Over the four weeks since mid-August, Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of David Kelly has painted vivid pictures of some of Britain's main institutions - Downing Street, the BBC, the intelligence services - as well as individuals such as Dr Kelly himself. But just as it appears that a witness is doing no more than add a few brushstrokes, he or she comes out with a piece of information that transforms the entire scene, and testimony given days or weeks earlier is seen in a fresh light.
The inquiry is now in recess for a week as Lord Hutton considers what he has heard so far, and decides which witnesses should be called back for further examination. That, and the possibility that we will hear from other figures for the first time, could again suddenly change the landscape. A mass of information has already been revealed, however, including hundreds of government documents which would otherwise have remained unseen for 30 years.
What do we now know as a result of the inquiry?
The September 2002 dossier
The dossier's claim that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons in 45 minutes is what led to the Hutton inquiry. After talking to Dr Kelly, the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan reported that Downing Street's director of communications, Alastair Campbell, had inserted the claim into the dossier over the objections of the intelligence agencies.
Evidence from John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), the highest intelligence-clearing body, contradicted that. But in attempting to downplay what Dr Kelly knew, he fatally undermined the validity of the 45-minute claim. The scientist thought it related to missiles with chemical warheads, said Mr Scarlett, when it actually referred to battlefield weapons such as mortars or artillery. That fell far short of qualifying as WMD, however, a point made devastatingly by Dr Brian Jones, a retired senior analyst in the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS).
In the most startling evidence of the hearings so far, Dr Jones and a chemical weapons expert known only as Mr A, who testified over a voice link from the Ministry of Defence, demolished the 45-minute claim once and for all. It raised more questions than it answered, said Mr A: "Are you referring to a technical process? Are you referring to a command and control process?" It was "nebulous" and second-hand, possibly from a source aiming "to influence rather than inform", said Dr Jones, who before his retirement managed the scientific and technical experts interpreting intelligence on WMD.
Asked by Lord Hutton to elaborate on concerns expressed by his staff, Dr Jones said certain claims had been "over-egged". Instead of saying Iraq had "probably" or "possibly" produced chemical warfare agents, for example, the claim was made without qualification.
'Sexing up' the dossier
In a note to Mr Campbell, who considers him a "mate", Mr Scarlett claimed "ownership" of the dossier. As Tony Blair told the inquiry: "We could hand on heart say: this is the assessment of the Joint Intelligence Committee."
But persistent probing by James Dingemans QC, senior counsel to the inquiry, and the release of Downing Street emails have shown a torrent of comment on drafts of the dossier by staff at No 10, much of it scathing. Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, said it did "nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat, from Saddam". Tom Kelly, one of Mr Blair's official spokesmen, complained of "our inability to say that he [Saddam] could pull the nuclear trigger any time soon".
Mr Campbell told the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee that he had asked for 11 changes in the dossier, plus a few "drafting points". None concerned the 45 minutes. But when his correspondence with Mr Scarlett was published, there was indeed a request to change "weak" language on this claim. "The language you queried ... has been tightened," Mr Scarlett replied. This exchange undermined Mr Campbell's claim to the inquiry that he had had "no input, output, or influence" on the dossier.
The JIC chairman was asked about dissent within the intelligence services, including a letter from a figure in the Ministry of Defence who said that, as "probably the most senior and experienced intelligence community official working on WMD", he had had serious reservations about the dossier. Mr Scarlett and other witnesses said there had been some unhappiness about semantics, but the JIC chairman said, "personally I was unaware" of any complaints on the wording of the 45-minute claim.
Once again Dr Jones's testimony was devastating. He revealed that he had written the letter shown earlier in the inquiry, because he and his staff felt "Iraq's chemical weapons and biological weapons capability were not being accurately represented". Mr A and Dr Kelly were both at an informal meeting, chaired by Dr Jones on 19 September, five days before the dossier was published. The DIS had submitted six pages of proposed changes to the dossier, few of which were taken up. By this time the "shutters were coming down" on changes, and Dr Jones felt their reservations were not going to be reflected in the final version.
