Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Amber Alert connection

Grooming the McCanns: Amber Alert, the Prüm Treaty and Government Interference in the McCann Case
Author Blackwatch (of 12/08/2009 @ 11:30:48, in Madeleine McCann - Political Dimensions, viewed 6541 times)

How The Madeleine Case Supported the Extension of Amber Alert System and the EU's Prüm Treaty To The Remaining 27 Member States - And How Downing Street Obliged
In response to the question, how will the McCanns be remembered, one Mirror Forum member wrote:

“they will become a leading force in the world to get rid of the hidden evil in our society, and to out those who try to cover up for the tragedies these criminals can cause”.

For a couple who were at this time suspects in their daughter's disappearence, the statement brokered something of a paradox; just how could these two ordinary individuals who had been openly pilloried for their routine negligence transform themselves into credible figureheads for law-enforcement overnight? Within the time it took to finish one glass of wine and discover one of your children missing, the McCanns exchanged their prison-issue denims for outfits tailored to a more 'practical' design.

And what at first had sounded like a most absurd suggestion by one deluded forum member steadily acquired some semblance of authority.


Retracing our steps to mid-July 2007 and we find ourselves standing alongside hundreds of dumbfounded uniformed officers at the Dorchester Hotel, invited from our seats by senior personnel to applaud one Gerald P McCann at the Police Bravery Awards. First we’d had the poignant video of his daughter, then the speech praising both UK Officers and the Polícia Judiciária, now we had the standing ovation. And for what? Just what were we honouring? Gerry’s contribution to ‘what’ exactly? One of the serving South Yorkshire officers receiving an award there that night described it as one of the most surreal events of his life. Sitting at his table was none other than Gerry McCann, 1500 metre junior running medallist and celebrated kidnap personality. And he wasn’t just down onthe guest-list; Gerry was guest of honour. It was like having Mark Stanley - the man responsible for shutting the doors on the Herald of Free Enterprise as it left Zeebrugge - guest-of honour at the annual Maritime and Coastguard awards.

Naturally, not even this prepared us for what was to come. But just how did we get to this stage?


In mid-June, in an interview given to the Catholic newspaper, The Tablet, Gerry McCann told of an "extraordinary experience" inside the church in Praia da Luz just days after Madeleine's disappearance:

"I had this mental image of being in a tunnel and instead of the light at the end of the tunnel being extremely narrow and a distant spot, the light opened up and the tunnel got wider and wider and went in many different directions .... I can't say it was a vision because I am not clear what a vision is but I had a mental image and it certainly helped me decide. I became a man possessed that night. The next day I was up at dawn, making phone calls."

At this point in time Madeleine has been missing, presumed abducted, for little more than 3 weeks. But in what can only be described as an epiphany or profound breakthrough, Gerry McCann is sufficiently inspired and transformed enough to pursue a totally new direction. At a time when most people in his position are coming round from the effects of a mild sedative Gerry decides to resign his position at Glenfield Hospital and spearhead a campaign on behalf of missing and exploited children everywhere. His mission starts modestly enough; a meeting with SOS Crianca, the main child welfare non-governmental organisation in Portugal and then to London for a meeting at the Headquarters of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. And then things start getting a little giddy. Gerry visits the National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children in Washington, bonds with the US attorney general Gonzales at the justice department, grapples at the White House with the First Lady's deputy chief of staff, Sarah Armstrong and follows it up with a mid-afternoon jog up Capitol Hill for meetings with Democrat congressman Nick Lampson and Republican Senator Robert Shelby.

And then, of course, we have that ill-timed appointment in Edinburgh with Kirsty Wark who interviews Gerry at the Edinburgh International TV festival, shortly before he and his wife are declared formal suspects.

Not bad for a couple from Leicester who were presumed reckless enough to leave their daughter unattended for several nights of the week on a jolly old Summer Holiday with their mates in Portugal.


In comedy, timing is everything. Get to the punch line too quick, too slow, don’t weight it right, don’t say it right – and the whole collapses. And it’s much the same in politics. Get the audience on your side and they’ll pretty much laugh at anything. Sometimes you have to wait for the right time and sometimes you have to adlib. But if you get them when they’re laughing already you ‘re as good as home and dry.

And it’s in this way we might look at Gerry and Kate as warm-up artists for the Tony and Gordon Show.

Gerry's timely statement that 'Portugal has no DNA database of known sex offenders' also coincided with Blair and Brown's plans for extending the UK's National DNA database and creating a single European-wide database - from those that drop litter to those with traffic offences. The DNA database, they argued 'should include all'. His statement also coincided with Britain's plans to join the controversial, Prüm Treaty on June 12th - a decision widely criticized by opposition parties, human rights groups and a good proportion of the British Public, who had begun to foster concerns of sleepwalking into a 'Big Brother Europe'. The Prum Treaty, first signed in May 2005 by Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Austria, allowed the police forces of those countries to compare and exchange data more easily.

On June 12 2007, the 27 member states passed a slightly revised version of the treaty into EU law - a move which - had it not been for the emotional furore surrounding the McCanns and Madeleine - would most likely have dragged Blair and New Labour even further into the mire, and upsetting no end Blair's final lap of honour: his farewell tour of Africa and the Middle East.

In 2006 The Guardian ran the headline: “Suspect Nation” and was duly followed up in September 2007 with the headline, Judge wants everyone in UK on DNA database when it was announced that Lord Justice Sedley, one of England's most experienced appeal court judges, expressed the view that every UK citizen, 'guilty or innocent' should be on the DNA database. The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent and BBC News followed suit.

