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US pvt intelligence firm reveals ICT Skype role

David Bergman

A US private intelligence firm, hired ‘to look for misdeeds’ at the International Crimes Tribunal, says that its ‘operatives’ in Bangladesh obtained copies of the Skype and e-mail conversations between Justice Nizamul Huq Nassim, the former tribunal chairman, and Ziauddin Ahmed, a Belgium-based Bangladeshi lawyer with no affiliation to the court.
The firm, however, denies that any of those who worked for it, or who provided it information, broke the law.
‘None of our folks, none of our sources, and no one in the chain of custody [broke the law],’ James Mulvaney, a director of Guardian Consulting LLC, told New Age.
Mulvaney said that the fee the company received for doing the work was ‘relatively small. Less than $100,000.’
Guardian Consulting, based in New York, describes itself as a ‘full service, international investigations, security and risk management agency’. Its web site states that it has a ‘network of former law enforcement, intelligence, military and journalism personnel’ stretched across the globe and is ‘structured to advise and assist our clients in confronting any business or personal challenge.’
In December 2012, the publication of transcripts of the Skype conversations in the Bangladesh pro-opposition newspaper Amar Desh resulted in Justice Nassim resigning as chairman citing ‘personal reasons.’
Subsequently, the UK-based Economist magazine, defying a tribunal order which prohibited publication of the material, published an article which concluded that the communications between the two men raised ‘profound questions about the trial.’
The newly constituted tribunal, however, subsequently ruled that it would not take cognisance of the contents of the Skype and e-mail correspondence as they were ‘illegally’ obtained and rejected defence applications seeking retrials in the cases of the three Jamaat-e-Islami leaders — Matiur Rahman Nizami, Delwar Hossain Sayedee and Ghulam Azam.
Mulvaney told New Age that in April 2012 his firm was approached by a client ‘who had concerns that the trials [at the International Crimes Tribunal] were rigged.’ The private intelligence firm’s director refused to provide any further information about his client other than that the person was seeking an ‘internationalised trial.’
‘We were engaged [in the Spring], started our inquiries, launched operatives and at some point in [the] Fall received tapes and other materials,’ he stated.
He says that those who provided the company’s operatives with copies of the material did not break the law as it came ‘from people with legal access to any number of hard drives on which the evidence was stored and was/is available.’
‘We did not hack his computer,’ he said.
Mulvaney explained that whilst working at the tribunal, Justice Nassim ‘transferred everything from his computer to different computers though not necessarily all at once, more likely from computer A to B to C to D. In transferring information Nassim may have thought that he was sending specific documents but in fact he was transferring the whole hard drive.’
He specifically claimed that Nassim transferred information to the law ministry.
‘Could our source have violated policy in sharing what was found? Perhaps. But they did not commit crimes,’ he said.
Mulvaney’s explanation, however, assumes that Justice Nassim’s computer contained software that recorded the Skype voice conversations onto his computer’s hard drive.
New Age has not been able to independently verify the claims made by Mulvaney, including his argument that no illegality took place in obtaining the material.
The law minister, Shafique Ahmed, said that he did not know the company, and explicitly denied that the law ministry ever received material from Justice Nassim’s computer. ‘The law ministry is an executive department of government. It has no connection with the implementation of justice in the court. The judiciary is completely independent of the government.’
In relation to Nassim’s e-mails, Mulvaney said that the judge’s password was well known. ‘It was on the bill boards in Dhaka,’ he quipped.
‘My understanding was that the judge was not able to access his own account, and had to have someone sit next to him, and many people did that.’
He, however, denied that any of his operatives actually accessed the judge’s e-mail account.
Mulvaney, who was the Asia correspondent at the US magazine Newsday until 1992 and subsequently director of corporate intelligence at the KPMG, states that it was not his company, which provided any information to the UK magazine, The Economist, or to the Bangladesh paper Amar Desh.
‘We would never have started with The Economist. We were trying to get it into the US papers,’ he said. ‘I spoke to the Amar Desh editor [after he published the excerpts]. He knows that I am involved in this, but I don’t know if the copies I have are the ones that ended up on his site.’
He believes that the company’s efforts ‘were vital in getting the information out.’
‘We did not provide The Economist, but I can’t say what the client did with it once we got it,’ he said. ‘The timing would suggest that The Economist may have gotten it from someone who got our work product from our client (or more degrees of separation) or it could have been the source was providing to more than one person.’
‘As I said there was substantial access to the computers in question which would mean there could be multiple sources.’
Toby Cadman, one of the foreign counsel acting for the Jamaat-e-Islami accused before the International Crimes Tribunal, told New Age that Mulvaney had not given him any of the Skype/e-mail material: ‘James contacted me and enquired as to my concerns of the trial process,’ he said. ‘Following The Economist and Wall Street Journal articles, he sought my views on the disclosed communications.… I did not enquire as to the identity of his clients.’

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