Con Coughlin

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Con Coughlin is the executive foreign editor of the Daily Telegraph.[1]. Coughlin is best known for receiving stories directly from MI6. His relationship with the British intelligence Services was exposed after a legal writ was served against The Telegraph for publishing a suggestion that Colonel Gadafy's son was involved in a fraud[2]. Coughlin also printed a story linking Saddam Hussein with Al-Qaeda and he has published articles on Iran using "unnamed and untraceable sources"[3][4].

MI6 conduit

Coughlin's relationship with MI6 was exposed in 1998 when the Sunday Telegraph was served with a libel writ by Colonel Gadafy's son:

The paper was unable to back up its suggestion that Gadafy junior might have been linked to a fraud, but pleaded, in effect, that it had been supplied with the material by the Government. In a long and detailed statement, which entered the public domain in the course of a judgment given in an interlocutory appeal on 28 October 1998, the paper described how, under Charles Moore's editorship, a lunch had been arranged with the then Conservative foreign secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, at which Con Coughlin had been present. Told by Rifkind that countries such as Iran were trying to get hold of hard currency to beat sanctions, Coughlin was later briefed by an MI6 man, his regular contact. Some weeks afterward, he was introduced to a second MI6 man, who spent several hours with him and handed over extensive details of the story about Gadafy's son. Although Coughlin asked for evidence, and was shown purported bank statements, the pleadings make clear that he was dependent on MI6 for the discreditable details about the alleged counterfeiting scam. He was required to keep the source strictly confidential.[5]

Mohammed Atta memo

In December 2003, Coughlin published details of a document which purported to prove a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.

Written in the neat, precise hand of Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) and one of the few named in the US government's pack of cards of most-wanted Iraqis not to have been apprehended, the personal memo to Saddam is signed by Habbush in distinctive green ink.
Headed simply "Intelligence Items", and dated July 1, 2001, it is addressed: "To the President of the Ba'ath Revolution Party and President of the Republic, may God protect you." The first paragraph states that "Mohammed Atta, an Egyptian national, came with Abu Ammer (an Arabic nom-de-guerre - his real identity is unknown) and we hosted him in Abu Nidal's house at al-Dora under our direct supervision. We arranged a work programme for him for three days with a team dedicated to working with him . . . He displayed extraordinary effort and showed a firm commitment to lead the team which will be responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy." There is nothing in the document that provides any clue to the identity of the "targets", although Iraqi officials say it is a coded reference to the September 11 attacks.[6]

The memo also alleged that Iraq had received uranium shipments from Niger with the help of Libya and Syria. Coughlin claimed that the document had been unearthed by the Iraqi interim government and quoted Dr Iyad Allawi stating his belief that it was genuine.[7]

CIA head of European operations, Rob Richer told author Ron Suskind that the letter was the result of a disinformation operation ordered directly by the office of the Vice President.[8]

Iran

Coughlin routinely writes articles on the subject of Iran, he has been criticised for using unknown and untraceable sources, many of which have turned out to be false. In a research paper published by the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran the sources of 44 articles written by Coughlin about Iran between 29/10/2005 and 10/10/2006 were studied and following conclusions were made:

  • Sources were unnamed or untraceable, often senior Western intelligence officials or senior Foreign Office officials.
  • Articles were published at sensitive and delicate times where there had been relatively positive diplomatic moves towards Iran.
  • Articles contained exclusive revelations about Iran combined with eye-catchingly controversial headlines.
  • The story upon which the headline was based does not usually exceed one line or at the most one paragraph. The rest of the article focused on other, often unrelated, information. [9]

Coughlin's writing was the subject of a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) by the Westminster Committee on Iran. Although the PCC concluded that a breach of their Code of Practice "could not be established", campaigners hailed this decision as an 'open verdict'. The Executive Director of the British American Security Council (BASIC), Paul Ingram said:

“Over the last few years Con Coughlin has published in the Telegraph several claims about Iran’s activities that are based entirely upon unidentified intelligence sources, and have not had any supporting reports or evidence published anywhere else. This is highly unusual and particularly dangerous when such claims could have contributed to a build up to military conflict.”[10]

An article by Coughlin about Iran's nuclear capabilities cited the International Atomic Energy Agency as a source in a story. The article prompted Melissa Fleming from the IAEA to write a press release describing the story as "ficticious".[11]

Resources

Jim Lobe, Trans-Atlantic Con Man, IPS, 12-June-2009

References

  1. Con Coughlin, Telegraph blogs, accessed 7 August 2008.
  2. Britain's security services and journalists: the secret story, by David Leigh, British Journalism Review Vol. 11, No. 2, 2000, pages 21-26.
  3. Does this link Saddam to 9/11? A document discovered by Iraq's interim government details a meeting between the man behind the September 11 attacks and Abu Nidal, the Palestinian terrorist, at his Baghdad training camp. CON COUGHLIN reports, Sunday Telegraph, 14 December 2003, p 21.
  4. CampaignIran.org, Press Watchdog slammed by 'Dont Attack Iran' Campaigners, CASMI, Accessed 13-June-2009
  5. Britain's security services and journalists: the secret story, by David Leigh, British Journalism Review Vol. 11, No. 2, 2000, pages 21-26.
  6. Does this link Saddam to 9/11? A document discovered by Iraq's interim government details a meeting between the man behind the September 11 attacks and Abu Nidal, the Palestinian terrorist, at his Baghdad training camp. CON COUGHLIN reports, Sunday Telegraph, 14 December 2003, p 21.
  7. Terrorist behind September 11 strike 'was trained by Saddam', Con Coughlin, Sunday Telegraph, 14 December 2003, p1.
  8. The White House's Weak Denials, by Dan Froomkin, washingtonpost.com, 6 August 2008.
  9. CampaignIran.org, Press Watchdog slammed by 'Dont Attack Iran' Campaigners, CASMI, Accessed 13-June-2009
  10. Press Release, Partial victory claimed against Telegraph on Iran article despite fact that breach of PCC Code "not established", The Westminster Committee on Iran, 21-March-2009, Accessed 12-June-2009
  11. Melissa Fleming, Statement by IAEA Spokesperson on Daily Telegraph article on Iran, Medialens, 12-September-2008, Accessed 13-June-2009