Sunday, July 21, 2013

Andrew Gilligan - ten years of reflection

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The betrayal of Dr David Kelly, 10 years on

Andrew Gilligan, the journalist at the centre of the 'dodgy dossier’ row, reflects on the shocking facts that have emerged since Dr David Kelly’s death

By Andrew Gilligan

7:00AM BST 21 Jul 2013

I still remember, of course, how I heard about David Kelly’s death. It started with an early-morning phone call from my friend Mick Smith, then defence correspondent of The Daily Telegraph. Dr Kelly had gone missing, and the police were looking for a body.

Even then, I couldn’t really believe that he had died. Surely it was some sort of misunderstanding? Perhaps he’d just decided to go off for a few days and would turn up in some hotel, à la Stephen Fry? As soon as I got to the BBC, the director of news, Richard Sambrook, called me to his office. While I had been on the way in, he said, not sounding like he believed it himself, Dr Kelly’s body had been found, and it looked like suicide. He’d taken painkilling tablets and slashed one of his wrists.

If Sambrook sounded shaken, it was nothing to how I sounded. He had to get me a glass of water to calm me down. But as well as being upset, I was very, very surprised. I hadn’t known David all that well, but he didn’t strike me as the suicidal type, if there is such a thing.

He was quite used to confrontation and pressure: he’d been a weapons inspector in Iraq, for goodness’ sake. I thought his famous grilling by the Foreign Affairs Committee had been distasteful, and symptomatic of the committee’s stupidity, but it hadn’t been that bad. And the affair was tailing off. Politics was breaking for the summer, both the BBC and I had refused to confirm or deny whether David was my source, and the battle between us and Downing Street had essentially reached stalemate.

What a lot I didn’t know. Even now, almost precisely 10 years since David Kelly’s last journey, we are still learning just how extraordinary and inexcusable the behaviour of our rulers was – both towards him, and in the wider cause, defending the Iraq war, for which he was outed and died. On July 18 2003, I did not consider myself a shockable person; I was an experienced, sceptical journalist with, I thought, a realistic idea of how politicians, intelligence officers and civil servants behaved. But over the months and years that followed, my views, and those of most of the country, changed. To borrow the famous words of David Astor over Suez, we had not realised that our government was capable of such folly and such crookedness.

You probably remember Dr Kelly’s main contention, which became the centrepiece of my BBC story – that a government dossier making the case against Iraq had been “transformed” at the behest of Downing Street and Alastair Campbell “to make it sexier”, with the “classic example” being the insertion in the final week of a claim, based on a single source, that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction could be deployed within 45 minutes. The intelligence services were unhappy about the 45-minute claim, David said. They believed it was unreliable. In the first of my 18 broadcasts on the story, I added a claim, mistakenly attributing it to David, that the Government probably knew the 45-minute claim was wrong.

What we now know is that at precisely the same moment as the Government was launching hysterical attacks on the BBC and on me for reporting this, Whitehall had quietly conceded that it was true. In July 2003, literally as David Kelly was outed, MI6 secretly withdrew the 45-minute intelligence as unreliable and badly-sourced.

What we now know is that according to Major General Michael Laurie, the head of the Defence Intelligence Staff at the time of the dossier, “we could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It was clear to me that pressure was being applied to the Joint Intelligence Committee and its drafters. Every fact was managed to make the dossier as strong as possible. The final statements in the dossier reached beyond the conclusions intelligence assessments would normally draw from such facts.”

What we now know is that, according to an MI6 officer working on the dossier, the 45-minute claim was “based in part on wishful thinking” and was not “fully validated”. Another MI6 officer said that “there were from the outset concerns” in the intelligence services about “the extent to which the intelligence could support some of the judgments that were being made”.

What we now know is that on September 17 and 18 2002, a week before the dossier was published, Alastair Campbell sent memos to its author, Sir John Scarlett, saying that he and Tony Blair were “worried” that on Saddam’s nuclear capability the dossier gave the (accurate) impression that “there’s nothing much to worry about”. On September 19, Campbell emailed Scarlett again, suggesting the insertion of a totally false claim that, in certain circumstances, Saddam could produce nuclear weapons in as little as a year. This fabrication duly appeared in the dossier.

