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UK press mauls Hutton 'whitewash'

The findings have plunged the BBC into turmoil.
The findings have plunged the BBC into turmoil.

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Lord Hutton clears Blair's office of "sexing up" dossier on Iraq's weapons.
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BBC report that government dossier was "sexed-up" was unfounded

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LONDON, England -- Much of Britain's press has lashed out at the judge who cleared the UK government of any wrongdoing over the suicide of an Iraqi weapons expert, accusing Lord Hutton of a "whitewash" and questioning whether justice was really served.

The long-awaited verdict, delivered by Hutton on Wednesday, attracted "widespread incredulity," Thursday's edition of the right-wing Daily Mail said

"Justice?" asked the paper's front-page headline. Hutton's report "does a great disservice to the British people. It fails to set its story in the context of the BBC's huge virtues and the government's sore vices," the paper said.

Hutton had been looking into the events surrounding the death of weapons expert David Kelly, who was found dead in July -- days after he was exposed as the source for a BBC report by journalist Andrew Gilligan that Blair's office "sexed up" a dossier making the case for war.

Hutton's report cleared Prime Minister Tony Blair's government of exaggerating the Iraqi threat but also dealt a damaging blow to the British Broadcasting Corp. Hutton branded the most serious of Gilligan's claims as "unfounded."

In his severe criticism of the BBC, Hutton said it had failed to properly check Gilligan's story and did not properly investigate the government's complaints about it.

Gilligan's report said a government statement that Iraqi forces could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes was based on false intelligence that officials knew was unreliable.

The findings have plunged the BBC into turmoil, with its chairman Gavyn Davies resigning and the publicly funded broadcaster's governors holding an emergency crisis meeting Thursday. (Full story)

Despite Hutton's censure, the BBC could draw some solace from the print media.

"BBC journalists must go on probing, must go on asking awkward questions -- and must go on causing trouble," The Guardian urged.

The paper added Gilligan "got more right than he got wrong," in his report and that the BBC should ensure "there is no collective failure of nerve in the corporation."

The Daily Mail was more forthright. "We're faced with the wretched spectacle of the BBC chairman resigning while Alastair Campbell crows from the summit of his dungill. Does this verdict, my lord, serve the real interest of the truth?" it asked.

Campbell served as Blair's communications director and was one of the principle figures in the row between the BBC and the government at the time Kelly committed suicide.


But many dailies agreed Hutton had exposed serious failings within the BBC.

The Sun said it put the spotlight on the BBC's "culture of sloppiness, incompetence and arrogance."

The paper joined other right-wing publications The Times and the Daily Telegraph in calling for BBC Director-General Greg Dyke to also step down.

Hutton's report has been critcized for its narrowness.
Hutton's report has been critcized for its narrowness.

Other papers were outraged. In a comment piece for the left-wing Daily Mirror, Paul Routledge accused Hutton of an "establishment whitewash" that "stinks to high heavens."

It "makes me feel physically sick, like a victim of a crime who knows that justice will never be done," the journalist's commentary said.

The Mirror also said that while the BBC had been "shamed," the narrowness of Hutton's report "meant that the real issue -- the existence of weapons of mass destruction -- wasn't even touched on."

"Hutton's whitewash leaves questions unanswered," said the right-wing Daily Express.

In a striking front-page item, The Independent left a white space where normally a photograph would be placed, and asked if the report was "an establishment whitewash."

The paper called Hutton's findings "curiously imbalanced" and said his report strengthened the case for an "independent inquiry into intelligence failures that took this country to an unjustifiable war."

Hutton's report has taken much of the heat off Blair and given opposition lawmakers little ammunition in their attack against the government's reasoning for going to war in Iraq.

Speaking in the House of Commons after the release of the report, Blair said he accepted its findings "in full."

Blair said the report showed the real lies were the claims he had lied to parliament or deliberately misled the public by falsifying intelligence.

"I simply ask that those that have made it and repeated it over all these months now withdraw it fully, openly and clearly," he said.

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