Liam Fox accuses Snowden of 'treason' - but ignores his own past

Liam Fox during the Adam Werritty scandal. The defence secretary eventually fell on his sword.
Liam Fox during the Adam Werritty scandal. The defence secretary eventually fell on his sword.
Ian Dunt By

Former defence secretary Liam Fox has been more prominent as a backbencher than he was as a minister. The Tory backbencher has constructed an identity as Washington's neo-con outpost in Westminster since standing down ignominiously in 2011. And yesterday he went to Washington to sing from the neo-con hymn sheet once more.

Freed from the stifling constrictions of British political discourse, he went native and turned into a Fox News host, angrily denouncing Edward Snowden and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger.

"Snowden thinks of himself as a cyber-age guerrilla warrior but in reality, he is a self-publicising narcissist," he said.

"He did not find or expose anything illegal. Let us not imbue his cowardice with higher motives. Let us not confuse his egotism with public service. Let's not call his treachery by lesser terms. For once, let's say what we mean. Let us call treason by its name."


Moving on to the Guardian, Fox added: "Their toxic mixture of ignorance and arrogance is compounded by basic incompetence in the way in which information has been handled."

Rusbridger has shown "no sense of understanding, never mind remorse, about what damage might have been done to the security of the country," he said.

"This attitude is testament not only to the egotism and self importance of the man but the feeling of impunity that both he and Greenwald seemed, and still seem, to exhibit."

So while we are on the topic of treason and basic incompetence, topics which Fox himself has raised, it may be worth casting our mind back to the heady days of 2011, when he was forced to stand down from his job over his relationship with a man called Adam Werritty.

Werritty and Fox were best friends forever. He attended meetings and fundraising dinners with Fox. His business cards described him as an "advisor to the Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP". He met with a string of world leaders, including the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was hosted at the Ministry of Defence headquarters in Whitehall 22 times. They even went to Larry Flint's Hustler Club topless bar in New York together. And Fox took Werrity, who had not been vetted and had no official role, into meetings with senior figures in the defence world, including one with an American general.

Where did Werrity get all the money to tag along on these various trips and functions?

The answer to that question was left to Gus O'Donnell, then-Cabinet secretary. His report into the affair found funding came from Pargav, a company which paid over £140,000 towards Werritty's first class airline tickets and five star hotel rooms.

And who funded Pargav? According to media reports, the money came from high profile Tory-donating businessmen, an international investigation company, a corporate intelligence company with a close interest in Sri Lanka, supporters of close UK-US relations and prominent pro-Israel advocates.

Whatever it was they thought they were doing when they funded the friendship between Fox and Werritty, they were willing to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on it.

Fox could have avoided all of this by simply making Werritty a special adviser, funded by the government and security cleared. But he did not.

So was it "treason" or "basic incompetence"? If one wished to be unkind, one could make the case for the former. One could certainly make the case for the latter, regardless of generosity.

Of all Liam Fox's many faults, throwing stones in glass houses may be the most pertinent of all.

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