http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/06/08/nwmd08.xml

No 10 says sorry to MI6 for 'dodgy' Iraq dossier

By Colin Brown and Francis Elliott
(Filed: 08/06/2003)


Tony Blair's closest adviser has written a personal letter apologising
to Sir Richard Dearlove, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service,
for discrediting the service with the release to journalists last
January of the so-called "dodgy dossier" on Iraq and weapons of mass
destruction.

The disclosure that Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's director of
strategy and communications, apologised to the head of MI6 for the
dossier, Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and
Intimidation, will fuel claims that Downing Street was involved in
"doctoring" intelligence reports before the war.

The Telegraph has learnt that Mr Campbell put his apology in writing to
end a potentially damaging row with the intelligence service over the
dossier after it was revealed that parts were lifted via the internet
from a 12-year-old thesis by an American student.

Senior intelligence officers were furious that randomly assembled
material had been combined with MI6 intelligence reports by the
coalition information centre, a special unit set up by Mr Campbell
inside the Foreign Office.

The information was not put through the normal checks in Whitehall,
including the approval of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC),
chaired by John Scarlett, before it was published. One highly placed
intelligence officer disowned the document at the time, saying: "We are
not responsible for this bastard offspring."

It is not clear whether the apology to Sir Richard - known as "C" - was
written on the orders of the Prime Minister or on Mr Campbell's own
initiative. He will be questioned about the disclosure by MPs who are
investigating allegations that Mr Blair "duped" the country to hasten
the war on Iraq, made by Clare Short, the former International
Development Secretary, in The Telegraph last week.

Senior members of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, chaired
by the Labour MP Donald Anderson, said that they would summon Mr
Campbell to give evidence. Mr Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign
Secretary, will be called as well. "We will want to question Mr Campbell
about his role in this," said one senior Labour member of the committee.

The Prime Minister, Mr Campbell and Mr Straw will be called to give
evidence by the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is carrying
out a parallel inquiry. The ISC, which reports direct to Mr Blair, will
reveal in its annual report tomorrow that it called on the Prime
Minister to co-operate with an inquiry into the use of intelligence
reports on Iraq by Downing Street a month ago. Committee members were
annoyed that Mr Blair had refused to give his approval until last week,
when the pressure for an inquiry became intense.

"We asked him in early May to co-operate. He has only replied now
because of the pressure," said one MP on the committee. Mr Blair is
continuing to resist Tory demands for a full judicial independent
inquiry into claims that he misled the country with two intelligence
dossiers.

In a report last September, which was attacked by Ms Short, Mr Blair
claimed that Saddam Hussein was able to deploy weapons of mass
destruction within 45 minutes. This report was cleared by the JIC and
the intelligence service remains convinced, like Mr Blair, that its
assertions will be proved to be accurate.

Mr Campbell has never publicly admitted his role in the preparation of
the much more controversial January document. That second dossier,
passed to journalists on Mr Blair's trip to Washington to discuss war
plans, said it drew upon "a number of sources, including intelligence
material".

The second dossier prompted widespread criticism of the quality of
British intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq. A senior
Whitehall official said: "It devalued the currency, there is no question
about that. There is a dispute about who saw what. But it is clear that
the Joint Intelligence Committee was not involved. It was a monumental
cock-up."