The row over allegations that lives were endangered by leaks about major anti-terrorism operations deepened last night as it emerged that there were a series of disclosures about one highly sensitive investigation.
As Tony Blair rejected calls for an inquiry, and Liberal Democrats called upon the police to investigate, it emerged that journalists received up to three separate briefings about an allegation that a group of men was planning to abduct and behead a Muslim British soldier.
The Guardian has been told that an aide to John Reid, the home secretary, was responsible for one of those leaks, and has also learnt that there is strong suspicion among the highest-ranking police at Scotland Yard that one of their own officers also briefed the media. The controversy centres on a series of raids which led to nine arrests across Birmingham in February. Six men were subsequently charged with a number of terrorist offences.
Defence lawyers are expected to argue that it will be impossible for any of the men arrested in Birmingham to receive a fair trial as a consequence of the leaks at the time of their arrest. One lawyer, Tayab Ali, said he had been told by a senior West Midlands officer that the disclosures may have been an offence under the Official Secrets Act.