"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
A civil servant has been charged under Britain's Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking a government memo that a newspaper said Tuesday suggested that Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded President Bush not to bomb the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera.
The Daily Mirror reported that Bush spoke of targeting Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, when he met Blair at the White House on April 16, 2004. The Bush administration has regularly accused Al-Jazeera of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for anti-American sentiments.
The Daily Mirror attributed its information to unidentified sources. One source, said to be in the government, was quoted as saying that the alleged threat was "humorous, not serious," but the newspaper quoted another source as saying that "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair...."
The document was described as a transcript of a conversation between the two leaders.
Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh is accused of passing it to Leo O'Connor, who formerly worked for former British lawmaker Tony Clarke. Both Keogh and O'Connor are scheduled to appear at London's Bow Street Magistrates Court next week.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Keogh was charged with an offense under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act relating to "a damaging disclosure" by a servant of the Crown of information relating to international relations or information obtained from a state other than the United Kingdom.
O'Connor was charged under Section 5, which relates to receiving and disclosing illegally disclosed information.
The Mirror story is here.; its tone is a bit more credulous than the AP report cited above (which one would expect, given that it is the Mirror's story to begin with).
In happier times, we could laugh this off as delusional. Even given the well-documented stupidity and evil endemic to the Bush government, I am skeptical - there's something about the story that fails the smell test (lots of parties, on all sides, might imagine that there would be some benefit to planting disinformation along these lines). But if there is anything to the Mirror's claims - anything at all - it is simply terrible news. Terrible that a President of the United States might propose such a thing, and terrible that our enemies would be given such an effective propaganda victory (do you think this story, if confirmed, wouldn't cause at least as much ruckus as a few desecrated Qurans?).
I only wish I could still believe it was impossible. Sadly, in a world where the United States has sunk to "disappearing" prisoners to Soviet-era gulags, I can no longer believe any such thing.