Friday, 10 April 2009
The resignation of Bob Quick perhaps has significance in wider terms of freedom of speech and the media.
It appears that the "D-Notice" form of voluntary UK censorship was rendered ineffective.
Indeed, in my view, had the D-Notice system worked, we would never have known that Quick had even showed official secrets, let alone where, when, and how, the secrets had been disclosed.
And had we not known the details about his slip, he of course would not had to resign.
(If he actually "resigned" that is, as the current newsreports are vague as to the details. Other recent public sector workers who have "resigned" have tended to still be in post sometime afterwards, or they just lose a title and are switched elsewhere.)
D-Notices are semi-official and non-legal communications to media organisations that certain stories should not be published because of national security or similar considerations.
Interestingly, the D-Notice committee (the politically correct term is DA-Notice, as they are supposedly only advisory) has its own website here and one must note that the committee has representatives form new media, such as Google.
For general background on D-Notices, see here.
It appears from news reports that a D-Notice was issued following the Quick mistake, and it was respected by UK media organisations (as they invariably are), but a view was taken that the police operation needed to be accelerated anyway, as any threat of expected international communication and publication would be outside the scope of the D-Notice.
If this is correct, then it provides an example where UK domestic - and usually highly effective - censorship was rendered impotent in the age of the internet and of instant communication and publication on a global basis.
In passing, Bob Quick is no stranger to Jack of Kent. Back in December 2008, I expressed sympathy when he was turned over by the tabloid media, causing him to say silly things. I did add, however, that I had more sympathy for the poor innocent people Quick has (presumably) routinely turned over and then questioned during his successful career.
I again have sympathy for him, but similarly I have more sympathy for the poor junior staff and colleagues whose mistakes Quick has (presumably) exploited during his - until yesterday - successful career...