Imagine if the BBC Were Honest 433


The BBC refuses to answer my Skripal questions to Mark Urban on the grounds they have no legal obligation, instead giving a “statement”. That correspondence follows below. But I want you first to imagine a World in which the BBC and Mark Urban were honest and independent, and imagine these were the answers to my questions:

1) When the Skripals were first poisoned, it was the largest news story in the entire World and you were uniquely positioned having held several meetings with Sergei Skripal the previous year. Yet faced with what should have been a massive career break, you withheld that unique information on a major story from the public for four months. Why?
My interviews with Sergei Skripal were on a strictly off the record basis and I felt honour bound not to mention them until I could obtain his permission.

2) You were an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment together with Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller, who also lived in Salisbury. Have you maintained friendship with Miller over the years and how often do you communicate?
I had not heard from Pablo Miller for decades, since I left the army.

3) When you met Skripal in Salisbury, was Miller present all or part of the time, or did you meet Miller separately?
I did not meet Miller.

4) Was the BBC aware of your meetings with Miller and/or Skripal at the time?
Yes, with Skripal.

5) When, four months later, you told the world about your meetings with Skripal after the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you said you had met him to research a book. Yet the only forthcoming book by you advertised is on the Skripal attack. What was the subject of your discussions with Skripal?
A book on Russian intelligence.

6) Pablo Miller worked for Orbis Intelligence. Do you know if Miller contributed to the Christopher Steele dossier on Trump/Russia?
I don’t know.

7) Did you discuss the Trump dossier with Skripal and/or Miller?
No.

8) Do you know whether Skripal contributed to the Trump dossier?
No.

9) In your Newsnight piece following the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you stated that security service sources had told you that Yulia Skripal’s telephone may have been bugged. Since January 2017, how many security service briefings or discussions have you had on any of the matter above.
That was my only contact with the intelligence services on this matter.

Does anybody imagine that, if those were indeed the answers, Mark Urban and the BBC would not freely give those answers, and show up their accusers as “conspiracy theorists” with no foundation?

If those were the answers, they would be shouting them from the rooftops.

And indeed the BBC statement, while refusing to answer the questions directly, does give responses to questions 1, 4 and 5 which are along the lines of this outcome were they behaving honestly, though their phrasing does not carry conviction, especially on 1.

The questions the BBC has refused to address at all are all those related to Pablo Miller, UK intelligence services and the Steele Orbis dossier on Trump/Russia. That is an extremely telling omission. Their attempt to issue a statement rather than address the questions individually, is a deliberate ruse to disguise that.

On a balance of probabilities measure, I am willing to take the BBC’s refusal to answer these very specific questions as strong evidence that the Skripal case is indeed about Miller, Steele, Orbis and the Trump/Russia dossier. Furthermore the BBC knows that and is deliberately concealing the truth, and instead broadcasting evidence free nonsense about Russian agents, knowing that to be untrue. If that were not the case, it would take the BBC quite literally two minutes to give the answers above. There would be no downside for the BBC in giving those answers; indeed they would be vindicated to a sceptical public.

I asked you to imagine those answers were true. In asking us to imagine a better world, John Lennon told us “its easy if you try”. Sadly I find it is not easy. It is not easy to imagine a world in which Mark Urban is not a morally repugnant lying shill for the security services, that takes a very great deal of effort.

Here is the BBC statement and ensuing correspondence:

From: Matthew Hunter
Sent: 29 August 2018 09:42
To: ‘is’
Subject: BBC Newsnight

Dear Mr Murray,

Matt Hunter in the BBC News Press Team.

I understand you contacted Mark Urban on Monday with regards to meetings he had with Sergei Skripal. Some of the information you’ve requested we are not obliged to share as it is held for purposes of journalism, but I can provide you with a more general response regarding Mark’s meetings with Mr Skripal.

Mark Urban met with Sergei Skripal on a number of occasions last Summer in Salisbury and last spoke to him on the phone in August, 7 months before the poisoning. Mr Skripal agreed to speak to Mark to assist with his research for his latest book on post-Cold War espionage, it was not discussed with Mr Skripal whether the information would be used for the BBC ahead of the book being published. The relevant information gained from these interviews informed Newsnight’s coverage during the early days after the poisoning. Mr Urban reported his meetings with Mr Skripal on BBC Newsnight once the details of the book were made public in keeping with the understood terms of the interview. Mark Urban’s line managers were aware last year that he was working on a book and more specifically from 5th March this year that this work had included interviews with Mr Skripal.

I hope these details help clarify the situation.

Please note that all future journalistic enquiries should be made through the BBC Press Office ([email protected]).

Thank you for your enquiry.

Best wishes
Matt

Matt Hunter – Publicist
BBC News & Current Affairs

——–

From: craig murray [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 29 August 2018 14:23
To: Matthew Hunter; Mark Urban
Subject: RE: BBC Newsnight

Dear Mr Hunter,

Thank you for your email. This is an important matter, which interests a great many people, as I am sure you are aware, and which has caused some damage to the reputation of the BBC.

You state that ” Some of the information you’ve requested we are not obliged to share as it is held for purposes of journalism”. My questions were not couched as an FOI request so that is a redundant provision, even if your broad interpretation of the FOIA were correct, which I dispute.

Your email then proceeds on the basis that you should not reveal anything unless you are legally obliged to do so. That seems a very strange stance for a public broadcast body to take. Whether or not you are legally obliged to do so, can I ask you to give the answer to these questions to Mr Urban, or in each case an explanation for why you refuse to give an answer voluntarily, even if legally unobliged.

What is at stake here is the BBC’s reputation for open and honest reporting, and this particular case has done a great deal to increase public distrust in the BBC. All of these are fair and relevant questions which have simple answers. Kindly address them individually.

My questions to Mark Urban:

1. When the Skripals were first poisoned, it was the largest news story in the entire World and you were uniquely positioned having held several meetings with Sergei Skripal the previous year. Yet faced with what should have been a massive career break, you withheld that unique information on a major story from the public for four months. Why?
2. You were an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment together with Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller, who also lived in Salisbury. Have you maintained friendship with Miller over the years and how often do you communicate?
3. When you met Skripal in Salisbury, was Miller present all or part of the time, or did you meet Miller separately?
4. Was the BBC aware of your meetings with Miller and/or Skripal at the time?
5. When, four months later, you told the world about your meetings with Skripal after the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you said you had met him to research a book. Yet the only forthcoming book by you advertised is on the Skripal attack. What was the subject of your discussions with Skripal?
6. Pablo Miller worked for Orbis Intelligence. Do you know if Miller contributed to the Christopher Steele dossier on Trump/Russia?
7. Did you discuss the Trump dossier with Skripal and/or Miller?
8. Do you know whether Skripal contributed to the Trump dossier?
9. In your Newsnight piece following the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you stated that security service sources had told you that Yulia Skripal’s telephone may have been bugged. Since January 2017, how many security service briefings or discussions have you had on any of the matter above.

I look forward to your response,

Craig Murray

———-

From: Matthew Hunter
Sent: 29 August 2018 15:09
To: ‘craig murray’
Subject: RE: BBC Newsnight

I’m afraid we have no further comment beyond the statement provided earlier.

Many thanks,
Matt

———–

From: craig murray
Sent: 29 August 2018 18:22
To: Matthew Hunter
Subject: RE: BBC Newsnight

Oh, so it was a “statement” rather than a reply to my questions.

May I ask you who drafted the statement, who approved it, and who was consulted on it? The statement, incidentally, does not constitute journalism, so you do have a legal obligation to answer those questions.

Craig

————————————————————

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433 thoughts on “Imagine if the BBC Were Honest

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  • Sharp Ears

    If the BBC were honest….

    Watch Newswatch and hear David Jordan respond to questions with a very straight face about the handling of the Cliff Richard court case. Deadpan. He is the Director of Editorial Standards and Policy for the BBC
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bhrm7b/newswatch-31082018
    31st August 2018

    I think he must have had sight of the questions before the programme was made as he answers instantly. Deadpan.

    Originally there was a embargo on any executive responding to questions about the case (cost to the licenece fee payers so far -£2m abd counting) but the BBC had changed its mind. How kind.

    Another farce. A pretence.

    He answers ‘Yes’ to the question ‘There are personal interests to declare’ on his Register of Interests but the form is blank apart from this – ‘s40’ under ‘Other’. What is that supposed to mean?
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/corporate2/insidethebbc/managementstructure/biographies/jordan_david#heading-declaration-of-personal-interests

  • Agent Green

    It is increasingly clear that the entire Skripal affair is a work of British/US intelligence – designed to frame the Russians and so further the neocon objectives.

    • Tony_0pmoc

      MaryPaul, FFS, the entire story is total bollocks, and has been from Day One. I knew it was crap. There were too many photographers, and Hazmat suits there, from the moment it started, and the first day’s story, had already been pre-written. The Press, simply does not move that fast, particularly on a Sunday, when they are all p1ssed after their Sunday lunch. Does anyone think they are going to drive to Salisbury on a Sunday afternoon? i know what these people are like.

      Tony

  • David Ferguson

    The BBC issue needs to be dealt with on a broader basis than individual requests on individual issues.

    The BBC has made it clear that its goal is to provide as little information to the public as it conceivably can, and since there has never been a clear legal definition of what “holding information for journalistic purposes” actually means, it pretty much has carte blanche to refuse to release any information at all other than the most anodyne non-content related data. The BBC also has in effect unlimited resources to drag matters out on a case-by-case basis, until individual information-seekers simply give up in despair.

    I have a plan to challenge this, and I hope that Craig and others will help me in due course.

    • David Ferguson

      For the time being I have submitted the following FOI request to the BBC:

      I would like to make the following request under Freedom of Information:

      1. How many Freedom of Information requests did the BBC receive in 2017?
      2. In 2017, how many times did the BBC refuse to provide the information requested on the grounds that it was excluded from the Act because it was held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature’?
      3. In 2017, how many times did the words “Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA” appear in the BBC’s answers to Freedom of Information requests?
      4. How many Freedom of Information requests has the BBC received in 2018?
      5. In 2018, how many times has the BBC refused to provide the information requested on the grounds that it was excluded from the Act because it was held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature’?
      6. In 2018, how many times have the words “Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA” appeared in the BBC’s answers to Freedom of Information requests?

