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back to the Pear Shaped Iraq Inquiry Inquiry

This page is dedicated to a continuation of our back of fag packet analysis of the Iraq Inquiry.  Our inital interpretation of the transcripts (entirely filmed in Xtranormal) can be found here.  It took a long time to read literally all of the public hearings transcripts.  However, the previous article did not comment on any of the private hearings.  In particular it skips over all the MI6 transcripts that are hidden away on the back pages of the website.

The Iraq war was, of course, the first in our history to be fought on the basis of "intelligence" so the inquiry requires intelligence officers to be interviewed in order to carry any public credibility.  This gives us a brief and unusually candid look at the internal workings of an organisation we seldom see inside except through the prism of James Bond films, John Le Carre novels and other 9th hand semi-fictionalised sources. 

The transcripts prove a particular problem for any reader due to the sever level of redaction applied post interview.  Which not only removes a large volume of interesting information but moreover makes them difficult to actually read by breaking up any sense of narrative thread, isolating comments out of context, showing answers without their questions and asking questions to which one is not sure if the answer has or has not been supplied...  Giving the reader the sense that they are listening to some kind of Delphic Oracle which either comes out with random nonsense or supplies the right answers but to the wrong questions.  Here's a representative example of what I mean.

Still at least we know that questions have been asked by someone important.  So everything is okay. This page really is all the interviews with the black lines removed and some linking commentary and analysis substitued.  Actually I found that when you remove all the black lines you find pretty much all the unredacted evidence will actually just about fit on one page.  So here it is:

The Iraq inquiry have so far interviewed (as far as I can figure out) at least 12 members of MI6.  SIS1, SIS2, SIS3,SIS4, SIS5 and SIS6 have all had their transcripts published in some form whereas statements have been made that SIS8, SIS9 and SIS11’s transcripts will never be published due to the fact that “The Committee has concluded, in line with its Protocols, that it would not be possible to redact and publish the transcript without rendering it unintelligible”.  Which leaves open the question of what’s happened to SIS7, SIS10 and SIS12’s testimony and will we ever see a transcript because the inquiry has not made a statement that we wont…?

To an extent this is understandable.  All security agencies have a duty to protect their sources.  To an extent it is not.  For example although some effort has been gone to to conceal the identities of individual interviewees you dont actually had to be too bright to work out actually what some of them do ...or indeed in some cases who they are.   

MI6 famously never reveals who its agents are even though we all know that they are all Dominic Lawson.   Which is obviously nonsense.

By the way if you cant see the inline videos properly you're probably using the 64 bit version of Windows Explorer 9.  Use a 32 bit version - you can download off the Microsoft website.  Or just use a browser that isn't entirely composed of old ActiveX controls and actually uses the HTML standards because its not built by egomaniacs.  You can also view all the animations here if that's easier or on this Youtube page.  As stated in the previous article this page is nonsense. 
If you want a sensible analysis instead try the Iraq Inquiry Digest


We dont know what SIS1 looks like but here's a completely random image
of a member of the general public who probably looks nothing like him
The interview of MI6 agent 1 (SIS1) 
starts genteely with Sir John Chilcot ...

....inviting the gentleman to take his coat off before launching into his extensive ramble about how witnesses will be later asked to sign a transcript and inviting SIS1 to say a few words.

SIS1 tells us that in the period in question he had 3 jobs relevant to the Inquiry and goes on to explain what they were.  A large chunk of information explaining exactly what SIS1 did is then redacted before Sir John Chilcot rejoins  "Thankyou.  Very helpful.  Let's go straight to the questions. I'll ask Martin Gilbert to begin"

However, before Martin Gilbert does begin Sir Roderic Lyne ...

...quickly interjects "
Can I just ask one question? Is your past affiliation now something that is in the public domain?"

This is interesting as it suggests that SIS1 did not work solely for MI6 or at least did not in the past.  As to the curious past affiliation I guess it is not something that is in the public domain by the fact it has been redacted away to leave only a question mark.  So far so uninformative.

Eventually Sir Martin Gilbert ...

....asks if he can start with the period when SIS1 was doing some redacted job.  We dont know what that job is but one can suspect it was something to do with counter proliferation as that's what the conversation goes on to be about ...

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: If I could start with the period when you were [redacted], the point we would to like to look at is what proportion of Service effort was dedicated to counter proliferation, and to what extent had producing intelligence on proliferation and WMD, and on the WMD performance of countries of concern, become a higher priority for SIS during this period?

SIS1: It was a high priority. The requirements relating to counter proliferation were category 1. There were four countries from memory, perhaps five, in particular which were at the top of our concerns, and they included Iraq. But Iraq was by no means the most important at that period. The others were the Axis of Evil countries, [who's names are redacted]So in that period, which was after all a very short [redacted] period that I was, only one year, they were high priority targets. The Service inevitably had a number of competing requirements and had to decide where to put those chips...

No spy cliches there then.  Any more information as to the gambling habits of MI6 is, of course, redacted.

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: In terms of Iraq itself, what was the view of the particular threat posed by Iraq, and in the context of the containment policy of that time, what was intelligence reporting with regard to the efficacy or otherwise of containment?

SIS1: We knew more about Iraq than other countries because Iraq had used WMD, and the [redacted] enabled us to get a much clearer idea of how Iraq was, as we thought, continuing to bring in materials and develop a capacity to have a WMD programme.  The context around Iraq was more highly developed. The intelligence picture, well placed sources inside the programme, was not highly developed. We had sort of pinpoints of light, and I think this is a point that might apply to some of the other issues which you will be asking about.  The picture on Iraq was patchy. I think there was a presupposition of what it was, and the intelligence illuminated different parts of it in a way that seemed consistent with that picture.  As far as the containment policy was concerned, it's like playing British bulldog against impossible odds.

It's a big country. You can fly in and out. It has sea ports, porous borders, and what we saw was that the Iraqis were using ingenious and sometimes pretty crude methods to bring in stuff which was embargoed. Stuff which was embargoed, but even stuff for programmes which they were allowed to have. So they had a lot to hide.  The inspection programme we know -- we knew at the time and it was subsequently verified -- was a threat to them because they didn't want to be found having stuff which they had smuggled in, even though it was for a programme that they might have been allowed to have.

SIS1 goes on to tell the story of interdictions of what is presumably WMD related material at sea but this is [redacted] ... however, his conclusion that this built up a sense that containment was not sustainable is not.

Sir Martin Gilbert asks who SIS1's main US interlocutors were in this period (2001) and how the CIA's assessment of Iraq's weapons programme meshed with our own intelligence?  The answers are redacted.

Sir Martin then comes onto a question not often highlighted ... exactly how is the information gathered disseminated through Whitehall? To what levels did these assessments go?   This is a recurring theme of these transcripts.  It is a much forgotten fact that one of the intrinsic problems of an organisation like MI6 is not just the collation of highly sensitive information but who actually is important enough to have it disseminated to them.   For those of you who are new to the world of espionage here's a quick overview of Britain's main intelligence services.   The ones we know about anyway, MI5 & GCHQ (spying at home for the Home Office), MI6 (Spying Abroad for the FCO) and the less well known DIS (Military Spy Stuff for the MOD) showing roughly how they collect intelligence and just as importantly who they report to.

How Spying Works

Obviously this is a bit crass and probably wrong but it's a start and we'll be coming back to elements of this illustration later on... but the important thing to note is that basically they all report to the JIC, the Prime Minister and senior Ministers and there seem to be absolutely no guidelines as to in what order.  There's probably some idea here about avoiding the centralisation of power in one person but no one really understands it.  It's basically a case of make-it-up-as-we-go-along as far as I understand it.  All the various services having been born out of different needs and committees at different times but broadly speaking all are coordinated via the JIC ...or not.

SIS1: It was done on a limited basis

The exact names of those who recieved the information are redacted.

SIS1: ....and from memory, I think -- and this would be the normal procedure -- there would have been a letter from possibly the chief, or the relevant director, to the Foreign Office, and then onward distribution would be a matter for -- I can't remember in this case whether it was a letter to the private secretary to the Foreign Secretary, but that would be the sort of level that this would have been disseminated. [redacted]It was handled in the same way that a lot of the correspondence on Iraq was handled, Manning, Condi Rice, by letter, by memo.

Sir Roderic then starts pushing the line that actually although containment was difficult it wasn't impossible and starts on about how the Iraqis didn't have nuclear capability.  After a redacted exchange he concludes ...

SIR RODERIC LYNE: So it wasn't a strict either/or option. The thing is broken, we have got to do something more dramatic --

SIS1: Before 9/11, no. 9/11 changed the picture.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: It changed the context?

SIS1: Yes.
Dirty Bomb

SIS1 admits that there wasn't really much sign of nuclear material smuggling but points out that it doesn't actually take a lot of fissile material to make a "dirty bomb".

SIS1: Smuggling from [redacted] was often exaggerated. There were all sorts of scams, red mercury and stuff, and people trying to rip other people off with promises of fissile material. But we know from our own research establishments that even a small amount of fissile material can have a devastating impact psychologically, you know, could close the channel tunnel for quite a considerable time. So in the hands of terrorism -- I say again that that's the thing that gave this legs -- in the hands of terrorists who were prepared to kill themselves in the process, even small amounts of fissile material, provided by a state that thought that it was in their interest to do so, would cause a disproportionate amount of damage, though, of course, as you know, the evidence for Iraq's links with AQ are pretty slim.

There have been two major fires in the channel tunnel.  One in 1996 and one in 2008.  Although neither of these were attriubted to terrorism ... officially.  There is no doubt that the tunnel is a terrorist target.

Following this there is a large section about US-UK information exchange that is redacted.  Eventually Sir John Chilcott and SIS1 move on to discussing intelligence sources.  It turns out the SIS1 had a source who had a source who was the source of "the 45-minute report".  Sir John then asks if the reports in which the SIS1's source's source are cited to the JIC and if  assesments staff would make clear the reliablity of that source and how often they had been in contact ....and SIS1 said ...yes.

SIS1: And, of course, a good relationship with the Assessments Staff involves briefing them on what lies behind the rubric, which can sometimes appear a little opaque to those who don't understand the jargon, the terminology.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Yes. Would there have been dialogue between - [redacted] thinking of you as  - between your people and people in the assessment staff?

SIS1: Daily.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: As the stream of reporting came through?

SIS1: Yes. So a report that was considered to be important, particularly if it was going to be used in an assessment, there would be conversations and a kind of horse trading about how much can be put in and whether there was anything about the source that could help to understand the intelligence better.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Yes. You mentioned 45 minutes. There was a gossipy bit going around that it was a Jordanian taxi driver who dreamt this one up. Can you tell us any more about the actual sourcing of that report?

SIS1: It was, again from memory, a subsource who we understood to be  [redacted].


SIS1: And subsequently the information did not stack up. But the 45-minute report contained a number of unconnected bits of information, of which the 45 minutes paragraph was perhaps one of the more vivid.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: It's probably not entirely a question for you, but I'll try it anyway. We have been told that the Assessments Staff and the JIC would have understood thoroughly well what 45 minutes meant, as it were between quite forward deployment and then putting it into the hands of -- it was a range of times, 20 to 45 minutes, quite realistic. Whether it was understood, was it, by ultimate consumers in that sense?

SIS1: I think it was. I mean, it made reference to chemical and biological weapons. The biological reference was less convincing, and I think I saw comments from the DIS to the effect that this doesn't make as much sense, and I think that whole process of working through the intelligence, it's not holy writ. These are human processes. You are looking down a very, very long tube at a very small part of the picture, and you have to understand that in transmission the intelligence can be misunderstood. So you have to interrogate back down the tube to make sure that you have got it right.

Now, I'm not an expert in international espionage but to me this is a pretty much open admission that 45 minutes claim was bollocks.  SIS1 seems to realise this and points out that SIS was under "quite extraordinary pressure to try and get a better view of Iraq's WMD programme, and I think we marketed that intelligence -- I think this is not original comment -- before it was fully validated"

In other words their reports were bollocks.  The conversation continues...

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: And there were doubts in SIS's collective consciousness even before March 2003, I think. Is that right, from memory?

Image of what according to MI6 you have "got to go for"
c/o cartoon clipart.com


SIS1: Well before that. Even while it was still going on. Here was a chap who promised the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow. [redacted] Now, you have got to go for those, because sometimes that can be just what you are looking for.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: But that puts a huge strain on the validation process and the way in which it is reported.

SIS1: Well, there wasn't much to validate. What he was promising had not arrived. That was the point.

...in other words the source or the source's source was playing MI6.  Pretending they had access to information that they did not.  Since MI6 pay for information this was probably a nice little earner for the source and the source's source who knew how desperate MI6 were for their crock of gold / smoking gun. 

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: David Omand gave us this comment that

SIS1: If he was referring to that, I think he's right.

So it seems that it maybe possible the MI6 had promised Tony Blair "intelligence" to justify the war but when it came to it they couldn't actually produce it because they realised quite late in the day that their sources had been playing them...? 

There is another reference to another source that SIS says was significant and genuine but "our access to him was limited" and ...the rest has been redacted.

Sir John Chilcot then goes on to ask if SIS were consulted at all about what post-conflict Iraq might be like.

SIS1: You really want somebody who has lived in Iraq and understands the way the society works, and in particular the makeup of the tribal structures and how leadership and authority and -- because it's those structures that would come to the fore once the heavy lid of the regime was removed, and we didn't understand that very well.

The conversation then seems so wander through other issues - how come no one noticed Iraq was so run down
and how long it takes to figure out whether a source (any source) is genuine or not.

SIS1: That's a process. It happens over sometimes years, and you don't know at the outset how reliable the person is, and reliability is on a number of different levels. The person can be reporting sincerely but erroneously, or can be fabricating, and all the gradations in between.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Yes, you could have a reliable source --

SIS1: It's a matter of judgment often by the case officer or case officers in his or her dealings with an individual.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: There's tremendous positive human motivation on the case officer to maximise the amount of intelligence that he collected from a source he is handling or she is handling and to come to believe in it?

SIS1: That's where good training and culture comes in. I think the best intelligence officers want to produce the best intelligence, not the most.

They then move on to a redacted discussion of whether MI6 has been downsized, streamlined or run down since the end of the cold war...

...and how their (presumably) performance related pay structure works in terms of creating the end product.  In a business that is based on mistrust and lying how do attempt to quantify output?  Particularly when you then have to decide who is responsible enough to actually trust with what you've actually gathered which may or may not be nonsense.... A huge chunk on this subject is sensibly redacted.  It's hard to follow the bits left in but what seems to be being said is that the Forigen Office seemed to be in denial of the direction things are moving in:

SIS1: Yes. There was also a certain amount of resistance, shall I say in the Foreign Office, to believing what we were hearing, and I frequently [redacted] heard from, for example, , when they were discussing these things --

SIR RODERIC LYNE: That was [redacted]?

SIS1: [redacted]. In fact, as late as December 2002, we had almost a wager that there would or there would not be a war within four months, even at that stage.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Did you sense that the Foreign Secretary shared in the scepticism about what you were hearing?

SIS1: I'm not in a position to say.

...it transpires that the FO believed that there would not be a war because of what their diplomatic contacts told them.  Perhaps they were being diplomatic?  MI6 were hearing something different.  There is some mention of something called the "Piggot Group" which presumably is something to do with Anthony Pigott, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Commitments), 2000-2003 of which SIS1 was a very active member but "others took it less seriously".  Which makes it sound a bit like some kind of work social club.

SIS1 maintains that while he and Number 10 were on the same page as to US intentions to invade ...a lot of other heads were simply in sand because that's where they wanted to be.  The answer to the crucial question...

SIR RODERIC LYNE: At what point did you get the sense that the Americans had moved from the decision on principle, which we have described, into a specific decision that they were going to take military action within a timeframe?

...is of course redacted except for some vague comments on the difficulties of finding Arabic speakers.

This is followed by an interesting discussion about Clare Short’s ...


...access to SIS information.  I think it's probably fair to say that no one talked to Clare.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: I'll come back in a minute to the planning, but just on the scenarios and the timeframes, I want to ask a question about DFID. 

Clare Short in her published memoirs referred to conversations she had -- perhaps she shouldn't have done, but she did -- with the Chief of your Service. Now, I understand that you were somebody who had conversations with her from time to time. Do you recall briefing her, either yourself or one of your colleagues, on the probability of military action against Iraq in the course of 2002?

SIS1: Yes, and also in the course of 2003, where she became -- I think she was convinced that it would happen, and she was concerned about the humanitarian consequences.   I do remember, yes.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Do you recall any impediments on her access to SIS, or it was a fairly free and easy relationship that you had with her?

SIS1: I didn't have complete visibility of that, but I know that she felt that she may not have had as much access as she thought she needed. I think that DFID were behind the curve for a number of reasons, and I think that was possibly one factor.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Did you have any sense of their state of pre-conflict planning?

SIS1: I did. I saw them in some of the forums that existed. There were about three or four forums. There was the Chiefs of Staff meetings, which I generally attended to represent SIS. There was the Piggot Group. There were a couple of other Cabinet Office based co-ordination groups that grew up later, and DFID were slow starters at these forums as an organisation. There were a number of people who got it and were very active. I think --

SIR RODERIC LYNE: They were slow because of ministerial orders, the Secretary of State was very much against the idea of the conflict; was that holding them back?

SIS1: I think there were a number of reasons. Iraq was an odd place to commit DFID resources. It was a rich country, it didn't meet the sort of poverty criteria, and DFID may have felt that it was being used as an instrument of a policy that did not go to the core of their business.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: We have also heard evidence that they were excluded deliberately by Number 10 from some of the planning processes.

SIS1: I'm not aware of that, but it doesn't immediately surprise me.

SIS1 is the asked about his relationships with other government departments and states that he did no have much contact with the Treasury with regards to financial planning for the aftermath of the war.

It seems that no one talked to Robin Cook either.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Did you yourself have any discussions with the former Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, who was leader of the House at this stage?

SIS1: None whatsoever, speaking for myself, and I'm not aware of any that involved my colleagues.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: We have asked others about his intelligence briefing and the view that he came to.

The rest of this conversation is redacted.   SIS1 goes on to talk about a new team that was set up.  What it did exactly I don’t know but it was clearly different from the old way of doing things and extremely narrowly focused on its core task “I think the innovation here was to work closely with the military and to operate in effect in an entirely different way, I think in a way which has changed the way in which SIS operates since then.”

They then go on to talk about the exile community.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Just one question. The relationship with the exile community in London and Europe, the Iraqi exile community. In the US that was quite important, their exile community. The impression is that SIS was always a bit more suspicious and sceptical. Do you think that that was right, in the rather more obvious cases, but also were there things you might have missed out by not being quite as close to the exile community?

SIS1: That is my view. I think -- I'm not an ...-

The rest of this discussion is redacted. 

SIS1 then goes on to describe looking for WMD as a bit like playing the Coconut Shy at a village fete. 

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: It's possibly just interesting in terms of the overall time pressures that were facing the UK Government at the time as well. There wasn't much time.  On WMD, you weren't in the lead on that.

SIS1: At that time, yes.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: So I don't want to spend a lot of time on the intelligence picture itself, but perhaps just to ask you whether you found the picture clearer by early 2003 than it had seemed to you earlier, when you looked back to it at that point. You felt more confident, rather than less, if you like?

SIS1: I think that the impact of some of the UNMOVIC inspections had increased our confidence that the stuff was there. We just needed the intelligence [redacted] to produce it. There were about three or four glimpses of what was there. As it turns out, the programme didn't exist. But when, for example, [redacted] said they went to this place, they missed the engines for these [Volga] missiles, which would be in breach of Security Council resolutions, if you go back there you will find them. They went back, they found them. One example. 

Another example, where we not only gave them the intelligence about [redacted] and they went to that house and they found the papers.  Just imagine trying to do this in a whole country, with such limited opportunities. So that when we sort of threw our shy and hit a coconut, we thought that's corroborative.

Quaint.  After a large redacted section they continue…

SIS1 on 25000 people marching into Iraq to find Nothing

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: The phrase was essentially that it would be pretty ridiculous and absurd if 25,000 people marched into Iraq and didn't find anything, and the Prime Minister responded that he was very confident in our intelligence.  Was that sort of sense of doubt being expressed in any of the liaison services of the countries you were dealing with?

SIS1: Not a single one. -

The rest of this exchange is redacted.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: So do you think when all of these people were telling, the ones you met, but others too, and we have had lots of evidence of Iraqis in direct contact, for example, with the UN and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, saying, we don't have anything; were they telling the truth as theyknew it then, or do you think some of them actually did suspect they had something but that was the party line?

SIS1: Many of them believed they had it, and in a way that was part of the picture that we were getting –

The rest of this exchange is redacted.

Sir Larence Freedman then offers SIS1 what initally looks like either a get out of jail free card or a trap by suggesting that the underlying problem might be that UNMOVIC was a bit shit.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Just one final question. One of the senses one gets from the documents is a sense that UNMOVIC weren't really up to it, that it was put together quickly, gaps in its capabilities, acting under serious constraints, the Iraqis had a game plan. What was your assessment of how UNMOVIC was trying to doits job?

