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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
What have we learned about the dossier?
By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

Although the Hutton inquiry is not looking directly at the dossier issued last September "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: the assessment of the British government", it has thrown important light on some of the claims the document made.

What were Dr Kelly's doubts?

Iraq has military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, including against its own Shia population. Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them."
September dossier
24 September: Final version
(PDF file 2.07 MB)

Dr Kelly's concerns were reported by Andrew Gilligan in his Today programme broadcasts and by ex-Panorama reporter Tom Mangold. Mr Mangold said that Dr Kelly had agreed with him that the 45 minute claim was "risible."

Direct evidence of Dr Kelly's view came from the transcript of a recorded interview with Susan Watts of Newsnight. In this Kelly explained that there was "concern about the was a statement and it just got out of all proportion. They were desperate for information."

He said of whoever debriefed the source of this material. "Quite often it's someone who has no idea of the topic...I could give other explanations... that it was the time to erect something like Scud missile or fill up a 40 barrel, multi barrel rocket launcher."

The concern referred to by Dr Kelly was evident in documents from the Defence Intelligence staff who assess raw intelligence . The second of these documents is dated 19 September, only days before the dossier was released.

Dr Bryan Jones, then head of a scientific section in the Defence Intelligence Staff, explained in evidence that there was concern in his section about the "nebulus" nature of the 45 minute claim.

These concerns were aired at a meeting attended by Dr Kelly on 19 September. Dr Jones wrote a memo detailing his general worries about the dossier.

Where did the 45 minute claim come from?

The information about the 45 minutes was said by the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee John Scarlett to have been issued on 30 August and therefore was put into the dossier at a late stage.

It came from the Secret Intelligence Service from a source quoting a senior Iraqi military officer. As for this being a single source report, Scarlett replied that being single sourced was not the key issue. It was judged to be reliable.

Scarlett also revealed that the 45 minutes referred not to missiles but to "munitions which interpreted to mean battlefield mortar shells or small calibre weapons." This was not stated in the dossier.

It emerged that the 45 minute report originally included a further claim that 20 minutes was the average time taken for the deployment of the weapons. The 20 minute reference never got into the dossier, though it was the subject of discussion by assessment staff.

Was the dossier "over-egged"?

Chemical weapons provided another line of questioning by the Defence Intelligence Staff. They queried whether the language was too strong on the continued production of chemical weapons.

Dr Jones said that his chemical weapons expert said that the dossier had been "over-egged." He stated that Iraq's capabilities "were not being accurately represented."

Dr Jones also expressed concern in his evidence that queries in his section did appear to have reached the Joint Intelligence Committee and that the "shutters" were being put up at that stage.

The documents show that the concerns of the DIS were ignored because, it was said, there was new and more secret information which they were not shown.

John Scarlett said that he had not seen the concerns expressed by the scientists. They had not been brought by the DIS to the JIC. In his second session at the inquiry, John Scarlett stressed that new and very secret information had become available underpinning the orginal judgment.

Dr Kelly also raised the issue of chemical weapons in an interview with his management.

He wanted to draw a clearer distinction between Iraqi production (over which the scientists had some doubts) and possession, though he felt that it was "nearer 100% likely that there was some existing CW in Iraq's posession."

One specific claim in the dossier was challenged by a Ministry of Defence analyst known as Mr A. He gave anonymous evidence to the inquiry but also sent an e-mail to Dr Kelly rubbishing the dossier for including the al-Qa'Qaa factory as a suspicious site.

He felt that the plant was too small to be of any interest.

It emerged that Dr Kelly doubted the claim that Iraq had mobile biological weapons laboratories. This was shown in a handwritten note by John Scarlett worrying whether Dr Kelly might make this point to the Foreign Affairs Committee to which he gave evidence.

It is ironic that Dr Kelly himself said he was actually "personally sympathetic to the war." His view was expressed in a letter to his manager at the Ministry of Defence. He said that he recognized "Iraq's ability to further develop its non conventional weapons programme."

He believed that Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction but only had a "small arsenal."

What was Alastair Campbell's role?

The evidence and documents show that the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee John Scarlett gave strong support to Alastair Campbell's denial that he had urged the intelligence staff to include the 45 minute claim against their wishes.

Two memos betwen Scarlett and Campbell about how the dossier should be written show no references to the 45 minutes. They do show that Campbell wanted and got stronger language in sections of the dossier but he did not get his own way on everything.

For example, he asked if it could be said that Iraq had "secured" uranium from Africa, as opposed to "sought" , but this was not accepted.

One memo circulated on 11 September indicated how the process became quite urgent, but it also supported Campbell's denial that he interfered. It put out a "last call" at Downing Street's request for intelligence data.

It stated that "No 10 through the Chairman want the document to be as strong as possible within the bounds of available intelligence."

Scarlett was also adamant that he and not Downing Street controlled the drawing up of the final document and that the dossier reflected the intelligence picture.

The drafting process

What also emerged was that the dossier was softened in some respects during the drafting.

There was originally a conclusion. This section never made the final version. It was written much more boldly. It stated, for example: "Large quantities of uranium obtained."

An early reference to Iraq's experiments with camelpox as an alternative to smallpox was also dropped from the dossier. Some amendments proposed (by Dr Kelly it is believed) were accepted, some were not. A reference to one factory as "producing" biological agent was removed but a toning down of Iraq's ability to make VX agent was not.

In one important respect the dossier was hardened up. Its title changed from "Iraq's Programme for Weapons of Mass Detsruction" on 16 September to "Iraq's Weapons of Mass destruction" when it was published on 24 September.

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