Dominic Wightman: The Story of an Encounter

Just as the Donal MacIntyre programme on Glen Jenvey concluded, the following Twitter message was posted:


The link (not included here) leads to a remarkable document in which “Olivia James”, supposedly “the pen name of a Caracas-based lawyer”, records a lengthy interview with Dominic Wightman – also known as Dominic Whiteman – in which Wightman explains his recent dealings both with Tim Ireland and myself. The interview contains a lot of incidental detail which allows me to vouch that it really is by Wightman. By way of introduction, it should be recalled that Wightman and Glen Jenvey both appeared on Newsnight in the autumn of 2006 to discuss Islamic extremism as part of the anti-extremist “VIGIL Network”. The nature of VIGIL seemed somewhat opaque, so I did a couple of blog entries about it. It had a website for a while, but the organisation is now defunct. Instead, Wightman now has a website called the Westminster Journal, which has not been updated for a while. Wightman appears again more recently in the Spinwatch article on amateur terror-trackers, although he has assured me that he intends to sue them or have them shut down.

Tim Ireland and I met Wightman in a pub in February, a few weeks after Tim uncovered Glen Jenvey’s bogus postings to a Muslim forum. He explained to us that Jenvey had been passing dubious material to Patrick Mercer (then Shadow Minister for Homeland Security) via a university lecturer whose brother was on Mercer’s electoral executive committee. He also told us that this lecturer had created a fake email as evidence that Whiteman had once suggested creating a false rumour that Muslim extremists intended to use old women as suicide bombers. I admit I was somewhat disarmed – he was personable, expressed moderate conservative views, and since Jenvey had proven to be a fabulator it seemed unlikely that someone who wanted to expose his activities would also be dishonest. I did, though, think it odd that he did not wish to sue anyone over the “granny bomber” story, and I recalled his rather unsatisfactory reaction in 2007 to the first critical scrutiny into VIGIL. It also occured to me that, by giving us information, it would mean that we would be less likely to write anything negative about him, but that seemed a worthwhile and fair trade-off.

Soon after our meeting, he wrote an email explaining that he intended to become bankrupt in the autumn in order to be able to publish material without fear of being sued, on (a) (the now late) Sheik Khalid Bin Mahfouz; (b) a company allegedly involved in terrorism and drug dealing; and (c) extremism in Muslim faith schools, using material which Civitas had been too fearful to include in its own report. Further:

I am making a series of short films with the guy behind Undercover Mosque. In these clips, to be distributed online, I am going to urge all UK bloggers, activists, etc etc to publish all the crap against the above 3 targets repeatedly (not on their own blogs unless they want to be attacked to the point of bankruptcy like I will be) so that the world knows the truth about their misdeeds, whatever our shitty legal system says. I will attack Eady. I will attack the various acts which have distorted the balance of power in the libel courts etc etc I will attack Carter Ruck partner by partner. I will also attack certain members of the freedom campaigns who are using them for their own ends…The plan is well-supported. I have built an interesting team around me. Across the political spectrum / journalistic spectrum….. from the Telegraph to Searchlight, the Guardian to FOX. Two barristers and even one judge! I have no fear of creating a lot of enemies…

We exchanged congenial emails over the summer, but his attitude changed recently following two events: first, there was the Spinwatch article, which revealed that Wightman had in fact gone bankrupt for more mundane reasons, and which gave the lecturer’s side of the “granny bomber” story; and, second, there was the discovery that Wightman had placed on-line a bogus document in an attempt to manipulate the things Tim and I wrote about –  Tim will has more to say about that himself. Meanwhile, no shocking new exposé of faith schools has appeared, nor anything about Saudi billionaires or a drug-dealing company, let alone a big free speech campaign; instead, the only new research I have seen has been a document he recently put on-line about an extremist forum called “Islambase”, which he has trawled to shockingly reveal that some known extremists have some unpleasant views, and that some other unimportant people do too.

Parallel to this, I have received continuing strange and annoying messages from a supposed group of pseudonymous young women called “the Cheerleaders”, or the “Hur al-Ayn”, who seem somewhat unreal but who I am assured are actual persons by a popular musician who goes by various names, including “Charlie Cock” and “Ludas Matyi” – I blogged this here. It has become clear recently that Wightman has been working closely with these characters or person; and it now appears that – extraordinarily for a man who wishes to be taken seriously – Wightman has decided to announce his article on Tim through the Twitter feed of someone who, as can be seen above, just yesterday sent Tim a message of a personally harrassing nature.

The “interview” is a grandiose attack on Tim which must have taken some time to write; I have a bit part:

Richard Bartholomew was less involved – more focused on spin-off stories – and by no means exhibited any signs of being at all comfortable sitting anywhere near far left extremism or Islamist extremists… Though in the presence of Ireland, Bartholomew came across merely as Ireland’s cohort, I soon saw that he had a left-wing agenda of his own: his twin pleasures were guilt by association and playing off anyone – either plain nutty or right of centre – against themselves. Bartholomew was a stirrer but a quiet, affable fellow, I found…

I’m not sure how a person can be played off against themself, but there you are. And it’s remarkable to be called a “stirrer” by someone whose behaviour has been as strange and shabby as his.