SIS1: I think they were trying very hard. I think they were pretty capable, but it was such an enormous task. And the Iraqis controlled the space, and I don't think that the  Iraqi behaviour was consistent with a view that they were being collaborative, co-operative, and wanting to get this process over with and convincing them. We still have the sort of “proving the negative” thing. But there was a lot of sort of residual debris from previous programmes, which I think they were probably worried hadn't been fully cleared up, because there was no records and there was very little discipline. They were worried, maybe they will find stuff and they will be able to say, "Aha, you have got it", and that would be dangerous.  I think the Iraqis had a genuine fear that, even though there would have been some that knew we had no programmes, it would be difficult to prove that to the international community's satisfaction, and particularly the Americans, who were hard over on -- I think they realised -- hard over on doing it one way or another. For the Americans, WMD was not necessarily the issue.

Just as the evidence gets dull and starts to reiterate the same old discussions about silver bullets we suddenly learn about “chance” meeting/discussion between SIS1 and Tony Blair himself. 

While the Prime Minister is entitled to demand virtually any documentation from MI6 it is unusual for a Prime Minister or any senior Minister to interact so directly with the the lower echelons of the service.  Even for the Prime Minister to interact with C or the head of MI5 too often and without recourse to the JIC is frowned upon.  For example when Harold Wilson requested Norman Scott's security file in the late 1970s because he was worried about an MI5 conspiracy against Jeremy Thorpe ...Wilson delegated the task of requesting the file to then junior minister Jack Straw.  Wilson is on tape as having said "Look, I saw Jack Straw, he's worried if he were mentioned in this context, he thinks he'll be finished".  So requesting information from MI5 or MI6 is no light undertaking.

Sir Roderic Lyne pushes SIS1 on why Tony Blair approached him directly to do a stocktake of WMD rather than go through the JIC.   SIS1 when cornered states that the relationship between Number 10 and MI6 had become "too personalised".

SIS1 of MI6 on his meeting with Tony Blair

The discussion then moves on to when the Government first learnt that George W Bush decided that the UK should be in charge of Basra.  This was, it seems, very late in the day and SIS has a lot of trouble supplying the military with intelligence.

SIS1: Yes. Absolutely. We were galloping to keep up with events and to do what we are not often required to do, which is to produce intelligence of military value that will help win a campaign.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Yes. I would like to take for granted the fact that there were real and very valuable successes.  They come out of your report and in the comments of military commanders. But at the same time there were shortcomings, and we're a lessons learned Inquiry.  Looking ahead, keys to the success, but also keys to a future better level of success in this kind of engagement, with the green army as well as with special forces.

SIS1: The sort of core SIS intelligence activity is not well suited to a fast-moving military situation. By that stage they are not interested in the broad intentions of the regime and so on. They want to know where the tanks are, when they are going to move.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: But you got the “fast food intelligence” effort running.

The transcript goes into Reacted territory again. 
There’s some talk about technology that I don’t understand and over-commitment.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Sure. You are also imposing on people, and indeed on their families, as you've acknowledged, very considerable 24/7 strains, without much time for recovery whatever. So I'm left with wondering what lesson there is to learn from that, that expectations should be limited -- expectation of SIS, not by SIS.

SIS1: We tend to say yes and sometimes overcommit. I think there that can-do, want-to-help attitude may have given people the impression that we were capable of doing more than we were.

before we slip back into redacted territory again.

There is some talk about SIS’s role in supplying intelligence in a real time operation and how this differs from its usual role of whisper collecting and sifting over long periods of time and whether one role absorbed resources from the other.

SIS1:  It was not just about tactical intelligence for the war fighters. It was about understanding the environment, using their language skills and what we knew of the power structures in the areas that the military were moving through, to assist an intelligent conduct of the campaign.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Any last comment on the future of the relationship between SIS and the regular army? Issues such as training familiarisation, just keeping up a level of acquaintance with military personnel, with doctrines, et cetera. Is this an effort that SIS will and can continue to make and should make?

SIS1: Again [redacted] but I think yes. I think as long as we are engaged in this kind of activity, as we have been in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, it has to be one of the clubs in our golf bag. We have got to be able to do that. It doesn't suit everybody, and it's not what people joining, say, 20 years would have thought they were going to do, but we have to do it.

A large redacted section then covers what I think is what they expected to find and how long they were expecting to be in Iraq before they could pull out.  It seems some people actually thought it would be like the Normady invasion.  When the reader is allowed to read the text again something is being discussed to to with El Baradei and the IAEA.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Again, was it a surprise, the definite pronouncement made by El-Baradei about the Iraqi nuclear programme?

SIS1: No, I think everyone accepted that there wasn't a nuclear programme. I think there was a belief that if Saddam was given a free hand, he would buy, beg, steal or borrow a nuclear capability as soon as he could.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Does that go on to issues like the aluminium tubes and all that sort of thing?

SIS1: Yes. That was again a small piece of a bigger jigsaw. It seemed to be consistent with an interest in resuscitating or developing that programme if conditions allowed.

They then move onto the painful question of actually discovering there were no WMD.
Which is not a simple process

The rest of this conversation is redacted and is followed by a discussion on the uselessness of some SIS subsources.  Here's a picture of what I think they're talking about...

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: What about  [redacted], the less happy story?

SIS1: Yes, I think we did get to the bottom of that.  I wasn't personally involved.  [redacted].  But I think we came to the conclusion that he wasn't as reliable as we thought and his subsources were very much less reliable.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Did his subsources actually exist?

SIS1: Yes, they did.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: But there was fabrication?

SIS1: There was fabrication. There was fabrication.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: So it was alerted, I think, in early June 2003 that this might not be wholly reliable. Might it have been withdrawn earlier, do you think?

SIS1: I don't know. I don't know.

After more redaction we’re left with the blunt admission that

SIS1: Yes, I think the handling of the source, and the marketing, if I can use that word, of the intelligence was awful.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Generally, are there any other lessons you can think of on this story?

SIS1: On what?

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: On the WMD story, I guess, including the role of the technical expertise, for example. The evaluation of the evidence that you were given or examining.

SIS1: It's not so much a lesson. It's an observation that we based a lot on not enough.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: I don't think I can sum it up any better myself.

This is followed by a huge redacted section relating to Iran and active sources within the Shia population.

SIS1: [redacted] I think again, if they could cause trouble for the coalition, they would.  It was not in Iran's interests for Iraq to be pacified, a government to be formed, and a secular Shia-dominated state, as it were, arising on their border. I think they would have thought that that was -- that would have been a challenge to their own world picture.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Because it showed an alternative Shia vision?

SIS1: An alternative Shia vision. At least that was our assumption. I don't know that we could read Iranian perceptions to that degree.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Do you have a sense of when they started to use the Sunni insurgency as a way of -

SIS1: Again, any methods. I think they began to do it as soon as they could. Iran, after the fall of Saddam, had so many ways into Iraq, from the pilgrims to the exiles who had come across the border, and I think it was a very complicated melting pot of interests and capabilities.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: So on a scale of 1 to 10, how important do you think the Iranians were as a factor in the Sunni insurgency?

SIS1: No more than 4.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: That's quite high.

SIS1: Okay. Again, lack of knowledge. I mean, frankly, the Sunni insurgency was doing fine by itself.


After some more redaction SIS1 suddenly gets quite angry about

Jerry Bremer ( Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq )
who he accuses of being a bully and also of being very rude to
Sir Jeremy Greenstock

(United Kingdom Ambassador to the United Nations for five years, from 1998 to July 2003)

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Can you make a judgment about whether our influence was sufficient, proportionate, effective?

SIS1: As a partner in this enterprise, we were disregarded by the CPA. Our advice was not taken into account. Bremer
had in Jeremy Greenstock an extraordinary partner if he chose to use him, and he treated him disgracefully. He would rebuke him in meetings and tell him that he didn't expect to be contradicted, when Jeremy was offering, you know, a correcting or modifying view.


SIS1: And I think that says a lot about Bremer's arrogance. He was under clear political orders, and he didn't know a lot about the country, and that's quite a lethal combination.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Arrogance and insecurity sometimes go together.

SIS1: Arrogance and ignorance and insecurity, and I think, you know, if he had embraced Jeremy Greenstock and they had -

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Just a last point on that, because we have got a lot of other evidence to take. Bremer was definitely acting under political direction on those key decisions about de-Ba'athification and disbandment?

SIS1: Yes, but I think people were desperate for someone on the ground to tell them what to do. I don't think there was an ideological sense that this had to happen. In fact it's quite the reverse. Initially you're talking about decapitating the regime and leaving the structures in place.  He went a lot further, and frankly, to this day, I don't really know why.

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Okay, thanks.

After some more redaction SIS1’s evidence session draws to its close

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: [SIS1], thank you very much indeed for your evidence. It's been helpful and illuminating.  Can I just remind that there is a transcript which will need to be reviewed in this building, I'm afraid, when it's convenient to you.


We dont know what SIS2 looks like but here's a completely random image
of a member of the general public who probably looks nothing like him

The evidence session of SIS2 starts with Sir John Chilcot asking him by way of introduction:One further question I would just like to put at this stage is simply about your designation. How do you now describe yourself and your past career for public purposes in the work that you are now undertaking?

The answer is redacted.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: That's very helpful. That's the factual position.

This reminded me very much of the opening forward of the House at Pooh Corner where, when the narrator asks Pooh  what  the opposite of an Introduction was, he said "The  what of a what?”, but luckily  Owl  kept  his  head  and  told us that the Opposite of an Introduction, my dear Pooh, was a Contradiction.  One wonders what the point is of transcribing a question but not the answer.  Particularly when it can be deduced from further un-redacted evidence. 

Never mind …let’s plod on  to the question of when SIS2 realised the level of US interest in Iraq ...to which the evasive answer is he’s not sure but some time in summer of 2002.  We then go over the run up to war all over again …

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: What was your understanding of the different factions within the United States administration
towards the United Nations route that was determined by the President in September 2002?

SIS2: Well, there was always a faction within the Bush administration that was fairly viscerally disinclined to involve the United Nations in anything at all, and the people who espoused that route were well documented, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and other members [redacted].  But I think -- sorry, I didn't fully answer your question. I think the message coming out of the White House in respect of this was that there was recognition of the case made by the United Kingdom to pursue a second resolution, and I think probably the best way to put this was that the White House registered a nil obstat*.

* "nothing stands in the way" for those of you without an Oxbridge degree in Latin

…but don’t really learn anything the non-private witnesses haven’t already told us before slipping back into redacted territory.  Indeed several full pages of redaction only broken by…

SIS2: Well, that obviously comes into two categories. The first was to ramp up intelligence collection on the Iraqi WMD programme. Obviously SIS had been to some degree collecting on that programme, but as I think the Butler Inquiry makes abundantly clear, for a long period of time during the 1990s there was little that SIS could do, given the pervasive UN inspector presence in Iraq.  The other area where SIS began to make plans was in terms of operational intelligence support in the event that it did come to a military conflict involving British troops.

…which is also pretty meaningless out of context.  The conversation seems to be covering the spring/summer of 2002 … another snippet emerges from the blacked out lines about who actually received intelligence and about Tony Blair’s increasing interest in MI6…

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: Finally from me, who in our system was aware of the SIS activities?

