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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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Monday, February 09, 2004
 

The 45 minute intelligence gets flakier: honest


My finely chiselled essay on the latest developments disappeared, thanks to yet another XP crash! [Take obscenity-strewn rant as read.] My Windows 98 job crashed predictably: XP just goes bye-bye when it fancies it. Jesus H Christ!

Anyhoo...

There is stuff on the source of the 45 minute intelligence. Dabbagh makes his final bow (we hope), courtesy of the loon Con Coughlin. (Last discussed here on January 28.)

Then, more substantially, the Independent tracks down the intermediate source call him IS - the guy who passed on the intel to MI6, as an Iraqi who hasn't been in Iraq for years!

Readers may recall - and check easily with the link in the left hand column - that, while the Hutton Inquiry was ongoing, the 45 minute stuff got ever easier to pick holes in. Or nits off, if you prefer. The formulations were ever changing, of the intelligence itself, and of the source and method of transfer.

Clearly, layman as I am, I could ask only pretty basic questions. Some of these were also asked at the Inquiry; and got deeply unsatisfactory answers which were not followed up.

Now we know why, of course.

The inconsistencies continue. For example, the Indie has the ultimate source as a full colonel or brigadier; whereas Coughlin has always been adamant that Dabbagh was a Lieutenant- Colonel.

In another piece in the Independent, it's said that that IS
had no means of checking [the intel] himself

And
...was passing on information from a previously unknown officer in the military who, he believed, was in a position to know what he was talking about.

What does previously unknown mean? That IS had had no contact with him? That MI6 did not know him? That he wasn't on the Iraqi equivalent of the Army List?

Obviously, the extent and nature of this unknown business directly impacts the credibility of IS's belief that Dabbagh (if indeed it is he) knew what he was talking about.

And if IS didn't know what weapons these were, how did he know that Dabbagh (or whoever) would know what he was talking about?

Meanwhile, in the Arabic media, the Iraqi National Accord are denying any knowledge of Nick Theros, the [self-styled?] Washington representative of Iyad Allawi (INA head) who, speaking for the INA, had said that information, including the 45, that it passed to MI6 was a crock of shit (my Jan 28 piece).

And there's more about Dabbagh: his first name is Shaher. And the INA spokesman said it passed on the intel to HMG
at the end of 2002.

In the immortal words of Bill Deedes [1], shome mishtake, shurely?

As Ecclesiasticus has it,
He that toucheth pitch shall be defiled therewith.

The intelligence services hang around with self-important flakes and wierdoes, who provide information whose very unverifiability they seem to take to be a guarantee of authenticity.

Tom Kelly was wrong: the real Walter Mittys in the Kelly affair were not Kelly but MI6 and chums [2].

There is tremendous amount of work to do, just on the 45 minute question, in analysing the various formulations in the oral evidence, and comparing the documentary stuff. It was evident as the Hutton hearing went on that holes were being revealed and Hutton and his mouthpiece Dingemans desultorily picked at them; but then they were just left. (Now we know why.)

But one would like to think that such work had a sporting chance of actually leading to something - if not Blair's head, then at least a recognition that the intel was handled so badly as to ground an allegation of bad faith on the part of top men; and for that allegation to be officially accepted in some way.

One is seriously in need of a point-man here: it seems that HMG, the BBC and public all want to get off Hutton onto something else. The BBC have decided not to seek judicial review; there is talk that Today editor Kevin Marsh will do so on his own behalf, on the ground that he was criticised, but not called to defend himself [3].

The Tory opposition folded when it refused to call the Report as a whitewash. The Liberals can't do much on their own (the chaise vide at the Butler Inquiry on use of WMD intel will do them no good).

Cometh the hour, cometh the man?

  1. As interpreted by Private Eye.

  2. The words of ex-Ambassador Sir Peter Heap are instructive.

  3. One way to gain instantly popularity with the new regime. Not.


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