I was dismissed as Ambassador to Uzbekistan when one of my diplomatic telegrams was leaked to the Sunday Times. The telegram complained of our continual receipt, via the CIA, of intelligence obtained by torture in Uzbekistan. It detailed London meetings which had approved this policy, referred to the CIA flying people to Uzbekistan and handing them over to the Uzbek intelligence services, and explained the illegality of this activity.
Interestingly the Financial Times decided to publish only a tiny fraction of this information, which was explosive back then in October 2003, as extraordinary rendition had not yet hit the headlines. But the leak was enough to get me sacked, and to institute a formal leak inquiry. Once it became plain that I was not the leaker, the inquiry was quietly stopped.
I have therefore been more sensitive than most to the Government’s continued habit of leaking “Intelligence” when it suits it. My objection has largely been that the government does this in order to exaggerate the threat of terrorism and instil fear, which they view as helpful in rallying popular support to the “War on Terror”.
I was therefore furious when I saw a headline “Al-Qaeda planning Big British Attack” in the Sunday Times of 22 April. So furious I have been carrying the cutting in my pocket all the way to Moscow, until I got the chance to blog about it. I see in the interim the opposition have started making a related point.
The Sunday Times journalist, Dipesh Gadher, claims to have seen a Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) report which justifies the terror stirring headline.
But JTAC reports are almost always Top Secret, and are always classified. Unless Gadher made it all up, he and whoever showed it to him, and his Editor, are all guilty of a serious criminal offence. They should be jailed for many years under the Official Secrets Act.
This is especially true as two gentlemen are currently being tried under precisely that draconian legislation, for possessing the minute of the meeting where George Bush proposed to Tony Blair the bombing of Al-Jazeera TV.
The truth is that both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service act in these matters in a way that is blatantly political. There is no even-handed administration of justice here. If a pro-war antagonist leaks information to whip up public opinion, no action is ever taken. Let me be plain – there is nothing in law that says that secret material can be leaked if it supports the government. Yet they do it all the time.
By what right was David Shayler jailed, but Dipesh Gadher and his informant not even looked at?
Government members and supporters do what they like. But should anyone else follow suit, the full wrath of the Establishment crashes on their head. Even, as in my case, when they didn’t actually do it.
The administration of justice is not impartial in the UK.