Intelligence Chief Defends 45-Minute Weapons Claim

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Byline: Laura Elston

The chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, yesterday defended the claim in the Government's Iraq dossier that some chemical and biological weapons could have been deployed in 45 minutes.

In an unprecdented session of the Hutton Inquiry, Sir Richard Dearlove said the intelligence had been 'well sourced' and its inclusion in the dossier had been valid.

However he admitted, 'with hindsight' that the way it had been presented had been open to 'misinterpretation' by the public. The spymaster -who has never had a contemporary photograph of him published -did not appear in person in Court 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice but gave evidence through an audiolink.

After introducing himself as 'the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, popularly known as MI6', he almost immediately took issue with the suggestion that the 45 minute point in the dossier had just been a 'claim'.

'You use the word 'claim',' he told counsel to the inquiry James Dingemans QC. 'I would prefer to refer to it as a piece of wellsourced intelligence.'

He acknowledged the information in the 'CX' intelligence report came from a single source but rejected the suggestion that meant it was unreliable.

'It did come from an established and reliable source quoting a senior Iraqi military officer who was certainly in a position to know this information,' he said. 'CX reports as produced by my service are all single source. Much high quality intelligence which is factual, or proved to be factual, is single source material.'

Sir Richard did, however, accept criticism in the reports by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee and the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee about the way the 45minute intelligence was presented in the dossier.

The ISC said that it was 'unhelpful' that the dossier failed to make clear that the intelligence referred to battlefield weapons rather than ballistic missiles while the FAC said it was given undue prominence. …