Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Inquiry begins...

Iraq war inquiry opens

Independent inquiry will examine events from September 11 attacks to withdrawal of most British troops from Iraq this year

Haroon Siddique

Thursday 30 July 2009 08.19 BST

An independent inquiry into the Iraq war that will examine the run-up to the conflict and the country's subsequent reconstruction will begin today.

The inquiry, which will be conducted by privy counsellors and chaired by the former civil servant Sir John Chilcot, has been described by the prime minister, Gordon Brown, as a means to "learn the lessons of the complex and often controversial events" from the September 11 terror attacks to the withdrawal of most British troops from Iraq earlier this year.

Key questions are likely to include whether Tony Blair had already made it clear privately to George Bush that he would commit UK troops to the invasion of Iraq before the diplomatic wrangling at the UN, and how much information the then-prime minister and his close advisers shared with the rest of the government and MPs.

The government has resisted calls for a public inquiry for years on the basis that it could endanger British forces still serving in Iraq, but with combat operations over and only 150 troops remaining in the country - training local forces - Brown announced last month that it was time for the "unprecedented" inquiry.

Brown has promised full government co-operation, although he has already been forced into significant U-turns over the way in which it will be conducted. There was an outcry from families of military personnel who had died and from opposition parties when, announcing the formation of the inquiry, Brown stated it would be held in private. Chilcot later said that most hearings would be in public unless there were "compelling reasons", such as national security, for witnesses to be heard in private. Brown's initial contention that there would be no apportioning of blame was also later contradicted, this time by David Miliband, although the foreign secretary emphasised that criminal or civil liability would not be established.

The inquiry at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in central London will hear evidence from ministers, military officers and officials. It is due to report in a year's time but officials hope it could wrap up in as little as three months. The Tories have complained that it is politically expedient for the government to delay the conclusions until after a general election.

Brown said the final report would "be able to disclose all but the most sensitive information, that is, all information except that which is essential to our national security".

It follows two inquiries - chaired by Lords Hutton and Butler respectively - which drew criticism for their lack of independence.

British forces officially ended combat operations in Iraq in April after a campaign in which 179 servicemen and women died. The war, which was supported by Brown and which he financed as chancellor, cost the British taxpayer approximately £6.5bn.

Finally - the Iraq war inquiry begins

Thursday, 30, Jul 2009 07:55

By staff

Full details of the Iraq war inquiry are due to be set out later, as the probe into the government's conduct before, during and after the 2003 ousting of Saddam Hussein finally gets underway.

Chairman Sir John Chilcot will outline the terms of reference on the first day of the inquiry's work in central London.

Central to his announcements will be the extent to which the inquiry will be held in public. He has already insisted that it was "essential to hold as much of the proceedings of the inquiry as possible in public".

Gordon Brown had initially argued the inquiry would be held in private. Following huge pressure from opposition parties he backed down, with Downing Street insisting he had no "ideological" objection to it being held in public.

The inquiry is expected to be the definitive investigation into the British government's decision-making, conduct and attitudes to the Iraq war.

The formation of the 'dodgy dossier' which justified the war will be under scrutiny, as will the invasion of Iraq itself in spring 2003 and the six-year stay in the country's south which followed.

It is not yet clear whether Sir John's final report will be published in time for the next general election.$1315163.htm

Saturday, July 18, 2009

RussiaToday - Suspicious death of UK top weapons expert

Mai Pederson calls for new Kelly review

Now David Kelly’s former Iraq aide joins call for inquiry into his 'suicide'

By Sharon Churcher In New York and Christopher Leake

Last updated at 10:00 PM on 18th

A close confidante of Government scientist Dr David Kelly has demanded a new investigation into his death.

Mai Pederson, a US Air Force linguist who served in Iraq with Dr Kelly’s weapons inspection team, has called on Attorney General Baroness Scotland to carry out a ‘formal, independent and complete review’ into the ‘suspicious circumstances’ of his death.

Ms Pederson’s intervention comes a week after The Mail on Sunday disclosed that a team of doctors are mounting a legal challenge to the Hutton Inquiry’s conclusion that he committed suicide.

The inquiry, commissioned by Tony Blair, ruled that the 59-year-old used a blunt gardening knife to slit an artery on his left wrist in July 2003 after swallowing co-proxamol painkillers.

His death, near his Oxfordshire home, came after he was exposed as being the source for a BBC news report questioning the justification for war in Iraq.

But the doctors say the wound to the tiny artery could not have caused his death and that the dose of painkillers he took was not fatal.

Now, Ms Pederson, 49, has lent her weight to their demand for a formal inquest and the release of the autopsy report, which has been kept secret.