SIS2: Well, the Foreign Secretary would certainly have been, and I imagine to some degree, but not necessarily the same degree, the Defence Secretary. At that point, I think, most of the activity that was being undertaken was probably of the kind that would not naturally come to his attention.  I think the Prime Minister was taking a very keen interest at that point already in what SIS (a) might be doing and (b) could do to assist HMG to manage the

After some more redaction we finally bump into some interesting testimony about a board that SIS2 was on …

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Yes. I think it might be helpful at this stage -- maybe we should have done this earlier -- if you could just give us a broad description of how the board functioned. It's a fairly small board. [redacted]  To what extent would the board have regularly discussed and been briefed on, given that you all had different areas of operation, the way that the Iraq picture was unfolding?

SIS2: Well, the Board met at regular intervals. I think we were a weekly board, and certainly we would have a fixed  agenda, a lot of which would be about either strategic management or housekeeping issues. But an issue like this obviously was on the agenda. There was discussion about it from a fairly early stage. But I'm not sure that we ever really looked at this from an appropriate risk management perspective. I don't think we ever really got out our risk register and said, okay, this is an area where we as an organisation are actually at risk. This is a reputational issue for us and we need to think through very carefully how we handle ourselves in this regard. That's something I would refer to.
But there's no question that the board was regularly briefed on Iraq. [redacted] but at the same time one has to bear in mind that on the political arena, so to speak, things began to move very quickly indeed, and I think it's true to say that there were a number of occasions where we as a board effectively found ourselves facing a fait accompli in terms of some decisions that were made, rather than having the opportunity fully to debate them before they were made.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Fait accompli in terms of what sort of decision? Decisions that you would have normally made yourselves or were made elsewhere and presented to the board, or were they made by somebody on the board and
presented but not for debate?

SIS2: I'm talking predominantly about conversations that the then chief of the service had with the Prime Minister and others in Number 10, which obviously could not have been the subject of pre-arranged deliberation that the chief had to make, as it were, there and then. I'm not bringing this as a criticism because, as I said, the reality is that things were moving very fast, and we didn't, I don't think, have the luxury of an opportunity to manage every aspect of this by committee. But it did mean that occasionally we would find ourselves being told, well, I have spoken to the Prime Minister and this has happened or that has happened, we are going to do this, we are going to do that.

They go on to talk about Libya and the slightly scarey sounding “nuclear black market”

Sir Lawrence Freedman asks where would Iraq have featured from, say, the middle of 2002 onwards?

SIS2: It went up the scale dramatically. I think in WMD terms, Iraq had been relatively low down the scale of preoccupations. The main focus of concern at that point was, firstly, the Iranian nuclear programme, which was a matter of top priority; the AQ Khan* nuclear black market, and the realisation that after years of dabbling ineffectually in an indigenous nuclear programme, Libya had opted for an engagement with the AQ Khan* nuclear supply network that made a Libyan programme more of a preoccupation than it otherwise would have done. So there there were three major WMD preoccupations on which we had to focus.  I think, as I said, Iraq was in one sense a legacy issue. The collection effort around Iraq was focused more, I think, on making sure that we understood where Iraqi capabilities rested at the time of sanctions, so that once the programmes began to resume, we would have a very clear idea of what the baseline was from which that resumption would take place.  In political terms, I think relatively little focus was devoted to collection on Iraq prior to that point. This was a function of considerations –

Sir Lawrence Freedman then asks if anyone in SIS questioned the volume of resources Iraq was obviously eating up.  SIS2 replies no because “SIS is very much a task-driven organisation that responds to requirements, and is a relatively, and by design, process-light organisation.  So when the requirement to deal with a much increased Iraqi requirement came into effect, I think we just swallowed hard and diverted the resources that we judged necessary. I don't think we -- as far as I'm aware, we never formally registered a concern about the resource implications of this".

*Abdul Qadeer Khan pictured above with some of his dangerous toys was a senior nuclear weapons expert who sold Pakistan's nuclear secrets to "axis of evil" countries.  This made MI6 and the CIA quite cross and after pressure was brought to bear on the Pakistan government they put an end to his activities in early 2004.  The Government of Pakistan reported that Khan had signed a confession indicating that he had provided Iran, Libya, and North Korea with designs and centrifuge technology to aid in nuclear weapons programs, and said that the government had not been complicit in the proliferation activities.


SIS2: The honest truth is I don't know, but I should have been surprised at that point.

There is then a highly redacted conversation about some information that was, as Sir Roderic Lynd puts it “neither withheld nor, as it were, volunteered”.  SIS2 appears to try and brush this aside…

BARONESS USHA PRASHAR: So do you think that clear evidence that Iraq did not have WMD would have made a difference to the Americans.



SIS2: I think the US Government had a very clear and explicit agenda of regime change in Iraq. There were two new areas of information that were seen as bearing on that.  One was WMD. The other was allegation of a relationship between the Saddam Hussein regime and Al Qaeda.  Now, we knew absolutely that there was no such relationship, although there were those in the American administration who sought very energetically to argue [redacted] that this was in fact the case.  So, you know, if there are two areas which might have impacted on the American decision, the way in which they handled one of them, the relationship with Al Qaeda is, I think, indicative of what their real intentions were.

The next 4-5 pages are fully redacted before we move onto the more interesting area of that dossier ...actually I'm not sure which dossier as it's hard to figure that out because of all the redactions.  But I think they're talking about the 2002 dossier.  Oh I cant be bothered.  Here's a picture:

SIS2 admits the service were not generally keen on the whole dossier idea.  Mainly because it risked putting a lot of secret material into the public domain and they wished to protect their sources.  There seems to have been a feeling that some kind of breech of trust was involved in putting so much secret material into the public domain.

SIS2 on MI6 compiling the dossier

More redaction before Sir Lawrence Freedman asserts that after UNSCOM withdrew from Iraq in the late 90s MI6 lost most of its sources... for those of you who dont know what UNSCOM is or what it had to do with spying here's a quick flashback.

SIS2: Well, I think, as this exercise gathered momentum, there was -- and I'm sure others will have made this comment -- very substantial pressure to generate new intelligence because at this juncture, fresh intelligence, new intelligence was at a premium and was in very short supply. So there was undoubtedly considerable pressure to generate new sources, new insights, and we were, in all honesty, not well placed to do that. Our access to Iraq was no better than it was.  [redacted].

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: So essentially the position was that until the end of 1998, you had relied on UNSCOM.

SIS2: Not entirely.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: And UNSCOM of course had had quite a good relationship with intelligence. Then you don't have it anymore. Iraq is not a big priority. Iraq becomes a big priority during the course of 2002. Almost immediately, you are expected to provide a dossier, which doesn't actually give you an awful lot of time to develop your resources. So essentially it takes place at a time when you are sort of scrambling around to find people. In the chronology that's quite important.

SIS2 eventually goes on to disown the dossier entirely.  That is the 2nd dossier I think but I'm not sure.  The dossier we saw was apparently a dossier based on a dossier.  The original dossier that MI6 supplied.  SIS2 seems to have the serious hump about this denying all knowledge of how dossier number 2 was machinated....

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Thanks very much.  Just a final question on the dossier. The further dossier, the dodgy one, that had an SIS input. But SIS were not particularly involved -- is that correct -- in its production?

SIS2: We were not, absolutely not, and I think we were rather shocked by the outcome of this. It was certainly not the case that we had been closely involved in the preparation of that document.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: So the first you were aware of it was ...?

SIS2: To be honest, I can't remember when I first became aware of it, but I think it may actually have been when it came out. Certainly not much before.

…until after it came out.  One would have thought a spy would have been better informed but there you are.  This moves us on to the famous Alistair Campbell “unguided missile” quote.

SIS2 Unguided missile

Sir Lawrenece Freedman then asks if SIS found its self filling a gap that the FCO created and SIS2 replies that the FCO’s inclination was not to do too much post war planning as it was felt that that may be misinterpreted as some form of approval for the war.  They then go on to talk about whether the FCO, MI6 and Alister Campbell were ever at the same meetings but the answers are redacted.  Sir Lawrence asks if SIS was directly briefing journalists as well.  The answers are redacted.  There’s then more waffle and more redaction before Sir Martin Gilbert asks about the post war invasion and the Sunni insurgency.

SIS2 says “Of course, this was one of those situations where SIS was performing a function that the late Maurice Oldfield* used to call delivering inconvenient information, because  this was not a welcome message that was coming

*Maurice Oldfield (left) was C from 1973 to 1978.  He was the first C to “go public”.  Holding meetings for his favoured journalists at the Athenaeum club in Pall Mall (right).  Eventually as everyone knew who he was ....pretending not to be who he was became tedious...    and he sort of gave up.  Unlike today where he'd have to undergo a press conference.

The Athenaeum Club on Pall Mall by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: With regard to the other Islamic extremists who were making ground in Iraq and making common cause with the Ba'athists, did this come as a surprise, given their different ideologies?

SIS2: Are you talking here about Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, ISI, the various acronyms under which it became known? Not especially, no. I think this was a classic case of opportunism and a coincidence of interests.   I think the intensity of the violence to which this gave rise was initially a shock, and it took a while, I think, to appreciate how all this was wired together. But I think it came as no -- in terms of the Sunni, it came as no great surprise.  I think the Shia in the south was another question. The emergence of Muqtada al-Sadr, that was probably more of a surprise because Muqtada is essentially more mercurial and difficult to predict as an individual.

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: With regard to the Sunni insurgency, can you give us perhaps a clearer picture of when this became clear? Witnesses have given us evidence that in a sense it was quite a long delayed process.

SIS2: To be honest, I do have a problem with dates and I'm trying to -- I think by the summer of 2003 [redacted] something more serious and structured was going on. This was not just general lawlessness.

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: With regard to the assessments of the Iranian impact, originally, I believe, our assessment was that Iran had not ordered attacks on coalition forces, although it had provided military training to Iraqis, and later we found that Iran had provided arms to the Shia insurgents.   With hindsight, how accurate do you believe our first assessments were?

SIS2: Well, of course, it's very difficult to answer that question absolutely because Iran's position was changing all the time. It was never fixed. [redacted].  But I think the general perception was that Iraqis were Iraqi nationalists first and Shia second, so to speak, and I don't think that that essential judgment was incorrect.   But, of course, the Iranians did have very substantial scope to influence events in Iraq, and as the situation unfolded, and I think the vulnerabilities of the coalition became more evident, so Iran itself became emboldened and willing to countenance greater levels of risk, albeit within limits. The Iranian involvement was always, I think, quite carefully calibrated to ensure that -- to minimise the risk of a smoking gun being detected.

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: Was there more we could have done to deter Iranian participation?

SIS2: Well, not invade Iraq.

