Sunday, May 06, 2007

What is the Government hiding?

John Scarlett's 'mea culpa'

The following letter (extracted) was sent by JIC chairman John Scarlett to Prime Minister Tony Blair on 4 June 2003. It was submitted to the Hutton Inquiry as part of the documentation supplied by the Cabinet Office. Lord Hutton paid scant regard to it, referring to it whilst taking evidence from John Scarlett in regard to the 45 minute claim only.





1. I have decided to write to explain the process by which the document, published on 24 September 2002 as "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction - The Assessment of the British Government", was compiled. This letter has been seen by my colleagues on the JIC.


6. The drafting of the revised document was co-ordinated by Julian Miller working with representatives of Departments, including DIS, SIS, GCHQ, and FCO. There were two meetings of two to three hours each, numerous exchanges of drafts and constant consultations between the experts concerned. With the agreement of the Agencies, representatives from the No 10 (Danny Pruce) and FCO Press Offices (John Williams, Paul Hamill and James Paver) were involved. The aim was to ensure that the public assessment deployed the intelligence effectively, taking account of the reliability of the information and the demands of source protection. As is natural in the JIC drafting process, there was debate about a number of the issues in the dossier, but agreement was reached on the final text, including the use of the intelligence about the deployability of CBW within 45 minutes. This intelligence came from a line of reporting judged to be reliable and was consistent with standing JIC judgements. It was included by the drafters and approved by the JIC. It's inclusion was not suggested by No 10. The report was highlighted in the same terms in a JIC Assessment of 9 September. This 9 September Assessment also reflected other recently received intelligence which was recorded in the dossier under that heading, "Recent Intelligence".


10. The JIC agreed that all intelligence-based sections in the document would be submitted to it before they were finalised. The draft assessment was discussed at the JIC on 11 and 18 September. The final draft was circulated to JIC members on 19 September and subsequently agreed by them. It was sent by me to Alastair Campbell on 20 September (Flag C). I regarded this as the formal moment at which I was taking responsibility for the contents. I noted to Alastair that the draft Conclusion (Flag D), which had been drafted by me and formed part of earlier versions of the document, had been dropped. I regarded it as superfluous.




4 June 2003



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