Al-Jazeera Bombing Leak Ends Up in Court
Media takes Bush memo seriously, raises alarm over use of Official Secrets Act
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A London judge last week ordered two men charged with breaking Britain's Official Secrets Act to appear again at London's Bow Street magistrates court on Jan. 10.

Civil servant David Keogh, 49, appeared on a charge of passing a document to Leo O'Connor, who formerly worked for a British Member of Parliament. Keogh was charged with an offense under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act relating to "a damaging disclosure" by a civil servant of information relating to international relations, between April 16 and May 28 last year.

Keogh and O'Connor allegedly leaked a memo to the press that stated a discussion took place in which British Prime Minister Tony Blair dissuaded U.S. President George W. Bush from bombing the offices of Al-Jazeera in Qatar.

London tabloid the Daily Mirror published a story that referred to the alleged memo that mentions the United States' intentions to bomb the Arabic media outlet.

O'Connor, 42, was charged under Section 5, which relates to receiving and disclosing the information. He indicated he intended to plead not guilty; Keogh did not say how he intended to plead.

More details can be found at Independent Online.

U.K. journalists are alarmed that the Official Secrets Act can be used in this way by a government that also introduced an Act for Freedom of Information. For example, Boris Johnson, a Conservative MP and editor of the Spectator, has undertaken to publish the memo if it becomes available to him.

▲ Scott McLellan
ⓒ2005 White House
Although Johnson's statement is dated Nov. 24, press coverage in the United States seems only to have become public following a question in a White House press briefing on Wednesday. Scott McClellan did not appear to be fully aware of the facts on this case. The following transcript is from the White House Web site.
Q: I know you've been asked before about the so-called Al-Jazeera memo, but Europeans are making quite a big deal about it. Can you assure them that even if the president did say when he was elected said he was doing that in jest?

Scott McClellan: Can I assure them what?

Q: That if the president really did make those comments, he was doing so in jest?

McClellan: Make what comments?

Q: About allegedly bombing Al-Jazeera --

McClellan: Any such notion that we would engage in that kind of activity is just absurd.

Q: Well, do you know if the comments were made?

McClellan: I don't know what comments you're referring to. I haven't seen any comments quoted.

Q: Somebody said that they had a memo, or that they took notes during --

McClellan: Let me just repeat for you, Connie. Any such notion that America would do something like that is absurd.

Q: They bomb them in Afghanistan then -- their office.

McClellan: I'm sorry? Whose offices? The terrorist offices.

Q: We bombed their office in Afghanistan, and killed their -- some of their people in --

McClellan: And the military talked about that. What are you suggesting? I hope you're not suggesting that they're targeting civilians, because that's just flat-out wrong.
Outside the United States, media interest on this issue has gone beyond Europe, as any search on Google News will demonstrate.

On Friday, Dan Froomkin reminded readers of the Washington Post of his initial thoughts at the time of the Daily Mirror report. Scott McClellan wrote in an email, "We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response."

The next day Froomkin predicted in his column that "nothing arouses White House reporters more these days than a non-denial denial", then adding, "But I apparently overestimated the mainstream press corps' baloney detectors."

Froomkin continued: "And where were the follow-up questions? Nobody in the briefing room pursued the issue any further, and nobody even said one word about Al-Jazeera at yesterday's briefing. By contrast, the corps was downright dogged yesterday when it came to rooting out the details of Bush's summons to jury duty in Crawford. Now there's a big story."

CBS News has republished an article from The Nation:

"Nothing puts the lie to the Bush Administration's absurd claim that it invaded Iraq to spread democracy throughout the Middle East more decisively than its ceaseless attacks on Al-Jazeera, the institution that has done more than any other to break the stranglehold over information previously held by authoritarian forces, whether monarchs, military strongmen, occupiers or ayatollahs," the article stated.

The editors of The Nation claim they would be ready to publish the details of the memo if it were made available to them.

"Because if a president who claims to be using the U.S. military to liberate countries in order to spread freedom, then conspires to destroy media that fail to echo his sentiments, he does not merely disgrace his office and soil the reputation of his country. He attacks a fundamental principle, freedom of the press -- particularly a dissenting and disagreeable press -- upon which that country was founded."

The Official Secrets Act creates a slightly different situation for the U.K. press, but it is rarely used and has to be tested in law.

Al-Jazeera Seeking Controversial Transcript
Trial in Al Jazeera Leak Case Set for Jan. 24
Al-Jazeera Checking Facts on Bush 'Joke'
U.K. Leak Case Postponed to October

2005/12/04 오전 1:57
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