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'David Kelly must have felt terribly isolated and scared. He was crucified'

 


 
Lord Hutton, the judge charged with unravelling the events leading to the death of Dr David Kelly, yesterday visited the scientist's widow, Janice, to explain to her how he intends to conduct the inquiry. Whether the visit will help him get at the truth remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that Hutton has difficult questions to ask, not least because of the increasing evidence that Kelly himself had not been telling the whole truth about his role in the events leading up to his suicide.

We cannot know precisely what drove Dr David Kelly to kill himself near his Southmoor home. We can only speculate over why he took his own life. Kelly might very well have told Andrew Gilligan that the government sexed up" its September dossier outlining the case for war against Iraq. Indeed, that is precisely what the BBC is now claiming emphatically. We certainly know now that Kelly was the main source for Gilligan's story. Kelly's refusal to confirm that to the foreign affairs select committee may have been to protect Gilligan, or it may have been to protect himself.

We don't yet know exactly what Kelly said to Gilligan - BBC tapes of Kelly's conversation with its reporter Susan Watts, the corporation claims, have the scientist making similar claims about the government's desire to toughen up the case against Saddam Hussein. Gilligan also claims to have notes of their conversation, which have still to be released. The BBC is also adamant that Kelly is on tape talking about the role of Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's director of communications.

Nor do we know why Kelly decided to make the comment attributed to him by the BBC: that the government exaggerated the threat that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes. As a former weapons inspector he was utterly convinced Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, but he was also a supporter of allowing the UN weapons inspectors to finish their job. There seems little doubt that he did object to government pressure for evidence to be found showing that Iraq posed an immediate threat.

What is certainly true is that since his death it has become clear that Kelly himself had been a victim of the government propaganda machine. When Downing Street suggested it may have found Gilligan's source, it described him as a middle-ranking civil servant. Kelly was said to have only been involved in writing historical accounts of UN weapons inspections for the government dossier on the threat from Iraq; and Tony Blair's official spokesman claimed Kelly was merely a technical expert on machinery and equipment". Blair's spokesman added: He was not someone who had access to the intelligence which had been included in the dossier." The MoD also denied that Kelly was one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up the dossier".

None of these claims stands up to scrutiny. Kelly, in fact, had access to vital intelligence on Iraq and its WMD programmes. He also had access to all the drafts of last September's controversial dossier and was closely involved in compiling the information contained in the document by using the most up-to-date intelligence available to MI6. Kelly was a senior adviser to an MoD taskforce chaired by the ministry's policy director Simon Webb - one of the MoD's most senior officials. The job of this taskforce was to sift through every piece of intelligence relating to Saddam and WMD.

This taskforce was central to the compilation of the September dossier and its members would have been in close contact with the Joint Intelligence Committee, which prepared the threat assessment report in Downing Street. By having access to drafts of the dossier, Kelly, the British government's leading microbiologist, would have knowledge of when key claims were inserted and who inserted them. So Kelly would certainly have known whether someone like Alastair Campbell asked for the 45 minute threat to be put into the dossier against the wishes of the intelligence service.

Kelly was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in Iraq as an Unscom weapons inspector in the 1990s. Rolf Ekeus, the former head of Unscom, said he nominated Kelly on a number of occasions, adding: In my opinion David Kelly and his team should have gained the Nobel Prize." Ekeus said without Kelly the world would never have known about Saddam's biological weapons programme, which were established before the first Gulf war. Ekeus described Kelly as a remarkable scientist - serious, precise, with much intellectual rigour". Kelly was in such a powerful position within the MoD that, according to one source who knew him very well, it was Kelly who told the intelligence agencies what their intelligence on Iraqi weapons actually meant". Kelly, in other words, was MI6's brain when it came to Saddam's WMD.

It must remain a matter of conjecture why such a man killed himself after a grilling by the foreign affairs committee. One BBC insider suggested: Kelly was in grave difficulties. You can only have sympathy for him. He wanted to keep faith with people like Andrew Gilligan, but he was also facing serious threats from his employers, including the withdrawal of his security clearance. If they had done that to him, it would have ended his career. The spooks were all over the MoD looking for who the BBC source was, and he was under serious pressure and in a terrible bind. Kelly was caught between two stools. The MoD was telling him to come out to the FAC and screw Gilligan into the ground, but he didn't want to do that. He was being loyal to the reporters he'd spoken to.

