Saturday, May 05, 2007

A "preliminary document" is not a draft

The John Williams "draft"

The Information Commissioner yesterday issued his decision that the 9th September draft of the 24th September 2002 Dossier on Iraq's WMD as written by John Williams of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) must be released by the Foreign Office. They have 35 days to do so, and right of appeal also, but failure to comply appropriately is threatened by High Court action.

The 12 page judgement (5.06 Mb pdf download) by the IC includes this snippet:

The document at issue here is described by the FCO as a preliminary document used in the production of a draft dossier concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It was requested by the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee to provide an expert’s view of how the information in the draft might be presented in a published document. However, as it was designed to give a communication professional's perspective on the matter, the FCO argue that it was not an intergral part of the iterative drafting process. The FCO further stated that the document was before the Hutton Inquiry, but that the Inquiry did not see fit to discuss it or include it in the annex of his report.

See also:

(Hutton Inquiry transcript: 19 August 2003, section 10, line 21 - section 12, line 01)

James Dingemans (Inquiry QC): And what did you record at the time that you needed to show in relation to the dossier?

Alistair Campbell (accused of "sexing up" the dossier): That it had to be revelatory; we needed to show it was new and informative and part of a bigger case.

JD: Was anyone offering to help write it full time?

AC: John Williams offered to write it full time.

JD: Did you accept that offer?

AC: No.

JD: What was the reason for that?

AC: The decision was taken, either at that meeting or certainly by the 9th, that John Scarlett, I think if we go on to the 9th, I mean he talked about -- he used the word "ownership", that John Scarlett felt he ought to have ownership of the dossier. And I emphasised, and this was spelt out in the minute that I circulated following these meetings --

JD: Which was on the 9th?

AC: On the 9th.

JD: We will come to that.

AC: I beg your pardon.

JD: You emphasised; you can make the point, please.

AC: I emphasised that the credibility of this document depended fundamentally upon it being the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee; and that was the touchstone of our approach right through this from that moment. So John Williams was very kindly, not criticising him at all, he was saying -- he is a very experienced writer, he was offering to write it full time. I made the point and John Scarlett made the point that was not sensible, it should be written by John Scarlett.

(Hutton Inquiry transcript: 19 August 2003, section 16, lines 4-18)

JD: I am going to take you to your e-mail of 9th, it looks as though no final conclusion had been reached about whether John Williams was going to be fully involved?

AC: John Williams at some point was obviously going to be involved because he is the senior press person at the Foreign Office. This was something being coordinated across the departments. But part of our discussion was about the writing of the dossier and at one point I offered John Scarlett a member of my staff, if he wanted it to help him write it. John Williams was volunteering for the job; so was somebody else at the Foreign Office. John Scarlett was absolutely clear the word was "ownership", he wanted ownership of the dossier and the best way to have that was to write it.

(Hutton Inquiry transcript: 19 August 2003, section 25, lines 19-21)

JD: We have not been given a copy of a dossier on 9th September. Do you recall whether or not at 9th September there was a dossier?

AC: No, there was not.


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