27 February 2004

Duplicity, evasions - but no answers

The aborted case against Katharine Gun, and Clare Short's allegations, simply underline the inadequacy of the Butler Commission. Let us recall the calamitous interaction between the intelligence services and the British government on Iraq. There was Scott Ritter's account of M16's Operation Mass Appeal in the 1990s, designed to 'shake up public opinion' against Iraq, using dubious intelligence material. There were the dodgy dossiers, using a plagiarised 10-year-old thesis, and forged evidence on alleged uranium purchases. There was the alleged failure to tell the prime minister that the doubtful 45 minutes claim related only to battlefield munitions, and the subsequent failure to find the allegedly ubiquitous WMD.

What a catalogue of failure. Blair's response to this situation, and to the evidence of Gun and Short, is wholly unsatisfactory. His imputations against the two women's integrity is woefully inadequate. Until we have a full, public and independent inquiry into the case for going to war against Iraq, there will remain a dark cloud over the prime minister. When that cloud breaks, the umbrella of the intelligence service will be of no protection to him.

Peter Kilfoyle is Labour MP for Liverpool Walton and a former defence minister

The Guardian has also posted the explanation sic by the UK Director of Public prosecutions:

The evidential deficiency related to the prosecution's inability, within the current statutory framework, to disprove the defence of necessity to be raised on the particular facts of this case.

I am unsure what that means. Naturally the blogosphere is fat filling up with realpolitik explanations about how governments spy and governments bug. What that does not explain is why the US and Uk used their unlawful bugging operation to torpedo any chance of a compromise UN resolution that might have impeded their drive to war.

I am sure what the UN is saying about this boys' own adventure:

Asked whether the practice of bugging the Secretary-General was regarded as illegal, the spokesman replied affirmatively, citing the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN, the 1947 "Headquarters Agreement" between the UN and the United States, and the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

In particular, he referred to Article 2 of the 1946 treaty, which states that, "The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable. The property and assets of the United Nations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action.

The UN cannot play its role if parties cannot talk to the secretary-general without fearing what they say will be reported to others. Blair is welcome to move for abolition of the UN if that is what he believes in. If he believes in the organisation at all (and he claims to) then he should obey the laws that establish its privileges and immunities.

If the US and British governments bugged (say) the US Democratic national committee or a member of the UK opposition in order to get on with the war would anyone call that justified? How is Watergate on the Hudson different?

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