After his questioning by the foreign affairs committee he may have been left with the feeling he hadn't been truthful, and David Kelly was a man who was always truthful. He was a scientist and truth was what he was all about. It's important to remember that Kelly killed himself around the same time that Andrew Gilligan was recalled to the FAC to give evidence to them in private. Kelly was probably worried that Gilligan would give him away and say he was the primary source after Kelly had denied it. This would have scared him. People say they are amazed that a man of Kelly's strength of character took his own life given his role as a weapons inspector who had faced up to Saddam Hussein - but he was tough then because the entire Western world was behind him.

Before the committee, he didn't even have the support of his bosses - even Gilligan, who was equally roasted, had the BBC fully supporting him. Kelly must have felt terribly isolated and scared. He was crucified. The FAC is completely poisonous and loaded with Labour loyalists. Kelly knew his credibility was going to be questioned and that's career-ending for a scientist. Kelly was torn. He had been told that there was a deal in place under which he would not be named. The MoD told him he would go before the intelligence and security committee which holds its session in private, but then the MoD outed him and he was called to give evidence to the FAC in public.''

Ironically, the death of Dr Kelly has, at least temporarily, switched attention away from the most important question at the heart of the whole affair: did Saddam Hussein possess weapons of mass destruction which posed an imminent threat to Britain and America?

The allegations that Kelly allegedly made to the BBC over the 45 minute claim are backed up by none other than the head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. He secretly briefed BBC executives on Saddam Hussein's WMD before the Today programme said Number 10 had sexed up" the dossier.

In one lunch meeting Dearlove met Kevin Marsh, the editor of the Today programme, and John Humphrys, its anchor, and told them that Syria and Iran posed a greater threat than Iraq. These briefings will make up part of the evidence submitted by the BBC to the Hutton Inquiry into Kelly's death. Dearlove is also said to have told BBC executives that Iraq was not viewed by the intelligence services as a primary threat.

The BBC insists that Kelly agreed which quotes could be used by Andrew Gilligan in the Today programme - including the controversial claim that the 45 minute threat was sexed up". Yet near the end of his FAC interrogation, Kelly is asked by Fabian Hamilton MP: Just for the record, can you tell me absolutely whether you named or otherwise identified Alastair Campbell or did you say anything which Mr Gilligan might reasonably have interpreted as identifying Mr Alastair Campbell as wanting to change the dossier or 'sex it up' in any way or make undue reference to the 45 minute claim?" BBC insiders have paid close attention to the deliberately vague way in which Kelly replied. I cannot recall that," he said. I find it very difficult to think back to a conversation I had six weeks ago. I cannot recall but that does not mean to say, of course, that such a statement was not made but I really cannot recall it. It does not sound like the sort of thing I would say." In other words, he didn't deny it.

Perhaps an explanation of his suicide can be found in his faith - the Baha'i religion. Certainly, the Baha'i faith does not condone suicide, but it has an ascetic aversion to the material world which may have provided him with a moral, and perhaps spiritual framework, through which his fears and self-doubts could have found their natural expression in suicide. One key tenet of the faith is that the wise man does not attach himself to this mortal life ... even at some moments he eagerly wishes death that he may thereby be freed from these sorrows and afflictions".

One of Kelly's friends and former colleagues, the one-time US intelligence officer and Unscom chief weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, said: To me, David's death is a personal tragedy. The Blair government has showed a lot of callousness in the way it handled this affair - but it is indicative of its view of human suffering as we've seen in its attitude to the war in Iraq.

I am increasingly irritated by the British press that it took the death of a good man to get them to ask questions about the nature of the war in Iraq and why it took place. The press talks about the government 'sexing up' intelligence, but it took something that was 'sexy' in the eyes of the media to get them to act like journalists. Why did it take David's suicide to get them to focus on the lies told over WMD?

If David were alive he'd be irritated as well. If he spoke to the press in the way in which it is alleged, then he was obviously angry with the Blair government about what it was saying about the reasons for war. The press has to honour him by continuing to seek the truth about weapons of mass destruction. The media should never let Tony Blair off the hook on this one. If he lied, then they should hound him out of office, and if he did commit a fraud against the British people then once he's gone they should hound him until he's in jail."