Friday, 28 November 2008

The arrest of Damian Green

So, before I get accused of avoiding the main issue of the day (tho' I bet someone is typing furiously at this very moment...) I had better give my two pennyworth on the arrest of Damian Green, although it has already been covered so extensively elsewhere in the blogosphere I'm not sure anything I can say hasn't already been said. But... my thoughts....

(a) If Ministers are saying they were not informed before the arrest, I believe them, because it would be suicidal to pretend they hadn't if they had, especially when it had already been made public that David Cameron, the Speaker and Boris had been told. And I agree with those who say that people would be jumping up and down and getting very excited if the police had sought a Minister's permission, on what is obviously an operational matter, first.

(b) Phil Woolas on the Today programme was obviously constrained in what he could say because this is a matter under police investigation, but he did hint that the word 'conspiracy' was crucial, which I have taken to mean that the arrest was not simply to do with receiving leaked documents from Home Office officials, which is not exactly unprecedented (as clips of a young and rather cheerful GB on Newsnight tonight have proved), but something more serious. But it doesn't mean the allegations will turn out to have any substance (a lawyer writes).

(c) I think there is a difference to be drawn between genuine whistle-blowing, where a civil servant is so concerned by what is going on that they believe leaking documents is in the public interest, and politically mischievous leaking, i.e. where the information might be embarrassing to the Government but has no great significance beyond that. One of the many things that Labour doesn't get credit for (along with the much-loved and oft cited Freedom of Information Act) is the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which protects whistleblowers in a variety of circumstances. It is probably, along with the FOI and the relaxation of the rules on forced killing of grey squirrels, counted amongst those heinous 26,000 laws....

(d) Damian Green is hardly Aung San Suu Kyi.

(e) But even if I'm right to suspect something more than a simple leak is at the heart of this, I can't see why on earth it takes 20 counter-terrorism officers (or any counter-terrorism officer, as opposed to some ordinary cops) to carry out the arrest. Especially when, it seems, the arrest was not under any terrorism legislation, but under common law "on suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office and aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office".

(f) I know some suspicion has been cast on the timing of this, after Parliament has just prorogued. I suppose the police might have wanted to wait until Parliament wasn't sitting before they raided his office, just because it would allow them to carry out the search without disruption. But it's ludicrous to think the Goverment would have wanted it to happen right now. The Cabinet has been in Leeds today, with all the associated media planning surrounding such a trip. That's what they wanted on the front pages, not this.


Old Holborn said...

Well done

An excellent post

Old Holborn said...

Old Holborn said...


Just got an Email stating that a senior Labour MP is going to resign next week over the Green debacle.

It names "him".

Should I take it to the Sunday Press?

Your call.

Anonymous said...

One is forced to wonder how Cameron, Speaker Martin, Mayor Johnson all knew, yet the Home Secretary and the PM didn't? One wonders how PC Plod thought to himself "Hmm, best I tell the leader of the opposition, anyone lese I should tell? No, alright then, give me the handcuffs"

Do you know how many of the anti-terror police were armed during Mr Green's arrest?

Ruth Kelly's plaything said...

Kerry writes:-
'(a) If Ministers are saying they were not informed before the arrest, I believe them, because it would be suicidal to pretend they hadn't if they had...'

So, we can trust them only because they fear being caught out in a lie? Nothing about personal integrity, then. Says a lot about attitudes among the political class if a MP can express such a low opinion of her own leaders.

I don't say a low opinion is unjustified, just that even the apologists have stopped pretending that our masters exhibit any decency. In a twisted way, that might represent progress...

Bristol Dave said...

I love the way that Gordon Brown, and even worse that revolting anti-freedom campaigner Jacqui Smith state on cameras

"We didn't know about it."

...and we're just supposed to believe it?

Christ on a bike, what do they take us for? Their arrogance knows no bounds.

Hacked Off said...

It beggars belief that no fewer than 22 front line plods, some possibly armed, were deployed to as one harmless middle aged MP a few questions.

Have they nothing more important to do, on a day when 195 people have been murdered in a terrorist atrocity in Bombay and it is being claimed that some of the perpetrators were British?

Next thing they'll be claiming that they are under-resourced!

Kerry, if you value your position as an MP you have to dig away at this - otherwise, who knows, it might be your front door at some time in the future.

The Penguin

Pat Nurse MA said...

If Gordon Brown didn't know about this arrest, then why is he not venting his anger or fear that the police seem to have more power than Govt?

This was a shameful day in British politics. Kerry's, and her colleagues' votes for the draconian anti-terrorism laws are responsible.

Some of us knew that the framework had been set for abuse of these powers but I think most of us are truly shocked that the abuse came such a relatively short time afterwards.

(Sorry - just going over three pars so I hope you stay with me..)

I just wish that the modern hasty policitians would think before they take away the rights of citizens. They may be well meaning today ... but what are they putting into the hands of those who may be corrupt in future...?

Kerry said...

It wasn't carried out under anti-terrorism laws as I understand it, but under the Offical Secrets Act, which has been in existence much longer than this govt. Some of today's papers seem to be saying that they weren't really counter-terrorism officers, just part of the same squad which handles OS Act investigations. But others are saying they were.

As for the 'suicidal' comment - I could simply have written that I believe GB and Jacqui, as people of integrity - but I know how well that would have gone down with you lot! So I was trying to appeal to logic, rather than to your faith in human nature, which is know is rather lacking.

Kerry said...

The other thing I should have said on this was - I think Ministers should be able to trust their officials and the business of government would be nigh on impossible if they couldn't. I think that a civil servant breaking the Official Secrets Act is only justifiable in very exceptional circumstances, not just to facilitate party political point-scoring.

Katabasis said...

Kerry - where was the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 when Atif Amin was arrested?

Where was the public interest when Peter Griffin won his libel case against the BBC and the Guardian, despite the confidential 2005 customs report into his activities proving that the allegations were in fact true?

Why does an MP face arrest for leaking information in the public interest? Having been a security professional for over a decade it has been of great interest to me to find out that 5000+ illegal immigrants were able to get SIA badges. Especially given the way the SIA has ruined so many lives and jobs of legitimate people.

So green gets arrested, but the british arm of the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network is protected (and has been protected since the 1970s). The progress that Iran has made with nuclear weapons technology was made possible by the direct assistance of the Khan network. A network that YOUR government protects, and whose criminals it harbours.

I'm sure with you're privileges as an MP you can go away and read the Customs report on Griffin. Benazir Bhutto was killed because she was going to lift the curtain on the Khan network. But no, just like our pals in Saudi (BAe) - the Pakistanis (ISI) get a free ride too.

You're traitors the lot of you.

Guthrum said...

Damian Green is hardly Aung San Suu Kyi.

Well thats ok then!

Why do Civil servants and local government officers need military training ?

You have created a police state, and it has coming banging on the doors of Parliament

Obnoxio The Clown said...

Kerry, I'm glad you feel that way about breaking the official secrets act. So are you going to dob this guy in?