Campbell cleared by committee

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Indy Politics

"The dossier was not 'sexed up' by Alastair Campbell or anyone else," the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) concluded in its report yesterday.

On the face of it, the words Mr Campbell was desperate to hear should allow him to leave Downing Street with a clean slate at the end of this month. They should also allow him to claim victory in his battle with the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, who alleged that No 10 inserted the "45-minute" claim into the dossier on Iraqi weapons issued a year ago.

The ISC went further than the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) by backing the role played by Mr Campbell in the drawing up of the dossier. The FAC said it was wrong for him to chair meetings on intelligence matters, but the ISC concluded: "Alastair Campbell did not chair meetings on intelligence matters. He chaired meetings on the presentational aspects of these issues, which were appropriate to his position as director of communications and strategy."

The final verdict will depend, however, on the Hutton report, expected next month. There are still some unanswered questions for Lord Hutton to clear up.

For example, it emerged at the inquiry that Mr Campbell suggested 15 changes to the dossier drafted by John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. One related to the 45-minute warning, which was hardened up as a result. In the second stage of the Hutton inquiry, Mr Campbell may also be questioned about why he proposed leaking David Kelly's name to one newspaper - a plan that was aborted.

In his evidence to the ISC, given in private but released yesterday, Mr Campbell insisted that Downing Street was not responsible for the "misinterpretation" of the dossier. Asked whether the 45-minute claim suggested "bombs raining down on major cities", he replied: "In the end it was a pretty dry piece of work and therefore things are always liable to misinterpretation and misunderstanding but I don't think the responsibility for that can necessarily be laid at our door."

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