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Why the Damian Green affair is very good news

Matthew Parris today:

For me, Thomas Á  Becket and Canterbury Cathedral spring to mind. I picture an infuriated Prime Minister bellowing at a flat-screen television: “Will nobody rid me of these troublesome leaks?” Who the four knights were who took it upon themselves to act upon the presumed wishes of a maddened monarch, we may never know, but when Mr Brown insists that he didn’t actually know, it is possible to believe him.

Just what I was thinking. And just like Henry II before him, Gordon Brown will have to carry the can for this, and suffer whatever is now the equivalent of an annual public flogging. Constant references to this from now on in the history books, is my guess. For the point is that although Ministerial and Prime Ministerial protestations of ignorance about this absurd outrage may be true, Ministers and the Prime Minister have spent the last decade creating the atmosphere within which “anti-terrorist” policemen would indeed come to think that such conduct as arresting an opposition politician is some kind of duty.

Coincidentally, and perhaps I’m wrong to defy Godwin’s Law but I’ll do it anyway, I have recently been reading this book (more from me in connection with it here), which concerns the various big decisions taken between 1940 and 1941 by the various war leaders: Britain resists, Roosevelt helps Britain, Stalin decides that Hitler won’t invade Russia, Hitler invades Russia, Japan attacks USA, Hitler declares war on USA, that kind of thing. The final one is: Hitler decides to murder the Jews. And in that horrifically more portentous matter you get the same thing, of Hitler not being personally pinnable down with anything like exact foreknowledge of this or that particular burst of slaughter. Nothing was ever put into writing and signed Adolf Hitler. But he was responsible nevertheless, because he created the atmosphere within which his underlings did their worst. He set the tone.

Well, now, in this by comparison farcical little episode, Gordon Brown set the tone, and lesser creatures went to work. And I’m very glad it has happened. During my adult lifetime, I have watched politicians get cleverer and cleverer at enacting policies not by announcing them, debating them, and then doing them, but by just doing them, a little bit at a time, slice by slice, with no one slice being big enough to unite the potential opposition, but the resulting dish nevertheless amounting to a huge and often deeply disagreeable change. Think: EU. In such an atmosphere, you actually cheer when, emboldened by the silence that greets the usual and thin kind of slice, they instead make a grab for a much thicker slice. For suddenly it is clear to all what went on, and what has been going on for a decade and more.

What the hell? Why don’t we just arrest the bastard and do him over for a few hours? Who the hell f—ing cares who Damian f—ing Green is? Yeah, go for it. Time these f—ers learned their f—ing lesson.

Yes, comparisons with Hitler are over-dramatic, as are the more common comparisons being made now in all the other pieces like this one being scribbled and blogged by all the other no-name scribblers and bloggers like me, with Robert Mugabe’s hideous misrule of Zimbabwe. Matthew Parris mentions them in his piece, quoted above, noting their oddity yet ubiquity, but not ridiculing them any more than I do. For that is what goes on at the very bottom of the slippery slope we are on here. Those are the comparisons that spring to mind, even as you realise that they are out of all proportion. They go to to kind of deed this was, to its dramatic structure, so to speak, even if the scale and intensity of this particular deed was trivial by comparison.

As far as Damian Green was concerned, this has been wonderful. He is probably now having more fun than he ever has before or ever will again. And yes, it is Damian and not Damien. Who knew? Not me, until today.

I include references to f—ing and f—ers very deliberately. That our rulers now swear a lot more than they used to is all part of that atmosphere, that tone, that they have been so busily creating. It is an atmosphere in which there are now so many laws, and laws which are so sweeping in their scope, that all are now guilty. The law simplifies down to the question: do they like you? If they really really do not like you, look out, they’ll come for, and find or make up the laws they need as they go along. That a front bench politician has been, very publicly, on the receiving end of this parody of the idea of law is cause not for rage and more swearing, but for rejoicing.

62 comments to Why the Damian Green affair is very good news

  • Sam Duncan

    “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws [...] and then you cash in on guilt. That’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game …”

    The thing is, I don’t think for a moment that Brown (, Blair,) and his mob sat down twelve years ago and thought it out in so many words. They stumbled into this state of affairs because having been brought up on internal Labour Party politics it’s the only way they know.

  • From the Daily Mail,
    ” The operation was authorised by Met Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer.

    The Crown Prosecution Service was also consulted.

    Sources said Mr Green is suspected of actively seeking leaked information, not just receiving it.

    Met Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, who has effectively been running the Met since Sir Ian Blair announced his resignation two months ago, was briefed by Mr Quick in advance.

    Sir Ian, who officially stepped down yesterday, was not aware of the operation.

    In the 30 minutes leading up to the raids, Sir Paul rang London Mayor Boris Johnson and Tory leader David Cameron.”

    Counting the Speaker Michael Martin,there is enough top brass to have turned the telephones incandescent.It is impossible that the government did not know.Nobody leaked information about a high profile arrest to the Home Secretary for example.
    This is the kind of action that destroys careers,the police knew that they had someones support.

  • Pa Annoyed

    One thing I do find interesting in all this is that everybody is talking about Damian Green, nobody is talking much about the civil servant whose earlier arrest led up to it.

    The thing is, the crime supposedly being pursued here has little to do with Mr Green, or Parliamentary privilege for that matter. It’s supposedly about the civil service and its requirements of neutrality and political impartiality.

    Civil servants, as a term of their employment contract, are not supposed to use information given to them for official purposes outside of official channels. They’re not supposed to use information to support one party and damage another for their own personal political ends. If it becomes known that they do, the government will end up sacking half the civil service every election and appointing partisan supporters as other nations do, (which as the issue of spin doctors being inserted into the civil service illustrates, is not necessarily a good idea). And it’s also done on the basis that it’s not for an individual unelected civil servant to be putting their own personal political or moral beliefs ahead of national policy decided by Parliament.

    Exceptions are made for acts of conscience – in the national interest, and for strong moral reasons. For example, if people were being killed or imprisoned unjustly, a civil servant would be expected not to go along with it.

    Precisely where that line lies isn’t clearly defined. But the issue seems to be over its interpretation; and over whether it should only be an exceptional act instigated by a civil servant faced with the unacceptable, or a routine flow of anything damaging from civil servants to opposition politicians.

    The “crime” appears not to be that Mr Green published these leaks, but that he is accused of having set it up as a routine arrangement, as a way of bypassing the standard civil service code of ethics that would normally stop him seeing these things. (Whether that code is truly ethical is another matter, of course.)

    So really, the argument is not really whether MPs should be allowed to publish leaks that embarrass the government, but over the degree to which the civil service should participate in or work actively to break party-political covering-up.

    Should the approach be that civil servants reveal everything not specifically against the national interest to reveal, or keep private everything unless it is against the national interest not to reveal it?

    And that’s an old but still very important question, that doesn’t really have anything to do with us supposedly sliding into a police state that arrests opposition politicians simply for opposing.

  • It is nothing to do with the Civil Service and the signing of the Official Secrets Act and everything to do with Labour being embarrassed by its appalling record on immigration.

    Gordon Brown made his career out of leaks from the Treasury,recently nobody seemed to be bothered by the leaks to Robert Peston.

    Most importantly the information was not sensitive to any individual like child allowance information the government treated so cavalierly.This was about the government cooking the books,the information should be in the public domain.

  • Midwesterner

    Pa Annoyed, you need to read your constitutional documents more carefully. This is not about the civil servant who leaked it to Green, it is about a duly elected member of parliament being arrested for political crimes. Members of parliament can be arrested for high treason but probably not a lot less than that in the line of political crimes.

    Unless the CPS can demonstrate that Mr. Green was not merely “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office” but rather conspiring against the Crown itself, I don’t see how this can be constitutional.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Ron,

    Agreed, nothing to do with the official secrets act. That’s something else entirely. This is the civil service code I’m talking about.

    And yes, some leaks are more equal than others. But that doesn’t mean it’s not about the rules civil servants are supposed to follow.

    Mid,

    Where on Earth did you get the idea that MPs can’t be arrested other than for high treason? In the UK, MPs are protected from prosecution for slander and libel regarding statements made to the House, and they cannot be arrested while on the grounds of the Palace of Westminster for civil offences, although they have no immunity on criminal matters. It’s part of the common law principle that all are equal before the law.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliamentary_privilege

  • As a former senior civil servant myself I have posted about this episode on my own site:

    http://charlescrawford.biz/blog.php?single=665

    One fascinating aspect of this business is that the civil servant concerned was (it appears) working in a Minister’s Private Office. Highly unusual to see leakers from that position.

    The disaster we see unfolding is that the erosion of Limits and Restraint tends to happen in an ad hoc and almost imperceptible way, but once it happens is almost irreversible.

