The role of Operation Rockingham

Saturday November 29, 2003
The Guardian

John Morrison's comments (Letters, November 22) on Michael Meacher's article (The very secret service, November 20) leaves much to be desired. While factually correct in the few substantive points made about Operation Rockingham, the letter is disingenuous about the role and impact it played concerning the shaping of British intelligence reports on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the UN efforts to disarm them.

Given that British intelligence about the status of Iraq's WMD has been shown to be fundamentally flawed, the genesis of this failure should be addressed. Operation Rockingham's role in this is not small.

Morrison speaks of the "independent" nature of the intelligence work conducted by Operation Rockingham. The reality is that it institutionalised a process of "cherry-picking" intelligence produced by the UN inspections in Iraq that skewed UK intelligence about Iraqi WMD towards a preordained outcome that was more in line with British government policy than it was reflective of ground truth.

Many examples can be offered to counter Morrison's assertions that Operation Rockingham was little more than a "tiny intelligence cell", the sole purpose of which was to provide intelligence leads to the UN inspectors. Far from being the "shining example of the effective use of intelligence in support of the international community", Operation Rockingham was, in fact, more reflective of an institutional predisposition towards the politicised massaging of intelligence data that resulted in the massive failure of intelligence that we all have tragically witnessed regarding Iraq and WMD.

The role played by Operation Rockingham in this failure should be fully investigated by an independent committee of parliament. I stand fully prepared to support such an investigation in any way possible, including the provision of evidence under oath. I hope that Morrison would be as well.
Scott Ritter
Former UN weapons inspector