Former intelligence officer wanted his objections to dossier known

Click to follow

When a former intelligence official read the Foreign Affairs Select Committee's final report on the Government's Iraq dossier five weeks ago, he couldn't believe his eyes.

Once Britain's most senior expert working on weapons of mass destruction, the retired MoD officer had "scanned" the MPs' report out of professional interest.

Fresh documents posted on the Hutton inquiry website at the weekend show that he became "very uneasy" when he saw in the report a statement by Jack Straw denying that officials had complained about the dossier. The official had already complained formally over the use of intelligence material on 19 September.

His concerns, with those of two other members of Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), were sent to Air Marshal Joe French, the Chief of Defence Intelligence, and his deputy, Tony Cragg.

However, when the Joint Intelligence Committee came to finalise the case against Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capability, such concerns failed to materialise.

When Martin Howard, the Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence, was asked directly by Lord Hutton whether their complaints would have been aired, he replied: "I think that is unlikely, my Lord."

During its own hearings on the Iraq dossier, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee had asked Mr Straw on 26 June whether "any complaints had been made by senior intelligence officials" about the use of intelligence in the dossier. Mr Straw replied: "None whatever, to my knowledge."

After reading the committee's final report on 7 July, the former officer decided to write to Mr Howard.

His letter was sent only two days before Dr David Kelly was identified as the source of the BBC's claims about the "sexed up" Iraq dossier.

The retired official states his fear that he "might be judged culpable" for not correcting what was now a matter of parliamentary record and in effect pleads for guidance as to whether he should contact the select committee.

Six days after Dr Kelly was found dead, Mr Howard wrote back on 23 July, reassuring the officer that "there is no question of your being found culpable in any way ... I do not think that you need to take the matter further," he wrote.

Richard Ottaway, a Conservative MP on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, considers Mr Howard's advice to be essentially an attempt at a cover-up.

"This letter shows that not only was Jack Straw misleading Parliament but that the MoD suggested that one of its former employees should not correct the record," he said.