The crucial revelation that makes it impossible for John Scarlett to keep his job

Share
Related Topics

The more detailed the study of the Butler report, the more worrying its revelations about the quality and assessment of the intelligence in the run-up to war. And, it has to be said, the more precarious the position of John Scarlett, the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee at the time and the new head of MI6 from this autumn.

The more detailed the study of the Butler report, the more worrying its revelations about the quality and assessment of the intelligence in the run-up to war. And, it has to be said, the more precarious the position of John Scarlett, the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee at the time and the new head of MI6 from this autumn.

The lack of caveats in the September dossier, Mr Scarlett's willingness to go along with Number 10's suggestions for presentation, and his readiness to accept "ownership" of a document that he knew to be at best less nuanced, and in parts more confident, than the assessments made by the committee he chaired, have already been well publicised.

But it is in the validity of the last-minute human sources who provided the really crucial information used to justify the assertions made about Saddam Hussein's possession of chemical and biological weapons that the most worrying points are now emerging. It was these last-minute additions that, in Butler's account, made all the difference to the tone of the dossier and the Prime Minister's later speeches to Parliament and the public.

Yet the information provided by these sources was deliberately kept from any of the analysts who might have checked it against other information and assessment.

The crucial paragraph is 405 of the report. In it, Lord Butler and his committee state that in mid-September 2002, a "report, described as being a new source on trial," was brought in which provided "significant assurance to those drafting the Government's dossier that active, current production of chemical and biological agent was taking place". A second report about a particular agent followed. "In July 2003, however," states the report, "SIS withdrew the two reports because the sourcing chain had by then been discredited."

The significance of this statement goes beyond what it says of the unsafeness of the dossier. It lies in the date at which the reports were withdrawn - July 2003. This was after the invasion but before Hutton took his evidence, and at the same time as the Commons Defence and Intelligence Committees were drawing up their assessments. Yet none of these reports contained a word about this crucial information, nor did either Sir Richard Dearlove, head of SIS, or John Scarlett refer to it in their evidence before the inquiries. Nor did Downing Street witnesses, if indeed they knew about it. How different would these reports have been if this information had been included. Would it have been Gavyn Davies, Greg Dyke and Andrew Gilligan who lost their jobs and not the heads of the intelligence community?

No one is claiming this as a smoking gun with which to discredit the Prime Minister or Lord Hutton. Nor are we, despite the accusations of government ministers, embarked on a witch-hunt for Dearlove or his successor. All of them could - almost certainly did - accept the new source in good faith and used its information at face value.

Yet the Prime Minister went on claiming that it was "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein was continuing to produce chemical and biological agents throughout 2003, and three successive investigations were allowed to proceed without the relevant information. If SIS withdrew the intelligence in July, one has to ask just when did they begin to have doubts, when did they tell the JIC, and why did they see fit not to tell any of the appropriate inquiries. This, after all, was no run-of-the-mill change in the evaluation of an ordinary piece of intelligence. This was the complete rejection of a central piece of a public document used to persuade Parliament and the people to support an invasion of a foreign country.

From the beginning, Tony Blair has been almost obsessional in his expression of public support for John Scarlett. In defiance of the ordinary laws of propriety, he went ahead with appointing him as the next head of MI6 before the Butler inquiry had reported. Butler's findings now make it impossible for him to continue with that appointment.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicky Clarke has criticised the Duchess of Cambridge for having grey hair  

Letting one’s hair turn grey would be the most subversive Royal act

Rosie Millard
 

London’s foreign money bubble is bursting – but will we be better off?

Chris Blackhurst
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash