02 November, 2006

The Hutton Report defended (by Lord Hutton).

In September 2002, Tony Blair attempted to strengthen the government's case for the invasion of Iraq by saying that it had intelligence to prove that President Saddam could deploy weapons of mass destruction against the UK within 45 minutes. Nobody believed him, so few were surprised when, in May 2003, the BBC's defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, ran a story that the 45 minute claim had been made despite opposition from the intelligence services, which knew it to be false.

In July 2003 the government identified and publicly revealed the source of Gilligan's story as an MoD official, David Kelly, who a week later committed suicide under the pressure of the disclosure. An unholy political row followed. In keeping with traditional government practice, to get themselves off the hook the government convened an enquiry into the circumstances of Kelly's death, to be conducted by a judge, Lord Hutton. Nobody really expects much of these enquiries. They usually exonerate ministers and their officials on the substantive charges and make a few insignificant criticisms to give the impression of independence.

Even by those standards of (dis)honesty Hutton's report astonished many by the way it whitewashed minster's and official's actions and cleared the government of lying about the 45 minute WMD threat. Hutton achieved this by believing everything ministers and their officials told him and disregarding totally (either not allowing or not believing) any other evidence.

Hutton's tarnished public image as the bent judge who did Blair's bidding was thereby established. Now he is trying to salvage his reputation through an article in the winter edition of Public Law (pdf download here). No chance. It is little more than a self-serving justification of his report, adding nothing to what is already known.

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