Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “up to the minute” assessment of Saddam’s arsenal – presented as the input of MI5 and MI6 – was in fact plagiarised from an essay by an Arab student!
The revelation has seriously torpedoed Blair’s credibility – and created behind-the-scenes fury in the White House. President Bush had cited the document as “independent proof” to support Secretary of State Collin Powell’s “show and tell” performance at the United Nations.
The Downing Street document – published on its official website is titled: “Iraq: It’s Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation”.
The clear implication was that it had been compiled from the very latest input from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – Britain’s “ear in the sky” global listening agency.
Colin Powell, in his 90 minute performance at the UN heralded it as an “important contribution to revealing the truth about Saddam”.
But when Britain’s intelligence chiefs saw the 19-page document, they were furious. They immediately recognised that it had been culled from three separate articles.
But the bulk of the 19-page Downing Street document – on which Blair’s government has based its carefully co-ordinated offensive against anti-war protesters – was written by an Arab post-graduate student in California.
He is Ibrahim al-Marashi, who studied politics at the small university of Monteray outside Los Angeles.
Large sections of his essay were copied verbatim on to the Downing Street site – under the bold claim that the revelations, for the first time, “outlines the structure of Saddam’s intelligence organisations”.
Horrified Intel chiefs, Eliza Manningham-Buller of MI5, and Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, pointed out the source of the claim was a student’s article in the specialist journal, “The Middle East Review of International Affairs”. The article was published six months ago. Both MI5 and MI6 subscribe to the journal – as does the CIA.
The already cold relationship between Downing Street and the spy agencies has plummeted with the discovery that the Prime Minister’s official website had plagiarised an old document – and dressed it up as the very latest intelligence from MI5 and MI6.
“The student has no contacts with secret intelligence. He simply wrote a discursive paper, the kind any postgrad student does”, said an MI5 source.
“In cribbing it, Downing Street just showed how desperate it is to promote the war”, he added.
The source pointed out that large sections of the student’s original article appears verbatim on the Downing Street site.
Six paragraphs on Saddam’s Special Security Organisation are the exact same words as the Californian student’s paper.
In several places, Downing Street edits the originals to make more sinister reading.
Number 10 says the Mukhabarat – the main intelligence agency – is “spying on foreign embassies in Iraq”.
The original reads: “monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq”.
And the provocative role of “supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes” has a weaker, political context in the original: “aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes”.
Even typographic mistakes in the original article are repeated. Of military intelligence, al-Marashi writes in his paper:
“The head of military intelligence generally did not have to be a relative of Saddam’s immediate family, nor a Tikriti. Saddam appointed, Sabir Abd Al-Aziz Al-Duri as head…” Note the comma after appointed.
Downing Street paraphrases the first sentence: “Saddam appointed, Sabir ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Duri as head during the 1991 Gulf War”.
This second line is cut and posted, complete with the same grammatical error: “Saddam appointed, Sabir ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Duri as head during the 1991 Gulf War. After the Gulf War he was replaced by Wafiq Jasim al-Samarrai”.
Downing Street document: “These shifting appointments are part of Saddam’s policy of balancing security positions. By constantly shifting the directors of these agencies, no one can establish a base in a security organisation for a substantial period of time. No one becomes powerful enough to challenge the President”.
Student’s document: “These shifting appointments are part of Saddam’s policy of balancing security positions between Tikritis and non-Tikritis, in the belief that the two factions would not unite to overthrow him. Not only that, but by constantly shifting the directors of these agencies, no one can establish a base in a security organisation for a substantial period of time, that would challenge the President”.
Page after page of identical textual “lifting” can be identified.
An MI5 source said: “How did Downing Street ever hope to get away with this? This appears to be the most blatant piece of plagiarism ever committed by a British government in living memory”.
Courtesy Raja Mattar
Last updated 12/02/2003