Thursday, April 26, 2007

John Reid on Collision Course with the Guardian

The Guardian's front page made interesting reading this morning. Click HERE for the full story. Here's the relevant bit...

As Tony Blair rejected calls for an inquiry, and Liberal Democrats called upon
the police to investigate, it emerged that journalists received up to three
separate briefings about an allegation that a group of men was planning to
abduct and behead a Muslim British soldier... The Guardian has been told that an
aide to John Reid, the home secretary, was responsible for one of those leaks,
and has also learnt that there is strong suspicion among the highest-ranking
police at Scotland Yard that one of their own officers also briefed the media...
Since the arrests that Guardian has learned that:
· Journalists on at least one tabloid paper were tipped off the night before the raids, with the result that some travelled there before anyone had been arrested.
· The following morning, while one suspect remained at large, a small number of journalists were receiving briefings on lurid details of the alleged plot.
· A senior Whitehall official told reporters from two tabloids that a number of Muslim soldiers had agreed to act as bait in an attempt to trap the plotters.

The Guardian has been told by a well-placed source that this information - which later proved to be inaccurate - came from one of Mr Reid's officials.

Now take this set of correspondence between Shadow Attorney General Dominic Grieve and the Home Secretary Dr John Reid. Note the dates. It took Reid six weeks to reply and he only did that four weeks after a PQ was put down. Let's start with Grieve's letter... (click on the images to enlarge and to read them)

On 26 February, frustrated by a lack of a reply, Dominic Grieve put down a PQ asking when the Home Secretary intended to reply. He answered a month later, saying he had replied on 19 March.

And this is the text of Reid's letter. Pay particular attention to the final paragraph.

This letter is in total conflict with what the Guardian are alleging on their front page today. It is also a much harder line than the approach dopted by the PM at PMQs yesterday. What do we make of that?

Now the thing is, the Guardian knows the identity of the Ministerial aide, the Opposition do and so do all the newspapers who were briefed by him. Surely it can only be a matter of time before a brave newspaper editor takes the bait being laid by the Conservatives and names him.


Anonymous said...

Bloody Excellent work Dale - this is the sort of stuff we want, not 'rubbish about rubbish'.

But note that Reid said the words 'political staff' - but he does have other staff which are civil servants - who at least have to pretend to be non-political.

David Davis needs to be following this up - it is absolute dynamite.

And have a look at the sanctimony on the BBC Editors Blog - beyond satire. 'We'd only prejudice a fair trial and put people's lives at risk if other people were as well'

Unknown said...

Why can't a Tory MP ask a question about the aide under Parliamentary privilege?

Anonymous said...

The police routinely 'leak' information to the press. They provide enough information to journalists to confirm the identity of arrested individuals at all levels - from Ruth Turner to an alleged drunk driver. This practice is only justified in cases where there is a potential threat to public safety - 'we've arrested a potential serial killer and we're 99% sure we've got our man' - but not in a way which prejudices a trial (running the risk that our man can be released on a technicality to do it all over again).

Anonymous said...

Reid says "my political staff" did not brief the media, whilst the Guardian says "an aide to John Reid" and an "one of their own [police] officers" briefed the media.

So John did lie because a non-political aide briefed the media.

If you were a computer Iain you would not not not not take all these double negatives in your stride..

Old BE said...

Iain if you know, then publish and be damned.

If you don't know then read out the telephone directory to them until they can't say "No"

Chris Paul said...

Very good. As anon says not rubbish about rubbish. And not old rubbish about planning either. Reid's letter is very clear I'd have thought.

Though apart from the possibility of a civil servant or ANOther NOT on his political staff there are several other options:

1. A political staffer who tells fibs (never)
2. That'd be telling ...

Also - remember the Burnley BNP story that was getting very different treatment at around the same time? The police were quoted in the local papers giving extremely unhelpful briefings as to the suspects guilt or innocence as they were arrested.

Best w

Chris P

Anonymous said...

