Sunday, June 29, 2003
The Sin of Omission - 29th June 2003, 17.13

The unexpurgated exchange between Alistair Campbell and the Foreign Affairs Committee can be found here. Campbell comes across as a disengenuous sophist who attempts to decouple the importance of the dossier published in February from that published in September 2002. For example, Alistair Campbell explains that the dossier in February was originally prepared for six journalists.

I explained to the Prime Minister the purpose of the briefing paper, which was to give it to six Sunday newspaper journalists on a flight to Washington. I explained where there was new intelligence which had been cleared for public use and I explained that there was other material within the document about the nature of Saddam's infrastructure of concealment and intimidation. I certainly did not say to him, for example, that this was taken from a Middle East journal because I did not know that to be the case.

At a key point in the debate to persuade parliament that a war in Iraq was necessary, Blair stood up in the Commons and stated on the subject of the dossier:

"We issued further intelligence over the weekend about the infrastructure of concealment. It is obviously difficult when we publish intelligence reports, but I hope that people have some sense of the integrity of our security services. They are not publishing this or giving us this information, making it up, it is the intelligence that they are receiving and we are passing it on to people".

The issue here is that any member of Parliament or member of the public, hearing these words, would infer that a dossier, referred to as "further intelligence" would have been approved by the security services through the Joint Intelligence Committee. However, the man in charge of government communications and spin did not check a document designed to guarantee a majority for Blair in Parliament:

Q946 Sir John Stanley: He made the statement today, absolutely rightly, that he was left completely in the dark at the time he made his statement on 3 February that the greater part of this document had been culled off the internet and there were these two significant inaccuracies in it.

Mr Campbell: Can I just say on that at that point, neither he nor I nor anybody in a senior position on my Iraq Communications Group was aware that that was the case. That is the point I keep coming back to. In relation to the changes, I have explained those changes were made by experts within the government commenting upon what they did not know to be Dr al-Marashi's work.

Whenever this government or its representatives fail to take responsibility for anything undertaken in their name, they shift the blame to civil servants or "experts" who will never be able to defend themselves.

Update: To add to Bob's comments, it would be fair to say that Alistair Campbell is demanding that the BBC substantiate their sources when the government was neither willing or careful enough to check the sources in their February dossier.


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