Blair’s security watchdog raps No 10 over Iraq dossier




By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent

Financial Times, 11 June 2003

The committee handpicked by Tony Blair to oversee the intelligence agencies yesterday rebuked Downing Street over its use of intelligence material in the “dodgy dossier” on Iraq.

In its annual report, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ICS) said that while it favoured the “responsible use of intelligence” to inform the public, its use in a February 2003 Downing Street dossier describing Iraq’s security failed this standard.

The February report was compiled by Downing Street officials, and included both intelligence material and information downloaded from the internet. A key source was the PhD thesis of an Iraq expert, whose work was not acknowledged.

It has not been made clear how Downing Street obtained and incorporated their intelligence material without the knowledge of MI6, which gathers intelligence from abroad. The parliamentary committee report said that since the embarrassment surrounding the February dossier, “systems have now been put in place to ensure that this cannot happen again”.

The key measure is that the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which collects intelligence from MI5, MI6 and the monitoring service GCHQ, will endorse publications before they are made public. The ICS, made up of MPs and peers and oversees MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, is to launch an inquiry into whether the government exaggerated the threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and “sexed up” a dossier on its arsenal. Downing Street has apologised to MI6 for using intelligence material in the February dossier without consulting it.

The ICS strongly criticised the failure of ministers to co-ordinate their strategies for dealing with issues that involved the security and intelligence agencies.

Ministers are supposed to use the Ministerial Committee on Intelligence, which is chaired by the prime minister, to discuss intelligence issues. The committee has not met for several years, and the parliamentary report said: “The relevant cabinet ministers are not sufficiently engaged in the setting of long-term requirements and priorities for the [security and intelligence] agencies.”

Ann Taylor, the Security and Intelligence Committee chairman, said: “Ministers we feel are well advised when it’s an immediate problem. It’s this longer-term view we are concerned about.” Mrs Taylor also said that the committee was not satisfied that ministers were being kept sufficiently informed on issues relating to the proliferation of WMD.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.