Monday, May 07, 2007

Sir John Scarlett accused

Spin doctor 'helped Scarlett on dodgy dossier'

The Mail on Sunday

May 6, 2007

By Simon Walters


The head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, was accused of not telling the truth over the Iraq conflict yesterday.

He came under fire after Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett lost a two-year battle by the Government to prevent publication of key papers in a controversial dossier that claimed Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas overruled Mrs Beckett's claim that a document on Iraq’s weapons by a Foreign Office spin doctor must remain secret.

Mr Thomas said the document was written by a spin doctor on Sir John's orders. That flies in the face of Sir John’s claim that he was solely responsible for the dossier.

Opposition MPs claimed last night that the wrangle is further evidence that the Government misled Lord Hutton’s inquiry into whether it 'sexed up' intelligence about Iraq's weapons stockpile.

Yesterdays ruling under Freedom of Information laws centres on the role of Mr Blair's two senior spin doctors at the time of the war, Downing Street head of communications Alastair Campbell and Foreign Office counterpart John Williams.

Mr Campbell backed Sir John, who insisted he wrote the 45-minute dossier as Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

They dismissed a document written by Mr Williams before Sir John's first draft as 'irrelevant'.

Sir John said Mr Williams was working 'independently...on his own initiative'.

Mr Campbell said he rejected Mr Williams' offer of help.

But yesterday, Mr Thomas said the Foreign Office had told him that Mr Williams' draft document 'was requested by the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee'.

Writer Chris Ames, who has spent three years campaigning to have the documents released said: 'The Government's claims that spin doctors had nothing to do with the "45 minute from doom dossier" are unravelling.'

Tory MP John Baron added: 'There is now no doubt that we went to war on a false premise and spin doctors played a big part in making the case.'

But Mr Williams, who now runs a public relations company, said: 'I volunteered to write the document but was told a decision had been taken not to accept my offer.'

A Foreign Office spokesman said: 'We have received the Information Commissioner's report and will consider it carefully.'

(Content not online - transcribed from:


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