The MP's expenses scandal seems to have paralysed the "Westminster village" of professional politicos for the last couple of weeks or so.
Given Spy Blog's interest in Whistleblowers and in the privacy and security of anonymous whistleblowing sources (see our Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers, Investigative Journalists, Political Bloggers and Activists - http://ht4w.co.uk) , in the public interest, we read with interest today's story in the Sunday Times, and the later one on the Mail on Sunday website, who name the intermediary brokers of the whistleblower CDROMs containing the uncensored MPs expenses documents, as John Wick and Henry Gewanter,
They were first named by the Wall Street Journal, which appears to have betrayed whistleblower source confidentiality - why should any whistleblower or other confidential journalistic source ever trust them again ?
If whistleblowers are forced to go to the mainstream media, rather than through their management systems or independent confidential whistleblower complaints systems, then there is no moral question about money.
The mainstream media like the Daily Telegraph profit financially from setting the news agenda with a big journalistic "scoop", so whether or not the actual whistleblowers get paid, or whether it is only their advisors and intermediaries who get paid, is not very important if the allegations are true, as they obviously are in this MPs expenses scandal.
Will the publicity about John Wick and Henry Gewanter now actually protect them somewhat, from the vindictiveness of those in power, who they have helped to expose ?
Will the media and political attention focus on them as intermediaries, rather than on the actual whistleblower source(s) ?
- Wall Street Journal - Ex-Army Officer Helped Paper Get Sensitive Information
- The Sunday Times - Ex-SAS major John Wick exposed as broker in sale of expenses secrets
- Mail on Sunday - The 'tin-legged' ex-SAS man, the City PR and the £350,000 plot to sell MPs' secrets
From The Sunday Times
May 17, 2009
The Sunday Times "Insight" team used to be world famous Investigative Journalists, but that was many years ago.
A FORMER SAS major who supports the Conservative party has been named as the middleman in the ring that sold details of MPs' expenses to The Daily Telegraph for tens of thousands of pounds.
John Wick, 60, who runs a corporate intelligence company in the City of London, is known to have approached newspapers on behalf of the people who obtained the data.
Until a year ago he was a member of the Carlton club, which allows only supporters of the Conservative party to join. His name has become known to several newspapers since the Telegraph began publishing details from leaked computer disks containing details of all MPs' expenses receipts.
There are plenty of Conservative MPs who have been shown to have something to hide from the public, only slightly fewer than the number of Labour MPs and Cabinet Ministers etc., so how is this Carlton club connection is of any relevance, except as a parroting of the "lines to take" emanating from the Labour controlled Downing Street bunker ?
Yesterday The Wall Street Journal exposed Wick as the man who arranged the deal.
What is going on here ? Was the WSJ tipped off by the Sunday Times and The Times, who are all sister newspapers, all owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International ?
Is this "newspaper story laundering" in action i.e. getting a foreign news paper to "break" the confidential details into the "public domain", which the domestic newspapers can then follow up ?
It is now likely that Wick will be interviewed by police who have been asked by the House of Commons authorities to investigate the leak.
The Police and the Crown Prosecution Service would be idiots to get involved in a political witch hunt, which cannot suppress the obviously true claims about the scandalous expenses claimed by some MPs.
What possible serious criminal offences about this Public Interest Leak, are the Police supposed to be investigating, apart from possible fraud and tax evasion by MPs ?
Last week a secretary at International Security Solutions, Wick's company, claimed he was out of contact while travelling abroad.
Was this phone call done by the Sunday Times or by Wall Street Journal journalists ?
It understood that the leaked information was offered to two mid-market tabloid newspapers by the people who had acquired the disks. They asked £5,000 for each MP, which amounted to more than £300,000 in all.
The newspapers did not buy the information but snippets appeared in stories about the expenses claims of Labour ministers. One disclosed that Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, had claimed expenses for two pornographic films watched by her husband.
After this setback Wick was brought in to help to find a buyer. It is understood that Wick approached The Times offering to sell the disks for £250,000, plus an extra £50,000 for analysing the data.
During a 30-minute meeting he said he could offer CD-Roms with scans of every MP's receipts dating back five years. The Times declined to pay for the information. It has always refused to name the source.
The Times' sister papers, the Wall Street Journal and The Sunday Times have named the source, or at least the names of the intermediary brokers, which is presumably all that the other newspapers knew either.
The Sunday Times was not offered the disks as the ring wanted the expenses details to be printed over several days in a daily paper. A deal was then struck with the Telegraph.
Note the pejorative use of the weasel word "ring" .
Yesterday The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corporation, parent company of The Sunday Times, also named Henry Gewanter, an American public relations expert who works in London. Gewanter is a friend of Wick and was brought in because of his experience in dealing with newspapers. He declined to comment yesterday.
The Wall Street Journal appears to have betrayed the confidence of Henry Gewanter and of John Wick, by naming both of them,
Wall Street Journal
MAY 15, 2009, 3:15 P.M. ET
On Friday a London-based public relations consultant working for Mr. Wick, Henry Gewanter, said he would give The Wall Street Journal access to the reimbursement information if the Journal agreed not to identify Mr. Wick as its source. Mr. Gewanter said he was making the same offer to British newspapers and expected to complete the arrangement early next week.
Why should any whistleblower or other confidential source trust the Wall Street Journal not to betray their confidence ?
It seems that the WSJ did a bit more research than the Sunday Times "Insight" team did, by looking up the website and perhaps the corporate records of Intelligent
in order to get a quotation from the (former) chairman of a couple of
In terms of actual Investigative journalism, the Sunday Times "Insight" piece is put to shame by Jason Lewis's much more comprehensive article in the online edition of the Mail on Sunday.
The 'tin-legged' ex-SAS man, the City PR and the £350,000 plot to sell MPs' secrets
By Jason Lewis
Last updated at 2:56 PM on 17th May 2009
Presumably the pejorative word "plot" is used, because
Neither man ever approached The Mail on Sunday.
This article has quotes from two of John Wick's former business partners, and a lengthy interview from with the public relations specialist Henry Gewanter, in which he claims not to have personally profited from the deal. They have tracked down John Wick's business addresses, presumably from the International Security Solutions corporate website, through Companies house, and from local estate agents or the Land Registry.
Of no relevance to the story, the Mail on Sunday have also published details about John Wick's two former wives, his daughter and his current girl friend (including a photo of her flat) - why ? .
Henry Gawanter seems to promote himself through various online social and professional networking websites, so it it is not a surprise that the Mail on Sunday have published a photo of him with his wife, taken "in 1992".
What have the families of these two intermediary brokers / businessmen, done to deserve the intrusion by a national newspaper ?
In terms of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 , there can surely be no question but that any employee or sub-contractor working for the House of Commons, or, as has been alleged The Stationary Office secure printing quango, who might be the actual source of this leaked information, must have a cast iron Public Interest defence, especially as both the Speaker and Cabinet Ministers are implicated in the excessive or even illegal expenses scandal.
Remember that these detailed MPs expense claims and receipts, were ordered to be published in full, under the Freedom of Information Act, a decision which was upheld by the Information Tribunal and the High Court, in the face of public funded opposition by the "House of Commons Authorities".
MPs changed the law in order to hide details of their Second Homes Addresses from FOIA disclosure, spuriously claiming "security" reasons, but, obviously, for many MPs, the real reason was to try to hide their dubious "flipping" of the designation of their main and second homes, in order to (sometimes repeatedly) claim the £24,000 a year tax free allowance, in spite of declaring the opposite to the tax authorities etc.