Friday, 29 February 2008

Not me guv

The Jewish Chronicle reports that:
Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, is being ruled out as the author of a note on a government document that appeared to compare Israel’s policy on weapons of mass destruction with Iraq.
Except that the basis for the story is that:
The JC understands from Whitehall sources that Mr Straw, then Foreign Secretary, did not see this draft...

A Free country

Having scored a huge propaganda victory over prince Harry in Afghanistan with the help of our compliant media, the government is taking further steps to control what we know about that war.

The Guardian reports that:
A former SAS soldier was served with a high court order yesterday preventing him from making fresh disclosures about how hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British and American special forces were rendered to prisons where they faced torture.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Whose side are they on?

I think it's absolutely outrageous that the British media have en masse conspired with the state to keep 'Prince' Harry's deployment in Iraq out of the news. The idea that it will save lives as opposed to putting them at risk is slightly contradicted by this story on Sky News :

Prince Harry Directs Bomb Attack

Meanwhile, it is quite clear that it's a win-win for the Ministry of Defence, which manages to bribe the media with the promise of access, which generates this kind of propaganda in the Telegraph:

Prince Harry 'treated the same as any soldier'

I saw a 'petulant' Jon Snow on Channel 4 News and I think he has every right to be cross.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Unlock the Cabinet

Well done the Information Commissioner, who today ordered the government to release minutes of pre-war (Iraq that is) Cabinet Minutes.

I've written about this on the Guardian Politics Blog, but as I had to point out, it wasn't me who made the freedom of information request.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Whose news?

Nick Davies has come in for a lot of stick lately for his book Flat Earth News, exposing the sloppiness of fellow journalists. Media workers against the war have come down on his side, but seem upset that the right are trying to 'co-opt' him on their side. They say of Davies:
Disgust with the “war on terror” runs right through this book. The anti-war movement must get behind its author.
Surely, it doesn't matter whose side Davies is on. He's either right or he isn't.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

No apology from the Telegraph

The Telegraph reports the jailing of the Natwest three with no mention of its own involvement in the campaign against their extradition. The problem for the paper is that when white collar criminal assert that what they have done is normal business practice, it tends to agree with them. When 'normal business practice' tends to be criminal, it has some explaining to do.
Of course the Telegraph itself was a victim of wholesale plunder from Conrad Black, who asserted that his criminality was normal business practice.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Sorry for the Spin?

The Guardian tells us that the Natwest Three, sentenced to 37 months in a US jail, have expressed remorse for their part in an Enron-related fraud. They don't appear to have apologised for the outrageous PR campaign they ran against their extradition.

At the time of their extradition to face trial, the Natwest Three were portrayed by a well-orchestrated publicity campaign as victims of judicial over-reach by the US. A new treaty lowering the hurdles for extradition to the US caused unrest among British business and political leaders.

Critics of their treatment included the CBI's then director-general Sir Digby Jones, who said the trio posed "no threat to society" yet faced being "banged up in a US prison with rapists and drug addicts". When they were flown to the US two years ago, Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti described it as a case of "first they came for the white-collar worker, then they came for me".

But some legal experts now argue that the three bankers were poor examples of this extradition controversy. Luke Tolaini of Clifford Chance, who chairs the CBI's working group on extradition, said: "In the UK, we have relatively low barriers to extradition to the US and a relatively unequal relationship with the US. That remains a concern.

"But that was not an issue that really applied in this case because it seems that the evidence provided in the Natwest Three's case was significant and would have complied with the old extradition regime."

Thursday, 21 February 2008


The Guardian has a huge scoop on the Iraq dossier. It reveals the marginal note that was removed from the published version of John Williams draft related to Israel, specifically its pursuit (possession) of weapons of mass destruction and defiance of the UN.

The paper covers all the angles, including Freedom of Information and the taboo that around Israel's weapons. It also publishes the evidence of Neil Wigan, the Foreign Office witness to the Tribunal. Given that this evidence gives the whole game away, letting it into the public domain is careless, to say the least.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

The spin begins

The Observer appears to have been tipped off that the government will tomorrow cave in and release the secrect John Williams draft of the Iraq Dossier. Williams is getting his defence in first, while the government's spin is in the punchline:
The government will hope that the publication finally draws a line under the sorry saga of the dossier, which led indirectly to the suicide of scientist David Kelly after he was identified as the apparent source of BBC reports that the dossier had been 'overspun' by Campbell.
Meanwhile, the Independent quotes Williams as saying that
publication of his document would expose how members of Tony Blair's team were locked in a mindset that made military action inevitable.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

That's their story

Depending on whether you read the BBC or the Guardian, you get a quite different view of the legal challenge to Tony Blair's decision to drop the BAE/Saudi arms investigation.

The BBC takes the line that the inquiry put lives at risk, reporting that:
The government thought "British lives on British streets" would have been at risk if an arms deal inquiry had not been dropped, court documents show.

Except that the documents actually show that,

In the documents released to the court, Helen Garlick, assistant director of the Serious Fraud Office, was quoted recalling what the Foreign Office told her about their fears of another bomb attack in the UK.

"If this caused another 7/7 how could we say that our investigation, which at this stage might or might not result in a successful prosecution was more important?," the notes quoted her as saying.

So the Foreign Office told the SFO that it feared that a bomb might be the end result. Does that mean they believed it? It sounds more like emotional blackmail to me.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports one of the judges in the case being very sceptical of the government's line:
Lord Justice Moses, who is sitting with Mr Justice Sullivan, suggested a possible view was that it was "just as if a gun had been held to the director's head", and expressed surprise that alternative responses to the Saudi threats were not considered.

"As far as we know, we have seen nothing that suggests that anybody did anything other than just roll over in the face of that," he said.

Moses asked if the Saudi threat involved saying that Britain would not be told if the Saudis learned that someone was going to "blow you up". Sales replied the threat of withdrawal of cooperation was bigger than that.

The judge said there was no issue with the decision if there was a threat of "imminent harm", but if it was less than that, "any villain" might be able to take advantage of the situation.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Seldon's spin pass

The Telegraph tells the sad tale of two of our top public schools falling out over rugby. What's sad is that the head of one of them has been caught spinning:
At first, Dr Anthony Seldon, the Master of Wellington and Tony Blair's biographer, hinted the games are to be stopped because newly co-educational Marlborough was no longer up to scratch on the field.
But yesterday Nicholas Sampson, his counterpart at Marlborough, hit back with the revelation that a "violent incident" had been committed by a Wellington player, which had soured relations between the two sides.
So a Blair sycophant seems to be taking the same approach as Blair. Perhaps that isn't surprising: Blair went to public school too. It seems to be a part of the ethos of at least some of them that when things go pear shaped you lie through your teeth to keep up appearances.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Cudlipp, Campbell and credibility

If you spend a large part of your career lying, do you forfeit the right to be taken seriously, even when you are right? In the Independent on Sunday, Vincent Graff discusses the various criticisms levelled at the press by Alastair Campbell in the Hugh Cudlipp Lecture last week, concluding that this Campbell might be calling the kettle black, but has a point.

Having looked in some detail at the way Campbell and his mates sexed up the Iraq dossier and then lied about it, driving a man to his death and doing no end of damage to the BBC, I instinctively feel that Campbell is saying these things to promote his own agenda. If he really believes the case he is making, he should realise that it would be better made by someone with some credibility.