Thursday, May 24, 2007


Dan Froomkin reports on White House comments on Jimmy Carter's remarks about Bush and Blair. The "polarization" is not about "anti-Americanism" as clearly Jimmy carter is an American. What he said about Blair was on the BBC Radio 4 program Today and I found it wonderful to hear. Most UK Labour politicians seem to have decided not to comment on Blair so long as he is certain to go. Democrat opinion in the UK is very welcome in my opinion.

Appeal is started

According the the Guardian blog, the appeal has started about the gagging order on reporting the trial.

Richard Norton-Taylor points out that

We cannot even report - or link to - what Larry Miller, said about the trial and the document in his Letter from London for the American channel and website, CBS.

The link is HERE

As mentioned previously, this blog is not in the UK so much as hosted by Google in a secure space somewhere.

Larry Miller writes
While the jail sentences are relatively short, the two men have no careers to come back to. But at least they will be alive, unlike scientist, weapons inspector and civil servant David Kelly, who killed himself after telling a reporter the Blair government had "sexed up" the dossier that led to the war in Iraq.

Incidentally, the government has just been told that under the Freedom of Information Act, it needs to disclose an early draft of this dossier to show if the claim that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes was inserted at the last minute to "sex it up." The government can, of course, choose not to disclose it.

So the David Kelly story is cropping up again. The Iraq war was launched and sustained with exetreme measures of news management. Dissent has been controlled so far to some extent but there are objections surfacing in different ways.

I still don't understand why the UK authorities claim the security issue is about avoiding embaressment for UK diplomatic allies when US media such as CBS seem quite ok about reporting the story.

Friday, May 18, 2007

OhmyNews publish story on John McDonnell

OhmyNews have published my story on John McDonnell.

I stick mostly to facts and quotes with sources but put in a bit of opinion towards the end.

I think this is where I really value OhmyNews and the idea of citizen journalism. I could write a letter to the Labour Party but they seem to be determined not to talk about the opposition to Iraq policy. I sent several emails explaining why I now vote Liberal Democrat but recently there have been no replies.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Froomkin on Al Jazeera trial

I have found a link, but only to the start of the trial.

Dan Froomkin wrote-
But as I wrote in my December 2, 2005 column, the White House has never provided a straight answer to this question: Did President Bush raise the idea of bombing the headquarters of the al-Jazeera television network with Blair that day -- and if so, was he serious or was he joking?

Is it possible Tony blair will complete his visit ot Washington without any questions on this?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A very strange speculation

The New Statesman is a proper print publication. Not a stream of wild imaginings from a chat room. They do have a blog however.

Martin Bright writes

I have heard an interesting suggestion that when questions were first asked about this event, UK government officials were planning an outright denial. How could they possibly pull this off? Because apparently Bush discussed using a missile, so it wasn't strictly speaking a bomb he intended to use.

Strange or what? I think this is maybe meant to suggest to the legal authorities that preventing reporting of what was said in court can only result in speculation. Given the remarks to Channel 4 by David Blunkett there is reason to suppose that "taking out" (the phrase used by Blunkett) Al Jazeera was discussed at some point.

Monday, May 14, 2007

New Statesman is on the case

A blog indicates that the New Statesman, esteemed print periodical, is now making a case for journalism.

Martin Bright writes

The trial of civil servant David Keogh and parliamentary researcher Leo O'Connor for breaching the Official Secrets Act has gone largely unnoticed.

This is partly because the pair decided -- wrongly in my opinion -- not to allow a campaign to gather around their case. But it has also been difficult for journalists to report the case because of the draconian reporting restrictions that surround it

So maybe the print journalists will be making a stand around the appeal on reporting the trial.

He is a bit circumspect about the web

The judge in the case, Mr Justice Aikens, made no reference to the internet. But we have to be careful here. All I can say is that I would always encourage readers of this blog to read all the postings.

I think a check on Google News would show that the case has not gone "largely unnoticed" online. Is he suggesting a general search or just on posts for the New Statesman?

Could he mean this one?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Blog searching

Thinking about newspapers this morning. Andrew Marr bases his TV show on the Sunday newspapers, see my blog about reading the Guardian.

