Revelations at the heart of the Kelly affair: the story so far

After two weeks of testimony the inquiry already has answers to many questions, says Paul Waugh

26 August 2003

After 40 hours of testimony and thousands of pages of evidence, the Hutton inquiry will enter what could be its most important phase this week as questions about the death of David Kelly finally reach the very top of the Government.

Tony Blair will take the stand on Thursday; Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, who is the politician considered most vulnerable in the affair, will appear tomorrow.

Just as importantly, John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which drafted the dossiers on the Iraqi threat, will emerge from the shadows to give evidence today.

But after just two weeks, the inquiry has already gathered invaluable information which allows us to answer the questions at the heart of Lord Hutton's investigation.

Did the Government "sex up" or exaggerate its intelligence case to persuade the British public to back an unprecedented "pre-emptive" war?

The Prime Minister and Mr Scarlett will no doubt insist that while the Downing Street press office had a legitimate role in getting the dossier ready for publication, at no point was intelligence "bent" to make the case for war.

In a briefing note, Alastair Campbell has claimed that No 10's involvement was merely in drafting Mr Blair's foreword to the dossier, printing briefing materials and preparing answers for questions from the media. "In other words, the normal stuff of presentation."

But over the weekend, as 900 new documents were posted on the Hutton inquiry website, fresh pieces of the jigsaw puzzle suggested that not only Mr Campbell but also Mr Blair requested substantive changes to the now infamous dossier.

A central issue for Mr Blair is why he insisted on stating that Saddam Hussein posed a "current and serious threat" just weeks after Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, said the dossier should not be used to allege that there was an "imminent threat".

Critics will also claim that the sheer volume and noise of e-mail traffic within No 10 in the run-up to the publication of the dossier shows that Mr Campbell and his army of Downing Street officials overstepped the mark from "presentation" to interference.

Did No 10 amend the dossier to make Saddam more of a nuclear threat?

A confidential memo from Mr Campbell to Mr Scarlett on 17 September states: "The Prime Minister was worried about the way you have expressed the nuclear issue ... can we not go back, on timings, to 'radiological device' in months".

Although Mr Scarlett rejected Mr Blair's request because "no intelligence" supported the claim, it suggests that at the very least the Prime Minister led the pressure for the dossier to be hardened up.

Evidence submitted to the inquiry shows that Mr Campbell was very keen to amend the "unconvincing" section on Iraq's nuclear programmes.

In an e-mail to Mr Scarlett, he suggests the wording for a paragraph on "nuclear timelines", the length of time it would take the regime to acquire a nuclear bomb. The wording, which was accepted, states that "they could provide nuclear weapons in between one and two years".

Similarly, later drafts cut out a section of Mr Blair's foreword which admitted that "the case I make is not that Saddam could launch a nuclear attack on London or another part of the UK (he could not)."

Why did Britain claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for its nuclear weapons programme when even the Americans found the allegation was false?

Mr Blair's obvious desire to raise the spectre of a nuclear threat from Iraq perhaps explains the lengths to which the September dossier goes to link Saddam with Niger.

Fresh documents to the Hutton inquiry shed light on this issue, with an early draft of the dossier actually stating as fact the claim that uranium "has been purchased from Africa".

After reading the draft, the CIA complained that such intelligence was not "credible" and the final dossier watered it down to read that Iraq had "sought" to buy the nuclear material. The Niger claim has subsequently been dismissed by the UN's atomic weapons inspectors.

Along with the nuclear threat, the image of Saddam launching chemical and biological weapons could persuade a doubting public that urgent action was needed.

Did No 10 have a role in the claim that Saddam was able to deploy chemical and biological weapons in just 45 minutes?

It is increasingly clear that there is no evidence to back the allegation, made by the BBC's Andrew Gilligan, that Mr Campbell inserted this terrifying claim into the dossier. However, Mr Campbell claimed last week that he had no "input, output, influence on that whatsoever at any stage in the process" on the allegation.

New documents have shown that he did indeed suggest the word "may" should be replaced with the stronger "are" in a sentence about Iraq being able to deploy banned weapons within 45 minutes of an order. " 'May' is weaker than in the summary," he wrote to Mr Scarlett, who accepted his advice. Mr Campbell also managed to strengthen another "may" reference with the word "could". At the very least, he had "input" and "influence" on the claim.

Crucially, it has emerged that two Defence Intelligence Staff officials had "concerns" about the claim. One officer, described as the most senior intelligence official working on WMD, even formally complained on 19 September, five days before the dossier was produced. That same day, Dr Kelly attended a long meeting of DIS experts which aired their concerns.

In a tape-recording by the BBC reporter Susan Watts, Dr Kelly stated that the "No 10 press office" had been involved in the use of the 45-minute claim.

