WND Removes Article Complaining About How New York Times Bestseller Lists Treat End-Times Author Jonathan Cahn

For some reason, WND has scrubbed an article complaining that End-Times prognosticator Jonathan Cahn has been unfairly neglected by the New York Times bestseller lists. The article was headlined “N.Y. Times shafts best-selling Christian author – again!”, and unusually for WND it did not include any byline.

Perhaps the author had second thoughts about the title after the likely etymology of “shaft” in the sense of “treat cruelly and unfairly” was brought to his or her attention (“overtones of sodomy”, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary), but that could have been amended without removing the whole piece.

Cahn himself did not contribute to the article – he “declined to be quoted”, according to its author, which is itself a bit odd: WND has heavily promoted Cahn and his work, including producing tie-in products, and he will be very soon be leading WND‘s third Israel tour alongside WND editor (and Donald Trump’s birther guru) Joseph Farah. Perhaps he (or his publisher, an imprint of Steve Strang’s Charisma House) didn’t want to risk antagonizing the New York Times, but he could have provided something vague and innocuous.

The article itself concerns Cahn’s new Book of Mysteries, which “consists of 365 stories of short revelations a fictional seeker of biblical wisdom receives on a spiritual one-year journey”. The NYT apparently is not clear whether it is a work of fiction or non-fiction, or a devotional, and so it is not appearing on the fiction list. In contrast, Publishers’ Weekly and the Wall Street Journal have both included it on their fiction lists.

Farah himself is quoted in the article:

Farah’s publishing company, WND Books, has produced the highest percentage of New York Times bestsellers of any publisher in the world over the last 15 years. About 10 percent of WND Books releases over that time period have made the grade.

“I’ve been studying the list for decades,” says Farah. “I worked with Hal Lindsey when the New York Times discovered his book sold more than any other book in the decade of the 1970s. I worked with other best-selling authors as a collaborator through the 1990s. And in 2001, I launched WND Books. So that’s nearly 40 years of experience with the New York Times best-sellers list.”

The problems started for the New York Times calculations when they didn’t measure sales in Christian bookstores, he says.

Farah is correct about Hal Lindsey, whose cold-war End Times The Late Great Planet Earth (famously described by James Barr as “a farrago of nonsense”) was indeed the USA’s best-selling book of the 1970s.

Works published by WND Books include a 2003 polemic entitled Journalistic Fraud: How The New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted, and, more recentlyWhere’s the Birth Certificate?: The Case That Barack Obama Is Not Eligible to Be President.

New Call for False “VIP Sex Abuse” Accuser “Nick” To Be Prosecuted


From the Telegraph:

The Metropolitan Police faced fresh questions over the aborted VIP paedophile inquiry last night after “preposterous” evidence from its chief witness was made public.

…A summary of the allegations Nick made against Lord Janner, who he claimed was part of the VIP ring, have been made public by the  deceased peer’s family. They describe the supposed evidence as “preposterous”.

…The evidence shows how vague Nick’s claims were and reveals how he only named Lord Janner after  being shown his photograph by a journalist working for Exaro, a news website that has been widely discredited for its role in promoting Nick’s false claims. Exaro has since been shut down by its owner.

Daniel Janner QC said in a statement last night “…I believe that Nick should be prosecuted for attempting to pervert the course of justice.”

Nick’s account of Janner was published by Exaro in April 2015:

An abuse survivor, known as “Nick” to protect his identity [see footnote below – RB], said that Janner sexually assaulted him at several unidentified venues in London between 1979 and 1982. Asked how Janner abused him. Nick said: “Everything, including rape.”

The Met’s operation [Operation Midland – RB] has been running in parallel with a police investigation in Leicestershire into allegations that Janner had sexually abused boys at children’s homes in the county.

…Nick said that, as a boy, he did not know Janner’s identity. He identified Janner as one of his abusers in June [2014] after seeing the Labour peer’s picture in a newspaper.

If the Telegraph article is correct, then, Nick saw “the Labour peer’s picture in a newspaper” because Exaro showed it to him. That puts a rather different light on Nick’s identification.

Nick originally made a police complaint in 2012 that he had been sexually abused by his late step-father in the 1970s and 1980s. He was advised that given that the step-father was now deceased, nothing could be done, at which point Nick added that his step-father had handed him around to members of a gang, apparently at a military base but also at other locations.

After allegations against the late Jimmy Savile appeared in the mainstream media, Nick then claimed that he had also been abused by Savile at paedophile orgies. Nick also went on to accuse various politicians, recycling old allegations that had been floating around on the internet for years. The provenance for some of these old claims was not encouraging: we know that in the 1980s anti-Semitic elements in the security services had smeared Leon Brittan, and that a “dossier” of allegations had been prepared by a faction within the right-wing Monday Club to use against internal opponents. Some claims had been published in the 1990s by Scallywag, a scurrilous gossip magazine that had also carried false allegations against Lord McAlpine.

On the other hand, though, some claims have been extrapolated from known facts: in the 1970s it was discovered that the diplomat and MI5 operative Peter Hayman was a member of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange; in 1987, the MP Harvey Proctor was convicted of gross indecency for sex with male prostitutes who were under the age of 21, in circumstances that involved “spanking” (he was convicted even though he had specifically asked them their ages, and they had told him they were 21); and in 1991 Greville Janner was accused of child sex abuse in Leicester during the Frank Beck trial. Other allegations have since been made against Janner.

Nick brought all these strands together into a unified narrative of “VIP sex abuse” that was gothic in its extravagance: he claimed to have suffered not just sex abuse, but to have been subjected to bizarre and ritualistic forms of torture, and even to have witnessed child murders at the hands of politicians. He also said that a school-friend had been run down by a car in front of him in Kingston-on-Thames, as a warning.

In August 2015, Harvey Proctor gave a press conference in which he revealed that one allegation against him was that he had attempted to castrate Nick at an orgy, but that another orgiast had intervened: none other than former Prime Minister Ted Heath. This detail was so preposterous that it was hard to believe that the police had taken such a claim at face value – and we can only conclude that Exaro had not published it because the site knew that it seriously undermined Nick’s credibility. Then came a Panorama investigation which revealed that there were no records or memories to corroborate the story of the boy being run over in Kingston-on-Thames.

Nick’s allegations caused great harm to innocent people and great expense to the Metropolitan Police, who ended their investigation in March. Proctor, who had been living quietly since the events of 1987, had to resign from his job and he left the country to escape the mob; Lord Bramall, the former head of the British Army, endured a police raid while caring for his wife, who was in the last stages of dementia; and the claims also angered the relatives of Maurice Oldfield, the former head of MI6. Nick’s step-father’s relatives have also protested that Nick’s allegations are untrue, and Nick’s ex-wife has described him as “a fantasist trying to cash in”

Allegations against Janner are currently a strand of the Government’s inquiry into child abuse, as I recently discussed here. However, Nick’s claims will not be considered. Exaro wrote in relation to police investigation into Janner:

Leicestershire Police was aware of Nick’s allegations, but did not include them with Operation Enamel, which already had a lot of witness testimony.

