Monday 17 March 2008

Chief Constable MikeTodd's Killing: MIshap, Suicide or Murder?

by Trowbridge H. Ford

When any unexpected death occurs, especially concerning some high profile person, everyone, especially the media, is quick to explain the killing in terms they prefer, and the governments concerned are willing increasingly to go along with whatever explanation suits its interests, not those of the deceased. The facts used to justify it are often totally invented, while the real ones are ignored, glossed over, or suppressed.

For example, those concerned about suicides - like Professor Keith Hawton during the Hutton Inquiry into the death of Dr. David Kelly - were quick to look for clues of no violence in the killing but depression in the deceased, especially if drugs, especially alcohol, apparently contributed to the killing. Then there are all those conspiracy theorists who immediately assume that some terrible plot is afoot, especially conducted by some security service, especially Israel's Mossad. Most people, though, including the press, really couldn't care less what happened, assuming that it is just another misadventure where nature, it seems, determined what really occurred.

Of course, these biases in investigating killings overlook the fact that more and more nations are resorting to 'false flag' operations - ones they carry out to make it look as if they were done by their convenient enemies - to achieve their objectives. The world is far too dangerous for anyone, even the United States, to kill someone in a most obvious way, as that killing of that FARC commander in Ecuador the other day demonstrated. Consequently, all powers, big and small, use third parties to do their dirty work, hoping that the operation will kill two birds with one stone. In addition, no nation has the time, willingness or resources to get to the bottom of such deaths, preferring just to move on in their struggles.

Consequently, unexpected, unexplained deaths of Anglo-American counterterrorist experts are becoming more common and vicious. First, it was former Bureau counterterrorist expert John O'Neill who was sidelined from the CIA-FBI surveillance of the 19 Mulims apparently planning to highjack the four airliners on 9/11 - what the Mossad was most desirous of promoting - only for him to perish in the WTC as its security chief when they turned out to be suicide bombers. O'Neill was committed to making sure that another terrorist attack on the WTC, like the 1993 one, did not occur, but this was decided by his superiors to be a too law enforcement approach to the strategic difficulties which needed preventive wars to solve, making him part of the problem rather than its solution.

Then it was Dr. David Kelly who was set up to be the real source of Downing Street's 'dodgy dossier' about Saddam Hussein's WMD, and when he discovered his abuse after the dictator's ouster, and threatened a fightback, he was bushwacked while on a walk in July 2003 on Harrowdown Hill, and killed, apparently by a Mossad kidon. Kelly, alive, could have triggered public outrage over the fiasco which might well have resulted in a quick withdrawal from Iraq - what America's general on the scene, Jay Garner, was calling for.

Two years later, it was the sacked Foreign Secretary, and then the Blair government's strongest critic Robin Cook's turn to die on Scotland's Ben Stack after he collapsed dead suddenly, apparently from some prescribed drug, and was given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by one of an unidentified group of walkers who just happened to be passing by the lonely spot, demonstrating that everything possible had been done to save the whistleblower. Cook was involved in getting to the bottom of why former party leader John Smith was killed in the same manner, opening the door for Tony Blair and his neocons to take Labour to victory over the broken Conservatives.

Then, in 2006, Alexander LItvinenko, a recently recruited MI6 spy who had outlived his usefulness against Russia as another legitimate target of the war on terror by talking about Italian PM Romano Prodi's spying for the Soviets, was brutally poisoned to make it look as if Moscow had done it. London hoped that the set-up assassin, Andrei Lugovoy, would come to Britain to answer the charge - a process which would be made easy on him at the expense of the Kremlin's boss - but he and Putin had suffered too many dirty tricks from the West - starting with its sinking the 'unsinkable' sub Kursk by the US Navy's attack submarine USS Toledo's new shaped-charge torpedo in August 2000 - to fall for any such ploy.

And now Manchester's Chief Constable of Police Michael Todd - who was led by Sir John Scarlett's MI6 to cover up Britain's involvement in America's program of 'extraordinary renditions' - has, it seems, suffered a similar fate by parties unknown while on a walk up Snowdonia on Monday, though one cannot be sure about the details, given all the spin the media is spewing out.

