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| | |-+  BBC details its errors in prewar Iraq stories
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Author Topic: BBC details its errors in prewar Iraq stories  (Read 5984 times)
Posts: 1531

« on: January 22, 2004, 08:36:36 AM »

This so called confession by BBC is in no way close to the magnitude of the distortions perpetrated by BBC on the Iraq 'War'. It further seeks to give the impression that this is the only coverage that BBC misrepresented. BBC's Venezuela and Zimbabwe coverage are also recent examples of their bias/dishonest news reporting.

Another 'independent' Media watch group rated BBC worst than FOX for its pro war position.

-- Ayinde

Patrick E. Tyler/NYT  

'Red line' crossed when Blair aides helped on dossier

LONDON In an in-depth examination of its own reporting on Britain's decision to go to war in Iraq, a British Broadcasting Corporation documentary on Wednesday bluntly detailed a litany of its own mistakes.

The media conglomerate's news operation was described by its own producers as being too loose with language, too distracted to investigate charges that its reporting was wrong, and simply negligent in checking the basis of its report on May 29, 2003, that Prime Minister Tony Blair's staff had "sexed up" the intelligence basis for war by using information they "probably knew" was wrong.

But the 90-minute program also asserted that British intelligence chiefs were also too willing to approve sensational formulations that Blair's staff wanted to use to persuade the public that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat to British interests.

Broadcast less than a week before a formal inquiry is scheduled to lay out its judgment on the use of intelligence by Blair's government, the BBC's investigative documentary unit appeared to be trying to distill the most unpleasant questions that its producers believe that inquiry must resolve.

The documentary, broadcast during the BBC's "Panorama" program, aired unused footage from an Oct. 2002 interview with David Kelly, the weapons scientist whose suicide last year triggered an inquiry meant to settle the most tempestuous question in recent British politics: Did Blair deceive the public by exaggerating the case for war, or did the BBC unfairly impugn the prime minister's integrity?

In the interview, Kelly was asked whether there was an "immediate threat" from Iraqi unconventional arms.

"Yes, there is," he replied, according to a transcript. "Even if they're not actually filled and deployed today, the capability exists to get them filled and deployed within a matter of days and weeks. So yes, there is a threat."

The report thus shed new light on Kelly's view of the threat right after Blair had made his case to the British public in September 2002. It also asserted that while many intelligence professionals considered the Iraqi leader dangerous, they were uncomfortable with political efforts to turn raw intelligence into unequivocal arguments portraying Saddam as an imminent threat.

Kelly, 59, was clearly in the camp of the uncomfortable, and he found himself in a vise between the news media and his own government.

In the documentary, Sir Rodric Braithwaite, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee that advises the British prime minister, said his successor, John Scarlett, a former MI6 officer, "crossed a red line" by allowing Blair's aides into the drafting process of the intelligence dossier on Iraq.

In the dossier, sensational intelligence reports, like the claim from an unconfirmed source that Iraq could use chemical or biological weapons in 45 minutes, were elevated to appear as established fact.

"The dossier was presented as an objective assessment of the threat, yet it did not have all the careful qualification that intelligence assessments usually come with," the BBC producers asserted in the documentary.

"To some, not just John Scarlett, but every member" of the Joint Intelligence Committee "is as responsible for any sexing up as No. 10," the program said, referring to the prime minister's office at 10 Downing Street.

In looking at the BBC's reporting, the documentary, produced by Mike Rudin, was blunt in some indictments. "Trust in the BBC is an inheritance that has been built up over nearly 80 years. It stands or falls on the accuracy of its news reporting," the documentary stated. But in this case, it went on, the BBC's director general, Greg Dyke, "and his senior executives bet the farm on a shaky foundation."

The BBC defense reporter Andrew Gilligan, in his first unscripted radio broadcast on May 29, after he had met with Kelly, reported that "the government probably knew that the 45-minute figure" — referring to how quickly chemical or biological weapons could be readied — "was wrong even before it decided to put it in" the dossier.

"That broadcast has certainly become a defining moment for the BBC," the documentary program said. And though Gilligan in subsequent broadcasts dropped the assertion that the government had put intelligence in the dossier knowing it to be wrong, "There is no doubt a suggestion of dishonesty did remain," the program said.

When BBC editors responded to an assault on the report's accuracy from Blair's spokesman, Alistair Campbell, no one took the precaution of looking closely at Gilligan's notes from his meeting with Kelly.

"Had they done so, they'd have seen no reference to Dr. Kelly saying the government probably knew that intelligence in the Iraq dossier was wrong. Their failure has proved to be very costly," the program concluded.

The New York Times

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