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July 23, 2003
BBC 'has tape of Kelly doubts over dossier'
by pa news
The BBC has a tape of the scientist Dr David Kelly expressing concern about the way Iraq weapons intelligence was presented, the corporation was reporting today.
The tape of a conversation between Dr Kelly and the science editor of Newsnight, Susan Watts, was expected to be submitted as part of its evidence to the judicial inquiry into Dr Kelly's death.
The Guardian newspaper was today reporting that the BBC believed the tape was the "smoking gun" that would exonerate Andrew Gilligan, the BBC defence correspondent who reported the suggestion that Number 10 "sexed up" the September dossier on Iraq's banned weapons.
The BBC said today that it would not discuss the content of the tape but that it is thought to regard it as a "useful" part of its evidence, rather than the centrepiece.
Dr Kelly was found with his wrist slashed in an Oxfordshire wood days after coming under intense scrutiny as the source for Mr Gilligan's story.
After his death, the BBC confirmed that he had been the main source for three journalists who had reported concerns about the way Iraq weapons intelligence had been presented.
On Newsnight, Ms Watts had quoted an unnamed source at length - now known as Dr Kelly - questioning the claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.
"It was a statement that was made and it just got out of all proportion," the source said.
"They were desperate for information, they were pushing hard for information which could be released. That was one that popped up and it was seized on and it's unfortunate that it was.
"That's why there is the argument between the intelligence services and the Cabinet Office/No 10 - because they picked up on it and once they've picked up on it, you can't pull it back from them."
The news of the tape came as it was reported yesterday that signs of cracks were emerging at the highest level of the BBC.
There were concerns among the BBC's board of governors about whether they had all the facts when they issued their support of Mr Gilligan and the corporation's director of news, Richard Sambrook, it was reported.
But BBC chairman Gavyn Davies said in a statement that the BBC board of governors had agreed there was no need to call a special meeting.