Intelligence on Iraq's WMD: the failures and the mistakes

This is an edited version of Lord Butler's report
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CHAPTER 1: THE NATURE AND USE OF INTELLIGENCE

Intelligence on Iraq's WMD: the failures and the mistakes

This is an edited version of Lord Butler's report

CHAPTER 1: THE NATURE AND USE OF INTELLIGENCE

1.1 INTRODUCTION

Governmental decisions and actions, at home and abroad, are based on many types of information. Most is openly available or compiled, much is published, and some is consciously provided by individuals, organisations or other governments in confidence. A great deal of such information may be accurate, or accurate enough in its own terms. But equally much is at best uninformed, while some is positively intended to mislead...

1.3 VALIDATION

Intelligence, though it may not differ in type or, often, reliability from other forms of information used by governments, operates in a field of particular difficulty. By definition the data it is trying to provide have been deliberately concealed. Before the actual content of an intelligence report can be considered, the validity of the process which has led to its production must be confirmed.

Has the informant been properly quoted, all the way along the chain? Does he have credible access to the facts he claims to know? Does he have the right knowledge to understand what he claims to be reporting? Could he be under opposition control, or be being fed information? Is he fabricating? Can the bona fides, activities, movements or locations attributed to those involved in acquiring or transmitting a report be checked? Do we understand the motivations of those involved, their private agenda, and hence the way in which their reports may be influenced by a desire to please or impress? How powerful is a wish for (in particular) financial reward? What, if any, distorting effect might such factors exert? Is there ­ at any stage ­ a deliberate intention to deceive?

1.4 ANALYSIS

The validation process will often have involved consideration of the coherence and consistency of intelligence being provided by an informant, as one of the ways in which that source's reliability can be tested. But at the next stage, analysis, the factual material inside the intelligence report is examined in its own right.

Analysis assembles individual intelligence reports into meaningful strands, whether weapons programmes, military operations or diplomatic policies. Reports take on meaning as they are put into context.

1.5 ASSESSMENT

Intelligence reports often do not immediately fit into an established pattern, or extend a picture in the expected way. Assessment has to make choices, but in so doing runs the risk of selection that reinforces earlier conclusions. The risk is that uneven standards of proof may be applied.

It is incorrect to say, as some commentators have done, that "single source" intelligence is always suspect.

CHAPTER 2: COUNTRIES OF CONCERN OTHER THAN IRAQ AND GLOBAL TRADE

2.1 INTRODUCTION

Our terms of reference require us: To investigate the intelligence coverage available on WMD programmes of countries of concern and on global trade in WMD, taking into account what is now known about these programmes.

2.2 AQ KHAN

AQ Khan directed Pakistan's nuclear programme for 25 years and is known as the "father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb".

In this Section of our Report, we describe the significant help his activities gave to the nuclear programmes of several countries of concern, particularly Libya, and actions taken by the British Government in conjunction with others to close down Khan's network.

CONCLUSIONS

The uncovering and dismantlement of this network is a remarkable tribute to the work of the intelligence agencies.

2.3 LIBYA

On 19 December 2003, in a public statement, the Libyan Government said that: "...Libya has taken the initiative and has instigated among the countries of the world, especially the Middle East, Africa, and the Third World, the abandonment of WMD programmes."

It is a matter of judgement how far the "Iraq factor" was decisive in Colonel Gadaffi's policy change, but it seems likely that coalition action in Iraq in 2003 accelerated a process that was already under way.

2.4 IRAN

There are outstanding issues about Iran's activities. Iran has signed an Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement and is making additional declarations to the IAEA as a result, but has still not ratified it. Furthermore, negotiations with Iran over the scope and verification of the activities to be suspended have been difficult. Most recently, Iran has decided to resume manufacturing of components and assembly of centrifuge machines under IAEA supervision, having earlier decided voluntarily to suspend them.

2.5 NORTH KOREA

The intelligence agencies have employed a range of ingenious tactics patiently and skilfully to piece together an intelligence picture of North Korean activity. This has provided important insights that have enabled the British Government to take decisive action to limit the extent of North Korean exports of missile delivery systems.

2.6 GENERAL CONCLUSIONS

All four of the case studies we discuss were to a greater or lesser extent success stories. To a degree, that was inevitable ­ we chose those cases where intelligence about nuclear, biological, chemical and ballistic missile programmes and proliferation activities can be discussed precisely because it has contributed to disclosure of those activities. But that should not detract from what has clearly been an impressive performance by the intelligence community and policy-makers in each case, and overall.

CHAPTER 3: TERRORISM

3.8 INTELLIGENCE RESPONSES TO INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

Few of the measures being taken by the Government to improve the response to the terrorist threat are unique to attacks using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials. The threat is international, and has motivated intelligence organisations to intensify both national and international collaboration on an unprecedented scale. All of the UK intelligence agencies are developing new techniques, and we have seen clear evidence that they are co-operating at all levels.

International counter-terrorism collaboration has also been significantly enhanced in the past six or seven years. Though we understand that other countries have not yet achieved the same level of inter-departmental synthesis, considerable developments have taken place. Staff of the UK intelligence and security agencies are today in much wider contact with their opposite numbers throughout the world. We note these initiatives, but remain concerned that the procedures of the international community are still not sufficiently aligned to match the threat.

