Sunday 1 February 2004

Why Mangold Flip-Flopped over Kelly Murder

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by Trowbridge Ford

During the Hutton Inquiry over Dr. David Kelly's death, nothing has been more inexplicable, and yet perhaps more persuasive than BBC reporter Tom Mangold's complete change of heart over the microbiologist's demise. When his body was found on July 18th on Harrowdown Hill, Mangold volunteered that he was confident that Kelly had been murdered. For anyone to think otherwise, Mangold said, just didn't understand the man:"suicide just wasn't Kelly." Yet, hardly a month later, Mangold was claiming just that.

To understand Mangold's complete turnabout - what the Hutton Inquiry did not so much as query him about when he was questioned late in the morning of September 4th - one must go back to the fatal day. Then, Mangold was quite concerned about the safety of the friend and weapons inspector he had known for at least five years, and learned so much from: "---he told me anything I have ever learned about biological warfare."

Under the circumstances, thanks to Mangold's regular unattributable briefings by the UNSCOM chief British biological weapons inspector, Mangold was quite concerned that remmants of the Iraqi regime, or its alleged Al-Qaeda associates, especially Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, might have killed Kelly because of what he knew about Saddam's WMD, especially its alleged anthrax bioterrorism capability. Little wonder that when Mangold heard of Kelly's body being found, he immediately assumed that Saddam's secret service or Zarqawi's terrorists had done it.

During this time, though, MI5 had allowed the Mossad to come to Britain in force - its agents, and if necessary assassination squads, were participating in joint operations to stop Islamic terrorism - and Mangold was apparently completely ignorant of this. The Israeli secret service had been called in after Manchester police, Scotland Yard, and the Security Service had made such a hash of the arrest of three North Africans, suspected of dealing with the poison ricin, and resulting in the stabbling murder of SB officer Stephen Oake, and the wounding of five other officers. Of course, to speak of Kelly being murdered raised the possiblity that the Israeli secret service had done it too, and the BBC presenter of the Ten O'Clock News quickly moved to prevent the suspicion from gaining ground.

No sooner did Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball of Newsweek claim in the mid-August issue that Mangold had ruined an FBI effort for Hemant Lakhani to infiltrate Al-Qaeda than the BBC presenter hired the top law firm of Mishcon de Reya to open a libel action against the magazine. The British national, living in New Jersey, had been set up by a sting operation involving the Bureau, and MI5, assisted by Mossad input, to raise national concern about international terrorism. Lakhani had apparently bought a doctored missile from the Russians at the behest of Bureau agents, posing as Al-Qaeda terrorists.

Of course, there is a decided difference between ruining a sting operation, and recruiting the apparent culprit to do intelligence work in the hope of mitigating his crime, but senior Justice Department officials declined to make the distinction. US Attorney Christopher Christie told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Lakhani's arrest occurred before Mangold's broadcast, so he could not have effected the sting operation, as Christie explained: "This investigation has gone on for 18 months and yesterday we executed the plan in almost exactly the way we laid it out."

The libel action seems not only intended to scare off other reporters about what Mangold may choose to say, but also to give him an excuse to quit his job before the Hutton Inquiry started hearing witnesses. Under the circumstances, he was asked nothing to cause embarrassment, or to raise questions. It was only after the inquiry had issued its complete whitewash of the whole affair that Mangold was allowed to return to the BBC, appearing on Hard Talk earlier this evening. Here he made up for his recent reticence, having apparently polished up his crystal ball, to hypothesize that Kelly had killed himself on the spur of the moment because an unknown party had called him, and told him that a taped interview with Susan Watts would completely expose his lying plots, and that Dr. Keith Hawton had completely explained a few days before he appeared before Lord Hutton why the microbiologist had killed himself. According to Mangold, only the failings of the intelligence services in the leadup to the war with Iraq need to be explored, and explained.