Richard Norton-Taylor and Vikram Dodd
Thursday September 4, 2003
A senior government intelligence official who was deeply involved in the production of the dossier on Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction yesterday accused the government of "over-egging" the threat posed by Saddam Hussein
and of ignoring concerns about central claims made in the document.
Brian Jones, a top analyst in the defence intelligence staff, described how the "shutters came down", preventing experts on chemical and biological weapons from expressing
widespread disquiet about the language and assumptions in the dossier.
He told the Hutton inquiry that he and fellow intelligence
officials regarded as "nebulous" the hotly disputed claim that Iraqi forces could deploy chemical and biological weapons within
45 minutes - the assertion at the centre of the row between Downing Street and the BBC.
The claim, he said, came from a single but "secondary" source whose
purpose might have been to "influence rather than inform" British intelligence agencies.
Dr Jones, who is now retired, was at the time the dossier
was published the head of a scientific section in the defence intelligence analysis staff responsible for chemical and biological
Pressed by Lord Hutton to explain his worries, he told the inquiry:
"My concerns were that Iraq's chemical weapons and biological weapons capabilities were not being accurately represented in
all regards in relation to the available evidence. "In particular ... on the advice of my staff, I
was told that there was no evidence that significant production had taken place either of chemical warfare agent or chemical
Some intelligence analysts complained that they were unhappy with
"all the detail that was in the dossier", he said.
Dr Jones went as far as to suggest that Iraq possessed few, if any,
weapons of mass destruction in the proper meaning of the term. He said he would struggle to place chemical weapons, and many
biological weapons, in the category of "weapons of mass destruction", he added.
He described how his top chemical warfare expert
had expressed concern about the tendency "to over-egg certain assessments in relation particularly to the production of CW
[chemical warfare] agents and weapons since 1998". He "could not point to any solid evidence of such production".
Dr Jones chaired a meeting of senior defence intelligence
officials on September 19, five days before the dossier was published. David Kelly, the government's expert on Iraq's banned
weapons programme whose suicide led to the Hutton inquiry, was present.