CHAPTER 4: COUNTER-PROLIFERATION MACHINERY

4.4 THE ROLE OF INTELLIGENCE

Intelligence performs an important role in many aspects of the Government's counter-proliferation work. It helps to identify proliferating countries, organisations and individuals through JIC assessments, DIS proliferation studies and operational intelligence. It can help to interdict or disrupt the activities of proliferators either nationally or in co-operation with other countries. It can support diplomatic activity by revealing states' attitudes to counter-proliferation or by informing the assessments of international partners. It can also support inspection, monitoring and verification regimes and on occasions military action.

Intelligence can play an
important part in enforcing export controls, particularly in relation to "dual-use" goods and technologies.

CHAPTER 5: IRAQ

5.10 CONCLUSIONS ON IRAQ

THE USE OF INTELLIGENCE

The Government's Dossiers

The main vehicle for the Government's use of intelligence in the public presentation of policy was the dossier of September 2002 and accompanying Ministerial statements.

The dossier broke new ground in three ways: the JIC had never previously produced a public document; no Government case for any international action had previously been made to the British public through explicitly drawing on a JIC publication; and the authority of the British intelligence community, and the JIC in particular, had never been used in such a public way.

The dossier was not intended to make the case for a particular course of action in relation to Iraq. It was intended by the Government to inform domestic and international understanding of the need for stronger action (though not necessarily military action) ­ the general direction in which Government policy had been moving since the early months of 2002, away from containment to a more proactive approach to enforcing Iraqi disarmament. The Government's wish to give its case greater objectivity and credibility led to the Government's decision to commission the JIC to produce the dossier and to make public the JIC's authorship of it. The Chairman of the JIC accepted responsibility for its production with the intention of ensuring that it did not go beyond the judgements which the JIC had reached. He and the JIC therefore took on the ownership of it.

The Government wanted an unclassified document on which it could draw in its advocacy of its policy. The JIC sought to offer a dispassionate assessment of intelligence and other material on Iraqi nuclear, biological, chemical and ballistic missile programmes. The JIC, with commendable motives, took responsibility for the dossier, in order that its content should properly reflect the judgements of the intelligence community.

They did their utmost to ensure this standard was met. But this will have put a strain on them in seeking to maintain their normal standards of neutral and objective assessment.

Strenuous efforts were made to ensure that no individual statements were made in the dossier which went beyond the judgements of the JIC.

But, 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. The Government would have seen these warnings in the original JIC assessments and taken them into account in reading them. But the public, through reading the dossier, would not have known of them.

The dossier did contain a chapter on the role of intelligence. But the language in the dossier may have left with readers the impression that there was fuller and firmer intelligence behind the judgements than was the case: our view, having reviewed all of the material, is that judgements 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.

We conclude that it was a serious weakness that the JIC's warnings on the limitations of the intelligence underlying its judgements were not made sufficiently clear in the dossier.

We understand why the Government felt it had to meet the mounting public and Parliamentary demand for information. We also recognise that there is a real dilemma between giving the public an authoritative account of the intelligence picture and protecting the objectivity of the JIC from the pressures imposed by providing information for public debate. It is difficult to resolve these requirements. We conclude, with the benefit of hindsight, that making public that the JIC had authorship of the dossier was a mistaken judgement, though we do not criticise the JIC for taking responsibility for clearance of the intelligence content of the document.

However, in the particular circumstances, the publication of such a document in the name and with the authority of the JIC had the result that more weight was placed on the intelligence than it could bear. The consequence also was to put the JIC and its Chairman into an area of public controversy and arrangements must be made for the future which avoid putting the JIC and its Chairman in a similar position.

We recognise that there will be a dilemma if intelligence-derived material is in future to be put into the public domain. If future documents are published solely in the name of the Government, it is inevitable that Ministers will be asked if the JIC has endorsed the intelligence assessments inside them. But we believe that there are other options that should be examined for the ownership of drafting, for gaining the JIC's endorsement of the intelligence material and assessments that are quoted and for subsequent "branding". One is for the government of the day to draft a document, to gain the JIC's endorsement of the intelligence material inside it and then to publish it acknowledging that it draws on intelligence but without ascribing it to the JIC. Or the Government, if it wishes to seek the JIC's credibility and authority, could publish a document with intelligence material and the JIC's endorsement of it shown separately. Or the JIC could prepare and publish itself a self standing assessment, incorporating all of its normal caveats and warnings, leaving it to others to place that document within a broader policy context. This may make such documents less persuasive in making a policy case; but that is the price of using a JIC assessment. Our conclusion is that, between these options, the First is greatly preferable.

Whichever route is chosen, JIC clearance of the intelligence content of any similar document will be essential.

Furthermore, we conclude that, if intelligence is to be used more widely by governments in public debate in future, those doing so must be careful to explain its uses and limitations. It will be essential, too, that clearer and more effective dividing lines between assessment and advocacy are established when doing so.

In reaching these conclusions, we realise that our conclusions may provoke calls for the current Chairman of the JIC, Mr Scarlett, to withdraw from his appointment as the next Chief of SIS. We greatly hope that he will not do so. We have a high regard for his abilities and his record. Once the Government had decided to produce a dossier based on intelligence, he and the JIC took on ownership of it with the excellent motive of ensuring that everything it said was consistent with JIC judgements. We have said above that it was a mistaken judgement for the dossier to be so closely associated with the JIC but it was a collective one for which the Chairman of the JIC should not bear personal responsibility.

