Sunday, November 30, 2008

Melissa Kite: I Was Right to Publish Green's Leaked Documents

Melissa Kite was the recipient of one of Damian Green's leaked Home Office documents. It concerned the case of an illegal immigrant working in the Commons. Liam Byrne, the then Immigration Minister was alerted but failed to come to Parliament to explain himself. The document then appeared in the Sunday Telegraph. Can amyone seriously argue that this was not a legitimate matter of public interest. Here's Melissa Kite's comment piece in full. I defy anyone to disagree with either Damian Green's or Melissa Kite's actions...
The starkly written document was marked "urgent" and it was clear, without much debate, that its publication was in the public interest. It was apparent after reading the first few sentences that it revealed incompetence which could endanger public safety and, what's more, a government cover-up.

The memo, dated January 31, set out how a Brazilian national called Elaine Chaves Aparecida had just been arrested by police after attempting to gain entry as a cleaner into the Houses of Parliament by using another person's security pass. It was sent to Liam Byrne, the then-immigration minister, and warned him that the woman had absconded from Heathrow airport three years earlier and had been missing until her arrest that day at Parliament.

She had been working there since December 3. This alone was a shocking security breach. It was surely a matter of public interest to expose problems that allowed someone with no security clearance to gain entry to what is supposedly the most tightly-guarded building in Britain.

Mr Byrne had been informed about the incident on the day of the arrest, and yet by the time we published the memo on February 10, he had still not chosen to come to the Commons with the information, which ought to have been the subject of a ministerial statement.

Normally I would only reveal that I received the memo through a trusted source. But the Tories have now said that this story was one of four put in the public domain by Damian Green, and that this may have led to his arrest.

I believe Mr Green did the public a service. Voters trust the government to ensure the safety of those representing them in the Houses of Parliament, and indeed of tourists and other visitors to that building. We assume security is being well taken care of, and when it emerges that it is, in fact, so fallible that an illegal immigrant can con their way in using a pass bearing someone else's photograph, people have a right to know.

Leaks form an essential basis of journalism. In a perfect world, they would not have to. But in a system where people try to cover up mistakes for personal or political reasons, we rely on finding out the most inconvenient truths in ways which are necessarily covert.

So long as national security has not been put at risk, there is no excuse for the police coming down like a ton of bricks on people who are basically "whistle blowers", holding a light to mistakes in the hope that the publicity will lead to them being put right. That is public service, not criminality.

22 comments:

David Boothroyd said...

If a civil servant leaked a document to a Conservative Party spokesman, and that Conservative Party spokesman then gave it to a journalist who published it, then Parliament has never been involved in the process and Parliamentary privilege is not brought in at any stage.

Paul Pinfield said...

"So long as national security has not been put at risk, there is no excuse for the police coming down like a ton of bricks on people who are basically "whistle blowers", holding a light to mistakes in the hope that the publicity will lead to them being put right. That is public service, not criminality."

Agreed. We need a really meaningful whistle blowers protection so that they don't get arrested for bringing into the public domain, information that clearly should be disclosed.

Paul Pinfield said...

@David Boothroyd I think parliamentary privilege is being referred to in relation to the search of Mr Green's parliamentary office and the confiscation of his computers, and other communications devices.

Imagine if you were one of his constituents who had complained about the police whose complaint was now in the hands of... the police.

James Higham said...

Can amyone seriously argue that this was not a legitimate matter of public interest.

No, no one can seriously argue that. It was dead right to do.

JuliaM said...

"Can amyone seriously argue that this was not a legitimate matter of public interest. "

Boothroyd apparantly can. But then, I think he'd argue black was white if Gordon told him to...

Inspector Morse said...

What a shame that Andrew Marr was (presumably)* unaware of Melissa Kite's piece prior to interviewing Smith.

To watch her squirm when challenged with this would have been wonderful.

* Assumes no BBC bias/legal gagging.

norman said...

DB,

Since when Lord Selazy and Sex Up Cambell hired you? Stalin Brown and Jackboot Jaqui's footprints every where. I can here you prattling the line given to you by the Labour HQ.

DespairingLiberal said...

Boothroyd - we are talking about the police raid on Damian Green's parliamentary offices, where they took away parliamentary papers, blocked, intercepted and read his parliamentary emails and parliamentary private correspondence with parliamentary constituents.

If this raid had been on a Labour MP, would you feel the same way?

Sad that it is down to Tony Benn, now out of the Commons, to call it like it is and state quite clearly that this is a full frontal assault on our democracy, our Parliament and our liberties as citizens.

I am writing to the "Speaker" (I use inverted commas since I hardly now think he qualifies for that honorable role and tradition) to demand to know what assurances he can give me that any communications I now have with my MP are priveleged and secure. I mean if the police can just take them away simply via the pretext of an arrest on trumped-up charges, what the heck is the point of electing MPs in the first place?