In a letter delivered to Baroness Scotland last Thursday, Ms Pederson’s lawyer said: ‘Given the absence of a coroner’s inquest and the perpetual secrecy surrounding the post-mortem examination, it is painfully obvious that this matter cries out for a formal, independent and complete review. Ms Pederson fully supports and adds her voice to such an effort.’

The letter emphasises Ms Pederson’s position as ‘a close friend’ of the scientist. She has denied speculation that they were involved romantically but she did know things about him that came as a surprise even to his widow, Janice.

Ms Pederson has revealed that Dr Kelly was unable to use his right hand for tasks requiring strength because of a painful elbow injury.

She said he would have had to be a ‘contortionist’ to have killed himself in the way the Hutton inquiry claimed. She also disclosed that he suffered from a disorder that made it difficult for him to swallow pills.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said last night: ‘This is a devastating intervention.

‘Ms Pederson clearly has critical information which should have been considered as part of the inquiry, and it is astonishing and concerning that it wasn’t. This underlines yet again just how slipshod and inadequate the Hutton Inquiry was. The conclusions it reached simply cannot be trusted.’

The Attorney General’s office said last night: ‘We will consider the letter carefully.’

Friday, July 17, 2009

Anthrax War - CBCS documentary

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

Part Six:

Part Seven:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Doctors demand Kelly inquest

13 doctors demand inquest into Dr David Kelly's death

By Glen Owen and Miles Goslett

Last updated at 11:46 PM on 11th July 2009

The death of Government scientist David Kelly returned to haunt Labour today as a group of doctors announced that they were mounting a legal challenge to overturn the finding of suicide.

Dr Kelly's body was found six years ago this week in woods close to his Oxfordshire home, shortly after he was exposed as the source of a BBC news report questioning the grounds for war in Iraq.

Unusually, no coroner's inquest was held into his death.

The only official verdict has come from the Hutton Inquiry, commissioned by Tony Blair, which concluded that Dr Kelly, 59, died from loss of blood after cutting his wrist with a blunt gardening knife.

Critics regarded the report as a 'whitewash', and Mr Blair remains acutely sensitive to the accusation that he has 'blood on his hands' over the scientist's death.

But now a team of 13 specialist doctors has compiled a detailed medical dossier that rejects the Hutton conclusion on the grounds that a cut to the ulnar artery, which is small and difficult to access, could not have caused death.

It will be used by their lawyers to demand a formal inquest and the release of Dr Kelly's autopsy report, which has never been published. It will also be sent to Sir John Chilcot's forthcoming inquiry into the Iraq War.

The 12-page opinion, a copy of which has been seen by The Mail on Sunday, concludes: 'The bleeding from Dr Kelly's ulnar artery is highly unlikely to have been so voluminous and rapid that it was the cause of death.

'We advise the instructing solicitors to obtain the autopsy reports so that the concerns of a group of properly interested medical specialists can be answered.'

The doctors do not say how, or why, they believe Dr Kelly did die but they have worked closely with campaigning Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who believes that the scientist was murdered by enemies he made in the course of his work as a weapons inspector.

And two of the doctors have added to the sense of persistent intrigue surrounding Dr Kelly by claiming that thousands of emails relating to the case had 'vanished' from their computers, in what one claimed was an act of 'state-sponsored sabotage'.

A coroner's inquest into Dr Kelly's death was suspended before it could begin by order of the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer. He used the Coroners Act to designate the Hutton Inquiry as 'fulfilling the function of an inquest', but as a judicial investigation it had no power to make witnesses give evidence under oath.

After taking evidence from - but not cross-examining - Dr Nicholas Hunt, the pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination, Lord Hutton concluded that 'the principal cause of death was bleeding from incised wounds to the left wrist' combined with the consumption of painkillers and 'silent coronary artery disease'.

The doctors also say that the level of the painkiller co-proxamol in Dr Kelly's blood was about one third of that required to produce death and point to Dr Hunt's comments at the end of giving evidence to Lord Hutton.

Asked if there was anything further he would like to say on the circumstances leading to Dr Kelly's death, he said: 'Nothing I could say as a pathologist, no.'

After the report was published, Dr Hunt added to the doctors' suspicions by telling Channel 4 that he thought a full coroner's inquest should be held.

The doctors have hired solicitor Martin Day, of Leigh Day and Co, and received advice from barrister Richard Hermer, QC, both of whom have a strong track record in civil liberties actions, including winning nearly £3million in compensation from the British Government for the family of Iraqi Baha Mousa, who died while being detained by UK troops.

They intend to use the Coroners Act to challenge Lord Falconer's suspension of the inquest.

One of the doctors, David Halpin, told The Mail on Sunday that they had argued their case in the legal document in 'microscopic' detail.

