By Anthony L Hall
The BBC was forced to issue a public apology to Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday after one of its journalists blithely recounted a private conversation she had with him a few years ago about an alleged terrorist who was living openly and notoriously in London.
The conversation should have remained private and the BBC and Frank deeply regret this breach of confidence. It was wholly inappropriate. Frank is extremely sorry for the embarrassment caused and has apologised to the Palace
Anthony L. Hall is a descendant of the Turks & Caicos Islands, international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who publishes his own weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at http://ipjn.com offering commentaries on current events from a Caribbean perspective
The terrorist in question is Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri who is wanted in the United States for masterminding, inciting, and/or facilitating various acts of terrorism.
However, like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, al-Masri had been fighting extradition for the past eight years -- complete with appeals right up to the European Court of Human Rights, which finally ruled on Tuesday that British authorities could extradite him without further ado.
This ruling is what prompted BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner to recount on a radio program how Her Majesty expressed royal outrage that al-Masri was still free to proselytize his jihadist form of Islam on the streets of London.
No doubt in this age of WikiLeaks, Facebook, Twitter … and telephoto lenses nothing seems confidential or private anymore. More to the point, I would be the first to dismiss -- as fairytale nonsense -- much of the genuflection that passes for royal protocol.
But everyone in the UK knows that part of what makes the Queen so revered and respected is the constitutional fiction that she is above politics. It is no accident, for example, that she never gives interviews or holds press conferences.
This is why it was so inconceivable that any one in public life, especially a journalist, would dare recount anything she said in private -- especially of such a political nature. For this clearly undermines the ceremonial role on which the monarchy is based.
I would understand if Gardner were a republican who has no regard for the Queen and even less for royal protocol. But by all accounts he is an unabashed monarchist, which makes this breach all the more incomprehensible.
After all, Gardner recounting what the Queen said in private constitutes an even greater betrayal of long-established royal convention than that paparazzo taking pictures of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless.