BBC on the Hot Seat

Britain’s BBC led the anti-war movement in the UK, and continues to attack Tony Blair’s government with gusto. Now Blair and his aides are fed up and determined to stop the BBC’s assault. Threats and counterthreats of lawsuits are the latest development.
Basically, the row is over the BBC’s claim–apparently false–that Downing Street “sexed up” (in the BBC’s words) the government’s Iraq dossier by adding the assertion that Iraq could be ready to fire chemical weapons in 45 minutes. In a sense this is a teapot tempest, since the BBC’s claim was not that this statement was false, but that 1) it was supported by only a single source, whereas everything else in the dossier was at least double-sourced; and 2) it was added to the dossier at the initiative of Downing Street, not the intelligence community.
Ironically, the BBC appears to have broken its own rules by basing its own report on a single, anonymous source, and by failing to give Blair’s administration an opportunity to respond to the claim before it went to press.
Blair’s communications director, Alastair Campbell, apparently thinks he has the goods on the BBC this time. It will be fun to watch the battle play out. in the meantime, I’d like to see President Bush go after the American press with similar aggressiveness. But it’s not his style.


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