The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, September 30, 2003
 

Why the strange hush over leaked DIA report on Chalabi?


The fashionable leak story in Washington is the one concerning the (gloriously searchable) Valerie Plame - already, we had the leaker leaked against [1]; and now AP has the leak of a memo from White House counsel Alberto Gonzales telling White House staff not to shred stuff that might be of interest to the Department of Justice leak inquiry!

Meanwhile, the leaked report of the Defense Intelligence Agency saying that most of the intelligence provided through Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress was complete garbage - seems to have made almost zero news impact: one piece in the New York Times (September 29), another in the London Independent (September 30), and that's about it.

Which is, perhaps, a little surprising given that
  • intelligence - especially on WMD - is at the heart of the political difficulties on Iraq now assailing (to varying degrees) the Bush and Blair governments; and

  • Chalabi was (is) the cause (pretext?) for a bitter dispute between factions in the Pentagon (who thought he was the key to the New Jerusalem they had planned in Iraq) and the State Department (who thought he was a fabulist and chancer, a sort of Semitic Jayson Blair, at best a distraction, at worst a fatal weakness).

The Times piece has the leakers [2]
federal officials briefed on the arrangement
saying that
The arrangement, paid for with taxpayer funds supplied to the exile group under the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, involved extensive debriefing of at least half a dozen defectors by defense intelligence agents in European capitals and at a base in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil in late 2002 and early 2003, the officials said. But a review early this year by the defense agency concluded that no more than one-third of the information was potentially useful, and efforts to explore those leads since have generally failed to pan out...

DOD officials damn the INC intel with faint praise:
A Defense Department official who defended the arrangement said that even most of the useful information provided by the defectors included "a lot of stuff that we already knew or thought we knew." But the official said that information had "improved our situational awareness" by "making us more confident about our assessments."

The Independent piece includes a contribution from friend of the blog (from way back [3]) ex-CIA man Vincent Cannistraro on INC intel:
...Much of it is propaganda. Much of it is telling the Defence Department what they want to hear...

I never did get to find out what Cannistraro's deal was: I'm none the wiser now.

The piece also mentions (that the Times piece does not) Grey Lady hack and WMD specialist [4] Judith Miller. It quotes (without further detail) an email of Miller's: [5]
I've been covering Chalabi for about 10 years, and have done most of the stories about him for our paper. He has provided most of the front-page exclusives on WMD to our paper.

Comment is surely superfluous...

  1. I'm not following every twist: Jack Shafer in Slate has something of a history (with links); WaPo's Kurtz brings the story up to today.

  2. I'm not sure what this is code for: the absence of senior in the description I'd suspect is significant; as may be the lack of attribution to a particular department or agency. Could this be a CIA leak? Cui bono?

  3. He popped up in connection with the fraught question of Iraq-Al Qaida links (piece of October 10 2002), for instance; and again on December 5 in the same connection.

  4. Widely inferred to be a willing conduit for whatever WMD effluent USG happened to want to spread around - think the underground scenes in The Third Man...

  5. Second source. I didn't follow the twists and turns of the Miller case: Jack Shafer's piece is the place to pick up the trail, I think.

UPDATE

A piece in WTF Is It Now today (permalinks seem fried) leads on to further levels in the Plame Game that I'm content to leave to the better informed.


UPDATE 2

On the CIA's Studies in Intelligence site - which looks to be a mine of fascinating information - I find a piece from the latest edition by James B Bruce, Vice Chairman of the DCI Foreign Denial and Deception Committee - though naturally writing on behalf of himself alone. (DCI is Director of Central Intelligence (ie, George Tenet).)

Bruce's thesis is that a pandemic of intelligence leaks (not a recent invention!) is endangering US security; and that what is needed is stricter anti-leaking laws, and all laws rigorously enforced (he mentions the laws in force - including the one under which the putative Valerie Plame leaker might be liable to prosecution).

(Apparently, the sole prosecution for an intelligence leak was Navy analyst Samuel Loring Morison in 1985. He was convicted, and his conviction upheld on appeal. It seems Morison got one of Clinton's confetti-pardons in 2001.)


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Will Bustamante be sunk by Indian giving?


I can't say I've followed the ins and outs. But it does seem that a little of that rare commodity in politics, justice, is being meted out to MEChA man Cruz Bustamante, the Dems' bright, occidental star now apparently slowly sinking in the West.

According to the Sacramento Bee (September 27), a judge has
...ordered Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante...to prove that he tried in earnest to cancel television ad contracts and return money for the recall campaign that he collected in violation of the state's campaign finance laws.

If state Sen. Ross Johnson, who filed the original lawsuit against Bustamante, is not satisfied that he made a good-faith effort to comply with the order, the judge wrote, Johnson may seek contempt charges.


At issue, it seems, is the trifling sum of $3.8m most of it provided by Indian tribes in recognition of his sterling services as a sort of universal blood-brother [1]. The judge found the contributions were illegal, but Cruz said he'd spent the cash on TV spots. In what seems amazing forbearance, instead of being dispatched to Pelican Bay for an intensive course in gang rape (as prescribed by Dem buddy and champion of jailhouse justice, Bill Lockyer [2]), he's been allowed (in effect) to keep the money! But only so far as he shows he did his best to cancel the spots once the judge had ruled the Indian money was illegal.

Meanwhile the polls (the CNN poll over the weekend, at least) are showing Cruz well beaten by Arnold Schwarzenegger, despite the fact the GOP vote is split - and the second GOP man, Tom McClintock not far from pushing the barrio boy into third place.

I feel a remake of Mr Smith Goes To Washington coming on - but who could possibly play Arnie?

  1. The latest legislative shakedown attempt by the tribes - to get a veto on the development of so-called Traditional Tribal Cultural Sites - I mentioned in a piece on September 13.

  2. And at least one Bay State Dem loves that inmate retribution, too.

UPDATE (October 1)

There's a nice little WaPo piece today on the Golden State Indians, and their fast-growing status as the Octopus of the 21st century: for the Southern Pacific, it was public lands, for the Indians, it's the casinos, of course.

Just for the recall alone, they've given $11m out of $66m spent, it seems - chickenfeed compared to their (untaxed) casino cash flow of around $5bn. And - as the piece has it -
Bustamante is the Indians' go-to guy in Sacramento

When he sees dancing feathers approaching his office, Cruz assumes the position (he knows there'll be heap big heap of wampum in it for him) - but it's the patient California taxpayer who gets screwed!

And guess who's on the tribes' casino payroll? None other than
younger brother, Andrew Bustamante, who is the general manager of the casino near Fresno owned by the Big Sandy Rancheria of Mono Indians.


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Hutton: Dingemans closing statement and the 45 minute claim


Now that the torrent of Hutton stuff has at last dried up - all bar Sir Kevin Tebbit on cross, and the documentary evidence submitted late, which has yet to hit the Hutton site - welcome time for reflection.

For one thing, over Inquiry Counsel James Dingemans QC's closing statement last Thursday (from 146:6).

First impression is that, in emphasis, it appears rather more concerted with the treatment of Kelly question than the September dossier: it is topped and tailed with references to coronial matters; the production of the dossier takes from 149:12 to 155:12, when he picks up with the Gilligan/Kelly meeting of May 22 and its sequelae: BBC v Campbell, the FAC, Kelly's June 30 letter volunteering his name, and so forth - but all (and for good reason) from viewpoint looking directly down on Kelly. He rounds off, at 181:6, with a suitable caution on the need to stick to the terms of reference, and that's it.

He prefaces his dossier passage with the following, rather oddly phrased statement:
there are two phrases which have been
8 used throughout this Inquiry which are certainly capable
9 of more than one interpretation. One is "weapons of
10 mass destruction", and the other is "sexing up".

Brian Jones, from memory, made quite a point about the (in his view) loose way that WMD was used. But Hutton's is scarcely a semantic inquiry.

Dingemans skips through the dossier chronology touching only on a few elements. He frames the question, whether or not a case was being made by the dossier (ie, presumably, a case for war on behalf of HMG).

He quotes John Scarlett (Chairman of the JIC) at 150:32:
Mr Scarlett's evidence is that he
22 was happy with all of the proposed changes. His
23 evidence is that there was no case being made or
24 presented in the dossier.

Then continues:
25 Mr Campbell, in evidence earlier this week, when

151
1 asked what case was being made, said:
2 "The explanation as to why the Prime Minister and
3 the Government were growing more and more concerned
4 about the issue of Iraqi WMD."

