UK war dossier a sham, say experts
- 1 UK war dossier a sham, say experts
2 British govt admits blunder on Iraq dossier
UK war dossier a sham, say experts
British 'intelligence' lifted from academic articles
Michael White and Brian Whitaker
Friday February 7, 2003
Downing Street was last night plunged into acute
international embarrassment after it emerged that large
parts of the British government's latest dossier on Iraq
- allegedly based on "intelligence material" - were
taken from published academic articles, some of them
several years old.
Amid charges of "scandalous" plagiarism on the night
when Tony Blair attempted to rally support for the US-
led campaign against Saddam Hussein, Whitehall's dismay
was compounded by the knowledge that the disputed
document was singled out for praise by the US secretary
of state, Colin Powell, in his speech to the UN security
council on Wednesday.
Citing the British dossier, entitled Iraq - its
infrastructure of concealment, deception and
intimidation in front of a worldwide television audience
Mr Powell said: "I would call my colleagues' attention
to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed...
which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception
But on Channel 4 News last night it was revealed that
four of the report's 19 pages had been copied - with
only minor editing and a few insertions - from the
internet version of an article by Ibrahim al-Marashi
which appeared in the Middle East Review of
International Affairs last September.
Though that was not the only textual embarrassment No 10
seemed determined to tough it out last night.
Dismissing the gathering controversy as the latest
example of media obsession with spin, officials insisted
it in no way undermines the underlying truth of the
dossier, whose contents had been re-checked with British
intelligence sources. "The important thing is that it is
accurate," said one source.
What Whitehall may not grasp is the horror with which
unacknowledged borrowing of material - the crime of
plagiarism - is regarded in American academic and media
circles, even though successive US governments have a
poor record of misleading their own citizens on foreign
policy issues at least since the Vietnam war. On a
special edi tion of BBC Newsnight, filmed before a
critical audience last night, Mr Blair stressed that he
was willing to forgo popularity to warn voters of the
dangers of weapons of mass destruction: "I may be wrong,
but I do believe it."
With trust a critical element in the battle to woo a
sceptical public the first sentence of the No 10
document merely states, somewhat cryptically, that it
"draws upon a number of sources, including intelligence
But Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Cambridge
University, told Channel 4: "I found it quite startling
when I realised that I'd read most of it before."
The content of six more pages relies heavily on articles
by Sean Boyne and Ken Gause that appeared in Jane's
Intelligence Review in 1997 and last November. None of
these sources is acknowledged.
The document, as posted on Downing Street's website at
the end of January, also acci dentally named four
Whitehall officials who had worked on it: P Hamill, J
Pratt, A Blackshaw and M Khan. It was reposted on
February 3 with the first three names deleted.
"Apart from passing this off as the work of its
intelligence services," Dr Rangwala said, "it indicates
that the UK really does not have any independent sources
of information on Iraq's internal policies. It just
draws upon publicly available data."
Evidence of an electronic cut-and-paste operation by
Whitehall officials can be found in the way the dossier
preserves textual quirks from its original sources. One
sentence in Dr Marashi's article includes a misplaced
comma in referring to Iraq's head of military
intelligence during the 1991 Gulf war. The same sentence
in Downing Street's report contains the same misplaced
A Downing Street spokesman declined to say why the
report's public sources had not been acknowledged. "We
said that it draws on a number of sources, including
intelligence. It speaks for itself."
Dr Marashi, a research associate at the Centre for
Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, said
no one had contacted him before lifting the material.
But on the regular edition of Newsnight he later gave
some comfort to No 10. "In my opinion, the UK document
overall is accurate even though there are a few minor
cosmetic changes. The only inaccuracies in the UK
document were that they maybe inflated some of the
numbers of these intelligence agencies," he said.
Explaining the more journalistic changes inserted into
his work by Whitehall he added: "Being an academic
paper, I tried to soften the language.
"For example, in one of my documents, I said that they
support organisations in what Iraq considers hostile
regimes, whereas the UK document refers to it as
'supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes'.
"The primary documents I used for this article are a
collection of two sets of documents, one taken from
Kurdish rebels in the north of Iraq - around 4m
documents - as well as 300,000 documents left by Iraqi
security services in Kuwait. After that, I have been
following events in the Iraqi security services for the
last 10 years."
Iraq's decision last night to let weapons inspectors
interview one of its scientists for the first time
without government "minders" signalled that Baghdad may
be bending under international pressure.
But diplomats will be trying to determine over the next
few days whether it is a token gesture or a real shift
away from what they describe as Iraq's "catch us if you
can" approach to inspections. Hours before the
announcement, a Foreign Office source in London
signalled that this was the kind of change of heart that
Iraq would have to make to avoid war.
