David Leigh

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Biographical Details

David Leigh, the investigations editor of the Guardian, is one of Britain’s best-known investigative journalists. In his career, he has revealed £1 billion paid to Saudi prince Bandar by arms company BAE, put government minister Jonathan Aitken in jail over arms sales, and exposed secret payments to prime minister’s son, Mark Thatcher. In 2007, along with Rob Evans, he won the Paul Foot Award for Investigative Journalism for their BAE revelations, the “What the Papers Say” Investigative journalist of the Year (for BAE) the same year, and in the British Press Awards has been, among other things, judged campaigning journalist of the year and investigative reporter of the year. A former producer/director for World in Action, he is the author or co-author of ten books. David is the first Anthony Sampson professor of reporting at City University and teaches on the MA in Investigative Journalism. He is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. [1]

Vendetta against Wikileaks and Julian Assange

In December 2010, prior to Julian Assange's court hearing in London, David Leigh published an article that relied on leaked information coming either from the Swedish police or intelligence services.[2] It was a rather unflattering article focusing on the sexual allegations against Assange. Then on 1 February 2011, David Leigh published some extracts of his upcoming book[3] attacking Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Therein he claims that Wikileaks paid a "holocaust denier", "anti-semite", and a "pro-Lukashenko propagandist", and entrusted that person to distribute all Russian-related materials and those about "the Jews". Leigh claims that Wikileaks relationship with Israel Shamir brought the nature of Wikileaks into disrepute [4]. Israel Shamir's take on David Leigh's (and John Sweeney) reportage: [5]

Looking back, the signs of danger were easy to see. They were producing a program about Wikileaks, but they had no plans to interview Julian Assange. Perhaps he is too busy? Furthermore, the questions began to take on a sinister tone. I shrugged off the feeling as a by-product of all the dirty politics we were discussing, but a few telephone conversations later my ill feelings finally seeped into my swelled head and it dawned on me what was going on. These nice chaps from the BBC were actually collecting dirt to use against Wikileaks! I was being played for a sucker. Suddenly I felt like Julian Assange, face to face with the honey trap.
The clincher was a letter I just received from producer John Sweeney, outlining the substance of the broadcast. It does not read like a television show, it reads like a criminal indictment. Every wild accusation is listed, and those without a shred of evidence are given pride of place. Most amazing of all, the Sweeney letter includes some lines lifted from a missive I had sent to Julian some time ago. The words were taken out of context and they were a misquotation of the original, but I recognise my prose. Some questions immediately spring to mind. How did the BBC get their hands on my private correspondence? Does the BBC actually steal private mail, or do they hire out? Ominously, this is not the first time this has happened to me. Another private letter of mine was (mis)quoted by The Guardian’s investigative editor David Leigh. Is it too conspiratorial of me to recognise a disturbing pattern? Could it be that the alleged three stolen laptops of Julian Assange found their last resting place at Leigh&Sweeney after a brief sojourn at Langley?
John Sweeney and David Leigh are cut from different cloth, but they both know how to play the journalism game. Leigh smoulders with jealousy. He plays the Salieri to Assange’s Mozart, but he thinks of himself as the unsung hero of Wikileaks. A hero? Rather, a villain. As Bill Keller of the New York Times admitted it was Leigh who “concluded that these rogue leaks (he engineered them) released The Guardian from any pledge”. Since then, he’s started his own private war against Wikileaks. His liaison with Sweeney was a convenient one. Sweeney is the sort of guy you assign to smear Mother Theresa. He has skated along thus far because only the very rich might contemplate suing the BBC, but he has been found by a court to be a libeller at least one time. Sweeney's lunatic outbursts of fury are calculated to intimidate interviewees and have been preserved for posterity. It is all too plain to me now why Assange and company refused to have anything to do with Panorama and its pre-planned outcome. It is all too obvious to me now why they came hunting for your humble narrator.

What is surprising about Leigh's attacks on wikileaks and Julian Assange is that Leigh's newspaper, The Guardian, directly benefited from the cablegate and the Afghanistan-military-cables releases. This material helped propel The Guardian's visibility world-wide, and this was achieve by merely reporting on the leaked materials obtained from wikileaks for free. While benefiting greatly from the wikileaks materials, the Guardian also provided a platform to attack both Julian Assange and wikileaks.


Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. People, The Investigations Fund, accessed January 15, 2011.
  2. Julian Assange discusses the nature of the leaked information and the smear article written against him in an interview with David Frost, Al Jazeera, 22 December 2010, around the 15:40 minute mark.
  3. David Leigh and Luke Harding, Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy, Guardian Books, 2011.
  4. David Leigh and Luke Harding, Holocaust denier in charge of handling Moscow cables, The Guardian, 1 February 2011. (note date of online publication is different from the newspaper publication date)
  5. Israel Shamir, BBC Joins Smear Campaign Against Assange and Wikileaks, CounterPunch, 1 February 2011.