Could it be possible to do a TV show based on blogs? Maybe this is the future for Youtube. Meanwhile I stick mostly to text.

Just as a test, here are a few from searching on Keogh, Kilfoyle and Iraq.

Winter Patriot has a long post about the gagging order on the Al Jazeera trial. Very comprehensive and of interest to any journalist. has a quote from the Washington Post report in 2005

A former senior U.S. intelligence official said that it was clear the White House saw al-Jazeera as a problem, but that although the CIA's clandestine service came up with plans to counteract it, such as planting people on its staff, it never received permission to proceed. "Bombing in Qatar was never contemplated," the former official said.

Comment from Unbossed

The fact that the CIA was exploring options to infiltrate Al-Jazeera shows how obsessed the WH was with the network. The plan has a Nixonian ring to it. The former official here sounds a lot like Colin Powell, so you need to take the assertion that bombing Qatar "was never contemplated" with an especially large grain of salt.

The trial has established that Colin Powell was at the meeting but so far as I know he has not been asked recently what he remembers about it.

Although there is reporting online, newspapers are still not reporting the trial to any great extent. One comment at Unbossed remarks -

I haven't seen much else so far in the US news media about this trial, so it wouldn't suprise me if journalists here ignore it almost entirely.

That's a pretty sad commentary on the state of journalism in America.

On the Andrew Marr BBC prog Gordon Brown spoke about Labour government mistakes during the last ten years and made no mention of Iraq. The 75p pension rise and the millenium dome were admitted. Follow up questions anyone?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Guardian editorial shows signs of engagement

Things may be moving a bit in terms of the Guardian taking a line on editorial.

There is a leader today about the gagging order as they see it. Also a story by Richard Norton-Taylor about Peter Kilfoyle's intention to raise questions in the House of Commons. I am still confused as to what is allowed to be reported. The fact that the Crown Prosecution Service considered prosecuting Peter Kilfoyle and then decided not to is not included in current reports. Maybe Liverpool media are not seen as significant sources by journalists in London. Sorry I take that back. They are getting there, however slowly.

This blog by the way comes from somewhere out in Google land, nowhere near the UK. For security reasons the exact location of the Google servers is never revealed. Google News is another service not based in the UK for purposes of not joining up the dots.

Craig Murray makes an interesting point about the web.

"Finally, what a terrible shame that the would-be leakers decided to try to use the newspapers rather than the Net. Our pusillanimous newspapers are still controllable by the courts. Despite Norton Taylor's huffing and puffing, the Guardian will obey Justice Aikens (did I mention he is a wanker) ? The Net, however, is unstoppable. The documents we leaked are on hundreds of sites all over the World."

Another point to ponder-

"One worrying aspect of this case is that the jury convicted. There has been a historic reluctance of juries to convict in OSA cases, because they tend to sympathise with the defendants and not with the draconian legislation. This conviction might encourage the government to make more OSA prosecutions. It did not dare prosecute me, even though I very openly released many classified documents related to our policy of using intelligence from torture. There remains, of course, the stinking fact that "Top Secret" intelligence is regularly leaked by the ministers and special advisers in the Home Office to the media whenever they wish to start a new terror scare."

The lack of public concern in this recent case follows the success of the government in preventing full reporting. At the time of the Daily mirror reports concern was expressed by Boris Johnson and Chris Hitchens and others. Not much recently, but the media have responded to pressure, as far as I can tell.

OhmyNews have published another story on the convictions and the gagging.

This blog is a space to write about my thoughts as a citizen. I try to write for OhmyNews as directly as possible. "AP Style" is suggested as a guide. I include occasional comments but mostly show sources with weblinks and use extensive quotes.

My impression is that Labour have destroyed large chunks of UK civic space for dialogue, including their own membership organisation. It is not just Tony Blair, the whole structure has gone with it. This is only one consequence of the Iraq decisions but is important for people in the UK. Without giving sources now, it seems to me that the "intelligence" was over presented and that some people working in "intelligence" leaked to that effect to protect their own reputation. So far only the BBC has been damaged but other structures are accidents waiting to happen.

There seems to be a new trend of briefing, see New Zealand Herald

Loyal Blairites launched a campaign to pin the blame for the mistakes made after the conflict on the Bush administration, which rejected Britain's advice by abolishing the Iraqi army after Saddam Hussein was toppled.

