Iraq dossier release a mistake - ex-spy chief

 

A retired British intelligence chief today claimed the findings of the Hutton report showed the British government made a mistake publishing a dossier of Iraqi weapons.

Air Marshal Sir John Walker, a former Chief of Defence Intelligence and former deputy chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, said the findings of Lord Hutton proved the government had gone to war on the basis of insufficient evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

"There is no doubt about it - we went to war on the basis that WMD capable of being used within 45 minutes were a threat to UK interests. We went to war on that basis, and they weren't there," he told BBC's Todayprogramme this morning.

"We are sitting on a defence policy, almost a foreign policy, which says we will go around the world in an expeditionary force to be a 'force for good in the world' - a phrase that sends a shiver down the average military spine," he said. "If we are going  . . . to send our troops around the world to be that force for good, we'd better have better intelligence than we had this time."

His comments mirrored those of outgoing US weapons inspector Mr David Kay, who said last night that the intelligence agencies had got it "wrong" over the existence of WMD in Iraq. Mr Kay has resigned from the Iraq Survey Group over the weapons issue. 

BBC governors are holding crisis talks today following the resignation of chairman Mr Gavyn Davies. Mr Davies quit after the BBC received damning criticism in the Hutton report and speculation was mounting today that further key staff might follow.

Lord Hutton's inquiry concluded BBC claims that Downing Street "sexed-up" a dossier on Iraqi weapons were "unfounded".  Reporter Andrew Gilligan was wrong to claim Number 10 inserted intelligence knowing it was suspect, he said.

He also said there was no "underhand" government strategy to expose Dr David Kelly - who later committed suicide - as the source for Mr Gilligan's report.

 PA