Apr 19, 2007

"Al Jazeera Memo" Trial Begins

This claim made news when it was revealed in November 2005. But probably surprised few people.

Bush's locker room caliber repartee with selected foreign leaders has been long rumored, and was displayed for the world during an incident last year in St. Petersburg, Russia when -- with a mouthful of buttered dinner roll -- Bush addressed Blair thus: "See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over."

The open microphone SNAFU in Russia lends credence to the idea that Bush, in mentioning to Blair how hilarious it would be if Al Jazeera's HQ in Oatar were to be struck by U.S. warplanes, was merely putting on his swaggering tough-guy impersonation.

But maybe not.

A British government official and a former political researcher went on trial Wednesday for allegedly leaking a classified memo in which President Bush reportedly referred to bombing the Arab television station Al-Jazeera.

David Keogh, 50, a cipher expert, and Leo O'Connor, 44, a lawmaker's aide, are accused of violating secrecy laws by disclosing a document relating to 2004 talks between Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Both defendants deny violating the Official Secrets Act.

Prosecutors allege Keogh passed the memo to O'Connor in May 2004, who in turn placed it in a file he handed to his boss, Tony Clarke, then a legislator who had voted against Britain's decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Daily Mirror newspaper previously reported that the memo noted Blair had argued against Bush's suggestion of bombing Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Of course, the British security establishment is taking the leak seriously. Perhaps too seriously, as indicated by this rhetoric:

The unauthorised disclosure by a trusted civil servant of a secret document detailing a meeting in 2004 between Tony Blair and President Bush about Iraq may have damaged the Armed Forces seriously and even led to loss of life, an Old Bailey trial was told yesterday.

The document, marked "secret, personal" and circulated to top officials in Whitehall and to MI6, was copied by David Keogh, 50, a vetted telecommunications and cipher officer at a Cabinet Office centre that received classified documents from British embassies.

David Perry, QC, for the prosecution at the trial of Mr Keogh and Leo O'Connor, a political researcher for a Labour MP who was allegedly handed a copy of the document, said that the two men were charged under the Official Secrets Act not because disclosure of the meeting was politically embarrassing but because it could have damaged Britain’s defence interests and harmed relations with the US.

"Diplomacy is a delicate and sensitive art and it can’t properly be carried out in our interests if what one government says to another cannot be kept secret or confidential," Mr Perry said. "We live in a democratic society, not the Wild West. It is not for people to decide they are going to be the sheriff in town."

He added that in this case the unauthorised disclosure of information was "likely to prejudice the capability of the Armed Forces either to carry out any tasks it has or lead to loss of life or injury."

The contents of the secret document were revealed to the jury only after members of the press and public were cleared from the court. Both defendants are charged under the Official Secrets Act 1989.

When a government has to bullshit up an allegation -- especially a security-related allegation -- it is usually a clear signal that there is a flimsy underlying case.

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