Papers were slipped under my door on a wet, windy night

By Andy McSmith Political Editor, The Independent on Sunday

27 June 2003

I am the owner of one of only six original copies of the "dodgy dossier". It was given to me by a member of Alastair Campbell's staff, who signed it and left a handwritten message on it saying "Andy, This is a government briefing paper. I thought you might be interested." I took receipt of it on a foul day in Washington DC.

This was Friday 31 January, when the weather was so atrocious that George Bush and Tony Blair had to cancel a trip to Camp David and hold their scheduled meeting in the White House instead.

I woke up in the middle of that dreadful night, and was surprised to find that one of Mr Campbell's staff was either up very early or in bed very late, because a 19-page document had been slipped under my door, titled "Iraq - Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation".

It was thoughtful of Mr Campbell to consider that there were six Sunday newspaper journalists on that Washington trip who would be expected by their news desks to return with something to write that had not already appeared in the dailies, and who had been denied the colour of a trip to Camp David.

Unfortunately, the dossier was not worth much from a journalist's point of view, which was why - as Mr Campbell told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee - it was hardly given any coverage. Its thesis was that UN weapons inspectors had little hope of ever finding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction because they were outnumbered 200 to one by members of Saddam Hussein's security apparatus. A great deal of detail about Iraq's security services was added, but it looked like the sort of information that could be found by surfing the internet - as indeed it was.

And there was the obvious flaw in the argument: all these secret policemen could not be spending all their time obstructing the UN inspectors when they had 23 million Iraqi people to repress.

Had Downing Street cut its losses when the dossier bombed with the Sunday papers, it would not be under attack for it now.

Unfortunately, Mr Campbell was so proud of this work that he showed it to his opposite number in the US, prompting Colin Powell to give it praise. Then when Mr Blair addressed the Commons, on 3 February, he officially published the document by having it placed in the Commons library and commended it to MPs.

Thus it became part of the Government's official case for sending British troops into battle.

c 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

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