Parliamentary inquiry to grill spies on ‘sexed up’ dossier




By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent

Financial Times, 5 June 2003

A parliamentary inquiry into whether the government misrepresented the threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction will have access to intelligence officers and the raw intelligence information they provided, Tony Blair said yesterday.

Angrily rejecting accusations that the government “sexed up” the September 24 2002 dossier detailing Saddam Hussein’s arsenal in order to make a stronger case against the Iraqi regime, Mr Blair said the parliamentary intelligence and security committee would be “given all the Joint Intelligence Committee assessments and will also have access to the people who wrote the report”.

The Commons foreign affairs committee is also launching an inquiry. Both probes will coincide with planned Congress hearings that will focus on the substance of the intelligence information provided by the CIA in the US.

Opponents of the war against Iraq have alleged that the raw intelligence information presented to the JIC, which collates intelligence and presents its assessments to the prime minister, was “doctored” when it went into the published dossier in order to bolster the case for war.

The source of the most contentious accusation – that Downing Street insisted on the inclusion of a reference to weapons of mass destruction being ready for use within 45 minutes of an order – has not been established, although Whitehall officials said it did not reflect a broad view among intelligence officials.

Nor do officials think it came from within the JIC itself. People familiar with the intelligence assessment process insist that everything in the dossier was agreed by the committee, whose members include the heads of MI6, the secret intelligence service; MI5, the security service; and GCHQ the monitoring service, as well as the chief of the defence intelligence staff and Foreign Office officials.

“I would be staggered if the source of these statements was somebody on the JIC,” an official said. “We don’t know who it is, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be somebody from within the intelligence or security services. A great many people have access to the information out of the JIC.”

Officials have not said whether they regard this breaking of ranks on intelligence as a threat to national security nor whether a full internal inquiry has been launched. But they are concerned that it may harm the processing of intelligence. “The integrity of the process is being challenged from within,” one said.

Despite the controversy, officials strongly reject suggestions that the process of publishing intelligence material was resisted by intelligence officials. “There has been no politicisation of intelligence. Iraq became top of the political agenda. When you have states about which little is known, you rely on the security services,” said a senior official.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.