From the original witness statement of Husain Husaini (former head of news at the BBC Asian Network) exchanged on 18 November 2011:
5. One of my earliest encounters with Devan was regarding a potential story about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2007. Devan wanted to broadcast an interview called “Last Man Standing” with William Rodriguez, which focused on conspiracy theories around 9/11. I had to consider whether it was something the Asian Network could broadcast. In making my decision, I listened to the interview and then researched the matter, which included reading many pages of a document produced by Mr.Rodriguez. This kind of assessment is what every journalist has to undertake editorially to check their stories before they are broadcast to ensure they have editorial merit and avoid any risk of libel or complaints.
6. My view was that Mr. Rodriguez had not provided convincing evidence for his theory. It was full of gaps and unanswered questions. The basic thesis that the American government had demolished the twin towers with explosives to synchronise with the crashes of the aircraft seemed implausible. Since this was a sensitive issue, it was essential that we dealt with it responsibly and, given that I could not see how this theory held true, it would have even been potentially offensive to have broadcast Devan’s interview as it stood. In particular, one issue I had with the interview was that Devan had asked Mr. Rodriguez to simply present his theory, and he had not challenged him or raised any possible objections. That is not how a good BBC interview should be.
7. I therefore took the view that the interview “Last Man Standing” in its form was not broadcastable. Although I did feel this was something that would be of interest to our audience, I felt that it would be irresponsible to run the interview. Because Devan had undertaken a very soft interview with Mr. Rodriguez, I was concerned that we would appear to be presenting this view as possible or likely to be true when, in fact, I felt it was deeply implausible.
8. I did give feedback to Devan why we would not be running the interview. I told him about my concerns with Mr. Rodriguez’s theory and gave my reasons. Devan did not argue or defend the piece, and I would have expected him to have done so as a SBJ, if he believed it was something our audience would be interested in. If he had presented another view, or presented the story in a different format, then it could have been something we could have broadcast. I did take Devan’s pitch seriously, I put a lot of effort into checking the story and asking editorially whether it was right to broadcast, which was an essential part of my role.
From the Claimant’s Supplementary Statement, 9 December 2011.
4. Husain Husaini
(i) Mr. Husaini asserts the claimant wished ‘to broadcast an interview called “Last Man Standing” with William Rodriguez, which focused on conspiracy theories around 9/11.’ This is the first time this allegation has been made. It is a late response to the claimant’s grievance letter of 21 September 2009 sent to Ms Rachel Avenell. (Pars. 5 to 8) Mr. Husaini says he listened to the interview and then researched the matter, reading many pages from a document produced by Mr. Rodriguez. He concluded ‘ it would be potentially offensive to broadcast Devan’s interview as it stood….Devan had asked Mr. Rodriguez to simply present his theory…he had not challenged him or raised any possible objections. This is not how a good BBC interview should be.’
Mr Husaini says he gave feedback to the claimant who was unable to argue or defend the piece; ‘and I would have expected him to have done so as an SBJ.’ The claimant denies that he produced or proposed for broadcast ‘The Last Man Standing’ interview. Mr. Husaini could therefore not have heard this ‘interview’ and his criticism must be entirely fanciful.There is no reference to any audio or transcript of this interview in Mr. Husaini’s Witness Statement
However, Ishfaq Ahmed, the Drive editor, invited Mr. Husaini in early 2006 to listen to preliminary interviews with theologian Dr David Ray Griffin and author Nafeez Ahmed. Mr. Husaini was also given an analysis of the fires in WTC 7 written by Dr Griffin. A series of documentary reports was subsequently proposed as is mentioned in paragraph 4 of page 653 to which Mr. Husaini does refer. These ‘9/11’reports were sent to Mr. Husaini in March 2006. They attracted no further comment and the claimant assumed they had been spiked. Mr. Rodriguez is just one of a host of contributors to the documentary. In any event, there can be no confusion between a series of documentary reports and an in-depth interview. Permission will be sought to include the 9/11 documentary and other audio to support this point in the bundle. Emails on page 1526 and pages 1528-1533 confirm the above sequence of events.
