Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spy Chief to Explain Dossier 'Ownership'; So Who Did Make the Changes to the Drafts?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spy Chief to Explain Dossier 'Ownership'; So Who Did Make the Changes to the Drafts?

Article excerpt


ONE of Britain's top spymasters was in the spotlight today over claims he let Downing Street "sex up" the dossier on Iraq.

Former Moscow station chief John Scarlett came out of the shadows to give evidence as the inquiry into the death of weapons expert David Kelly entered its most critical week.

The unprecedented public appearance by Mr Scarlett, chairman of the secretive Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), comes after newly-released documents appeared to reveal disquiet among other intelligence figures about Tony Blair's presentation of the dossier.

Government papers submitted to the probe showed Mr Scarlett asked No10 to amend the Prime Minister's foreword to make clear that not all the material in the dossier had been compiled by the JIC.

Mr Blair's draft claimed the dossier was "the work of" the JIC but Mr Scarlett insisted this be changed to: "The document published today is based, in large part, on the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee."

The implication is that other JIC members - who include the heads of MI6 and MI5 - wanted to distance themselves from some aspects of the document.

Mr Scarlett was the official "author" of the dossier, published last September, which implied that Saddam was able to launch chemical and biological weapons in 45 minutes and might produce a nuclear bomb within two years.

Both claims have since been questioned while no such weapons have yet been found in Iraq.

One of Lord Hutton's first questions will be whether he stands by the claims - and how he can explain the failure to find proof since the successful invasion of Iraq. Questioning is expected to centre on whether he came under influence from Downing Street to embellish the dossier.

A string of changes were made in the three weeks before publication, many suggestedby Mr Blair's director of communications, Alastair Campbell.

Among the amendments, the 45-minute claim was toughened after Mr Campbell said the language used in one section was "weaker" than in the summary.

Mr Scarlett replied that it would be "tightened". The original claim that weapons of mass destruction "may be" ready at 45 minutes notice was altered to say "are". …

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