Hoon tried to bar officials from evidence, new papers show

Newly released papers show that such was the worry about the dissension in the Services becoming public that Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon made plans to block officials from giving evidence to an inquiry by the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Another Ministry of Defence document, entitled Concerns Expressed By DIS Staff, reveals: "The DIS personnel concerned suggested language in the dossier was too strong on the continued production of chemical and biological agents." It adds that this related to every aspect of the dossier. "These concerns related to the foreword, executive summary and main text."

The document shows the crucial claim that Iraq would be able to launch chemical and biological attacks within "45 minutes" had been hardened up in the executive summary and foreword of the dossier.

"The (intelligence) personnel concerned did not share this judgement. But it was agreed by the JIC (Joint Intelligence Committee)."

On 19 July, Martin Howard, deputy chief of defence intelligence, laid out a strategy to stop the Intelligence and Security Committee from talking to disaffected agents in a memorandum to Mr Hoon. Copies went to John Scarlett, the chairman of JIC, and Sir David Omand, the Prime Minister's intelligence co-ordinator.

Mr Howard recommends Mr Hoon should agree that: "We should resist any calls from the ISC to disclose the identity of the individuals concerned, call them as witnesses or have access to their written comments to line management."

It continues: "ISC evidence sessions are private, but it is possible that this may leak. In that case, we should take the line set out above, that like any other assessment, the precise wording and content of the dossier was subject to vigorous debate between intelligence community analysts."

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