Monday, March 30, 2009

Opinion - Lib Dem Leader

We Need To Know Why We Went To War

March 27, 2009 by Nick Clegg Online

An Iraq inquiry should examine every detail the Government would like ignored

Earlier this week I met three parents who lost their sons in Iraq. They have campaigned tirelessly for a full, public inquiry into the Iraq war. They are profoundly patriotic men and women, who were proud of what their children were doing in Britain’s armed forces. They were prepared, as much as any parent can be, for the fact that they could lose their child.

If they had lost that child in an honourable war, defending the nation, they would have mourned, of course, but with a sense of pride.

They told me that what they find truly devastating, unbearable even, is that their sons’ ultimate sacrifice was made in response to false claims from the Government. The government took young men and women who were prepared to put their lives at risk for the sake of Britain’s safety – and sent them to meet their fate in an illegal war instead.

One father told me how excited his son was by the extensive training he received to protect himself from Saddam’s biological weapons. Now the father knows what his son could not: there were none of those weapons. It was all a sham.

These families simply can’t understand why no one has been held to account. How, they ask, is it possible that the most disastrous foreign policy decision in generations, taken on a false premise, can be left unexamined? Will no one take responsibility for what happened? We had the whitewash Hutton inquiry, then the Butler inquiry, but the real truth about the political decision-making that led us into this war has never yet been exposed.

Labour and the Conservatives came together to drag our country into an illegal war: we need to know how that happened so that we make sure it never happens again. The government has finally accepted that it can no longer duck an inquiry. The question now is when and how this inquiry will be carried out.

I believe the inquiry must begin immediately. It must examine every detail the government would rather ignore. And it must be held as much in public as is compatible with national security. So much, and no less, is what Britain needs if we are to move on from this military disaster and regain our sense of ourselves as a positive influence in the world. We owe it to the families whose sons and daughters were lost so needlessly.

Neither the Government nor the Conservatives want the inquiry to be full and open. Both parties would rather not revisit this ground, because they know they can only look back with shame. Jack Straw has already taken the unprecedented step of blocking a valid Freedom of Information request so as to suppress the papers from the cabinet meeting where the Iraq invasion was discussed. And the Conservatives know they cheered the war on from the sidelines, however much they may pretend otherwise today.

But this goes beyond the record of the political parties. It is about finding the truth, because that is the only way we can learn for the future. Britain can and should be a force for good in the world, promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. But how can we regain the self-confidence to do what’s right if Governments can force the country to do what’s wrong?

If Britain is to take its rightful place on the international stage, we need to look back at Iraq, even at the most painful details, to learn the lessons of the past.

This is also about how we are governed, not just the Iraq invasion. We have one of the most secretive and unaccountable forms of executive government anywhere in the western world. Decisions taken on a sofa in No 10 are rubber-stamped by a supine Parliament. A Government elected on little more than 22 per cent of the eligible vote can arrogate to itself a decision to go to war, ignoring public opinion. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown decided that we would join George Bush in his invasion of Iraq, come what may – and the whole machinery of Government was bullied and warped to meet that end. This was not just a lamentable foreign policy decision – it was a failure of accountability and transparency at the very heart of our democratic system.

That is why the inquiry must focus on the political decision-making, not the military tactics. While it is essential that we find more and better ways of protecting our troops in conflict, and caring and supporting them and their families afterwards, there remains a danger that in setting up an inquiry the government will deflect attention from its own mistakes by focusing on military issues. That would be tantamount to an abandonment of the promised inquiry, and must not be allowed to happen.

Instead, the remit must focus on exactly how the case was made and presented for this war. From the question of how and why the Attorney General’s legal advice changed, to how and why the expert intelligence was abused and politicised, the whole process from beginning to end must be drawn into the light and examined in detail. There can be no dark corners left unexamined.

Let me give an example of the questions the inquiry must answer: how close Iraq was to manufacturing nuclear weapons. Claims were made by Tony Blair, in the dossier and in Parliament that Saddam Hussein was between one and two years away from producing a nuclear weapon. But the intelligence said it would take five years.

This is just one of the distortions that needs to be explained. There are so many it would fill column after column if I were to outline them. But for every one, we need to understand: how did assessments by experts get so twisted? Who made these changes? And who agreed to them? What was a mistake? And what was a deliberate lie?

