Daily Archives: July 31, 2009

US enlists citizens in anti-terrorism strategy

Napolitano Terrorism

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Wednesday, July 29, 2009. AP

AFP | Jul 29, 2009

By Sebastian Smith

NEW YORK — A top US domestic security chief announced a strategy to make ordinary citizens the first line of defense against increasingly complex — and sometimes homegrown — terrorist threats.

“For too long, we’ve treated the public as a liability to be protected rather than an asset in our nation’s collective security,” Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a speech in New York.

“This approach, unfortunately, has allowed confusion, anxiety and fear to linger.”

Napolitano, who also announced an extra 78 million dollars in anti-terrorism funding for 15 mass transit systems nationwide, said modern communications had increased the sophistication of threats since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“The tools for creating violence and chaos are as easy to find as the tools to buy music online or restocking inventory,” she said. “If 9/11 happened in a web 1.0 world, terrorists are certainly in a web 2.0 world now.”

Napolitano urged a “much broader society response” in which the public helps curb a growing phenomenon of so-called homegrown terrorism.

Referring to a spate of arrests around the country of US citizens and residents charged with jihad-type militancy, Napolitano said that ordinary people were often the best eyes and ears.

“You are the ones who know when something is not right in your communities,” she said in her speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Indeed, if you look at the last couple of weeks, arrests have been made in places like Minneapolis and North Carolina,” she said.

“So I think better education about the breadth of the threat and how it can be carried out is important.”

Attorney General Eric Holder added his concerns Wednesday in an interview due to be aired on ABC News television, where he called homegrown terrorism “particularly troubling.”

In the latest case, seven people were arrested Monday, including an American-born Muslim convert and his two sons living in a quiet North Carolina suburb.

Napolitano even called on children to join an effort previously shouldered by police and other security services.

“There’s actually an important role we can play in educating even our very young about watching for, and knowing what to do, if you’re in an airport and you see a package left with no one around,” she said.

However, she stressed she was not advocating “a culture of spying on one another.”

She insisted that President Barack Obama’s administration was committed to repairing the erosion of civil liberties that critics say took place under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

“We have to be careful,” she said. “That’s a balance to be struck.”

An example, she said, was the need to respect mosques and other Islamic institutions.

“We have to be very careful about profiling a religious institution just as we have to be careful about profiling individuals,” she said. “We have to be very, very careful about interfering with the free exercise of religion.”

Even as US troops become increasingly focused on fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, more attention is being paid to violent plots hatched within US borders — often led by US citizens or residents.

The Washington Post on Wednesday described the chief suspect in the North Carolina arrests, Daniel Boyd, as the son of a US marine who had a “typical American childhood” in the suburbs of the US capital, Washington.

This week, a New York court unsealed a confession made in January by a Long Island man, Bryant Vinas, who says he joined Al-Qaeda to attack US forces in Afghanistan and had plotted to attack a New York commuter train.

In May, five Miami men were found guilty of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, which just this month was renamed the Willis Tower.

Also in May, four New York men — three of them US citizens — were arrested on charges of trying to blow up synagogues and destroy a US military plane.

In his ABC interview, Holder said: “That’s one of the things that’s particularly troubling: this whole notion of radicalization of Americans.”

“Leaving this country and going to different parts of the world and then coming back, all, again, in aim of doing harm to the American people, is a great concern,” he said.

Tests found double the fluoride in town’s water supply

Water tests found excess fluoride

BBC | Jul 30, 2009

Too much fluoride was put into the water supply after a new dosing system at Severn Trent Water failed, the watchdog said.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate said a fault happened at the pumping station which supplies 29,000 homes between Bridgnorth and Wolverhampton last June.

Two tests on treated water at the station failed, with one showing fluoride at twice the target level.

Severn Trent Water apologised but said the water had still been safe to drink.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) said work to complete a new fluoride dosing pump and dose controller was completed at Dimmingsdale Borehole Plumping Station near Wolverhampton on 12 June 2008.

