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Archive for November 2008

Craig Murray sceptial of Jack Straw’s protestations about Damian Green arrest

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From Craig Murray

Jack Straw, so called Justice Minister, denies that he had any foreknowledge of the arrest of Damian Green.

Jack Straw denied directly to the BBC in the documentary “The Ambassador’s Last Stand”, and denied to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, that he had any part in the false accusations laid against me or in my removal as Ambassador for raising human rights concerns. Yet, as detailed in Murder in Samarkand, I have obtained documents in Jack Straw’s own handwriting, directing the process, and he held at least three meetings with Sir John Kerr to organise it.

On being sacked, I very openly leaked a number of government documents concerning UK policy, the use of torture material by our intelligence services, and the government’s attempts to frame me. Most of these documents were classified more highly than the documents leaked to Damian Green, like this one for example:
http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/documents/Declaration.pdf

Yet when I leaked a number of highly classified documents, openly on the internet with my name and address, did the police come knocking at my door? No, they did not. They consulted Home Secretary John Reid, who consulted Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. They concluded that they should seek to kill the story, and not generate publicity by arresting me.

Does anybody really believe that Ministers decided whether someone as obscure as I should be arrested, but were not consulted on whether Damian Green should be arrested?

Written by Richard Wilson

November 30, 2008 at 10:56 pm

Why was Sally Murrer singled out?

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Now that the government’s extraordinary judicial harassment of journalist Sally Murrer has finally been stopped, Ms Murrer is free to speak openly about the case for the first time. In an article in today’s Mail on Sunday, Murrer describes in detail the personal toll that her 19-month ordeal has taken.

The startling political implications of the case are further highlighted by Nick Cohen in the Observer. Though sympathetic, Cohen describes as a “conspiracy theory” Murrer’s belief that she was targeted because of her close friendship with Mark Kearney, the police whistleblower in the Sadiq Khan case, who was (unsuccessfully) prosecuted with her.

This description seems somewhat harsh. Sally Murrer is the only journalist in the entire country to have been singled out in this way, simply for doing what local journalists do all the time – taking news tip-offs from local police sources. But unlike other local newspaper journalists, one of Sally Murrer’s friends – and sources – happens to be the man at the centre of a high profile police scandal that caused the government enormous embarrassment – a man whose son and former business associate were also targeted for prosecution in the same case. It surely isn’t wildly speculative to suppose that these two facts might have had some connection…

Written by Richard Wilson

November 30, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Booker attacks… Barack Obama

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From Christopher Booker in today’s Sunday Telegraph

If the holder of the most powerful office in the world proposed a policy guaranteed to inflict untold damage on his own country and many others, on the basis of claims so demonstrably fallacious that they amount to a string of self-deluding lies, we might well be concerned. The relevance of this is not to President Bush, as some might imagine, but to a recent policy statement by President-elect Obama.

Tomorrow, delegates from 190 countries will meet in Poznan, Poland, to pave the way for next year’s UN conference in Copenhagen at which the world will agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. They will see a video of Mr Obama, in only his second major policy commitment, pledging that America is now about to play the leading role in the fight to “save the planet” from global warming…

For 300 years science helped to turn Western civilisation into the richest and most comfortable the world has ever seen. Now it seems we have suddenly been plunged into a new age of superstition, where scientific evidence no longer counts for anything. The fact that America will soon be ruled by a man wholly under the spell of this post-scientific hysteria may leave us in wondering despair.

See also: Booker’s 38 bogus claims promoting white asbestos, Booker’s praise for the asbestos industry’s answer to “Doctor” Gillian McKeith, and “Misinformed”, “substantially misleading” and “absurd” – the UK government’s verdict on Christopher Booker’s claims, and The Headline That Wasn’t

The Sun says…

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It’s hardly news that pundits and columnists often talk at cross purposes and contradict themselves, but to do so within two paragraphs of the same article takes some talent.

Today’s Sun newspaper editorial begins in a familiar vein:

IT is shocking that Indian authorities believe British-born Pakistani terrorists took part in the Mumbai massacre. If true, it proves we have still not learned the lessons of London’s 7/7…

That is why we must give our security services the surveillance powers they require. And we must let police detain suspects for as long as they need.

Then in the next paragraph we are told:

The arrest of Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green is a terrible blow to our democracy. Mr Green was pounced on in raids involving 20 anti-terrorist cops. His homes and offices were searched and his private files and computers seized. His Commons room was turned over apparently with the consent of Labour Speaker Michael Martin. Why was MP Mr Green treated like an al-Qaeda bomber?

The answer, at least in part, is that newspapers like The Sun have, for years, slavishly supported every New Labour demand for “sweeping new powers” to bug, and detain indefinitely on vaguely-defined charges anyone who they say might be a terrorist.

All the while the government has been progressively widening the definition of “criminal” or “terrorist” activity – amid barely a squeak of protest from the supine tabloid media.

That paranoid state officials would end up using these arbitrary powers to harass critics and attack opposition politicians was completely predictable.

In “Don’t Get Fooled Again” I look at the strange nexus between politicians who stoke public fears about terrorism in order to extend their own power, and tabloid newspapers that make their money from enthusiastically regurgitating every torture-tainted government scare story.