A compare and contrast there, one surmises. He cites
[t]he e-mail of 11th September 2003 at
8 CAB/23/15 [as] record[ing] that the dossier was wanted to be as
9 strong as possible...
and an
e-mail of 10th September at CAB/3/21, in which
12 Dr Kelly's comments on growth media were communicated,
13 concluded with these words:
14 "The existing wording is not wrong -- but it has
15 a lot of spin on it!"

And refers to complaints by DIS members, including Brian Jones, on the dossier.

At 154:14, he makes reference to the
the clear
15 evidence that at JIC level Mr Scarlett and the other
16 members of the Joint Intelligence Committee gave final
17 assent, by silence procedures...

I'm not clear he is criticising the use of these silence procedures. For instance, he does not, so far as I can see, refer to Jonathan Powell's September 19 email (CAB/11/103), timed at 1545, 45 minutes after the supposed cut-off under these procedures, which suggested a passage on WMD be redrafted [1].

Then, at 155:1, he pursues his point:
1 Perhaps part of the problem, that a case was being
2 made in the dossier, whether or not Mr Scarlett was
3 aware of it and Dame Pauline Neville-Jones a former
4 Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and
5 a current governor of the BBC was recorded by the
6 Foreign Affairs Committee as saying this, is that there
7 was a fine line between showing the evidence and making
8 a case.

(Scarlett, like PNJ, has a foot in two camps - in his case, as an ex-SIS (MI6) man and sitting in the Cabinet Office as Chairman of the JIC.)

Dingemans completes his point on making a case:
9 Mr Sumption says it is constitutionally appropriate
10 for Mr Powell and Mr Campbell to be involved with the
11 drafting of the dossier. But if the gist of the
12 comments made was to make a case, that may or may not,
13 it is a matter for your Lordship, be the other side of
14 the line. Even a judge, even your Lordship, hearing one
15 side of an argument, may get it wrong. A matter for
16 your Lordship to consider will be whether Mr Scarlett
17 was hearing from Downing Street only one side of the
18 argument.

As I've said here more than once, the vital thing to recognise that, in demarcating the political/administrative from the intelligence, the JIC (and Scarlett) are at least half in the political sphere. The JIC is not the UKIC at prayer! Scarlett is the liaison man between the spooks and HMG, and the JIC is a liaison committee (why else does it have the main departments of state, and thus customers of UKIC's product, sitting on it?).

(A comparison that some more expert than I am might wish to pursue is of Scarlett with the Government Chief Whip: he has, I think, a similar function, representing the views of backbench MPs to the prime minister, and disseminating the wishes - or instructions - of the PM to his troops.)

Apart from any considerations of being Alastair Campbell's mate, Scarlett is tainted by politics - and not by accident or fault on his part: that's his job!

Dingemans then picks up the point, at 155:19, that the misunderstanding of the press over the 45 minute claim - the wrong assumption that it applied to WMD delivered by ballistic missiles, rather than WMD used in battlefield weapons - had been allowed by HMG to remain uncorrected. He concludes the dossier passage of his speech:
7 It might be thought unfortunate that if Government
8 communications experts were involved, because of the
9 lack of experience of JIC members at public
10 presentation, such confusion was allowed to occur.
11 The BBC has made the point that the record was not
12 corrected...
and moves onto Kelly/Gilligan.

Nothing there about the quality of the 45 minute intelligence; or the methods of analysis; or the peculiar UK system of providing HMG with a single view of intelligence, rather than the marketplace of ideas that rules in the US.

His peroration contains something of a warning to those expecting too much:
15 The aim of the Inquiry is to urgently conduct an
16 investigation into the circumstances surrounding the
17 death of Dr Kelly.
18 The material that has been adduced has inevitably
19 raised issues beyond your terms of reference.
20 Your Lordship is restricted to the terms of reference.
21 As a matter of constitutional law and practice there are
22 other institutions who have powers to examine matters
23 beyond your Lordship's terms of reference.

Now, since Dingemans acts hand in glove with Hutton, one can't really take this as his admonition to the judge! An assurance, perhaps, to Teflon Tone that, despite appearances to the contrary, his Lordship is going - as it were - to decide the case on the narrowest grounds available? (No Roger Taney he! The free-ranging Dred Scott Will Rogers putting the world to rights is - I infer from his interventions - no part of Lord Hutton's character or intentions.)

There certainly seems to be some rowing back from the Fifteen Points in the statement Dingemans made at the start of the cross-examination phase of the enquiry [2]. The fact that no evidence has been led to get behind the 45 minute claim (was, as suspected, the immediate source one of Ahmed Chalabi's hacks? how could the inconsistencies in the expression of the 45 minute claim [3] arise if the ultimate source knew what he was talking about, and was accurately reported? Etc, etc...) or the reliability of UK intelligence analysis in general would tend to support the argument that Hutton will go narrow.

We'll see.

  1. My piece on September 24 on John Scarlett's cross-examination has him being questioned on the point.

  2. My piece on September 15.

  3. My piece on September 2.


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Monday, September 29, 2003
 

British forces carried to Iraq on ships unsafe at any speed


It's one thing that the UK Ministry of Defence is headed by a hulk [1]; quite another that, according to the Guardian today, the troops used to prosecute Saint Tony's crusade in the East should have been ferried there in a fleet of coffin-ships.

The piece says that
Of the 50 ships traced, almost a third had been detained [by coastguards as unfit to sail] and 47 had defects recorded by coastguards during recent inspections, suffering a total of 1,018 safety failures in all.

And, appropriately enough, it seems that the MOD was turning a Nelson's eye towards the decrepitude of these old puffers [2]: for a start,
The records...reveal that the majority of the 50 ships sailed under flags of convenience, even though the government's own advice warns that such vessels are often substandard and employ low paid and poorly trained crews.

Hoon's boys clearly knew these were rust-buckets when they hired them.

And,
Most of the ships were not inspected by coastguards during the MoD charter period...

Hoon's capacity to see no evil extends to more than the hounding of loquacious scientists, it seems.

Joined-up government? Don't make me laugh: the Department of Transport website apparently says that
Substandard ships, operating under flags of convenience, with low paid and generally poorly trained crews, benefit from the cost advantage of lax safety regulation.

The history of the British soldier being treated like shit did not, of course, start with Tony Blair or Geoff Hoon. Around this time last year, in the context of controversies surround the Army's main personal weapon (rifle, to you or me), the SA-80 and the Challenger 2 tank, I mentioned the World War 2 boon of Lend-Lease, the Sherman (known as the Tommy-cooker to grateful members of the Wehrmacht) [3].

A couple of months ago, I saw on the TV an account (caveat spectator, natch [4]) of the way, in Normandy in 1944, the British with their Shermans were able to beat the Germans with their vastly superior (in firepower and armour) Tiger tank: we had ten times as many of our crappy machines as they had of their dream-machines. The technique was for Shermans to work four to a Tiger: three Shermans in turn would take on the Tiger in fruitless combat while the fourth snuck round the back of the Tiger and got in close enough to get a meaningful shot in against its weaker rear armour.

It's the sort of trade of superiority of numbers for superiority of technology that one notes the Red Army for employing during WW2 (using men rather than flails to clear minefields, is the classic, or apocryphal, instance) - though the Red Army's T-34 was a pretty good machine (six hundred bucks for half an hour's test drive right here).

Coming up to date, the London Daily Telegraph on January 16 reported that an MOD found that
55 per cent of soldiers and 42 per cent of officers said they found they needed to buy additional kit. Less than half of all soldiers polled expressed any confidence in Army equipment.

It quotes a private supplier of military equipment as saying
that American army issue desert boots were among the items most frequently bought by British troops.

And the reaction from the mob that, according to MOD apparatchik Richard Hatfield, gave the late Dr David Kelly such
outstanding
treatment:
An Army spokesman said soldiers had been buying their own equipment "since time immemorial".

Marie Antoinette could scarcely have put it better.

This, of course, was the situation before hostilities began: coming up to six months in theatre and no sign of being able to reduce the size of deployments in the foreseeable future, the equipment situation can scarcely be getting any better.

Anyone for Damascus?

  1. Extending the alliterative theme: not only Hapless Hoon but Hoon the Hulk; the Incredulous Hulk, a man more generous than me might put it.

  2. Was Para Handy among those whose vessels were chartered?

  3. Pick up links on all three from my October 17 2002 piece.

  4. Seems to be the soundest Latin equivalent for viewer, at first glance at Lewis & Short.

MORE

In this connection, one has to admire the chutzpah of Teflon Tony's lovingly crafted desert paean of May 29 (from the pen of Alastair Campbell, no doubt, in the odd moment he could spare from fucking Gilligan) to the men who had made possible his exercise in compassionate carnage (if Blair's heart bleeds, others will surely follow):
You have made this whole country, our country, hold its head up high, and I think that is a wonderful, wonderful achievement. It is your achievement and thank you.

