Critics See Red as Blair Appoints Scarlett

Article excerpt

Byline: GAVIN CORDON

TONY Blair yesterday provoked a political storm after he appointed the man responsible for the Government's controversial Iraq weapons dossier as the new Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service.

John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, will take over as head of MI6 - known in Whitehall simply as 'C' - from Sir Richard Dearlove, who retires at the end of July.

The appointment was denounced by the opposition parties as "inappropriate", given his crucial role in providing intelligence advice in the run up to the Iraq war.

It was Mr Scarlett's high-profile defence of the Iraq dossier during the Hutton Inquiry which ensured that Downing Street was cleared of "sexing up" the document.

Critics said his performance showed he had become too close to the "magic circle" around the Prime Minister, compromising his ability to deliver impartial intelligence advice.

Since the Hutton Report in January, Mr Scarlett has faced further questioning from the inquiry by the former cabinet secretary, Lord Butler, into the use of intelligence in the run up to the Iraq conflict.

The investigation - conducted behind closed doors - was prompted by the failure of coalition forces in Iraq to find Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, even though the dossier asserted that he had them.

Downing Street said Mr Scarlett was appointed on the recommendation of an independent panel chaired by the Cabinet Office security and intelligence co-ordinator, Sir David Omand. …