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Bruce MacFarlane, Manitoba Agent 204, embroiled in international intrigue

How does a hard-working lawyer from the Manitoba Prairies wind up neck-deep in a world of French secret agents, Al Qaeda terrorists, and Uzbek spies?

Oh, and mix in wingnut conspiracy theorists and packs of journalists primed to make him Public Enemy No. 1.

How? We wish we knew. The only thing certain is that its one of the most underreported stories in the country.

Make that two countries--Canada and France.

Seven weeks ago Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair mentioned that Bruce MacFarlane, Manitoba's former deputy attorney general, was jetting off to France to be a special prosecutor "in a case against a journalist from Le Monde who allegedly broke a publication ban."

Demonstrating that journalism at the Free Press is another word for gossip, that's all he wrote.

Nobody called a news conference, so naturally, no other professed reporter in Winnipeg could figure out where to go with the tip, leaving us to fill in the void.

We know the case involves Guillaume Dasquié, an investigative journalist who got his hands on a 328 page secret report from the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE). Dasquie is alternately described as an intelligence analyst and the founder and editor of the political news website Geopolitique.com.

On April 16, 2007, the prominent French newspaper Le Monde published a story by Dasquie based on the secret intelligence report. Headlined "11 septembre 2001: les Français en savaient long (back-of-the-envelope translation: Sept. 11, 2001, The French knew a lot ) the story was a news bombshell.

Dasquie had in his hands everything the DGSE knew about Al Qaeda between July 2000 and October 2001 including maps, analyses, graphics, and satellite photos. He had the terrorists' plans and a full list of their leadership, their training camps, and their financiers.

911 Truthers were ecstatic. To this day they cite the story as proof the United States had been warned in advance of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The true truth is more prosaic.

French intelligence had been alerted by their sources that Al Qaeda had discussed hijacking planes in Germany flown by American airlines.

But it was the revelation of these sources that created the waves within the intelligence community.

For the first time it was revealed that the French had penetrated Al Qaeda with human spies.

They had Uzbeks posing as Muslim jihadists actually within the leadership of Al Qaeda. They had also "turned" Muslims from European cities who were sent to Afghanistan to become jihadists.

In December, 2007, Dasquie's home was raided by French intelligence authorities and he was held in custody while being questioned about who leaked the intelligence report to him. He wouldn't give up his source, so he was charged with possessing and divulging national defence secrets. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 Euros.

No sooner had Dasquie's detention been reported than journalism organizations around the world leapt to his defence. Joel Simon, Executive Director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said. "Dasquié should not be prosecuted for serving the public's right to know." Reporters Without Borders issued a press release throughout Europe stating "Reporters without Borders continues to regard the judicial procedures being taken against Dasquie as improper. He was just doing his job as a journalist and should not be held responsible for leaks from within the government."

The OSCE media watchdog has called for a protection of sources law in France in direct response to the prosecution of Dasquie. Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, called upon the French government for legislation to ensure the protection of journalistic sources, something that's been promised in the past but never delivered. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the largest regional security organisation in the world with 55 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America.

Well guess who is going to be in the sights of all these journalism-rights groups?

Oui.

Monsieur Bruce MacFarlane, avocat Canadienne.

We're having a tough time deciphering the wacky judicial system in France so we can't say at what stage the case against Dasquie is at. We think its in a preliminary hearing.

Dasquie is no stranger to judicial proceedings as a result of his writing. He was co-author of a book in 2001 titled Bin Laden, la verite interdite (Forbidden Truth). The book argued that George Bush was a major supporter of the Taliban government of Afghanistan and blocked investigations of terrorists prior to the attacks of 2001 because oil interests wanted to broker a pipeline through Afghanistan.

The book resulted in at least one defamation lawsuit -- and this grovelling apology by Dasquie and co-author Jean-Charles Brisard.

2 November 2006
We, Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, are the authors of Forbidden Truth, a book circulated widely since it was first published in the autumn of 2001. I, Jean Charles-Brisard, am also the author of a Report entitled Terrorism Financing published in December 2002.

The Book and the Report contain very serious and highly defamatory allegations about Sheikh Khalid Bin Mahfouz and Sheikh Abdulrahman Bin Mahfouz, alleging support for terrorism through their businesses, families and charities, and directly.

As a result of what we now know, we accept and acknowledge that all of those allegations about you and your families, businesses and charities are entirely and manifestly false.

The allegations were based on information which we have now been able to establish has been largely withdrawn or refuted in the intervening years since Forbidden Truth was first published, and to our knowledge has never been verified.

We did not anticipate at the time the Book and the Report were written that the information which we relied upon would later be withdrawn or refuted.

Notwithstanding research into terrorism financing, we have learnt nothing since the publication of the Book and the Report which suggests there is any evidence supporting the allegations. We therefore now unreservedly withdraw all of the allegations about you both in the Book and the Report and confirm that we will never repeat them.

We appreciate the very serious damage that has been caused to your reputations by these allegations. We also accept that the allegations caused you and your family very great distress. For all of this we are truly sorry.

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