Yet again, we see the heavy hand of the UK’s Official Secrets Act being used to send people to prison, for the crime of leaking “sensitive” information contained in a four-page memorandum dated 16 April 2004. David Keogh was sentenced to 6 months in prison and Leo O'Connor to 3 months, as reported by the BBC.
As in my own trial, I know how outrageously exaggerated the Prosecution’s claims can become in an OSA trial, and I have no faith that their accusations in this case - that “lives could have been put at risk” - is anywhere near the truth.
The “secret” memo about the Iraq war, detailing talks between President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, is presented as important and militarily vital material that must not see the light of the day for decades to come. However, when the public finally get to read this document, no doubt it will reveal far more about the “special relationship” between the USA and the UK than it does about the War in Iraq.
The major issue that was leaked, apparently contained in the memo, was the claim that President George Bush's was planning to bomb the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera in Doha, Qatar. If true, this puts a whole new light on the previous US attacks on Al-Jazeera offices in Iraq in April 2003 and Afghanistan in November 2002, which were claimed to be "accidents". An Al-Jazeera journalist was killed when the Baghdad office was hit during the bombing campaign.
As in so many cases before, the Official Secrets Act is used as a tool to prevent the disclosure of facts which the public have a right to know. How much of the memo really was “secret”? The rumour is that the memo should not be made public because of the light it sheds on Tony Blair’s position over the Iraq War. It is so much more likely that the document had to be suppressed to prevent embarrassment to Bush and Blair, than for any threats it posed to our real national interests.
We can all witness the incredible mess that has been created by the Iraq War, and the futile attempts that are being made to get that country back on its feet. Meanwhile, the reasons for going to war have still not been adequately analysed. The big US corporations simply get on with their task of robbing Iraq of its wealth, as part of the clean-up operation.
It is a tragedy, that two men have to go to prison for attempting to make public a document about the War in Iraq; but the real villains, those who started the war and have condemned thousands to die, receive no prison sentence. Rather than telling us that a four-page memo could put lives at risk, I would suggest people like Tony Blair are in fact responsible for the deaths of actual members of the British armed forces. It is a strange form of justice that protects those responsible for an illegal and deadly war, and lets the perpetrators walk free, while those trying to reveal the truth about that war get punished.