A routine sample on 1 July 2008 found treated water at the works contained 2mg of fluoride per litre of water – which is twice the target level, it said.

A further test two days later showed 1.86mg of fluoride.

‘High standards’

The DWI was critical of Severn Trent Water (STW) who it said did not detect the problem for a month and then tested the supply going to the wrong homes.

The report recommended the firm reviewed its staff training and its awareness of drinking water quality standards.

STW said the elevated fluoride levels were short-lived and “did not pose a risk to health at any stage”.

“While the water was still safe to drink, these samples and the way in which they arose fell short of the high standards we expect at Severn Trent,” a spokesman said.

The firm said it had taken action in a number of areas to minimise the risk of it happening again, including strengthening its controls and procedures.

‘Robocop’ officers aim to catch offenders on camera

POLICE now have a new high-tech weapon in the fight against crime.

newsletter.co.uk | Jul 31, 2009

Officers in the Lisburn command area will be equipped with “body-cams” allowing them to record every moment of criminal behaviour.

Judge and jury will then be able to witness crime scenes for themselves and the footage should ensure that the punishment fits the crime.

The new “Robocop-like” devices – which allow for effective night vision and provide a much slicker alternative to truncheons and trusty policeman’s notebooks – will be a welcome addition to PSNI practice and should boost public safety.

The expensive cameras will be fitted onto officers’ uniforms or hats and are designed to look obvious in the hope that the prospect of being filmed will deter would-be criminals.

Lisburn Area Commander David Moore – who is delighted that his
officers now have eight of the innovative cameras to use on the beat – said this enhancement of police capability was “invaluable”.

“It is the PSNI’s responsibility to ensure that the best quality of evidence can be brought into court in criminal cases,” he said.

“With these new cameras, officers will no longer have to rely solely on 10-page reports of crime scenes.

“We will be able to deliver high resolution footage to the courts, meaning that jurors will be able to view the situation for themselves and defendants will not be able to escape blame when we can show them caught in the act.

“The Public Prosecution Service and the judicial system, as well as officers on the beat, all stand to benefit from this technology.”

Although there are no plans yet to provide cameras for officers across the Province, Mr Moore is certain that the Big Brother revolution of a surveillance society will shape the future of efficient policing.

“We have introduced the cameras in Lisburn after much commercial support in purchasing the technology and though it is very expensive we believe the results, in terms of conviction rates and protection for our officers on the ground, will be worth every penny.”

Officers in the Lisburn command area were officially kitted out with the cameras yesterday, so anti-social elements in the area had better get themselves on the straight and narrow – or they face the prospect of a packed courtroom watching footage of them “caught in the act”.

Children on Tamiflu experience psychiatric problems, insomnia and nightmares

Half of children taking Tamiflu have side-effects

Nausea, insomnia and nightmares reported after taking antiviral drug for swine flu, study finds

guardian.co.uk | Jul 31, 2009

by David Batty

More than half the children in England taking the swine flu drug Tamiflu suffer side-effects such as nausea, insomnia and nightmares, researchers have found.

Two studies from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show a high proportion of schoolchildren reporting problems after taking the antiviral drug.

Data was gathered from children at three schools in London and one in the south-west of England who were given Tamiflu to try and stop them developing swine flu after classmates became infected.

The researchers behind the study said while children may have attributed symptoms to the use of Tamiflu that were actually due to other illnesses, “this is unlikely to account for all the symptoms experienced”.

Their research, published in the medical journal Eurosurveillance, looked at side-effects reported by 11 and 12-year-old pupils in a secondary school that was closed for 10 days after a pupil was confirmed to have swine flu after a holiday in Cancun, Mexico.

Of the 248 pupils involved in the study, 51% reported side-effects, including nearly a third (31.2%) who felt sick, nearly a quarter (24.3%) who suffered headaches and more than a fifth (21.1%) who had stomach ache.

The researchers said “likely side-effects were common” and the “burden of side-effects needs to be considered” when deciding whether to give Tamiflu to children as a preventative measure.

The researchers concluded that a “high proportion of school children may experience side-effects of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) medication”.

Another study, also published by Eurosurveillance, found that more than half of 85 children in three London schools had side-effects when given the drug as a preventative measure after a classmate was diagnosed.

Of the 45 children who suffered side-effects, 40% reported gastrointestinal problems including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramps, while 18% reported a “neuropsychiatric side-effect” such as poor concentration, inability to think clearly, problems sleeping, feeling dazed or confused, bad dreams or nightmares and “behaving strangely”.

The research was carried out in April and May – before the government decided to stop using Tamiflu preventatively. Only those with suspected or confirmed swine flu now get the drug.

Clinical trials have shown that around 10% of people taking Tamiflu report nausea without vomiting, and an extra 10% experience vomiting, according to the researchers.

The government’s chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, said Tamiflu should still be given to children if they had established symptoms and there were no existing medical reasons not to prescribe the drug.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “All drugs do have side-effects. It is always a case of deciding the balance between benefiting a patient from a treatment and the side-effects.

“Most of the side-effects are relatively minor – a degree of nausea, a bit of a tummy upset, the sort of thing you get quite often with antibiotics.

“If we look at the rate of admissions to hospital, it has been the under-fives who have had a very much higher rate of hospitalisation.

“It isn’t common but when it does happen, it can happen amongst the youngest age groups.”

A spokesman from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it was monitoring reported side-effects by GPs and the public.

Between 1 April and 23 July the MHRA received a total of 150 reports of 241 suspected side-effects for Tamiflu and five reports for another antiviral, Relenza.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “As is the case with many medicines, nausea is a known side-effect of Tamiflu, in a small number of cases.

“Symptoms may lessen over the course of the treatment, and it may help to take Tamiflu either with or immediately after food, and drinking some water may also lessen any feeling of nausea.”

A statement from Roche, which manufactures Tamiflu, said the contribution of Tamiflu to neuropsychiatric events “has not been established”.

But three years ago the pharmaceutical company wrote to US doctors warning that “people with the flu, particularly children, may be at an increased risk of self-injury and confusion shortly after taking Tamiflu and should be closely monitored for signs of unusual behaviour”.

The move followed a 10-month review by the US Food and Drug Administration, which found 103 cases of “neuropsychiatric adverse events”, including the deaths of a 17-year-old boy who was killed after jumping in front of a truck and a 14-year-old boy who fell after climbing on a balcony railing.

More than two-thirds of the 103 cases occurred in children, and most were in Japan, then the biggest consumer of Tamiflu.

The government says about 150,000 people in England have received Tamiflu via the National Pandemic Flu Service, which was launched last week.

Did MI5 kill Dr David Kelly?

david_kelly

Just another crazy conspiracy theory? But, amid claims he wrote tell-all book that vanished after his death, it’s one that refuses to go away

Daily Mail | Jul 29, 2009

By Sue Reid

The day Dr David Kelly took a short walk to his death in the Oxfordshire countryside, an unopened letter lay on the desk of his book-lined study.

Sent from the heart of the British Government, the pages were marked ‘personal’ and threatened the world-renowned microbiologist with the sack if he ever publicly opened his mouth again.

The letter remained unopened for the seven days during the drama that would pitch Dr Kelly into the spotlight and end in his death at just 59.

No one has ever explained why the eminent scientist and UN weapons inspector did not open the letter, but everyone close to him is convinced he knew its contents.

It was designed to silence him because his Ministry of Defence bosses had discovered that not only was he secretly talking to journalists, but was also preparing to write an explosive book about his work.

It was six years ago tomorrow, on July 17, 2003, that Dr Kelly was found dead under a tree on Harrowdown Hill half a mile from his family home in Southmoor. His fate has become one of the most contentious issues of recent political history and has raised profound questions about the moral integrity of the New Labour government.

