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WMD expert reopens row about 'sexed-up' dossier

By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor

16 February 2005

A letter by the head of MI6 allegedly seeking to "sex up" a dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction should be released under the Freedom Of Information Act, the former head of the MoD intelligence branch said last night.

Brian Jones, ex-head of the Defence Intelligence Staff, spoke out after Rod Barton, an Australian member of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), reopened the dispute over the "sexing up" of the government dossier on WMD that led to the suicide of David Kelly, another weapons specialist.

Dr Barton, a microbiologist who worked for Australian intelligence for more than 20 years, said John Scarlett, then head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, asked for "new elements" to be included in a draft report he was producing on the WMD in Iraq. The head of the ISG, Charles Duelfer, refused.

Dr Barton told Australia's ABC TV: "Both Washington and London wanted other things put in to make it - I can only use these words - to make it sexier.

"We left the impression that, yes, maybe there were ... WMD out there. So I thought it was dishonest. Dr Barton, who joined the United Nations' search for Saddam's illicit arsenal in 1991, said the censorship in the US investigation began after Charles Duelfer became the head of the ISG last February.

He claimed Mr Duelfer wanted "a different style of report altogether", which he had discussed with President George Bush and the CIA.

"I said to him, 'I believe it's dishonest,'" Dr Barton told the programme. "If we know certain things and we're asked to provide a report, we should say what we found and what we haven't found and put that in the report."

Dr Barton said the report was not allowed to mention two trailers held at the ISG camp which the CIA had previously labelled mobile biological weapon laboratories. "They were nothing to do with biology," he said. "We believed that they were hydrogen generators."

The Foreign Office denied Dr Barton's claims and said that they had been investigated by two public inquiries and had been found to be untrue. Dr Jones said: "I know Rod Barton well and he is a very sound guy and a very honourable man."

He said Dr Barton resigned from the ISG after the letter from Mr Scarlett. "What he says is worth listening to and worth thinking about. It does raise the question of what was in the letter that Scarlett wrote."

Dr Jones added that the letter went beyond the realms of intelligence into diplomacy and could be opened to public scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act. The Government is likely to reject a request for disclosure on grounds of national security. But anti-war Labour MPs are certain to take up the calls for disclosure.

Dr Barton also claimed he reported prisoner abuse at a second Iraqi prison in addition to Abu Ghraib where well-documented abuse by US troops took place. He said on ABC TV in Australia that he reported prisoner abuse at Camp Cropper at Baghdad airport. "My prisoner abuse wasn't at Abu Ghraib. It was at Camp Cropper,'' he said. Dr Barton said he had reported it to the Australian authorities, and was angry when the Australian parliament was told that no Australians had been involved.

Meanwhile, the Government was accused of "deplorable" behaviour for refusing to reveal when ministers sought advice on the legality of the Iraq war.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, said ministers were wrong to withhold the information. But the Foreign Office rejected her findings, saying it could prevent frank discussion of such matters in the future.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, the Liberal Democrat peer, who complained to Ms Abraham, said: "It is deplorable that the Government refuses to comply with the Parliamentary Ombuds man's recommendation. It is Kafkaesque."