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Another terror plot unravels!

The row over allegations that lives were endangered by leaks about major anti-terrorism operations deepened last night as it emerged that there were a series of disclosures about one highly sensitive investigation.

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.

The controversy centres on a series of raids which led to nine arrests across Birmingham in February. Six men were subsequently charged with a number of terrorist offences. The row over the leaks which accompanied those arrests erupted after deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, warned on Tuesday that such disclosures, both in advance of operations and while they were ongoing, could be illegal and highly dangerous.

The Guardian reports that this information which later proved to be inaccurate came from the office of John Reid while in a further development there is now a strong suspicion that a further leak came from an officer within Scotland Yard.

Defence lawyers are expected to argue that it will be impossible for any of the men arrested in Birmingham to receive a fair trial as a consequence of the leaks at the time of their arrest. One lawyer, Tayab Ali, said he had been told by a senior West Midlands officer that the disclosures may have been an offence under the Official Secrets Act.

So we are reminded yet again of how the British system of justice will be run. Without a scrap of evidence UK citizens can be arrested, no charges pressed and their lives and good names destroyed on the basis of surreptitious rumours from the office of the Home Secretary, John Reid.

Naturally, Reid attempts to spin his way out of this by blaming the government’s army of spin-doctors. A rather stupid move which is bound to backfire on him. Reid claimed that the leakers were trying to “squeeze out some short-term presentational advantage” by secretly briefing on anti-terror operations.

    N.b. Reid clearly understands the principle: never being one to pass up a “short-term presentational” opportunity as when when he visited Forest Gate last year to warn Muslim parents to look for signs of brainwashing in their children. Right on cue, Reid was heckled by the highly visible Abu Izzadeen (aka Trevor Brooks), a well known Islamic extremist and activist, which raised questions about how it was he was able wander into the room of invited guests, reported to be at a secret location, without drawing the attention of police and security. As Abu Izzadeen was ejected from the room, Reid remarked “I was making the very simple point that however sensitive these issues are, we must never allow ourselves to be intimidated or shouted down.” It is ironic because this incident drowned the voices of moderate Muslims who were in attendance, and sadly their opinions on his talk were never broadcasted. You might also recall that this was during the period when Reid was attempting to raise his profile as a possible contender for the Labour leadership.

Other events that were unfolding at the time of the Muslim soldier beheading terror leak were damaging stories about fundraiser Lord Levy (the arrests coming a day before his), Prescott/casino sleaze and turmoil in the Home Office. A source at West Midlands Police said at the time that “There is widespread fury that Whitehall officials have been briefing sensitive details of this operation. This terror raid has come at a very convenient time for the Government as it has taken a number of embarrassing stories off the news agenda.”

Iain Dale has posted online the correspondence between Shadow Attorney General Dominic Grieve and John Reid here in which the Guardian allegations are emphatically denied. As Dale says, it is only a matter of time before the gauntlet is thrown down and some brave editor reveals the identity of the ministerial aide responsible for briefing the press. We must wait with baited breath until then.

Of course Blair doesn’t want another leak enquiry, according to the conservatives this would bring to over 60 the number of investigations that have been carried out so far. From Iain Dale.

60 Leak Inquiries in First 3 Years. In the first three years of the Labour Government, 60 leak investigations were ordered by Whitehall departments. There were nine leak inquiries alone in the Home Office in the first three years under Jack Straw (The Guardian, 14 February 2000). These included inquiries into: a leak to the Guardian of a memo from Jack Straw watering down provisions in the Freedom of Information Bill; a leak to the Telegraph of the outcome of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry; and even a leak from the Cabinet Office into David Clark’s first-class air trip to Australia and New Zealand as part of fact finding tour into freedom of information legislation.

Leak enquiries are only conducted when the leak embarrasses the government but not when the identity of the leaker would embarrass the government. A charge made by David Gauke (con) and one which the government … naturally denies.


Blair vs Cameron