Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 3, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

"OVER-EGG"....Some fine drama today at the Hutton inquiry. For the first time, the inquiry heard evidence via audiolink from a mysterious "Mr. A," who read a couple of email messages that he had sent to David Kelly shortly after the infamous dossier was published last September:

"Mr A" had suggested to his friend and colleague that including claims about Iraq's Al-Qa'qa chemical plant in the dossier was "a pretty stupid mistake".

What's more, the email went on, it was "an example to support our view that you and I should have been more involved in this than the spin merchants of this administration".

Spin merchants? Like, say, Alastair Campbell?

Sadly, Mr. A refused to take the bait, saying only that he and Kelly were making "a general comment from the working level....about perceived interference."

OK, he's not naming names, but it's pretty clear he's talking about someone at No. 10 sexing up the dossier. And he wasn't the only one:

[Brian Jones, a retired branch head of the defence intelligence analysis staff] said they had been particular concerned about the infamous 45-minute claim, which sparked the war of words between Downing Street and the BBC.

....Dr Jones told Lord Hutton that Dr Kelly, who had regular contact with his department and had the security clearance to come and go as he liked, was certainly aware of concerns among staff about the use of intelligence in the dossier.

Dr Jones told the inquiry his department had been concerned about "the tendency ... to, shall we say, over-egg certain assessments, particularly in relation to the production of chemical weapons".

Is "over-egg" the same thing as "sex up"? Methinks this may be yet another of those delightful British expressions that will soon grace headlines worldwide.

There's been other evidence like this already, and when you put it all together the bottom line is pretty clear: several senior intelligence officials did have misgivings about the wording of the dossier, Kelly was well aware of these concerns, the 45-minute claim was one of them, and he passed all of this along to Andrew Gilligan.

It's too bad that Gilligan overplayed his hand, but in the end maybe it's a good thing he did. After all, if it weren't for Alastair Campbell's hysterical reaction to Gilligan's reports the Hutton inquiry never would have been held and we never would have gotten to see all this remarkable evidence about how Tony Blair's team spun the case for war. In death, Dr. David Kelly continues to do a service to his country.

Kevin Drum 2:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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