BBC quick to apologize for revealing Queen's concerns
Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri is seen addressing the sixth annual rally for Islam in London in 2002. The European Court of Human Rights on Monday gave final approval for the extradition of Abu Hamza , along with four other individuals, from the UK to the U.S. (Reuters)
The BBC was caught in full scramble mode on Tuesday after one of its senior correspondents talked about a private conversation he had with Queen Elizabeth.
Big deal, you say?
Well, in Britain at least, it is -- especially when the exchange involved the arrest and eventual extradition of radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who lost his final legal appeals on Monday.
On the BBC's Radio 4 Today program on Tuesday, security reporter Frank Gardner spoke about a conversation he had with the Queen in which she talked Abu Hamza, an Islamic extremist who used Britain as a base for his alleged terror activities, even though he called the country a "toilet."
He also said that she told him she had contacted the Home Secretary. “(The Queen) said, ‘surely this man must have broken some laws, my goodness, why is he still at large?’"
Gardner's revelations of the "off-the-record" conversation came a day after Abu Hamza lost his appeal at the European Court of Human Rights against extradtion to the United States, where he is wanted in a plot to establish a jihadi training centre in Oregon and the kidnapping of western hostages in Yemen.
Abu Hamza -- who lost an eye and both hands in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan -- and four other terrorist suspects are expected to be deported within a few days after fighting extradition since 2004. Abu Hamza had been in a British prison for seven years after being convicted of terrorist activities.
Abu Hamza's loss in the appeals court on Monday was big news across the UK, prompting BBC's coverage on Tuesday morning with Gardner. He hardly off the air after talking about the case and the Queen's concerns before the BBC contacted Buckingham Palace without even being told.
Suddenly, the BBC apology to the Palace was even more important than the news that the Queen may have potentially been lobbying for Abu Hamza's arrest by the Home Office.
The network regretted the "breach of confidence," saying it was "wholly inappropriate" to talk about the private conversation.
"The conversation should have remained private and the BBC and Frank deeply regret this breach of confidence," said the BBC in a statement. "It was wholly inappropriate. Frank is extremely sorry for the embarrassment caused and has apologised to the Palace."
Others were quick to weigh in.
A Labour MP, Keith Vaz, told the BBC that the Queen's comments showed she was "deeply concerned" for her subjects. The Republic political group, meanwhile, saw Gardner's comments as a "PR stunt" to put the monarch "on the right side of public opinion."
The Palace, as always in these situations, refused comment.