David Keogh and Leo O'Connor have been found guilty of breaching the Official Secrets Act and will be sentenced tomorrow. The two had leaked a British government memo in the hope that the document would find its way into the public domain and expose the US president as a "madman".
Although the British press are saying absolutely nothing now about the content of the memo, since they are all under threat of prosecution should they do so, the prosecution claimed during the trial that "the unauthorised disclosure of information in this case is likely to prejudice the capability of the armed forces either to carry out their tasks or lead to the loss of life or the possibility of loss of life or injury."
When the memo was originally leaked, the UK's Daily Mirror ran an article alleging that it contained a record of Tony Blair convincing George Bush not to bomb the Al Jazeera headquarters in allied Qatar. At the time, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reported:
Bush administration officials initially dismissed the memo’s allegations about Bush’s threat against Al-Jazeera as “outlandish.” U.S. officials later suggested that if Bush did talk with Blair about bombing Al-Jazeera, the president was only joking. Asked directly today about Bush's purported threat to bomb Al-Jazeera, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said: "Any such notion that we would engage in that kind of activity is just absurd." McLellan did not respond to follow-up questions as to whether Bush actually said what the memo says he did.British courts are not in the habit of jailing people under the Act for leaking jokes or leaks that are "absurd".
But a senior official at 10 Downing Street, Blair’s official residence, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, recently seemed to give credence to the Al-Jazeera threat. The official told NEWSWEEK London Bureau chief Stryker McGuire: "I don't think Tony Blair thought it was a joke."
The Bush administration should have some explaining to do, now. But I don't really expect the US press to ask the questions in the first place.