23 July 2004

Channeling Flood

The Flood report is really a lot less interesting than the Butler report or the 911 report. Butler closely argues each case, sometimes going right down to discussion of particular sources in relation particular findings. Flood sweeps through with a broad brush. The famous phrase 'thin, ambiguous and incomplete' actually runs counter to the tenor of most of the report.

Flood makes some useful recommendations. He wants ONA, DIO and DIGO oversighted by the PJCAAD and by IGIS and he wants DIGO brought under the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (Recommendations 1 and 2). The rest of his report is significant for the case studies in Chapter 3 where the famous phrase occurs but he really only offers very mild criticism of ONA's performance over Iraq. He is also critical that no national assessment was ever prepared for the Iraq WMD issue.

The Man of Steel's claim that the government is exonerated by the report is just a tad weird when you consider the Flood inquiry did not have that issue within its terms of reference. It's even weirder when you consider the Jull report issued by the PJCAAD in March found:

5.20 The statements by the Prime Minister and Ministers are more strongly worded than most of the AIC judgements. This is in part because they quote directly from the findings of the British and American intelligence agencies. In particular, in the 4 February 2003 speech to the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister quoted the findings of Joint Intelligence Committee of the UK and the key judgements of the National Intelligence Estimate of the CIA. In both of these documents the uncertainties had been removed36 and they relied heavily on the surge of new and largely untested intelligence, coming, in the US at least, from Iraqi defectors.37 These dossiers comprised stronger, more emphatic statements than Australian agencies had been prepared to make. See paragraph 5.13 above for details of the statements. 38

That discrepancy was absent from Flood's terms of reference:

Without seeking to limit your examination, I ask that you provide advice on the following matters:

- the effectiveness of the intelligence community's current oversight and accountability mechanisms as they relate to such matters as the setting of priorities, the assigning to the priorities of appropriate resources, and the delivery of high quality and independent intelligence advice to the government;

- the suitability of the current division of labour among the intelligence agencies and communication between them;

- the maintenance of contestability in the provision to government of intelligence assessments; and

- the adequacy of current resourcing of intelligence agencies and in particular ONA.

Your inquiry is to focus primarily on the intelligence agencies in relation to foreign intelligence collection and assessment. As such, your deliberations should encompass the activities of ONA, DIO, ASIS, DSD and DIGO. Should you find it necessary, you should feel free also to include consideration of linkages to other agencies as appropriate, including ASIO.

Next, what the Butler saw.

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