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Thursday, September 04, 2003

'Sexing' is not Just a Problem With Poultry

'Sexing up' it seems is not just a problem with chickens: not a good day yesterday for the Blair government at the Kelly enquiry.

Experts working for Britain's defense intelligence agency complained last September that the government was exaggerating a public dossier on the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a Defense Ministry official testified today. Chief among the experts' concerns was the reliability of the claim that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes' notice, according to Brian Jones, a retired senior official with the defense intelligence analysis staff. He said his staff of experts was wary of the fact that the claim was secondhand -- one unnamed Iraqi source quoting another unnamed senior military source; that it did not differentiate between chemical and biological weapons; and that there was no collateral intelligence to back it up. "We had not seen the weapons being produced," Jones told a public inquiry into the death of David Kelly, a British weapons expert caught up in the controversy over Britain's participation in the Iraq war. "We had no evidence of any recent testing or field trials and things like that. So that all cast some doubts in our mind on that particular piece of intelligence." Jones, along with an unnamed witness, questioned other parts of the dossier as well, including the claim that Iraq was still developing chemical weapons after U.N. weapons inspectors left the country in 1998. While the experts believed such development was occurring, they saw no conclusive proof to back the claim, he said. There was a tendency, Jones told the inquiry, to "shall we say, over-egg certain assessments in relation particularly to the production of [chemical warfare] agents and weapons since 1998 -- the difference between making a judgment that the production of CW agent had taken place as opposed to that judgment being that it had probably taken place or even possibly taken place."
Source: Washington Post

'Calpundit' Kevin Drum has a fairly reasonable take on all this:

It appears that Gilligan used information from a single source that he says he had reason to trust, he tweaked the wording to make it sound a bit more ominous than it was, and in the end it turned out that his specific charges were probably untrue. But regarding the infamous 45-minute claim, Tony Blair's dossier also used information from a single source that British intelligence says they had reason to trust, they tweaked the wording to make it sound a bit more ominous than it was, and in the end it turned out that their specific charges were untrue. This leads to a pretty obvious question for both sides: why is it OK for your guy to do this but not the other guy?

But then why am I so naive and dumb as to imagine the world might like to be a reasonable place?

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