Iraq evidence 'vindicates BBC's dossier claims'

The editor of the BBC's Today programme at the time of its controversial 2003 report which claimed the Government had "sexed up" an Iraqi weapons dossier said last night that evidence provided to the Iraq Inquiry by the former intelligence official Michael Laurie proved that his team had been right all along.

Kevin Marsh described Maj-Gen Laurie's evidence as "devastating for [Alastair] Campbell", the former Downing Street communications chief, whose furious response to the Today report led to the Hutton Inquiry and ultimately to the resignations of the BBC's director general and chairman. "The thing that rankles with me a little bit is that I thought at the time when [the Today reporter] Andrew Gilligan came with the story was that it wasn't just broadly correct, it was 100 per cent correct," Mr Marsh said.

"Here's the guy at the very top of the [Defence Intelligence Staff] saying, 'we knew we were being pushed to find a certain bit of evidence and it was being presented in a certain way' and that's exactly what Andrew said in his story."

In written evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, Maj-Gen Laurie rejected Mr Campbell's claim that the dossier was not intended to make the case for war: "This was exactly its purpose and these very words were used."

Among former and current members of the BBC news department, the comments were received yesterday with mixed feelings that combined a sense of vindication with anger at the way the organisation's journalism has been treated. Mr Marsh said he was unhappy with the implications by Lord Hutton in his 2004 report that the staff on Today had shown a lack of professionalism. "This vindicates our position and shows Hutton was wrong in criticising Andrew, criticising me and criticising the Today team," he said. "Just flat wrong." Rod Liddle, a former Today editor who hired Mr Gilligan, said: "These comments tell us what we knew already – that the BBC told the truth, Gilligan told the truth and Alastair Campbell's outrage was confected and it was a lie."

Mr Marsh is writing a book on the affair, called Stumbling Upon Truth, which is to be published on the 10th anniversary of the publication of the dossier in September next year. The context for the book, he said, was "that a great clash between New Labour and the BBC was inevitable from the day that Campbell was recruited".

Mr Gilligan was blamed by some for the death of his source, Dr David Kelly, a weapons inspector who committed suicide in 2003.

In the wake of the Hutton report, the BBC is widely held to have become more cautious in its journalism, introducing layers of procedural checks as senior executives sought to avoid further criticism. Mr Marsh, who was later appointed executive editor of the BBC College of Journalism, described it as a "fairly suffocating compliance culture".

John Kampfner, who was a political correspondent on Today but left before the 2003 controversy, said the BBC should have done more to stand up to the New Labour government. "There was absolutely no willingness on behalf of the governors to do anything but raise the white flag," he said. "It was a wholesale capitulation instead of what should have been a partial expression of regret for certain procedures of oversight with an agreement to disagree on the substance and [an expression of] support for courageous journalism." What was already a cautious news organisation took on a culture of being fearful of "sticking your neck out", he said.

Mr Campbell has said he has nothing to add to his previous evidence.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Sauce Recruitment: Programme Sales Executive - Independent Distributor

£25000 - £28000 per annum + circa 28K + 20% bonus opportunity: Sauce Recruitme...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money mot...

Guru Careers: Investment Writer / Stock Picker

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A freelance Investment Writer / Stock Picker ...

Guru Careers: PPC Account Executive / Paid Search Executive

£20 - 24K + Benefits: Guru Careers: An enthusiastic PPC Account / Paid Search ...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us