LONDON An embarrassed British government acknowledged yesterday that it should have credited an American academic whose work it copied for a dossier on Iraq.
Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman said the copying did not “take away from the core argument” of the dossier, which purported to detail how Iraq is blocking U.N. weapons inspectors.
Opponents of Mr. Blair’s hawkish stance on Iraq said the case of the replicated report was proof the government is not playing straight in making the case for a war on Saddam Hussein.
“It just adds to the general impression that what we have been treated to is a farrago of half-truths, assertions and over-the-top spin,” lawmaker Peter Kilfoyle, a member of Mr. Blair’s governing Labor Party, told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
The document, posted Monday on Mr. Blair’s Web site and later released to delegates at the United Nations in New York, stated that it was based in part on “intelligence material” and that it gave “up to date details” of Saddam’s security and intelligence network.
Britain’s Channel 4 news revealed Thursday that most of the document was taken, with little alteration, from published sources, including an article by Monterey, Calif.-based researcher Ibrahim al-Marashi that appeared in September in the Middle East Review of International Affairs.
Passages several paragraphs long are identical in the two documents. Other sections contain very minor alterations, and at least one typographical error in Mr. al-Marashi’s article is repeated in the dossier.
Mr. al-Marashi, a research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, said he had not been approached by the British government about using his work.
“It was a shock to me,” he told the Associated Press.
His article looked at Saddam’s security apparatus during the past three decades and drew on information that was recent at the time of publication, as well as some that was years old, Mr. al-Marashi said.
The British government said its dossier was based on a “number of sources” but did not give details. Among assertions that come from sources other than Mr. al-Marashi’s article, the dossier said Iraqi security agents had bugged every room and telephone of the U.N. weapons inspectors in Baghdad and had hidden documents in Iraqi hospitals, mosques and homes.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell cited the dossier Wednesday as he addressed the United Nations with evidence of Iraq’s weapons programs.
“I would call my colleagues’ attention to the fine paper that United Kingdom distributed yesterday, which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities,” Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Blair’s spokesman said the sections of the report describing the current activities of Iraqi intelligence “are largely based on intelligence material” but conceded that the section on Iraq’s security structure 10 pages of the 19-page report drew on Mr. al-Marashi’s work, “which in retrospect we should have acknowledged.”
“The fact that we used some of his work does not throw into question the accuracy of the document as a whole,” he added.
Mr. Blair, a staunch supporter of President Bush’s tough line on Iraq, has released several dossiers during the past months as evidence that Saddam’s regime is harboring chemical and biological weapons.
Menzies Campbell, foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrats, said the affair was the “intelligence equivalent of being caught stealing the spoons.”