The British amateur terror trackers: A case study in dubious politics

August 28, 2009 § 1 Comment

A Spinwatch investigation: Tom Mills and David Miller on the British amateur terror trackers.

Dominic Whiteman as he appeared on BBC Newsnight

Dominic Whiteman as he appeared on BBC Newsnight

Investigations by Spinwatch reveal that a group of freelance terror trackers who promote stories about the threat from violent Islamists have been involved in exaggerating and even fabricating such stories, which they then comment on in the national press and on network television and radio. The group – which has now fallen apart – was centred on freelance spy Glen Jenvey and Conservative Party member Dominic Wightman, who uses the pseudonym ‘Whiteman’.

The barrage of stories from official sources and from terror ‘experts’ suggesting that Britain is under serious and extensive threat from Islamists and that Islam as a religion is particularly prone to extremism has been boosted by some stories that have little basis in fact. These have included:

  • An alleged attempt to plant a story about terrorist grannies planning to blow themselves up in British supermarkets
  • An attempt to suggest – quite falsely – that campaigners against the Israeli attack on Gaza were actually planning to target British Jews
  • The creation of a fake allegedly Islamist website in a bid to entrap suspects.
  • Spying on Tamil activists in the UK.
  • A fraudulent fundraising effort in the 1980s which was claimed to be to aid the African National Congress

The group behind these stories – Vigil – is a convenient label for a number of people who are linked on the one hand to elements of the British far right and on the other to networks of neoconservative ideologues in the US and UK seeking to exploit the genuine threat faced by UK citizens – Muslim and non Muslim alike. In this case behind the anodyne label of ‘terror expert’ there is a story including alleged spying, deception, fraud, assault, and a falling out over money.

The case also highlights:

  • The controversial newsgathering techniques of The Sun newspaper, currently facing legal questions over its reporting of the alleged terror experts’ testimony
  • the ease with which alleged terror experts can gains access to the most prestigious British broadcasting outlets such as Radio Four and BBC Newsnight
  • The use of the internet for employing the traditional arts of the agent provocateur including surveillance and virtual stings
  • The role of the blogosphere in investigating and revealing the use of fake identities – ‘sockpuppets’ in internet jargon

On New Year’s Day this year, with the Israeli assault on Gaza unrelenting, Glen Jenvey was the source of stories appearing in The Sun and The Express which warned of an imminent terrorist attack in the United States. Both papers described Jenvey as a ‘top Government counter-terrorism expert’, whilst for extra gravitas, The Express added that his warning was ‘backed by the Conservative MP Patrick Mercer’[1] (who was dismissed as Shadow Homeland Security Minister in March 2007 after remarks he made about ethnic minorities in the forces, which were perceived as racist[2]). A week later, new, more prominent, claims by Jenvey appeared in The Sun. The front page declared that the entrepreneur and reality TV star Alan Sugar had become a target for terrorists. On page nine the story continued under the headline ‘HATE HIT LIST’. ‘Fears grew last night,’ the article read, ‘that hate-filled Islamic extremists are drawing up a “hit list” of Britain’s leading Jews.’ According to the article it was not only Alan Sugar who was targeted; so too were Mark Ronson, David Miliband, and other prominent British Jews.[3]

The basis of the story was postings on the online forum Ummah.com, one of the most popular Muslim forums on the web, which its moderators describe as ‘a platform for Muslims and non-Muslims to engage in dialogue and discussion’,[4] but Jenvey insisted ‘are terrorist’s supporters and have [been] for years’.[5] One user on the website, Saladin1970, had asked for ‘a list of those who support Israel’, and another user calling himself Abuislam asked: ‘can someone start posting names and addresses?’ Saladin1970 then posted a link to the Jewish Chronicle’s Power 100 list of top British Jews.[6] The Sun quoted Jenvey as saying: ‘The Ummah website has been used by extremists. Those listed should treat it very seriously. Expect a hate campaign and intimidation by 20 or 30 thugs.’ The news of the threat had, The Sun remarked, ‘[brought] the Middle East conflict terrifyingly close to home.’[7]

In a press release the same day, Ummah.com pointed that Saladin1970, who initiated the thread, had in fact requested the contact details ‘so that we can write polite letters reminding them of the injustices of Israel and to stop supporting Israel.’ There was no suggestion of violence. Ummah.com complained to the Press Complaints Commission and Alan Sugar subsequently issued legal proceedings against The Sun in the High Court.[8] In its response to the Press Complaints Commission, a copy of which has been given to Spinwatch, The Sun argued that, ‘to regard Islamic extremists as being in the business of sending ‘polite letters’ is naïve and extreme. This is based on the expert opinion of Glen Jenvey, an expert in radical Islam…it is quite obviously a euphemism…’ [9] In defence of its use of Jenvey The Sun also quoted Patrick Mercer (former Shadow Homeland Security minister for the Conservative Party) as saying: ‘Glen Jenvey is an extremely capable and knowledgeable analyst of fundamentalist matters and ought to be listened to. If he says that this is a risk worth looking at, then we must take it seriously. He and I have done quite a lot of work together, and he is a source of reference for me.’[10]

The Sun’s alleged distortion was only half the story. Further discussion on Ummah.com revealed that the second user referred to in the story, ‘Abuislam’, was set up in the name of Richard Tims. There was another account on Ummah.com in the name of ‘r.tims’ with the same IP address as Abuislam. This user had made only one post; promoting a website called sellyourstory.org. The veteran blogger, Tim Ireland, who runs Bloggerheads, discovered another post promoting sellyourstory.org on another website, which identified the owner of sellyourstory.org as one Glen Jenvey.[11] What everyone suspected, but no one could prove, was that Abuislam and Richard Tims were both online aliases (or ‘sockpuppets’ in web jargon) used by Jenvey. If true it would mean that at best Jenvey was acting as an agent provocateur, and at worst that he had fabricated the whole story.

Jenvey denied that he had ever posted as Abuislam[12] and there the story might have hit a dead end were it not for an audio recording sent to Tim Ireland of a conversation between Jenvey and an unidentified interviewer. Remarkably Jenvey can be heard in the recording referring to ‘Richard Tims’ as one of his online aliases, all but proving that Tim Ireland’s original assumption was correct, and completely undermining Jenvey’s credibility.[13]

The story received only minor attention in the mainstream media, with brief articles in the Guardian[14] and Private Eye.[15] However, it led to an enormous amount of scrutiny – and it has to be said ridicule – of Jenvey in the blogosphere. He clearly felt disturbed by the experience and even threatened Tim Ireland with violence on one occasion.[16] Jenvey says he was particularly incensed when the Daily Mail later published details of his links to the far right. [17] These connections were first uncovered by the blogger Richard Bartholomew, who noted that Jenvey had an online ally called Paul Ray,[18] who blogs under the name ‘Lionheart’ and is currently bailed on suspicion of inciting racial hatred.[19] In January 2009 Ray appeared on an American online radio show called ‘No Compromise’. Jenvey too had been scheduled to appear but according to Ray had gone into hiding. Ray told the host that as far as he was concerned, ‘The Qur’an is a death manual, it’s a cult, Islam is a death cult. They are a religious, political military force that’s seeking to take our country over.’ [20] He explained that he set up his blog after visiting Israel: ‘I had a couple of trips to Israel and a few things happened there, and I crossed paths with someone, a Jewish computer expert, and he helped me set the blog up, and I’ve just been writing it ever since, really.’[21] On the show Ray described British Pakistanis as ‘Paki Muslims’ and claimed that the drug problem in his home town of Luton was the result of a Muslim plot to undermine his community. A few months later Luton became a focal point for the far right after a group of Muslims protested against soldiers returning from Iraq. The right wing press were incensed and the far right reacted violently. In one attack Luton’s Islamic Centre was torched. Staff there received racist, threatening hate mail which invoked the crusades.[22] It was in reporting this violence that the Daily Mail named Jenvey as being Facebook friends with Paul Ray – who had attended a ‘protest’ in Luton in which an Asian man was assaulted.[23] Another Facebook friend of Jenvey’s was Dave Smeeton, the leader of March for England, the group who organised the Luton ‘protest’. Whose name appeared on the BNP membership list leaked in 2008.[24] His Facebook page at one stage included a mock advert for Dr. Martens boots in which three skinheads are pictured assaulting a man, with the caption ‘Kicking the fuck out of you since 1960.’[25]

Despite being a British Asian, Jenvey now felt, with some justification, that he was being labelled as a Nazi. Though Jenvey says the Daily Mail have subsequently apologised, and he considers the matter settled, he says the experience made him think about how it feels to be on the receiving end of a hate campaign.[26] After a period of quiet Jenvey declared that he would ‘not be working for any intelligence service from this date against Muslims or any other group’ and that he would help the legal teams of Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza – both prominent tabloid hate figures. Since then he says he has converted to Islam and changed his name to Omar Hamza Jenvey.[27] Jenvey’s conversion to Islam is likely to be viewed with some caution given his decades long involvement in deception and fake identities.

It was in relation to Abu Hamza that Jenvey first emerged as a terrorism expert. In July 2003 The Sunday Times reported that an undercover operation by ‘Glen Jenvey, a 38-year-old freelance counterintelligence investigator from Wiltshire’ had led to ‘fresh evidence’ against Abu Hamza.[28] The ‘sophisticated sting operation,’ as the Sunday Times generously described it, began in May 2002. Jenvey had set up a fake Islamic website called Islamic News, using the alias Pervez Khan as the site’s purported Editor-in-Chief. Online and undercover, Jenvey asked Abu Hamza for materials to help with recruitment and fundraising for Kashmir. He obliged and sent him a series of audio and video tapes. According to the article, Scotland Yard confirmed that it had taken a statement from Jenvey and had passed it on to the FBI which was seeking to extradite Abu Hamza.[29]

