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British Dossier on Iraq Draws Criticism

The British government's latest dossier on Iraq has stirred a firestorm of controversy, amid revelations that parts of it were plagiarized from a student's thesis. Politicians across the political spectrum are heaping criticism on the report.

The British government had hoped to sway public opinion with its latest report, entitled: "Iraq - Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation."

Instead, government credibility has taken a hit from the discovery that parts of the report were taken verbatim from a doctoral thesis written by an American student. The government report even repeats some of the grammatical and typographical errors contained in the original.

Compounding the confusion, the introduction of the report says it draws on a number of sources, including intelligence material. But the report contains no footnotes, and gives no credit to the academic paper.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell brought worldwide attention to the British document when he spoke at the United Nations on Wednesday. Mr. Powell called it a "fine paper," which, "describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities."

The student who wrote the original thesis, Ibrahim al-Marashi, told British radio he is disappointed he did not get any credit in the government report. "I was a bit disenchanted as I read it," he said, "because they never incorporated, or cited my article, or the other articles that were on the Iraqi intelligence services, as well. There are laws and regulations about plagiarism and so forth that you think the UK [United Kingdom] government would abide by."

Critics of American and British policy toward Iraq are lambasting the government dossier as a sham. One opposition member of parliament, Jenny Tonge, told British television, the government's publication is fundamentally dishonest. "We expect the British government to tell us the truth at all times," she said. "And if they publish documents, we expect them to be truthful and honest. And coming from British intelligence, which is what we assumed this document was, we don't expect it to be lifted from other people's work."

Spokesmen for Prime Minister Tony Blair are defending the publication. They say the information was double-checked, and found to be accurate, and they say they never pretended that all of the data had been gathered by British intelligence.