"In the absence of adequate intelligence we allowed political mendacity to fill a vacuum"

Yesterday's news today, just in case you missed it: various reports on issues relating to pre-war US-UK intelligence on Iraq's frightful WMD cache.

Scott Ritter counters the "everyone was wrong on Iraq's WMD" line.

The Independent looks at what Blair knew and when he knew it:
How has Tony Blair got himself into a position where 54 per cent of those sampled in a poll in yesterday's Independent believe he is a liar? The answer is that after 11 September 2001 he put his fate in the hands of an administration in Washington which was determined to go to war in Iraq and which now seems heedless of the collateral damage to him as it distances itself from many of its past assertions.

Each side steered clear of certain allegations made by its partner, however. After one mention by Mr Bush on the day the British dossier was published, the Americans never picked up on the notorious 45-minute claim. Britain, meanwhile, was silent on attempts in the US to link Saddam Hussein with al-Qa'ida, though that did not prevent vaguer warnings about the danger of Iraqi WMD falling into the hands of terrorists.

Robert David Steele, a former CIA operative, said: "Yes, I think there was an intelligence failure, but I don't think there can be an intelligence failure without a preceding policy failure. In the absence of adequate intelligence we allowed political mendacity to fill a vacuum."
The Iraqi exile who passed along the "45-minute" claim couldn't verify it at first hand:
The Iraqi exile who passed on the controversial "45-minute" claim about Iraqi chemical and biological weapons to British intelligence has insisted he did so in good faith, but had no means of checking it himself, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

The difficulty with the material was that although the intermediary had a long track record of reliability with MI6, he was not in Iraq, and was passing on information from a previously unknown officer in the military who, he believed, was in a position to know what he was talking about.
We find out more about the source:
The "reliable source" who provided MI6 with the information that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes was an Iraqi exile who had left the country several years previously, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. That fact alone should have prevented the intelligence being used in the Government's September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqi exile was in Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991, but later fled, possibly to Scandinavia.
A British intelligence agency sent Blair memos on three separate occasions warning him about certain WMD claims:
Tony Blair was sent three intelligence reports in the six months during the run up to the Iraq war, including one that warned him that information on whether Saddam Hussein still held any chemical or biological weapons was "inconsistent" and "sparse".

The revelation adds to the mystery of how the Prime Minister could tell Parliament last week that, when war began, he still believed that Iraq held weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed in just 45 minutes.
The UK is reported to have helped the US spy on fellow UN Security Council members before the aborted vote on military action against Iraq:
Britain helped America to conduct a secret and potentially illegal spying operation at the United Nations in the run-up to the Iraq war, The Observer can reveal.

The operation, which targeted at least one permanent member of the UN Security Council, was almost certainly in breach of the Vienna conventions on diplomatic relations, which strictly outlaw espionage at the UN missions in New York.

Translators and analysts at the Government's top-secret surveillance centre GCHQ were ordered to co-operate with an American espionage 'surge' on Security Council delegations after a request from the US National Security Agency at the end of January 2003. This was designed to help smooth the way for a second UN resolution authorising war in Iraq.
Ends justifying means... and so forth.

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