Newsnight report a new FOIA Request, by al-Jazeera about the Plot to bomb al-Jazeera. [Audio Clip]
Tonight BBC's Newsnight reported that al Jazeera have filed a new Freedom of Information Request with the UK government about Bush and Blair's conversation about boming al-Jazeera.
[The segment is archived here as an LoFi mp3 clip, as it will only remain available to view on the Newsnight website untill 22.30 GMT Tuesday night.]
They tell us that al-Jazeera's FOIA request is has been filed on behalf of two British Citizens living in Doha, on the grounds they would have been victims of any attack.
The argument underpinning the request is that in British law, the duty to disclose a possible crime would override the Section 27 exemption, cited for the refusal to disclose under the previous request:
'That disclosure of information would or would be likeley to predudice relations between the United Kingdom and another State'.
They go on to discuss in some detail the previous FOIA request and it's implications, that to date the mainstream media has refused to report.
We said at the time, and have been banging on ever since [ad nauseum, as has been pointed out to me...] that the the reply to that request amounted to official confirmation that the story was true, and the plan was real. Not a 'joke' or 'conspiracy thory'.
I can confirm that the cabinet Office holds information which is relevant to your request
Having had my repeated posts and emails on the subject ignored by everyone I have sent them to in the mainstream media and deadwood press, I was beginning to think I had got the wrong end of the stick. It is gratifying to find out Newsnight confirming our argument [almost verbatim], but also it confirms how sorely lacking the rest of the mainstream media have been in their coverage of developments in this story. See also the lack of National media coverage of Peter Kilfoyle's disclosures of last week.
Tim Whewell's analysis that the government is coming under repeated and sustained pressure to release the document under three fronts, Parliamentary efforts, the Keogh and O'Connor Trial and the FOIA requests is reassuring. As time goes on, it is looking less and less likely that the memo will stay hidden.
The al-Jazeera memo has been widely covered in the 'blogosphere', not least thanks in part to the efforts of those of us on this list. Hopefully these latest developments will be picked up before the trial of Keogh and O'Connor resumes next Tuesday.
But to keep up the pressure, the mainstream media and deadwood press need to step up to the plate too, and give this story the coverage it deserves.
Paxman: Newsnight has learned that the government is considering a Freedom of information request by the arabic TV station al-Jazeera to release a memo which is said to detail the the discussions between George Bush and Tony Blair on bombing the station's headquarters. Tim Whewell has seen the correspondence, he's here with us now.
First of all, remind us of the background please.
Whewell: This concerns discussions that took place during a summit in April 2004 between Blair and Bush, which Blair is said to have dissuaded Mr Bush from his idea of bombing al-Jazeera.
al-Jazeera is now trying under the Freedom of Information request to get these documents disclosed. There has been a previous attempt which was turned down. What al-Jazeera is now doing is acting on behalf of two British citizens living in Qatar, where al-Jazeera is based and the claim is that these people would have become victims of any attack. The legal argument in English Law is that the duty to disclose any possible crime would override any duty of confidence to an ally.
Paxman: What are the chances of success do you reckon?
Whewell: Well, it's very hard to say... but what's interesting is that in reply to the previous request, the government appeared to go further than it has ever gone before in admittin both the existance and the subject of the memo. The request was specifically for information relating to discussions about the bombing of al-Jazeera, and the answer was, from the Cabinet Office was 'Yes, we do have relevant information'.
Now, if the request is turned down again, there will be an external request to the Freedom of Information Commissioner. It's very hard to say what he'll do, but what's interesting I think, is that the government's now facing a demand for this on three different fronts. First of all in Parliament, second in the courts, and of course two people have been charged under the Official Secrets act, and the first thing their lawyers are going to do when this gets to the Old Bailey, is to demand disclosure of the documents. We've got it under that, and we've got it under the new Freedom of Information legislation.
Paxman: Tim, thank you.
For more on the al-Jazeera Memo Story, checkout the al-Jazeera memo link on the sidebar,