11 September 2003

By Her Majesty's Command*

We now have the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee in Britain. The ISC is made of MPs and peers appointed under the Intelligence Services Act 1984, S10 by the prime minister after consultation with the parliamentary parties. The ISC avows that, although the prime minister has the power to excise material, that has not been done. They have unlimited access to classified material. I think it's actually a good process that we could add to Australia's inspector-general of intelligence and security.

From the BBC summary:

The 45 minute claim

The 45 minute claim, included four times in the dossier, was likely to attract attention because it was "arresting detail that the public had not seen before".

"As the 45 minutes claim was new to its readers, the context of the intelligence and any assessment needed to be explained," the ISC report says.

"The omission of the context and assessment allowed speculation as to its exact meeting. This was unhelpful to an understanding of this issue."

September dossier

A wide range of departments and agencies, including 10 Downing Street and the DIS, made comments on drafts of the dossier.

The JIC chairman stated "unequivocally" that he "did not at any time feel under pressure, nor was he asked to include material that he did not believe ought to be included in the dossier".

"We accept this assurance.

"We are content that the JIC has not been subjected to political pressures and that its independence and impartiality has not been compromised in any way."

Did dossier accurately reflect available intelligence?

Saddam Hussein was not considered a current or imminent threat to mainland UK, but the dossier did not say so.

ISC analysis of the Joint Intelligence Committee assessments showed the most likely chemical and biological munitions to be used against Western forces were battlefield weapons rather than strategic weapons: "This should have been highlighted in the dossier."

The use of the phrase "continued to produce chemical and biological weapons" in the foreword to the dossier could give the impression that Saddam was actively producing both chemical and biological weapons and significant amounts of agents.

The JIC did not know what had been produced and in what quantities.

"We believe that this uncertainty should have been highlighted to give a balanced view of Saddam's chemical and biological capacity."

Although Iraq possessed the technology to stabilise some agents, it was not known what type of chemical agents had been retained and consequently if they would still be effective.

Previous conflicts had established that the Iraqis could use chemical and biological battlefield weapons rapidly.

"The JIC did not know precisely which munitions could be deployed from where to where and the context of the intelligence was not included in the JIC assessment.

"This omission was then reflected in the 24 September dossier."

The Security and Intelligence Service continues to believe that the Iraqis were attempting to negotiate the purchase of uranium from Niger.

"We have questioned them about the basis of their judgement and conclude that it was reasonable.

The ISC also criticised UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon for not disclosing that intelligence officers had dissented from the conclusions in the two dossiers. More later.

*Well I had to call this something that sounded a little cloak-and-daggerish.

No comments: