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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
How the Iraq dossier was written
John Scarlett
John Scarlett: "In charge" of the dossier
The Iraq dossier has seldom been out of the news since July, when its assertion that Saddam Hussein could launch chemical and biological attacks within 45 minutes was questioned by Andrew Gilligan's report for the Today programme.

Since then the Hutton Inquiry has shed an immense amount of detail on how this document was put together, enabling us to follow the paper trail that led to the finished product.

Why did Tony Blair decide on a dossier?

The unusual decision to publish intelligence material was taken after the prime minister had spoken to US President George Bush, Tony Blair has told the inquiry. The two men had agreed that the problem of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction needed to be tackled, and the dossier was to form part of a strategy for meeting that goal.

Mr Blair first mentioned his intention to publish the British government's intelligence material on Iraq on 3 September 2002. The document was published just three weeks later.

Who wrote the dossier?

The dossier was the work of many different hands. Intelligence agencies like the Secret Intelligence Service, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the Defence Intelligence Staff contributed as did government departments including the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Office and the Foreign Office. Specialist advisers, including Dr David Kelly, also played their part.

But ultimately it was the responsibility of the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett. The JIC is responsible for filtering intelligence; he put the document together, with his colleague Julian Miller and had presentational help and advice from Alastair Campbell, the government's head of communications.

Giving evidence at the Hutton Inquiry, Mr Scarlett said he was "absolutely to be in charge" of the dossier's wording.

however, that ownership seems to have passed back to Downing Street in the days before final publication.

A document released to the inquiry showing minutes from a meeting at Mr Scarlett's office says on 18 September that: "Ownership lay with No. 10".

The JIC team was in place from early September, and work on the dossier was proceeding swiftly, and feedback from Dr Kelly was already being received.

Summing up his role in the dossier months after its publication Dr Kelly made it clear that he was not a member of the intelligence community when he said: "I was not involved in the intelligence component in any way nor in the process of the dossier's compilation."

When did the 45 minute assessment arrive in the dossier?

Information that the Iraqi military were capable of launching chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order being given was a key part of the dossier.

September 10: An early version
(PDF file 2.26 MB)
According to his evidence at the Hutton Inquiry Alastair Campbell received the first draft of the dossier on 10 September. This was the point where he first recollects the 45 minute claim being made.

Mr Campbell told the inquiry that he presumed that the source of the information had been the JIC, but he did not know about the raw intelligence behind the assertion.

John Scarlett told Lord Hutton that the claim came from a single Iraqi source and that it was passed on from the SIS on 30 August.

When quizzed on allegations that some members of the intelligence community were uncomfortable with the claim Mr Scarlett said: "They queried whether it was right to include it as a judgement and they suggested that it should be qualified in the executive summary."

Mr Scarlett also said that Dr David Kelly, named by Andrew Gilligan as the source for his story, was not in a good position to judge the accuracy of this particular piece of intelligence.

How did Downing Street influence the dossier?

Alastair Campbell held meetings on 5 and 9 September that helped work out the structure, format and presentation of the dossier. Throughout the drafting process he took the lead in helping refine the document John Scarlett was producing.

In addition to the advice coming from Downing Street, the prime minister himself looked at the document and suggested the re-ordering of some paragraphs. The same document, dated 17 September, contains many suggestions from Alastair Campbell who was hoping to make the document more assertive.

One example reads: "On page 19, top line, again "could" is weak 'capable of being used' is better". Not all of his suggested changes were accepted by Mr Scarlett.

Another insight into Downing Street's role comes from an e-mail sent on 11 September. The sender's name has been censored, but they pass on requests from Downing Street to make the dossier more detailed and to encourage the naming of personalities where possible.

The e-mail highlights the drive to make the dossier more compelling: "No 10 through the Chairman want the document to be as strong as possible within the bounds of available intelligence."

The idea to produce a foreword for the document signed by the prime minister also originated from Downing Street, following a meeting between the prime minister and Alastair Campbell.

What concerns did the intelligence community voice?

Testimony given to the inquiry by two members of the intelligence community highlighted concerns that the dossier, on occasions, claimed too much certainty in its intelligence analysis.

Their issues were over the strength of the 45 minutes claim and the lack of detail about which weapons might be used within 45 minutes.

The recently retired head of the Defence Intelligent Staff's section on weapons of mass destruction, Brian Jones, also said that a member of his department told him that the dossier had a tendency to "over-egg" the development of chemical weapons since 1998.

And that when he attempted to raise these issues he said he felt that the "shutters came down" on changes to the dossier.

Further concerns came from an unnamed government adviser (Mr A) who described talking over what he felt were problems with the dossier with Dr Kelly.

One thing that struck him in particular was the flagging up in the dossier as a matter of "particular concern" the production of phosgene gas at al-Qa' Qa'.

He said the issues was wrong headed as the Iraqis had no history of using phosgene. This lead him to e-mail Dr Kelly saying: "You and I should have been more involved in this than the spin merchants of this administration."

Mr A also criticised the 45 minute claim as being nebulous. It did not make clear what weapons it was referring to and whether the timing was describing a technical process or a commander control process.

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