MoD press chief accused of 'charade' over naming Kelly

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Indy Politics

The director of news at the Ministry of Defence was accused yesterday of embarking on a "charade" designed to get David Kelly's name into the public arena.

Pam Teare disclosed that she was behind a strategy, closely monitored by Downing Street, under which the weapons expert's identity would not be revealed by the ministry's press office, but would be confirmed if it was suggested by a journalist. She insisted her aim was to prevent innocent people being wrongly named by the press as the hunt for Andrew Gilligan's source intensified.

She also revealed that Tony Blair's official spokesmen, Godric Smith and Tom Kelly, oversaw the exact wording of the eventual press announcement, which led to Dr Kelly's identity becoming public.

The naming strategy was drawn up to coincide with a statement that said an unnamed scientist had told senior managers at the MoD that he had met Mr Gilligan, but did not believe he was the source for the BBC journalist's controversial report on the Today programme.

Peter Knox, junior counsel to the Hutton inquiry, said: "Isn't this a bit of a charade? Aren't you doing by indirect means the same thing you would if you gave the name out?"

Ms Teare said that about half a dozen people with similar backgrounds to Dr Kelly could have found themselves unwittingly caught up in the furore. She told the inquiry: "We were seeking to avoid the people who were not involved being named in the media."

Lord Hutton asked her whether she took into account that such a strategy would mean the "spotlight [falling] very ferociously" on Dr Kelly, who would be "subjected to very intense media speculation".

Ms Teare repeated that other people would have suffered "most unfair" press attention otherwise, and said Dr Kelly had been advised his name was likely to become public and not to stay at his home if that happened. She said, however, that she did not believe he had been told about the policy to confirm his identity if it was suggested.

Mr Knox challenged her on other guidance contained in the "question and answer" briefing circulated to MoD press officers on handling media inquiries on the issue.

He said the ministry seemed to be providing "more and more hints" to Dr Kelly's identity, making it "progressively easier for the press to get his name". Ms Teare replied: "I don't accept this material was offered on the basis we were trying to give clues."

She told the inquiry that she had become involved in the ministry's media strategy over the Kelly affair on Friday 4 July, after he confessed to his superiors his contacts with Mr Gilligan. "All parties concerned were worried that this information might leak in some way ... over the weekend. A contingent press line had to be agreed for use if it was required."

She said she feared the name could be leaked by Dr Kelly's colleagues in the scientific community or emerge because he was a "regular contact of a circle of journalists". She said a report in The Times on 5 July containing a "number of pointers" to his identity heightened her fears that his name could be emerging.

The confirmation that an unnamed MoD official had come forward was agreed by Richard Hatfield, the MoD director of personnel, and Martin Howard, the deputy chief of Defence Intelligence.

In the event, the announcement was not needed but on the following Monday, 7 July, intense negotiations began between the MoD and Tony Blair's official spokesmen, Mr Smith and Mr Kelly, over the exact wording of the press announcement. It continued into 8 July, the planned date of the announcement. "There were a number of drafts that had small differences in them. I can't remember how many drafts I was shown on the day [8 July]. I was conscious there was a fair amount of traffic on changes to the statement."

She and Mr Howard also agreed the Q&A briefing to run alongside the statement, which included the advice: "We wouldn't normally volunteer a name, but if a correct name is given, you can confirm it." It was approved by Sir Kevin Tebbit, permanent secretary at the MoD. Asked the MoD's policy on giving out names under such circumstances, she said: "It would be viewed on a case-by-case basis. We wouldn't gratuitously reveal the name of a civil servant. But by the same token, a name could be revealed particularly if it is linked to important events."

The announcement that an unnamed civil servant had come forward was made shortly before 6pm on 8 July. It included a series of pointers to Dr Kelly's name and within a day journalists were putting his identity to the MoD and having it confirmed by Ms Teare and Richard Taylor, special adviser to Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence.

Ms Teare has been director of news at the MoD for nine months. She previously held media posts in the Home Office, Foreign Office, Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Transport.

She confirmed that the MoD had not issued a denial of the original Gilligan allegations on 9 May, and that the rebuttal had been put out instead by Downing Street. However, she disclosed details of an angry exchange between the MoD and the BBC after the Today programme insisted that Mr Gilligan had run his story past the MoD before its broadcast. She said she was "surprised ... because I was certainly not aware of it".

NO 10 AND THE NAMING OF KELLY

Monday 30 June: Dr Kelly calls his boss and says he has sent him a letter regarding his dealings with Andrew Gilligan.

Thursday 3 July: Geoff Hoon phones Jonathan Powell to say an MoD scientist has come forward. Mr Powell tells Tony Blair.

Friday 4 July: Mr Powell, Sir David Manning, Sir David Omand and John Scarlett consider offering Dr Kelly as a witness to the foreign affairs committee. Dr Kelly meets Bryan Wells and MoD personnel director, Richard Hatfield, where he is read the "riot act".

Saturday 5 July: Mr Powell receives telephone call from Mr Campbell, who has spoken to Mr Hoon and is concerned about accusations of a "cover-up".

Sunday 6 July: Mr Powell talks to Mr Hoon, who has asked Mr Campbell whether the Prime Minister should "reconsider" his cautious approach. Mr Blair insists it is inappropriate to pass new information to the FAC.

Monday 7 July: The committee clears Mr Campbell of "sexing up" the dossier but says undue prominence was given to 45-minute claim. No 10 decides to wait for MoD to follow its "internal procedures". Dr Kelly meets MoD bosses again for a "security style" interview.

Tuesday 8 July: Godric Smith and Tom Kelly agree a press statement revealing an unnamed official has come forward.

Wednesday 9 July: Mr Kelly gives further hints. An FT journalist comes up with Dr Kelly's name and it is confirmed by MoD.

Thursday 10 July: Dr Kelly is named in newspapers.

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