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Special report: David Kelly
Kelly 'confused' over 45-minute claim
Matthew Tempest, political correspondent
Tuesday August 26, 2003
David Kelly was in a "state of deep confusion" over the 45-minute claim referred to in Andrew Gilligan's BBC report, the head of the joint intelligence committee (JIC) claimed today.
Emerging from the shadows of the security services for the first time to give evidence to the Hutton inquiry, John Scarlett said Dr Kelly was ignorant of whether the Today reporter was referring to "missiles or munitions" with regard to the disputed 45-minute capability.
That difference, between missiles - which need loading with materials - and "battlefield shells", could provide enough "wiggle room" for the government to reject both the BBC story and Dr Kelly's disagreement with the dossier, while preserving the government's scientist's reputation.
On the afternoon of day nine of the inquiry, both Mr Scarlett and Sir David Omand, the government's security coordinator, gave their accounts of how the dossier was compiled and how the government put Dr Kelly's name in the public domain.
Mr Scarlett revealed he had first heard of Dr Kelly's name following a story in the Observer disputing the biological weapons use of laboratories found in Iraq after the war.
Martin Howard, the deputy chief of intelligence at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), told the JIC chief that Dr Kelly had personally rung him to volunteer that he was not source of the story - a claim Mr Howard said he was not sure was true.
That indicates Dr Kelly was already at least under a cloud of suspicion from at least some sectors of Whitehall.
But Mr Scarlett faced a sticky moment when he was confronted with an internal email declaring that the source for Gilligan's story had "first or second-hand knowledge of the 45-minute claim".
Mr Scarlett said he had made it clear that if Dr Kelly then appeared before the foreign affairs committee (FAC) "he was not speaking as a spokesman of government policy for the Ministry of Defence".
But the JIC chief suffered another embarrassment when an email for Colin Smith of the counter-proliferation section of the DCDI wrote: "Kelly is apparently feeling the pressure, [he] does not appear to be handling it well."
Mr Scarlett countered that he had personally chaired the meeting, of which that was a note, and that he disagreed.
"That is not the official record, that is an internal note within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office", he told the inquiry.
It was also revealed that the JIC chief had personally vetoed an idea from Alastair Campbell that he issue a public statement on the weekend following Mr Gilligan's May 29 initial broadcast, "putting the record straight".
Mr Scarlett told Mr Campbell such a move would be neither "appropriate" nor "normal for the chair of the JIC".
In his evidence, Sir David Omand denied all suggestions that either junior ranks of the intelligence services had unease over the role of the No 10 communications department in the construction of the September dossier, or that there had been any rows between himself and Alastair Campbell.
He said: "The JIC itself was anxious to produce as strong a document as possible", hinting that the intelligence community was happy to acquiesce in producing the most belligerent case available.
But under questioning from the QC for Lord Hutton, James Dingemans, Sir David was forced to deny the accusation that he was more keen to pass on Dr Kelly's identity to the intelligence and security committee than the scientist's involvement in producing the dossier.
Unlike Mr Scarlett and many other of the witnesses to the inquiry, Sir David said he had heard Mr Gilligan's original broadcast, and was "extremely surprised" by it.
He said that the prime minister, after being informed that Dr Kelly had come forward to his MoD bosses as a possible source, had "intense interest and concern" in the matter.
On Sunday July 6, following a Times story which stated the source was a former weapons inspector now back in Iraq, Mr Blair rang Sir David from Chequers, asking if there was now enough information to inform the FAC of Dr Kelly's indentity - and thereby trigger possibly the delaying of their report and Dr Kelly's name becoming public.
They decided to wait on the MoD's second interview with Dr Kelly.
The inquiry briefly heard of an initiative by Alastair Campbell on the July 9 for him to go before the private intelligence and security committee for "more than half an hour" to apparently refocus their attention on the BBC/Campbell row over the 45-minute claim.
Mr Scarlett and others would possibly have appeared to "emphasise the risk to the security services" of more information being made public.
This idea appears not to have been pursued.
Tomorrow the under-fire defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, will give evidence to the inquiry.
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