    As Brian Micklethwait points out, it is all about ‘tone’ in public life. And once nastier tone sneaks in, how do we get it out again?

  • As a former senior civil servant myself I have posted about this episode on my own site:

    http://charlescrawford.biz/blog.php?single=665

    One fascinating aspect of this business is that the civil servant concerned was (it appears) working in a Minister’s Private Office. Highly unusual to see leakers from that position.

    The disaster we see unfolding is that the erosion of Limits and Restraint tends to happen in an ad hoc and almost imperceptible way, but once it happens is almost irreversible.

    As Brian Micklethwait points out, it is all about ‘tone’ in public life. And once nastier tone sneaks in, how do we get it out again?

  • Civil Servants in some department,Inland Revenue,as it was, sign the Official Secrets Act.In that case rightly so,they see information sensitive to members of the public.
    The Civil Service Code is bollocks,since the Counter Terrorism police carried out the raids as opposed to an internal inquiry.It is they who have all Mr Greens documents, computer files and phone.
    Secondly Damian Green is not a member of the Civil Service.Nor do the Civil Service have the power to instruct the Counter Terrorism group to make raids on private citizens.

    ” The operation was authorised by Met Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer.

    The Crown Prosecution Service was also consulted.

    Sources said Mr Green is suspected of actively seeking leaked information, not just receiving it.

    Met Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, who has effectively been running the Met since Sir Ian Blair announced his resignation two months ago, was briefed by Mr Quick in advance.

    Sir Ian, who officially stepped down yesterday, was not aware of the operation.

    In the 30 minutes leading up to the raids, Sir Paul rang London Mayor Boris Johnson and Tory leader David Cameron.”

    Add to that the Speaker Michael Martin giving his permission for Green’s Commons office to be ransacked and that is an extremely high level operation. All of it outside the Civil Service.
    Sorry Civil Service code schmode!

  • Pa Annoyed

    Sorry, that came out a bit rude. I was a bit startled.

    I don’t think the issue is arresting an MP. If they commit crimes then they should be arrested – I don’t agree with any politician being above the law. The question is whether what they did ought to be a crime, and for that you need to understand exactly what they were really accused of and why it’s an issue. Not just what the Tories say it was.

  • Midwesterner

    P.A.

    That is not what I said. I said “political” crimes. Clearly they can be arrested for murder etc. But what he has been arrested for is apparently soliciting and speaking freely about information embarrassing to the party in power. And in any case, whatever UK popular practice, he clearly was attacked for how he performed his duties in parliament as a representative of his constituents.

    From the Telegraph article:

    The police investigation is focusing on four Home Office documents which were allegedly leaked to Mr Green over the past year. None contain secret or classified information but contained information about crime statistics, Labour MPs threatening to rebel against the Government’s counter-terrorism plans, and about illegal immigrants working as security guards. All were embarrassing to the Government.

    And also:

    his mobile telephone has been seized and his Parliamentary email address frozen.

    and:

    The Speaker of the House of Commons, the Labour MP Michael Martin, is understood to have given police the unprecedented approval to search an MP’s private office. The move has surprised many backbench MPs, who believe that Parliamentary privilege may have be undermined by the move.

    I am using the term ‘political crimes’ deliberately and narrowly. It is absolutely preposterous that “misconduct in public office” is grounds for abrogating political acts of elected officials. Eligibility for the charge of “misconduct in public office” is something that should be reserved to people who answer to the government, not elected officials to whom the government answers.

  • Pa Annoyed

    PeterUK,

    Again, he was arrested for conspiracy for misconduct in public office, not for the misconduct itself. It was for his part in the civil servant’s actions, which were the ‘crime’ being investigated.

    And by the way, nobody “signs the official secrets act”. What they sign is a statement to say they’ve been told about it. The official secrets act is a law that applies to everybody. And none of the leaked information is covered by the national interest criteria it protects. If it had been, they’d have been charged under that, and not some weird common law anachronism nobody had heard of before.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Mid,

    Soliciting, yes, speaking freely about, no.

    “Eligibility for the charge of “misconduct in public office” is something that should be reserved to people who answer to the government, not elected officials to whom the government answers.”

    Exactly! It is the unelected civil servant who committed the “misconduct in public office”, the MP has only been arrested for his alleged role in the civil servant’s ‘misconduct’. For ‘conspiracy’, as they call it.

  • “Again, he was arrested for conspiracy for misconduct in public office, not for the misconduct itself. It was for his part in the civil servant’s actions, which were the ‘crime’ being investigated.”

    Hardly a Counter Terrorism issue is it? Misconduct a lovely catch all that covers stealing paper clips to Prezza having a leg over to espionage.

    So the Code has been breached,instead of a quiet interview,Counter Terrorism police,raid a private citizen’s homes,and offices.
    This was political intimidation pure and simple.

    Know all about the Official Secrets act,had enough Civil Servants in the family,that was the generally observed abbreviation.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Ron,

    Agreed. This sort of thing used to be done by Special Branch, but then they all got rolled up into that SOCA thing. It wasn’t counter-terrorism as such, but is now done by the same organisation.

    Regarding the OSA, yes I know. But there’s a lot of public misunderstanding about who and what it covers. The point I was trying to emphasise was that it’s not specific to public office, and isn’t a catchall against all leaking.

    Lest anyone misunderstand – I’m not defending the authorities here. But as far as I’m concerned, the more serious issue is that someone had to break the rules to get this information out. It ought to be openly available, as part of “open government” – (a joke of a name if ever there was one).

    I’ve no wish to see this issue being eclipsed by some sort of campaign to see MPs getting immunity from arrest – a horrific concept. When they make the same fuss over the civil servant’s arrest, I’ll be satisfied.

  • PA,
    Whatever happened to “Would you mind coming down to the Station to answer a few questions “? Whilsts MPs are no above the law,there was something heavily jackbooted about the approach.
    This was meant to deter others.Of course private details of citizens will continue to float around the public transport system ending up who knows where,but information embarrassing to the Brown Junta will be covered by omerta.

  • Otto

    A great many of us in Britain, not just politicians, journalists and potential leakers, will say to ourselves, if the authorities can treat an MP and shadow minister like that then they can do just whatever they feel like with any of us little people.

    (Americans, despite our sharedish language, have a different political and legal culture, and I suspect for the most part won’t realise how shocking this affair is. Many of us on this side of the Pond have the perception that US authorities tend to go in like the Marines, and then get counterattacked by lawyers using constitutional rights, which, of course, we don’t have.)

    Another part of what is depressing about this is the routine investigative fisking where they seize your laptop, mobile, etc. and sift to see if they can find anything at all to charge you with or to distort and leak against you. If they look hard enough then almost everyone is guilty of something or at least can be made to look disreputable in some way or other.

    Brian is right when he says that “The law simplifies down to the question: do they like you?”

    If you can remember political life in Britain before 1997 then you will know that it wasn’t always like that.

  • Pa Annoyed

    And if he’d said “no”?

    I don’t know. I assume it’s because they persuaded someone there was a risk of evidence being wiped or removed if the opportunity arose. That’s the usual reason, when it isn’t a VIP who everybody thinks you’ve got to be polite to. The police often arrest people – and I suppose at least part of the reason is intimidation. The same goes for being arrested for drinking alcohol in the streets.

    But even if it was over the top, I don’t really care. What I’m bothered about is that the civil servant who provided the information was arrested, and nobody seems to bother. The MP that asked for it gets arrested, and it’s apparently the end of liberal democracy.

    What’s the difference? They’re both aimed at stopping leaks of things that shouldn’t have to be leaked.

    The fundamental problem is that information that I think shouldn’t be protected by the rules, is. The police enforcing those rules is not the issue, (although it could be when they do it selectively).

    As Brian said in the original post, we ought to rejoice at his arrest, because it draws attention to the real issue of a government attempting to cover up its embarrassments. (And because it’s always fun seeing politicians getting back some of their own.) I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some coppers with a sense of humour did it deliberately, as a protest against being asked to do this sort of thing.

    Frankly, it’s got ‘Public Relations Disaster’ written across it in such large letters that I really can’t see Gordon authorising it, at least, not in the way it was done. In fact, I suspect the police of having not told him specifically so he couldn’t stop it, and so avoid the media horror he is now experiencing. That’s just my suspicion, though. If they did plan intimidation, it isn’t working.

  • Old Holborn

    It gets better

    Announced Today by the BBC

    Alan Milburn to set up “Civilian Security Force” using military trainers, civil servants, police officers, judges and other logistical staff.

    Beware, The State is now arming itself against it’s own citizens

    LINK

  • Midwesterner

    P.A.

