Blair 'uses intelligence as PR tool'

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Intelligence has been used as a "PR tool" since Tony Blair came to power, a former senior security services officer said today.

Intelligence has been used as a "PR tool" since Tony Blair came to power, a former senior security services officer said today.

John Morrison lost his job as the Intelligence and Security Committee's chief investigator after criticising the Prime Minister's claims about Iraq.

Mr Morrison said he had no regrets and went further, suggesting media requirements influenced intelligence in Kosovo and an earlier operation in Iraq.

"There was a culture of news management which came in after 1997 which I had not seen before and intelligence got swept up in that," he said.

The former deputy director of Defence Intelligence said there was a "collective raspberry" at Mr Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein threatened Britain.

Mr Morrison was later told his contract with the Committee, which monitors the intelligence services on the PM's behalf, would not be renewed.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had no regrets over the Panorama interview.

"I felt somebody had to speak up about the misuse of intelligence by MI6, in not handling it properly, the misuse of intelligence by the senior management in the Defence Intelligence Staff and misuse of intelligence terminology by the Prime Minister in talking about a threat when no threat existed," he said.

Mr Morrison said the clerk and head of the ISC advised him against the original interview.

They warned he would be "stitched up" but he decided to take the risk and Panorama were fair.

"I was therefore slightly surprised when I was sacked from the job," he continued.

"I thought perhaps there was a 30% chance they would ignore it, 60% chance that I would have my fingers rapped and told not to do it again, which I wouldn't, and a 10% chance that I would be fired and I was fired."

Mr Morrison was told that the security agencies had got together and written a letter saying they no longer had trust in him.

He said he could only put that down to "being slightly rude about the Prime Minister".

"The phrase I used about the collective raspberry around Whitehall seems to have got under somebody's skin," he said.

"I said that because 'threat' has got a very specific meaning in intelligence and the Prime Minister was misusing it."

Mr Morrison added: "Given that my former colleagues could not appear in public, if they were still working, I felt somebody had to speak up for them.

"And as the former head of the profession for intelligence analysts, I thought I was probably the best person to do it."

Mr Morrison said individual analysts were put under pressure to produce favourable intelligence during the Operation Desert Fox bombing campaign against Iraqi sites thought to hold weapons of mass destruction.

"I was under pressure and my analysts were under pressure to say the next day this had been a great success. You can't do that," he told Today.

"It got to the point that individual analysts were being rung up by the press office and being asked to say 'this is great, isn't it?'. I wasn't having that."

Mr Morrison said the pressure did not necessarily come from outside the Ministry of Defence but the press office were looking to provide information for 10 Downing Street's news management "grid".

When it came to the Kosovo campaign, Mr Morrison said: "Once bitten twice shy.

"What I did, in effect, was within my crisis staff set up, in effect, my own press office to handle the MoD press office.

"I took a very senior and tough-minded analyst and told him 'This is your job, to keep the press office off the analysts' backs and make sure we only say in public what we are absolutely certain about'.

"We were under constant pressure to field talking heads at the press conference, to have themes for individual days and it was a very tricky balance not to reveal what one shouldn't."

Comments