He said: 'We reject haemorrhage as the cause of death and see no contrary opinion which would stand its ground. I think it is highly likely he was assassinated.'

Mr Baker said: 'The fact that eminent medical experts feel so strongly that the official explanation for Dr Kelly's death cannot be sustained and are now taking legal action against the Government to secure a proper inquest demonstrates both how suspect Lord Hutton's conclusions were and how this dark chapter cannot be closed unless Sir John Chilcott's inquiry into the Iraq war addresses this issue.

'A proper inquest into Dr Kelly's death must take place.'

Among the doctors is Christopher Burns-Cox, 71, the former senior consultant physician for the Frenchay Healthcare Trust, Bristol, and current co-chairman of the NHS consultants' association.

Mr Halpin, 69, meanwhile, is a former lecturer in anatomy at King's College, London, and a former consultant in orthopaedic and trauma surgery at Torbay Hospital. He continued in general practice until 2005.

Mr Halpin said that he lost more than 6,000 pieces of correspondence - many relating to Dr Kelly - during his investigation, explaining that the mystery began when the 'firewall' on his computer, which all similar machines are fitted with as a security measure, became inactive without warning.

His emails started disappearing as though they were being sifted remotely. 'I believe this will have been done by a state-sponsored agency and not by an amateur acting singly,' he said.

A close associate of Mr Halpin's who has also taken an active interest in the case confirmed to The Mail on Sunday that at around the same time he, too, fell victim to what he believes was a rogue agent, losing 'somewhere in the region of 2,000 emails', many of which discussed Dr Kelly.

For professional reasons, the individual concerned, a civil servant, said that he could not be identified by name.

He said: 'I have no doubt that my computer was hacked into and I also have reason to believe that both my mobile telephone and my landline have been bugged until fairly recently. It echoes on the end of the line, things like that.

'But if I made an accusation like that in public without being able to prove it, it would compromise me and for the sake of my children I do not want to enter that territory. I cannot say any more about it at the moment.'

Mr Baker, who published a book about Dr Kelly's death in 2007, also believes that his computer was hacked into remotely, leading to the loss of sensitive files about David Kelly from his constituency office in Lewes, East Sussex.

And Mr Halpin added that Rowena Thursby, who helped establish the Kelly Investigation Group which has campaigned for the inquest into Dr Kelly's death to be reopened on several occasions, has also lost scores of emails in a similar, suspicious manner.

The developments come as investigative journalist Bob Coen prepares to screen a 90-minute documentary, Anthrax War, in London on the sixth anniversary of Dr Kelly's death, this Friday.

The film claims that Dr Kelly's death may have been linked to the secret world of germ warfare research.

Until his death Dr Kelly was privy to some of the state's most sensitive information and worked closely with the intelligence services of all the major industrialised countries.

Among notable claims in the film, which was made over four years, is Dr Kelly's connection with Dr Walter Basson, whose work for the South African apartheid regime used chemical and biological weapons research destined for extrajudicial execution, and whose goals included ethnic cleansing.

The film also suggests that Dr Kelly was preparing to write a book that would have breached the Official Secrets Act.

He could not have died from loss of blood, say the experts

The draft version of the doctors’ dossier – a final version, including diagrams and a copy of Dr Kelly’s death certificate, is being prepared for lawyers this week – concentrates on the ulnar artery, a blood vessel in the forearm.

The Hutton Report quoted Dr Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist who examined Dr Kelly’s corpse, as seeing ‘evidence of a significant incised wound to his left wrist, in the depths of which his left artery had been completely severed...

‘The arterial injury had resulted in the loss of a significant volume of blood, as noted at the scene.’

But the doctors draw on their specialist knowledge of human anatomy to argue in detail that a wound to this artery could not have resulted in enough blood loss to cause his death.

‘This artery has the width of a matchstick in its constricted state,’ they write.

‘It is not easily felt on the little finger side of the wrist... on the contrary, the radial artery pulse is easily felt beneath the skin on the opposite side of the wrist. It is thus more difficult to cut the ulnar artery.’

They go on to argue that, according to the evidence given by Dr Hunt to Lord Hutton’s inquiry, Dr Kelly’s blood would have quickly clotted, thus stemming the flow and preventing his death.

They write: ‘Dr Hunt describes complete severance of this artery, ie transection. This means the elasticity of the artery would have caused it to retract within its sheath.

‘Contraction of the circular smooth muscle within the arterial wall would have narrowed the artery, thus reducing or stopping blood flow.

Blood clots would have formed in the wound, but also within the narrowed artery.

‘That clotting within the artery would have happened more speedily because the cutting was done with considerable trauma, thus causing more damage to the lining membrane, the intima.

