Official Secrets Act has no teeth

The Official Secrets Act in Britain, it appears, is mostly bluff. The recent re-posting by 4,000 bloggers of documents from Craig Murray may have rendered this noxious act impotent. Good.

Whitehall unconfidential: the censors are on the run

There is an unamusing aspect to the shambles into which censorship efforts have degenerated. A cabinet office civil servant faces trial, and jail, under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly disclosing a transcript of a Bush-Blair conversation about bombing al-Jazeera. Another renegade ex-ambassador, Craig Murray – forced out of his job in Uzbekistan for objecting to British/US complicity in torture – is defying the same act with impunity. Over the New Year, he published on his website many classified Foreign Office telegrams and, in a modern touch, has ensured their circulation to more than 4,000 bloggers.

A document has fallen into the Guardian’s hands that seems to explain why ministers have become so bankrupt in these failures to stem a tide of disclosures (most revolve in one way or another around Iraq and allegations of our craven relationship with the US).

The British government concluded in that document that they could not successfully prosecute Craig Murray. "In other words, attempts to censor unwelcome memoirs are largely bluff."

After all, it is tyrannies that are always secretive. Democracies should be more transparent. And, at the very least, the free publication of as many of these disclosures as possible will give ordinary citizens a useful yardstick against which to measure a pair of intimate and self-serving memoirs due out in future years, and expected to make an absolute fortune for their authors – who are, as everyone in government is well aware, Alastair Campbell and Blair himself.


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