All has been quiet on the Salisbury poisoning front for a while. That is, until now. In a shocking revelation, it has come to light that the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee (DSMA) – a Governmental body – issued a so-called D-Notice requesting the censorship of numerous mainstream media outlets regarding the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury on the fourth of March this year, allegedly by Russia, using the Novichok nerve agent. Sergei Skripal was a double agent for the UK who was obtained and brought to Britain under a ‘spy-swap scheme’ in 2010. The circumstances surrounding his alleged poisoning have been translucent at best, and altogether weird.

It now appears to be the case that the media was censored in how and what it reported of the Skripal poisoning in the days following its revelation.

A D-Notice is, essentially, an instruction issued by the DSMA to the media not to publish matters of certain sensitivity. 

You can see both of the D-Notices here and here

While the DSMA is, in name, an advisory committee; the name belies its influence on the British media. If the DSMA issues an advice as to restrictions in what the British media can and cannot report, it is safe to assume that it will be followed. In essence, the DSMA’s Notices censor the media where the Government deems information unsuitable for the public domain. They are a fetter on the media’s ability to hold the Government to account.

The D-Notice issued on 7 March 2018, three days after the Skripal poisoning happened, stated the following:

“Private and Confidential: Not for Publication, Broadcast or for use on Social Media TO ALL EDITORS The issue surrounding the identify of a former MI6 informer, Sergei Skripal, is already widely available in the public domain. However, the identifies of intelligence agency personnel associated with Sergei Skripal are not yet widely available in the public domain. The provisions of DSMA Notice 05 therefore apply to these identities. DSMA Notice 05 inter alia advises editors against the: ‘inadvertent disclosure of Sensitive Personnel Information (SPI) that reveals the identity, location or contact details of personnel (and their family members) who have security, intelligence and/or counter-terrorist backgrounds, including members of the UK Security and Intelligence Agencies, MOD and Specials Forces.'”

The D-Notice instructs the media not to report on matters surrounding security personnel associated with Sergei Skripal. 

The individual to whom the D-Notice refers is in fact one Pablo Miller. He is a former MI6 operative. The Telegraph has also previously published that Miller worked for Orbis Business International, a corporate intelligence consultancy.  

Orbis Business International, interestingly, are the same firm behind the Trump Dossier, a private intelligence report that asserted links between Trump and Russia, and allegations of conspiracy. 

While it might not be strange for the DSMA to instruct the media not to report on certain matters concerning national security, or sensitive matters of State, it is nonetheless a surreal situation. It is at the least questionable that the same individual who was responsible for Sergei Skripal – was, in essence, his handler – apparently worked at the same firm responsible for the Trump dossier.

The information lends itself to the inference that there is an escalating climate of anti-Russia hysteria, both here and in the US, which is being ramped up with the help of limbs of the State not subject to the same accountability as our Government. 

The debacle also means something else. It means that every Tory warmonger, every Blairite Labour backbencher who were so quick to doff their cap and bow so low to Theresa’s war drums that the small of their backs were revealed, were wholeheartedly wrong to do so.

In fact, the public still have very few facts surrounding the Skripal poisoning case, and MPs who don’t have the requisite security clearance certainly do not have any more details than us.

In the light of what is slowly being revealed – that the information surrounding Salisbury is far more questionable than was being represented in bouncing Commons rhetoric – it appears, once again, that calls for calm collection and consideration on the part of Jeremy Corbyn, were entirely correct.

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