First, we are told that Todd apparently jumped off Bwlch Glas to his death 300 feet below, only to learn that there was no sign of any serious trauma on or inside his recovered body. Then we are told that he was frantic about an apparent exposé of his three-year affair with Angie Robinson, the married chief executive of Greater Manchester's Chamber of Commerce, only to learn that it ended a year ago, and he was now in the process of splitting with his wife anyway. In fact, Todd had a new girl friend, having stayed with her over the weekend before he set off on his fatal trip to Snowdonia on Monday afternoon. And now the press is acting as if he is some kind of British Eliot Spitzer with all his womanizing.

Then they were all kinds of people who were concerned about "worrying texts" he was sendíng out - implying that they were suicidal in nature, and confirming letters allegedly found at the scene - but we are never told about what they actually contained, and why they would be a threat to the persons who received them. It turns out that there were only two such messages, one to his wife, and it is made out to sound like a suicide announcement when it was only informing her that he was finally leaving despite his continuing love for her. Then the existence of the letters was denied.

More important, there was a nearly empty bottle of gin nearby the corpse, "reeking" of it, though we are never told how it could be so if he were found lying face down in the snow, obviously with his mouth well covered up, and he was found in the autopsy to have had only slightly over the legal limit for DWI. Of course, he was not being investigated for that crime, and bringing it up and investigating it is just another diversion, it seems, from the investigation of how and why he died.

Had gin been poured around the corpse, and if so by whom? Is the gin in this case taking the place of the blood in the Kelly one? It certainly looks so when the inquiry's pathologist was allowed unprecedentedly by the coroner to state Thursday at the preliminary inquest that the claims of Todd's intoxification were totally over the top. Of course, the coroner's job is to determine the cause of death - what he has not yet done - rather than go out of his way to shoot down untrue conspiracy theories.

Moreover, the coroner, Dewi Pritchard-Jones, has only belatedly stated that he is willing to entertain the assumption that Todd committed suicide. Isn't a coroner supposed to entertain all possible causes of the deceased's demise, especially murder? Is Pritchard-Jones afraid that he might too be replaced as the coroner, as happened to the Oxford one in Kelly's case?

Most important of all is that no one, especially the media, is talking about Todd's cover up of the UK's role in the CIA's renditions. Only few news outlets have even made mention of his inquiry, and none that he categorically concluded that there was no truth in the claims.

It's all beginning to sound like what happened to Dr. Kelly, though, of course, even a Brown government could not entertain the idea of replacing the coroner by another commission, given the blowback from the infamous Hutton one. If Todd was murdered, his killers would have realized that another coverup by a commission was not possible, explaining why Todd was, it seems, overpowered, stripped of some clothing, filled with as much gin as possible, held down, and then left to die of hypothermia. Freezing to death is much easier to accomplish than bleeding to death, especially if the victim is fighting back.

Todd's problem, like Kelly's, was with the British government getting him to support a position he was not prepared to take. Whereas Kelly was made to appear to support the claim that Saddam's WMD threat was immediate, and of a strategic nature, the weapons inspector had only thought in the late '90s that Iraq could possibly develop tactical weapons of this sort in future. Todd had been persuaded by continuing gross falsehoods by those investigating the claims during his 18-month inquiry into possible British involvement in America's rendition program that there was absolutely no truth to them.

The rendering program had started in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and Washington stampeded all its partners to go along with it despite its dubious international and national legality because of all the 'ticking bombs' out there, and the need of stopping the unknown terrorists before it was too late. Here in Sweden, as in a few other European states, its authorities even allowed CIA agents to operate on its own soil in sending off two suspected terrorists to Egypt for harsh interrogations.
Other countries at least allowed and admitted that CIA flights with suspected terrorists on board had used their airports for the transfers. Britain was in the thick of all this, with 210 alleged flights with possible terrorists on board entering British airspace since 2001.

While the CIA consistently denied that there was any substance to the claims, stories started leaking out from the Agency by former agents, like CIC chief Vince Cannistrano and Larry Johnson, to the contrary - ones so persuasive that Dick Marty, chairman of the Council of Europe's legal affairs and human rights committee, was obliged to investigate the charges. Marty, however, got nowhere in his inquiries until EuroControl, the air-traffic controllers' organization, agreed to supply over flight plans filed electronically by suspected CIA planes involved in renditions. Thanks to what EuroControl supplied about 18 most suspicious flights, and anecdotal accounts by suspects allegedly on them, Marty was able to put together a most compelling case about the process in general, though there was still no hard confirmation of Britain having been involved despite all those suspicious flights in and out of UK airports.