From Husain Husaini’s amended statement, 12 January 2012
1. This is a supplementary witness statement, in addition to my witness statement exchanged with the Claimant on 18 November 2011 (my“Original statement”). I make this supplementary witness statement in response to points raised at paragraph 4(i) of Devan Maistry’s (“Devan”) supplementary witness statement dated 9 December 2011 (“Devan’s Supplementary Statement”).
2. This supplementary witness statement amends paragraphs 5 to 10 of my Original Statement where I refer to one of my earliest encounters with Devan regarding a potential story about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I refer to these exchanges taking place in 2007. After reviewing the emails sent by Devan at page 1528, I see that they were around February 2006, within a month of my joining the network.
3. In paragraph 5, I state that Devan wanted to broadcast an interview called “Last Man Standing” with William Rodriguez, which focused on conspiracy theories around the 9/11 attacks. In Devan’s Supplementary Statement at paragraph 4(i), he denies that he produced or proposed for broadcast a “Last Man Standing” at that time. I now see that Devan is correct that we never discussed an interview with William Rodriguez.
4. Devan also says in his Supplementary Statement that Ishfaq Ahmed, Drive Editor, sent me preliminary interviews with theologian Dr David Ray Griffin and author Nafeez Ahmed to consider in 2006. When I referred to interviews with William Rodriguez at paragraph 5 in my Original Statement I should have referred to these interviews. I remember listening to one of these interviews by Devan and reading many pages written by the interviewee on the subject. These were supplied to me by Devan and Ishfaq Ahmed. The interviews and my further reading were the basis of exchanges that I had with Devan in February 2006 at pages 1528 to 1531, about theories that the 9/11 attacks were the work of the American government. My error came about because at a later point the question of whether the Asian Network should interview William Rodriguez, (who held similar views and author of a book “Last Man Standing”), was discussed and this also formed part of Devan’s ’s later submissions in the grievance letter to Rachel Avenell dated 21 September 2009 (page 653).
5. At pages 1528 to 1531, it can be seen that I considered we could not broadcast these interviews. In my view they had not provided convincing evidence for the theory that the 9/11 attacks were the work ofthe American government. It was full of gaps and unanswered questions. The basic thesis that the American government had demolished the twin towers with explosives to synchronise with the crashes of the aircraft seemed implausible. Since this was a sensitive issue, it was essential that we dealt with it responsibly and, given that I could not see how this theory held true, it would have even been potentially offensive to have broadcast the interview. However, I did give Devan feedback on the interviews at pages 1530 to 1531. I also made it clear on p 1528 and p1529 that I was preparedto consider the matter further and indeed broadcast a carefully produced piece. In these emails I invited Devan to present a piece for me to consider. I cannot recall if Devan ever did follow this up.
From the claimant’s notice of appeal 15 May 2012
(ii) Mr. Husaini severely criticizes non-existent interview
At paragraph 6 of her order of 17 June 2011, Judge Hughes set out the deadlines for the exchange of witness statements. They were to be mutually exchanged by no later than 18 November 2011. Furthermore it stated that, ‘Any supplementary statements shall be mutually exchanged by 9 December 2011. Those further statements shall be limited to commenting on matters arising for the first time in the primary witness statements.’
The Claimant submitted his supplementary statement, addressing only matters arising for the first time, on 9 December 2011 and the Respondent confirmed it would not be serving supplementary statements. In his supplementary statement the Claimant addressed an allegation made for the first time in Mr. Husaini’s witness statement that the Claimant wished in 2007, ‘to broadcast an interview called ‘Last Man Standing’ with William Rodriguez, which focused on conspiracy theories around 9/11.’ Mr. Husaini said at paragraph 6 of his witness statement that Mr. Rodriguez’s basic thesis, ‘that the American government had demolished the twin towers with explosives to synchronise with the crashes of the aircraft seemed implausible.’
