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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 August, 2004, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
What the Papers say - A failure of intelligence

On the eve of Lord Butler's report into the failure of intelligence on Iraq, John Ware reconstructs how Tony Blair made the case for war to the people and Parliament.

Brian Jones, The Observer - August 1
"When he used the word 'raspberry' in his interview for Panorama 's 'A Failure of Intelligence' he cut right through the layers of confusion and hype to the very heart of the government's Iraq problem. Even if the intelligence community had 'established beyond doubt' that Saddam had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, which it had not, that could not be translated into a threat that could only be dealt with by war. When pressed that the Prime Minister's argument was about a risk Saddam might use them, at least regionally, and we would inevitably get sucked into such a conflagration and thus there was a threat to British interests anyway, Morrison replied succinctly: 'No, that's piling supposition upon supposition.'

A deeply held respect for the intelligence process led me and, I believe, John Morrison, to comment publicly on these matters, for we are not natural allies. We had known each other since I joined the Defence Intelligence Staff in the 1980s and from the mid 1990s he had been my boss. We shared a respect for one another's professionalism but had intense disagreements on management and organisational issues that were never resolved. After his retirement in 1999 we did not keep in touch. I was, therefore, surprised and delighted at his contribution to the Panorama programme for which I was interviewed independently. I contacted him after it was broadcast to thank him for the kind things he had said about me.

A few days later I called him again because I had heard rumours that, as an act of reprisal, he was to lose his job supporting the ISC. He told me that he had heard nothing of this, and doubted that it could be anything more than mischief. Although he had studiously avoided any mention of his association with the ISC, he had advised both the chair and clerk of the committee of his impending action and there had been no suggestion that he should not proceed. He mentioned that his contract ran until April 2005 and that he expected to fulfil it.

Timing is all, and notice of the curtailment of John Morrison's employment did not emerge until after the House had risen and the Prime Minister had conducted his inevitably difficult end-of-term press conference. There has been some late scrambling to deny any association of the decision with Morrison's comments on Panorama and both the Cabinet Office and Number 10 have sought to suggest that his contract comes to a nat ural end in October. Unfortunately, the raspberry is an area-effect rather than a precision weapon. It is therefore difficult to discern which of those caught up in its fallout decided to retaliate. Perhaps there was an alliance of all concerned. The ISC, with its reputation diminished, can ill afford to lose high quality advice."

Richard Norton Taylor, Guardian - July 29
"Lord Butler, whose withering report on the abuse of intelligence about Iraqi weapons has still not been fully appreciated, passed the baton for others, notably elected members of parliament, to grab. Few have dared to. Instead, it was left to a former senior defence intelligence officer to pick it up, and take the blame.

John Morrison has been sacked from his post as adviser to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee for being rude to Tony Blair. Commenting in a personal capacity on Panorama earlier this month he discussed Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed a "serious and current threat" to Britain. "When I heard him using those words," Morrison told the programme, "I could almost hear the collective raspberry going up around Whitehall."

And raspberries going around Whitehall there were. Well before the invasion of Iraq, I reported widespread opposition in Whitehall to military action. Former chairmen of the joint intelligence committee have criticised the way their successor John Scarlett was "starstruck" by Downing Street, allowing it to influence the wording of the discredited dossier on Iraqi weapons. Butler and his committee damned the dossier, but said that Scarlett should not be blamed and should be allowed to take up his job as head of MI6."

Sir John Walker, Daily Mail - July 27
"Mr Morrison, who was a senior colleague of mine on the Defence Intelligence staff (and was later its well-regarded deputy chief) has been effectively sacked from his present job as a consultant with Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee.

His crime was that he had dared to reveal in a recent interview for BBC's Panorama, the depth of scepticism in intelligence circles about Prime Minister Tony Blair's claim in the September 2002 dossier that Iraq posed a 'serious and current threat' to this country.

Provocatively perhaps, he talked of the 'collective raspberry going up around Whitehall' when the dossier was published, and accused the Government of 'scraping the bottom of the barrel' in an attempt to justify the war.

While his choice of words was questionable, the thought behind them was quite probably right. And, within a week of the broadcast, Mr Morrison was out of a job."

The Herald, July 27
"Downing Street yesterday denied Tony Blair had a hand in the sacking of a senior intelligence official who publicly accused the prime minister of misleading the public over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The denial follows reports that John Morrison was told his contract as chief investigator to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) would not be renewed when it expires later this year.

Mr Morrison told BBC1's Panorama programme he could "almost hear the collective raspberry going up around Whitehall" when Mr Blair told MPs in 2002 the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime was "current and serious". "

Daily Mail, July 26
"Downing Street was under fire last night after a senior intelligence official was sacked for daring to criticise Tony Blair over the war in Iraq.

