In 1994, after a summer placement on The Independent, he gave up his studies to work full-time in journalism. He contributed to the Cambridge Evening News as a freelance and later moved to the Sunday Telegraph where he became a specialist reporter on defence. In 1999 he was recruited by the Today programme editor Rod Liddle as Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent, as part of an attempt by Liddle to sharpen up the programme's investigative journalism.
In 2000, Gilligan reported on plans being developed at an Italian university for an EU constitution. The Prime Minister's spokesman, Alastair Campbell, denied any such plans and attacked the journalist as 'Gullible Gilligan'. Plans for an EU constitution were announced by the Government the following year.
The previous day Gilligan had questioned a US Centcom statement that the Americans had taken control of Baghdad airport. Gilligan and three other journalists had visited the airport that morning and established that the Americans were not in control of the airport terminal or approach road. This report was confirmed by a further bus-load of journalists who were taken to the airport later that day by the Iraqi authorities; US forces did not take control of the airport until that night.
Gilligan's reporting was criticised both by the Iraqi authorities, who twice threatened to expel him for disobeying rules not to travel without a minder, and by the British Government. The British defence minister, Adam Ingram, attacked him for reporting on the day after Baghdad fell, April 10, 2003, that Iraqi civilians were "passing their first days of freedom in a greater fear than they've ever known" due to the widespread outbreak of looting, lawlessness and disorder which broke out after the Americans arrived.
According to Gilligan's account of his source, the "classic" example of the exaggeration was the dossier's claim that Iraq was able to deploy biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so. In the first, unscripted report, broadcast live at 6.07 am on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Gilligan claimed to have been told by his source that the Government "probably knew that the 45 minute figure was wrong even before it decided to put it in". Gilligan did not use this formulation in any of his subsequent 19 broadcasts that day, instead saying that the claim was regarded as questionable and based on information from only one source.
However, Gilligan's general account of the conversation - though not that the government "probably" knew that the 45 minute claim "was wrong" - appeared to many observers to have been substantially corroborated by separate interviews given to two other BBC journalists, Susan Watts and Gavin Hewitt. Watts had recorded her conversation with Kelly, in which Kelly did indeed say that Alastair Campbell might be responsible for changes to the dossier. Both Gilligan and Watts spoke to Kelly on an unattributable basis.
The Government began to demand that the BBC name the source for Gilligan's report. The BBC refused to do so. However, after rumours began to circulate amongst his colleagues, Kelly himself eventually revealed to his employers that he had spoken to Gilligan, though he denied making the crucial "probably knew it was wrong" comment.
It was later revealed that Campbell had written in his diary: "It was double-edged but GH (Geoff Hoon) and I agreed it would fuck Gilligan if that was his source." Government press officers participated in an elaborate exercise to make the name public, providing clues to journalists and confirming Kelly's name to any who deduced it. One newspaper put more than 20 names to the Ministry of Defence press office before it confirmed David Kelly's.
On the 45-minute claim, Butler endorsed the concerns of the Defence Intelligence Staff and said they should have been heeded. The 45-minute claim should not have been included in the form it took, and there were "suspicions that it had been included because of its eye-catching character". He did not, however, conclude as Gilligan had originally claimed that "the government probably knew it was wrong."
It also emerged that some of the intelligence underpinning the dossier, based on reporting from a new and untested source, had been withdrawn by MI6 as unreliable. Lord Butler of Brockwell revealed that much of the remainder of the intelligence was described by MI6 as "patchy" and "fragmentary", contrary to the characterisation of it by the Prime Minister as "detailed, authoritative and compelling". However, Lord Butler of Brockwell cleared both the Prime Minister and the chairman of the JIC, John Scarlett, of bad faith or dishonesty.
After leaving the BBC, Gilligan became Defence and Diplomatic Editor of The Spectator In a speech to the Edinburgh TV Festival in August 2004, the main annual gathering of the broadcasting industry, Gilligan spoke of his "awe" at the Government's "industrial-strength, 45-carat shamelessness" over the dossier and said that the BBC should not retreat from journalism probing of the Government.
In a drama-documentary The Government Inspector made by Peter Kosminsky and broadcast on March 17, 2005 by Channel 4, the discrepancy between the two computer versions of Gilligan's record of his meeting with Dr Kelly was explained by showing Gilligan altering the file to make it tie in with what he had reported. Gilligan described the depiction as "demonstrably, even absurdly, false", and his denial was supported by Greg Dyke. However, Kosminsky said that he had been advised by a computer forensics expert.
The Lee Jasper articles are credited by some with the defeat of Mr Livingstone by Boris Johnson in the Mayoral election of 1 May 2008. Charlie Beckett, the director of the media thinktank Polis at the London School of Economics, told the Guardian: "If ever a single story has done for a politician, it may just be that one." In April 2008, Gilligan was named Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards for his work on the Mayoralty.
Gilligan is also a reporter for Channel 4's investigative programme Dispatches, covering the practice of "extraordinary rendition," the privatised railways, the treatment of British soldiers returning from war in Iraq, the housing industry, British airports and other subjects. He has also reported two editions of ITV's The London Programme. He also presents Forum, a Question Time-style panel discussion show on Press TV, Iran's English-language news channel.
Interview: Rod Liddle, former editor of BBC's radio program "Today," discusses BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's admission he made mistakes regarding his interview with David Kelly
Sep 18, 2003; ALEX CHADWICK NPR Special 09-18-2003 Interview: Rod Liddle, former editor of BBC's radio program "Today," discusses BBC reporter...
The Hutton Inquiry: CAMPBELL CORNERED - ANDREW GILLIGAN: My Reports May Have Been Less Than Perfect but They Were Never Wrong
Aug 13, 2003; Byline: OONAGH BLACKMAN Deputy Political Editor BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan yesterday insisted his version of events in the Dr...