One might assume from the Sunday Times article that the tapes Abu Hamza sent Jenvey could have formed the basis of a prosecution of Abu Hamza. In fact, by Jenvey’s own admission, the police were not particularly interested. He later lamented to The Mirror that he had tried to hand over tapes to the police but that ‘the response was heartbreaking’.[30] When Abu Hamza was finally convicted in 2006, it was in connection with material found in a raid of the Finsbury Park Mosque in January 2003.[31] It would seem that police’s indifference to Jenvey’s evidence played no small part in his subsequent disillusionment and dramatic change of heart in June 2009. He felt the police snubbed him, ignoring the evidence he provided, only to move in on Abu Hamza years later under political pressure. [32] A brief search of press records suggests why the police might be reluctant to work with Jenvey. His name first appears in print in the UK press in 1997 when he assaulted Gloucestershire’s top civilian police officer in a road rage incident. When the case came to court in 1998 Jenvey pleaded guilty, receiving a fine and a two-year conditional discharge.[33] This incident, Jenvey admits, was not his first brush with the law either. Back in the 1980s he was involved in a fraudulent fund raising operation in Reading, collecting money allegedly for the ANC, some of which was pocketed. He was arrested with a group of men and spent time in prison.[34] It was, Jenvey points out, over 20 years ago, but nevertheless it certainly calls into question his reliability as a witness.

Jenvey’s ‘sophisticated sting operation’ broke cover shortly after he received the videos he passed on to police. In September 2002 Islamic News carried a message on its homepage reading: ‘We’ve changed our mind about this whole terrorism thing. Jehad is Crap!’[35] The message continued: ‘Israel belongs to the Jews – because Allah gave that land to them – why, because the Philistines [meaning presumably the Palestinians] won’t act like decent human beings – and only decent humans deserve their own country.’ [36] The message was signed in the name of Johnathan Galt, a pseudonym used by an American student who had set up Islamic News with Jenvey.[37] The pseudonym is taken from Atlas Shrugged, a novel by the right-wing libertarian author Ayn Rand. First published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged portrays a dystopian America where collectivist values and government regulations have wrecked the nation’s economy and crippled its intellectual and cultural life. The mysterious figure of John Galt eventually emerges to lead a revolt against the bureaucratic order, and restore laissez-faire capitalism.

Jenvey has never revealed the true identity of ‘Johnathan Galt’, but whoever he is he links Jenvey to a host of bizarre interconnected figures in the United States. One is Aaron Weisburd, a half Jewish half Irish American web designer who after September 11th set up a website called Internet Haganah, citing Johnathan Galt as his inspiration.[38] ‘Haganah’ is the name of the Zionist paramilitary forces in Palestine which were involved in expelling the Palestinians from their homes in 1948, and which formed the basis for the Israeli Defence Forces. Like Jenvey in the UK, Aaron Weisburd launched his own online campaign against the ‘global jihad’, pressurising Internet Service Providers to shut down websites deemed to be extremist. By April 2004 Weisburd claimed that he had facilitated the closure of over 420 sites by targeting the internet service providers.[39]

After it broke cover, Jenvey’s Islamic News linked to Internet Haganah. It also linked to the far right vigilante Jewish Defense Organization[40] and the website of the Israeli Defence Forces and displayed the graphic of a fluttering Israeli flag. Another link carried by Islamic News was to http://www.joyjunction.org, the website of a homeless charity in New Mexico run by a right-wing Christian called Jeremy Reynalds.[41] The English born, but all American, Reynalds is another of the figures who Aaron Weisburd cited as the inspiration.[42] A third is Jim Ownbey,[43] a former US Army Officer who set up the, now defunct, website bushcountry.org to ‘Promote the Ideals of Conservatism’. Jeremy Reynalds, who describes himself as ‘fundamentalist, right-wing, Bush-loving Christian’ who loves ‘Israel and the Jewish race’,[44] was a regular contributor to bushcountry.org. In fact, he claims that he was the first to tell the story of Jenvey’s online antics. In an article posted on bushcountry.org in November 2002, Reynalds told Jenvey’s ‘fascinating story of courage, determination and commitment’. He protected Jenvey’s identity by referring to him throughout the article as ‘Albert’.[45] Reynalds was at one stage going to write a book ‘chronicling his exploits fighting the online jihad’.[46] However, War of the Web, as it was to be called, was never published.[47] When asked why, the Editorial Director of WND Books – which publishes right-wing tracts like United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror – replied they could not disclose the reason.[48]

One English born ‘terrorism expert’ whose book was published was Neil Doyle. Terror Tracker: An Odyssey into Pure Fear, was published in May 2005 and included a detailed account of Jenvey’s alleged counter terrorism work.[49] A former writer for the construction magazine Contract Journal, Doyle had written a couple of flattering articles about Jenvey in the right-wing Washington Times, and had received some advanced publicity for his book during the Abu Hamza media circus of 2004.

According to Doyle’s account, Jenvey was born in the UK in 1965 to a Mauritian father and an English mother. He was placed into care when he was seven and was raised by foster parents. His foster father was an American who worked at the Greenham Common airbase. It is claimed in Terror Tracker that through his foster father’s contacts in the military and diplomatic world, Jenvey was able to set himself up as a spy.[50] The book includes some far-fetched claims about Jenvey’s past. It is claimed Jenvey ‘managed to get a job as a press officer for the [Tamil] Tigers in their London office in Katherine Road in east London’[51] and whilst undercover there, claims he may have saved the life of the Prince of Wales. Jenvey apparently believed that faxes sent to and from the office were intended to provide a ‘green light’ to military operations in Sri Lanka. Though ostensibly innocuous press releases, he believed they contained ‘coded messages’ providing information on future suicide attacks. Jenvey claimed to Doyle that by sending misinformation by fax and feeding intelligence to the Sri Lankan Embassy, he may have saved the life of the heir to the throne when he visited Sri Lanka in 1998.[52]

This undercover work was apparently carried out for an official at the Sri Lankan Embassy in London, who allegedly confirmed this arrangement to Doyle. Jenvey also claimed to Doyle that he photographed military facilities in Iran on behalf of the American Embassy, but was ‘pretty hazy on the details’. [53] Still, Doyle was convinced of Jenvey’s credentials. ‘He was a spy,’ Doyle writes in Terror Tracker, ‘no doubt about it. As a freelance operative he had ties with the intelligence services of many different countries.’[54]

Later, more details on Jenvey’s previous operations emerged on the internet, some more outlandish, some more realistic. One such article, ‘The Hidden Truth behind the Sri Lankan Peace Process’, claimed that Jenvey had initiated peace talks between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government by sending an unauthorised fax to the South African government, requesting that it host negotiations. ‘Jenvey is proud,’ the article said, ‘that, from his chair in London, he opportunistically paved the way for the first steps to peace.’ [55] It is a claim which Jenvey maintains today. Indeed, Jenvey’s track record as an amateur spy seems to still be a source of pride to him even after his recent conversion and he has provided emails purporting to show contact with embassy staff in London and with law enforcement officials.[56]

Doyle says he has not spoken to Jenvey for years (the two men fell out over money[57]) but maintains that ‘the material featured in the book can be depended upon.’[58] Terror Tracker raised Jenvey to the status of a ‘terrorism expert’ or ‘freelance spy’. It also brought him into contact with another budding expert on extremism called Dominic Wightman; who was at that time working with the then Conservative Shadow Security Minister, Patrick Mercer.

Dominic Wightman, who uses the spelling Whiteman to disguise his identity, was born in the Tory heartland of rural Surrey and educated at Ampleforth College boarding school in Yorkshire.[59] He joined a security company after graduating from the London School of Economics and then went into business for himself, serving as director of several internet companies at the height of the dotcom boom. After a period living in the United States he returned to Britain shortly after the July 2005 London bombings. With time on his hands he became involved in local politics and subsequently undertook voluntary research work in Westminster for the Conservative MP Humphrey Malins. Wightman’s interest in security and terrorism and his disinterest in more mundane political issues led Malins to suggest that he should work instead for his friend Patrick Mercer. So Wightman was appointed as Mercer’s ‘intelligence advisor’. In this role Wightman, says he concentrated on developing sources of intelligence on alleged extremists in Britain. One of the many sources Wightman says he developed during this time was Glen Jenvey, whom Wightman was introduced to by Neil Doyle.[60]

Doyle also introduced a third man to Jenvey and Wightman, a university lecturer called Michael Starkey who has family connections to the Conservative Party and the diplomatic world. Starkey says his son works in military intelligence and his niece is friends with David Cameron.[61] He also has a distant cousin Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, who at that time was Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and whose name appears on a disputed list of MI6 officers. Like Wightman, Starkey had read Terror Tracker and was impressed by Jenvey’s work.[62]

These introductions led to a collaboration which gave Jenvey and Wightman their most high profile media exposure. During 2006 Jenvey, Wightman and Starkey recorded lectures given over the internet by Omar Bakri Mohammed. Omar Bakri, like Abu Hamza, had become a tabloid bogeyman, and his use of the internet to broadcast his outspoken views caused consternation in right-wing circles. These sermons had already received media attention the year before. In January 2005 The Times published the first of a number of articles on his Paltalk lectures. By the time Jenvey and Wightman began monitoring Omar Bakri’s online activities in the summer of 2006, he had already left Britain for Beirut amid calls for his prosecution, and had been banned from returning. Nevertheless his online presence in Britain was deemed to warrant recording over 100 hours of his online broadcasts and delivering them to Scotland Yard. John Steele, then the Telegraph’s crime correspondent, photographed Wightman with his boss Patrick Mercer outside New Scotland Yard delivering the recordings. ‘Let’s see what Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) make of all this,’ Steele commented on his blog, and encouraged readers to visit Jenvey’s website.[63]

More significant coverage was to come. On 14 November 2006 the BBC broadcast parallel stories on Newsnight and Radio 4’s File on 4 which were based substantially on Wightman and Jenvey’s research. According to Wightman it was the BBC that had approached them, not the other way round.[64] On File on 4 the BBC reporter Richard Watson referred to ‘radicalisation over the internet, on university campuses and in criminal gangs,’ and ‘alarming evidence which reveals how a minority of young British Muslims are being drawn into a life of extremism and crime.’[65] On Newsnight a stern faced Watson visited Jenvey ‘deep in the English countryside’, and was warned that Omar Bakri Mohammad was, as Jenvey put it, ‘back in the cyber sense’. Another of Jenvey’s exposés which featured in the Newsnight programme was an online advert he found calling for a protest outside the Old Bailey in London. The defendant in the case was 23 year old Mizanur Rahman, who was later convicted for incitement to racial hatred for comments made during a protest at the Danish Embassy in London.[66] ‘Sure enough,’ Richard Watson commented, ‘the radicals turned up and there was a violent struggle with the police outside the court.’ What exactly was objectionable about the protest, or the advert promoting it was not made clear.

