Bombing al Jazeera - Were There Two Memos?

Please read This Article to learn more about the memo's - and the serious questions that remain to be answered

The more we look in to this, the more confusing it becomes.
On Thursday 17th of November the BBC reported this:

Thursday, 17 November 2005

Two men have been charged under the Official Secrets Act following the leak of a secret government memo.

The document involved - the Foreign Office's Iraq in the Medium Term - referred to "heavy-handed" US tactics, a government source told the BBC.
Its contents were reported in the Sunday Times in May last year.

Ex-civil servant David Keogh and former MP's researcher Leo O'Connor, both from Northampton, will appear before Bow Street magistrates on 29 November.

Mr Keogh, 49, is a former Cabinet Office communications worker. Mr O'Connor, 42, worked as a researcher for Tony Clarke, the former MP for Northampton South.

The pair received police bail. Mr Keogh was charged with an offence under section three of the Official Secrets Act, Mr O'Connor under section five.

So this was reported 5 days before the Mirror Story that this is all about. The document refered to was entitled "Iraq in the Medium Term", and it was leaked to the Times and printed on 23d of May 2004.
[archived here for the record]

May 23, 2004

British fears on US tactics are leaked
By David Cracknell, Political Editor

A LEAKED Foreign Office memorandum has exposed deep misgivings within the British government over America's "heavy-handed" behaviour and tactics in Iraq.

The document discloses for the first time the extent of private reservations within Tony Blair's government about Washington's approach.

It blows apart Blair's public insistence that there are no differences between Britain and America over military tactics in Iraq.

Under the heading Problems, the memo says: "We should not underestimate the present difficulties . . . Heavy-handed US military tactics in Falluja and Najaf some weeks ago have fuelled both Sunni and Shi'ite opposition to the coalition, and lost us much public support inside Iraq."

It adds: "The scandal of the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib (prison) has sapped the moral authority of the coalition, inside Iraq and internationally."

The Times describe their memo as:

  • A 6 page document, acompanied by a one page supplement with "public lines to take" by ministers.
  • They say it was a FCO document.
  • The published pages make no mention of Bush planning to bomb al-Jazeera.

I can't imagine that a transcript of Bush threatening to bomb al-Jazeera would be included in the "Public Lines for Ministers to take" section...

Fast forward to last Wednesday and the Mirror report the Bush to bomb al-Jazeera' story.
They describe their source as:

  • A 5 page transcript.
  • They say it originated from number 10 Downing St.
  • They say it quotes Bush outlining his plans to bomb al-Jazeera.
22 November 2005

PRESIDENT Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals.
The memo, which also included details of troop deployments, turned up in May last year at the Northampton constituency office of then Labour MP Tony Clarke.

Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh, 49, is accused under the Official Secrets Act of passing it to Leo O'Connor, 42.

From the reported facts, the descriptions of the two documents do not match. Yet the mirror go on to suggest that their memo is the one that David Keogh and Leo O'Connor are being charged over. This is the line that has been taken by the media and Downing St since the story surfaced. Downing St confirming their view that the memo could not be disclosed because it was sub-judice.

We are told that the threat of prosecution under the OSA by Lord Goldsmith is made to anyone revealing further details of the memo cited in the Mirror story, that is at the at the centre of the case being prosecuted at the moment.

But the Times printed that memo, bar the "lines for ministers to take" supplement. So it is in the public domain.

If the threat of prosecution is based on that memo, why is it still online, and why haven't the Times been Prosecuted?

Now it is perfectly possible that the Mirror got or reported their facts incorrectly, even that they got their story wrong. The same applies to the Times last year.

But is it also possible that there are two memos, and the Mirror are citing a different source?

Could it also be possible that Messrs Keogh and O'Connor are being charged with the leaking of more than one document, but we only know about the charges relating to the Times memo, because it is in the public domain?

It is impossible to draw firm conclusions from the little information available, but reading the Times and Mirror reports side by side, it seems hard to conclude they are about the same document, unless the "lines for ministers to take" section contained that transcript...

If anyone more dilligent than I can shed some light on this, then please let me know.
Others are asking questions too.

Update: Today's Observer has an interesting article on the memo:

part of the memo - 10 lines to be precise - concerns a conversation between Bush and Blair regarding Al Jazeera, the Arabic satellite television station that the US accuses of being a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda. According to those familiar with the memo's contents, Bush floated the idea of bombing the Qatar-based station...

...according to those who have seen the memo 'there is no question Bush was serious'...

...Written by a Blair aide who accompanied the Prime Minister to Washington it was headed 'top secret'. It is understood that on the five pages there were details of troop deployments and movements. Lurking within the pages were also frank discussions over the US assault on Fallujah. It was clear from the tone of the memo that Blair was far from happy at the tactics used by American forces.

Meanwhile on Planet Blair:

Tony Blair yesterday branded as a "conspiracy theory" claims that a leaked memo has revealed plans by President George W Bush last year to bomb the Arabic television station al-Jazeera.

People who have seen the document say the real reason that it is being suppressed by the Government is because it contains a potentially damaging private discussion between the two leaders about the controversial United States attack on the Iraqi city of Fallujah last year.

Once again we ask, If this is a conspiracy theory, why are people being prosecuted?


More evidence that there were two memos comes from this story that says:

on 23 May last year in the Sunday Times , which had obtained another leaked document. Back then there was no desire by the Attorney General to pick a fight with Fleet Street and threaten it with the Official Secrets Act. Some suspect the difference this time is down to the fact the Al-Jazeera memo has deeply embarrassed the Bush administration.

Good summary.

Good summary.

The Sunday Telegraph has this on the threat to bomb al-Jazeera:

Looking tired, he appeared to lose his cool when asked about reports claiming that the memo showed him talking Mr Bush out of mounting an air raid on al-Jazeera. "Look, there's a limit to what I can say - it's all sub judice," he said. "But honestly, I mean, conspiracy theories…"

That's interesting because a) it suggests that the question of bombing al Jazeera specifically is part of the OSA action against Keogh and O'Connor, and b) although it ios now five days since the Mirror story, it still doesn't amount to a denial.

While I was one of the first

While I was one of the first to link to Boris' post in support, reading this very post of yours leads me to conclude that Bush wasn't serious in his assertion (he's stupid, but not that stupid), and that the suppression and prosecution is due to the memo containing information that probably should remain secret; troop movements and deployment plans are something that I'd rather not be in the PD when they're in a combat situation, even if I do think they shouldn't be there. Ah well.

What's the real story, what are they using this to smokescreen us from?

Hi MatGB, I replied to your

Hi MatGB, I replied to your post on your blog, but for clarification here we go again:

We think Bush was serious. If you read the articles it clearly says: ...according to those who have seen the memo 'there is no question Bush was serious'....

The troop movements sections are out of date and have no need to remain so secret. we have checked this with our expert - ex special forces and an authority on military matters in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If they were the reason the memo should not be published the MOD would be happy to say so.

We do think it is as the linked articles and other media state, that Bush's domestic difficulties over Iraq are making him pressure Blair to clamp down on this as the last thing he wants is an official memo detailing Blair's extreme concern at US military tactics and methods, especially in regard to the levelling of Fallujah.

It's your last paragraph

It's your last paragraph that's the clincher. I suspect Bush doesn't want it publiched because of that, and Blair for similar reasons. But regardless of how out of date the plans are, they'll still denote general tactical thinking, and regardless of which, the govt is obliged to prosecute if the Act is broken.

I (now) don't think Bush was serious, and I hope I'm right, but regardless of which, the bombing now couldn't happen. Although I suspect they'll always be the victims of 'collateral damage', reading the comments on don't bomb us shows the level that the propaganda has penetrated within the US.

Sorry Mat, but the movement

Sorry Mat, but the movement of the Black Watch a year ago is not classified. The troop movements of a year ago are not a strategic document, but a sitrep. As We said before we ran this past an expert in UK military matters who says they have no intelligence value any more.

As the report said, those who have actually seen the memo say Bush was serious, though you may be privvy to information they are not.

...according to those who

...according to those who have seen the memo 'there is no question Bush was serious'...
Is all I'm going on, I'm reading that that there's no question he was serious.

If you're reading that he was serious, then that explains the disagreement; *goes to read initial articla again*

Mat Bowles

Ok Mat, if that's how you

Ok Mat, if that's how you want to read it, but everyone who has seen the memo, and that includes other sources than that quoted there has said Bush was very serious when he suggested bombing al Jazeera.

it is no question as in nobody who has seen the memo doubts he was serious.

You are free to interpret things how you wish. If the memo is published then we'll all know, won't we.

If anyone wishes to read the

If anyone wishes to read the Official Secrets Act under which David Keogh, a former Cabinet Office communications worker and Mr Leo O'Connor, who worked as a researcher for Tony Clarke, the former MP for Northampton South, were charged. Respectively, sections 3 and 5,

As Tony "conspiracy theory" Blair says (passing comment nevertheless) it's all sub-judice, as the court case goes on.
How transparent and enlightening will this case be?

According to the Guardian:
"Charges under the secrets act have to have the consent of the attorney-general. His intervention yesterday suggests that the prosecution plans to ask the judge to hold part, if not all of the trial, in camera, with the public and press excluded".

All that will remain on record is that the UK military were lobbying at the highest level about serious concerns over US tactics and the men who leaked the memo will be punished and convicted, as most governmental whistleblowers seem to be.

But the real upshot, the glittering prize for administration warmongerous/occupiers, war apologists, "muscular left" and the free-speech-is-for-everybody-just-not-dissenters brigade is that Blair will be sanctamonious, bellow he was vindicated and untarnished and claim both he and Bush are committeed to a world of freedom and democracy.

just seen the latest update

just seen the latest update at the start of the post saying you've got confirmation of the two memos. That's a top bit of work if you can stand it up - well done. You have obviously been beavering away diligently.

If you get more, can I suggest a fresh post - I'm getting a bit lost among the updates. (Might just be my slow brain though.) Also, of course, it will deserve to be spelt out in lights across Oxford Street for added visibility... :-)

Their being at odds with

Their being at odds with each other - it's not a bad thing - Blair could hold himself up as an example of restraint and decency, afterall, so it must be something *else* in the memo that is getting them all riled up.

The most obvious thing, since it talks about Fallujah and troop movements, is that it likely mentions use of White Phosphorous. This would be a big enough P.R. disaster to warrant the type of heavy-handed tactics that are being employed. But we won't know unless it comes out. I hope it gets published.