Are the UK's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the biggest unlawful use of funds by public servants in UK history?
You realise, the question hinges on whether or not the escapades in Iraq and Afghanistan are "terrorism" in the meaning of Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
If they are then, in my view, all the spending on military action in Afghanistan and in Iraq was unlawful.
If it's the case that those wars were "terrorism" then the spending of tens (?) of billions of pounds on them was unlawful spending.
When will Chilcot have the courage to bite that bullet?
In addition, as well as any general criminal liability with regard to spending of public funds on unlawful purposes, the Terrorism Act specifies individual offences relating to financial aspects of terrorism.
In Section 15, it is an offence to raise funds for purposes of terrorism. Will we see Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in the dock? I suspect not but logically they have done what's specified as an offence in Section 15.
In Section 16, it's an offence to use money for purposes of terrorism. Many Ministry of Defence civil servants may have done just that.
In Section 17, it's an offence to enter into "funding arrangements" where funds are passed to another and end up being used for terrorism. Just how many individuals does that describe?
In Section 19, there is a provision which is highly unusual in UK law. Anyone knowing or suspecting an offence under sections 15, 16 or 17 (and gets that information in the course of his employment) commits an offence if he doesn't tell the Police "as soon as reasonably practicable". The penalty, specified in Section 19(8)(a) is up to 5 years in prison and a fine.
Alastair Darling is certainly in an interesting position in deciding how to respond to my communication to HM Treasury's ministers yesterday. I wonder what advice he's getting on my interpretation of these issues and whether the obligations specified in Section 19 of the Terrorism Act 2000 apply to him. Perhaps he wishes that he lived in times which were a little less "interesting"?
So, to understate the situation just a tad, this all hinges on whether or not Goldsmith told the truth about the war being lawful in UK law, doesn't it?
Did he ask the questions that I've been asking today? And did he look assiduously to establish the evidence for his assertion of compliance with national law as a competent professional should have done before telling his Ministry of Defence client that it was lawful?
Or has Goldsmith dropped the biggest boo boo in legal history?
Lucky Sir John Chilcot has the task of finding out.