The Hutton Inquiry: Revelations, Contradictions and Doubts: The Story So Far ; after Two Weeks of Testimony the Inquiry Already Has Answers to Many Questions, Says Paul Waugh
Waugh, Paul, The Independent (London, England)
AFTER 40 HOURS of testimony and thousands of pages of evidence, the Hutton inquiry will enter what could be its most important phase this week as questions about the death of David Kelly finally reach the very top of the Government.
Tony Blair will take the stand on Thursday; Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, who is the politician considered most vulnerable in the affair, will appear tomorrow.
Just as importantly, John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which drafted the dossiers on the Iraqi threat, will emerge from the shadows to give evidence today.
But after just two weeks, the inquiry has already gathered invaluable information which allows us to answer the questions at the heart of Lord Hutton's investigation.
Did the Government "sex up" or exaggerate its intelligence case to persuade the British public to back an unprecedented "pre- emptive" war?
The Prime Minister and Mr Scarlett will no doubt insist that while the Downing Street press office had a legitimate role in getting the dossier ready for publication, at no point was intelligence "bent" to make the case for war.
In a briefing note, Alastair Campbell has claimed that No 10's involvement was merely in drafting Mr Blair's foreword to the dossier, printing briefing materials and preparing answers for questions from the media. "In other words, the normal stuff of presentation."
But over the weekend, as 900 new documents were posted on the Hutton inquiry website, fresh pieces of the jigsaw puzzle suggested that not only Mr Campbell but also Mr Blair requested substantive changes to the now infamous dossier.
A central issue for Mr Blair is why he insisted on stating that Saddam Hussein posed a "current and serious threat" just weeks after Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, said the dossier should not be used to allege that there was an "imminent threat".
Critics will also claim that the sheer volume and noise of e- mail traffic within No 10 in the run-up to the publication of the dossier shows that Mr Campbell and his army of Downing Street officials overstepped the mark from "presentation" to interference.
Did No 10 amend the dossier to make Saddam more of a nuclear threat?
A confidential memo from Mr Campbell to Mr Scarlett on 17 September states: "The Prime Minister was worried about the way you have expressed the nuclear issue ... can we not go back, on timings, to `radiological device' in months".
Although Mr Scarlett rejected Mr Blair's request because "no intelligence" supported the claim, it suggests that at the very least the Prime Minister led the pressure for the dossier to be hardened up.
Evidence submitted to the inquiry shows that Mr Campbell was very keen to amend the "unconvincing" section on Iraq's nuclear programmes.
In an e-mail to Mr Scarlett, he suggests the wording for a paragraph on "nuclear timelines", the length of time it would take the regime to acquire a nuclear bomb. The wording, which was accepted, states that "they could provide nuclear weapons in between one and two years".
Similarly, later drafts cut out a section of Mr Blair's foreword which admitted that "the case I make is not that Saddam could launch a nuclear attack on London or another part of the UK (he could not)."
Why did Britain claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for its nuclear weapons programme when even the Americans found the allegation was false?
Mr Blair's obvious desire to raise the spectre of a nuclear threat from Iraq perhaps explains the lengths to which the September dossier goes to link Saddam with Niger.
Fresh documents to the Hutton inquiry shed light on this issue, with an early draft of the dossier actually stating as fact the claim that uranium "has been purchased from Africa".
After reading the draft, the CIA complained that such intelligence was not "credible" and the final dossier watered it down to read that Iraq had "sought" to buy the nuclear material. …