View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Long reads
27 November 2008

Bugs, bugged and special relationships

By Aloysius McDowell

The Bible says, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” – as Tony Blair, a devout Christian, will know. After presiding over a significant increase in surveillance in his own country, he may have greeted reports that the United States bugged his private conversations with an ironic smile (impossible to know: his office was referring all calls to the White House as the news broke).

The story came from an interview with a former “communications intercept officer”, David Mufee Faulk, on ABC News. He revealed that he had come across an intelligence database, called Anchory, which included material on Mr Blair and another supposed US ally, the then Iraqi president, Ghazi al-Yawer. So far, reaction this side of the pond has been muted. However, some of the exchanges, recorded at an intelligence base in Fort Gordon, Georgia, during 2003 and 2006, are said to be of an intimate nature, including “courting, wooing” and “pillow talk” between Mr al-Yawer and his fiancée, then an official in the interim government.

One wonders what intimacies in No 10 were overheard during those years. Did Mr Mufee Faulk pull back from his earpiece as Gordon Brown shouted to Mr Blair, “I can’t believe a word you say any more”? Did the more prudish Americans reel at the foul-mouthed rantings of Alastair Campbell? And what of John Prescott? Was he heard describing George W Bush as “crap”?

There are suggestions that the eavesdropping was intended only to provide “entertainment for bored spies”. Nonetheless, the image of the “shoulder- to-shoulder” alliance that Mr Blair did so much to forge with the Americans has been tarnished. One partner in the special relationship was clearly Big Brother.

Content from our partners
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU