Shedding light on the Chilcot Inquiry
Chris Ames launches his web-based project on the Chilcot Inquiry - and welcomes information.
01 Oct 09

By Chris Ames

Today I am launching a new web-based project to monitor and comment on Sir John Chilcot’s Inquiry into the British government’s role in the Iraq war. The website is called Iraq Inquiry Digest.

The idea is to make sure that this time –– unlike in previous Iraq-related establishment inquiries –– nothing gets missed. Gordon Brown got off to a bad start when he tried to set up a secret inquiry. But he largely got the inquiry that he wanted, with members that were handpicked according to criteria unknown to the rest of us.

And we have heard next to nothing about the inquiry in the two months since Chilcot launched it with a press conference. This Inquiry is said to be looking at a vast body of evidence, which presumably reflects its extensive remit. There should be an announcement about public hearings sometime this month, but any delay would only play into the hands of a government that evidently wants as little as possible to come out before the general election.

Neither has it been easy to find out much about the Chilcot Inquiry itself. Parliamentary and freedom of information requests for information about its members and support staff have been stonewalled. There are suspicions that its dependency on the Cabinet Office might make the Inquiry rather closer to the government and less independent than many people would like.

Iraq Inquiry Digest hopes to put everything about the Chilcot Inquiry in one place — an ambition that we’ll have to work hard to live up to. For starters, we have tried to identify the existing evidence, much of which is unpublished, and to identify the overall and more detailed questions that we think the Inquiry will need to address.

Between now and the public hearings, we are going to be putting more information – and new revelations – into the public domain. When the hearings get going, we will be blogging them and marking both the Inquiry and the witnesses on their willingness to expose the truth.

We are also inviting anyone who has information that has not yet seen the light of day to let us know, as well as passing it on to the Inquiry itself. How open the government will be and how open the Inquiry will be remains to be seen but we will put everything out there –– while respecting the confidentiality of our sources, of course.

As well as being transparent, the Digest will attempt to be as collaborative and participatory as possible. Part of its philosophy is that we don’t know all the questions, let alone the answers. What’s on the site now is the result of a lot of serious research but it doesn’t claim to be the last word. Everything is up for discussion and disagreement.

Why not have a look at the site and perhaps sign up as a supporter? And if you’ve got those Cabinet Minutes, we’d love to hear from you.