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Home > Politics

Scandal? Yeah, well, they shouldn't have laughed at my name

Paul Carr

1 July 2003

My desk is covered in piles of dead tree; newspaper cuttings, web pages, magazine articles, government statements, dossiers, briefing papers, the works.

The reason? The Friday Thing is trying to get to the bottom of this whole Dodgy Dossier business once and for all. We hope to have a dossier of our own ready in time for this week's issue explaining all.

In the meantime, one thing that's been bugging us (see Alans passim) is the exact role of the various characters in the Dossier plagiarism saga.

(The Dodgy Dossier you may remember was the second document, published in January and given to six Sunday newspaper journalists to colour in on a rainy day in Washington.

It later emerged that much of the document had been plagiarised from an essay by a PHD student, based on 12-year-old information. Alastair Campbell claims that - unlike September 2002's WMD dossier, written by the Intelligence Services - the Dodgier was just a piece of spin-doctoring, designed to keep the media from asking any questions of their own. However it was good enough for Colin Powell to hold up at the UN and for Tony Blair (Q938) to use in parliament as justification for war.)


But who did the initial plagiarising that caused this whole sorry shitstorm?

Was it a) MOD 'head of story development' Paul Hamill, b) Junior official from the PM's Strategic Communications Unit John Pratt, c) Ally Campbell's personal assistant, Alison Blackshaw or d) News editor of the Downing Street website, Mustaza Khan? All four were inadvertently named in the original Word file posted on the Downing Street site (as first revealed in The Friday Thing).

Let's consider the evidence, such as it is...

  1. Campbell has agreed to take personal responsibility for the 'mistake' of cutting and pasting chunks of Ibrahuim Marashi's essay into the dossier - but he revealed to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee that...
    "the person responsible for making that mistake feels wretched about it. I know that because I work with the guy."

    The guy. The guy. Alison, darling, you're in the clear.

  2. Then, in an apparent slip of the tongue, Campbell said in his surprise (s)pinterview with Channel 4 News...
    "On Wednesday, at that Select Committee, I acknowledged we had made a mistake. I accepted responsibility for that on behalf of the junior.. The official in my office who made the mistake."

    Now Hamill is many things but he ain't junior. And neither Hamill or Khan work in Campbell's office. But Pratt does. So he's our guy.

The full chain of events now appears to be this:

  • Paul Hamill creates the original document, in particular Part One which contains up to date details of Iraq's attempts to disrupt UN weapons inspections. He uses various publicly available 'intelligence sources' to back up his claims. Campbell's admission appears to absolve Hamill of any cutting and pasting from Marashi's essay. Instead it seems he saves iraq.doc to floppy disk and hands it to...

  • John Pratt with, we surmise, instructions to bulk it up with 'all facts and shit'. Pratt obligingly types 'Iraq' and 'Intelligence' into Google which (according to Marashi) delivered Marashi's essay, published in the Middle East Review as the first result. Pratt copies and pastes with gay abandon before passing the disk to...

  • Alison Blackshaw for approval. It seems that Pratt neglects to tell Blackshaw about his copying and pasting and so, after Blackshaw jazzes (nay, sexes) up some of the language - removing the words 'maybe', 'might' and 'does not' for example - approval it duly gets. This despite being chock full of typos. Blackshaw clicks save and throws the disk to...

  • Mustaza Khan to be uploaded to the Number Ten web site. The Word document logs show that Alsion did not get the document back after Khan had received it. As Blackshaw would have to sign-off any changes, it's almost certain that Khan played no active role in the plagiarising.

    So there you have it. The first of many questions answered. Although we're still puzzled by Campbell saying to Snow....

    "I know that you, you also Jon, reported that the four people in my office were responsible for writing the so-called dodgy dossier when they were not."

    I suppose copying and pasting isn't really writing. And, if the typos are anything to go by, they weren't responsible for reading it either.

    More to come.

  • Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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