Downing St admits blunder on Iraq dossier
Plagiarism row casts shadow over No 10's case against
Michael White, Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor
Saturday February 8, 2003 The Guardian
Downing Street yesterday apologised for its failure to
acknowledge that much of its latest dossier on Iraq was
lifted from academic sources, as the affair threatened
to further undermine confidence in the government's case
for disarming Saddam Hussein.
MPs and anti-war groups were quick to protest that other
features of Whitehall's information campaign are suspect
at a time when MI6 and other intelligence agencies are
privately complaining at the way No 10 has been over-
egging intelligence material on Iraq.
It emerged yesterday that the dossier issued last week -
later found to include a plagiarised section written by
an American PhD student - was compiled by mid-level
officials in Alastair Campbell's Downing Street
communications department with only cursory approval
from intelligence or even Foreign Office sources.
Though it now appears to have been a journalistic cut
and paste job rather than high-grade intelligence
analysis, the dossier ended up being cited approvingly
on worldwide TV by the US secretary of state, Colin
Powell, when he addressed the UN security council on
Downing Street yesterday toughed it out, insisting that
what mattered was that the facts contained in the
document were "solid" and helped make the case Tony
Blair rammed home on BBC Newsnight. But the middle
section of the dossier, which describes the feared Iraqi
intelligence network, was taken, much of it verbatim,
from the research of Dr Ibrahim al-Marashi without his
knowledge or permission.
"In retrospect we should have acknowledged [this]. The
fact that we used some of his work does not throw into
question the accuracy of the document as a whole, as he
himself acknowledged on Newsnight last night, where he
said that in his opinion the document overall was
accurate," the No 10 spokesman conceded. "We all have
lessons to learn," he added. The four officials
originally named on the website version of the 19-page
dossier include Alison Blackshaw, Mr Campbell's senior
assistant, and Murtaza Khan, described as a news editor
on the busy Downing Street website.
Professor Michael Clark, director of the International
Policy Institute at King's College London, said
presenting such intelligence material "invalidates the
veracity" of the rest of the document. The shadow
foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, called for a cabinet
minister to oversee government information on Iraq.
Even before the latest row some Whitehall officials were
protesting that MI6 and other intelligence material was
being used selectively by Downing Street. A well-placed
source made it clear that the dossier had been the work
of Downing Street and the Coalition Information Centre,
the body set up after September 11 to put the US-British
case on the war against terrorism. The source dismissed
a key section of the dossier as full of "silly errors".
Glenda Jackson, the Labour former minister, was one of
several MPs to protest that the government was
misleading parliament and the public. "And of course to
mislead is a parliamentary euphemism for lying," Ms
Jackson told Radio 4's Today programme.
Dr al-Marashi expressed "surprise" at the lack of a
credit for his work, as did other authors whose research
was quickly identified. One anti-war group, Voices in
the Wilderness, identified a passage from No 10's
September dossier directly traceable to Saddam Secrets,
a book by Tim Trevan published in 1999.
The Middle East Review of International Affairs, from
which Dr al-Marashi's work was lifted, is based in
Israel, which makes it a suspect source to even moderate
Arab opinion, and another reason why the origin of the
information should have been listed.
In Whitehall one official who regularly sees MI6 reports
said that Britain's knowledge about Iraq until recently
had been very poor. But another claimed there has been a
recent transformation: "What has happened in the last
nine months is that there is now strong intelligence
The government has issued three reports in the past six
months, trying to establish a case for action against
Iraq. Each one has drawn progressively more criticism.
September The 50-page dossier Iraq's Weapons of Mass
Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government
relied heavily on input from the Foreign Office and MI6.
The material was damning, but most of it turned out to
be years old. British journalists in Baghdad visited
several "facilities of concern" highlighted in the
report and found nothing sinister. UN weapons inspectors
later visited the same sites and uncovered nothing.
December The 23-page Saddam Hussein: Crimes and Human
Rights Abuses provided a horrifying account of abuses
but was widely criticised by human rights groups, MPs
and others for recycling old information.
At the launch, the Foreign Office had on the platform an
Iraqi exile who had been jailed by President Saddam for
11 years. Later, he disclosed that handcuffs he had worn
had been made in Britain.
January 30 Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment,
Deception and Intimidation, was a Downing Street
production. The first sentence of the report said it was
based on a number of sources, including intelligence
material, but it turned out that much of it was lifted
from academic sources. Glen Rangwala, an academic who
blew the whistle on the dossier, said yesterday: "It
really does cast doubt on the credibility of the
intelligence that has been put to us."
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