February 29, 2004

Truth, or calumny? I love reading her columns, but how do our British members react?
  • The case against Katherine Gun was dropped by the British Government.
  • OK, fine, but are there any issues connected to this that merit disucssion?
  • .
  • Probably. Sorry, I wasn't trying to dismiss the post. We discussed the Hutton report here previously. The Hutton report also wasn't leaked to a pro-Blair newspaper so much as to an anti-BBC newspaper. The Official Secrets Act is a pile of shit, quite often, used more to allow the government to cover up its incompetence and criminality than for actual security reasons. Does America not have any laws similar to this, though? Surely its illegal in most countries to leak intelligence. National security and all that. And on preview, Wolof's link is very interesting. More interesting than anything I've got say, probably.
  • The OSA is, as dng rightly stated, a steaming pile of yak-shite. As is its little bastard brother, Public Interest Immunity. Having said that, Molly Ivins' piece reads a little strange - it just doesn't sound like someone who's terribly familiar with how things go over here. For example- "You've never seen anything as pathetically deformed as the British press efforts to report what its own government is up to when it looks as though the Official Secrets Act might come into play." -makes the Greater Horned Snark in me want to respond with, "how about the American press, all the time?" Which is unfair, of course, but my impression is that, while we have the crap legislation (OSA) and America has the good legislation (Freedom of Information), the law tends to run counter to the prevailing journalistic culture. British journalism tends towards the distrusting, investigative and anti-establishment, whereas my (perhaps misguided) impression of the US press corps is that they're generally passive, obviously with notable and honourable exceptions. Indeed, it's not the OSA that the British press run scared from, it's our libel laws. They'll gleefully publish state secrets, but try getting them to report rumours that Prince Charles got a blow-job from his toothpaste sqeezer - when everybody had already read it on popbitch anyway - now that was pathetically deformed. OSA, PII gagging orders and the like have increasingly been challenged over the past decade and a half - and while the legislation's still there, ever since Matrix Churchill and the ensuing Scott Report, it's been harder and harder to justify using them, and they no longer seem to outweigh the right to a fair trial. In fact, people being on trial now seems to be one of the best ways to get secret information into the public domain; as Wolof's link says, following on from Gun, an interesting case will be the trial of 14 anti-war activists, whose defence are indeed demanding to see the Government's legal advice on the legality of the war, just as Gun's defence planned to. More good stuff from the Grauniad on the OSA and FOI here (memo to other papers - get yourselves some better online archives and search facilities, please, five Guardian links in one post makes me look like some goddam sandal-wearing hippy). And about Clare 'Bomber' Short, the former minister who followed up the Gun affair by letting it be known we were bugging Kofi Annan, I think Chris says it better than I could.
  • Geez, I'd participate in this one, but I now have an incredible migraine after reading through the psuedo-cockfight going on over at Mefi about this very issue. Quite entertaining for anyone who wants to bother. I just can't do it again. Good luck, though!
  • Yeah, I just read that too. Quite astonishingly painful, ain't it? I think badgers are probably my favourite animal, they have nice coloured fur and pretty noses.
  • Yeah, although I just shooed (sp?) one off my porch last night and he was VERY pissed about it. You never know about those badgers.
  • What, you monkeys are afraid of a little action? *pulls out submachine gun, starts firing at random*
  • When it comes to animals, squirrels are my favourite. So harmless... And yet so mischievous...
  • I'm quite drunk - so apologies if this is old news - but I read an interesting factoid the other day connected to this issue. MI6/GCHQ and the CIA: good friends. Both are not allowed to spy on their own domestic populations. But there's nothing to stop them passing information they've gathered about each other's inhabitants. **BURP!**
  • I bet the Bush administraion wished they had a law like this to use on Joesph Wilson. I know John Kerry has become tight with Wilson. I'm wondering if Kerry is elected, is he going to try to make Wilson Sec Of State. I don't know if Wilson could get enough votes for confirmation.
  • Quite astonishingly painful Aaargh! Badgers, Doctor! More badgers!
  • Which is unfair, of course, but my impression is that, while we have the crap legislation (OSA) and America has the good legislation (Freedom of Information), the law tends to run counter to the prevailing journalistic culture.
    This does seem to me to hit the nail on the head of not only this issue, but a fairly fundamental difference between the United States, Britain and the other English-speaking former British colonies (Australia, Canada, New Zealand): the United States has very strong legal frameworks borne of what might be described as an Enlightenment mindset, while the others do not. In practise, however, the US seems very culturally distant from those frameworks; the press is one example (after all, is there a mainstream news network in the UK whose head has announced that he was proud to run a network devoted to getting a certain candidate elected?); church and state issues are another - the English have an official state religion, something which the framers of the Constitution sought to bar - but in practise, modern US politics and public life is generally far more centred on religion than in the UK (although there are exceptions - Tony "Christian mythology does too belong in science class" Blair, for example).