Contradicting the official U.S. line that “”We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response” are the British government’s legal charges against civil servants and the threat of suing the Daily Mirror under the Official Secrets Act if they publish further details of George W. Bush’s suggestion to Tony Blair that they bomb al-Jazeera’s Qatar headquarters in April 2004â€”the Mirror’s shameful response to government censorship: “We have essentially agreed to comply.”
The British government has responded sharply to the alleged leak of a government memo that said U.S. President George W. Bush had thought about bombing the Arab satellite TV network Al-Jazeera.
The Daily Mirror, which published the story, said Wednesday that Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has told it not to publish further details from the memo.
Tony Blair and George Bush (AP file photo)
“We have essentially agreed to comply,” the paper said.
The government has also charged a civil servant and a person alleged to have received the memo with violations of the Official Secrets Act.
The Mirror story said British Prime Minister Tony Blair dissuaded Bush from attacking Al-Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar, when the two leaders met in early 2004.
The United States has viewed the Arab network as hostile to American interests.
The Mirror based its story on a transcript of the conversation between the two leaders, leaked to it by an unidentified source.
Civil servant David Keogh has been accused of “a damaging disclosure” of international information. Leo O’Connor, a former employee of Tony Clarke, who was a Labour MP, is accused of receiving and releasing illegally disclosed information.
The Mirror said one British government source dismissed Bush’s comments as a joke, but another said he was serious.
A White House official said: “We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response.”
The United States has twice attacked Al-Jazeera offices. No one was hurt in the Kabul attack in 2002, while a journalist was killed the following year in Baghdad .
The Baghdad attack was a mistake and Kabul was targeted because it was thought to be a militant site, U.S. spokespeople said.
Al-Jazeera is often seen as pro-Arab. For example, U.S. Senator John McCain said recently that “nothing hurt us more than I can think of than the Abu Ghraib pictures that ran 24/7 on Al-Jazeera.”
He was referring to notorious photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing and humiliating inmates at the prison in Iraq. The network broadcast the photos, arousing widespread anger in the Arab world.
News Service: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation