The following is the full, unedited and uncensored text of a letter from Graham Dudman (Managing Editor of The Sun) to the PCC, written in relation to the ‘Alan Sugar terror target’ story that was first revealed here at Bloggerheads to be based on fabricated evidence, a fact that was later confirmed by Jenvey himself in September 2009, after a hell of a lot of needless fuss.
I’m publishing the letter here after repeated appeals to Graham Dudman for an apology have met with nothing but silence, so the public might have a shot at (again) dealing with something the PCC refuse to address.
The short version is that Dudman turned a blind eye to evidence and instead attacked those presenting it (a tactic that regular readers of this blog will be quite familiar with given past adventures with various tabloid wannabes).
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1 Virginia Street
Telephone: 020 7782 4117
Fax: 020 7782 4029
FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR
January 27 2009
Will Gore Esq
Press Complaints Commission
20/23 High Holborn
Dear Mr Gore
Thank you for you letter of 13 January addressed to the Editor regarding an online complaint from the administrator of a website (www.ummah.com) (“the Website”) concerning an article published by The Sun on 7 January. We have investigated the complaint and are now in a position to respond.
In his complaint, the complainant makes a number of claims suggesting that the article published in The Sun on January 7 is inaccurate. Most notably, he claims that the Website was accused by The Sun “of compiling a list of well known Jewish people to be targeted with a campaign of violence”. In fact, what the article actually said was that:
“… Sir Alan Sugar is among the top British Jews feared [our emphasis] targeted by Islamic extremists …”. Additionally, the article also made clear as early as the second paragraph that the list does not exist but that “fanatics called for a list… to be drawn up”.
We believe that this inaccuracy suggests a mis-reading of what was published and the basis for it. The facts of the matter are that a posting was made on the Website by someone using the avatar ‘Saladin 1970’ asking fellow users to help in order compile a list of individuals who support Israel. In response to a posting asking for a list of “top Jews we can target”, ‘Saladin1970’ provided a link to another website (www.thejc.com) which referred to a number of prominent British Jews including Sir Alan Sugar, Foreign Secretary David Milliband and the musician Mark Ronson, amongst many others. ‘Saladin1970’ is not an avatar for either a journalist or an agent for The Sun, nor is he connected in some way to Glen Jenvey (the terrorism expert quoted in the article).
The complaint suggests that “the intent of the thread was to start a polite letter writing campaign to persuade the influential Jewish people that what Israel is doing in Gaza is wrong”. With respect, we do not agree that the intent of the thread was simply to start a “polite letter writing campaign”. It is clear from even just a cursory review that the Website carries numerous extreme views and is widely used by Islamic extremists to discuss radical and/or extremist subjects. We have reviewed both the thread which prompted the article and other threads on the Website and we have no doubt that it was reasonable for The Sun to describe the Website as a “fanatics website”. For example, the Website contains one message board entitled “Does anyone here recognise Israel’s right to exist” which contains threads that include quotes such as “Muslims are a patient people. Jews are a greedy people. Who will win in the end?” (posted by ‘AbuMusaab’ at 7:56am on 4 January 2009); “you are a fool if you think that the Muslims will let you live in peace” (posted by ‘SunniHammer’ at 8:39am on 4 January 2009); and “you won’t find any peace until all of you thieves were kicked out from the Palestine inshallah” (posted by ‘Ammarcool’ at 9:56am on 4 January 2009). These are just three examples.
In light of this, in our view, to regard Islamic extremists as being in the business of sending “polite letters” is naive and extreme. This is based on the expert opinion of Glen Jenvey, an expert in radical Islam. In any event, as a matter of common knowledge, we are unaware of a single incident of Islamic extremists writing polite letters. It is quite obviously a euphemism which almost does not require expert opinion to establish.
The matters raised in the article are plainly matters of public interest. Exposing, even at the earliest of stages, a proposed conspiracy to cause harm to prominent British Jews is a matter that The Sun is and should be free to report. It is not the case that public interest is and can only be served by reporting such matters to the police.
Central to the complaint is the suggestion that Glen Jenvey, the terrorism expert quoted by The Sun in the article is connected to (or in fact may possibly be) a freelance journalist called ‘Richard Tims’. Additionally the complaint suggests that it was ‘Richard Tims’ who posted the thread on the Website using the avatar ‘Abuislam’ which is referred to in the article. We have spoken to Mr Jenvey regarding the complaint, particularly in relation to the allegation that he is in some way connected to ‘Richard Tims’. Mr Jenvey has categorically denied that he is, or that he uses the name, ‘Richard Tims’ or, indeed, that he ever met anyone by that name. Mr Jenvey also denies that he ever posted any threads on the Website.