The people of Britain were duped by the government over Iraq. If we are ever to believe a government again in difficult times, the inquiry must get right to the heart of how this was allowed to happen, how government managed to overrule the experts and the truth. And changes must be made, safeguards introduced, to make sure nothing like this is ever allowed to happen again.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"The public will not be deceived..."

From The Times

March 26, 2009

Gordon Brown accused as Iraq inquiry confirmed

Sam Coates, Chief Political Correspondent

An inquiry into the Iraq war will finally begin when British troops leave, the Government said yesterday, amid warnings that Gordon Brown should not use the timing of the announcement for personal political advantage.

David Miliband told Parliament that the inquiry would be set up “as soon as practical” after the withdrawal of British troops concluded on July 31. But the Foreign Secretary added that there was a “case for caution” against setting up an inquiry immediately after the British exit, fuelling speculation that Mr Brown would make the announcement at the Labour Party conference in September.

This has been denounced by other leaders, who said that it undermined the non-partisan nature of the inquiry.

William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said: “The news that the Government would finally accept an Iraq inquiry was leaked to the media, not made to Parliament. Now the Prime Minister hopes to keep the announcement to boost his party’s annual conference.

“The public will not be deceived by any efforts by this Government, which has fought tooth and nail to delay an inquiry, to gain some political capital out of finally doing the right thing.”

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: “It would be totally wrong for the Prime Minister to announce this at the Labour Party conference in the autumn. Wrong because the announcement should be made now, and wrong because it should be made to the House of Commons first.”

The Government has said that the number of troops in Iraq would be reduced from about 4,000 to fewer than 400 by July 31 as part of a fundamental mission change. The remaining troops would be involved mainly in helping to train the Iraqi Navy.

The withdrawal of combat troops will be completed after Parliament has risen for the summer, so Mr Miliband must make any announcement on the nature of the inquiry beforehand, the former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told MPs.

Mr Miliband said that the inquiry would cover the conduct of the war and subsequent attempts to impose peace, as well as the run-up to the conflict. “We all know that building the peace in Iraq has been much more difficult than winning the war. The debates about de-Baathification and the disbandment of the Iraqi Army have been well aired and it is right that they are looked over again,” he said.

The precise terms would be likely to be agreed by the three party leaders. But Mr Hague said yesterday that a Conservative administration would seek to widen any review if it felt that it was not comprehensive enough.

It emerged that the Government was likely to follow the precedent of the Franks inquiry, set up after the 1983 Falklands conflict, for it to be conducted in private by a group of trusted Privy Counsellors — who could be given access to top-secret papers.

Mr Miliband said: “One advantage of a Franks-style inquiry is that it would preserve confidentiality, which is very, very important for our troops.”

He said later that Cabinet papers from the run-up to the Iraq war, which the Government has refused to put into the public domain, would be available to be scrutinised by the inquiry.

However, Mr Davey said that a Privy Council inquiry, which would be conducted by a former senior official or politician, should be prepared to sit some of the time in public. “The key questions and the key judgments that will have to be made are essentially political, not legal,” he said.

Movement towards inquiry

Iraq war inquiry likely to be held in private, hints David Miliband

Foreign secretary says investigation will be set up after UK combat troops leave country in July

Andrew Sparrow, senior political correspondent, Wednesday 25 March 2009 16.41 GMT

David Miliband gave a strong hint today that the long-awaited inquiry into the Iraq war will hear evidence in private when it is set up later this year.

Speaking in a debate in the Commons, the foreign secretary said that the inquiry would be set up after British combat troops leave Iraq at the end of July.

And, without giving details of the nature of the inquiry, he also spoke of the "advantage" of having one conducted along the lines of the Franks inquiry set up after the Falklands war.

"The fact that it was conducted in private meant that it had access to all the relevant papers," Miliband said.

The Franks inquiry was conducted by privy counsellors. "Franks was not a judicial inquiry so it did not require its witnesses to have lawyers," Miliband said. "There were no leaks or interim findings to distract from the final conclusions and recommendations of the inquiry."

The foreign secretary was speaking in a debate called by the Tories, who have been calling for an inquiry into the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq and the conduct of the occupation for years.