What we now know is that in his September 17 memo, Campbell suggested 15 other changes to the text of the dossier. Most were accepted; their effect was to harden the document’s language from possibility to probability, or probability to certainty. Campbell lied to Parliament about the content of this memo, giving the Foreign Affairs Committee an altered copy which omitted his comments on the 45-minute claim and played down his interventions on most of the other issues.

And what we now know is that, contrary to his campaigning certainty at the time, Blair admits in his memoirs that he privately saw the case for war against Iraq as “finely balanced”. No wonder a little tipping of the scales was needed – or, as Blair also put it in his book, “politicians are obliged from time to time to conceal the full truth, to bend it and even distort it, where the interests of the bigger strategic goal demand that it be done”.

We knew nothing of this then. Indeed, in his evidence to the Hutton inquiry, Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, described the 45-minute claim, straight-faced, as “a piece of well-sourced intelligence”, two months after his own service had discredited it. Despite his key role as Dearlove’s military counterpart, General Laurie was never called to Hutton at all; his explosive statement, and that of the two MI6 people, emerged only in 2011, at the Chilcot inquiry.

I don’t blame you if you knew nothing of all this until now; most of it, by happy coincidence, came out only long after public attention had moved on, and the government could no longer be damaged.

But the government knew – and this is what makes its behaviour towards the BBC and David Kelly so incredible. He came forward to his bosses as my source under a promise that his identity would be kept secret, but was effectively given up to the world after Campbell, in his words, decided to “open a flank on the BBC” to distract attention from his difficulties over the dossier.

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, the FAC, was inquiring into the dossier. After it failed to denounce me to Campbell’s satisfaction, he confided to his diary that “the biggest thing needed was the source out”. That afternoon, on Downing Street’s orders, Ministry of Defence press officers announced that a source had come forward, handed out clues allowing anyone with Google to guess who he was, then kindly confirmed it to any reporter who guessed right. One newspaper was allowed to put more than 20 names to the MoD before it got to Dr Kelly’s.

Once outed, Dr Kelly was openly belittled by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw. The FAC, by the way, didn’t want to question him – its inquiry had finished and its report had already been published – but Downing Street forced it to hold a special hearing anyway. The day before, for several hours, he was intensively coached in the need to “f---” me. Under great pressure, he blurted an untruth in the glare of the TV lights; an untruth which, on the morning of his death, his bosses told him they would investigate.

Dr Kelly defined himself by his work and his reputation for integrity. The fear of losing it must have been terrifying, even if it was almost certainly unfounded. Understanding that is one reason why I am certain that he did indeed kill himself, for all some people’s obsession to the contrary.

They’ll hate this comparison, but there’s an odd symmetry between the Kelly conspiracy theorists and Mr Blair. In both cases, their convictions seem to require them to fit the facts into unusual shapes. For Dr Kelly to have been murdered, as the pathologist’s report makes clear, it would have needed someone to force 29 pills down his throat, making him swallow them without protest. Then they would have had to get him to sit on the ground without any restraint, making no attempt to defend himself, while they had sawn away at his wrist with a knife. That knife, by the way, came from the desk drawer in Dr Kelly’s study, so they’d also have had to burgle his house to get it.

The even more telling question, though, is what motive anyone could have had for murder. Even if you believe the British government goes round bumping off its employees in cold blood, killing David Kelly would simply not have been in its interest. It was guaranteed to create a scandal and a crisis, as anyone with an iota of sense would have known. There’s no need to claim that David Kelly was murdered; his suicide is scandal enough.

Ten years on, there are some Groundhog Day elements. Over successive crises, the BBC’s management has been as incompetent as ever. Politicians still appear to think that set-piece inquiries are worth the paper they’re written on – despite the evidence from Lord Hutton’s and Sir John Chilcot’s efforts on Iraq, the latter entering its fifth year with few signs of a report.

Whatever Chilcot may eventually say, the debate on the war appears to have been decided. Few would now dispute the dossier was sexed up. But there is still a fascinating degree of dispute about David Kelly. I have sometimes asked myself why the self-inflicted death of one scientist should matter to us as much as, if not more than, the violent deaths of perhaps 120,000 Iraqis (535 of them this month alone, by the way – so much for making Iraq safe for democracy).

I think it’s partly because there may still be some excuses for what the Government did in Iraq. They expected it to be like Kosovo: the operation would succeed, the troops be welcomed and the predictions of doom confounded. They expected, too, that a few barrels of WMD would probably be found that could have been cast as a threat. Even the charge of “lying” about those weapons is not quite cast-iron: I prefer the charge I made, of sexing-up, or exaggeration. I and most others always thought Iraq had something in the WMD line; the exaggeration lay in the fact that it was nowhere near threatening enough to justify a war.

But there are no excuses for what the government did to the BBC and to Dr Kelly. He was outed to further a series of denials which we can, quite plainly, call lies. An explanation, if not an excuse, may rest in Campbell’s mental state: even Blair, in his memoirs, called him a “crazy person” who by that stage “had probably gone over the edge”. But that doesn’t explain the really scary part: how the machinery of government, in a mature democracy such as Britain’s, allowed itself to be captured by someone in that state.

Sir Richard Dearlove, the former MI6 chief responsible for the dossier, was once asked what he thought of me. Flatteringly, he said: “I wouldn’t want you to print my views on Andrew Gilligan.” My own views on Sir Richard, Sir John Scarlett and the other distinguished knights of Iraq who got too close to New Labour are perfectly printable: they failed catastrophically in their duty, bringing their professions, their services – and their country – into deep, possibly permanent, disrepute.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Goslett Vs Rentoul

News > UK > UK Politics

Foul play vs suicide: Ten years on, the row still rages over the death of Dr David Kelly

The weapons expert's body was discovered in lonely woodland – wrists slashed – but journalist Miles Goslett has always pushed for an inquest. He goes head-to-head with John Rentoul of The IoS, who insists that Dr Kelly killed himself, as Lord Hutton found, and that to think otherwise is to believe a ridiculous and tasteless fairy story

Miles Goslett , John Rentoul  Sunday 14 July 2013

Dear John

We have never met, but I know that articles I have written in the past about the death of Dr David Kelly have prompted you to inform your Twitter followers that I am a "Daily Mail conspiracy theorist".

That's a lazy cliché if ever there was one.

I simply believe it is necessary to have a full coroner's inquest into Dr Kelly's death. The law decrees that any sudden or violent death should be examined by a coroner ... it has been this way for hundreds of years.

A coroner must satisfy themself "beyond reasonable doubt" that the suicide was the result of an intended act. The standard of proof required is deliberately high.

In the case of Dr Kelly, the then Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner opened an inquest on 21 July 2003, but on 13 August 2003 the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer ordered it to be adjourned indefinitely.

Falconer used an obscure law to suspend proceedings, and in a very unusual – perhaps unique – move he replaced the inquest with a non-statutory public inquiry. Lord Hutton, a 72-year-old Law Lord with no coronial experience, was asked to chair the inquiry... within two hours and 40 minutes of Dr Kelly's body being found on Harrowdown Hill on 18 July, long before it had even been established officially whose body it was.

The inquest into his death was replaced by a politically appointed examination of the "circumstances surrounding" his death.

This was improper.

Experienced doctors and senior legal figures – including Appeal Court judges – remain uneasy about the lack of an inquest.

Questions have also been raised about the safety of the police investigation.

Best wishes


Dear Miles

I understand that anyone should be concerned about David Kelly's death, and I think it was reasonable at the time to consider the possibility of foul play. However, any reasonable person would have ruled out such a possibility after a cursory review of the facts, let alone a months-long public inquiry.

