The top brass, senior diplomats, MI6 - they all knew what Liam Fox and his friend Adam Werritty were up to. They did not know everything that enterprising journalists from the Guardian and subsequently other newspapers have disclosed. But they knew that Fox and Werritty were pursuing their own priorities and interests - in the US, Israel, Iran, and Sri Lanka. The question which the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, should address in his report, expected on Tuesday, along with how Fox breached the ministerial code of conduct, something the former defence secretary has in effect admitted already, is why didn't they blow the whistle.
The former chief of defence staff Air Chief Marshal (now Lord) Stirrup, and Sir Bill Jeffrey, former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, are reported to have expressed their concerns some time ago.
So what happened after this whistle-blowing? Well, nothing. No 10 didn't want to hear. And note that these two luminaries are now former luminaries. But The Guardian goes on to put the boot in:
It is "inconceivable" that Ursula Brennan, Jeffrey's successor, did not know what was going on, says one well-placed official. How much we do not know. What is clear is that the affair has demonstrated that officials seem frightened to reveal their anxieties - to speak truth to power. They seemed cowed.
Aye well, what would you do, if your career depended on it, and when you already know that Mr Cameron is not in the least interested?