Both BBC programmes, like the Telegraph piece, referred to Jenvey and Wightman as being members of a secret organisation called Vigil. This was really a bit of artistic licence, since as Wightman has since explained, a BBC researcher had suggested that the group give themselves a name for the sake of the story and hence the myth of ‘Vigil’ was born. Still, according to Wightman at least, the branding became a reality.[67] On 19 December 2006 the Telegraph published an article describing Vigil in some detail. It referred to two wealthy financiers of the group, a former member of the Armed Forces and a City financier, who together had provided thousands of pounds. Neither was named. Neither did the article identify any other members of Vigil besides Jenvey and Wightman, but it did refer to ‘five paid staff and a further 25 workers, many with military, security, intelligence and financial experience’.[68] These five staff were Wightman and Jenvey, Michael Starkey, a former student of Starkey’s who had recently graduated and an IT person. On 13 December 2006 the group registered a website, which went live in January 2007.

Vigil was a short lived experiment which seems to have fallen apart largely because the money Wightman had promised his new colleagues failed to materialise. The young graduate who worked for Vigil for five months did not receive any wages. After continued obfuscations and evasions from Wightman, she took him to an employment tribunal in November 2006 claiming over £13,000 in unpaid wages. Court documents obtained by Spinwatch show that Wightman was ordered to pay £14,174.45 by Bedford County Court in March 2007. Other documents obtained by Spinwatch show that Wightman has a history of unpaid debts. In May 2006 a County Court judgement was awarded against him and bailiffs attempted to recover the debt from an address in South Wimbledon – the same address where Vigil’s website was registered, and where Wightman had had Jenvey and Starkey to stay. The owners of the property wrote to the court saying that Wightman had moved out and that the latest address they had for him was in Islamabad. In March 2009 Wightman was declared bankrupt with debts of over £40,000. According to a Croydon County Court document, Wightman was interviewed by an official and claimed to be living and working in Venezuela.

The dispute over the unpaid wages led to a bitter exchange of email between Starkey and Wightman and an acrimonious split between Vigil’s founder members. Starkey wrote to Wightman accusing him of ‘wholly unacceptable behaviour’ and of betraying their trust. ‘For a while we trusted you,’ Starkey wrote, ‘Then the difference between fact and fiction became muddled and confused.’ [69] Wightman told Starkey he was glad to be rid of him, and that he’d ‘been like an Old Granny almost the whole way through’. He boasted that without Starkey Vigil was ‘stronger than ever’ and would, ‘bring down as many Islamist scum as we can in as quick a time as possible.’[70]

Vigil was now without any staff and comprised simply of Dominic Wightman’s network of contacts.[71] Nevertheless, the artifice continued and a month or so later a contact of Wightman’s, an American policeman working in Iraq, received an email from Wightman requested that his colleague translate some English text into Arabic and post it on a ‘jihadi noticeboard’. The text was written as if by someone planning a terrorist attack, albeit a rather bizarre one. It suggested that an attack could be launched in Europe by planting a bomb in an elderly woman’s wheeled-basket and exploding it in a supermarket. Wightman does not deny that the attempted ‘Grandmother bomb’ hoax came from his email address. However, he claims that he had given Starkey and Jenvey the password before they left Vigil and that one of them sent the email in a deliberate attempt to undermine his reputation.[72] Starkey and Jenvey maintain that the email was characteristic of Wightman who they consider fundamentally dishonest. They also suspect that the Tory grandees Wightman said backed Vigil simply never existed. Wightman’s explanation was that his anonymous financial backers had both suddenly died.[73]

Wightman says he worked at Vigil until 2008. By that time he was involved in other pet projects. In June 2007 he had set up a website called Westminster Journal, with himself as editor. His reason for setting up the website he said was to ‘seek to expose these Islamists who lie and oil their way through to mainstream politics.’[74] Wightman also made a point of stating that he was not a neoconservative. ‘The Islamist Right,’ he wrote, ‘will not be faced down by the Free World’s Political Right but by the mainstream; liberal, democratic, freedom-loving people…That is why I, as a mainstream, liberal, political individual, am proud to accept the honour of being the Editor of Westminster Journal.’[75] Wightman has protested about being labelled a ‘neocon’ on other occasions.[76] Nevertheless, his agenda is clearly right-wing and he would not be the first neoconservative to consider himself a liberal. That he is of the right is undeniable. He is a member of the Conservative Party, and since leaving Vigil has collaborated with Civitas and the Centre for Social Cohesion, two of Britain’s most right-wing think-tanks, the latter of which is run by Douglas Murray, who unusually for a Briton, proudly declares himself to be a neocon. Furthermore, some of Wightman’s writings on Westminster Journal betray some very right-wing views. He has a particularly preoccupation with good and evil, and his understanding of the latter concept is more than a little eccentric. In one article for example he describes the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as: ‘the worst leader of a nation the world has seen in one hundred years,’ adding that, ‘he usurps Pol Pot of Cambodia, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and even Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in the league of world’s most rotten national leaders.’[77]

