Judgements as to whether the former MI5 employee was right to reveal the activities of Britain's secret services
THERE HAVE long been rumours of Mr Shayler's claim that, in 1996, MI5 ran, and bungled, a covert operation to assassinate Muammar Gadafy. We, along with the entire British press, did not publish it because we were gagged by a tight injunction imposed when the former agent first surfaced last autumn.
But yesterday Mr Shayler's allegations entered the public domain, via an article in the New York Times. It seemed to us absurd to continue to keep British readers in the dark on the actions of a secret service which we pay for and which acts in our name.
The New York Times
DID THE British government try to assassinate Colonel Muammar Gadafy, the Libyan leader, in February 1996, by planting a bomb under his motorcade? Britons may never know the answers, or even the credibility of the assertions, but for the last few days the nation has been consumed by the questions. Or, at least, sort of consumed, because news organisations are not really allowed to ask them. The media has been forced to discuss allegations without actually saying what the allegations are.
The case is threatening to turn into a repeat of the infamous Spycatcher case of 1986. Now, with the advent of the Internet, it is probably only a matter of time before Shayler's allegations are disseminated. Even so the government has taken the harshest possible stand against the news media.
The Evening Standard
MR SHAYLER, for all his extravagant claims, remains an unconvincing witness. On his latest assertion, about an alleged British bomb plot to kill Colonel Gaddafy, two politically incorrect observations are possible. First, if the story is true, it is strongly against Britain's interests that it should have been revealed. And second, if the plot was real and had succeeded and remained secret, SIS would have done more to justify its budget than anything it has achieved since mid-Cold War.
The Daily Telegraph
MR SHAYLER'S claims are, at best, utterly incoherent. But even if they were all true, that would be beside the point. Let us not overlook the obvious: secret services are supposed to be secret. Secrecy engenders the trust that is vital for MI5's success, both in recruiting agents and in co-operating with foreign services. Compromise that reputation, and you compromise everything. In a better world, David Shayler and his like would not be lionised: they would be horse-whipped.
CERTAINLY DAVID Shayler appears to belong to a new breed of personnel. He was never among the elite of MI5, that much is obvious, but even so its lowliest operatives would have access to sensitive material and, therefore, ought to be vetted in painstaking detail. When one surveys Mr Shayler, it is almost possible to believe that he might have secured his job via a Guardian advertisement. He has now become what could be termed, in the spy-speak of le Carre, an embarrassment. In the new era of openness, he has forced the authorities to bring down the weight of international law, in order to enforce secrecy. Never mind the illusion, in reality, nothing has changed. A new corporate image might have been adopted, and the personnel are of a different type, but behind the facade, business goes on as usual and it is as murky as ever it was.
It seems that history is about to repeat itself as Jack Straw prepares the way for a prosecution of MI5 dissident, David Shayler. Mr Shayler's crime? To call for the accountability and scrutiny of the security services that Labour demanded when in Opposition.
The week Monica testified
THE REPUTATION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Opinions regarding how Bill Clinton will be viewed by the American public if it comes to believe that he did in fact have a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky and then lied about it under oath
The Straits Times
PRESIDENT BILL Clinton owes it to himself, and to a presidency that can boast some significant achievements, to come clean on a messy and long-drawn-out affair that cannot but leave behind an unsavoury taste, no matter what the actual outcome. However, given popular sentiment, much might be forgiven a President who seems to have nothing to hide, who has revived the economy, re-established the US as a peacemaker abroad, and still has an agenda for 1999 on such matters as social security, health care and race relations. It would be tragic if all this were jeopardised - and the leader of the world's only superpower brought down - by the possible provenance of a stain on a cocktail party dress.
I CAN see him at the microphone, head slightly bowed, he looks up, lower lip quivering. "My fellow Americans," he begins. "I have sinned. I once again caused pain in my marriage, but Hillary and Chelsea have forgiven me, and I hope you will, too, because while I had an affair, I did not lie to you about it. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms Lewinsky. I had sex with that other woman, Ms Linda Tripp. Somehow, in furtherance of the vast right-wing conspiracy, she managed to transfer my DNA material from her body to Ms Lewinsky's dress. I never denied that I had a relationship with Tripp." (John R. Starr)
SOME REPUBLICANS hope that Mr Starr's report will focus America's attention on the president's long history of alleged misdeeds, and so create a climate favourable to impeachment. But the various Clinton scandals are so complicated that weaving them into one pattern of obstructing justice will be difficult; and focusing popular attention on them may prove even harder. Perhaps the president's best hope is that the more serious charges will not stick; and that, if he hangs tough, the audience will go home exhausted.
The Detroit News
A CREEPING suspicion has set in: Team Clinton has turned the rules upside down. It is corrupt not by happenstance, but design. At the heart of our misgivings is the issue of whether deception is normal. Bill Clinton, impugning George Bush's integrity, once chortled, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." True: And when a president presumes to fool the public on a daily basis, people's shame eventually turns into rage. (Tony Snow)
The Ironton Tribune
PRESIDENT CLINTON'S alleged dalliance with Miss Lewinsky is not just a sex case. It is an indictment of an attitude. Sex between consenting adults is fine. The problem is, adultery is not. The Clinton case is disturbing because Americans are starting to realize that all the soothsayers who have predicted that the days of honor and morality are evaporating are right. But soon, we will look for heroes again. We will hunger for the good guys again, not those who are the most skillful at manipulating themselves out of trouble. That is the poll that will count.