Validation of the Intelligence

Even now it would be premature to reach conclusions about Iraq's prohibited weapons. Much potential evidence may have been destroyed in the looting and disorder that followed the cessation of hostilities. Other material may be hidden in the sand, including stocks of agent or weapons.

We believe that it would be a rash person who asserted at this stage that evidence of Iraqi possession of stocks of biological or chemical agents, or even of banned missiles, does not exist or will never be found. But as a result of our Review, and taking into account the evidence which has been found by the ISG and de-briefing of Iraqi personnel, we have reached the conclusion that prior to the war the Iraqi regime:

a. Had the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including if possible its nuclear weapons programme, when United Nations inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were eroded or lifted.

b. In support of that goal, was carrying out illicit research and development, and procurement, activities, to seek to sustain its indigenous capabilities.

c. Was developing ballistic missiles with a range longer than permitted under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions; but did not have significant ­ if any ­ stocks of chemical or biological weapons in a state fit for deployment, or developed plans for using them.

CHAPTER 6: IRAQ: SPECIFIC ISSUES

6.1 INTRODUCTION

In this Chapter, we consider a number of detailed issues arising from the intelligence on Iraq's nuclear, biological, chemical and ballistic missile programmes that have attracted particular controversy or which illuminate our analysis of the quality of the intelligence and the effectiveness of the way in which it was handled.

6.2 LINKS BETWEEN
AL-QA'IDA AND THE IRAQI REGIME

We start with the intelligence available to the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), and the assessments made of it, on links between al-Qa'ida and the Iraqi regime, and of the availability to al-Qa'ida of chemical and biological weapons as a possible consequence.

The 'Poison Cell' in Kurdish Northern Iraq

In the wake of the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a number of al-Qa'ida refugees arrived in the Kurdish Autonomous Zone (KAZ) outside Baghdad's control.

The JIC made it clear that the al-Qa'ida-linked facilities in the Kurdish Ansar al Islam area were involved in the production of chemical and biological agents, but that they were beyond the control of the Iraqi regime.

Co-operation between the Iraqi Regime and al-Qa'ida

There was, however, other evidence of an association between the Iraqi regime and al-Qa'ida. Contacts between al-Qa'ida and the Iraqi Directorate General of Intelligence had dated back over four years. "Fragmentary and uncorroborated" intelligence reports suggested that in 1998 there were contacts between al-Qa'ida and Iraqi intelligence. Those reports described al-Qa'ida seeking toxic chemicals as well as other conventional terrorist equipment. Some accounts suggested that Iraqi chemical experts may have been in Afghanistan during 2000. But in November 2001, the JIC concluded that: "...there is no evidence that these contacts led to practical co-operation; we judge it unlikely because of mutual mistrust."

We conclude that the JIC made clear that, although there were contacts between the Iraqi regime and al-Qa'ida, there was no evidence of co-operation. It did warn of the possibility of terrorist attacks on coalition forces in Baghdad.

6.4 URANIUM FROM AFRICA

There has been significant
controversy surrounding the reliability of Government statements about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa. We have therefore studied this issue in detail.

From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.

b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger's exports, the intelligence was credible.

c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.

d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.

6.5 THE 45-MINUTE CLAIM

The Government's dossier of September 2002 contained the claim based on an intelligence report that some chemical and biological weapons could be deployed by Iraq within 45 minutes of an order to use them. Much public attention has been given to the Prime Minister's statement that he was not aware until after the war that this report should have been interpreted as referring to battlefield weapons.

If this report was regarded as having operational significance, and if in particular it had been regarded as covering ballistic missiles (as was reported in some newspapers), this would indeed have been surprising. If, however, it referred to forward-deployed battlefield munitions, the time period given would not have been surprising or worth drawing to the Prime Minister's attention. But it was unclear, both in the JIC assessment of 9 September and in the Government's dossier, which of the two it was.

The JIC should not have included the "45-minute" report in its assessment and in the Government's dossier without stating what it was believed to refer to. The fact that the reference in the classed assessment was repeated in the dossier later led to suspicions that it had been included because of its eye-catching character.

6.6 MOBILE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS LABORATORIES

It was reasonable for the JIC to include in its assessments of March and September 2002 a reference to intelligence reports on Iraq's seeking mobile biological agent production facilities.

But it has emerged that the intelligence from the source, if it had been correctly reported, would not have been consistent with a judgement that Iraq had, on the basis of recent production, stocks of biological agent. If SIS had had direct access to the source from 2000 onwards, and hence correct intelligence reporting, the main evidence for JIC judgements on Iraq's stocks of recently produced biological agent, as opposed to a break-out capacity, would not have existed.

6.7 ALUMINIUM TUBES

From the late 1990s onwards, the British Government had intelligence that Iraq was seeking to procure aluminium tubes. This intelligence was validated by the seizure of a shipment of Chinese-origin tubes destined for Iraq in June 2001. It has been a matter of uncertainty whether the tubes were evidence of Iraq's attempts to re-constitute a nuclear programme.

