Butler inquiry team in secret CIA visit

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Lord Butler, the former Whitehall mandarin, has secretly visited the headquarters of the CIA in his quest to discover why the US and Britain believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Lord Butler, the former Whitehall mandarin, has secretly visited the headquarters of the CIA in his quest to discover why the US and Britain believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Members of the Butler inquiry team travelled to Washington last Sunday and spent three days meeting senior defence and intelligence chiefs, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

It is understood that the team was also given a confidential briefing at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, during last week's visit.

The question of whether British or American intelligence services were to blame for wrongly claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction is at the centre of the inquiry set up by Tony Blair after it became clear that no such weapons existed.

The CIA insists that much of the wrong intelligence was supplied by agents working for MI6. The British intelligence service, meanwhile, blames false reports by Iraqi exile groups with influence over the Pentagon for biasing assessments.

The Butler inquiry, which has failed to maintain cross-party support, is likely to have been given access to raw intelligence data supplied by the US in the run-up to the war as well as briefings about what MI6 supplied in return.

The Butler inquiry, which includes two MPs, a former chief of defence staff and a senior civil servant, also met members of the US commission set up by President George Bush to investigate intelligence failure, before flying back to London on Wednesday.

The visit raises the prospect of a return trip to the MI6 headquarters in Vauxhall Cross, London, by the American body.

"I can confirm that they were in the US between the 21 and 24 of March and that they met senior members of the US administration," a spokeswoman at the Cabinet Office confirmed yesterday

Comments