LONDON — U.K. government defense secretary Geoff Hoon told the Hutton inquiry Wednesday that he was not involved in the decision to name weapons expert David Kelly as the BBC’s sole source for its controversial report on the “sexed up” Iraq dossier.
Hoon said he had not authorized his special adviser to confirm the identity of the government scientist to a Financial Times journalist.
He added that the decision to name Kelly in a letter to the BBC chairman, Gavin Davies, had been made by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell.
“There was no effort by me or my office” to help journalists identify Kelly, he told the inquiry. Hoon also insisted that during the weekend of July 5, when a story in the Times newspaper gave further hints at Kelly’s identity, he was still keen to preserve the scientist’s anonymity.
He said he was “unsure” that Kelly was BBC defense correspondent Andrew Gilligan’s source until after Kelly’s death on July 18.
Gilligan’s report alleged that the government inserted information into a sensitive dossier that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.
Kelly committed suicide after becoming embroiled in the row that blew up between the government and the BBC.
Hoon defended his decision to put the outed Kelly in front of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to uncover the truth and said Blair had agreed with his decision.
“At each stage in these events I was, above all, trying to establish the facts — what was the truth about Mr. Gilligan’s broadcast and subsequent article, what was said by Dr. Kelly to Mr. Gilligan and was Dr. Kelly in fact Mr. Gilligan’s single source,” he told the inquiry.
The inquiry will reach fever pitch today when Blair and Davies take to the stand.