From the man who gave them substandard rifles and substandard boots. And a gem tucked away amidst the TV movie shlock sentimentality:
I would like to think that maybe in a year or two years time it is going to be possible for some of you to come back here and see the changes in this country that have arisen from what you have done today.

At the current rate of progress, that's not a possibility - that's a cast-iron certainty!


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Sunday, September 28, 2003
 

NSA listening post in Algeria - an excess of kif or what?


A strange little story from weeks ago that made me sit up and take notice.

An AP report from September 7 takes me to a piece in the Quotidien d'Oran of the same date:
... le chef d'état-major de l'ANP, le général de corps d'armée, Mohamed Lamari reçoit, depuis hier, le général Charles F.Wald, commandant adjoint des forces américaines en Europe, à Alger. Une visite qui sera marquée par l'étude d'un projet d'installation d'une station d'écoute américaine dans le sud algérien indiquent des sources informées.

For those with rightfully suspicious minds, I can confirm that General Wald is not only a real person, but, according to his USAF bio, has a chestful of medals and is a pretty important guy: Deputy Commander, Headquarters U.S. European Command, Stuttgart. Lamari is, from my present sketchy appreciation of Algerian politics, the important guy over there [1].

The piece says that Wald was coming
...avec un projet d'installation d'une station d'écoute, probablement de la National Security Agency (NSA), l'agence fédérale qui est chargée des interceptions des communications mondiales, qui serait basée dans la région de Tamanrasset. Une station qui viserait à intercepter puis analyser toutes les communications - par téléphone, Internet, réseaux informatiques ou radio...
and was possibly going south to visit the local commander, Gen Saheb [2].

It suggests three reasons, apart from the GSPC activity [3], for US interest in such a project:
  • the increased use of satellite phones by bad guys in the Maghreb, which even ECHELON at GCHQ can't reach, it seems!

  • fear of Libyan friskiness (the Lockerbie settlement a piece of misdirection? who knew...)

  • the need for intel on Morocco/Western Sahara [4] (though the NSA apparently has a station in Tangier already).

And points out that the moves come as part of generally buddying-up between Algerian and US forces - US training of Algerian officers, joint naval exercises, and so on.

From one perspective, Algeria is potentially the Islamist dagger pointing at the belly of Europe - and therefore, its present government, however unsavoury, is naturally our son of a bitch material - as proof of its zeal in the matter, around 100,000 died in the civil war which has, for now, largely returned the Algerian Islamists to their box.

A strange piece of historical reflux in the shape of one Senator John F Kennedy, who regaled the Senate on July 2 1957 with a speech more or less calling for USG to ditch the French and prepare for an FLN victory in the 1954-62 war [5]. The old and paradoxical American fatal attraction for supposedly revolutionary causes (the mountains of cash, rather than vomit, that landed in the NORAID buckets, for instance) which runs in tandem with the loathing of all things communistic.

The successors to the FLN who now rule Algeria have long been cured of communism (to the extent they were ever ill with it) and, it seems, are ready to vindicate JFK's support of so long ago.

  1. For background, one could do worse than look at the 2003 HRW Report (PDF) on Algeria. The LOC Country Study goes back to 1993! A brief delve into the PDF files offered by Mr Google produces the usual gallimaufry of the old and the tangential: nothing looking like a recent Algeria 101.A short Nouvel Obs piece of September 18 looks at four years of the Concorde civil which was supposed to mark the end of the civil war.

    A couple of pieces from Le Monde diplomatique from 1999 and 2001 may provide leads. A short Le Point interview from January 2003 with Lamari. A September 1998 piece (1MB PDF!) from Maroc Hebdo on Lamari's velvet coup against President Liamine Zéroual..

  2. Who, back in May, freed 17 tourist hostages in a gun battle in the Amguid region, north of Tamanrasset; the hostages were among 32 seized in February by the GSPC, a splinter from the Islamist GIA and a group with Al Qaida connections, it seems. (Eleven GSPC adherents had their funds frozen by the US Treasury Department in August 2002 (PDF).)

  3. More on which here. German arrest warrants have been issued for GSPC leader Safi Abderrezak (nicknamed Le Para) and others for the hostage-taking.

    The remainder of the 32 (excepting one who had died) were transferred to Mali and released in August; AFP quoted sources suggesting that something between around $5m to $15m was paid by the German government to secure the release of the remaining hostages.

    According to El Watan of September 27, operations in the Babors area (in the mountainous Kabyle region) against the GSPC have killed 150 in a fortnight. They were there, it suggests, for a conference!

    A piece in Unità (the Italian Communist rag, that was) of September 27 suggests that the figure is a wild exaggeration, unconfirmed by official sources. It puts the total membership of the GSPC at 400, and has other sources suggesting that 20 terrorists dead might be closer to the mark. Of the hundred or so bodies found burnt in a cave, many might have been women and children. It also suggests a further reason for US interest in the GSPC (though not in so many words): the potential for attacks against the Algerian oilfields in the south of the country.

    (Babors is not far from Sétif, where, on VE Day May 8 1945, a riot of the local population - Berbers, rather than Arabs - killed 27 Europeans: generally deemed the act that set events in train that led to the outbreak of war in 1954.)

  4. There seems to be an attempt on to get this quarrel (going back to the death of General Franco in 1975!) sorted out. A piece from September 24 on recent doings in the UN. Bush chatted to King Mohammed VI in the corridors between General Assembly sessions, apparently.

  5. There is a promising-looking article on US and Soviet policies on decolonisation in French North Africa on the Mount Holyoke site.

MORE

A piece of Google detritus provides a modest sidebar - apparently, round about the same time as JKF's speech, WaPo icon Ben Bradlee had his own Algerian experience:
Leaning left in those days, he thought it unfair that French views were well-covered but not the views of the Algerian FLN (after the war he had joined the left-wing quasi-Marxist American Veterans Committee), so he went to Algeria to interview the FLN. Trouble was, the fedayeen he met clandestinely were French counter-intelligence actors, and he was ordered to leave France. Ambassador Dillon got the expulsion order canceled.


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Title IX - how Stalinist can you get?


The US, at one level, is a puzzle set for the amusement of those of us doomed ever to suffer from a crick in the neck from gazing up to the City on a Hill.

Gunnar Myrdal's American Dilemma is but one of a myriad of conundrums [1] offered to the discerning foreigner. Why, for instance, is it rank socialism and unAmerican (or is that Unamerican?) to finance health care from general taxation, but the most American thing in the world to do the same for education?

I doubt that even the reddest of governments around in the continent of the Axis of Weasels believes these days in equality of outcomes: under the lash of competition from Uncle Sam, on the whole, a rather beneficial stimulant, equality of opportunity would tend to be the most on offer (and that in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence's life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

But, if I understand it aright, that's what Title IX offers [2]. Forget Michigan and its shilly-shallying points system nudge nudge, wink wink methods: in practice, Title IX provides [3] the very crudest of quotas: in Spencer Tracy's immortal line from Pat and Mike,
Five-oh, five-oh.

I can't pretend to have traced it all through: the best starting point I've got is this DOJ page which links into the various regulations that fill out the detail. But the meat seems to be in para (c) of .450 of the main regulations on Title IX [3]: it says (in (c)(1)) that
A recipient that operates or sponsors...athletics shall provide equal athletic opportunity for members of both sexes
and goes on to enumerate various factors to be taken into account.

And in (c)(2):
For purposes of paragraph (c)(1) of this section, unequal aggregate expenditures for members of each sex or unequal expenditures for male and female teams if a recipient operates or sponsors separate teams will not constitute noncompliance with this section, but the designated agency official may consider the failure to provide necessary funds for teams for one sex in assessing equality of opportunity for members of each sex.

A USA Today piece from last year talks about a three-part test applied by the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education [4] that addresses similar issues to the regulation, but in a different way.

The upshot is, however, that equality rules: although both the regulations and the three-part test ostensibly allow for flexibility, a Gresham's Law of risk aversion makes college authorities prefer the draconian but safe solution of strict equality. And, things being what they are, that means levelling men's sports down to the level of female.

And - what got me looking at Title IX just now - a WaPo piece (September 27) has the University of Maryland
promoted part of its cheerleading squad to varsity status this year to create more scholarships and playing opportunities for female athletes on campus.

Next, it'll be ballroom dancing and aerobics! Anything to make the Title IX quota without slashing the men's teams [5].

Surely a system more in tune with the values of Uncle Joe than Uncle Sam?