I can also confirm that The Sun has no association with any person called ‘Richard Tims’ and that this person (if he indeed exists) was in no way connected with the publication of the article on 7 January.
We should add that Mr Jenvey is an extremely well respected expert on terrorism who has contributed to various radio and television programmes in this country. In this respect, we make the following points:
1. As recently as November 2008 Mr Jenvey was interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s File on Four programme on the subject of “Violent Extremism”. Mr Jenvey was introduced on air during that programme as “an investigator who has been monitoring extremist websites for years”. Mr Jenvey has also contributed to articles for The Sunday Times and CNN amongst others.
2. The Sun has used Mr Jenvey as an expert on terror-related matters previously and has had no reason to doubt the veracity of his views.
3. John Coles (the journalist responsible for the article) was also assured by the South West News Service (“SWNS”), the news organisation which originally supplied the story to The Sun , that Mr Jenvey was a reliable expert. SWNS had dealt with Mr Jenvey on an earlier terror-related story and, in this respect, SWNS had been reassured by Conservative MP Patrick Mercer (Chairman of the House of Commons Counter-Terrorism sub-committee) that “Glen Jenvey is an extremely capable and knowledgeable analyst of fundamentalist matters and ought to be listened to. If he says that this is a risk worth looking at, then we must take it seriously. He and I have done quite a lot of work together, and he is a source of reference for me”.
4. After speaking to Mr Jenvey, John Coles contacted the Community Sceurity Trust, the charity which oversees security for Britain’s Jewish community, and was given the contact number for its security spokesman, Mark Gardiner (who is also quoted in the article). M Coles subsequently briefed Mr Gardiner about the story and specifically mentioned Mr Jenvey by name. At no point during this conversation, did Mr Gardiner suggest that Mr Jenvey was someone not to be trusted.
5. To confirm, Mr Jenvey was not paid for his contribution to the article.
The complainant would also be trying to discredit Mr Jenvey (and by implication the article published in The Sun on 7 January) without any foundation. In this respect, the complaint includes a link to a website (http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2009/01/glen_jenvey_has.asp) which contains a number of extremely serious allegations against Mr Jenvey. As well as the allegation that Mr Jenvey, ‘Richard Tims’ and ‘Abuislam’ are all one and the same, which I deal with above, the website also makes a number of personal attacks on Mr Jenvey. Those attacks include allegations, amongst many others, regarding Mr Jenvey’s sexuality as well as claims that he is a paedophile (eg “or is it that he likes young muslin boys around?”). Mr Jenvey categorically denies that he is a paedophile. In this respect, we understand that Mr Jenvey has been in a stable relationship for the past 16 years. The website also contains a purported interview with an individual claiming to be Mr Jenvey’s daughter. This interview is manifestly false. Mr Jenvey does not have a daughter.
Mr Jenvey informs us that when he has been critical of the Website in the past, he has been subjected to similar personal attacks. The allegations concerning Mr Jenvey on www.bloggerheads.com is again a tactic we understand that the Website has chosen to use before and, as before, they are based on false claims.
It is our view, from what I set out above, that the complainant has not been full and frank with the PCC, both as to the nature of the information discussed on the Website and the implication that Mr Jenvey was in some way responsible for posting one of the threads referred to in the article. This is a further matter which should be taken into consideration.
Without withdrawing any what I have set out above, I have arranged for the article to be removed from The Suns’ website and I trust that this is now the end of the matter.
If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. Indeed, if there are specific issues that you want me to address, then plea\se let me know.
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If others wish to reproduce and/or fisk this letter, then feel free (but please ensure than you link back to this post, just in case there are any updates or corrections).
I offer the following observations in no particular order:
– Dudman can take that potential ‘mis-reading’ and “feared targeted” dodge and stick it right up his fundamental orifice.
– Note how it is taken as a given that Ummah.com is a hotbed of extremism, thereby rendering “polite letters” an “obvious euphemism” for something more sinister. This rampant bigotry alone blows apart any notion The Sun may wish to put about they were innocents duped by Jenvey. While The Sun may have apologised for ‘inaccuracy’ (while blaming Jenvey) they have failed/refused to withdraw or correct their description of Ummah.com as a “fanatics website”, even though the only evidence produced to back this up was also provided by Jenvey and is extraordinarily thin, even if taken at face value.
(I recognise the anti-Semitic aspects of some of the quoted comments, but have seen worse hosted on YouTube, Twitter, Blogger, etc. – I haven’t seen any of these described as a “fanatics website” in The Sun and I doubt I ever will… unless of course it’s a result of this Murdoch-owned paper having another go at Facebook or any other social media provider it regards to be a direct threat to the Murdoch-owned MySpace.)
