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Blairs aplenty

The BBC is having a Jayson Blair moment of sorts. It’s an interesting, complex story, which may wind up getting Tony Blair out of the tight spot he’s in.

On May 29th, Andrew Gilligan said that a British official told him that the government spiced up a dossier which made the case for war. He did not name the official, because he wanted to keep his sources confidential. That’s reasonable journalism.

On June 19th, Gilligan told the Foreign Affairs select committee that his source was one of the senior officials who assembled the dossier. The British government promptly accused Gilligan of lying. The BBC Board of Governors backed Gilligan up.

In mid-July, speculation that David Kelly was the source arose. He was questioned by the Foreign Affairs committee on July 15th. Kelly denied being the main BBC source at that time.

Kelly appears to have committed suicide on July 18th. On Sunday, the 20th, the BBC admitted Kelly was the sole source for Gilligan’s story. Kelly was not a senior official in charge of preparing the dossier, so there’s a bit of a mismatch between what Gilligan told the Foreign Affairs committee and the facts.

The BBC says that they never included those words in a report, which is true enough, but I think there still has to be some concern about Gilligan’s testimony. Certainly that testimony helped create and define the news story.

The furor about what the BBC did, in any case, obscures the issue of whether or not the British government intentionally exaggerated Saddam’s WMD capacity — which is why Tony Blair may slip out of that problem without as much damage as seemed likely last week.


  1. Unseelie Unseelie

    I’d be inclined to agree with you, but his poles seem to be dropping even faster since that news has come out. It seems more likely that the British people don’t care about that, they’re pissed about the likelyhood that they were misled. I’m waiting for the call for a no-confidence vote myself.

  2. You may well be right. I’m only a weak American observer, so I don’t know for sure, but it seems like the real trigger is whether or not a viable Labor alternative arises. Cook being, of course, too pricky and controversial.

  3. You might want to note that Dr Kelly has turned out to be much more senior than the Government tried to make out. You might also want to not that one of journalists Kelly spoke with has a tape of the conversation. The story moves on, and it’s swinging back in the BBC’s favour.

  4. Adam Tinsworth brought me up to date on the David Kelly story, and rather than just rephrase his words I…

  5. I’ve been engaging in debate (well, correction) with Bryant over on his weblog, leading to this follow-up post….

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