So when you say you "simply believe it is necessary to have a full coroner's inquest", you are not "simply" doing any such thing. You are saying that there was a serious possibility that Dr Kelly was murdered. If you are not saying that, then let us agree that he took his own life and we can close this correspondence without intruding further into this sad story.

The only reason you want an inquest is that you think that the Hutton inquiry dealt unsatisfactorily with the cause of death, and the only reason this could matter would be if Dr Kelly had been murdered. This would have involved kidnapping him in his home, where his wife was, stealing his wife's painkillers, releasing him again so that he could greet a neighbour on the way to the woods, and then killing him to make it look like suicide.

This is preposterous, offensive and probably disturbing to Dr Kelly's family, who have not asked a bunch of conspiracy theorists to poke their noses into their business. I suggest you desist.

Best wishes


Dear John

Despite the circumstances in which the late Wales football manager Gary Speed was found in 2011, when a coroner investigated his death he refused to reach a suicide finding because he could not prove intent.

In short, coroners – not Law Lords – pronounce on deaths because they are independent and willing to bare their teeth if necessary.

You seem to reject this centuries-old precedent in the case of Dr Kelly. Why is it "offensive" to raise questions when they arise? How do you know that the Kelly family is content that there has not been an inquest? For whom do you speak?

Your position is illogical because if you "know" that Dr Kelly killed himself, you presumably also "know" what the outcome of an inquest would be. In which case, what do you fear?

Since I began working on this story in 2008, I have discovered that all medical and scientific records relating to Dr Kelly were secretly sealed for 70 years; that six personal items found with his body were tested by police for fingerprints and DNA but none was found – yet this fact was not mentioned at the Hutton inquiry and Dr Kelly was not wearing gloves when found. Foul play cannot be ruled out.

All the best


Dear Miles

Foul play cannot be ruled out? Of course it can, as I have explained, and to say otherwise puts you in the company of cranks. As usual with conspiracy theorists, you adopt the device of saying, "I am only asking a question". Indeed, you ask several, one of them personal and offensive. If you would like to tell me for whom you think I speak, I should be happy to deal with specifics rather than insinuation.

A public inquiry serves all the purposes an inquest could. The burden is on those who want an inquest to explain why they think it is required. The reason the post-mortem report was closed for 70 years was to protect the family from "further and unnecessary distress", as Lord Hutton explained, but he then asked that it be published so that conspiracy theorists would stop pretending that there was something secret about it. You appear not to know about this; others of your fellow conspiracy theorists have given up and gone home; others still have done what conspiracy theorists usually do and changed the question.

As for the fingerprints, I don't know and I don't care. The only reason you have for mentioning them is, as I have explained, that you think it a serious possibility that Dr Kelly was murdered. Perhaps you will now supply some evidence to support this fantastic notion.

Best wishes


Dear John

Examining evidence is the key to exploring any theory.

Dr Kelly was last seen at about 3pm on 17 July; his body was found about 18 hours later. No one knows exactly what happened in between. You say you "don't care" about the fingerprint matter I raised. Why so dismissive? Not only is the lack of prints of interest, so is the fact of their absence never being mentioned at Hutton.

You suggest I'm being "offensive". All I have done is ask for whom you speak. Why are you so reluctant to explain why your mind is closed to the idea of an inquest? If you speak for nobody but yourself, surely you can say so.

The point about the 70-year classification is that Hutton never mentioned it in his 2004 report. It was revealed six years later. He advised that the PM report be published only because he was forced to.

Finally, you suggest it is up to me to provide evidence that Dr Kelly was murdered. That is absurd. It is up to the state to treat Dr Kelly's death as all other unnatural deaths are treated and hold an inquest. I'd have thought anyone who really wanted to settle this matter properly would have seen that long ago. Yet successive governments have been resistant. In opposition, Attorney General Dominic Grieve was sympathetic to an inquest. In government, a year later, he rejected the idea.

Inquests and public inquiries have very different standards. I know which is more rigorous.

The catalogue of lies and cover-ups from so many organisations in recent years surely suggests we should all be sceptical of "official" findings.