The BBC editors blog [Kevin Marsh] makes a judgement on these leaks as to whether "journalism has benefited or lost" - as if reporting on terrorism and the law is some kind of game played by journalists.

Reading his blog it's clear to me that he lost any respect for the law.

Anonymous said...

I remember the day in question quite clearly, was gobsmacked at the amount of information and the DETAIL the media were feeding us on what should have been a very tightly run operation regards press coverage. In fact could not believe that there was not an obvious media black out of these kind of details as we have seen if other high profile investigations.
Remember also Ken Clark and others on QT having to deal with a question about this.

Anonymous said...

"The Guardian has been told that an aide to John Reid, the home secretary, was responsible for one of those leaks,"

"the prime minister said he "completely condemned" such leaks. He added that "as far as I am aware" no minister, civil servant or special adviser had been involved."

Doesn't Blair speak to Reid then?

Anonymous said...

I further note that today the Home Office produced it's crime statistics today...
Statistics released by the Home Office show the number of offences recorded by the police fell by 2% between October and December 2006.

The police recorded 8% more robberies during the quarter - although violent crime as a whole fell by 2%

The Home Office Minister, Tony McNulty, said: "We have cut robbery by a fifth over the past five years - but any rise, however slight, reminds us there is still work to do.

If you believe any of these highly political and highly engineered statistics you believe that Tony Blair has been a great PM....

A cursory glance at coppersblog shows how all crime stats are massaged.

Yet more Home Office spin....
Crime has run rampant under NuLab and is one (of it's many) failures, funnily enough the stats say crime is falling, in the same way as inflation is only 3.1% and the pensions crisis is due to the dot com crash and sudden longevity since 1997.....

Anonymous said...

As I have said on your previous post, this is not just a matter of 'leaking'. In this case, the plot appears to have involved kidnapping and executing a member of Her Majesty's armed forces within the United Kingdom for reasons of war. This is, technically, treason. And there are, Sir, laws pertaining specifically to actions which might in any way be regarded as having aided the plotters under such circumstances. Whatever the intentions of those who 'leaked' the information, arrests should be made and charges brought.

Newmania said...

FIne stuff Mr. D although I rather like your "rubbish about rubbish" myself, as well

Newmania said...

The leak is a clear breach of s.39(2)(a) of the Terrorism Act 2000 and carries a prison sentence of 5 years. The Act states:

39. - (1) Subsection (2) applies where a person knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a constable is conducting or proposes to conduct a terrorist investigation

(2) The person commits an offence if he-
(a) discloses to another anything which is likely to prejudice the investigation,

( Courtesy Raedwald`s brilliant BLog which is on my blogroll and well worth visiting at all times !!)

Iain I can`t make out most of the letters .

Nich Starling said...

I agree with you 100% Iain. Thsi whole episode smacks of Labour control freakery again. they constantly hype and over hype gangers which, I concede, are very real, but they do so not to inform, but to scare and make people accept that their draconian extra laws are needed in order to deal with terrorism.

Keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

Terrorism Act 2000 S.39
Making any disclosure likely to prejudice an investigation about acts of terrorism or failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism

At least the Home Office is Landlord for HMPS, so perhaps they can arrange for the Leaking "Official(s)" to stay at one of their less overcrowded establishments.

Anonymous said...

This is a real story.

If a member of John Reid's political staff did in fact brief the media he has told a direct lie.

If they were briefed by some other employee of the Home Office (i.e. someone other than a member of his political staff) a member of Parliament has been deliberately misled.

There is no way Reid can wriggle out of this. He will be the third Home Secretary in a row to resign in disgrace.

Anonymous said...

John Reid (or whoever wrote that letter) can't spell.

Anonymous said...

Whilst I am not au fait with recent legislation, I believe that the 1848 Treason Felony Act is sufficiently all encompassing as to ensure that the miscreant(s) would be subject to transportation.

Anonymous said...

