On Sept 27, Derek Pasquill, an official at the Foreign Office, was charged with six counts under the Official Secrets Act. He is due to appear in court on October 11. This case is said to follow the publication in the New Statesman, the Observer and in a pamphlet by the Policy Exchange think tank of a series of articles highlighting damaging and dangerous government policy. These included an expose of British acquiescence in the secret and illegal “rendition” (Rendition: the cover up) by the United States of terrorist suspects, and various revelations about government policy towards radical Islam.
The articles won awards for the NS; but more importantly, they gave rise to a number of questions in parliament, led to cross-party support and significant shifts in government policy.
Indeed, Gordon Brown has already gone some way to distancing himself from the excesses of the past. Ministers have changed their approach to engagement with the Muslim community, ending their reliance on the Muslim Council of Britain. Indeed, ministers have acknowledged the role of the NS in highlighting these issues.
The NS readily accepts that there are some circumstances where official secrecy is necessary to protect national security. However, the idea of charging Mr Pasquill under the OS Act is an abuse of state power, designed merely to spare ministerial embarrassment. The public interest is best served by promoting this kind of debate rather than by seeking to criminalise individuals. We, and others, will pursue this with vigour.
Editor, New Statesman
Here are some links to some more of the articles:
A useful summary of the story so far can be found at Index on Censorship: Britain: secrets and sources
The New Statesman exclusive about Foreign Office discussions with the Muslim Brotherhood: Talking to terrorists
Martin Bright’s article in the Observer from August 2005: Leak shows Blair told of Iraq war terror link
Bright’s Policy Exchange pamphlet on the government’s policy of appeasement with radical Islam When progressives treat with reactionaries