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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 20:54 GMT 21:54 UK
Spy chief defends late dossier change
John Scarlett arriving at the Royal Courts of Justice
Scarlett defended the 45 minute claim
A top British intelligence chief has said he made a last-minute change to the Iraq dossier after receiving an e-mail from Tony Blair's top aide.

Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) chairman John Scarlett told the Hutton inquiry he removed a section which suggested Saddam Hussein would only use chemical or biological weapons if he was attacked.

This was at the prompting of Number 10 chief of staff Jonathan Powell, but Mr Scarlett insisted Downing Street had not interfered in the way the dossier was prepared.
THIS WEEK'S WITNESSES
Tuesday: Downing Street spokesmen Tom Kelly and Godric Smith; Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett; Thames Valley Police Assistant Chief Constable Michael Page
Wednesday: BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies; Foreign Office official Patrick Lamb; Dr Kelly's MoD line manager Bryan Wells; MoD officials Wing Commander John Clark and James Harrison

Tuesday's inquiry hearings also saw one of Tony Blair's official spokesmen deny deliberately giving journalists clues to identify Dr David Kelly as the suspected source of the BBC's Iraq dossier story.

Dr Kelly apparently committed suicide after being named as the suspected source for the BBC report on claims the government "sexed up" its Iraq weapons dossier.

The inquiry is looking at the circumstances surrounding his death.

45-minute claim

Mr Scarlett, who was in charge of compiling the dossier last September, was cross-examined by BBC barrister Andrew Caldecott QC.

The barrister highlighted an e-mail from Mr Powell saying part of the draft dossier was a problem because it supported critics' arguments that going to war would in itself create an Iraq weapons of mass destruction threat.

Mr Powell had suggested the paragraph should be redrafted just five days before the dossier was published and after the deadline for final comments from JIC members.

Dr David Kelly
Blair's spokesman were asked about how Kelly was named
Mr Caldecott asked Mr Scarlett: "The suggestion there, is it not, is that the dossier should be redrafted to remove an express suggestion that Saddam Hussein is a defensive threat ... and leave an implication that, in fact, he is an offensive threat?"

But Mr Scarlett said that was not the right interpretation.

The e-mail had prompted him to look at the passage again. And he had realised there were no intelligence assessments saying Saddam Hussein's threat was only defensive.

Recent intelligence reports had also said chemical and biological weapons programmes were part of the Iraqi dictator's plans to boost his regional influence, he said.

"It was not as a result of the interventions from Downing Street, it was as a result of the exercise of my professional judgment and that of my colleagues in assessment staff," Mr Scarlett added.

Mr Caldecott pressed the intelligence chief over the claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, with Mr Scarlett defending the way it was expressed in the dossier.

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Mr Scarlett agreed, however, that the government had not known what specific munitions the 45-minute claim referred to.

But he said only a small number of newspapers had taken it to be about strategic weapons that could reach British bases in Cyprus, rather than battlefield munitions as the intelligence services believed.

Police interviews

Thames Valley Police Assistant Chief Constable Michael Page was also questioned, saying he was satisfied there was no "criminal dimension" to Dr Kelly's death.

The police chief said he had asked himself, for example, whether the scientist could have been blackmailed at all.

ACC Page said he had interviewed people who had been in touch with Dr Kelly in his final days, including Mai Pederson, the American said to have converted the scientist to the Baha'i faith, but that had added nothing relevant.

ACC Page said Dr Kelly's dentist had reported shortly after the death that the scientist's dental records had gone missing from a filing cabinet.

DNA check

A police examination of the surgery found nothing untoward and a few days later the records had reappeared in the correct place with no out-of-place fingerprints on them.

Because he was "inherently suspicious" and dental records can be used for identification, ACC Page insisted on DNA checks to confirm the body was indeed Dr Kelly.

Earlier, Number 10 spokesman Tom Kelly was asked about his briefing to journalists the day after the Ministry of Defence announced an unnamed official - now known to be the scientist - had admitted meeting BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan.

Mr Kelly told the inquiry: "At no point did I try to give information or drop clues which I thought would lead to Dr Kelly's identification...

"I genuinely wanted to try to protect Dr Kelly's identity as much as possible but I had to explain the discrepancies between the BBC statement and the MoD statement."

"Walter Mitty" remark

Dr Kelly's family QC Jeremy Gompertz suggested the spokesman had "narrowed the field very considerably" as journalists tried to identify the source by talking about the scientist's salary arrangements.

The spokesman "categorically" denied there had been any plan to reveal Dr Kelly's identity.

Mr Kelly also again admitted his "Walter Mitty" comment was a mistake, saying it was not part of any strategy "to demean or belittle Dr Kelly".

Mr Gompertz suggested the comment had not been made off-the-cuff but was "a scene setting remark... made to several journalists".

But Mr Kelly said that was not its intention.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nicolas Witchell
"No one from the secretive world of British intelligence has had to answer so many questions in public"



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