Fresh evidence has emerged that Tony Blair’s discredited Iraqi arms dossier was “sexed up” on the instructions of Alastair Campbell, his communications chief, to fit with claims from the US administration that were known to be false.
The pre-invasion dossier’s worst-case estimate of how long it would take Iraq to acquire a nuclear weapon was shortened in response to a George Bush speech.
As Campbell prepares to appear before the Iraq inquiry on Tuesday, new evidence reveals the extent to which – on his instructions – those drafting the notorious dossier colluded with the US administration to make exaggerated claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
In a keynote speech to the UN on 12 September 2002, Bush claimed: “Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year.” This contradicted the first draft of the British dossier, drawn up two days earlier, which stated that it would take “at least two years” for Iraq to get the bomb.
The Cabinet Office has disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act that those who drafted the dossier were immediately asked to compare British claims against the US president’s speech. The next day the dossier’s timescale was halved to claim Iraq could get the bomb in a year.
A Foreign Office official who helped draft the dossier, Tim Dowse, told the Chilcot inquiry that disputed claims that Iraq had acquired special aluminium tubes for a nuclear programme were included because the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, had publicly referred to them.
Both changes to the weapons dossier were part of a detailed process of comparing the British claims with US statements and those in a forthcoming CIA dossier. The comparisons were made on the express instructions of Campbell. He told the joint intelligence committee (JIC) chairman, John Scarlett, in a memo on 9 September 2002, that the British dossier should be “one that complements rather than conflicts with” US claims.
New evidence has also emerged of Scarlett’s extensive US consultation on the dossier. On the same day as the Bush speech, Scarlett met political and intelligence officials in Washington to discuss the dossier, according to a previously classified US state department memo.
The government has sought to conceal evidence of Scarlett’s consultations with the US over the dossier. One email sent to Campbell was disclosed to the Hutton inquiry with a sentence blacked out. It was later disclosed that the sentence was: “Clearly John will be speaking to US.” (ht2 Bloggerheads)