Britain's independent investigation, led by Lord Hutton, a respected senior jurist, was launched to answer questions about the death of David Kelly, a British expert on chemical and biological weapons, who helped reporters expose the Blair team's manipulation of intelligence data. But it has turned into a broad examination that is considering information not merely regarding Kelly but the whole question of how Blair and his aides made the case for war.
Last Tuesday, Hutton released copies of e-mails revealing that Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, cautioned against using the dossier to claim Iraq posed anything akin to 'an imminent threat.' After reviewing the evidence, Powell e-mailed top members of the prime minister's team to argue that the information 'does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam.'
The prime minister's chief of staff found the evidence on which the dossier was based so thin that he said it would only be 'convincing for those who are prepared to be convinced.'
Blair and his top aides chose to disregard the cautions and hyped the dossier with claims that it confirmed Iraq's WMD program was 'active, detailed and growing.' Even after U.S. intelligence agencies warned that the dossier was of questionable validity, Bush peddled the dubious data.
This week's revelations about the extent to which Blair and his aides massaged and manipulated the intelligence data should suggest to members of the U.S. Congress that it is time for the United States to again follow the lead of Britain. Congress should authorize a full investigation to determine whether, in the midst of a debate about war and peace, Bush and his cohorts chose to deceive Congress and the American people.
Perhaps Australia, as well, should be conducting a slightly more dynamic enquiry than the closed doors exercise in the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD. They might even consider the national security implications of the prime minister's alarming incapacity for getting the memo.