Published on Friday, February 7, 2003 by Reuters
Blair Under Fire for Plagiarized Dossier
by Dominic Evans
LONDON - Prime Minister Tony Blair has been accused of playing the same propaganda games as Saddam Hussein after chunks of an "intelligence" dossier on Iraq turned out to have been Plagiarized from academic papers.
The latest in a series of British documents focusing on the alleged threat from Saddam and rallying support for a possible U.S.-led war, it was praised by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.
It claimed to draw upon "a number of sources, including intelligence material". But on Friday, red-faced officials admitted whole swathes were lifted word for word -- grammatical slips and all -- from a student thesis.
Outraged politicians jumped on the revelation on Friday to accuse Blair of misleading the public and said it cast doubt on the credibility of his whole case against Saddam.
"This is the sort of thing that Saddam Hussein himself issues," fumed opposition Liberal Democrat Jenny Tonge.
One of Blair's former junior defense ministers, Peter Kilfoyle, said he was shocked that the government was trying to win over Britons on such "thin evidence".
"It just adds to the general impression that what we have been treated to is a farrago of half-truths, assertions and over-the-top 'spin,'" he told BBC radio.
INTELLIGENCE IS "THIN"
Glen Rangwala, an Iraq specialist at Cambridge University who analyzed the Downing Street dossier, told Reuters 11 of the dossier's 19 pages were "taken wholesale from academic papers."
"If the nature of the intelligence is actually just web research, then it rather casts doubt about the plausibility of the government's earlier claims," said Rangwala, a critic of U.S. and British policy on Iraq.
British ministers have privately admitted that gathering information on Iraq is extremely difficult and intelligence on Baghdad is "thin".
Rangwala said the document was sloppy and appeared to have been pulled together in a hurry.
"That shows there is anxiety in the British government about public distrust of the information that they have been circulating -- and their lack of a substantive case that the inspections route is not a viable alternative to war," he said.
Blair's spokesman insisted the document was fundamentally accurate, and said no one could dispute its central argument that Iraq was trying to deceive the U.N. inspectors.
"In retrospect, we should, to clear up any confusion, have acknowledged which bits came from public sources and which bits came from other sources," he said.
Britain, which is pouring tens of thousands of troops into the Gulf to support U.S. preparations for possible military conflict with Iraq, also came under fire over its last dossier on Iraq -- a paper published in December on rights violations.
The human rights group Amnesty International accused Britain of raising Iraqi rights abuses which it had studiously ignored in the 1980s when Saddam, backed by the West, fought an eight-year war with Iran.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd