Inquiry reveals Campbell ordered dossier rewrite
The order to rewrite the dossier was given on 5 September 2002, five days before the claim that Iraq could launch WMD at 45 minutes’ notice was inserted into the document.
But even after the rewrite, there were still concerns within No 10 that it failed to make a strong enough case for war. Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair’s chief of staff, warned "the document does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam".
In another damaging day for the government, there were fresh insights yesterday into how far Downing Street was prepared to go to rubbish claims in a BBC report that it had "sexed-up" the dossier to strengthen the case for war.
The inquiry heard how Mr Blair himself wanted the weapons expert Dr David Kelly to face a public grilling over whether he was the source of the BBC story, and an e-mail from Tom Kelly - the Downing Street spin doctor who smeared Dr Kelly by describing him as a "Walter Mitty" figure - admitted: "This is now a game of chicken with the Beeb - they [sic] only way they will shift is if they see the screw tightening."
Downing Street has vehemently denied that Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair’s communications director, ordered the dossier to be transformed in the week before its publication on 24 September last year, as the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan had claimed.
Mr Gilligan has already admitted that he overstepped the mark when he claimed the 45 minute claim was inserted into the document at Mr Campbell’s request even though it was known to be untrue.
But an e-mail from Mr Campbell to Mr Powell, dated September 5, showed that he and Mr Blair had been unhappy with the way the dossier had been presented by the intelligence community.
The e-mail read: "Re dossier, substantial rewrite with JS [John Scarlett, the chairman of the joint intelligence committee] and Julian M [Miller, chief of the assessment staff in the Cabinet Office] in charge, which JS will take to US next Friday, and be in shape Monday thereafter. Structure as per TB’s [Tony Blair’s] discussion. Agreement that there has to be real intelligence material in their presentation."
The 45-minute claim was added to the dossier on or around 10 September, but on 17 September Mr Powell was still unconvinced by the strength of the dossier.
He sent an e-mail to Mr Scarlett in which he admitted: "The document does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam... We will need to make it clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent threat."
However, when the document finally appeared, the 45-minute claim had been inserted into the foreword, suggesting Iraq did pose an imminent threat.
Last week it was revealed that Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, instructed that Dr Kelly should face public questioning by the House of Commons foreign affairs committee.
But yesterday fresh evidence emerged which revealed that Mr Blair - who played a key role in forcing Dr Kelly to face a second grilling by his bosses at the Ministry of Defence - had also been keen for Dr Kelly to appear in public.
An e-mail from Mr Powell, copied to Mr Campbell, noted: "Tried PM out on Kelly before FAC [foreign affairs committee] and ISC [intelligence and security committee] next Tuesday. He thought he probably had to do both but need to be properly prepared beforehand."
Dr Kelly appeared before the FAC on 15 July. He was found dead on 18 July after slashing his wrists.
Downing Street’s anger at the accusations it was facing was reflected in the e-mail response from Mr Kelly about "a game of chicken with the BBC" and Sir David Manning, who was Mr Blair’s foreign policy advisor at the time, acknowledged that feelings had been running high in Downing Street.
"There were certainly moments of personal anger," he said.
"It struck at the very heart of whether you believe that the Prime Minister is prepared to tell the chairman of the joint intelligence committee that his conclusions are inconvenient and they must be changed for political convenience. It was ultimately about the integrity and credibility of the Prime Minister."