HUTTON REPORT FINALE….Tony Blair is having a good week. First he won a battle over university fees that he had been expected to lose, and today the final report of the Hutton inquiry cleared him completely of any wrongdoing in the death of David Kelly. He didn’t expose Kelly’s name, he didn’t have any responsibility for Kelly’s suicide, and he didn’t “sex up” the WMD dossier issued in 2002.

The BBC, on the other hand, doesn’t fare so well. Their editorial system was “defective” and they allowed pique to keep them from properly investigating claims that their reporter’s notes didn’t back up his story.

The full report is here (warning: large PDF file).

I’m in a hurry this morning and this is all I have time to post. It’s been a while since I wrote about this, but off the top of my head I have these comments: (a) Hutton’s criticism of the BBC is probably about right; (b) his conclusion that the government is not really responsible for exposing Kelly or causing his death is also right; but (c) the evidence that Blair wanted a punchier dossier seems stronger to me than it did to Hutton. There was some fairly damning testimony that at least a couple of very senior people doubted some of the claims in the dossier.

However, what’s really remarkable about this whole thing is that the investigation happened at all. Whatever Blair’s government did, their “sexing up” of the dossier was small beer indeed compared to what Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld did in the U.S. The fact that the British conducted an investigation over such relatively restrained meddling with intelligence conclusions is to their credit. Too bad we can’t have one of our own.

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