Dear Miles

I am sorry that you continue to make a fool of yourself, and should point out that you have not responded to the point I made in my first response that your theory requires David Kelly to have been abducted from his home, where his wife was, released to greet a neighbour and then murdered. All the rest of your detail that "may be important" is irrelevant until you can get past that first barrier to credibility.

The death of Dr Kelly has been investigated, in public, in far more detail than most suicides. All the circumstances are consistent with suicide. A private man had put himself in the public eye, having caused the BBC to publish a report that he knew was wrong; he had denied the words of an interview with another BBC journalist, Susan Watts, which had been tape recorded; and he felt his career was at an end.

As I explained in our previous correspondence, of course I speak only for myself. For whom do you think I speak? I have dealt with the 70-year point, about which you did not know the basic facts and have now changed the question.

Until you can explain why any reasonable person should suspect foul play in the death of Dr Kelly, I suggest that you should join the big names who have tiptoed away in embarrassment from this ridiculous and tasteless fairy story.

Best wishes, as ever


Dear John

The ridiculous "abduction" scenario you propound is not worthy of response. But do reread Janice Kelly's evidence to Hutton carefully. It is revealing. People used to think Hillsborough had been investigated properly. This case still needs a coroner.

You call Dr Kelly a "private man". But he invited a TV crew into his home to give an interview the month before he died, so he wasn't that private.

I broke the 70-year story. I know all about it.

Many people have doubts about this affair and would simply like an inquest to be held.

All best


Dear Miles

I have indeed reread Mrs Kelly's evidence. It is very sad. She described her husband as "desperate", "distracted and dejected", and said: "I just thought he had a broken heart." I would hope that you would show more respect to Dr Kelly's family, who have not said that they are unhappy with the findings of the Hutton inquiry.

You say you would "simply like an inquest to be held". There is nothing simple about it: the only reason for wanting an inquest is that you think Dr Kelly might have been murdered, and that Lord Hutton, Tony Blair, Mrs Kelly and the present Attorney General, who refused the request for a new inquest, are all involved in a huge cover-up. I am disappointed that I cannot bring you to see how silly that is.

Best wishes


Also from John Rentoul:

Last Whimper of a Conspiracy Theory

By John Rentoul
Eagle Eye
Last updated: Sunday, 14 July 2013 at 11:30 am

The 10th anniversary of the death of David Kelly might have been an occasion to restore some balance to the debate about the Iraq war, which I have tried to do in the updated edition of my biography of Tony Blair (there is an extract here; download the e-book here or buy the paperback here).

In The Independent on Sunday, however, I have taken part in an unsatisfactory debate with a crank called Miles Goslett, who persists in propounding the conspiracy theory that Dr Kelly was murdered.

I say unsatisfactory because Goslett fails to argue his so-called case at all. The underlying reason is that the theory is bunk, but it is frustrating trying to engage with someone who goes on about the supposed absence of fingerprints and other details without explaining why he thinks they matter.

It is notable that all the names who have lent their meagre credibility to this tasteless idiocy have fallen silent on the matter. But let us just remind ourselves of a selection of the roll call of shame: Norman Baker, the transport minister (pictured), Peter Oborne, Melanie Phillips, Paul Dacre, Richard Ingrams, Michael Howard, Nick Ferrari and Paul Routledge.

The Mail on Sunday has surprisingly seen fit to publish, on its “news” pages, an article by Goslett, which argues that the Hutton inquiry was flawed because the judge was appointed too quickly. No, me neither.

Appended to this article is a comment by Simon Walters, the Mail on Sunday’s political editor, who accepts that Dr Kelly took his own life, but propounds the more pernicious theory that he was driven to it by “New Labour”. This is more pernicious because it is widely believed, not transparently potty, and therefore harder to rebut.

It is a hideous libel nonetheless and I refer any fair-minded person to the relevant parts of the Hutton Report about the Government’s role in Dr Kelly’s name becoming public. The facts that matter are that Dr Kelly had caused the BBC to publish an untrue and damaging story; that he was bound to be held to account for it; and that, if he was “hounded”, it was by journalists.

