So Why Weren't Peter Kilfoyle And Tony Clark Prosecuted? *UPDATED*Posted May 15th, 2007 by Davide Simonetti
Note: The following post has been corrected due to an error on my part regarding the date of the article in question which came up in a recent Google alert. Apologies for any confusion.
It's worth revisiting some of the details related to the leaking of the al Jazeera memo we covered in January last year because this article in The Guardian from the same time which popped up in a Google alert this morning seems to confirm that Peter Kilfoyle (with Tony Clark) did breach the Official Secrets Act and this raises some old questions, mainly: how come David Keogh and Leo O'Connor were prosecuted but not Peter Kilfoyle and Tony Clark? Also, who passed on the memo to The Daily Mirror? After David Keogh leaked the document to Leo O'Connor...
The information was then acquired by Mr Clarke, who in turn consulted his parliamentary colleague, Peter Kilfoyle. The two politicians decided to pass on the information to a contact in the US.
Mr Kilfoyle, MP for Liverpool Walton and a former defence minister, said last night: "It's very odd we haven't been prosecuted. My colleague Tony Clarke is guilty of discussing it with me and I have discussed it with all and sundry."
Asked if he had broken the act in the same alleged way as Mr Clarke's aide who is facing charges, he said: "I don't know. But I'd be very pleased if Her Majesty's finest approached me about it."
The two MPs decided in October 2004 to reveal the contents of the transcript of the Blair-Bush meeting to John Latham, a Democrat supporter living in San Diego, California. They hoped to influence the impending 2004 US election, Mr Kilfoyle said.
So that's a pretty clear admission of breaking the Official Secrets Act but is 'revealing contents' the same as passing on a document? That isn't made clear. Re-reading the timeline of events shows that the attempts to leak the memo in the US and to the Daily Mirror happened shortly after Leo O'Connor was arrested (in September 2004) and that couldn't have happened until Tony Clark got cold feet or "did the right thing" and returned the document. So when Peter Kilfoyle says he "discussed it with all and sundry", perhaps he's right.
Most of us are now aware of the gagging order imposed on the media by Mr Justice Aikens, the judge presiding over the secret trial of David Keogh and Leo O'Connor who were convicted for attempting to leak the al Jazeera memo. Today in the New Statesman, Martin Bright offers his opinion on what senior journalists should do if the appeal against this outrageous judgement fails.
The conditions of this order should be unacceptable to any journalist who cares about the freedom of the press in this country. It is my belief that, should the appeal fail, senior journalists associated with the case should combine to breach the order as an act of civil disobedience.
Let's hope that the journalists will find the courage to do so. We'll be happy to help.
We have been trying to make sense of what has come out of the trial of David Keogh, and Leo O'Connor, sentenced yesterday for 3 and 6 months respectively for the leaking of the al-Jazeera Memo. Obviously, 'events'* have rather taken over the story. Some of what we know has been confirmed by the trial, but some things we thought we knew have become less clear.
What we do know for certain is that two men are tonight in prison, after a trial held largely in secret after being mercilessly pursued by a government in a futile attempt to protect what is left of the reputations of George Bush and Tony Blair. Not only are we prevented from learning about what was disclosed in camera, but even comments made in open court, and information already in the public domain are the subject of a gagging order.
All on the basis of the principles outlined by, the prime minister's foreign policy adviser Sir Nigel Sheinwald.
Davide Simonetti went down to record a brief piece for today's Democracy Now on the subject [29 minutes into the show], and we hope to round up what we do know, what we think we know, and what we don't know tomorrow.
*on the subject of 'events', and to further tempt you into watching today's Democracy Now - If you enjoyed Tariq Ali in today's Guardian, you can also see him in full swing if you start the same episode of Democracy Now 16 minutes into the show. Tariq is followed by the Sex Pistols, and then Davide...
The shameful misuse of the Official Secrets act to protect the reputations of Messrs Bush and Blair:
David Keogh, 50, who worked in Whitehall's communications centre, was jailed for six months at the Old Bailey for breaching the Official Secrets Act.
The researcher to whom he gave the memo, Leo O'Connor, was jailed for three months on a similar charge for passing the document to his employer, the anti-war Labour MP for Northampton South, Anthony Clarke.
Al Jazeera Continues to Seek Clarification on the Daily Mirror Report on the Alleged Memo Discussing Bombing Al Jazeera
Doha, Qatar – 10 May, 2007:
Al Jazeera continues to seek clarification on the Daily Mirror report of a leaked memo that alleged "President Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station Al Jazeera" and reiterates its call to see a copy of the relevant section of the memo.
Civil servant, David Keogh and MP researcher Leo O’Connor were jailed today for leaking the secret four-page memo. Press and public were banned from the trial which has been heavily criticized by MPs and civil rights groups.
The memo is purported to have recorded discussions regarding the events in Falluja between Tony Blair and George Bush in the Oval office in 2004. Former defence minister, Peter Kilfoyle, stated that “There remain unanswered questions about the discussions about the attack on Falluja and subsequent deaths of many hundreds of civilians”.
Al Jazeera submitted a Freedom of Information application early in 2006 requesting the disclosure of the contents of the memo but the request was denied.
Any substantiation of the contents of the memo would be extremely serious not only for Al Jazeera but for media organisations across the world. It would cast significant doubts on the US administration's version of previous incidents involving Al Jazeera's journalists and offices. Both Al Jazeera’s Kabul Bureau and Iraq Bureau were bombed by the US resulting in the death of Al Jazeera journalist Tareq Ayoub.
Al Jazeera reiterates its request for clarity on the matter and urges Downing Street to clarify the Daily Mirror report on the contents of the memo.
More from Davide tomorrow.
David Keogh and Leo O'Connor Found Guilty *UPDATED*Posted May 9th, 2007 by Davide Simonetti
I suppose it shouldn't come as much of a surprise but it's sad news nonetheless. David Keogh and Leo O'Connor, the two suspects in the trial over the leaking of the al Jazeera memo have been found Guilty. Very few details are known about the trial as much of the evidence was heard in secret and the judge has warned the jury not to disclose any of this information.
He said: "The information you heard in camera, including the contents of the letter and what was said by witnesses about the consequences of the disclosure of the letter, remain confidential - it remains secret."
The surprise is that both men were found guilty. I suspected David Keogh would be convicted but Leo O'Connor merely passed the memo on to his boss. Peter Kilfoyle who admitted passing on details of the alleged plan to bomb al Jazeera in Qatar, will escape prosecution. Perhaps one day the contents of the memo will be leaked and when they are, we will publish them.
Both men have been given jail terms. David Keogh received a six month sentence and Leo O'Connor has been sentenced to three months in prison. Those are fairly lenient sentences, it could have been two years.
As you would expect, we're following the trial. So far we've just had the opening statement, including the claim that leaking the memo could put our boys at risk (cliche copyright The Sun newspaper). Helpful hint - follow the reporting by non-UK reporters, such as al Jazeera.
If anyone gets hold of a copy of the memo, we are still pledging to publish it.
Al Jazeera Memo Trial, ReduxPosted April 5th, 2007 by Davide Simonetti
The postponed trial of David Keogh and Leo O’Connor, who are accused of breaching the Official Secrets Act by leaking the al Jazeera memo, is due to take place on April 18 at the Old Bailey. The trial is to be held in secret because the government argues that it could "could have a serious impact upon the international relations" and that the "risk is of such magnitude to outweigh the interest of open public justice". That sounds familiar doesn't it? It's like the excuse used by Lord Goldsmith to halt the SFO investigation into BAE corruption with Saudi Arabia when he said that his decision was made "to safeguard national and international security".
For some more background into the case, here is some of our previous commentary. Because of the reporting restrictions, it is going to be difficult to get any substantial information about the trial. One fairly recent development however, was news that the government is considering charging Peter Kilfoyle MP in connection with the leaking of documents, something he denies. If Mr Kilfoyle is charged, it will be much harder for the government to silence any reporting. Ohmy News has more. We can only hope that in the course of the trial the memo does get leaked.
Blunkett advised Tony Blair to bomb Al JazeeraPosted October 12th, 2006 by Davide Simonetti
It's not just Bush who tried to convince Tony Blair that bombing Al Jazeera was a good idea, David Blunkett is claiming that he also told Tony to attack the news outlet. On this occasion it was the transmitter in Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq.
The disgraced ex-Home Secretary makes his astonishing revelation in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, to be shown next week, saying he viewed the Arab television station as a legitimate target.
He brushes aside protests that, as a civilian organisation, the bombing of al-Jazeera would have been illegal under international law.
The amazing exchange will be shown on Monday in the second episode of a two-part screening of the audio-diaries he kept during his time in the Cabinet.
Mr Blunkett tells Dispatches he suggested to the war cabinet that al-Jazeera's Baghdad transmitter be attacked.