The idea that Nick was excluded because he was surplus to requirements does not convince. We now know that Leicestershire Police took a statement from the historian Gavin Littaur, who says that Janner made a gay pass at him when he was young adult – a claim that is rather more tangential than the sensational allegation that Janner was involved with organised child-sex abuse in London. It seems to me more likely that Leicestershire Police and the inquiry are ignoring Nick because his unique and fantastical claims muddy the water.

Should Nick be prosecuted for attempting to pervert the course of justice? By his own account, he has been under the care a therapist, and it seems to me that he may have been subjected to the same kinds of “recovered memory” techniques that were used on Carol Felstead, with tragic consequences.

However, there is one detail that suggests Nick has been deliberately deceptive. In February, it was reported in the Guardian that

Nick correctly described the interior of a military premises in southern England, where he claimed abuse had taken place. The details he provided were not publicly available, and the premises itself is not open to the public, making it likely he had been there at some stage, police concluded.

The problem here is that Nick used to post details about his alleged abuse and its effects on his later life on a blog, which he took down as his claims came under increasing media scrutiny. That blog included an account of having visited the military premises as a tourist during an open day in 2013. As I wrote in February,  it is very difficult to escape the conclusion that Nick impressed the police with a childhood memory of a non-public location that he had actually visited just a year or so before. The very reasonable suspicion that follows from this is that Nick is not just a fantasist, but an actual hoaxer.


Nick’s identity is protected by law; the publication of some personal details and a very poor attempt at pixellation by the Daily Mail led to the paper being fined in May.

Exaro alleged that Nick’s name was leaked by the police to Panorama, and it reported in October that

Police are investigating a senior detective who is a confidential source for BBC1’s Panorama over the leaking of secret identities of complainants in abuse cases.

This implies that the the police accept that a leak has indeed occurred, although it seems more accurate to say that the police are investigating an allegation of a leak. However, Nick appeared in silhouette in a documentary about Jimmy Savile before he made contact with Exaro, and so it seems likely that his name is generally known among media professionals. Also, writings by Nick formerly available on the internet have meant that he has to some extent outed himself.

Romancing the High Priest’s Breastplate Stone

From the Daily Mail:

A small onyx stone believed to have been worn in the sacred breastplate of the High Priest of Jerusalem may have been found after being missing for more than 1,000 years.

…The owner claims the stone was given to a distant ancestor as a reward from the High Priest in 1189 and has been passed from generation to generation of the family since.

By “found after being missing for 1,000 years”, the paper in fact means “has been noticed again after it appeared on South African television some years ago” – indeed, the article comes with the clip embedded. The South African clip was uploaded to Youtube in 2015, and the uploader says that it dates to 1991; there is no reason to doubt that this is correct.

The article is a rewrite of a piece that appeared recently in Breaking Israel News, a Jewish website that caters for Jewish and Christian enthusiasts for stories that supposedly indicate that the “End Times” are just around the corner (I discussed the site recently here). In this instance, BIN believes that the stone has “the power of prophecy and it may play an important role in returning the Priestly Caste to serve in the Temple.” It appears that the author phoned up a couple of people who examined the stone in the past as a hook on which to present it as news.

Here’s the Bible’s description of the stone in context, from Exodus 28

Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions—the work of skilled hands… It is to be square—a span long and a span wide—and folded double. Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. The first row shall be carnelian, chrysolite and beryl; the second row shall be turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; the third row shall be jacinth, agate and amethyst; the fourth row shall be topaz, onyx and jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes… Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord.

Later tradition suggests that the gems would answer questions by lighting up, and that the names of the 12 tribes were engraved on them by means of a mysterious object or creature that served as stylus, called the “shamir”.

The stone discussed by BIN appears to have two ancient Hebrew letters burnt into it (a bet and a kaph), although the 1991 report also states that the stone is “surrounded by controversy” and that the letters could in fact be a “quirk of nature”. The alleged “letters” are spidery and, if man-made, are crudely rendered (see screenshot of sketch from the video below). However, if there was a public controversy in 1991, the details have not made their way online so far as I can see.

BIN also gives the backstory to its current ownership by a family in South Africa:

According to the Auret family tradition, the ancestor, named Croiz Arneet deTarn Auret, received the stone from “the High Priest” in gratitude for his part in freeing Jerusalem around 1189. The custodianship of the stone was passed on in the Auret family through the male line until the nineteenth century. That tradition was broken when Abraham Auret passed away in 1889, bequeathing the stone to his daughter, Christina Elizabeth.

After her marriage to William James Hurst, the stone left the Auret name, and has been passed on from mother to daughter ever since. Meticulously recorded family trees and genealogical reports corroborate the story.

This is all rather dubious – there was no “High Priest” in Jerusalem in 1189, which was more than a thousand years after the destruction of the second temple, and the city was not “freed” in that year, either. Jerusalem was under Crusader control from 1099 to 1187, and then again from 1229 to 1244, but the Latins initially massacred Jews in the city – the idea of a local Jewish figure greeting a Knight Templar (as the article describes the ancestor) as some sort of liberator is both ludicrous and grotesque.

Of course, it could be that a Crusader was given (or found) the stone in different circumstances, and that the “High Priest” aspect of the story is a garbled recollection, but there are further difficulties.

First, the name “Croiz Arneet deTarn Auret” does not appear to be known to historians (and I’ve checked some possible variants, such as “Croix Arneet de Tarn Auret”), and it should be noted that it is unclear whether the “meticulously recorded family trees and genealogical reports” refer to this supposed ancient lineage or the later Auret/Hurst association. Unless Abraham Auret can be linked to some great aristocratic family (and if he can be, why doesn’t the article do it?), the idea that he could trace his ancestry back to someone in the twelfth century is incredible, let alone that an object might have been passed down father-to-son with an account of its provenance.

Second, the story just takes us back to the twelfth century CE. The Paleo-Hebrew “letters”, if genuine, would mean the stone was fashioned during the First Temple period, which ended violently in 587 BCE – BIN, citing the late Professor Moshe Sharon from the University of Witwatersrand, suggests the script indicates it is “from the year 1000 BCE, give or take 200-300 years”. How would the stone’s history have been preserved privately between 587 BCE and 1189 CE? This is fanciful in the extreme.