    I am very confused about how you equate “elected official” with “civil servant”. This is not about what happens to the civil servant, I’ve made that clear. This is about what happens to the elected official. You seem to be insisting that elected officials are not allowed to solicit information from government employees. If that is in fact the case, that is horrifying.

    This is clearly protected conduct by the elected official. Unless somebody brings a charge of high treason or similar.

    As for “speaking freely about”, that is what parliamentary privilege is all about. And any political speech more than a little short of treason is privileged. In this case his speech is so far short of treason that if there is any to be found, it is on the side of the party in power, particular the Speaker of the House of Commons acting against the constitutional rights of the people’s representation in parliament.

    The only person that should be actionable in this case is the civil servant.

    For the record, my personal opinion is that, until replaced in a constitutionally proper election by their own constituents, even convicted murderers should be allowed to represent their constituents. The only crime that should abrogate that representation is a crime against the constitution or crown itself.

    “What’s the difference?”

    Again, you are saying it is correctly a crime for the elected representative of the people to solicit information about the government on behalf of the people. That is appalling. I hope you don’t believe that.

    “because it draws attention to the real issue”

    Only once. And then nobody with anything to lose ever challenges the PTB ever again. That is why this is so important. That is why it is so important to protect the right of the people through their chosen and duly elected representatives to investigate the government. That is why there is such a huge difference between the civil servant on the elected official.

  • Brian

    I’m sorry, but this isn’t good news. When the charges are shown to be groundless, or fatuous, as they clearly are, then we will get a sotto voce apology. We will be told that the state are sorry if we took offence at something that was said, and that perhaps Mr Damian Green should apologise for wasting police time, etc etc.

    Next time, there won’t be so much publicity, because, of course, it won’t be news, move along here, nothing to see, and these blasted Tories are inconveniencing the administration of justice by being arrested, and so on.

    I would like to hear if a anyone has a solution to this problem. Apart from telling the Metropolitan Police that decent people hope their anti-terrorist officers die horribly, painfully and soon, and that we also hope the same happens to the rest of the Stasi Scheisse.

    It is clearly better to put up with terrorists and criminals than the police.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Mid,

    I shall be happy to clarify.

    Two people have been arrested, the unelected civil servant, for misconduct in public office, and the elected MP, for conspiracy to that misconduct. The MP was not arrested for leaking the information, or publishing it once leaked. He was arrested for actively encouraging the civil servant to leak it, for participating in the civil servant’s ‘crime’.

    As I noted earlier, had it been a one-off, crisis of conscience sort of thing, and the civil servant had approached the MP as an appropriate channel, (and had the information in the leaks been of a more serious nature,) they could have got away with it. That’s precisely what parliamentary privilege is for. But entering a permanent arrangement to leak things just because they’re embarrassing, something that helps the Tories political situation, and especially if the MP had solicited this information, that’s a different kettle of fish.

    Civil servants are supposed to be politically impartial, and not take part in party politics. They are servants of the crown, and work for whatever government is elected to the best of their abilities, irrespective. It’s supposed to be a strong safeguard against corruption. And breaking that rule is seen as corruption, as using official information to support your own interests.

    It’s similar in some ways to that case in Ohio where public officials searched government databases for dirt on ‘Joe the Plumber’, the difference being that the information leaked to the opposition in that case deserved protection. If some Senator had asked them to do those searches, as their mole in the department, what would be the reaction? This is the sort of law supposedly being broken here.

    I think the rules are wrong, but those are the rules, and the police get no choice about enforcing them.

  • PA,
    “Two people have been arrested, the unelected civil servant, for misconduct in public office, and the elected MP, for conspiracy to that misconduct”.

    Alleged “misconduct in public office”.

    The whole thing is,judging by the results of previous prosecutions for roughly similar things,Ponting comes to mind,most these cases seem to dribble into the sand.
    The CPS has a fairly miserable record of prosecutions across the board.IIRC the Counter Terrorism police didn’t cover themselves with glory,there have been questionable shootings.
    Obviously the Met is a mess and needs a less gung ho squad for cases such as this.

    One thing we can be sure of,the next leak will be an official leak.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Ron,

    Fair point, and quite right. Please insert “Alleged” as appropriate. :-)

  • anonymouse

    Ron Brick wrote “Whatever happened to “Would you mind coming down to the Station to answer a few questions “? Whilsts MPs are no above the law,there was something heavily jackbooted about the approach.”

    Only by arresting Green were the police able to undertake searches immeditaely without obtaining a warrant, which in the circs a JP or judge would obviously have refused or delayed.

    Obviously they were under instructions to flush out at all costs any evidence of other secret(s) being leaked, secrets which have presumably not yet have come to light but must be fairly dramatic to prompt such a desperate act …

  • Pa Annoyed

    anonymouse,

    Where did you hear that there was no warrant?

    “It said search warrants had been carried out at a home in Kent, a home in west London, business premises in Kent and in central London”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7753557.stm

    Is that wrong?

  • Paul Marks

    On the “specific issue”:

    I was a security guard (on and off, and along with other jobs) from the early 1980′s to a couple of years ago – then it became illegal for me to be a security guard (as it already was illegal for me to teach any subject in a government school) because I did not have one of the new “licences”.

    So it seems a bit odd that at least five thousand illegal immigrants are allowed to be security guards. And this has nothing to do with whether one is in favour of free migration or not.

    On the real matter of the post:

    Brian’s post is a good one – as others have pointed, Mr Brown “made his name” by using leaked information back in the 1980′s.

    Mrs Thatcher was far from a perfect supporter of Civil Association (as Sean Gabb and others pointed out at the time), but the lady believed in it.

    Mr Brown (and the rest of the “Progressives”) hate Civil Association.

    They are nasty little people.

  • Tony Hollick

    The SOCA officers who arrested Green were Special Branch officers.

    On January 13, 1983, Special Branch officers Finch and Jardine were after one David Martin. They opened fire on a yellow Mini in Central London, dragged the passenger — one Stephen Waldorf, a video editor with “World in Action” out of the car, emptied their revolvers into Waldorf’s head, then smashed his head in with the gun butts. Miraculously, Waldorf survived.

    The two officers were charged with the attempted murder of Waldorf. They pleaded “Not Guilty”, and were acquittted on the grounds that they were attempting to kill David Martin, not Stephen Waldorf. They were then returned to active duty by the Met, who stated that no disciplinary proceedings could be brought because the two officers had been acquitted at their trial!

    Stephen Waldorf was later awarded UKP 300,000.

    One of the witnesses was named as David Ramsay Steele.

    There’s a Wiki on the case, which was a cause celebre.

    As and when we all have personal radio alarms which transmit out personal ID, on our command, with the GPS coordinates, we can do business with the Rescue Services of our choice. Until then, the State’s police will do the State’s bidding. Or follow their own agendas..

    Tony
    .

  • Midwesterner

    If some Senator had asked them to do those searches, as their mole in the department, what would be the reaction?

    Incessant congressional hearings and a hotly contested election next time around. The senator would also probably have been liable to ‘Joe’ for civil damages.

    At no time should the the people of that senator’s state be denied unobstructed representation by their Senator.

    Perhaps the disagreement is that you are simultaneously defending and disagreeing with parliamentary rules. I am talking exclusively of the right of the people to be represented in parliament.

    We have a thoroughly corrupt representative in the US named Charles Rangel. Even if he is convicted of anything short of treason, I believe he should still be allowed to represent the people of his district. But I dearly hope he loses everything but his one vote in the full body of Congress. That is something that cannot be taken from him personally; it is in fact taken from his constituents. We Americans have a thing about losing our representation.

    If the MoP had been secretly leaking the acquired information to enemies of the sovereignty of the UK or as wiki puts it “adhering to the Sovereign’s enemies, giving them aid and comfort, in the realm or elsewhere;” that would and should be actionable as high treason. But this person was apparently making the information known to ‘the people’ via the media.

    The people acting through their elected representatives must not be punished in any way for interrogating their own government. The only proper option for dealing with a malicious MoP is for other elected representatives (the other MoPs) to attempt to deny that MoP access to information. The people’s constitutional representatives must never be punished by the government for attempting to acquire information about that government or using that information as they think best serves their constituents. Legislators personify the will of the people. It is never for any government employee to defend the government against the governed. Defense of the government against the people and their representatives lies strictly with the people and the representatives themselves.

    This is why legislative bodies, for better or worse, police themselves. When unelected government officers police them, they cease to be representatives of the people. Legislators should only be censurable by a quorum of the full body. In the US it requires a two thirds vote of the full body to expel them. Outside of these procedures their representation should not be interfered with even for criminal matters.

