Skip to comments.BBC reporters reveal Kelly's unease at No. 10 spin
Posted on 08/13/2003 8:48:03 AM PDT by Timesink
A taped telephone conversation submitted as evidence by Susan Watts, science editor of the BBC programme Newsnight , appears to implicate No. 10's press office in "sexing up" the government's case for war.
Gavin Hewitt, a special correspondent for the BBC Ten O'Clock News, also said Mr Kelly had told him that "No. 10 spin came into play" in assembling the September dossier, which included the claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.
The Kelly Affair
For more news and analysis on the political crisis surrounding the death of David Kelly
Statement by Susan Watts to the Hutton inquiry
The evidence from the two journalists goes some way to corroborate a hotly disputed story first broken by Andrew Gilligan, a third BBC journalist, on May 29 that said Downing Street had exaggerated the threat of Iraqi weapons. Mr Kelly apparently committed suicide days after being identified as the main source of the story.
But Ms Watts told inquiry chairman Lord Hutton that there were "significant differences" between Mr Gilligan's report and what Mr Kelly told her. She also accused BBC executives of placing her under undue pressure to help stand up Mr Gilligan's story.
Ms Watts said Mr Kelly had specifically denied that Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's official spokesman, had been involved in exaggerating the government dossier on Iraq's weapons. The denial was made during a telephone conversation with Ms Watts a day after Mr Gilligan broadcast his story on Radio Four.
However, a transcript of the same conversation, taken from a tape recording and submitted as evidence, appeared at odds with Ms Watts' account and also cast doubt on the accuracy of Mr Kelly's evidence to a House of Commons committee shortly before his death.
Asked whether Mr Campbell had been involved in a section of the dossier that warned of Iraq being capable of launching weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, Mr Kelly said: "All I can say is the Number Ten press office. I've never met Alastair Campbell so I can't [Ms Watts interrupts]...But I think Alastair Campbell is synonymous with that press office because he's responsible for it."
In the tape, Mr Kelly also dismisses as "spin" comments on Iraq's weapons capabilities made by Jack Straw, foreign secretary, and US president George Bush.
Ms Watts said she had initially regarded Mr Kelly's remark about Mr Campbell as "glib" speculation, and that her conversations with him had sometimes been "gossipy" rather than based on facts.
In contrast, Mr Hewitt, who had been asked to follow up Mr Gilligan's story, said he had found Mr Kelly to be a "very credible source", described by colleague and veteran reporter Tom Mangold as a "gold standard of a source".
Reading from handwritten notes of an interview with Mr Kelly, Mr Hewitt said the scientist had told him there was "unease of some substance" among members of the intelligence services about the way the dossier was assembled.
Mr Kelly had added: "In the final week, before it went public, material was coming in and material was taken out."
Mr Gilligan's story was undermined on Tuesday by the disclosure of an e-mail written by Kevin Marsh, the Today programme editor, which indicated that BBC insiders believed Mr Gilligan may have been too "loose" with his words. It said: "This story was a good piece of investigative journalism marred by flawed reporting."
The death of Mr Kelly has put pressure on Mr Blair and Geoff Hoon, defence secretary, over the way the government made the case for war in Iraq and the scientist's name was confirmed to the press.
Both men are on holiday but are expected to appear before the inquiry at a later date.
Look, Kelly was talking to the reporters. There is no denying that. He was not supposed to be talking with them and he had a reason for doing it. He wanted to undermine the government and he gave the basis of these stories to the media.
Then the media hyped what he had said and they built it up to where Blair and the rest were and still ARE, thanks to Kelly, accused of lying about the threat that Iraq posed.
Where have we heard that before? Why our own media is on the same tack and they have sources who are anti-administration that feed them the seeds from which these yellowcake stories and the like spring forth.
I stand second to no one in my contempt of the media, but let's not exonerate Dr. Kelly. What he did was wrong and he knew it. He was not honest with the committee and perhaps his conscience did smite him at the last and so he did away with himself. It is the only explanation that makes sense and as evidence emerges--see the tapes Watts produced--it becomes clear.
Keeping in mind that Watts has produced tapes of conversations with Kelly, just look at how deceptive Kelly was here in his testimony before the committee:
Q22 Mr Chidgey: I just want to move on to the section of our inquiry dealing with contacts with Andrew Gilligan and journalists, but before we talk about Andrew Gilligan can I just confirm that you have also met Susan Watts?
Dr Kelly: I have met her on one occasion.
Q23 Mr Chidgey: Thank you. I would just like to read out to you a statement in the notes that were made: "In the run-up to the dossier the Government was obsessed with finding intelligence to justify an immediate Iraqi threat. While we were agreed on the potential Iraqi threat in the future there was less agreement about the threat the Iraqis posed at the moment. That was the real concern, not so much what they had now but what they would have in the future, but that unfortunately was not expressed strongly in the dossier because that takes the case away for war to a certain extent". Finally, "The 45 minutes was a statement that was made and it got out of all proportion. They were desperate for information. They were pushing hard for information that could be released. That was one that popped up and it was seized on and it is unfortunate that it was. That is why there is an argument between the intelligence services and Number 10, because they had picked up on it and once they had picked up on it you cannot pull back from it, so many people will say 'Well, we are not sure about that' because the word smithing is actually quite important." I understand from Miss Watts that is the record of a meeting that you had with her. Do you still agree with those comments?