Asked whether he was not worried that this would be "outside the rules of engagement", Mr Blunkett says: "There wasn't a worry from me because I believed that this was a war and in a war you wouldn't allow the broadcast to continue taking place."
Dispatches reporter Isabel Tang protests: "But al-Jazeera was a civilian target."
Mr Blunkett replies: "Well, I don't think that there are targets in a war that you can rule out because you don't actually have military personnel inside them if they are attempting to win a propaganda battle on behalf of your enemy."
Tang goes on: "But surely that's against international law." Mr Blunkett says: "Well I don't think for a minute in previous wars we'd have thought twice about ensuring that a propaganda mechanism on the soil of the country you were invading would actually continue being able to propagandise against you."
Two weeks after Mr Blunkett pressed the Prime Minister to attack al-Jazeera, the station's Baghdad offices were bombed by the Americans, killing journalist Tareq Ayoub.
So if Blunkett can own up about suggesting a war crime, isn't it time Blair came clean about his little discussion with Bush?
When is a trial not a trial? *UPDATED*Posted October 10th, 2006 by Davide Simonetti
Well, I guess there are many answers to that question, but in this case it's when the trial magically transforms itself into a pre-trial hearing. I'm referring here to the case of David Keogh and Leo O'Connor who are accused of violating the Official Secrets Act by leaking the Al Jazeera memo.
What little media coverage there was of this case showed that the actual trial of these two men was to take place on October 9. First The Guardian:
That seems pretty straightforward to me, and yet on October 9 when the case reached the Old Bailey, things seem to have changed.
David Keogh and Leo O'Connor, both from Northampton, have been charged under the Official Secrets Act.
It is alleged that Mr Keogh passed a memo of a meeting between US President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to Mr O'Connor.
Both men deny the charges and the trial will take place on April 18 next year.
Mr Justice Aikens ordered that the preparatory session was held in camera following his earlier ruling that the press and public should not hear parts of the case which could affect national security.
I'm certainly no legal expert but this strikes me as very odd, especially as the BBC had also announced the actual trial date as being on October 9 and had already reported the pre-trial hearings. From January 2006 we have this:
Cabinet Office communications officer David Keogh, 49, and Leo O'Connor, 42, both of Northampton, were remanded on bail at the pre-trial hearing.
The men will next appear in court on 25 April.
Fast forward to 25 April and the BBC provide us with this:
David Keogh, 49, and Leo O'Connor, 42, denied three charges under the Official Secrets Act and were given conditional bail. They will face trial in October.
The pair will return to the Old Bailey for another hearing before the trial judge in July. The trial itself is set for 9 October.
That seems pretty straightforward too. So what has changed to suddenly turn the trial into yet another pre-trial hearing? We are now being told that the actual trial will take place on April 18 next year. We have not been told that the trial has been postponed or delayed for any reason, just this revision of dates. There has been no media coverage to explain this. Apart from the BBC report the only other coverage I have found so far is in the Washington Post and the Edmonton Sun.
Could it possibly be that the Government has not so far found a way to successfully prosecute David Keogh and Leo O'Connor and needs more time, or has it realised that the case might well make the Al Jazeera memo become public? That would never do just before America's mid-term elections.
Another thing to consider is that a separate case is being brought to court in the United States in which the Widow of a murdered Al Jazeera journalist has filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration for bombing the Baghdad offices of Al Jazeera in 2003. The longer the delay in a trial here in the UK, the more chance there is of the memo being made public in the USA.
The Guardian has a more comprehensive report.
In his published ruling, Old Bailey judge Mr Justice Aikens accepted the government's case that disclosing the contents of the memo would have a "detrimental impact" on "diplomatic and political relations" between the UK and the US. This in turn would have "serious consequences" for "the national safety or national security of the United Kingdom in the current international situation".
The media were barred from a pre-trial meeting held in private yesterday. Defence lawyers did not say what was discussed but afterwards voiced their objections to the secrecy. Mark Stephens, who is acting for al-Jazeera, said: "The bottom line is that there is no national security involvement [in the case]. What is being protected from us is evidence of a war crime." The "war crime" reference was to the alleged talk of bombing al-Jazeera.
Mr Stephens is appealing to Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, over the government's refusal to release the memo under the Freedom of Information Act. Lawyers for Mr Keogh and Mr O'Connor, who are on bail, said they could not comment on yesterday's hearing. However, it is understood they too have raised the issue of war crimes. Neil Clark, Mr O'Connor's solicitor, has said that having read the memo, he did not believe it could embarrass the British government.
