When should a secret not be a secret?
Two men have been convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act by leaking a confidential memo between President Bush and Tony Blair. The content of the memo has never officially been made public...
[Ed. note: The BBC is prevented from repeating what was leaked, but the New York Times is not restricted, and says today,"In November 2005, The Daily Mirror...reported that the memorandum quoted a threat in April 2004 by President Bush —- denied in Washington and London —- to bomb the offices of the television network Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar.]
One day, perhaps 30, 50 or 100 years in the future, the contents will be revealed and British and American historians and journalists will pore over it at the Public Records Office.
By the time it is released its contents will no longer be embarrassing or damaging for those involved...
David Keogh...was asked to photocopy and distribute the memo to a select group of mandarins but when he read it he felt morally obliged to get it into the public domain...he handed it to his friend Leo O'Connor, who was a researcher working for the Labour MP...
On Wednesday both were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act.
But the contents of the memo remained the"elephant in the room".
The judge, the jury, the defendants and the lawyers knew what it contained but journalists and members of the public were forbidden from knowing and were excluded from court at various stages...
[An anti-Iraq war Labour MP said,]"I don't think this is anything to do with national security. It's all to do with protecting the name of President Bush and possibly Prime Minister Blair."
Campaigners believe the Keogh case proves the need for a public interest defence to be enshrined in the Official Secrets Act...
Julie-Ann Davies, of the Campaign for Reform of the Official Secrets Act,...said:"There is a line in the sitcom Yes, Minister when someone says: 'The Official Secrets Act is there to protect officials, not secrets' and that is the danger. Who is watching the watchmen?
"If the state says it's not in the public interest to know then there is always a window for corruption and abuse of the system."
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