Robert Spencer Denounces Walid Shoebat and Son for “Sensationalistic Unreliability” and “Dishonesty”

From Robert Spencer at FrontPage:


…Theodore Shoebat runs the website Shoebat.com, which many take as a reliable source for news of jihad activity that the mainstream media does not deign to report. Shoebat.com, however, has a reputation for sensationalistic unreliability: to take one notorious example, it posted a photo of a young German woman holding a sign reading, “Will Trade Racists For Rapists.”… the sign was photoshopped. The original read, “Will Trade Racists for Refugees.” Shoebat.com never acknowledged this or retracted its original post.

Theodore Shoebat is the son of Walid Shoebat, who styles himself an ex-Muslim and reformed jihadist. Walid Shoebat, who certainly has demonstrated a broad knowledge of Islam and the jihad threat, has been challenged repeatedly, most notably on CNN [see here and here – RB], to substantiate his claims about his past. Several years ago I myself gave him a chance to answer all the charges against his veracity in a video interview; in purporting to do so, Walid Shoebat talked for a long time, said very little of substance, and left the principal charges of his own dishonesty unanswered. In personal exchanges more recently, I was struck by his dishonesty again.

And now this. In a video posted last Thursday, Theodore Shoebat says: “Pamela Geller is worthy of death.” Her crime? Appearing at a “Gays for Trump” event along with gay activist Milo Yiannopoulos [see here – RB] at the Republican National Convention in July. For that, says the learned Shoebat the younger, “In Biblical law, in the government of Christendom, she is worthy of death.”

The Shoebat operation has always been crude and hateful, but it has become increasingly so in recent months. At some point the father and son adopted a form of Roman Catholic traditionalism, burning bridges with evangelicals.

However, although I must confess that I visit Spencer’s and Geller’s websites only sporadically, I am not aware that either of them has ever in the past warned readers about Shoebat’s “dishonesty” or of the “sensationalistic unreliabaility” of Shoebat.com. In 2010, Spencer appeared alongside Shoebat and Kamal Saleem at an unofficial Fort Hood shooting memorial event, and Geller has supported Shoebat in disputes with Daniel Pipes* and Mosab Hassan Yousef (more on the latter here).

In July and August, Spencer wrote several posts critical posts about the bereaved father Khizr Khan, yet he did not feel any need to address sensationalistic misrepresentations produced by the Shoebats that were then heavily promoted by Team Trump. Of course, one is not obliged to write about everything, but Spencer writes about these things for a living and Shoebat’s false claims loomed large in the conservative media narrative of a story that Spencer was addressing.

There has been some conservative discontent with the Shoebats over the past year: last September, WND complained that Walid Shoebat had made a “smear attack” against End-Times author Jonathan Cahn, while the Messianic Jewish commentator Michael Brown tackled Theodore’s anti-gay hatred in February; but it seems that it has taken personally offensive comments about Spencer’s closest ally for him to feel that Shoebat’s honesty was a subject he ought to address.

It is hard to take Spencer pontificating on the need to retract and acknowledge errors – I’ve seen him quietly scrub blog posts (which is not the same as making a retraction), and there was no rebuke when Geller posted, and then scrubbed, the totally bogus claim that Obama wears a Muslim ring (although Spencer was himself slightly more cautious on the subject).

Also, since Spencer now feels the need to discuss Shoebat’s dishonesty, when is he going to have anything to say about Kamal Saleem? Spencer did not just appear with him in 2010 – he interviewed him in 2013, and, unlike Shoebat, Saleem remains a significant presence on the conservative “counter-jihad” speaker circuit, working closely with General W. Jerry Boykin.

Shoebat’s ex-terrorist claim is actually rather modest, based on supposedly having planted a bomb on behalf of the PLO in the 1970s. The story is at least plausible, although his framing of this as “jihad” is retrospective and it is not much of a basis on which to claim expertise on Islam and the evils of Muslims. In contrast, Saleem’s claims are extravagant and nonsensical. The only difference, it seems, is that Saleem hasn’t said anything nasty about Geller.


* This was a few years after Pipes had endorsed Shoebat’s backstory, stating that “Walid Shoebat took the time to visit me in my office today and to show me proofs that his life story is a true one. I accept that it is.”

Charisma News Dishonest on Physicians and Hillary Clinton’s Health

From Charisma News:

Poll: 71 Percent of Doctors Say Hillary’s Health Issues Are Serious

Hillary Clinton’s health concerns are “serious” and could be potentially disqualifying, more than 70 percent of doctors surveyed in a recent poll said.

A new poll conducted on behalf of a a non-partisan professional association of physicians in all types of practices and specialties may perhaps put the “conspiracy theory” explanation for Hillary Clinton’s overall health to rest.

The survey conducted among members of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group that advocates for private-practice physicians, found that 71 percent of respondents believe the Democratic presidential nominee’s health issues are “serious.” Not only that, but that those health issues—if more was known about them—could be disqualifying for the position of president of the United States.”

The article goes on to refer to Clinton’s documented past concussion and thrombosis, although we’re not told whether the doctors also gave credence to claims that Clinton joking around with journalists was actually an epileptic fit; that a photo of her being assisted on steps is evidence of secret fragility; that a video captured evidence of tongue cancer (caused by the arts of Sappho, according to some sites); and that a coughing fit denoted Parkinson’s Disease. The reason why such claims are being seized on by conservative activists was recently discussed by Michelle Goldberg at Slate.

The Charisma article, by one Bob Eschliman, is mostly a churned-over press release, although two details are his own: that the AAPS is “non-partisan” and that the poll puts “to rest” claims that stories about Clinton’s health are conspiracy theories. This confirms that Eschliman is dishonest rather than lazy: to call the AAPS “non-partisan” without also noting that it is a fringe right-libertarian alternative to the American Medical Association can only be deliberately misleading. As Mother Jones noted in a 2009 profile of “The Tea Party’s Favorite Doctors“:

Think Glenn Beck with an MD. The group (which did not return calls for comment for this story) has been around since 1943. Some of its former leaders were John Birchers, and its political philosophy comes straight out of Ayn Rand. Its general counsel is Andrew Schlafly, son of the legendary conservative activist Phyllis. The AAPS statement of principles declares that it is “evil” and “immoral” for physicians to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, and its journal is a repository for quackery. Its website features claims that tobacco taxes harm public health and electronic medical records are a form of “data control” like that employed by the East German secret police. An article on the AAPS website speculated that Barack Obama may have won the presidency by hypnotizing voters, especially cohorts known to be susceptible to “neurolinguistic programming”—that is, according to the writer, young people, educated people, and possibly Jews.

