I read the Guardian this morning. Someone has to.
In an edited extract from his Tate Britain Lecture, Armando Iannucci (my old boss, but that's another story) said that "Everyone has analysed the result of the Hutton inquiry. But no one has analysed all the evidence given during it. Because the result, not the evidence, was deemed to have been the story."
That made me a bit cross. Because actually, I did.
In Private Eye number 1190, published 1st October 2003, long before Lord H published his findings (with a little bit of help from the Sun) I wrote this:
As Lord Hutton starts wading through the 23 days worth of transcripts and 9,000 pieces of published evidence in order to write his report on the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly, the Eye offers the good lord - and its readers - a handy bite-sized reminder of the biggest lies that have been exposed by the Inquiry over the last two months.
“The allegation that the 45 minute claim provoked disquiet among the intelligence community, which disagreed with its inclusion in the dossier … is also completely and totally untrue.” - Tony Blair, House of Commons, June 4
On September 19, 2002 (just one day before the finalisation of the dossier’s contents), the branch head of the Science and Technological Directorare at the Defence Intelligence Staff, wrote to the Deputy Chief Director detailing “reservations on several aspects of the dossier”, on the part of his colleagues including “a number of questions in our minds relating to the intelligence on the military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, particularly about the times mentioned and the failure to differentiate between the two types of weapons.” In another memo, the following day another member of the DIS advised "It is not clear what is meant by 'weapons are deployable within 45 minutes'. The judgment is too strong considering the intelligence on which it is based."
“There was no attempt, at any time, by any official, or Minister, or member of the No. 10 Downing Street Staff, to override the intelligence judgements of the Joint Intelligence Committee.” - Tony Blair, House of Commons, June 4
In an email dated September 19, 2002, after the deadline that had been given to JIC members to submit changes to the dossier, No. 10 Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell sent the following email to John Scarlett: “I think the statement on page 19 that ‘Saddam is able to use chemical and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat’ is a bit of a problem. It backs up the… argument that there is no CBW threat and we will only create one if we attack him. I think you should redraft the para.” Although the sentence had already been passed by JIC members in three separate drafts with no objections, Scarlett told Hutton that as a result of Powell’s email he “looked at it again” and “we concluded that that was not right, the way this was phrased, and therefore we took that out.”
"Now, the allegation that has been made by the BBC's defence correspondent, is that the Prime Minister … put to the country and to Parliament a false basis for putting at risk the lives of British servicemen … Now that is why I take it so seriously… I simply say in relation to the BBC story: it is a lie, it was a lie, it is a lie that is continually repeated and until we get an apology for it I will keep making sure that Parliament, people like yourselves and the public know that it was a lie.” - Alastair Campbell, evidence to Foreign Affairs Committee, June 25.
This was actually the fourth different reason Campbell had given for attacking Gilligan’s story. On May 29 Downing Street wrote to the BBC “to register our concern at the failure of this morning’s Today programme to contact Downing Street for a response to Andrew Gilligan’s story.” On June 6 Campbell wrote personally to complain about Gilligan’s “extraordinary ignorance of intelligence issues” and the way he had described the Joint Intelligence committee. On June 12 he wrote again to complain that the use of a single source story broke the BBC’s producer guidelines. His appearance at the FAC nearly a month after the report was broadcast was in fact the first time he had “simply” complained about the veracity of the story.
“I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly. Emphatically not. That is completely untrue.” - Tony Blair, press conference, July 22 Questioned by Lord Hutton on August 28 about the decision to confirm David Kelly’s name to any journalists who guessed it, Blair admitted that “Responsibility is mine in the end. I take the decisions.” He also said that at the meetings where the decision was taken, “there was some surprise we expressed to each other … that it had not already leaked, and I think there was no doubt in anyone's mind that if on reinterview it was clear that he was in all probability the source then we were going to have to disclose that.”
“The matter was handled in accordance with MoD procedures and had been overseen by those at the top of the MoD in view of the fact that it had been the lead Department." - briefing by Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman, July 22
Questioned by Hutton, Blair admitted that noone from the MoD was present at the meeting where the decision was made to confirm Dr Kelly’s name. He also confirmed that, as the MoD’s director of personnel had said on the first day of the inquiry, no relevant MoD procedures existed. The Prime Minister did however continue to maintain he had “played it by the book”.
“We made great efforts to ensure Dr Kelly’s anonymity.” - Geoff Hoon, BBC interview, July 19
Questioned by Hutton, the defence secretary admitted that on July 8, just two days after he had learned of Dr Kelly’s identity, he had officially approved the following course of action: “if a journalist approached the press office with the right name, then that name would be confirmed by press officers”. He also said that Sir Kevin Tebbit checked the plan with him twice during the following day, and he confirmed his approval.
“On the 25th September there were a small number of headlines about that; and afterwards virtually no reference to it.” - John Scarlett on media reaction to the 45 minute claim, Hutton Inquiry, September 23
The Sun, Britain’s biggest selling paper, ran the front-page headline “BRITS 45 MINUTES FROM DOOM”. The Star’s front page read “MAD SADDAM SET TO ATTACK: 45 MINUTES FROM A CHEMICAL WAR.” The Daily Express joined them in reporting as fact that chemical weapons could be used against troops based in Cyprus, while the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Guardian and Times all reported the 45-minute claim on their front pages with no qualification about it only applying to battlefield munitions.
“I do believe that anyone with an interest in good, decent journalism… should understand that when allegations are made, when lies are broadcast, when there is not a shred of evidence to substantiate the allegation they should apologise and then we can move on.” - Alastair Campbell, Channel 4 News, June 27
Asked why he did not complain about a front page story in the Sunday Times on June 1 which specifically accused him of making “our intelligence services become the puppets of a lying government”, Campbell replied “It happens to be untrue but there is not much I can do about that.” When Geoff Hoon was asked why his department had not corrected the many newspapers which had interpreted the “45-minute” claim in the dossier to refer to anything other than battlefield munitions, Geoff Hoon told the inquiry “I have spent many years trying to persuade newspapers and journalists to correct their stories. It is an extraordinarily time consuming and generally frustrating process.” The BBC’s lawyer then asked “Do you accept that on this topic at least you had an absolute duty to try to correct it?”, to which the Defence Secretary replied, “No, I do not.”