Tom Mangold, meanwhile, had a sensible article about the conspiracy theory in yesterday’s Independent, even if he does subscribe to the lazy journalistic assumption about George Bush and Tony Blair looking for “an excuse” for invading Iraq – but that is part of the intelligent debate about Iraq to which I referred at the start.

Previously on the Kelly murder conspiracy theory from this blog. (link)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tom Mangold - 'a clear and obvious suicide'

Independent Voices

Tom Mangold

Friday 12 July 2013

The tragedy of David Kelly 10 years on

Conspiracy theories followed and haunted the suicide of government scientist and WMD expert David Kelly. They persist now, a decade on.

The editor of the London Evening Standard phoned me at about 8.30am on the morning of 17 July 10 years ago and warned me that David Kelly, the government scientist, had gone missing. I phoned Janice, his wife. She was beside herself but a streak of optimism remained evident – he might have had a heart attack on his walk; he just needed to be found; it would be all right.

No, I thought to myself, David is dead. He was not the type to go missing for some 18 hours while walking near his home.

His body was found at 9.20am.

Like so many persistent journalistic contacts, David Kelly had morphed into becoming a friend. Not only did he know more about weapons of mass destruction than any man alive, but he was good, easy company. We always met in New York while he was working with Unscom as an arms inspector, and then we met socially in London. On one occasion, I interviewed him at my home for eight hours without a break. When my wife chided me about the rigours of the session, David just grinned and said he could do this all day.

This was the man whose razor-sharp questioning had reduced the vile “Toxic Taha” (Dr Rihab Taha, Iraq’s leading biologist and the woman behind Iraq’s biological weapons programme) to screaming impotent rage; this was the man who saw behind the Soviet’s desperate attempts to hide a completed ballistic missile programme armed with specially treated smallpox and anthrax warheads that, if fired, would probably have ended human life in the West. David was a very tough, clever and proud operator. The conspiracy theories followed and haunted his suicide. They persist now, a decade on.

Kelly was surely murdered; the Hutton inquiry which replaced a formal inquest was part of the government conspiracy to cover it up. This was, and remains the view of loonies, the useful idiots, the Blair haters, the usual suspects among professional conspiracy theorists, the rank amateurs, the paranoids and even a Liberal Democrat MP. All of them said or wrote books or got me dragged out of bed at first light to argue with them on the Today programme, each one convinced that a clear and obvious suicide had actually been a cunning murder.

If these people are right, consider who is either directly involved in the plot, or is so stupid as not to see an assassination when it happens in front of their eyes. Namely: the whole of the Thames Valley Police Force, uniform and detective, the Regional Special Branch; MI5; MI6; CIA; Scotland Yard; Lord Hutton and his team of lawyers; the Home Secretary; Tony Blair, not forgetting scores and scores of independent and very hungry investigative journalists from all over the world – to name just a few.

And ,oh yes, I nearly forgot. Every murder needs a motive, an opportunity and a logical perpetrator. But there is nothing. To the contrary, there was no reason to kill David; there was certainly no opportunity (ever tried forcing 29 co-proxamol tablets down an unwilling human throat?) and there has never been a hint of who might have done the deed.

Sadly, conspiracy theories grow like choking green algae in oxygen-starved waters. If only the conspiracy nuts were right – then poor investigative journalists like me would be rolling in dosh instead of eking out our humble lives on subsistence fees. If only Elvis Presley were alive; if only Marilyn Monroe had been murdered by the mafia using a toxic tampon; if only Lord Lucan would telephone me at home; if only Lee Harvey Oswald ... get the picture ?

David Kelly was working-class Rhondda Valley who became a credit to his background and was to serve his country and the free world with considerable distinction. He belonged to no man, and was picky, fussy, nuanced and detailed in his attitudes to his work and his conclusions. He rarely committed himself to hasty soundbite sum-ups in the complex world of WMD. His detective work as an arms inspector was without peer. He could spot strange and unexplained explosive scars in Soviet weapons test chambers; he knew the educational background of biological warfare specialists in Iraq, what they had studied and why they studied it. It was David who discovered the Iraqis had modified Czech MIG trainers to accommodate spray tanks (made in England) on their wings filled with anthrax and targeted at Israel.

