Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Downing Street, MoD and MPs Piled on Pressure

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Downing Street, MoD and MPs Piled on Pressure

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

THE pressure on Dr David Kelly ratcheted up remorselessly over the past fortnight.

First he was questioned for five days by Ministry of Defence officials. Then his name was leaked - against his wishes - to the press. Finally, he had to face an aggressive verbal battering from a high-powered MPs' committee.

Now the question being asked among shocked Whitehall officials is whether the quietly spoken, distinguished scientist was treated fairly - or brutally abused for political expediency.

His ordeal began when he volunteered to bosses at the Ministry of Defence that he had been to lunch with Andrew Gilligan, the BBC journalist who alleged Downing Street "sexed up" its dossier on Iraq.

They had met at the Charing Cross Hotel on 22 May, a week before Gilligan's story went out and the hunt for his "mole" began. Dr Kelly - a senior adviser with security clearance to read intelligence reports - seems to have thought he could clear himself and put the matter behind him.

But the matter was not cleared up, and Dr Kelly was instead subjected to a five-day interrogation about what he had told the journalist.

He insisted he did not want his name made public. Instead he agreed to a statement saying a civil servant had admitted meeting Gilligan but was too junior to have stated with authority that No10 had inserted the infamous 45-minute claim in the dossier.

According to a Government official, Dr Kelly was warned his name might come out. And indeed several newspapers did call saying they had learned Dr Kelly's name.

Most unusually, a government spokesman confirmed his identity - breaking the normal practice of refusing to answer questions about officials.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon then named him in a "confidential" letter to the BBC, challenging it to deny he was their source.

Downing Street told some newspapers they were "99 per cent certain" Dr Kelly was the mole. So one question being asked is whether he was deliberately "outed" by the Government.

No10 was certainly anxious to persuade him to appear in front of the Commons foreign affairs committee. …

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