Thursday, June 26, 2003

Leak of the Week

Thanks to an overdue visit to the Billabong, I've just read this interesting opinion piece by Andrew Bolt in Monday's Hun, and this much more interesting transcript of Andrew Wilkie's evidence before Westminster's Foreign Affairs Committee. It's worth taking the time to read the transcript: as well as Wilkie's testimony, it includes that of Ibrahim Al-Marashi, author of the plagiarised thesis that was included in the "dodgy dossier". The Professor has already posted his favourite extract from Mr Al-Marashi's testimony - here are a couple of mine:

Q666 Sir John Stanley: As has been widely reported, the Government has chosen to make an apology to the heads of the intelligence agencies for producing a document which purported to have some degree of authority from themselves when that was not the case, and has provided an assurance that that will not happen again in the future. Has the Government made any expression of regret or apology to you for the plagiarisation of your thesis?

Mr al-Marashi: I have never been contacted directly, either by phone call nor in writing, since February 2003 up to the present.

Q667 Sir John Stanley: Do you think you might be owed an apology?

Mr al-Marashi: I think the least they could do is owe me an apology.

Q668 Chairman: Can we now apologise for them?

Mr al-Marashi: The time is quite past but I would have to say that the biggest fear I had out of this whole story breaking out was that I am an Iraqi myself and when I wrote this article I did not think it would get much of a circulation, maybe 5,000 people at the most, people in the Middle East academic community. What the events have done to me around February and March was that basically they connected me to the British case for going to war and, having relatives in Iraq with my last name connected to me in the UK would have been disastrous for them. I have already lost two relatives to the Saddam regime. Any connection now between me and the UK Government and the case for going to war would have had a disastrous effect on my family back home. That was my biggest regret out of this entire affair. Given the personal stress I have gone through, I think the least they could have done was offer me an apology.

Q669 Sir John Stanley: Were there any reprisals made against any of the members of your family in the period between the publication of the "dodgy dossier" and the removal of the Saddam Hussein regime?

Mr al-Marashi: I have not been able to establish contact with my family. I cannot say 100 per cent. In fact, I was intending to go back to find out the fate of my family, but I cannot say I am 100 per cent sure if there were reprisals. Given the fact that my family was politically suspect in the past, it is likely that they could have been suspect or there could have been reprisals. There is always that possibility.

Mr al-Marashi also identifies a few incompetent [according to committee chair Donald Anderson] alterations to his original paper:

Again, from the first bullet from "Its internal activities include ...", "spying" - I used the term "monitoring". I guess there is a thin line between those two words but I tried to use more neutral language. The key modification made was in the second section, "Its external activities include ..." - "supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes", where I believe I used, "aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes". There is a big difference between "opposition groups" and "terrorist organisations". I was always one to believe that the link between Iraqi intelligence and terrorist organisations may have been quite active in the past but links between Iraq's security apparatus and terrorist organisations - there has not been evidence that there has been strong co-operation in the last decade, nor has there been strong evidence of Iraqi co-operation with al-Qaeda. By changing it to this word you are kind of distorting the intent, that is, "supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes" makes one infer that they could be supporting, let us say, groups like al-Qaeda. That is one key example of modifying the text. There are other examples where they not only plagiarised but they put it in the wrong place ...

But that's enough of that - you can read the rest for yourselves. Let's turn to Andrew Bolt's article:

ANDREW Wilkie sells himself as the spy who couldn't be fooled over Iraq.

He's the one spook who didn't buy what he calls the Howard Government's "fairytale" and "exaggerations" about the threat of Saddam Hussein.

But when I go through the only secret report that Wilkie ever wrote about Iraq as an Office of National Assessments analyst, I wonder just who fell for a "fairytale".

[my emphasis]

Curiously, a good half hour of imaginative googling this morning failed to turn up any other analysis or comment based on going through "the only secret report that Wilkie ever wrote about Iraq". Still, now that it's been let out into the public domain via Andrew Bolt (and possibly other journos I wasn't able to track down), maybe the Office of National Assessment could do the right thing by us all and put it up on their web-site. After all, now that it's appeared in the Hun it's hardly secret any more, is it?

No comments: