5 February 2004

Iraq's WMD: the big lie?

The key points the intelligence community now wants placing on the record are:

Firstly, there was a problem with Iraq, particularly over the interpretation of the WMD issue. Many said they had been openly sceptical about the presence of WMD in Iraq for years. There was a systematic failure, they believe, in the way intelligence was interpreted. This was because they were under pressure to provide the government with what it wanted, namely that Iraq possessed WMD and that it posed a clear and present danger.

Secondly, they say intelligence was 'cherry-picked' about Iraq: that damning intelligence against Iraq was selectively chosen, whilst intelligence assessments, which might have worked against the build-up to war, were sidelined. The government was looking for anything that would cast Iraq in a negative light.

Thirdly, they claim that a political agenda had crept into the work of the intelligence community and they found themselves in the position of taking orders from politicians. When asked if direct lies were told to the British public, the answer was that the intelligence they supplied was one- sided and produced on demand to politicians.

Fourthly, the intelligence community got into the habit of making worst-case scenarios and these were used to make factual claims by politicians. The intelligence community accepts that intelligence was used for political ends. But they also understand that intelligence is not supposed to help politicians justify their actions as that distorts the nature of what intelligence work is about.

While they believe they are not in the firing line over Hutton, they also realise that they are going to have to think long and hard about the future of British intelligence. They stressed that they accepted that there would be changes in the way British intelligence operates, adding that they wanted changes in order to maintain their integrity.

The mail on Sunday published this article on 25 January, before release of the Hutton report. Since then we've had the chief CBW analyst tell us that his views on the 45 minute claim were overruled and we've had Tony Blair tell the House of Commons he was unaware, when the dossier was published, that the 45 minutes claim only covered battelfield weapons.

Meanwhile, back at the inquiry, Lord Hutton heard from Dr Jones and said only:

465.��This matter was considered by the ISC and in the conclusions to its report of September 2003 it stated at page 44:

R. The Agencies and the JIC reported that none of their staff had concerns about the 24 September dossier. Two individuals in the DIS wrote to their line managers to register their concerns. We were told that these concerns were discussed within the DIS in the normal way. CDI agreed the text of the draft dossier, which was informed by intelligence that he, but not the two individuals, had seen. We have seen that intelligence and understand the basis on which CDI and JIC took the view they did. The concerns were not brought to the attention of the Defence Secretary or the JIC Chairman. (Paragraph 114)

S. We regard the initial failure by the MoD to disclose that some staff had put their concerns in writing to their line managers as unhelpful and potentially misleading. This is not excused by the genuine belief within the DIS that the concerns had been expressed as part of the normal lively debate that often surrounds draft JIC Assessments within the DIS. We are disturbed that after the first evidence session, which did not cover all the concerns raised by the DIS staff, the Defence Secretary decided against giving instructions for a letter to be written to us outlining the concerns. (Paragraph 104 and 115).

T. It is important that all DIS staff should be made aware of the current procedures for recording formal concerns on draft JIC Assessments. We recommend that if individuals in the intelligence community formally write to their line managers with concerns about JIC Assessments the concerns are brought to the attention of the JIC Chairman. (Paragraph 105 and 116)

As I have set out Dr Jones' evidence at some length and as this matter has been considered by the ISC I consider that it is unnecessary for me to express an opinion on it.

Truly, an amazing number of things seem either to cast no light on His Lordship's inquiry or to be unnecessary for him to form an opinion. Jones' article is being described as a bombshell. But nothing went bang for Lord Hutton.

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