Monday, June 07, 2004

The Torygraph, Chalabi and Galloway

A curious offshoot of the raging scandal around Ahmed "The greatest Arab since Mohammed" Chalabi and his exposure as an Iranian spy has been pointed up by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. As the far more important questions build up, a small British angle has emerged with a story in the Daily Telegraph about the chap who Ahmed Chalabi gave the job of investigating those "secret files" of his. Now, those "secret files" are the ones that all the accusations that various political and media figures were in the pay of Saddam are based on.(Ranter coverage here) That is why those allegations keep being re-publicised in various countries around the world but so far have never really gained any credence. After all, does Chalabi let anyone else near his files? That'll be a "no", not unless you happen to be one of the hacks he decides to drop a document on. Marshall points out that the disappearance of the "investigation"'s files seems very convenient indeed, "like the dog ate my homework".

The first of the scandals let off by the "files" was the one in which the Christian Science Monitor and also the Telegraph accused the hard-left MP George Galloway of taking a rake-off in oil from the old regime. The story was based on a supposed "secret file" that was either "found in a looted archive" or provided by an anonymous source.

A lawsuit resulted, which Galloway won. The CSM had to fork out considerable damages. As far as I know, Galloway's case against the Telegraph is still active. Now, the Daily Telegraph is not a happy bunny at the moment. It is not in a condition to risk losing a major lawsuit, especially not one involving unlimited British libel damages. Circulation has been dropping for a long time and they seem unable to get back over the one million mark, which has a bad significance for advertising rates. And the paper is for sale in the wake of Conrad Black's disgrace. You may call me a terrible cynic, but it seems to me that - were the secret files to be debunked - the legal position would worsen drastically. And that could have painful financial implications. So, if this really had happened:
"Among the records held by Mr Chalabi in his Baghdad headquarters - which were stripped during a raid last month - he claimed to have material relating to the scandal-hit oil-for-food programme run by the United Nations during Saddam's rule.

Last night, it emerged that on the same day as the raid, computer files belonging to the British consultant investigating the oil-for-food scandal were destroyed by hackers and a back-up databank in his Baghdad office wiped out.

Claude Hankes Drielsma, a British businessman and long-time acquaintance of Mr Chalabi, accused America and Britain of mounting a "dirty tricks" campaign to obstruct his inquiry."
it wouldn't be at all bad for the Telegraph either. "A final note: what gives me some pause about this story is that unlike the Brooke case, no other paper seems to have reported anything on this at all. And given it would be a pretty consequential matter, I find that rather odd." So do I, sir...

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