Thursday, March 24, 2005
"The government didn’t withhold it in the public interest, it withheld it in the government’s interest": Sir Menzies Campbell
Channel 4's revelation last night was that Mrs Elizabeth Wilmshurst's memo to Michael Wood contained the following paragraph - subsequently censored "in the public interest" - but, luckily for the public interest, obtained by Channel 4.
- "..My views accord with the advice that has been given consistently in this Office (the foreign office legal team office) before and after the adoption of UN security council resolution 1441 and with what the Attorney General gave us to understand was his view prior to his letter of 7 March. (The view expressed in that letter has of course changed again into what is now the official line.)"
The government's efforts to place the blame for the use of flawed intelligence on the intelligence services themselves, has also been intensified in the past 24 hours with the spectacle of Jack Straw responding to the criticims of the Butler Inquiry. "The government has tightened controls on the processing of secret intelligence.." And another government assumption that the electorate are blind, dumb, deaf and, frankly, complete suckers. It was not the Intelligence Services themselves who manipulated some strands of suspect hearsay into a case for war.
On January 25 2004 the
Sunday Herald's headline was:
Spy chiefs warn PM: don't blame us for war They were premature by a little over a year , it seems.
In the article, the UK's intelligence chiefs "launched a pre-emptive strike against Tony Blair", believing that it was the Hutton Report, about to be published, that would result in "an attempt by the Prime Minister and his senior Cabinet colleagues to blame the intelligence services for the shoddy information which was used by the government to convince the British people and parliament that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were a threat to the UK."
The senior members of the intelligence community included those from:
The Defence Intelligence Staff, which helped supply intelligence for Blair's disputed September 2002 WMD dossier; the Joint Intelligence Organisation, which includes John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC); and MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, the main agency responsible for gathering the intelligence which went into the dossier.
The key points made at the time were:
- "Many had been openly sceptical about the presence of WMD in Iraq for years.
The intelligence community was under pressure to provide the government with what it wanted, namely that Iraq possessed WMD and was a danger.
Intelligence was "cherry-picked", with damning intelligence against Iraq being selectively chosen, while intelligence assessments, which might have worked against the build-up to war, were sidelined. Intelligence work had become politicised under Labour , and spies were taking orders from politicians. They provided worst-case scenarios which were used by politicians to make factual claims."