13 September 2003

Spy chiefs forced to explain suppressing of war dissent

Two intelligence chiefs will emerge from the shadows on Monday to face public scrutiny for the first time. They will discuss their decision to suppress dissent among senior staff about the notorious Iraq arms dossier.

Air Marshal Sir Joe French, former chief of Defence Intelligence, and his deputy Tony Cragg, will be obliged to explain their action - or lack of it - after they received letters of complaint about how the document was being drafted.

They were ordered to appear as witnesses on the first day of the next phase of the Hutton inquiry. The inquiry has exposed flaws in the Government's case for war while investigating the circumstances leading to the alleged suicide of the weapons expert David Kelly.

Brian Jones, head of the scientific wing of the Defence Intelligence Analysis Staff, and a colleague described as the country's foremost authority on chemical warfare, told the inquiry that they were so concerned about the veracity of the evidence being put into the September dossier that they sent a detailed series of corrections to Mr Cragg.

Security sources said yesterday that the evidence of Air Marshal French and Mr Cragg would be 'highly problematic' for the Government.

One official said: 'The fact remains that Brian Jones is a highly respected man and his views should have been taken into account. This was not just splitting hairs, it is very real concern being ignored. One of the complaints levied against David Kelly was that he made his criticism of the '45 minutes' thing through unofficial means - a journalist. Well Dr Jones and his colleague stuck to the official channels and that got them nowhere. Lord Hutton would want to know why that happened, and especially if there was political pressure.'

Seven senior members of the Cabinet were shown the intelligence assessment which warned that invading Iraq would increase the threat of a terrorist attack on Britain.

There's something else that Kelly could have done. He could, like Andrew Wilkie, have acted on his conscience by openly and honestly resigning and stating in public his objections to the dossier.

No democratic government on Earth would ever have set the attack dogs on him for doing so. Would they? Surely not?

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