U.K. Official Charged Over Al-Jazeera Leak
By Robert Barr
The Associated Press
LONDON -- A British civil servant has been charged under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking a government memo that, according to a newspaper report Tuesday, suggests British Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded U.S. President George W. Bush not to bomb the Arab satellite television station Al-Jazeera.
According to the Daily Mirror, Bush spoke of targeting Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, when he met Blair at the White House on April 16, 2004. The U.S. government has regularly accused Al-Jazeera of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for anti-American sentiments.
The Daily Mirror attributed its information to unidentified sources. It quoted one source, which it said was in the government, as saying that the alleged threat was "humorous, not serious," but it quoted another as saying "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair."
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response." Blair's Downing Street office declined to comment on the report, stressing it never discussed leaked documents.
In Qatar, Al-Jazeera said it was aware of the report, but did not wish to comment at this stage. The U.S. Embassy in London said it was making no comment.
The document was described as a transcript of a conversation between the two leaders.
Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh is accused of passing it to Leo O'Connor, who worked for former British lawmaker Tony Clarke. Both Keogh and O'Connor are scheduled to appear at London's Bow Street Magistrates Court next week.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Keogh was charged with an offense under section 3 of the Official Secrets Act relating to "a damaging disclosure" by a servant of the crown of information relating to international relations or information obtained from a state other than the United Kingdom. O'Connor was charged under section 5, which relates to receiving and disclosing illegally disclosed information.
According to the newspaper, Clarke returned the memo to Blair's office. Clarke did not respond to calls seeking comment. Press Association, the British news agency, said Clarke refused to discuss the contents of the comment. PA quoted Clarke as saying his priority was to support O'Connor who did "exactly the right thing" in bringing it to his attention.
In April 2003, an Al-Jazeera reporter died when the channel's Baghdad office was struck during a U.S. bombing campaign. Nabil Khoury, a U.S. State Department spokesman in Doha, said the strike was a mistake.
In November 2002, Al-Jazeera's office in Kabul, Afghanistan, was destroyed by a U.S. missile. None of the crew was at the office at the time. U.S. officials said they believed the target was a terrorist site and did not know it was Al-Jazeera's office.
grokit23 said:It's kind of getting it all out in the open and allowing for them to distance themselves a bit from the ragingly psychotic behaviour being shown by Bush and his cronies. Maybe I just smoke too much though.
Barclay (Dark Angel) said:Why would anyone listen to a govt. that condones murder, torture, kidnap, aggressive and pre-emptive war, and which displays such a total disregard for all the basic freedoms.