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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Saturday, September 06, 2003

CIA @ JIC - why not mentioned to Hutton?

Red herring or genuine clue?

Recapping, a key element in the affair of the notorious September dossier is the UK Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC, pronounced jic), of which (Sir?) John Scarlett is Chairman. In his own words in evidence to the Inquiry (29:21)
The Joint Intelligence Committee is a real
22 Committee. It meets once a week. It is chaired by
23 myself. It meets in the Cabinet Office. It has sitting
24 on it senior representatives of the policy and
25 intelligence community, foreign, defence and security

1 fields, the heads of the three intelligence agencies,
2 senior officials from major policy departments, Foreign
3 Office, Home Office, Defence Ministry, the Chief of
4 Defence Intelligence, the Deputy Chief of Defence
5 Intelligence, representatives of the DTA and the
6 Treasury

What he does not point out is that it is apparently usual for the CIA head of station to attend JIC meetings.

I say apparently since the evidence available online is not exactly copper-bottomed.

In the official guide to UK intelligence machinery I mentioned in my piece yesterday, there is similarly no mention of CIA involvement in the JIC.

But there is more than the dreaded single source: of slight worth this and this.

More promising is a piece describing the operation of the JIC by Dr. Philip H.J. Davies, whose Ph D was a history of MI6 (aka SIS) [1]. Its short description differs from that to be gleaned from Scarlett's evidence in various ways - it refers, for instance, to the existence of an A Committee and a B Committee, which Scarlett does not mention - but, in particular, it says, in relation to what it calls the A Committee that
Also in attendance are the CIA station commander, a Canadian representative from the Privy Council Security and Intelligence Committee and the Australian National Assessments Staff.

Why so cagey about the presence of the Americans? US-UK intelligence sharing goes back, after all, to 1940, an arrangement formalised in the BRUSA Agreement of May 17 1943, and of which the ECHELON surveillance system is, perhaps, the most namechecked product [2]. What more natural than that the CIA should be represented at the heart of the UK intelligence assessment mechanism?

Well, in relation to Iraq, the US-UK intelligence relationship has been brought into question more than once - most spectacularly, perhaps, in relation to the Niger uranium documents that turned out to be forged (my piece of March 8 - the IAEA's Mohamed El-Baradei's finest hour against poor old Colin Powell). And it does rather dent the keystone argument of Tony Blair that the JIC was the personification of the UKIC.

But, surely, for Scarlett not to have mentioned the fact (if it is one) that the CIA is regularly part of the JIC team only tends to excite suspicion when that fact is recognised.

Two final points: first, I'm not quite happy that CIA participation in the JIC is properly stood up yet. And, second, even if it is, it doesn't represent evidence that the CIA participated in JIC discussions on the dossier - though, interestingly, Blair, at the start of his evidence (2:5) refers to a phone conversation with Bush as the trigger for putting out an Iraq dossier: why should the American involvement have stopped there?

  1. The fact it appears on the fan site for a long defunct British spy drama gives one pause - but beggars really can't be choosers here.

  2. By the by, a promising-looking 2001 article from the Duke Law Journal by Lawrence D Sloan on the US legal implications of ECHELON.

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