Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Re:viewing 2005: Attorney-General leak

By Jon Snow

Updated on 20 December 2005

Channel 4 News reveals legal advice on brink of Iraq conflict.

The Story

"Good evening. This is it - the Attorney-General's summary of his legal advice to the Prime Minister of March 7 2003 on the legality of war on Iraq, revealed for the first time.

The Attorney-General leak

"It gives arguments for and against war but it is brim full of caveats and warnings about the legal risk in any decision to send British forces into battle. Warnings and advice never seen by the Cabinet, never seen by Parliament which was asked to vote on the sending of troops."

"It has been suppressed until tonight, and its contents are a dramatic contrast from the unequivocal case to war that the Cabinet was shown 10 days later just before the invasion."

Thus Jon Snow introduced Channel 4 News on 27 April, breaking the biggest scoop of the year.

The story within the story

The end of April broadcast was the climax to a long and determined attempt by Jon Snow and current Political editor Gary Gibbon to secure the Attorney-General's advice.

And when the document was finally in our hands - on the morning of the broadcast - the pressure was on to distill a complicated story in double quick time and to keep the leak secret until the show began at 7pm.

As Jon wrote in the following day's Snowmail, "I'm sorry I was unable to let you know ... yesterday that we had this amazing break, but the risks involved in publishing such sensitive material meant we had to play our cards rather close to our chest."

"I'm sorry I was unable to let you know ... yesterday that we had this amazing break."
Jon Snow writing in Snowmail

The timing of the leak - just eight days before polling day in the General Election - made things uncomfortable for the Prime Minister. It shifted the campaign away from the parties' own predetermined agendas. It forced Blair to disclose the whole document, and forced Gordon Brown to demonstrate public support for the Prime Minister's handling of the run-up to war.

A week after the disclosure, Jon interviewed Blair as part of the programme's election coverage. Much of the interview was devoted to the advice. The Prime Minister was asked: "Why didn't you show the whole of the legal advice to the whole of the Cabinet?"

The Clips
- Watch the Attorney-General leak
- Watch extracts of Jon Snow's interview with Tony Blair

The links
- Extracts of secret legal advice on Iraq
- Tony Blair interview: full transcript

Send this article by email

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest International politics news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Living with the Taliban

Taliban on the Afghan frontline

A rare film of Taliban fighters on the Afghan frontline.

Pakistan appeal


Actor Art Malik on why he is fronting the DEC's flood appeal.

Tackling Taliban IEDs


Bomb disposal soldiers on lonely walk to defuse bombs.


Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.