Andrew Paul Gilligan
(born 22 November
) is a journalist, best known for his 2003 report about a British government briefing paper on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction
(the September Dossier
) while working for BBC Radio 4
's The Today Programme
as its defence
correspondent. Latterly, at the London Evening Standard, he wrote a series of articles credited with helping cause the downfall of the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. He is the current holder of the most prestigious award in British print journalism, the British Press Awards' Journalist of the Year.
Gilligan was educated at Grey Court School
, Ham, Richmond
, at Richmond upon Thames College
, and at St John's College, Cambridge
, where he studied history. A large part of his time in Cambridge was spent on the student newspaper, Varsity
, of which he became News Editor. He was also a member of Cambridge Organisation of Labour Students
and stood as one of its candidates for the Cambridge delegation to the National Union of Students conference in 1994.
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.
The Today programme
, Gilligan's broke a number of stories about the British military's shortcomings, particularly in relation to the Kosovo war
. He obtained leaked Ministry of Defence
reports showing that the Army's rifles and radios had not worked; that only a small fraction of Royal Air Force
(RAF) bombs during the campaign had hit their targets; and that a £1 billion upgrade to the RAF's main combat jet had left it unable to drop smart bombs. The Defence Secretary
, Geoff Hoon
, denied to Parliament Gilligan's report that British troops were ill-equipped for the war in Iraq and called for a public apology. Gilligan's allegations were borne out by a National Audit Office
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.
Gilligan first came to prominence during the 2003 invasion of Iraq
, when he was stationed in Baghdad
. On the day United States
forces claimed to have entered the city centre, Gilligan broadcast on the BBC World Service
saying: "I'm in the centre of Baghdad, and I don't see anything… But then the Americans have a history of making these premature announcements." Gilligan was referring to a military communiqué from Qatar
that morning saying that the Americans had entered the centre of the city. In fact, it transpired that an American patrol had passed briefly through one of the south-western suburbs, and then exited again.
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.
The "sexing up" Iraqi capabilities allegations
On May 29
, back in Britain, Gilligan reported allegations that a dossier
published by the British Government
had "sexed up" the military capabilities of Iraq
in order to bolster the argument for going to war with the country. In a subsequent newspaper article, Gilligan quoted a source as identifying Alastair Campbell
, then the Prime Minister's Director of Communications and Strategy, as responsible for the suppressions.
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.
Dr David Kelly
Gilligan's source was one of the world's foremost biological weapons experts, Dr David Kelly
. Kelly was found dead, having committed suicide, shortly after being identified as the source for the story. An inquiry (the Hutton Inquiry
) subsequently set up to investigate the circumstances leading up to Kelly's death heard much evidence about Gilligan's claims, and ruled that they were unfounded. The Inquiry could not establish exactly what had transpired at the meeting between Gilligan and Kelly as Gilligan took notes using a palmtop computer
. Two versions of the notes were found, only one of which mentioned Alastair Campbell.
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.
Several official enquiries into the affair were made, with different scopes.
The Foreign Affairs Committee
Kelly was called to give evidence before the Foreign Affairs Committee
of the House of Commons
, which was undertaking an inquiry into the dossier. Gilligan emailed several members of the Committee to tell them that Susan Watts' unattributed Newsnight
source was David Kelly, thereby implicitly revealing Kelly as his own source. Though Gilligan supported his own case by doing this, it unnerved Kelly — who was forced to deny making the comments which were quoted verbatim in the committee. Susan Watts' tape of the conversation would prove this a lie, placing Kelly in jeopardy. Gilligan's actions in identifying another journalist's source went against a principle of investigative journalism
: protect the source.
The Hutton Inquiry
Despite this error and the overstatement in the first report, Gilligan maintained he had uncovered a potentially important news story, originating from a credible source. However, his story suffered from weaknesses which were demonstrated during the inquiry. Lord Hutton ruled that while Alastair Campbell had made comments on the dossier, the Joint Intelligence Committee
had taken all the decisions on its content. Hutton ruled that the Defence Intelligence Staff had raised doubts about the 45 minute claim, but they had been dismissed by the Secret Intelligence Service
and had not reached 10 Downing Street.
The Butler Enquiry
A later official enquiry into the government's use of intelligence, conducted by the former head of the civil service Lord Butler of Brockwell
, found that "more weight was placed on the intelligence than it would bear", that the dossier "put a strain on the Joint Intelligence Committee in seeking to maintain their normal standards of neutral and objective assessment", and that the judgments in the dossier went to the "outer limits … of the intelligence available."
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.
Resignation from the BBC
The BBC's chairman, Gavyn Davies, its director general, Greg Dyke, and Gilligan all resigned from the BBC following the publication of the Hutton Inquiry report. Gilligan was belligerent in his departure, saying: "This report casts a chill over all journalism, not just the BBC's. It seeks to hold reporters, with all the difficulties they face, to a standard that it does not appear to demand of, for instance, Government dossiers." Today programme producer, Afshin Rattansi, left to become the first English-language journalist at Al Jazeera
where he worked on the programme that would identify those responsible for 911. Today programme editor, Kevin Marsh, who failed to support Gilligan was quietly moved to a training department at the BBC.
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.
After leaving the BBC, Gilligan joined the London Evening Standard
; he has been a particular critic of the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Starting in December 2007, Gilligan wrote a series of articles revealing that companies and organisations run by friends and business associates of the Mayor's policing adviser, Lee Jasper
, had received millions of pounds from City Hall while failing to file audited accounts and apparently doing little or nothing in return for the money. Police are currently investigating seven of the Jasper-linked projects and have made three arrests for theft and money-laundering. In March 2008, following further revelations by Gilligan, Lee Jasper resigned.
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.