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Probe into weapons expert's death exonerates Blair


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Probe into weapons expert's

death exonerates Blair

Lord Hutton chides BBC over report on British evidence about Iraq's WMD

British Prime Minister Tony Blair leaves Downing Street on Wednesday, hours before Lord Hutton released his report.

The Associated Press

Updated: 9:54 a.m. ET Jan. 28, 2004LONDON - A judge cleared Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration Wednesday of any direct involvement in the suicide of a government expert on Iraqi weapons but criticized the BBC for its reporting in the scandal that shook the British leadership.


The government did not act in a “dishonorable, underhanded or duplicitous†way in revealing the identity of weapons expert David Kelly, said senior appeals judge Lord Hutton, who was appointed by Blair to investigate the death.

Hutton said he was satisfied that nobody involved in the matter could have foreseen that Kelly would take his own life.

He killed himself after being identified as the anonymous source of the British Broadcasting Corp. report accusing the government of exaggerating claims about Iraqi weapons to bolster support for war.

Blair cleared of manipulating dossier

Hutton also said the BBC report that Blair’s government had manipulated its intelligence in an official dossier about Iraq’s weapons was unfounded. He specifically rebutted the BBC report that the government had “sexed up†the dossier.

“I am satisfied that none of the persons whose decisions and actions I later describe ever contemplated that Dr. Kelly might take his own life. I’m further satisfied that none of those persons was at fault in not contemplating that Dr. Kelly might take his own life,†Hutton said on national TV as he read from his 328-page decision.

“Whatever pressures and strains Dr. Kelly was subjected to by the decisions and actions taken in the weeks before his death, I am satisfied that no one realized or should have realized that those pressures and strains might lead him to take his own life,†Hutton said.

In his report, BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan had quoted his source as saying that Blair’s government had “sexed up†the intelligence dossier on Iraq’s arms to bolster its argument for the war in Iraq, including a claim that they could be deployed in 45 minutes.

'The allegations reported by Mr. Gilligan on 29 May 2003 that the government probably knew that the 45-minutes claim was wrong before the government decided to put it in the dossier was an allegation that was unfounded.'

— Lord Hutton

Senior appeals judge

The subsequent feud between the government and the BBC over the report raised widespread concerns about Blair’s integrity and led to the biggest crisis of his seven years in office.

“Whether or not at some time in the future the report on which the 45-minute claim was based was shown to be unreliable, the allegations reported by Mr. Gilligan on 29 May 2003 that the government probably knew that the 45-minutes claim was wrong before the government decided to put it in the dossier was an allegation that was unfounded,†Hutton said.

The judge also said that Kelly had acted improperly by privately meeting with Gilligan and had breached rules regarding government employees contacts with the media because he hadn’t been given permission from his superiors for such a meeting.

Judge criticizes the BBC

Hutton sharply criticized the publicly funded BBC’s “defective†handling of Gilligan’s story, saying the network’s editors had failed to properly check the reporter’s allegations and did not properly investigate the government’s complaints about his report.

The judge criticized the BBC’s Board of Governors for failing to fully investigate the criticism of Gilligan’s report and would have probably discovered it to be unfounded if they had.

Hutton pored over documents, e-mails, official minutes and extracts from the personal diary of Alastair Campbell, Blair’s former communications director, which provided insights into the interplay of politics and policies at the highest level.

The scandal has damaged the credibility of Blair, Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, senior government officials and the BBC.

Hutton’s hearings, lasting most of August and September, transfixed the country, which remains deeply divided about Blair’s decision to back the U.S. attack on Iraq.

The retired chief U.S. weapons inspector, David Kay, said last week that he concluded that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, which were the basis of Blair’s case for war.

© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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Originally posted by marksimons

but it's a fucking side show...

a distraction, to avoid a proper investigation of the reasons we went to war...


fucking pisses me off...

Kill yourself blowhard....

