BAE, Baroness Symons in
Black Operations Against LaRouche
by Anton Chaitkin
As documented in the widely circulating broadside, "BAE Scandal Demands Cheney's Immediate Impeachment," Vice President Dick Cheney attempted to bury the BAE scandal in both Britain and the United States, precisely because investigation of this $80-100 billion British/Saudi slush fund could reveal the authors of very "black" Anglo-American covert intelligence operations, amongst them 9/11. According to British and other news accounts, Cheney prevailed upon Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.K. Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to shut down the British Serious Fraud Office's investigation of BAE, on "national security" grounds.
Ongoing investigations also shed new light on the role of Cheney crony Baroness Elizabeth Symons in covering up the BAE operation and in British black propaganda attacks on Cheney's leading U.S. political antagonist, Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. Based on this background, it is hardly remarkable that Symons baldly proclaimed to Reuters news agency on Feb. 27, 2007, that the British criminal investigation of BAE was shut down because there was no evidence of bribery—"the reason they did not find anything is because there was nothing to find." Symons' attempt to bury the matter occurred just at the time that the cries of "coverup" were reaching a crescendo in the British press, and major investigations of BAE were developing internationally.
An Imperial Inheritance
Elizabeth Symons was one of a handful of political operatives who shaped the 1990s rise of Tony Blair's New Labour as a poorly disguised Thatcherism. Her father, Ernest Vize Symons, had been director-general of the U.K. tax department (Inland Revenue), and a governor of the English-Speaking Union, which sought to reunite the U.S.A. with the British Empire. When her father retired in 1979, Elizabeth began working in the trade union division of the Inland Revenue, and later in other unions, in an effort to emasculate the unions and separate them from political power.
In 1996, Tony Blair nominated Symons for a life peerage for having helped create a labor-free Labour Party. By this time, Symons had long been a Fellow of the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, a project to tie together British and American defense and secret services strategists. (This was begun by Sir Charles Villiers in 1985, when his son-in-law, John Negroponte, now U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, was boosting the Contras as Ambassador to Honduras.)
As Prime Minister in 1997, Blair appointed Baroness Symons to the post of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign Office.
Symons represented the Foreign Office in the House of Lords in March 1998, when she was questioned about the coup and countercoup in Sierra Leone in West Africa. Executive Outcomes, a mercenary group tied to the British Crown, had moved a protection racket into Sierra Leone in 1993, taking its payoff in diamonds. When Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was elected President of the country in 1996, he acted on the encouragement of U.S. President Bill Clinton to cancel the British mercenaries' contract, despite the Executive Outcomes threat that he would be overthrown.
A military coup then removed Kabbah; British High Commissioner Peter Penfold, in exile with Kabbah, successfully urged him to hire Sandline, Executive Outcomes' partner mercenary company. Sandline shipped in 30 tons of arms, contravening the United Nations sanctions on arms to that civil-war-devastated country.
Sandline had fully informed the Foreign Office, and others in the Anglo-American black-operations chain of command. A Foreign Office official had told BBC on March 9, 1998, that Baroness Symons was in the circles that had been briefed on the transactions, and that she knew of the ongoing criminal investigation by British law enforcement.
On March 10, 1998, Lord Avebury, a Liberal Democrat in the House of Lords, asked Baroness Symons on the official record, would she investigate press reports that "the future diamond resources of the country have been mortgaged in an illegal arms transaction in which a British company, Sandline International, was involved?"
Symons denied all, obfuscating that "the newspaper article to which the noble Lord refers ... was in several respects not entirely accurate, or at least not on all fours with the reports that Her Majesty's Government are receiving." There were then calls for Symons' resignation, which Blair rebuffed. As BBC reported the same day: "The Prime Minister has leaped to the defence of foreign office minister Baroness Symons, at the centre of allegations that she misled parliament over the arms-to-Africa affair. Tony Blair told MPs ... that he had not asked her to resign and said there was 'not a shred of evidence' that she ... had deliberately misled anyone."
The Cheney-Blair Axis
In 2000, Dick Cheney, chairman and CEO of the Halliburton oil services company of Houston, Texas, and candidate for Vice President, was the American co-chairman of a British conference held April 14-16, on the subject of privatizing the British and American armed forces. This was the special project of Baroness Symons, whom Blair had appointed in 1999 as Minister for Procurement in the Ministry of Defence. The conference was attended by all the main Ministry of Defence officials working to implement her plans for military "Public Private Partnerships," the "Smart Acquisition" initiative, and the "Private Finance Initiative." The event was sponsored by the Rand Corporation, and hosted by the Ditchley Foundation, an Anglo-American power elite group in which Baroness Symons is a trustee and governor.
In his opening remarks to the conference, Cheney referred to his own leadership, first, as Defense Secretary (1989-93), in scheming to have private companies and mercenary soldiers usurp the traditional national military function, and then, steering his Halliburton company to play that role. Cheney said: "I have approached the question of privatization of defense support services from several different perspectives: first as a member of Congress, then as Secretary of Defense, and currently as chairman and chief executive officer of Halliburton." He noted that "our British colleagues are far ahead of us in ... successful privatization efforts."
