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.

1 comment:

Keith Stotyn said...

I don't read the Guardian, but I do read the Guardian Weekly, which has left me confused concerning what Justice Moses actually said. In it's lead editorial, Feb. 22, the GW repeats the quote, likening the pressure on the SFO to a gun being held to the Director's head. But in the news article in the same issue, the quote is in the context of the Saudis holding a gun to the government's head.

I have been reviewing news stories on the web and the concensus seem's to be that the government (read Blair) in effect held up the Director at gun point, but who was the source of that context, the Guardian? The Guardian has now clouded the nature of Moses' comment. Is there yet any access to the transcripts of the review?