Dr Jones' warning memo may well turn out to have been a far-sighted move

Mary Dejevsky@IndyVoices
Wednesday 04 February 2004 01:00

Dr Brian Jones was one of the unlikely stars of the Hutton inquiry. In disclosing his unhappiness with the use of his department's intelligence in the Government's 24 September 2002 dossier on Iraq's WMD, Dr Jones gave the lie to the insistence of senior officials that there was no dissent in the ranks of the intelligence service.

He also corroborated a point made by the late Dr David Kelly and the BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan. Here, Dr Jones goes much further in his dissent from the government line than he went in his testimony. He goes further, too, than Dr Kelly went in his incautious statements to the BBC Newsnight journalist, Susan Watts.

Perhaps his most damning contention is that the scientific and technical directorate of the Defence Intelligence Staff, in which he was a branch head, contained "the foremost group of analysts in the West on nuclear, biological and chemical warfare intelligence". During the Hutton inquiry, the impression was created from the testimony of others that experts of comparable standing were scattered across the intelligence and scientific services and they held divergent views.

As Dr Jones says, this was not so. The leading experts were in one department, their objections to the lack of caveats in the dossier were widely shared, and they were overruled by those with less expertise and by the politicians. Dr Jones's second concern relates to the "compartmentalisation" of intelligence. He is not complaining about the standard practice of confining particular types of intelligence to particular groups, which means very few people understand the whole picture.

But he does question the Government's assertion that it had crucial intelligence to which others had not had access and that this intelligence "removed the reservations we were expressing". Dr Jones says his boss had been given assurances about this highly sensitive intelligence, but had not seen it, and was "new to the intelligence business and unfamiliar with the assessment process".

Dr Jones says he now doubts anyone with chemical and biological weapons intelligence expertise was privy to the additional intelligence. He questions the validity of the extra, "ultra-sensitive" information the Government claimed to have, and which apparently clinched the argument. If this could be proved, it would be devastating to the Government. He is calling for the "box" of secrecy to be opened so the value of the information can be assessed.

Where Dr Jones comes closest to echoing the opinion of Dr Kelly, as reported by Mr Gilligan and recorded by Ms Watts, is in his accusation of political interference in the wording of the 24 September dossier and in his questions about the provenance of the so-called 45-minute allegation. There was no evidence, he says, that the Iraq military had practised the use of chemical or biological weapons for more than a decade and no evidence that they had stockpiles of such weapons.

It may appear self-serving for Dr Jones to say he foresaw the possibility no WMD would be found. But this was the essence of his written objection to the wording of the dossier before it was published. That now appears a prudent and far-sighted move.

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