The judge's ruling makes clear that government lawyers obtained a certificate from Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Mr Blair's foreign policy adviser, in March last year calling for a secret trial. But the necessary certificate from the foreign secretary was only obtained this July, shortly after Margaret Beckett took over from Jack Straw.
No date has been set for the trial.
So according to the Guardian the BBC's claim that the new date for the trial is April 18 next year is wrong if they are saying a date hasn't even been set. The Government is claiming the need for secrecy is to do with national security (apparantly embarrasment is a national security issue), something which is disputed by lawyers for Al Jazeera and the two defendants. However, only the contents of the memo are required to be kept secret if I understand Mr Justice Aikens ruling correctly so other details of the trial such as any delays, for example should be availabe to the public. Yet the Government seems to be arguing that the whole trial be kept secret. Perhaps this explains the delay. The sooner someone leaks the damned memo the better.
Secret trial for David Keogh and Leo O'Connor over the Al Jazeera memo leakPosted October 7th, 2006 by Davide Simonetti
In two days time the trial of David Keogh and Leo O'Connor at the Old Bailey will commence. They have been charged under the Official Secrets Act with leaking what is known as the Al Jazeera memo in which the details of a conversation between George Bush and Tony Blair are recorded. Allegedly, in this memo, Bush had to be dissuaded from bombing the Qatar offices of Al Jazeera by Blair. We have covered this story extensively over the last year (the most recent posts are here and here), so this trial should be interesting. However, it would be even more interesting if the most important part of the trial wasn't going to be held in secret.
In Nov. 2005 the Daily Mirror published a report based on the memo that is now at the center of this case. The content has been widely disputed but the central claim has been repeated in an Early Day Motion (1084) tabled in the House of Commons by Peter Kilfoyle MP and others. The motion proposes "That this House notes recent reports that President Bush discussed with the Prime Minister the bombing of the al-Jazeera television station in Qatar; and calls on the Government to publish the record of this discussion."
Richard Norton-Taylor pointed out in the Guardian that the purported conversation happened in April 2004 when al-Jazeera was covering US military tactics in Falluja.
There have been requests for the memo to be published under the Freedom of Information Acts in both the U.S. and U.K. Steve Wood in the FOIA blog reported on the U.S. response that "no records responsive to your request were located." Apparently White House records may not be subject to the FOI legislation but the request was made to the State Department. According to statements by Peter Kilfoyle MP, the memo shows Colin Powell (then Secretary of State) as present at the meeting.
Even with the secrecy, this will be an important trial and should be worth following. In the meantime there is always a chance that the memo will get leaked. Fingers crossed.
The Truth About Al JazeeraPosted August 6th, 2006 by quarsan
There is a great article listing the myths and the facts about Al Jazeera by the Excellent Hugh Miles.
New Blairwatch readers should find our earlier interview with Hugh to be interesting.
Al Jazeera Crew Member Shot during Live ReportPosted July 19th, 2006 by ringverse
via Press Release
Doha, Qatar - July 19th 2006: Today, while an Al Jazeera crew was covering live the Israeli attack on Nablus in the West Bank, an Israeli military vehicle suddenly sped up towards Al Jazeera's reporter, Jivara Al Budeiri, in an apparent attempt to interrupt the report. Al Jazeera's technician Wael Tantous who was also part of her crew was subsequently shot and immediately rushed to hospital.
Since the start of the current war on Lebanon Al Jazeera crews have consistently been targeted by the Israeli authorities resulting in a constant hindrance and obstruction of their work.
Al Jazeera again emphatically expresses its strong denunciation and condemnation of this behaviour and reiterates its right to carry on its coverage with impartiality, objectivity and balance.
and from monday
Doha, Qatar - July 17th 2006 - 4:00pm: Since Sunday July 16th, 2006 the Israeli authorities started obstructing Al Jazeera crews from covering the present confrontation in Lebanon in northern Israel. The Israeli authorities detained Al Jazeera's correspondent, Ilyas Karram for a period of time just after the first wave of Hezbollah missiles hit Haifa. Furthermore, on two occassions yesterday and today the Israeli authorities detained Al Jazeera's Bureau Chief in Jerusalem, Walid Al Omary. Mr. Al Omary has not been released yet without any explanations been given from the Israeli authorities, thus preventing Al Jazeera's reporters from carrying out their work.
Al Jazeera hereby expresses its utmost disapproval and strong denunciation of the Israeli authorities' obstruction of its coverage of the conflict and reiterates its adherence to internationally recognized professional journalistic standards. Al Jazeera is covering the conflict showing the different opinions in the war, particularly the Lebanese and Israeli points-of-view, with accuracy, balance, and integrity.
