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[casi] The Nation: Dossier, cited by Powell, called "a sham"

Dossier, cited by Powell, called "a sham"

02/06/2003 @ 10:54pm

Speaking to the United Nations on Wednesday, in an address that was
broadly portrayed as a case for war with Iraq, Secretary of State Colin
Powell argued that, "Iraq today is actively using its considerable
intelligence capabilities to hide its illicit activities." To support
that claim, Powell said, "I would call my colleagues attention to the
fine paper that United Kingdom distributed yesterday, which describes in
exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities."

It turns out, however, that much of that "fine paper" – a dossier
distributed by the office of British Prime Minister Tony Blair under the
title, "Iraq - Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and
Intimidation" – was not a fresh accounting of information based on new
"intelligence" about Iraqi attempts to thwart UN weapons inspections.
Rather, the document has been exposed by Britain's ITN television
network as a cut-and-paste collection of previously published academic
articles, some of which were based on dated material.

Substantial portions of the report that Powell used to support his
critique of Iraq were lifted from an article written by a postgraduate
student who works not in Baghdad but in Monterey, California, and who
based much of his research on materials left in Kuwait more than a dozen
years ago by Iraqi security services.

ITN's Channel 4 News ( revealed Thursday
night that at least four of the government report's 19 pages had been
copied from an internet version of an article by the California
researcher, Ibrahim al-Marashi, which appeared in September, 2002, in an
academic journal, the Middle East Review of International Affairs.
According to al-Marashi, he was not contacted by the British government
regarding his research or his sources.

The portions of the government document taken from al-Marashi's article
appear to have been grabbed in what Britain's Guardian newspaper
describes in Friday morning's editions as "a sham" and "an electronic
cut-and-paste operation by Whitehall (Blair government) officials." So
sweeping was the plagiarism that, according to British journalists who
reviewed the materials, typographical errors – including a misplaced
comma -- that appeared in al-Marashi's article were reproduced in the
official dossier that was posted on Blair's 10 Downing Street website.

To the extent that changes were made, they appear to have been inserted
to increase the shock value of the information. Though he said that most
of the information that was swiped from his article was reproduced
accurately, al-Marashi told BBC's Newsnight program that the British
dossier included "cosmetic changes." For instance, he noted, "I said
that (Iraqi intelligence operatives) support organizations in what Iraq
considers hostile regimes, whereas the UK document refers to it as
'supporting terrorist organizations in hostile regimes'."

In addition to the sections taken from al-Marashi's article, according
to the Guardian, "The content of six more pages (of the dossier) relies
heavily on articles by Sean Boyne and Ken Gause that appeared in Jane's
Intelligence Review in 1997 and last November. None of these sources is

Blair aides scrambled on Thursday evening to cover their tracks. "We
said that it draws on a number of sources, including intelligence. It
speaks for itself," a Downing Street spokesperson said of the report.
Appearing on the BBC last night, Blair said he still believes he is
right to argue that Iraq poses a clear danger to the world. "I may be
wrong, but I do believe it," the prime minister said at one point.

Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University, suggested
that a measure of skepticism might be appropriate. Rangwala discovered
the similarities between the academic articles and the Downing Street
dossier. That happened when he sat down to read the official dossier
this week. "I found it quite startling when I realized that I'd read
most of it before," he told a television interviewer.

"Apart from passing this off as the work of its intelligence services,"
Rangwala said, "it indicates that the UK really does not have any
independent sources of information on Iraq's internal policies. It just
draws upon publicly available data."

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