The evidence we received on aluminium tubes was overwhelmingly that they were intended for rockets rather than a centrifuge. We found this convincing. Despite this, we conclude that the JIC was right to consider carefully the possibility that the tubes were evidence of a resumed nuclear programme, and that it properly reflected the doubts about the use of the tubes in the caution of its assessments. But in transferring its 133 judgements to the dossier, the JIC omitted the important information about the need for substantial re-engineering of the aluminium tubes to make them suitable for use as gas centrifuge rotors. This omission had the effect of materially strengthening the impression that they may have been intended for a gas centrifuge and hence for a nuclear programme.

6.8 PLAGUE AND DUSTY MUSTARD PLAGUE

Plague and "dusty mustard" were just two of the many biological and chemical threats on which the intelligence community had to keep watch in the period before the first Gulf war, and subsequently.

The intelligence on their availability to Iraq in 1990 and 1991 rested on a small number of reports and the evidence derived from examination of a 136 munition. There were grounds for scepticism both about the reports' sources and their quality. Nevertheless, we conclude that the Government was right in 1990 and 1991 to act on a precautionary basis.

We find it harder to understand the treatment of the intelligence in the ensuing period. Dusty mustard disappears from JIC assessments from 1993 onwards. By contrast, although little new intelligence was received, and most of that was historical or unconvincing, plague continued to be mentioned in JIC assessments up to March 2003. Those fluctuated in the certainty of judgements about Iraqi possession of plague between "possibly" and "probably".

We conclude that, in the case of plague, JIC assessments reflected historic evidence, and intelligence of dubious reliability, reinforced by suspicion of Iraq, rather than up-to-date evidence.

6.9 DR JONES'S DISSENT

Dr Brian Jones, the then Head of the Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Technical Intelligence branch in the DIS, was on leave when the process of drafting the Government's dossier began. On his return to work on 18 September (that is, six days before publication of the dossier), his staff expressed to him a range of concerns about the strength of the judgements being made in the dossier, some of which they believed were not supported by the intelligence. Dr Jones shared a number of his staffs' concerns and recorded his concerns in a minute to his management on 19 September.

Dr Jones was right to raise concerns about the manner of expression of the "45-minute" report in the dossier given the vagueness of the underlying intelligence. Dr Jones was right to raise concerns about the certainty of language used in the dossier on Iraqi production and possession of chemical agents.

We recognise that circumstances arise in which it is right for senior officials to take a broad view that differs from the opinions of those with expertise on points of detail. We do not, however, consider that the report held back from Dr Jones and his staff (which Dr Jones' superiors regarded as justifying the certainty of the language in the dossier) was one to which such considerations should have applied. It was understandable that SIS should have wanted to give greater than normal protection to the human intelligence source on this occasion. But a problem arose because it was kept from the relevant DIS analysts who had a wider perspective. It would have been more appropriate for senior managers in the DIS and SIS to have made arrangements for the intelligence to be shown to DIS experts rather than their making their own judgements on its significance.

6.10 OIL SUPPLIES

It has frequently been alleged that the real motivation behind the decision to go to war in Iraq was a desire to control Iraq's oil supplies. We saw no evidence that a motive of the British Government for initiating military action was securing continuing access to oil supplies.

CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSIONS ON BROADER ISSUES

7.1 GENERAL CONCLUSIONS ABOUT INTELLIGENCE AND ITS USE

Intelligence has been validated to an impressive extent by what has been subsequently revealed and has played a crucial part in enabling developing threats to international security and stability to be identified and countered.

7.2 INTELLIGENCE MACHINERY

Defence Intelligence Staff

Much of the Government's expertise on technical issues relating to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles rests in the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS). Unlike the agencies, the DIS is not free-standing and, because its focus must be concentrated on the department it serves, it has in the past perhaps been seen as rather separate from the rest of the intelligence community, although it would be wrong to
exaggerate this. We have considered whether to recommend that the DIS should be brought out of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and become a separate agency with a similar relationship to the MOD as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) have to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Because the DIS is so crucial to the MOD in everything from strategic planning through equipment acquisition to the conduct of military operations, we do not believe that this would be helpful. But we consider that further steps are needed to integrate the relevant work of the DIS more closely with the rest of the intelligence community. We welcome the arrangements now being made to give the Joint Intelligence Committee more leverage through the Intelligence Requirements process to ensure that the DIS serves wider national priorities as well as it does defence priorities and has the resources which the rest of the intelligence community needs to support its activities. If that involved increasing the Secret Intelligence Account by a sum to be at the Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator's disposal to commission such resources, we would support that.

The Intelligence and Security Committee have recommended that if individuals in the intelligence community formally record concerns in relation to assessments these concerns should be brought to the attention of the JIC Chairman.

The Joint Intelligence Committee

It is vital to maintain and reinforce its independence.

Two questions we have asked ourselves are whether it has become too big, and whether its objectivity is in danger of being compromised by the presence of more policy heavyweights than in the past.

The changed nature of the security challenges faced by the UK in the 21st century has inevitably led to intelligence having a wider application in policy-making. That in turn has resulted in more departments with only an occasional interest in the JIC's work being added to its membership. If all those members were to attend on each occasion, JIC meetings would certainly become unwieldy. But we understand that they do not. Provided that this is the case, it seems desirable that those departments which may have an interest in, and use for, intelligence should attend as necessary when items affecting their business are discussed.

We welcome the fact that the Chairmanship is now a single, independent post, not combined with other posts as sometimes in the past.

