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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
At-a-glance: Butler report
Lord Butler's inquiry has published its verdict on the intelligence used to justify the war against Iraq. Here are the main points.

The reliability of intelligence

  • Doubt has been cast on a "high proportion" of human intelligence sources - and so on the quality of intelligence assessments given to ministers and officials

  • The problems were partly caused by weaknesses in the way MI6 carried out its checks on sources

  • There was third hand reporting of information about Iraqi chemical and biological weapons -with a sub-source reporting to a second MI6 main source

  • One MI6 source reported authoritatively on some issues but on others was "passing on what he had heard within his circle"

  • Reports from a third MI6 main source have been withdrawn as unreliable

  • Information used to justify the certainty of claims to the public about Iraq's production of chemical weapons came from "a new source on trial"

  • Information from another country's intelligence agency on Iraqi production of biological and chemical agents "were seriously flawed" and the grounds for British assessments that Iraq had recently produced such stocks "no longer exist"

  • There was no "over-reliance" on dissident Iraqi sources

Iraqi weapons

  • It would be rash to say now that no evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programmes will ever be found

  • Before the war Iraq wanted to get banned weapons, including a nuclear programme

  • Iraq was developing ballistic missiles with a longer range than allowed

  • It did not have significant, if any, stocks of chemical or biological weapons in a state fit for use, or developed plans for using them.

The war decision

  • There was "no recent intelligence" to lead people to conclude Iraq was of more immediate concern than other countries, although its history prompted the view there needed to be a threat of force to ensure Saddam Hussein's compliance

  • The inquiry is surprised ministers, officials, and intelligence agencies did not reassess the quality of intelligence as UN weapons inspectors failed to make finds in the months immediately before the war

  • Intelligence only played a "limited" role in determining the legality of the war

  • No evidence was found that Britain went to war to secure continued access to oil supplies

  • Tony Blair's policy to Iraq shifted because of 11 September, not the pace of Iraq's weapons programmes.
The 45-minute claim

  • The claim that Iraq could use weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes should not have been made in the government's weapons dossier without explaining what the claim referred to

  • MI6 now says the intelligence report on the claim "has come into question", with doubts cast about one of the links in the reporting chain

Uranium from Niger

  • British intelligence on the claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger was "credible". There was not conclusive evidence Iraq actually purchased the material, nor did the government make that claim.

Mobile biological weapons laboratories

  • It was "reasonable" for intelligence chiefs to report about Iraq seeking more mobile biological weapons labs

  • But the intelligence from the source did not show Iraq had recently produced stocks of biological agents

  • This evidence could not have existed if MI6 had talked to the source directly from 2000 onwards.

The weapons dossier

  • "A serious weakness" was that the intelligence chiefs' warnings about the limitations of their judgements were not made clear enough

  • Judgements in the dossier "went to (although not beyond) the outer limits of the intelligence available"

  • The impression there was "firmer and fuller" intelligence backing up the dossier was reinforced when Tony Blair told MPs on its publication day the picture painted by intelligence agencies was "extensive, detailed and authoritative"

Joint Intelligence committee (JIC)

  • No evidence has been found of "deliberate distortion or of culpable negligence"

  • In general, original intelligence was reported correctly in JIC assessments, with the exception of the 45-minute claim

  • An intelligence report important in drafting the dossier should have been shown to key experts in the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), who were right to raise concerns

  • JIC chairman John Scarlett should not withdraw from taking up his new job as director of MI6

  • There is a strong case for future JIC chairmen being people with experience of dealing with ministers in very senior roles and being "demonstrably beyond influence" and so probably in their last post.

The workings of government

  • The inquiry team is concerned about the "informality" of government procedures reduced the "scope for informed collective political judgement" - a reference to cabinet decision making

Other countries of concern

  • Uncovering Libya's weapons programmes was a "major intelligence success"

  • The dismantlement of Pakistan nuclear scientist AQ Khan's efforts to sell nuclear technologies to countries of concern is a "remarkable tribute" to the work of the intelligence agencies, with good cooperation between US and UK agencies

  • It is difficult to get intelligence about North Korea but the agencies' ingenious tactics have provided important insights on exports of missile delivery systems.

  • Intelligence work in Iran, North Korea, Libya and the AQ Khan problem show the importance of exploiting links between supplies and buyers when fighting weapons proliferation.

  • These "success stories" also show there can be "lucky breaks" but they come from the foundation of knowledge developed over several years and close collaboration between all involved.


  • All British intelligence agencies are developing new techniques and there is "clear evidence" they are cooperating at all levels

  • The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has proved a success after working for more than a year

  • International collaboration on counter-terrorism has been significantly improved in the last six or seven years

  • The inquiry team is worried the procedures of the international community "are still not sufficiently aligned to match the threat" of terrorism

Osama Bin Laden

  • In January 2000, the Joint Intelligence Committee said Bin Laden had some toxic chemical or biological materials and an understanding of their use. But there was no hard intelligence he owned genuine nuclear material

  • A JIC assessment in 1999 said one of Bin Laden's followers claimed Bin Laden "intended to attack US and UK targets in India, Indonesia and the US, by using means which even the US could not counter, implying the use of chemical or biological material".


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