Alastair Campbell, the former Downing Street communications director, and Baroness Morgan of Huyton, the former director of government relations, both criticised Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defence secretary, for the post-war decisions.

Will this be based on evidence if it continues? Is it ok for Baroness Morgan to leak or is she just expressing an opinion?

And what happened to the idea of not embarrassing George Bush or the USA?

As reported a while ago in the Guardian

Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, hinted that embarrassment was the real issue at stake when she signed a certificate for the court last year. She claimed the disclosure of the document would have a "serious negative impact" on UK-US diplomatic relations. "The ultimate consequence", she claimed, "would be a substantial risk of harm to national security."

The recent statements by sources close to Tony Blair are not going to help much with US-UK diplomatic relations-

Labour officials in Downing Street said Blair had most influence over Bush when they were together, one-to-one. One says: "That is why he went over [to Washington] so much. The weekly video conference was no substitute, partly because there were so many people listening on either side. But Bush was straight to deal with and did not play games, but it was up to him to make the right decisions. In the end he didn't."

the same article by Patrick Wintour includes a quote from Sir Jeremy Greenstock on disagreements about policy-

According to Greenstock, "perhaps the Brits should have spoken up more loudly with our former colonial experience, because we learned to make law and order the number one priority when we have a situation to mend."

So the UK is an experienced colonial power. Policy has been correct all along. Except that the USA has not implemented it properly. That seems to be the Blair line. Not in a soundbite, but a series of leaks.

Maybe US print journalists will ask some questions during his next visit.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Report on Peter Kilfoyle MP in OhmyNews

Copied from Guardian Talk

OhmyNews have published my report on Peter Kilfoyle

Still nothing in the London based papers I can find on Google News except a small mention in the Independent.

MP says decision not to prosecute him was political. Meanwhile trial continues on related charges. Is there a story here? Was there once a time when journalists looked at the Official Secrets Act in detail?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

No Prosecution for Peter Kilfoyle MP

Peter Kilfoyle MP has been told by the special prosecution unit of the Metropolitan Police that no further action will be taken following an interview under caution last year about the leak of a memo said to be a summary of President Bush’s meeting with Tony Blair in April 2004.

In a letter, DC Jasper Bartlett said: “I am writing to you regarding the police investigation into the leak of a classified government document, for which you were interviewed under caution.

“The Crown Prosecution Service has advised me that no further action shall be taken with regards to this investigation due to insufficient evidence.”

Kilfoyle told the Liverpool Post “I think the case has been dropped for political reasons, because they did not want me to discuss the memo in open court.

“They knew that’s what I would do, even if it breached the Official Secrets Act, because I wanted to ensure the information got out. Thousands of people died at Falluja, which must be considered a war crime, and there has been a cover-up of what happened there.”

Rob Merrick's report for the Liverpool Post includes some background, suggesting that the memo records that Tony Blair "apparently argued against missile strikes on Al-Jazeera’s Qatar headquarters." "The two leaders also discussed the American assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja, in which up to 1,000 civilians are feared to have died. Pictures were shown on al-Jazeera, infuriating US generals."

In a related story, the trial continues of civil servant David Keogh and political researcher Leo O'Connor, charged under the Official Secrets Act. The BBC has reported that prosecuting QC David Perry has told the jury that issues around Iraq are not relevant to decisions about guilt.

"For all I know you may be opposed to the government's view or you may support it wholeheartedly or you may be neutral. It does not matter.

"Similarly you may approve or disapprove of what the United States does.

"The real point is that there are British troops in Iraq risking their lives on a daily basis and trying to install order and calm."

Mr Perry said the publication of the memo would have posed a significant risk of making the situation in Iraq worse and British soldiers would have "borne the brunt of it".

In earlier evidence Keogh said he had "very strong feelings" when he first read the document. as reported by Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian, "when he started to explain why, the trial judge, Mr Justice Aikens, imposed a contempt order preventing journalists from reporting Mr Keogh's remarks to the jury."

Mr Keogh told the jury the consequences of disclosure of the document would be "purely embarrassment" and would not pose a significant risk to any British individual, civilian or in uniform.