If Wightman considers himself a liberal, what can be said of Jenvey’s political outlook? Probably not much. In his previous life as a ‘terror expert’ Jenvey spent his time trawling internet chat rooms. He has no pretensions towards political commentary and has a form of dyslexia which means he has difficulty reading and writing. Nevertheless, as should be clear already, he exists within a network of right-wing operatives. Besides those affiliations already mentioned, he was also involved in the 2006 propaganda film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West. Jenvey featured in the section of the film entitled, ‘Jihad in the West’ where he once again discussed Abu Hamza’s activities in the UK. The film featured footage from Jenvey’s old website, http://www.Glen-Jenvey.com, as well as from http://www.JohnathanGaltFilms.com, which despite being named after Jenvey’s American associate was in fact registered to Jenvey. Obsession also rather curiously credits the book that never was; Jeremy Reynald’s War of the Web. The film featured a host of other highly questionable ‘experts’, including Steve Emerson and Daniel Pipes; two of the leading American figures in the distortion of Middle Eastern politics and the demonisation of Islamic groups.[78] Pipes – whose father Richard Pipes performed a similar role demonising the Soviets during the Cold War – has been involved in a host of organisations which smear and intimidate academics and commentators deemed to be unfriendly towards Israel. Steve Emerson, a former journalist, made his name after collaborating with Daniel Pipes on a previous documentary film called Jihad in America, which as the title suggests, argued that Islamic extremists were threatening America from within. Emerson subsequently established an organisation called the Investigative Project on Terrorism,[79] and with a team of interns regularly briefed the U.S. Government’s chief terrorism advisor Richard Clarke in the late ‘90s.[80] Jenvey has also been involved with an organisation called the International Analyst Network, an ‘online portal’ promoting a collection of right wing terror ‘experts’ including both Pipes and Emerson and other Neoconservative and Zionist connected operatives such as Michael Ledeen, who played a key role in bolstering the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq,[81] Meyrav Wurmser the Zionist cofounder of the controversial Middle East Media Research Institute,[82] and Clare Lopez the former Director of the Iran Policy Committee which pushed for war with Iran.[83] Jenvey remains listed on this site as of August 2009.[84]

Both Steve Emerson and Daniel Pipes and their networks are funded by the same wealthy family foundations which fund the powerful Israel lobby. To take just one example, in 2006, the Bialkin Family Foundation donated $5,000 to the Investigative Project on Terrorism and $1,000 to Pipes’s Middle East Forum. It also provided $19,000 to the Jerusalem Foundation, $25,000 to the American Israel Friendship League, $20,000 to the Anti-Defamation League,[85] $1,000 to the Friends of the Israeli Defence Forces. [86] And the list goes on.

What Wightman and Jenvey share with Emerson, Pipes and their many associates, is the portrayal of Islamic groups as the product and perpetrators of a ‘hateful’ ideology, which itself is portrayed as the root cause of violence and conflict. Though it is a completely discredited viewpoint, it is also a necessary one if one is to avoid asking uncomfortable questions about Western foreign policy. This is quite candidly explained in Obsession by another contributor – Itamar Marcus, of Palestinian Media Watch. Referring to Bush’s famous question: ‘Why do they hate us?’ Marcus was scornful of those who searched for a rational explanation: ‘There were numerous examples in American academia and media, after 9/11, that placed the blame of 9/11 on American imperialism around the world… and it is unfortunate again because it is distracting the population from the real source of the problem which is an ideology which wants to destroy the West.’ Though perhaps not of much significance on their own, Jenvey, Wightman and their associates have played a part in this ideological project.


[1] ‘Terror expert warns of ‘new 9/11’’, The Express, 1 January 2009; ‘Attack on US ‘soon’’, The Sun, 1 January 2009

[2] ‘I am not racist, says sacked Tory’, BBC News Online, 9 March 2007.

[3] John Coles, Mike Sullivan, ‘HATE HIT LIST’, The Sun, 7 January 2009.

