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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 17:05 GMT
How significant is early WMD draft?
By Gordon Corera
BBC security correspondent

Those who have sought access to the 30-page John Williams draft dossier have long argued that its existence and contents would show that so-called spin doctors were more heavily involved in the process of drawing up the final September dossier than the government has previously admitted.

John Williams
John Williams was director of news at the Foreign Office

In a statement released with the draft, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that the John Williams document was not commissioned as part of the formal drafting process and was not used as the basis for the dossier the government subsequently published.

That dossier, the government argues, was begun later in September under the control of John Scarlett, then chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

It was, it has always been maintained, the product of a fresh start rather than a reworking of previous drafts.

On 24 September 2002 then prime minister Tony Blair said in the House of Commons that "the dossier is based on the work of the British Joint Intelligence Committee".

No 'smoking gun'

But it has been the alleged role of others - such as John Williams and Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's then director of communications, that has been at the centre of much of the controversy, with critics claiming they played a larger part than has been acknowledged.

A reading of the different drafts side by sides provides some ammunition for both sides but nothing like a smoking gun and views will ultimately rest on individuals' interpretation of how significant the similarities and differences really are.

The reality, we now know, is that all the intelligence assessments were made on a very small pool of what turned out to be weak intelligence which everyone was drawing from.

Some phrases and language referring to Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction programmes do appear in both the John Williams draft and the later first draft by the Joint Intelligence Committee from September 10/11th.

For instance on page 5 both talk of how Iraq is "covertly trying to acquire technology and materials for use in nuclear weapons, including specialised aluminium".

But John Williams himself and others have said this is inevitable since both are drawn from the same source material and intelligence.

'Uniquely dangerous'

New intelligence which came in over the summer of 2002 also made a significant difference, hardening some of the assessments in the final dossier of late September (although much of this turned out to have been wrong and MI6 was criticised for not showing it to other experts).

The reality, we now know, is that all the intelligence assessments were made on a very small pool of what turned out to be weak intelligence which everyone was drawing from.


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The John Williams draft begins with the phrase "Iraq presents a uniquely dangerous threat to the world" whilst the first JIC draft has the phrase "Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime is a uniquely dangerous example of the general threat" as the second bullet point in the foreword.

There are some broad similarities in structure and approach which will allow some to continue to claim that the JIC draft of September did pick up on the Williams draft, but there is not nearly enough in common to make the later version look like a simple rewrite.

Nor is there any reference to the 45 minutes claim in the John Williams version.

The document was originally withheld after the Foreign Office argued that officials who drafted policy documents should not feel constrained in presenting advice for fear that it will be made public.

But their resistance to disclosure only heightened the belief amongst those seeking its release, that the real reason was because of the evidence it would provide.

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