The former grammar school boy had celebrated his 36th wedding anniversary just a few days before.

The questions of why and how he died  –  and if he was murdered  –  have never gone away.

Dr Kelly had examined the Government’s ‘sexed up dossier’ which declared that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which could be activated in just 45 minutes. The claim was used by Tony Blair in 2002 as the central justification for the Iraq war.

When Dr Kelly secretly revealed his doubts about the dossier to BBC reporters, all hell broke loose.

After he was unmasked as the BBC mole, he was marched before the television cameras of a House of Commons committee and, later, taken away to a safe house to be interviewed by the British intelligence services.

In one final phone conversation he told a caller he wouldn’t be surprised ‘if my body was found in the woods’.

And so it was to be. The official inquiry into his death later decided that he committed suicide  –  by slashing his wrist and consuming a cocktail of painkillers.

But this week, 13 respected doctors declared that it was medically impossible for Dr Kelly to have died in this manner. They are mounting a legal battle to overturn the suicide verdict.

A new film, Anthrax War, to be released in London this weekend, also asserts that Dr Kelly had spent hours writing a tell-all book which would violate the Official Secrets Act by exposing Britain’s dubious authority for toppling Saddam Hussein.

The film, directed by New York-based documentary maker Bob Coen, states that Dr Kelly, head of biological defence at the Government’s secretive military research establishment of Porton Down, Wiltshire, was the brain behind much of the West’s germ warfare programmes. Quite simply, the film says, Dr Kelly ‘knew too much’.

In further unsubstantiated and hard-to-believe claims, the film alleges he may have been embroiled in apartheid South Africa’s Project Coast programme to develop an ethnic germ weapon programme to target the black population.

Coen also says Dr Kelly had links to illegal human experiments on British servicemen at Porton Down, which sparked the largest ever investigation by Wiltshire Police.
Saddam Hussein

Officers recommended charges against some scientists at the germ warfare establishment  –  but dropped the idea just days after Dr Kelly was found dead.

Whatever the veracity of all this, the film’s central thrust  –  that he was writing a sensational book  –  has been confirmed by Gordon Thomas, a British intelligence expert, who had met Dr Kelly.

Thomas told me: ‘I visited Dr Kelly as part of research into a book I was writing. But he told me that he was writing his own book, which intended to show that Tony Blair had lied about his reasons for going to war with Iraq.

He had told the Prime Minister categorically that there were no weapons of mass destruction.’

Thomas, in his own book, states: ‘Dr Kelly was not a man given to exaggeration or showing off; he was the absolute expert in his field and if he said there no weapons of mass destruction, then there were none.

‘I told Dr Kelly he would never be allowed to publish his book in Britain. I told him he would put himself into immense danger.

His plan was to resign from Porton Down and move with his wife to the United States where he could make more money from his revelations.’

Can this possibly be true? Certainly, Dr Kelly lived a double life. At home in Oxfordshire with wife Janice, he was the perfect husband.

The couple would have supper together in the garden after he had spent hours in what she called ‘his secret world’  –  the book-lined study off the hallway.

Here, computers linked him to the Britain’s intelligence services MI5 and MI6, GCHQ, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Foreign Office and foreign spy agencies  –  including Israel’s notorious Mossad (for whom he had worked since 1995 as an advisor with the blessing of Whitehall).

Although he had an office in London  –  Room 2/35 in the MoD’s Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat  –  and another at Porton Down, Dr Kelly kept his secret data at home, including tens of thousands of documents and photographs; some show human victims of anthrax poisoning, as well as animal ‘guinea pigs’ poisoned with anthrax and other germs in labs across the world. For a man who was not a spy, it was an impressive collection.

From all round the globe he was consulted on biological weaponry, in particular the use of anthrax.

‘You couldn’t commit suicide like that’

Thomas takes up the story. ‘Each intelligence organisation had installed its own computer for Dr Kelly to use on its behalf and to exchange encrypted messages. But Dr Kelly always said that most important information was filed in his head.’

