| US scholar Ibrahim al-Marashi. (Reuters)
San Francisco, Feb. 8 (Reuters): A 29-year-old US scholar who unknowingly was a major source for a British government dossier on Iraq said yesterday that he based his findings on public information and 12-year-old captured Iraqi documents.
The British “intelligence” dossier published this week on a government website said Iraq had mounted a massive campaign to deceive and intimidate UN inspectors hunting for banned weapons.
Yesterday, embarrassed officials admitted entire passages were lifted word for word, complete with grammatical errors, from an article written last year for a journal on West Asia by Ibrahim al-Marashi, a research associate at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, as well as from other public sources.
“I am surprised, flattered as well, that this information got used in a UK government dossier,” Marashi, whose parents immigrated from Iraq to the US in 1968, said in an interview with Reuters. He added that while he had never visited Iraq, he wished the British government had contacted him before using the document.
“Had they consulted me I could have provided them with more updated information,” he said. “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.”
Marashi said he based his September 2002 article “Iraq’s Security and Intelligence Network” on public information including books and media reports as well as Iraqi documents captured in northern Iraq and in Kuwait after the Gulf War ended in 1991. The once-secret Iraqi documents all predate 1991 and are part of Harvard’s Iraq Research and Documentation Project, 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,” he said of his article published in the Middle East Review of International Affairs.
US secretary of state Colin Powell, who is trying to rally international support for US efforts against Iraq, praised the British documents in a high-profile presentation to the UN Security Council on Wednesday.
Marashi, who earned a master’s degree from Georgetown in 1997, said he opposed Saddam’s government. “As an Iraqi, I support regime change in Iraq,” he said. Critics have accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of playing propaganda games in presenting “intelligence” information from public academic papers.