Britain’s spy chiefs overruled experts on Iraq dossier
* British opposition demands publication of pre-war intelligence on Iraq
LONDON: Britain’s spy chiefs ignored warnings from leading experts that Iraq may not have had chemical and biological weapons before the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, a former intelligence official said Wednesday.
Brian Jones told The Independent newspaper he and other experts had formally complained about the drafting of an intelligence dossier because they feared being made “scapegoats” if no weapons of mass destruction were discovered in Iraq.
The dossier, a key plank of Tony Blair’s case in persuading a sceptical British public to back the war, is at the centre of a probe ordered Tuesday by the prime minister into the intelligence used to justify the invasion. “In my view, the expert intelligence analysts of the DIS (Defence Intelligence Staff) were overruled in the preparation of the dossier back in September 2002, resulting in a presentation that was misleading about Iraq’s capabilities,” Jones said.
“There was no indication that the Iraqi military had practiced the use of CW (chemical warfare) or BW (biological warfare) weapons for more than a decade.”
All DIS experts believed any assessment that Iraq possessed such weapons should be “carefully caveated”, he said. Jones retired in January 2003 as head of the DIS section that was responsible for the analysis of intelligence from all sources on nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. Pressure on Blair to justify his argument that Iraq’s weapons programmes posed a threat intensified after US President George W Bush launched a probe Monday into pre-war intelligence.
The report also acknowledged that Jones’s concerns were not acted upon by the “higher echelons of the Intelligence Service”.
In The Independent, Jones fingered the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee John Scarlett, who was in charge of compiling the dossier, for hardening the facts presented to him.
“On balance the DIS experts felt it should be recorded that a CW or BW capability level was a probability, but argued against its statement in stronger terms.”
“Despite pointing this out in comments on several drafts, the stronger statements did eventually appear in the executive summary, the part of the dossier ‘owned’ by the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee,” Jones said.
Opposition: Britain’s opposition Conservatives demanded on Wednesday that the government publish intelligence on Iraq’s weapons capability.
“I think that this is very serious, very important indeed,” Tory leader Michael Howard told the BBC, after a former intelligence official said he and other experts were ignored when they said Iraq did not possess chemical or biological weapons before the US-led invasion in March 2003.
“The prime minister should publish this intelligence or explain why he can’t. That is what Dr Jones is asking for this morning. It seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable request.” —AFP