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Court in secret memo trial told civil servant wanted to reveal the truth about Iraq

This article is over 17 years, 1 months old
A civil servant accused under the Official Secrets Act of leaking a confidential memo wanted to reveal the truth about Iraq, a court has heard.
Issue 2050

A civil servant accused under the Official Secrets Act of leaking a confidential memo wanted to reveal the truth about Iraq, a court has heard.

David Keogh and Leo O’Connor are on trial accused of trying to leak a record of a meeting between Tony Blair and George Bush. The men, both from Northampton, deny making damaging disclosures.

Few details of the “highly sensitive” memo, which included discussions about military tactics, have been made public.

Its contents are considered so secret that much of the trial is being held behind closed doors, and have not been directly referred to in court by counsel or witnesses.

The court heard that Keogh gave the memo to political researcher O’Connor at a dining club in Northampton. It was passed to Northampton South MP Anthony Clarke, who called the police.

Keogh’s barrister Rex Tedd QC had reminded the jury of the context in which the actions of the two men should be seen.

He said it was something that “even the scriptwriters of Blackadder couldn’t come up with”, that “on May 1 [2003] President Bush proclaimed the end of major combat operations and a banner behind him said, ‘Mission accomplished’. By April 2004, the period concerned, you might think a fair description would be ‘Mission in trouble’.”

Tedd said Keogh had wanted to reveal the truth of what was happening in Iraq while others were trying to conceal that truth. He asked the jury whether if they were put in that position – where they had come across such a document – whether they would do the “courageous thing and release it” or “do what you are supposed to do?” which was to hand it in.

John Farmer, defending O’Connor, said the war in Iraq was “the most controversial foreign affairs involvement of this country since Suez 50 years ago”.

He also said that when O’Connor was given the document he had done “his incompetent but honest best to put matters right”.

Earlier last week O’Connor told the court he had never been “so worried and so fearful” as when he was passed the document.

The document was a recorded minute, in the form of a letter, of a two-hour meeting about Iraq between Tony Blair and George Bush, at the White House, on 16 April, 2004.

The original intention, the court was told, was for O’Connor to send it to John Kerry, the Democrat candidate for the 2004 US presidential election.

However, O’Connor slipped the document into a pile of parliamentary papers on the desk of Labour MP for Northampton Anthony Clarke, for whom he worked as a researcher.

The trial continues.

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