  • Paddy Mahony

    BBC West Inside Out has feature on Salisbury 7.30 tonight. I’m guessing they didn’t interview Craig or the blogmire’s Rob.

  • Sandra

    Regarding Christopher Steele, an article in the Gateway Pundit (02/09) was the first time I had read that he and Bruce Ohr were attempting to collect information on Russian organised crime as well as dirt for the dossier:

    “Between 2014 and 2016, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department unsuccessfully tried to turn Mr. Deripaska into an informant. They signaled that they might provide help with his trouble in getting visas for the United States or even explore other steps to address his legal prob-lems. In exchange, they were hoping for information on Russian organized crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to current and for-mer officials and associates of Mr. Deripaska…
    …Two of the players in the effort were Bruce G. Ohr, the Justice Department official who has recently become a target of attacks by Mr. Trump, and Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled a dossier of purported links between the Trump cam-paign and Russia.
    The systematic effort to win the cooperation of the oligarchs, which has not previously been revealed, does not appear to have scored any successes. And in Mr. Deripaska’s case, he told the American investigators that he disagreed with their theories about Russian or-ganized crime and Kremlin collusion in the campaign, a person familiar with the ex-changes said. The person added that Mr. Deripaska even notified the Kremlin about the American efforts to cultivate him.”

    https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2018/09/dojs-corrupt-bruce-ohr-and-fusions-christopher-steele-were-major-players-in-failed-efforts-to-get-russian-oligarch-to-implicate-trump/

  • Sharp Ears

    Mr Hammond is keeping Carney on. He wants stability!

    ‘Bank boss Mark Carney took home £880,042 last year | This is Money
    http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/…/Bank-boss-Mark-Carney-took-home-880-042-year.html
    6 Jul 2017 – The 52-year-old was paid a salary of £480000 and the rest included … Bank of England governor Mark Carney took home £880,042 last year.

    Mr Hunt and co are taking FCO questions at the moment. Ch 232. Members of FoI groups leaping up when a question arises on the situation of the Palestinians. Nothing changes. Villiers. Dodds. Crabb and so on.

    The UK is increasing funding to UNRWA, A drop in the ocean,

  • Sandra

    The OPCW has concluded that the novichok from the Amesbury poisoning is the same as that used on the Skripals. (I don’t know whether this means the same chemical formula or the same batch.) From Sky News today:

    “The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement: “The toxic chemical compound displays the same toxic properties of a nerve agent.
    “It is also the same toxic chemical that was found in the biomedical and environmental sam-ples relating to the poisoning of Mr Sergei Skripal, Ms Yulia Skripal, and Mr Nicholas Bai-ley on 4 March 2018 in Salisbury.”
    British scientists had already come to the conclusion the chemical Ms Sturgess and Mr Row-ley came into contact with was novichok, but the announcement independently confirms their conclusions.
    It will heap further pressure on Russia, which invented novichok and has been blamed by the UK for being behind the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March this year.”

    https://news.sky.com/story/amesbury-novichok-was-same-as-poisoned-skripals-opcw-11490442

  • DiggerUK

    https://opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/S_series/2018/en/s-1671-2018_e_.pdf

    “Due to the unknown storage conditions of the small bottle found in the house of Mr Rowley and the fact that the environmental samples analysed in relation to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Mr Nicholas Bailey were exposed to the environment and moisture, the impurity profiles of the samples available to the OPCW do not make it possible to draw conclusions as to whether the samples are from the same synthesis batch.”

    How many Russian agents are in this pantomime? Didn’t we have ‘conclusive evidence’ from the government, that Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley were poisoned with exactly the same novichok that was used on the Skripals…….ohh nooh they didn’t…_

  • Mary Paul

    5 September 2018: Russian intelligence officers carried out Novichok attack
    There is sufficient evidence to charge two Russian nationals for the Novichok poisonings in Salisbury, Theresa May said in a Commons statement today. She added that the men, who travelled to the UK under the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, ‘are officers from the Russian military intelligence service’ and that theirs ‘was not a rogue operation’ but rather one that was ‘almost certainly’ approved ‘at a senior level of the Russia state’.

  • Mary Paul

    This BBC account is a longer account of the statement summarised above about who poisoned the Skripals and includes photos. It also says it was a Nina Ricci perfume which was used, and that traces of Novichok were found in the London hotel room of the men believed to be senior Russian agents, who carried out the attack.

  • Mary Paul

    This BBC account is a longer account of the statement summarised above about who poisoned the Skripals and includes photos. It also says it was a Nina Ricci perfume which was used, and that traces of Novichok were found in the London hotel room of the men believed to be senior Russian agents, who carried out the attack. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45421445

  • Frank Waring

    Isn’t it now plausible that whoever poisoned the Skripals was content merely to injure them, as a warning and display of power?

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