Security services hit back in row over 'sexed up' dossier on Saddam's war machine

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Indy Politics

The intelligence services are demanding clear guidelines and greater control on how information it supplies to the Government is used in Tony Blair's promised new Iraq dossier.

Senior security service sources have disclosed unprecedented disquiet on how their findings were "hardened up" by Downing Street to support claims that Saddam Hussein posed immediate danger with his alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Security officers want John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, to ensure future reports by the services are not "sub-edited" by Downing Street officials, and outside material is not passed off as intelligence.

There is concern that No 10 demanded and received "raw intelligence", unchecked by the security services. The normal practice is for this to be filtered by the JIC.

Some of the "information" received by Downing Street, the security services believe, came from Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, without the JIC being involved.

The security services feel some ministers are appearing to blame the spies for exaggerating the alleged Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear arsenal, paving the way for war. But the security officials say No 10 continuously pressured them to show the immediacy of the Iraqi threat, and the JIC was under pressure from Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's communications director, and other senior officials, to "toughen" its conclusions.

The JIC includes Sir Richard Dearlove, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6); Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5; and Air Marshal Joe French, head of military intelligence. Mr Scarlett, chairman of the JIC since 2001, is a career MI6 officer.

He has admitted there was a "debate" on what should be included in the dossier presented by Mr Blair last September. But he has denied there was friction between him and Downing Street.

He has not commented on a dossier in February, when information supplied by the JIC was mashed with material from the internet by officials and researchers under Mr Campbell and passed off as an "intelligence dossier".

But security officials say Mr Scarlett was pushed to change "nuances" in the reports. "It may seem like semantics, but add an 's' to source and it becomes a multiple one, thus giving it more credence", one source said. "We called it 'sub-editing' by the No 10 people because Campbell is a former journalist, he has brought in other journalists, and we presume that is what they do. But for us this is a serious matter.

"People had gone to considerable risk to get our information, but they appear not to have suited certain agendas. A lot of people were appalled by the cavalier fashion in which this was treated.

"It may be ironic, but we do believe there was a weapons programme - nothing like the scale suggested - but it would have been found. Once the inspectors left, the Iraqis probably destroyed what little there was."