Cheney complained that a "challenge for DoD [Department of Defense] is to develop a strategy for countering political resistance. This conference ... provides a tremendous opportunity for us to share experiences, and to learn how the U.S. might take advantage of the concepts and principles that are embodied in the U.K. experience."
Cheney's personal appearance in England at just that moment coincided with Baroness Symons' first planned big privatization: Martin Kitterick, a Defence Ministry consultant on Symons' "Private Finance Initiative," spoke to the conference on the scheme to turn transport of battle tanks over to private companies' trucks and drivers, a contract that Halliburton wanted.
On April 17, 2000, the day after the Cheney-Ditchley conference, the Ministry of Defence announced Baroness Symons' plan for privatizing the British government's giant Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. Baroness Symons then led the parliamentary debate on the plan, reassuring the Lords that she was working closely with the Americans.
After the Supreme Court decision of Dec. 12, 2000, Dick Cheney was designated as Vice President and George W. Bush as President of the United States, to take office Jan. 20, 2001.
The announcement by Baroness Symons, that a consortium headed by the Halliburton company was awarded the £300 million contract to privatize military heavy transport, was graciously delayed until Jan. 24, after the inauguration. Cheney was then presumed to be out of the company, although his Halliburton stock options and continuing compensation became an increasingly heated Washington topic.
While Cheney was in England, another British contract went up for grabs. The U.S. Lockheed Martin Corporation was bidding for the Joint Strike Fighter program. In 1994, just after Dick Cheney had taken the helm at Halliburton, his wife, Lynne, had become a Lockheed director, serving on the board's Finance, Nominating, and Corporate Governance committees. Lynne Cheney stepped down from the Lockheed board on Jan. 5, 2000.
On Jan. 17, just before Dick Cheney took power, Symons was in Washington. At the Pentagon she ceremonially signed Britain's commitment to the Joint Strike Fighter program. This Anglo-American venture was labelled "the largest defense procurement program ever conceived." The Defence Ministry announcement awarding British funds to Lockheed in the Joint Strike Fighter program came in October 2001, at a decent time interval from the Halliburton announcement.
On June 11, 2001, Baroness Symons moved out of the Defence Ministry, becoming simultaneously Minister of State for the Middle East, in the Foreign Office, and Minister of State for Trade, in the Department of Trade and Industry.
On July 1, 2001, just after Symons' departure from Defence, the shape of her overall scheme for a private power-and-money grab came before the public. The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency was split into a huge private firm, to be called QinetiQ, and a smaller residual government agency. In the next year, the Blair government shocked some people with the announcement that the Carlyle Group—the private equity fund tied tightly to the Bush family—was to be awarded a large stake in QinetiQ, the "public private partnership."
On Feb. 28, 2003, less than a month before the Cheney-Blair-Bush invasion of Iraq, the Carlyle group paid £42.3 million for a 34% holding in QinetiQ. When a large block of QinetiQ stock shares was later put on the public market, the Carlyle Group got about an eight-fold return on its investment. Among those reaping gold from Baroness Symons' planning was former Tory Prime Minister John Major, who had become European Chairman of the Carlyle Group while Baroness Symons was Minister for Defence Procurement.
BAE Intrigues, War Lies, and Assault on LaRouche
Baroness Symons' own machinations on behalf of BAE Systems began surfacing in 2005, when the Observer newspaper described her earlier intervention with her Washington circles. This had been in the Summer of 2002, when Cheney was driving hard for war with Iraq.
The story, as told by the British media, is that, at a dinner given by a neo-conservative professor, the Baroness sat next to Attorney David Mills, husband of Tessa Jowell, Blair's Minister of Culture, Media, and Sport. Mills had arranged a $200 million deal with BAE Systems for the Iranian company Mahan Air to buy a fleet of passenger jets. Mills asked Symons to use her influence in Washington to get around the U.S. sanctions law that would penalize a company doing that kind of business with Iran.
On July 9, 2002, ten days after the dinner, Mills wrote to Symons that "BAE will sell or lease as the case may be to [name redacted], a company incorporated in the UAE [United Arab Emirates] and majority-owned by UAE citizens for which I act. It is a condition precedent of the deal that there will be no US objection. It is my understanding, however, that the US government operates the embargo with a degree of discretion. I am sure HMG [Her Majesty's Government, that is, the Blair regime] will wish to offer such support as it can to smooth the path with our American friends, and I would be very grateful if you could do what you can to ensure that BAE get the help they will ... need."
Baroness Symons wrote back to Mills, "Given the obvious political sensitivities you will need to tread very carefully with this one. This is a difficult time to be raising Iran policy in Washington. The advice I have been given, with which I am inclined to agree, is that our official support for you with the administration would raise the profile of the case and, by so doing, increase the chance of eliciting a negative response. So you will need to think very carefully about a lobbying strategy calibrated to achieve the right result. I am pleased that Allan Flood [the BAE Systems director] will be in Washington next week and that he will be calling on the embassy to discuss this further. They are best placed to advise on next steps."