One person at the meeting, Mr A wrote in an email to Dr Kelly, said that the authors of the dossier had been "grasping at straws", adding: "You and I should have been more involved in this than the spin merchants of this administration". There was a perception, he told the inquiry, that the dossier "had been round the houses several times to try to find a form of words which would strengthen certain political objectives". Dr Jones agreed, saying the impression was "that there was an influence from outside the intelligence community". Most damagingly, he believed a full JIC meeting was not held to consider the final version of the dossier.
All this reinforces the view that Mr Scarlett was too close to Downing Street. Just as a civil servant is now to be put in charge of Mr Campbell's spin-doctoring functions, chairmanship of the JIC may revert to a Foreign Office mandarin, as is traditional.
Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, seems fated to be the main political casualty of the Kelly affair. However, in his own evidence, he came across almost as an innocent bystander. He made no contribution to the disputed September dossier, was not named in Mr Gilligan's now notorious broadcast on 29 May and he was not told that a hunt had begun for Mr Gilligan's source.
He first became involved when the BBC claimed that Mr Gilligan had run his story past the Ministry of Defence press office before he broadcast it. Mr Hoon rang Mr Campbell and then contacted the BBC, to say that it was untrue. He was drawn in more directly when Dr Kelly admitted to talking to Mr Gilligan. Mr Hoon was angry because his department already had a reputation in Whitehall for leaks and unauthorised briefings. He was also worried that if he held back the information that a possible source had come forward, he might be accused of a cover-up.
However, he insisted in his evidence that he did not want Dr Kelly's name to be made public because it was not certain that he was the main source of the BBC's allegation, and he claimed not to have been involved in the strategy devised in his press office for handling journalists' enquiries, which quickly resulted in the name coming out.
He may have opened himself to criticism, though, because he did not tell Lord Hutton about a meeting in his own office at which this "naming strategy" was discussed, as was revealed last week by his political adviser. It was only when the name was out that Mr Hoon can be accused of making a controversial decision, when he overruled civil service advice and decided that Dr Kelly would have to go in front of a public hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee to answer questions.
Teflon Tony Blair
In contrast to his Defence Secretary, Tony Blair gave a polished and confident performance in front of Lord Hutton, in which he accepted responsibility for everything that had taken place, while acquitting himself of direct personal involvement.
His evidence gave a glimpse of a Prime Minister obsessed with presentation and with how events and decisions would impact on public opinion. But then, Mr Blair's defenders would argue that he was giving evidence about an issue which was all about public opinion and the relations between government and journalists. His evidence was interspersed with occasional accounts of his daily diary, which showed that he always had dozens of other issues to contend with at the time.
The most striking and, in some ways, most shocking aspect of his evidence came right at the end, when he was twice asked whether he had anything to add. His audience expected to hear some words of regret that Dr Kelly had died, but all they got was a flat "no".
Was Andrew Gilligan right?
No reputation has risen and fallen as sharply during the course of the inquiry as that of the Today programme's defence correspondent. His own performance in the witness box was hesitant and nervous, and contained damaging admissions - he had lost his 2001 diary and the transcript he made of his conversation with Dr Kelly; his first broadcast of the 45-minute story had incorrectly accused Downing Street of knowing the information to be wrong when it put it in the dossier; he could not prove that he had adequately outlined the story to the MoD before transmission. Internal BBC emails also painted him as a loose cannon. But a tape-recording made by another BBC journalist, Susan Watts, showed that Dr Kelly did believe Mr Campbell had been responsible for the 45-minute claim making its way into the dossier. As for the general charge of "sexing up" the dossier, there was plenty of support from the verbal and written evidence.
Mr Gilligan's stock started to rise again, but plunged when it emerged that he had emailed members of the Foreign Affairs Committee before Dr Kelly's appearance, revealing him as Ms Watts's source and suggesting questions to be put to the scientist. Dr Kelly said later he had been "completely thrown" when asked about his conversation with Ms Watts.