However, perhaps fatally for Dr Kelly, his book was not only in his head. It was on hard-disk in one of his computers, which have all been seized by MI5 and are unlikely ever to see the light of day.

By any standards, the book would have been hugely contentious. In addition to Tony Blair and the British Government, there are any number of foreign intelligence agencies who would not want a public airing of the explosive information which they shared with Dr Kelly over the years.

His book was also expected to expose a black market trade in anthrax which was being exploited, and thus condoned, by many governments.

But it has now come to light that there may be another compelling reason why Dr Kelly might have been murdered.

Amazingly, 12 other well-known micro-biologists linked with germ warfare research have died in the past decade, five of them Russians investigating claims that the Israelis were working on viruses to target Arabs.

The Russian plane in which they were travelling from Tel Aviv to Siberia was shot down on October 2001 over the Black Sea by an ‘off-course’ Ukrainian surface-to-air missile.

Dr Kelly knew the victims and asked MI6 to find out more details. However, they drew a blank.

Five weeks later, Dr Benito Que, a cell biologist known to Dr Kelly, was found in a coma near his Miami laboratory.

The infectious diseases expert had been investigating how a virus like HIV could be genetically engineered into a biological weapon.

Dr Que, 52, was found unconscious outside in the car park of his lab and died in hospital. Officially, he suffered a heart attack  –  although his family say he was struck on the head. Police refused to re-open the case.

Ten days after Dr Que’s death, another friend of Dr Kelly died. Dr Don Wiley, 57, one of America’s foremost microbiologists, had a U.S. Government contract to create a vaccine against the killer Ebola fever and other so-called doomsday germs.

His rental car was found abandoned on a bridge across the Mississippi. The keys were in the ignition and the petrol tank full. There had been no crash, but Dr Wiley had disappeared.

The FBI visited Wiley’s laboratory and removed most of his work. A month later his body was found 300 miles downstream, with evidence of severe head injuries. No forensic examination was performed and his death was ruled ‘accidental’.

Little wonder, then, that Dr Kelly had begun talking about his body being ‘found in the woods’.

And there is more. The most mysterious death of them all happened to Dr Vladimir Pasechnik  –  a Soviet defector Dr Kelly knew well.

The biochemist had left a drugs industry fair in Paris in 1989, just before the collapse of Communism, saying he wanted to buy souvenirs for family. Instead, he went to the British Embassy where he announced to a startled receptionist that he was a Russian scientist who wanted to defect.

Pasechnik was whisked secretly back to Britain, and Dr Kelly was brought in to verify his claims that the Soviets were adapting cruise missiles armed with germs to help spread killer diseases such as plague and smallpox.

As chief director of the Institute for Ultra-Pure Biological preparations in St Petersburg, Pasechnik had developed killer germs. ‘I want the West to know of this. There must be a way to stop this madness,’ he told Dr Kelly in a safe house.

Dr Kelly later told the author Gordon Thomas that he believed Pasechnik. ‘I knew that he was telling the truth. There was no waffle. It was truly horrifying.’

The two scientists became friends. And soon Vladimir had set up the Regma Biotechnologies laboratory, near Porton Down. He seemed healthy when he left work on the night of November 21, 2001.

Returning home, the 64-year-old cooked supper and went to sleep. He was found dead in bed the next day.

Officially, the reason given was a stroke. However the Wiltshire police later said his demise was ‘inexplicable’.

It is against this extraordinary background of highly suspicious deaths that Dr Kelly’s own death occurred.

As we know, an inquest on his body was ruled out by Oxfordshire’s coroner, a highly unusual move.

‘Don’t be surprised if my body is found.’

Instead, Tony Blair ordered an inquiry by Lord Hutton. It heard evidence from 74 witnesses and concluded that Dr Kelly killed himself by slashing the ulnar artery of his left wrist with a garden knife after swallowing painkillers  –  although none had been prescribed by his GP.

