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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Intelligence Query

To misquote an old adage "political intelligence is a contradiction in terms". This phrase came to mind when I read the details of the Prime Minister's inquiry into the intelligence information that was made available to him when he decided to go to war on Iraq. That this inquiry fails to include an analysis of the political decisions that were made when we committed ourselves to this war is a disgrace and makes it more likely that it will be the whitewash that some newspapers are predicting it will become.

This quote from a BBC news report underlines the need for this political dimension to be included in the inquiry's terms of reference: 'A former senior official at the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) has again voiced his concerns over the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Dr Brian Jones told the Independent the DIS' "unified view" was for there to be careful caveats about assessments of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons. But, he said, they were over-ruled by the heads of the intelligence agencies, leading to a misleading dossier.'

Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats are absolutely right not to take part in this inquiry in my view. I noted too that their reservations are shared by some of the big hitters on the Conservative back benches. Kenneth Clarke made similar points to Menzies Campbell on this. If his leader had followed his advice and opted out too then Blair would have had no choice but to accept a wider remit for the inquiry. It is at times like these that the Country really does need an effective official opposition.

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