But he was out of his depth when it came to biased journalism, the politics of the Ministry of Defence and its bully-boy executives and the one true conspiracy, namely the determination of the British and American governments to find an excuse to attack Iraq.

The intelligence fiascos, the dodgy dossiers, the fake defectors such as the risible “Curveball’ in Germany, the nonsense claims that Saddam Hussein had been shipping yellowcake ore (to make nuclear weapons) from Niger to Iraq; the fact that honest politicians such as Colin Powell himself were mercilessly deceived by compliant and naive intelligence agencies – all that was a bit over David’s pay grade.

Trapped, by dubious journalism; caught in a fight to the death (his death as it transpired) between the BBC and Whitehall; impelled to lie at an important parliamentary committee hearing, his pension at risk; his ace reputation (which meant everything to him) in the balance, his marriage no longer a success; imminent retirement – all this, and a little more, drove this fine man to end it all exactly 10 years ago in a small wood not far from his Oxford home.

What a terrible waste.

Friday, July 12, 2013

10 year 'cover-up' protest planned

Dr David Kelly - Gagging the Truth

There is to be a silent two hour protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday next, 18 July 2013, the tenth anniversary of the death of Dr Kelly. This demonstration is set to take place from 14.00 to 16.00 BST.

From the lead campaigner's Facebook page:

Over ten years there has never been a proper inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly - and the Attorney General will not sanction one. Justice has not been seen to be done. The truth has been gagged. Protest against this injustice. Bring a gag, or surgical mask if you prefer, for a silent protest against this injustice.

Friday, July 05, 2013

David Kelly - a new biography

David Kelly: An end to the conspiracy theories?

Having written the biography of David Kelly, I have found out many new secrets, but have finally let go of the conspiracy theories

Robert Lewis

The Guardian, Thursday 4 July 2013 16.00 BST

On Thursday 18 July activists will gather outside the Royal Courts of Justice to protest the enduring secrecy that surrounds the decade-old death of a retiring civil servant. Dr David Kelly was Britain's foremost authority on biological weapons, and perhaps our leading expert on Iraqi WMD, yet as this protest reminds us, his sudden death met with no inquest and no evidence was heard under oath. But despite this basic injustice, and despite my own long years of doubt, I will not be on the courtroom steps that morning. I have broken faith, and this is my confession.

The core group of Kelly campaigners has included doctors, surgeons, solicitors, a psychologist and at least one QC, although this has not prevented some commentators from labelling them as cranks, or – to use the specific pejorative – conspiracy theorists. Yet the morning Kelly's body was found, we were all conspiracy theorists: bar perhaps a few spooks, the whole nation from the prime minister down had no idea what had transpired on Harrowdown Hill. Kelly had been the only member of the Whitehall monolith to tell a journalist what hundreds of his fellow civil servants knew full well: that Downing Street's argument for invading Iraq was founded on deliberate dishonesty. In a haunting final email, he complained he was beset by "dark actors, playing games", and hours later he was dead.

The Hutton inquiry, in its brazenly pro-government account of Kelly's death, did nothing to assuage our distrust, and so for a while I too joined that disaffected legion of disbelievers who spent their nights trawling chat rooms and internet forums. There were a lot of us about. Conspiracy theories were inevitable.

Firstly there was shocking act of Kelly's suicide itself. The vast majority of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental illness or a history of prior attempts, and almost half of those who do not leave a note or some other indication of clear intent. When a man of sound mind abruptly decides to kill himself, especially in such an extraordinary and unlikely way, it is as mysterious as it is tragic. Then there is Kelly's obscured relationship with western intelligence agencies, and the ferocious political storm that engulfed him, But most profoundly of all there is the war itself.

