Buy the DVD
Filmmakers Blog
In our Taking Liberties blog, not only will we keep you uptodate on the progress of the film, we'll also post news about the ongoing civil liberties movements we're related to.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Vindication from an unlikely quarter...

I have to say it does take a bit to get us shocked these days, but Tony McNulty -Home Office Minister and trasher of civil liberties extraordinaire, has left me somewhat speechless. At a Labour Fringe meeting, he came out with the opinion that:
-Tony Blair had got it wrong in his reaction to the 7/7 attacks,
-The Rules of the Game had in fact not changed,
-And since the start of the war on terror the government has done all sorts of things that have curtailed our civil liberties. Furthermore these measuers have heightened resentment among the Muslim community which has subsequently increased - not decreased - the threat of terrorism.

Yes, I couldn't believe it either, so please check out full story here.

This is somewhat akin to being sternly told by a defecating ursus mammal in a tree dense area, that bears do in fact shit in the woods.

Monday, 24 September 2007

When two stories collide...

There's been quite a lot of this recently. A month ago the heathrow climate camp brought together the ubiquitous Lawyer Timothy Lawson Cruttenden who was part of the campaign to stop the EDO Protests, and the Plane Stupid activists who feature as a separate story in the film. This week it seems that the extradition laws are now going to be used to target executives from BAE systems.

Even though Tony Blair shut down the serious fraud office enquiry into BAE Bribes with the laughable excuse of "National Security", it seems that the authorities on the other side of the pond are less corruptible in their corruption investigations. The US department of Justice has been investigating the BAE bribes to Prince Bandar, which he freely admits taking. As the £1 billion bungs were covertly facilitated by the Ministry of Defence, there is an increasing list of civil servants, MP's and Ministers (from both the Tories and New Labour) who are facing indictments in the US for bribery. Now if there was any sensible barriers to extradition from the UK to the US - for example having to provide evidence in a British Court - then New Labour would be spared the embarrassment of having several mandarins, ministers and BAE executives hauled off to the US in chains. However, thanks to the 2003 Extradition act, the US no longer has to provide any evidence to extradite a British National, and all they have to do is fill in a form and off they go. The Natwest Three story in the film showed how unjust and nonsensical these arrangements are. The Home office is now doing somersaults as it is in an impossible situation - unless it breaks it's own law it is facing the prospect of shipping members of her Majesties government off to the US for corruption. The most amusing development so far was when Washington made a formal request for assistance from the Home Office, which was unusually denied, as opposed to slavishly carried out. When questioned about this, the Home Office said that refusing requests from the US was "not without precedent", but then failed to cite a single occasion when they had not complied with a formal request before.

The news for the Home Office, MOD and BAE Systems keeps on getting worse. The same lawyers who successfully took a $7 billion suit out on behalf of Enron shareholders, are now representing a group of BAE shareholders who want to take their execs to task over the Bribes to Prince Bandar.

The latest rumour is that the government, petrified of upsetting BAE Systems and the Saudis, will desperately amend the extradition laws so that they can continue to cover up the biggest corruption case in British history. From our point of view it's a win win - either we see New Labour ministers and BAE execs banged up in chokey, or the monstrously unfair extradition arrangements with the US will be changed. Just a pity we can't have both.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

University of Florida student Tasered at Kerry forum

Incredible footage of US student protestor getting tasered in Florida. US Senator John Kerry watches on.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Pants to Guantanamo!

Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of Reprieve who looks after several people who are being held illegally in Guantanamo Bay, has recently been accused of smuggling in underwear and swimming trunks into his clients. Below is the hilarious correspondence of Clive's sttrggle to clear his name:

August 12, 2007

Re: Discovery of Contraband Clothing in the Cases of Shaker Aamer, Detainee ISN 239, and Muhammed Hamid al-Qareni, Detainee ISN 269

Dear Mr. Stafford Smith.

