Government apologises to blacklisted chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta
Under threat of legal action, the British government has apologised to a leading victim of its secret blacklisting policies.
Posted on 12 July 2023
Dan Kaszeta, a prominent chemical weapons expert, was disinvited from a government conference held in May with an email saying that an “impartial and purely evidence-based” check had found in his social media posts “material that criticises government officials and policy”.
Mr Kaszeta, who held senior posts in the US government before moving to Britain, was not told what posts had led to him being blacklisted.
Now, following correspondence sent on his behalf by law firm Leigh Day, Mr Kaszeta has received an apology from the conference hosts, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (“DSTL”), offering “sincere apologies” for the “error”.
“The decision was incorrectly taken following informal checks of your social media posts,” the letter reads. It blames “misapplication” of Cabinet Office guidance applying to “Cabinet Office staff events”.
But the government response raises more questions than it answers, says Mr Kaszeta.
Government legal correspondence to Mr Kaszeta admits that individuals in the DSTL blacklisted Mr Kaszeta based on unpublished Cabinet Office guidance, which was leaked to the press in August 2022.
This guidance is entirely separate to that which was provided by Jeremy Quin MP to the House of Commons Library on 17 May 2023. This relates to “cross-Government Diversity Networks”. In earlier legal correspondence, the Government had falsely claimed that this guidance applied in Mr Kaszeta’s case.
The Government have now stated that both Guidance documents are “in the process of being reviewed”.
Mr Kaszeta hailed “vindication” but said that other questions remained unanswered.
Dan Kaszeta said:
“The fact that a policy was applied to me in error does not address the issue that such policies do actually exist across Government.”
The case was first highlighted by Edward Lucas, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for the Cities of London and Westminster constituency, where Mr Kaszeta lives.
Edward Lucas said:
“This belated apology just digs an even bigger hole for the government. How many other experts have been blacklisted under these policies? Will they get apologies too?
“Any guidance on checking and banning outside speakers at government events should be lawful and transparent, and administered fairly and accountably.”
Leigh Day partner Tessa Gregory said:
“We are delighted that our client has received an unreserved apology but we continue to have serious concerns about the legality of the policies that are being applied. Vetting speakers’ social media and placing greater scrutiny on those who are critical of the Government plainly undermines the impartiality of the civil service, runs contrary to data protection laws and is likely to lead to people being discriminated against because of their political or philosophical beliefs in breach of the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act.”
Ben Collins KC of Old Square Chambers, Jane Russell of Essex Court and George Molyneaux of Blackstone Chambers are instructed by Leigh Day on behalf of Mr Kaszeta.
Kaszeta’s crowdfunded legal action will continue.
Tessa is an experienced litigator who specialises in international and domestic human rights law cases
Defence weapons expert Dan Kaszeta legally challenges Government over decision to “no platform” him
Defence weapons expert Dan Kaszeta has launched a legal challenge to Cabinet office guidance which requires civil servants to vet the social media of proposed speakers and resulted in him being disinvited to a conference he had been asked to address.