Steve Clemons (Washington Note) wrote an intruiging piece on December 22nd about the alleged Bush/Blair transcript in which Bush was said to have suggested they bomb Aljazeera. Clemons said he'd write more in January, but also promised to write more on the following day, December 23rd, about the relevant ten lines of the transcript, but nothing has yet been forthcoming.
It appears there are two sets of leaked Bush/Blair transcripts in existence, and possibly still in circulation, both of which the government has sought to suppress. There's the Aljazeera transcript from 2004, and there are notes of telephone calls between Bush and Blair from 2002, which turned up in the Stormontgate affair. I've tried to reconcile these two transcripts but, if what little we know about the Aljazeera memo is roughly right, they are undoubtedly two separate documents.
To let leak one transcript of a Bush/Blair conversation is careless and would not have pleased the White House - as the Telegraph wrote at the time: "The disclosure that terrorists [ie the IRA] gained access to confidential White House information is likely to provoke a furious reaction in America.". To let leak a second transcript, especially one so potentially embarrassing, would have sent White House-No.10 relations into a tailspin. Is it any wonder Blair hasn't received his presidential medal of honour yet?
Both transcripts are cloaked in mystery. Stormontgate became public on October 4, 2002 when the PSNI raided Sinn Fein's offices at Stormont, seized documents and arrested three people, including Denis Donaldson, who later outed himself as a former British agent. Amongst the documents were, allegedly, notes of telephone conversations between Bush and Blair. Presumably the subject of the conversations was Northern Ireland - Bush later visited Northern Ireland with Blair in April 2003. If so, it's unlikely the transcript is revelatory. But it's possible that the recorded conversation(s) were post-9/11 related, when other, more sensitive, topics might have been discussed.
According to Denis Donaldson, he informed on Sinn Fein/IRA to both "British intelligence and RUC/PSNI Special Branch". So the story that PSNI, when it raided Sinn Fein's offices, didn't know Donaldson was a double agent is likely bogus. To complete the speculation, could the existence of the Bush/Blair transcript have been the actual trigger for the PSNI raid, and that recovering those notes overrode the desire to maintain Donaldson's cover? Whatever, the PSNI raid seems to have taken that document out of circulation.
As for the Aljazeera transcript, its status is equally murky. As Blairwatch has pointed out, (at least) two documents are involved in this leak - one, an FCO memo, called 'Iraq in the Medium Term', on military and political strategy in Iraq; the other, a transcript of a White House meeting between Bush and Blair on April 16, 2004. Five days before the Daily Mirror broke the Aljazeera story, the BBC had reported that:
Two men have been charged under the Official Secrets Act following the leak of a secret government memo. The document involved - the Foreign Office's Iraq in the Medium Term - referred to "heavy-handed" US tactics, a government source told the BBC. Its contents were reported in the Sunday Times in May last year. Ex-civil servant David Keogh and former MP's researcher Leo O'Connor, both from Northampton, will appear before Bow Street magistrates on 29 November.
Yet when Tony Blair was asked about the Aljazeera allegation, he replied:
"Look, there's a limit to what I can say - it's all sub judice," he said. "But honestly, I mean, conspiracy theories."
But if Keogh and O'Connor have been charged under the OSA with leaking only the FCO memo, then they haven't been charged over leaking the Bush/Blair transcript, and thus the affair isn't sub judice. It's all highly confusing.
One more thing - IF the Daily Mirror/Aljazeera story is roughly true, it does seem odd, extraordinary even, for Bush to suggest doing something that Blair would never agree to. Unless, that is, it was a mad scheme, cooked up by the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal, that Bush went along with, and that either Rice or Powell (or both) got wind of it and insisted they would only support it if Blair did too, which they knew he never would.