12 May 2007

Army interpreter Corporal Daniel James - Iranian spy?

When the media started reporting the arrest and first court appearances of Daniel James, I immediately noticed that they concentrated on many irrelevant issues, such as the fact he had been a salsa dancer and teacher. Years before, the media created similar distractions about my own background, when they tried to make me appear weird or unusual because I had an interest in flamenco dancing, and that I liked to entertain my friends at dinner parties.

Typical photograph used to discredit Daniel James

It was widely publicised that about ten years ago Daniel James had changed his name, from his original Iranian name of Esmail Gamasai, and that he had become a British citizen in 1986. It is this focus on such details that we are expected to view as “suspicious”, although there are probably very good and innocent reasons why anyone might change their name or their citizenship.

Attention to unrelated issues is typical of the way the media operate in the UK, and they want to show that people accused of the serious crime of espionage must automatically have something wrong with them - the media attack their victim for being different from the norm. Another feature of Daniel James’ character was that he liked to work-out in the gym - now, how many people do that every week? If we listen to the stories the media come up with, then we would be locking up a lot of people for dancing salsa and pumping iron, as if this would indicate abnormal behaviour or anti-British sentiments.

What we should really be looking at are the facts of this case, and the details of what Daniel is alleged to have done, and so far there is a lack of any real information to demonstrate what he did, if anything, to damage British interests. All we can be certain of is that the Prosecution at Daniel James’ trial will do all in their power to ensure we never find out exactly what he has been accused of, and if he is found guilty we will be told he has done something really dreadful which endangered British lives.

However, as I found from my own very low level of security clearance, I didn’t actually need to have access to secrets to be accused of passing them to a foreign power! This is the shocking thing about the way the Official Secrets Act works: the accused can be presented to the jury as somebody who may be inclined to pass secrets to an enemy, and behind the in camera protection of a secret kangaroo court, the jury will be invited to find the defendant “guilty” on some remarkably flimsy evidence. But then, we are not allowed to see the evidence, as it takes place behind the closed doors of a courtroom with no public or media present. The pretence is that the evidence would prejudice national security.

The claims we have seen so far allege that Mr James communicated with a “foreign power”, on 2 November 2006, and that this involved breaches of security involving highly-restricted material. It would appear that Daniel James is alleged to have passed secret information to Iran about military operations in Afghanistan - an offence under the Official Secrets Act. But precisely what he is accused of doing is still not clear, and this is likely to remain the case unless the MoD decides to explain what happened.

As a Territorial Army Corporal, Daniel James had a fairly unique talent for being able to speak Dari, a local dialect of Farsi spoken in Afghanistan. In this capacity he was able to act as an interpreter and aide to General David Richards, Britain's commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan. Mr James was one of the general’s key links with the local Afghans and their tribal leaders.

Daniel James was based at NATO headquarters in the capital Kabul, and he was present with Gen. Richards during meetings with Afghan leaders, so that he could translate documents, letters and speeches as necessary. He was also able to comprehend and pass-on to the General the mood of the Afghan people they met. However, Mr James says he was never called on to translate confidential or secret documents. So, if Daniel James was not party to any secret information, what could be the offences that he is now alleged to have committed?

Due to the lengthy investigations that OSA cases involve, it is unlikely that the trial will take place before January 2008, and Daniel James has another court appearance on 15 June 2007 for a plea and case management hearing.

Yesterday, I wrote again to Daniel James offering him the benefit of my experience at having suffered the same ordeal of an Official Secrets Act prosecution. I print below the letter that I sent to Daniel.

From: Michael John Smith

11 May 2007

To: Mr Daniel James XA6933
HMP Wandsworth
PO Box 757
Heathfield Road
London SW18 3HS

Dear Mr James,

I made contact with your solicitor David Martin (I have copied some email correspondence below) but he has not contacted me again since January. This may be because he can see no advantage from the help I can offer your Defence, but I would like you to know that this is the current situation, if you were not already aware of it.

