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 It lies in the date at which the reports were withdrawn - July 2003.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
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities