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Jonathan Powell's memo,13822,1048495,00.html

Blair aide boosted dossier threat

Last minute intervention told intelligence chiefs to harden danger of Saddam's chemical weapons Richard Norton-Taylor and Nicholas Watt

Wednesday September 24, 2003 The Guardian

One of the prime minister's closest aides instructed intelligence chiefs to change the government's Iraqi weapons dossier to make it appear that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was much greater than they believed.
A document shown yesterday to the Hutton inquiry shows Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff, asked the joint intelligence committee to redraft a passage in the dossier to state that Saddam had plans to use chemical or biological weapons against the west.

His request - likely to be seized on by those who believe No 10 "sexed up" the dossier - was sent by Mr Powell by email shortly after the deadline for final comments on the dossier before publication.

"I think the statement... that 'Saddam is prepared to use chemical and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat' is a bit of a problem", Mr Powell told John Scarlett, chairman of the joint intelligence committee, and Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's communications chief.

He added: "It backs up... the argument that there is no CBW (chemical and biological warfare) threat and we will only create one if we attack him. I think you should redraft the para. My memory of the intelligence is that he [Saddam] has set up plans to use CBW on western forces."

The email was shown at the Hutton inquiry yesterday to Mr Scarlett by Andrew Caldecott QC, counsel for the BBC. Mr Scarlett was also shown a draft of the dossier dated September 19 - the day Mr Powell sent his email - which included the phrase that Saddam was "prepared to use chemical or biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat".

The dossier which was published on September 24 2002 omitted this passage. Instead, it said only that intelligence "indicates" Saddam is willing to use such weapons "including against his own Shia population", before adding the disputed claim that they could be deployed within 45 minutes.

Mr Caldecott told Mr Scarlett that the effect of the change was to remove the suggestion that Saddam was only a defensive threat and imply he was an "offensive threat".

Yesterday, Mr Scarlett told the inquiry that Mr Powell's email prompted him to look again at the passage in the draft dossier. He said he and his colleagues found "there was no standing JIC assessment which made it clear whether we were defining Saddam's threat, if you like, as defensive or... offensive".

They also found recent and "quite clear" intelligence that placed Saddam's "attachment to CBW and the importance he placed on it very much in the context of his perception of his regional position, his plans to acquire and maintain regional influence", said Mr Scarlett.

Mr Scarlett added: "In other words, the recent intelligence was more complex" than the draft dossier implied.

Mr Powell faced further embarrassment when the inquiry heard he described Dr Kelly as a "rogue element". Jeremy Gompertz QC, counsel for the Kelly family, seized on the remarks in an attempt to show that No 10 orchestrated a campaign to smear the scientist.

Mr Powell's comments were made in the course of a series of questions and answers about Dr Kelly which were designed to help the Ministry of Defence as it drew up a briefing note for journalists after the announcement that an individual - later revealed to be Dr Kelly - had admitted that he had met Andrew Gilligan.

The final question asked whether this disclosure proved that the cabinet minister, John Reid, was wrong to have blamed "rogue elements" in the security services for briefing against ministers. Mr Powell's answer said: "Yes. This rogue element was not part of the intelligence services at all!"

No 10 faced another difficult moment when Mr Blair's official spokesman admitted releasing personal details about Dr Kelly in an attempt to undermine the BBC. Tom Kelly, who was asked about Alastair Campbell's claim in his diary that the "biggest thing" was to out the scientist, said he gave the details to challenge a BBC statement insisting Dr Kelly could not have been its source.

"I genuinely wanted to protect Dr Kelly's identity but I had to explain the discrepancies between the BBC statement and the MoD statement," he said. ".....In the memo, Mr Powell called for a section of the dossier to be "redrafted" because, he argued, it painted the former Iraqi leader as a threat only if he was attacked by coalition forces and did not emphasise the danger of Iraq launching its own unprovoked attack using chemical and biological weapons.

Mr Powell's suggested changes were incorporated into the dossier by Mr Scarlett, another figure expected to be criticised.

The memo, which was released publicly during Lord Hutton's inquiry last year into the death of Dr David Kelly, said: "I think you should redraft the para. My memory of the intelligence is that he has set up plans to use CBW on Western forces." Whitehall officials who have seen sections of Lord Butler's report claim that the peer saw Mr Powell's phrase of "my memory of the intelligence" as the clearest possible sign that his role in assessing and presenting key intelligence was much wider than his post as an unelected political adviser justified..."

Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's director of communications, who suggested changes to the dossier, many of which were incorporated by the JIC, will also be criticised, say officials. But the force of any rebukes aimed at Mr Campbell will be diminished by the fact that he moved on from Downing Street last summer.

Mr Powell, by contrast, carried on and his influence over Mr Blair increased after Mr Campbell left. A Whitehall official said: "Going for Jonathan is the closest you can get to the Prime Minister without hitting him."

As well as singling out Mr Powell, Lord Butler is also likely to make more general criticisms of Mr Blair's style of command and to take him to task for "effectively suspending Cabinet government".

Officials said the former Cabinet Secretary would take issue with the "informality" of decision-making at No 10, where a small group of mostly unelected advisers met without civil servants present.

Mr Scarlett, who was recently and controversially promoted by Mr Blair to be the head of MI6 from next month, is also braced for criticism. It is understood that his decision to take "ownership" of the dossier, then apparently to allow changes to be made at the behest of No 10, has attracted criticism.

A former intelligence chief told The Telegraph that he feared Lord Butler had uncovered a "failure of intelligence collection, assessment and political leadership" that would greatly damage MI6 and lead to sweeping changes.

However, Robin Cook, the former Cabinet minister, has advised against over-emphasising Mr Scarlett's role.

The former foreign secretary and Commons leader, who quit the Cabinet over the war, argued that Mr Blair should take the blame. He told Today on Radio Four that mistakes were made on both sides of the Atlantic: "The governments had made up their minds that Saddam had weapons and must be a threat. They had made up their minds they were going to war. The intelligence agencies were then left in the position of finding intelligence to support the conclusion.

"It should have been the other way around - you look with intelligence and then build your policy based on what you know."

Lord Butler has had to preside, it is understood, over a split in his committee over how hard his conclusions should be. Arguing in favour of a softer line have been Ann Taylor, the former Cabinet minister and current chairman of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, and Sir John Chilcot, an ex-senior civil servant.

In favour of a tougher line were Michael Mates, the Tory MP, and Lord Inge, the former chief of the defence staff.;sessionid=2UDSUDXLPUE4RQFIQMFCM5OAVCBQYJVC?xml=/news/2003/09/24/nkell24.xml&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=60428

Iraqi dossier was hardened up after email from Blair's aide

(Filed: 24/09/2003)

The September dossier that made the case for war against Iraq was strengthened at the last moment following a request from Downing Street to remove the qualification that Saddam Hussein would only use chemical and biological weapons if attacked.

The change, which followed a memo from Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, was carried out without the specific consent of all members of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Britain's supreme intelligence body.

It left the impression that Saddam was prepared to use the weapons in an attack, rather than as a last resort if his regime were under threat.

The crucial alteration was disclosed to the Hutton Inquiry yesterday during the cross-examination of John Scarlett, the chairman of the JIC, and the man charged with the dossier's production. He admitted that on Sept 19 last year, five days before the dossier was published, he changed the passage in a final draft without consulting the committee.

The original passage stated: "Intelligence indicates that as part of Iraq's military planning Saddam is prepared to use chemical and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat."

In an email to Mr Scarlett, Mr Powell said that the implication was that there was no chemical or biological threat unless the British and Americans created one by attacking. That, he said, supported the views of critics of military action.

Mr Powell said it was "a bit of a problem" and "I think you should redraft the para". The published dossier said: "Intelligence indicates that as part of Iraq's military planning Saddam is willing to use chemical and biological weapons."

In his evidence, Mr Scarlett vehemently denied that he had been pressed into the change. He said he had been "prompted" to revisit available intelligence by the email, but the change was his work.

He said that he had acted under "delegated authority" as the JIC chairman.

The Government has maintained that the dossier's value resided in it being the "property" of the whole JIC.

The inquiry is examining the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly, the biological and chemical weapons expert.