U.K. Secrets Act used to silence leak on Blair
Britain: Two charged under Secrets Act for leaking Bush threat to bomb Al Jazeera
By Julie Hyland - World Socialist Website
Two men have been charged under the Officials Secrets Act (OSA) over the alleged leak of a top-secret government memo. Civil servant David Keogh, 49, a former communications officer at the Cabinet Office, was charged with making a “damaging disclosure of a document relating to international relations” without lawful authority. Keogh did not indicate how he would plead.
Leo O’Connor, 42, was charged with having received a document while acting as a researcher for former Labour Member of Parliament Anthony Clarke, “through its disclosure without lawful authority by a Crown servant.” O’Connor said he intended to plead not guilty.
Both were bailed to return to Bow Street Magistrates Court on January 10 on condition they do not travel outside the UK and do not contact each other.
The court heard that the Official Secrets Act was allegedly violated between April 16 and May 28, 2004. Under the act, a civil servant is guilty of a criminal offence if he makes a damaging disclosure regarding international affairs without lawful permission. Anyone receiving such information is also guilty of a criminal offence should he disclose it to another party, knowing that it breaches the OSA. A disclosure is considered to be damaging if it could endanger UK interests abroad, or the safety of British citizens overseas.
The proceedings had a Kafkaesque quality. No details of the memo were given in court and O’Connor’s lawyer Neil Clark has said he does not know what is in the alleged document, and has never seen it. Calling for the government to release the information, he said he needed to “know the case” against his client as it would be “impossible” to defend him otherwise.
The revelations were extremely damaging, but the government’s response to the Mirror’s story and the secrecy surrounding the opening of the trial of Keogh and O’Connor indicates that it may contain even more damning material. Immediately following the newspaper’s exclusive, Britain’s Attorney General Lord Goldsmith threatened the Mirror and other newspaper editors with prosecution under the OSA if they disclosed any further details from the memo.