Friday, July 18, 2008

Dr David Kelly CMG

"Dr David Kelly, RIP"
Woodcut on cherry plank. 2006
By Stanley Donwood

Thursday, July 17, 2008



Lessons we fail to learn
Brian Jones

Published 17 July 2008

Five years after the tragic death of David Kelly, little has changed. Whitehall has ducked all criticism, appearing to have learnt little from the Iraq experience

Two months before his lonely death in July 2003, international weapons inspector David Kelly spoke off the record to no fewer than three BBC journalists. He told each separately that there had been disquiet in the intelligence world about the influential September 2002 dossier and that the analysts were not responsible for the intelligence failure.

Kelly probably wanted lessons to be learned and measures taken to prevent anything like it happening again. Five years on, a number of issues remain unresolved.

Tony Blair's claim as prime minister that he knew "stockpiles of major amounts of chemical and biological weapons" were held by Iraq led to an increasingly bitter dispute and an unprecedented four inquiries. The first two, one by the Foreign Affairs Committee, which the government opposed, and a second by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which it supported, arguably contributed to David Kelly's decision to take his life.

The third inquiry, by Lord Hutton, although specifically about Kelly's death, shone a spotlight on British intelligence and its interface with government. The fourth, a review chaired by Lord Butler, was the result of public pressure for better explanations than the first three had managed; its report was only partially successful in achieving this.

Suspicion has remained, fuelled by the persistence of researchers like Chris Ames who divined the existence of an earlier, concealed, draft and the New Statesman, which published his findings.

Butler's report did establish that all but the two most senior defence intelligence officers had significant doubts about the strength of the intelligence. Arguments to the contrary came from MI6 and the Cabinet Office, seemingly in response to the desire of No 10 for the case for war to be as strong as possible. However, Butler wrongly concluded that the members of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) were either unaware of these differences, or assumed matters had been resolved, when they approved the final draft of the dossier that took Britain to war.

But, as I explained in the New Statesman of 11 December 2006, five members of the JIC, almost half, including its chairman, John Scarlett, were well aware that there were unresolved differences within the intelligence committee. The Cabinet Office solution was to use new, recent, intelligence (which was seen only by a select few) to substantiate the inconclusive "45-minute" claim.

The five members who were in the picture displayed, at a minimum, poor judgement and leadership in not recognising the shortcomings of the new intelligence, and in failing to recognise their own limitations and thus the need to obtain expert advice. Butler could find no justification for the intelligence being withheld from the experts.

So why did the Butler review fail to join the dots? I have recently become aware that, from the outset, the Butler review team was determined to do what it could to preserve public confidence in British intelligence. This may explain why so many obvious conclusions and criticisms which, if boldly stated, would have grabbed the headlines, were muted by the convoluted language of the Butler report.

It may also explain why Butler himself has lately been inclined to offset criticism on Iraq by suggesting that "everybody thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD)". Both the UK and US governments have repeatedly fallen back on this simplistic and deceptive excuse over the years. But it conveniently overlooks the ISC's criticism, endorsed in the detail of the Butler report, that the government lacked knowledge of the extent of Iraq's WMD capabilities and failed to clarify that there was no direct threat to Britain.

Yet Butler was good in parts, and did make potentially valuable recommendations. It concluded, among other things, that the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) should play a more influential role in the intelligence machine and suggested two changes to help achieve this. First, that one of the DIS representatives on the JIC should be an experienced intelligence analyst. Second, that the DIS should be funded partly from the intelligence budget rather than entirely by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Despite the insistence of Tony Blair before parliament four years ago, that the Butler report was accepted in its entirety, the important recommendations have not been taken up. Gordon Brown has not yet rectified the situation. The post-Butler measures that have been implemented, worthy in themselves, are those marginal to the Iraq WMD intelligence failure.

In 2006, I wrote to Paul Murphy, chairman of the ISC, the committee responsible for seeing that Butler's proposals were implemented, drawing attention to the oversight. A slow, impersonal, half-hearted response sent by an official suggested my advice was not welcome. I was asked to await the outcome of the 2007 annual report. This arrived in 2008 but provided no answers to the questions I had raised.

Meanwhile the MoD, against the advice of intelligence analysis professionals, intends to announce significant cuts in the analytical strength of the DIS, as part of the "efficiencies" demanded of the MoD by the Treasury.

Thus, five years after the tragic death of David Kelly, little has changed. Both components of Whitehall, political and official, have ducked all criticism, appearing to have learnt little from the Iraq experience. Something similar could all too easily happen again.

Brian Jones was formerly a branch head on the DIS

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Five Long Years

Home > News > UK > UK Politics

Five years on: The legacy of Kelly

Five years ago, the former UN weapons inspector David Kelly was found dead in an Oxfordshire wood. He had cast doubt on the key '45-minute' claim in the Government's dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, and became embroiled in the clash between the BBC and No 10. Lord Hutton's inquiry into Dr Kelly's death cast a harsh light on many institutions and individuals. How have they fared since? By Raymond Whitaker

Sunday, 13 July 2008

The Winners

Tony Blair

Unscathed by the Hutton report, he left office at a time of his own choosing, give or take a little pressure from Gordon Brown. He has maintained a high profile as the Middle East peace envoy, which could lead to another big international job, such as EU president. His memoirs are expected to earn him £5m, on top of £2m a year from consultancies and six-figure sums on the lecture circuit, all of which help to offset his and Cherie's less-than-sure touch in the property market. Appearing before Hutton, he successfully conveyed the impression of being above the panic elsewhere in No 10. But the whole WMD saga cemented his image as a man who believes his sincerity and good intentions are what count, not the facts.