John Morrison the former deputy chief of intelligence at the Ministry of Defence spoke out in a BBC Panorama documentary about the intelligence which led Britain to arms.

A week later he was axed from his job with Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee.

In his Panorama interview he revealed the intelligence community's deep scepticism about Mr Blair's claims over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction."

Independent, July 26
"Downing Street was accused yesterday of conducting a vendetta after the sacking of an intelligence official who accused Tony Blair of misleading the public over Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

The decision to terminate the contract of John Morrison as the investigator for Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee was due to pressure from No 10, according to senior Whitehall sources. It stemmed from Mr Morrison's appearance on BBC Television's Panorama programme.

The Independent has learnt that the dismissal took place even though Mr Morrison had informed Alistair Corbett, the secretary to the ISC, and its chairman, the former Labour chief whip Ann Taylor, that he was going to appear on the programme. Neither person raised any objections.

Mr Morrison, a former deputy director of the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), secretary to the Joint Intelligence Committee and intelligence representative to Nato, is the only official to lose his job following the failure to find any WMD in Iraq and over the Butler report. One colleague said:"It's rather ironic that the only person who goes as a result of the Butler inquiry is someone who told it as it was."

Sunday Times, July 25
"A senior intelligence official has been sacked after publicly accusing Tony Blair of misleading the country over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

John Morrison lost his job as investigator for the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) after criticising Blair in a television interview. The move makes Morrison, a former deputy chief of defence intelligence, the only person to have lost his job in the wake of Lord Butler's report into the intelligence ahead of the Iraq war.

In the interview two weeks ago, Morrison revealed how intelligence officials had reacted in disbelief to Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, posed a "serious and current threat to the United Kingdom".

"When I heard him using those words I could almost hear the collective raspberry going up around Whitehall," he said.

A senior Cabinet Office official said last week that Morrison had been "chopped" for speaking out. "He is certainly not going to work for the committee again," he said."

New Statesman, July 19
"The Prime Minister's relationship with the truth has always been an uncertain one. He is a lawyer by trade, accustomed to convincing himself that a weak case can be won. He is also a politician who owes much of his success to deft presentation. As a BBC Panorama programme has recalled, Mr Blair told the Commons, during Operation Desert Fox in 1998, when cruise missiles and bombs rained down on Iraq, that the aim was 'to degrade the ability of Saddam Hussein to build and use weapons of mass destruction'. The operation was declared a success. Yet Brian Jones, then a member of the Defence Intelligence Staff, told Panorama that his department was not able to provide with any certainty a list of targets. John Morrison, deputy chief of Defence Intelligence from 1995-99, said that the operation wasn't 'particularly effective', though he had been under pressure to say it was."

Financial Times, July 16
"John Scarlett, the incoming head of MI6, faced allegations last night that he withheld crucial evidence that intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had been discredited.

The claim by John Ware, a BBC reporter with Panorama, came after the Butler inquiry learned that two reports from an intelligence source, supporting an assertion in a government dossier that Iraq was continuing to produce chemical and biological agents, were withdrawn in July last year.

It put the intelligence chief back in the spotlight as he prepared to take on his new job and prompted renewed opposition attacks on Tony Blair.

Lord Butler found that one of the reports, although too late to be included in the assessment by the joint intelligence committee ahead of the dossier's publication in 2002, had provided "significant assurance" to those drafting it.

Mr Scarlett, who was head of the joint intelligence committee at the time and responsible for the dossier, told Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of David Kelly last August, a month after MI6 withdrew the reports, that the dossier reflected the intelligence on Iraq's weapons."

Daily Mail, July 12
"Tony Blair's claim before the Iraq invasion that Saddam Hussein posed a 'current and serious' threat to Britain came under devastating fire last night.

John Morrison, former deputy chief of intelligence at the Ministry of Defence, accused Downing Street of 'scraping the bottom of the barrel' in an attempt to justify war.

He also alleged that intelligence officials were pressurised to lie about the effectiveness of earlier military action against Saddam.

The explosive claim centres on Operation Desert Fox, when America and Britain bombed Baghdad in 1998 to inflict damage on Saddam's military capability.

Mr Morrison said spy chiefs were asked to declare the operation a success - though they thought the opposite was true.

'We concluded it really hadn't done much harm at all,' he said. We were being pressured to say that something had been effective when in the long run we decided that it hadn't been particularly effective. That had never happened in my career before, and I didn't like it very much...

"In another heavy blow to Mr Blair's case for war, there were claims yesterday that MI6 has taken the rare step of retracting crucial evidence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The claims came from a senior intelligence source interviewed by the BBC's Panorama programme.

The source said spy chiefs have withdrawn the intelligence assessment that suggested Saddam was continuing to build a stockpile-of lethal chemical and biological weapons.