There were more swings in the final days of the first phase. Evidence from two MoD intelligence analysts on Wednesday underlined Mr Gilligan's point about discontent among the spooks, but the next day Olivia Bosch, a friend of Dr Kelly's, said he had told her it was the BBC man who had first named Mr Campbell. Mr Gilligan's recollection was the opposite - "one of the things I remember most clearly", he told Lord Hutton, was that Dr Kelly had first raised Mr Campbell's name. Ms Bosch's account can be dismissed as hearsay; in any case, Dr Kelly has been shown to have said different things to different people at different times.
While there has been no evidence to back the assertion that Downing Street forced the 45-minute claim into the dossier, without Mr Gilligan's report we would not know what we do now about the flimsiness of that document. The verdict may well be that of an email by Kevin Marsh, editor of Today: "This story was a good piece of investigative journalism, marred by flawed reporting."
Who was David Kelly?
The inquiry has also told us a lot about the late David Kelly, an intensely private man whose death has come to dominate public life. Lord Hutton not only heard a lot about him, he even heard from him, posthumously, in the form of emails and other messages he left. One morning, his voice was even heard, eerily, on a tape recording kept by the BBC journalist Ms Watts.
Dr Kelly comes over as a first-rate colleague, but perhaps not an easy man to live with. He worked obsessively, he seldom took holidays, his job required him to travel abroad frequently, often changing his travel arrangements at short notice, and his self esteem was very tied up in his professional reputation.
He was intensely hurt by anonymous briefings which made out that Mr Gilligan's source was just a middle-ranking civil servant. This and his obsessive worries about his retirement made him feel that his life's work was being belittled.
Very little of this was shared with his family. His widow, Janice, who delivered her long evidence without a hint of rancour or self-pity, first knew that her husband was in trouble at work when they heard on the national news that someone at the MoD had admitted to talking to Mr Gilligan.
This left Mrs Kelly with almost no time to prepare mentally for the catastrophes that lay ahead. By the end of the week, she had been forced to abandon her home to escape press attention, and within another week, her husband was dead. He gave her no warning of what he was about to do. On the last day of his life, he simply sat in their sitting room, exuding silent despair, then went to pick up pills prescribed for her, to relieve her arthritis, and set off for the woods without a proper goodbye.
A great many people now see Dr Kelly as a man of integrity hounded to death for speaking out, but that is not how he is viewed in some government circles. They hardly dare say so in public, but between themselves they point out that nobody killed Dr Kelly except Dr Kelly himself. He landed himself in trouble by breaking civil service rules.
Sir Kevin Tebbit, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, wrote a memo soon after Dr Kelly came forward, voicing his suspicion that "Kelly is not telling the whole story". In parts of the BBC, he is seen as a man who told one story to journalists and another to his superiors at the MoD and to the Foreign Affairs Committee. One of the most sensitive questions Lord Hutton will have to address is whether, and to what extent, he can criticise Dr Kelly.
Lord Hutton's task
Court 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice is closed for a week as Lord Hutton begins the painstaking task of piecing together a chronological record of the events that led to Dr Kelly's death. When the doors reopen on 15 September, the inquiry's own legal representatives and lawyers acting for the various parties - the Kelly family, the BBC, the Government and Newsnight's science editor Susan Watts - will have the opportunity to cross-question witnesses whom the judge has decided to call back.
Lord Hutton emphasised that the decision to recall a witness did not mean he or she would be criticised in his report. If someone was not called back, it did not necessarily mean he or she would escape criticism. Mr Blair was thought unlikely to be recalled, but it is now understood that the Kelly family wants him to face further scrutiny over apparent discrepancies in the evidence surrounding the "naming strategy" used to identify the weapons scientist.
Mr Gilligan is almost certain to be brought back. Other likely candidates are Mr Hoon and some of his senior officials, Mr Campbell and Mr Scarlett.
