Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 3, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

SEXED UP....Before the war, Brian Jones was the head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of Britain's Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) that is, he was Britain's leading expert on WMD.

He gave evidence at the Hutton inquiry that he had formally complained about the contents of the infamous September 2002 "dossier," and today in the Independent he discusses at length what happened:

On balance the DIS experts felt it should be recorded that a CW or BW capability at some level was a probability, but argued against its statement in stronger terms....But we were told there was other intelligence that we, the experts, could not see, and that it removed the reservations we were expressing. It was so sensitive it could not be shown to us. It was held within a tight virtual "compartment", available only to a few selected people.

....I considered who might have seen this ultra-sensitive intelligence and reached the conclusion that it was extremely doubtful that anyone with a high degree of CW and BW intelligence expertise was among the exclusive group.

....I eventually found someone who was in the relevant compartment....I explained the reservations that we had about the draft dossier and asked whether the compartmented intelligence resolved any of these concerns. I was advised they did not.

....By the end of the day I was confident of my ground and I sent a memorandum to my director and copied it to the DCDI, who, as a member of the JIC, could still intervene if he chose to do so.

....Neither memo produced a direct response. We could only suppose that the compartmented intelligence seen by the CDI was clear and unambiguous for him to disregard, without discussion, the recorded views of two senior analysts who, although only of middle rank were, like the late Dr Kelly, the UK's foremost experts in their field.

....Events have shown that we in the DIS were right to urge caution. I suggest that now might be a good time to open the box and release from its compartment the intelligence that played such a significant part in formulating a key part of the dossier.

I recognise this could possibly be one of a few exceptional circumstances that means the content of the compartmented intelligence remains sensitive even after the fall of Saddam. If this is the case it should be clearly stated. Otherwise the simple act of opening this box and explaining who had the right to look into it before the war could increase the transparency and hasten the progress of the new inquiry.

So was Tony Blair's dossier indeed "sexed up," as BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan claimed? Jones says that DIS believed Iraq "probably" had some small amounts of chemical and bio stocks; that this was turned into a stronger statement by the intelligence heads; and that this in turn was converted into a certainty in the foreward drafted by the Prime Minister's office.

Does this count as "sexed up"? It sure sounds like it. But as Jones says, the only way to know for sure is for the supposedly ultra-sensitive compartmented intelligence to be made public so that the DIS experts can evaluate it. I think he's right. What's more, there's some intelligence like that from the United States that I think we'd all like to see too.

Kevin Drum 6:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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