A detailed medical dossier by the 13 British doctors, however, rejects the Hutton conclusion on the grounds that a cut to the small ulnar artery is not deadly.

The dossier is being used by lawyers to demand a proper inquest and the release of Dr Kelly’s autopsy report, which has never been made public. Their evidence will be sent to Sir John Chilcot’s forthcoming Iraq War inquiry.

One of the doctors, David Halpin, former consultant in trauma at Torbay Hospital, Devon, told me: ‘ Arteries in the wrist are of matchstick thickness and severing them does not lead to life-threatening blood loss.’

He and the other doctors say: ‘To die from haemorrhage, Dr Kelly would have had to lose about five pints of blood.

It is unlikely from his stated injury that he would have lost more than a pint.’ A lack of blood at the death scene was also confirmed by the search team who found Dr Kelly and the paramedics who tried to treat him.

One of the country’s most respected vascular surgeons, Martin Birnstingl, also says that it would be virtually impossible for Dr Kelly to have died by severing the ulnar artery on the little finger side of his inner wrist.

‘I have never, in my experience, heard of a case where someone has died after cutting their ulnar artery.

The minute the blood pressure falls, after a few minutes, this artery would stop bleeding. It would spray blood about and make a mess but it would soon stop.’

He believes that if Dr Kelly was really intent on suicide he would have cut the artery in his groin.

Dr Kelly was also right-handed  –  which meant he would have to slash awkwardly from left to right on his opposite wrist to have cut into the ulnar artery to any depth.

And what of the tablets? The almost empty packet of Co-Proxamol found by the dead scientist’s side suggested he had taken 29.

But he had vomited and only a fragment of one remained in his stomach. The level of painkillers in his blood was a third of what is required to cause death.

As David Halpin says: ‘The idea that a man like Dr Kelly would choose to end his life like that is preposterous. This was a scientist, an expert on drugs.’

So what really happened to Dr Kelly? The gardening knife that Lord Hutton said killed him was blunt and  –  although the scientist was not wearing gloves  –  had no fingerprints on it.

Which brings us back to that unopened letter found on Dr Kelly’s desk, which had been sent to him at his home by MoD bosses and signed by Richard Hatfield, the ministry’s personnel chief.

A whole series of experts died in strange ways

It emerged at the Hutton inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death that it contained threats demanding his future silence.

At the time, Dr Kelly had received a number of warning phone calls at his home from the MoD about his indiscreet behaviour  –  and he will have been in no doubt that the official letter was written confirmation of these admonishments.

But he would not be put off. He saw his book as a guarantee of his financial future, which he often worried about.

On what he felt was a lowly £58,000 a year, the scientist fretted that his Government pension (based on his final salary) would not finance a decent retirement for him and his wife.

On the day he died, Janice has confirmed her husband was a distressed man. Dr Kelly lunched with her, before going out for a walk on Harrowdown Hill at 3.30pm.

It was a walk he made regularly at the same time of day  –  something anyone watching his movements would have been well aware of.

That day, events were already in motion elsewhere. An hour before, at 2.30pm, a senior policeman sat down at his computer at Thames Valley Police headquarters in Oxfordshire.

He began to create a restricted file on his secure computer. Across the top he typed a code name: Operation Mason. Although its contents have never been made public, it would detail the overnight search for Dr Kelly.

Incredibly, he created this file an hour before the scientist even left home.

After Dr Kelly’s corpse was found at 8.30am by the volunteer searchers, the senior policeman made his last Operation Mason entry. It simply states: ‘9.00am. 18.07.03. Body recovered’.

Most intriguingly, at 8am, half an hour before Dr Kelly’s body was discovered under the tree, three officers in dark suits from MI5’s Technical Assessment Unit were at his house.

The computers and the hard-disk containing the 40,000 words of the explosive book were carried away. They have never been seen since.

