It appears that it is the reputation of the august institution that is the British Broadcasting Corporation that is suffering more than the reputation of the British Government in the inquiry into the death of weapons expert David Kelly.

On May 29th, Andrew Gilligan, defence correspondent of “Today”, the BBC’s morning radio current affairs programme reported, in a live, unscripted, interview at 6am, that Downing Street dishonestly “sexed up” a dossier published last September. He said that it inserted, against the wishes of the intelligence services, the claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

The Hutton Inquiry is investigating the circumstances surrounding Dr Kelly’s death. The BBC provides analysis and links to other resources on the affair.

Until now, the BBC has solidly defended the story. But public defiance was not matched in private. The inquiry has exposed an e-mail from Mr Gilligan’s editor, Kevin Marsh, to the head of BBC Radio, Stephen Mitchell, branding the story “a good piece of investigative journalism, marred by flawed reporting”. Mr Marsh added that “our biggest millstone has been his loose use of language and lack of judgment.”

So far the blame has fallen on Mr Gilligan. Like many investigative reporters, he works odd hours and has a reputation as an eccentric, if interesting, loner. He gets original stories but his methods are unusual. He took no pen to his meeting with Mr Kelly at the Charing Cross Hotel on May 22nd, and neither wrote notes during it nor recorded the conversation. Instead, he tapped out bits of Mr Kelly’s comments on to his personal organiser, later wrote out a longer transcript and then lost the transcript. He did not bother to check his explosive story with Downing Street to get its reaction.

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