News That’s Fit To Punt – 16/Feb/2013

Prisoner X

The big news of the week is in fact this business of Prisoner X. What we can glean from the various headlines is that Prisoner X who committed suicide in solitary confinement in Israel was an Australian national who was also a Mossad agent. As the days have progressed, what’s come to light even more slowly that the Australian Government didn’t exactly rush to prisoner X’s defence. They offered no consular legal assistance (which is the becoming norm it seems); and because Israel assured Australia that everything was fine, they just let that one go right by.  The story keeps changing from DFAT as to what they exactly knew or did.  Embarrassed, now they’re ordering a review into the case.

In a nutshell, the Australian Government just Israel have away with one of its citizens in Israel’s answer to Guantanamo Bay. In Australia, the story is being reported around the mystery of how Ben Zygier ended up in such a situation, but the most important article I’ve read on this is over at Time in the USA.

What Zygier — the name on his tombstone – did to bring arrest is not known. Nor is it known what he did for Mossad, though the numerous passports he held from his native Australia suggest possibilities. Agents with dual nationality are useful as scouts, moving freely in enemy countries such as Syria, Lebanon or Iran without the lingering concern that comes with traveling on forged documents. Australia turned out to be particularly helpful; by law, a citizen could legally change his or her name once a year.

Zygier changed his three or four times. The first was after he decided to become an Israeli, in 2000. Many immigrants take a Hebrew name. The country’s founding president, David Ben-Gurion, was born David Grun in Poland. Zygier chose a name that implies steadfastness; Alon is Hebrew for “oak tree.” Why did he change it again? And again? That was the question Australian authorities asked Zygier early in 2010, when a dramatic event prompted a closer look at the use of Australian passports by citizens who also claimed Israel as their nationality. The event was the Jan. 19 assassination of a Hamas arms buyer named Mahmoud Al-Mabouh. The Palestinian was killed in his bed in a luxury hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by Mossad agents who were exposed, first, on hotel security cameras, and then by their passports. Some were forged, others were valid travel documents issued by Britain, France and other countries, including Australia, where officials were livid that Australian sovereignty was used as cover for a hit.

That official is what brings me to ask a few questions out loud. One would imagine that the passport business in the Dubai hit would reverberate through the corridors of DFAT, but also in the head of the Prime Minister of Australia who was a career diplomat at one point in his life. It’s hard not to imagine Kevin Rudd letting the use of dual nationalities and Australia passports for the purposes of foreign espionage and kick murders.

At the time, the Australian Government expelled an Israeli diplomat, which is neither here not there.  Here’s the crucial bit:

It’s unknown whether Zygier, who was 34, played any role at all in the Dubai assassination. But even if he did not, the Melbourne native apparently came under scrutiny in Australia as officials scoured the records of dual nationals in the wake of the killing. Zygier was in Australia at the time, studying for a master’s degree. The scrutiny could not have been pleasant, and it was not confined to official channels. After being interrogated by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, he got a call from a reporter. Jason Koutsoukis indicated in the Sydney Morning Herald that intelligence sources had directed him to three men suspected of using their Australian citizenship as a cover to spy for Israel. Koutsoukis wrote that the men operated a “shell” company in Europe to sell electronic gear to Iran – something that, by several published accounts, Western intelligence agencies have indeed done, in order to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program through the sale of deliberately defective equipment.

None of the three men or the company were named in the Feb. 27 , 2010 story, but Koutsoukis this week told Britain’s The Guardian that he spoke with Zygier at the time. “Who the f— are you?” Zygier asked the reporter, denying everything. “What is this total bullshit you are telling me?”

When Zygier returned to Israel, his bosses had him arrested, Israeli officials tell TIME.

So if that assembly of events is correct, Kevin Rudd ordered a screening of all dual nationals. This would have potentially dug up many espionage agents, not just Israeli agents. Inadvertently, this would have been like flipping the carpet over to find a metropolis of rats nests. Is it any wonder then that Mark Arbib, who we know was on the CIA payroll orchestrated the removal of Kevin Rudd in order to take the heat off all the spies using Australian passports?

The question I am asking is, is this the real reason why Kevin Rudd was removed from office in the manner in which he was removed?

More On The Minig Tax And Morbid Obeidity

The continuing ICAC hearings are turning into the most in depth revelations of just how little the ALP NSW Right faction stood for in principle and just how much they were into making money for themselves. What’s disturbing today is that it is this rather rum (pun intended) lot that gave the numbers to Julia Gillard to ascend to being Prime Minster.

Yes, I know it seems really awful to emphasise this, but it is what it is. Mark Arbib got the numbers through the faction machine, together with the Victorian Right and Bill Shorten and that mob. Yet, it never would have happened if Arbib had not consented to the coup, and by default there lies the lever that brought about Julia Gillard’s time in office. She is a net beneficiary of the morbid Obeidity as Bob Carr is a net beneficiary of Julian Assange’s exploits in leaking cables, which smoked out Mark Arbib as a CIA informant.

And the first major thing Julia Gillard did was to ‘negotiate’ the mining tax with the miners, and now the results of that negotiation are in, we know that it was no negotiation at all, it was more like getting dictated terms for surrender.

Gathered on one side of the cabinet table were the newly-installed Prime Minister Julia Gillard, her Treasurer Wayne Swan and her Resources Minister Martin Ferguson. On the other were the heads of Australia’s three big mining companies: BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.

Absent were the key people from the Treasury – the ones who really understood the tax being discussed.

As the then Treasury head Ken Henry later told a Senate committee: “We were not involved in the negotiations, other than in respect of crunching the numbers if you like and in providing due diligence on design parameters that the mining companies themselves came up with.”The smartest people were kept out of the room. They were ferried draft agreements and asked to examine them quickly. They were unable to test with the miners the propositions they were putting to the government.

That sounds like a recipe for a disaster, and the mining tax has been nothing short of a disaster in as much as the estimated 2billion has shrunk to 126million – Rio Tinto didn’t pay a cent. Together with BHP they got a $1.7billion mining tax ‘credit’.

Now, regardless of whether you agree with Kevin Rudd’s stance at the time, putting in a mining tax was a matter of principle. To hobble that Prime Minster and then ‘negotiate’ (and again I use that term loosely) the current version is nothing but political expedience. It doesn’t matter how well you are seen to ‘negotiate’ (it embarrasses me that I keep using this word to describe this process of hers) if you sell the country’s stake down the river. In all honesty – and in principle – you have failed to look after the interests of the people.

We all suspected this was the case at time, and now that the report card is in, this stuff really should be damning Julia Gillard. She’s a terrible Prime Minister, and the proper people of the ALP should be removing her. Except if the ICAC hearings are any guide, it’s hard to see if there are any decent proper people amongst those who installed her.

I want to finish off by saying that Niccolo Macchiavelli wrote that the one thing a prince or a politician should not invite upon themselves is contempt, not fear, or anger. This is because according to Macchiavelli, there is no coming back from being held in somebody’s contempt. The problem I have is that the ICAC hearings have exposed significant portions of the ALP as being entirely contemptible, and really, can there be a way back from that?

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