    Suppression of dissenting members of parliament is suppression of the people themselves. Being an advocate for constitutional government, I am no friend of unfettered democracy but government unfettered by either constitution or democracy is unbounded authoritarianism.

  • Paul Marks

    Thank you for that Mr Hollick – but was Mr Martin trying to leak information about immigration?

    Otherwise what you have described is a case of trigger happy policy officers – rather than a government effort to prevent dissent. I agree with you that trigger happy policy officers are a very wicked thing – but they are not the same wicked thing.

    As for creating a climate where such things go on, a personal example may be of help.

    In the chamber of Kettering Council the then leader of the Labour group made implied threats to various members (who, oddly enough, did not include me) that their statements violated “equality and diversity policy”.

    Mr Brown certainly did not issue any orders to the then leader of the Labour group on Kettering Council to do that – but he helped pass the regulations and create the climate where such things happen.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Mid,

    I don’t really disagree with any of that. Although I would re-iterate, the MP wasn’t arrested for leaking the information to the public, but for encouraging the civil servant to leak it. MPs can say and publish anything they want, perfectly legally. They’re trusted to use their own judgement to know when not to. That particular right of representation is not being touched.

    The problem is that in your vision of constitutional representation, the opposition ought to have official and legal access to the information – not have to get it under-the-table, so to speak. In the UK system, the legislature can only question the executive via certain official channels – by official questions in the House, by questioning witnesses before the committees, and by the same freedom of information act the rest of us have access to. It’s quite correct to say that that is part of their job, and the way they represent us.

    However, all UK governments to some extent, and the current government in particular, believe that except in emergencies official information should pass only via those official channels – it gives them the opportunity to ensure that bad news can be spun the right way, to have their defences in place, and perhaps for some ‘creative’ interpretation of the questions. To have to operate in such a goldfish bowl is more than they can bear.

    As I said, the issue is not one specific to MPs. The poor sod of a civil servant who leaked the information also got arrested, has been suspended from his job, and his career prospects should he survive do not look rosy. He does not have the defences and connections that an MP does, nor the backing of a political party. And just as has been complained above concerning Mr Green’s arrest, this sends a clear message to any other civil servants contemplating leaks. But there has been no outcry.

    MPs seem outraged that anyone should dare to arrest them, and seem to consider themselves immune from interference by the police. That isn’t what Parliamentary privilege is for – they are not rulers, but servants of the people. Or are supposed to be.

    Which is why I say, going on about this being specifically an MP being arrested is the wrong approach. They should be equally outraged by the arrest of the civil servant; or better, outraged that this sort of information is being kept from the public by means of executive secrecy. MPs have to follow the rules, same as anyone else, but they ought to be the right rules.

    Anyway, I’ve gone on for long enough about it. I’ll make just one last note of an oddity before giving up – apparently, Boris Johnson, the Tory mayor of London, and David Cameron, leader of the Tories, were both informed before the arrests, but apparently none of the Labour ministers were. What can it mean? It’s very odd, anyway.

  • Midwesterner

    You don’t get it. The “poor sod” works for politicians both appointed and elected – caveat emptor. The permanent government bureaucracy including both the poor sod and the LEOs who arrested him work for ‘the people’ who are personified by their elected representatives.

    MPs seem outraged that anyone should dare to arrest them, and seem to consider themselves immune from interference by the police. That isn’t what Parliamentary privilege is for – they are not rulers, but servants of the people. Or are supposed to be.

    You are not getting this. I’ll have one more try and then leave it for others if they are getting it. You are right, elected representatives are not rulers – they are servants of the people. And it is those people who grant and withdraw the office. Not appointed government. This is precisely what parliamentary privilege is for – to make sure elected legislators answer only to the voters for their jobs and not to unelected masters. It is a reversal that can only bring despotism to permit the unelected government to discipline its ostensible masters.

    If you can’t get this point maybe there is somebody else who sees the important distinction and can explain it better than I can.

  • a.sommer

    (Americans, despite our sharedish language, have a different political and legal culture, and I suspect for the most part won’t realise how shocking this affair is.

    Oh, I think I have some idea. The UK appear to have several serious cases of jackassery at high levels, which is not even slightly new. What are you going to do about it?

  • RAB

    Well A sommer, elect a tory govt at the next election.
    Fat lot of good that will do though.

    A link I picked up from one of Ron Bricks links is this-

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1090484/I-faced-life-jail—just-writing-Milton-Keynes.html

    Well I kinda know this territory well.

    I have worked both sides of the line, both as a Civil Servant and journalist.
    I have had my phone tapped in the past(which is why my phone conversations come out like something from the Jabberwokky even to this day.)

    Who the fuck are these people????
    And where have they left their souls???

  • H Forte

    (Americans, despite our sharedish language, have a different political and legal culture, and I suspect for the most part won’t realise how shocking this affair is. Many of us on this side of the Pond have the perception that US authorities tend to go in like the Marines, and then get counterattacked by lawyers using constitutional rights, which, of course, we don’t have.)

    Many Americans (at least those who have been paying attention for the last dozen or so years), will be keeping an eye on this, as policies and practices have been traded by governments on both sides of the atlantic. Power grabs have often started by those wishing to expand their reach by observing other “foreigh democracies” in action, and mirroring them with only minor tweaks to suit local limitations. Or by eliminating any limitations beforehand (see Patriot Act).

    And while we do have The Constitution, ask anyone snared by the aforementioned Act emprisoned at Gitmo without trial, placed on rendition flights, or had their phone calls tapped without warrants whether they feel protected by the great document.

    Considering the transition of Government we are about to undergo, it would be wise to watch very carefully as events unfold over there.

  • Egfrith

    “The MP was not arrested for leaking the information, or publishing it once leaked. He was arrested for actively encouraging the civil servant to leak it, for participating in the civil servant’s ‘crime’.”

    Am curious about this.

    FOI requests do not have a fixed form. They do not have to be addressed to anyone in particular at an organisation (in way that a DPA request must be addressed to an organisation’s DP controller). The Act does not give a right of access to information per se, but records held by the organisation. The Home Office is, of course, one of these public bodies encompassed by the Act.

    So. What if, say, the MP (or a future MP) claimed that he received the documents as a result of an FOI request? He would surely be protected, as it would be a legally permitted request of information. He could even furnish the civil servant in question with a written request for information. Equally, as long as the released documents were not classified, surely this would be a defence for the civil servant against criminal proceedings : he was processing FOI requests. Of course, he would probably lose his job for not following departmental procedures, but at least they would avoid trouble with the police under this catch-all c18 law.

    Not good enough?

    How about the civil servant in question simply tells the MP that there might be documents x/y/z of interest, for the MP to make a request through the proper channels for copies of the said documents. Of course, there is a procedure to follow, departments can and do flout the disclosure rules, and the government does, ultimately, have a veto enshrined in the Act.

  • guy herbert

    Brian,

    I don’t think there’s anything crazy in your comparison with the behaviour of 20th century dictatorships. There is a difference of degree rather than kind from totalitarian states here. Officials and police appear to have the power to act in political manner without independent constraints. And they act in the interest of the state as they see it, identified with the interests of (a) the ruling party, and (b) the departments of governrment.

    The pronouncements of Labour loyalists and assorted reflex authoritarians that there is nothing to see here because the rules were followed, and/or police were stopping a conspiracy because the word is in the charge not pursued, and/or because no ministers gave any orders, remind me of so many apologists for dictators claiming their state ran on orderly lines in pursuit of a higher national interest and since there is no evidence that [insert dictator here] ordered the torture and murder and official records are lacking it was never official policy, he didn’t know about it, and it is being exaggerated for political/financial gain by opponents.

    The most alarming aspect of the whole affair is way ministers have reacted: “Nobody asked us, so no one can blame us.”

    The cabinet was in Leeds at the time, quite coincidentally. And it was Sir Iain Blair’s last day heading the Met. The police timing is at least interesting, given the leaks concerned have been being investigated for months.

  • Sunfish

    Paul Marks:

    In the chamber of Kettering Council the then leader of the Labour group made implied threats to various members (who, oddly enough, did not include me) that their statements violated “equality and diversity policy”.

    Was the leader then told that “The author of equality and diversity policy can go fellate a dead pig?”

    Pa Annoyed

    I think the rules are wrong, but those are the rules, and the police get no choice about enforcing them.

    Whether or not to enforce them, perhaps. HOW to enforce them is (at least here) subject to a little discretion.