Nothing happened to the Baroness when this was published; David Mills was subsequently charged with money laundering and tax crimes (indicted July 2006) as a cohort of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, an ally of the Cheney-Blair-Bush war axis.
That August, Dick Cheney was raving that Saddam Hussein was pursuing a nuclear bomb capability. The same theme was rattling around the Prime Minister's office, where Baroness Symons' husband, Phil Bassett, was a longtime Blair aide. From September 2002 until October 2003, Bassett was senior advisor and headed the Strategic Communications Unit at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's office. It was there that Bassett helped pull together Blair's Sept. 24, 2002 "Big Lie" dossier claiming that Saddam Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction" ready to launch at 45 minutes' notice.
Bassett and government Press Secretary Alastair Campbell went to Washington in October 2002, to coordinate strategy for lying about the Iraq danger. With the White House, they established the Coalition Information Centre, which Tucker Eskew, Deputy Assistant to the President in the White House Office of Communications, then went to London to implement with Bassett and Campbell. This apparatus and MI6 continued to produce falsified Iraq intelligence as a pretext for war.
Then a factional brawl broke out in London and in the United States, with intensified opposition in leading circles against the Cheney-Blair Iraq War.
On April 3, 2003, two weeks after the start of the war, BBC interviewed Lyndon LaRouche on the "Live Five" show for six minutes, introducing him as a leading critic of the Iraq War policy, and as a candidate for the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination. Two days earlier, the LaRouche campaign had released a quarter-million-run pamphlet, "Children of Satan: The 'Ignoble Liars' Behind Bush's No-Exit War." On June 9, 2003, BBC's "Live Five" interviewed LaRouche again, this time for 12 minutes, on LaRouche's recent call for Cheney's impeachment and on Cheney's role in faking Iraq intelligence—faking that Blair, Campbell, and Bassett had also done.
In between these two LaRouche interviews, BBC ran two stories (May 29 and June 2), using leading British government weapons scientist Dr. David Kelly as its source, charging that the propaganda team in Tony Blair's office had "sexed up" their Iraq-weapons dossier to make a better excuse for war. After being bullied during interrogation by Blair-controlled members of Parliament, Dr. David Kelly turned up dead, an alleged suicide.
The counterattack by the Blair-Cheney gang also aimed directly at LaRouche. In March 2003, Jeremiah Duggan, a British student studying abroad, committed suicide while in attendance at a Schiller Institute conference in Germany. The Schiller Institute has long been associated with the international economic development proposals of Lyndon Larouche and Helga Zepp-LaRouche. German police and prosecutors thoroughly investigated Duggan's death and ruled it a suicide.
Baroness Symons, however, met on April 1, 2004 with Erica Duggan, Jeremiah's mother, announcing that she would appoint a lawyer to work with the Duggan family to pressure German authorities to reverse their assessment of the case. What has followed has been a lurid international propaganda campaign, alleging that Jeremiah was murdered or terrorized to death, without a scintilla of factual evidence contradicting the German findings. The latest twist in the Symons-steered crusade is the Spring 2007 introduction of a resolution in the House of Commons, agitating for a new British investigation into the death of Jeremiah Duggan.
Since leaving her ministerial posts in 2005, Baroness Symons has been Tony Blair's Special Envoy to the Middle East, and to Saudi Arabia, standing as an inner-circle guard for the British-Cheney-Bandar relationship, and, by extension, the lucrative Al-Yamamah project. She is chairman of the British-Saudi Business Council, and vice president of the Middle East Association.
From her station in the House of Lords, she has chaired the all-party group on Qatar. That tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, bordering on Saudi Arabia, has just set up the Qatar Financial Centre, a projected speculators' paradise modelled on the City of London financial district. The BAE Systems company, shaken by mushrooming scandal and facing several potential U.S. investigations, has reached into Qatar to give itself hoped-for credibility. Lord Harry Woolf, the former Chief Justice of England, now works as "chief judge" in the Qatar Financial Centre, alongside Tony Blair's brother, attorney William Blair, who heads the Centre's regulatory body. BAE Systems has hired the Qatar-based Lord Woolf to head a panel of experts to decide whether the company is completely ethical, or needs sprucing up. On June 28, the Qatar Financial Centre sponsored a conference on the potential uses of the sea of money now washing through the hands of Britain's Persian Gulf clients. Baroness Symons was scheduled to chair the meeting.
Now officially in private life, although still Special Envoy to Saudi Arabia, and so on, the Baroness is a paid consultant to the Anglo-American law firm DLA Piper, long the attorneys for Halliburton. Recently her London DLA Piper office has been home base to Michael Lester, who had been general counsel and a director of BAE Systems from the year (1999) that Symons became Minister for Defence Procurement. He had been responsible for BAE's "ethical policies and principles." Lester's entry into Baroness Symons' firm was announced on Dec. 16, 2006—the day after the Serious Fraud Office dropped its investigation of BAE Systems.