14 February 2004

Blair's claim is simply incredible

The Guardian has a report by a former intelligence officer analysing the Blair claim that he (unlike his defence secretary and his just resigned leader of the commons) did not know the 45 minute claim related only to CBW battlefield weapons.

One: neither Cook nor Hoon saw fit to tell the prime minister, for whatever reason.

Two: the intelligence was not considered important or accurate enough to explain to him in detail - even though it appears in the September 24 dossier at least three times and in the prime minister's own foreword.

Three: Blair had to rely on verbal briefings from the JIC chairman and others, who told him about the 45 minutes bit of the intelligence but omitted to mention that it referred only to battlefield weapons, and neither the prime minister nor any of the brilliant young staff asked the obvious question.

Four: the original SIS report mentioned the 45-minute time, but made no attempt to distinguish between strategic and battlefield weapons - even though the service was aware that the report was about battlefield munitions.

Five: the prime minister's daily written intelligence brief from the Cabinet Office included the 45 minutes point but not the crucial distinction between battlefield and strategic weapons. And not a single member of the Cabinet Office assessments staff (the most brilliant intelligence analysts in the UK) spotted this or thought it important.

This is not the case of a few guardsmen out of step or a few trumpeters out of tune. This is like holding trooping the colour but forgetting to tell the Queen the correct date.

Lieutenant Colonel Crispin Black worked for defence intelligence from 1994-96 and was on the intelligence assessment staff from 1999-2002

Well, Canberra is not London and here we have precedents for forgetting to tell the governor-general the correct date.

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