Let’s start with semantics. Chapter 6 paragraph 220 of the Hutton Report states: (emphasis mine)
The term “sexed-up” is a slang expression, the meaning of which lacks clarity in the context of a discussion of the dossier. It is capable of two different meanings. It could mean that the dossier was embellished with items of intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable to make the case against Saddam Hussein stronger, or it could mean that whilst the intelligence contained in the dossier was believed to be reliable, the dossier was drafted in such a way as to make the case against Saddam Hussein as strong as the intelligence contained in it permitted. If the term is used in this latter sense then, because of the drafting suggestions made by 10 Downing Street for the purpose of making a strong case against Saddam Hussein, it could be said that the Government “sexed-up” the dossier. However, having regard to the other allegations contained in Mr Gilligan’s broadcasts of 29 May I consider that those who heard the broadcasts would have understood the allegation of “sexing-up” to be used in the first sense which I have described, namely that the Government ordered that the dossier be embellished with false or unreliable items of intelligence.
(It’s worth pointing out that Hutton here means “intelligence which was known at the time to be unreliable or false”, since it’s clear that much of the intelligence was in fact unreliable and false.)
I cannot remember how I interpreted the term “sexed up” at the time of Gilligan’s reports, but a brief search of the newspaper archives suggests that it was not, in fact, generally interpreted as Hutton suggests. For instance, The Mirror seems to have been the first paper to publish an editorial on the subject, on 30th May 2003, the day after Andrew Gilligan’s broadcasts on the Today programme. It read, (emphasis mine):
Voice Of The Daily Mirror: Spinner’s pitch.
THERE is a terrible ring of truth about the allegation that 10 Downing Street ordered a dossier on Iraq to be “sexed up”.
Even though the claim by an intelligence officer has been denied, it sounds like the sort of thing No 10 would say.
Note the subtlety. They aren’t asking for lies. Just for the dossier to be more headline-grabbing.
And grab the headlines it did, with the stark charge that Saddam could mobilise weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.
As Chris concludes, “This is not compatible with Hutton’s claim that, at the time it was broadcast, the term ‘sexed up’ was understood to mean ’embellished with known incorrect information.'”