I have kept my eye on any developments in your case, but have seen nothing so far, at least nothing that can be published. I take it therefore that it is still planned to put you on trial under the OSA, and that you are responding to your solicitors questions about the evidence the CPS are disclosing to the Defence. This is the stage where you must do the maximum preparation to find all possible arguments and evidence to counteract the Prosecution’s claims, and you must second-guess what they may say about that evidence once you go on trial. I don’t want to scare you, but you must expect that witnesses will come out with some new evidence, or a different interpretation of that evidence, once they are in the witness box. This is a standard way of wrong-footing the Defence by ambushing you and trying to make your case look weak.

As you near the trial, the next major stage will be the hearings that are held to decide which evidence/witnesses will be admissible at the trial. This is where you are likely to be shocked at how biased the judge will be. It is very likely that you will hear the judge allowing in virtually all the evidence the Prosecution wants to use against you, even when it is clearly not relevant and very prejudicial against you. The way the OSA works means that the Prosecution will get more favourable treatment than you might expect in an ordinary criminal trial. Then, you will be equally shocked to hear the judge rejecting most of the Defence’s arguments that certain evidence should not be allowed in the trial. Effectively, these admissibility hearings are when your trial is being “fixed” in favour of the Prosecution case, and unless your Defence team fight tooth and nail for you, this is where you chances will be lost, i.e. before the trial even starts. The Defence should appeal against bad decisions, not like my Defence who just passively accepted the judge’s rulings. Remember this point clearly, because I don’t want you saying you were not warned.

I assume you are still with the solicitor David Martin and the firm of Peter Kandler. I am not trying to undermine your faith in this company, but I wonder why you chose them to represent you? They would not be an obvious choice for an OSA case, I would have thought. My own experience is that I simply went with the solicitors who came to the police station and were offered to me by the police. That was the worst decision I could have made, because those solicitors did not do a good job of representing me and preparing for my trial. Most duty solicitors who attend police stations are “tame”, because they want the rich pickings of easy Legal Aid money.

I would have thought you would have preferred a high-profile Asian solicitor, such as Imran Khan, who has played a major role in fighting injustice, and in my experience Asian solicitors do not mildly accept bad decisions and incorrect legal procedures in the way that English lawyers do. English lawyers are a bunch of wa**ers in my opinion. Anyway, the choice of lawyer is up to you, and this is one of the few things you really do have control over.

Sadly, it will not affect me if you are found guilty and receive a 10 or 15 year prison sentence, but I do not want that to happen if you are an innocent man. Probably you think your Defence is being correctly dealt by your solicitors, and so I wish you good luck that you can defeat the Prosecution’s arguments at your trial. If you think I can help you, then I will do anything I can to assist you. If you would like a friend or relative to discuss this with me, then by all means let them email me or phone me, and I will explain any points to them. But I do not want to interfere if you think that is what I am doing, and so please tell me to get lost if you don’t wish me to pursue this any more.

Meanwhile, try to keep your outlook positive, and remember that the next few months are the most important time to prepare yourself for the trial.

Yours sincerely,
Michael John Smith

Copies of email correspondence:

from Mike Smith <
date Jan 17, 2007 5:07 PM
subject For the attention of Mr Paul Raudnitz

Dear Mr Raudnitz,
I am today putting a letter to you in the post, but I thought I should also send it by email in case you would prefer an electronic copy. Therefore I attach a letter in MS Word format and a PDF document of an article I have written.

I thought this material may be of interest to Mr Daniel James. I would have contacted his solicitors, but I cannot seem to find any contact details for them, which I thought was rather odd.

Kind regards,
Michael John Smith

2 attachments:
Letter to Daniel James 17 Jan 07.doc
Lobster M J Smith article.pdf

from Mike Smith <
to Paul
[he is a contact of mine]
date Jan 24, 2007 3:13 AM
subject The Daniel James case

Hello Paul,
I noticed on this forum that there was some rumour that wiretaps had discovered evidence against Daniel James:

Libertynews Forum

Do you have any idea if this is true? I am trying to gather any information I can, because I feel that this guy is being set-up for an unfair trial in the same way as happened to me.

