'Dodgy dossier' still posted on Downing Street website

'The Government has lost trust among the British public and the world over this plagiarism'

Tania Valdemoro,Raymond Whitaker
Sunday 15 June 2003 00:00 BST

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Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's director of communications, has apologised to the intelligence services for claiming that a dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, mostly plagiarised from specialist magazines and a 12-year-old student thesis, was compiled from intelligence sources.

Yet the "dodgy dossier", which Mr Campbell admitted "had not met the required standard of accuracy", is still posted on the Downing Street website. Nearly five months after its publication, there is no indication that its contents have been copied - inaccurately in a number of cases - from published sources or that numbers were rounded up and the language hardened.

"I'm absolutely surprised that the document is still up there," said Ibrahim al-Marashi, the Oxford PhD student whose work was copied. In September 2002 a chapter on Iraqi security from his undergraduate dissertation was published in the Middle East Review of International Affairs and lifted without acknowledgement by a Downing Street team under Alison Blackshaw, Mr Campbell's personal assistant.

"They're shooting themselves in the foot if they are still standing by this document," said Mr Marashi. "The Blair government has lost trust among the British public and the world over this plagiarism scandal."

Earlier this month Mr Campbell wrote to Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, the foreign intelligence service, and Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5, responsible for internal security, to apologise for the way the document, "Iraq - its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation", was put together. Despite its claim to draw upon intelligence material, it was not cleared by the Joint Intelligence Committee, the top clearing-house for secret information.

Dr Glen Rangwala, a Cambridge University expert on the WMD issue who first spotted the plagiarism, said: "What the Government hasn't done is to admit there were mistakes." The Downing Street team took information from one source and mixed it in with different information from another, he said.

"For example, they copied the first two paragraphs about the al-Amn al-Askari, or Military Security Service, from Marashi's thesis, but then took the rest from a 1997 article in Jane's Intelligence Review about the al-Amn al-Aam, or Directorate of General Security."

Dr Rangwala said the compilers of the dossier made the language stronger than the original. A "lifted" section on Iraq's secret police, the Mukhabarat, said their duties included "monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq" and "aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes". In the dossier this became "spying on foreign embassies in Iraq" and "supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes".

Sean Boyne, whose Jane's article was plagiarised, said: "I wouldn't like to think that anything I wrote justified the war. If they were using materials from other sources, they should have acknowledged them."

Mr Marashi said he supported the war, but added: "The research is meant to inform, not to advance a political agenda. The Govern- ment's act of plagiarism made me wonder: how much did they know about Iraq before going into this war?"

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