Whilst Brown and the Home Office distanced themselves comfortably from Sedley's remarks, they did not rule it out entirely and the Home Office continues to guage public reaction on the issue using a number of high profile cases as a catalyst for debate (and, let's face it, as a means of testing and building consensus concurrently. See how the whole issue is again now being framed within the Sally Anne Bowman and Ipswich Murder cases, The Press Association, Feb 23rd 2007)

From the very first moment Tony Blair visited the Forensic Science Service's London headquarters in October 2006 he and Downing Street began to extol the DNA Database as a major crime-busting tool. He called for the national DNA database to be expanded to include every citizen. While at the centre, he heard how advances in DNA technology are not only boosting detection rates in current cases but also helping police in reviews of so-called cold cases - some several decades old - where there was no new evidence.

In the months immediately following Blair’s visit to the FSS, debate on the issue increased. Noise was produced on both sides of the fence; from the Association of Chief Police Officers (who backed the expansion) on the one side and civil liberties groups and partisan newspaper columnists on the other, attracting the greater volume of headlines in Summer 2007.

And in July 2007 the shit really hit the fan. In light of issues discussed in the context of the Madeleine McCann investigation and Gerry’s statement about ‘no known sex-offenders’ database in Portugal, the EU drive to produce the world's largest criminal DNA database gathered pace. Naturally it was deeply unpopular and controversial. It always had been. Even when the issue had first been broached in February 2007 broadsheets ran the headline: ‘DNA data deal 'will create Big Brother Europe'. The proposition from the EU was that Police across Europe would be given free access to every other member’s DNA, fingerprint and car registration databases.


At a meeting in Brussels, the Home Office agreed to a deal that would set up a network of national crime records across 27 states. All member states would have access to other countries' DNA and fingerprint data, as well as direct online access to vehicle registries. The exchanges would eventually lead to the creation of a single Euro-wide database - produced under the aforementioned, Prüm Treaty. The treaty had been drafted originally by then holders of the EU Presidency, Germany.

Signed initially by Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands in May 2005, the treaty was extended to all Member States in June 2007. The move was hugely unpopular. Brown was to be placed under the same considerable pressure to ditch the treaty as Blair had been under to veto it. The deal - signed by Home Office Minister Joan Ryan in Luxembourg - also paved the way for police from different EU states to set-up joint patrols. (Britain's initial sluggishness in backing the treaty was made all the more ironic by the fact it has the biggest DNA Database in the world - clocking in at around 3.5 million people - but given that access to this information would yield no small amount of embarrassment to the UK, hesitation seemed somewhat inevitable).

The Tories described the so-called "Prüm Convention" as a "sell-out", but such was the attention whipped up by the Madeleine case that it didn't meet with quite the same level of objection from the British Public - who - contrary to expectations - seemed quietly philosophical (and needless to say, compromised) about the whole issue.

All that Blair and the original Prüm signatories had really needed was the public on their side, something to trigger a climate of anxiety about the issue, a pan-European ‘catalyst’ event, a gateway, a prelude. Let's face it, any politician worth their salt thesedays needs a good 'catalyst event', something that greases the wheels of contentious, unpopular policies and legislature both at home and on foreign soil. Just as politicians are accused of hijacking the terrorist attacks in New York and London in the first half of this decade, politicians in this country and in Europe hijacked the Madeleine tragedy for dubious political gain.

It was political opportunism with a compassionate expression, a bunch of flowers and a cuddly toy. Just as 9/11 provided the right moral pretext for war, the Madeleine investigation provided the right moral pretext for extending the Prum Agreement to all 27 member states.

Madeleine’s abduction arrived in rather a timely fashion for Blair and the original member states - helping them negotiate a rather tricky passage, especially if the PM was to hold onto his dreams of bagging the future EU presidency. What better way to rally support for extending the UK DNA Profiling Database and building support for the contentious Prüm Treaty than monopolising the crisis engendered by a missing pre-schooler. It cut through the demographics like a knife through butter, appealing to everyone regardless of age, regardless of class, regardless of gender. It was something children could identify with. It was something grown ups could identify with. Even famous authors and football celebrities. And more importantly (much more importantly) it crossed all geographical boundaries.

Those insensitive 'Where's Wally' lampoons at least highlighted an uncomfortable truth: Madeleine was popping up everywhere, and so too were her alleged captors: if ever we had needed access to other countries' DNA and fingerprint data and cross-border cooperation it was now.

It was the trigger that would launch a fleet of vessels:

"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium?"

Historians might be interested to note that Ilium is modern day Turkey: gateway to the 'diabolical Middle East’. Did we envisage Madeleine, just like Helen, being bundled onto a boat by a swarthy looking arab called, Paris?

Had New Labour (and ultimately, the orginal EU states: Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands) just been waiting for this accident to happen? Another 'catalyst' event?

Is this what the McCanns were being groomed for: ambassadorial duties for Prüm and Prüm-related declarations like the much touted, Amber Alert System? But who had initially applied the pressure and had drafted the original blueprint for this consensus build? Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain? New Labour? All five? Were the McCanns aware of it or were they just unforunate, unwitting pawns caught up in an elaborate psychodrama staged by Europe’s crafty elite, the purpose of which they could only guess at?

As the Daily Telegraph quite rightly points out: " When Labour took office in 1997, it held only 700,000 samples. By next year, it will hold the samples of some 4.2 million people – seven per cent of the population – and is growing by about half a million a year.”

That’s a lot of bums on seats. And a hullva lot of bumprints. 

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