Dr Kelly: First of all, I do not recognise those comments, I have to say. The meeting I had with her was on November 5 last year and I remember that precisely because I gave a presentation in the Foreign Office on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. I cannot believe that on that occasion I made that statement.
Q24 Mr Chidgey: That is very helpful. Can I just be clear on this: I understand that these notes refer to meetings that took place shortly before the Newsnight broadcasts that would have been on 2 and 4 June.
Dr Kelly: I have only met Susan Watts on one occasion, which was not on a one-to-one basis, it was at the end of a public presentation.
Mr Chidgey: Thank you very much, that is very helpful.
WELL, notice Dr. Kelly tries to leave the impression that the one and only time he spoke with Watts was at this event. Later in the questioning some bright person thinks to frame the question so Kelly can't clinton his way out:
Q43 Ms Stuart: I may not have heard something you said in response to Mr Chidgey's question. You did confirm that you had a meeting and talked with Susan Watts?
Dr Kelly: I have met with her personally once at the end of a seminar I provided in the Foreign Office on November 5.
Q44 Ms Stuart: You have neither met nor talked to her since?
Dr Kelly: I have spoken to her on the telephone but I have not met her face-to face.
Q45 Ms Stuart: When have you talked to her on the telephone?
Dr Kelly: I would have spoken to her about four or five times.
Q46 Ms Stuart: During May at all?
Dr Kelly: During May? I cannot precisely remember. I was abroad for a fair part of the time in May, but it is possible, yes.
Q104 Andrew Mackinlay: Okay. Dr Kelly, a few moments ago I asked you for the names of other journalists you have had contact with in the timescale we were talking about and you said you have not got access to your home. We are going to write formally to the MoD and by that time you will have done your homework and sent it to us in an envelope, but this afternoon can you tell me those journalists who you do recall having met in the timescale? What are their names?
Dr Kelly: Having met?
Q105 Andrew Mackinlay: Yes.
Dr Kelly: I have met very few journalists.
Q106 Andrew Mackinlay: I heard "few", but who are the ones in your mind's eye at this moment? What are their names?
Dr Kelly: That will be provided to you by the Ministry of Defence.
Q107 Andrew Mackinlay: No, I am asking you now. This is the high court of Parliament and I want you to tell the Committee who you met.
Dr Kelly: On this occasion I think it is proper that the Ministry of Defence communicates that to you.
Chairman: But it is a proper question.
Andrew Mackinlay: You are under an obligation to reply.
Chairman: If you have met journalists there is nothing sinister in itself about meeting journalists, save in an unauthorised way.
Q108 Andrew Mackinlay: Who are they?
Dr Kelly: The only people that I can remember having spoken to in recent times about this particular issue - not about this particular issue - is Jane Corbin and Susan Watts.
Q131 Richard Ottaway: In response to my colleague, David Chidgey, he gave you a quote which appeared on Newsnight in a programme introduced by Susan Watts. You have confirmed that you have spoken to Susan Watts. Can I just take you through the quote again that was read out. You said you did not recognise it. Could you just concentrate on it. It is talking about the 45 minute point. It said: "The 45 minute point was a statement that was made and it got out of all proportion. They were desperate for information. They were pushing hard for information that could be released. That was the one that popped up and it was seized on and it is unfortunate that it was. That is why there is the argument between the intelligence services and Number 10, because they picked up on it and once they had picked up on it you cannot pull back from it, so many people will say 'Well, we are not sure about that' because the word smithing is actually quite important." There are many people who think that you were the source of that quote. What is your reaction to that suggestion?
Dr Kelly: I find it very difficult. It does not sound like my expression of words. It does not sound like a quote from me.
Q132 Richard Ottaway: You deny that those are your words?
Dr Kelly: Yes.
Finally! He denies it. (Except she has tapes....)
I wondered myself.
Sorry to give that impression. I was just commenting on the fact that the BBC can put any kind of words they want into Kelly's dead mouth and claim "he told us.....". Gilligan has been a verifiable liar all along. Kelly could have flopped one way or the other. Once the BBC got their negative 'story', it was very fortunate for them that he died.
As long as I'm hinting at conspiricies, perhaps those working to oust Blair are partnering with those trying to oust Bush. The media attacks seem to be fairly well coordinated. Who ever 'they' are seem to find the Busch/Blair cowboy approach of actually confronting evil to be threatening. We have the socialist who want to run our lives for us, we have the muslims who want to take our lives from us, and neither group can stand it that now we're fighting back.