If ex-terrorism chief can’t keep Trojan Horse report under wraps, should we be concerned?

Janet Downs's picture
“Peter Clarke, formerly Britain’s top counterterrorist police officer, is expected to rebuke the authority for not doing enough to safeguard children from the risk of being radicalised despite warnings dating back to 2002, according to sources close to his inquiry.”

Sunday Times, 6 July 2014 (behind paywall but extract available here)

It’s not clear where The Sunday Times obtained the information. But if the paper was told by “sources close” to the inquiry, should we be concerned about lax security? If an ex-counterterrorist policeman can’t prevent the leaking of a report before publication, then what does that tell us about the ability of counterterrorist forces to keep its intelligence confidential?

It’s unfair, of course, to condemn all counterterrorist activities because of one leak. But the premature revelation of the report’s (alleged) findings raises questions about how sections of the press got hold of the information?


It would be easy to make flippant answers. Perhaps there was a mole. Perhaps a Johnny English clone dropped the file. But that would divert attention from the seriousness of this lapse in security (if that’s what it was).

Michael Gove defended his controversial appointment of Clarke to investigate the alleged co-ordinated plot to infiltrate schools in Birmingham:

"But the view that I took was if you have a police officer of unimpeachable integrity to conduct these investigations, if people are at the end of this process cleared, given a clean bill of health, then that is the most effective way of ensuring that public confidence can be restored."

It appears, however, that some “sources close to his inquiry” don’t have the same “unimpeachable integrity” and appear to believe that divulging extracts from a report before its official publication is acceptable behaviour.

It’s part of a worrying trend: newspapers revealing comments from draft Ofsted reports despite it being a breach of copyright and before they’ve been checked for accuracy.

But now it appears to have gone one step further. According to the Telegraph, which also covered the story, Clarke’s report is “still being written”. It’s not just a draft, then, that is being widely publicised, but a report which has not yet been completed.

If these inquiries were subject to the same rules that apply during police investigations, the media could not speculate on what police would “likely” find because this would obstruct inquiries and prejudice any trial. If police evidence found its way into the media before being presented in court, this could be viewed as interfering with the course of justice.

But this impartiality doesn’t appear to apply to inquiries into what has been happening in certain schools and who knew what and when.

In the meantime, perhaps Peter Clarke should find out the identity of the sources close to him who disclosed details of what he might, or might not, be writing. It doesn’t reflect well on his inquiry if he can’t keep a partially-written report safe.
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Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 07/07/2014 - 16:40

Janet - isn't it only a "leak" when it's unauthorized and unhelpful. When it's authorized and helpful it is a "briefing".

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 08/07/2014 - 09:44

Barry - I shall remember that useful distinction, thank you. So, if the papers were "briefed" about what Peter Clarke might be writing, who briefed them and why? Was it really a lapse in security or a deliberate drip feed of comments?

A cynic might say the papers were getting negative comments out first just in case Clarke finds little evidence of a city-wide, co-ordinated plot going back as far as 2000 and then being ignored by B'Ham LA. A cynic might also say that Clarke's remit was to sniff out Muslims under the Mattresses.

A cynic might say that: I couldn't possibly comment.

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