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Al Jazeera memo trial opens

Issue No. 2048

The attempt to cover up George Bush’s plan to bomb the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera has resulted in two men being put on trial for allegedly breaking the Official Secrets Act.

The Daily Mirror reported in 2004 that a memo of a meeting between George Bush and Tony Blair in April 2004 detailed Bush’s proposal to bomb Al Jazeera.

The Bush-Blair meeting took place when Whitehall officials, intelligence officers, and British military commanders were expressing concern over the effects of the US assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Al Jazeera’s coverage of the attack had infuriated US generals. David Keogh and Leo O’Connor are accused of violating secrecy laws. Both deny the charges.

Prosecutors allege Keogh passed the memo to O’Connor in May 2004. He placed it in a file he handed to his boss, Tony Clarke, then a Labour MP.

The story was dismissed as “outlandish” by the White House. Blair denied receiving details of any US proposal to bomb Al Jazeera.

However, at the time an unnamed Whitehall source let slip to the media the idea that Bush’s proposal had been a joke – confirming that the conversation had taken place.

In his opening remarks, prosecutor David Perry did not mention the memo’s contents, but said jurors would see the document during parts of the trial that would be closed to the public and the press.

He told civil servants who wanted to prevent the documents being seen that, “We live in a democratic society, not the Wild West. It is not for people to decide they are going to be the sheriff in town.”

The trial continues – most of it behind closed doors.


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Tue 24 Apr 2007, 19:09 BST
Issue No. 2048
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