War, whether we support it or not, begs for a narrative that can furnish us with heroes and villains. For the majority of British people, who saw the Iraq war as an unnecessary disaster, the villain was not Saddam but Tony Blair, and, casting about for a hero, we fell on a mild-mannered boffin, a man who spoke truth to power at great personal cost, the whistle-blower who told us "the government probably knew it was wrong".

As my investigation proceeded, this narrative unravelled entirely. I followed Kelly from his childhood in a smallpox-stricken Welsh valleys town to the university where he met his first military microbiologist (and where secretive smallpox work was carried out). I tracked him from his Oxford institute, whose staff sometimes experimented on the Porton ranges, to his tenure at Porton Down itself, from where he made his final and fatal leap into the world of intelligence. The man I discovered was not a meek civil servant but a deliberate, hard-edged expert who never once departed from the official line he was given.

Kelly was a man of secrets, and he kept them all, from the mysterious eco-terrorists supposedly responsible for the anthrax parcels of Operation Dark Harvest to Britain's tacit co-operation with apartheid South Africa's biological weapons programme. And not just South Africa. It was via Pretoria I obtained documents showing Kelly had also escorted two Iraqi microbiologists around his military lab, shortly after the Iran-Iraq war, and from another country again that I unearthed confirmation of the biological exports to Baghdad that our government hid from the Scott inquiry. Kelly never spoke out about any of it.

Similarly, the hue and cry about Iraqi WMD did not spring up out of nothing in 2002. It was a show that had been running for years, and as a chief inspector of the UN special commission, Kelly had always been centre stage. It was during this time that Kelly's original sponsor in British intelligence, the late Brian Jones, began to lose sight of him.

Jones had brought Kelly aboard the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) to help with the debriefing of a Soviet defector. By the late 90s, according to Jones, Kelly had become a man who drifted in and out of the analytical DIS with unspecified clearance and an unclear agenda, governed by a vague and deepening relationship with the Secret Intelligence Service. Underlying this was Kelly's role at Unscom, supposedly a multinational disarmament body, but in reality a tool that western intelligence used to enforce sanctions, encourage regime change and provide the rationale for military intervention. None of this appears to have troubled Kelly. He raised no objection to Operation Desert Fox in 1998, just as he raised none to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

In reality, Kelly was something of a dark actor himself. When Jones tried to get the language of the "September dossier" toned down, Kelly was one of those who opposed him. When it came to the laughable notion of mobile Iraqi biolabs Kelly told the BBC's Susan Watts, among others, he was "90% certain" they existed. Only after his unexplained deportation from Kuwait, when he was handcuffed, searched, and had his belongings confiscated, did he and his colleagues drop the pretence that they would find WMD. Off the record, he began briefing journalists that their existence was unlikely. To Andrew Gilligan, he said the government had suspected this all along.

I don't think Kelly ever gave an unauthorised interview in his entire life. Jones believed his post-Kuwait briefings were intended to manage public expectations after the invasion, and to make sure it was the government, not British intelligence, which got the blame for confecting claims about Iraqi WMD. But the political fallout was cataclysmic. Downing Street went on an unprecedented offensive, and Kelly found rattled senior spooks were turning against him. Just as politicians and mandarins were traducing his professional reputation, counter-intelligence was set to tear his private life apart. Shortly before his death his top secret clearance was revoked. It would have heralded the most intrusive investigation imaginable, and to save himself and his family from the indignity, he walked up Harrowdown Hill and reduced his security risk to zero.

It is a tale bereft of heroes, and so it displeases every camp. Some of those who believe Kelly was murdered have called me an intelligence plant. Conversely, pro-war "rationalists" have said I am driven by an anti-Blair vendetta. Meanwhile it appears that intervention in the Middle East is imminent yet again, and I have no doubt we will see more David Kellys in the British press. Meticulous? Of course. Cautious and reserved? Naturally. On message? Always, and without fail, until the cracks begin to show. I fear that as long as this country values theatre over debate, we will never be short of dark actors.