  1. Conundra is popular etymology without foundation; the word is not a Latin neuter Second Declension noun - it's not in Lewis & Short, at any rate.

  2. For the further amusement of the audience, Title IX is customarily used (Google racks up 373,000 items, not all relevant, of course) without further qualification. We shmucks are thus left to guess that it is not, as I long supposed, Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (does it have a Title IX?) but of the Education Amendment Act of 1972. And, since, so far as I'm aware, there is no online facility for tracing Federal statutes to the US Code, it is pure chance that you find that the main provision of Title IX is, in fact, 20 US 1681. Only with that open sesame! is it possible to find the text for today's sermon.

  3. 65 Fed Reg 52857. The section dealing with athletics is .450. (These regulations, I see, apply to various Federal instrumentalities - but not to the Department of Education!)

  4. I think this is the one. I can't trace specific legislative backing for the three-part test; presumably, therefore, it is merely an interpretation of 20 US 1681.

  5. Though the piece says that the OCR of the DoE doesn't recognise cheerleading as a sport for Title IX purposes. So why bother?


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Saturday, September 27, 2003
 

Kenya rape shakedown hits a snag


A cautionary tale on the need for vigilance where truth and moral hazard are in play.

A British lawyer called Martyn Day has been organising a lawsuit against the UK MOD (that is, Hapless Hoon's outfit) on behalf of a large number of Kenyan women who say they were raped by members of HM Forces in Kenya on manoeuvres. According to a piece in the Guardian today , the total sum he was seeking was around $15m. (Quite what his cut would be is not discussed.)

However, rather than roll over, the MOD put in a forensic team to examine the police records; and found them all to be forgeries!

Now, anyone paying the slightest attention to the evidence at the Hutton Inquiry would understand that the MOD's playing fast and loose with the truth would not be an altogether new experience. I'm rather thinking, though, that the information would not have been released unless the evidence of forgery was clearly able to stand up to judicial scrutiny.

And the Kenyan record for bribery and corruption is legendary. The Kenya branch of Transparency International produced a report (c750KB PDF) in 2001 which (based on a survey) rated in a Bribery Index the incidence of corruption in various government institutions (p10a): the Kenya Police come top of the list with 68.7 out of a hundred [1]. A separate table on the same page shows a 90.4% incidence of bribery in the Kenya Police; that is (p11a)
...the likelihood of obtaining satisfactory service from [the Kenya Police] without paying a bribe is less than 10%...

A further table (p11a) shows that 57.5% of those surveyed said they had paid bribes to the Kenya Police, or suffered from not paying such bribes.

In a TI Corruption Perceptions Index (2002) Kenya ranked joint 96th out of 102 [2].

So, is the rape business a scam dreamt up by local chiselers to guilt Whitey into handing over moolah, with rakeoffs for the KP and the (no doubt) many other officials who had assisted in the project? According to the article, Martyn Day is no neophyte when it comes to suing the MOD on behalf of Kenyan claimants:
Mr Day began documenting the rape allegations after concluding a successful compensation campaign on behalf of Kenyan farmers killed or maimed by ordnance left on two nearby British army firing ranges. The MoD paid £4.5m in an out-of-court settlement to injured and bereaved Samburu and Masai herders but did not admit responsibility for any ordnance left lying on the ranges, which it shares with the Kenyan army.

However,
Rumours have since circulated in northern Kenya that many of those claims were fraudulent with penniless herders awarded sums of up to £250,000 for injuries allegedly caused by wild animals and domestic accidents.

The background is the period of colonial rule in general, and the Mau-Mau terror campaign in particular. Whilst the politics of Mau-Mau were complex and dynamic [3], the left-liberal perception is of some kind of colonial holocaust (a legend on a par with that of Winston Churchill having the army fire on striking miners in Tonypandy in 1910. [4])

Labour pin-up [5] turned battleaxe Barbara Castle and others made a fuss about some rough treatment of prisoners at Hola Camp in 1959, which has come to stand as the representative pink factoid for colonial Kenya [6], guaranteed to be in the crib-notes of at least one lefty talk-show caller whenever the subject of the British Empire can be shoehorned into the discussion [7]!

Since the sums asked in the current Kenyan case are chicken-feed in relation to total UK government spending, and the asymmetry of means between plaintiffs and defendants makes for tough PR, one could not blame the MOD for rolling over. However, it seems the spirit of Rorke's Drift may not quite have disappeared...

  1. The Ministry of Public Works comes second with 41%.

  2. States that it beat? Angola, Madagascar, Paraguay, Nigeria and (undisputed champions of corruption - according to the list) Bangladesh.

  3. I can recommend The Mau Mau War in Perspective by Frank Furedi for a sane and detailed exploration the subject. For a wallow in post-colonial guilt, try elsewhere.

    Online material of any substance is thin on the ground: a paper by Caroline Elkins and John Lonsdale looks like the best introduction to Mau Mau available. (Interestingly, it does not seem to mention Hola Camp at all!) For more recent ethnic conflicts in Kenya, Mr Google has thrown up this paper from 1997 and this from 2001.

  4. One might also compare the Rosa Parks fantasy (my piece of October 1 2002).

  5. As Barbara Betts, supposedly the most attractive woman in the Labour Party as the Attlee government took power in 1945.

  6. Violence perpetrated - mostly against fellow Africans - by Mau Mau tended to be rather more serious than the beatings handed out at Hola.

  7. Secular patron saint of terrorists Frantz Fanon had (so far as I'm aware) nothing to do with the growth of Mau Mau, but still, 9/11 notwithstanding, seems to give a aura of respectability to the notion of terrorism in the minds of the Guardian tendency. (For instance, how many of them would accept that Umkhonto we Sizwe - which, very roughly, was to the ANC what the IRA are to Sinn Fein - were terrorists?)

    Of course, Fanon's topic, as a psychiatrist and FLN groupie in Algeria in the 1954-62 war, was the way that colonial war screwed with the minds of those on both sides. (Roughly contemporaneously with Philip Larkin's famous comment on parenthood along similar lines.) Forty years after the end of the British Empire in any recognisable form, the Fanon effect continues (in attenuated form) to affect the mentality (if not necessarily the policy) of those in whom other illusions of the same era have been extinguished by the reign of Thatcher.



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Friday, September 26, 2003
 

BBC bleaters out already


Apart from the pretty execrable performance of Andrew Gilligan's mouthpiece [1], the BBC side did less badly than might have been expected on closing remarks day of the Hutton Inquiry yesterday.

But a piece in the Guardian today by John Kampfner has the Corporation already done for, as a news organisation of independence and verve. Although...

The truth seems to be that it never was. It may come as something of a surprise that, both on radio and then on TV, news came very late as a function. On radio, there was an unbelievable cringing attitude taken by the BBC towards the newspapers, who for some years from its formation (as the British Broadcasting Company) in 1922 succeeded in imposing embargoes on news items being broadcast, for fear that a speedy broadcast news service would hit circulation. Only with the invasion of Normandy in 1944 was there something like the sort of news operation (with full news bulletins and a cadre of correspondents) one might have expected of the British monopoly broadcaster.

On TV, into the early 1950s, news used voice-overs with material from newsreels - when they'd finished with it!

And, as far as independence from government is concerned, the occasional worm-turning success [2] does not really make up for a general tendency to self-restraint.

Kampfner rightly points out that
The BBC is, in reality, a risk-averse institution.
It's a bureaucracy: it's prime objective is its own survival. The names of erstwhile BBC mavericks one might throw out - James Cameron (not that one!) and Ken Loach, say - stand out for being few and, well, erstwhile.

He goes on to suggest that
It hates accusations of bias.

That's wrong. What it hates are surprises. For example, it is constantly being accused of bias in its coverage of the Israel/Palestine issue. But that's fine because it's constant - it's factored in, processes deal with it, no heart attacks for senior execs opening their morning paper and seeing one of Sharon's attack-dogs mouthing off.

Similarly, those combative interviews of politicians by John Humphrys of Today and Jeremy Paxman of Newsnight will get the likes of Alastair Campbell effing and blinding down the phones - but, again, that's expected, discounted, planned for. Both the interviews and the off-air backchat are stylised, contentless - and have about as much to do with imparting information as the Japanese Tea Ceremony has with quenching thirst.

It's the loose cannons like Gilligan - especially if they're firing at ungodly hours of the morning (in other times, the time of choice for raids by the secret police) - who give the BBC brass headaches. And managers like former Today editor Rod Liddle, who brought Gilligan in to man his present, now very provisional, post. An organisation like the BBC is not equipped, culturally or organisationally, to deal with guys who don't even themselves know what they're going to say or do next.