This is a man who claims to be a serious figure in freelance anti-terrorist consulting. In fact, though, he is a man who promises to produce significant research and campaigning in the public interest, but instead (a) trawls a known Islamist website to come up with a few English-language scraps of stuff that’s obvious and (b) produces a lengthy and blustering attack on a blogger who dealt with him throughout with courtesy and with integrity. A man who forwarded private correspondance (nothing too significant, but it’s still annoying) to a hostile person or persons who use weird aliases and whose friends send out threatening messages. A man who just a few days ago sent Tim a list of bizarre and aggressive questions under a pseudonym. A man who, at a time when it became clear that Jenvey was unstable and vulnerable, tried to get us to write more things about him by putting on-line a bogus document (he may be the author, although he maintains he “was offered” it from persons he refuses to divulge). A man who won’t sue the person he claims made up the “granny bomber” story. A man who, by the way, has also declined to deny [UPDATE: finally he has, in the comments] that he created a blog under the name “James Osposol” in order to fire some silly insults in my direction, despite my straightforward question about it.

Dominic Whiteman

UPDATE 1: Wightman has been in contact to (a) clarify that  he is not in Venezuela, as I had originally inferred from his article and (b)  insist that that he has no connection to the “Cheerleaders”.

UPDATE 2: Wightman has now posted his attack onto his Westminster Journal website. He has also removed the name of an elderly Tory grandee who was previously listed as the Journal’s “life patron”. Incidentally, while Wightman is the Journal’s “editor and co-founder”, there is also a ”current affairs editor”: Adrian Morgan, who featured in the story I blogged here

UPDATE 3: Tim’s article has now been posted here. Extract:

On May 19, Dominic Wightman emailed me with a claim that he had chanced upon a document hosted at that purported to be a genuine interview with Glen Jenvey, conducted and published by Jeremy Reynalds. He even asked me if I had written it, before listing a series of likely suspects (culminating, inevitably, with [Michael] Starkey).

Reynalds immediately denied any involvement, but even after it was clearly established as a fake, this ‘interview’ presented me and/or up to half a dozen people with a potential problem that could not be addressed with simple exposure…I was as determined then as I am today to keep the full contents of that document out of the public domain, because even though the document contains very little in the way of truth, it still had and has the potential to cause great damage or embarrasment to a long list of people (including the man we can now safely describe as his primary target; Michael Starkey).

…at every stage since ‘finding’ the document, Dominic Wightman was in regular contact with me, well aware of the anxiety I was feeling, and well aware of his contribution to it (though he still quite inexplicably claims to have been oblivious to being the primary cause of it, while simultaneously having no regrets because he could not have planned it better).

And yet he said and did nothing to alleviate that anxiety… and continued to say and do nothing until the information I provided led police right to his door.

He then insisted that we meet immediately (not likely), then tried to deny and minimise what he had done to varying degrees, then tried to convince me that I was guilty of the same or worse, and then tried to smear me again, this time in such a way that might make people think I was deserving of such treatment.

I’m not. No-one is.

If I thought otherwise, then I would have ‘outed’ the forged interview and brought it into the public domain (as he no doubt expected me to) long before I established the source of the piece and their likely agenda.

I can confirm this version of events; I have an email in which Wightman urges us to believe that the lecturer Michael Starkey is the author. But he knew that this was untrue, the document looks like his handiwork (the interview format was to avoid the problem of Jenvey’s distinctive dyslexic writing), and he refuses to provide any other source. The document was in all likelihood fabricated by him, and he placed it on-line in the hope that untrue informtion about other people would be disseminated.  For a researcher, that is the ultimate kiss of death, and if I were the head of one of the research organisations he has apparently worked for, I would be very alarmed.

One way that Wightman has sought to justify his behaviour is by going on about a “Black Red Alliance”, suggesting that his deception was valid as he was somehow uncovering links between the far left and Islamic extremists. What this amounts to is a supposed revelation that Tim and I have been in contact with the moderator of in order to get the IP addresses of certain messages that may have come from Jenvey (on Ummah and other sites) at earlier dates. But that wasn’t a secret; I directly referred to receiving such information here. Asking for information in the general public interest hardly amounts to any kind of “alliance”; indeed, the only real alliance that was made during this affair was between me, Tim, and Dominic, and came about because Dominic led us to believe that he wanted the truth to be known. Alas, it turns out that he was the one who had “a different agenda”, and he is now the one trying to make a “left-right” issue part of the story.

UPDATE 4: Adrian Morgan has given me permission to publish the following message:

Yesterday you placed an “update” to an article, in which you mention that I was listed as “Current Affairs Editor” of Westminster Journal. I had done nothing in that capacity since August 2008.

You will find now that my name has been removed from the “about” page.

I had nothing to do with the Tim Ireland article/attack, which I repudiate unreservedly. I do not know Tim Ireland and I have no cause to feel animosity towards him.  In future I  will not be asssociated with Westminster Journal while it is used as a vehicle for character attack and bile.

I suspect the main reaction to Wightman’s article among those who research Islamic extremism will be uneasy bafflement: why so much energy expended on Tim Ireland? Why the need to go over Tim’s disputes with Paul Staines and Iain Dale? Why the need to go into personal details, and to feign distaste over a crude (but funny) bit of satire about David Cameron? Why the silly boasting about having supposedly “brought down” Tim? Why the weird device of having the article presented as if by a pseudonymous Venezuelan lawyer? What does any of this have to do with the purpose of the Westminster Journal? Why did he publish it to a blog first? Why did he send Tim a weird list of 40 questions under a pseudonym the day before? Are these not the acts of man trying to dredge up everything he can in a desperate attempt to divert attention from a very simple but devestating truth: that he tried to have bogus information placed in the public domain in order to settle a score, and thus has shown that as an investigator he cannot be trusted?