Al Jazeera demands the immediate release of its Bureau Chief Mr. Walid Al Omary so that he, along with the rest of his team, can continue their work without hindrance and obstruction.
Bearing in mind Israel's sponsor's attitude to the lives of al-Jazeera journalists, does anybody spot a pattern here?
FIOA Blog gets a response from the US State Department on the Al Jazeera memoPosted July 13th, 2006 by Davide Simonetti
Steve Wood from the FOIA Blog has been trying to get hold of the Al Jazeera memo or related documents using the Freedom of Information Acts of both the UK and the USA.
We reported on Steve's efforts in the UK here, here, here and here. Basically the Cabinet Office confirmed the existance of the memo and what was in it but wouldn't release it because of the damage it would do to US/UK relations.
Well, obviously the memo exists otherwise two men wouldn't be on trial for leaking it.
So its strange that Steve's request to the US State Department should meet with a rather different response. After a seven month wait, his patience was rewarded with the not very illuminating:
Really? Despite the then Secretary of State Colin Powell being present with Bush and Blair at the meeting (according to Peter Kilfoyle MP who saw the memo) there is apparantly no record of it in the USA.
Read the whole post which has relevant links to Steve's other attempts to get to the bottom of this.
Update on the Al Jazeera memoPosted July 13th, 2006 by Davide Simonetti
Sorry, still no memo yet but… There is a link between the current battle between the Government and Craig Murray over the publishing of documents which support the case he makes in his book, and the upcoming court case over the leaking of the Al Jazeera memo. The link was touched upon in the Oh My News article we posted in relation to the media catching on to the Craig Murray story.
Some of the documents Mr Murray had were obtained under the FoIA, and Al Jazeera want to obtain the memo (that allegedly has a discussion between Bush and Blair about the bombing of the Al Jazeera buildings in Qatar) under the same act, but may face the same problems as Mr Murray.
This is interesting for several reasons. On October 9 this year David Keogh and Leo O'Connor will appear at The Old Bailey criminal court to face charges under Britain's Official Secrets Act in the leaking of the memo. As part of their defence, they will attempt to use the memo as evidence in court.
"The prosecution has to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the disclosure they say occurred seriously damaged international relations or defense and national security," Jeffrey said. "We're saying, 'What's the damage?' It's not a situation where all of a sudden the administration in the United States has said, 'If you can't keep this under your hats, we're not friends anymore.'"
The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith has already used the heavy-handed tactic of banning the media from revealing anything from the memo under the official secrets act, so presumably they will be prohibited from reporting on the trial if the memo is admitted as evidence. Even if that ban is lifted, the copyright law will leave them unable to print anything.
In another development, the widow of Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayyoub, who was killed in 2003 when the US military bombed the Al Jazeera offices in Baghdad, is filing a lawsuit against the Bush administration.
This could have big implications for the releasing of the memo and the trial in Britain. Read the whole transcript of her interview with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now. US laws are a little different from British laws and if Dima Tahboub is successful in her lawsuit or even manages to have the memo read out in a US court, then it won't be long before we get to hear about it in Britain. That is, of course, a very big "if".
Meanwhile both the US and UK governments are going out of their way to halt the series of leaks that have been occurring since the invasion of Iraq. I feel we may be hearing more about the Al Jazeera memo quite soon.
Spreading Truth, Freedom and Democracy - by bombing the al-Jazeera offices in KabulPosted June 21st, 2006 by ringverse
Suskind’s disclosure is the latest development to bolster speculation the US has deliberately targeted Al Jazeera. On April 8th 2003 – just weeks into the invasion of Iraq -- the US bombed Al Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau, killing correspondent Tareq Ayoub. Last November, the Daily Mirror of London reported President Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair of his desire to bomb Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar. The Mirror cited a secret memo leaked from the British government. According to the New York Times, Suskind’s book appears to have been written with wide access to former CIA Director George Tenet and a host of other government officials.
Given that the US had the co-ordinates of the offices in Kabul, and the repeated bombing by mistake of al-Jazeera offices and staff elsewhere, not to mention the plans to bomb the headquaters in Doha, there are very few people who belive it was anything but deliberate - but the US administration has hotly protested it's innocence.
Listen to a short mp3 grab of Suskind's interview discussing the allegation here, or head over to Crooks and Liars for the full video link.
Thanks to Rimone for the tip