(There is, perhaps, an analogy to be made with commercial and investment banking: when the operations are merged, there is a sort of Gresham's Law whereby the risk-hungry deal-makers on the investment banking side see the capital of the commercial banking operation as cash under the mattress for them to make sweat.

It's such a highway to hell that the Americans have laws to keep the operations apart [3]!)

Kampfner is a Liddle man too, apparently, so might be expected to have no sympathy for the organisation men (the BBC has 1960s levels of middle management, I gather) who aim for preservation of the organisation. He wants scoops - only better edited ones than Gilligan's infamous '6.07'.

With the Charter coming up for renewal in 2006, an unceasing barrage from the Murdoch and Conrad Black press (Murdoch has an idea of the BBC with no licence fee and perhaps a couple of million subscription-paying viewers) and withering fire from Hutton a few weeks away, it would be common sense rather than cowardice or lack of vision for the organisation to give scoops a rest for a good long while.

Surprising, perhaps, to see, in the middle of the Hutton process, BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies giving a lecture (September 10) on the history of the BBC and its relations with government. One par gives the tone:
Kofi Annan has described the World Service as Britain's greatest gift to the world in the 20th Century. Anyone who grew up in the remote bush of central Africa - as I did - would agree with him.

But, then, you can't go wrong with boosting the World Service [4]. It is the Geoffrey Boycott of broadcasting (or even the Trevor Bailey): it aims to occupy the crease, and does so. How many stories does it break in a year? A handful, at most, I'd guess. It knows that that's not what it's there for.

If the Gilligan/Kelly saga does the Corporation any good, it will be to get it to reconcile its objectives as a news operation with its resources, organisation and culture. Raising absurd expectations about scoops do it no favours.

  1. Had she offered a rendition of Four Green Fields (and perhaps one or two more from the Fenian Song Book) and unfurled a Time for Peace - Time to Go banner, she could scarcely have got further up Ulsterman Lord Hutton's nose. Being a fair man, he will be wary of bias against Gilligan on account of the hamfistedness of his counsel; perhaps even err on Gilligan's side. Perhaps that was the intention all along.

  2. Over Home Secretary Winston Churchill's plan for HMG to commandeer the BBC during the General Strike of 1926 - though that may have had more to do with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin's desire to scotch an ambitious and troublesome Churchill, and had nothing to do with maintaining the impartiality of the Corporation - the trade union leaders apparently being kept off the air. (Long-time BBC hack John Simpson suggests the contrary in the Telegraph of July 6. Reference to Asa Brigg's monumental History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom would be necessary to settle the point.)

    And then again, during the Suez crisis, when the government of Prime Minister Anthony Eden wanted the BBC to operate a radio station on Cyprus to beam propaganda on the upcoming Anglo-French invasion to the Arab world - the BBC declined. (I can find nothing at all on this online!)

  3. The Glass-Steagall Act of 1932 and the Bank Act of 1933 - as described here.

  4. A piece from September 25 in the New York Times on the plight of the Beeb dares to criticise the WS; but then it does manage to get the name of one of its regular presenters rather comprehensively wrong - Lise Ducett is in fact Lyse Doucet. Fact-checkers still out to lunch post-Jayson, evidently. (Doucet is a typical Acadian (or acadien) surname, I believe.)


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The Congo perspective


As piece of unashamed news tourism, after several weeks obsessing about the minutiae underlying the death of one man [1], I thought I'd do a little nosing around the news about a war that's killed millions - and got a small fraction of the publicity.

As a subject to interest even the news anorak, the war in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo [2] is a tough sell: it's hard, boring and in French (or worse!). (And there's the colour question, of course; but of course no one would mention that...) And, for the hacks, the working conditions are deeply unpleasant when they're not downright dangerous. Whether it's insurance costs or staff morale, the whole thing is... well, a disaster.

A search on the Google news page will come up with stuff in most of which (to judge from the information on the search page) the war is either peripheral or irrelevant to the thrust of the story. A search on the French news page produces more local product on the war [3]. But, apart from considerations of quality (questions of bias and sheer competence), these stories assume a knowledge of the story so far which make them pretty hostile to the newbie.

To obtain the all-important background (without which the news stories are incomprehensible), you have to descend into PDF hell (searching on a broad topic, but trying to exclude the dross, on the assumption that the good stuff tends to be PDF). Mr Google, unhelpfully, does not sort the results by origination date. There is, for example, what looks like 150 items of solid material on the DRC and neighbours dating back to the mid 90s; but several hours work involved in downloading, arranging and tasting the stuff, before one got onto reading it!

More NGOs than you could shake a stick at have, it seems, produced at least one paper on the war (each, naturally enough, directed to its particular subject area of concern - children, women, particular diseases, international law, wildlife or whatever). One might get more joy with a shlep through individual NGO sites, but a trial run on the Human Rights Watch site produces some promising stuff, but distinctly not Congo War 101.

As far as the think tanks, I couldn't see anything on the CSIS site - and Brookings offers a Michael O'Hanlon WaPo piece from July 23 2002! (For a listing of online Congo material, this from Columbia University seems the best on offer.)

My suspicion is that there is a solid week's work required to get up to sufficient speed to get a decent familiarity with the history, issues, personalities and strategic situation. (No point in investing time in a particular story if you're not even going to be able afterwards to explain the basics on a side of A4!)

Far be it from me to give the hacks a free pass: but I can well see why they should want to pass on the DRC, whatever the casualty levels [4].

[As a final chastener, a piece on the continuing war in Cabinda. Which has been going on, more or less since Gerald Ford was in the White House.]

  1. With several thousand more not wholly irrelevant.

  2. Or DRC, or République démocratique du Congo, or RDC.

  3. There is, for instance, a site called Digitalcongo.net, which looks as if it might bear investigation. The official language of the DRC/RDC is French.

  4. A Guardian piece yesterday said one estimate puts the death toll at four million. They did an interview with the President of the DRC. Who is....Joseph Kabila, son of the former coup leader Laurent Désiré Kabila. Not a lot of people know that, I'm thinking.


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Hutton: Closing statements


From an initial skim - focussing on the dossier rather than the treatment of Kelly question - one or two points emerge from the day of statements from counsel for the interested parties yesterday [1].

The breathtaking arrogance of the HMG case from Jonathan Sumption [2] reminded me of luckless ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont's
Je ne regrette rien
unwisely uttered following the UK's exit from the EU's Exchange Rate Mechanism on Black Wednesday (September 16 1992).

Whilst this was, perhaps, particularly notable in relation to the Kelly question (he had no difficulty in agreeing with Richard Hatfield's view that the MOD's treatment of him had been outstanding - 91:6), he thinks much the same of the intelligence underlying the 45 minute claim (31:12).

The contrary view (taken here) was picked up by BBC counsel Andrew Caldecott, highlighting Kelly's own reasoned disbelief - passage from 110:14 - of its validity.

Caldecott also picks up a point made here before - the lack of notes of (some) meetings at Number 10:
it appears that in
24 Government note-taking is a forgotten art. This is
25 a serious point. Accountability anywhere requires

118
1 a record to be kept of important meetings. Parish
2 councils keep minutes, but not apparently the Government
3 when planning the unprecedented presentation of
4 intelligence to the public.

Is he alleging that the absence of records is deliberate? Or, perhaps, that such records exist but have not been produced to the Inquiry?

As if grounds for doubting the good faith (to use a mild expression) of HMG aren't thick enough on the ground already, the bizarre appearance of dribs and drabs of late evidence from HMG is striking: the latest, I think, is an email that emerged only this Tuesday.

The inquiry, of course, was set up without powers to subpoena documents or compel witnesses; each party would supply what he thought was relevant [3]....

The statement (which came last in the day) of Inquiry counsel James Dingemans is noteworthy for the relaxed way in which, unlike his colleagues, he identifies the documentation he refers to by number (eg, BBC/6/13 or whatever) [4].

More substantially, for the fact that he does not address the quality of the 45 minute intelligence. But does hit the more general question of the politicisation of the intelligence in the dossier, quoting Dame Pauline Neville-Jones [5] as saying (154:6)
that there
7 was a fine line between showing the evidence and making
8 a case.

He spends most of his time on the Gilligan, the BBC/Campbell war and the Kelly treatment issues.

(No one, that I could see, had picked up the essential sleight of hand in the description of the JIC as representing the intelligence services, despite the fact that a substantial number of its members were not from those services. Nor the distinctly ambiguous position of the JIC Chairman - as having a foot in both camps, as much representing Number 10 to the agencies as vice versa.)

The key question for Lord Hutton remains HMG's bad faith, both in relation to the dossier and its handling of Kelly. On the dossier question, though Gilligan perversely denies the point, the charge he made against HMG, as revised [6], is still an allegation of bad faith.

