The Hutton Inquiry
The Hutton Inquiry was a British judicial inquiry chaired by Lord Hutton, appointed by the United Kingdom Labour government with the terms of reference "...urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly".
Kelly had been the source for reports made by three BBC journalists that the Government, particularly the press office of Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, had knowingly embellished the dossier with misleading exaggerations of Iraq's military capabilities; specifically, a claim that Iraq had the ability to launch a strike using "weapons of mass destruction" within 45-minutes. These were reported by Andrew Gilligan on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on 29 May 2003, by Gavin Hewitt on the Ten O'Clock News the same day and by Susan Watts on BBC Two's Newsnight on 2 June. On 1 June Gilligan repeated his allegations in an article written for The Mail on Sunday, naming government press secretary Alastair Campbell as the driving force for alteration of the dossier.
The Government angrily denounced the reports and accused the corporation of poor journalism. In subsequent weeks the corporation stood by the report, saying that it had a reliable source. Following intense media speculation, Kelly was finally named in the press as the source for Gilligan's story on 9 July. Kelly apparently committed suicide in a field close to his home on 17 July. An inquiry was announced by the British government the following day. The inquiry was to investigate "the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly".On 18 July 2003, Kelly, an employee of the Ministry of Defence, was found dead after he had been named as the source of quotes used by BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. These quotes had formed the basis of media reports claiming that Tony Blair's Labour government had knowingly "sexed up" the "September Dossier", a report into Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
The inquiry opened in August 2003 and reported on 28 January 2004. The inquiry report cleared the government of wrongdoing, while the BBC was strongly criticised, leading to the resignation of the BBC's chairman and director-general. The report was met with criticism by British newspapers opposed to the Iraq invasion, such as The Guardian and the Daily Mail, though others said it exposed serious flaws within the BBC
The inquiry heard evidence on 22 days, lasting 110 hours, from 74 witnesses
The main conclusions were:
There was "no underhand [government] strategy" to name him as the source for the BBC's accusations
Gilligan's original accusation was "unfounded" and the BBC's editorial and management processes were "defective"
The dossier had not been "sexed up", but was in line with available intelligence, although the Joint Intelligence Committee, chaired by John Scarlett, may have been "subconsciously influenced" by the government
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) was at fault for not informing Kelly of its strategy that would involve naming him
Despite this evidence, Hutton's report largely cleared the government of any wrongdoing. In large measure this was because evidence to the Inquiry indicated that the government had not known of the reservations in the intelligence community: it seemed they had been discounted by senior intelligence assessors (the Joint Intelligence Committee) — thus Gilligan's claim that the government "probably knew" the intelligence was flawed, was itself unfounded. Furthermore, the Inquiry had heard that these were not the words used by Gilligan's source, but his own inference. Meanwhile, Hutton determined that any failure of intelligence assessment fell outside his remit, and the Intelligence Services thus also escaped censure.
Instead the report placed a great deal of emphasis on evidence of the failings of Gilligan and the BBC, many of which had been explicitly acknowledged during the course of the Inquiry. Gilligan, for example, admitted and apologised for surreptitiously briefing politicians on a select committee in order to put pressure on Kelly. Gilligan, whilst disagreeing with the overall thrust of the report, also admitted that he had attributed inferences to Kelly which were in fact his own.
The Inquiry specifically criticised the chain of management that caused the BBC to defend its story. The BBC management, the report said, had accepted Gilligan's word that his story was accurate, in spite of his notes being incomplete.