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STOTTY ON SUNDAY: Running out of excuses.

Byline: Richard Stott

WHENEVER prime ministers are under the cosh over the activities of our spooks, and all of them are at one time or another, they run for the same cover.

The security services are doing a good job in highly dangerous circumstances, any discussion about their activities is highly irresponsible and they are the only people between us and destruction by our enemies. They always act within the law and exposing their activities will be disastrously damaging to morale.

In short, they are extremely respectable, totally dedicated and quite brilliant. So shut up.

Virtually all of this is untrue. Over the past half century our spooks have been shown up as arrogant, incompetent, out of control and hold their political masters in scarcely disguised contempt. Particularly if a Labour government is in power. This is so because successive prime ministers have taken the easy option of stifling debate about them. Tony Blair has more reason than most to keep the lid on the all cloak and no dagger men of MI6. His actions in the lead up to war were as muddleheaded and inefficient as M's licences-to-bug team.

It's all very well saying Clare Short was out of order suggesting Kofi Annan was bugged. Of course she was. But what were we doing bugging the Secretary General of the United Nations and entertaining American requests to bug the offices and homes of UN officials?

It had nothing to do with the war on terror and everything to do with eavesdropping on what was going on among nations we were trying to bribe and bludgeon into supporting a resolution to go to war with Iraq.

The reason we were doing that was because of the deep-seated reservations the world - and, we now know, the Foreign Office's legal department - had about the actions Bush and Blair were planning. They were so committed to invading Iraq they failed to see what was staring them in the face. In order to prop up their argument they were prepared to use iffy intelligence, highly- suspicious legal argument and illegal bugging. Did nobody stop to think that they had sunk to such low tricks precisely because their case was fatally flawed?

Clare Short will do anything to bring Tony Blair down. But GCHQ translator Katharine Gun is a different matter. She decided to blow the whistle because of the US request to bug the UN. And she was right.

This was irrelevant to the war on terror, the safety of our citizens or the removal of bin Laden and everything to do with saving the political skins of Dubya Bush and Tony Blair. Britain should have nothing to do with bugging the UN. This is the action of two-bit hustlers, little Caesars determined to get their way by fair means or foul because of an agenda planned years before. No wonder the Attorney General and the Crown Prosecution Service decided prosecuting Mrs Gun was "not in the public interest". For public interest read Government interest.

The war in Iraq is pulling Tony Blair further and further into the mire. In the weeks leading up to the conflict both the US and Britain rubbished the UN and came close to destroying it by invading without a mandate.

Yet nonetheless they considered UN support so vital they were prepared to tap phones and bug offices. Oh yes, we heard so many high-minded motives for war, our TV screens were full of them in the months leading up to invasion. Now we are seeing the putrid underbelly.

One of those high-flown reasons was to protect the world from dictators and restore the freedom of speech and political debate. Bugging and spying on an organisation dedicated to world peace and security is a strange way to go about it.

CAPTION(S):

RIGHT: Katharine Gun
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 29, 2004
Words:636
Previous Article:Voice Of The Sunday Mirror: Gagged BBC beyond a joke.
Next Article:STOTTY ON SUNDAY: BANKS' CODE OF MISCONDUCT.


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