The gist

The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war will publish “the gist” of communications between George Bush and Tony Blair, but not the actual transcripts. Small amounts of quotation will be permitted if relevant to explaining the conclusions reached.

Is this enough, or does anything short of full disclosure mean there is something to hide? Will full transcripts of at least some of the documents be leaked to the media? And will the publication of the Chilcot inquiry happen, as now seems likely, just before the 2015 general election?

Place your bets now, ladies and gentlemen.

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5 thoughts on “The gist

  1. It will never satisfy people; but it’s probably enough to achieve the relevant purpose: what motivated the decision? No matter what you do, some people will want more.

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  2. According to the BBC, “the Cabinet Office’s grounds for this decision is that it could prejudice future relations with the US.” I’m not sure that’s a particularly great reason to state, because it makes it sound like there’s some significant content the government would rather keep hidden, and the public want transparency on the issue.

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  3. I think they’re right in keeping the actual comms classified, in an age of information where everyone wants or feels they need to know everything, I think it’s only right that the higher echelons of government be allowed to interact with our international allies safe in the knowledge that what’s being said is – and always will be – classified.

    If the communications were to be fully revealed, it definitely could prejudice or severely harm our relationship with our closest allies – the United States. It would set a potentially dangerous precedent that these sorts of communications could then always be released for public scrutiny, therefore why would any future American President what to maintain a close relationship with the UK, especially when dealing with “the war on terror” or other national security issues?

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  4. Okay, so the reason it could prejudice future relations is that the public release of private correspondence believed at the time to be confidential and protected would be seen as a breach of trust and privacy, rather than there being something specific that they know would be damaging in and of itself. That makes sense.

    I certainly think the media “whitewash” line is too strong. To me the important point is that Sir John Chilcot and his team have been allowed to read the full content, and as well as the gist, they’re allowed to directly quote from the content in the final report. So it therefore becomes a matter of trusting the inquiry team to interpret the communications correctly and publish an honest report. From what I have seen, they have been undertaking this inquiry with painstaking carefulness, and have had unprecedented access themselves, both of which point against any form of cover-up.

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  5. I have to say that I’ve got less annoyed at this as time has passed since the news broke. For the sake of accountability from our leaders it would be ideal to have all of this published, but that would be applying a higher standard of transparency than generally applies in either country. But thinking of it as being the nearest equivalent of a trial as is likely to happen, in a trial the evidence is not necessarily made public and published in all cases.

    So I suppose a summary is okay, so long as the inquiry itself has unfettered access and the facts are relayed reliably it’ll do. In an ideal world it’d be published, but in this world it’ll do!

    I don’t, however, think that higher level diplomatic communications should be allowed to be confidential no matter what. Our states are subject to their own laws and international law and if a potential serious breach is being investigated (as it is now) then declassification of documents for the purpose of that investigation is strongly desirable in my view. With appropriate checks and balances of course.

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