The lickspittle way this is being approached by government ministers beggars belief. Clearly they no longer care a jot about their role as MPs. I invite their constituents to teach them a royal lesson on election day and remind them of whence they come!

norman said...

Just listen what Guido Fawkes has produced in 'you tube' about:
Brown Confesses to "Procuring Misconduct in public office".

No use in asking DB a Labour rebuttal Autmaton. They are out to preserve 1000 year Labour Reich.

Iain and Guido are doing what the shameful newspapers have failed to do.

neil craig said...

Jacqui on the Marr show this morning - she not only repeatedly refused to apologise but effectively said that not only did she not know about this but that it was right for her officials to do it wwhile not letting her know.

Perhaps Labour should just abolish the post of Home Secretary & let the civil service run it all. Cetrtain;y her position seems, according to her own evidence, to merely cosmetic.

David Boothroyd said...

Wouldn't it be great if, instead of providing a load of routine party political abuse of the most vapid kind, someone would actually engage with the argument?

The point about searching Parliamentary offices is that consonant with Parliamentary privilege, the police may conduct investigations on the Parliamentary estate, if authorized by the Serjeant-at-Arms (which was obtained here). There have been cases of routine theft on the Parliamentary estate which have been investigated entirely normally.

Is anyone here arguing that James Dunn should not have been arrested? And if his crime is deemed "non-political", what about the late Terry Fields? Was it wrong to arrest him for a political crime?

Dr Blue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arkangel said...

Boothroyd, you are a total numpty, dutifully trotting out the party line. We're not talking about 'theft' here, we're talking about MPs offices being raided for purposes entirely unconnected with security of the state.

Nigel said...

David Boothroyd,
are you being deliberately obtuse ?

Yes, the police have the legal power to arrest Green - that does not make the use of that power correct.

Yes, the Serjeant-at-Arms has the authority to allow the police to conduct investigations on the Parliamentary estate - but that does not mean that he was right to do so in this case.

Wouldn't it be great if you would engage with the argument, which is not about the existence of various powers, but about whether they have been exercised correctly, or grossly abused ?

Nothing you have said has yet altered your appearance as a government lickspittle.

Iain Dale said...

David Boothroyd, you are not an idiot, so I cannot see how you can write what you just did with a straight face.

Parliamentary priviledge is one of the key issues at stake here by the very fact that the Police searched Green's office. If you can't see that then we can't take any further comments from you seriously. You know very well that if the roles were reversed, you'd be arguing very differently. I do not argue this from a Conservative viewpoint. I argue it as someone who cheridhes our parliamentary freedoms and democracy.

David Boothroyd said...

Well, Nigel, you admit the police had all the power and authorization they needed.

The question of whether they used them appropriately in this case can't be determined without knowing exactly what evidence the police have.

Can I suggest that as neither you nor I know this, it is a little too early for you to say that it is definitely a "gross abuse"?

David Boothroyd said...

Iain, I direct you to the section of Erskine May on "Criminal acts in Parliament". My edition is somewhat earlier but I think there has been no substantial change. It says that criminal acts done in the House of Commons are not outside the criminal law.

The only exception would be if the act could be regarded as a "proceeding in Parliament". However, a press release or a notification to a journalist given by a political party spokesman outside Parliament is almost certainly not a proceeding in Parliament. See the report of the Select Committee on the Official Secrets Acts in the 1938-39 session.

Things don't become in breach of Parliamentary privilege because Tories get very angry about them.

Iain Dale said...

David, Damian Green was doing his job as a Parliamentarian - holding the government to account. How is this different to what Gordon Brown admitted to in the video I have just posted above? Go on, tell me. I would love to know. There were no issues of national security. If there had been he would have been arrested under the OSA.

David Boothroyd said...

What is different is that, in this case the police are not investigating a singular leak of a document but whether there was a regular arrangement in which a civil servant agreed to systematically leak documents.

I checked the record on the Security Industry leak, which was given to the press in November last year. I can't find any occasion on which Damian Green referred to it in Parliament.

Dr Blue said...

The silly thing in all this is that Mr Green is being made to look like a criminal for doing his job well whilst ministers who aren't doing their job well, and whose incompetence he is exposing, are continuing in office.

It's typical Labour management. Start with incompetence, mask with arrogance and bluster, and then lie with spin. If all else fails and your failure is becoming visible then shoot the messengers.

The only mistake a Labour minister makes is to be found out by the public. If they make a mistake and hide it then it wasn't a mistake was it?

I don't think the public are fooled any more by this. The sooner we get rid of this ineffective and mendacious government the better.

Man in a Shed said...

Mr Boothroyd perhaps time to see what your leader did in the same circumstances - Guido can help you here.

What's your opinion on that interview ?

JuliaM said...

"What is different is that, in this case the police are not investigating a singular leak of a document but whether there was a regular arrangement in which a civil servant agreed to systematically leak documents."

Ah, I see, the police are taking the view (pace Ian Fleming) that 'Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action', are they?

Funny. That's not what I pay them for. How about you?