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Galloway papers deemed forgeries

Iraq experts, ink-aging tests discredit documents behind earlier Monitor story.

By staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor / June 20, 2003

On April 25, 2003, this newspaper ran a story about documents obtained in Iraq that alleged Saddam Hussein's regime had paid a British member of Parliament, George Galloway, $10 million over 11 years to promote its interests in the West.

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An extensive Monitor investigation has subsequently determined that the six papers detailed in the April 25 piece are, in fact, almost certainly forgeries.

The Arabic text of the papers is inconsistent with known examples of Baghdad bureaucratic writing, and is replete with problematic language, says a leading US-based expert on Iraqi government documents. Signature lines and other format elements differ from genuine procedure.

The two "oldest" documents - dated 1992 and 1993 - were actually written within the past few months, according to a chemical analysis of their ink. The newest document - dated 2003 - appears to have been written at approximately the same time.

"At the time we published these documents, we felt they were newsworthy and appeared credible, although we did explicitly state in our article that we could not guarantee their authenticity," says Monitor editor Paul Van Slambrouck. "It is important to set the record straight: We are convinced the documents are bogus. We apologize to Mr. Galloway and to our readers."

Awash in documents

After the fall of Hussein's Baghdad government, stories based on internal Iraqi documents appeared in many news outlets. They detailed everything from mundane aspects of control used by local Baath Party cells to the high living of Saddam Hussein and his sons.

The name "George Galloway" figured prominently in one of the most explosive of these stories. On April 22, London's Daily Telegraph reported that papers retrieved by their correspondent David Blair from the ruins of Iraq's Foreign Ministry described alleged government payoffs to Mr. Galloway, a Labour Party MP and longtime critic of the West's hardline toward Mr. Hussein. The Daily Telegraph report received widespread attention in the European press and throughout the world.

On April 25, the Monitor ran its own piece about papers detailing Galloway's alleged ties to Baghdad. The documents were purported to have originated in the Special Security Section, run by Saddam's second son, Qusay.

However, the Monitor's documents were different in many details from those of the Daily Telegraph, and came from a different source. Monitor contract reporter Philip Smucker obtained them from an Iraqi general, who in turn said he had captured them after his men shot their way into a home once used by Qusay Hussein.

Galloway has emphatically denied that he was ever the recipient of Iraqi largess, a denial the Monitor reported in its original story. He has denounced all stories to that effect, and threatened to sue both the Daily Telegraph and the Monitor for libel.

On May 11, a report in the British paper The Mail on Sunday disputed the authenticity of documents obtained from the same source as the Monitor's documents. The Mail's article said its writer had purchased other documents from the general alleging payoffs to Galloway. Those documents, unlike the Monitor's, included purported Galloway signatures.

"Extensive examination of the documents by experts has proved they are fakes, bearing crude attempts to forge the MP's signature," said the Mail on Sunday's May 11 story.

The Monitor did not identify the general in its April 25 story because he said he feared retribution from Qusay Hussein loyalists. The Mail on Sunday published his name: Gen. Salah Abdel Rasool.

In light of this new information bearing on the credibility of the source of the Monitor's alleged Galloway papers, editors decided to consult document experts in the United States to see if the papers could be proved either false or genuine.

The Monitor first consulted a Harvard graduate student in Arabic studies, Bruce Fudge, who had spent six months working on a Washington-based archive of captured Iraqi intelligence documents. Along with another graduate student, Omar Dewachi, an Iraqi who was a physician in Iraq until the late 1990s, Mr. Fudge could find no apparent problems with the documents. The offset-printed stationery of the oldest documents correctly reflected the pre-1993 Iraqi flag while the newer ones carried an emblem of the new flag. The rank of the signatories and the path of the documents through the bureaucracy seemed appropriate. The dates on two of the documents matched up to known visits of Galloway to Iraq. But these observations were not conclusive.

Ultraviolet examination