Al Jazeera bombing memo

Al Jazeera bombing memo

The Al Jazeera bombing memo is an unpublished memorandum made within the British government which purports to be the minutes of a discussion between United States President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. "The Daily Mirror" published a story on its front page on 22 November 2005 claiming that the memo quotes Bush speculating about a U.S. bombing raid on "Al Jazeera" world headquarters in the Qatari capital Doha and other locations. The story claims that Blair persuaded Bush to take no action.

Details of the memo

The five-page memorandum is said by the "Mirror" to be a record of the meeting between the two leaders which took place on 16 April 2004 at the height of Operation Vigilant Resolve, an assault on Fallujah by U.S. Marines and Iraqi security forces. Al Jazeera reporters were in the city providing video footage of the conflict. The day before the meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described Al Jazeera's coverage as "vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable."ref|yahoo_news Al Jazeera reporters defended their live broadcasts of the civilian casualties by stating "the pictures do not lie". [ ["'] , "", February 3 2006]

The White House has dismissed the allegations made in the article.ref|washington_postGiven that Qatar is an ally of the United States and the United Kingdom in the Iraq War, many commentators have speculated that even if the reports of the memorandum are accurate, they may simply be recording a statement which the President did not intend to be taken seriously. A White House official told CNN "We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response," and a Pentagon official called the Daily Mirror report "absolutely absurd."ref|cnnA BBC News correspondent has suggested that if President Bush did indeed make the comments they were intended as "some kind of joke."ref|bbc

Writing in "The Independent" on 28 November Andreas Whittam Smith countered, observing that "official note takers don't normally record jokes". He also pointed to the alleged leaker's "25 years' experience of tough postings in place such as Islamabad and Khartoum, ... often involved in intelligence work" and concluded that he "must have felt exceptionally troubled by what he was seeing."ref|independent

According to a report in "The Daily Telegraph"ref|telegraph::"People who have seen the document say the real reason that it is being suppressed by the Government is because it contains a potentially damaging private discussion between the two leaders about the controversial United States attack on the Iraqi city of Fallujah last year."The report also stated that, when questioned about the matter at the Commonwealth conference in Malta, Blair branded the claims a "conspiracy theory."

Official secrets and UK publication ban

David Keogh, a civil servant at the Cabinet Office, and Leo O'Connor, a research assistant to former Labour MP Tony Clarke, have been charged under the Official Secrets Act for the unauthorised disclosure of the memo (Keogh under section three, O'Connor under section five). When O'Connor gave the memo to Clarke, Clarke returned it to Downing Street. All news organisations in the United Kingdom have been warned by Attorney General Lord Goldsmith against further publication of information from the leaked memo; Goldsmith has mentioned the possibility of prosecution under section five of the Official Secrets Act, 1989 if published details from the memorandum are considered to damage interests of the United Kingdom abroadref|times. On 29 November 2005, Keogh and O'Connor appeared in Bow Street magistrates' court in central London. Following a 15 minute hearing the case was adjourned until 10 January. [ (CNN)] On the 10 May 2007, Keogh was found guilty on two counts of making a "damaging disclosure" by revealing the memo and was sentenced to 6 months in jail. He was also ordered to pay £5000 in costs to the prosecution. O'Connor was sentenced to 3 months in jail. [ (Reuters)]

Boris Johnson, the Conservative MP for Henley, editor of "The Spectator" and a supporter of the war, has stated that he will publish the memorandum if he receives a copy of it in the hope it will put speculation about what Bush may or may not have actually said to restref|boris_johnson.
Ian Hislop, editor of "Private Eye", made a similar promise on the 25 November edition of "Have I Got News For You" (recorded the previous day) in an exchange between Johnson and himself.

The trial judge made an order under Section 11 of the Contempt Of Court act, banning in perpetuity any connection in the UK media between the trial and Al Jazeera. "Any journalist will have to ensure in his own mind that they are not making an impermissible link", he said. There have been no U.K. reports linking the trial and remarks by David Blunkett on Channel 4 stating that "taking out" Al-Jazeera was discussed in a conversation with Tony Blair at the start of the Iraq war. [] Reporters Without Borders has condemned the ban [] .

In an appeal against the ban, logged by a group of UK Media companies, the lord chief justice Lord Phillips partly lifted this ban. The UK media will now be able to repeat previously published allegations, however it will still be illegal to suggest that these allegations accurately represented evidence given in secret during the trial. It will also be illegal to print a particular phrase uttered in open court by Keogh when he was asked about the document. [,,2138236,00.html]

Previous U.S. bombings of Al Jazeera offices

Al Jazeera's offices have previously been hit by United States weaponry, although there is no proof that they were ever deliberately targeted. On 13 November 2001 a U.S. missile hit Al Jazeera's office in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the U.S. invasion of that country. Although no Al-Jazeera staff were hurt in the attack, the building was destroyed and some employees' homes were damaged. At the time, Mohammed Jasim al-Ali, managing editor, said that the coordinates of the office were well known to everyone including the Americansref|bbc_south_asia.

When former British Home Secretary David Blunkett published his memoirs in late 2006, it was revealed he had advised Prime Minister Tony Blair in late March 2003 to bomb the Al Jazeera television transmitter in Baghdad. "There wasn't a worry from me because I believed that this was a war and in a war you wouldn't allow the broadcast to continue taking place," Blunkett said. [Former British home secretary admits calling for bombing of Al-Jazeera, By Chris Marsden, Thu, 2006-10-26, [ (link)] ] [Al-Jazeera, a media revolution, October 25 2006 [ (link)] ] [Al-Jazeera mulls legal action over Blunkett's comments, AFP, Thursday, October 19 2006 [ (link)] ]

On 8 April 2003 a U.S. missile hit an electricity generator at Al Jazeera's office in Baghdad. The resulting fire killed reporter Tareq Ayyoub and wounded another staff memberref|bbc_middle_east.On 24 February, Mohammed Jasim al-Ali had sent a letter with the coordinates of the offices to Victoria Clarke, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairsref|SFBG(the location had not been officially requested by the U.S. government). This incident, which occurred during the U.S. assault on Baghdad and after criticism of Al Jazeera's coverage from those supportive of the war aims of the United States forces, gave rise to suspicions that the network had been targeted.

Pentagon advisor Frank Gaffney published an opinion piece on 29 September 2003 calling for both Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya to be "taken down" "one way or another" because they constitute "enemy media"ref|Fox_newsref|huff_post.


# cite news|url=|title=Did Bush Really Want to Bomb Al Jazeera?|first=Jeremy|last=Scahill|date=2005-11-23|publisher=The Nation Magazine
# cite news|url=|publisher=Washington Post|date=2005-11-22|first=Robert|last=Barr|title=Report: Bush Talked of Bombing Al-Jazeera
# cite news|publisher=CNN|url=|title='Bomb Jazeera' memo: Media warned|date=November 24 2005
# cite news|publisher=BBC|url=|title=Bush al-Jazeera 'plot' dismissed |date=22 November 2005
# cite news|url=|title=Secrets, lies and war crimes|date=28 November 2005 |first=Andreas|last=Whittam Smith
# cite news|url=|title=Bush plot to bomb al-Jazeera is a conspiracy theory, says Blair|first=Melissa|last=Kite|date=27 November 2005
# cite news|url=,,2-1885279,00.html|title=Editors are threatened over TV station bombing claim|publisher=The Times|date=November 23 2005|author=Rosemary Bennett,Tim Reid
# cite web|author=Boris Johnson|url=|title=Bush and Al-Jazeera|date=November 24 2005 |accessdate=2005-11-29
# cite news|url=|publisher=BBC|title=Al-Jazeera Kabul offices hit in US raid|date=13 November 2001
# cite news|url=|title=Al-Jazeera 'hit by missile'|publisher=BBC|date=8 April 2003
# cite news|url=|publisher=San Francisco Bay Guardian|date=April 26 2003|title=Did the U.S. murder these journalists? (Link dead as of 01:17, 15 January 2007 (UTC))
# cite news|url=,2933,98621,00.html|publisher=Fox News|title=Take Out Al Jazeera|date=September 29 2003|first=Frank|last=Gaffney, Jr.
# cite news|url= |title=Neocons Floated Idea of Bombing Al Jazeera Before|date=2005-11-29|first=Eric|last=Schmeltzer

* cite news | author = Wallis, William; Khalaf, Roula
url =
title = Qatar shock at al-Jazeera bombing report
work = Financial Times
date = November 23 2005
accessdate = 2005-11-27

* cite news
author = Jenkins, Simon
url =,,2088-1892515,00.html
title = Blair's slow, embarrassing death by a thousand leaks
work = The Times Online (UK)
date = November 27 2005
accessdate = 2005-11-27

* cite news
author = Regan, Tom
url =
title = British paper: Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera
work = Christian Science Monitor
date = November 23 2005
accessdate = 2005-11-27
(Link dead as of 01:17, 15 January 2007 (UTC))
* cite news
author = Percy, Karen
url =
title = Al Jazeera wants answers over alleged US bomb plot
publisher = ABC Radio
work = The World Today
date = November 28 2005
format = text transcript, audio recording
accessdate = 2005-11-28

External links

* [ White House Press Briefing] Transcript of questions on memo, 30 November.
* [ Bush Plot to Bomb His Arab Ally] - original story by the British tabloid, The Daily Mirror (online), by Kevin Maguire and Andy Lines, containing specific information from the memo.
* [ Media gagged over Al Jazeera memo] - IFEX

Al Jazeera website coverage (in English)

* [ Memo: Bush wanted Aljazeera bombed]
* [ Aljazeera probes Bush 'bombing' memo]
* [ UK gags paper over Aljazeera memo]
* [ An uneasy relationship]
* [ Comments: Bush, Aljazeera memo]
* [ US, UK asked to explain Jazeera memo]

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