Your client, Shaker Aamer, detainee ISN 239, was recently discovered to be wearing Under Armor briefs and a Speedo bathing suit. Neither item was issued to the detainee by JTF-Guantánamo personnel, nor did they enter the camp through regular mail. Coincidentally, Muhammed al-Qareni, detainee ISN 269, who is represented by Mr. Katznelson of Reprieve, was also recently discovered to be wearing Under Armor briefs. As with detainee ISN 239, the briefs were not issued by JTF-Guantánamo personnel, nor did they enter the camp through regular mail.

We are investigating this matter to determine the origins of the above contraband and ensure that parties who may have been involved understand the seriousness of this transgression. As I am sure you understand, we cannot tolerate contraband being surreptitiously brought into the camp. Such activities threaten the safety of the JTF-Guantánamo staff, the detainees, and visiting counsel.

In furtherance of our investigation, we would like to know whether the contraband material, or any portion thereof, was provided by you, or anyone else on your legal team, or anyone associated with Reprieve. We are compelled to ask these questions in light of the coincidence that two detainees represented by counsel associated with Reprieve were found wearing the same contraband underwear.

Thank you as always for your cooperation and assistance,


[Name redacted]
Commander, JAGC, US Navy
Staff Judge Advocate


29th August, 2007

Re: The Issue of Underwear (“Discovery of ‘Contraband Clothing’ in the Cases of Shaker Aamer (ISN 239) and Mohammed el-Gharani (ISN 269)”)

Dear Cmdr. [redacted]:

Thank you very much for your letter dated August 12, 2007, which I received yesterday. In it, you discuss the fact that Mr. Aamer was apparently wearing ‘Under Armor briefs’ and some Speedo swimming trunks and that, by coincidence, Mr. el-Gharani was also sporting ‘Under Armor briefs’.

I will confess that I have never received such an extraordinary letter in my entire career. Knowing you as I do, I hope you understand that I do not attribute this allegation to you personally. Obviously, however, I take accusations that I may have committed a criminal act very seriously. In this case, I hope you understand how patently absurd it is, and how easily it could be disproven by the records in your possession. I also hope you understand my frustration at yet another unfounded accusation against lawyers who are simply trying to do their job – a job that involves legal briefs, not the other sort.

Let me briefly respond: First, neither I, nor Mr. Katznelson, nor anyone else associated with us has had anything to do with smuggling ‘unmentionable’ in to these men, nor would we ever do so.

Second, the idea that we could smuggle in underwear is far-fetched. As you know, anything we take in is searched and there is a camera in the room when we visit the client. Does someone seriously suggest that Mr. Katznelson or I have been stripping off to deliver underwear to our clients?

Third, your own records prove that nobody associated with my office has seen Mr. Aamer for a full year. Thus, it is physically impossible for us to have delivered anything to him that recently surfaced on his person. Surely you do not suggest that in your maximum security prison, where Mr. Aamer has been held in solitary confinement almost continuously since September 24, 2005, and where he has been more closely monitored than virtually any prisoner on the Base, your staff have missed the fact that he has been wearing both Speedos and ‘Under Armor’ for 12 months?

Since your records independently establish that neither I nor Mr. Katznelson could not have been the one who delivered such undergarments to Mr. Aamer, this eliminates any ‘coincidence’ in the parallel underwear sported by Mr. el-Gharani. Your letter implies, however, that Mr. Katznelson might have something to do with Mr. el-Gharani’s underthings. Mr. Katznelson has not seen Mr. el-Gharani for four months. As you know, Mr. el-Gharani has been forced to strip naked in front of a number of military personnel on more than one occasion, and presumably someone would have noticed his apparel then.

Without bringing this up with me, it was therefore patently clear that my office had nothing to do with this question of lingerie. However, I am unwilling to allow the issue of underwear to drop there: It seems obvious that the same people delivered these items to both men, and it does not take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that members of your staff (either the military or the interrogators) did it. Getting to the bottom of this would help ensure that in future there is no shadow of suspicion cast on the lawyers who are simply trying to do their job, so I have done a little research to help you in your investigations.

I had never heard of ‘Under Armor briefs’ until you mentioned them, and my internet research has advanced my knowledge in two ways – first, Under Armour apparently sports a ‘U’ in its name, which is significant only because it helps with the research.

Second, and rather more important, this line of underpants are very popular among the military. One article referred to the fact that “A specialty clothing maker is winning over soldiers and cashing in on war.” See here (emphasis in original). The article goes on to say:

In August [2005], a Baltimore-based clothier popular among military service members got in on the trend. * * * Founded in 1996, Under Armour makes a line of tops, pants, shorts, underwear and other “performance apparel” designed for a simple purpose: to keep you warm in the cold and cool in the heat.

This stuff is obviously good for the men and women stationed in the sweaty climate of Guantánamo, as we could all attest.

It would be worth checking whether this lingerie was purchased from the NEX there in GTMO, since the internet again leads one to suspect that the NEX would be purveyors of Under Armour:

Tom Byrne, Under Armour’s director of new business development, told Army Times that “The product has done very well in PXes across the country and in the Middle East, and we have seen an increasing demand month after month. There is clearly a need for a better alternative than the standard-issue cotton T-shirt.”

There must be other clues as to the provenance of these underpants. Perhaps you might check the label to see whether these are ‘tactical’ underwear, as this is apparently something Under Armour has created specially for the military.

Under Armour has a line of apparel called Tactical that’s modified for soldiers. It features the same styles as civilian tops and bottoms - LooseGear for all purpose conditions, HeatGear and ColdGear, meant for hot and cold weather, as well as a line for women. But Tactical items are offered in army brown, olive drab, midnight navy and traditional black and white. Also, the Tactical section of the Under Armour Web site features military models, not athletes. In one image, a soldier poised on one knee wears a LooseGear shirt, looking as if he’d just as soon take a hill as take off on a run. His muscular arms protrude from the tight, olive-colored fabric. He’s a picture of soldierliness. And he’s totally dry.

I don’t know the color of the underpants sported by Messrs. Aamer and el-Gharani, but that might give you a few tips. Indeed, I feel sure your staff would be able to give you better information on this than I could (though I have done my best) as this Under Armour stuff apparently provokes rave reviews from your colleagues:

Soldier testimonials are effusive. On, a convenient place to buy Under Armour online, a customer who calls himself Spc. Sublett says he’s stationed in Afghanistan. Although his identity cannot be verified, Sublett does note the Tactical line’s less apparent benefits. “Sometimes I have to go long times in hot weather without showers. Under Armour prevents some of the nasty side effects of these extreme conditions. All of my buddies out here use the same thing. They’re soldier-essential equipment. The only thing that would make them better is if the Army would issue them.”

I don’t mean to say that it is an open and shut case proving that your military provided the underwear, as I understand that other people use Under Armour. One group I noticed on the web were the amateur weight lifters, who seem confused as to whether Under Armour gave them a competitive advantage. See, e.g. here (“I was wondering what the rule on Under Armour is? I wear the briefs with my squat suit – it makes it soooo much easier to get over my thighs. My first USAPL meet is coming up and I wanted to get that squared away before I show up – Thanks, [name removed]”).

However, in the grand scheme of things, I would like to think we can all agree that the interrogators or military officers are more likely to have access to Messrs. Aamer and el-Gharani than the US Amateur Power Lifting Association.

On the issue of the Speedo swimming trunks, my research really does not help very much. I cannot imagine who would want to give my client Speedos, or why. Mr. Aamer is hardly in a position to go swimming, since the only available water is the toilet in his cell.

I should say that your letter brought to mind a sign in the changing room of a local swimming pool, which showed someone diving into a lavatory, with the caption, “We don’t swim in your toilet, so please don’t pee in our pool”. I presume that nobody thinks that Mr. Aamer wears Speedos while paddling in his privy.

