How the Sun Defended Bogus Alan Sugar Terror Threat Story

Tim Ireland has published the letter which the managing editor of the Sun, Graham Dudman, sent to the Press Complaints Commission as  a refutation of the claim that its January “Terror Target Sugar” story was bogus and that the paper had been deceived by Glen Jenvey, who Tim discovered had made postings to a Muslim website under the false name of Abu Islam to generate crucial material found in the Sun article. The letter is dated 27 January, a mere nine months before the paper finally made an apology:

OUR story on January 7 about a ‘hit list’ of top British Jews on the website Ummah.com was based on claims by Glen Jenvey who last week confessed to duping several newspapers and Tory MP Patrick Mercer by fabricating stories about Islamic fundamentalism.

Following Mr Jenvey’s confession, we apologise to Ummah.com for the article which we now accept was inaccurate.

However, no apology, public or private, has yet been received by Tim Ireland for Dudman’s disingenuous letter to the PCC. Here are some highlights:

In his complaint, the complainant [a moderator of Ummah.com] 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 [Ummah.com] 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.

Try “mis-reading” the meaning of this headline:

One wonders if Dudman gave the same explanation to Alan Sugar, who began legal proceedings against the Sun a few weeks after the above was published. He continues:

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 identity of Saladin1970 remains unknown, but it is likely that he or she is a genuine Islamic extremist rather than an impersonator (see this discussion at Harry’s Place), and it’s clear that his or her idea of creating a list of Jews “so that we can write polite letters reminding them of the injustices of Israel” has an intimidatory undertone to it . However, the only person to raise Sugar’s name specifically was Abu Islam, who also upped the stakes from letter-writing with the following:

polite will not work.

Target them with Demo’s out-side their Home’s and Business hit and run demo’s showing and exposing their war crimes in their support.

But Dudman avoids mentioning Abu Islam at all in this part of his letter. It looks like Dudman is keen to shift the entire substantive content of the article onto material from Saladin1970. Why is this, if he is confident that Abu Islam was not Jenvey? (The thread, by the way, did not garner much interest from forum users in general; a certain MadMax offered to add names to the list, but does not reappear again, and an AbuMubarak was against the whole idea, but that’s all there was.)

Dudman continues:

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.

Yes, a large forum with many users has some nasty stuff on it. But none of this amounts to anything close to a terrorist conspiracy against Alan Sugar, as is clearly trumpeted in the Sun‘s headline, and was clearly derived specifically from Abu Islam’s posts. And a “conspiracy” needs two or more people: all we’ve got is Saladin1970, who is just mouthing off and is generally ignored, and Abu Islam, who doesn’t count because he’s really Glen Jenvey.

Dudman then goes on to list Jenvey’s credentials:

…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”.

Of course, since then Mercer has repudiated his association with Jenvey – although questions remain about when exactly he realised that Jenvey was not a source to be trusted. The extent to which the various media outlets listed above received true information from Jenvey rather than material concocted by Jenvey will probably never be known, although I’ve been told he was good at finding Jihadi videos that would only be posted on-line for short periods.

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). Mr 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.

This is weak – presumably Gardiner didn’t say anything positive about Jenvey either, otherwise surely Dudman would have quoted him.

5. To confirm, Mr Jenvey was not paid for his contribution to the article.

As Tim points out, all this means is that the Sun dealt with Jenvey through the South West News Service, rather than directly.

Further:

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.

This is the most egregiously bogus part of the letter. When Tim published the evidence that Jenvey was Abu Islam on his Bloggerheads site, this naturally generated a lot of interest in Jenvey. Various bits of information were then posted by readers in the comments section, drawn from all kinds of websites. This material was then assessed by the commentators, and some of it rejected as false – including the claim that Jenvey had a daughter, which appears to have been concocted by Islamists. Dudman must know that material which appears in the comments section of a blog is not the same as an actual blog post – or if he doesn’t know, he’s no business playing a central role in running a newspaper in 2009.

And besides, the evidence linking Abu Islam to Glen Jenvey was presented by Tim but did not rely on Tim as an authority – any reader could verify it independently by following the chain of events and the links Tim provided (like here). Why did Dudman apparently fail to do this? And as for the supposed paedophile accusation, Tim notes that

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!

…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’…

This is very serious, as subsequent events have shown that Jenvey is psychologically fragile. In the months that followed Tim’s blog post, Jenvey made a number of anonymous postings to various websites accusing Tim of being a paedophile – could it be that Jenvey justified this to himself because of Dudman’s claim that Tim had accused him of this?

Tim also notes the perhaps deliberate ambiguity in the last sentence quoted above, that “The allegations concerning Mr Jenvey on www.bloggerheads.com is again a tactic we understand that the Website has chosen to use before”. By “the Website”, Dudman means Ummah.com – but the natural reading of the sentence suggests Bloggerheads.

After defending the article, Dudman ends with a bit of a non-sequiter:

Without withdrawing any what I have set out above, I have arranged for the article to be removed from The Sun’s website and I trust that this is now the end of the matter.

In all, this letter does not give the impression of having been written by a defender of truth concerned with the public interest. Rather, it gives the impression of having been written by someone trying to cover their backside by any expedient to hand – for the most part, this means resorting irrelevant distractions and engaging in misrepresentations of Tim and his writing. Remember that the next time you read the Sun.

And remember that Tim is still getting grief from semi-anonymous bullies who don’t like the fact that he’s dared to delve deeply into the antics of dubious self-described “terror trackers” – that’s one story the media has so far shown no interest in.

14 Responses

  1. Can i cross post this on anorak – ww.anorak.co.uk?

  2. […] seen how easy it was for Jenvey to get a scare story ont0 the front page of the Sun (helped by an endorsment from Mercer); it seems it was just as much of a doddle to get tainted material onto the desk of the […]

  3. […] that was no more significant than someone mouthing off. It is very clear from the (now-deleted) Sun article that Jenvey was parading his own posts, made as “Abu Islam”, as the main evidence of […]

  4. […] looking at some websites. Judging from experiences such as the “Terror Target Sugar” Glen Jenvey fiasco and the “Madonna Targeted by Muslim Fanatics” non-story, one is strongly advised to […]

  5. […] last year, Tim showed how Jenvey had used a posting which he himself had made to create a bogus tabloid scare story about a terrorist threat against British Jews. My communication with a Muslim forum to get […]

  6. […] the Press Complaints Commission which shows exactly how the tabloid-editor brain works – see here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Keeping Abreast of New Terror ThreatFEMALE […]

  7. […] discovered evidence of a terrorist plot against British Jews, and this formed the basis for a front-page splash for the Sun. However, Tim discovered that the evidence  had been concocted by Jenvey himself, and […]

  8. […] means… looking at some websites. Judging from experiences such as the “Terror Target Sugar” Glen Jenvey fiasco and the “Madonna Targeted by Muslim Fanatics” non-story, one is strongly advised to consider […]

  9. On his money, at least Sugar won’t have to sell a car

  10. […] based in the USA. The document was for the most part an attack on Tim Ireland for unravelling the “Terror Target Sugar” fiasco, and it included “I know where you live”-type details. It was brought to the attention […]

  11. […] terrorism (for example, “breast implant bombs“, “HIV bombs“, and “Terror Target Sugar“), this simply will not do. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  12. […] noted the legal threat at the time. The incident occurred several months after Sugar had fallen out with the Sun on another matter, […]

  13. […] Alan Sugar), which  provided the Sun with a front-page splash. Unfortunately, however, it was quickly discovered by Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads that the “evidence” consisted of postings to a Muslim […]

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