Skip to comments.Expert: BBC Misled U.K. on Iraq Dossier
Posted on 09/04/2003 12:14:21 PM PDT by Calpernia
LONDON - A British Broadcasting Corp. reporter and not a top government weapons adviser was the one who suggested during an interview that a top aide of Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) was behind an exaggeration of the threat posed by Iraq (news - web sites), an arms expert said Thursday.
That testimony by Olivia Bosch contradicted statements by the BBC's Andrew Gilligan, who said adviser David Kelly suggested the name of key Blair aide Alastair Campbell without prompting.
Bosch, testifying at an inquiry into Kelly's apparent suicide, said Kelly told her during a phone conversation that Gilligan played a "name game" with him when they met.
"He said he was taken aback by the way Andrew Gilligan tried to elicit information from him," Bosch said. "He said he had never experienced it in the way that Gilligan had tried to do so, by a 'name game.'
"The first name he (Gilligan) mentioned, and very quickly, was Campbell," Bosch told the inquiry, which is headed by senior appeals judge Lord Hutton.
Kelly said he felt obliged to give Gilligan some form of answer, so he said "maybe," she testified.
Gilligan told a different story in a piece for the Mail on Sunday on June 6: "I asked him how this transformation happened. The answer was a single word: 'Campbell.'"
Campbell, Blair's communications chief, will resign in a few weeks for what he said were personal reasons.
Gilligan interviewed Kelly, a former U.N. weapons inspector, about which government official was responsible for including in a government dossier a claim that Iraq could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes.
Kelly, a 59-year-old microbiologist, apparently committed suicide after being identified by Defense Ministry bosses as a possible source of a BBC report that Blair's office inserted the 45-minute claim into a September dossier against the wishes of intelligence officials. The government and intelligence chiefs deny that.
Bosch, also a former U.N. weapons inspector, said she met Kelly at a conference last year while working at a defense think tank. She said they subsequently spoke two or three times a week by phone and corresponded frequently by e-mail.
Hutton is investigating events leading up to the death of Kelly, whose body was found July 18 in woodland near his rural home. His left wrist had been slashed, and a government pathologist concluded he died from loss of blood.
Previous testimony at the inquiry has shown that Kelly was skeptical about the government's evaluation of the threat posed by Iraqi weapons.
On Thursday, Tom Mangold, a friend of Kelly and a journalist, testified that he spoke to Kelly about the Gilligan report and Kelly believed the 45-minute claim was "risible."
"We occasionally gossiped on the phone and on this occasion we gossiped about the 45-minute claim because I thought it sounded risible to me and I wondered what he thought about it," Mangold said. "He thought it was risible, too.
"He did not feel that weapons would be deployed or activated within 45 minutes."
Following the morning hearing, Hutton adjourned the inquiry until Sept. 15 while he analyzed evidence from past weeks and considered which witnesses to recall.
A friend of Dr David Kelly has told the Hutton inquiry the weapons expert was shocked by the way BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan tried to get information out of him. Dr Kelly apparently committed suicide after being named as the suspected source for Mr Gilligan's BBC report claiming the government "sexed up" intelligence in the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Fellow Iraq arms inspector Olivia Bosch, who spoke to Dr Kelly daily during the Iraq war, said he had told her Mr Gilligan had wanted to play a "name game" over who was responsible for transforming last September's dossier.
Ms Bosch also claimed Dr Kelly said his MoD bosses had reprimanded him about the BBC story and he feared his pension and security clearance would be affected.
Another of Dr Kelly's friends, journalist Tom Mangold, told the inquiry the scientist had thought the claim Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes was "risible".
In a statement, he said nothing should be read into the fact that some witnesses would be recalled.
Earlier, Ms Bosch said Dr Kelly told her the first name suggested by Mr Gilligan in his "name game" was that of Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's director of communications.
Dr Kelly told her that as a civil servant he could not answer that so had given the answer "maybe".
She said of the phone conversation in late May: "He was taken aback by the way Andrew Gilligan tried to elicit information from him."
Ms Bosch said when she heard Gilligan's broadcast, she did not think Dr Kelly could be the source because it sounded like it came from a "whistleblower".
Dr Kelly said his bosses had mentioned a reprimand and hinted his pension and security clearance could be affected or taken away, Ms Bosch said.
She claimed Dr Kelly behaved as if under "a certain kind of pressure", worried about appearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee and angry about an article in the Sunday Times on 13 July, which he said had misrepresented him.
Ms Bosch said Dr Kelly had feared for his pension But she never had the indication from Dr Kelly he might want to take his own life.
Neighbour Leigh Potter, a student who works in the pub opposite the Kelly house, gave evidence and said he had "seemed quite normal" one week before his death.
Lord Hutton also heard evidence from Richard Taylor, special adviser to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon.
Mr Taylor had confirmed the name of Dr Kelly to a journalist from the Financial Times.
He said this was the first time he had ever confirmed the name of a civil servant to journalists.
He told the inquiry the MoD had adopted this policy because if the correct name was offered, "it was not tenable" to say no "because that would be to lie".
Ms Bosch said she had not met Dr Kelly when they were both weapons inspectors, but had spoken frequently by telephone and met at conferences over the past year to discuss Iraq.
She said they agreed the dossier was a "very necessary document because the public and the media and politicians really were not aware of what was going on inside of Iraq".
They thought the dossier would be a "reader friendly" document to inform the public.
Ms Bosch said Dr Kelly's view on the war was that while it was unfortunate, the use of military force seemed to be the only way to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime of weapons of mass destruction as Iraq was not complying with UN obligations.
On Wednesday, a Ministry of Defence intelligence official described concerns among his staff over the 45-minute claim.
Downing Street has repeatedly denied the allegation it had the claim included in the dossier against the wishes of the intelligence community.