Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

Is Serco really able to handle Australia’s asylum seeker trauma?

Thankfully and finally, Australia’s Ombudsmen will be investigating the high rate of self harm in immigration detention and the role, responsibility and actions of British multinational Serco.

But, according to this report in today’s Australian by Paige Taylor, the contractor has little understanding of the conditions under which refugees find themselves (and where the government places them in often extended mandatory detention):

The security firm that is running immigration detention centres has warned that asylum-seekers are creating a “self-harm culture” to manipulate guards and use as a bargaining tool, according to a company memo obtained by The Australian.

Another Serco document, for the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre, shows incidents of self-harm are occurring daily despite efforts to ease tensions by reducing the number of detainees from more than 1800 in March to 611.

The revelations coincide with a decision to be announced today by commonwealth Ombudsman Allan Asher to launch an investigation into suicide and self-harm in immigration detention facilities. Mr Asher said a “significant issue of concern” relating to the mental health and wellbeing of detainees had arisen during visits by his staff to the Curtin, Leonora and Christmas Island facilities.

More than 1100 incidents of threatened or actual self-harm were reported in the immigration detention centres in 2010-11.

The Serco memo to its Christmas Island guards, dated May 31, tells them to be alert for abnormal behaviour. “Clients (detainees) are creating a self-harm culture, using self-harm as their bargaining tool,” the memo says.

Monash University psychiatry professor Louise Newman, who chairs a committee advising the Immigration Department on health and safety aspects of detention, said Serco’s memo indicated a lack of understanding about the nature and levels of mental distress in detention centres.

“Serco has obviously decided that these are politically motivated protests and they are not acknowledging that all these people are highly distressed,” she said.

“The truth of the matter is not (that) all of these protesters at the moment are mentally ill but they are at the end of their capacity to manage the situation.”

Professor Newman said it was not constructive to label self-harm as bad behaviour.

A spokesman for the Immigration Department, who also responded for Serco, said self-harm did not have any effect on a detainee’s visa claim. He would not comment on the memo.

The Ombudsman’s findings are expected by the end of the year.

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The idea of Murdoch running schools is as credible as Iraq being re-invaded

The New Statesman explains what the closeness between the Murdoch empire and Britain’s Cameron government says about the corruption of power:

At last month’s Times CEO summit (£) he called for all pupils to be provided with tablet computers, adding that he would be “thrilled” if 10 per cent of News Corp’s revenues came from education in the next five years. Wireless Generation, an education technology company recently acquired by Murdoch for $360m, was awardeda a $27 million no-bid contract by the New York education department.

It begs the question of whether News Corp is looking to set up its own free schools. In response to such a query, Times columnist and executive editor Daniel Finkelstein tweeted:

“News Corp is indeed taking an interest in the creation of new schools. That is precisely what mtgs were about!”

It’s not hard to see why the company is “taking an interest”, particularly if the schools are eventually allowed to make a profit. But, to coin a phrase, would News Corp really be considered a “fit and proper” company to run a school?

Even if the company’s ambitions are limited to digital learning systems and other services, it could find itself under scrutiny. In the wake of the hacking scandal, the NY education department is under pressure to revoke the $27 million contract it awarded to Wireless Generation. Mark Johnson, a spokesman for controller Thomas DiNapoli, has announced that the scandal will be taken into account in the state review process for the contract. But will Gove allow News Corp to make similar inroads into English education?

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At least some in US Congress recognise toxic culture of mercenaries in war zones

As we learn that the US has wasted tens of billions on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, few American politicians are opposed to this explosion of privatisation.

Here’s a statement by Bernie Sanders, US Senator from Vermont:

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) today introduced legislation that would phase out private security contractors in war zones. 

This legislation recognizes that the United States increasingly has relied on private contractors to wage our wars, wasting taxpayer money, damaging military morale and hurting our reputation around the world.