There was renewed interest the following year, when the Courier-Journal noted Rand Paul’s association with the group. One AAPS member, Dr Jane Orient, has opined on Clinton’s health for Breitbart; in 2014, Dr Orient published a book via the birther website WND on how to survive the Ebola epidemic, warning that infected West Africans were “streaming” into the USA via the southern border.

Returning to the poll itself, the AAPS describes it as having been an “informal internet poll”. The results page does not include any methodical information, or any details about the respondents.

Charisma News is an outlet of the Evangelical/Pentecostal Charisma media empire, headed by Stephen Strang. The site is undiscerning in the anti-Clinton material it publishes, and last month it published a claim by a conspiracy theorist named Michael Snyder that the Democratic candidate may even have expired by November. This reckless disregard for truthful discourse in the quest to get Trump elected is a symptom of a general debauchment of the Christian Right.

The article’s author, Bob Eschliman, was himself previously in the news when he was fired from his job at the Newton Daily News over his personal blog, on which he railed against the “Gaystapo”. Eschliman alleged that his termination was religious discrimination, and with the assistance of the Liberty Foundation he reached a confidential settlement last year. Judging from the quality of the above, the Newton Daily News can regard that as money well spent.

UPDATE: The above was written shortly before Clinton’s faint at the 9/11 memorial event; as expected, this has now been seized on as evidence that conspiricists were right all along. At WND, Trump’s birther-guru Joseph Farah writes:

In the blink of an eye Sunday, the attitude about Hillary Clinton’s health among the nation’s “mainstream” media went from dismissing them as nutty “conspiracy theories” to genuine concern, if not panic.

A series of uncontrollable coughing fits during public speeches didn’t do it.

Compelling video of apparent, inexplicable seizures didn’t do it.

The opinion of nationally recognized medical authorities didn’t do it.

Presumably these “nationally recognized medical authorities” are the AAPS, unfairly dismissed just because they promoted the claim that Obama uses hand gestures to hypnotise Jews.

One of the advantages of being a conspiracy theorist or demagogue is that one can make all kinds of wild extrapolations, often in bad faith, and then in due course cherrypick particular details that are found to have coincided with reality. Those who take a more reasonably cautious approach to the evidence at any given time will always be at a disadvantage.

And in any case, it remains untrue that “71 percent of doctors” have confirmed that Clinton has a “serious” and “potentially disqualifying” health condition.

IPSO’s Whitewash of a Hatchet Job on Byline – and Andrew Gilligan’s Mysterious “Source”

Explaining Byline
Funding Byline
The conspiracy website 4th Media
VIP abuse claims
The investor’s non-son and Gilligan’s mysterious “source”

It is disappointing, although not a great surprise, that the supposed press regulator IPSO has decreed that there was nothing amiss with the Telegraph‘s highly misleading attack article by Andrew Gilligan about the website Byline.com (discussed previously here). The ruling is so perverse that it even endorses the Telegraph‘s right to publish an inaccurate and misleading claim that the paper itself had withdrawn.


To recap, Gilligan’s article, headlined “The truth about John Whittingdale, the prostitute and the ‘cover-up'”, was written shortly after Byline broke the story of the friendship between the then-Minister for Culture, John Whittingdale, and a sex worker. It was suggested that elements in the media had known the story, but had chosen not to publish it because they would rather keep it in reserve as leverage over a minister whose brief included press regulation.

Gilligan claimed that the site was funded by an Asian billionaire who wrote articles for an “anti-Western conspiracy” website, and that one of the site’s founders was the son of an investor. Gilligan also suggested that the site was misleading in claiming that stories on the site were crowdfunded, that funding was also provided by Hacked Off, particularly via Max Moseley, and that the site promotes “Westminster VIP paedophile” conspiracy theories.

An overview of IPSO’s failings can be seen here from Tim Fenton, although I’d like to draw attention to a few points in particular.

Explaining Byline

Byline is a platform that allows journalists to pitch their stories to the public, who may then choose to crowdfund investigations that they find interesting. Byline takes a percentage of the funds raised. A number of established journalists have either written for the site or been involved with the project in other ways. As with any other media outlet, it’s as good as its writers, and there will be particular individuals and projects that are not to the taste of all readers.

Gilligan’s animosity towards the site is bizarre given the possibilities it offers to journalists in the current media climate. Here’s the view of veteran journalist David Rose, who has no association with the site:

Perhaps Gilligan would have had second thoughts had he known that he was about to be made redundant (although he has since found a new position at The Sunday Times).

Naturally, initial tech investors were needed to establish the site as a credible presence, but they did not have any control over (or even interest in) the site’s editorial content and they are no longer actively associated with the site anyway. One of the founders of the site shares the same surname as one of the tech investors, but contrary to Gilligan’s reporting they are not related (more on this point below).

Funding Byline

According to IPSO:

The Committee did not accept the rigid distinction that the complainant sought to draw between funding for the site’s infrastructure and funding for the content. It did not therefore consider that it was misleading to characterise funding provided to individual journalists to provide specific content for Byline.com as funding for the site. It was not therefore misleading for the article to report that the notable donor had “funded” the site, nor that the complainant has claimed that the site was “crowdfunded”. The article had not suggested that details of the site’s funders were hidden, rather it sought to criticise the complainant for claiming the source of the funding was “crowdsourcing” where in fact the site also received money from wealthy donors.

Thus Max Mosley joining in the crowdfunding of a story makes him a millionaire donor. Presumably, if we discover that Max Mosley has ever bought a copy of the Daily Telegraph, then it would not be misleading to describe him as being one of the Telegraph‘s “funders”. It should be noted that the Daily Mail amended its own follow-up article on this particular point.

On the issue of whether details were “hidden”, I refer back to the headline. Any article which is headlined “The truth about…” obviously frames the information that follows as a revelation that is unwelcome to its subject.

The conspiracy website 4th Media


In circumstances where the founder’s work appeared regularly on the named site, the newspaper was entitled to report that he “wrote” for the site. In the absence of a direct complaint from the founder, the Committee was unable to establish whether or not he had consented to publication.

This refers to Eric Li, who was actually one of the investors rather than a founder. Li has written articles for mainstream publications such as Foreign Affairs, and several of his pieces have been pirated by a crank conspiracy website called 4th Media, which rips off content from a vast number of media sources – including the Daily Telegraph. The Committee could easily have asked the Telegraph whether they had themselves consented to publication on the site, and then drawn the obvious inference from the negative answer. That would have been a sufficient investigation.

Further, it’s not clear why biographical claims about a living individual apparently belong to a special category, so that there no way to assess a significant inaccuracy other than via “direct complaint” from the person named. Why should this be the case? The evidence that 4th Media is a pirate site is overwhelming. For instance, articles by Peter Hitchens appear on the same site, but it’s obvious that they have been lifted from elsewhere without needing his testimonial.

