The Times: A British soldier has been charged with passing secret information linked to the military campaign in Afghanistan to Iran, The Times has learnt. Corporal Daniel James, 44, appeared at City of Westminster Magistrates Court in London yesterday, charged under Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act with communicating information useful to the enemy.
Michael Evans and Stewart Tendler
NCO ‘helped the enemy’ in Afghanistan
Serious charge under Official Secrets Act
A British soldier has been charged with passing secret information linked to the military campaign in Afghanistan to Iran, The Times has learnt. Corporal Daniel James, 44, appeared at City of Westminster Magistrates Court in London yesterday, charged under Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act with communicating information useful to the enemy.
The case was considered so sensitive that after the charge had been read out, reporters were told to leave and the remainder of the hearing was held in camera.
No biographical details were given not even that he is a soldier in the Army and there was no hint in the charge or in the brief part of the hearing held in public to indicate who the enemy was.
However, The Times has learnt that the soldier was charged in relation to the passing of confidential information about British activities in Afghanistan to Iran, which shares a border with western Afghanistan, and has a strategic interest and influence in the region.
Corporal James speaks fluent Pashtun, the language of most Afghans, and acts as an interpreter for Lieutenant-General David Richards, the commander of the British contingent of Nato forces in Afghanistan. Corporal James was arrested in Britain on Tuesday and charged within hours because of the seriousness of the alleged offence. It is understood that an intensive investigation was launched to try to identify the source of the alleged leak of information relating to Afghanistan. Britain has about 6,000 troops in Afghanistan, the majority based in Helmand province in the south. Action was taken so quickly that Lord Goldsmith, QC, the Attorney-General, had not even given the go-ahead for a prosecution before the soldier was told of the charge under the Official Secrets Act.
The full charge read out at court was that on November 2 this year, for a purpose prejudicial to the safety of the State, Daniel James communicated to another person information calculated to be directly or indirectly useful to the enemy.
The charge was under Section 1 (1)(c) of the Official Secrets Act 1911 which says that if any person for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State obtains or communicates to any other person any sketch, plan, model, article or note, or other document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy, he shall be guilty of a felony and liable to imprisonment for not less than three years and not exceeding seven years.
Corporal Jamess appearance before Senior District Judge Timothy Workman was surrounded by secrecy. The case was not on the court list and police refused to give the defendants name before the hearings. One hearing was held in camera to hear argument about why large parts of the case should also be heard in secret. The judge decided that national security was involved, and only a few minutes of a session lasting nearly two hours were open to press and public.
Corporal James said nothing during the hearing other than Yes, sir, when confirming his name and date of birth and that he understood he would be remanded. After the closed hearing, the judge said: I have been given certain information which leads me to the conclusion that it will be necessary to hear certain facts in camera as there is a possible prejudice to national security. The prosecution, he said, was asking for a remand to obtain the Attorney-Generals consent for prosecution.
Corporal James stood at ease as the judge told him he would be remanded in custody until December 27. Four Special Branch officers were in court and the defendant sat in the dock with two guards. Martyn Fischer, Corporal Jamess lawyer, would not comment.