It seems by this time SIS2 is finding the whole process rather tiring and as the interview goes on the number of sarcastic comments in the transcript can definitely be seen to increase.  After apologising for this “flippant comment” SIS2 goes on to offer more detailed analysis which is redacted.  When later on Sir Roderic Lyne asks SIS2 to summarise on the question of intelligence validation he receives the equally blunt answer:

SIS2: I think it was simply down to the very febrile atmosphere within which this collection process was taking place. The pressure to generate results, I fear, did lead to the cutting of corners.

Later Sir Roderic Lyne asks if number 10 got SIS involved in actual policy making – a function it was never designed for…?

SIR RODERIC LYNE: In effect it crossed a line between its traditional roles of providing information and carrying out instructions that you have talked about earlier, and it actually got sucked into the process of policy making?

SIS2: Not exactly policy making as such, but perilously close to it, I would say. I think a fair criticism would be that we were probably too eager to please.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: And how would you counteract that? Do you think steps have since been taken that make this less likely to happen in the future?

SIS2: I don't think you can ever entirely inoculate yourself against this particular virus, but yes, certainly, as things stand at the moment, I think it would be more difficult for this kind of situation to arise.  In 2005, when the new chief of the service took over*, board structures were very deliberately and board culture was very deliberately redesigned, I think to ensure that more systematic process was injected into these issues, thereby minimising the likelihood of something like this happening again.

*This is Sir John Scarlett at this time head of the JIC

SIS2 and Sir Roderic discuss what safeguards could be put in place in future to prevent MI6 being drawn into the process of policy making…

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Could you introduce an element of challenge to it, of somebody who was specifically there to be the guardian of the ark of the principles of SIS, or has that got to be done from outside?

SIS2: Well, I don't think there is a single way of dealing with this.  Two aspects here. Firstly, the composition of the SIS board was significantly expanded, and by design, to inject more outside views. So there are two or three people on board who are not career intelligence officers, have different perspectives, and are expected to ask the, so to speak, commonsense questions. That's one area where I think a greater degree of control has to be exercised.  But I think also the oversight mechanisms that exist have a role to play there as well in terms of challenge and asking questions about what things are done and why they are done.

He also asks how Jack Straw and Colin Powell ended up working towards different outcomes.  To which the answer is “I don’t know”… but SIS2 clearly insinuates (again) that the FCO had it’s head firmly in the sand.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Did this create awkwardness for SIS? On the one hand you were getting instructions fairly directly from Number 10; on the other hand your sponsoring Minister, the Foreign Secretary, who you approach through the Deputy Undersecretary for Defence and Intelligence, at the time, I think, Stephen Wright, were pointing in a different direction. Did that make life awkward for you?

SIS2: It probably should have done, but I think that there was, if I may say, an element of hubris at work which made us less sensitive to that than we probably ought to have been.

SIS2’s general conclusion is that the service was too keen to please Number 10…


We dont know what SIS3 looks like but here's a completely random image
of a member of the general public who probably looks nothing like him

SIS3’s testimony begins in the same farcial way as SIS2’s …namely Sir John Chilcot asking him to explain in detail exactly what his role is in MI6 ...and redacting the answers.   A slightly pointless exercise as one can kind of deduce what SIS3 does do from what he tells us anyway.  Sir John then asks SIS3 what the “plan” was for their post-invasion WMD search…?  SIS3 says that he thought there must be WMD there at the time of the invasion and explains how the Iraq Survey Group was set up to “sweep” post conflict Iraq for WMD.

The Iraq Survey Group was established in double quick time by the Americans, and I assume we were consulted at the political level about that, but basically this was the President deciding he wanted to have Iraq swept, as it were, for WMD, because it was rather important to him and to everybody else that that was found.  So he tasked, as I recall, Condi Rice, who at that stage was National Security Adviser. She turned to George Tenet, who was Director CIA, and George Tenet appointed David Kay.  So the ISG, Iraq Survey Group, was under formation, I would say, in early May…

After a lot of redaction he continues…

“The Iraq Survey Group was established in double quick time by the Americans, and I assume we were consulted at the political level about that, but basically this was the President deciding he wanted to have Iraq swept, as it were, for WMD, because it was rather important to him and to everybody else that that was found.
So he tasked, as I recall, Condi Rice, who at that stage was National Security Adviser. She turned to George Tenet, who was Director CIA, and George Tenet appointed David Kay.
So the ISG, Iraq Survey Group, was under formation, I would say, in early May”

…and many more black redacted lines later he muses wistfully that…

“That effort really continued all the way through 2003, but I have to say that by October 2003 the political argument, if you like, was lost, and I even wondered after that period, if we had found any CW, whether actually that would have changed the political equation at all. It was so much in the psyche of people that they had been misled about the war that I think even a discovery wouldn't have resolved that.”

…so it’s clearly all our fault.  Pretty much the first 10 pages of SIS3’s evidence are redacted to a level where they are simply unreadable.  We are allowed to know things again when it comes to the subject of the nuclear program where SIS3 attempts to explain away various exaggerations and misreporting…

SIR RODERIC LYNE: You said that our intelligence on the nuclear side was largely borne out. To what extent is that really the case, particularly with regard to what we had assessed on procurement efforts, aluminium tubes, yellowcake from Niger and so on?

SIS3: Well, actually we had made relatively small claims on the nuclear side. The Niger story is like a modern equivalent of the Schleswig Holstein question. I did once understand it; I no longer do. So I had to refresh my memory from the Butler Inquiry, and I think the Inquiry concluded that the claim that they'd sought yellowcake was a justified one on the evidence that we had. We had never claimed that they had actually acquired it.

And the reporting on which that was based [redacted] got frightfully mixed up with some fabricated documents. So that's the bit I've rather largely forgotten. But there was also [redacted], which got much less publicity.  So I think the Niger uranium thing was pretty unfortunate really, and I think if desk officers in the Service had had their way, probably would never have seen the light of day. But anyway it did, and of course it then found its way into Bush's Union Address and so on.  On the tubes, I think that we didn't make such enormous claims in relation to the tubes. I'm afraid that there again I have forgotten the detail.  But the pressure was never on the nuclear bit, nor on the missile bit. It was all about CBW in particular, and that was because of the visibility of the 45-minute report. That's what everyone was fixed on and where the political argument lay.

There’s then a highly redacted discussion of about a source and their sub-source which leads onto an exchange about the withdrawal of intelligence when MI6 realised that the dodgy dossier (I think this is the 2nd dossier) was indeed nonsense.  Sir Roderic Lyne pushes SIS3 on the compilation of the dossier.  He repeatedly maintains he wasn't involved in the compilation and didn't know what level reports went to and how.  SIS3 then goes on to slag off chains or sourcing...

... and "senior people who reach down into the machine and do stuff with the cogs" and talks about disquiet in the service about this.  When Sir Roderic suggests they be less "Manderinesque" about it SIS3 says bluntly that:
"I think people were genuinely annoyed and concerned".

SIS3 says people were genuinely annoyed and concerned

After a bit off pussyfooting around Sir Roderic Lyne puts it even more bluntly:

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Had the Chief got too close to the Prime Minister?

SIS3: I was not in a position to observe.  But ..and I certainly wasn't in a position to observe. But I think the issue was that ... I mean, it soon became an issue that there was a public portrayal, if you like, of senior intelligence officers, a public portrayal of them as Whitehall courtiers, and I think that was damaging externally in relation to the reputation of the Service for professionalism, and furthermore damaging .. particularly with younger officers in the Service, damaging for their sense and the Service's own sense of intellectual integrity.


This brings us onto the Chief "C" ...

Sir Richard Dearlove of MI6 on himself and Tony Blair

...and SIS4

SIS4 & C

We dont know what SIS4 looks like but here's a completely random image
of a member of the general public who probably looks nothing like him.
called Sir Mark Allen who is rumoured to be SIS4 but most probably isn't.

As usual Sir John Chilcott (now for some reason referred to as “the chairman” and not by his name – they are the same person?) starts by asking SIS4 what exactly he does and did at MI6.  No less than four pages of answer are redacted which again makes one wonder why bother ask the question at all.

Sir Roderic Lyne then begins to “unpack the sequence of events and documentation between 30 November 2001 and 14 December (i.e. 9 days after 9/11) what follows is worth transcribing in full:

SIR RODERIC LYNE:  On 30 November you had a meeting in Downing Street with Sir David Manning, at which you discussed a paper. The paper was then sent to him by the Chief, or the Chief's office, on 3 December.  We haven't got a record of that meeting. I don't know if you are aware that there was any record of that meeting.  Can you recall to us what led to that meeting, who instigated it, what the purpose of it was, broadly speaking what you discussed at it, having refreshed your memory of the document that was sent afterwards?

SIS4: Well, I have rather a different memory of this. You are looking at ...

SIR RODERIC LYNE: I'm looking at C's private secretary's letter of 3 December 2001 to Sir David Manning which says --

SIS4: I didn't go to Number 10 very much. I knew David Manning and saw a certain amount of him. It wasn't a big enough event for it to be lodged firmly in my mind, but what I do remember very clearly, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, was getting a telephone call from Number 10, David Manning wants to speak to you, and David coming on the line and saying, look, this Iraq stuff is it building up apace. Can you just do me a quick paper, a sort of Anglican 39 articles or whatever it's called, just bullet points, of key issues that we need to bear in mind to keep our balance and our perspective in considering Iraq as a rapidly expanding threat.  So he wanted a sort of sedative paper, and he wanted it by 6 o'clock. So I had to cancel everything else I was doing and knock that up in about an hour. It was sent off. The quickest communications between us and Number 10 would have been the Chief's driver. So yes, it would have gone through the Chief. But I don't remember it coming from a meeting. I remember it coming from a phone call.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: I have misunderstood it in that case. It wasn't a meeting. It was a phone call. Because all we have is a letter from C's private secretary: "I attach three papers produced by [SIS4]. The first is that paper you discussed with him last Friday."  I assumed that you discussed it him at a meeting, but it was actually this phone call, asking for a paper, and then by 3 December there were actually three papers. So let's just take the first one, the one that David, you tell us, had commissioned from you on the phone at 4 o'clock on 30 November.

SIS4: Could I just say that I would think that attachment 1 is what I knocked up in the afternoon. That would have gone over directly because he wanted it that evening.  Then we probably produced one or two bits we had prepared earlier, like a cook, and sent those over afterwards as an afterthought.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: That's helpful. Let's just take attachment 1 then, the first one. This begins: "What can be done about Iraq? If the US heads for direct action, have we ideas which could divert them to an alternative course?"

In other words less than 3 months after 9/11 (11th of September) MI6 received notifications from the CIA that the US had extremely strong intentions to invade Iraq.  So strong that the Prime Minister contacted MI6 directly and presumably asked what could be done to avoid a direct confrontation.