    What I mean is, was either Green or this unnamed civil servant arrested pursuant to a warrant? If so, then there’s not much choice: warrants are orders from the Court, and blowing them off means being held in contempt. Without a warrant, it’s murkier. IMHO, the correct measure would have been to issue summonses to court and be done with it “You, Damian, are hereby commanded to appear in person at the East Westchester Crown Court at 8AM on 26 December 08 to answer to a charge that you, on 30 February 2009, engaged in whatever you did in violation of section 5 of the the Knock That Bad Stuff Off Act 1989. Failure to appear may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.”

    But if there was an arrest warrant, then there was a showing of cause to the court, correct?

    But IMHO there are clear reasons for a custodial arrest rather than serving a summons and calling it done, and I don’t see how they apply here.

    Unless I’m missing something very important about the UK’s criminal procedure, which is actually pretty likely.

    As for Jacqui Smith claiming that she didn’t know anything until it happened, I don’t know what to say. However, “Bull***t!” seems like a good start.

  • mezzrow

    I’m old, I’m American. I can’t help thinking of a set of “plumbers” organized at the highest level of the U.S. government some thirty-seven years ago to “stop the leaks.” Unlike this, it was illegal. These bastards have arrogated the right to themselves to do this whenever they see fit. Legally.

    Brought down a government over here, didn’t it? This smells the same to me.

    As those well known poets, neighbors of mine, and fellow members of the Scots-Irish yeomanry, Lynyrd Skynard, once sang, “smell that smell”, friends. Are we not free men? Perhaps not.

  • mezzrow

    That was a little bit too darned cryptic – let me expand.

    As an individual slowly falls into a life of drugs and sensation, looking for the next fix (the subject of the song referenced), so the pols and bureaucrats of the new Labour state have fallen into a pattern of addictive behavior using their thousands of new laws as a club to beat dissent and “checks and balances” (god bless America) our of the system.

    There is nothing to check or balance this behavior other that the will of good men and women to resist, document, leak, and make things right. The good men and women of Britain can still distinguish between right and wrong, lest the minions of the Grauniad and their fellow travelers criminalize into “thought crime” any effort to shine a light into their grotty little machinery of removing the personal liberty given by God to us all. Power is a drug.

  • guy herbert

    Oh, and there are some other strange aspects, as Shami Chakrabarti points out in the Sunday Times:

    Who exactly in the house authorised the raid on a member’s office, and while we’re about it, why the execution of this whole operation at a time when parliament has risen for a few days and difficult questions are harder to ask?

    Who first briefed the press that Green had been arrested? Was this itself an unethical leak? Why were some senior politicians rather than others informed of the operation in advance? Given that the whole saga began with a Home Office complaint, did no one in the ministry of the interior know about the parliamentary side of the investigation?

    My emphasis. Not just that questions are harder to ask, but it would be much less alarming to MPs to go in and seize papers and computers when they are in their constituencies or London homes and Portcullis House, the parliamentary office-block, is almost deserted. It does look like an attempt to keep things quiet.

    Sunfish,

    What I mean is, was either Green or this unnamed civil servant arrested pursuant to a warrant?

    As I answered on another post, not in this country. In fact (pace a former police officer I know who protests that the tests are still demanding) there are now almost no constraints over who is arrested.

    The Home Office guidance (pdf) to police on the 2005 changes to the law sets it out:

    The grounds for making an arrest are that a constable has reasonable grounds to suspect that a person is committing, has committed or is about to commit an offence AND importantly, to believe that the arrest is necessary for any of the following reasons:

    (a) to ascertain the person’s name;
    (b) to ascertain the person’s address;
    (c) to prevent the person
    (i) causing physical injury to himself or any other person;
    (ii) suffering physical injury
    (iii) causing loss or damage to property;
    (iv) committing an offence against public decency; or
    (v) causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway;
    (d) to protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question;
    (e) to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the
    person in question;

    (f) to prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question.

    When considering whether arrest is necessary the officer in question must identify the need for his actions and be able to justify why the arrest is necessary rather than deal with the case by way of a summons or fixed penalty notice. The officer should also consider whether street bail would be appropriate, guidance on street bail can be found in Home Office Circular 61/20033

    .

    The main considerations are the needs of the victim and the ability to achieve a successful outcome to the investigation. These are the key drivers and in looking to achieve the best for both, the arresting officer should consider the circumstances of the offender and the nature of the offence.

    Again, my emphasis. Arrest for an indictable offence then spawns all sorts of additional police powers without any involvement of a court. The same guidance helpfully points out:

    s18 – Entry and search after arrest on authority of an Inspector [roughly = lieutenant]
    s32 – Search upon arrest, no authority required
    s42 – Apply for extended detention
    (to 36hrs) on authority of a Superintendent [roughly = captain]
    s43 – Warrants for further detention
    (up to 72hrs) on authority of a Magistrate [the most junior form of judge, not always even legally qualified]
    s44 – Extension of warrants for
    further detention (up to 96hrs) on authority of a Magistrate
    s56 – Delay right to have someone informed of arrest
    on the authority of an Inspector
    s58 – Delay access to legal advice on the authority of a Superintendent

    In consequence of the 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (remember?), we now have something called an All-premises Warrant, too. Something explicitly outlawed in the US Constitution. (Though HM Customs and Excise never gave up using the writ of assistance, it wasn’t available to police or anyone else.)

  • Pa Annoyed

    Mid,

    This one surprised me.
    “It is a reversal that can only bring despotism to permit the unelected government to discipline its ostensible masters.”
    Do you then not believe in the separation of powers, that the legislature make the rules and the unelected judiciary enforce them? And that all being equal before the law – members of the government are subject to judicial enforcement of the laws the government itself introduced?

    The police enforce the laws on behalf of the people, just as the legislature writes them.

    Guy,

    “The pronouncements of Labour loyalists and assorted reflex authoritarians that there is nothing to see here because the rules were followed, and/or police were stopping a conspiracy because the word is in the charge not pursued…”

    I do hope you’re not talking about me! :-)

    The word ‘conspiracy’ is in the reason for the arrest (there’s been no charge yet) because the crime suspected is not that the MP did it, but that the MP aided and abetted somebody else doing it. If you hire a hitman, that’s conspiracy to commit murder, not murder itself.

    And there certainly is something to see here – the arrest and suspension of the civil servant for doing something you all seem to be saying should be legal, which I see nobody yet has seen fit to note. Why is this?

    Sunfish,

    “What I mean is, was either Green or this unnamed civil servant arrested pursuant to a warrant?”

    There were warrants issued for the searches at least (unless the BBC got it wrong). Whether there was one for the arrest I haven’t seen mention of, but I would assume they’d do everything by the book. Why would people be so certain there wasn’t one?

    There does seem to be some strange idea floating around that this was some sort of rogue operation. Several people have assumed they did it without warrants, without following the usual procedures, (and indeed that the usual procedure is to inform the Home Secretary every time they arrest someone). I don’t know for certain that they did, and it is true that there are legal ways they might not, but they’d have to be pretty stupid not to messing with an MP, wouldn’t they?

    I think a summons to court would only be appropriate if they’ve got enough to charge, which they haven’t. I presume they had enough to suspect a crime had taken place, and had brought him in for questioning and conducted searches to gather more evidence. And the arrest was possibly custodial so that evidence couldn’t be destroyed.

    Egfrith,

    Yes, that’s more or less how I’d have done it. You can’t process FOI under the table like that, but you could make suggestions as to what FOI request to make.

  • Midwesterner

    Do you then not believe in the separation of powers, that the legislature make the rules and the unelected judiciary enforce them?

    Separation of powers is tripartite. The judiciary do not “enforce” the laws, they interpret them. It is the executive that enforces the laws. The legislative writes them.

    Separation of powers requires that the legislative branch not execute the laws as that power is reserved to the executive. It also requires that the executive not legislate or interfere in the legislative process. My understanding is that no power outside of the voters in a lawful election or the other members of the House by a two thirds majority may expel a member from the US House. If a congresscritter’s crimes were egregious enough to involve a prison sentence and the voters insisted on keeping him then I think he would need to be permitted on a ‘work release’ sort of arrangement unless the House voted to expel. I presume the House would so vote; I don’t think we’ve had an inmate actively serving in Congress. But I’m not sure.

    At no time ever can the executive interfere in the legislative process; period, full-stop, end of sentence.

    his mobile telephone has been seized and his Parliamentary email address frozen.

    The Speaker of the House of Commons, the Labour MP Michael Martin, is understood to have given police the unprecedented approval to search an MP’s private office. The move has surprised many backbench MPs, who believe that Parliamentary privilege may have be undermined by the move.

    We have had this case in the US but with an almost certainly corrupt crook. It is unprecedented in US history and treads as heavily on the line of separation of powers as is currently possible. The first judge sided with the FBI on the seizure of the legislator’s office records but a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia overturned that decision and protected the Representative’s legislative records. They ruled that a court and not the FBI would decide what the FBI could look at of the records. The Supreme Court upheld them.

