Two nations, two reports, two very different languages

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Indy Politics

The contrast between the language in the Presidential Commission report on intelligence and the British inquiries into the run-up to war in Iraq could not be starker.

The contrast between the language in the Presidential Commission report on intelligence and the British inquiries into the run-up to war in Iraq could not be starker.

From the first paragraph of the 618-page report, the 10 members of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States cut to the chase in words a world away from those in the Butler and Hutton reports.

Where Lord Butler found that "validation of human intelligence sources after the war has thrown doubt on a high proportion of those sources and their reports", the US Commission said the intelligence community was "dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgements".

Lord Butler said the intelligence underpinning claims that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons was "very thin", but the US Commission declared that intelligence agencies "collected precious little intelligence for the analysts to analyse".

Where Lord Hutton's report on the events leading to the death of the Government's weapons expert Dr David Kelly was derided as a whitewash, yesterday's Washington report pulled no punches, criticising the run-up to war as "one of the most public - and most damaging - intelligence failures in recent American history".

At Westminster yesterday the Washington report reopened the debate about the intelligence basis for Britain's role in the invasion. Michael Ancram, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said: "Given that the intelligence was apparently so poor, how on earth could the Prime Minister have pretended it was 'extensive, detailed and authoritative'."

However, behind the outspoken language of the Washington report and the careful wording of the Butler report, there were similarities between the two. Neither report blamed any politicians. Lord Butler said the Government did not act in bad faith. The US Commission concluded that the intelligence community did not seek to distort intelligence about Iraq.

Where Lord Butler found no individuals were to blame, his American counterparts said: "The intelligence community didn't adequately explain just how little good intelligence it had - or how much its assessments were driven by assumptions."

The Commission insisted that it was "not authorised to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received".

That echoed a complaint about Lord Butler's inquiry, which was not charged with looking at the use of intelligence by politicians, although it didcriticise the decision to remove caveats from the intelligence judgements presented in the Government's dossier on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

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