There’s then some more redaction before SIS4 says “I think what I was trying to bring out for David was the hazards, the experience to date with Iraq, something about the nature of Iraq as a country and as a Ba'athist state.”And then after more reaction “I wanted to arm David with background reminders that this is not going to be simple or straightforward, and it doesn't have to pan out well. I don't think I had in my mind particular wheezes, schemes or policy programmes which could be followed up, simply to argue for caution, circumspection and awareness of  what a heavy matter Iraq could prove to be because it had been in the past.

Sir Roderic states rather bluntly that the document in question is a list of warnings of everything that could go wrong as a result of US military intervention in Iraq and SIS4 conceeds: “My understanding was that he wanted arguments and points to give to the Prime Minister, which the Prime Minister could bear in mind in his discussions with the Americans.

It seems that following this there were a lot more papers going from SIS4 to number 10 and some of them had started using words like “regime change” so Sir Roderic quizzes SIS4 on how he had changed activities, tone and who’s idea it was to write on these subjects.

SIS4: I have no memory of getting new tasking: “forget all that, SIS4, it's now regime change, start writing again”. And remember that I would have been writing these papers like this very, very privately for David Manning. We weren't a policy department. David would have been asking me, because he knew that I was responsible for the Middle East.  I knew my way round it. I speak Arabic. And he knew that I would probably get it done on time.

Sir Roderic then accuses SIS4 of not copying all the documentation to the FCO and implies this was to keep Jack Straw in the dark.  SIS4 says it was just an admin cockup.  There then follows a heated discussion on a meeting on the 30th of November.   Resulting in the surreal exchange:

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: When it says "we discussed", who would that "we" have been: "At our meeting on 30 November, we discussed ..."

SIS4: Yes. There could have been other people there, but I don't remember that.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: It is important in terms of whether this is you as a foreign policy -- very knowledgeable in the region of foreign policy, responding to a request from David Manning as someone he trusts, or something which involves a number of people at SIS.

This prompts the truly ridiculous answer from SIS4 that:

SIS4: SIS officers always refer to themselves in the first person plural. Only the Chief is allowed to use "I", and so there's that ambiguity to factor into this as well. But
I suspect that this would have been a small round table meeting with David Manning and he looked at some of these problems.

...which makes you kind of wonder who actually runs MI6 - the Nestene Consciousness?

Or is this odd statement just MI6 generating myths around its self to obscure the reality - a well known distraction/espionage technique?  Sir Roderic then asks what the case was that SIS4 came up with for removing Saddam Hussain etc …

SIS4:  I remember saying to somebody at that time that the lack of our response to the re-emergence of Iraq as a serious regional power was like having tea with some very proper people in the drawing room and noticing that there was a python getting out of a box in one corner. I was very alarmed at the way that Iraq was eroding the sanctions regime and evading it. It had been successful in seeing us off with propaganda since the end of the First Gulf War, Desert Storm.

When asked about WMD SIS4 goes on to respond that in his mind WMD is literally all in the mind

SIS4: I want to say something very quickly about WMD. So many people think of WMD as being rather like tanks and missiles and aeroplanes, things that you could look at. In my own mind, I always thought of WMD as being contained really in the brains of the experts who understood them and who were able to produce them, sometimes at very short notice. Nuclear would be slightly different under that heading, but we had dealt with the Iraqi nuclear threat.

…before going on to tell what would be a story about how the Iranians lost the Iran Iraq war …

“Iraq's potential, its capability in the WMD field, was very dramatic. Our understanding [redacted] was that Iraq cracked the Iran/Iraq War with a sarin attack, and 45,000 Iranians died on the Fao peninsular. The Iranians got themselves into a muddle sending their artillery and mortar to Hallabja, and the Iraqis pifpaffed that army. It was very, very striking.

I’m not sure what pif paffed means but I think it’s like a bit more than a clip round the ear…?

SIR RODERIC LYNE: But your main arguments in this paper are about regime change, rather than dealing with the threat of WMD. The key idea, I quote, is that: "It is possible to speak openly about support for regime change in Iraq."  Policy statement: "We want regime change in Baghdad."  WMD is not really the principal argument put forward in this paper. Paragraph number 3 really summaries the argument. It's headed "Why move?"  So would it be fair to say in this paper you are putting a much broader case for regime change in Iraq than dealing with an imminent or growing threat of WMD?

SIS4: Yes, clearly from the text.

They then go on to have a long conversation on how various reports from MI6 were received at the FCO best summed up with this line

SIS4: Not in late 2001. The Foreign Office position, well into 2002, was “there's not going to be a war because there had been no second resolution, and the international community won't stand for it”.

A lot of redaction follows…followed by an explanation of genealogy and the revelation that SIS4 likes reading books on Mesopotamian civilisation.  If you'd like to know more about Mesopotamian civilisation here's a quick history lesson: 

SIR RODERIC LYNE: You touched on the kind of regime that might follow Saddam, and you said it would be important not to parachute a regime in from the external opposition. They would be regarded as US stooges.  Then you said:
"The new government would need to be broadly based but predominantly Sunni."  How did you think that a change of regime could end up still with a predominantly Sunni regime in a country with a majority or largest ethnic grouping being Shi'ite? Having toppled the Sunnis, how were the Sunnis going to succeed the Sunnis?

SIS4: Well, the people being toppled were Ba'athists, who were culturally Sunni, genealogically Sunni, but being a Ba'athist wasn't co-extensive with being Sunni. There were a lot of Sunnis in Iraq who would have liked Iraq to be run differently. [redacted].  I don't think at this time it occurred to me that it was plausible to transfer an adversarial, party political, representational political system to Iraq.  I was reading only a couple of weeks ago an account of very early Mesopotamian civilisation, and the writer said “civilisation is a matter of diffusion, but of ideas rather than models”. I liked that. I thought it was a wonderful way of summing it up because it was what I already believed. The idea that Iraqi Shias could be fitted out with Republican, Democrat, Lib Dem identities, organisations and run the difficult place which is Iraq, a place which has never had stable political geography, wouldn't have occurred to me in 2001.

We then learn a bit about SIS4’s past and the working atmosphere of MI6

SIS4: It's for others to tell you about my style of leadership and how I handled them. But I certainly had an open door, and tried to be as collegiate and collective in my style as I could be because these were powerful lessons taught me from my years with the Arabs who are very effective leaders of men.  So there were endless conversations. There were late night conversations. There were going out to lunch conversations.  I regarded my team leaders as friends.

…sounds like everyone went down the pub a lot.  There’s some not very helpful exchanges about legality…

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: What problems had there already been with regard to legality of these concepts?

SIS4: Where? What are you looking at?

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: In the new route map. Actually the first bullet point. It's your first visit. (Pause)

SIS4: Do you know, I can't honestly tell you what particular thought was in my mind there.

Including this bit of waffle which is rather too honest about MI6's working methods for the services own good.  That said we have covered whether MI6 gets up to illegal activites on another page.  The short answer is yes.  Obviously.

SIS4: This would have been -- I can't remember the exact trigger, the detonator for that thought, that high in that list at the top, but generally speaking, this was a considerable point of concern, not because we aimed to do something we knew was illegal, though of course, by definition, all SIS activity was illegal, but because we didn't want to put our feet in the wrong place or get snagged.

After some redaction we move onto something a discussion of Libya and WMD. 

In particular the AQ Khan network.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: The AQ Khan links with Libya.

SIS4: At what point did you think that those links were revealed?

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: I'm dredging up my memory now.

SIS4: Are you thinking of that boat that was intercepted with stuff come from Malaysia?

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: I'm not as specific as that. My recollection is that AQ Khan was dealing with Libya, and the Libyans knew that we knew that they were dealing with Libya.

SIS4: [redacted] .  Our coverage of the AQ Khan network, our first objective was to take down the AQ Khan operation. That led us on to the Libyan stuff.


There follows the avoidance of a conversation about Iraq vs North Korea in terms of WMD

SIS4: I think, in order to be clear, hoping to be understood clearly on this point, it's important to say that there is a distinction between the broad impression of a country's WMD capability and the specific operational success in penetrating its secrets.  We knew a lot about Iraq because of UNSCOM after the 1991 war. We knew about the 45,000 people being killed, and Hallabja.

SIS4 donesn’t make Iraq’s WMD capability sound large:

SIS4: So Iraq was a well-known foe, but our intelligence base was small, and our conviction was that the items of WMD, if we are talking about pots of liquid and rockets and centrifuges, were very, very small. The phrase I used to use with people in the Service was “back of a petrol lorry - it would all go in there.”

After a short break there is a totally redacted conversation about Hussein Kamil of which all that remains is.

SIS4: The Iraqi reaction to Hussein Kamil's defection was to try and destabilise him and his evidence by revealing stuff to UNSCOM.

THE CHAIRMAN: They started it, I think.

SIS4: I would probably think so, the chicken shed incident, whatever it was called, where UNSCOM were led round to the point, and got it [the material], and it was terribly embarrassing.

A huge redacted section follows.  Who knows what it said but according to "Middle East specialist Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona" who is from the Mr T school of blending in...

... Kamil's evidence was generally regarded to be bollocks and he was demanding far too much money for it from the security services.  He and his brother fell out with Saddam (their father-in-law) a lot and eventually did a bunk out the country but had to go back to Iraq when Saddam threatened to rub out their families etc.. Immediately upon their return to Iraq, they were ordered to divorce their wives and were denounced as traitors. Three days after their arrival they refused to surrender to Saddam's security forces and were killed in a 13-minute firefight.

SIS4: My memory was that he was dismissive of the whole WMD project in Iraq. They hadn't been very good at it. They had been greatly messed about by UNSCOM. There wasn't really very much left. Yes.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: But you'd nonetheless believed yourself that WMD activity was still pretty active?

SIS4: The evidence from UNSCOM was that the Iraqis were messing them about. The Iraqis were not co-operating with UNSCOM in the way that ultimately the Libyans did. [redacted]. The Iraqis were always trying to minimise what they had to give away, or to explain away what was discovered. So the chicken farm incident wasn't a surprise in itself either. It wasn't surprising Hussein would say there was nothing there, not surprising that the Iraqis would try and blow him up by producing a whole lot of stuff, which had not been disclosed, which should have been disclosed to UNSCOM.

We then come to another dossier conversation.  I've lost track of exactly which dossier but I'm sure someone knows.  

SIS4 of MI6 on the dossier and pressure

…and eventually onto Alastair Campbell

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Did you have much contact with Alastair Campbell through this period or generally?

SIS4: I never met him. I saw him across the Cabinet room table on the morning after 9/11 and I didn't know who he was. I had to ask.

After this SIS4 gets all nostalgic for the cold war

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN Again, your reaction to all of this seems to have been a bit distaste for the process and happy to let other people get on with it. Is that a fair assessment?

SIS4: I don't know if it was as subjective as distaste, as much as a conviction that the problems of WMD and terrorism were bringing the Service close to the surface of policy where we were not well represented, well trained, nor had locus or authority.  I was brought up in a Service that kept well clear of policy issues, in the Cold War and Middle East and stuff in general, and had a very high opinion through my career of the Foreign Office people who handled the ministerial end of it all. It seemed to me that we were coming up to that interface at some speed, because of the nature of the problems and, I would also add as a personal comment, because of the failure of other departments to get up to speed on this sort of thing.  We were rather being lumbered, and I felt we were getting into a situation which was awkward for us.

Sir John Chilcot asks why although the dodgy dossier (I think this is the 2nd one) went from the Cabinet office to Number 10 and back a lot it never seemd to return to SIS in the final drafting stages …

THE CHAIRMAN: The dossier, yes. It's going across from the assessment staff team to [the SIS] team on counter proliferation essentially, but it's not going up and down the SIS hierarchy.

SIS4: Well, it may have done, but I don't recall that as being a significant thing in my memory.  I don't recall it.


SIS4: And the problems to do with the dossier were at a level where I would not have been very comfortable arguing about the proper expression of a [SIS] report.

Sir Roderic Lyne asks about the pressure

SIS4: If we had had clear options, we wouldn't have felt the pressure so much. We would have been able to gear it through to our operational activity.  I think we felt the pressure because there weren't obvious lines to follow up which were going to be fruitful. So we had to be intense about looking at every opportunity. There was no signposted way in to Iraqi WMD.

And in amongst a lot of black redacted lines is :

SIS4: We were looking for what became known as a silver bullet.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Yes. The search for the silver bullet became an increasingly high priority, a subject of enormous interest obviously at the highest political level, from early autumn 2002, rising to a sort of crescendo –

…and after a lot more redaction …

SIS4 on Richard Dearlove source that looked good but wasnt

…and then he and Sir Roderic get into yet another row about whether MI6 was being leant on… which goes into redacted territory about how to validate potential sources and ends with SIS4 staunchly and loyally stating that C “judged that Blair needed to know, and he told him.  I don't think that he did a wrong thing. The style may be questioned, but I don't think he was wrong to do what he did.” 

While I've only transcribed here the words of the ordinary staff members of MI6 it's interesting to contrast SIS4's comments on Sir Richard Dearlove with Sir Richard ("C") Dearlove's comments on SIS4 as these seem to disolve into what is rather a bitter argument about whether MI6 is crossing the line into policy making

Sir Richard Dearlove also commented on the source that looked good but wasn't.  And insists that this was not included because he put his foot down...

Just as it’s getting a bit boring again there’s a rather interesting section about whether Alister Campbell should have been at an MI6 briefing…

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Are you surprised that Alastair Campbell should be present, given this couldn't be used in the dossier or in the public arena?

SIS4: I'm not surprised at all.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Should he have been present?

SIS4: Post 1997, the culture, disciplines, attitudes of HMG went through phases of profound change. It wouldn't have happened before, closer to the Cold War. But SIS doesn't always have it in its hand to discipline HMG, not at the level of Number 10 anyway, or control its social activities. They have somebody in the room. I think it's difficult for the Chief to say, "Can I have a private word, Prime Minister. I can't do it in front of Campbell". Difficult, given that he knows Campbell has already seen so much stuff. The water is already over the dam.

After a huge redacted section we suddenly come across the remarkable admission that while MI6 thinks its latest dossiers, reports and updates are all of the highest importance it isn’t actually too worried about letting anyone know that previous intelligence reports may contain bollocks.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: So the report eventually is withdrawn in early July 2003. Do you know why the Prime Minister, when he gave evidence to Lord Hutton on 28 August 2003, was under theimpression that the process of validation of the [t] intelligence was still continuing?

SIS4: When was the --

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Early July 2003 was when the report was withdrawn.

SIS4: I think that was one of life's ghastlinesses. I don't think the withdrawal notice was sent to the Prime Minister.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: I may be wrong in early July, because I have two different bits of information, one of which says 29 July that it was withdrawn.

SIS4: Whatever. I don't think the withdrawal notice was sent to Number 10 because withdrawal notices are not major new intelligence. They are not the sort of thing ministers get up early to read. What they do affect, importantly, is the
integrity of the record.  I imagine that the [requirements] officer issuing the withdrawal report took them and thought, "They won't be interested in this". How wrong he was, and what a skid-up within just a few days, when the Prime Minister said at a public inquiry something which was probably not the case. It's very embarrassing.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: A cock-up rather than conspiracy, one can say?

SIS4: Always.

The session then moves onto a slightly mythical note that confuses sexuality and mythology…

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Do you think that SIS got too close to the policy making, too involved in Number 10?

SIS4: I think there's a high volume of urban myth to that effect abroad in the world, and many people are convinced of that.  I think that we may not have been as wise as we would like to have been in retrospect, collectively. I don't think, in the circumstances of those days - completely different from my memory of top level consideration of intelligence in the
Cold War - that we got too close to the sun. The Icarus metaphor is used time and again. It has limited applicability because Tony Blair was not the sun and Dearlove was not a child with wax wings. They were consenting adults, wrestling with unprecedented policy riddles.

After some reaction...

SIS4: I would have done it differently. I believe in a Chief who stays south of the river and is not so easy to get hold of. That's my daydream. But that's a [SIS4] daydream.  Real life, with green phones and Brents, is different.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Maybe doesn't go with the Prime Minister's foreign affairs adviser on a joint mission to Washington, but goes separately?

SIS4: Sorry, say that again.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Maybe a Chief who doesn't accompany the Prime Minister's foreign affairs adviser on missions to Washington, to see Condi Rice, as well as George Tenet, but, as it were, stays separate? You nod on that point.

And finally SIS4 talks fondly again of the cold war…

SIS4: I remember Blair saying to me once, after the war,

...There seems to have been a shortage of advice altogether, of a speculative, deliberative kind, which you would have expected, for instance, in discussing those annual nuclear exercises we used to have years ago, where the importance of collective, deliberated, balanced advice had to be taken into -- had to be part of it. It was a different world ten years later.

SIS4 again

SIS4 as one of the more chatty members of MI6 who wasn't directly implicated in any dodgy dossier compilation enjoys the unique privilege of being interviewed twice ….to cover what Sir John Chilcot describes as “issues we have not had time to cover in our previous meeting”.  These start with MI6’s “pre-conflict knowledge of life in Iraq under Saddam on issues such as cultural and ethnic divisions, the state of the Iraqi civil infrastructure, political dynamics within Iraq?” to which SIS4 replies with the following history lesson…

SIS4: I think it's important to remember now, when so much has changed, that Iraq was a very, very tightly controlled society. Distribution of food in Iraq was in the hands of the Ba'ath Party. There were umpteen security and intelligence services, suffused with blood relationships to people at the top. It was a tightly run show.  I think it's important also to remember that Iraq has never had a stable political geography. In spite of its physical geography, Iraq has many, many times shifted its centre of power across the land. So it's not like Egypt, the other great state in the Middle East, which has been much more stable.  I can't remember the details of our Government representation in Iraq, or the Americans', but there were gaps. When we had embassies there, they were not actually very serious embassies. I think one can say that without prejudice to the individuals who gave time and effort working there, good people. But it wasn't an inner circle embassy because business with the Iraqi authorities was so fraught, so difficult. So it can't be said that as a country we had deployed some of the best to Iraq, as one might have thought we ought to have done, given its enormous significance in the region.  What I conclude from all the above is that actually our knowledge of Iraq was very, very superficial. There were individuals who had a great love of Iraq and background on Iraq, but not many.

After some redaction he continues…

SIS4 : When regimes, as they usually are in the Middle East, are highly personalised, people think about Iraq subliminally equals Saddam Hussein, and they don't enquire further about the deep emotions, the longer wavelength trends that underlie the life of a country, and actually the limitations all that imposes on the choices available to the regime.

Baroness Usha asks about what intelligence was gathered from the French who had proper Embassies in Iraq but the answers are redacted.  There’s a lot of waffle about how narrow or wide the “focus” of the intelligence effort was…

SIS4: The focus was very narrow and very -- the emphasis was on applicability. What are we going to do with this stuff? What helps our problems today? Rather than saying, "We are at war with this country, so let's stand back and take a much bigger look".

…resulting in SIS4’s usual refrain that…

SIS4: I think hindsight is a problem here. The Service was oppressed by other very, very heavy tasks. Afghanistan; we were at war in Afghanistan. I was very, very anxious about the AQ Khan network, the proliferation problems, and I can't conceal that there were times when I thought Iraq really is not the main issue.

To be honest the conversation is so boring it’s hard to quote from at all…

BARONESS USHA PRASHAR: Were you asked to provide intelligence on possible post-conflict scenarios in Iraq?

SIS4: Not that I recall.

…although he does drag up one regret…

SIS4:  I don't suppose there was a lot of post-conflict speculation going on, with one exception, which I regret very greatly, and that was the -- in Arabic it was called something like the Jerusalem forces, the Al Quds Force, which was a rifle for every able-bodied man who signed up, and a very, very clever tribal networking of communications amongst people spread throughout the country, as what in the Cold War we would have called a stay-behind network. We didn't really get on to that, and that, I believe, was very significant in the post-conflict arrangements. We missed that, anthropologically and politically. Not an easy subject to pick up on, that.

Sir John Chilcott then asks about human sources of intelligence…

THE CHAIRMAN: Just a thing before Sir Martin comes in. There were various unofficial external potential sources of information about Iraq pre-2003, Ann Clwyd, Emma Nicholson, other travellers, academics. Who, if not SIS, should have been able to draw on and bring together that kind of real life experience of what Iraq was like in the decade before 2003? Was that an FCO responsibility, did SIS think, or was it DIS, or wasn't it your business to worry?

SIS4: I cannot but start at the list of possible sources of useful information. Ann Clwyd, George Galloway....

THE CHAIRMAN: Galloway, I missed him.

SIS4: There were, however, some good books printed, but surprisingly few. The fundamental texts about Iraq -- I remember telling somebody that you've got to bulk buy the 1946/1947, I think, Admiralty Naval Intelligence Handbook of Iraq.

A magnificent volume like that (indicates size). The real thing. And later heard that MOD had been bulk buying it. There were one or two other books.  But this was something we were doing because we were fascinated by our work. Looked at from above, helicoptering above Government, I think it would be for the Foreign Office, DIS, to ask the questions. It's not the answers that were important. It's the questions you ask, and I didn't have a sense, I'm afraid, that the Foreign Office was taking a coherent view of the problem of Iraq. Because inevitably at that time so many people were caught up with the technology of international relations, the techniques and structures, the UN, the various commissions. Standing back and taking a really innovative, off-the-wall free look at the problem of Iraq wasn't the mood. It wasn't the mood, and the Foreign Office was very understaffed on this topic as well. But people didn't come to us for Lonely Planet advice.

After some redaction he continues…

SIS4:  The FO hadn't had a good war in 1990/1991, and I think was rather on its back foot through the 1990s, dealing with, as I say, operational and quite technical issues like Southern Comfort, access for the RAF in Saudi Arabia, Oil for Food, dealing with the propaganda war, rather than bringing in any great depth of tribal memory. You'll remember that a bunch of ambassadors rather naughtily wrote to the newspapers saying, "We don't agree with this". They were the quality. I don't know whether I agree with the letter they wrote or the content of it, but they were the people who had a deep sense of the region.

…we go over the silver bullet yet again

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: What advice were you and other senior officials giving the Prime Minister or giving his advisers on the likelihood of a find?

SIS4: I don't recall being involved in deliberative discussions of quite that kind.

…as if …if Sir Martin Gilbert asks the same questions enough times SIS4 will crack.  But that doesn’t stop him asking the same question over and over again…

SIS4: Not producing what we couldn't produce wasn't a credibility issue for me. I don't believe that we had promised. I saw no evidence that we had promised that we were going to deliver a silver bullet.

In amidst a lot of black lines there’s this amusing description of Dr Blix

SIS4: Yes, and recognise that Blix was Swedish, a lawyer, international lawyer, a distinguished person, and a very complex person. He wasn't going to tapdance because somebody in Number 10 was in a hurry.

Eventually Sir Martin Gilbert asks directly…

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: Were there things that UNMOVIC discovered that in our view did constitute a material breach?

SIS4: I don't recall. I don't recall. There were some missile elements which technically demonstrated breach, but they weren't material in the atmosphere of those days. The fact that the Iraqis were extending 150-kilometre range missiles to go maybe 200 or 300 kilometres, this isn't "going to war" stuff.

A lot of redaction ends in this comment about Dr Blix

SIS4: Blix thought there was something out there, but he couldn't demonstrate it, and being a lawyer, and being Swedish, with a very hard mind, he wasn't prepared to be smudgy in his judgments. He said, "We have got to have evidence".

They then go over Blix’s reports and SIS4 says that Blix is …

SIS4: A remarkable person. You would trust him to tender good accounts.

After this we come onto a much neglected factor in the decision of when exactly to go to war – the weather.  It seems the military wanted to go when the weather was not too hot even if that made it hot politically…

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: Given the cautions in the final report, but also the grey areas, if you like, from an SIS perspective, did you feel, was there an argument for giving the inspectors more time with a view to finding something?

SIS4: Well, that's a decision which was -- that would have been a choice which would have to be taken, if taken properly, in a very dense context of other options and possibilities. My understanding at that time was that the tyres on the aeroplanes couldn't cope with the metallic runways of the aircraft carriers once the heat warmed up, that any question of bio or chemical kit was going to be even more difficult once the heat built up. And in the Middle East it's as though God jogs the lever of the climate. The days that you get in April can be hotter and feel hotter than anything you get later. Of course that's not technically true, but coming out of the winter, you suddenly get these shocks of heat, as you get into the summer, which are really debilitating. I knew about all that sort of thing.

Iraq Climate graph contributed by climatetemp.info

The idea that we could stay on clutch control until May, was fanciful.

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: That's, in a sense, a political and military decision, but from the point of view of intelligence, was there an argument for having --

SIS4: If you are saying, was there a view in SIS or the possibility of a view that we might have something to say which would weigh with those other considerations, the morale of the troops, the climate, I think the answer is no. What could we have said which would have justified engaging all those costs and difficulties, and possibly -- this would be for the soldiers to judge -- at cost of the success of the military operation? Given the Iraqi performance, given our own sense of what was out there to be found, given the difficulties Blix faced -- we had rather run out of tarmac in my view, and I felt that at the time.

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: I suppose my final question is something that's been put to us by other witnesses. Given the role which the expectation of WMD had had in the previous months, was there a sense in which we had overpromised and underdelivered in the intelligence sphere?

SIS4: I react very badly to that remark by Sir David Omand. It was a deplorable thing to say. Leave that there.

Sir Martin Gilbert and SIS4 then go around and around the topic of whether the cart was before the horse over and over and over again… resulting in some memorable metaphors from SIS4 that somehow escape redaction.  Here’s a selection

We were on the flypaper of WMD,
whether we liked it or not.

We were small animals in a dark wood
with the wind getting up and
changing direction the whole time.

Spying, like many other field sports,
 is very dependent on good heart
and good fitness.

You can't do it off form.

Sir Lawrence Freedman then moves onto post conflict Iraq and SIS4 says he was very worried about post conflict proliferation issues.:

SIS4: If I was an Iraqi BW scientist, I would be looking for other work, and where would I find it? Not in Iraq. It seemed to me that we had to get a fire blanket over the proliferation hazards, and very quickly indeed. Those were clearly a priori [transcript error - a line seems to be missing here but not redacted?] ...what I've been saying, human hazards, people.
Secondly, while not expecting gleaming arrays of kit to be found, just curiosity meant that we longed to get in there and find out what we had been tinkering with.  Lastly, the Whitehall political question of, "Well, SIS, you have been party to this high tension pursuit of WMD. Where is it then?"

Good question..  Here's what Sir Richard Dearlove had to say on the lack of WMD..

There was a video here where Baroness Usha Prashar and Sir Richard Dearlove talked about Saddam but it got lost when Xtranormal died as I forgot to export it to Youtube

SIS4: It was a huge task, and it needed very, very skilful and dynamic generalship to run the follow-up. I'm afraid that didn't happen.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Did you have a plan, or did SIS have a plan, for how to go about the business of checking on all of this, securing what needed to be secured?

SIS4: I recognised that it wouldn't be up to us. We didn't have the staff. We didn't have the authority.

The next several pages are heavily redacted following which SIS4 states another much neglected fact …that it’s actually very hard to store chemical and biological weapons so the main focus as far as he was concerned was to find the weapons experts themselves.

SIS4: What I was really hoping for was an Iraqi scientist who would sit down and tell us about binary use of VX and human experiments on plague and this sort of thing. Experiments on human plague; that would have been for me a settling down, a settling of the accounts.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: In everything I have seen here, your stress is always on the scientists themselves.

SIS4: (Witness nods) We didn't have any evidence that there was any volume of deployed weaponry. As I'm sure others have told you, one thing about WMD, bio and chemical, you don't want to keep too much of this stuff. It's very, very difficult to keep, and to keep in good repair, keep fresh. So break-out is more important than stocks, and the people who understand break-out are the scientists.

After a lot of redaction there follows a discussion on the Duelfer Report that could be straight out of and old episode of Yes Minister where SIS4 and Sir Lawrence Freedman swap latin quotes

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: What were your views of the final report of Duelfer's?

SIS4: "Sunt lacrimae rerum"*, really.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Would you like to elaborate?

SIS4: I think it says it all.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: All right. We will stop there.

THE CHAIRMAN: “Tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore.”**

* For those of you without an Oxbridge degree in Latin Sir Lawrence and SIS4 are quoting from Virgil's epic poem the Aeneid.

*Literally “These are the tears of things” – Virgil, Aeneid Book I, line 462
**“Their hands outstretched in yearning for the other shore”. Virgil, Aeneid Book VI, line 314

This is followed by a slightly redacted discussion on the function of the JIC and several highly redacted pages which I think we can summarise with this sample bit of waffle:

SIR RODERIC LYNE: No, but when the JIC used this information in their assessments, at that point the caveats had dropped off it, except for the precise wording the JIC use, which is always carefully coded. So it has become a substantive part of the assessment.

SIS4: Some pointed questions are to be asked of the Assessment Staff on that point.

And some stuff about curve balls best summarised by this quote.  Actually I think Curve Ball is a source.

SIS4: No. No, but it was no longer operationally politically sensitive. Policy no longer depended on CURVE BALL. Stuff hadn't been found. I think the site was visited. On balance, CURVE BALL was just too unreliable.

Whatever that means… And if you don’t understand that SIS4’s final comments

SIS4: It was important individually and personally for us, in that -- saying to the military, "Don't pack the BW, no need to take the wonderful Porton Down Landrovers full of canaries and field mice and tremendously sophisticated filtering equipment, leave it all behind. It's not a problem"; who was going to say that? That's one area which on balance led to difficulties with critical analysis of what was going on.

…are even odder although I suppose it sort of means “better safe than sorry”…?

SIS4’s testimony ends with a sort of long and rambling speech.  Rather than quote it all …here’s another sample:

SIS4: That remains a huge problem for the world because what these people know and what they can do -- break-out is very, very quick -- is a huge issue for our security, in my view, and it would be a terrible thing if generalisation and Magimix processing of the Iraq story left people thinking that WMD are a done and dusted threat. I'm thinking particularly BCW, which is the most dangerous -- particularly of BW -- most dangerous for populations and the most difficult to spot coming.


We dont know what SIS5 looks like but here's a completely random image
of a member of the general public who probably looks nothing like him

SIS5’s session with the inquiry starts in the usual way with Sir John Chilcot asking him what his job entailed and the answer being redacted.  Sir John Chilcot then asks SIS5 to speak up a bit and the answer he gives is redacted.  Following this Sir John Chilcot asks SIS5 about the Butler Report and SIS5 in turn launches into a long monolog on how to run an agent…

SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Thank you very much. Perhaps I could start with a few questions following the Butler Committee's work, on which I sat, to ask about the implementation of it.  Could you, just for our best understanding, tell us a little bit about source validation and the distinction between source validation and validation of actual intelligence reporting?

SIS5: I think the critical element of validation of intelligence reporting actually is understanding of the source and validation of the source. So in a sense one is built on the other.  But the foundation stone in Humint, human intelligence, is having a deep and constant understanding of who your agents are as individuals, and against that background, understanding what it is they can and can't do for you, what access they have to what information, what weight you might therefore place on what it is they are telling you, the information they provide, and what it is that realistically you might ask them to do.  The critical point, I think, here is that it's not a sort of static snapshot process. It has to be a process, an evolutionary process, because as we are dealing with people, people change.

Redacted Section.

SIS5: People change just as they go through life. So things that might have motivated them to work with us at one time in their life, actually, as they see the world differently, events occur, actually their motivation might change. From being honest and accurate and reliable reporters, for reasons unconnected with our immediate relationship with them, they might become unreliable.  Unless you constantly have a wider understanding of the person you are dealing with, so that you appreciate how their lives are changing, how their views of the world are changing, how their understanding of their relationship with us is changing, then there is a risk that at some point during that relationship, either they will be telling you things that actually they don't have real access to, or you will be asking them to do things that are unrealistic, or you will simply fail to appreciate that their motivation and fundamental basis for their relationship with you has changed. So it's a constant process of evaluating who they are, what they are doing and whether they can be relied on to report accurately.  Although it's a constant process, to ensure that it's something that is properly looked at, it is captured in a formal structure…