45 MINUTES….The Independent’s breathless prose makes it a little hard to make out the real story here, but it appears that the British government has been, um, a little less than totally forthcoming about some of its prewar intelligence. Here are (I think) the key points of what the Independent is reporting:
Prior to the war, Britain claimed that Iraq had ongoing chemical and bio weapons programs. This intelligence formed the basis for a sensational charge that Iraq could deploy such weapons within 45 minutes.
According to the Butler Report, MI6 withdrew its claims about active chem/bio programs in July 2003 after interviews in Iraq with the supposed sources of the intel showed they were unreliable.
The Hutton inquiry, which began in August 2003, was not told that this intelligence had been withdrawn. This is despite the fact that Hutton was investigating charges directly related to chem/bio weapons and the 45-minute allegation.
Hutton isn’t the only one who was kept in the dark. Apparently, neither the Prime Minister nor the Intelligence and Security Committee were told until yesterday that this intelligence had been withdrawn.
So a key piece of evidence was withdrawn a year ago, and Tony Blair says he didn’t know about it until last week? Either he’s lying or else his control of his own intelligence services is monumentally sloppy. I wonder which?