WMD Adviser Dies Of Slashed Wrist

David Kelly is seen after being questioned by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in London this July 15, 2003 file photo.
AP (file)
A British weapons expert suspected of telling the BBC that the Blair government hyped intelligence about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction apparently killed himself by slashing his left wrist, police say.

The death of David Kelly plunges British Prime Minister Tony Blair into a deeper political crisis over the intelligence used to justify war in Iraq, reports CBS News reporter Charles D'Agata. Many hold his administraition responsible for driving Kelly to suicide by making him testify before a Parliamentary committee earlier this week.

Polls show the British public is losing faith in Blair with a majority feeling they were misled about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction - the rationale for war, reports CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth.

In other developments in the growing controversy over the intellegence presented to the public to justify the war in Iraq:

  • U.S. intellegence and senior administration officials admit there has been little new evidence about Iraq's weapons program in the five years since U.N. inspectors left Iraq, the New York Times reports.
  • White House officials said Friday that President Bush and his national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, did not entirely read the most authoritative prewar assessment of U.S. intellegence on Iraq, missing a State Department claim that an allegation Bush would later use in his State of the Union address was "highly dubious," the Washington Post reports.
  • Even as the Bush administration concluded Iraq was reviving its nuclear weapons program, key signs — such as scientific data of weapons work and evidence of research by Iraq's nuclear experts — were missing, several former intelligence officials tell the Associated Press.

    In a statement read to reporters by police, Kelly's family says, "Events over recent weeks have made David's life intolerable, and all of those
    involved should reflect long and hard on this fact."

    Police said they found a knife and painkillers near Kelly's body, which was discovered Friday in woods not far from his home in the village of Southmoor, 20 miles southwest of Oxford.

    "The cause of death was hemorrhaging from a wound to his left wrist," acting superintendent David Purnell of Thames Valley Police told reporters in Wantage, near Southmoor.

    "Whilst our inquiries are continuing, there is no indication at this stage of any other party being involved," he said. The painkiller found at the scene was coproxamol, which often figures in overdose deaths in England.

    The New York Times reports that Kelly gave no sign he was depressed in a e-mail message sent to a reporter hours before he disappeared. The message referred to "many dark actors playing games" – an apparent reference to members of Britain's intelligence and military communities with whom he had often argued over interpretations of intelligence reports.

    Another associate who got an e-mail message from Kelly shortly before he disappeared said the message was combative and showed a determination to get through the scandal enveloping him and an enthusiasm about returning to Iraq, the Times reports.

    Kelly, a Defense Ministry expert and former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, was suspected of being the source of news reports that the government "sexed up" a dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

    His wife said he felt enormous pressure when he was called before a Parliamentary committee, where he denied being the source the government was trying to smoke out.

    Blair, appearing at a news conference Saturday in Hakone, Japan, with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, stood rigid and stony-faced and said nothing when a journalist asked: "Have you got blood on your hands, prime minister? Are you going to resign over this?"

    Earlier, Blair reminded reporters that he had ordered an inquiry into Kelly's death, saying, "I think we should make our judgments when we get the facts."

    Called before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, Kelly denied being the source of a British Broadcasting Corp. report that accused Blair's communications director of adding dubious claims to an intelligence dossier published in September.

    Janice Kelly reportedly said her husband was stressed and "very, very angry" about being caught up in a public controversy. She reported him missing Thursday night when he failed to return from an afternoon walk.

    Blair described Kelly as "a fine, public servant who did an immense amount of good for his country in the past, and I'm sure would have done so again in the future."

    Opposition Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith has urged Blair to return to London. "There are very many questions that will need to be asked over the coming days," Duncan Smith said.

    The death was a sensational development in a controversy threatening the government's credibility.

    The big issue is whether the prime minister misled the country about Iraq's weapons. But the spotlight recently has been on a highly personal feud between Blair's communications chief, Alastair Campbell, and BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan.

    A headline in The Independent on Saturday called Kelly "a casualty of war." The Daily Telegraph said "Death of the dossier fall guy," while the Daily Mail ran photos of Blair, Campbell and Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon under the headline, "Proud of Yourselves?"

    Labor lawmaker Glenda Jackson, a vehement critic of the war in Iraq, called on Blair to resign. "I don't see how the government is going to be able to function adequately," she said Saturday in a radio interview.

    The furor started with a May 29 BBC report that an unidentified intelligence source had said a government file on Iraq was "sexed up" to make a more convincing case for military action.

    Gilligan quoted his source as saying the government insisted on including a claim that Iraq could deploy some chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes, despite intelligence experts' doubts.

    The reporter later said his source had accused Campbell of insisting the claim be included. The communications chief denied that before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, and demanded an apology from the BBC.

    Kelly told the committee on Tuesday that he had met Gilligan, but did not think he was the source of the report.

    Asked if he believed Campbell had interfered in drafting the dossier, the soft-spoken scientist responded: "I do not believe that at all."

    The BBC refused to reveal its source. Hoon — Kelly's boss — said the weapons adviser had come forward to say he had had an unauthorized meeting with the BBC reporter but had not mentioned Campbell.

    The BBC has not denied that, but also said its source did not work for the Ministry of Defense.

    Kelly, 59, an Oxford-educated microbiologist, had been the senior adviser to the Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat in the Ministry of Defense for more than three years.

    He was a U.N. inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998 and was in Baghdad briefly in June, where he met with troops involved in the weapons hunt. He was scheduled to return to Baghdad for a posting with the Iraq Survey Group, a Pentagon-led effort taking over the search for suspected weapons of mass destruction.