Blair Administration Cleared

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee issued a report today that exonerated Tony Blair’s government of “sexing up” the famous Iraq dossier. This would appear to be the definitive finding that the BBC’s report was false. The consequences for the BBC remain to be seen.
There is much in the report that is of interest; the full text is here in PDF. These are the report’s findings on the statement in the British dossier that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium in Africa (the same claim that President Bush made in his famous “sixteen words”):
“88. In the foreword to the dossier the Prime Minister said:
“What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam…continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons.”
while the main body of the text stated that:
“…there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
“89. The committee questioned the chief of the SIS about the reporting behind these statements. We were told that it came from two independent sources, one of which was based on documentary evidence. One had reported in June 2002 and the other in September that the Iraqis had expressed interest in purchasing, as it had done before, uranium from Niger. GCHQ also had some sigint concerning a visit by an Iraqi official to Niger.
“90. The SIS’s two sources reported that Iraq had expressed an interest in buying uranium from Niger, but the sources were uncertain whether contracts had been signed or if uranium had actually been shipped to Iraq….
“91. In February 2003 the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) received from a third party (not the UK) documents that the party had acquired in the autumn of 2002 and which purported to be evidence of Iraq’s attempts to obtain uranium from Niger. In March 2003 the IAEA identified some of the documents it had received as forgeries and called into question the authenticity of others.
“92. The third party then released its documents to the SIS. The SIS then contacted its source to check the authenticity of its documentary evidence. The SIS told us that its source was still conducting additional investigations into this matter.
“93. The SIS stated that the documents did not affect its judgement of its second source and consequently the SIS continues to believe that the Iraqis were attempting to negotiate the purchase of uranium from Niger. We have questioned the SIS about the basis of its judgement and conclude that it is reasonable.” [Emphasis in original.]
We argued some time ago that it is almost certainly true that Iraq did try, whether successfully or not, to buy uranium from Niger. One of the administration’s biggest political mistakes was apologizing for the Niger claim in Bush’s State of the Union speech.

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