded by opponents. The cold war is over and the West is no longer an enemy but, as most will tell you, it is no friend.

How else, Russians will say, should they interpret the fact that Britain granted political asylum to Berezovsky, Akhmed Zakayev, the former Chechen field commander whom Moscow accuses of terrorism, and several other figures wanted by prosecutors here? Why, Putin’s men ask angrily, did the Kremlin receive so little in return after he defied his generals and opened military bases in central Asia to US troops fighting in Afghanistan after September 11? And why is Washington seeking to install a missile defence shield in the heart of Europe and Nato expanding right up to Russia’s borders? Justified or paranoid, it is partly this strong sense that they were wronged that makes many Russians prone to believing most conspiracy theories, be it that opposition journalists such as Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down last year (the 13th reporter murdered under Putin), were killed by Russia’s enemies. Or that the peaceful revolutions in former Soviet states such as Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan were the work of a CIA bent on installing pro-Nato governments in Russia’s back yard. Western influences did play a part but they weren’t pivotal.

Even the war in Chechnya, some Russians never tire of telling me, was somehow linked to the West. The official in charge of the British press at the Russian foreign ministry once asked me who prepared my questions whenever I travelled to the war-torn region to interview Moscow’s opponents.

It is a deep-seated mistrust I am always confronted with whenever I visit the Lubyanka, the FSB headquarters in Moscow, whose cloak and dagger residents jokingly describe it as the country’s tallest building, “because from here we can see as far as Siberia”.

I have known a couple of people there for years. We chat periodically over cups of strong tea. I probe much and they reveal little. We like each other, but inevitably I feel they think I am an undercover intelligence officer.

From where they look at the world, an Italian working for a British paper in Moscow can only be a spy. There is not much point in trying to prove the contrary, so when they ask how I am I joke: “Not well. They still haven’t promoted me to major.” They laugh, but never without a nod and a wink.

Hardly surprising that even reasonable and affable FSB officers should be suspicious of a foreigner, but the point is they share the same background as Putin and many of his closest aides. Old habits die hard and they, too, see the West through a prism of conspiracy and distrust – not unlike many politicians on our side of the divide who were brought up during the cold war and are still wary of Russia.

Putin’s KGB background was an issue of concern in the West but never in Russia, where informed people are quick to point out that George Bush Sr once headed the CIA.

Russia opened up to the West for a few brief years under Mikhail Gorbachev, the father of glasnost and perestroika that preceded communism’s collapse. People who had been taught for 70 years that communism was the best system suddenly saw the value of democracy, market economy and a free press.

But liberalising the economy was a traumatic business. Millions lost their savings and were plunged into dire poverty while a few insiders became fabulously rich oligarchs who flaunted their wealth. Crime became rampant and Russia, once the heart of an empire feared and respected around the world, was on its knees. For scientists, engineers and state workers who had traded a life of certainties to eke out a living as gypsy cab drivers, or for pensioners forced to survive by collecting empty bottles off the street for a few kopeks, a free press could hardly be much consolation.

As a result, more than 15 years later, for a politician here to be labelled a “democrat” is suicide because so many associate the term with the economic hardships and social upheavals of the early 1990s.

It is true that pro-western democrats have been crushed by Putin’s regime, which has denied them the right to make their views heard, but if they are a spent force it is mainly because most Russians no longer trust them. That explains why, in the West, Gorbachev and Yeltsin are feted but are despised by most in Russia as the two leaders who stopped the clock and engineered the end of the Soviet Union.

My cleaning lady, to give an example from everyday life, was an officer in Soviet military intelligence who served in Afghanistan and Hungary. Her official monthly pension now is £60 and her life has taken quite a turn for the worse in the past two decades – no wonder that in her eyes Gorbachev and Yeltsin are criminals who sold away her country.

Western opinion may have been shocked two years ago when Putin described the end of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”, but the Russian president was in tune with most of his people. [continues]

Venezuela court orders troops to take over TV station

Brunei Times | May 27, 2007

VENEZUELA’S top court last Friday ordered the Defence Ministry to take control of installations of an opposition television station amid a show of military force before the station’s controversial closure.

President Hugo Chavez’s decision to close the RCTV television channel, which he accuses of backing a 2002 coup against him, has prompted international condemnation and several demonstrations.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court ordered the military to “guard, control and monitor” some of the station’s installations and equipment including transmission equipment and antennas throughout the country.

An RCTV source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said staff at the station believed troops would take over the station’s Caracas headquarters.

The court determined that the government must take RCTV’s broadcast equipment to ensure a smooth handover to a state channel that will replace RCTV with broadcasts promoting the values of Chavez’s socialist revolution.

A Defence Ministry official said he had not seen the court decision. An RCTV lawyer declined to comment on the issue.

The decision came hours after a convoy of troop carriers, motorcycles and armoured anti-riot vehicles patrolled the highways of Caracas in what authorities called an effort to deter any disturbances by opposition demonstrators.

Chavez, clad in military fatigues at the inaugural flight of Sukhoi fighter jets bought from Russia, said the country was ready for any attack by “the oligarchy”, a rich, pro-US elite which he says RCTV epitomises.

“We will be on alert, we are always on alert. Whatever flares up, we will snuff it out,” he said.