Indeed, the only satisfactory outcome on the dossier question would be a finding that HMG drew it up in bad faith. But I doubt whether picking at the procedural niceties - the detailed to and fro of the drafting process - could ever be enough to satisfy Lord Hutton on the point: it needs the substance of the 45 minute claim to be undermined - and given the Messines Ridge treatment. Although it would certainly have been better if expert evidence had been led on the technical detail of the claim, it seems to me there is sufficient material in the evidence before the Inquiry to ground a finding that the 45 minute claim had indeed been inserted though known by HMG to be questionable, based on the information available at the time.

The best thing would be for a leak of unvolunteered evidence. Yet another Number 10 email, for instance. Not necessarily a smoking gun, but something that makes it clear that HMG have been hiding stuff.

(The dog that didn't bark all day was Teflon Tone himself. To judge from the closing statements, at least, Tony Blair appears to have slithered away from the crosshairs of all who might have taken pot-shots. And he wasn't recalled for cross-examination, either.)

The risk is that Lord Hutton may be averse to giving credence to the substance of Gilligan's story, given his apparent idée fixe that an allegation by the BBC and the broadcast by the BBC of an allegation by a source should be equated; and the errors in the story which Gilligan has admitted.

It may be (to judge from the areas his questioning has focussed on) he has in mind a balanced outcome, with one hit for each of HMG and the BBC: HMG's hit would be on the treatment of Kelly by the MOD, the BBC's on substance of the Gilligan story (rather than, say, the Governors' or management's handling of the affair).

Of course, Hutton did warn against jumping to conclusions from his lines of questioning...

  1. Transcripts morning (to page 59) and afternoon.

  2. The statements were televised (which the testimony was not): Sumption was revealed to have a tic which has him periodically shrugging his shoulders as if to dislodge the paws of some large but over-playful dog.

  3. Reminiscent of those Whitewater files of Hillary Clinton that were found like Moses in the basket.

  4. He stops doing this halfway through, for some reason (I've only read the transcript - it may have been evident on the TV).

  5. A former JIC Chairman and current BBC Governor.

  6. His counsel in her closing statement equates honesty and integrity (143:22). Now, as I understand it, Gilligan stands by his revised allegation in the 0732 broadcast (PDF) - that the 45 minute claim was inserted despite HMG knowing it was questionable (rather than the 0607 probably wrong) - which, is clearly an attack on the integrity of HMG, though not (necessarily) its honesty.


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Thursday, September 25, 2003
 

Scott and Hutton: a contrast in inquiries (net-wise)


Two inquiries with but a single causa sine qua non - Saddam and his military ambition; and a single field of inquiry: the performance of HMG in the fields of intelligence and arms control.

But, whereas Hutton has provided us plebs gratis with electronic access to the materials - documents and transcripts of oral evidence - for us to make up our own mind on the matters he looks at, online research into Scott is a complete no-hoper.

There is no online copy of the report [1], still less transcripts of testimony or documentary evidence [2]. There is Hansard for the floor of the House of Commons going back to the 1988-9 session - amply far back to include the introduction of the Report to the House (February 15 1996) and the subsequent debate (on February 26) during which Robin Cook had his finest Parliamentary hour.

There is not, it seems, even a decent online summary of the facts and conclusions of the Scott Report - just bits and pieces (sidebars brought forth by the establishment of the Hutton Inquiry, for instance) [3].

The main problem is that Scott was completed before Internet Year Zero - which varies from source to source, but for each source is a date documentation created before which is inaccessible. For instance, the Guardian/Observer archives go back to September 1 1998; the BBC News site's to around the middle of 1997 (exact date unstated) [4].

Whilst debates on the Commons floor go back to 1988, reports of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (an important supporting actor in the Kelly affair) go back online only to 1997/8. Similarly inconsistencies in Year Zero apply between and within institutions of UK government. (The FCO's online documentation is pathetically sketchy - to judge from the main page.)

To use phrase du jour of the boss of the FCO, Jack Straw, the whole thing is a complete Horlicks. The money spent on the wretched Millennium Dome ($1bn+) should have gone to digitising the national archive and the best of the British Library. As it is, records created (roughly speaking) before Monica Lewinsky gulped her last in the Oval Office might as well be Babylonian cuneiform tablets at the bottom of a well in Saddam's back garden. Wherever that is right now...

  1. Dead tree version available - under the snappy title Return to an Address of the Honourable the House of Commons Dated 15th February 1996 for the Report of the Inquiry into the Export of Defence Equipment and Dual-use Goods to Iraq and Related Prosecutions - for a mere 45 quid!

  2. I'm looking at a study of the Scott Report, Under the Scott-light (ha, ha...), which (p13) says that various were published some months after the report, on CD-ROM. No doubt the material is still available in digital form, though no longer in print, it seems.

  3. This is one of the more substantial efforts. There is a transcript of a BBC interview (February 18 1996) by Michael Heseltine (one of the key ministers involved) dealing with Scott.

  4. Even pay archives - a US list for comparison usually go back no earlier than 1990; but, however far back, they all have a Year Zero.


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Wednesday, September 24, 2003
 

Cross-examination of head spook largely a bust


As I've mentioned before, Hutton is investigating two main areas: the treatment by HMG of Dr Kelly and whether HMG sexed up the September 24 2002 dossier.

On the latter point, the evidence of John Scarlett, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, who - HMG's case supposes - had entire command of the content of the dossier at all times is bound to be vital. Others - like Alastair Campbell - were (on HMG's case) peripheral to the construction of the dossier; or - like Brian Jones from the Defence Intelligence Assessment Staff (DIAS) - subordinate. If any progress was to be made on the sexing-up allegation, it would have to be with Scarlett.

The transcript [1] of his second appearance [2] makes for a pretty depressing skim-through:a fine tooth-comb may uncover gold, but I doubt it!. The BBC's lawyer - whose client had most to gain from discrediting the intelligence content of the dossier in general, and the infamous 45 minute claim in particular, made what looks like a comprehensive Horlicks of the whole thing.

Even on the evidence given to the Inquiry (which, even allowing for considerations of security, seems to have been on the scant side), the 45 minute claim was assailable on numerous points (some of which I attempted to pin down in my September 2 piece).

All cross-examining counsel were time-limited, so might be expected to hit their best points hard and fast. The BBC's man wasted ages with a line of questioning (from around 113:24) that never achieved take-off speed on the difference between various formulations of the 45 minute claim in the dossier, and in the JIC assessments [3] on which the dossier was supposedly based: the difference between
intelligence shows that...
and
intelligence indicates that...

There is - one gathers - a genuine difference between the two formulations: both are terms of art as that expression would be understood by lawyers. But Caldecott could make nothing of it.

(Even Lord Hutton seemed confused (123:13). And, perhaps, not a little bored, too. [4])

Where he does take on the detail of the intelligence, it goes nowhere; as at 128:16, when he puts to Scarlett
some possible
17 elements of uncertainty
in the 45 minute intel; starting with:
Firstly,
19 you did not know what munitions the Iraqi officer was
20 specifically referring to, did you?
and moving on to
You did not know from where or to where the munitions
23 might be moved within 45 minutes?

To both of these propositions, Scarlett assented.

Now, those - utterly basic - details would be important in two ways:
  • as intelligence in themselves; and

  • as corroboration for the rest of the intelligence.

Their absence surely cripples the Iraqi officer's story?

But Caldecott insists on wrapping up these admissions of Scarlett's into his futile quest for a result in his indicates v shows line of (I laughingly call) argument. It sinks slowly into the sand, before vanishing without trace.

There is further stuff on Campbell's role - which has zero shock-horror value, given what we already know.

He returns to the battlefield munitions point [2], and asks (138:3) whether the distinction had been made clear to Blair. Whereupon Scarlett evidently remembers a point from his practice sessions, and launches into a whole barrage of technical detail on battlefield CBW (chemical and biological weapons) evidently designed to point up Caldecott's ignorance of the subject-matter. (Though Scarlett is, of course, vastly less of an expert on the subject than - oh, the late DK, say...) As fine a deployment of chaff (in the Andrew MacKinlay sense) as one might wish to see!

[Another area ripe for investigation is the apparently highly selective recording of meetings and other communications at Number 10. But Caldecott chooses to raise that question with Scarlett, who had the easy out that it wasn't his business (147:17). Leaving Caldecott - yet again - one down (in the Stephen Potter sense) - and (by necessary implication) Scarlett, one up.)

