An intriguing document published by Wikileaks last year was recently dug up by the astute Bahrain Watch member, John Horne. It exposes the role that the US embassy in Manama played in recruiting a senior “police advisor” to Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior at a critical point in 2011. The advertised role is similar to, if not the same job as that occupied by former police chief, John Timoney – once branded “America’s worst cop”. We also know that British citizen John Yates occupied a similar role. Headhunting services are usually carried out by specialized companies but in this case, the US embassy official tasked with this sensitive recruitment job stated that “this position has the interest and support of senior USG [US Government] policy makers given the strategic importance of our relationship with GOB [Government of Bahrain] and recent events here. It is seen as a prime engagement opportunity with a non-NATO major ally, hence my current involvement as RSO.”
Given the substantial payment package of “around $300K USD + housing allowance + vehicle + a couple of paid vacations (to include airline tickets home each year) as minimum starters” it is not surprising there was a high demand for the job. Clearly working for a police force responsible for grave human rights violations requires a substantial premium over what a police chief would expect in his home country and may partly explain why former police chiefs such as Colonel Ian Henderson spent over 30 years in his role until his death in 2013.
US and British governments have insinuated that these police chiefs are disassociated with their home governments and are “freelance” consultants. In 2012, the US State Department spokesperson said of John Timoney’s role in Bahrain, “This is a Bahraini Government initiative. He is not working for or on behalf of the U.S. Government. So we’re not able to speak to what in particular he’s involved with.” Likewise, a British Minister said that the UK government “have had no involvement” in John Yates’ appointment.
But that hasn’t been the case in the past. Secret documents from the UK Foreign Office uncovered years later showed that Ian Henderson, the “Butcher of Bahrain” was directly recruited by the British Foreign Office to “to give Henderson a free hand to reorganise [the special branch] it into an efficient, modern covert surveillance “anti terrorist” organisation.”
Bahrain Watch has been documenting the way foreign companies have provided logistical security services and equipment to the Bahraini regime in a way that has enabled the regime to continue a policy of repressing freedoms. From arms companies, to digital surveillance software, and the PR companies being paid millions of dollars to empower the regime in the face of increasing domestic opposition, this is an unusual find, as it sheds light on the nature of the US government’s relationship with the Bahraini regime.
Despite these senior-level recruits to the police force, credible reports of systematic torture, extrajudicial killings continue, most recently, Fadhel Abbas, 19 years old was shot in the head by police during a protest on January 8.