The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Dr Kelly: Independent July 27

Bit by bit, the real Dr Kelly emerges from the shadows
The man dismissed as a lowly technician was no such thing.

By Raymond Whitaker, Paul Lashmar and Severin Carrell
27 July 2003

It is just over a week since Dr David Kelly's body was found in the
Oxfordshire countryside, yet the shock waves from his apparent suicide are
still spreading.

The BBC quickly revealed that the scientist was the source for Andrew
Gilligan's Today programme report which said Downing Street had intervened,
against the wishes of the intelligence services, in the preparation of the
September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to make it
"sexier". Soon afterwards Tony Blair, on tour in the Far East, announced a
judicial inquiry into Dr Kelly's death.

At that point it appeared that the BBC was guilty as charged by Alastair
Campbell, the Prime Minister's director of communications: it had quoted a
"middle-level technician", in the description of the Ministry of Defence
(MoD), with no connection to the intelligence services and in no position to
know what had happened as the dossier neared publication. A week later,
however, things look very different.

It has become clear that Dr Kelly was not quite the narrowly focused
specialist, with little connection to the world of spying, that he seemed
when he gave evidence to the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC)
during its investigation of the decision to go to war in Iraq. He himself
sought to create that impression before the committee, and his reasons for
doing so may be significant.

It was public knowledge that Dr Kelly had a distinguished career as a
leading UN weapons inspector in Iraq and had been nominated to lead the
British contingent in the Iraq Survey Group, formed to take the UN
inspectors' place. But we now know that not only was he probably the
Government's most knowledgeable adviser on the history of Iraq's weapons
programmes, but he also had a high security clearance, sat in on MI6
interrogations of Iraqi defectors and was a member of a high-level committee
reviewing all the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. His
value was such that he had been appointed a "special deputy chief scientific
officer", a rarely used civil service grade that allowed him to move in
senior circles without having administrative responsibilities.

When it came to the contents of the dossier, in short, David Kelly was
certainly in a position to know what he was talking about. And it emerged
that he had talked, not only to Mr Gilligan, not only to two other BBC
journalists whose names were put to him by the FAC (one of whom, it turned
out, had recorded the interview), but to several more reporters. The picture
is of a man who had suppressed his doubts last September, only to feel
growing disquiet in the aftermath of war as it became clear how wrong the
Government's claims on Iraqi WMD had been.

Some have suggested Dr Kelly was an unworldly scientist led on by the
reporters, but he was used to dealing with the media. He was not simply one
expert among many on Iraq's weapons programmes: in his field - biological
weapons - he was the expert. Although he did not seek them out, journalists
came to him over the years whenever they wanted to make sure they had the
details right on the efforts of the United Nations weapons inspectors to
root out Iraqi WMD.

Among them was Judith Miller of the New York Times, the paper's WMD expert
and the recipient of an e-mail on the day Dr Kelly died, in which he spoke
of "dark actors playing games". In Germ, the 1998 book she co-wrote, she is
fulsome in her praise for him as part of the "Gang of Four", the senior
inspectors who forced so many admissions about WMD out of the Iraqis in the
mid-1990s. More than anyone else, Dr Kelly was instrumental in getting the
regime to admit the existence of its biological weapons programme.

This was an achievement for which Dr Kelly and his team deserved a Nobel
prize, according to the then chief inspector, Rolf Ekeus - only for that
achievement to be slighted earlier this year in The Independent on Sunday by
the Prime Minister.

"The UN inspectors found no trace at all of Saddam's offensive biological
weapons programme - which he claimed didn't exist - until his lies were
revealed by his son-in-law," Mr Blair wrote in answer to an IoS reader's
question in March. In fact, Dr Kelly's work had wrung this admission from
the regime more than a month before the son-in-law defected to Jordan -
according to at least one expert, it was probably what caused him to flee.

Whether or not Mr Blair's comment fed the scientist's disaffection, his
conversations with journalists after the Iraq war went well beyond the usual
technical subject matter. The tape of his interview with the Newsnight
journalist Susan Watts is now under lock and key, pending its submission to
Lord Hutton's judicial inquiry, but the words read by an actor on the
programme are a virtual transcript.

"It is beginning to look as if the Government's committed a monumental
blunder," Dr Kelly says of the most controversial claims in the September
dossier - that Iraq had links to al-Qa'ida, and that it could deploy WMD
within 45 minutes of the order being given. Of the latter, he says: "It was
a statement that was made, and it just got out of all proportion. They were
desperate for information ... that could be released. That was one that
popped up and was seized on, and it's unfortunate that it was.

"That's why there is the argument between the intelligence services and the
Cabinet Office/No 10 - because they picked up on it, and once they've picked
up on it, you can't pull it back from them."

He goes on to say that in the week before the dossier was put out, many
people were expressing unease about questions of accuracy and emphasis. At
no point, however, was Mr Campbell named by Newsnight, as he was by Mr
Gilligan in The Mail on Sunday, precipitating the row which resulted in Dr
Kelly's death.

A former colleague suggested he might not have realised the full
ramifications of his disclosures, saying: "He knew his microbiology through
and through, he was a real expert from that point of view. Whether he had
the political antennae, I'm not sure." Nor might he have realised the
implications of telling his superiors at the MoD that he had spoken to Mr
Gilligan, although the journalist Tom Mangold, a family friend, wrote:
"David never liked the MoD, he used to complain bitterly about them."

Much of the speculation of the past week has focused on how the MoD dealt
with him, and how his name was leaked to the press. On Friday the ministry
denied that it had threatened Dr Kelly's pension, or told him action could
be taken under the Official Secrets Act. The Independent on Sunday asked
whether his security clearance had been discussed, but the MoD refused to

When the scientist appeared before the FAC, however, MPs had been led to
expect that he would confess to being Mr Gilligan's source. Almost
inaudibly, he reinforced the impression that he was a man out of his depth,
who had had no right to speculate on the interaction between the Government
and the intelligence services. The atmosphere was hostile.

But then Dr Kelly said he did not think he could have been the source, and
the MPs swung on to his side. Had he reneged on a deal? It is impossible to
say, but it is becoming increasingly clear that he was less than truthful
with the committee - denying, for example, that he had met Gavin Hewitt, the
third BBC journalist, which he had done.

Whatever went on at the MoD, it must have been clear to Dr Kelly after the
hearing that his security clearance might be in jeopardy, perhaps also his
chances of taking up his post in Iraq, a country to which he was deeply
attached. His friend and fellow weapons expert Alistair Hay, whose wife
committed suicide, believes the scientist felt deeply isolated.

"It wasn't as if the MoD were saying, 'You're our man, we're supporting you
to the hilt'," said Professor Hay. "He was being fed to everyone as being
the person probably responsible for the Government's difficulty ... If he
felt he had been less than truthful before the committee ... [and] had been
caught dissembling and not being absolutely truthful, I would have thought
this would create huge conflicts for him."

But did this lead David Kelly to kill himself? That is a question for Lord
Hutton and the coroner, but it goes to the heart of the Government's case
for going to war. How far the law lord will want to travel down that path
remains to be seen.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]