– In the paragraph citing what he sees as evidence justifying the description of Ummah.com as a “fanatics website” Dudman misuses the term ‘avatar’ and clearly confuses a ‘message board’ with a post/thread and describes responses within a thread as new ‘threads’, suggesting that he doesn’t even have the basic understanding of a forum one might require to make a valid judgement of any online community of this type (that, or he’s deliberately giving a false impression that this type of content is far more widespread on Ummah.com than the evidence suggests). Further, none of this evidence proves it is warranted to suggest that a “letter writing campaign” is anything but a threat of further lip-flapping, if it is to be regarded as a threat at all.
– The Sun claim that Jenvey was not paid for the story, but this is contradicted by the claim published on the SWNS website that they had sold this specific story of Jenvey’s to The Sun. Perhaps what Dudman meant to say is that they paid SWNS, who then paid Mr Jenvey.
– Unlike other ‘leading’ bloggers, I take responsibility for the comments that appear on my website, but it cannot be stressed enough that the ‘daughter’ content did not originate on my site, and was instead repeated under comments as part of a background information dump by a well-meaning comment contributor. It was irrelevant to the body of the post, and was publicly dismissed as irrelevant the time. In this letter, Dudman only makes passing mention of the body of the post (i.e. the part containing key evidence showing their expert to be a fraud) and instead focuses on the comments underneath, greatly misrepresenting their content and context in many ways, not the least of which being:
– The ‘paedophile’ text (as with the other text about Jenvey’s daughter) was mirrored information from another website posted to my website as a comment, and allowed as background only. It did not originate from me, nor was it highlighted, encouraged or expanded upon in any way. The Sun imply otherwise. Further, the text The Sun claim was published by me ‘to discredit Glen Jenvey’ does not accuse Glen Jenvey of being a paedophile, as a wider quote from that passage reveals (“‘is bin laden a gay? or is it that he just likes young muslin boys around? is jihad a form of child sex?”). The comment is about Osama Bin Laden, and was originally posted to ummah.com under the name ‘saddam01’, which according to Ummah.com is yet another alias of… Glen Jenvey! Yes, the ‘paedophile’ text wasn’t *about* Glen Jenvey, and it was most likely written *by* Glen Jenvey!
(As many of you are aware, Glen Jenvey later went on to falsely accuse me of being a paedophile. Repeatedly. On hundreds of websites. What role this letter/accusation played in that decision and if Jenvey was confused enough to believe that I had done anything like that to him is unknown at this time.)
– It has been put to me by the PCC that the accusation that I called Jenvey a paedophile may have been an honest mistake resulting from an unfortunately-placed line-break in a print-out/fax, but my response to this is that – if this is the case – then The Sun appear to have taken no care before making this very serious accusation. Further to this, if it were an error in reading a print-out/fax, then it is clear that they did not look at the website itself. Therefore, they did not even look at the evidence I presented on my website in any depth before banking so much on their ‘expert’ and rejecting any notion he may have used the alias ‘Richard Tims’ (which he did) or posed as ‘Abuislam’ (which he also did).
– The Sun, who had a go at Gordon Brown for misspelling a name, cannot spell ‘Muslim’.
– Note the sleight of hand (or unfortunate error) in the use of “the Website” in the final paragraph under ‘Glen Jenvey’; the majority of people I’ve shown this to take to be a reference to Bloggerheads.com and not Ummah.com
– That they then go on to complain that “the complainant has not been full and frank with the PCC” is the height of chutzpah. If Graham Dudman suddenly drops dead from audacity, I recommend that he be immediately replaced by Iain Dale, who shares with him an equal if not greater capacity for (a) playing the man while playing the victim, and (b) taking bullshit to new and dizzying levels.
– The removal of the article from their website was far from the end of the matter. The Sun did not admit error or publish any form of correction until months afterwards, and even then it was nothing to write home about.
Graham Dudman has, since writing this letter, repeatedly refused to withdraw the false allegations he made about me in a clear attempt to draw attention away from his publication’s failure(s) to act reasonably and responsibly. (Surprisingly, I find myself in a very similar dispute with Private Eye, and I look forward to addressing that properly soon after giving them more than ample time to reply.)
The PCC – the body currently speaking of the potential to ‘regulate’ blogs (more) – has at every stage refused to investigate or even publicly acknowledge the attempt by the Managing Editor of the The Sun to attack me instead of addressing the evidence I presented.