February 10, 2004
"A great cloud hangs over public broadcasting in Britain since Lord Hutton's trial and sentencing of the BBC," Media Watch host David Marr intoned last night. "Yet for the journalist at the centre of the fuss, Andrew Gilligan, it's been a great week, as more evidence emerged that his story was essentially correct." According to Marr, the core of Gilligan's story is "looking better and better":
Gilligan, May 29: "... our source says that the dossier, as it was finally published, made the Intelligence Services unhappy, erm, because, to quote erm the source he said, there was basically, that there was, there was, there was unhappiness because it didn't reflect, the considered view they were putting forward ..."
Said Marr: "Here Gilligan and the BBC were right on the money. Last week, the Defence Department's former chief intelligence analyst of Saddam's weaponry [Dr Brian Jones], wrote in London's Independent newspaper that his experts working on the dossier were 'very disgruntled' and 'right to be concerned' as the deadline for its publication loomed":
In my view the expert intelligence analysts of the D[efence] I[ntelligence] S[taff] were overruled in the preparation of the dossier in September 2002 resulting in a presentation that was misleading about Iraq’s capabilities.
At issue here is who did the overruling. You'd assume from Marr's presentation that the government was somehow involved, especially as Marr followed that quote from the Independent with this line:
Witnesses told Lord Hutton how Downing Street had carefully massaged the dossier with the response of the media in mind.
But, as Melanie Phillips pointed out on the day the Independent’s story was published, the overruling Dr Jones complains about was nothing to do with Downing Street:
The first thing to say about this scoop is the misleading nature of the Independent's presentation. Its headline over its front-page splash screams: 'Intelligence chief's bombshell: we were overrruled on dossier'. This implies that, contrary to the Hutton finding, the government did in fact overrule the intelligence services to sex up the dossier. In fact, as Dr Jones makes abundantly clear, he is claiming that DIS analysts were overruled within the DIS by their own superiors. Although this is in itself a serious claim, it is a very different matter from the charge of political interference. What it reveals is that the intelligence world was disagreeing within itself -- hardly the first time this has happened. This was in fact perfectly clear from Dr Jones's testimony to Hutton, as was the fact -- which he has now repeated -- that he and the other DIS staff never actually saw the intelligence relating to the 45-minute claim bcause it was so sensitive. In other words, whatever doubts he had about the claim were not worth a great deal because he hadn't been shown the relevant intelligence. He had been kept out of the loop. To say this devalues his complaint is an understatement.
Well, yes. And while we’re on the subjects of concealment and twisting evidence and sexing up, here is the only extract from that Independent story to be highlighted by Media Watch. May we have an inquiry, please?
(Research by contributor J. F. Beck)Posted by Tim Blair at February 10, 2004 10:40 AM