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See Below - for the list of about 30 other warmwell pages featuring Brian Jones
Independent Oct 8 2004 - ISG report comment by Brian Jones - click here


http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=543698

May 4 2007 ~ "the onus is upon him to provide chapter and verse"

Brian Jones in a Guardian letter, commenting (along with others) on Geoff Hoon's strange article yesterday in which he said, "Although I have reconciled it in my own mind, we perhaps didn't do enough to see it through the Sunni perspective. Perhaps we should have done more to understand their position..." All the letters are worth reading in full.

Brian Jones: The wrong prescriptions for intelligence

At no point did we suggest that our knowledge was sufficient to justify an invasion

23 July 2004

Both yesterday's 9-11 commission report in the US and Lord Butler's report here have prompted discussion of changes in the organisation of intelligence as the answer to the failings before 11 September and in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Changes in structure may be needed, but I fear will not tackle the basic question of why things went so badly wrong.

After hearing my interview on the BBC's Today programme, Sir Menzies Campbell wondered whether, if I'd had the Prime Minister's ear in 2002, things on Iraq might have been viewed differently. Closer experience of the relationship between civil servants and government would have told Sir Menzies that the chances of an official such as me gaining the ear of my own secretary of state, let alone the Prime Minister, was as remote as the chances now of finding large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons in Iraq.

I recall that Dr David Kelly was upset by the suggestion, which I have never heard denied, that Jack Straw complained at such a junior official being assigned to accompany him to an interrogation by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Iraq. David's experience of Whitehall was limited and, he felt insulted. It disappointed but did not surprise many of us of similar middle rank.

The PM's righteous exclamation in the Hutton debate in February that my concerns had been considered and dismissed by the chief of defence intelligence is further evidence that, in Mr Blair's Whitehall, seniority equates to knowledge and wisdom. It is a culture that suits the mandarins, but in a Civil Service pared to the bone, that fast-streams officials breathlessly through jobs and ranks, it is perhaps less true today than it once was.

With wisdom comes the knowledge of limitations, whether about one's own expertise or simply about intelligence.

In the Commons, the Prime Minister began by explaining the four reforms that were being introduced in response to the Butler report. The first two are straightforward enough. The third is more difficult to fathom: Mr Blair announced that the SIS (MI6) had appointed a senior officer, to work through the recommendations of the Butler review, "who will focus on the resourcing and organisation of the SIS's validation process, the relationship between the SIS and the JIC, and its relationship with the defence intelligence staff".

This seems to relate to an intelligence community that I do not quite recognise from my 15 years as an insider, albeit as an analyst. I wonder if it reflects the Prime Minister's inevitably remote view hovering, as he must, high above so many issues. It could also be the view from high up in the green building at Vauxhall Cross, because it recognises the SIS as the very heart of British intelligence. It would certainly explain why a move from chairman of the JIC to "C" is now seen as a promotion.

From my former vantage point, the SIS was the collector of human intelligence. I expected it to send me reports of information it had collected. Although there was a validation threshold applied to exclude obvious nonsense, beyond that I did not expect to be told that the information was valid. Further validation is part of the analysis and assessment process ,and involves a feedback loop from assessor to collector. This aspect of the intelligence process was under pressure from inadequate resources at both the collection and assessment stages, but it was not broken.

Efficient communication between the disparate elements within an intelligence community is never easy when sensitive information is involved. As yesterday's report of the 9-11 commission finds, inadequate communication was a factor in that intelligence failure. The compactness of our community means there are fewer problems of that sort and a lack of communication was not a significant factor in what went wrong on Iraq.

At the expert working level on Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, the intelligence community was able to make reasonable assessments that reflected all the uncertainties about Iraq's capabilities. Our assessments erred on the side of caution because we had troops in the region whom we needed to protect, and because preparations were in hand in the MOD in case the Prime Minister decided, at short notice, to join an invasion. At no point did we suggest that our knowledge was sufficient to justify, in any quasi-legalistic sense, an invasion to eliminate a threat, because we did not know that such a threat currently existed.