Of course, during all this time, British authorities were a chorus of denial about anything untoward having happened in this regard in its territories. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made statements in the Commons in 2005, 2006, and 2007, "...saying there was no evidence that rendition flights had stopped on UK territory." ("UK apology over rendition flights," BBC News, February 21, 2008) Other inquiries, especially the one by the Commons' Foreign Affairs Select Committee, had come to the same conclusion, thanks to information that its intelligence community, especially from MI6, had supplied.

As Annie Machon rightly concluded in Spies, Lies & Whistleblowers about such behavior by Blair and Straw regarding MI6's performance, they were telling it this:

"You are above the law. You can get away with it now and can get away with it in the future. In fact, you enjoy the same rights as the KGB officers in the former Soviet Union." (Quoted from p. 287.)

Still, the claims persisted, thanks to the activites by the campaign group Liberty, and Chris Yates, an aviation expert, was appointed to investigate them further. While he was coming to the conclusion that the claims were indeed true, there was evidence surfacing about who those rendered through British territory might be.

In April 2006, the Pentagon admitted that it had been holding Sami Hajj, a Sudanese photographer who had worked for Al Jazeera, since he tried to cross the border into Pakistan in December 2001after the fall of the Taliban. He had been then tortured there, sent on to Morocco for more, and finally on to Gitmo for still more. His plight even captured the attention of New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof. It all seemed a completely gratuitous victimization of a convenient scapegoat for Washington's antagonists.

Then there was the famous Australian David Hicks who joined the Taliban before the 9/11 attacks, and was treated similarly by his captors. And there were others.

Still, Todd would hear none of it after he was appointed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to investigate the Liberty claims in November 2005. In June 2007, it reported the following:

"The issue of rendition has been aired extensively in the media and has been featured prominently in official reports over a recent period of months.

"Mr Todd has now examined all of the information available relating to this issue and has concluded that there is indeed no evidence to substantiate Liberty's allegations.

"There was no evidence that UK airports were used to transport people by the CIA for torture in other countries." (Quoted from "Police reject UK rendition claims," BBC News, June 9, 2007.)

You can imagine the anger and horror early this year when Whitehall learned that this was not, indeed, the case, thanks to the CIA acknowledging that two of its rendition flights had landed on Diego Garcia, British territory, during 2002 - when Hajj and Hicks were rendered to Morocco from Pakistan and to to Gitmo. Diego Garcia was apparently needed for refueling the aircraft
since they would have to fly around Iran on their way to North Africa.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband attempted to reduce the shock and outrage by acknowledging that the two suspects were not British, didn't leave the plane when there, no US detainees were ever held there, and US records showed no evidence of any others being held there either. Still, the Foreign Secretary said the FO was preparing a list of all suspected CIA flights in UK territory, asking for "specific assurance" that they were not used for any renditions.

William Hague, the Tories Shadow Foreign Spokesman, compounded the Government's embarrassment more by stating: "This information will cause widespread concern given the categoric nature of the assurances previously given." ("UK apology over rendition flights," BBC News, February 21, 2008) Hague found the previous denials about the possible use of Diego Garcia "more worrying still." Labour MP and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Mike Gapes, said that it had been lied to about the claims, and that then it had lied to the House accordingly.

Given these circumstances, Mike Todd seems hardly like the kind of cop to take matters simply lying down and dying. Slated to take Sir Ian Blair's place as head of the Metropolitan Police, a position from which he could make the intelligence services, especially MI6, dearly pay for their deep, categoric deceptions about British renditions, he was potentially a most dangerous loose cannon who apparently had to be stopped at all costs as soon as possible because of the "worrying texts" he was increasingly sending. And the ACPO had even improved his chances at the Met by claiming that he was in no way responsible for the rendition coverup.

In short, I thnik that Todd was most likely murdered, though it could have been the result of a misadventure in the mountains. Suicide seems like the least likely possibility, as he had everything to live for, explaining why the intelligence-driven media are trying to make it seem so. In any case, the coroner has yet to establish the cause of Todd's death, his primary responsibility, but by releasing the body for burial, he seems unlikely to seriously investigate the matter further with a full inquest and jury.

The matter, it seems, will just slowly die, like Todd and Robin Cook themselves, until it is simply explained away as another one of nature's mysteries.