Comments from a writer at The Guardian

The BBC controversy over WMD claims in a government dossier show signs of high emotion from what are supposed to be dispassionate journalist.

"...There are three broad possibilities. And here we have to keep both eyes on the ball. The first is that there is still stuff out there and that eventually it will be found. The second possibility is that the Government hugely exaggerated the threat, creating the impression of the existence of WMD when, privately, they were being told that almost nothing remained. And the third is that the intelligence that Ministers were receiving was completely wrong."

"...Symmetrically, Campbell believes that Gilligan has form. On 5 April, the day that the Americans did their drive-by into Baghdad, Gilligan reported: 'I'm in the centre of Baghdad, and I don't see anything. But then the Americans have a history of making these premature announcements.'" ( He made this incredible report while Fox News was showing the actual drive-by. The BBC defended this errornous report by saying that the reporter could not see them from his location. Someone at the network could have turned on Fox News, but the BBC did not like Fox because they had people on their shows who favored the liberation of Iraq.)

"Then came Gilligan's famous judgment that the hiatus in the immediate aftermath of the war meant that Iraqis were experiencing their 'first days of freedom in more fear than they have ever known before'. Gilligan had been in Baghdad for a matter of weeks, had met very few ordinary Iraqis and none under unconstrained circumstances. It was a judgment he simply wasn't in a position to make. Number 10 responded with: 'Try telling that to people put in shredders or getting their tongues cut out.'

"I know, from my time there, how the BBC will resort to disingenuousness with the best of them. When Gilligan was (rightly) criticised, the BBC's response was to insist that Gilligan had merely been reporting 'heightened fears of immediate violence'. In a speech on 24 April, director-general Greg Dyke referred to 'Downing Street's attempts to rubbish Andrew Gilligan's reports on the plight of ordinary Iraqis, as looters ran amok in Baghdad'. He did not admit that Gilligan's words were eminently rubbishable.

"Similarly disingenuous has been the Beeb's argument that all it had done was report what the source said, and that the Corporation itself clearly had no view as to its truth. Once again, in The Observer piece partly quoted by Sambrook, Hinsliff and Beaumont wrote: 'Defence reporter Andrew Gilligan was claiming that key elements of the dossier on Iraq_ were thrown in to "sex up" painfully thin material - against the wishes of intelligence officers.' That was their impression and mine. And the whole tone of the Today programme lent itself to that perception."


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