TWN has just secured a copy of a letter from Al-Jazeera Managing Director Wadah Khanfar to Prime Minister Tony Blair about the secret memo which allegedly outlines President Bush’s intent to bomb Al-Jazeera‘s headquarters and Blair’s efforts to dissuade him.
Here it the text:
TO THE ATTENTION OF:
The Right Honourable Tony Blair
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Date: 26 November, 2005
Dear Prime Minister,
It is with a great deal of concern that I write to you regarding the alleged statements made in the memo reported in the Daily Mirror this past week. The statements were to have occurred between President Bush and yourself regarding our organization, Al-Jazeera Channel. As alleged in the report the memo states that President Bush disclosed his plan to target Al-Jazeera at a White House face-to-face meeting with you on April 16, 2004. The report goes on to state that you subsequently dissuaded President Bush from doing so. On hearing about the memo we were astonished but we reserved our judgement on the statements until we could verify the claims being made by the report. Consequently, we were hoping that the memo would be made public to clarify the situation. However, we recently learned that the Attorney General has placed an order not to disclose the contents of the memo.
We are troubled and deeply concerned that this latest development is only increasing the outrage and shock felt by both our organization and news organizations across the world as well as by the public. Our profession is built on the value of the freedom of speech, and institutions such as ours struggle hard to maintain and champion these values.
We are calling upon you and your government to put an end to this widespread speculation and to set the record straight. We hope that you would agree with us that disclosing the contents of the memo would be in the best interest of the truth. The idea of either seriously or humorously suggesting the targeting of civilian news organisations is to us abhorrent in an age where the world is struggling for the ideals of democracy and freedom of speech. This is especially critical as the alleged discussion is supposed to have taken place between Mr. Bush and yourself, two world leaders who have stated their public commitment to these values.
Dear Prime Minister, we therefore call upon you to bring transparency to this situation in the best interest of the public good. I request a meeting with you to discuss this urgent matter directly.
This “bombing memo” matter is going to continue to boil for a while, and the UK Attorney General is apparently intent on prosecuting two bureaucrats for leaking the contents of the memo.
Eventually, the memo will be made public, and it will add yet another few news cycles of attention to this matter and potentially implicate all of those who said that Bush said no such thing.
Obsession with secrecy and covering up mistakes is characteristic of the Bush administration, which now seems to be paying a high price for this undemocratic behavior.
— Steve Clemons