Their unusual move will be seen as an admission that the evidence was fundamentally unreliable."

London Evening Standard, July 12
"Tony Blair went "way beyond" expert intelligence advice with his claim that Iraq could unleash weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, according to a former senior analyst in the Ministry of Defence.

John Morrison, ex-deputy chief of the MoD's Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), said he could "almost hear the collective raspberry going around Whitehall" when Mr Blair told MPs the threat was serious and current.

He made the claim in a BBC Panorama documentary which also revealed that spy chiefs withdrew intelligence about Iraq's WMD.

And Dr Brian Jones, told Panorama "no one on my staff had any visibility of large quantities of intelligence of that sort"."

Guardian, July 12
"However, the 45-minute claim gained added significance before the war as it was used to bolster the assertion that Iraq "has continued to produce chemical and biological agents".

That assertion, of which there is no evidence, was described in the dossier as "recent intelligence". This was wrong, intelligence officials now say. But it was backed up at the time by John Scarlett, head of Whitehall's joint intelligence committee, and subsequently repeated by Mr Blair.

The 45-minute claim is believed to be among the intelligence referred to in last night's BBC Panorama programme as having been "withdrawn" by MI6."

Scotland on Sunday, July 11
"In moving from what the dossier said Saddam had, which was a capability possibly, to asserting that Iraq presented a threat, then the Prime Minister was going way beyond anything any professional analyst would have agreed," Morrison, the former deputy chief of Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), told the BBC's Panorama programme."

Mail on Sunday, July 11
"Last night it emerged that two former senior British intelligence officials have publicly cast doubts on the Government's claims.

John Morrison, ex-deputy chief of defence intelligence, says he could 'almost hear the collective raspberry around Whitehall' when Mr Blair insisted the danger was serious. On BBC's Panorama tonight, Mr Morrison adds: 'He was going way beyond anything any professional analyst would have agreed.' And Dr Brian Jones, former head of the MoD's intelligence branch, says: 'No one on my staff had any visibility of large quantities of intelligence of that sort.'"

Wales on Sunday, July 11
"Tonight, Mr Blair will be rocked further by comments from two former senior intelligence officers, due to be broadcast on BBC's Panorama.

Dr Brian Jones, a retired branch head in the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), questions the PM's evidence to the Hutton inquiry, in which Mr Blair said a 'tremendous amount' of information about Saddam Hussein's WMDs had crossed his desk.

Dr Jones said he was confused by and 'couldn't relate' to the PM's account.

'Certainly no one on my staff had any visibility of large quantities of intelligence of that sort,' he told the programme.

He said no one knew what chemical or biological agents had been produced since the first Gulf War and there was no certainty that agents had been stockpiled.

John Morrison, the former Deputy Chief of DIS, said the PM's public statements in the run-up to war went beyond what experts would conclude from the evidence.

'In moving from what the dossier said Saddam had, which was a capability possibly, to asserting that Iraq presented a threat, then the Prime Minister was going way beyond anything any professional analyst would have agreed,' he said. Allies pleaded with PM not to quit: Four of Tony Blair's closest allies had to plead with him not to resign last month, it has emerged."

Observer, July 11
"More damagingly, the BBC's Panorama programme will claim tonight that MI6 later formally withdrew a key piece of intelligence that had underpinned the PM's claim in his foreword that Saddam was 'continuing' to produce banned weapons, rather than just hoarding stockpiles of old ones - a rare admission that the material was completely wrong. If true, Blair may now have to explain why he did not publicly correct the record."

Sunday Times, July 11
"In the week of the Butler report on the failings of the intelligence system on Iraq, John Ware examines how Tony Blair took the case for war to the British people and their elected representatives. The "stockpiles of major amounts of chemical and biological weapons" claimed by Blair to exist in Iraq, have failed to appear -so who should accept responsibility for what is either a mistake or a lie? Interviewed on the programme, Dr Brian Jones, the former leading expert on weapons of mass destruction at the Ministry of Defence, says the blame for waging war on a false prospectus should be shared by the prime minister and a "relatively few people at the senior end of the process", rather than the intelligence community as a whole."

Guardian, July 10
"In justifying his Mickey Mouse dossier, Blair told the Hutton inquiry there had been a "tremendous amount of information and evidence coming across my desk". News indeed to the MoD's chief WMD intelligence analyst, who wasn't aware of any such information crossing anybody's desk. On the eve of Lord Butler's report into the failure of the intelligence service on Iraq, Panorama reconstructs the journey from "doubt" to "beyond doubt" and, finally, beyond belief."

What the Papers say
01 Mar 04  |  Panorama
What the Papers say 2003
25 Feb 03  |  Panorama
What The Papers Say: 2001
27 Apr 01  |  Press Reviews
What the Papers say: 2002
27 Mar 02  |  Press Reviews


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