Opening a can of worms By William Bowles

21 July 2003

Who was Dr David Kelly?
Head of the infamous Porton Down, Britain’s own WMD factory from 1984 to 1992, and who in 1989 was approached by MI6 to help debrief a Soviet defector from the Soviet Union’s CBW programme, it seems inconceivable that a man with this kind of background and over such a long period of time, wasn’t privy to the most confidential government information, which gives the lie to the claim by the government that he was approached some time in 2002 to supply information to the September document simply because he was the most knowledgeable person in the field, unless he was utterly trustworthy on a political level. Moreover, there was a six month delay between the announcement of publishing the document and the date of its actual publication, a delay which hasn’t been explained.

Too many unanswered questions
It is being suggested that he went through some kind of ‘sea change’ last year during his frequent visits to Iraq as part of the Unmovic inspection team and that he was convinced that Iraq had indeed, destroyed its CBW weapons. According to an unnamed analyst quoted by the Independent, he became disillusioned with the government over the use of the 45 minute claim used in the September document and that Gilligan wasn’t the only journalist he gave this information to. Yet Gilligan is the only journalist to have used it, so how come the other journalists he gave the information to haven’t come forward? But according to the government, after hearing Gilligan’s ‘sexing up’ report on the BBC, he went to his line manager because he was worried because some of the points he’d given to Gilligan featured in Gilligan’s story, although he was sure he wasn’t the source. There are two worrying aspects to this account: Why speak to Gilligan in the first place if he was worried about it getting out? After all, what did he expect Gilligan to do with the information except use it? And second, if he was so sure he wasn’t the source of Gilligan’s story, what was he worried about? Or was he just trying to cover his back with the MoD? The other worrying aspect of the role of Kelly in this entire affair is if Kelly wasn’t the source of the allegation about Campbell’s role in ‘sexing up’ the document, where did Gilligan get the information from and why did he use it, knowing full well that without a means of backing it up, he would be vulnerable.

The media blasts the media
So yet another diversion is needed as the Kelly affair backfired badly, and by blaming the BBC (again) it would seem that’s exactly what the government is trying to do. Predictably, today’s Times (21/07/03) launched a virulent attack on the BBC, accusing Gilligan of “sex[ing] up its coverage” and went to say that:

“But is now the BBC that appears to have deliberately deceived viewers, listeners, its Board of Governors and Parliament about the origins of this extraordinary battle with the government.”

Gilligan stands by his report, and so he should, given that the information in the September document that was under scrutiny, was clearly false, whether or not Alistair Campbell ordered the Niger fakes and 45 minutes disinformation be included or not. And predictably, the Independent has also put the blame on the BBC:

“The BBC faced a deepening crisis last night after admitting that David Kelly, the government scientist who apparently committed suicide, was the principal source of its claim that Downing Street “sexed up” a dossier on Iraqi weapons. Although the BBC stood by its report, the admission cast doubt over the accuracy of its claim”

But the Independent doesn’t say how Kelly’s denials to the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs last week, that he was not the source of Gilligan’s ‘leak,’ changes a single thing. There are two issues at stake here: The first is the fact that the Niger uranium docs and the 45 minute claim, both proved to be false and the second, that Alistair Campbell, chief spin doctor for Tony Blair, ordered the inclusion, an assertion which has been denied by the government. So what is it that the Independent is referring to when it says the BBC’s report is not accurate? They don’t say.

Fall guy, honest guy or plant?
It’s possible of course, that Kelly fed information to Gilligan that was partially correct and partially incorrect, perhaps deliberately so. After all, it enabled the government to cast doubt on both claims, as the accusation that it was Campbell and not the government or the Joint Intelligence Committee that insisted on including the false information, achieved to things: firstly, it took the heat off the government and secondly, it enabled the government to use Kelly as a ‘fall guy’. And the fact that Kelly changed his story doesn’t mean that Gilligan got it wrong. The question however, that the media are not asking, is why did Kelly speak to Gilligan in the first place? Was he really concerned that the government was ‘overstating’ its case as the Independent says, or was he ordered to by his masters in the MoD? But with his death, apparently by suicide, unless someone else comes forward, we’ll never know. And, amazingly, the admission by the MoD that it released Kelly’s name last week as the source (though not directly from the MoD) adds further ammunition to the suspect role that Kelly played in the entire affair. The major objective however, that of shifting the focus from why the UK went to war onto the ‘leaks,’ has been achieved, but in achieving one objective, it has opened a can of worms on how the government operates and especially its relationship to the media.

It’s official: Niger nukes story a lie
And at last, we have official confirmation that the claims by the government that Iraq got uranium from Niger at any time, is completely untrue. According to the report in the Independent, The French Ambassador, Denis Vène told the Sunday Telegraph that it was “impossible for uranium to leave the country without French officials knowing about it.” And this includes Blah’s claim that the Iraqis purchased 270 tonnes back in the 1980s and that they had come back for more. So when will we see an acknowledgement from the UK government that they lied to us? And this is backed up by the minister of mines in Niger, Rabiou Hassane Yari that he was “sure and certain” Iraq had never bought uranium from them. “It’s not true. The Iraqis, but there was never any transaction” in reference to the alleged 1980s transaction of “270 tonnes.” Moreover, Yari said that the request was never secret. In spite of Blah’s claims to the contrary, when the 45 minute and Niger nuke claims are removed from the September document, there’s not a single piece of evidence to justify the invasion. Methinks that it’s the fact that with every passing day, we learn more and more about the depth and extent of the lies that are being peddled by the government that underpins the Kelly, Gilligan, BBC fiasco and reflects the desperate state the government is in as its entire justification for the invasion unravels.

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