Admittedly, it wasn't Perry Mason, or even Rumpole of the Bailey, but the Prime Minister's propaganda chief, Alastair Campbell survived his interrogation this afternoon intact.
The so-called dodgy dossier of intelligence which Jack Straw called a horlicks was more a storm in a teacup, he said. It wasn't really an intelligence dossier at all, he claimed, and as for titivating the previous assesssment, that was all a lie by the BBC.
Jeremy Paxman discussed whether the government spin machine had really spun itself out of trouble with Labour MP Dr Tony Wright, Dr Glen Rangwala of Cambridge University and Phil Woolas MP, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.
We're joined by Dr Glen Rangwala, the
person who originally identified how much
of the 'dodgy dossier' was lifted from
elsewhere and by Tony Wright MP. Dr
Glen Rangwala, were your persuaded by
what Alastair Campbell had to say?
DR GLEN RANGWALA:
There were a number of questions that
remain unanswered. There were a number
of things he did clear up, he identified
people who were behind the production of
the February dossier. That was helpful in
understanding how this thing came into
being. What he didn't do was accurately
identify the mechanism by which it was
created. What was the motivation behind
the establishment of this dossier?
He said it had gone into the Foreign Office
and emerged after which everyone thought
it was an official document?
DR GLEN RANGWALA:
This is where the problem comes into
being. He says on the one hand that
experts within the CIC, modified the
language on the basis of their expertise so
he claims the experts within the CIC
tweaked specific phrases so they changed
how in the original article it said Iraqi
sponsoring opposition groups to change it
to say how Iraq sponsored terrorist groups.
It's difficult to see how anybody with
knowledge of the region could not know
what the original article was about. It was
about specific groups that Iraq was
sponsoring within Syria.
To you, as somebody who does know
about this region, it jumped out at you
straight away that the thing was a straight
DR GLEN RANGWALA:
Straight away, and any expert who did
know the situation in Iraq would have
Tony Wright, were your persuaded by
So we don't get lost in the fog here, textual
analysis and all that, the big question still,
and it is Glen's question, which is did the
intelligence assessments support the case
for war at that time? That was the issue we
all had to come to a view on. The issue that
has become the last few days' issue, has
been did Alastair Campbell mess about
with intelligence information, to doctor the
case? I think that case today has fallen
The case against Campbell.
He convinced you, did he, that he hadn't
messed around with any intelligence?
I think he would not make the assertion
that he made today unless he knew,
absolutely, it would stand up. If he knew
that there was any smoking gun, any
dossier, any bit of information, he knows
that he's dead in the water. That particular
allegation has fallen away. The big
arguments remain about the intelligence
background to the war.
The assumption appeared to be in what he
was saying about how this lifted,
plagiarised, piece of research came to be
published, was that there was somehow a
slightly changing body of intelligence, and
as the intelligence changed so that
plagiarised document could be rewritten.
Did that make sense to you?
He was saying there was a process going
on. Many people were involved in it. We
were taking information from all over the
place, we were putting it together. That
raises questions about quality control, at
the very least. We're entitled to know that
information that is produced to substantiate
a case for war has gone through a proper
quality control mechanism. Alastair
Campbell today said that he acknowledges
there were deficiencies, and it has now
been corrected. But of course, the war has
DR GLEN RANGWALA:
There is the wider problem as well that
concerns the ongoing nature of the
intelligence assessment that was made of
Iraq's weapons. Alastair Campbell didn't
explain today why subsequent information
to the September dossier wasn't released to
the public, so we had Clare Short telling
the committee earlier last week in that her
assessment, that she obtained from MI6,
there was a low risk by Iraq of the use of
chemical and biological weapons in
conflict. That information wasn't released
to the public. One must ask why wasn't
that information released, when it surely
would have had a role in our own
assessment of the likelihood of Iraq's use
of chemical or biological weapons. It also
would have served to reassure service
personnel and their families, if they had
known that there was a low risk of use of
chemical and biological weapons.
This is the big question. The question is,
did the intelligence assessment sustain the
case for war, even if that war did not win
the backing of the United Nations? That is
a big test to set yourself. Then the
secondary big question is, because of the
difficulties around that, was it the policy
decision to go to war that was driving the
way the intelligence material was being
presented, or was it the intelligence
material that was directing the policy.
That's the issue, I think.
It is critical, that, because of the
importance these documents had in
persuading people who were undecided on
way or another that they should support the
Government in going to war.
Yes, and the Prime Minister was
absolutely, in his own terms, honest about
the arguments. He didn't make a link to
terrorism, at least not of any kind that
mattered. He didn't say it was to liberate
the Iraqi people, although this would be a
happy by-product of the war. He said it
was entirely about the intelligence
assessment that amounted to the danger
from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. If
that obviously falls away, then the big
arguments open up again.
Do you think, Glen Rangwala, that this is
ever going to be laid to rest without the
discovery of some weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq?
DR GLEN RANGWALA:
The crucial issue, as Tony mentioned, was
the allegation that there are substantial
amounts of weapons in Iraq which do pose
a threat to regional security in the Middle
East. If there is no find of weapons in Iraq,
and no find of any substantial programme
that was going on of the sort that Tony
Blair discussed in his September dossier
and subsequently, then clearly, there is a
substantial problem there, which does
reflect a deficiency on the Government's
Thank you both very much. We're joined
now by Phil Woolas, who's deputy leader
of the House of Commons. There is an
obvious way to settle, firstly, this question
of whether Alastair Campbell did, in the
notorious phrase, "sex up" the original
document, which is to produce that
assessment upon which it was based?
