Iraqi exile admits he never checked WMD intelligence

Technical experts were baffled by weapons data that 'did not fit in'
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The Iraqi exile who passed on the controversial "45-minute" claim about Iraqi chemical and biological weapons to British intelligence has insisted he did so in good faith, but had no means of checking it himself, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

The Iraqi exile who passed on the controversial "45-minute" claim about Iraqi chemical and biological weapons to British intelligence has insisted he did so in good faith, but had no means of checking it himself, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

With Britain striving in September 2002 to produce as convincing a dossier as possible on the alleged threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the late arrival of this information, known as a CX report, was one of the items of intelligence indicating Saddam Hussein might use WMD.

The fact that it came to MI6 from a single source was not necessarily a problem. The head of the agency, Sir Richard Dearlove, told the Hutton inquiry: "CX reports as produced by my service are essentially single source; and much high-quality intelligence which is factual or proved to be factual is single-source material."

The difficulty with the material was that although the intermediary had a long track record of reliability with MI6, he was not in Iraq, and was passing on information from a previously unknown officer in the military who, he believed, was in a position to know what he was talking about.

This was a tenuous basis for a claim which was to cause such trouble for the Government, the BBC and for David Kelly, the weapons expert. He committed suicide after being revealed as the source for Andrew Gilligan, the Radio 4 Today reporter, who reported on his doubts about the dossier. The Iraqi officer had said some chemical and biological munitions could be ready for use in 45 minutes, but because it was believed that the information could reveal the source, it was "compartmentalised". This meant that the CX report could not be seen by other intelligence agencies.

Once John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, had dropped the report's reference to munitions in the dossier, transforming it into a bald claim that some Iraqi WMD could be deployed in 45 minutes, it was difficult for other analysts to assess.

Technical experts who worked with Dr Kelly in the Defence Intelligence Staff were particularly baffled, saying the claim did not fit in with any processes or weapons systems they knew of. One of them, a chemical warfare specialist known only as "Mr A", told Lord Hutton: "It was a statement which seemed to rather beg more questions than it answered; and for those of us without access to the source intelligence, it really made us ask further questions. Since we did not have access to that intelligence, no assurances about its origins or its implications could be given.

"I think all those of us without access to that intelligence immediately asked the question: well, what does the 45 minutes refer to? Are you referring to a technical process? Are you referring to a commander control process? And if your assessment causes you to immediately ask questions, then we felt that it was not perhaps a statement that ought to be included."

Dr Brian Jones, the head of the section where Dr Kelly and Mr A worked, formally complained about the dossier to his superiors, but the Hutton inquiry heard that nothing happened as a result. Last week, Dr Jones called for the "compartmentalised" intelligence to be published, saying he had since spoken to someone familiar with the contents of the CX report and had been told the information was too thin to contradict the opinion of all the technical experts.

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