From time to time, defensive posture and the case for war, have been conflated to suggest the intelligence was strong - our troops are carrying NBC suits so that must mean there are weapons. The "problem" of the validation of sources seems to have arrived retrospectively in the context of a departure from the normal process. Under pressure, a select few senior people made too much of intelligence that the experts would have placed in their databases to await confirmation or elimination.

So how did this departure from the normal process come about? From this third reaction to Butler, I can only conclude it may have been on the basis of distorted perceptions. From the Prime Minister's perspective, the SIS is more than a collection agency. James Bond does more than collect. But at the regular meetings between "C" and the Prime Minister, which are almost certainly to deal with things other than recently gathered intelligence, it would not be natural for such matters to be entirely excluded, especially when there is a knotty problem in the air. This is obviously an opportunity for "C" to boost the reputation of the skills of his organisation, but it places an onus on him to be very cautious.

The suggestion of a need to review the relationship between the SIS, the JIC (presumably the assessment staff) and the DIS (Defence Intelligence Staff) either betrays a misunderstanding of the intelligence community or imagines problems that did not exist. Apart from the single issue of the late, sensitive intelligence from which the whole of the DIS except the chief was excluded, there was no broader problem for the DIS of access to sensitive intelligence. We had been managing the general inconvenience of "compartments" for some time. In September 2002, the relationship between my own branch and our opposite numbers in the SIS was sound enough to allow us to agree to share the services of one hard-pressed expert on a temporary basis until a new recruit was found to fill the gap.

The suggestion that there are organisational problems to be resolved carries an inference that these problems in some way relate to the much more significant admission in the last response to Butler. "Fourthly, any future presentation of intelligence will separate the JIC assessment and the Government case and import any JIC caveats into it"; and the subsequent sentence: "I want to move on now to the quite different point that, by omitting the caveats, we set out to deceive people."

The Prime Minister seems to be accepting that people were misled, albeit inadvertently, by the softening of caveats on moving from JIC papers to the dossier, and their complete removal in his own foreword. This, of course, has nothing to do with source validation or organisational interfaces, just as ballistic missiles and the proximity of Cyprus had nothing to do with "45 minutes".

The writer is a former head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Defence Intelligence Staff


http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=569895
 

Brian Jones: I'm still mystified how Blair convinced himself that Iraq had all those weapons

The assessment of the Defence Intelligence Staff was much closer to what the Iraq Survey Group has discovered

08 October 2004

The headline conclusion of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) report-- that Iraq had no significant stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons - came as little surprise to me. The assessments that my colleagues and I on the Defence Intelligence Staff made in 2002 suggested that this might be the case, a view that was rejected by the Prime Minister, his team at No 10, the Cabinet, the Cabinet Office and the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

I am, however, surprised at the finding of the ISG that the state of Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes and the related knowledge base was weaker in 2003 than in 1998 when United Nations weapons inspectors and monitors were ordered by Saddam to leave Iraq. Although some of the intelligence we received after 1998 hinted as much, it was difficult to square these reports with others, and with the continuing failure of Iraq to cooperate fully with the inspectors. If there was nothing tangible to be found, why was Iraq contriving to give the impression that there might be? What now seems to have been the case is that Saddam felt he needed a strategic deterrent, and for as long as he did not have one, the next best thing was to create the illusion that he did.

What remains a mystery is how most senior members of the Blair Government and most senior British intelligence officials convinced themselves of the existence of stockpiles of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons when their expert analysts in the middle ranks were so sceptical.

Perhaps what really happened is that they shared our assessment of the risk that Iraq might eventually reconstitute its WMD capabilities to the point where it could deter us from intervention. That would infringe Britain's declared policy aim of maintaining our political and military freedom of action. So they decided to grasp the emerging opportunity to deal with it.

