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UK war dossier a sham, say experts

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  • World View <ummyakoub@yahoo.com>
    1 UK war dossier a sham, say experts 2 British govt admits blunder on Iraq dossier UK war dossier a sham, say experts
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2003
      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
      The Guardian

      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
      coming through."

      Disturbing reports

      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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