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Downing St apologises for dodgy dossier

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 08 June 2003

It's taken them four months, but Downing Street has at last apologised for the so-called "dodgy dossier" which was used to help justify the war against Iraq.

This programme disclosed back in February that No 10's report on Iraq's security apparatus was largely lifted from a student's PhD thesis, published on the internet. Home Secretary David Blunkett said it should never have been published.

In trouble again - this time the Home Secretary says it would have been better if the "dodgy dossier", written by Alastair Campbell's team at No 10, had never been published.

And it's emerged that Mr Campbell himself has sent a private letter of "assurance" to the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove.

Intelligence officers are said to be furious that they were credited for material in the report on the Iraqi security services published in February and used by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to help justify war.

Today Downing Street said Mr Campbell had assured the intelligence services that:

"greater care would be taken in dealing with anything that might impact on their reputation or their work".

The spokesman added: "Alastair is on excellent terms with the head of the Secret Intelligence Service".

Then this from the Home Secretary:

"I think it would be better if we hadn't published that dossier because it was about the background to Iraq, it wasn't about the identification of weapons of mass destruction. I think it was just an honest appraisal by Alastair Campbell. And I think we should draw a line under what has now become the most absurd political story in the whole of my lifetime"

But in the Commons this week the Conservatives will repeat their call for a judicial enquiry.

The row over the "dodgy dossier" errupted when Channel Four News disclosed that large chunks of No 10's supposedly authoritative report, "Iraq - its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation" had been lifted word for word from this PhD thesis by Ibrahim al-Marashi entitled more conservatively, "Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis".

It was published in the American journal Meria in September last year and relied on information dating back to the first Gulf War.

The Government document was written by members of Alastair Campbell's "coalition information centre" in Downing Street.

It drew on "a number of sources, including intelligence material". But it omitted to credit Mr al-Marashi.

Downing Street admitted today there had been "an error of omission in the dossier, where we should have made the attribution clearer - those elements which came from intelligence sources and those elements which came from publicly available sources".

It's expected that both Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair will be called to give evidence to the Commons Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee when they investigate the Government's use of intelligence on Iraq in making the case for war.

But the Prime Minister and his strategy adviser will also be wondering which Labour MPs will rebel when the Conservatives attempt to force a vote on an independent enquiry later this week.

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