Britain Admits That Much of Its Report on Iraq Came From Magazines
By SARAH LYALL
L <http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/l.gif> ONDON, Feb. 7 -
The British government admitted today that large sections of its most
recent report on Iraq, praised by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell as
"a fine paper" in his speech to the United Nations on Wednesday, had
been lifted from magazines and academic journals.
But while acknowledging that the 19-page report was indeed a
"pull-together of a variety of sources," a spokesman for Prime Minister
Tony Blair defended it as "solid" and "accurate."
The document, "Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and
Intimidation," was posted on No. 10 Downing Street's Web site on Monday.
It was depicted as an up-to-date and unsettling assessment by the
British intelligence services of Iraq's security apparatus and its
efforts to hide its activities from weapons inspectors and to resist
international efforts to force it to disarm.
But much of the material actually came, sometimes verbatim, from several
nonsecret published articles, according to critics of the government's
policy who have studied the documents. These include an article
published in the Middle East Review of International Affairs in
September 2002, as well as three articles from Jane's Intelligence
Review, two of them published in the summer of 1997 and one in November
In some cases, the critics said, parts of the articles - or of summaries
posted on the Internet - were paraphrased in the report. In other cases,
they were plagiarized - to the extent that even spelling and punctuation
errors in the originals were reproduced.
The Blair government did not deny that any of this had happened. But its
spokesman insisted today that the government believed "the text as
published to be accurate" and that the document had been published
because "we wanted to show people not only the kind of regime we were
dealing with, but also how Saddam Hussein had pursued a policy of
He added: "In retrospect, we should, to clear up any confusion, have
acknowledged which bits came from public sources and which bits came
from other sources." He said the document had been written by government
officials and drawn from "a number of sources, including intelligence
"The overall objective was to give the full picture without compromising
intelligence sources," he said.
But critics of the government said that not only did the document appear
to have been largely cut and pasted together, but also that the articles
it relied on were based on information that is, by now, obsolete.
For instance, the second section of the three-part report, which is
described on the Downing Street Web site as providing "up-to-date
details of Iraq's network of intelligence and security," was drawn in
large part from "Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network: a Guide," an
article about the activities of Iraqi intelligence in Kuwait in 1990 and
1991, which appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs
last September. Its author was Ibrahim al-Marashi, a postgraduate
student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in
Mr. Marashi told Channel 4 News, which first reported the plagiarism
charges, that his research had been drawn primarily from two huge sets
of documents: "one taken from Kurdish rebels in the north of Iraq -
around four million documents - as well as 300,000 documents left by
Iraqi security services in Kuwait." He also said that while he had no
reason to doubt the truth of anything he had written and believed the
government report to be accurate, no one had asked permission or
informed him about using his work.
"I am surprised, flattered as well, that this information got used in a
U.K. government dossier," Mr. Marashi said in an interview with Reuters.
"Had they consulted me, I could have provided them with more updated
Dr. Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University who
has compared the British report with the articles it used as sources,
said that in some cases, the authors apparently changed phrases from the
original articles to make the case against Iraq seem more extreme.
For instance, Dr. Rangwala said, a section on the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi
directorate of general intelligence, appeared to have been lifted
verbatim from Mr. Marashi's article, except for a few tweaks. Where Mr.
Marashi mentions that the Mukhabarat's responsibilities include
"monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq," the government document speaks
of "spying on foreign embassies in Iraq." Mr. Marashi's description of
the Mukhabarat's role in "aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes"
becomes "supporting terrorist organizations in hostile regimes."
Critics of the British and American policy toward Iraq said the report
showed how little concrete evidence the two governments actually have
against Iraq, as well as how poor their intelligence sources were.
"Both governments seem so desperate to create a pretext to attack Iraq
that they are willing to say anything," said Nathaniel Hurd, a
consultant on Iraq and a critic of the American position. "This U.K.
dossier, which deceptively uses outdated material and plagiarizes, is
just the latest example of official dishonesty."
Opposition politicians here attacked the report as the deceptive work of
a bumbling government clutching at straws as it tries to make a case for
"This is the intelligence equivalent of being caught stealing the
spoons," said Menzies Campbell, the foreign affairs spokesman for the
Liberal Democrats. "The dossier may not amount to much, but this is a
considerable embarrassment for a government trying still to make a case
Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative Party's shadow defense secretary, said
the government had not satisfactorily addressed the concerns raised by
"The government's reaction utterly fails to explain, deny or excuse the
allegations," Mr. Jenkin said. "The document has been cited by the prime
minister and Colin Powell as the basis for a possible war. Who is
responsible for such an incredible failure of judgment?"