Skip to comments.BBC reporter refused to name Kelly (Bad News for BBC)
Posted on 08/13/2003 7:54:24 AM PDT by The Radical Capitalist
BBC reporter refused to name Kelly (Filed: 13/08/2003)
A BBC journalist has told the inquiry into David Kelly's death how she was pressurised by her managers to name the weapons expert as the source of her reports on No 10's Iraq dossier.
Susan Watts: evidence Susan Watts, the science editor of BBC2's Newsnight, said that her bosses had wanted her to back up a report by Andrew Gilligan on Radio 4's Today programme that Downing Street had "sexed up" the dossier.
But Miss Watts - who ran two stories on Newsnight based on conversations with Dr Kelly - said she believed that there were "significant differences" between her reports and those of Mr Gilligan.
She told Lord Hutton's inquiry that she had been put under such pressure by Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news, that she had been forced to take independent legal advice.
"I felt under some considerable pressure to reveal my source. I also felt the purpose of that was to help corroborate the Andrew Gilligan allegations and not for any proper news purpose," she told the inquiry.
"I was most concerned that there was an attempt to mould them so that they were corroborative which I felt was misguided and false."
Miss Watts presented two reports - on June 3 and 4 - in the week after Mr Gilligan's made his first report on May 30.
She did not name Alastair Campbell, Downing Street's head of communications, and did not claim that the Government had inserted the claim into the dossier that Iraq could launch illegals weapons within 45 minutes.
Miss Watts said that she had revealed Dr Kelly's name to George Entwhistle, Newsnight's editor, so that he had the confidence to run the story, but did not believe it was appropriate to tell anyone else.
Consequently, when Mr Sambrook asked her to tell him who her source was, she refused.
She also refused when he asked if she was prepared to confirm or deny a name which he would put to her. "I considered it would not have been the right thing to do," she said.
She said that she had given Mr Sambrook some "snippets" about Dr Kelly but feared he could have been identified through a process of "triangulation" as people put evidence from different reports together.
Miss Watts disclosed that she would have been prepared to name Dr Kelly herself after he denied the comments he had made to her when he appeared before the Commons foreign affairs select committee shortly before his apparent suicide.
She said he had "relieved" her of her duty of confidentiality and that she would have confirmed his identity if she had been summoned to give evidence to the committee.
Earlier, the inquiry heard a tape recording of a telephone conversation that Miss Watts had with Dr Kelly the day after Mr Gilligan's report was broadcast, during which she sought to clarify comments made by Dr Kelly about Mr Campbell in an earlier conversation.
Asked whether "Alastair Campbell himself" had ordered the dossier to be allegedly altered, Dr Kelly replied: "No, I can't. All I can say is the No 10 press office. I've never met Alastair Campbell so I can't..."
He added: "I think Alastair Campbell is synonymous with that press office because he's responsible for it."
Miss Watts told the inquiry that she believed Dr Kelly was making clear that Mr Campbell was not personally involved.
"I think he was clarifying what he was saying in the earlier conversation on May 7. He was talking about the No 10 press office generically as a tribe rather than Alastair Campbell as an individual," she said.
"To my mind he specifically denies that Alastair Campbell was involved personally by saying: 'No, I can't'."
Later Gavin Hewitt, another BBC journalist who spoke to Dr Kelly following Mr Gilligan's report, gave evidence to the inquiry.
He said that he had not referred to the 45 minute claim in his report for the 10 O'Clock News because he had not "made any real progress in the area" during his conversation with Dr Kelly.
He said he had met Mr Gilligan once but that he had never spoken to Miss Watts.
I'll bet that hurt.
Is this accurate? That he denied making the comments to the committee and the tape conclusively proves he was lying to the committee?
Even if he didn't lie to the committee about what he said, what is a government official doing talking about such classified information so lightly for with the media?
The skunk I smell is the deceased chap who 1) didn't honor his commitment of confidentiality and 2) couldn't tell the truth about what he knew anyway.
And isn't that just a fine mess that he had the guts to kill himself rather than owning up to the stinking mess he personally created with his running mouth.
Gilligan's going down for sure. Hopefully the Beeb can be held to account as well.