The government has accepted the case for an inquiry but has argued that it should not take place while British troops are still in action in Iraq. When Gordon Brown announced last year that most troops would leave by this summer, government officials would not say whether that would be the trigger for an inquiry, or whether the prime minister would continue to delay because some soldiers would remain in Iraq.

Today Miliband said the government would not wait until the last solider returned. "We are talking about combat troops, not every troop," he said.

There are 4,100 British troops still based in Iraq. A rapid withdrawal will start at the end of May, and by 31 July fewer than 400 troops will be left.

Asked by the Tory MP Edward Leigh whether that meant the government would set up an inquiry "as soon as practical after July 31", Miliband replied: "Yes."

The Tories, who are in favour of an inquiry by privy counsellors and of it having the option of holding some sessions in private, said that it was "alarming" that parliament would be in recess on 31 July. They said the government should announce the inquiry before MPs left Westminster for the summer holidays.

The Liberal Democrats also supported the idea of a privy council inquiry, rather than a judicial one, although the foreign affairs spokesman, Ed Davey, said that it should meet in public as much as possible.

Opening the debate for the Tories, the shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, said that setting up an inquiry would be "one of the first acts" of an incoming Conservative administration if it were not operating already. He added that the Tories would also seek to widen any review set up by the current government if they felt it was not comprehensive enough.

Hague told MPs that because of the time it would take to establish an inquiry, moves should be made immediately so that it was ready for work as soon as troops returned home.

He accused the government of seeking to delay the establishment of a review so that it would report after the next general election.

Hague said: "Ministers may delay in an effort to reduce the force and relevance of what they know must come, but in the end we will learn the necessary lessons and we will learn from what went wrong in the functioning of the machinery of government itself.

"There is an utter determination in most quarters of this house that we will get to the heart of these matters, and that the processes and the functions of government and maybe parliament will be improved as a result."

The pressure for an inquiry has been intense because many people believe that the war was illegal under international law and that Tony Blair, the then prime minister, twisted intelligence evidence in order to justify the invasion.

The government has always insisted the invasion was legal. Although the Butler inquiry into the use of intelligence in the run-up to the war criticised the way some intelligence was interpreted, it did not find any evidence that ministers intended to deceive the public.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Carne Ross calls for inquiry

Home > News > UK > UK Politics

Whistle-blower urges Iraq war public inquiry

Former diplomat tells of 'fundamental failure of transparency' in government

By Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor

Friday, 20 March 2009

A large number of secret documents detailing government blunders over Iraq remain buried in Whitehall, a Foreign Office whistle-blower said yesterday as he called for a full public inquiry into the war.

Carne Ross, formerly Britain's top Iraq specialist at the United Nations, protested that the Butler and Hutton inquiries had not fully examined the events leading to military action in 2003. He told MPs, who are investigating leaks and whistle-blowing by civil servants, that the intelligence available to the Foreign Office made it "very clear" that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. But he protested that he was not given a proper chance to raise his worries with ministers in the build-up to war.

Mr Ross resigned in 2004 as a civil servant after giving anonymous evidence to the Butler inquiry and is now an independent diplomat.

Giving evidence by videolink from New York to the Commons Public Administration Committee, he said: "I feel very strongly that there has still not been proper accountability and scrutiny into what happened in Iraq.

"There should be a full public inquiry or parliamentary inquiry into the decision-making that took place. Hutton and Butler are by no means sufficient to that purpose and it is disgraceful the Government pretends they are.

"A lot of facts about the run-up to this war have yet to come to light which should come to light and which the public deserves to know.

"There are many other people involved who have yet to tell their story and yet to have been questioned by you or Parliament or anyone else. There are many documents to come to light."

Mr Ross told the committee that officials were driven to desperate measures because of a "fundamental failure of transparency and accountability" within the Government.

He said he had tried to register his alarm over the rush to war during snatched conversations with ministers during their visits to New York, but he was aware of the danger of being labelled a "naïve troublemaker" by speaking out too forcefully.

Another whistle-blower, Brian Jones, the former head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Ministry of Defence's defence intelligence staff who was a key witness in the Hutton inquiry, said he was "surprised" that MPs did not spot the flaws in the September 2002 dossier that made the case for war.

Dr Jones, who told the Hutton inquiry of his suspicions that evidence was being manipulated, said: "I don't think it needed someone of my expertise to look at the dossier and see the difference between the prime minister's foreword and what was in the main body of the dossier."

He added: "I feel that you gentlemen have been either deliberately or accidentally misled and these incidents have not been followed up. I think that there has been a great laxity and that won't encourage people like me or my colleagues to come to you."

Gordon Brown has resisted calls from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for a public inquiry until all British troops have returned from Iraq, which delays any investigation until next year.

Last night a Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister's view had not changed. He added: "Both the Butler and Hutton inquiries had access to all of the papers they felt were necessary."

Katharine Gun, a former linguist at GCHQ who leaked details of an alleged plot to bug UN delegates before the Iraq war, told the committee that she had no choice but to break the Official Secrets Act.

She was initially charged with breaking the Act after leaking information to the press, only for the case against her to be dropped.

Ms Gun said she suspected that that had happened because ministers feared a jury would acquit her and thereby create a precedent which would encourage further leaking.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

72% in favour of Iraq inquiry

Page last updated at 05:08 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Majority 'want Iraq war inquiry'

Almost three quarters of British people believe there should be a public inquiry into the invasion of Iraq, an opinion poll suggests.

The BBC Radio 5 Live poll also found almost two thirds are not convinced UK soldiers should be kept in Afghanistan.

The vast majority of those surveyed believe serving in the British armed forces is a job to be proud of.

And opinion is split over whether Prince William should continue to be protected from frontline duties.

Military presence

The survey, conducted by ComRes for the BBC, found 72% of those questioned believe there should be an official inquiry into the UK's role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

This figure increases to 81% in the 18-24 age group.

Last year the government defeated Conservative attempts to force a public inquiry, saying it would be a "diversion" for UK troops serving in Iraq.

And in February Justice Secretary Jack Straw vetoed the publication of minutes of cabinet meetings discussing the legality of the war in the run-up to the invasion.

There were fresh calls for an inquiry last week after documents showed that intelligence chiefs were urged to make a key dossier on the Iraqi threat as "firm" as possible...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Political manipulation revealed

For democracy’s sake, end the secrecy over Iraq

Sunday Herald Editorial

THE "POLITICAL manipulation" of the government's case for war against Iraq in 2003 is now clearer than it has ever been. Last week saw the release of protected documents - which were kept well away from Lord Hutton in his inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly - and the critical description by the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, of the government's "dossier" of evidence which played such a key role in convincing both parliament and some of the public that the threat from Saddam Hussein's regime was real and imminent. These show the extent of the political duplicity that was a signature of this phase of Tony Blair's time in power.

Recall the fake outcry and controlled indignation there was from the government when it was accused of "sexing up" the notorious dossier. Recall the statements of denial from senior Cabinet ministers of any wrong-doing that were given to the Hutton Inquiry, especially the testimony of the then defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, or the material given to Hutton from Alastair Campbell, then effectively Britain's real deputy prime minister. Yet we now learn - and this comes as no surprise to newspapers such as this one which dug deep into the government's case and found it severely wanting - that there was a climate of disbelief among key defence and intelligence officials at how the case for war was being presented with qualified information offered up as certain and verified.

"Iffy drafting," saw attempts at moderated language being erased; caveats were removed and replaced on the government's orders; an insistence on concrete certainty over what weapons Saddam owned and when he planned to use them seems to have been the order of the day as Blair sought to create authenticity when none existed.

The harsh truth is that New Labour under Tony Blair, subverted Britain's democratic processes in the way it chose to spin the case for a war. Blair saw his masters as residing in the White House and chose to dismiss criticisms that existed within Whitehall in favour of supporting a war the United States had been determined to fight, regardless.

The same process of spin and cover-up were taken by Labour into the 2005 general election. The result of that poll reflected the degree to which Blair and New Labour had lost the trust of the electorate. But what would the result have been if the extent of the duplicity over Iraq had been revealed? It is unlikely Blair would have been able to survive as the leader of his party. The position of those inside the Cabinet who had supported Blair unconditionally - and this includes the then chancellor, Gordon Brown, who remained silent on Iraq - would have been equally difficult.

Hutton's conclusion and, equally, the conclusions of Lord Butler's follow-up investigation, have had their validity eroded by the release of these previously protected emails and memos.

Blair is now part of British political history and British troops in Iraq, along with their US counterparts, are near to the conclusion of their mission. So why is there a reluctance, in fact a flat refusal, by the government to hold a thorough and meaningful inquiry into this episode of UK foreign policy? There must be a fear within the already damaged and struggling Brown regime that an inquiry which threatened to reveal systematic and politically motivated manipulation of facts - "lies" is perhaps not too strong a word to use in this contect - would utterly destroy Labour's case for a fourth term.

The 2005 general election was fought under a cloud of spin and misinformation and we now face the prospect of the 2010 election being fought with the same tactics. By refusing to allow the facts of its own behaviour to be examined in a detailed inquiry, the government is effectively saying the that electorate has no right to know the full story. This isn't democracy, this is a sham version of democracy, worthy of a tin-pot dictatorship which treats voters as an inconvenience and where rights reside in those who hold, not authorise, power.

Having long called for a detailed investigation, this newspaper believes the case for an independent full-scale inquiry as now being politically critical for the health of democracy in the UK. The political conduct and decisions that took Britain to war in Iraq, which cost the lives of soldiers and Iraqi civilians, is an inside story that has been swathed in secrecy. The time for the truth is long overdue.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Desmond Bowen - political advisor?

Evening Standard blogs

Paul Waugh



New Iraq memos

A raft of new Iraq memos and emails have been finally published by the Cabinet Office today - and interesting reading they make.

Thanks to the tireless work of FoI campaigner Chris Ames, we now learn of memos on T Blair's infamous WMD dossier. The memos include emails from unnamed officials which veer from mickey-taking to warnings that a "misleading impression" could be given on the threat posed by Saddam.

But perhaps the most striking items are in "Document 7", a minute written by Desmond Bowen [then in the Cabinet Office Overseas and Defence Secretariat] to John Scarlett [then JIC chairman but now MI6 chief], and copied to Alastair Campbell, Jonathan Powell and David Manning.

"In looking at the WMD sections, you clearly want to be as firm and authoritative as you can be. You will need to judge the extent to which you need to hedge your judgements with, for example, "it is almost certain" and similar caveats.

"I appreciate that this can increase the authenticity of the document in terms of it being a proper assessment, but that needs to be weighed against the use that will be made by the opponents of action who will add up the number of judgements on which we do not have absolute clarity"

That sounds awfully like a man who is telling colleagues 'look the intelligence bods want more caveats but that will risk undermining our argument for war'. Is there any other way of interpreting this section?

Bowen, who is now policy director at the MoD, also adds an intruiging section at the end of his memo. "Finally, the question which we have to have in the back of our mind is' Why now?' I think we have moved away from promoting the idea that we are in imminent danger of attack and therefore intend to act in pre-emptive self-defence.

"The approach is rather that Saddam has failed to abide by UNSCRs and his flouting of international law and continuing acquisition of WMD cannot be tolerated any longer. This difference is important because the focus shifts to Saddam's continuing efforts to equip himself with WMD, which is what the evidence shows."

This is strange because the '45 minutes' from attack claim in the dossier - which Butler later found was based on unreliable sources - certainly does suggest that Britain could be under imminent attack.

UPDATE: Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey is now on the case. "The jigsaw of how the public were duped on Iraq is nearing completion. This confirms the widely held suspicion that advisers to Blair deliberately tweaked the presentation of intelligence to bolster the case for war."

FURTHER UPDATE: Whitehall sources tell me that Bowen was a senior intelligence official in the Cabinet office and his views should be seen in that light. This was not a spin doctor or political aide trying to make a case, it was the informed judgement of an intelligence expert being passed to an intelligence chief (Scarlett), they say. Alastair Campbell and the others were merely copied into the correspondence and so the suggestion of "political spin" does not enter the equation, I'm told.

Equally, it is suggested that Bowen was not trying to recommend that caveats be left out, but was merely pointing out that there was a judgement to be made - by Scarlett not the political staff - about the extent to which 'hedging' should be used.

8:30PM UPDATE: Now here's a thing. The Whitehall sources above may have got things wrong. I'm told by a different source that actually Mr Bowen was a policy official NOT an intelligence official. A former MoD staffer, he was sent to work with Manning at the Overseas and Defence Secretariat within the Cabinet Office.

So in fact what's happened here is an illustration of the problems with the system during the dossier's drafting. We have a policy guy writing to the intelligence guys (on the JIC) to suggest ways of presenting the intel. This underlines the heart of the issue that concerned some within the Defence Intelligence Staff: that the policy people were too close to the intelligence staff. Now admittedly, this was a dossier for public use rather than a JIC assessment. But given that Number 10 went out of its way to say the dossier was drafted by the intel people and as close to JIC assessments as you could get, that closeness is significant.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

DIS (and anyone else!) memos FOI released

Page last updated at 18:07 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Inquiry calls over Iraq dossier

Documents showing intelligence chiefs were urged to make a key dossier on the Iraqi threat as "firm" as possible have led to new calls for a war inquiry.

Intelligence head Sir John Scarlett was pressed in an e-mail to make analysis of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as "authoritative" as he could.

Details of this e-mail were released under a freedom of information request.

The Conservatives said the evidence was "damaging", while the Lib Dems said it showed the UK was "duped" into the war.

Critics of the war say the dossier, published in late 2002 as US pressure on Iraq was growing, was "sexed up" to press the case for military action against Saddam Hussein.

The Cabinet Office said the documents had been made available to the Hutton and Butler inquiries which examined the government's use of intelligence in the run-up to the war.

"Lord Butler and Lord Hutton confirmed that all intelligence judgements were made solely by the Joint Intelligence Committee with no political interference," a spokesman said.

'Absolute clarity'

Other documents released on Thursday appear to highlight concerns within British intelligence agencies about the dossier and its claims about the advanced state of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capability.

The dossier, published in September 2002, contained the controversial claim that Iraq could use biological and chemical weapons within 45 minutes of being ordered to do so.

As head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Sir John Scarlett - now head of M16 - was responsible for putting together the document - which the then prime minister Tony Blair used as part of his case for action against Iraq.

In an e-mail to Mr Scarlett on 11 September, Desmond Bowen - the then head of the Cabinet Office's defence secretariat - referred to a draft version of the dossier.

The e-mail was also sent to Alastair Campbell, No 10's Head of Communications, No 10 Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell and the prime minister's chief foreign policy adviser David Manning.

"In looking at the WMD sections, you clearly want to be as firm and authoritative as you can be," Mr Bowen wrote.

"You will need to judge the extent to which you need to hedge your judgements with, for example, 'it is almost certain' and similar caveats.

"I appreciate that this can increase the authenticity of the document in terms of it being a proper assessment but that needs to be weighed against the use that will be made by the opponents of action who will add up the number of judgements on which we do not have absolute clarity."


The dossier became the cause of a huge row between the BBC and Tony Blair's government following the invasion of Iraq and the failure to find WMD.

The Today programme's Andrew Gilligan reported that an unnamed senior official involved in drawing it up had told him parts of it - specifically a claim that Saddam could launch WMD at 45 minutes' notice - had been inserted against the wishes of the intelligence services even though the government "probably knew" the claim was wrong.

This led on to the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, the WMD specialist who killed himself just over a week after being named by the Ministry of Defence as the source for the BBC's report.

Lord Hutton's inquiry ruled that Mr Gilligan's report had been wrong because Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett had had ownership of the dossier and had agreed to everything included in it.

Lord Hutton also said the 45-minute claim - which was withdrawn 10 months later - was based on a report received by the intelligence services that they believed at the time to be reliable.

'Bolstering case'

Critics say too many caveats about Iraq's WMD capability were taken out of the final dossier to make the case for action against Saddam Hussein more convincing to the public.

"These minutes shed interesting light on the process by which the caveats in the Joint Intelligence Committee's original assessment of Iraq's WMD programme were stripped out of the dossier presented to Parliament and the British public," said shadow foreign secretary William Hague.

Reiterating his call for a full-scale inquiry into the origins of UK involvement in the invasion of Iraq, Mr Hague said there had a "steady stream of damaging revelations about the events leading up to the war".

For the Lib Dems, foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey said the documents "confirm the widely held suspicions that leading officials and political advisers close to Tony Blair were deliberately tweaking the presentation of the intelligence to bolster the case for war on Iraq".

The government has always maintained Iraq was a serious threat and it believed at the time that it had WMD capability.

Other e-mails released on Thursday showed that certain intelligence officials complained of "iffy drafting" in the dossier.

In one e-mail, an unnamed official says: "I note that the paper suggests that Saddam's biotech efforts have gone much further than we ever feared."

The official then refers to the claim that Iraq had "assembled specialists to work on its nuclear programme" and added: "Dr Frankenstein, I presume?"

The Cabinet Office said it could not disclose which agencies the officials cited worked for but said they were in "sensitive posts".

The documents were released after Information Commissioner Richard Thomas backed an FOI request to publish them.

Intelligence agencies were concerned about Iraq WMD dossier, emails reveal

British intelligence agencies were concerned that the Government's notorious dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction exaggerated the threat, secret emails have revealed.

Last Updated: 2:03PM GMT 12 Mar 2009

The emails show officials complained the document suggested Saddam Hussein's biological warfare programme was more advanced than they actually believed was the case.

The officials also complained of "iffy drafting" and mocked the claims made about Iraq's nuclear programme, ironically suggesting Dr Frankenstein could have been recruited by Baghdad.

The Cabinet Office, which released the documents following a ruling by the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, would not say which agency the unnamed officials worked for, but confirmed they were in "sensitive posts".

The original FOI request asked for comments made by "the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) or anyone else" on one of the final drafts of the dossier.

The Hutton Inquiry heard evidence of the concerns within the DIS about the dossier and the content of the emails suggests the officials involved may have worked for the agency, which includes many technical experts.

One, dated September 16, states: "I note that the paper suggests that Saddam's biotech efforts have gone much further than we ever feared. Page 4 Bullet 4: '(Iraq) has assembled specialists to work on its nuclear programme' – Dr Frankenstein I presume? Sorry. It's getting late..."

Another email supports a proposed drafting amendment to the report, but adds wearily: "We have suggested moderating the same language in much the same way on drafts from the dim and distant past without success. Feel free to try again!"

Memo that told Blair aides Saddam Hussein posed no imminent threat

Paul Waugh


Intelligence experts explicitly warned Tony Blair's aides that Britain was not in "imminent danger of attack" from Saddam Hussein, a confidential memo revealed today.

The row over claims that the Government "spun" its way into war with Iraq is likely to be reignited after the release of the document by the Cabinet Office.

The memo, released after a long-running Freedom of Information battle, shows Mr Blair's officials knew seven years ago that the threat from Saddam was not immediate.

Despite the warning, the Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction included a claim that Baghdad was ready to launch an attack within "45 minutes".

Lord Hutton cleared the Government in 2004 of the charge that it tried to manipulate intelligence to pave the way for war.

But today Whitehall released a memo from former Cabinet Office defence expert Desmond Bowen, who later won promotion to policy director at the Ministry of Defence, which shows he disagreed Saddam posed an immediate threat.

The September 2002 memo, written to then Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett and copied to Alastair Campbell, provides comments on an early draft of the government dossier on Iraq.

Mr Bowen wrote: "The question which we have to have in the back of our mind is 'why now?' I think we have moved away from promoting the idea that we are in imminent danger of attack and therefore intend to act in a pre-emptive self defence."

Another email published today underlines ministers' focus on how to get their message across in the media.

A memo from then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's office stresses the dossier had to be shown on the Sky News video "wall".

The email from Mr Straw's private secretary Mark Sedwill suggests the dossier needed a "very simple table".

Mr Sedwill wrote: "This should be brief enough to get onto the Sky wall ie no more than 5 bullets."

Another email, apparently from an intelligence official, says a part of the dossier on chemical and biological weapons would be "likely to give a misleading impression".

A further email, from unnamed officials, says "there is nothing we can point to that we know for sure is going to the BW [Biological Weapons] programme".

Mr Blair published the WMD dossier in September 2002, which critics believe paved the way for war the following spring.

An inquiry by Lord Butler found blunders in its compilation, with the "45 minutes" claim based on unreliable evidence.

A separate "dodgy dossier" was published in early 2003. It was discovered to have sections copied off the internet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Judith speaks out on Iran

U.S. journalist calls for Iran diplomacy

Print Date : Monday, March 9, 2009

Judy Miller, a controversial U.S. journalist who laid the foundation for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has called for diplomacy with Iran.