He makes something of a September 19 email from Blair's Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell [5] asking for a redraft of a passage in the dossier that suggested that a threatened invasion would be the one thing to make Saddam use his WMD (which was, rather, one of the points opponents of the War Party were making at the time!). He presses the argument (158:17) that [6] on can have sexing up by omission

But then plunges back into the detail of discussions on the drafting of the dossier - points which simply have no traction.

Then he moves onto questions of the evidence about the drafting of the dossier provided by HMG to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. (Thereby already moving one level away from the matter in hand.) The whole thing gets terminally mired in inconsequential tedium over a confusion over the identification of a particular document on the screen (from around 177:13). By 181:17, the hapless Caldecott decides not to ask any questions about the document after all - and this time resorts to football for his analogy:
One nil to you, Mr Scarlett, I think on that
3 document.

Fortunately, he grinds to a complete halt shortly afterwards - to find Inquiry counsel James Dingemans (fuming, evidently, about having his time cut short) returning to the offending document, and uttering the immortal words:
What I think you were
22 going to be asked by Mr Caldecott...

The fact is that, of the QCs involved in the cross-examinations, only Dingemans has anything like a satisfactory mastery of his brief. (And no wonder, given the volume of evidence produced!)

If effectiveness had been the aim, it would have been far better for Dingemans to have assumed in turn the role of counsel for the various interested parties, and cross-examined accordingly. (That, however, would certainly not have been cricket!)

In short, the cross-examination sessions, long trailed in the media as the time when the gloves would come off has been a damp squib. The patient examination-in-chief of Dingemans - interspersed with courteous interventions of
his Lordship whose vitriol was given away in a final
Yes...-
was, ironically, much more effective and less tedious than the efforts of the latter-day Marshall Halls and FE Smiths [7].

  1. At the end of the morning session of September 23, he was questioned (friendlily) by HMG's own lawyer Jonathan Sumption QC; in the afternoon by BBC counsel Andrew Caldecott QC and Inquiry counsel James Dingemans QC.

  2. My August 27 piece on his first appearance majors on the obfuscation of the fact that the 45 minute claim applied to battlefield weapons, and not ballistic missiles - the leaping of the press to the opposite conclusion in its coverage of the dossier does not - according to his evidence under cross-examination - to have worried him much (139:9)!

  3. Something (I surmise) equivalent to the CIA's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) - the regular mechanism whereby intelligence information is supplied to the upper echelons of HMG, both officials and politicians.

  4. Caldecott did not endear himself by what he seemed to think were endearing cricketing references; as (125:20)
    I hope not my Lord. I do not know whether it
    21 was a swinging ball or not.
    At least, I suppose it was cricketing (I'm no buff, but I don't recognise the sense in context). Hutton (from Ulster, where they don't play much cricket) gave nothing away by replying
    No, not at all.

    He also misquotes Campbell's famous line (145:19):
    Mr Pruce, who Mr Campbell said
    19 was "punching above his pay grade" was his expression,..
    Whereas the phrase (36:6) actually is
    making contributions
    7 effectively above his pay grade.

    These guys are paid truckloads of cash to get these things right, surely?

  5. Which has actually been on the Hutton site for some time - though hacks seemed to be under the impression it was a revelation of this week.

  6. Pace Michael Mates - my piece on September 17.

  7. Terence Rattigan's The Winslow Boy naturally springs to mind (the QC in that case was, I think, modelled on Smith). Comparisons would, naturally, be odious, but...


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Tuesday, September 23, 2003
 

Jacques Chirac, the New York Times - and 95% of what?


The Quota Prince, Jayson Blair, and his claque may have gone, but the Grey Lady still struggles with the smallest details when it comes to quality control.

Take the big interview yesterday with the Chief Weasel: one of those prestige projects that helps a newspaper of record puff out its chest with pride - I suspect it figured on page 1 (though, unlike the WaPo, its online articles don't include a note their position in the hard copy rag.) Bush v Chirac at the UN was always a good bet for a punch-up (each way rather, than on the nose - despite the involvement of a cheese-eater...), and a nice long interview has a sort of coffee-table book function for a rag, even if - as, I think, is true with the Chirac piece - it adds little of substance to the sum of human knowledge.

But, either way, it's something that, unlike, say, an agency piece about the coup in Bongo-Bongo Land, you'd have thought the Times would have produced with some attention to detail.

Wrong. For a start, in the sixth paragraph down, we get beleive. Is that just rank carelessness, or a Jaysonesque flipping of the bird?

But then something truly bizarre: the interview mentions Chirac's Algerian experience - he served in Algeria during the 1954-62 war - and Chirac takes up the point:
In Algeria we began with a sizeable army and huge resources and the fellaga [independence fighter] were only a handful of people, but they won. That's how it is.

Then, he goes on:
When the Germans invaded France, 95% of the French were… But there were people who said no. They came from different cultural and political backgrounds, from the extreme left wing, the left, the right, the extreme right, and they said no...

What was Chirac about to say 95% of the French were? Patriots?

Now, the interview, the piece says, was conducted in French [1]. The text of the original is not provided by the Times. But there is elsewhere a French text of the interview [2] which could well be the original (rather than a translation of the Times translation).

The French text corresponding to the passage quoted is this:
Quand les Allemands ont envahi la France, il y a eu des gens qui ont dit non. Ils étaient de différentes origines, culturelles, politiques. Il y en avait d'extrême gauche, de la gauche, de la droite, de l'extrême droite. Et ils ont dit non...

No 95%, no incomplete sentence, no guessing game invited.

What gives? I've drawn the attention of the Times corrections people to the point - let's see.

  1. Chirac speaks English - he spent some time in the US during the 60s, I think - but is bound to be rusty. Besides, it's always good practice to speak business in one's mother tongue.

  2. The Réseau Voltaire site looks at first glance like a haven for the saner end of the groupuscular French Left. Caveat lector as ever.


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Monday, September 22, 2003
 

Not quite the Big Lie, but...


In the agonisingly slow progress towards enlightenment down at Court 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand - home, for what seems an eternity and a half, for Lord Hutton's great inquest - a potential small leap forward on Thursday.

In the witness box, was Richard Hatfield, Personnel Director at the Ministry of Defence, and intimately concerned with the limb of the inquiry dealing with the treatment of Dr Kelly by HMG. Hatfield took a notably combative approach, in the face of cross-examination from counsel for the Kelly family, Jeremy Gompertz, QC [1].

He was happy to stand behind the way the MOD behaved towards Kelly - in fact, suggested that it had erred in being excessively lenient [2].

On the question of the guessing game the MOD played with journos - the MOD had agreed it would identify Kelly if, and only if, his name was put to one of its press officers [3] - his comment appears typically bold and bullish (44:16, emphasis mine):
16 Q. Do you consider it was outstanding support by the MoD
17 not to inform him of the decision to confirm his name if
18 suggested by a journalist?
19 A. I am afraid I do not actually accept your question.
20 I think he knew all along if we were faced with
21 a serious statement that they knew that it was Dr Kelly
22 that we would have to confirm the name because the
23 Ministry of Defence cannot deny things that are true.

Now, I think that is the clearest statement we have had in evidence from HMG witnesses of what is, to judge from Hatfield's tone, supposed to be a killer argument to justify the guessing game. And I hypothesise that the statement is, in fact, a lie. (Or, at the least, a falsehood - despite his senior position in the MOD, one could not discount the possibility of ignorance on his part.) And that evidence might be adduced (should his Lordship be willing) to prove it to be a lie (or falsehood).

One or two points on this:
  • The usual sort of obfuscation, non-denial denials and the rest of the stock-in-trade of Alastair Campbell and his breed wouldn't count as denying things that are true.

  • But not confirming the name could be done without making such a denial (as by neither confirming nor denying): there is an ambiguity.

  • To falsify the strongest interpretation of Hatfield's statement, therefore, one would need to identify instances where facts have been deliberately denied by the MOD.

  • A single instance would be unsatisfactory: Hatfield was essentially alleging a rule (or established practice) that the MOD
    cannot deny things that are true.
    In theory, a single instance of a falsehood being uttered by the MOD would be the exception that proved the rule - false, in this case. But, for a thoroughly persuasive denial, one would need several.

The MOD was created in 1964; I would hypothesise that, on several occasions in its four decades of existence, MOD ministers or officials have done what Hatfield alleges they are not able to do.

I can suggest a number of cases in which this may well have occurred - though absence of online records militates against being able to confirm the fact [4].


  1. Sinking of the Belgrano

    The case of whistle-blowing civil servant Clive Ponting got going when Ponting determined that ministers were misleading Parliament of the circumstances surrounding the sinking (during the 1982 Falklands War) and leaked relevant documents to awkward squad doyen Tam Dalyell MP.

