The BBC journalist who first aired claims about the dossier presented by the UK Government to make the case for war with Iraq being “sexed up” has admitted making some mistakes in the way he presented his story.
But Andrew Gilligan, who has given evidence to the Hutton Inquiry into the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly for the second time, said he was right to have highlighted the intelligence community’s concerns.
He conceded making some errors, but said he had never intended to accuse the government of lying about the Iraqi threat.
The BBC reporter said he had been wrong to refer to Dr Kelly, a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) consultant, as an intelligence service source.
He said it was not intentional and that it was just the kind of slip of the tongue that happens during live broadcasts.
Mr Gilligan met Dr Kelly a week before his May 29 report alleging the September 2002 dossier on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction had been embellished.
Downing Street disputed the report, triggering a fierce row with the BBC and sparking a media frenzy to discover the identity of the source.
The dossier included a headline claim that Saddam Hussein could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes.
Under cross-examination by the government’s lawyer, Mr Gilligan stood by his story, insisting Dr Kelly had told him the 45-minute claim was “unreliable” and had been included against the wishes of some in the intelligence community.
However, Mr Gilligan conceded he had been at fault in attributing to Dr Kelly information in his report that the government had been aware of the misgivings over the Iraq dossier.
Dr Kelly apparently committed suicide in July after the MoD confirmed him to be Mr Gilligan’s suspected source.