There is also an element of the ruling here that is particularly obtuse: Gilligan’s article was silently amended from “Mr Li wrote regularly for The 4th Media” to “Articles by Mr Li are published on 4th Media”. Not even the Telegraph now maintains that that Li “wrote” for the site, yet IPSO here approves the original wording! This is really going the extra mile.

It is also significant how IPSO shifts ground away from the complaint itself and onto a new issue: that of whether Li “consented to publication”. This is not a subject that is explored in Gilligan’s article, and “consent” is a hopelessly broad term in this context that could range from collusion through to reluctant acquiescence.

When it is said that “articles by Mr Li are published on 4th Media”, the plain meaning is that he writes for the site, not that he may or may not have consented to his work appearing on the site. IPSO says it cannot “establish whether or not he had consented to publication”, yet apparently there is no onus on Gilligan to even to acknowledge this very important qualifier in his article. How can this not be a significant distortion?

(A footnote: the false claim about the link to 4th Media was repeated and elaborated by the smear-site Guido Fawkes. Staines or one of his cronies highlighted articles on the site that refer to “Jewish bankers” and such, in order to characterize Li as a contributor to an “anti-Semitic conspiracy website”.)

VIP abuse claims


The newspaper had provided examples of articles published by Byline.com, supporting the theory that there was a “Westminster sex abuse” ring, and at least three journalists who had written for the site also had profiles at Exaro. It was not therefore misleading for the article to report that the site had “promoted and defended” the sex abuse theory, and that it shared a number of journalists with Exaro.

The fact that Exaro and Byline have “shared journalists” is not in dispute, although Gilligan gives it a misleadingly sinister air. It would be more accurate to say that Exaro and Byline have both published material by various journalists, who in some instances have been the same individuals. Exaro‘s Mark Watts apparently at one time contributed to the Sunday Telegraph, so we may equally say that Exaro and the Telegraph share journalists.

The articles said to support “the theory that there was a ‘Westminster sex abuse’ ring” presumably relate to contributions to Byline made by David Hencke. But these were merely commentary pieces about a live police investigation, and Hencke specifically stated that “nobody knows the full extent of the allegations and whether they are true”. I think that Hencke is in general hopelessly credulous on the subject of “Westminster VIP abuse” (a subject I have written critically about at some length), but this is similar to what Gilligan himself wrote on the subject in 2014.

If the purpose of Byline.com were to promote VIP abuse conspiracies, Peter Jukes would hardly have invited David Rose to contribute, given Rose’s well-known scepticism about conspiracy theories in general and this one in particular.

The investor’s non-son and Gilligan’s mysterious “source”


The majority of information in the article had come from sources in the public domain. The journalist had been told by a source close to Byline.com that Jae-woong Lee and Seung-yoon Lee were related. He trusted that the source was in a position to know this information, and so had not verified the claim with the site…

The claim that one of the site’s funders was the father of the site’s founder was inaccurate, and the Committee welcomed the newspaper’s offer of correction. However, this was a brief reference which was not central to the story, and did not affect the overall thrust of the piece. It was not therefore a significant inaccuracy in breach of Clause 1.

The error is “not significant”, even though the detail appears in the context of an article presented as an exposé, and despite the fact that any reader would infer this information to be highly relevant to the investor’s influence over the site.

This detail of “a source close to Byline.com” is worth pondering further. Gilligan’s article contains no mention of any sources, and any reader can see that it was cobbled together from internet searches. The claim about the two Lees being father and son is the only detail not cherrypicked from public information. I had assumed this was a simple error made by Gilligan, but apparently there was more to it.

No-one “close to Byline” would have made such an error. Gilligan was therefore dealing with someone who was not in fact “close to Byline”, and this person gave him false information. Perhaps they were simply mistaken, but clearly this was someone with a hostile agenda against Byline. When a malicious person spreads false information, it seems reasonable to assume that they are doing so deliberately; and either way, the upshot is that Gilligan was gulled into publishing false information that the source certainly hoped would be damaging. IPSO shrugs this off as insignificant.

The existence of this “source” also raises the issue of how much of the rest of the material in Gilligan’s article was simply handed to him on a plate by someone with an agenda – and very probably a grudge.

Media Rake Over Keith Vaz 1991 Comments on Greville Janner in Wake of Sex Scandal

Introduction: Vaz and the “protection” of Janner

At the Daily Mail, Andrew Pierce rattles off a list of scandals around Keith Vaz, in the wake of “sordid revelations” about his sex life. At the end of the list:

Protecting paedophile Lord Janner
Vaz was one of a handful of Labour MPs who publicly defended the late Janner against child sex abuse allegations at a time when prosecutors now admit the peer should have faced trial. Vaz said Janner had been the victim of a ‘wicked attack’ in 1991 when the allegations surfaced. He campaigned for a change in the law to prevent any repeat.

Pierce here refers to a Commons debate on contempt of court, which was held in December 1991 following the conviction of Frank Beck. The background is well known:

Lord Janner was named by Frank Beck, a former head of three children’s homes in Leicestershire, who was given five life terms after 200 children complained that they had been abused by him over 13 years to 1986.

A 30-year-old man also gave evidence that he had been abused by Lord Janner when he was in care aged 13. A letter was shown to the jury that was allegedly sent from the MP to the boy.

The prosecution in the case called the claims a red herring and part of “the great Janner diversion” in an attempt to deflect blame from Beck, the court heard.

Janner complained that laws around contempt of court meant that he had been unable to defend himself, and the debate raised the suggestion that those accused of sex abuse should be afforded anonymity.

It was reported at the time that the “30-year-old man’s” evidence had been inconsistent, and it was hardly controversial to express the view that Janner had been maligned. By referring to “a handful of Labour MPs”, Pierce gives the impression that it was widely understood that there was a strong case against Janner, and that only a few political allies were willing to support him. However, the Commons debate was actually initiated by David Ashby, a Conservative MP, and Janner maintained a prominent position in public life for the next two decades.

The claim that Vaz had “protected” Janner was also made by Jay Rayner, in a 2015 article sensationally headlined “Keith Vaz helped kill a 90s probe into the Greville Janner claims”. This title gives the impression that Vaz had somehow used improper influence to derail an official  investigation, when all he means is that after the Commons debate his then-employer, the Independent, did not have the enthusiasm to investigate the allegation further.

Some notes on the Janner allegations

As is also well known, allegations against Janner grew in the years that followed 1991 – I recall in 2001 or 2002 being surprised that the first internet search result for his name was site devoted to the subject (expressed in crudely anti-Semitic terms). We now know that Janner was investigated by police again in 2002 and in 2007, and at the start of this year the Henriques Report concluded that “in 1991, there was a sufficiency of evidence for a prosecution to be commenced against Janner for offences of indecent assault and buggery”.

This was a few weeks after Janner’s death. By that time, the CPS had extraordinarily amended rules about holding a “trial of the facts” so that Janner could be put on trial despite being too ill participate – a provision which previously only applied when a defendant was a threat to public safety, rather than when the accused was a shambling shell with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. The Guardian obituary of Janner led with the observation that his reputation had been “overshadowed and ultimately discredited by credible allegations that he had been a serial sexual predator and abuser of young boys in his Leicester constituency for more than 20 years.”

However, it should remembered that the CPS re-think of its 1991 decision did not mean “the CPS now thinks Janner was guilty”, much less “therefore he must have been”. Here is CPS guidance about what happens when the CPS makes a charging decision against someone who then dies before trial:

In some cases the CPS may make a charging decision, which is communicated to the police, but the suspect subsequently dies before he/she has been charged by the police.

…Any public disclosure of a decision to charge should be accompanied with an explanation of the status of a charging decision, in particular that it does not mean that the deceased suspect was guilty of the alleged offence, as that would be a matter for a jury to decide.

I discussed this subject more broadly here.

In the case of Janner, the journalist David Rose uncovered new background information in July that Janner’s initial accuser (referred to by the pseudonym “Tony”) was known to have made a false accusation against Barbara Fitt, the head of the care home where he was staying, after the discovery of a theft. Rose wrote in the Mail on Sunday:*

Doubts about Tony’s reliability are especially significant because, although 33 people have now claimed Janner abused them, for many years he was the only accuser. They suggest that the decision not to charge Janner was not an ‘Establishment cover-up’, as some have claimed, but a determination on ordinary legal grounds.

…According to sources close to social services at the time, the relationship broke down at the end of 1974 after Mrs Fitt twice found ‘substantial’ quantities of cash that Tony had stolen from Janner and the Labour Party office. After the second theft, Janner wrote to Mrs Fitt saying that though he had tried his utmost, he could no longer mentor Tony or have him at his home.

By this time, Tony was about to leave Station Road after the incident with the six-year-old girl. It was decided to move Tony to another Leicester home, in part to protect other child residents.

It was then that Tony came into contact with Beck.

The Janner allegations remain a strand of the Government’s inquiry into child abuse, somewhat anomalously given that all the other strands relate to institutions; last month, the resignation of the inquiry’s head, Lowell Goddard, prompted some critical comment on the subject from Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times:

…to quote this column from last March: “On the first day of the inquiry’s proceedings, its QC, Ben Emmerson, declared that he would attempt to make ‘findings of fact’ in cases of individual abuse, blithely referring to ‘Lord Janner and other individuals allegedly associated with him in his offending’.”

I believe that Emmerson, like his favourite newspaper [the Guardian], saw Janner as the easiest of targets and that it would bring the inquiry early kudos (not to mention press coverage) if it brought “findings of fact” that the peer had indeed been a child abuser.

Janner’s family continue to maintain – quite pugnaciously – that he was innocent. On the other hand, two journalists, Paul Gosling and Mark D’Arcy, have articulated the case against Janner in a new chapter for their 1998 book about Beck Abuse of Trust.

Janner and Vaz’s Fall

Vaz’s 1991 statement of support for Janner is now being given as one reason why it is in the public interest for us all to know that Vaz recently paid for sex with (adult) male prostitutes (a matter brought to the Sunday Mirror‘s attention by one of the men, who recognized him, according to Roy Greenslade). The Sun, in a piece headlined “Vaz’s Long Link to Janner: Keith Vaz’s passionate defence of disgraced Labour peer Lord Janner comes back to haunt him”, notes:

Child abuse campaigner – the former England rugby star Brian Moore – said the links between Keith Vaz and Lord Janner ensured yesterday’s revelations were in the public interest.

He wrote on Twitter: “I’d normally say what Keith Vaz does privately is none of our concern but not given the committee positions he holds and his acts re Janner.”

Meanwhile, the Guido Fawkes website has spelt out that Vaz “was under police investigation over year ago on suspicion of financial corruption and historic allegations of under-age sex”; the latter allegation had appeared in newspapers at the time, and although Vaz hadn’t been named it was fairly obvious who was under discussion. The past tense implies here that the the investigation has now been completed, although Staines doesn’t clarify this detail.

Conspiracy theorists are thus naturally having a field-day, in ways that are probably best left to the imagination rather than spelt out. However, Vaz’s comments about Janner are perfectly explicable given the 1991 context, and only one Janner accuser links him with organised abuse involving other “powerful figures” (notwithstanding Emmerson’s cryptic reference to “other individuals allegedly associated” with Janner). This is Operation Midland’s “Nick”, whose fantastical allegations of murder and bizarre forms of sexual torture involving Ted Heath and the head of the British Army have not fared well under scrutiny. Nick’s allegations have been excluded from the Janner strand of the government inquiry.

*Footnote: Daily Mail vs Mail on Sunday – two accounts of Barbara Fitt

There is reportedly some unfriendly rivalry between the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail, which may be relevant here. In April 2015 the Daily Mail ran a front-page splash under the headline “Janner: The Stench Grows”, which in the online version became “The Rape of Justice”. The byline promised “damning new evidence of Labour peer Lord Janner’s child sex abuse covered up by police and social workers for over 20 years”, and refers to a 1990s witness statement made by the man later given the name “Tony” by Rose:

In a detailed ten-page witness statement, a married father accused the politician of sexually abusing him for nearly two years when he was a teenager at a Leicestershire children’s home in the 1970s…

Consider the means by which Janner was allegedly able to conduct a two-year relationship with that teenage resident of the Station Road Children’s Home in Leicester. The document claims he would make contact with the child by telephoning the facility’s manager, Barbara Fitt, or her husband Raymond.

Quite why this bizarre arrangement was condoned is unclear. But eventually, the boy says he ‘confided in Mrs Fitt and told her of the sexual relationship that had been taking place between Mr Janner and myself over a fairly lengthy period of time’. Rather than call the police, however, Mrs Fitt decided to deal with the allegation — one involving serious criminality — by calling the boy’s social worker, Dick Beak. He also failed to call the police.

…Elsewhere, the boy says ‘it must have been fairly obvious to staff and residents at the children’s home that I was having a special sort of relationship with Janner’, not just because of his visits to the MP’s house, but also ‘the gifts of money and other material things that Mr Janner gave to me’.

Presumably these “gifts of money” are what appear in the Mail on Sunday as having actually been “thefts”. The Daily Mail article also carries a quote by Fitt’s widower:

‘Barbara was very concerned about the nature of their relationship. She feared Janner was having sex with [the boy] but she couldn’t prove anything,’ he recalled.

