A PHONEY terrorism "expert" has confessed to duping newspapers and a senior politician.
Glen Jenvey has admitted making up stories about Islamic fundamentalism, including a faked list of prominent Jewish "targets", which included Lord Alan Sugar.
He revealed his scheming in an interview with BBC reporter Tom Mangold, aired on Sunday's edition of Donal MacIntyre's Radio Five Live show.
Jenvey told how he fabricated the list of Jewish targets by posing as a fundamentalist on an extremist website where he urged others to suggest names.
He then leaked the made-up list to a trusted news agency, used by The Sun, and online forum Ummah.com was wrongly accused of being used to prepare a backlash against UK Jews.
Jenvey - who had been described as "an extremely capable and knowledgeable analyst" by Tory MP Patrick Mercer - said: "I'm fully responsible for the story. The Sun was deceived.
"The Sun did not know that I was behind the postings.
"I would like to apologise to all the British Jews who we scared and I'd like to apologise to The Sun newspaper."
Jenvey was not of course fully responsible for the story; he hardly forced the Sun to publish what had been supplied to them by the South West News Service, whom he had initially provided the story to (and also presumably paid him through). The fact remains that there was no story here, even with Jenvey's posts on the Ummah.com thread as abuislam. It was a thread, as the initial post pointed out, to use entirely peaceful methods (writing letters) to supporters of Israel. You can criticise the fact they chose to specifically targets Jews, when being Jewish and supporting Israel does not always go hand in hand, as well as some of the more "colourful" language used by some of the posters in the thread, but there was still no story here, even when "abuislam", now exposed as Glen Jenvey, suggested doorstep protests, which while unpleasant, are not illegal and which was not going to mean "terrorists" or "Islamic extremists" descending on the doorstep of Alan Sugar, David Miliband or Mark Ronson.
This story is an example of the Sun's fundamental contempt for the very standards of journalism. Any reputable news organisation which still somehow imagined that there was a story here would have checked, checked and then checked the "facts" again. They would have made certain that abuislam was not one and the same as the person providing them with the story, especially considering the way that abuislam was quite clearly acting as an agent provocateur in the thread, "bumping" it repeatedly, and resurrecting it finally three days after the last post. They would have checked whether there was any realistic prospect of one person's suggestion on a forum being put into action, and contacted those named and both alerted them and asked whether they had been sent either letters or had protesters outside their houses. They would have further checked Glen Jenvey's credentials, not just relying on the word of a Conservative MP. Then, and only then, would they perhaps have published the story, and even then it was hardly deserving of front page status, or the ludicrous claim that Alan Sugar was to be a "TERROR TARGET".
The real story here though is that Jenvey, after his association/collaboration with other amateur 'terror experts' such as Dominic Wightman (aka Whiteman) had been supplying the tabloids with either false or hugely exaggerated stories of terrorist threats, with the help of the Tory MP Patrick Mercer. The Sun had worked with Jenvey before, and not caring whether his claims were accurate or not, had no reason or inclination to doubt him this time round. It just so happens that Jenvey had become lazy and left this time a trail which Tim Ireland picked up (and, I must add, which I myself started off on), and who has only been grudgingly credited by the BBC.
Even then the paper could have quickly accepted that its story was ridiculously sensationalist and that this time round they had been had. Instead, the Sun's managing editor Graham Dudman sent a letter to the Press Complaints Commission on the 27th of January which defended every aspect of the story. Tim Ireland will hopefully be revealing the text of the letter in full later in the week, but having seen a copy, I can whet appetites by saying that some of his arguments are truly jaw-dropping.
It's still not clear what action, if indeed any the PCC is going to take against the paper over the story. Indeed, it might well agree with the paper that Jenvey was fully responsible, going by its past record, and that today's non-apology is sufficient. It's also unclear just what Alan Sugar's lawyers will make of Jenvey's confession, considering his decision to sue the paper over the story. What clearly should happen however is that for a front page story of such prominence, which was so categorically wrong in almost every aspect, and may well have scared some prominent Jews, as well as smearing the Ummah.com forum, there should be at the very least a front page apology. It has to remembered this story came at a time of high tension surrounding the Israeli attack on Gaza, with angry well-attended demonstrations taking place almost every weekend during the conflict, with more than potential to substantially harm community relations further. It was also yet again a Sun story on Muslims which portrayed them in at best a very bad light, straight out of the school which led to the £30,000 payment to the bus driver Arunas Raulynaitis for claiming he ordered passengers off so he could pray, and of the non-existent "Windsor Muslim yobs" who had supposedly attacked a house which soldiers had looked at with a view to moving in. I don't think I can really add to what I wrote at the time of the former:
It goes without saying that such unsubstantiated journalism threatens community relations and is often used by extremists, even after such reports have been proved false, to stir up hate. Reporting such topics requires great care, care which the Sun has neither the time nor the inclination to use.
Nor has it the courage, the honesty or the humility to admit when it gets a story so drastically wrong.
[UPDATE 16 Feb: Hi folks. Tim here. I have changed a paragraph at the