Nevertheless, without any implied criticism of the present or past Chairmen, it seems wrong in principle that the Chairman of the JIC should be outranked not only by the heads of the agencies but also by two other heavyweight Permanent Secretaries on his Committee. Lord Franks stressed the need for the Chairman to be both full-time and independent. We see a strong case for the post of Chairman of the JIC being held by someone with experience of dealing with Ministers in a very senior role, and who is demonstrably beyond influence, and thus probably in his last post.

The Assessments Staff

The Assessments Staff do a remarkable job, given their limited role, in pulling together objective assessments. But they have limited scope for employing formal techniques of challenge. These would clearly not be appropriate in every case but might well be desirable for major issues when the "prevailing wisdom" risks becoming too conventional.

Their limited role also means that much of the task of assessing the influence of informants' circumstances on the nature and quality of their reporting falls to the intelligence agencies, and is vulnerable to agencies championing their own sources.

7.3 INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENTS

Language of JIC Assessments

A recurring issue ­ but one which the experience of intelligence on Iraq raises again ­ is whether JIC assessments are drafted and presented in a way which best helps readers to pick up the range of uncertainty attaching to intelligence assessments.

Over the years, various approaches have been taken to this problem. The view currently taken by the witnesses we interviewed is that ministers and other readers are not helped by assessments which are expressed in language of "on the one hand" and "on the other", and which thus leave the reader with no conclusion. So the general convention is that the JIC should produce its best assessment in the form of "Key Judgements" drawn up in the light of the evidence. Such assessments often include warnings that the evidence is thin (and the word "Judgement" is itself a signal to the reader that it is not a statement of fact).

But it is not the current JIC convention to express degrees of confidence in the judgement or to include alternative or minority hypotheses. The consequence is that the need to reach consensus may result in nuanced language. Subtleties such as "the intelligence indicates" rather than "the intelligence shows" may escape the untutored or busy reader.

We also came across instances where Key Judgements unhelpfully omitted qualifications about the limitations of the intelligence which were elsewhere in the text.

We would not think it desirable that any convention should be binding, and different treatments may be suitable for different subjects. But we note that the US Government does from time to time attach degrees of confidence and notes of dissent to its National Intelligence Estimates. These may help to prevent readers from attaching more certainty to judgements than is justified and intended. We conclude that the JIC has been right not to reach a judgement when the evidence is insubstantial. We believe that the JIC should, where there are significant limitations in intelligence, state these clearly alongside its Key Judgements. While not arguing for a particular approach to the language of JIC assessments and the way in which alternative or minority hypotheses, or uncertainty, are expressed, we recommend that the intelligence community review conventions again to see if there would be advantage in refreshing them.

JIC Assessments

There are other aspects of JIC assessments on which our Review causes us to offer observations:

a. It should continue to be made clear on the face of the circulated document for what purpose an assessment is being produced.

b. It is reasonable for assessments requested by the MOD for planning purposes relating to potential military activity to consider worst case scenarios.

c. JIC assessments should make clear what the JIC does not know in areas where gaps and uncertainties are material to the assessment.

d. Assessments should not give undue weight to intelligence reports over wider analysis of historical, psychological or geopolitical factors.

e. All reasonably sustainable hypotheses should not be dismissed finally until there is sufficient information to do so.

f. Challenge should be an accepted and routine part of the assessment process as well as an occasional formal exercise, built into the system.

g. Consideration should be given from time to time to occasional external peer review, particularly on technical issues.

h. The JIC should continue to conduct regular lessons-learned processes. We have observed in the context of Iraq the truism that under-estimates of a problem tend to get highlighted and over-estimates forgotten on the basis that the latter are less damaging. Attention needs to be paid to misjudgements in both directions.

7.4 MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT

We received evidence from two former Cabinet members, one of the present and one of a previous administration, who expressed their concern about the informal nature of much of the Government's decision-making process, and the relative lack of use of established Cabinet Committee machinery.

Two changes which occurred over this period had implications for the application of intelligence to collective ministerial decision-making. One was the splitting of the Cabinet Secretary's responsibilities through the creation of the post of Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator. The latter is able to devote the majority of his time to security and intelligence issues in a way that the Cabinet Secretary, with all the many other calls on his time, could not. It was represented to us that this change was particularly necessary after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. However, the effect is that the Cabinet Secretary is no longer so directly involved in the chain through which intelligence reaches the Prime Minister. It follows that the Cabinet Secretary, who attends the Cabinet and maintains the machinery to support their decision-making, is less directly involved personally in advising the Prime Minister on security and intelligence issues. By the same token, the Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator does not attend Cabinet and is not part of the Cabinet Secretariat supporting Cabinet Ministers in discharging their collective responsibilities in defence and overseas policy matters. We understand that the Intelligence and Security Committee will shortly review how this arrangement has worked.

The second change was that two key posts at the top of the Cabinet Secretariat, those of Head of the Defence and Overseas Secretariat and Head of the European Affairs Secretariat, were combined with the posts of the Prime Minister's advisers on Foreign Affairs and on European Affairs respectively. We believe that the effect of the changes has been to weight their responsibility to the Prime Minister more heavily than their responsibility through the Cabinet Secretary to the Cabinet as a whole. It is right to acknowledge that the view of the present post-holders is that the arrangement works well, in particular in connecting the work of the Cabinet Secretariat to that of the Prime Minister's office. We should also record that it was clear from the departmental policy papers we read that there was very close co-operation between officials in the Prime Minister's office and in the FCO in policy-making on Iraq. It is nonetheless a shift which acts to concentrate detailed knowledge and effective decision-making in fewer minds at the top.