At paragraph 5 Mr. Husaini said he had listened to the interview and then researched the matter, reading many pages from a document produced by Mr. Rodriguez. He concluded, ‘it would be potentially offensive to broadcast Devan’s interview as it stood… Devan had asked Mr. Rodriguez to simply present his theory…he had not challenged him or raised any possible objections. This is not how a good BBC interview should be.’ At paragraph 8 he said he gave feedback to the Claimant who was unable to argue or defend the piece, ‘and I would have expected him to have done so as an SBJ, if he believed it was something our audience would be interested in.’
In his supplementary statement the Claimant denied he produced or proposed for broadcast ‘The Last Man Standing’ interview, that Mr. Husaini could not therefore have heard this ‘interview’, and that his criticism must be entirely fanciful. The Claimant recalled that Ishfaq Ahmed, the Drive Editor had invited Mr. Husaini in early 2006 to listen to preliminary interviews with theologian Dr David Ray Griffin and author Nafeez Ahmed. Mr. Husaini was also given an analysis of the fires in WTC7 and its collapse written by Dr Griffin. A series of documentary reports was subsequently proposed as is mentioned in paragraph 4 of page 653 to which Mr. Husaini refers.
The Claimant concluded in his supplementary statement that, ‘these ‘9/11 reports were sent to Mr. Husaini in March 2006. They attracted no further comment and the claimant assumed they had been spiked. Mr. Rodriguez is just one of a host of contributors to the documentary. In any event, there can be no confusion between a series of documentary reports and an in-depth interview. Permission will be sought to include the ‘9/11’ documentary and other audio to support this point in the bundle. Emails on page 1526 and pages 1528-1533 confirm the above sequence of events.’
On 12 January 2012, more than a month later after the date for exchange, the Respondent lodged a supplementary statement by Mr. Husaini, amending his original statement. At a telephone CMD on 16 January Employment Judge Monk confirmed the statement could be relied upon despite the Claimant’s objection.
In his supplementary statement (paragraph 3), Mr. Husaini accepted the Claimant was correct and that an interview with Mr. Rodriguez was not discussed in 2007. At paragraph 4 he says that when he referred to ‘The Last Man Standing’ interview he should have referred to the preliminary interviews with David Ray Griffin and Nafeez Ahmed mentioned by the Claimant. He says he remembers listening to one of these interviews and reading many pages by the interviewee on the subject. He claims he confused the interviews because Mr. Rodriguez held similar views about the 9/11 attacks and had written a book ‘Last Man Standing’.
Mr. Husaini was never sent the interviews with Dr Griffin and Nafeez Ahmed as he could not commit to listen to them (p 1528). He actually listened to a few clips from these interviews in a recording studio with the Claimant and Mr. Ahmed. These clips were being played to him by Mr. Ahmed to illustrate the possibilities of critical and credible voices that could be used together with official views to sustain a week of debate on the Drive program in line with greater editorial ambition.
The Claimant thought it would be helpful if Mr. Husaini read an account of the destruction of WTC 7 which was not hit by a plane. This was offered because the official investigation had suggested it might never be able to adequately explain the collapse but also to shift the focus away from crude ‘conspiracy theories’ and encourage Mr. Husaini to keep a more open mind. This analysis showed that the impact of the fires in the building was limited and that features of the collapse were characteristic of implosion. In his response at page 1530 Mr. Husaini talks about the government flying planes into buildings and blowing them up. This is clearly unrelated to the material he was given to read.
From: Husain Husaini
Sent: 01 February 2006 11:28
To: Devan Maistry; Ishfaq Ahmed
Subject: I read
the document you gave me. I’m sorry if you aren’t going to like what I think.
I’m afraid I am far from convinced.
I am not a structural engineer so I can’t really argue with much of what he says but I find some of his arguments contradictory. Particularly about molten steel and horizontal matter flying out of the buildings.. I could tell you my thoughts if you want them.
