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June 15 2004

The Independent's extract from Campbell: the wages of spin by Peter Osborne and Simon Walters reveals the extent of Campbell's outrageous behavour - even forging, in the name of a Reuters correspondent, the report of George Robertson's "appointment" as secretary general of Nato.

This book raises serious questions about Alastair Campbell's influence. The Prime Minister never answered clearly parliamentary questions about appropriate vetting procedures for Mr Campbell.

Extract from Telegraph's Spy column Filed: 02/09/2003)

Doubts surface over Campbell vetting level

Alastair Campbell's evidence to the Hutton Inquiry revealed that - when he leaves Downing Street later this month - his memories will include six years' worth of state secrets.

According to protocol, someone with access to the high-level information that crossed Campbell's desk should have been vetted by security services. But sources in the intelligence community reckon that he was never actually given the appropriate clearance.

"All civil servants and special advisers are required to go through an intrusive process called positive vetting," says one well-placed source. "They are only allowed to read documents according to the level of vetting they have received, and as far as I know, Alastair Campbell was never cleared above restricted level."

Intelligence experts say that this would constitute a serious oversight on Downing Street's part.

"It is certainly rumoured that Campbell was never properly vetted," says Sir John Keegan, The Daily Telegraph's Defence Editor. "If so, he was seeing intelligence that he was not cleared to see, including the proceedings of the JIC, which is about as high level as you can possibly get."

Meanwhile, Glenmore Trenear-Harvey, associate editor of intelligence magazine Eye Spy, says: "The ironic thing is that David Kelly was given the highest level security clearance in 2002 having been positively vetted.

"While one would assume that Alastair Campbell received the same treatment, you will find no one either to confirm or to deny it."

True to Trenear-Harvey's word, Downing Street yesterday refused to comment.