Hutton report recriminations begin

Even before Lord Hutton had finished delivering his report exonerating the British government, intelligence agencies and civil service of any wrongdoing in the events leading up to the death of Dr David Kelly, the recriminations were starting.

    The Stop the War Coalition says Hutton's report is a whitewash

    "Many of us thought this inquiry would be a whitewash, but it has turned out to wash whiter than white," the Stop the War Coalition spokesman John Rees told

    "The political establishment are continuing to ignore the will of the majority of people in this country, and they will reap a whirlwind as a result." 

    The inquiry by the recently retired law lord Brian Hutton was announced by Tony Blair, shortly after the government scientist Dr Kelly was found dead in woods near his Oxfordshire home last July.

    At the time, it was widely seen as an attempt to defuse more general calls for an inquiry into the reasons for going to war with Iraq.

    However, the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction has continued to fuel the calls.

    False intelligence

    For Richard Tomlinson, a former MI6 officer who has been exiled in France since whistle-blowing on his former employer in 1997, the real argument is why the country went to war on the basis of false intelligence.

    "I still believe that somewhere in the process was a cherry picking of intelligence and in a full public inquiry that would come out," he said.  

    "I worked in the counter proliferation department in 1995 and I saw the intelligence we had on Iraq. At that time, all our reliable sources were telling us that there were no WMD programmes of any strategic significance.

    British PM Tony Blair appointed the
    judge who cleared the government

    "There would be the odd unreliable report that they were trying to acquire them. But frankly, if you walked into the Baghdad bazaar, you'd find half a dozen carpet dealers telling you that their second cousin was working on the chemical weapons programme." 

    "The people who worked on the programmes prior to 1991, were saying "We don't have any money anymore, full stop!" By 1995, there was no ambition or desire to have a WMD programme." 


    Tomlinson believes that unless things changed "massively" after his departure from the Secret Intelligence Service, the case for war must have been made on the basis of extremely poor or false intelligence. 

    The former UNSCOM chief weapons inspector to Iraq, Scott Ritter, agreed.  

    "That the Hutton report cleared Blair of sexing up the September dossier in no way clears him for going to war based on that intelligence," he told

    "There is something inherently corrupt about the Blair government's approach to this war if they make one of their fundamental pillars a single-sourced intelligence report from an unproven source that has since been shown to be false," he said. 

    In the past, Ritter has spoken out about alleged MI6 programmes such as Operation Mass Appeal and a DIS cell called Rockingham, in which David Kelly participated.

    New inquiry 

    He called for a new inquiry into what he said was "a deliberately deceptive propaganda campaign" to advance the case for war with Iraq.

    "Blair must be investigated, Rockingham must be investigated, the whole process must be investigated," he said. "Hutton has not absolved Blair for his failure on the most basic issue he is entrusted with, that of war and peace."

    The chance of the government ordering an inquiry into the intelligence process that led to war with Iraq is extremely slim.

    The debate, such as it is, is running in one direction only: what to do with the BBC. The omens are not good for the corporation.

    Censoring the BBC

    Former Blair aide Alastair
    Campbell focused blame on BBC 

    According to Professor Greg Philo of the Glasgow University Media Group, a "very dangerous set of demands" is now emerging from the Hutton report, including one to bring the BBC under the control of the state regulator, OFCOM.

    Non-sequitars in Hutton's report were being overlooked, he said, such as criticism of Dr Kelly for talking to the press (when it was in his brief to do so) or a call for all live television and radio interviews with correspondents to be scripted in advance.

    "That degree of fact checking is just impossible," Philo told


    "What will happen instead is that journalists will become nervous and start to self-censor. That really is very dangerous for democracy and free speech."

    Despite this, the Scottish academic was critical of the Gilligan report that sparked the current crisis, and of the BBC management culture that was unable to respond to it.

    "The terrible mistake of the BBC was in not being up to speed with what was happening. With a million people marching on the streets and the government under huge pressure, Alastair Campbell used an absolutely classic PR distraction strategy.

    "He seized on a particular tiny moment where he knew he was right and lashed out. Instead of pausing for thought and announcing that any official complaints would be investigated, the BBC fell into the trap that he'd laid for them.

    "They lost sight of the wood in pursuit of this one particular tree," added Philo.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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