The New York Times
IN ITS latest trash-the-critics operation, the White House has said that the mere act of calling on the president to tell the truth means that Mr Clinton has been unfairly prejudged. It means something quite different, of course. Commentators and millions of skeptical citizens are basing their advice on six years of observation and a longing for candor. This is a a president who has been delivered into crisis by the agency of his own evasions.
The New Statesman
So it all boils down to politics. Short of total exoneration, Clinton will emerge very badly bruised from the Lewinsky business. But impeachment? the constitution says that a president has to be guilty of "high crimes and misdemeanours" to be impeached, and for the Republican majority in Congress to proceed with impeachment hearings would be a high-risk operation indeed; how many of them may have left semen-stained dresses in the wardrobes of other young women. (Andrew Stephen)
THE WAR IN KOSOVO
Editorial opinion on whether Nato should intervene to halt the Serbian army offensive against the Kosovo Liberation Army
THE LATEST act of the Yugoslav tragedy seems to be an evil repetition of the atrocities verified in the siege of Dubrovnik, the destruction of Vukovar and the massacres of Sarajevo and Srebrenica. Kosovo has been transformed into a demolished, nightmarish Utopia, a shrine to a defunct Serbia that has 100,000 Serbs besieged by about two million Albanians. Milosevic's war on Kosovo is yet another "fake civil war" between opposing forces: the "anti-terrorist" Serbian police against the "terrorist" Kosovo Liberation Army. The ineffective attempts by these so-called terrorists offer Milosevic international justification for his real war: the one against the Albanian population.
HEAVEN KNOWS what Serb forces hope to achieve by the senseless slaughter of women and children. Rubbish tips filled with the corpses of innocent civilians will not cow the people they hope to conquer. It will create an enmity that will cause generations of bloodshed. The terror they sow today they will reap tomorrow.
APPREHENSIONS HAVE been voiced about the strategic effectiveness of an intervention by Nato in Kosovo. Some commentators have likened these fears to the pre-Gulf war jitters among the allies. This school of thought clearly favours a military invention to avert a bloodbath. And this seems to be the only viable option left for the international players to pursue. The West must avert a Bosnia-like tragedy in Kosovo at all costs in the interests of international stability, as a destabilised Yugoslavia is a dangerous proposition for world peace.
MICHELLE DE BRUIN
Irish views on the banning of the champion swimmer for tampering with a drugs test
The Irish Times
AS A NATION, we desperately wanted to believe that our sporting heroes were a race apart, more honourable and less conniving, somehow immune from the ills of modern professional sport. Today, Michelle de Bruin is shown to have feet of clay. Perhaps, that is no bad thing. The ambivalence that has clung to her achievements has been removed by the ruling by FINA [the sport's ruling body]. Every promising teenage athlete who dreams of glory has learned a salutary lesson: any suspicion of violating the rules and ethics of sport can only end in tears.
The Irish Independent
THE SWIMMER'S family have already indicated that she will fight yesterday's decision "to the death" and it is certainly to
be hoped that that fight is won. Ireland has known many great episodes in sport, but few will compare with the extraordinary week two summers back when a girl from Rathcoole simply dominated the swimming world. We gloried in her achievements back then and we should not abandon Michelle now. It is one of the quirks of doping law that the burden of proof rests with the defendant, not the prosecution. Under normal rules of justice she is innocent for the simple reason that she most certainly has not been proved guilty.
The Irish News
IT IS UP to the authorities to ensure that their tests are rigorous enough to detect offenders at an early stage, but there is little evidence of this happening. If the suspension of Ms de Bruin, the first in the 104-year history of the Irish swimming body, helps to prevent the use of drugs by others, the whole sorry saga could yet have at least some beneficial consequences.
SANCTIONS ON IRAQ
Views on how to react to Saddam Hussein's decision to break off co-operation with the work of the United Nations arms inspectors
WE CAN rely on Saddam Hussein. Every few months, he freezes co-operation with UNSCOM. Then there is a controversy in the UN Security Council which is solved by a compromise that UNSCOM will resume its inspections and chief inspector Richard Butler will promise an acceleration of inspections.
We are now in the first stage again. It seems true that Iraq no longer has significant arsenals of missiles and chemical weapons, and that its nuclear programme has probably also come to an end, but there is not sufficient information on the biological weapons in Iraqi depots. In this field, Iraq has lied, deceived and stonewalled.
It is certainly true that the Iraqi population is suffering under UN sanctions. But Iraq used poison gas and biological weapons in wars which itself provoked. The Iraqis reluctantly yielded and bowed to UN controls only because of the permanent threat of the use of force. As long as Saddam continues to refuse to disclose the status of its ABC weapons, Butler's mission cannot and should not end.