In a sudden shift from her prominent neoconservative outlook, Miller defended the Obama administration’s fence-mending plans for direct negotiations with Iranian dignitaries.

“I think that we had eight years of calling the Iranians names. … What we really need to do is give it the good college, try to see if there is a deal to be done,” the prominent hawkish figure said late Saturday.

The disgraced New York Times reporter turned Fox News analyst was nevertheless quick to recommend the “military option” as one to be considered.

“And let’s say it doesn’t succeed, and the Iranians continue on their merry way, trying to have a bomb and trying to have relations with the world. At least then America will be able to say we have tried negotiations without preconditions. We have done everything we can,” she added.

Miller’s shoddy reporting of Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction manipulated public opinion and significantly helped shape the Bush-era legerdemain that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Citing anonymous sources, Miller reported in late 2002 that Iraq had “stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.”

Her reports later turned out to be the courtesy of Ahmad Chalabi, a now-notorious Iraqi exile who spun tales about a bio-war sought and a chemical and nuclear arsenal owned by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Her misleading investigative reports, which powered the Bush administration’s propaganda drive toward the Iraq war, struck a blow to the credibility of the New York Times.

The Times attempted to save face by publishing a belated mea culpa article that insisted that the daily had in fact become a victim of “misinformation from these exile sources”.

Miller announced her retirement from the New York Times on November 9, 2005, after a controversial 28-year career.

“WMD -- I got it totally wrong … The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them -- we were all wrong. If your sources are wrong, you are wrong,” she later confessed.

(Source: Press TV)

Brock wins award

Rescue dog Brock handed 'friends for life' gong

5:38pm Tuesday 10th March 2009

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By Alex Hayes »

A BUCKS rescue dog who found the body of Dr David Kelly scooped a top prize at Crufts.

Brock, who is a member of the Chitern search and rescue team, was awarded first place in the friends for life category at the world famous show on Sunday.

The collie-cross hit the headlines in 2003 after finding the body of Dr Kelly, who killed himself after it was revealed he leaked information to the BBC about “sexed up” dossiers before the Iraq war.

The category was voted for by members of the public. His handler, Louise Holmes, is the treasurer of the Buckinghamshire search and rescue team.

Michael Shrimpton misrepresented?

Ofcom clears BBC documentary on David Kelly death

9 March 2009

By Paul McNally

Ofcom has rejected a complaint from a lawyer who claimed he had been unfairly treated in a BBC documentary on the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly.

Michael Shrimpton complained to the broadcasting regulator that an interview he gave for David Kelly: The Conspiracy Files, which was broadcast on BBC2 in February 2007, was unfairly edited and used without his consent.

The programme looked at the various questions that had been raised following Kelly's death in July 2003.

It featured interviews with doctors, lawyers, security experts and politicians who had all questioned the official account and put forward a range of theories about how he died.

Shrimpton was one of the interviewees in the programme who considered that Kelly had not killed himself, as the Hutton Inquiry ruled in 2004, but had instead been murdered.

He said in the programme: "I was contacted within about 24 hours by somebody working with David Kelly in the intelligence community and he said he'd been murdered and I wasn't particularly surprised at that and given the source I had no doubts whatsoever that he'd been murdered from that time."

Shrimpton claimed he had been misled into taking part in the programme and his interview had been unfairly edited to cut out what he said were the main points in his argument.

He also said he had been unfairly portrayed as a "crank" and a conspiracy theorist.

In its response, the BBC said the programme-makers explained the nature of the documentary fully to Shrimpton.

The corporation said he was given "adequate time and space to ensure that his views were fairly and accurately presented" and there was no evidence that his opinions had been misrepresented.

Ofcom ruled that Shrimpton had indeed been given sufficient information about the programme to be able to give informed consent for his participation.

"It was clear from a series of emails between the parties that Mr Shrimpton was aware of the tenor of the programme," the regulator said.

"Ofcom took the view that, although he had some reservations about the programme, Mr Shrimpton did not seek to withdraw his consent for his interview to be used."

It added: "Mr Shrimpton was, fairly, portrayed as a being an adherent to a theory that Dr Kelly was murdered by assassins.

"Mr Shrimpton's portrayal in the programme was not unfair. Ofcom found no unfairness to Mr Shrimpton in this respect."