“The American people have always prided themselves on the strength, conduct, and honor of our United States military.  I therefore find it very disturbing that now, in the midst of two wars and a global struggle against terrorism, we are relying more and more on private security contractors – rather than our own military – to provide for our national defense,” Sanders said.

“Our continued reliance on private security contractors endangers our military, damages our relationships with foreign governments, and undermines our global priorities,” said Schakowsky. “Though we have the finest military in the world, we continue to outsource our security to private contractors, who answer to a corporation rather than a uniformed commander.  When Senator Sanders and I introduced this legislation last year, we had 22,000 armed private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, we have 28,178.  We need this bill now more than ever. “

There are 155,000 contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan today, but only 145,000 uniformed service members.

About 28,000 of the contractors are performing mission-critical functions such as training troops and police, guarding convoys, repairing weapons, administering military prisons, and performing military intelligence. 

The Stop Outsourcing Security Act would restore the responsibility of the military to perform such functions. The bill also would require that all diplomatic security be undertaken by U.S. government personnel. The White House could seek exceptions, but those contracts would be subject to congressional oversight.

The legislation is a strong and necessary step toward restoring the international reputation of the United States.  Military officers in the field have said that private contractors operate like “cowboys,” using unnecessary and excessive force uncharacteristic of enlisted soldiers. In 2007, guards working for a firm then known as Blackwater were accused of killing 17 Iraqis, damaging the U.S. mission in Iraq and hurting our reputation around the world. Later that year, a contractor employed by DynCorp International allegedly shot and killed an unarmed taxi driver.  Incidents like this demonstrate that we should leave warfare to the military rather than delegate it to private corporations.

This legislation would also save money.  High pay for contract workers in war zones burdens taxpayers and saps military morale.  While some soldiers who risk their lives for their country struggle to support their families, private security company employees are often paid two or three times as much as U.S. military personnel doing the exact same work, sometimes pocketing as much as $1,000 a day.  By some estimates, every position converted from a private contract to federal employment saves on average $44,000 per year.

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What Breivik’s manifesto tells us about his hatred of our way of life

Jeff Sharlet is the American author of the bestselling book The Family and expert on Christian fundamentalism in the US.

He speaks on Democracy Now! about the massacre in Norway and the details of killer Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto largely ignored by the corporate media:

AMY GOODMAN: What were you most shocked by, Jeff Sharlet, as you tweet your way through this manifesto, sharing what you are learning? For example, talk about Spencer. He mentions him, what, more than 150 times throughout the pages.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, and already—”apologists” seems like too strong a word, but these conservatives are going and saying, “Oh, that’s not fair to draw a connection”—will say, “Oh, he doesn’t mention Spencer. People he’s quoting mention Spencer,” particular, another popular anti-Islamic blogger named Fjordman, who he quotes extensively. But that’s the nature of this text, and that’s—and Breivik is not a stupid man, and he talks about that, how he’s collaging this text, so he’s constantly coming back to Spencer as his sort of dominant authority on what Islam is. And, you know, if you depend on—if you believe Spencer’s understanding of Islam, other people might be taking up arms, too. It’s a little bit like reading Leviticus and then saying, “Oh, well, I know what Christians are all about, and all Christians are off hunting for witches, literally, and killing people.” I mean, it’s—the irony of Robert Spencer is he takes an absolute literalist and kind of ahistorical examination of Islam and then builds up this great monster, and that’s what Breivik goes to for his authority. And not just Spencer, but Pamela Geller, Rich Lowry from the National Review.

He’s really—what struck me most about this document is just how American it is in every way. I mean, a huge amount of it is from American sources. The ideology, he himself will sometimes describe as American. He’s a great admirer of America, because he says United States, unlike Europe, has retained its Christian identity, and that’s why he’s going to these sources. He says America has the kind of Christian identity he would like for Norway to have.

