The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Operation Rockingham - when will the misery end?

The medical profession [1] has a term referring to some of its charges as heartsink patients. Operation Rockingham is the journalistic equivalent.

Some duff stories - remember Lt-Col Dabbagh? - appear and are shot down, and make no attempt to rise from the dead. Rockingham is, it seems, capable of more refluxes than an unwise chicken vindaloo on a Friday night [2].

Rockingham [3] long remained in single-source hell - that peculiarly 2003 kind of place [4]. That single source was erstwhile weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

A personal memoir of David Kelly appeared on January 25 in the London Sunday Times by, of all people, Nick Rufford. Rufford is the guy who doorstepped Kelly at his house as the leak of his name was in progress and caused him to go into hiding [5].

What is says about Rockingham is this:
In London, Kelly became a key figure in an MoD unit called Operation Rockingham. Set up by John Morrison, deputy head of the DIS, its aim was to gather intelligence on Iraq from a multitude of sources and try to make sense of it. Sitting at the centre of a complex web of British and US intelligence organisations, the Rockingham cell became pivotal in the efforts to disarm Iraq.

It guided inspection teams in Iraq to sites suspected of being used to hide weapons. It also advised the joint intelligence committee (JIC) that, in turn, reported to ministers.

There are claims that Rockingham ceased being a neutral conduit for intelligence and became a propaganda organisation. Scott Ritter, a former US marine and UN inspector who also liaised with the cell, says it got carried away with the belief that Iraq was concealing WMD.

Because members of Rockingham wrote reports for the UN Security Council, they were able to influence decisions on whether sanctions against Iraq continued. Intelligence was selected or ignored depending on whether it supported the foreign policy of Britain and America, says Ritter, and Kelly was a key figure in that process.

"Kelly became Rockingham's go-to person for translating the data that came out of Unscom into concise reporting," said Ritter. "Kelly had a vested interest in protecting his image, which centred around his exposure of an Iraqi bio-weapons programme that had to continue to exist for him to continue to hold centre stage." In effect, Ritter claims, Kelly helped to ramp up the threat from Iraq.

I infer from that lot that Ritter is still the only source. And that Rufford thinks Ritter's story is bollocks. (It's Sunday - no one believes British Sunday newspapers. So he doesn't mind putting it in.)

Ritter himself had a piece in the Guardian (January 30). It's the same old blather, so far as I can see. He talks about
Rockingham's penetration of Unscom at virtually every level

Now, bearing in mind just how hacked off a lot of those Unscom guys are likely to be (and Hans Blix was never exactly a happy bunny!), it's bizarre that there have been no leaks about this extraordinary venture.

And the story has negative press pack - as I've said before, not even the Guardian's own intelligence specialist, Richard Norton-Taylor, has touched the story [6].

Yet that paper has run several stories on the subject in addition to Ritter's. RNT thinks they're NBG, I'll be bound.

There are evidently a lot of conspiracy theorists out there - it would give me nothing but joy to confirm it. But, as of now...I feel the Parrot Sketch coming on...

  1. Anglo-Saxonia, outside the US, to judge by Dr Google's diagnosis. What American medics call such patients, I know not.

  2. An old English custom budding Margaret Meads may care to study.

  3. Last mentioned on December 31, apparently.

  4. Hutton-wise: the original 45 minute Iraqi WMD intelligence was single-source; the fateful, and ultimately fatal, May 29 0607 Andrew Gilligan broadcast was single-source.

  5. Intelligence stuff is in Rufford's wheelhouse (he had his own Operation - in his case Operation Mass Appeal, discussed in the December 31 piece. It has disappeared without trace - it's all noise on the Google page, so far as I can see. Damned blogs...

  6. I can scarcely believe that I actually checked again just now. Absolutely zilch.

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