    The congresscrook ran again and was reelected and is running yet again. While he is in deep doo doo and may spend a very long time in prison (like, several reincarnations) at no time can his Constitutionally defined legislative activities curtailed by Executive action.

    You may want to look into the case of Representative William Jefferson and the freezer cash. In my opinion, even as it shook out, they may have stepped across the line of separation. Something to keep in mind is that the Jefferson (a Democrat) case occurred under Bush (a Republican) but at a time when the Democrats in the House were very anxious to appear law & order so they cut a whole lot more slack than they otherwise would have.

  • Common Purpose Fabians of the Yard doing the politicians’ bidding:

    http://www.stopcp.com/cppolice.php(Link)

  • Mrs jackson

    A lot of this seems to hang on whether Green induced the civil servant to provide him with leaked information – and that if he did this was contravening some law or other.

    Where is this law written down and what counts as inducement? If a civil servant offers an opposition MP classified information is that OK? But if he does so regularly and one week the MP rings him and say what have you got for me this week, does that count as an inducement? Does that make it a criminal offence? Seems a lot of journalists and lobby correspondents could be picked up all the time if so.

    When arrested Galley (the civil servant) seems to have implicated Green (or been encouraged to do so) and there are reports he made a further phone call to Green AFTER his arrest, without revealing he had been arrested – presumably the so called police Honey Trap the police which is being reported.

    The row about the police entering parliament is on two levels. That traditionally they cannot enter Parliament except by invitation – who invited them in on this occasion – Speaker Martin or the Serjeant at Arms?

    And once on the premises they declared Green’s office a “crime scene” and seized all his papers, and his constituency records and cut off his email. Meanwhile they arrested Green and him for 9 hours while they did the same at his other addresses. On what grounds did they do this? They appear to offer no evidence, just acting on information received.

    Surely if the perceived crime was SO serious, they could have got a better class of warrant. This sort of warrant used here could be used against any public servant for anything.

    Speaking as a former reasonably high ranking one myself, there are degrees of security information and some are ranked higher than others. Immigration figures in the HO are not likely to be the highest rank which will concern matters of national security.

    And a Civil Servant leaking information might reasonably be expected to be sacked if caught.

    However since when did the rules state that a politician known to have dealings with a civil servant dealing in leaks, should also be arrested and have all his confidential records confiscated and his email cut off?

    Finally I am very sceptical that the police on their own would have chosen quite such a convenient time to enter Parliament. I wonder if someone in the HO briefed them.

    As for a political dimension, Bob Quick, the Assistant Commissioner behind the raid, was appointed in April by Jacqui Smith. And the short list for Met Commissioner will be assembled shortly, among those applying is Sir Paul Stephenson currently acting Commissioner. Chair of the Appointments Panel and vetting the candidates? Sir David Normington the Permanent Secretary at the HO who started this particular hare running? Anyone still claim it doesn’t have a political dimension.

    Sadly it would not be the first time the Mets boots have been bigger than his brains, egged on in this occasion by a senior civil servant with important police jobs if not in his gift then in sphere of influence.

    It really is high time Counter Terrorism was taken out of the Met and put directly under the HO. They don’t want it because it would cost them, but why should Londoners pay for this? They have other crime issues to deal with.

  • Paul Marks

    Sunfish.

    The then leader of the Labour Group that his own statements were both false (as no statements made by other members had violated the statutory duty of the council to promote equality and diversity – the author of the policy being H.M. Goverment), and were an effort to intimidate other members.

    He was further told that if he did not withdraw he would himself be reported to the Local Government Standards Board of England and Wales (the then procedure – it has now been changed).

    Of course it might have been better to tell him (and H.M. Government) to go engage in sexual conduct with farm animals – but you must remember I am not an independent councillor, my own group would have taken a very dim few of such a blunt approach.

  • guy herbert

    Pa Annoyed,

    No I wasn’t talking about you. (And I second your squashing of the received nonsense about the Official Secrets Act.)

    Brian,

    I would like to hear if a anyone has a solution to this problem.

    I’d quite like to revert to the position where police have to charge you or release you immediately if they arrest you, and they don’t get to search your property without a warrant except in very restricted circumstances. I’d have quite liked the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to have given the common law Judge’s Rules the force of statute and provided for improperly obtained evidence to be excluded from court.

    And since “malfeasance in public office” was revived in order to deprive public servants of the defences they’d have if they were private sector whistleblowers, how about redefining it by statute. (At the same time as we scrap common law conspiracy to defraud in line with the Law Commission recommendation that HMG has been ignoring because it is too useful to have an offence of which every businessman is technically guilty when he sets out to make a profit.)

  • guy herbert

    Pa Annoyed,

    To clarify. The people I’m talking about are not here, they are on Labour-leaning publications. And they tend to wave the word “conspiracy” with a historical air of something deeply terrible in itself, not with the understanding that (save in certain abstruse cases where it ought to be abolished) it is a form of liability for another offence whose seriousness it inherits.

  • Paul Marks

    Midwestener and Pa Annoyed – I am going to pile into your discussion (because I am rude chap – as you both know).

    I think an historical example may help:

    Senator Joseph McCarthy went about saying that various people were Communists or had helped the Communists.

    I believe the Senator from Wisconsin was normally right (especially if one looks at what he actually said – rather than at what he is supposed to have said).

    But this is because I follow the interpreation of the case given by (for example) M. Stanton Evans (“Blacklisted By History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies).

    However, let us say that I am quite wrong – and that Senator McCarthy was totally wrong in what he said about various people.

    The proper people to punish Senator McCarthy for that were the voters of Wisconsin – having had both sides of the case put to them (the anti McCarthy case being put by C.B.S. and most of the rest of the mainstream media).

    It was not proper for the Eisenhower Administration to use Executive methods against Senator McCarthy, or for the Senate to “censure” him (itself a drive partly led by Republican Senator Flanders of Vermont for non political reasons – Flanders hated Jews and homosexuals, and McCarthy’s Chief of Staff, Roy Cohn, happened to be both).

    However, let us say that officials in government were feeding McCarthy information (and they were) and let us say that this information was false and they knew it was false (not true – but let us pretend).

    Then it WOULD have been correct for the Eisenhower Administration to move against those officals – by fireing them

    A Civil Servant may leak information to a Senator – but the Civil Servant is an employee of the Executive, not of the voters.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Guy,

    Thanks for that. It makes me feel better.

    Paul,

    Please, feel free to pile in. I don’t think it’s rude.

    If I understand your point correctly, (and I’m not at all sure that I do,) you’re saying that on the subject of what a politician says they answer only to the voters, but on the legality of the methods he is complicit in to get that information… what? You say the officials that leak it should be fired, but are you thereby saying that the politician should not? Because they’re not part of the executive?

    Or were you saying the officials should only be fired if the information is false?

    I’m not disagreeing (yet). Just trying to get clear what you’re saying.

    If, hypothetically, a government Official leaks true information to a senator that is useful to his political campaign against the present government (say, that Joe Wurzelbacher doesn’t have a plumbing license and owes back-taxes) at the Senator’s request and as part of a long-standing information-providing relationship, then while I think we’re clear that the Official broke the rules, and that the Senator can freely and legally publicise the information received, what I’m not clear on is whether you think it’s against any rule for the Senator to have requested the information from the Official. Is that also a matter only for the voters?

    What methods can politicians use to get the information they need? Are there limits?

  • Laird

    I know nothing about this matter other than what I read here on Samzdata, but from what I see it does appear to be a serious breach of the separation of powers. However, I would like to make a more general observation.

    Everyone here seems agreed that Mr. Green’s arrest was predicated on “conspiracy”. I have a fundamental problem with all “conspiracy” laws. If there was an actual illegal act the proper charge isn’t “conspiracy” but “aiding and abetting” or “accessory”. If there was no underlying predicate criminal act then there can be no “conspiracy”. My friend and I can “conspire” to have ham sandwiches for lunch, and we would in fact be guilty of a “conspiracy” toward that end, but unless the purchase and consumption of ham sandwiches is itself illegal there should be nothing actionable about that “conspiracy”. From what I see here the information “leaked” was not confidential and so its disclosure was not criminal. (Of course, the manner of its disclosure might have been a breach of the civil servant’s obligations to his employer, but that’s not a criminal matter.) Ergo, there can be no “conspiracy”.

    In my opinion all “conspiracy” laws are inherently unconstitutionally vague and should be stricken from the books. Either there was a crime or there wasn’t. The availability of “conspiracy” statutes is nothing more than an open invitation to abuse.

