"Pay close attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Friday, September 19, 2003

Grilling Gilligan

I've finished reading all 106 pages of Andrew Gilligan's testimony given Wednesday morning before the Hutton Inquiry, and I've once again come to the undeniable conclusion that the media is teeming with illiterate and/or lazy idiots. However, since that time, Andrew Gilligan has appeared again before the inquiry. I'll have to deal with that later, and I hope that it doesn't affect the validity of anything in this post. (See update at the bottom of this post.)

In comparing what I highlighted in my own copy of Wednesday's transcript with what the papers reported in the 2 days afterward, I noticed that the papers failed to even touch upon approximately 85% of what I noted -- just like when I read Tony Blair's testimony and decided it was too big a job to handle by myself.

Here's a quick rundown of the events of Wednesday morning. First, Mr. Gilligan's own counsel asks several questions to set him up in a good light and brush away some of the "dirt" thrown onto him by his previous appearance before the inquiry. Then two attorneys grill Gilligan in succession (the Kelly family lawyer less so) before his own barrister finally powders the reporter's nose at the end of all the pummeling [pp. 104 - 106 of the transcript].

During a break I took in the middle of reading the transcript I told my wife, "I'm not especially trying to take Andrew Gilligan's side -- I'm just trying to get to the truth -- but come on!" There were way too many instances of "Is there an echo in the courtroom, in the courtroom, in the courtroom?" coming from QC Sumption. In contrast with the first phase of the testimony, I would have expected to hear the defense (or should I say "defence"?) shouting objections about "badgering the witness."

The news stories of the past 2 days have mostly focused on Gilligan's apologies and his admission of errors. I don't recall any of the articles going into the why and wherefore and just how irrelevant those errors eventually were.

The biggest deal, according to my reading of the testimony, was Gilligan's "slip of the tongue" when he gave the then-unnamed source (Dr. David Kelly) a rank/position which sounded higher than what most people might call him [pp. 32 - 33]. (Also, see below, where Gilligan's lawyer does a pretty decent job of negating the effect of that slip.) I can't recall a single news story yesterday explaining that while Gilligan did his best (in reports subsequent to the 5 Live report in which he referred to Dr. Kelly as his "Intelligence Service source") to correct possible incorrect "impression[s]" he felt he may have made [p. 32], he couldn't undo his "slip of the tongue" any further without narrowing down -- and perhaps inadvertantly REVEALING -- who his source could have been. It seems to me that he did a DAMN good job of NOT revealing his source, even when the Foreign Affairs Committee dogs were at his heels! [Then again, I don't know WTF Gilligan was thinking when he supposedly NAMED David Kelly to the Foreign Affairs Committee as Susan Watts' source in an e-mail!]

Here are some of the related articles I read Wednesday night:
Gilligan: my mistakes
Sambrook: my regrets over Gilligan story
Gilligan: Times briefed on Kelly
Gilligan 'lied about warning MoD of dossier story'
Gilligan apologises to Hutton inquiry
BBC news chief quizzed
Reporter Admits BBC Report on Iraqi Arms Had Errors
The New York Times article ("Reporter admits...") says this:
He [Gilligan] accepted that he had erred in identifying Dr. Kelly, a scientist attached to the Ministry of Defense, as an "intelligence source," explaining: "It was a mistake. It was the kind of mistake that does arise in live broadcasts." [Emphasis mine]
That's simply wrong! The real thing went like this:
[p. 32]
20 Q. Could we have up, please, BBC/1/18? This is
21 a transcript of your Radio 5 Live broadcast on 29th May,
22 shortly after the Today broadcast. If you look about
23 eight lines up from the bottom of the page you say:
24 "... what my Intelligence Service source says is
25 that essentially they were always suspicious about this

1 claim..."
2 Why did you describe him as your Intelligence
3 Service source?
4 A. I do not know, it was a mistake. It was the kind of
5 mistake that does arise in live broadcasting.
6 Q. Is that right? [Can't you just imagine the snotty tone?!]
7 A. It is ex tempore. That was the only time in all my
8 broadcasts, and there were 19 of them on this subject,
9 that I described him in this way. That is a mistake
10 that I have already admitted to.
11 Q. Did you realise if you described him as an Intelligence
12 Service source people would find your report both more
13 exciting and more credible?

. . .

[and much later, from p. 104]
24 MS ROGERS [Gilligan's personal counsel]: I just wanted to draw attention to the opening
25 words of this broadcast. Is your source described at

1 the start of that broadcast?
2 A. Yes. He is described as a senior official involved in
3 preparing the Government's dossier
4 Q. Not obviously there as a member of the Intelligence
5 Services
6 Can we go over to, I think it is the top of the next
7 page? Do you describe Dr Kelly there as a member of the
8 Intelligence Services
9 A. Well, I describe him as my Intelligence Service source.
10 Q. Do you describe him as a member of the Intelligence
11 Services
12 A. No, not in terms. [British for "not in those exact words"]
13 Q. The final point I have is this: this is the question of
14 how you described Dr Kelly in your evidence. I just
15 want it to be made clear. [Emphasis mine]
Obviously, it was not clear enough for the writers at the New York Times to read it all or even to get their words right, I guess!!! CNN was even still picking on Gilligan the next day

The Guardian tells us about all the papers that are attacking Gilligan:
The pressure is mounting on Andrew Gilligan to resign after the press turned up the heat on the BBC reporter after his appearance before the Hutton Inquiry yesterday.

Scenting blood, those sections of the press that have taken the government's side in the row over the Iraq dossier, including the Sun and the Times, reported yesterday's contrite but assured performance from Gilligan as an admission of guilt. [Emphasis mine]
Well, well, well! I actually found one article praising Andrew Gilligan. Ananova somehow seems to pick up a non-bloody scent in all of this which the "bloodhounds" above have completely missed: Tories claim Gilligan is 'national hero'
Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North and a vice-chairman of the party believes the journalist is being set up as a scapegoat.

He said: "We should remember that before we rush to crucify him. People seem to have overlooked the fact that the story was right.

"What Gilligan did, although it was perhaps rather heavy-handed, was to expose a situation which has shown up the devious nature of the Government.

"What we know now would not have emerged had it not been for Gilligan, who has now been very straight with the Hutton Inquiry about things he may have done wrongly."

Mr Gale said: "A lot of people - and I am one of them - were very uneasy about voting for the war. It is my view that had we known then what we know now, the vote might have been very different. [Emphasis mine]
On the other hand, this one (from the BBC!) says Gilligan will be questioned yet AGAIN. (Update: this refers to his Thursday afternoon testimony which I have subsequently read -- see below). If so, that means I'm gonna be a busy little bugger.

UPDATE: Grilling Gilligan Again
It's almost 2 hours later, and I've just finished reading the 73 pages of Andrew Gilligan's Thursday testimony. There isn't a whole lot there to talk about. QC Dingemans basically just picks at the details of what was in Gilligan's "organiser" regarding his meeting at the Charing Cross Hotel with Dr. Kelly, so it doesn't seem to affect anything above in the least.
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