By Neil Mackay (08 June 2003 UK Herald)
BRITAIN ran a covert 'dirty tricks' operation designed specifically to produce misleading intelligence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction to give the UK a justifiable excuse to wage war on Iraq.
Operation Rockingham, established by the Defence Intelligence Staffwithin the Ministry of Defence in 1991, was set up to 'cherry-pick' intelligence proving an active Iraqi WMD programme and to ignore and quash intelligence which indicated that Saddam's stockpiles had been destroyed or wound down.
The existence of Operation Rockingham has been confirmed by Scott Ritter, the former UN chief weapons inspector, and a US military intelligence officer. He knew members of the Operation Rockingham team and described the unit as 'dangerous', but insisted they were not 'rogue agents' acting without government backing. 'This policy was coming from the very highest levels,' he added.
'Rockingham was spinning reports and emphasising reports that showed non-compliance (by Iraq with UN inspections) and quashing those which showed compliance. It was cherry-picking intelligence.'
Ritter and other intelligence sources say Operation Rockingham and MI6 were supplying skewed information to the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) which, Tony Blair has told the Commons, was behind the intelligence dossiers that the government published to convince the parliament and the people of the necessity of war against Iraq. Sources in both the British and US intelligence community are now equating the JIC with the Office of Special Plans (OSP) in the US Pentagon. The OSP was set up by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to gather intelligence which would prove the case for war. In a staggering attack on the OSP, former CIA officer Larry Johnson told the Sunday Herald the OSP was 'dangerous for US national security and a threat to world peace', adding that it 'lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam'.
He added: 'It's a group of ideologues with pre-determined notions of truth and reality. They take bits of intelligence to support their agenda and ignore anything contrary. They should be eliminated.'
Johnson said that to describe Saddam as an 'imminent threat' to the West was 'laughable and idiotic'. He said many CIA officers were in 'great distress' over the way intelligence had been treated. 'We've entered the world of George Orwell,' Johnson added. 'I'm disgusted. The truth has to be told. We can't allow our leaders to use bogus information to justify war.'
Many in British intelligence believe the planned parliamentary inquiry by MPs on the Intelligence and Security Committee will pass the blame for the use of selective intelligence to the JIC, which includes senior intelligence figures.
Intelligence sources say this would be unfair as they claim the JIC was following political instructions. Blair has been under sustained criticism following allegations that intelligence on the threat from Iraq was 'sexed up' to make it more appealing to the public.
The rebel Labour MP and Father of the House, Tam Dalyell, said he would raise the Sunday Herald's investigation into Operation Rockingham in the Commons on Thursday and demand an explanation from the government about selective intelligence. Ritter has also offered to give evidence to parliament.
Both the MoD and Downing Street refused to comment on Ritter's allegations about Operation Rockingham, saying they did not make statements on intelligence matters.
British and American intelligence analysts have also come forward to dispute claims made by President Bush that two military trailers found in Iraq were bio-weapons labs.
Saddam's trucks were for balloons, not germs
Peter Beaumont and Antony Barnett, Sunday June 8, 2003, The Observer
Tony Blair faces a fresh crisis over Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, as evidence emerges that two vehicles that he has repeatedly claimed to be Iraqi mobile biological warfare production units are nothing of the sort.
The intelligence agency MI6, British defence officers and technical experts from the Porton Down microbiological research establishment have been ordered to conduct an urgent review of the mobile facilities, following US analysis which casts serious doubt on whether they really are germ labs.
The British review comes amid widespread doubts expressed by scientists on both sides of the Atlantic that the trucks could have been used to make biological weapons.
Instead The Observer has established that it is increasingly likely that the units were designed to be used for hydrogen production to fill artillery balloons, part of a system originally sold to Saddam by Britain in 1987.
The British review follows access by UK officials to the vehicles which were discovered by US troops in April and May.
'We are being very careful now not to jump to any conclusions about these vehicles,' said one source familiar with the investigation. 'On the basis of intelligence we do believe that mobile labs do exist. What is not certain is that these vehicles are actually them so we are being careful not to jump the gun.'
The claim, however, that the two vehicles are mobile germ labs has been repeated frequently by both Blair and President George Bush in recent days in support of claims that they prove the existence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
During his whistle stop tour of the Gulf, Europe and Russia, Blair repeatedly briefed journalists that the trailers were germ production labs which proved that Iraq had WMD.
But chemical weapons experts, engineers, chemists and military systems experts contacted by The Observer over the past week, say the layout and equipment found on the trailers is entirely inconsistent with the vehicles being mobile labs. Both US Secretary of State Colin Powell, when he addressed the UN Security Council prior to the war, and the British Government alleged that Saddam had such labs.
A separate investigation published by the New York Times yesterday discloses that the trailers have now been investigated by three different teams of Western experts, with the third and most senior group of analysts apparently divided sharply over their function.
'I have no great confidence that it's a fermenter,' a senior analyst said of a tank supposed to be capable of multiplying seed germs into lethal swarms. The government's public report, he said, 'was a rushed job and looks political'. The analyst had not seen the trailers, but reviewed evidence from them.
Another intelligence expert who has seen the trailers told the US paper: 'Everyone has wanted to find the "smoking gun" so much that they may have wanted to have reached this conclusion. I am very upset with the process.'
Questions over the claimed purpose of trailer for making biological
· The lack of any trace of pathogens found in the fermentation tanks. According to experts, when weapons inspectors checked tanks in the mid-Nineties that had been scoured to disguise their real use, traces of pathogens were still detectable.
· The use of canvas sides on vehicles where technicians would be working with dangerous germ cultures.
· A shortage of pumps required to create vacuum conditions required for working with germ cultures and other processes usually associated with making biological weapons.
· The lack of an autoclave for steam sterilisation, normally a prerequisite for any kind of biological production. Its lack of availability between production runs would threaten to let in germ contaminants, resulting in failed weapons.
· The lack of any easy way for technicians to remove germ fluids from the processing tank.
One of those expressing severe doubts about the alleged mobile germ labs is Professor Harry Smith, who chairs the Royal Society's working party on biological weapons.
He told The Observer 'I am concerned about the canvas sides. Ideally, you would want airtight facilities for making something like anthrax. Not only that, it is a very resistant organism and even if the Iraqis cleaned the equipment, I would still expect to find some trace of it.'
His view is shared by the working group of the Federation of American Scientists and by the CIA, which states: 'Senior Iraqi officials of the al-Kindi Research, Testing, Development, and Engineering facility in Mosul were shown pictures of the mobile production trailers, and they claimed that the trailers were used to chemically produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons.'
Artillery balloons are essentially balloons that are sent up into the atmosphere and relay information on wind direction and speed allowing more accurate artillery fire. Crucially, these systems need to be mobile.
The Observer has discovered that not only did the Iraq military have such a system at one time, but that it was actually sold to them by the British. In 1987 Marconi, now known as AMS, sold the Iraqi army an Artillery Meteorological System or Amets for short.
Additional reporting by Solomon Hughes
GENEVA (AFP) Jun 06, 2003
The United States and Britain should admit they lied when claiming the ousted Baghdad regime had weapons of mass destruction, Scott Ritter, a former UN senior weapons inspector in Iraq, said in an interview published here Friday.
Ritter, speaking to the Swiss daily Le Temps, called on US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to "have the courage to be held responsible" for telling lies to the public into backing the conflict.
An outspoken critic of Bush's handling of the conflict, the ex-Marine said the two leaders should "explain frankly and honestly why they went to war."
They should "admit their lies", he said.
Ritter's comments were published in French.
"If this is a noble crusade to liberate the world from a crazy dictator, admit it," he said.
But, Ritter added, Saddam Hussein could not have destroyed a possible arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) "without leaving traces...Secretary of Defense) Donald Rumsfeld has furnished no proof of their supposed destruction, just as he has never furnished the slightest proof of their existence".
Ritter, a former intelligence officer in the US Marines once dubbed a "cowboy" by UN officials for what they called his intrusive inspection procedures, headed up the inspections team in Iraq from 1991 to 1998.
He resigned in August 1998, citing a lack of UN and US support for his tough disarmament methods, which rattled the Iraqis.
In his "Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem -- Once and For All", Ritter slammed Bush's policy of regime change as having corrupted the inspection process in Iraq.
He also dismissed US intelligence information purporting to show the existence of WMDs, saying doubt would now be cast upon any further declarations made by the US president.
"(Bush) says that Iran has weapons of mass destruction. On the basis of what information? And what about Syria, or North Korea?" he told the paper.