  • Midwesterner

    Speaking for me only (not for Paul who’s participation I welcome),

    what? You say the officials that leak it should be fired, but are you thereby saying that the politician should not? Because they’re not part of the executive?

    Can be fired. At the discretion of the executive authority within the law. By “politician” I assume what you mean is a person that has been elected by the people to represent them in the legislature. And that person is protected from the executive not because they aren’t in the executive, but because they are in the legislative.

    What methods can politicians use to get the information they need? Are there limits?

    There should be none outside of the legislative body itself. And even then I have some concerns. The executive may prosecute crimes but all executive activities that infringe the legislator’s constitutionally defined activities should be done under the parliamentary rules of the legislative body, not the executive. The SCOTUS determined in the case of Rep. Jefferson that the judicial branch, not the executive branch will examine the evidence that Jefferson is claiming legislative privilege for and determine whether it is truly legislative and thus protected or not legislative and therefore not protected.

    I am understanding now how the UK came to be so profoundly screwed up. When I hear Paul or Guy or others relate all of the laws and regulations telling elected officials what they can say and do on behalf of their constituents, I have been confused. How can (for example) an elected official be prohibited from voting on the issue they campaign on because they are ‘biased’?

    Elected officials (in the legislative branch in particular) ARE the people. Scum they may well be (and often/usually are), but there is absolutely no way to protect the government from the will of the elected officials without in fact protecting the government from the will of the people themselves.

    I am a little bit surprised that there are not more people who understand what I am saying and perhaps having a try at explaining it. I am not defending politicians in general or in particular. I am defending the right of the people to control their government. If the unelected government can tell the elected representatives how they must behave and what they may do with respect to the unelected government, how can you, the people, have any control of your government at all? The answer is, you don’t.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    It’s interesting, because Mencius Moldbug(Link) has been claiming on his blog for a long time now that many modern democracies are now virtually controlled by the civil service, aided and abetted by the media and the leftoid ideology. They are the true rulers, not their supposed political masters.

    IIRC, he calls it the Cathedral(Link). The worst part of it, he states, is that it answers to nobody, is not responsible to anybody. Not their political masters, not the people.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    It’s interesting, because Mencius Moldbug(Link) has been claiming on his blog for a long time now that many modern democracies are now virtually controlled by the civil service, aided and abetted by the media and the leftoid ideology. They are the true rulers, not their supposed political masters.

    IIRC, he calls it the Cathedral(Link). The worst part of it, he states, is that it answers to nobody, is not responsible to anybody. Not their political masters, not the people.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Oops! Sorry for the double post!!!

  • Laird

    Mid, I understand your point, and I agree with you. If the legislature isn’t immune from the actions of the executive branch it’s the first step toward an imperial executive.

    Didn’t you guys have an important resolution of this at some place called Runnymede a few centuries ago?

  • Re: The Bohemian Corporal And The Jews.

    The Corporal promised that he would wipe out the Jews if America entered the war. No matter that he declared war on America first.

    The Wansee Conference was on 20 Jan 1942.

  • Tony Hollick

    Paul Marks:

    Well, it may be relevant that Stephen Waldorf was a video editor at “World in Action.” Also at “World in Action” was a certain Gerry Gable, then editor of “SEARCHLIGHT” magazine.

    Someone at “World in Action” leaked an extensive “Strictly Secret” memo by Gerry Gable detailing his intricate dealings with Special Branch and other intelligence agencies to Page and Hitchens, who wrote it up and published it in the “New Statesman.” It would be interesting to know who at “World in Action” took and ‘leaked’ the Gable Memo, wouldn’t it? It’s not as if many people could have had access to Gable’s files there.

    Regards,

    Tony

  • Tony Hollick

    “Searchlight” & the State

    “Leave it to the experts…”
    “I have now given the names I have acquired to be checked out by British/ French security services, especially the French and German connections and the South American stuff is being checked by Geoffrey Stewart-Smith’s institute. He has strong CIA links. (1), I may try somebody in the Israeli Foreign Office that I know for some checks on Kelly. It is now a time for waiting for a feed-back and also further checks here.”

    “I have attached a number of documents including the transcript of Kelly’s interview with World in Action. It goes without saying that I would like this kept strictly secret.”

    (‘Strictly secret’: one of a series of reports on other journalists which London Weekend Television researcher and Searchlight Publishing Chairman Gerry Gable prepared with a little help from “the experts”).

    * * *

    In January 1964, three young men (2) were convicted at Highbury Magistrates Court for breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony, after attempting to steal private papers from the self-proclaimed “mild fascist” historian David Irving. Despite the fact that one of them was unemployed and the other two gave their professions as “electrician”, they were represented in Court by a Queens Council and £1,000 bail was put up by a businessman, company director Leslie Jacobs of Clapton. One of the three was additionally charged with stealing a GPO identity card which he used in the burglary: his name was Gerry Gable. Council for the defence told the court, “they hoped to find material they could take to Special Branch”. (3)

    Twenty years later the same Gerry Gable, reviewing Stuart Christie’s Investigative Researcher’s Handbook (which had included profiles of two leading right-wingers as examples of how to go about an investigation), dismissed the book with the scathing admonishment to “leave it to the experts”.(4) We think our readers should be made aware of just which “experts” Mr. Gable has in mind, and why it is that Searchlight reacts so curiously whenever anyone outside their select circle dares step onto their jealously guarded territory of investigating the extreme Right.

    Born in January 1937, Gerry Gable is a former member of the Young Communist League (YCL), and stood as Communist Party candidate in the Northfield ward of Stamford Hill, north London, in 1962. He was also linked to the Zionist ‘antifascist’ 62 Group nominally led by Harry Bidney (manager of the Limbo Club in Soho) — formed by veterans of the anti-Mosley 43 Group (basically a CP set-up) who thought the group had grown ‘too liberal’ — to counter the antics of Colin Jordan, John Tyndall, and the revived neo-Nazi movement of the early ’60′s. The 62 Group (mostly supporters of the Beginite Herut organisation, a political successor to the Irgun Zvai Leumi terrorist group) specialised in direct action, infiltration, dirty-tricks, and ‘black-bag’ jobs (burglary). Gable has retained an endearing affection for ‘black-bag’ jobs, as a means of gathering information on target individuals, ever since.

    Searchlight
    Parallel to the activities of the ’62 Group, a small anti-fascist journal was founded in London to monitor the activities of Jordan, Tyndall & Co. The journal was called Searchlight. Amongst its early editors were Labour MP’s Reg Freeson and Joan Lestor (both subsequently Government Ministers for Housing and Foreign Affairs respectively). Searchlight’s “research director” was Gerry Gable. The journal ceased publication in 1967, but Gable, Maurice Ludmer (a veteran Communist and anti-fascist), and others stayed together as Searchlight Associates, in order to go on providing ‘research material’ on the extreme Right to journalists and broadcasters. In 1974 Gable and Ludmer collaborated in the production of a pamphlet detailing the background and nature of the National Front: A Well Oiled Nazi Machine. The instant success of the pamphlet (it sold out in a few weeks), helped by the wave of concern awakened on the Left by the seeming advance being made by the NF (and incidentally, the re-emergence of ‘anti-fascism’ as a bandwagon for groups like the SWP to use for their recruitment drives), prompted Searchlight Associates to resume publication as a regular journal. The pilot issue of the new Searchlight appeared in February 1975, with Maurice Ludmer as its editor. Ludmer and Gable were also amongst the first sponsors of the Anti-Nazi League.

    Since then Searchlight has built up an impressive reputation for investigative reporting, and has done pioneering work of genuine value in exposing the activities and international links of fascist organisations. But the political expediency of a perceived identity of interest in the short-term, in the cause of ‘anti-fascism’ just as in ‘anti-communism’, is apt to lead one to work with some strange allies. In Searchlight’s case, opposition to the ‘extremists’ of the Right has opened up the door to the extremists of the centre, for whom Right and Left are equally perceived as a threat to ‘democracy’.

    “Strictly secret”
    Not only has Gable admitted, as part of his defence in the 1963/4 burglary trial, that he hoped to supply information to Special Branch on David Irving, but a confidential memorandum written by him to his producers in London Weekend Television (where he worked until recently as a researcher/presenter on the London Programme: he is now trying to work his ticket with an alleged ‘heart condition’) on 2 May 1977 gave clear, hard, evidence that he has also engaged in a two-way traffic of information with the security services of several countries, and acted as a conduit of misinformation for MI5 against fellow journalists, and socialists. The memo was the subject of an article by Duncan Campbell and Bruce Page in the New Statesman in February 1980. Gable has never successfully refuted the information contained in the article. When Campbell and Page went down to LWT’s offices to confront Gable with the evidence and demand some answers, Gable simply cleared his desk and fled, refusing to talk to them. This is in marked contrast to his previous meeting with Campbell, whom he took out to an expense account lunch during the ‘ABC’ Official Secrets case to pump him for information he could pass on to his friends in Special Branch.

