Iraq inquiry: Alastair Campbell 'misrepresented' purpose of WMD dossier, former military intelligence chief says
Alastair Campbell has been accused by a former military intelligence chief of "misrepresenting" the purpose of the socalled dodgy dossier to the Iraq Inquiry.
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By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter 7:02PM BST 12 May 2011
In his evidence, the former Downing Street communications director rejected suggestions that he had been asked to "beef up" the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and said its purpose had not been "to make a case for war".
But Major General Michael Laurie, who was the Ministry of Defence’s director general, intelligence collection, from 2002 to 2003, told the inquiry that making a case for war was “exactly its purpose”.
Maj Gen Laurie added that he and his colleagues were told that a previous intelligence dossier “did not make a strong enough case” and for months he was “under pressure to find intelligence that could reinforce the case” for war.
His evidence, which is the first time such a senior intelligence officer has directly contradicted the Blair government’s official line on the dossier, will restart the row over whether Downing Street “sexed up” the September 2002 document to persuade the public and MPs that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was necessary.
Maj Gen Laurie’s comments were made in private last year and have only now been published by the inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot, along with newly-declassified government memos and other evidence heard behind closed doors.
Sir John also disclosed that the Inquiry, which had originally intended to publish its final report at the end of 2010, will not now give its findings to Parliament before this year’s summer recess, meaning the report is likely to be almost a year late by the time it is delivered.
Maj Gen Laurie emailed the Inquiry in January 2010, two weeks after Mr Campbell had told the panel that the September 2002 dossier “was not the case for war, it was the case why the prime minister had become more concerned”.
The former intelligence chief told the inquiry: “He stated that the purpose of the dossier was not to make a case for war; I and those involved in its production saw it exactly as that, and that was the direction we were given.”
He said his boss, Air Marshal Sir Joe French, the Chief of Defence Intelligence, often asked “whether we were missing something; he was under pressure.
“We could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to WMD…during the drafting of the final dossier, every fact was managed to make it as strong as possible…it was clear to me that there was direction and pressure being applied on the Joint Intelligence Committee and its drafters.
“In summary, 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, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care.”
In his live evidence to the Inquiry in June last year, Maj Gen Laurie was asked by Sir John: “You thought that Alastair Campbell's evidence misrepresented things?”
He replied: “I think behind my concern is the line (from Mr Campbell) that ‘we read the intelligence and made a decision on that and then the intelligence turned out to be wrong’ and I don't think that is fair.”
He added: “We were reporting on what we could find and we were being asked the whole time, ‘Can you not find more? Why can't you find more?’”
In a message on Twitter, Mr Campbell said he had "nothing to add" to his evidence to the inquiry.
He wrote: "Dossier not case for war. Set out why govt more concerned re Iraq WMD. Never met Gen Laurie."
The former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said the "direct and unequivocal conflict of evidence" was key to the Inquiry's findings, as: "The controversy surrounding the dossier of September 2002 lies right at the very heart of the criticisms made of the Blair government."
The Inquiry also released a letter from Sir Hilary Synnott, the Coalition’s regional co-ordinator for southern Iraq from 2003-04, who criticised Tony Blair’s handling of post-war Iraq, saying the prime minister was “non-committal” in his response to suggestions that the Coalition’s rebuilding programme in the area should be maintained after the handover to US and Iraqi authorities.
The international team was disbanded and “the vast majority of the projects which were being pursued by the (Coalition) failed, as I had feared”.