I suspect there's going to be some very strong pressure put on the word 'operational' in John Reid's letter to avoid it being technically inaccurate. Are identities of suspects 'operational'? Etc etc...

Anonymous said...

Iain, you forgot to mention bloggers, or one in particular who does not mind dealing with a bit of gunpowder.
Looks like he might have lit the fuse on this story.

What happens if John Reid has been telling porkies?

The Hitch said...

This "Government" are an effing crime gang , if the Conservative party had anything about themselves they would have these buggers in jail , not just sit about waiting for buggins turn.

Anonymous said...

Think Grieve's letter is excellent.

Wonder what Reid might do, in the short term, say next month, round about the 9th ish if he did resign?

Anonymous said...

According to the BBC Liberty has put in FoI requests on the briefing, the Home Office has asked for two extensions to reply, but has said it will do so by 3 May.

Well there's a coincidence: 3rd May, at a time when every political journalist in the country will have other priorities.

Anonymous said...

On R4's World at One today, a journalist from a Birmingham newspaper said she was quite certain there were no leaks from West Midlands Police because although they knew there was something occurring, the Birmingham Press couldn't find out anything, security was so tight! However, as the day progressed their paper received a telephone call from CNN, who knew all about the alleged terror plot and wanted to know what was happening on the ground.

So it wasn't just the British Press who were - or were not depending on whether you believe John Reid - being briefed by the "leaker". The number of people who knew about this, even with NuLab, must have been extremely limited - so not impossible to find out the culprit - if they didn't already know, of course.

As this offence carries a prison sentence, let's hope someone else will be able to ponder how highly he/she rates their liberty. This is utterly appalling behavour, even by NuLab standards, and someone should answer for it.

From the information which came out, if it wasn't leaked at high level, there must have been a sudden rush of clairvoyance amongst the MSM. Of course, this was the day after Tony Blair had been interviewed by the Police, was it not?

Anonymous said...

Leave dates out of this, iain, let Reid answer in his own time.

Believe greats like the Home Secretary, they don't lie.

Even fates sometimes conspire to bring down Cabinet Ministers, it has to be said.

Weave gates and traps from this to your heart's content, though. I'm sure Reid will survive.

Anonymous said...

I think the acid test of this will be when gordo runs off to another country then we will know.It happens everytime and old snotty cant be found.

Anonymous said...

"Bloody Excellent work Dale - this is the sort of stuff we want, not 'rubbish about rubbish'."

Who is "we"? Seeing as the rubbish issues looks to be some some importance in the coming elections it's an issue worth covering.

Anonymous said...

Will this run until the Sundays? That is when the ticking bomb normally explodes, after the parties concerned have been given enough rope to hang themselves. Enough mixing of metaphors.

Guido is pointing the finger (perhaps vaguely gesticulating is a more accurate term) at some combination of Reid's special advisor Steve Bates and the Deputy Director of Communications at the Home Office Simon Wren.

Reid is therefore perhaps technically correct in that tedious non-denial way, but as we all know the relationship between John Reid and the truth has never been close, and it is inconceivable he would not have been aware of this practice either in particular or in general.

Anonymous said...

Will a paper take the "bait" (singular) the Conservatives are laying? Clever.

To change the subject completely, Guido has an interesting story at the top of his blog where he speculates as to where one of John Reid's advisers is.

What can it all mean?

MorrisOx said...

Reid's reply is, of course, contemptously risible.

But that final paragraph also alludes to the chasmic fissure between Home Office civil servants and New Labour's political advisers.

That, Iain, is at the heart of the entire Home Office problem.

That said, I am very surprised Mr Speaker did not have something to say about the delay responding.

MorrisOx said...

One more thing: note also the hugely significant phrase that operational issues "are a matter for" etc.

This is the transparent give-away of paranoid, arms-length management.

Anonymous said...

Well done Grieve but what on earth is all this complete cod about the local community being hounded and demonised ... attendant growth of defensiveness, isolation and paranoia.

Complete and utter rubbish.

But sure, if you tell someone often enough that they should feel sorry for themselves then eventually they will feel sorry for themselves.

Which is why Grieve et al shouldn't tell someone often enough etc.

What the Asian community should be told is that if there are terrorists in your midst then you are going to see police raids. End of.

Anonymous said...

Serves John Reid Right. The most Draconian Government Minister ever, being bitten by His OWN Draconian Laws.

Now is the time for the Conservative oposition to STOP Pussy footing about and plunge home a killer attack.

At times I wonder who is worse. Totalitarian Labour Mingers or the Kow Towing Camerons?

If "Dave" fails to nobble Labour on this one then he Never will.

Anonymous said...

The Guardian reported on 3rd Feb:

"Whitehall officials briefed journalists early on Wednesday before all of the suspects had been found, with the result that lurid details of the alleged plot were broadcast while one suspect remained at large. At least one tabloid newspaper had even been tipped off the night before the dawn raids, and its reporters put on standby to race to Birmingham.

Home Office officials insisted no briefing had been offered by its press office, but a spokeswoman added: "I can only speak for what has been done on the record by the press office."",,2005086,00.html

That's the line Reid is still taking. That there is no official policy to leak information and he doesn't know of any leaking.

Hard to prove otherwise, even if it is proven who the leaker is.

Rememember when these arrests happened. Blair was interviewed by police and allegedly there was a news blackout on the arrest for several days. Meanwhile, this overhyped story emerged. It has the dirty fingerprints of the NuLab spin machine all over it. Remember when Blair was interviewed by Hutton. An inexplicable blackout across much of London causing chaos in the city. They will always find a way to try and bury very bad news.

Anonymous said...

joe bonanno [8.59 PM] You say:
What the Asian community should be told is that if there are terrorists in your midst then you are going to see police raids. End of.

Hear hear! I suspect most Asians understand this perfectly well. It's their self-appointed "spokesmen" who are the problem.

Anonymous said...

Simple Simon went a-fishing for to catch a whale;
All the water he had got was in his mother's pail...
He went for water in a sieve but soon it all leaked through;
And now poor Simple Simon bids you all "Adieu"

Anonymous said...

Once they find a suspect, can't the police arrest and question him? I'd have thought he'd squeal like a piglet, if faced with 5 years. Then we'll find out who was really behind it.

Anonymous said...

I watched Caroline 'as hard as' Flint on Newsnight last night.Douglas Hurd was almost beseeching her to realise what the Labour Party has done to the Parliamentary process.She was unmoved.There is neither shame nor apology in this Government and please God when the true depths of their sleaze comes out they will be out of power for good.Mr Hurd also mentioned that there should be an enquiry as a senior responsible figure had made accusations.In PMQs,Blair,having known that Cameron had exhausted his questions,remarked that:'If he had evidence of leaks then he should provide it rather than making allegations.' It was a senior intelligence figure who made the allegations and as such they MUST be taken seriously and investigated.New Labourism is a cancer and it's going to take radical surgery at the ballot box,the BBC and at her majesty's pleasure to rid us of it.

Anonymous said...

Surely it's Steve Bates we're talking about here...

Anonymous said...

Any Questions

Hazel Blear is clearly mentally ill. How can she suggest that 'only if evidence' comes to light should nthere be an inquiry? The head of the counter-terrorism says it has happened, he is a policeman. That alone is evidence enough that it needs investigating.

Hazel Blears is deliberately trying tgo sidestep the rule of law and should be removed from any public office. SHE is the cancer that is spreading like wildfire and ruining our entire society. Nobody is above the law, a senior policeman says he suspects a law has been broken. start the enquiry tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

"The Hitch said...
This "Government" are an effing crime gang , if the Conservative party had anything about themselves they would have these buggers in jail , not just sit about waiting for buggins turn."

That's rich coming from you.