Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 659-679)


19 JUNE 2003

  Q659  Chairman: Mr Al-Marashi, may I welcome you on behalf of the Committee to this inquiry into the Decision to go to War in Iraq. Your background as I see is this. You are a Research Associate at the Center for Non-proliferation Studies (CNS) of the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Your research focuses on the diffusion of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and missile technologies in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Iran. You received an MA in Political Science at the Arab Studies Center at Georgetown in 1997. You have also attended the University of California Los Angeles, and have worked for the Harvard University Center on a project classifying captured Iraqi state documents. You also have been a researcher on Iran-Iraq affairs at the US State Department, Congressional Research Service and National Defense University. You are now a DPhil student at St Antony's College, Oxford. Your work as I understand it was drawn upon largely for the second dossier without your authorisation.

  Mr al-Marashi: That is correct.

  Q660  Sir John Stanley: Mr al-Marashi, I would like to ask you a number of questions in relation to how, without, we understand, your consent, you came to make such a very substantial contribution to the so-called "dodgy dossier" entitled Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation. We do not have the transcript of the evidence session that we took yesterday from Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, though it may be here in the room a little later on, so you will forgive me if I have to do this from memory but it was a point on which I was able to have a word with Dame Pauline Neville-Jones afterwards. Referring to the sources for the "dodgy dossier" and your own contribution, she made a comment which will be in the transcript that it transpired that the source was much better known to the British Government than was originally thought and understood. Can I ask you: in the period prior to the publication of your thesis did you receive any approaches from any of the staff at Number 10?

  Mr al-Marashi: No, I was never contacted.

  Q661  Sir John Stanley: Which people in the British Government did you know?

  Mr al-Marashi: I have never known anyone in the British Government.

  Q662  Sir John Stanley: Do you know how they knew you so well, because clearly they had come to recognise that you were a source of considerable expertise in this area?

  Mr al-Marashi: The only way I can infer they got hold of this article was that not only is it published in the Middle East Review of International Affairs but there is also an on-line version. If one were to do an internet search of Iraqi intelligence agencies on any of the web browsers my article is the first to come up. Basically, it was one of the first articles ever written compiling all the open source information on Iraq's intelligence agencies, so on any kind of internet service this would be the first article that would come up. I had reason to believe that the internet version of this article was consulted for the dossier released in February 2003 because grammatical mistakes made on the internet version ended up in this February 2003 document so, because of the mistakes I made that showed up on the internet version, they ended up in the document, Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation.

  Q663  Sir John Stanley: Can I just ask you, because it appears in a paper which we have received from Dr Glen Rangwala[3]who presumably you do know,—

  Mr al-Marashi: Yes.

  Q664  Sir John Stanley: —and probably consulted you before he submitted this memorandum for the Committee: in his paper to us he names four officials in Number 10 who were basically the authors of this document. Can I just ask you for the record whether you know them and whether they had made any approaches to you at any point: Paul Hamill, Foreign Office official, John Pratt, a junior official from the Prime Minister's Strategic Communications Unit, Alison Blackshaw, Alastair Campbell's personal assistant, and Murtaza Khan, News Editor of the 10 Downing Street website?

  Mr al-Marashi: No, I have never met or spoken to any of the four people you mention.

  Q665  Sir John Stanley: The subject of your thesis was basically the structure of the Iraqi Security Service in the very early 1990s. Did it come as something of a shock to you that you found so much of your thesis being drawn upon in a document which purported to give the current organisational structure of the Iraqi Security Service, even though your own thesis was related to the period ten years previously?

  Mr al-Marashi: The ultimate aim of this project, the article that I wrote, was to accompany a thesis dealing with the 1991 Gulf War. Not only that, but I am a historian by training. I use historical methodology. The article I wrote for the MERIA journal was supposed to be a history of Iraq's Intelligence Services. It was supposed to give an overview but basically the bulk of the material came from the 1991 Gulf War. I tried to make it as up to date as possible but not for the purpose of serving as a policy brief for something that would influence the decision to go to war, as this document did. I was quite shocked to see it end up in this dossier. That was not my intent, to have it support such an argument to provide evidence necessary to go to war.

  Q666  Sir John Stanley: As has been widely reported, the Government has chosen to make an apology to the heads of the intelligence agencies for producing a document which purported to have some degree of authority from themselves when that was not the case, and has provided an assurance that that will not happen again in the future. Has the Government made any expression of regret or apology to you for the plagiarisation of your thesis?

  Mr al-Marashi: I have never been contacted directly, either by phone call nor in writing, since February 2003 up to the present.

  Q667  Sir John Stanley: Do you think you might be owed an apology?

  Mr al-Marashi: I think the least they could do is owe me an apology.