Damage to the cells of the intima causes aggregation of blood platelets, thus hastening clotting within the vessel.’

The doctors cite a number of studies which they say prove for ‘all practical purposes’ that suicide using the means allegedly adopted by Dr Kelly ‘does not exist in Britain’.

Although the doctors do not believe the painkillers taken by Dr Kelly contributed to his death in any way – as argued by Lord Hutton – they have restricted the scope of their dossier to refute the reasoning he used on the question of haemorrhage.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Inquiry administration posts

Home > National News > Secretary to Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry named

Secretary to Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry named

06 July 2009 18:04

Cabinet Office (National)

The head of the Secretariat for Sir John Chilcot’s committee of inquiry into Iraq has been named today.

Margaret Aldred CB CBE, who’s currently Director General and Deputy Head of the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, is to become the Secretary to the Inquiry. She will begin her duties shortly.

Ms Aldred joined the Civil Service as a graduate trainee in 1975. She spent 25 years in the Ministry of Defence, where she worked in a wide range of areas, including three years as the Principal Private Secretary to the Defence Secretary. Her last post in the MoD was Director General Management and Organisation. She has also worked in HM Treasury and the Home Office, and took up her current post in the Cabinet Office in November 2004.

Ms Aldred was appointed CBE in the 1991 Gulf Honours list, and CB in the 2009 New Years Honours list.

Note for news editors

On 15th of June 2009 the Prime Minister announced to the House of Commons the establishment of an independent Committee of Inquiry into Iraq. It will consider the period from summer 2001 (before military operations began in March 2003) and the UK’s subsequent involvement in Iraq until the end of July 2009.

Sir John Chilcot is the chair of the Committee. The other members will be Baroness Usha Prashar, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Roderick Lyne.

Sir John Chilcot has asked the Cabinet Office’s chief press officer Rae Stewart to head up the communications team for the Iraq Inquiry. He will be attached to the Secretariat for the duration of the inquiry.

Arrangements for a news conference to introduce the inquiry team and explain its remit will be revealed in due course. Sir John and the other members of the inquiry team will not be available for interview, comment or briefing until then.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

David Kelly was writing book



Sunday July 5th 2009

WEAPONS inspector David Kelly was writing a book exposing highly damaging government secrets before his mysterious death.

He was intending to reveal that he warned Prime Minister Tony Blair there were no weapons of mass destruction anywhere in Iraq weeks before the British and American invasion.

He had several discussions with a publisher in Oxford and was seeking advice on how far he could go without breaking the law on secrets.

Following his death, his computers were seized and it is still not known if any rough draft was discovered by investigators and, if so, what happened to the material.

Dr Kelly was also intending to lift the lid on a potentially bigger scandal, his own secret dealings in germ warfare with the apartheid regime in South Africa.

US television investigators have spent four years preparing a 90-minute documentary, Anthrax War, suggesting there is a global black market in anthrax and exposing the mystery "suicides" of five government germ warfare scientists from around the world.

Director Bob Coen said: "The deeper you look into the murky world of governments and germ warfare, the more worrying it becomes."

"We have proved there is a black market in anthrax. David Kelly was of particular interest to us because he was a world expert on anthrax and he was involved in some degree with assisting the secret germ warfare programme in apartheid South Africa."

Dr Kelly was found dead in woods near his Oxfordshire home on July 17 2003. His apparent suicide came two days after he was interrogated in the Commons over his behind-the-scenes role in exposing the flaws in the "sexed-up" Number 10 dossier which justified Britain going to war with Iraq.

Conspiracy theorists have claimed he was murdered.

British author Gordon Thomas said last night: "I knew David Kelly very well and he called me because he was working on a book."

"He told me he had warned Tony Blair there were no weapons of mass destruction. I advised him that as he had signed the Official Secrets Act life could get difficult for him."

"I gained the impression that he was prepared to take the flak as he wanted his story to come out."

Anthrax War will be screened privately in London on July 17, the sixth anniversary of Dr Kelly’s death.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Legal immunity - as yet undecided?

30 Jun 2009 : Column 162

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): Last week, the Foreign Secretary repeated the Prime Minister’s claim that the Iraq inquiry had not been set up to establish civil or criminal liability. Does that mean that the Government propose to grant legal immunity to any witness who gives evidence to the inquiry—and if so, by what means?

David Miliband: I remember no discussion of legal immunity in our debate last week. We have a clear mandate for Sir John Chilcot to pursue a wide-ranging inquiry. He will do so, and I hope that he will publish in the not-too-distant future his views on how he is going to conduct his inquiry, covering all the issues that were raised in the debate last week. That is the right next step.

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