More importantly is that his alternative theory seems to have no evidence to support it. It also begs even more questions than the official version.
Why would the government fly planes into buildings AND blow them up? Belt and braces?
Why would the government not worry about killing thousands knocking the towers down BUT worry enough about them falling sideways so much that they would be willing to employ specialist explosives experts to blow them up
Why would the government risk a covert operation that would have to use many many people all of whom could leak. Particularly as he seems to suggest that some emergency services KNEW about the explosives and particularly once those involved realised how many people they were going to kill.
Why are there no witnesses to people going into the building with explosives…it can’t be that easy to stick tonnes of dynamite in a busy public building.
But strangely it’s his theories on building 7 that are most damaging to his case. Why would the government blow up building 7 at all? Let’s face it few people will have heard about it. They had no need to so why take the extra risk of another massive explosives operation. Surely it is far more plausible that it was the knock on effects of the twin towers falling on top of building 7 that brought it down.
My view is that to run these interviews would be a mistake and would make our network look credulous. Please consult me further before you consider using the material. ‘
Despite this straw man response, replete with contradictions, Mr. Husaini agreed tentatively to consider a documentary on the subject. At page 1528 the Claimant reports the outcome of his negotiations with Mr. Husaini to Mr. Ahmed. The Claimant summarizes, ‘what we are looking at is why the movement to re-open the 9/11 enquiry is growing despite the publication of a substantial official report purporting to explain what happened on that day.’
Mr. Husaini was later sent the ‘9/11’ documentary. In his supplementary witness statement at paragraph 5 he says, ‘I invited Devan to present a piece for me to consider. I cannot recall if Devan ever did follow this up.’
In cross-examination Mr. Husaini was taken to an email exchange with Mr. Ahmed at page 1532. He was asked whether his response to Mr. Ahmed was appropriate or relevant.
From: Ishfaq Ahmed
Sent: 08 September 2006 13:43
To: Husain Husaini
It’s 9/11 on Monday – I’d like to do the following hits on it …
1600 Taleet Hamdani from a group called Peaceful Tomorrows. Taleet is a woman of Pakistani origin who lost her son in 9/11. She doesn’t believe in the official version of events and wants an inquiry into what happened.
1700 Frank Gardner – is the war on terror being won by UK and America
1800 Member of the 9/11 commission on the thoroughness of their investigations against a member of an interfaith group on what they say are questions still unanswered.
By the way – Devan has had no input into these thoughts! Let me know what you think …
From: Husain Husaini
Sent: 08 September 2006 14:01
To: Ishfaq Ahmed
Subject: RE: Monday
i think it’s fine to say to someone…
“there are of course lots of conspiracy theories.. some academics in america even say this was an inside job and the americans deliberatly blew up the twin towers themselves..and the plane attack was just a front… what do you think about these kinds of theories”
to either Frank or the commission person..
and then you can hear them laugh like a drain …
In June 2007 the Claimant responded to an email in which he was specifically and unnecessarily cited by Mr. Husaini.
From: Husain Husaini
Sent: 15 June 2007 06:53
To: Pamela Gupta; Asian Network Breakfast; Asian Network News
Subject: Re: 9/11 LAST MAN OUT | WILLIAM RODRIGUEZ
As Devan and anyone from the mornings team will tell you I get quite exercised by 9-11 conspiracy theories….
If you ever want to do anything on them give me a shout first…
He may have rescued a lot of people but it doesn’t change the facts…
From: Devan Maistry
Sent: Wed 20/06/2007 09:09
To: Husain Husaini; Pamela Gupta; Asian Network Breakfast; Asian Network News
Subject: FW: Conspiracy theory: Last Man Standing
‘Husain attracts attention to the perils of reporting 9/11 conspiracy theories. Here are some thoughts on an issue which can divide and impoverish newsrooms…’
The Claimant’s reply to Mr. Husaini at p 654 to 658, was read by the Tribunal. The Claimant suggested that even when dealing with controversial issues, the BBC’s established practice of meticulous investigation and accurate reporting should be the standard response.