    Did the MOD deny things that were true? Apparently - small world! - the junior MOD minister in the frame was none other than scourge of Gilligan in Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Sir John Stanley [5]!


  2. Elimination of IRA terrorists in Gibraltar

    An amply justified HMG disinformation campaign on the SAS operation in 1988 - but surely more likely than not involving the MOD's denying things that were true?


  3. The disappearance of the trawler Gaul

    A bizarre 1974 case which might well have generated MOD truth denial.


  4. Greenham Common Nuclear Accident

    Evidence came to light in the mid 90s that a nuclear accident had occurred in 1957 involving a USAF aircraft at the base, which had been assiduously covered up in the interim. MOD truth denial?


  5. MOD dumping toxic waste

    Apparently, the MOD spent decades dumping radioactive waste in the sea. (Its record on land seems equally likely to have generated truth denial.)


  6. Arms to Iraq/Scott Inquiry

    The behaviour of HMG (Tory version) towards UK firms it greenlit to supply arms to Saddam, but then hung out to dry when executives got prosecuted for so doing, must surely have involved truth denial!


  7. Diego Garcia evictions

    When Uncle Sam wanted a base in the Indian Ocean in the late 60s, a few hundred natives were not allowed by HMG to stand in his way. Their removal involved a deal of Foreign Office deception, it appears: but perhaps the MOD put in their two pennyworth.


Very far from an exhaustive list, I'm sure; but illustrative of the rich seams to be mined for facts to contradict Hatfield's statement.

Would Lord Hutton allow counsel to lead evidence of this sort? Time is certainly against it. As well as the natural disinclination of all judges to bar fishing expeditions or diversionary tactics.

On the other hand, the question bears directly on a matter Lord Hutton evidently views as important: whether the MOD should have striven to resist Kelly's name becoming public, whether or not such efforts were likely to succeed. If it could be shown that the MOD had more than once denied (or avoided confirming) what it knew to be true, then no such rule as alleged by Hatfield could be adduced for its failure to do so to protect Dr Kelly.

  1. As interpreted by one of that peculiarly British (or so I believe!) breed, the parliamentary sketch writer (Guardian September 19).

  2. With hindsight, he said, he would have taken disciplinary action against Kelly: transcript 76:22.

  3. A procedure to which, to judge from questioning over the course of the hearings from Lord Hutton himself, he has taken a virulent dislike.

  4. Philip Larkin suggested that sexual intercourse had been invented in 1963; as far as most online repositories of government records, the Dark Ages only ended around 1997!

  5. Apparently, Sir Richard Mottram, then the Defence Secretary's Private Secretary, was called as a witness at the Ponting trial:
    Sir Richard was asked by Mr Ponting's counsel whether it had long been the constitutional practice that answers to parliamentary questions should be truthful and not deliberately ambiguous or misleading. After a long pause, Sir Richard replied: "In highly charged political matters, one person's ambiguity may be another person's truth".
  6. He seems here to be going rather further than Lord Armstrong's famous economical with the truth concept (during the Peter Wright Spycatcher trial in Australia).


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Sunday, September 21, 2003
 

Whatever happened to the UK anti-war movement?


Back in the prehistory that is the back-end of last year, I was doing my best, as the expression goes, to dampen expectations of the likely effectiveness of street protest against the war. On October 29 2002 [1], point out the lack of seriousness inherent in the Stop the War Coalition's loud call that
...we are backing Tony Benn's call for civil disobedience.

(I was equally sceptical about suggestions that the march to war could be stopped by the weight of a silent majority (January 27).)

The numbers mobilised onto the streets came as something of a surprise, I confess: a million in London alone on February 15 (Observer February 16). But Blair made it clear he was taking not a blind bit of notice!

Both the demos and the polls had zero traction (or close to it) on the course of the pre-war.

Now, we have the Hutton Inquiry, and, for all that quagmire talk is vastly premature, USG is hurting sufficiently in Iraq for it to think worth while enduring the humiliation of going cap in hand to that dive of cheese-eaters, the UN Security Council. Jacques, the Chief Weasel, naturally has his middle digit locked in the upright position [2].

We are long due a recrudescence in street activism to attempt to exploit these little local difficulties. But, according to a piece in the Observer today, the groupuscules of the movement are becoming ever more groupuscular. For example,
...a coup at CND with Carol Naughton, the longstanding chair defeated by one vote by Kate Hudson at the annual general meeting, amidst dark talk of tactical infiltration by the leftist group Socialist Action together who, with elements of the Socialist Workers Party, have effectively taken over.

(The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is one of the oldest organisations in the movement - the famous Aldermaston Marches of the early 60s were theirs. One might have hoped they'd have been wise to such tactics.)

The Stop the War Coalition is apparently equally fissiparous: even a long-time lefty like Bruce Kent (ex-Catholic priest, ex-CND chairman)
is furious about the happenings at CND and refusing to share anti war platforms with SWC people.

An SWC demo is planned, it seems, for next weekend (just before the Labour Party Conference). The Observer piece warns darkly that
In media terms anything less that the millions who turned out in February is going to be viewed as failure.

Good luck with that!

But even if a million do show up, the same lack of traction will enable Blair to ignore them. Only Hutton is in a position right now to do Blair any serious damage. And, while it's a possibility, no one should be holding their breath that it's going to happen.

  1. Scarcely more palatable to the British non-Trot war opponent than those Mumia posters were to anti-war soccer moms the other side of the pond (November 4).

  2. Poor old Teflon Tone goes abroad, pace Sir Henry Wotton, to get crapped on for his country: visiting Chirac and Schröder last week.


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Saturday, September 20, 2003
 

Journalistic ethics and the reported source


One of the proverbial oxymora [1], like military intelligence - but a phrase which has been exercising the public prints lately, what with the Grey Lady's Quota Prince Jayson Blair and now the BBC's hapless hack Andrew Gilligan (who, more and more, is showing himself to be every bit as stupid as he looks).

One point of principle that I'm puzzling over is the responsibility of a media outlet in reporting allegations.

Now, in English and American libel law, it seems that a paper that quotes an allegation is deemed to have made the allegation itself - neither the accuracy of the quotation nor the credibility of the person quoted is a defence.

If, therefore, Alastair Campbell had sued the Mail on Sunday for the allegation that he had been responsible for inserting the 45 minute claim into the September dossier, the case would have proceeded as if it were the newspaper that had made the allegation without reference to any source [2].

But what of the ethical position? The stance of objective journalism [3] was that the statement of a prominent person was news per se. However demonstrably false the content, the speech of a US president or senator merited respectful coverage - and not fact-checking!

Even a more balanced approach must comprehend the fact that conflicting - and often thoroughly tendentious - statements from politicians are flying around the ether; allegations are often made which are not mere empty invective but qualify as falsifiable [4]: disputes over the quality of statistics, say; or alleged quotations which can be checked with the record.

Are media outlets to be required to publish annotations with every such report? Or to refrain from reproducing such statements altogether? Neither constraint is the least bit practical.

There is a limited analogy in the role of stock markets: investors understand that, whilst the market authorities will take steps (not universally efficacious!) to exclude known con-men and South Sea Bubble-style propositions, the market is not responsible for the quality of the stocks traded [5].

The marketplace of ideas is, at least in the US, one of those tags of easy boosterism that spring to the lips when the glories of free speech are in question. No market can function when the market organisation is required to stand guarantor for everything that's sold in it. The marketplace analogy assumes that, pretty much, all ideas will find their place on one stall or another - and that competition will find out the best idea [6].

Back at the Hutton Inquiry, his Lordship's questioning has suggested that he disagrees with any such notion. The distinction between the BBC making an allegation, and reporting the allegation of a source, does not, it seem, appeal. He would have the analogy from libel law on his side in rejecting that distinction. But would he actually conclude that media outlets should only publish statements (from whatever source) they themselves have checked and are prepared to stand behind?

With all those pols rubbed out of the schedule (who knows what allegations they might make!), it would certainly make the Today programme, for one, a whole lot shorter!

  1. In the common, extended - and apparently incorrect - meaning of the word.

  2. There is under English law no rule comparable to that in New York Times v Sullivan.

  3. Last mentioned in the Joe McCarthy connection on September 8.

  4. Karl Popper well overdue a namecheck here!

  5. The exchange may be liable for negligence; and, on the other side, be an instrument of enforcement if fraud or malpractice occurs. As I said, the analogy is limited.

  6. Perhaps one should analogise the media outlets as the stallholders in a market? It's up to each of them which ideas he takes onto his stall - and, within a large margin, caveat emptor should apply to any purchase.


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