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Thursday, August 14, 2003
 
A close look at Hutton

One excellent features of the Hutton inquiry is the speed with which the dialogue appears on the web site. It is useful to be able to read a day's stuff when trying to decide whether No. 10 or Auntie is 'winning' or to look for nuggets that seem not to have made it into the news. This point about identification of sources is particularly interesting.

From time to time, I have blogged about the importance of protecting sources. It is therefore a little surprising to read this quote from Susan Watts:
Hutton Enquiry, Page 66, Wednesday Morning, 13th August. Click on 'Hearing Transcripts'.

1 ...at some point, I would have felt
2 that he [Dr Kelly] had relieved me of my obligation of confidence
3 to him and I would then have felt able to reveal him as
4 the source of my stories. And the reason for that is
5 because under [Select Committee] questioning from Mr Ottaway MP he was
6 given some -- loosely quoted the quotes from him in my
7 reports. Although it was hard to discern on first
8 watching, I was viewing a web cast of that evidence, it
9 was hard to discern his response immediately but when
10 I saw the transcript the following day, which is in fact
11 the morning of the 18th, my solicitor showed me that
12 transcript, he appears to deny that those are his
13 quotes.
14 I felt that together with his having acknowledged
15 having spoken to me, although I think he was less than
16 frank in describing the full nature of our relationship
17 and conversations, that those factors together relieved
18 me of my obligation to protect his identity as
19 a confidentiality source.
Now, I find this incredible. If a source of mine were to lie to protect himself, I would be even more circumspect in protecting him. However, she goes on to say
20 I wanted, somehow, to have that expressed in the
21 statement that BBC put out; that I did not want it to
22 appear that it was his death alone which had relieved me
23 of that obligation. But that did not happen, and in the
24 end I did not feel too disgruntled with that.
At another point, Susan Watts again tries to make it clear that she was not revealing Dr Kelly as her source just because he was dead. She seems to think she could reveal his identity simply because, it appeared, that Dr Kelly first misled then told a whopper to the Select Committee. (This is even more apparent from other parts of the transcript.)

Journalists, like politicians, are not highly regarded for their moral principles. Susan Watts’s evidence is unlikely to gain her many admirers. There's a fair likelihood that she'll be known as someone who, when the slightest pressure was applied, was all for 'outing' David Kelly, no matter what.


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