AMY GOODMAN: The manifesto also provides detailed instructions for preparing physically and mentally for what Breivik describes as a coming “civil war” between patriotic nationalists and “multiculturalists” who are, wittingly or not, destroying European civilization. He writes, “Once you decide to strike, it is better to kill too many than not enough, or you risk reducing the desired ideological impact of the strike. Explain what you have done (in an announcement distributed prior to operation) and make certain that everyone understands that we, the free peoples of Europe, are going to strike again and again.”

He also says, “This is the big day you have been looking forward to for so long. Countless hours and perhaps years of preparation have rewarded you with this opportunity. Equip yourself and arm up, for today you will become immortal.”

One more quote: “For the last three years I have been working full time on a cultural conservative work which will help to develop and market these political ideas.”

And finally, “The time for dialogue is over. We gave peace a chance. The time for armed resistance has come.”

Jeff Sharlet, comment on these.

JEFF SHARLET: You know, you mentioned that marketing line, and there’s another line, and he says, “I’m not only a one-man army, I’m a one-man marketing agency.” That’s how he describes himself. And what’s interesting is he analyzes what he thinks the media reaction is going to be. And so, he predicts correctly that, you know, a lot of mainstream media is just going to dismiss him as a madman, as insane. “You can use that to your advantage,” he says, “because they’re not going to take you very seriously.” And he says, but the other thing is, he says, a lot of cultural conservatives, like Pat Buchanan, he said, they will be forced to condemn what I’ve done. They may, in fact, genuinely condemn what he’s done, he says, but they’re going to read my manifesto, and they’re going to find in it this great document, this wake-up call, as Pat Buchanan has described it, “wholly accurate,” as American Christian right leader Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association has described it.

So when you look at—you know, one of the things that comes out of that, all that sort of rhetoric about preparing for battle is terrifying, but even more terrifying is his really sort of correct assessment of how conservatives would use it. And so far, they’ve been playing pretty close to the script and condemning the violence but saying, “Hey everybody, this is—you know, we really do need to fight the Muslim menace,” and so on, which sort of starts to lead you in this kind of circular logic where you get back to, ultimately, atrocities like the one Breivik has committed.

AMY GOODMAN: Throughout his manifesto, Breivik blames the feminist revolution for Europe’s downfall. He says he even tried to measure the relative decadence of each European country by determining how willing women were in each country to have one-night stands. In one part of Breivik’s manifesto, he writes, “Fact: 60-70% of all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists are women. This partly explains why the gradual feminist revolution is directly linked to the implementation of multiculturalist doctrines. These feminist cultural Marxists do not only want more benefits and rights for themselves. They want it all, and have more or less been awarded with everything they could ever dream of achieving. They now have complete matriarchal supremacy domestically and exercise substantial influence in politics.”

He also writes, “Females have a significantly higher proportion of erotic capital than males due to biological differences (men have significantly more prevalent sexual urges than females and are thus easily manipulated).”

Jeff Sharlet, how does this fit into his overall ideology?

JEFF SHARLET: It’s really—I mean, this has been one of the things that hasn’t been commented on enough: how central his critique of feminism is to the whole manifesto. You know, you get into long sections where he’s really picking up all these sort of talking points of the American Christian right. And he goes a little further. He goes as far as sort of the far edges of the American Christian right, saying that women should not pursue advanced degrees. And he really gets into this kind of—this sort of breeding frenzy, described by my friend Kathryn Joyce in her book, Quiverfull, which is a great source on this, this American Christian right movement that sees Christian women as somehow—and American and European women—as somehow not doing their job by having enough babies to compete with the Muslims. And, you know, as crazy as that seems—as, you know, I’ve written in another book—there’s plenty of U.S. congressmen who endorse this idea. He reproduces a long article by an American named Phillip Longman on this idea of restoring the patriarchy, that this is what’s necessary to fight Islam.