    The memo, written by Gable followed, he says, a lunch with a Security Service employee in May 1977. The nature of the official material received and recorded by him — mixed with large amounts of random gossip — indicates that much of it was coloured by phone-tap information and informer’s reports. It consists almost entirely of libellous untruths about a group of ‘target’ individuals — the ‘ABC’ Official Secrets defendants, American deportees Philip Agee and Mark Hosenball, and several of their acquaintances. In certain respects, material from Special Branch had been deliberately falsified to mislead Gable and his employers. The timing of the memo showed clearly an intense interest on behalf of MI5 in manipulating events surrounding the Agee/ Hosenball case and the beginnings of the ‘ABC’ prosecution.

    “Kelly is the KGB man…”
    The person most frequently, and libellously, mentioned in its pages was not directly involved in either case: Phil Kelly, a journalist acquainted with both sets of accused men. Kelly was around this time one of the victims of a number of burglaries and thefts in London which were clearly designed to gather information and documents rather than valuables (Gable’s proven speciality, as witnessed by the Irving trial…)

    Admitted to be one of a series, the memo was headed “Agencies” presumably a reference to Gable’s information sources (named, apart from MI5, as the CIA, French and German security, Stewart-Smith’s FARI institute, and the ‘Israeli Foreign Office’). It mixes up a few accurate facts with half-truths, and constructs upon them a series of fantasies, linking the Young Liberals with Cubans, Palestinian and German terrorists, various contributors to Time Out, members of the London Co-Op, and the KGB, into a deadly, all-encompassing conspiracy. Gable also asserts that an “eye-witness” who “had infiltrated the Palestinians and some left groups” (and is apparently well known to him) has backed up his claims. There is a remarkable similarity between information received by Special Branch when they stopped Kelly at Heathrow Airport in 1970, and the “eye-witness” story re-told by Gable in 1977. The implication must be that Gable was at least aware of a Special Branch or MI5 informer amongst left-wing groups and remained quiet about it.

    Gable wrote: “The arrest of Campbell / Berry and Aubrey has caused a civil rights row, but according to my top level security sources, they inform me in strictest confidence that for about four years Campbell/ Berry/ Kelly and others have been systematically gathering top-level security material. Campbell, who claims to have only an interest in technological matters as far as the state is involved, had done four years detailed research into the whole structure of the other side of not only our Intelligence services but those of other NATO countries. He has also gone to people who work on top security contracts and started off by asking them about open commercial work their companies do and then gradually asked them for information on top secret work, including that on underwater detection hardware, which he clearly knows is beyond the pale.”

    “Politically it appears the group have no guiding light or line, but Kelly is the KGB man who reaps the goodies gathered by other people…”

    “The security service accepts that once the real nature of this case begins to emerge they expect people like Jonathan Aitkin (the Tory MP, who has expressed support for the ABC) will fade away fast. The security service accepts that a number of decent people have signed up to support these people on civil rights grounds and also they unofficially accept all the shortcomings of the act they have been held under, but they say they are sure this has gone beyond the bounds of Press Investigation.”

    In the last few words of the memo Gable wrote: “I have now given the names I have acquired to be checked out by British/ French security services…it is now a time for waiting for a feed-back and also for further checks here.” The feed-back never came of course, because the whole story was really just black propaganda.

    The Infiltration Game
    Searchlight obtains much of its information from imaginative use of the telephone, ‘black-bag’ jobs (of the sort Gable has been convicted for), snippets of gossip and information blackmailed out of vulnerable fascists eager to protect some guilty secret or other (usually of a sexual nature), and selected tit-bits fed to Gable from his “top-level security sources”. The value of a great deal of the material they print is arguable. Often it is slanted to achieve other ends than simply ‘antifascism’. Gable has recently lent himself to a series of manoeuvres, allying himself with former members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) who had joined the Libertarian Alliance, aimed at seizing control of the Alternative Bookshop in Covent Garden (a pivotal influence within the LA) and ousting Chris Tame (who has recently also come under fire in the pages of Searchlight) in what they hoped would be the resulting split.

    On the rare occasion when they do print information from genuine anti-fascist infiltrators (two people, independently, during our researches expressed bewilderment at Searchlight’s lack of interest in information gathered on fascists — in one case through a successful infiltration of the NF — which was offered to them), it is subject to a curious process of ‘editing’ before being published. Birmingham Communist Dave Roberts, who provided Searchlight with much of their information during the mid ’70′s, is a case in point.

    Amongst the information passed to Searchlight in 1976 by Roberts (who was subsequently disowned by Gable after Maurice Ludmer’s death), was the revelation that David King (a Birmingham Nazi known to have close links with the so-called “Column 88″) had told Roberts in prison that he suspected fellow fascist Peter Marriner of being in touch with Special Branch. Marriner, a long-time Nazi activist in Birmingham, then local organiser for the British Movement and said to be involved with “Column 88″, achieved notoriety when he was exposed as a fascist infiltrator of the Labour Party, International Socialists, and other left-wing groups during the Ladywood bye-election. Searchlight subsequently printed a long expose of Marriner’s activities, but only after the local press had already picked up the beginnings of the story and blown Marriner’s cover as election agent to Labour MP Brian Waldon and his successor, John Severs. Nowhere in Searchlight’s coverage of the Marriner case was there any mention of a Special Branch connection. Marriner told the Left he was infiltrating the Right. He told the Right he was infiltrating the Left. If he was also in contact with Special Branch, just who was infiltrating who? And why, after they published so much else of the information gathered by Roberts, did Searchlight balk at exposing a leading Birmingham Nazi as an agent of the Special Branch? Interestingly enough, another of the defendants in the Irving burglary case with Gable in 1963, Manny Carpel, was jailed for 2.5 years in April 1981 after setting fire to a printing works in Sussex which printed fascist literature. Carpel described himself during the trial as a freelance journalist working for Searchlight. His defence lawyer, Leonard Krickler, claimed on Carpel’s behalf that his client had helped the Special Branch in the past in the Midlands and Birmingham.

    Plausible Denial?
    Gable’s role in all this is open to speculation. He may be the naive tool (and fool) of the Special Branch. More probably, he appears in the classic role of “plausibly deniable” agent, used by “the experts” to do the dirty work which his “top level security sources” would rather not grubby their hands on. It is documented fact that Gable has been passing information to Special Branch, MI5, and foreign security services for 20 years; acted as a conduit for misinformation and ‘black’ propaganda between MI5 and the media (aimed in at least one case in affecting the course of criminal proceedings against fellow journalists); and concealed the existence and activities of at least one Special Branch or MI5 infiltrator inside left-wing groups.

    We can not really shed any tears about Gable employing unscrupulous methods against fascists; but his activities in other directions give us cause for concern. We are entitled to ask Mr. Gable, when he scolds those who ruffle his feathers, to just which “experts” we should leave the task of investigating those who threaten our well-being: MI5, Special Branch, CIA, Mossad? It is also necessary to ask those genuine anti-fascists amongst the Searchlight staff and contributors, whether they are in fact aware of Gerry Gable’s activities on behalf of his “top level security” chums? If they are and continue to have any dealings with the man, then we would have cause to question their motivations also. With “experts” like Gerry Gable, who needs fascists?
    Sniper

    Footnotes:
    1 Besides having served as advisor to the British Military Voluntary Force which unsuccessfully tried to send mercenaries to the Congo, Biafra, and Southern Africa, former Tory MP. Geoffrey Stewart-Smith is the editor of East West Digest (an anti-communist rag sent free to all MP’s), and director of the Foreign Affairs Research Institute (FARI). From a small beginning in 1966, by 1981 it was able to host an international conference which received a message of goodwill from President Reagan. FARI acts as an umbrella group for the Coalition for Peace through Security (CPS), located in the office above FARI at 27-31 Whitehall, which has also housed Freedom Communications International (yet another rabid anti-communist set-up) of whom Stewart-Smith is the director. Foreign Affairs Publishing Co. is a major publisher of right-wing books in England. The East West Institute/ FARI maintains close links with British, Dutch and American Intelligence.
    2 Gerry Gable, Manny Carpel and David Freedman.
    3 Evening Standard, 28 November 1963.
    4 Searchlight, No.96, June 1983.

    From Anarchy 36, 1983

    This article, despite being regularly referred to as the first occasion when the connection between Searchlight and the state’s political police was blown, has not been reprinted until now.

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    Best regards :-), Tacita.