PHIL WOOLAS MP:
(Deputy Leader, House of Commons)
Nobody is now claiming that the document
was sexed up.
What do you mean, nobody's claiming it?
Who is claiming that? Relating to the first
The BBC stood by its report.
It was reported by your correspondent, on
the basis of one source, which is contrary
to my understanding of BBC guidelines,
yet all of the people...
Deep throat was one source?
That doesn't mean it's true, does it Jeremy?
What you're saying here, what is coming
across to the public, is that the word of the
members of the Committee, of the heads of
the Intelligence Services, of the permanent
secretary, of the Prime Minister and the
Foreign Secretary are not true, and that the
world of one source through a BBC
correspondent is true. There is no evidence
that that first dossier was sexed up.
Second, on the second dossier, nobody in
all of this, and we have had that confirmed
from both of your guests, have said that the
content of the dossier is untrue. Alastair
Campbell explained that there was a
mistake, they did not attribute the source of
some of the documents, but nobody has
said it is not true. The Government had to
take a decision on whether or not they felt
that the intelligence sources represented a
serious threat to the region, and to this
You think there is no different, to take the
case of the second dossier, between the
original phrase in the plagiarised document
about opposition groups, and the phrase as
it appeared in the Government published
document, which had been transformed to
We've heard from your own expert, very
interestingly, the evidence that there are
links with terrorist groups. I remember
before the vote in the House of
You can't play this game. You refuse to
discuss with these people, now you are
quoting them, in fact you are misquoting
them. Can you explain please?
DR GLEN RANGWALA:
The allegation in the original article was
about Iraq's sponsorship of an opposition
group in Syria. Nobody claims that is a
Are we saying that the document was
untrue? No we are not. That is not the
He is the expert who spotted it was
Governments have many experts, the head
of Intelligence Services, one of whom sits
on the CIC committee, as Alastair
Campbell explained, have said otherwise.
The politicians can't pick and choose who
we choose to believe and who we don't.
We have official experts from the
Intelligence Services. If evidence existed
that the Prime Minister had ignored that
evidence and that advice, then you would
have a real cause for concern. But we can't
take decisions in Government on who said
what to whom, when, you have to take the
analysis of the paid experts. With all due
respect to everybody else in the debate,
nobody has said that the dossier was
Hang on a second, the Foreign Secretary
says that it was a Horlicks, Alastair
Campbell said it would be better if it had
not been published. You're now standing
by it are you?
Jack straw said that the process after the
dossier had been produced was a Horlicks.
Nobody in this debate has said that the
dossier was untrue. I read that dossier in
the House of Commons library, and it sent
a chill up my spine. The Government has
to take decisions. It's no good saying, as
Clare Short said to the committee, there
was a "low risk." There was a real risk that
these weapons would be used. We have to
take decisions on that basis. This is about
the process, and again, the BBC being
obsessed with media, we have to look at
the content of it.
To be clear, you are saying that everything
in the so-called "dodgy dossier" was true?
What I'm saying, Jeremy, is that this
debate today is about the process of how
that dossier came about. Alastair Campbell
has apologised for the mistake that was
made. The Foreign Affairs Committee is
looking at the content.
The process matters because it's about the
use of which intelligence is put in the
manipulation of public opinion. That's
why process matters.
The dossier that was published in
September was cleared by the Joint
We are talking about the second document.
That was reported by the media as being an
attempt by Alastair Campbell to
manipulate intelligence information.
We now know that that's not true.
We know he says it's not true.
Then one has to form a judgement.
Do you we believe Alastair Campbell or do
we believe the reporter?
And the head of MI5, MI6 and the
permanent secretary of the Foreign Office.
When they come on the record and state
that, that is fine.
One correspondent on one source is true,
and we are not to believe it? Democracy
collapses if you go on that basis.
It obviously collapses if we don't believe
Alastair Campbell has come before a
But we are not discussing that first document? It's your claim...
We're not discussing the first document.
You are dropping it now?
I am not dropping that at all.
I am trying to point out what the original
question was, to which you were referring
and to which you were standing over
everything as being absolutely true was
actually relating to the second dossier?
So the allegations on the first document, is
now dropped is it?
No, I am not dropping anything about it. I
don't know. I didn't speak to the source.
You didn't speak to the source and I
suggest to you that until Alastair Campbell
speaks to the source we shall not know
whether the source believes what he was
I'm sure the source does believe what he
The point is about the second dossier: you
are saying it's your firm conviction that
everything in the second dossier is true?
Yes, and the debate today is not about the
content of the dossier. Quite seriously the
introduction to the dossier says this is
based on intelligence material and other
And the Prime Minister stood up in the
House of Commons and described it as an
It was an intelligence assesment.
It was not. It was ripped off from PhD
What's wrong┐.it wasn't actually from a
PhD thesis, it was from a student doing a
PhD thesis. But if it was a PhD thesis,
does that mean it was untrue?
I have no idea but it does mean that it
wasn't an intelligence assessment.
No it doesn't. It means it wasn't an
intelligence assessment by the JIC.
Do you mean that any Tom, Dick or Harry
can produce an intelligence assessment?
The important point from my point of view
as a member of parliament and a member
of the Government is whether it is true.
Nobody in this debate has said, the Foreign
Affairs Committee has not said that the
information that that PHD student's article
is true or untrue.
We will have to resume when this
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