Canadian News - November 22, 2005
Blair persuaded Bush not to bomb Al-Jazeera
headquarters: Daily Mirror
LONDON (AP) - A British civil servant has been charged under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking a government memo that, according to a newspaper report Tuesday, suggests Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded U.S. President George W. Bush not to bomb the Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera.
According to the Daily Mirror, Bush spoke of targeting Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, when he met Blair at the White House on April 16 last year. The U.S. government has regularly accused Al-Jazeera of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for anti-American sentiments.
The Daily Mirror attributed its information to unidentified sources. It quoted one source, which it said was in the government, as saying that the alleged threat was "humorous, not serious," but it quoted another as saying "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair."
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response." Blair's Downing Street office declined to comment on the report, stressing it never discussed leaked documents.
The document was described as a transcript of a conversation between the two leaders.
Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh is accused of passing it to Leo O'Connor, who formerly worked for former British legislator Tony Clarke. Both Keogh and O'Connor are to appear at London's Bow Street Magistrates Court next week.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Keogh was charged with an offence under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act relating to "a damaging disclosure" by a servant of the Crown of information relating to international relations or information obtained from a state other than the United Kingdom.
O'Connor was charged under Section 5, which relates to receiving and disclosing illegally disclosed information. According to the newspaper, Clarke returned the memo to Blair's office.
Press Association, the British news agency, quoted Clarke as saying his priority was to support O'Connor who did "exactly the right thing" in bringing the matter to his attention…..
AFX News – November 22, 2005
Al-Jazeera urges probe into report of Bush plot
to bomb TV station
DOHA (AFX) - The Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera urged the White House and Downing Street today to challenge a UK newspaper report that US President George W. Bush had planned to bomb the Qatar-based station.
'We sincerely urge both the White House and Downing Street to challenge the Daily Mirror report,' the Qatar-based network said in a statement.
The UK tabloid newspaper, citing a Downing Street memo marked 'Top Secret', reported today that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair had talked Bush out of launching a military strike on the station.
'Before making any conclusions, Al-Jazeera needs to be absolutely sure regarding the authenticity of the memo and would hope for a confirmation from Downing Street as soon as possible,' it said.
'If the report is correct then this would be both shocking and worrisome not only to Al-Jazeera but to media organizations across the world.
'It would cast serious doubts in regard to the US administration's version of previous incidents involving Al-Jazeera's journalists and offices,' the news channel said….
Daily Mirror - 22 November 2005
Bush plot to bomb Al-Jazeera
By Kevin Maguire And Andy Lines
President Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals. But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.
A source said: "There's no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." Al-Jazeera is accused by the US of fuelling the Iraqi insurgency.
The attack would have led to a massacre of innocents on the territory of a key ally, enraged the Middle East and almost certainly have sparked bloody retaliation.
A source said last night: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush. "He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem. "There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do - and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."
A Government official suggested that the Bush threat had been "humorous, not serious". But another source declared: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."
Yesterday former Labour Defence Minister Peter Kilfoyle challenged Downing Street to publish the five-page transcript of the two leaders' conversation. He said: "It's frightening to think that such a powerful man as Bush can propose such cavalier actions.
"I hope the Prime Minister insists this memo be published. It gives an insight into the mindset of those who were the architects of war."
Bush disclosed his plan to target al-Jazeera, a civilian station with a huge Mid-East following, at a White House face-to-face with Mr Blair on April 16 last year. At the time, the US was launching an all-out assault on insurgents in the Iraqi town of Fallujah.
Al-Jazeera infuriated Washington and London by reporting from behind rebel lines and broadcasting pictures of dead soldiers, private contractors and Iraqi victims. The station, watched by millions, has also been used by bin Laden and al-Qaeda to broadcast atrocities and to threaten the West.
Al-Jazeera's HQ is in the business district of Qatar's capital, Doha. Its single-storey buildings would have made an easy target for bombers. As it is sited away from residential areas, and more than 10 miles from the US's desert base in Qatar, there would have been no danger of "collateral damage".
Dozens of al-Jazeera staff at the HQ are not, as many believe, Islamic fanatics. Instead, most are respected and highly trained technicians and journalists. To have wiped them out would have been equivalent to bombing the BBC in London and the most spectacular foreign policy disaster since the Iraq War itself.
The No 10 memo now raises fresh doubts over US claims that previous attacks against al-Jazeera staff were military errors. In 2001 the station's Kabul office was knocked out by two "smart" bombs. In 2003, al-Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub was killed in a US missile strike on the station's Baghdad centre.
The memo, which also included details of troop deployments, turned up in May last year at the Northampton constituency office of then Labour MP Tony Clarke.
Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh, 49, is accused under the Official Secrets Act of passing it to Leo O'Connor, 42, who used to work for Mr Clarke. Both are bailed to appear at Bow Street court next week...