Panorama was one of the lynchpins in the UK Governmentâ€™s dodgy dossier on Saddam. On 23 September 2002, Panorama claimed to have â€œhard evidenceâ€ about Iraqâ€™s weapons of mass destruction. Choice quote:
â€˜The programme can reveal that a secret biological weapons laboratory exists under a major hospital in Baghdad.â€™ Unnamed, dubbed sources, shot in silhouette like the wobbly Russian, â€˜provesâ€™ Panoramaâ€™s point.Later, Panorama attacks Andrew Gilliganâ€™s debunking of the WMD hype. Which is even more disturbing. Because Panorama had recorded its own interview with David Kelly, saying the same thing as Gilligan. Panorama deliberately suppresses it to distort the truth.
Distortion is Panoramaâ€™s stock in trade. A choice quote:
â€˜Some Russians come to Britain because itâ€™s safe and stable - like Chelsea boss Abramovich - others come here because they can speak out - like Boris Beresovskyâ€˜.It makes you feel proud to be British doesnâ€™t it? We donâ€™t need to know that these exiles are actually on the run, or have plundered billions in Russian state assets and laundered them abroad through British institutions.
If I told lies when I was small, my Mother used to say, â€˜youâ€™ll get spots on your tongueâ€™. And the spotty Panorama boys keep getting rumbled. Thatâ€™s because MI6, who briefs the BBC, keeps changing its story.
Since the programme was made, MI6 has been fiddling with the teacup fiction. Now MI6 Gordievsky decides that the tea wasnâ€™t made in the Pine Bar at all but upstairs in a hotel room. As he tells the Times only this week:
He had gone to the room with Mr Kovtun and another former Russian agent, Andrei Lugovoy.Well, thatâ€™s funny, because Marina Litvinenko tells Panorama:
The three men were joined in the room later by the mystery figure who was introduced as â€œVladislavâ€. Sasha remembered the man making him a cup of tea.
â€œHis belief is that the water from the kettle was only lukewarm and that the polonium-210 was added, which heated the drink through radiation so he had a hot cup of tea. The poison would have showed up in a cold drink,â€ Gordievsky added.
â€œSasha said it was tea already served, on the table (in the Pine Bar) and he just took this cup of tea, and he didnâ€™t finish it at all, and how he later said tea wasnâ€™t very tasty, â€˜because it was coldâ€™.â€On Monday, MI6 Gordievsky also tells the Times he has identified the killer. Which is also too funny, since this is the third â€˜mystery Russianâ€™ heâ€™s told the Times about. Oh, and you canâ€™t heat up tea this way either.
Really, though, why this trail of disinformation. Think someone might be covering up a trail of smuggled dirty bomb material that contaminated hundreds of people in over 40 countries? It is an intelligence failure. But since MI6 canâ€™t make up a convincing story about a cup of tea, itâ€™s probably hardly surprising.