28 September 2003

[US] House Probers Conclude Iraq War Data Was Weak

Moreover, Goss and Harman dispelled the assertion, made frequently by administration officials, that they possess more concrete information about Iraq's nuclear intention, but are unable to disclose it because it remains classified. 'We have not found any information in the assessments that are still classified that was any more definitive,' the two wrote Tenet.

On this point, the letter said the committee 'had reviewed extensively the allegations that there was a disconnect between public statements by administration officials and the underlying intelligence.'

The letter continued: 'We do believe . . . that if public officials cite intelligence incorrectly, the IC [intelligence community] has a responsibility to go back to that policymaker and make clear that the public statement mischaracterized the available intelligence.' It does not say whether Tenet fulfilled that responsibility.

The authors are the Republican chairperson and the Democratic vice-chair of the US House intelligence committee. Australia's public officials and intelligence agencies have clearly failed to carry out this duty, beyond the avalanche of statements telling us that no-one told the prime minister.

When John Howard made his statements before and during the Iraq War he had no idea that any of the raw intelligence would ever become public knowledge. The Hutton inquiry is the only reason we know (for example) about the 14 February JIC report which said that that a war was likely to exacerbate the chance of any WMDs falling into the hands of terrorists.

We need an independent judicial inquiry to tell us precisely what the prime minister was told. It is clear the WMDs either do not exist or are no longer in Iraq. If they did exist their absence means the JIC report was correct and they are now in the hands of terrorists.

Clearly the prime minister's prewar account of the WMDs was badly wrong. If so, the Australian people are entitled to know whether that results from incompetence or duplicity.

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