It was lauded as the greatest of scoops: mercenary hack Isabel Oakeshott’s revelation in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday, dishing the contents of diplomatic cables from the UK’s Ambassador to the USA, garnered plaudits from journalists across the media spectrum. It did not seem to occur to any of them that there might be anything illegal about it. Well, it seems there was something illegal about it - and now the cops are involved.
"Knock knock" ..."Who's there?" ... "Cops" ... "Cops who?" ... "Cops you've got an appointment with AC Basu, Madam"
Although only the Guardian - and, to its credit, the Telegraph - have featured the news on their front pages today, the press establishment all know that one or more of their number could be in serious trouble, after the Metropolitan Police told the world yesterday evening that “Met launches investigation into alleged leaking of official communications involving Sir Kim Darroch”. And on what grounds were they investigating?
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu spelled it out: “the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, who take national responsibility for investigating allegations of criminal breaches of the Official Secrets Act, has launched a criminal investigation [my emphases]”. He added “Given the widely reported consequences of that leak I am satisfied that there has been damage caused to UK international relations, and there would be clear public interest in bringing the person or people responsible to justice”.
Someone here could be in trouble ...
And his message those Who Done It? “I would say to the person or people who did this, the impact of what you have done is obvious. However, you are now also responsible for diverting busy detectives from undertaking their core mission. You can stop this now. Turn yourself in at the earliest opportunity, explain yourself and face the consequences … Also, to anyone who knows or suspects those responsible, or who has any information, please come forward … Exercise your public and civic duty and call the police”. Dob them in!
... and so could [Redacted until nicked]
So what about the MoS and Ms Oakeshott? “The publication of leaked communications, knowing the damage they have caused or are likely to cause may also be a criminal matter … I would advise all owners, editors and publishers of social and mainstream media not to publish leaked government documents that may already be in their possession, or which may be offered to them, and to turn them over to the police or give them back to their rightful owner, Her Majesty’s Government”. The message is … DON’T.
That thought, though, is not allowed to enter for our free and fearless press. While Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, Richard Tice, Julia Hartley Dooda and indeed Ms Oakeshott herself have suddenly come over all bashful, those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet are in the throes of a paranoia last seen during Part 1 of the Leveson Inquiry.
The Murdoch Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn was aghast: “Extraordinary statement from Counter Terrorism Command tonight. The #Darroch leaker should give himself up or the Mail on Sunday/@IsabelOakeshott should shop him, and if they publish more leaks, they too may be committing a criminal offence. Sounds like cops expect more”. His Sunday Times oppo Tim Shipman added “Sinister and ridiculous”.
From the Mail on Sunday - the paper that ran Ms Oakeshott’s scoop - the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole scoffed “Ministers have been in touch tonight to say they think Met have gone too far. I keep reading this line: ‘The publication of leaked communications, knowing the damage they have caused or are likely to cause may also be a criminal matter.’ This country really is going to the dogs”. So he didn’t understand, either.
Tom Harper, who has in the past obediently taken dictation from the spooks, blustered “This is a matter for editors, not politicians. This extraordinary bluster is evidence of an inept and floundering state”. It was someone else blustering, honestly!
Even Paul Brand of ITV News didn’t get it: “Sir Michael Fallon suggests the Mail on Sunday should face prosecution for breaking the official secrets act over publication of leaked Sir Kim Darroch cables. Doesn’t seem to think press freedom is a legitimate defence”. Sir Michael Fondle is right. So is Nazir Afzal.
The former prosecutor concluded “It is, prima facie, stolen property … It’s a breach of the Official Secrets Act too possibly … May be Misconduct in Public Office too”. And for all those variously clueless hacks, here is the reality spelt out for them.
“The Official Secrets Act 1989 makes it a criminal offence to obtain or publish any information from a serving or former member of the security and intelligence services or from certain categories of civil servants or public contractors where that disclosure would be damaging. There is no public interest defence [my emphasis]”.
The MoS, Isabel Oakeshott, and her informant(s) are toast. I’ll just leave that one there.
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