04 February 2004
By Paul Waugh, Deputy Political Editor
The intelligence official whose revelations stunned the Hutton inquiry has suggested that not a single defence intelligence expert backed Tony Blair's most contentious claims on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
As Mr Blair set up an inquiry yesterday into intelligence failures before the war, Brian Jones, the former leading expert on WMD in the Ministry of Defence, declared that Downing Street's dossier, a key plank in convincing the public of the case for war, was "misleading" on Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological capability. Writing in today's Independent, Dr Jones, who was head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) until he retired last year, reveals that the experts failed in their efforts to have their views reflected.
Dr Jones, who is expected to be a key witness at the new inquiry, says: "In my view, the expert intelligence analysts of the DIS were overruled in the preparation of the dossier in September 2002, resulting in a presentation that was misleading about Iraq's capabilities."
He calls on the Prime Minister to publish the intelligence behind the Government's claims that Iraq was actively producing chemical weapons and could launch an attack within 45 minutes of an order to do so. He is "extremely doubtful" that anyone with chemical and biological weapons expertise had seen the raw intelligence reports and that they would prove just how right he and his colleagues were to be concerned about the claims.
Downing Street was triumphant last week when Lord Hutton ruled that Andrew Gilligan's claims that the dossier was "sexed up" were unfounded, but Dr Jones's comments are bound to boost the case of the BBC and others that the dossier failed to take into account the worries of intelligence officials. Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, said yesterday that he might not have supported military action against Baghdad if he had known that Iraq lacked weapons of mass destruction.
Acutely aware of the American inquiry into the war, Mr Blair said that a committee of inquiry would investigate "intelligence-gathering, evaluation and use" in the UK before the conflict in Iraq. Lord Butler of Brockwell, the former cabinet secretary, will chair the five-strong committee, which will meet in private. The Liberal Democrats refused to support the inquiry because they said that its remit was not wide enough.
Dr Jones was the man whose decision to give evidence electrified the Hutton inquiry as he disclosed that he had formally complained about the dossier. The Government attempted to dismiss his complaints as part of the normal process of "debate" within the DIS and claimed that other sections of the intelligence community were better qualified to assess the 45-minute and chemical production claims.
But today Dr Jones makes clear that he was not alone and declares that the whole of the Defence Intelligence Staff, Britain's best qualified analysts on WMD, agreed that the claims should have been "carefully caveated". Furthermore, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which allowed the contentious claims to go into the dossier, lacked the expertise to make a competent judgement on them.
Dr Jones makes clear that it was John Scarlett, the chairman of the JIC, who was responsible for including the controversial claims in the executive summary of the dossier that was used to justify war. It was Mr Scarlett's strong assessment that allowed Alastair Campbell to "translate a probability into a certainty" in Mr Blair's foreword to the document, Dr Jones adds.
He says he foresaw at the time of the Government's dossier in September 2002 that no major WMD stockpiles would be found. He made a formal complaint about the dossier to avoid himself and his fellow experts being cast as "scapegoats" for any such failure.
In his article, Dr Jones warns that intelligence analysts should not be blamed for the lack of any significant finds in Iraq and points out that it was the "intelligence community leadership" the heads of MI6 and MI5 and Mr Scarlett who were responsible for the dossier. It would be a "travesty" if the DIS was criticised over the affair, he says.
Dr Jones complains that he and others were not allowed to see vital intelligence supporting the 45-minute and chemical production claims.
He reveals, however, that he has discovered from a colleague that the reports from the ground did not meet his and others' concerns about the wording of the JIC's assessments. Also, he says, the Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence, Tony Cragg, did not see the supposedly clinching intelligence and took on trust assurances from MI6 that it was credible.
The Government yesterday finally slipped out its response to the Intelligence and Security Committee's report last autumn on the intelligence case in the approach to war.
For the first time ministers conceded that they "understand the reasoning" for the committee's criticism that the presentation of the 45-minute claim in the dossier "allowed speculation as to its exact meaning", including the firing of WMD on long-range missiles. But the Government said it had not linked the claim to ballistic missiles.
It also rejected the MPs' call for complaints such as that of Dr Jones to be sent direct to the JIC chairman. "It is important to preserve the line management authority of JIC members," it said.
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd