British Dossier on Iraq Found to Be Plagiarized

LONDON -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair was accused Friday of playing the same propaganda games as Saddam Hussein after chunks of an "intelligence" dossier on Iraq turned out to have been plagiarized from academic papers.

The dossier, published last week on a government web site, said Iraq had mounted a massive campaign to deceive and intimidate United Nations inspectors hunting for banned weapons.

The latest in a series of British documents focusing on the alleged threat from Hussein and rallying support for a possible U.S.-led war, it was praised by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

It claimed to draw upon "a number of sources, including intelligence material." But on Friday, red-faced officials admitted whole swaths were lifted word for word -- grammatical slips and all -- from a student thesis.

Outraged politicians jumped on the revelation to accuse Blair of misleading the public and said it cast doubt on the credibility of his whole case against Hussein.

One of Blair's former junior defense ministers, Peter Kilfoyle, said he was shocked that the government was trying to win over Britons on such "thin evidence."

Sections in the dossier on Hussein's security apparatus drew heavily on a 2002 article written by Ibrahim al-Marashi, a 29-year-old U.S. postgraduate student of Iraqi descent who works at California's Monterey Institute of International Studies.

His major sources were captured Iraqi intelligence documents from prior to 1991 that are part of Harvard's Iraq Research and Documentation Project, as well as books and public information.

Marashi, who has never been to Iraq, said he was surprised and flattered that his research ended up in a British government dossier -- but could have provided the government with updated information if anyone had asked.

"The fact that they would have to turn to something in the open media reflects that maybe there is a deficiency in the intelligence gathering," he said.

"My primary worry at the moment is that it might reflect poorly on Powell's presentation by the very fact that he referred to that document."

Glen Rangwala, an Iraq specialist at Cambridge University who analyzed the Downing Street dossier, said 11 of its 19 pages were "taken wholesale from academic papers."

"If the nature of the intelligence is actually just web research, then it rather casts doubt about the plausibility of the government's earlier claims," Rangwala said.

The editor of Jane's Intelligence Review, Chris Aaron, said sections of articles in his magazine published between 1997 and 2002 were also used in the dossier.

"The fact that the U.K. dossier does not identify the source for each bit of evidence in the report could be taken as misleading or taken to be an effort to disguise the classified material included in the dossier," he said in a statement.

Ministers have privately admitted that gathering information on Iraq is difficult and intelligence on Baghdad is "thin."