Best regards,

from Mike Smith <parellic@googlemail.com>
to Paul Raudnitz <
date Jan 24, 2007 3:28 AM
subject Fwd: The Daniel James case

Dear Mr Raudnitz,
Were you aware that a forum in the USA has a discussion that Daniel James was “caught” through NSA wiretap evidence. No doubt experts will be called to confirm any such wiretaps. Is it an issue in this case that the USA were spying on a British General, David Richards?

Michael John Smith

from David Martin <

date Jan 24, 2007 4:05 PM
subject James

Dear Mike Smith.
I am Mr. James solicitor. Thank you on behalf of my client for the assistance that you are offering. Mr James received your letter of 17th January and we have discussed it together. We also read you article for Lobster about your case and I have seen the Discussion forum you mentioned to Paul Raudnitz.

Perhaps if you send any more correspondence you could address it to me rather than Paul Raudnitz.

Thank you

from Mike Smith <
to David Martin <
date Jan 24, 2007 10:16 PM
subject Re: James

Dear Mr Martin,
Thank you for your reply, and I am glad that we have been able to make contact.

I can imagine the feelings Mr James has been going through, because I suffered the same physical and mental pressures that his imprisonment will have caused him. If I can do anything to prevent him receiving an unfair trial, then I believe it is my duty to offer my experience as an example to avoid making the same mistakes that occurred in my case.

You will note in my letter of 17 January that I stressed the point about the use of "in camera" as a tactic of the prosecution. Even though there was almost nothing in my trial that would have merited excluding the public, my lawyers went along with the prosecution argument that about half my trial should be heard "in camera". This is where I think the Defence lawyers have to bite the bullet and fight for as much of the trial to be in public as is possible. It is to late, when Mr James has been found guilty, to realise that the "in camera" applications were simply exaggerated claims to hide the case from public view. I know from my case how this works, and I think you would considerably enhance Mr James's chances by reducing the "in camera" part of the trial to an absolute minimum. I would go so far as to say the main battle you have to fight will be pre-trial, to oppose the prosecution tactics that I am sure they will use against your client.

Because I ended up being found guilty it has proved extremely difficult to overturn my conviction. Even though I have subsequently proved key technical evidence was false, the CCRC has been unwilling to accept or even understand that this could overturn my conviction at appeal. It is clear the Crown is very unlikely to give way on any points at all in an OSA case.

You will have read in the Lobster article that a Technical Director at Marconi provided the justification that the main exhibit in my case came from the ALARM missile. It was only 2 weeks ago that I finally managed to phone this Technical Director, and I was horrified to discover that he was not the Technical Director responsible for ALARM (he worked at a completely separate part of the company), and he had no more knowledge about ALARM than a layman. It is not surprising, therefore, that this Technical Director had no recollection of discussing the matter with the witness Professor Lewis - at best it was double hearsay evidence that led to my conviction. There are other technical issues that are still unresolved to this day. But the point I am making is that having used false evidence at my trial, the Crown (and MoD) continue their cover-up to prevent me getting to the truth, and this is what you will be up against as well.

You will have noted the points I made regarding the forum I came across. I have found another forum with similar issues being discussed here.

I am not offering this as useful evidence or proof of any sort, but what is curious is why somebody would have linked Mr James's case to NSA wiretapping? Possibly the Reuters reporter was the source of that point. What it would indicate, if true, is that there was a serious cause for concern about why the NSA should be listening to a British General's communications. It appears this would be illegal in the USA, and that raises some interesting legal issues I think. Have you considered asking the Crown for confirmation that the NSA were involved in intercepting any radio/telephone links that involved Mr James?

If you think it would help Mr James, then I am willing to visit him in prison. This would at least offer him moral support that there is somebody who understands what he is going through.

Kind regards,
Mike Smith