MoD chiefs to appear before Hutton
Lord Hutton’s judicial inquiry into the apparent suicide of Iraqi weapons expert Dr David Kelly will hear on Thursday the testimony of two officials from the Ministry of Defence and a Foreign Office press officer.
In a bid to establish why the identity of the MoD ‘mole’ was “outed” to the media, Brian Wells, the director of the counter proliferation and arms control secretariat, and Martin Howard, the deputy chief of defence intelligence, will have to explain their role in the affair on the fourth day of the inquiry.
Foreign Office press chief John Williams will then be grilled at London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Downing Street’s role in hyping up the September dossier on Iraq capacity to launch lethal weapons.
During the last two days, BBC journalists debriefed the inquiry on the contents of interviews with Dr Kelly, in which it was previously asserted, the PM’s director of communications Alastair Campbell was said to have introduced the clause that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes.
Yesterday, the inquiry heard a taped conversation of the dead scientist with Susan Watts, the BBC’s Newsnight science editor.
Though Dr Kelly denied claims that Alastair Campbell was personally involved, the former UN inspector said Mr Campbell was “synonymous” with the press office.
Ms Watts said Dr Kelly told her that Mr Campbell did not “sex up” the “dodgy dossier” on Iraq.
Dr Kelly had said the 45 minutes clause was based on intelligence material, Ms Watts told the inquiry.
In doing so, Ms Watts appeared to distance herself from Andrew Gilligan’s increasingly discredited claim that Mr Campbell had personally intervened in “sexing up” the document.
Indeed, throwing the BBC into some hot water, she explained to James Dingemans QC, the counsel to the inquiry: “(Kelly) didn’t say the dossier was transformed in the last week and he certainly didn’t say that the 45-minute claim was inserted either by Alastair Campbell or by anyone else in government.
“I felt under some considerable pressure from the BBC to reveal the identity of my source and I felt that the purpose was to corroborate the Andrew Gilligan allegations and not for any proper news purposes.”
But, Gavin Hewitt of the 10 O’Clock news, the third BBC journalist who spoke to Dr Kelly, appeared before the inquiry and said the scientist agreed that “No 10 spin came into play” in the formation of the dossier.