Did the Government or the BBC contribute in any way to the death of Dr Kelly?

This is ostensibly the main task of the Hutton inquiry and a picture can already be built of the role of ministers and Whitehall officials in the decision to reveal Dr Kelly's identity once he admitted he had talked to Mr Gilligan.

We now know that Mr Hoon went against the advice of Sir Kevin Tebbit, the MoD's permanent secretary, in forcing Dr Kelly to appear before MPs in public. Mr Hoon, however, tried to prevent Dr Kelly from answering questions about the dossier itself.

We also know that Mr Blair was instrumental in the scientist being subjected to a second "security-style interview" by MoD bosses. The Prime Minister agreed with the decision to produce a press statement revealing that an official had come forward.

While the MoD devised the controversial "naming strategy", in which journalists were encouraged to guess the name of Mr Gilligan's source, No 10's role in the idea remains unclear.

Mr Gilligan himself faces serious questions as to why he briefed the Foreign Affairs Select Committee with the information that Dr Kelly was the source used by his colleague Ms Watts. Dr Kelly looked at his most uncomfortable when confronted about Ms Watts' reports.

Who has come off worst in the whole affair?

From Lord Hutton's own interventions, it is clear he is mystified as to why the Government couldn't simply drop the whole matter on 7 July, when MPs concluded that Mr Campbell had not inserted the 45-minute claim and BBC governors declared that Mr Blair had not lied to Parliament.

Mr Hoon looks very vulnerable, but Mr Blair faces the charge that he allowed a vendetta by his chief spin doctor to spiral out of control.

For the BBC, Mr Gilligan is damaged by his admission that he was wrong to claim Downing Street insisted on the claim knowing it to be false. Richard Sambrook, director of news, is also damaged by leaking clues about the source's identity.


Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Gives evidence today

Documents released, and evidence heard, by the Hutton inquiry show Mr Scarlett altered the September dossier after pressure from Downing Street.

Replying to a memo from Mr Campbell on the dossier, said "the language you queried has been tightened".

Allowed Mr Campbell to chair a meeting on the dossier, despite Mr Blair's chief spinner having no known background in intelligence.

Suggested in a note to Sir David Omand that Dr Kelly be subject to a "proper security-style interview".

Questions: Why did he allow Mr Campbell to interfere so often in the drafting of the September dossier? Did he allow the document to be "sexed up" in a way that made intelligence officials unhappy with its composition? What did he mean by a "security-style interview"?

Secretary of State for Defence, Gives evidence tomorrow

Rejected advice from the most senior civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, Sir Kevin Tebbit, and insisted that the scientist appeared before MPs in public.

Extracted a condition from Donald Anderson, Labour chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, that Dr Kelly would not be questioned on Iraq arms dossier.

Asked Ann Taylor, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), also to restrict the questioning of Dr Kelly to the above grounds, as well as making the offer that she could question him in public.

Involved in a plan to block the ISC from taking evidence from dissatisfied intelligence officials.

Questions: Why was he so concerned to push Dr Kelly into the public eye? Why did he insist the scientist would not be asked questions on the dossier? Did he suppress dissent within the ranks of the intelligence services?

Prime Minister, gives evidence on Thursday

Three-page document headed "Meetings in the Prime Minister's study" shows Mr Blair was in a series of meetings to discuss what to do about Dr Kelly.

An e-mail from Sir David Omand, co-ordinator of security and intelligence at Downing Street, said Mr Blair asked for "a deeper analysis" of the scientist's role.

Memos from Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair's chief of staff, reveal he had wanted Dr Kelly to make a public appearance before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

E-mails from Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's director of communications and strategy, show how Mr Blair tried to harden up the report.

Questions: How closely was he involved in naming Dr Kelly? Should the matter have been left to the Ministry of Defence? When was he first aware of the 45-minute claim? Should he have had such an influence over the dossier?


By Oliver Duff

9,000 Pages of documents published on the internet on Saturday;

37 Witnesses who will have testified by the end of the inquiry;

2,205 Minutes of evidence heard so far by Lord Hutton;

275 Length in minutes of Alastair Campbell's testimony, the longest given by any witness;

4 Drafts made of the Government's September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction;

11 Changes Mr Campbell told the FAC in June he asked John Scarlett to make to the dossier;

15 Changes Mr Campbell actually asked Mr Scarlett to make to the dossier;

5,000,000 Advance in s Mr Campbell can expect for publishing his diaries, says the managing editor of one of Britain's biggest publishing houses;

5 Meetings Tony Blair found time to chair in two days on how to deal with the crisis;

1,100 Members of the public expected to attend over the course of the inquiry.