The senior spymaster who drew up the Government's now notorious Iraq dossier yesterday distanced himself from Tony Blair's claim that intelligence had established “beyond doubt” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Sir John Scarlett, who was the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee — the senior UK intelligence body — said he regarded Mr Blair's foreword to the dossier as “quite separate” from the rest of the document.
Giving evidence to the official inquiry into the war he said that he did not believe that it was for him to alter the Prime Minister's wording, which he described as an “overtly political” statement.
“I saw the foreword as quite separate from the text of the dossier itself. The foreword was an overtly political statement by the Prime Minister so it was his wording and his comments throughout,” he said. “I didn't see it as something that I would change. My memory of the time is that this was quite clearly something that the Prime Minister wrote.”
Sir John acknowledged, with hindsight, that it would have been better if the now infamous claim that Saddam had weapons that could be deployed within 45 minutes did not refer to ballistic missiles. But he insisted that it had never been his intention to mislead.
“There was no conscious intention to manipulate the language or obfuscate or create a misunderstanding as to what they might refer to,” he said.