At the beginning of November the British TV series on Channel Four, Equinox, did a report on the so-called 'earth lights' mysteries, the balls of light seen in the sky, associated with movements in the earth crust and thought to pre-figure earthquakes. Equinox took a team of scientists to Mexico to camp on a major fault-line and wait for said lights. None were forthcoming; but in the course of their inquiries the Equinox team came across the massive UFO flap which has been happening in Mexico in recent years. They interviewed the producer of the Mexican equivalent of the TV programme 60 Minutes, who told them that in the midst of the 'flap' he had appealed on air for viewers to send inany videotape they had taken of the strange lights in the sky. He received 6,000 video-tapes!
The Guardian (London) 2 October 1996 reported that a self-styled Catholic priest was jailed for 10 years for sexually assaulting two teenage boys. Frederick Linale called himself the British Archbishop of the Old Roman Catholic Church, and met his first victim through an advertisement in the Church Times. Kennedy assassination buffs will remember another distinguished alumnus of the Old Catholic Church - David Ferrie, the character memorably, if inaccurately, portrayed by Joe Pesci in Stone's JFK. Over a decade ago, in Britain, the Old Catholic Church was also used as cover for predating on boys by the notorious Roger Gleave, self-styled Bishop of the Medway. It must be all that Catholic kitsch - or something.
Issue 13 of the excellent Flatland reported some recent comments by the astronomer Carl Sagan on the crop circles phenomenon. Sagan, like many other 'sceptics', attributes the British crop circles to a couple of middle-aged self-confesses hoaxers, Doug and Dave, who emerged from obscurity a couple of years ago to demonstrate how, with planks of wood strapped to their feet, they had made the circles. How the British media loved this story! All those idiots sitting out on the hillsides all summer waiting for aliens to make the circles! Doug and Dave got oceans of coverage, the watchers of crop circles got enough ridicule to last a life-time and the mass media in Britain declared the story dead. None of the journalists bothered to check where Dave and Doug had been on any of the evenings when circles had been observed - and video-taped - forming. This was one of those stories that was just too good to check.
Meanwhile, away from the guffawing tabloid hacks, the circles continued to form, in every-increasing complexity. Aerial photographs of some of the 1996 circles are reproduced in a double-page spread in October/November's Nexus magazine. Whatever the story of the crop circles amounts it is absolutely certain that these extraordinary images would be impossible to reproduce on the ground without - at the very minimum - a large team, overhead direction and control, from a helicopter, with radio communication with the ground: and even then with extreme difficulty. One or two of them would be hard to draw, let alone create on a com-field. There is still a genuine mystery here, aliens or no.
'We went into his private offices at the top of Maxwell House, Maxwell was in the bathroom. He was on the toilet and had left the door open. We couldn't ses him but we could hear him. It was disgusting. But I believe it was psychlogically important to him. He was letting us know that he didn't have to behave nicely because it wasn't necessary to impress us.' (p. 129) The psycho-analytically-minded of you can ponder on that for a while.
Wallace was an Information Officer, a civilian employee of the British Army, working in Northern Ireland when the civil war broke out there in 1969. Wallace was the only native member of the Army's Information Services there and quickly became indispensable in dealing with the world's media, and in explaining the complex sectarian politics to the English Army officers sent in, first to try and keep the sides apart and later to fight the IRA. In due course the Army dusted-off its counter-insurgency manual and in 1971 set up a psychological warfare unit, called Information Policy, under cover of the Army press office to wage psy-war on the 'terrorists' and their perceived supporters. Wallace, the man on the ground who knew the local landscape, became the key man in the secret psy-war unit. Information Policy was not an intelligence-gathering Organisation, and received its intelligence from other British outfits in Northern Ireland, notably MI5, the Security Service.
In 1974 the Conservative government of Edward Heath narrowly lost the General Election to the Labour Party led by Harold Wilson - a defeat in part caused by the Conservative government's inability to deal with a national strike by the National Union of Mineworkers which led to power-rationing and the whole of British industry being forced to work only three days a week. (During which three days, incidentally, it managed to produce almost as much as it had while working five or six. This point was swiftly forgotten, of course.) In MI5 and other sections of the British state, the theory developed that this strike, the Mineworkers' Union and, ultimately, the Labour Party itself, were being influenced by the dear old KGB.
A great machination on the night began in Britain, Citizens militias - we called them 'private armies' - began forming under elderly retired military and intelligence personnel to fight 'the Communist threat'. The conservative media began churning out stories of the threat to democracy: The Times even ran a series of articles discussing how and under what conditions a coup might be run by the British Army 'to defend democracy'. Prime Minister Wilson and all those around him were repeatedly burgled, phone-tapped and surveilled-, disinformation campaigns, including one by the CIA centred round the Czech defector Joseph Frolik, began. It was the great crisis of British post-war history, it ran through the Labour governments of 1974-79 and climaxed with the election of Margaret Thatcher, a rather dim but enthusiastic believer of the communist conspiracy theory.
In Northern Ireland in 1974 the intelligence arriving from M15 at Information Policy unit began to change. No longer was the intelligence about, and the projects directed against, the IRA or the Protestant paramilitary groups. Colin Wallace began receiving 'intelligence' - almost entirely fictitious - about members of the Labour Government and the politicians of the Conservative and Liberal Parties perceived to be too 'pink': allegations of Soviet influence, sexual and financial hanky-panky, even drug-taking. Wallace was tasked to use this 'intelligence' to create black propaganda projects. Hitherto an enthusiastic part-time soldier and conservative servant of the state, Wallace began to get cold feet and ultimately declined to work on this political disinformation project without specific political clearance from on-high. No such clearance was forthcoming, and in refusing to carry out the project Wallace joined MI5's shit list.
He was quickly set-up in Northern Ireland and caught giving classified material to a journalist - something he'd been routinely doing as part of his job for several years - as transferred out of Northern Ireland and eventually lost his job in 1976. MI5 nobbled the Civil Service Appeal Board hearing which dealt with his appeal against dismissed. (This was acknowledged by the government in 1990 and Wallace was paid $50,000 compensation.)
Prime Minister Harold Wilson, after resigning in 1976, began trying to find out who had been behind the campaign of disinformation and burglaries his Cabinet had suffered between 1974 and '76. He briefed a couple of journalists with his suspicions who wrote a series of (for Britain) sensational stories and then produced a book, in 1978. But the journalists had found nothing of substance to back-up Wilson's beliefs about an official campaign by the spooks against him, and Wilson - and his claims - were greeted with mass derision by the British establishment, most of the media and, it has to be said, most of his erstwhile political colleagues. Such things, old boy, just didn't happen in Britain. On being told in 1974 by a private detective that the headquarters of Britain's trade unions was bugged, the General Secretary of Labour Party, Ron Hayward, memorably remarked, 'We don't have Watergate politics in Britain.'
But Colin Wallace, by then working as an Information Officer in local government, knew what Wilson was talking about: he'd seen the MI5 files in 1974 when the disinformation campaign had been getting underway. He wrote to the retired Prime Minister but never got a reply: Wilson had been scared off by the chorus of disbelief which greeted his allegations. But the spooks had been alarmed by Wilson's tentative moves against them and they knew they had a loose cannon - Colin Wallace. So, in 1980 when Jonathan Lewis, a friend of Wallace's died in what looked like an accident - he fell in a river and banged his head - the spooks used this death to discredit Wallace, and framed him for Lewis's murder.
He was charged with and acquitted of Lewis' murder but got ten years for his manslaughter. (Second degree murder in the US?) In prison, the formerly loyal Queen and Country man Wallace was now seriously pissed-off and began writing-up his memories of the various covert and illegal activities he had witnessed or been a party to in Northern Ireland, and started contacting journalists, helped by another British Army officer, Fred Holroyd, who had also been blowing the whistle on covert operations in Northern Ireland. For a while the conviction for manslaughter, a campaign of negative briefing and disinformation by the Ministry of Defence to its media allies, the sheer complexity and novelty of Wallace's story, and the laziness of most journalists, did the trick, and Wallace was only taken seriously by a handful of journalists - including this writer - on the media fringe. But then, a few months after he was released from prison in 1986, after serving six years, the renegade MI5 officer, Peter Wright, appeared on the scene with his memoir, Spycatcher, and in which he wrote, albeit briefly, of clandestine operations against the Labour government of Harold Wilson in the 1970s, and the media tide turned. Three years of revelations followed of precisely the 'Watergate politics' that were not supposed to exist in Britain.
On October 9, 1996 after sixteen years of sustained legal activity by Wallace, his conviction for manslaughter was finally quashed at the Court of Appeal. Previous Latest Word column Steamshovel