An open letter to the Information Commissioner

by Andrew Mason

Following the non-release by means of veto of the March 13 and 17 2003 cabinet minutes, Dr Christopher Lamb, the originator of two Freedom of Information requests seeking the release of these records, has now written an open letter to the Information Commissioner.

This letter asks the Commissioner to commission his lawyers to re-examine the case for a judicial review of Attorney General, Dominic Grieve’s section 53 veto over Decision Notice (Ref: FS5041714- ‘Iraq Cabinet Minutes’).

The letter seeks to identify the grounds for such a re-examination.

This is considerably enhanced, he argues, by the exceptional importance of the case in potentially holding the Blair government to some kind of account in the way it took the UK to war against Iraq.

We are now, at Dr Lamb’s request, placing a copy of the letter into the public domain here on the Digest.

OPEN LETTER TO THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER

Please note that the letter is written in the later Microsoft Word 2007 .docx format. Earlier versions of Word will not open this file, you may need to download and install a compatible file viewer such as the one available here: Free File Viewer


New moves towards Australian Iraq inquiry

by Andrew Mason

A group of leading Australians have now started a campaign to gain a full inquiry into their country’s participation in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Their reasoning for this move has been set out in a newly published booklet – Why Did We Go to War in Iraq? A call for an Australian inquiry, and the group has commissioned a comprehensive website to make their case and launch a wider appeal aimed at gaining support for their movement, the Iraq War Inquiry Group.

The membership of the group, according to their ‘who we are’ page, currently includes:

•Paul Barratt, former Deputy Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; former Secretary, Department of Defence
•Rod Barton, former Director of Intelligence (Science and Technology), Defence Intelligence Organisation; former UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq.
•Dr Alison Broinowski, former diplomat; Visiting Fellow, Department of Asian Studies, ANU; Honorary Research Fellow, University of Wollongong
•Adjunct Professor Richard Broinowski, Media and Communications, University of Sydney; former diplomat.
•Michelle Fahy, editor and writer
•Andrew Farran, International Lawyer; Business Consultant. Formerly with Departments of External Affairs and Defence, and Law Faculty Monash University
•General (ret’d) Peter Gration, former Chief of the Australian Defence Force
•Dr Jenny Grounds, President, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)
•Professor John Langmore, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne; former MP for Fraser; former director of UN Division of Social Policy and Development, and representative of the ILO to the UN
•Edward Santow, CEO, Public Interest Advocacy Centre
•Lt Gen (ret’d) John Sanderson, former Chief of the Australian Army, and former Governor of WA.
•Professor Gerry Simpson, Professor of International Law, University of Melbourne
•Professor Richard Tanter, School of Social and Political Studies, University of Melbourne; Senior Research Associate, Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability
•Professor Ramesh Thakur, Professor of International Relations, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University; Adjunct Professor, Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law, Griffith University; former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General
•Dr Sue Wareham, Vice-President, Medical Association for Prevention of War
•Garry Woodard, former ambassador; Senior Fellow, Dept of Politics, University of Melbourne
•Tim Wright, Australian director, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons


The political class closes ranks

by Chris Ames

The Daily Mail carries a tremendous piece by John Kampfner on the current government’s use of the Freedom of Information Act veto to block disclosure of the pre-war Cabinet minutes:

The decision not to release official papers on the Iraq war exposes yet again how the political class thinks it is above public scrutiny.

Which is very much what I have been thinking. After reciting the well-known struggles of the Iraq Inquiry, Kampfner observes:

But there is no shortage of information publicly available about what happened, thanks to books, politicians’ memoirs, newspaper articles and documentaries.

Many of those involved, from Blair to his aides Alastair Campbell, Jonathan Powell and Peter Mandelson, have put their self-justifying defences into the public domain first — earning handsome publishing and newspaper serialisation fees. In doing so they have used the same spin tactics they deployed in government. Meanwhile — irony of ironies — Blair is paid millions to travel the world telling foreigners how to resolve their conflicts.

The hypocrisy of all this is extraordinary.

At the same time as cashing in on their accounts of the war, successive members of the political class have closed ranks to stop the public from finding out the truth of what went on.

Dominic Grieve is just the latest name to be added to this list which includes Labour’s Jack Straw, who also banned the release of Cabinet minutes covering the Iraq war.

Most sickeningly, there seems to be one law for politicians and another for everybody else.

As Chris Lamb, who has twice used FOI to try to get the Cabinet minutes released, has pointed out, what is being protected is not good government in a safe space, but a complete failure of Cabinet government to give sufficient discussion to a massive issue. That is what the political class is concealing.