New evidence shows crucial dossier changes

The Government changed the title of its September 2002 dossier on Iraq at the last minute, to portray a situation in Iraq that some of its most senior experts did not accept as valid.

Documents released by the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly show not only that the claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were strengthened in the two weeks before the dossier's release, but also that a crucial alteration was made to the title. The last draft of the dossier available to the inquiry from 19 September was entitled "Iraq's programme for weapons of mass destruction". But the title on both the Downing Street website and printed versions is simply "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction".

Referring to a weapons "programme" does not imply they exist or are being produced. The most it indicates is that production could begin in future. UN weapons inspectors in Iraq throughout the second half of the 1990s focused on uncovering the potential for Iraq to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as there was little evidence that actual weapons existed or that production was taking place.

Tony Blair claimed repeatedly that Iraq had these weapons and was producing more, and that this made Iraq a serious threat.

By contrast, the view of Dr Kelly was that Iraqi programmes had to be the focus of attention. In a conversation on 30 May with BBC Newsnight journalist Susan Watts, a recording of which was played to the inquiry, he says the concern "was not so much what [the Iraqis] have now but what they would have in the future. But that unfortunately wasn't expressed strongly in the dossier, because that takes away the case for war to a certain extent."

A member of the defence intelligence staff, who identified himself as "probably the most senior and experienced intelligence community official working on WMD", wrote just before the dossier's release to Tony Cragg, then the deputy chief of defence intelligence, to express formal reservations about the dossier. According to Martin Howard, Mr Cragg's successor, the reservation was partly that "the language was too strong on the continued production of chemical and biological agents".

Neither the senior intelligence official nor Dr Kellyaccepted that Iraq had continued to produce prohibited weapons. The ongoing production of weapons was a crucial element of the case for a threat from Iraq, because most of its chemical or biological agents produced before 1991 would have become useless.

Mr Howard advised the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, to acknowledge to the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which meets behind closed doors and reports only to the Prime Minister, that the intelligence official and one other member of the defence intelligence staff had expressed reservations.

But Mr Howard told the inquiry that these individuals had not seen "sensitive" new information, and so were not able to appreciate the stronger new claim.

It is hard to see why the most senior defence intelligence official on WMD would be denied access to information on the subject. Nor did this explanation by Mr Howard appear in any of the correspondence between himself and the sceptical official that was released by the inquiry.

The suspicion that the intelligence community focused on Iraq's WMD potential rather than existing weapons is increased by the changes to the text visible in the limited excerpts released so far during the Hutton inquiry from earlier drafts of the September dossier.

The draft of the dossier from 10 September, two weeks before its release, concludes: "Intelligence confirms that Iraq has covert chemical and biological weapons programmes, in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 687." This is changed in the final version of the dossier to: "Intelligence shows that Iraq has covert chemical and biological weapons programmes, in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 687 and has continued to produce chemical and biological agents."

On the same page is the only allegation that Iraq actually has such weapons: "Iraq has chemical and biological agents and weapons available, either from pre-Gulf War stocks or more recent production."

In the final version of the dossier, this is strengthened to: "Iraq has chemical and biological agents and weapons available, both from pre-Gulf War stocks and more recent production."

Similarly, the claim that weapons could be used within 45 minutes was strengthened between the draft of the dossier dated 16 September and that published eight days later. The earlier version raised a possibility: "The Iraqi military may be able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so."

The version released to the public lost the element of uncertainty: "Military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them."

Even in the published version of the dossier, as BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan pointed out at the inquiry, the description of Iraq's potential to produce chemical and biological weapons is provided in detail, while the claim about continuing production is merely asserted.

"The most immediate threat" from Iraq is identified as "Iraqi former chemical and biological warfare facilities", while "their limited reconstruction and civil production pointed to a continuing research and development programme".

But the dossier goes on to claim that there is actual production of warfare agents, a claim highlighted in the Prime Minister's foreword and in his subsequent speech to the House of Commons.

One possibility, voiced by Mr Gilligan, was that these arresting claims were added into the dossier at a late stage. The distinction between "programmes" for weapons and actual weapons gained political significance after the Prime Minister told the Parliamentary Liaison Committee, made up of the chairs of the select committees, on 8 July that he had "absolutely no doubt at all that we will find evidence of weapons of mass destruction programmes".

The change in language, away from earlier claims that weapons would be found, was not lost on his critics.

So far none of the witnesses from within the intelligence community has disclosed a role in making alterations to the dossier after 19 September. When it left their hands, it appears, it was still called "Iraq's programme for weapons of mass destruction".

Perhaps the Downing Street officials due to appear before the committee this week, including Alastair Campbell, will be able to shed light on how it became a dossier instead about "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction".

Dr Glen Rangwala is a lecturer in politics at Newnham College, Cambridge University

Dr Kelly and the 'biological warfare trailers'

On 5 June, Dr Kelly paid his first visit to Iraq since the invasion. On his five-day stopover, he inspected the mobile trailers, left, that Tony Blair had claimed the previous week were for the production of biological weapons. Dr Kelly came away with the impression that they were no such thing. According to Bryan Wells, a senior official at the Ministry of Defence whom Dr Kelly advised, he "was of the view that these were not biological weapons facilities". When a report came out in The Observer on 15 June that cited "a British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined the trailers in Iraq", claiming that the trailers could not be used for making biological weapons, suspicion fell on Dr Kelly.

The concern about Dr Kelly's views receiving further coverage is apparent in a hand-written note by John Scarlett, chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, to whom the responsibility for writing the September dossier was given. At the time when there were considerations about whether or not Dr Kelly should be allowed to appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), Mr Scarlett wrote: "Note also that Kelly may state his view, if given the chance by the FAC, that trailers are not for BW [biological weapons] production." This could be interpreted to mean that the possibility that Dr Kelly might give his expert opinion on the trailers to a public audience was a factor militating against his appearance. Mr Scarlett sent the note to Jonathan Powell (Downing Street chief of staff), David Manning (Tony Blair's senior foreign policy advisor) and Alastair Campbell.

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