The Tribunal at 7.12 found the Claimant, ‘wished to broadcast two interviews which focused on conspiracy theories in relation to 9/11, and in particular on the theory that the American government was responsible for the attacks and had arranged to blow up the twin towers with explosives at the same time as crashing two aircraft into the buildings. Mr. Husaini considered that the claimant showed poor editorial judgment…’
There is no evidence that any interviews were produced for broadcast or that the clips Mr. Husaini heard advanced the conspiracy theory he describes. In any event he says he only heard one of the interviews. It has already been shown that Mr. Husaini raised the same straw man argument in his response to Mr. Ahmed as he did when sent an analysis of the collapse of WTC 7. Moreover in February 2006 the Claimant was in charge of the Language programs. The output of these programs is in South Asian languages. It would have made no sense for the Claimant to approach Mr. Husaini to broadcast interviews in English.
The Tribunal says, ‘Mr. Husaini had changed his evidence, but only to the extent that he accepted that the interviews were with Dr David Ray Griffin and Nafeez Ahmed, not William Rodriguez. For the avoidance of doubt we do not consider this in any way impacted on Mr. Husaini’s credibility. He admitted his mistake, which we consider to be a minor one, particularly given that he was having to recall an incident that, by the point of drafting his witness statement, was several years old and he remained consistent on the remaining facts relating to the incident, which were in any event consistent with the emails referred to above at pages 1528 – 1531.’
Any consistency with the emails would have derived from Mr. Husaini reading them before drafting his changed statement to meet the Claimant’s challenge. He did not admit his mistake until he had received and read the Claimant’s supplementary statement. He still maintains Mr. Rodriguez wrote a book called ‘Last Man standing’, although this is untrue. Mr. Husaini was under no pressure to reinvent this incident which was never raised as a performance issue previously. The only suggestion that the attacks were orchestrated by an amorphous American government, or indeed Americans, comes from Mr. Husaini himself.
He says in his witness statement, ‘Devan refers to this (the Last Man Standing interview) in his grievance latter to Rachel Avenell dated 21 September 2009 at page 653. He states that it has been suggested that he is not capable of finding stories to satisfy the Asian Network and refers to this example as evidence that this is incorrect’.
At page 653 the Claimant says, ‘A story of particular and obvious importance to our listeners concerns the numerous anomalies and inconsistencies in the official 9/11 narrative. Ishfaq Ahmed, the then editor of the Drive Program was keen that we canvass the issue and suggested a series of documentary reports.’
Quite clearly Mr. Husaini is addressing the 9/11 documentary which was sent to him and which featured Mr. Rodriguez. Mr. Husaini at paragraph 10 of his witness statement says an email he sent at page 328, ‘does not imply that Devan is a conspiracy theorist and this was not my intention at all.’ As the judgment shows, his testimony has established that to the complete satisfaction of the Tribunal, without a shred of proof.
Pertinently, Mr. Husaini’s criticism of the ‘Last Man Standing’ interview is by far the most serious attack on the Claimant’s journalistic reputation. It is delivered with assurance and certainty, and allegedly only after serious listening, painstaking research and careful thought in 2007. It is remarkable that the Tribunal concludes this aura remains undisturbed.
It was not possible to press Mr. Husaini in cross- examination, on the inconsistencies in his evidence, as the Tribunal informed the Claimant that Mr. Husaini’ had provided an explanation in his supplementary statement. It is also remarkable that Mr. Husaini could claim to have heard interviews prepared for broadcast by the Claimant when it is the Respondent’s contention that the Claimant was unable to edit a basic package or record an interview.
It is a ground of appeal that the Tribunal’s conclusion that Mr. Husaini’s credibility was unblemished, given the evidence presented, is perverse and the acceptance of his claims reflects extreme bias.