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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 16:04 GMT
Dossier: A report with an air of mystery
dossiern 1. a bundle of papers about a subject or esp about a person. 2. polit. a carefully-prepared government report for public consumption, which wants to sound more exciting than a carefully-prepared government report.

EXAMPLE 1: September's 50-page "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction. The assessment of the British Government." Aka. "The Iraq dossier".

EXAMPLE 2: December's 23-page "Saddam Hussein: crimes and human rights abuses. A report on the human cost of Saddam's policies by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office." Aka. "The new Iraq dossier"

ORIGIN: from the French for back, dos. A bulging file of documents was supposed to resemble the curve of a back.

SECRETIVE: while a file sounds like something you'd find in the filing cabinet of a Swindon accounts firm, a dossier would have to be wrestled from the clutches of a dastardly foreign spy in a death match on the roof of the Orient Express. (SEE: The James Bond Dossier [1965] by Kingsley Amis.)

EXAMPLE: PM Tony Blair on the Iraq dossier. "[The Joint Intelligence Committee's] work, like the material it analyses, is largely secret. It is unprecedented for the government to publish this kind of document."

CRITICAL: some - including human rights group Amnesty International - have attacked the release of authoritative sounding "dossiers" on Iraq. Suggesting they are more propaganda than evidence.

However, others - including the Daily Mail's political sketch writer Quentin Letts - think more "For Your Eyes Only" ministerial "dossiers" on subjects such as terrorist threats should be made public.


Reader Alf Fairweather adds: Doss: To spend time unproductively
Dossier: A set of documents detailing how you have spent time unproductively
Dossiest: The most complete set of documents detailing how to spend all of your time unproductively

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25 Sep 02 | Conflict with Iraq
02 Dec 02 | Politics
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