Vindictive prosecution falls apart as journalist Sally Murrer is cleared of all charges

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Just one day after the shadow Home Office minister Damian Green was arrested by nine counter-terrorism officers on suspicion of “aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office” – an arcane charge stemming from his publishing embarrassing revelations from a government whistleblower, news was released that the local journalist Sally Murrer had been fully cleared of a similar charge, in a costly court case which has been dragging on since May 2007.

The case against Murrer fell apart earlier this week, after a judge ruled that the key evidence presented by police had been gathered illegally. A press gagging order had been in place until today, while the prosecution made up their minds over whether or not to appeal. Murrer’s car and phone conversations with her police officer friend Mark Kearney had been secretly bugged over a period of weeks, before she was arrested, strip searched, and told that she could go to prison for life simply for having heard information deemed “sensitive”.

It later emerged that Mark Kearney was at the centre of the scandal surrounding the bugging by Thames Valley Police of the Labour MP Sadiq Khan. Kearney had been put under pressure to co-operate with the secret surveillance of Khan, and had raised concerns that the practice was unethical, if not illegal, shortly before his fellow police officers began investigating his contact with Murrer.

“They tried to discredit the whistleblower and the journalist they thought he was going to blow the whistle to and destroy the story that way”, Murrer told the Press Gazette earlier this year. “It seems like a huge hammer to smash a very small nut and I think this could be one of the biggest cover-ups this country has ever seen. They were trying to ruin him, destroying me in the process.”

The police also arrested Kearney’s son, Harry, a serving soldier, on similar charges. Quoted in the Times, Kearney suggested that:

“To get at me the police have tried to bring my son down as well – we used to call it hostage taking, arresting a suspect’s family to make him crack. But the Army have stood by him.”

Speaking after her court victory, Murrer told the Press Gazette that she was too emotionally exhausted to feel triumphant, and that after her 18-month ordeal she was unsure whether she had the confidence to continue her work as a journalist.

Echoes of Sally Murrer case as senior UK opposition politician arrested by counter-terrorism police

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In “Don’t Get Fooled Again” I highlight the extent to which government demands for “sweeping new powers”, ostensibly to protect public security, often lead to those powers being used in ways far beyond those originally intended. One among many recent examples was the use of anti-terrorist legislation to freeze Icelandic assets in the UK.

Now counter-terrorism police have arrested the Conservative shadow Home Office minister Damian Green, after he published documents recently released by a government whistle-blower. Green was charged with “aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in public office”.

Following his release on bail, Damian Green said:

“I was astonished to have spent more than nine hours under arrest for doing my job. I emphatically deny that I have done anything wrong. I have many times made public information that the government wanted to keep secret, information that the public has a right to know.

“In a democracy, opposition politicians have a duty to hold the government to account. I was elected to the House of Commons precisely to do that and I certainly intend to continue doing so.”

Interestingly, this charge closely resembles the spurious case brought against the local journalist Sally Murrer, in an apparent attempt to intimidate the police whistleblower Mark Kearney. According to the Press Gazette, Murrer was charged with aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring Kearney to commit the offence of “misconduct in a public office”.

Sarah Palin, Africa, and the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy

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In “Don’t Get Fooled Again” I look at the mechanisms behind a number of media hoaxes, including the 2006 “Bye Bye Belgium” TV news report (which had a number of international diplomats fooled), the case of “Nurse Nayirah” and the notoriously bogus Hitler Diaries.

The source – and veracity – of the now-famous claim that Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country still remains mysterious.

MSNBC had reported that a McCain campaign adviser, “Martin Eisenstadt” had stepped forward to claim responsibility. But now the New York Times has reported that Martin Eisenstadt is himself a complete fiction, invented by two bloggers with the help of the equally fictitious “Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy”. According to the New York Times:

An MSNBC spokesman, Jeremy Gaines, explained the network’s misstep by saying someone in the newsroom received the Palin item in an e-mail message from a colleague and assumed it had been checked out. “It had not been vetted,” he said. “It should not have made air.”

But most of Eisenstadt’s victims have been bloggers, a reflection of the sloppy speed at which any tidbit, no matter how specious, can bounce around the Internet. And they fell for the fake material despite ample warnings online about Eisenstadt, including the work of one blogger who spent months chasing the illusion around cyberspace, trying to debunk it.

The Huffington Post carries an interview with the blogger in question, William K Wolfrum, who first exposed “Eisenstadt” back in June. Wolfrum says:

A Google search of “Michael Eisenstadt” brought up two people: an impressive foreign policy expert who works for the Washington Institute, and a crazy neocon with a bio suspiciously similar to the real Eisenstadt’s resume…

I left a message with the real Michael Eisenstadt, who called me back promptly. It became clear he had nothing to do with the Africa story. I also called the Washington Post, who said they had no reason to believe the real Michael Eisenstadt was currently working with the McCain Campaign…

“Team Eisenstadt” wasn’t being very careful. They used the same aliases over and over to post comments on popular liberal blogs like Huffington Post and Crooks & Liars, and at newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, to create the false illusion of a McCain staffer named Eisenstadt. The lesson here: Google screen names. You’ll be surprised what comes up…

It’s easy to blame the blogosphere, but MSNBC broke the story and they deserve the criticism. As Salon.com pointed out, it was a blogger who uncovered the hoax months ago. If MSNBC, The Los Angeles Times, and The New Republic had bothered to Google the name “Martin Eisenstadt,” the third entry to come up would have been my post calling him out as a hoax.

Written by Richard Wilson

November 27, 2008 at 9:32 am