Alastair Campbell

When the BBC reported in May 2003 that the Government had "sexed up" its dossier on Iraq's alleged WMD the previous autumn, Tony Blair's director of communications went wild. Without his relentless pressure on the broadcaster, it is doubtful that Dr Kelly would have been exposed as reporter Andrew Gilligan's source. He left Downing Street before the inquiry ended, and became a surprise hit on the "Evening with..." circuit as well as a pundit and charity fundraiser. Last year he announced a £1m deal for his diaries – published, as promised, after Tony Blair left office.

Sir John Scarlett

An MI6 veteran, he was head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, the Government's main intelligence clearing house, at the time of the Iraq war, and claimed authorship of the 2002 WMD dossier. But the Hutton inquiry revealed the torrent of emails between him and Campbell, who called him a "mate", as the language of the dossier was toughened up to make Saddam Hussein look more of a threat. Many spooks deplored this politicisation of intelligence, but Scarlett became head of MI6 in 2004, and a knighthood followed last year.

Andrew Gilligan

The fumbling performance, before Hutton, of the 'Today' programme's defence correspondent brought neither him nor the BBC much credit, especially when it emerged he had not done everything possible to preserve his source's anonymity. Internal BBC emails painted him as a loose cannon, but he was essentially right about the flimsiness of the WMD dossier. Gilligan and the BBC parted company after the inquiry, and he found a home for his adversarial style in the press. If the defeat of Ken Livingstone as London Mayor can be attributed to a single journalist, it is Gilligan, whose exposés in the 'Evening Standard' forced the resignation of Livingstone's key ally, Lee Jasper.

Geoff Hoon

Tony Blair's Secretary of State for Defence was reckoned the favourite by pundits to lose his job over the Kelly affair. Unpopular with the generals, in his evidence to the Hutton inquiry he seemed to be out of the loop and more solicitous of No 10's wishes than of his department's position. It required a senior aide to reveal that Mr Hoon had taken the decision that led to Dr Kelly's name becoming public as the source for Gilligan's story. But the pundits were wrong: uncondemned by Hutton, he remained in his post until Mr Blair left office, smoothly transferring his allegiance to Mr Brown, and is still in the Cabinet as Labour's Chief Whip.

The Losers

The Kelly family

Janice Kelly endured weeks of speculation about her husband's suicide, possible "relationships" with women he had met during his work as an arms control inspector and his conversion to the Bahai faith. He felt "totally let down and betrayed" by his employers, she told Lord Hutton on the only occasion on which she has spoken out. In May this year her brother, Derek Vawdrey, criticised Cherie Blair's description of the controversy in her memoirs. Recalling Dr Kelly's death, Mrs Blair said she reassured her husband that he was a "good man" with "pure motives". Mr Vawdrey retorted that "Dai" – the family's name for Dr Kelly – "was badly used then, and he's being badly used now". He added: "It's somehow so typical of the Blairs to make use of Dai's death to show the world what a wonderful man Tony Blair is."


If the objections of Dr Kelly and other WMD experts had been heeded, and the notorious dossier on Iraq's supposed doomsday weapons had not been published, would the invasion have gone ahead? The answer is yes: the Government, we now know, had already pledged its support to the US, which was, in any case, prepared to act on its own. The dossier was designed to justify the decision to the public. If Britain had stayed out of the war, Dr Kelly might still be alive, but the disastrous effects on Iraq would not have been avoided.

Lord Hutton

The Northern Irish law lord was little known outside the legal profession when he took on the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Dr Kelly's death, but was said by supporters to have a reputation for being independent. That reputation did not survive the publication of his report in January 2004, which was condemned for favouring the Government against the BBC. Stung at being bracketed with Lord Widgery, whose rushed report on the Bloody Sunday shootings in Northern Ireland is now considered a whitewash, Lord Hutton kept a low profile, apart from complaining in 2006 that the media had misunderstood his terms of reference. Lately, according to legal circles, he has made himself available for the kind of work that comes the way of retired law lords, such as arbitration cases.

Greg Dyke

The then director-general of the BBC looked uncomfortable at the inquiry, which revealed him as a showman rather than a political operator. His chairman, Gavyn Davies, who took a more pugnacious line, stepped down after Lord Hutton reported, and Dyke offered his resignation, hoping the BBC governors would reject it. They did not. Though he has had various media-related roles since, such as chairing the British Film Institute, he has not held a big job in TV. He remains angry, saying the BBC "lost its nerve after Hutton".

The Ministry of Defence

Nobody seemed sure who was in charge of Dr Kelly at the MoD, according to evidence at the inquiry, least of all the scientist himself. One of Lord Hutton's few criticisms of the Government was over his treatment by apparatchiks preoccupied with correct procedure and satisfying their political masters rather than showing humanity to an obviously troubled man. Five years later, the impression of muddle, powerfully conveyed at the Hutton inquiry, still prevails.