The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, June 06, 2003

UK: WMD intelligence story staggers on - but no smoking gun on display

The hacks are doing what they can to keep the story of dirty dealings by HMG in relation to intelligence on Iraqi WMDs in the runup to war.

And some, at least, in the UKIC are feeding them.

The BBC - home of Andrew Gilligan, Number 10 hate figure extraordinaire, who caused the last spasm in the affaire - has a new revelation, it seems: a piece (June 5 1539 EDT) says of the UK dossier which included the infamous 45 minutes claim (my piece June 5) that
A source close to British intelligence has told BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason that Downing Street returned draft versions of the dossier to the Joint Intelligence Committee "six to eight times".
And that the source said that
...Prime Minister Tony Blair was involved in the process at one point.

The London Independent has a different story (June 6), but one which also tends to undermine HMG's line:
Officers at MI5 and military intelligence maintain that MI6 was so eager to please the Government over Iraq, and to preserve its jealously guarded access to No 10, that "short cuts" were taken.

MI6 officers, it is claimed, often approached Downing Street directly, without passing on information through the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). Although MI6 was entitled to do so, it meant that the information did not go through the JIC's "filtering" process.

Blair has relied much on assertions that the JIC acted independently of political manipulation [1].

The piece goes on to say:
According to senior Whitehall sources, much of the intelligence on Iraq's WMD, which No 10 said "passed daily across Tony Blair's desk", came from "raw" MI6 intelligence. Other "information" received by No 10, security sources believe, came from Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, and Paul Wolfowitz, his deputy, without JIC involvement. Mr Wolfowitz set up the Office of Special Plans to harden resolve against Iraq.

[It's fair to say that the piece is somewhat confusing: having attributed the gripes to
MI5 and military intelligence,
it goes on to quote a source saying that
The consternation is much more in the SIS [MI6] than the Security Service [MI5] and Defence Intelligence.
But the next sentence reads:
The way SIS was forever running off to Downing Street, there was always the feeling that some day things will go wrong, and that is what has happened.

If SIS were so worried about casualness in dealing with intelligence, perhaps they should have damned well stopped running round to Number 10 every five minutes! Is this lunacy amongst the spooks or bad journalism? (Or my having missed the point.) I'm not sure.]

It keeps things messy for Blair just has his triumph over those seeking a public enquiry on the issue had made it seem the story might die down.

But the point as made before (as in my other piece of yesterday on the subject) still stands: we're miles away from any smoking gun that could be terminal for Blair. And the chance of one turning up is pretty small.

  1. As, for instance, during PMQ's in the Commons on Wednesday (June 4):
    The intelligence that formed the basis of the dossier that we put out last September was based on Joint Intelligence Committee assessments. There was never any question of Ministers, officials or anyone else trying to override that.

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