And, of course, it gets into, as with so many of these kinds of texts, this constant sort of description of women’s sexual morality. He says you can measure the weakness of Western countries’ ability to fight Islam, as you said, by counting one-night stands, which he claims to have done with his group of buddies by traveling around Europe and seeing, you know, how many people they could sleep with. So there’s, I mean, this sort of very—that sounds crazy, but then you start looking at the sources he has. And right from the very beginning, he’s constantly returning to this idea that feminism, that women’s rights, are at the heart of the kind of sort of fifth column attack on Western strength in response to Islam.

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Note to Zionists; it’s a civil duty to protest companies complicit with occupation

Which is why this story in Murdoch’s Australian – fair and balanced as usual, presuming that simply protesting outside a company with ties to the IDF is anti-Semitic by definition – is so revealing. There’s fear that BDS is taking off globally and what do critics do? Allege anti-Semitism and desperately hope that nobody talks about why; Israeli society and its policies are about humiliating Palestinians:

A group of prominent Australians met for a hot chocolate last night in a peaceful protest against violence in front of a Jewish business that was recently targeted as part of an anti-Israel boycott.

Labor MP Michael Danby, Australian Workers Union secretary Paul Howes, former Labor Party president Warren Mundine, comedian Sandy Gutman, aka Austen Tayshus, and journalist Jana Wendt were among those who spoke out against a violent protest on July 1 outside the Max Brenner chocolate shop in Melbourne in which three police officers were hurt and 19 protesters arrested.

Mr Danby, who organised last night’s meeting and is one of three Jewish federal MPs, said the violent protest had been a reminder to him of the need for vigilance against anti-Semitism, and it was worrying that Greens senator Lee Rhiannon was a vocal supporter of the boycott.

“The impetus was an ugly, violent demonstration in Melbourne and Senator Rhiannon’s determination to take this boycott further,” he said. “She would like to see it introduced into the Senate and into politics.

“We remember the precedence of the 1930s; my father came from Germany, and (at) any sign of this kind of behaviour we have to draw a line in the sand.”

Senator Rhiannon has said that she still supports the Israel boycott – known as BDS – but federal Greens leader Bob Brown says he does not support it and the boycott would not become Greens policy. The BDS is still part of NSW Greens policy.

Mr Howes said the far-left protesters were “mimicking the behaviour of the Nazi thugs” and it was necessary to “nip this in the bud”.

“I would say the bulk of the people who are voting Greens have no understanding of the xenophobic, extremist and abhorrent policies they are voting for,” he said.

Wendt said she felt the tolerance of Australian society was under threat if people did not learn from history.

“As the daughter of refugees whose lives were critically affected by both fascism and communism, I’m grateful for what Australia has to offer,” she said.

“It is a truism, but we can’t afford to ignore the lessons of history.”

Mr Mundine said the boycott was “not anti-Israel but anti-Jewish.”

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David Mamet tells Christian fundamentalist about Jewish “self-hatred”

This is what Zionism has done to my people.

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US Zionist lobby head says Israel may just survive despite BDS

The fact that such a figure can create such hysteria about BDS shows how effective it has become. And why? Because Zionism is addicted to occupation and oppressing Palestinians. That’s rather hard to defend, if the facts are actually heard.

From the Australian Jewish News (aka the Pro-Colonist Times):

One of America’s most high-profile Jewish leaders believes supporters of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel should be “named and shamed”.

American Jewish Committee (AJC) executive director David Harris (pictured), who will visit Australia next month, said there is a need to expose the people behind the BDS movement.

“Their goal is to delegitimise the State of Israel, not to promote peace and reconciliation,” Harris said.

He said they promote hatred under the guise of convincing people they are simply trying to find a peaceful solution to problems in the Middle East.

“On one hand, you try and expose and isolate the extremists – the people that do not want Israel to exist – and you expose them and name and shame them, and tell the whole world who they are.

“For those who have been carried along on this wave of hatred, you separate them by making it clear to them that the best way to achieve peace in the Middle East is through engagement and coexistence.”

Harris said when the motives of BDS proponents are exposed, it will be clear they are hypocritical for not supporting sanctions against Syria, Iran and other countries, which violate human rights.

“What does it say about the BDS movement that the only country that rouses them into action is democratic Israel?”

Harris, who will visit Australia as a guest of the Jewish Communal Appeal and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, warned that the Jewish community and Israel are facing uncertain times.

He said people may be anxious about attempts to delegitimise Israel, Holocaust denial, the use of the internet to promote anti-Semitism and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but he is confident the Jewish people will survive.

“We are living in extraordinary dynamic and uncertain times, and that arouses a great deal of anxiety on the part of many Jews who look at the world today and wonder if things may be going from bad to worse,” he said.

“But I look at the same world and I believe in a more hopeful outlook where this may end up.”

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MSM logic over terrorism; blame Muslims and then blame them again

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Curb Your Enthusiasm does Palestine and falls way short

Is it possible for even liberal Jews on mainstream American TV to not frame Arabs and Palestinians as all anti-Semites?

Apparently not:

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Was Murdoch also given the nuclear codes?

Here in Australia, we need to know when our political leaders met key figures in the Murdoch empire (and other media players) and why they met:

The extraordinary access that Cabinet ministers granted Rupert Murdoch and his children was revealed for the first time yesterday, with more than two dozen private meetings between the family and senior members of the Government in the 15 months since David Cameron entered Downing Street.

In total, Cabinet ministers have had private meetings with Murdoch executives more than 60 times and, if social events such as receptions at party conferences are included, the figure is at least 107.

On two occasions, James Murdoch and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks were given confidential defence briefings on Afghanistan and Britain’s strategic defence review by the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox. A further briefing was held with Ms Brooks, Rupert Murdoch and the Sunday Times editor John Witherow.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has had 16 separate meetings since May 2010 with News International editors and executives, including two with the Murdochs within just a month of taking office. He also invited Elisabeth Murdoch as a guest to his 40th birthday party last month.

The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, dined with Rupert Murdoch within days of the Government coming to power and, after being given quasi-judicial oversight for the Murdochs’ £8bn attempted takeover of BSkyB, had two meetings with James Murdoch in which they discussed the takeover. Mr Hunt said last night that these were legitimate as part of the bid process.

But the minister who sees Rupert Murdoch the most frequently is the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, a former News International employee. Mr Gove has seen the mogul for breakfast, lunch or dinner on six occasions since last May. Overall, Mr Gove has had 12 meetings with Murdoch executives since becoming a minister.

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How many people failed to deal with Murdoch hacking?

Far too many and the question is why:

The former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Lord Macdonald was warned by his own employees as far back as 2006 that there were a “vast array” of News of the World phone-hacking victims.

Lord Macdonald, who has since been hired by the newspaper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, was sent a memo nearly six months before the reporter Clive Goodman and the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were convicted, revealing that the charges they were facing related to just a fraction of the potential victims.

However, the hacking investigation was never widened despite pressure on the police and Lord Macdonald, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service at the time, to do so.

In a letter released yesterday, the former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith revealed: “The Director [of Public Prosecutions] and I were aware that the particular cases referred to were not isolated examples.” Lord Goldsmith said protocol prevented him from speaking to the police, but this did not apply to the Crown Prosecution Service, which Lord Macdonald led at the time, and whose lawyers briefed him on other victims of hacking.

The Met had to reopen its inquiries into criminality by the NOTW in January this year when it became apparent that police and prosecutors had failed to fully investigate the widespread phone hacking by the newspaper five years ago.

The revelation is embarrassing for Lord Macdonald because when he examined emails held by News Corp as part of his new job assisting the company’s internal investigation earlier this year, he took “three to five minutes” to decide that the material constituted evidence of criminality and needed to be passed to police.

He told the Home Affairs Select Committee last week: “The material I saw was so blindingly obvious that trying to argue that it should not be given to the police would have been a hard task. It was evidence of serious criminal offences.”

He added that a police probe into alleged illegal payments to officers could have been launched as far back as 2007.

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Glorious Murdoch journalism still smiling daily

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