Blair to be called before UK inquiry to Iraq war

Britain Northern Ireland Service

Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, announced the inquiry last month, saying it would look in depth at the lead up to and conduct of the war. However, he also said it would not appropriate blame or have any mandate to consider civil or criminal charges.

CNN | Jul 30, 2009

LONDON, England (CNN) — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be called before an inquiry into the country’s role in the Iraq war, its chairman said during the opening Thursday.

John Chilcot told media he would not “offer a list of witnesses” but that “key decision-makers in the key phases of the Iraq affair” would be called.

“You can work out for yourself who some of them will be, but apart from the former prime minister [Tony Blair] — who it’s obvious we must see — I don’t want to give a longer list today.”

Blair’s appearance before the inquiry, whenever it happens, will be of huge interest to the British public and media.

Blair’s office said the former prime minister was willing to assist the inquiry.

“As we’ve said from the outset, Mr. Blair will of course cooperate fully with whatever format Sir John Chilcot sets out for the Inquiry,” a spokesman said.

Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, announced the inquiry last month, saying it would look in depth at the lead up to and conduct of the war. However, he also said it would not appropriate blame or have any mandate to consider civil or criminal charges.

Chilcot said the inquiry would examine the period starting from the summer of 2001 until the launch of the military operation in 2003, and up to the present day.

He called the scope of the inquiry “considerable,” given that most inquiries of this type would focus on a specific event in a limited period.

“We have been asked to examine a range of decisions and actions over a period of eight years,” he said. “There are differing views over what happened during that period and why, which we will need to address. We will also, by the way, need to place that whole period of years in a broader historical context.”

While the committee would not set out to apportion blame or consider issues of civil or criminal liability, it could judge the legality of the conflict, Chilcot said.

He promised that committee members had open minds and would review the evidence objectively to reach their conclusions.

“We are determined to be thorough, rigorous, fair, and frank,” he said.

Brown has promised that the committee will have access to the full range of information, including secret documents.

“The inquiry can ask for any British document to come before it and any British citizen to appear,” Brown said. “No British document and no British witness will be beyond the scope of the inquiry.”

It’s not clear how long it will take the committee to finish its work, Chilcot said. At the end, it will publish a report that will be debated in parliament.

After criticism, the government was forced to abandon its original plans to hold the inquiry behind closed doors.

Chilcot said the panel intends to make the proceedings “as open as possible, because we recognize that is one of the ways in which the public can have confidence in the integrity and independence of the inquiry process.”

Some of the hearings may be televised or streamed on the Internet, and the panel will have a Web site on which information will be regularly posted, he said.

The start of the inquiry coincides with the withdrawal of the some of the last British troops from Iraq.

The agreement that allows British troops to stay in the country expires Friday. The only British troops to remain will be about a dozen helping to train Iraqi police as part of a NATO mission, the defense ministry has said.

Chilcot said the panel members plan to visit Iraq as part of their work, as well as hold discussions with Iraqis outside of the country.

Top officials from both the British and U.S. governments may also be called upon for evidence, he said.

The panel has no power to compel witnesses to testify, but Chilcot said he hopes they can talk to people in the U.S. government.

“The Anglo-American relationship is one of the most central parts of this inquiry, and something that we need to get a very strong understanding of,” he said.

________

Related

Memo Reveals US Plan to Provoke an Invasion of Iraq

MI5’s dangerous ascendancy in Northern Ireland: Refused to reveal Orange Order and Freemason membership among staff

The switch from PSNI to MI5 primacy in intelligence-gathering in the North is linked to the 2002 Castlereagh break-in. After the Provos stole files from PSNI headquarters, the British government asked former Northern Ireland Office permanent secretary, Sir John Chilcott, to conduct a review.

His report, which has never been published, is understood to have recommended MI5’s new, expanded role. As the Castlereagh break-in ultimately benefited MI5, conspiracy theorists wonder if it could have been planned or suggested by British agents within IRA ranks.