TONY RAISES THE WHITE FLAG….You know, the British sure have a lot more fun with their scandals than we do. Last we heard, the British government was claiming that BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan had wildly exaggerated ? maybe even made up ? his interview with David Kelly, the one in which Kelly allegedly told him that the government’s Iraq dossier had been “sexed up” at the last minute to make it sound better than it really was.

Today, the Independent says that Tony Blair & Co. are having second thoughts about this line of attack:

Downing Street will seek to defend itself over the death of David Kelly by portraying the scientist as a Walter Mitty character who exaggerated his role in the Government’s intelligence case against Iraq.

….In what appears to be a change of tactics by the Government, a senior Whitehall source told The Independent that Dr Kelly had misled the Ministry of Defence and the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan [italics mine] over claims that a dossier used to justify war against Saddam Hussein had been “sexed up”.

If this is true, it means that Gilligan and the BBC are almost entirely* in the clear. So why take this tack? I figure there are two possibilities:

  • It’s actually true. (Yes, I know this is a possibility that normally gets discounted in cases like this, but you never know.)

  • Although it clears the BBC, it also means that Tony Blair is off the hook on the “sexing up” charges. After all, if Kelly was just a delusional nutcase there’s really nothing to investigate. Time to move on.

I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between. I think Kelly really did say the things Gilligan quoted him saying, but regardless of that I suspect that Tony Blair has decided there’s not much future in pushing this any further. With the Iraq dossier looking dodgier with every passing day that fails to turn up any WMD, a lengthy investigation that keeps this on the front page just can’t be good for him. It’s time to sue for peace.

*”Almost” entirely because there’s still the problem that the BBC lied when they said their source was an intelligence official and was not an employee of the Ministry of Defense. However, I suspect that if everyone concludes that Gilligan told the truth about what Kelly said, the other stuff is small beer.

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