As we all obsess with the forthcoming inquiry into the press, the inquiry into something slightly worse than hacked telephones – the deaths of 150,000 people in Iraq – continues to produce startling revelations.
Today it published the redacted testimony of a senior MI6 officer who stated that “there were from the outset concerns” in the intelligence service about “the extent to which the intelligence could support some of the judgments that were being made” in Tony Blair’s famous WMD dossier.
Note those words: from the outset. This directly contradicts the testimony of Sir Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, and John Scarlett, then chair of the joint intelligence committee, to Hutton.
To my mind, it is even more damning than the quote that’s making news today: the officer describing Alastair Campbell as an “unguided missile” about whom MI6 had “concerns.” (What those concerns exactly were has been helpfully blacked-out from the published testimony.) “We suffered from his propensity to have rushes of blood to the head,” the officer says.
“There was very substantial pressure [from Downing Street] to generate new intelligence,” said the spook. “We were, in all honesty, not well placed to do that…. Some of the newer material was, so to speak, being torn off the teleprinter and rushed across to Number 10 with, shall we say, a little more haste than was probably appropriate…
“The pressure to generate results, I fear, did lead to the cutting of corners…We were probably too eager to please.”
This adds to the disclosure by the great Chris Ames in the Observer two weeks ago of a memo in which John Scarlett, Campbell’s co-conspirator in sexing up the dossier, talked about “obscuring the fact that, in terms of WMD, Iraq is not that exceptional.”
And in May, Michael Laurie, former senior intelligence official, said: “We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war rather than setting out the available intelligence.”
It is becoming even clearer than it was before that my story about the sexing up of the dossier was true. And it is becoming ever harder for Chilcot to perform a whitewash. But the fact that all this is only coming out now – nine years, and four official inquiries, after the dossier – demonstrates the failure of official inquries, and the success of journalism, at getting to the truth. Let’s hope the judge in charge of the latest inquiry into the press realises that, shall we?