Coverage of the inquiry so far has tended to reflect the prejudices of various press groups, with the Murdoch newspapers seizing on anything that discredits the BBC. In their campaign against Labour, the Daily Mail and its stablemates tend to come to the defence of the corporation. The result, according to opinion polls, is that both the BBC and the Government have lost public esteem.
A recent survey by YouGov found that only 22 per cent of respondents thought the Government was "honest and trustworthy", down from 56 per cent at the last election, while 47 per cent said their opinion of the Prime Minister had fallen during the inquiry.
Whether these results can be turned into votes for opposition parties has yet to be seen. The Tories are currently enjoying the rare phenomenon of being ahead in the polls, but their ability to capitalise on the affair is limited by the fact that they backed the Iraq war as enthusiastically as Mr Blair himself.
On 25 September cross-examination will end, and Lord Hutton will retire to write his report. To most of the public, the Kelly affair is inseparable from the issue of why we went to war in Iraq. But Lord Hutton's terms of reference do not allow him to delve into that, which is why the long and illuminating inquiry may leave many feeling that the big question has not been answered.The Adversaries: Both as bad as the other? Uncanny symmetry between No 10 and BBC
By Raymond Whitaker
Evidence to the Hutton inquiry has betrayed an uncanny symmetry in the behaviour of the Government and the BBC as the row between them over the alleged "sexing up" of the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction got out of control.
Each side accused the other of an unprecedented attack on its reputation and integrity. Each side relied on a single source. Both are said to have failed to check facts, to have played "name games" and, as their mutual dispute intensified, claimed intelligence supported their case. Finally, both seemed heedless of Dr David Kelly, whose apparent suicide triggered the inquiry.
"Most things in the dossier were double-source, but that was single source, and we believed that the source was wrong." That was what Andrew Gilligan, defence correspondent of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, said he had been told about the information that Iraq could deploy WMD within 45 minutes - the claim at the heart of the "sexing up" dispute. A junior minister at the MoD, Adam Ingram, agreed that the information came from a single source, but denied what Mr Gilligan said he had also been told: that the claim had been inserted into the dossier by Downing Street, against the will of the intelligence services.
It soon became clear that the BBC journalist was also relying on a single source. He related the meeting in an article for the Mail on Sunday on 1 June, three days after the Today broadcast, but for the first time added that his informant blamed Alastair Campbell, Downing Street's director of communications. This was war.
Much of the Government's onslaught was based on the fact that the BBC was retailing charges of the highest seriousness on the word of a single source. Mr Campbell's Foreign Affairs Committee appearance stepped up the row significantly. Brushing aside all questions about the dossier as a matter for the intelligence services, which had had full responsibility, he said the real issue was the behaviour of the BBC. Responding to his criticism, the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies, mistakenly said the Today story relied on "senior intelligence sources".
But if one BBC governor was worried that the programme was adopting tabloid standards - avoiding sources who might contradict their story - there was evidence of similar behaviour on the Government side. Although they decided to confirm Dr Kelly's name to any newspaper that guessed correctly, senior officials admitted that they had never troubled to find out exactly what he had said to Mr Gilligan or to confirm whether he was happy for his name to come out.
Nor was the BBC entirely protective of his identity. Apart from Mr Gilligan's well-catalogued indiscretions, Richard Sambrook, a senior executive, dropped hints to a newspaper whose story pushed the Government's "naming strategy" another step forwards. Olivia Bosch, a friend of Dr Kelly, said at the inquiry that he had told her Mr Gilligan played a "name game" of his own. The journalist said he would throw a list of names at the scientist to see who had "sexed up" the dossier. The first was Mr Campbell's; Dr Kelly replied "Maybe."
When Tony Blair and Mr Davies appeared one after another before Lord Hutton, it was clear that neither side is yet willing to give an inch. "I felt it was ... an unprecedented attack on the BBC to be mounted by the head of communications at 10 Downing Street," said the BBC chairman. If this "extraordinarily serious allegation" had been true, said the Prime Minister, "I would have to resign". The row, he added, is three months old, "and it is still the issue".Reuse content