It has come as a surprise to some that I am not currently a guest of Her Majesty. It is plainly a disappointment to others, particularly the trolls who have been gleefully predicting on Lenin’s Tomb that the agents of the state will come and get us.
We have published what were, undoubtedly, classified British government documents. Under the notorious Official Secrets Act that is an offence, and everyone connected with it is plainly guilty. There is no public interest defence.
But there are problems with the Official Secrets Act. Despite New Labour attempts to roll them back, British criminal trials still involve juries, and they are reluctant to convict in OSA trials, where they often sympathise with the motives of the defendant. Clive Ponting was acquitted after leaking that the Belgrano was heading home when we sank it. The jury acquitted him, against the clear direction of the judge. And that was in the context of the Falklands War, which the British public supported. What chance of a conviction in the context of the Iraq war, which the British public oppose?
Katharine Gunn released details of GCHQ’s involvement with the NSA in bugging UN delegations in New York, and the government withdrew the charges against her rather than face a trial.
There is still time, but to date we haven’t even been questioned about the torture telegrams. This is sensible – no British jury is going to convict someone for campaigning against government complicity in torture, in support of George Bush. The publicity surrounding a show trial is not something the government would relish.
Which is why it is confusing that the government have decided to prosecute Messrs Keogh and O’Connor for their alleged involvement in the leaking of the memo about George Bush’s proposal to bomb al-Jazeera TV.
So why has that prosecution been brought? There are two vital factors.
Firstly, the UK government has little to fear from publicity. It reveals Bush as violent and unbalanced, but we knew that already. From a No 10 point of view, it shows Blair in a good light, talking Bush out of one of his madder schemes. It is evidence that Blair is not just Bush’s bitch. This is a message No 10 are keen to get across, so publicity? No problem.
Secondly, the memo was not successfully leaked. If there was indeed an effort to leak it, it was made by people operating in the wrong century. The document wound up at the Daily Mirror, who were too cowardly to publish and tamely gave it back to the government. The days of heroic editors and publishers in the deadwood press are long gone. The mainstream media are completely intimidated by government – especially, let it be said, the BBC.
By contrast, the torture telegrams were featured on over 4,000 blogs worldwide within 72 hours.
Over the al-Jazeera memo the government looks to be doing the right thing in thwarting bush, and the government looks strong and commanding in suppressing the memo. By contrast, on the torture telegrams, the government has been caught using material from the World’s most hideous torture chambers. Jack Straw and Tony Blair have been caught lying about the fact that they do this. And they have been shown to be completely impotent in their efforts to suppress the truth when faced with blogger revolt and modern technology.
They can still try to prosecute me if they want, but WE ARE THE PEOPLE!!
And we cannot be suppressed.