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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 September, 2003, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Dossier 'over-egged' Iraq weapons claims
Dr David Kelly
Dr Kelly chatted to officers about their concerns

A Ministry of Defence intelligence official has told the Hutton inquiry his staff had a number of concerns over the 45 minute Iraq weapons claim.

Brian Jones, who managed scientists working at the Defence Intelligence Staff, told the inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly he feared assessments of the Iraqi threat were being "over-egged" as the dossier was compiled.

Dr Kelly apparently committed suicide after being named as the suspected source for a BBC report claiming the government "sexed up" intelligence in the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Another unnamed official, called "Mr A" at the inquiry, also told how he and Dr Kelly had discussed concern about the role of government "spin merchants" in the dossier.

In other key developments:

SEE THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS

  • The inquiry saw e-mails sent by Dr Kelly three hours before his final walk on 17 July, including one to a New York Times journalist talking about "many dark actors playing games"

  • Assistant chief constable of Thames Valley Police Michael Page said that after a full investigation he was "confident that he met his death at his own hands."

  • Toxicologist Richard Allan said Dr Kelly, found with a slit wrist in an Oxfordshire woodland had taken "quite a large overdose" of prescription-only drug Coproxamol
Dr Jones, now retired from the Ministry of Defence, told of the particular concerns among intelligence officials about the claim that Iraq could deploy some weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order.

The perception was that the dossier had been round the houses several times in order to try to find a form of words which could strengthen certain political objectives
"Mr A"

Downing Street has repeatedly denied the allegation that it had the claim inserted into the dossier against the wishes of the intelligence community.

Dr Jones said: "We at no stage argued that this intelligence should not be included in the dossier. We thought it was important intelligence."

But he had thought the language used about the claim in the dossier's executive summary and foreword had been "too strong".

Reliable source?

One of the worries about the claim was that it came from one source reporting what someone else had told them, Dr Jones told the inquiry.

"The way in which the information was reported did not give us any real feel that the... primary source - knew very much about the subject he was reporting...

"We even wondered in discussing the issue whether he might even have been trying to influence rather than inform."

Dr Jones said Dr Kelly would have been aware at some stage there was a problem with the sourcing just from chatting to DIS officials, he said.

Questioned by Lord Hutton, Dr Jones agreed it was intelligence officers, rather than the technical experts in his team, who should judge the reliability of sources.

He also said "significant" changes suggested to the dossier by his team of scientists had not been acted on by the intelligence assessment team, something which made one of his key experts on chemical weapons "very concerned".

'No solid evidence'

The chemical weapons expert had been worried about claims about the production of weapons and chemical warfare agents since United Nations inspectors left Iraq in 1998.

There were certainly higher pressures than would normally apply to any single piece of work
Dr Brian Jones
"He was concerned that he could not point to any solid evidence of such production... He did not have good evidence that it had happened."

Dr Jones also wrote a minute to his boss saying there were problems with the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) process for reviewing the draft dossier.

He had sent similar messages only one or two times in 15 years of dealing with such a process.

He suggested final changes to the dossier had been made, slightly unusually, without them going to a full meeting of the JIC.

There had also been an impression that there was an influence on the dossier from outside the intelligence community, he added.

The Defence Intelligence Service does not gather intelligence like MI5 or MI6 but instead is a military assessment service inside the Ministry of Defence.

Whitehall officials say it does not represent a consensus in the intelligence community and stress that MI6 was the lead 'producing' agency for the dossier.

Political interference?

"Mr A", an unnamed civil servant in the MoD's counter-proliferation and arms department, gave his evidence via videophone, without revealing his face.

Dr Kelly had invited "Mr A" to a meeting on 19 September check a draft of the dossier for factual errors. Dr Kelly himself had suggested 12-14 changes on technical issues.

He said Dr Kelly had believed the dossier as a whole was a "reasonable and accurate reflection of the intelligence that we had available to us at that time".

The 45-minute claim had been discussed because it was something which "seemed to rather beg more questions than it answered".

SEE THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS
All the PDF files from the Hutton Inquiry on the BBC website are covered by Crown Copyright and may not be used without Crown Copyright acknowledgement by third parties.
In an e-mail to Dr Kelly on 25 September last year - the day after the dossier was published - Mr A raised his doubts about government claims about Iraq's Al-Qa'qa plant.

He wrote: "You will recall ....[a person's name has been blanked out] admitted they were grasping at straws."

He wrote too of "our view that you and I should have been more involved in this than the spin merchants of this administration".

Mr A told the inquiry: "The perception was that the dossier had been round the houses several times in order to try to find a form of words which could strengthen certain political objectives."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
"The inquiry also heard from a second official"



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