In the year before the war, the Cabinet discussed policy towards Iraq as a specific agenda item 24 times. It also arose in the course of discussions on other business. Cabinet members were offered and many received briefings on the intelligence picture on Iraq.

There was therefore no lack of discussion on Iraq; and we have been informed that it was substantive. The Ministerial Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy did not meet.

By contrast, over the period from April 2002 to the start of military action, some 25 meetings attended by the small number of key Ministers, officials and military officers most closely involved provided the framework of discussion and decision-making within Government.

We do not suggest that there is or should be an ideal or unchangeable system of collective Government, still less that procedures are in aggregate any less effective now than in earlier times. However, we are concerned that the informality and circumscribed character of the Government's procedures which we saw in the context of policy-making towards Iraq risks reducing the scope for informed collective political judgement. Such risks are particularly significant in a field like the subject of our Review, where hard facts are inherently difficult to come by and the quality of judgement is accordingly all the more important.

CHAPTER 8: SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS

CHAPTER 3 ­ TERRORISM

All of the UK intelligence agencies are developing new techniques, and we have seen clear evidence that they are co-operating at all levels.

JTAC has now been operating for over a year and has proved a success.

International counter-terrorism collaboration has also been significantly enhanced in the past six or seven years. Though we understand that other countries have not yet achieved the same level of inter-departmental synthesis, considerable developments have taken place. Staff of the UK intelligence and security agencies are today in much wider contact with their opposite numbers throughout the world. We note these initiatives, but remain concerned that the procedures of the international community are still not sufficiently aligned to match the threat.

CHAPTER 5 ­ IRAQ

The Policy Context

The developing policy context of the previous four years and especially the impact of the events of 11 September 2001, formed the backdrop for changes in policy towards Iraq in early 2002. The Government's conclusion in the spring of 2002 that stronger action (although not necessarily military action) needed to be taken to enforce Iraqi disarmament was not based on any new development in the current intelligence picture on Iraq.

The Government, as well as being influenced by the concerns of the US Government, saw a need for immediate action on Iraq because of the wider historical and international context, especially Iraq's perceived continuing challenge to the authority of the United Nations. The Government also saw in the United Nations and a decade of Security Council Resolutions a basis for action through the United Nations to enforce Iraqi compliance with its disarmament obligations.

The Government considered in March 2002 two options for achieving the goal of Iraqi disarmament - a toughening of the existing containment policy; and regime change by military means. Ministers were advised that, if regime change was the chosen policy, only the use of overriding force in a ground campaign would achieve the removal of Saddam Hussein and Iraq's re-integration with the international community.

Officials noted that regime change of itself had no basis in international law; and that any offensive military action against Iraq could only be justified
if Iraq were held to be in
breach of its disarmament obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 or some new resolution.

Officials also noted that for the five Permanent Members of the Security Council and the majority of the 15 members of the Council to take the view
that Iraq was in breach of its obligations under Resolution 687, they would need to be
convinced that Iraq was in breach of its obligations; that such proof would need to be incontrovertible and of large-scale activity; but that the intelligence then available was insufficiently robust to meet that criterion.

The Sources of intelligence

Between 1991 and 1998, the bulk of information used in
assessing the status of Iraq's
biological, chemical and ballistic missile programmes was derived from UNSCOM reports.

After the departure of the United Nations inspectors
in December 1998, information sources were sparse, particularly on Iraq's chemical
and biological weapons programmes. The number of primary human intelligence sources remained few. Other intelligence sources provided valuable information on other activity, including overseas procurement activity. They did not generally provide confirmation of the intelligence received from human sources, but did contribute to the picture of the continuing intention of the Iraqi regime to pursue its prohibited weapons programmes.

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. Of the main human intelligence sources:

One SIS main source reported authoritatively on some issues, but on others was passing on what he had heard within his circle.

Reporting from a sub-source to a second SIS main source that was important to JIC assessments on Iraqi possession of chemical and biological weapons must be open to doubt.

Reports from a third SIS main source have been withdrawn as unreliable.

Reports from two further SIS main sources continue to
be regarded as reliable, although it is notable that their reports were less worrying
than the rest about Iraqi chemical and biological weapons capabilities.

Reports received from a liaison service on Iraqi production of biological agent were seriously flawed, so that the grounds for JIC assessments drawing on those reports that Iraq had recently-produced stocks of biological agent no longer exist.

We do not believe that over-reliance on dissident and émigré sources was a major cause of subsequent weaknesses in the human intelligence relied on by the UK.

One reason for the number of agents whose reports turned out to be unreliable or questionable may be 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. 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.

A major underlying reason for the problems that have arisen was the difficulty of achieving reliable human intelligence on Iraq.

However, even taking into account the difficulty of recruiting and running reliable agents on Iraqi issues, we conclude that part of the reason for the serious doubt being cast over a high proportion of human intelligence reports on Iraq arises from weaknesses in the effective application by SIS of its validation procedures and in their proper resourcing.

Assessment

In general, we found that the original intelligence material was correctly reported in JIC assessments. An exception was the "45-minute" report. But this sort of example was rare.

We should record in particular that we have found no evidence of deliberate distortion or of culpable negligence.