BBC chairman resigns over Kelly affair

1 hour, 19 minutes ago

By Roger Blitz in London

Gavyn Davies, BBC chairman, has resigned after Lord Hutton criticised the broadcaster's "defective" editorial controls but cleared Tony Blair (news - web sites) of wrongdoing in the circumstances leading to the death of weapons scientist David Kelly.

In a written statement, Mr Davies said that although working for the BBC had been the "greatest privilege of my professional life" he felt that the "chairman should take personal responsibility for ensuring that the highest standards of accuracy and impartiality are maintained in its news output."

Lord Hutton concluded that the government's strategy of making public Mr Kelly's name as "The source of the BBC's Iraq (news - web sites) dossier story was not "dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous". The former senior law lord instead heaped blame on the BBC and Andrew Gilligan, its defence correspondent, for flawed reporting.

Lord Hutton's report, published after months of investigation, said Mr Gilligan's story accusing the government of "sexing up" its dossier on Iraq's weapons capability - to strengthen its case for war - was unfounded.

It said the BBC's editorial system was "defective" for allowing the original claim to be broadcast without approval while BBC managers failed to appreciate that Mr Gilligan's notes did not support his allegations. BBC governors then failed to investigate properly the government?s complaints about the story.

"The Governors are to be criticised for themselves failing to make more detailed investigations into whether this allegation reported by Mr Gilligan was properly supported by his notes and for failing to give proper and adequate consideration to whether the BBC should publicly acknowledge that this very grave allegation should not have been broadcast," said Lord Hutton.

Mr Blair, speaking immediately after the publication of the report, described it as a "thorough, detailed and clear document that leaves no room for interpretation." He added: "The allegations went to the heart of my integrity as prime minister."

Lord Hutton concluded that Mr Kelly, whose body was found in woods a few miles from his Oxfordshire home, had taken his own life. After swallowing painkillers he took a knife and slashed his left wrist.

The inquiry heard evidence from among others the prime minister, John Scarlett, the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, and Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6. It looked into Mr Gilligan's central accusation - that the government had known beforehand that the September 2002 dossier's claim that Iraq had the capability of deploying weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes was untrue.

The judge said the 45-minute claim was based on a report from a source regarded by the Secret Intelligence Service as reliable. Whether or not the report was later shown to be unreliable, Mr Gilligan's allegation that the government already knew that to be the case - prior to its insertion in the document - was, in Lord Hutton's view, unfounded.

The 45-minute claim had not appeared in the original draft of the dossier because the intelligence had arrived too late for inclusion, Lord Hutton said.

Lord Hutton, who described the Gilligan accusation as "a very grave allegation" which attacked the integrity of the government and of the intelligence community, was also satisfied that Mr Scarlett had acted correctly in accepting amendment suggestions to the dossier from Alistair Campbell, the then prime minister?s director of communications, since it was to be presented to and read by parliament and the public.

However, Lord Hutton did not rule out the possiblity that Mr Blair's desire for a dossier that warned strongly of the threat posed by Iraq's WMD "may have subconciously influenced" Mr Scarlett and other members of the JIC to strengthen its wording.

He concluded that Mr Kelly's contact with Mr Gilligan was unauthorised and in breach of Civil Service procedure. He also believed Mr Kelly may have said more than he had intended at their meeting and "did not realise the gravity of the situation which he was helping to create by discussing intelligence matters with Mr Gilligan".

Mr Kelly should have been given more help by the Ministry of Defence when his name became known to the press, which in itself must have made him feel that he had been let down by his employer, Lord Hutton said.

But the judge accepted the government's argument that once Mr Kelly had alerted his line managers that he was the likely source of the BBC story, it would have been charged with a serious cover-up if it did not reveal that a civil servant had come forward.

The assistance the MoD press office gave journalists in identifying Mr Kelly was based on the view that the press was bound to discover his name "and that it was not a practical possibility to keep his name secret".

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