Former intelligence insider who stiffened BBC resolve

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Indy Politics

The BBC's management was stiffened in its resolve to confront the Government over the Iraqi dossiers by a former intelligence chief, according to sources in the corporation.

Dame Pauline Neville-Jones had headed the Joint Intelligence Committee before becoming a BBC governor, and is believed to have retained links with senior intelligence staff. She is said to have played an important role in formulating the combative stance taken over the parliamentary committee report, with the support of Dame Ruth Deech, a former chairwoman of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and a pro-vice-chancellor of Oxford University.

Dame Pauline, a former career civil servant viewed as an establishment figure, was expected by many BBC officials to take a cautious line in response to pressure from Downing Street.

Downing Street's main accusation against Andrew Gilligan, the defence and diplomatic correspondent of the Today programme, is that his story on 29 May about the Government "sexing up" the Iraq dossier, citing the disquiet of a "senior intelligence official", was based on a single source. However, over the weekend Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, was revealed to have briefed Kevin Marsh, the editor of Today, and the presenter John Humphrys on Iraq before Mr Gilligan's broadcast was made.

Mr Gilligan's source on the story is not believed to be Sir Richard.

Even before the governors met the BBC's director general, Greg Dyke, on Sunday evening, Dame Pauline had expressed her disquiet over the Government's handling of the issue of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. She said: "If you tell people you are going to war because there is an imminent threat to national security, and then in the aftermath nothing is found, it opens up a credibility gap of a kind which is dangerous in a democracy."