Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W Bush exaggerated intelligence information on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program in order to justify going to war.
So said the largest news organization in the world, the BBC, which broadcast allegations that Bush and Blair willingly misled the international community. The charges belied the BBC's relentlessly anti-government reporting during the war and set the tone for how other major news organizations covered the events.
Just one thing: The BBC reports were completely baseless. According to a voluminous report recently issued by a retired senior judge, Lord Brian Hutton, the BBC failed to adequately investigate the charges that Blair "sexed up" intelligence data before broadcasting them. The judicial inquiry called the reports "unfounded," and harshly rebuked the BBC for broadcasting them. The findings set off a maelstrom of controversy that so far has resulted in the resignation of the BBC's editor in chief and chairman.
While questions remain about the accuracy of the intelligence reports, and about how intelligence is gathered in general, the Hutton report does assuage the more important concerns about whether Bush and Blair manipulated intelligence information to deliberately deceive the international community. Plainly they did not.
Had the report indicated otherwise, the repercussions would have been severe. Blair would have had to resign his post. Had Blair gone, the knives would have come out for President Bush, who would have had a difficult time explaining why he falsified intelligence and sent hundreds of US soldiers and thousands of Iraqi civilians to their death.
Instead, the report restores credibility to the Blair administration, which had been shaken by the BBC broadcasts. It also reinforces the integrity of the Bush administration, which relied heavily on British intelligence in its assessment of the threat posed by Iraq.