Key player says case for war 'over-egged' and staff were 'concerned and unhappy'

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Senior figures in defence intelligence warned that the Government had "over-egged" its dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, one of the Ministry of Defence's most senior intelligence experts said yesterday.

Brian Jones, the former head of the scientific branch of the Defence Intelligence Analysis Staff, said he wrote a memorandum setting out his concerns just days before the dossier was published.

Dr Jones, a close colleague of David Kelly, also criticised the claim that Iraq could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes, saying it was based on "nebulous" information from a second-hand source, and could have been disinformation. He also told the inquiry that the full Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) did not meet to approve the final draft of the dossier.

Dr Jones said his staff had been "concerned and unhappy" with the way that their intelligence had been used. He said: "The impression I had was that on 19 September the shutters were coming down on this particular paper."

Although Dr Jones did not ask for the removal of the claim from the dossier, he and his colleagues wanted it to be qualified, he told the inquiry.

Dr Jones said he took the unusual step of writing to his superiors in the MoD because warnings from intelligence staff about the language used in the dossier were ignored. He said they could not point to "solid evidence" that Iraq continued to produce chemical weapons, and warned that the wording in the dossier was too strong.

He told the inquiry: "I only had cause to express this sort of reservation, after the shutters had come down, on one occasion ... maybe two. In 15 years of dealing with this process it was very unusual to have to do that."

He also criticised the loose use of the term "weapons of mass destruction" in the dossier, arguing that many chemical and biological weapons would "struggle" to fit that category.

Dr Jones, an MoD employee for 30 years, regularly worked with Dr Kelly, drawing on his expertise in the field of biological weapons.

Questioned by James Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry, Dr Jones said he supervised staff who were working on the papers about Iraq throughout the summer of 2002, but the workload died down. He went on holiday on 30 August, unaware of any work being carried out on the dossier. When he returned on 18 September, the document was dominating the work of the department.

Dr Jones said that Dr Kelly was in the office on the day he returned and was reading a draft copy of the dossier in a colleague's office. He said: "I asked him: 'What do you think of the dossier, David?'" Mr Dingemans asked: "And what did he say?" Dr Jones replied: "He said he thought it was good."

Dr Jones said that not all members of staff shared that view. He said: "Well, maybe I can just explain that some of my staff had said that they were unhappy with all the detail that was in the dossier. My expert analyst on CW [chemical weapons] expressed particular concern. At its simplest he was concerned that some of the statements that were in the dossier did not accurately represent his assessment of the intelligence available to him."

Comments had been passed to the intelligence officials compiling views of experts across the MoD. But Dr Jones said significant worries were not acted upon, something that left the chemical weapons expert "very concerned". He said he "spent hours debating" the detailed wording of reports.

Lord Hutton asked: "Can you give us examples of the nature of his representations not being accepted? Were they matters of language? Were they matters of assessing how serious a particular matter was?"

Dr Jones said: "They were really about a tendency in certain areas, from his point of view, to shall we say over-egg certain assessments in relation particularly to the production of CW agents and weapons since 1998. And he was concerned that he could not point to any solid evidence of such production. He did not dismiss that it may have happened, and there was certain evidence that suggested that it could have happened, but he did not have good evidence that it had happened."

Dr Jones told the inquiry that he and his colleagues also had a series of concerns about the claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction "within 45 minutes".

He said: "I had some concerns about the 45-minute point myself; yes ... My concerns were that Iraq's chemical weapons and biological weapons capabilities were not being accurately represented in all regards in relation to the available evidence.

"In particular ... I was told that there was no evidence that significant production had taken place either of chemical warfare agent or chemical weapons."

Dr Jones, who saw the original intelligence reports on which the 45-minute claim was based, was asked about his other concerns.

He said: "One of them was the way in which the information was reported did not give us any real feel - and I think there was some acknowledgement of this in the reporting - that the primary source, the source, the well-known source knew very much about the subject he was reporting on. And so we were left wondering: well, did the secondary source know these sort of things?"

He added: "We even wondered when discussing the issue whether he [the informant] may have been trying to influence rather than inform."

Dr Jones and his colleagues were also worried that the information contained little detail about the types of weapon which might be deployed within 45 minutes.

He said: "We would have looked, normally, for further definitions to feel really comfortable with a report of this sort as to which particular agents were involved, because as I have said, different agents behave in different ways. And the way in which they behave will relate to whether it is important that you can launch these things within 45 minutes."

He added: "It was a fairly nebulous general statement that concerned us. But I mean at times one has to work with that sort of information in intelligence."

Dr Jones also warned that there was little "collateral" intelligence to back up the 45-minute claim. He told the inquiry: "We were concerned about the content of the report. It didn't say whether [the 45-minute claim] was for chemical or biological weapons, which is important. We felt that we did in fact lack the collateral intelligence that allowed us to add confidence, if you like, to this single source.

"We had not seen the weapons being produced. We had no evidence of any recent testing or field trials and things like that. So that all cast some doubts in our mind on that particular piece of intelligence."

But Dr Jones insisted that he had never argued that the intelligence should be excluded from the dossier. He said: "We thought it was important intelligence. I personally thought that the word used in the main body of the text, that the intelligence indicated this was a little bit strong but I felt I could live with that, but I thought that the other references to this intelligence in the dossier ... I thought they were too strong."

He added: "I think we felt it was reasonable to say that the intelligence indicated that this was the case but we did not think ... the intelligence showed it absolutely beyond any shadow of doubt."

Dr Jones said that standard procedures for drawing up intelligence papers were not followed in the run-up to the dossier's publication.

The final drafts of the dossier were dealt with outside the normal Wednesday meetings of the JIC. He said: "What was unusual or what did not follow the normal practice was that this was not a paper that was going through the process by which it was examined and argued over at a full meeting of the Joint Intelligence Committee at the stage that we are talking about."

Today At The Inquiry

Lord Hutton will hear evidence from the following witnesses:

Olivia Bosch, a colleague of David Kelly who worked with him as a weapons inspector in Iraq for Unscom.

Leigh Potter, neighbour of the Kelly family

Richard Taylor, special adviser to Geoff Hoon, and the first person to name Dr Kelly to the media on 9 July

Tom Mangold, journalist and friend of Dr Kelly