33. British journalism's greatest ever scoops: The ‘dodgy dossier’ on war with Iraq (BBC Radio4 Today, Andrew Gilligan, 2003)

Gilligan’s methods may have been flawed but the story was sensational and largely true.

In the first of many broadcasts on 29 May, made at 6.07am, he said that he was told by his source that the Government “probably knew that the 45-minute figure was wrong even before it decided to put it in”.

This was a reference to the controversial claim made in the Government’s case for war with Iraq that Saddam Hussein was able to deploy biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so.

It prompted a state of war between the Government and the BBC which would cost Gilligan and director general Greg Dyke their jobs and lead the man outed as Gilligan’s source, Dr David Kelly, to kill himself.

The Hutton Report would raise questions over Gilligan’s notetaking during his interview with Kelly, and question the wisdom of breaking such an important story during an unscripted two-way interview.  But six years on the central thrust of Gilligan’s story – that the case for war with Iraq was exaggerated, and that the “dodgy dossier” was sexed up – seems truer than ever.

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