THE IRAQI authorities are aware that the world public's sympathy is even more emphatically with them and Mr Butler is cast in the role of being a willing instrument of American policy. The response of the US and Britain has been true to form, but Washington is aware of the increasing unpopularity of its resolve to fight the Saddam regime irrespective of the costs borne by the Iraqi people, and is seeking to galvanise the traditionally fractious opponents of the regime.
It would appear that neither Iraq nor the US would want to take the looming showdown to its logical conclusion. But for the Iraqis there is merit in making the world aware yet again that the inspection regime never ends and Iraqis are dying of malnutrition and lack of medicines in the meantime.
IN THE absence of co-operation, the United States may again feel compelled to attack Iraq for non-compliance. Any such moves by America, however, would revive the international crisis witnessed just a few months ago. Clearly, Saddam must allow the UN workers to finish their job - it is the only way for Iraq to regain its membership internationally. The UN must also remember that the prolonged sanctions hurt the Iraqi people more that anyone else. Both sides must overcome this impasse before its consequences overcome them.
Stories from around the world
DEATH BY stove burning, a trend imported from India, has been in vogue since the start of the Eighties as a convenient way of getting rid of a wife who has brought a small dowry or refuses to fleece her parents for more money at the behest of her husband or in-laws. Now a law has been passed to register a case against the husband and his family the moment such an incident is reported, usually leading to indictment of murder or an attempt to murder if the lady survives.
Crime against women is by no means declining. In fact, the present state of affairs in the country can lead to a worsening of the existing situation. The recession in the economy is going to lead to a higher level of unemployment, resulting in an enhanced level of frustration in the society. It is always the weak link in a chain that breaks first, and in our society women and children are the weak link. So, inevitably, they will be the first ones to suffer the brunt of the existing situation.
St Petersburg Times
A PROGRAM of ethnic cleansing has been initiated in, of all places, southern St. Petersburg. Denis Usov, a 24-year-old deputy in one of Kupchina's recently elected neighbourhood district councils, has initiated a program to rid the area of ethnic minorities, specifically those from the Caucasus. Usov has distributed leaflets throughout his district, asking citizens to report to him the addresses of suspicious-looking people of Caucasian nationality "who are engaging in anti-social and criminal activities", so he can turn them over to the police.
Times of India
A GADGET that deletes swearing from video films and television programmes should be in the shops next year. At the appropriate moment, it automatically mutes the sound to censor words and there is an option to display more moderate dialogue as a subtitle. The device's software contains a dictionary of 100 alert words alongside a list of tamer substitutes: "jerk" and "crud", for example, are two catch-alls able to fill in for a variety of profanities. The phrase "go away" also gets a lot of use.
FILM OF THE WEEK
Re-release of the 1938 movie, 'Adventures of Robin Hood'
The Daily Mail
MOVIEGOERS WITH lingering traces of humanity and a sense of humour may be wise to ignore Armageddon and rush instead to enjoy Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Shot in glowing storybook colours which make it look unlike any other film, this is widely - and rightly - considered the definitive family swashbuckler, climaxing in one of the most exciting swordfights ever put on screen. (Christopher Tookey).
The Evening Standard
MADE BY Warner Brothers 60 years ago, The Adventures of Robin Hood still satisfies the sort of hunger that present day cinema all too often ignores; the hunger to be told a story. It's how they used to make adventures - big, fast, bold and not too seriously. Special effects are zero, psychology is basic, dialogue is no more than serviceable, characters have the clarity of cutouts. But the storybook spell falls on actors and action like a simple blessing in a complex world. Cry your eyes out for the days when most movies set out simply to entertain - then rub them in gratitude at this survivor. (Alexander Walker)
BORED WITH all the "big" summer movies? It's Errol Flynn to the rescue as this classic Hollywood adventure gets a most welcome 60th-anniversary renaissance. It has Flynn at the top of his game. Perhaps only Cary Grant and John Wayne ever looked so completely at home in their own skins as he does here, winning the day with a smile which knows that none of it is to be taken too seriously. There may be injustice to fight and a fair maiden's hand for the taking, but here is a man confident in the realisation that the day's shooting will soon be over and the real business of the cocktail hour awaits. The best fun you'll have in a cinema this year, for sure. (Trevor Johnston)
Quotes of the Week
"What I am doing tomorrow is something I never, ever wanted to do. It breaks my heart."
Monica Lewinsky, the night before her testimony to the Grand Jury
"Really well-rounded people don't make it to the top."
Gerry Robinson, chief executive of Granada and chairman of the Arts Council
"I see no room in scripture or Christian tradition for any sexual activity outside matrimony of husband and wife."
Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury
"While I respect that to affirm homosexual practices would be evangelical suicide, to condemn them would be evangelical suicide in my region."
Catherine Roskam, Bishop of New York, at the Lambeth Conference
"I feel like a lover who has been abandoned and who fears she is about to discover a betrayal."
Helen Wilkinson, co-founder of the Demos think-tank, on New Labour in governmentReuse content