‘She reported it to the [social services] department, but no action was taken and it seemed to be swept under the carpet, presumably because of who Janner was.’

This is rather different from Rose’s account, in which Fitt was herself accused, and which in her husband merely confirms that the false claims had “upset her terribly” during her final illness.

Some Notes on Donald Trump’s Prayer Shawl and Jewish Heritage Bible

From Haaretz:

Photographs and videos of Trump draped in a traditional Jewish prayer shawl – known as a tallit – inside a church have been rapidly circulating around the Internet. Trump was presented with the shawl during his Saturday visit to the Great Faith Ministries in Detroit, Michigan.

…Bishop Wayne Jackson, the pastor of the church carefully wrapped the tallit around Trump’s shoulders as both men grinned broadly.

…Jackson then handed Trump a Bible. “This is the Jewish Heritage Study bible and we have it especially for you, and we have one for your wife…”

The report goes on to suggest that many viewers are of the opinion that the use of Jewish prayer shawl in this context was inappropriate and in bad taste.

However, the use – or appropriation – of Jewish items in evangelical worship is hardly new; in 2007 I noted an evangelical distributor explaining that the use Jewish trappings (including shofars, mezuzahs, menorahs, and Kiddush cups) expresses “how we as Christians have been grafted into the Jewish faith”. Prayer shawls, according to the business, were

Worn in symbolic remembrance to Him and his commandments, used in prayer and worship (very popular with John Hagee, Juanita Bynum, Benny Hinn and Judy Jacobs Ministries)

Meanwhile, messianic Jewish figures have become increasingly prominent within US evangelicalism – most notably, for several years now the bestselling apocalyptic author Jonathan Cahn has been a fixture at National Day of Prayer events in Washington DC, where he has appeared draped in a prayer shawl and blowing a shofar.

However, the use of Jewish items in evangelical settings can sometimes be idiosyncratic – notoriously, in 2012 a “Hebrew Roots” teacher named Ralph Messer wrapped Eddie Long in a Torah scroll, and before that, Paula White (now famous for having supposedly brought Trump to Jesus). Messner has a bizarrely phallic understanding of what a Torah scroll actually is, going so far as to describe its cover as a “foreskin”.

Haaretz goes on to note that

According to its publisher, the Jewish Heritage Study Bible was inspired by the Detroit pastor who hosted Trump. Pastor Jackson, president and CEO of the Impact Network  “is teaching all of his people all of the Jewish traditions”

The journalist is here referring to a YouTube video in which Dr Everette Gaddy (E.E. Gaddy) talks with Dr Jerry Goff about the Bible. Gaddy’s link to Jackson is rather incongruous – in 2013 there was controversy over a strange consecration ritual in which Jackson ordained new Bishops by having them lie on the floor face down, after which he lay on each of them; in contrast, Gaddy is an old-school Southern evangelical (probably Baptist) from Tennessee, with a particular fondness for the King James Bible. Gaddy, who was 76 in 2007, worked as Bible salesman for 25 years, and he heads Assurance Publications.

According to Gaddy’s conversation with Goff, the Jewish Heritage Study Bible uses the KJV, and verses that relate to each other are given in full rather than as cross-references. It also includes photos and maps, and explanatory essays about Judaism. It seems that the essays include discussion of the “Last Days”, and identify the modern State of Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies.

New York Post Publishes New Smear Against Huma Abedin

Academic journal described as “radical Muslim” had Bernard Lewis on its advisory board

At the New York Post, a breathless “exposé” from Paul Sperry:

Huma Abedin worked at a radical Muslim journal for a dozen years

Hillary Clinton’s top campaign aide, and the woman who might be the future White House chief of staff to the first female US president, for a decade edited a radical Muslim publication that opposed women’s rights and blamed the US for 9/11.

…Huma Abedin published articles in a Saudi journal taking Clinton’s [1995] feminist platform apart, piece by piece. At the time, Abedin was assistant editor of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs working under her mother, who remains editor-in-chief.

…Headlined “Women’s Rights Are Islamic Rights,” a 1996 article argues that single moms, working moms and gay couples with children should not be recognized as families. It also states that more revealing dress ushered in by women’s liberation “directly translates into unwanted results of sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility and indirectly promote violence against women.” In other words, sexually liberated women are just asking to be raped.

“A conjugal family established through a marriage contract between a man and a woman, and extended through procreation is the only definition of family a Muslim can accept,” the author, a Saudi official with the Muslim World League, asserted, while warning of “the dangers of alternative lifestyles.” (Abedin’s journal was founded and funded by the former head of the Muslim World League.)

The story has also been picked up uncritically and derivatively by the Daily Mail, and cited widely by the usual right-wing pundits [UPDATE: it has also been Tweeted by Donald Trump’s son].

It’s true that the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs has Saudi backing – indeed, it shares its London address in Goodge Street with the Muslim World League – but it can hardly be called a “Saudi journal”.  It is actually a standard academic journal, and publication is managed through the mainline academic publisher Taylor and Francis. Details of the editors and advisory board as of 1998 can be seen here – it is worth noting that the advisory board at that time included none other than Bernard Lewis, who is hardly known for his Islamist sympathies (here he is being praised at American Thinker). Huma Abedin is listed as one of two assistant editors, but given her studies in the US and work for Hillary Clinton from 1996 (when she was 20), it seems likely that her association with the journal over the years has been nominal.

The item highlighted above by Sperry was one of two that appeared in a “Documentation” section that followed the regular academic articles that were published in issue 16 (2). In other words, it is presented as a primary source rather than as a piece of academic research. It consists of

Excerpts from the open letter of the Secretary General of Muslim World League, Makkah Al Mukarramah to Mrs Gertrude Mongella, Secretary General of the United Nations, Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4-15 September, 1995

Unfortunately, an expensive paywall means that it’s impossible to assess comprehensively whether Sperry has fairly represented his source, but here’s a bit of extra context for his “smoking gun” quote, gleaned from Google Scholar:

A more serious problem is the use of mass media for the exploitation of women as sex objects and in stereotyped images which are generally negative and passive and foster disrespect for women and invite prejudice and violence directed against them. This increases the challenges that women face in preserving their personal dignity. In a society vitiated by spiritual vacuum and an upsurge in normlessness, this directly translates into unwanted results of sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility and indirectly promote violence against women.

The chain of reasoning may be arguable, but it is difficult to see how this can be reduced in good faith to “sexually liberated women are just asking to be raped”. It should also be noted that there is nothing exclusively Islamic in the above, and it wouldn’t be out of place in a Catholic or Evangelical journal. And indeed, the other item in the journal’s “Documentation” section is a reprint of a piece called “Women: Teachers of Peace”, by, erm… Pope John Paul II, originally published as his Message for the 1995 World Day of Peace. That’s an odd thing to find in a “radical Muslim journal” – and an odd thing for Sperry to have missed, unless he is deliberately dishonest.

