Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lessons must be learned - Next PM

Brown pledge on intelligence use

Gordon Brown has said lessons must be learned on use of intelligence in the run-up to war, but ruled out holding an inquiry while troops remain in Iraq.

The prime minister-in-waiting said that in future intelligence analysis must be kept independent of politics.

The Tories and Lib Dems said it was an admission that intelligence was not properly handled or presented on Iraq.


Inquiry call


Mr Brown's visit came as MPs in London debated Conservative calls for an inquiry into the Iraq war.

The chancellor said he did not back an inquiry being held while troops remained in Iraq, but agreed lessons had to be learned.

He said that in future all intelligence information must be independent of the political process, and that it must be validated and verified if made public.


'Dodgy dossier'


"I think it's important to learn all the lessons, just as Tony Blair has said he acted in good faith but mistakes were made. I think it's important to learn the lessons to look forward now," Mr Brown said.

But it led some to comment that the chancellor appeared to be trying to distance himself from Mr Blair and the government's 2002 dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

That was the dossier which included the now discredited claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction which could be used within 45 minutes of an order being given.

Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "This is the first public admission by a member of the Cabinet that, before military action was taken against Iraq, there was undue influence, undue political influence, on intelligence."

And shadow foreign secretary William Hague added: "I think it is a bit of an admission that intelligence wasn't properly handled or presented at that time."

The Butler report into the accuracy of intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction found much was unreliable, but said the inquiry had seen no evidence of deliberate distortion.

'Very divisive'

Former Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Sir Paul Lever told the BBC Mr Brown's announcement was "very welcome".

"It clearly is an attempt by the next prime minister to put some distance between himself and the way in which the so-called 'dodgy dossier' and other documents were produced to justify the decision to go to war in Iraq," he said.

"It is vitally important that those people who prepare intelligence and assess intelligence are able to do their work independently and objectively."




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