Damien Green is innocent (and so was Hillary)
Anyone who followed the Republican party character assassination of Hilary Clinton quickly realized that there was a pattern to the leaks of information. First came a set of eye popping claims of what information about to be released would show. Next came the disclosure itself which fell far short of what was promised. Finally the purported witness was exposed as a liar and a fraud.
Attacks of this type work because the subsequent debunking never erases the damage of the original attack. The smears sunk Hillary and it looks very likely that a similar smear will sink UK Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green. Norman Lamont never bought that champagne in a Thresher, David Mellor never boinked Antonia de Sancha in a Chelsea FC shirt. But the claims they did ended their careers just as surely as if they were true.
The initial set of allegations against Green were eye-popping. Pornographic images were found on his House of Commons computer system, images that would have become illegal to possess a few weeks later. Not just pornography by material of the most degrading type.
We now know that the source of the eye popping allegations was Neil Lewis, a former computer forensics expert who retired from the Metropolitan Police in 2014. The claims that he is willing to put his name to are considerably less spectacular.
The facts that are not in dispute are that Damien Green’s House of Commons office was searched in 2008 as part of a leak enquiry and that the alleged discovery was not reported to him at the time. Lewis claims that when he examined the computer in Green’s office and a laptop which appears might have been Green’s personal property that he discovered:
- The computer was logged in to Green’s account.
- ‘Thumbnail’ images of pornographic material but not material that is or was criminal to possess in the UK.
- Browser history information showing that the pornographic material had been accessed while someone was reading Green’s email.
So the first question to ask is whether the claims made by Lewis would have been considered worth reporting at all without what are now accepted to be untrue exaggerations. I really don’t think they would.
An MP looked at porn! Gasp horror! Like the Daily Mirror’s attack on Stephen Kinnock’s ‘extravagant’ purchase of a £35 coffee pot, this is a political offense that will only offend partisans of the opposing side who are eager to be offended. There would be newspapers that would publish the story of course, but only if it suited their political agenda to do so.
But even if we accept that the offense is serious enough to warrant concern, there are plenty of warning flags that tell us the story is not what it appears.
Are Green’s ‘fingers on the keyboard’ as Lewis claims? Well not from the evidence he presents and he knows it. The vast majority of emails received by a public figure like Green are processed by their staff before they see it. If a constituent writes to an MP, the email will be read by a staffer who will first determine if it is expressing an opinion on an issue or requesting assistance. If it is the latter, most MPs would expect the staffer to gather together all the relevant materials before it is forwarded to them.
So a big question for me is which email account was being accessed here. Was it a personal account that only Green uses or a public account that is used by staffers? Here, silence speaks volumes. If Lewis had connected the material to a personal account, he would have said so. The fact that he did not shows that he knows his claim is bogus.
Finally there is the question of the images being ‘thumbnails’ rather than actual images. This blows the case out of the water as far as I am concerned. People don’t go to pornography sites to view thumbnails, they go to pornography sites to view porn. Why didn’t Lewis find any full size images?
The most likely answer in my view is that whoever was using the computer never actually intended to use it to view pornography. Back in 2008, pop-under adverts were a plague on the Web. These were the adverts that a site would be load silently in a background window so that you would only notice there were hundreds of them when closing the browser window. Besides being annoying, pop under ads were frequently promoting scams or pornography.
I am no fan of Tory MPs, particularly not at the current time. But abuse of police power offends me rather more. Not least because all too often it is progressives being targeted by corrupt police.
Revealing evidence discovered in a police search to further a political agenda is a corrupt abuse of police power. I work as an expert witness in US cases. If I revealed information obtained under seal through discovery, I could be prosecuted for contempt. Lewis has by his own admission violated his duty of confidentiality. He should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Such prosecution is not likely to happen however and precisely because Lewis has succeeded in presenting himself as a whistleblower meaning that prosecution would only add to the political cost to Green and May. Brexit secretary David Davis has threatened to resign if Green is ‘treated unfairly’ and he is surely not the only cabinet minister whose realization of their abject incompetence has made them eager to find a dignified exit to their current position.
May cannot prosecute Lewis because to do so would bring fresh attention to the fact that the review she announced in 2014 into the cover-up of pedophile activities by Tory MP Peter Morrison and others is now on its fourth chairman and has yet to actually review anything.
If May is lucky, evidence will emerge that Green was involved in activities that would provide legitimate grounds for sacking him. But it seems rather likely she will be stuck with yet another lame duck minister she cannot sack.