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No trace of objectivity

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The BBC Today programme has long been a shill for liberalising the drug laws. This morning’s edition, however, ran an item at 0810 which almost caused me to fall off my chair.

The item was pegged to the collapse of the prosecution case against people accused of supplying nitrous oxide (the “laughing gas” used by dentists). This has called into question a law passed last year banning such so-called “legal highs” which are considered a loophole in the drug laws. All too predictably, the discussion was soon steered from this specific issue into “bringing fresh thinking to bear on the whole problem” (code for drug liberalisation).

What was startling was the choice of interviewees and the way in which they were introduced by the Today anchor, John Humphrys.

The first, Kirstie Douse, was described as “head of legal services for Release, that’s an organisation that campaigns on drugs and drugs law”.

Humphrys didn’t say whether Release campaigned for drug liberalisation or further restriction. But Release is Britain’s veteran drug liberalisation campaign group which for decades has been at the centre of attempts to liberalise the drug laws. So why so coy?

The second interviewee in such a discussion would normally be expected to provide balance through an alternative view. The person chosen for this role turned out to be Mike Trace. Humphrys introduced him with these words: “Mike Trace, the former deputy drugs czar”. That was it.

What was not revealed was that, in 2003, Trace was outed in a newspaper article as a pro-drug legalisation mole who had just been appointed to a key position in global anti-drug strategies which he was helping to undermine.

I know this because I was the journalist who outed him.

Trace was appointed deputy drug czar in Tony Blair’s government. For a time, he occupied a position of great influence in the drugs world. He was Director of Performance at the Government’s National Treatment Agency. He was chairman of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, (ENCDDA) the body which effectively draws up EU drug policy. And he was appointed Head of Demand Reduction at the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime. In all these posts, he was supposed to be upholding laws to reduce drug use.

In 2003, however, he was forced to resign from his new role as the UN’s Head of Demand Reduction after I exposed him helping assemble a secret network of lobbyists working to subvert the UN drug control laws — which underpin the use of criminal penalties for the drug trade — and pressurise governments into legalising drugs.

Trace was — in his own words — a “fifth columnist”: an underground agitator who was supposed to be upholding the laws to reduce drug use but who was a key player in a co-ordinated international effort to disband the world’s anti-drug laws by stealth – and who was being secretly paid to do so by notorious international legalisers.

The legalisers’ main obstacle was the UN conventions on drugs which require countries to prevent the possession, use, production and distribution of illegal narcotics. I discovered that Trace was at the heart of a network operating covertly to undermine those conventions.

The British headquarters of his operation was to be financed in part by the Open Society Institute, funded by the billionaire financier George Soros, which openly campaigns for “harm reduction” and legalisation on the grounds that the war on drugs causes more harm than drugs themselves. I wrote:

“But that’s not all. For Mr Trace’s attempts to obtain additional funds from European sources disclose a vast and intricate web of non-governmental organisations, all beavering away at drug legalisation.

“In particular, Mr Trace sought funding from the Brussels-based Network of European Foundations for Innovative Cooperation (NEF). This innocuous-sounding grant-giving body has actually spawned a proliferation of drug legalisation efforts through its offshoot ENCOD, the European NGO Council on Drugs and Development.

“ENCOD says that ‘drug use as such does not represent the huge threat for society as it is supposed to do’. The real threat, it says, is posed by the war on drugs to the ‘millions of peasants in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia’ — the people cultivating the drug crops! So it wants a legal framework to bring about the industrialisation of drug production, no less. And to achieve this, it proposes that public opinion should be softened up by ‘harm reduction’ policies which will pave the way to eventual legalisation.”

Subsequently, Trace claimed he had been selectively quoted, that he had used the term “fifth columnist” as a joke and that the idea of some organised conspiracy was “completely insane.”

But I had drawn my revelations from a cache of Trace’s email correspondence detailing this huge covert attempt to subvert the UN drug laws. Here are some extracts from that correspondence.

“In terms of my own involvement”, Trace wrote, “I think that it would be of most use providing advice and consultancy from behind the scenes, in the light of my continuing role as chair of the EMCDDA, my association with the UK government and some work I am being asked to put together by the UNDCPD in Vienna. This ‘fifth column’ role would allow me to oversee the setting up of the agency – while promoting its aims subtly in the formal governmental settings.’

In another message, he wrote: “The host organisation in London [to challenge the UN drugs conventions] will be Release, a long established drugs and civil liberties NGO.”

He wrote to Aryeh Neier, president of Open Society Institute New York: “The basic objectives remain the same – to assemble a combination of research, policy analysis, lobbying and media management that is sufficiently sophisticated to influence governments and international agencies as they review global drug policies in the coming years. The key decision points remain the reviews of the European Union Drug Strategy in 2003 (and again in 2004), and the political summit of the UN Drug Programme in Vienna in April 2003.”

His involvement was kept secret and advice was given about the line to take to conceal it. One meeting minuted thus: 

“Mike to remain on the group, and contribute to the initiative, but members need to ensure that, externally, the line is that he gave advice on policy and lobbying in the summer but is no longer involved.”

Trace himself wrote: “Now I have taken up my post at the UN, I absolutely cannot be associated with a lobbying initiative – the line I am using is that, through the summer, I gave advice to several groups on how the EU and UN policy structures worked, but am now no longer in contact.” He also warned a colleague: “A small but crucial point – can I from now on not be referred to by name in any written material.”

He also wrote: “Finally, I have been offered the post of Head of Demand Reduction at the UN, and intend to accept it. The Executive Director, Antonio Costa, is, at least for the moment, asking me for guidance on how to handle the April meeting, so I have the opportunity to influence events from the inside, while continuing to work on this initiative.”

I put a stop to that. Now the BBC is adding its own underhand efforts to this sinister, and sinisterly sanitised, cause.

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