[4] Sajid Pandore, email to Tom Mills, 24 April 2009 11:47

[5] Glen Jenvey, email to Tom Mills, 04 March 2009 11:57

[6] Ummah.com, ‘Compile a list of those who support israel’, http://ummah.com/forum/showthread.php?p=2989677#post2989677

[7] John Coles, Mike Sullivan, ‘HATE HIT LIST’, The Sun, 7 January 2009

[8] Leigh Holmwood, ‘Alan Sugar sues Sun over terror splash’, guardian.co.uk, 24 February 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/feb/24/alan-sugar-sues-sun

[9] Letter from the Managing Editor of The Sun to the Press Complaints Commission, 27 January 2009

[10] Letter from the Managing Editor of The Sun to the Press Complaints Commission, 27 January 2009

[11] ‘Glen Jenvey has some explaining to do’, Bloggerheads, 8 January 2009. http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2009/01/glen_jenvey_has.asp

[12] Glen Jenvey, email to Tom Mills, 04 March 2009 11:57

[13] ‘Somebody’s really got it in for Glen Jenvey’, Bloggerheads, 2 March 2009. http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2009/03/glen_jenvey_audio.asp

[14] Leigh Holmwood, ‘Alan Sugar sues Sun over terror splash’, guardian.co.uk, 24 February 2009 http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/feb/24/alan-sugar-sues-sun

[15] ‘How Extremism Works’, Private Eye, Issue 1228, 20 January 2009 p.4

[16] ‘Midnight threat special’, Bloggerheads, 17 March 2009. http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2009/03/midnight_threat.asp

[17] Phone Interview with Glen Jenvey, 8 July 2009.

[18]Glen Jenvey’s Friend Lionheart on “Paki Muslims”‘, Richard Bartholomew’s Notes on Religon, 17 January 2009.

[19] David James Smith, ‘Fear and Hatred on the Streets of Luton’, The Sunday Times, 14 June 2009; p. 18 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6487683.ece

[20]No Compromise, January 15, 2009 at 6 pm west coast time.

[21] Ibid.

[22] ‘UNMASKED; The football hooligans behind last weekend’s bloody protest against that Muslim war demo’, Daily Mail, 30 May 2009. The article was posted on the Daily Mail’s website on 29 May 2009 at the following URL: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1189639/Unmasked-The-football-hooligans-weekends-bloody-protest-Muslim-war-demo.html but has since been removed.

[23] ‘UNMASKED; The football hooligans behind last weekend’s bloody protest against that Muslim war demo’, Daily Mail, 30 May 2009. The article was posted on the Daily Mail’s website on 29 May 2009 at the following URL: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1189639/Unmasked-The-football-hooligans-weekends-bloody-protest-Muslim-war-demo.html but has since been removed.

[24] Nico Hines and Costas Pitas, ‘Far-right group, the English Defence League, in disarray after Birmingham fracas’, Times Online, 10 August 2009 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6790067.ece

[25] Ibid.

[26] Phone Interview with Glen Jenvey, 8 July 2009.

[27] Glen Jenvey, email to Tom Mills, 04 August 2009 00:09:48

[28] ‘Web sting links Hamza to terror camps’, Sunday Times, 20 July 2003; p.4.

[29] ‘Web sting links Hamza to terror camps’, Sunday Times, 20 July 2003; p.4.

[30] Graham Brough, ‘How Mirror made cops take action’, Daily Mirror, 8 February 2006; p. 4.

[31] ‘Abu Hamza jailed for seven years’, BBC News Online, 7 February 2006.

[32] Phone Interview with Glen Jenvey, 8 July 2009.

[33] ‘Crime: Assault Actor struck top officer’, Gloucestershire Echo, 26 August 1998, p.3, see also ‘Assaulted police officer wins GBP 150 compensation’, Gloucester Citizen, August 27, 1998.

[34] Phone Interview with Glen Jenvey, 8 July 2009.

[35] Islamic News, 22 September 2002, accessed from the Internet Archive 15 July 2008 http://web.archive.org/web/20020922085054/http:/islamic-news.co.uk/;

[36] Ibid.

[37] Phone Interview with Glen Jenvey, 6 July 2009. See also Spinprofiles, ‘Johnathan Galt’ http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Johnathan_Galt

[38] Aaron Weisburd, ‘100 Little Blue AKs‘, Internet Haganah, Posted by aaron at February 09, 2003 03:48 PM, retrieved from the Internet Archive; see also Spinprofiles, ‘Aaron Weisburd’, http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Aaron_Weisburd

[39] Cam McGrath, ‘Politics: Activists Crusade Against E-Jihad’, Inter Press Service, 12 April 2004.

[40] See Spinprofiles ‘Jewish Defense Organization’ http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Jewish_Defense_Organization

[41] http://www.islamic-news.co.uk, 26 October 2003, retrieved from the Internet Archive on 15 July 2008, http://web.archive.org/web/20031026163747/www.islamic-news.co.uk/

[42] Spinprofiles, ‘Jeremy Reynalds’, http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Jeremy_Reynalds

[43] Aaron Weisburd, ‘100 Little Blue AKs‘, Internet Haganah, Posted by aaron at February 09, 2003 03:48 PM, retrieved from the Internet Archive. See Spinprofiles, ‘Jim Ownbey’, http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Jim_Ownbey

[44] A Wired World: terror.com Something Cool News, Issue 61 – May 24, 2004 http://www.somethingcool.ca/backissues/052404/feature61.htm

[45] Jeremy Reynalds,Al Qaeda Recruitment Videos Placed on Web, bushcountry.org, 11 September 2002, retrieved from the Internet Archive.

[46] Joy Junction press release, ‘Joy Junction Director Jeremy Reynalds’ New Book Chronicles His Fight Against On Line Terrorism’, 1 December 2005. http://www.joyjunction.org/ArchivedArticles/1458.htm

[47] As of August 2009 it remains listed on the Amazon website as ‘out of print’. http://www.amazon.com/War-Web-Fighting-Online-Jihad/dp/0974670170

[48] Ami Naramor, Editorial Director, WND Books email to Tom Mills, 11 May 2009 18:35.

[49] See Spinprofiles, ‘Neil Doyle’ http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Neil_Doyle

[50] Neil Doyle, Terror tracker: an odyssey into pure fear (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 2004) p.157.

[51] Ibid. p.159.

[52] Ibid. p.160.

[53] Ibid. p.158.

[54] Ibid. p.159.

[55] Dominic Whiteman, ‘The Hidden Truth behind the Sri Lankan Peace Process’, Ministry of Defence Website, Sri Lanka, 14 February 2007. http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20061022_01

[56] Emails forwarded to Tom Mills, 7 and 9 July 2009.

[57] Phone Interview with Glen Jenvey, 6 July 2009.

[58] Neil Doyle, email to David Miller, 8 May 2009 12:59.

[59] See Spinprofiles, ‘Dominic Whiteman’, http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Dominic_Whiteman

[60] All biographical details in this paragraph were provided by Wightman. Interview with Dominic Wightman, 3 March 2009.

[61] Phone interview with Michael Starkey, 22 May 2009

[62] Phone interview with Michael Starkey, 22 May 2009

[63] John Steele, ‘Preachers of hate online’, Telegraph.co.uk, 18 October 2006.

[64] Interview with Dominic Wightman, 3 March 2009.

[65] BBC Radio Four ‘Islamic Radicalisation’ File on 4, broadcast on Tuesday 14th November 2006 2000 – 2040, repeated Sunday 19th November 2006 1700 – 1740.

[66] Cartoons protester found guilty, BBC News Online, 9 November 2006, 23:11 GMT

[67] Interview with Dominic Wightman, 3 March 2009.

[68] Andrew Alderson, ‘Working on the internet from an anonymous city office, the shadowy figures exposing Islamic extremism’, Telegraph.co.uk, 19 November 2006.

[69] Michael Starkey, email to Dominic Wightman, 20 March 2007 21:54. Forwarded to Tom Mills, 22 May 2009 13:02

[70] Dominic Wightman, email to Michael Starkey, 19 March 2007 18:23. Forwarded to Tom Mills, 22 May 2009 13:02

[71] Interview with Dominic Wightman, 3 March 2009.

[72] Dominic Wightman, email to Tom Mills, 28 July 2009 21:40.

[73] Adrian Morgan, ‘Exclusive: Dominic Whiteman: Lessons in Fighting Islamism from Across the Pond’, Family Security Matters, 15 May 2008.

[74] Dominic Whiteman, ‘Message from the Editor’ Westminster Journal, 20 December 2007, http://westminsterjournal.com/content/view/30/67/

[75] Dominic Whiteman, ‘Message from the Editor’, Westminster Journal, 20 December 2007, http://westminsterjournal.com/content/view/30/67/

[76] Email from Dominic Wightman to David Miller, 2 Apr 2009.

[77] Dominic Whiteman, ‘Bugblatterism: Chavez of Venezuela’, Westminster Journal, 7 January 2008. http://westminsterjournal.com/content/view/64/1/

[78] Spinprofiles, ‘Steven Emerson’, http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Steven_Emerson; Spinprofiles, ‘Daniel Pipes’, http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Daniel_Pipes

[79] Spinprofiles, ‘Investigative Project on Terrorism’ http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Investigative_Project_on_Terrorism

[80] Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, ‘Terror Watch: How Clarke ‘Outsourced’ Terror Intel’, Newsweek Web Exclusive, 31 March 2004. http://www.newsweek.com/id/148219

[81] Spinprofiles ‘Michael Ledeen’, http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Michael_Ledeen

[82] Spinprofiles, ‘Meyrav Wurmser’, http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Meyrav_Wurmser; Spinprofiles, ‘MEMRI’ http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/MEMRI

[83] Spinprofiles, ‘Clare M. Lopez’ http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Clare_M._Lopez; Spinprofiles, ‘Iran Policy Committee’, http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Iran_Policy_Committee

[84] International Analyst Network ‘Profiles’, http://www.analyst-network.com/profile.php, accessed 6 August 2009.

[85] Spinprofiles, ‘Anti-Defamation League’, http://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Anti-Defamation_League

[86] Bialkin Family Foundation, Form 990-PF (2006)

About these ads

§ One Response to The British amateur terror trackers: A case study in dubious politics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading The British amateur terror trackers: A case study in dubious politics at P U L S E.

meta

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,485 other followers

%d bloggers like this: