Virtual relationships have their pitfalls. In acknowledging the team who keep this website going, I credited Tim, Richard, Andrew and Wibbler but not Clive. That is because I have been happily communicating for two years under the impression that Clive and Wibbler are the same person. I now learn they are not! Great embarassment.
Old news? – maybe not. Apparently the information commissioner is currently ruling on whether the first draft of the dossier should be released. In the Guardian comment is free…, Chris Ames tells us why Draft Dodging by the government could result in further severe embarrassment for Blair et al.
The author also has a piece in the New Statesmen and has set up Iraqdossier.com, a site dedicated to “to telling the truth about the British government’s September 2002 dossier Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction”. Well worth a look.
Much has been said about the injunctions, or attempted injunctions, against the BBC and Guardian, to prevent the publication of information relating to Lord Levy’s alleged attempt to pervert the course of justice in the cash for honours enquiry.
For the benefit of bemused non-British readers, in the UK the media are not allowed to publish the details of any potential evidence in a criminal trial, in case the jury are prejudiced by media reports before they enter the jury box.
Most other countries see no need for such restrictions. I have mixed thoughts about the system, though like all media restriction it is in danger of being made redundant by the internet and other new technologies. It is no longer a question of controlling a handful of presses and broadcast channels.
But what is undeniable is that in Britain today there is no attempt at fairness in the application of this principle. Senior New Labour figures are entitled to the full protection of this law. Is the same consideration applied to Muslims accused of terrorist offences?
The answer is a resounding no. Instead we receive a constant drip-feed of supposedly terrifying information, from police, Home Office and security services, sometimes open and sometimes just named as, for example, “Police sources”. So in the case of the so-called “liquid bomb plot”, such sources were only too keen to tell us under whose bed suicide videos had been found, near whose home were bottles containing hydrogen peroxide, who had a map pf Afghanistan, and a whole welter of such information. This was spun all over our front pages for a fortnight.
Where was Lord Goldsmith and his concern for the right to a fair, unprejudiced trial then?
I heard Louise Christian, a lawyer involved in the defence of a number of such cases, speak on precisely this point in January. She recalled a local newspaper printing a front page photo of two of her clients the day before their trial, with the banner headline “Terror sisters”. That is not permitted under our law – but it is one of the many protections of the rights of citizens that no longer in practice applies to Muslims in the UK.
Meanwhile, I am stunned that last week Sir Ian Blair, head of the Metropolitan police, shared the top table at a Jewish community dinner with Lord Levy. Blair is the head of the police force that has arrested Levy, removed his passport and, from the actions of Lord Goldsmith this week in seeking to suppress information that may be used at the trial, is likely to charge him shortly with an imprisonable offence.
It cannot possibly be right for the head of the Metropolitan Police to be hobnobbing socially with a prominent alleged criminal. And this is the ultra-sensitive Ian Blair, whose concern for social form is so acute that he demanded an offical report when a female Muslim police officer refused to shake hands with him. The report presumably explained that many Muslim females do not shake hands with men.
Ian Blair and Levy are of course both close members of the Prime Minister’s social and political circle. It is by no means the first time that they have dined together. In July 2005 the two of them ran up a ‘140 ($270) bill at a London restaurant, which Sir Ian Blair charged to the taxpayer. There was no investigation into Levy at the time, but his being dead sleazy was hardly a secret.
Ian Blair’s explanation of that charge to the taxpayer was that Levy was a representative of the Jewish community. Now, there are many eminent and worthwhile people in London to whom that description applies, but I don’t think that Levy holds any community posts. He is no more a representative of the Jewish community than I am of the Scottish community. Besides, how many one to one ‘140 meals has Ian Blair had with a representative of the Muslim community? Or the Irish, Iranian, Kurdish, Turkish, Polish, Palestinian or Greek communities? Other than ultra-rich New Labour supporters who happen to have that background?
So Ian Blair and Levy have form. In current circumstances it was a gross error of judgement for Ian Blair to sit at a top table with Lord Levy. Levy should have realised that himself and made his excuses, but nobody could mistake Lord Levy for a gentleman. Therefore Blair should have made an excuse and left. As it is, some of the smell has rubbed off. Ian Blair should resign.
The Scotsman 7 March 2007
Special Branch to badge up after campus spying claims
KEVIN SCHOFIELD EDUCATION CORRESPONDENT
SPECIAL Branch officers last night said they would wear badges identifying themselves if they visit a university campus in future, after they were accused of “spying” on students.
Craig Murray, the former diplomat who last month succeeded TV personality Lorraine Kelly as rector of Dundee University, said he had been “appalled” to learn that members of Special Branch had attended the university’s student freshers’ fair last year. Mr Murray, 48, claimed that the officers, who were members of Tayside Police’s community contact unit (CCU), had been taking down the names of students who signed up to support the “Stop the War” movement – a claim the force has strenuously denied.
Mr Murray, who left the Foreign Office three years ago after alleging that the United States and Britain were involved in torture in Uzbekistan, said: “I was approached by students at Dundee who told me that Special Branch were on the campus spying on Muslim students. “They were at the fresher’s fair taking notes of those who joined the Stop the War movement. That seemed appalling to me. I began to wonder what I could do about it, so I decided to stand for rector.” Mr Murray defeated former Scotland rugby captain Andy Nicol last month in a two-horse election race to succeed Ms Kelly as the university’s rector.
Detective Chief Superintendent Angela Wilson, who has overall responsibility for the CCU, last night denied that students’ names had been taken down and insisted Special Branch officers would identify themselves more clearly in future. She said: “I’m not aware of names being taken down. They were handed leaflets and the person who handed them out said that if they’d known who they were, they wouldn’t have done it. “Our policy has always been to be very open about these things and they didn’t disguise who they were. But in future, they would wear a badge identifying themselves. “And if people were uncomfortable with them being there, all they would have to do is ask them to leave and they will.”
Det Chief Supt Wilson added: “Having been made aware that Mr Murray may have these views, should he have any continuing concerns, I’m more than happy to meet with him. But I haven’t been approached as yet.” The CCU was established in the wake of the terrorist bombings in London on 7 July, 2005 to provide information on potential extremism. The Muslim Association of Britain has claimed that the unit has contributed to a deterioration in relations between the police and the Islamic community. The force, however, insists that they have actually created closer community links.
Ambassador who attacked ‘selling of souls’
CRAIG Murray was appointed the British ambassador to Uzbekistan in 2002. While serving as ambassador, Mr Murray protested that intelligence on Islamic terror suspects in the landlocked country was being gained through torture. He branded the practice unreliable, immoral and illegal and accused the British government of “selling our souls for dross”. The story of his time in Uzbekistan is set to be turned into a film, with comic Steve Coogan signed up to play the lead role. Angelina Jolie is set to play Nadira, a young Uzbek hairdresser with whom Mr Murray admits having an affair, costing him his marriage. He has also criticised extraordinary rendition – the CIA practice of flying terrorism suspects to countries in Asia and other parts of the world for interrogation.
An article from today’s Scotsman (posted above).
The Special Branch admit that they were at the Fresher’s Fair, incognito, but deny that they were spying on students. They have failed however to provide any alternative explanation of why they were there. Reliving their student past? Hoping to gatecrash a free gig?