We found no evidence of
JIC assessments and the judgements inside them being pulled in any particular direction to meet the policy concerns of senior officials on the JIC.

We conclude in general that the intelligence community made good use of the technical expertise available to the Government.

We accept the need for careful handling of human intelligence reports to sustain the security of sources. We have, however, seen evidence of difficulties that arose from the
unduly strict "compartmentalisation" of intelligence. It was wrong that a report which was of significance in the drafting of a document of the importance of the dossier was not shown to key experts in the DIS who could have commented on the validity and credibility of the report. We conclude that arrangements should always be sought to ensure that the need for protection of sources should not prevent the exposure of reports on technical matters to the most expert available analysis.

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 worst case estimates, shorn of their caveats, becoming the "prevailing wisdom". The JIC may, in some assessments, also have misread the nature of Iraqi governmental and social structures.

The Use of Intelligence

Strenuous efforts were made to ensure that no individual statements were made in the dossier which went beyond the judgements of the JIC. But, 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 with readers the impression that there was fuller and firmer intelligence behind the judgements than was the case: our view, having reviewed all of the material, is that judgements in the dossier went to (although not beyond) the outer limits of the intelligence available.

We conclude that it was a serious weakness that the JIC's warnings on the limitations of the intelligence underlying its judgements were not made sufficiently clear in the dossier.

We understand why the Government felt it had to meet the mounting public and Parliamentary demand for information. We also recognise that there is a real dilemma between giving the public an authoritative account of the intelligence picture and protecting the objectivity of the JIC from the pressures imposed by providing information for public debate. It is difficult to resolve these requirements.

We conclude, with the benefit of hindsight, that making public that the JIC had authorship of the dossier was a mistaken judgement, though we do not criticise the JIC for taking responsibility for clearance of the intelligence content of the document.

However, in the particular circumstances, the publication of such a document in the name and with the authority of the JIC had the result that more weight was placed on the intelligence than it could bear. The consequence also was to put the JIC and its Chairman into an area of public controversy and arrangements must be made for the future which avoid putting the JIC and its Chairman in a similar position.

We conclude that, if intelligence is to be used more widely by governments in public debate in future, those doing so must be careful to explain its uses and limitations. It will be essential, too, that clearer and more effective dividing lines between assessment and advocacy are established when doing so.

We realise that our conclusions may provoke calls for the current Chairman of the JIC, Mr Scarlett, to withdraw from his appointment as the next Chief of SIS. We greatly hope that he will not do so. We have a high regard for his abilities and his record.

Validation of the Intelligence

Even now it would be premature to reach conclusions about Iraq's prohibited weapons. Much potential evidence may have been destroyed in the looting and disorder that followed the cessation of hostilities. Other material may be hidden in the sand, including stocks of agent or weapons.

We believe that it would be a rash person who asserted at this stage that evidence of Iraqi possession of stocks of biological or chemical agents, or even of banned missiles, does not exist or will never be found. But as a result of our Review, and taking into account the evidence which has been found by the ISG and debriefing of Iraqi personnel, we have reached the conclusion that prior to the war the Iraqi regime:

a. Had the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including if possible its nuclear weapons programme, when United Nations inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were eroded or lifted.

b. In support of that goal, was carrying out illicit research and development, and procurement, activities, to seek to sustain its indigenous capabilities.

c. Was developing ballistic missiles with a range longer than permitted under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions; but did not have significant ­ if any ­ stocks of chemical or biological weapons in a state fit for deployment, or developed plans for using them.

CHAPTER 6 ­ IRAQ:
SPECIFIC ISSUES

Links Between al-Qai'da and the Iraqi Regime

The JIC made it clear that the al-Qa'ida-linked facilities in the Kurdish Ansar al Islam area were involved in the production of chemical and biological agents, but they were beyond the control of the Iraqi regime.

The JIC made clear that, although there were contacts between the Iraqi regime and al-Qa'ida, there was no evidence of co-operation.

Operation Mass Appeal

There were two meetings between British Government
officials and UNSCOM representatives, including Mr Ritter, in May and June 1998 at which there were discussions about how to make public the discovery of traces of the nerve agent VX on missile warheads after this fact had been reported to the United Nations Security Council.

(Iraq had previously denied weaponising VX.) Operation Mass Appeal was set up for this specific purpose and did not exist before May 1998. In the event, before Operation Mass Appeal could proceed, the UNSCOM report was leaked to the press in Washington.

Because of this, Operation Mass Appeal was abandoned.

Uranium From Africa

From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.

b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger's exports, the intelligence was credible.

c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.

d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.

The '45-minute' Claim

The JIC should not have included the "45-minute" report in its assessment and in the Government's dossier without stating what it was believed to refer to. The fact that the reference in the classed assessment was repeated in the dossier later led to suspicions that it had been included because of its eye-catching character.

Mobile Biological Weapons Laboratories

We consider that it was reasonable for the JIC to include in its assessments of March and September 2002 a reference to intelligence reports on Iraq's seeking mobile biological agent production facilities. But it has emerged that the intelligence from the source, if it had been correctly reported, would not have been consistent with a judgement that Iraq had, on the basis of recent production, stocks of biological agent. If SIS had had direct access to the source from 2000 onwards, and hence correct intelligence reporting, the main evidence for JIC judgements on Iraq's stocks of recently produced biological agent, as opposed to a break-out capacity, would not have existed.

