It depends on the meaning of “Absolutely yes”

The Guardian has an entertaining account of the cross examination of BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan before the Hutton inquiry on the death of David Kelly: “Gilligan accused over Kelly description.” In a BBC report Gilligan accused the government of having “sexed up” its intelligence dossier to make the case for war with Iraq. It appears that it was Gilligan himself who “sexed up” his report to make his case against the government.
One part of the Guardian story has a familiar ring. The story notes the following exchange: “Lord Hutton…intervened at one point, when he was clearly unimpressed by Gilligan’s later failure to correct the FAC’s [House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee] belief that Dr Kelly was an ‘intelligence source.’ When asked during his appearance before the FAC if this was the correct way of describing Dr Kelly, whose identity as Gilligan’s source was at the time still unknown, Gilligan had answered: ‘Absolutely yes.’ ‘What do the words “Absolutely yes” mean?’ Lord Hutton inquired pointedly.”
UPDATE: The BBC has posted a more complete report of Gilligan’s testimony today than was available earlier this morning: “Witnessing Gilligan’s evidence.”
Some questioning focused on Gilligan’s notes of his interview with David Kelly: “A note made the day after the meeting had gone missing, the reporter said. A note he had prepared for the Today programme on his conversation with the scientist was not verbatim, but a summary. Missing from the summary was Mr. Gilligan’s question to Dr. Kelly asking if the dossier was changed ‘to make it sexier.’
“‘But he repeated (the words),’ said Mr. Gilligan, who also insisted that it was the scientist who first mentioned the name of government media chief Alastair Campbell. And all these words were picked up from the note he had made on his handheld computer, said Mr. Gilligan, who also said he had had recording equipment with him when he met Dr. Kelly, but did not use it because the large microphone was not conducive to the meeting.
“After more than two hours in the witness box, the session moved towards its close as Mr. Dingemans rose to ask questions. The Today programme report, he said, contained ‘allegation of conscious wrongdoing’ didn’t it? Mr. Gilligan said he thought it was ‘less serious than that,’ saying it was ‘part of a political debate.’ And he insisted he had corrected his earlier error by saying the government knew the 45-minutes claim was ‘questionable’ rather than wrong.”
“‘It’s not much of a retraction is it Mr Gilligan?,’ said Mr Dingemans.
“‘Well, knowing that a claim is questionable is not the same as knowing that it is wrong; and for that reason I was happier with the word “questionable,”‘ replied the reporter.
“Finally, it was the turn of Ms. Rogers to wind up the session. And that presented an opportunity for Mr. Gilligan to restate the view he had expressed throughout his appearance before the inquiry. Yes, he had mistakes, but ‘I believe I reported accurately what Dr Kelly told me.”
HINDROCKET adds: The always-colorful Sun headlines: “Gilligan on the Rack”. Here are some excerpts:
“Reporter Andrew Gilligan today publicly apologised for revealing to MPs that weapons expert David Kelly had been the source of another BBC journalist’s reports on the Government’s Iraq weapons dossier….He admitted that he had made a series of ‘errors’ and had been wrong to state that the Government had included the claim that some Iraqi weapons could be deployed within 45 minutes, knowing that it was probably wrong.
“He acknowledged that he should not have said in his first live Today programme ‘two way’ interview with a Today presenter on the morning of May 29 that the 45-minute claim was included even though the Government knew it was probably wrong. ‘It was not intentional. It was a kind of slip of the tongue that does happen quite often during live broadcasts. It is an occupational hazard which is why it would have been better to have scripted them,’ he said.
“Under cross-examination by counsel to the inquiry James Dingemans QC, Mr Gilligan admitted that he had made an ‘error’ in ascribing his own conclusions on how the dossier came to be ‘transformed’ to Dr Kelly. ‘I regret that on these two occasions I didn’t report entirely carefully and accurately what he said. My error was to ascribe that statement to him when it was actually a conclusion of mine,’ he said.”
Pathetic. Isn’t distinguishing between what a source says and the reporter’s own opinion about as basic as it gets? I’d feel sorry for Gilligan if it weren’t obvious that he acted out of malice rather than incompetence.


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