Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 680-699)


19 JUNE 2003

  Q680  Mr Pope: Do you know whether those alterations were accurate or not?

  Mr al-Marashi: I will show you, if I look at the key wording. No; the alterations were not accurate and those alterations changed the meaning of the intent of my piece. The key sentence in the section where we are talking about the Iraqi Intelligence Services—and when I say "we", that is—they took the information on the Iraqi Intelligence Services from my article and included it in the dossier. Key wording such as—

  Q681  Chairman: Do you have a page number?

  Mr al-Marashi: My text is not numbered.

  Q682  Sir John Stanley: Starting at page 8?

  Mr al-Marashi: It says, "The Directorate of General Intelligence" and then there are these bullet points, "Its internal activities include . . . Its external activities include . . ."

  Q683  Sir John Stanley: Yes.

  Mr al-Marashi: Again, from the first bullet from "Its internal activities include . . .", "spying"—I used the term "monitoring". I guess there is a thin line between those two words but I tried to use more neutral language. The key modification made was in the second section, "Its external activities include . . ."—"supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes", where I believe I used, "aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes". There is a big difference between "opposition groups" and "terrorist organisations". I was always one to believe that the link between Iraqi intelligence and terrorist organisations may have been quite active in the past but links between Iraq's security apparatus and terrorist organisations—there has not been evidence that there has been strong co-operation in the last decade, nor has there been strong evidence of Iraqi co-operation with al-Qaeda. By changing it to this word you are kind of distorting the intent, that is, "supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes" makes one infer that they could be supporting, let us say, groups like al-Qaeda. That is one key example of modifying the text. There are other examples where they not only plagiarised but they put it in the wrong place. If you look at the section "Military Security Service",—

  Q684  Chairman: The page number?

  Mr al-Marashi: It is towards the end. My draft is not numbered.

  Q685  Chairman: Page 14, I am told.

  Mr al-Marashi: Where it says, "Military Security Service", this section is wrong. The Military Security Service described here is actually the Iraqi General Security Service, so not only did they plagiarise large chunks of this but also the content of the report is wrong, at least in this section. They got this section completely inaccurate.

  Q686  Chairman: It is actually incompetent. The other one was a distortion. This is just an incompetent transference.

  Mr al-Marashi: Yes.

  Q687  Mr Pope: Just to recap, they pinched your work off the internet, they took it without asking you, they used it without your permission and they altered some sections of it to change the emphasis and in other areas they incompetently got it completely wrong.

  Mr al-Marashi: Yes.

  Q688  Chairman: Is that a fair summary?

  Mr al-Marashi: That is fair.

  Mr Pope: I must say, I do think that maybe one of the recommendations we will make at the end of all this is that you get that apology.

  Q689  Mr Illsley: Just to clarify the timescale of this, you did bring it up to date from 1991 to the present time, so it is a historical overview basically?

  Mr al-Marashi: Basically, yes. The emergence of the Iraqi security apparatus from the creation of the Iraqi state in the 1920s to the present.

  Q690  Mr Illsley: And you had no contact at all with anybody from the British Government?

  Mr al-Marashi: No.

  Q691  Mr Illsley: Are you considering making a complaint or raising the issue or in your present circumstances with regard to your family are you just wanting the matter to go away?

  Mr al-Marashi: It really depends on my trip to Iraq and finding out if my family did suffer any reprisals.

  Q692  Mr Illsley: Are you likely to be in any danger when you return to Iraq?

  Mr al-Marashi: To be honest, not now with the regime pretty much eliminated. I would not say I would be in danger by going back, but I have to admit that, even though I was in California during the time when this story broke, even my own personal security I did feel was at risk. During the years of the Iran/Iraq War and the 1991 Gulf War Iraqi intelligence had contacted my family on numerous occasions asking for our family to provide contributions to the war effort. Basically, they were conducting illegal activities, raising funds, so we knew that the Iraq Intelligence Services knew of our family and their location and our address in California at the time of the Iran/Iraq War, if not the 1991 Gulf War. The fact that they had our address on file and that my name had come up in the press again, even my own family in California feared for our personal safety. That was when the Iraq security apparatus was intact. Given that it has been for the most part dismantled I feel a bit more secure.

  Q693  Mr Illsley: So not only was this an exercise in incompetence; it was so reckless as to have put lives in danger?

  Mr al-Marashi: I would say that is fair to say.

  Q694  Mr Maples: I just want to come back to the alterations. Dr Rangwala has been in touch with us, as you know, in a note, and he mentions another one too, which was where you had said in your report "monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq" and in the British dossier that became "spying on foreign embassies in Iraq". Is that a third example?

  Mr al-Marashi: That is correct.

  Q695  Mr Maples: The main one that you mentioned, where the British Government says "supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes", and your original, I believe, was "aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes"—those strike me as two very fundamentally different things. Maybe the Iraq Government was doing that as well, but what you were saying was that it was aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes?

  Mr al-Marashi: That is correct.

  Q696  Mr Maples: Nowhere in your document did you suggest that the Iraqi Government was helping terrorists, or did you?

  Mr al-Marashi: No, because I could not really find open source evidence to provide that information. For example, the Iraqi Government was helping a rival wing of the Ba'ath Party in Syria. That rival wing of the Ba'ath Party in Syria is not a terrorist organisation; it is an opposition group to the regime of Hafez al-Assad, so by that definition the Iraqi intelligence was aiding an opposition group in a hostile regime. That was the intent I had. Any links between terrorist organisations—I just could not find evidence to include them in this article and for that reason I refrained from stating it like that.

  Q697  Mr Maples: That is not just altering the sense of what you said. It is saying something completely different.

  Mr al-Marashi: That is correct.

  Q698  Mr Maples: Which, of course, suited the British Government's case extremely well, to try and paint Iraq as even worse than it really was.

  Mr al-Marashi: That is correct.

  Q699  Mr Maples: You have obviously studied in the course of what you are doing a lot of government documents; you have worked inside the State Department; you have worked in a very respected think-tank; you are doing a DPhil at Oxford, presumably in some aspect of international relations, and you must see a lot of government papers. Have you ever seen anything like what we have come to affectionately know as the "dodgy dossier" before?

  Mr al-Marashi: No, I cannot say that in my past history of working with government organisations, think-tanks, etc, I have seen something so hastily put together that was not checked for even grammatical mistakes, never mind factual mistakes. This kind of document is unprecedented in my experience.

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