Sunday, July 06, 2003

BBC goes on the offensive. 

This article from the guardian.co.uk today, has the BBC on the offensive again:

The head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, secretly briefed senior BBC executives on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction before the Today programme claimed Number 10 had 'sexed up' part of the evidence.
In a remarkable revelation that goes to the heart of the increasingly bitter row between the Government and the BBC, broadcasting sources have told The Observer that Dearlove suggested that Syria and Iran posed a greater threat to world security than Iraq.

Although the MI6 chief was not the source of BBC allegations that 10 Downing Street deliberately exaggerated the claim that Saddam's weapons could be ready in 45 minutes, the meetings have strengthened resolve within the corporation to refuse Government demands that it should apologise.

Greg Dyke, the Director General of the BBC, will give a robust defence of the story and say that many of the allegations have been proved true.

This move will put him in direct conflict with Tony Blair, who dramatically upped the stakes last night by demanding a full retraction of the allegations about weapons of mass destruction, saying the charge against him was the gravest he had ever faced as Prime Minister.

And Prime Minister Tony Blair continues to blow steam:

'There couldn't be a more serious charge, that I ordered our troops into conflict on the basis of intelligence evidence that I falsified.

'You could not make a more serious charge against a Prime Minister. The charge happens to be wrong. I think everyone now accepts that that charge is wrong.'

But last night the BBC was still sticking by its story. Senior figures told The Observer they had a 'powerful case' for the governors.

Blair said: 'I am astonished if they are still saying it is accurate. On what basis are they saying that?'

'Whether they had a source or not, only they know. The issue surely is this, that if people make a claim and it turns out to be wrong, they should accept it is wrong.

'I take it as about as serious an attack on my integrity there could possibly be, and the charge is untrue and I hope that they will accept that. I think they should accept it.

I wonder if he has read the op-ed piece by Joseph Wilson in the New York Times today:

Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush's ambassador to Gabon and S?o Tomé and Pr?ncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.

It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa's suspected link to Iraq's nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That's me.

There appears to be enough evidence on both sides of the Atlantic to justify the claim that intelligence was exaggerated, and even falsified, to lead us into war with Iraq.