Sperry also takes quotes from an article by Abedin’s mother, Saleha M. Abedin, which appears to show she is opposed to “women’s empowerment”. Again, it’s impossible to judge her article in the round, but from what can be seen from the first page, it is reasonable to form the view that Sperry is over-simplifying and sensationalising. She also apparently argued that 9/11 was the result of a “spiral of violence”, although again all we have is a quote out of context.

Sperry also writes:

[Clinton’s] closest adviser served as an editor for that same Saudi propaganda organ for a dozen years. The same one that in 1999 published a book, edited by her mother, that justifies the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation under Islamic law, while claiming “man-made laws have in fact enslaved women.”

Sperry is here referring to Women in Islam: A Discourse in Rights and Obligations, by a certain Fatima Umar Naseef. The book was published by the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs in 1999, and then by the International Islamic Committee for Woman & Child in Egypt. S. Abedin is listed as having supervised and edited the translation into English. As an exhortatory religious text it seems somewhat out of place among the academic titles listed as belonging to the IMMA’s “book series“; the subject of “circumcision for women” is addressed on pages 219-220, concluding:

Circumcision for women is allowed but is not ordered because the aforementioned hadith is weak. When the Prophet (s) prescribed circumcision for the Muslim nation he specifically referred to Muslim men. There is no proven or authentic evidence that the Prophet (s) ever ordered a woman to be circumcised – and Allah (T) knows best.

Of course the phrase “circumcision for women is allowed” should be challenged, but the above is far from being a “justification” of the practice – indeed, it’s clear that the author disapproves of it. Sperry wants his baying readership to infer that S. Abedin edited some sort of fundamentalist tract written to promote FGM when it is clear that this is not the case. However, it’s possible that Sperry made an error here: the first sentence of the section states that “circumcision is a religious duty”, and he may not have bothered to read on to see that the discussion at that point concerns males.

But there’s a bigger point here than just the proper context for specific statements: S. Abedin has produced a body of work over the years as a writer, editor, and publisher, and trawling through the lot will probably unearth various passages that might be objectionable in one way or another (along with much that may be unremarkable or progressive). Some of these may reflect her own views, but picking out such phrases “gotcha” style does not truly enlighten us about who she is and what she stands for; and to argue that this is what her daughter – an assimilated American married to a non-Muslim – “really” wants to promote stretches unsustainable claims even further.

Huma Abedin has been a hate-figure for elements of the US right for some time, although some conservatives, such as John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake, denounced the way she was being smeared in 2012 (the conspiracy theory aspect of those claims, that H. Abedin has a non-Muslim husband as “cover”, has recently been revived by Roger Stone). The thin pickings presented above are more of the same, but characteristic of a man who once wrote a column for for WND calling for US forces in Afghanistan to threaten to put pig blood in the water supply.

UPDATE: Roger Stone, while not mentioning Sperry directly, in conversation with Alex Jones has taken credit for recent media stories about Huma Abedin. Stone also extrapolated further on the “genital mutilation” claim, describing S. Abedin as “a prominent advocate for genital mutilation” and has “has written extensively about genital mutilation”. Jones responded with the grotesque query “Did Huma have her genitals cut off?” Details at Media Matters.

Anjem Choudary Snared by Indonesian Oath

The Metropolitan Police announce:

Two men have been convicted of encouraging support for the proscribed terrorist organisation Islamic State.

Anjem Choudary and Mohammed Mizanur Rahman were found guilty on 28 July following a trial at the Old Bailey.

At a meeting in a restaurant on the 2 July 2014, during which Choudary and Rahman contacted Mohammed Fachry, a convicted terrorist, in Indonesia via Skype, text and phone, the pair pledged their allegiance to ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Fachry then published this oath, having been signed off by Choudary, on an Indonesian website.

Choudary and Rahman were arrested by officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command on 25 September 2014.

This is front-page news in the UK, and so there isn’t much to add here. However, it is worth noting that the 2014 arrest came just one day after the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) published a report by Sidney Jones on The Evolution of ISIS in Indonesia, which was reported at the time by Channel 4 News.

I doubt there was a direct connection, but the timing is remarkable: the report includes details of how Fachry set up Sharia4Indonesia on a model inspired by Choudary, and discusses pro-ISIS oaths:

As part of its campaign to win public support, FAKSI [Fachry’s Forum of Islamic Law Activists] began organising public declarations of support for ISIS… Before April 2014, these initial pro-ISIS programs did not involve formal loyalty oaths. On 16 April 2014, however, Aman Abdurrahman made an online pledge.

That oath was apparently published in English on a now-deleted blog called Prisoner of Joy.

Choudary’s own oath appeared online in July; Court News UK has the details:

At 9pm, Choudary sent a WhatsApp message to his wife that said: ‘Done’ before posting a Twitter message to his followers.

On 7 July, an Oath of Allegiance appeared on the website AlMustaqbal.net in Indonesian and Arabic, which included Choudary and Rahman’s ‘kunyas’ or Islamic names – Abu Luqman, used by Choudary, and Abu Baraa, used by Rahman.

It was also signed in the names Abu Yahya and Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed.

The Metropolitan Police statement continues with a quote attributed to Dean Haydon, Head of the MPS Counter Terrorism Command:

The oath of allegiance was a turning point for the police – at last we had the evidence that they had stepped over the line and we could prove they supported ISIS

Our well established international contacts ensured that we were able to obtain key evidence from the Indonesian authorities to prove that Choudary and Rahman were key in the publication of their oath of allegiance.

There has been speculation over the years that Choudary was allowed to remain free because he served as a “clerical honeypot” (see Shiraz Maher here) whose activities made the surveillance of extremists easier. However, Haydon’s “at last we had the evidence” comment clearly asserts that this was not the case, and that the police have been wanting to move against him for a long time. The BBC has an interview with David Anderson QC, the UK government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, in which he says that it “is not as easy to get convictions under these laws as it should be”.

[UPDATE: Haydon’s statement also needs to be considered in the context of a later report that there was a difference of opinion between police and MI5:

Met counter-terror officers often felt they enough evidence to build a case against the radicalising cleric, only to be told to hang fire by MI5, because he was crucial to one of their on-going investigations, a source has claimed.

The situation led to tension between the two sides with police feeling “frustrated” that Choudary was not being brought to justice, the source added.]

The announcement of Choudary’s conviction has also brought renewed complaints that the media has given him too much of a platform over the years; here’s Charlie Brooker’s ever-pertinent analysis from 2010: