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MI6 boss 'tried to sex up' Iraq study

Antony Barnett, public affairs editor

Sunday May 15, 2005

The Observer

Sir John Scarlett, head of MI6, has been accused of trying 'to sex up' a report by the Iraq Survey Group, the body charged with finding weapons of mass destruction after Saddam Hussein was toppled. In an exclusive interview, Dr Rod Barton, a former senior weapons inspector in Iraq, has revealed extraordinary details of how Scarlett and a top Ministry of Defence official intervened in a report by the ISG early last year.

Barton, who has worked for Australian intelligence for more than 20 years, was a special adviser to the ISG in 2004 as it prepared to report that they had found no WMD or any programmes to build them. Such a report would have been politically damaging in London in the aftermath of the David Kelly affair.

Speaking from Canberra, Barton describes how in January last year he received a visit in Baghdad from Martin Howard, deputy chief of defence intelligence at the MoD. Howard had been criticised for helping to 'out' Kelly as the source of Andrew Gilligan's BBC story alleging Downing Street had 'sexed up' the September dossier on Iraq's WMD.

Barton alleges Howard 'spelt out' that Britain's preferred option was that a proposed 200-page ISG interim report should not be published at that stage. Barton claims the CIA overruled their UK counterparts. He alleges that after this Scarlett, then chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, tried to get 'nuggets' placed into a shorter report to imply that Saddam did have a WMD programme.

According to Barton, these were based on old evidence that had been investigated and shown to be false. It is understood to include suggestions that Saddam was developing a smallpox weapon and using research to create a nuclear programme.

Barton added: 'The US has finally come to terms with the fact they got it dead wrong. The UK is lagging far behind. They still haven't come to terms with it.'