Eager-to-please Scarlett 'let power cloud his judgement'

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John Scarlett's appointment as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee was greeted with self-congratulation in the espionage community. One of its own, rather than a career civil servant, had been given the prestigious cabinet office post advising ministers on intelligence gathering.

Now, almost three and half years later, the evidence at the Hutton inquiry has raised serious questions about Mr Scarlett. His ambition to become the next head of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) is looking a remote possibility.

The main charge against Mr Scarlett, who spent 30 years in MI6, is that he allowed himself to be seduced by the proximity to power. He had ready access to the Prime Minister, and Alastair Campbell called him his "mate".

As a result, it is claimed, Mr Scarlett, who had obtained "ownership" of last September's Iraq weapons dossier, allowed Downing Street to interfere in the way it was compiled. Intelligence which undermined the case for war was played down, while that which buttressed claims about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction was accentuated.

One of the most crucial changes, Mr Scarlett admitted to Lord Hutton, took place at the prompting of Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister's chief of staff. Intelligence indicating that Iraq was likely to use WMDs only in self-defence was dropped the day before the dossier went to the printer.

The inquiry heard that there was disquiet in the intelligence community about some of the dossier's claims. Mr Scarlett said he was not aware of this.

There was more discomfort for Mr Scarlett when Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, told the inquiry that Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction were battlefield weapons, and to infer, as the dossier did, that they could be used to strike British bases in Cyprus was misleading.

Mr Scarlett is believed to have had a letter from Lord Hutton saying that he faces possible criticism in the report.

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