Aluminium Tubes

The evidence we received on aluminium tubes was overwhelmingly that they were intended for rockets rather than a centrifuge. We found this convincing. Despite this, we conclude that the JIC was right to consider carefully the possibility that the tubes were evidence of a resumed nuclear programme, and that it properly reflected the doubts about the use of the tubes in the caution of its assessments. But in transferring its judgements to the dossier, the JIC omitted the important information about the need for substantial re-engineering of the aluminium tubes to make them suitable for use as gas centrifuge rotors. This omission had the effect of materially strengthening the impression that they may have been intended for a gas centrifuge and hence for a nuclear programme.

Plague and Dusty Mustard

Plague and "dusty mustard" were just two of the many biological and chemical threats on which the intelligence community had to keep watch in the period before the first Gulf war, and subsequently.

The intelligence on their availability to Iraq in 1990 and 1991 rested on a small number of reports and the evidence derived from examination of a munition. There were grounds for scepticism both about the reports' sources and their quality. Nevertheless, we conclude that the Government was right in 1990 and 1991 to act on a precautionary basis.

We find it harder to understand the treatment of the intelligence in the ensuing period.

"Dusty mustard" disappears from JIC assessments from 1993 onwards. By contrast, although little new intelligence was received, and most of that was historical or unconvincing, plague continued to be mentioned in JIC assessments up to March 2003.

Those fluctuated in the certainty of judgements about Iraqi possession of plague between "possibly" and "probably".

We conclude that, in the case of plague, JIC assessments reflected historic evidence, and intelligence of dubious reliability, reinforced by suspicion of Iraq, rather than up-to-date evidence.

Dr Jones' Dissent

Dr Jones was right to raise concerns about the manner of expression of the "45-minute" report in the dossier given the vagueness of the underlying intelligence.

Dr Jones was right to raise concerns about the certainty of language used in the dossier on Iraqi production and possession of chemical agents.

We recognise that circumstances arise in which it is right for senior officials to take a broad view that differs from the opinions of those with expertise on points of detail.

We do not, however, consider that the report held back from Dr Jones and his staff (which Dr Jones' superiors regarded as justifying the certainty of the language in the dossier) was one to which such considerations should have applied. It was understandable that SIS should have wanted to give greater than normal protection to the human intelligence source on this occasion. But a problem arose because it was kept from the relevant DIS analysts who had a wider perspective.

It would have been more appropriate for senior managers in the DIS and SIS to have made arrangements for the intelligence to be shown to DIS experts rather than their making their own judgements on its significance.

Oil Supplies

We saw no evidence that a motive of the British Government for initiating military action was securing continuing access to oil supplies.

CHAPTER 7 ­ CONCLUSIONS ON BROADER ISSUES

Defence Intelligence Staff

We consider that further steps are needed to integrate the relevant work of the DIS more closely with the rest of the intelligence community. We welcome the arrangements now being made to give the Joint Intelligence Committee more leverage through the Intelligence Requirements process to ensure that the DIS serves wider national priorities as well as it does defence priorities and has the resources which the rest of the intelligence community needs to support its activities. If that involved increasing the Secret Intelligence Account by a sum to be at the Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator's disposal to commission such resources, we would support that.

We recommend consideration of the provision of proper channels for the expression of dissent within the DIS through the extension of the remit of the Staff Counsellor, who provides a confidential outlet for conscientious objection or dissent within the intelligence agencies, to cover DIS civilian staff and the Assessments Staff.

We recognise the case for the Chief of Defence Intelligence to be a serving officer so that he is fully meshed into military planning. But we consider that the Deputy should, unless there are good reasons to the contrary at the time when a particular appointment is made, be an intelligence specialist.

The Joint Intelligence Committee

We recommend no change in the JIC's membership.

We see a strong case for the post of Chairman of the JIC being held by someone with experience of dealing with Ministers in a very senior role, and who is demonstrably beyond influence, and thus probably in his last post.

The Assessments Staff

We recommend that the Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator reviews the size of the Assessments Staff, and in particular considers whether they have available the volume and range of resources to ask the questions which need to be asked in fully assessing intelligence reports and in thinking radically.

We recommend also that this review should include considering whether there should be a specialism of analysis with a career structure and room for advancement, allowing the Assessments Staff to include some career members. We understand that the Intelligence and Security Committee are planning to look at this issue.

It may be worth considering the appointment of a distinguished scientist to undertake a part-time role as adviser to the Cabinet Office.

The Language of JIC Assessments

The JIC has been right not to reach a judgement when the evidence is insubstantial. We believe that the JIC should, where there are significant limitations in the intelligence, state these clearly alongside its Key Judgements. While not arguing for a particular approach to the language of JIC assessments and the way in which alternative or minority hypotheses, or uncertainty, are expressed, we recommend that the intelligence community review their conventions again to see if there would be advantage in refreshing them.

Machinery of Government

We do not suggest that there is or should be an ideal or unchangeable system of collective Government, still less that procedures are in aggregate any less effective now than in earlier times. However, we are concerned that the informality and circumscribed character of the Government's procedures which we saw in the context of policy-making towards Iraq risks reducing the scope for informed collective political judgement. Such risks are particularly significant in a field like the subject of our Review, where hard facts are inherently difficult to come by and the quality of judgement is accordingly all the more important

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