the death of David Kelly -- the Judith Miller connexion

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Mon Jul 28 08:51:27 MDT 2003

Ben Halligan wrote:

> The Independent piece also fills in Dr Kelly's intelligence status -
> which seems to have been very far-reached;

Science magazine did a piece on him last week, and i was surprised how
deep he was embedded in the system. hard to believe he was not

les schaffer


British Expert Leaves Impressive Arms Control Legacy
Richard Stone

CAMBRIDGE, U.K.--Earlier this week a senior judge was appointed to
lead an investigation into the reported suicide of biological weapons
expert David Kelly, a veteran of numerous inspections of former Soviet
bioweapons facilities and of 37 inspections in Iraq during the
1990s. Kelly had become embroiled in an ugly spat between the
government and the BBC over controversial news reports that officials
had "sexed up" intelligence reports on Iraq prior to the war. Kelly's
death closely followed the revelation last week that he was the
principal source of the BBC reports. The tragedy has left Kelly's
colleagues not only saddened but perplexed that someone who proved so
quietly determined in dealings with evasive officials in Russia and
Iraq could have become so boxed in.

Kelly, a microbiologist by training and a senior adviser to the
Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat of the U.K.'s Ministry of
Defence, was widely respected for his expertise and his courteous, but
forceful, dealings with adversaries bent on hiding illicit bioweapons
activities. As one of the chief weapons inspectors in Iraq, Kelly made
one of the biggest discoveries of his life. In the early 1990s,
searching for evidence of an offensive bioweapons effort in Iraq,
Kelly and U.S. colleague Richard Spertzel noticed something
suspicious: A few years earlier, Iraq had gone on a buying spree,
importing 39 tons of bacterial growth media. Officials produced
documents claiming that the agar was for hospitals to diagnose
infections. But when the inspectors compared Iraqi imports with those
into neighboring countries Iran and Syria, figuring they should be
similar, "it was clear that Iraq's imports were way too high," Kelly
said in an interview with Science shortly before his death. In
addition, the agar's bulk packaging did not correspond with its
intended use. The inspectors accused Iraqi officials of forging the
documents and importing the agar for the production of anthrax and
other strains, forcing them in 1995 to acknowledge for the first time
that Iraq had pursued a clandestine offensive bioweapons program.

Important preparation for his later roles came during his tenure, from
1984 to 1992, as head of microbiology at the Chemical and Biological
Defence Establishment in Porton Down. When Kelly arrived at the former
weapons laboratory, it had only a skeleton crew of microbiologists,
and they were primarily involved in the decontamination of Scotland's
Gruinard Island, where Great Britain had conducted tests with
weaponized anthrax during World War II.

Kelly made a scientific case for doubling the division's resources to
step up biodefense R&D and in 1986 was granted 2 years' funding to
demonstrate that it would work. Kelly recruited several young
scientists and, "through his enthusiasm, energized the team," says
Graham Pearson, head of Porton Down at the time. The division got high
marks in the 2-year review, and by the 1991 Gulf War, Pearson says,
"we were in a position to deploy a limited biodefense capability."
It's thanks to Kelly, Pearson says, that "Porton Down today has
world-class facilities."

Word of Kelly's achievements reached Rolf Ekeus, the first head of the
United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to investigate Iraq's
illicit weapons programs. He tapped Kelly to lead the first bioweapons
team in Iraq in August 1991. Pearson, who wrote an authoritative
account of the UNSCOM years, says that Kelly's knowledge, coupled with
"his persistent yet polite questioning" of Iraqi personnel, "helped to
uncover much of what was being hidden by Iraq."

Kelly also was a key player in efforts in the early 1990s to ferret
out the extent of the Soviet Union's offensive bioweapons
efforts. After key details of the program emerged from two defectors
in the dying days of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United
States, and a grudging Russia signed a trilateral agreement in 1992
that called for inspections at facilities suspected of being engaged
in recent bioweapons activities. The initiative unraveled in the
mid-1990s due to Russia's reluctance to come clean on its past
activities and refusal to permit inspections of military labs. Kelly,
the only expert to have taken part in all the trilateral site visits,
had warned recently that Russia has yet to demonstrate convincingly
that it has abandoned its offensive bioweapons program.

It's unclear whether the forthcoming inquiry will provide closure for
Kelly's colleagues. "He was one of the finest and most dedicated men I
have known," says former UNSCOM inspector Debra Krikorian, who also
worked with Kelly on the trilateral initiative. Adds Pearson, "He will
be sorely missed, as his knowledge and expertise were truly unique."

Volume 301, Number 5632, Issue of 25 Jul 2003, pp. 445-447. 

Copyright © 2003 by The American Association for the Advancement of
Science. All rights reserved.

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