Please assure me that you are satisfied that neither I nor my colleagues had anything to do with this. In light of the fact that you felt it necessary to question whether we had violated the rules, I look forward to hearing the conclusion of your investigation.

All the best.

Yours sincerely,

Clive A. Stafford Smith

Friday, 14 September 2007


Is still not finished. There was a balls up with the directors commentary and it had to be remixed. Carly at Revolver is now only speaking to me through the medium of a cricket bat. I really don't know what they expected... the book was 3 weeks late, the film was a month late so it would have been a poor show to start being punctual at this stage in the game. Apparently the soundtrack was delivered on time but this is probably because we had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Anyway it seems like it might just make it into the shops on October 15th, which is just as well as I've just spent the last month doing interviews and publicising the DVD launch like my life depends on it. Some of the more amusing interviews to look out for are with AXM Magazine (London's largest selling Gay publication) & BBC Hardtalk, where I very nearly get into a fight with the moronic presenter.

Meanwhile some stories that should astound even the most hard bitten libertarians...

Firms caught selling Torture Equipment at DSEi Arms Fair

Of course the news that instruments of torture and death being flogged at the East London bi-yearly arms jamboree is hardly news. What is astounding is that for once the normally apathetic Customs & Excise are actually doing something about it. Two firms - BCB International (British) and Famous Glory Holding (Chinese) were turfed out of the ExCel centre for selling cuffs and leg irons that blatantly contravened the ban on the sale of torture equipment. BCB called the decision "totally unfair", presumably they are riling at the fact that everyone else at DSEi is happily selling instruments of death, so why can't he also have a piece of the action as well. I popped down on Wednesday to see how the protests were going & bumped into Mark Thomas was on fine form.

The afternoon became hugely entertaning when the Space Hijackers turned up in a genuine Tank that they had gone to the trouble of buying. The police were waiting for them and stopped them a good way away from the arms fair. But just when it seemed that all was lost, it was revealed that that was in fact a decoy tank, and a second tank had in fact sneaked around the side, and got outside the Excel center. They promptly got out and tried to auction it off, and it quickly descended into farce, which presumably was the idea.

Blind drummer in Steel Band thrown off flight as he behaved like a terrorist.

Well, it's an easy mistake to make isn't it? Five members of an Afro Caribbean steel band were settling in to their seats on a flight back to London from Italy on New Years Eve after a world tour. The drummer - who is blind - happens also to be a football fan, and asked one of his friends to read him the latest scores, which he did. One of the other passengers thought this behaviour was suspicious (and lets face it we all live in fear of the day that blind suicide bombers start chanting the score draws at us) and alerted the cabin crew. The Ryanair employees took one look at these dodgy musicians, and instantly raised the alarm. The plane was then stormed by a gang of Italian Armed police (none of whom spoke English) and marched all the band members off the plane at gunpoint. Even after they proved to the Italian authorities that they were not terrorists, Ryanair refused to let them rebaord the plane. Not only were they stranded in Sardinia for another 3 days, Ryanair has not offered them an apology or compensation. They are now suing the airline, but no doubt the company will play the "terrorism" card to try and excuse this appalling and discriminatory act.

Flash Gordon

And finally it's been made public that New Labour - despite being massively in the red - has enlisted the services of Saatchi & Saatchi, the ad men of choice for people with more money than sense. I've heard on the grapevine that their strap line for the next General election will be

"New Labour: No Flash - Just Gordon"

Which probably cost them about £500k. It's also massively contradictory as blowing half a million quid with smuggest ad company in soho smacks of being a wee bit flash by anyone's standards.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

In His Prime...

Remember the dying days of Blair's reign? Just to show us that he wasn't clinging on to office for an extra several months just to get as much media exposure as possible, he went on a farewell tour of Africa with a posse of snappers and sycophants from Men's Vogue in tow. I seem to remember venting forth about it on this Blog so angrily that there is still a bloodstain on my keyboard. Anyway, I recently went to the USA for a wedding (amazed they let me in) and happened to see Blair's smug grin leering at me from a Newstand. I caved in to the temptation and bought the copy of the magazine, and spent the rest of the day furiously shouting at the article, which got me lots of strange looks on the New York Subway. I'm not surprised that you can't buy it in the UK, as otherwise there would be a significant increase in the number of incidents of newsagents being daubed in pig excrement.