The US Senate last Thursday unanimously passed a resolution against the “transgression of freedom of thought and expression” in Venezuela. A protest in Caracas last Saturday attracted tens of thousands of people.

Chavez’s critics say he has sought to build a Cuban-style system in Venezuela, accusing him of politicising the military, judiciary and oil industry of the Opec member country.

Political analysts have often identified Venezuela’s critical media as the main obstacle to Chavez following the model of his mentor Fidel Castro.

The government has repeatedly warned that opposition demonstrators are preparing a “destabilisation campaign” to spark street violence as RCTV loses its license. “Minority groups cannot go against the will of the majority of the Venezuelan people to create uncertainty in the case of RCTV’s license,” Defence Minister Raul Baduel said.

Donald Trump sides with Rosie over Hasselbeck flap

Monsters and Critics | May 25, 2007

trump

Donald Trump approves

Never predictable and always with something to say, mogul Donald Trump has made comments regarding the recent Rosie O’Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck fracas.

The Donald sided with Rosie regarding her stance against the war and the current adminstration.

After the two women’s recent blowout on “The View”, Trump comes on the attack against Hasselbeck.

The Donald told TV’s Extra, “On this one I think Rosie should win. I think anybody that’s against the war in Iraq is the winner of the fight, because to justify the war in Iraq – only an imbecile could do that.”

UK police to get tough new terror powers

The Times | May 27, 2007

NEW anti-terrorism laws are to be pushed through before Tony Blair leaves office giving “wartime” powers to the police to stop and question people.

John Reid, the home secretary, who is also quitting next month, intends to extend Northern Ireland’s draconian police powers to interrogate individuals about who they are, where they have been and where they are going.

Under the new laws, police will not need to suspect that a crime has taken place and can use the power to gain information about “matters relevant” to terror investigations.

If suspects fail to stop or refuse to answer questions, they could be charged with a criminal offence and fined up to £5,000. Police already have the power to stop and search people but they have no right to ask for their identity and movements.

No general police power to stop and question has ever been introduced in mainland Britain except during wartime.

Civil liberties campaigners last night branded the proposed measures “one of the most significant moves on civil liberties since the second world war”.

Ironically, the stop and question power is soon to be repealed in Northern Ireland as part of the peace agreement. Home Office officials admitted, however, that the final wording of the new power to stop and question in the rest of the UK might have to include a requirement for reasonable suspicion.

The disclosure coincides with a rare attack by Blair on Britain’s judges for emasculating his antiterrorism legislation. In an article for The Sunday Times, he condemns those who say “civil liberties come first” before the security of the population. “I believe this is a dangerous misjudgment,” the prime minister writes.

Blair also takes a tilt at critics of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming that “pandering” to a “sense of grievance” among Muslims “will only encourage it”.

The prime minister’s article, and the new terrorism powers, come after last week it was revealed that three terror suspects who were subject to control orders have absconded.

Ministers will seek to justify the new powers on the grounds that they will be “useful” for the police and “less intrusive” than the current measure to stop and search, which they will not need to use so often. Officers often have to spend hours filling out paperwork after making stops and searches.

Reid is planning to push through a counter-terrorism bill next month before he and Blair leave office. As well as the power to stop and question individuals, the home secretary also wants to introduce two new police powers in the name of of combating Islamic terrorism: the power to take documents away for examination even if their value as evidence is not immediately obvious; and the power to remove vehicles in order to examine them.

Tony McNulty, the minister for counter-terrorism, outlined the plans on Reid’s behalf in a letter to the prime minister last week.

“I believe that these powers will be very useful UK-wide,” he wrote. “For example, one of the public criticisms of [stop and search] has been that it is overused.

“Arguably one of the weaknesses of [stop and search] is that although it enables a search of an individual, it does not enable a police officer to ask that individual who they are or where they are going.

“Therefore a less intrusive power of stop and question that could be used by the police in the first instance would be useful. The effect of this power should therefore be to reduce the number of times stop and search is used.”

Jane Winter, director of British Irish Rights Watch, said: “This is one of the most significant moves on civil liberties since the second world war, a sledgehammer to crack a nut. This looks like a return to the ‘sus’ laws, except even then the police needed to have some suspicion.”

Shami Chakrabati, director of the civil rights group Liberty, said: “The police should not have powers to run around questioning people willy-nilly.”

Liberty also raised concerns that a unit set up last year to identify individuals who pose a security threat to VIPs, including the cabinet and royal family, could use the Mental Health Act to detain people without trial.

The Fixated Threat Assessment Centre, which is run by Scotland Yard and whose staff includes psychiatrists and police, can authorise the indefinite detention of people it identifies as mentally unstable and potentially dangerous.

“There is a grave danger of this being used to deal with people where there is insufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution,” said Liberty’s Gareth Crossman. “This blurs the line between medical decisions and police actions.”

Ron Paul educates Rudy Giuliani at the National Press Club

New Video: Educating Rudy Press Conference 
 
May 25, 2007

Congressman Ron Paul and Dr. Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, held a press conference yesterday at the National Press Club to educate Rudy Giuliani on American foreign policy in the Middle East. Dr. Paul gave Mr. Giuliani a reading assignment which is at the end of the 13-minute video clip.
 
[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAt6Pf7jZjA]