British intelligence chiefs have admitted for the first time that claims they made about former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were wrong and have not been substantiated.
The admission is revealed in the annual report of the UK's parliamentary intelligence and security committee, which also sharply criticizes the lack of communication between ministers and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).
It discloses that late last year the UK's joint intelligence committee (JIC) reviewed key judgments on Iraq's WMD capability and programs behind the government's now discredited dossier published in September 2002.
The JIC claimed in 2002: "Iraq is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme."
It now admits this "was wrong, in that Iraq was not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme." It says the claim was "correct on Iraq's nuclear ambitions."
The JIC judged in 2002: "Iraq retains up to 20 al-Hussein ballistic missiles."
It now admits: "This has not been substantiated."
In 2002, the JIC judged: "Iraq may retain some stocks of chemical agents ... Iraq could produce significant quantities of mustard [gas] within weeks, significant quantities of Sarin and VX within months, and, in the case of VX may already have done so."
It now admits: "Although a capability to produce some agents probably existed, this judgment has not been substantiated."
It adds that the Iraq Survey Group [ISG] found that Saddam "intended to resume a CW [chemical weapons] effort once [UN] sanctions were lifted."
The JIC in 2002 said: "Iraq currently has available ... a number of biological agents ... Iraq could produce more of these biological agents within days."
It now says that the ISG found Iraq could resume production, "but not within the time frames judged ... and [it] found no evidence that production had been activated."
In 2002, the JIC said: "Saddam ... might use CBW [chemical and biological weapons] against coalition forces, neighboring states and his own people. Israel could be the first target."
Based on Saddam's past behavior, that "would have remained a reasonable judgment," the JIC says. However, it notes that the Iraqi agent who made the claims was subsequently dropped by MI6.
The committee notes that three MI6 agents were "withdrawn" after the invasion of Iraq. They included one -- mentioned in 2002 to Tony Blair by Sir Richard Dearlove, then MI6 head -- who claimed that Iraq was still making chemical and biological weapons.
The committee also referred yesterday to the Butler inquiry, which described the MI6 agent behind the claim that Iraq could deploy chemical weapons within 45 minutes as open to "serious doubts" and "seriously flawed."
The committee says: "We are concerned at the amount of intelligence on Iraqi WMD that has now had to be withdrawn."
It says that Blair was not informed until a year later about an MI6 decision to drop an Iraqi agent he had earlier been told was potentially important.
It also points out that the ministerial Cabinet committee on the intelligence services has not met since December 2003, and that that meeting was the first in more than seven years.
That is disappointing, it says, as regular meetings would "enable collective discussion by ministers of intelligence priorities and developments."
At the moment, it adds, "ministers discuss intelligence only in the context of crisis or single-issues meetings."
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