In April of 2004, Tony Blair and George W. Bush had a meeting about the Iraq war, in which Blair allegedly had to talk Bush out of bombing the Al-Jazeera TV network.
In May of 2004, a memo summarizing this meeting was leaked by British civil servants David Keogh and Leo O’Connor. Shortly after, Keogh and O’Connor were arrested for violating Britain’s Official Secrets Act.
Last week, the two were convicted and sentenced to short prison terms for making a “damaging disclosure”.
But most bizarrely, the judge in this case issued a gag order which prohibited journalists from mentioning the content of the leaked memo in any article about this court case. News outlets were allowed to say what was in the memo, but any such article would have to be pages away from any article talking about the court case concerning the memo. Even though the content of the memo had already been made public by the whole leaking-it-to-the-media thing.
Which is stupid and fucked up, of course.
But totally in line with the stupid and fucked up logic behind it. Apparently, the “damage” of this disclosure had nothing to do with revealing vital state secrets, but embarassing George W. Bush:
Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, hinted that embarrassment was the real issue at stake when she signed a certificate for the court last year. She claimed the disclosure of the document would have a “serious negative impact” on UK-US diplomatic relations. “The ultimate consequence would be a substantial risk of harm to national security.”
The prosecution admitted the leak did not contain any “actual damage”, though it could have put British lives at risk. Martin Howard, a senior Ministry of Defence official, said any damage to British defence operations it might have caused was “short-lived”.
In other words, the British government actually believed that embarassing George Bush threatened the US-UK alliance, and therefore threatened the safety of the British people.
No wonder Bush acts like an emperor; he gets treated as one. For fuck’s sake, governments will throw their own citizens in jail for spreading news of what the president actually said.
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