But chemical, biological and nuclear weapons are each as complex as they are different. Explaining to busy MPs and a barely engaged public the nuanced implications of a range of emerging potential threats including unconstrained global terrorism would have been a challenge even in a more relaxed environment. Under the pressure generated by the haste of Bush administration hawks to take advantage of America's rage at the 11 September attacks, it would have seemed impossible. So whether out of ignorance or pragmatism, the message was simplified, and prompted stark headlines ("Brits 45 minutes from doom") that went unchallenged.

There were other benefits in this simplification when it came to making a case for war. All discussion could be persuaded to default to the worst case scenario - the mushroom clouds that presaged Hiroshima's desolate aftermath. Of course, it was never assessed by anyone that Iraq had one, let alone a stockpile of nuclear weapons. And the trumpeted evidence of deals sought in the uranium mines of Niger, and aluminium tubes for its enrichment detected in transit to Iraq, were all so much froth.

Although the assessment of the Defence Intelligence Staff about the lack of any stockpiles was not completely accurate either, it was much closer to what Charles Duelfer's Iraq Survey Group has discovered. Indeed, it is pleasing to realise that our assessment was probably more accurate than the belief held by some of Saddam's most senior Iraqi military officers, whom the report tells us were convinced of the existence of WMD until the dictator told them otherwise in December 2002.

Given that even Saddam's most senior officers were misled, it is perhaps easier to see how inaccurate intelligence reports about stockpiles came through, and that some of these were subsequently given too much credibility in the September 2002 dossier. But even without the knowledge of the deception going on inside the corridors of power in Baghdad, we were suspicious about these reports because there was simply no supporting evidence. This is not rocket science, just sound intelligence analysis.

The requirements of selling the war, however, demanded a strong case. And that case would have been difficult to sustain if based merely on a weapons capability kept alive in the memories of Iraqi heads and hard drives, and held in reserve for activation on some undefined future date.

In the light of his adamant claims about the existence of significant actual WMD stockpiles then, the Prime Minister's perfectly valid claims now about the threats associated with Saddam's intentions and incipient potential capabilities ring hollow. For still, he cannot bring himself to use the important qualifier "potential". He reiterates that a mass of starkly clear intelligence misled him into believing the threat was actual, here and now, and yet seems remarkably unconcerned that an estimated #1.5bn-plus per annum intelligence machine could get it so wrong on such a vital issue that has cost the nation so much.

But I don't recall that Lord Butler's review uncovered masses of clear-cut evidence indicating the existence of a current WMD threat to anyone, let alone Britain.

The tragedy is that the Prime Minister is right about "terrorism without limit". Yet the risk of it being visited upon our shores has been greatly enhanced by the very decision he believes he took to protect us from it. And now our ability to defend against it is being hampered by his refusal to acknowledge fully the mistakes that he and others made in relation to the Iraq war.

Tony Blair told John Humphrys last week that, post 11 September, he decided we had to take a proactive approach to WMD, and the place to start was with Iraq. If Iraq is just the start, then it is his urgent responsibility to explain the overall strategy in much greater detail.

There are two important aspects of the problem that are being glossed over. The first is how to reorganise the machinery of government to avoid the periodic corruption of intelligence by policy. It seems to recur every decade or so, and requires a more enduring resolution than a quick fix.

The second concerns our policy on countering WMD proliferation, especially now as arms control crumbles and global terrorists are intent on producing mass casualties. Aggressive attempts to suppress the legitimate desire of nations to protect themselves from neighbours armed with weapons of mass destruction will not succeed. It is difficult to see that even a future democratic Iraqi regime would not try to equip itself with a strategic deterrent unless we undertake to guarantee its security. The solutions must be pursued through an international consensus that offers reassurance and security to those we want to renounce such weapons. But the ultimate rejection by the British Government, with the full support of the Opposition, of the consensus view that existed in the United Nations on Iraq has undoubtedly made this more difficult.

The writer was a member of the Defence Intelligence Staff until January 2003, and is a visiting senior research fellow at University of Southampton.


 Brian Jones  - Warmwell pages
 
 
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