Back to warmwell.com website


October 28 2004

"Blair used intelligence as PR tool"
 
Excerpts:
 
"The function of intelligence is to speak truth unto power. If it doesn't do that, it fails and I felt somebody had to speak up for intelligence standards. I did that. I got sacked and I don't regret it for a moment.".....

Mr Morrison once again said Mr Blair had been wrong to call Saddam Hussein a "threat".

"In intelligence terms, threat is a combination of capability and intention," he said. "If you have got the capability but you don't intend to do anyone any harm, you are not a threat.

"If you have got the intention but not the capability, then again you are not a threat.

"Now, we all thought Saddam had some weapons of mass destruction capability but there was never any realistic suggestion that he intended to use it.

"The only circumstances we thought ... he might use it was as a last resort if he was attacked.

"In the end, as we know, he did not have any WMD so he could not have been a threat in the correct intelligence term."

Mr Morrison said the contentious claim that Saddam could launch WMD in 45 minutes was given prominence in the government's dossier because "it was striking, it implied there was an immediate threat".

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1337917,00.html

10.45am

Blair 'used intelligence as PR tool'

Matthew Tempest and agencies
Thursday October 28, 2004


An intelligence chief who lost his job after challenging the government's claims on Iraq today suggested intelligence had been used as a "PR tool" since Tony Blair came to power - including over Kosovo and Operation Desert Fox in Iraq.

John Morrison lost his job as the intelligence and security committee's chief investigator after criticising the prime minister's claims that Saddam Hussein was a "threat" on the BBC's Panorama programme earlier this year.

Today he returned to the fray with an interview on Radio 4's Today programme - the outlet which first broadcast the allegations that the government's Iraq dossier had been "sexed up" - and said there was media pressure on intelligence officials during both the bombing missions over Iraq codenamed Operation Desert Fox and the Kosovo conflict.

He said: "There was a culture of news management which came in after 1997 which I had not seen before and intelligence got swept up in that."

In the interview he makes two specific new allegations: that individual analysts were put under pressure to produce favourable intelligence during the Operation Desert Fox bombing campaign against Iraqi sites thought to hold weapons of mass destruction, and that during the Kosovo bombing campaign, intelligence was used as a "PR tool".

On Desert Fox, he said: "I was under pressure and my analysts were under pressure to say the next day this had been a great success. You can't do that." "It got to the point that individual analysts were being rung up by the press office and being asked to say 'this is great, isn't it?'. I wasn't having that."

Mr Morrison said the pressure did not necessarily come from outside the Ministry of Defence but the press office were looking to provide information for 10 Downing Street's news management "grid".

When it came to the Kosovo campaign, Mr Morrison said: "Once bitten, twice shy."

"What I did, in effect, was within my crisis staff, set up in effect my own press office to handle the MoD press office.

"I took a very senior and tough-minded analyst and told him 'This is your job, to keep the press office off the analysts' backs and make sure we only say in public what we are absolutely certain about'.

"We were under constant pressure to field talking heads at the press conference, to have themes for individual days and it was a very tricky balance not to reveal what one shouldn't."

Mr Morrison said that in the case of Kosovo, he did not think there was "any attempt deliberately to distort". He told the Today programme: "I had the feeling at the time that intelligence was being seen as a PR tool.

"I think, in that case, it was over-enthusiasm rather than a pressure to distort. I don't think they understood the problems of battle damage assessment."

The MoD immediately responded, issuing a statement to Today: "At the time of operations there is a thirst for information in the media which the press office tries to satisfy within reasonable limits.

"The press office will work closely with all parts of the department, including the Defence Intelligence Service, to obtain this information.

"John Morrison is quite clear in his interview with the Today programme that he doesn't allege any improper pressure or misuse of intelligence occurred during the two operations in question."

Mr Morrison said he had no regrets over the Panorama interview. "I felt somebody had to speak up about the misuse of intelligence by MI6, in not handling it properly, the misuse of intelligence by the senior management in the Defence Intelligence Staff and misuse of intelligence terminology by the prime minister in talking about a threat when no threat existed," he said.

The ex-deputy director of defence intelligence had told Panorama there was a "collective raspberry" at Mr Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein threatened Britain.

Mr Morrison was later told his contract with the Committee, which monitors the intelligence services on the prime minister's behalf, would not be renewed.

Mr Morrison once again said Mr Blair had been wrong to call Saddam Hussein a "threat".

"In intelligence terms, threat is a combination of capability and intention," he said. "If you have got the capability but you don't intend to do anyone any harm, you are not a threat.

"If you have got the intention but not the capability, then again you are not a threat.

"Now, we all thought Saddam had some weapons of mass destruction capability but there was never any realistic suggestion that he intended to use it.

"The only circumstances we thought ... he might use it was as a last resort if he was attacked.

"In the end, as we know, he did not have any WMD so he could not have been a threat in the correct intelligence term."

Mr Morrison said the contentious claim that Saddam could launch WMD in 45 minutes was given prominence in the government's dossier because "it was striking, it implied there was an immediate threat".

The lesson of the Butler inquiry was that "we need to be professional in the intelligence community and not to let enthusiasm carry one away".

"You can actually have a grown-up discussion in public without prejudicing intelligence sources and methods," he continued.

"The function of intelligence is to speak truth unto power. If it doesn't do that, it fails and I felt somebody had to speak up for intelligence standards. I did that. I got sacked and I don't regret it for a moment."