Butler report: The key findings

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These are key findings of the Butler report into the use of intelligence in the run up to the war in Iraq

These are key findings of the Butler report into the use of intelligence in the run up to the war in Iraq

* In March 2002 the intelligence available was "insufficiently robust" to prove Iraq was in breach of the United Nations' resolutions.

* Validation of intelligence sources since the war has "thrown doubt" on a high proportion of these sources.

* Some of the human intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was "seriously flawed" and "open to doubt".

* The Joint Intelligence Committee should not have included the "45 minute" claim in the Iraq dossier without stating what exactly it referred to.

* But the Butler report found no evidence of "deliberate distortion" of the intelligence material or of "culpable negligence".

* The language of the Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons may have left readers with the impression that there was "fuller and firmer" intelligence behind its judgments than was the case.

* Tony Blair's statement to MPs on the day the dossier was published may have reinforced this impression.

* The judgments in the dossier went to the "outer limits", although not beyond the intelligence available.

* Making public that the Joint Intelligence Committee had authorship of the Iraq dossier was a "mistaken judgment".

* This resulted in more weight being placed on the intelligence than it could bear, the report found.

* John Scarlett, the head of the JIC in the run-up to the Iraq war should not resign, the authors of the report said.

* The Butler report said it would be a "rash person" who claimed that stocks of biological or chemical weapons would never be found in Iraq.

* The report found no evidence that the motive of the British Government for initiating military action in Iraq was securing continued access to oil supplies.

* The report raised concern about the "informality and circumscribed character" of the Government's policy–making procedures towards Iraq.

The report was highly critical of intelligence–gathering in Iraq.

"Validation of human intelligence sources after the war has thrown doubt on a high proportion of those sources and of their reports, and hence on the quality of the intelligence assessments received by ministers and officials in the period from summer 2002 to the outbreak of hostilities," it said.

The report disclosed that one MI6 "main source", while reporting authoritatively on some issues, had simply been passing on what he had heard from "within his circle" on other issues.

Reporting from a "sub source" to a second MI6 main source, which had led to important JIC assessments on Iraqi possession of chemical and biological weapons, "must be open to doubt", the report said.

Reports from a third MI6 main source had been withdrawn as "unreliable" while reports from two further main MI6 sources which were regarded as reliable had been notably "less worrying" about Iraq's chemical and biological capabilities.

A report from what was described as a "liaison service" on Iraq's production of biological agents had been so "seriously flawed" that the grounds for the JIC's assessment that Iraq had recently produced stocks of biological agents no longer existed.

One of the reasons that so many reports turned out to be "unreliable or questionable" could have been the length of the reporting chains.

"Another reason may be that agents who were known to be reliable were asked to report on issues going well beyond their usual territory," the report said.

"A third reason may be that because of the scarcity of sources and the urgent requirement for intelligence, more credence was given to untried agents than would normally be the case."

The report said that the assessment staff who analysed the intelligence produced by MI6 had not been fully aware of the access and background of key informants and therefore lacked the material to understand their motivations.

It also said that the assessment process tended to lead to the repetition of earlier errors.

"We detected a tendency for assessments to be coloured by over–reaction to previous errors. As a result, there was a risk of over–cautious – or worse – case estimates, shorn of their caveats, becoming the 'prevailing wisdom'," the report said.

It said that the inquiry had shown the "vital importance" of effective scrutiny of human intelligence sources in the preparation of JIC assessments and in giving high quality advice to ministers.

The report disclosed that the Government had first considered in March 2002 that its previous policy of "containment" of Saddam may not be adequate and that stronger action – although not necessarily military action – may be needed.

While there had been grounds for concern given Iraq's previous record, the report said that there was "no recent intelligence that would itself have given rise to a conclusion that Iraq was of more immediate concern than some other countries".

It said that ministers were advised that military action against Iraq could only be justified if the country was held to be in breach of previous UN Security Council resolutions requiring it to disarm.

Officials also warned that for the Security Council to back the view that Saddam was in breach of his obligations it would need "incontrovertible" proof that Iraq was engaged in "large scale activity".

However, the Butler report said that ministers were advised by officials "that the intelligence then available was insufficiently robust to meet that criteria".

Lord Butler told reporters it would have been "foolish" for the Government to deliberately give a false impression on Saddam's WMD when the truth would be discovered after the war.

On the dossier, the report said that it was a "serious weakness" that the JIC's warnings on the limitations of the intelligence underlying its judgments were not made sufficiently clear.

While it said that the JIC had sought to offer a dispassionate assessment of the intelligence, the Government's demand for a document which it could draw on in its advocacy of its policy had "put a strain on them (JIC) in seeking to maintain their normal standards of neutral and objective assessment".

The report went on: "In translating material from JIC assessments into the dossier, warnings were lost about the limited intelligence base on which some aspects of these assessments were being made.

"Language in the dossier may have left readers with the impression that there was fuller and firmer intelligence behind the judgments than was the case.

"Our view, having reviewed all of the material, is that the judgments in the dossier went to (although not beyond) the outer limits of the intelligence available.

"The Prime Minister's description, in his statement to the House of Commons on the day of publication of the dossier, of the picture painted by the intelligence services in the dossier as 'extensive, detailed and authoritative' may have reinforced this impression."