  Q668  Chairman: Can we now apologise for them?

  Mr al-Marashi: The time is quite past but I would have to say that the biggest fear I had out of this whole story breaking out was that I am an Iraqi myself and when I wrote this article I did not think it would get much of a circulation, maybe 5,000 people at the most, people in the Middle East academic community. What the events have done to me around February and March was that basically they connected me to the British case for going to war and, having relatives in Iraq with my last name connected to me in the UK would have been disastrous for them. I have already lost two relatives to the Saddam regime. Any connection now between me and the UK Government and the case for going to war would have had a disastrous effect on my family back home. That was my biggest regret out of this entire affair. Given the personal stress I have gone through, I think the least they could have done was offer me an apology.

  Q669  Sir John Stanley: Were there any reprisals made against any of the members of your family in the period between the publication of the "dodgy dossier" and the removal of the Saddam Hussein regime?

  Mr al-Marashi: I have not been able to establish contact with my family. I cannot say 100%. In fact, I was intending to go back to find out the fate of my family, but I cannot say I am 100% sure if there were reprisals. Given the fact that my family was politically suspect in the past, it is likely that they could have been suspect or there could have been reprisals. There is always that possibility.

  Q670  Sir John Stanley: When you say you sadly have lost two members of your family to the Saddam Hussein regime, are you saying to this Committee that they were imprisoned or are you saying they were murdered by the Saddam Hussein regime?

  Mr al-Marashi: They were taken after the 1991 revolt in the south of Iraq. We found out about their fate through an Amnesty International report. They had disappeared and it was only after an Amnesty International report was released that we saw their pictures and the report that we knew that they were imprisoned and their fate is unknown, so that is all I can say, that their fate is unknown.

  Q671  Sir John Stanley: Again, just for the record, because various suggestions have been made that there were those in the business who were seeking to plant information in the British Government's way and indeed in other Governments' way that might have been helpful to make the case for war against Iraq, can the Committee assume that you were a wholly unwitting and unwilling participant in this particular publicity exercise by the British Government?

  Mr al-Marashi: Yes, you can assume I was completely unaware of the events and that I was never contacted by any government body.

  Q672  Chairman: But you have actually worked for the US State Department?

  Mr al-Marashi: I worked as an intern in 1996.

  Q673  Chairman: And you have also worked at Monterey which is very closely linked to the intelligence community in the US.

  Mr al-Marashi: No. The Monterey Institute is adamant in using only open source material. They keep distance from any intelligence agencies but the whole foundation of this organisation was to provide information to inform the public debate by using open source material. They strictly keep away from any kind of formal allegiances to any intelligence organisations and they do not use any intelligence information in any of the literature that the centre produces.

  Q674  Chairman: You are a historian by training?

  Mr al-Marashi: Yes.

  Q675  Chairman: But did the article—correct me if I am wrong on this—appear in 2002?

  Mr al-Marashi: That is correct.

  Q676  Chairman: Was that broadly correct in terms of the structure of the intelligence community in Iraq at the point of publication?

  Mr al-Marashi: It was as accurate as I could possibly make it as of September 2002 using open source materials.

  Q677  Chairman: So it was updated beyond 1991 to 2002?

  Mr al-Marashi: That is correct.

  Mr Pope: I must say the details of this as it unfolds become more and more extraordinary. We have been told that the four junior officials in Number 10 were responsible for downloading this off the internet and then copying and pasting it. You said at the beginning that if you had tapped into a search engine yours was the top piece of research that came up, so they did not even look very far. It must have been a busy day in the office and they just took the first one.

  Mr Illsley: We are not casting any aspersions on the quality of your work.

  Q678  Mr Pope: No. It is just the detail that I was taken with. How did you find out that this had happened to your work and how did you feel when you discovered it?

  Mr al-Marashi: I found out through an e-mail by Glen Rangwala from Cambridge. He asked me if I had collaborated with this dossier. I said I was not even aware of this dossier. In fact, he was the one who sent me the text of the dossier I have here, so it was not until he had sent it that I was made aware of this document. I was made aware of the similarities. I did not take any action beyond that. I just compared the documents, knew there was a plagiarism, but I just left it at that. Given the fact that I had relatives back in Iraq I do not want to bring attention to this. The story developed a life of its own in the UK and so by Thursday, I believe it was February 7, I saw the story break on the internet and then it took off from there.

  Q679  Mr Pope: Your work was altered as well. It was not just that they downloaded it; they used it without your permission, they did not attribute it to you. All these things are bad enough, goodness knows, but they also altered some aspects of it, did they not?

  Mr al-Marashi: That is correct.

3   Ninth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2002-03, The Decision to go to War in Iraq, HC 813-II, Ev 30. Back

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