Friday, January 28, 2011

Iraq inquiry: redacted evidence leaves just single question mark visible

It was only after careful vetting that the censors at MI6 allowed it through.

Iraq inquiry: redacted evidence leaves just single question mark visible
Image 1 of 3
Page 73 
The rest of the page's evidence to the Iraq inquiry was quite obviously too much but, yes, on reflection, perhaps this item did not represent a clear and present danger, so the energetic black pen skipped a beat and moved on, leaving the solitary question mark the only testimony to the vital discussion in the build up to war.
Ninety-three pages of evidence were given in private to the inquiry by Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of the foreign intelligence service, which have been released to the public. Much is missing, or rather, redacted.
Page 73 is a belter. Sir Richard, spy chief, being grilled by Sir Lawrence Freedman, a member of the inquiry. The whole truth? Or rather, the whole truth: ? One question left blanked out bar the asking, and nothing else.
It is not obvious whether the redaction of everything but the single diacritical mark was intended as a subtle moment of humour in the otherwise dreary day of a civil servant with a headache coming on, or simply a letter-of-the-law judgement that 'well, the words must be kept secret but they can know the Sir Lawrence asked a question".
But how that lonely question mark opens the possibility of speculation. Just what was the question in question?
"Pass the digestives, would you?"
"Did you see the Palace score last night?"
Or maybe: "Did you or did you not add a bit of sex to the dossier?"
We are unlikely to find out soon but, until then, we can keep on asking questions.