Thursday, May 10, 2007

Conviction In 'Al-Jazeera Memo' Leak

Well, it looks like the much denied (and still denied) allegation that President Bush spoke favorably about bombing the headquarters of the Al Jazeera network was true after all.

You can't be convicted of leaking a document that doesn't exist.

A British civil servant and an aide to a legislator were convicted Wednesday of leaking a classified memo about a meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush in a breach of the Official Secrets Act.

Cipher expert David Keogh, convicted on two counts, had admitted passing on the memo about April 2004 talks in which Bush purportedly suggested the bombing of Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera.

The Daily Mirror newspaper reported that the memo described Blair arguing against Bush's suggestion of bombing Al Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar. But the paper said its sources disagreed on whether Bush's suggestion was serious.

Blair said he had no information about any proposed U.S. action against Al Jazeera, and the White House called the claims "outlandish and inconceivable."

Keogh was accused of passing the memo to his codefendant, Leo O'Connor, 44, who in turn handed it to his boss, Tony Clarke, then a Labor member of parliament who voted against Britain's decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Keogh, 50, told London's Central Criminal Court he felt strongly about the memo, which he had to relay to diplomats overseas using secure methods, and hoped it would come to wider attention. ...

The document, marked "Secret-Personal," was intended to be restricted to senior officials. The memo's contents are considered so sensitive that much of the trial was heard behind closed doors. Witnesses and counsel did not refer to the contents in open court.

The Official Secrets Act is rarely utilized. Somebody on this side of the pond must have pushed the Brits to take strong action.

British prosecutors said only a handful of people have been charged in recent decades with violations of the Official Secrets Act of 1911, a wide-ranging law that provides criminal sanctions for revealing confidential government information.

In 2003, the government charged a translator at the Government Communications Headquarters with violating the act. The translator, Katherine Gun, was accused of providing a British newspaper with documents from the U.S. National Security Agency asking for British help to eavesdrop on U.N. Security Council delegations in the run-up to the Iraq war. Gun said she disclosed the documents as a matter of conscience. After a public outcry supporting her, the government dropped the charges without comment in 2004.


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