But seeing as I had to endure the litterary equivalent of having my netheregions clamped in a vice, I feel forced to share the pani with everyone else. The article that cost the British Taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds starts thus:

"Tony Blair left Britain better than he found it, and now the bombers in Baghdad and the tabloids in London are someone else's problem."

Genius. It then goes on to give an subjective politcal assement of his greatness:

"With Blair, you begin and end with the eyes. His dark suits and white shirts and generally modest ties (with an occasional splash of Paul Smith boldness) are unremarkable, sending you back to his most arresting feature. Blue and warm in laughter, the eyes can harden to a gemlike intensity that has its measure of ice. This is his talisman. It is an expression that speaks of the willfulness beneath the geniality."

Eventually they do talk about things other than his ties and eyes, and Blair defends on the the most contentious part of Blair's leadership - his closeness with President Bush:

"Of course Clinton and Bush are very different personalities, But I like them both immensely as people, so personally there were never problems. Politically, obviously, you have a Republican president, and different political perspectives, but in reality, certainly after 2001, it did not make much difference."

This is atually quite revealing, admitting that ater 9/11 he shifted massively to the right. - the only other interpretation being that Bush shifted to the left.

"One of the things that I've already seen is that, as prime minister, you have to deal with everything," Blair said. "The liberating quality of this new life is that you are free to concentrate on the areas where you can make a difference."

Astonishing... firstly that he still thinks that he did "deal with everything" while Prime Minister, and secondly that he honestly believes he can "make a difference" as condoleezza Rice's tea boy (aka Special Envoy to the Middle East). The article ends with a visit to 10 Downing Street on the penultimate day of his premiership.

"On his second-to-last day in office, I find Blair at Downing Street—the kind of place where you run a country from a dowdy sofa—flanked by, of all people, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California.

He and Schwarzenegger clamber into a Jaguar, and their motorcade sets out across London, now the world's financial center. Later, Schwarzenegger admits, "I wanted to model myself on him." He describes how the fun-loving Blair is "not clamped down—as we say in German, verklemmt. You know how you can find the sweet spot in tennis or in golf? Well, in politics you can also find the sweet spot, that fine line that gets the economy and the environment pulling in the same direction. Blair did that, and I wanted to do the same."

So rather than spending his final hours doing some detailed handover notes for Gordon (where the hotline to Rupert Murdoch is, which button to press when George says to Bomb Iran, etc) Blair spends even more precious moments with Men's Vogue while hanging out with Arnie. It's also very worrying that Arnie wants to base his plans for the environment on Blair's miserable record in the UK: CO2 emissions rocketing, faliure to meet any of our Kyoto targets and massive plans approved for extensions to all our aiports.

But I've saved the most gobsmacking section for last - the desperate assertion that he will continue to have a powerful influence in the days after his abdication as the special envoy to the middle east:

"So it was plain enough even then in South Africa, shortly before the long- announced though contentious end of his three-term run as Labour prime minister, that Blair, far from turning to a multimillion-dollar memoir, would take on the Jerusalem-centric mother of all conflicts."

No-one knows preceisely how many, but Tony Blair has thus far spent less than 10 days in the middle east since he took on this mother of all well paid jobs. And what's this tosh about not doing a multi million dollar memoir?!?! The bidding war has already begun...

Show me the money...

While ranting about this to a pair of elderly New Yorkers, one of them pointed out to me a reason for Blair's absurdly long departure that I was completely unaware of. Apparently, if you are Prime Minister for 10 years or more, you get you Prime ministers salary for life.
© 2007 Taking Liberties, All Rights Reserved | Terms of Use | Accessibility | Site Map
Built by Revolver Entertainment