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Hutton v. FOI

Martin Rosenbaum | 16:47 UK time, Thursday, 9 November 2006

I was fascinated but not surprised to read the article in today's New Statesman about the government's refusal to release an early draft of its famous pre-war dossier about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.

The Foreign Office has turned down a freedom of information request for the document, and the matter is now being considered by the Information Commissioner.

Fascinated, because in 2003 I was seconded away from my job as a BBC journalist to work with the BBC management in the run-up to and during the Hutton Inquiry. It brought back all the time I spent in detailed examination of the consistencies and inconsistencies between the various accounts of who wrote what when where and why.

Not surprised, for two reasons. First, none of the basic facts about the dossier process in the New Statesman article are new - as I recall, we knew that some early drafting of the dossier had been done by the Foreign Office not the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), that the Foreign Office head of communications John Williams had been involved in drafting, and that it was the JIC first draft that included the notorious '45-minute claim'.

Second, the material which became public through the Hutton Inquiry is actually already much wider than the sort of stuff FOI is likely to produce. This partly reflects the political pressures for disclosure on the government at the time of Hutton. But it's also because much of the Hutton material would fall foul of various exemptions to FOI - for example, information relating to the security services.

Given this, I do not expect FOI to generally exceed the Hutton Inquiry in the level of openness, although there may be some exceptions. But on the other hand there is nothing to stop the government releasing this draft anyway, outside the terms of FOI. Personally speaking, as a fully-fledged Hutton anorak, I'd love to read it.

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I don't think the pre-war dossier will be released just at the minute, and part of me doesn't think it's the right time anyway.

The government is practically stringing its own noose right now, what with the general Iraq situation, the secret loans business etc, etc. Although I fully believe in an open democracy, I think the government is far too fragile to release something like that right now.

Blair's membrane is being scratched away, and not so slowly anymore. Anymore momentum and I think he will just fall apart. I think this would have negative effects on Britain, as we need an element of strength to deal with the domestic issues -- an MRSA-ridden, underfunded NHS, ethnic tensions up and down the country, not to mention to apparent religious strain that seems to be affecting everything we do.

If something like the Iraq dossier was released now (because, let's face it, even if it was perfectly harmless, it would still be broadcasted as corrupt), the political framework would become very weak.

A sensible contribution from Bethia. I also think that the last thing the country needs is to hasten the Prime Minister's personal and/or political downfall. He doesn't deserve that anyway. This man, after President Bush, is the best-known political leader in the world, and has been instrumental in our country punching above its weight during his premiership. Now self-righteous political rivals can't wait for a few short months before they write his epitaph.

I know I am one of the few, it would seem, who supports the Prime Minister. I am furious at each chip that's knocked out of him almost on a daily basis. It has become personal, as though he is an evil beyond redemption which we need to purge from the body politic by any means. And none of this "contrived", or "invented" dossier stuff would matter if the war had been successfully concluded!

After losing the Iraq debate some opposition parties are still determined to revisit this battle of the past. And tonight Ming Campbell complains that Blair will have an input into America's new direction. Why? Would he rather that Blair (and we) were ignored at this vital stage of looking forward?

Cut it out!

Let the prime minister finish his job as PM without trying to demean him further. You're doing your best to prevent him finishing the war in Iraq by your actions. If he retires hurt, what happens then? New leadership - a contest, Reid v Brown - an election delay - John Prescott standing in!?! Who in the meantime is working with the USA to end the war in Iraq?

Spinning and distorting facts for political expediency are not new tactics. Perhaps it's grown-up politics and realpolitk.

I don't care about the past at the moment - just the future. Tony Blair should be allowed to complete as well as he can the exit strategy for Iraq.
THAT'S what bothering his opponents. They are acting out of puerile spite in an attempt to airbrush Mr Blair from political history. Their behaviour is atrocious and Ming Campbell should be ashamed.

  • 3.
  • At 10:38 AM on 13 Nov 2006,
  • Themos Tsikas wrote:

Like Jon Stewart said, I dissembled and lied and covered it up but I only did it in order to gain from it!

Apparently the case is closed as EVERYONE KNOWS WMDs were touted to be a major concern by American Democrat mugwumps like Clinton, Gore, and Senator McCain in 1998 and 1999. Presently, it is more to their advantage to LIE and deny the existance of WMDs in Iraq since Saddam spirited most of them to Muslim countries like Lybia. It is no accident that Quaddafi gave up a massive nuclear develomment program with 100s of scientists after Saddam was captured. Obviously, Quaddafi knew that Saddam would no longer finance this since he was facing a hanging...

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