Fri, May 11, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Man gets six months for leaking Bush-Blair memo

AFP , LONDON

A British civil servant was jailed for six months yesterday for leaking an "extremely sensitive" memo detailing talks on Iraq between US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Communications officer David Keogh was found guilty at London's Central Criminal Court on Wednesday of unlawfully passing the four-page document to Leo O'Connor, a researcher for anti-war Labour MP Anthony Clarke.

The memo, details of which had been published in British newspapers in 2005, allegedly recounted how Blair dissuaded Bush from attacking the Qatar headquarters of satellite television news channel al-Jazeera.

The court was told the four-page document was so sensitive that much of the trial had to be heard behind closed doors in the interests of national security.

O'Connor, who was found guilty of a similar charge to Keogh, was jailed for three months.

Sentencing the pair yesterday, Judge Richard Aikens told Keogh: "Without consulting anyone, you decided on your own that it was in the best interest of the United Kingdom that this letter should be disclosed. Your reckless and irresponsible action in disclosing this letter when you had no right to could have cost the lives of British citizens."

"This disclosure was a gross breach of trust of your position as a Crown servant. You are someone who had been specially vetted to deal with classified documents to the highest degree of sensitivity," he said.

The talks between Blair and Bush detailed in the memo took place in Washington in April 2004, in the run-up to a handover of power to Iraqis by the US-led coalition authority.

Keogh, who thought the memo exposed the US president as a "madman," believed it could raise questions in Britain's lower chamber House of Commons and wanted it passed on to US presidential hopeful John Kerry, the court heard.

He copied the memo from a confidential fax which came through to the Cabinet Office while he was on duty, before passing it to O'Connor, who placed the memo in Clarke's constituency office, prosecution lawyers claimed.

The lawmaker then handed it into Downing Street, the Prime Minister's London residence.

An investigation was launched, leading to the charges and trial.

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