David Leigh and Richard Norton-Taylor / Guardian – 2006-01-09 23:28:50
MPs Leaked Bush Plan To Hit al-Jazeera
David Leigh and Richard Norton-Taylor / Guardian
(January 9, 2006) — Two Labour MPs have defied the Official Secrets Act by passing on the contents of a secret British document revealing how President George Bush wanted to bomb the Arabic TV station, al-Jazeera.
The document, a transcript of a meeting between Mr Bush and Tony Blair in April 2004 when the prime minister expressed concern about US military tactics in Iraq, is already the subject of an unprecedented official secrets prosecution in Britain, against an aide to one of the MPs and another man.
David Keogh, a Cabinet Office employee, is charged with leaking information damaging to international relations to Leo O’Connor, researcher to Tony Clarke, former MP for Northampton South. The two are due to appear in court tomorrow for committal hearings.
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.
In San Diego, Mr Latham, 71, a retired electrical engineer and a “contributing member” to the Democrat National Committee, told the Guardian that the MPs also wanted him to send letters with the information to newspapers in Los Angeles and New York. At a meeting at the House of Commons, he had been introduced to Mr Clarke by Mr Kilfoyle. Mr Latham, a British expatriate, and Mr Kilfoyle had attended the same school.
Mr Latham said he had never met Mr Clarke before. He added: “He mentioned that the document was a transcript of a meeting in Washington DC between Bush and Blair. There had been a proposal to take military action against al-Jazeera at their headquarters in Qatar. This was defused by Colin Powell, US secretary of state, and Tony Blair.”
Mr Latham decided not to write to US newspapers at the time, in October 2004. As a result, details of the Washington meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Blair remained secret for more than a year. Within days of the charges being brought against Mr Keogh and Mr O’Connor, the contents of the memo were, however, passed on again, this time to the Daily Mirror, which put them on its front page.
Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, unsuccessfully threatened other newspapers with the Official Secrets Act if they re-published the contents of the document.
Mr Kilfoyle told the Guardian that in May 2004, Mr Clarke — still a Labour MP – consulted him after he had received the transcript of the Bush-Blair meeting revealing Mr Bush’s wish to bomb al-Jazeera.
“He told me what was in it,” said Mr Kilfoyle. “He agonised and was very nervous. He decided the right thing to do was to return it.” It was only after police arrested Mr O’Connor — Mr Clarke’s aide — that the two politicians decided they should try to reveal the memo’s contents in the US.
The Bush-Blair meeting took place when Whitehall officials, intelligence officers, and British military commanders were expressing outrage at the scale of the US assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja, in which up to 1,000 civilians are feared to have died. Pictures of the attack shown on al-Jazeera had infuriated US generals. London was also arguing with Washington about the number of extra British troops to be sent to Iraq.
A second, Foreign Office document, separately leaked in May 2004, exposed misgivings within the British government over America’s “heavy-handed” behaviour and tactics in Iraq. That memo said: “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.”
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006
US Troops Seize Award-winning Iraqi Journalist
(January 9, 2006) — American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.
Ali Fadhil, who two months ago won the Foreign Press Association young journalist of the year award, was hooded and taken for questioning. He was released hours later.
Dr Fadhil is working with Guardian Films on an investigation for Channel 4’s Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated.
The troops told Dr Fadhil that they were looking for an Iraqi insurgent and seized video tapes he had shot for the programme. These have not yet been returned.
The director of the film, Callum Macrae, said yesterday: “The timing and nature of this raid is extremely disturbing. It is only a few days since we first approached the US authorities and told them Ali was doing this investigation, and asked them then to grant him an interview about our findings.
“We need a convincing assurance from the American authorities that this terrifying experience was not harassment and a crude attempt to discourage Ali’s investigation.”
Dr Fadhil was asleep with his wife, their three-year-old daughter, Sarah, and seven-month-old son, Adam, when the troops forced their way in.
“They fired into the bedroom where we were sleeping, then three soldiers came in. They rolled me on to the floor and tied my hands. When I tried to ask them what they were looking for they just told me to shut up,” he said.
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