Early WMD dossier draft released


London : British Foreign Secretary David Miliband Monday published an early draft of the UK’s infamous dossier on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

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The document, by former Foreign Office press chief John Williams, was an unpublished draft of the dossier which was unveiled by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on 24 September 2002.

The Foreign Office failed in its appeal against the Information Commissioner’s order that it should release the draft.

It had said publishing it could inhibit the “effective conduct of government”.

Weapons expert Dr David Kelly was found dead shortly after being named as the source of a BBC report suggesting the dossier was “exaggerated” shortly before publication.

Dr Kelly cited the example of the claim that Saddam Hussein had WMD which could be used within 45 minutes of him giving an order.

The report led to a high profile dispute between the BBC and Downing Street which culminated in Dr Kelly’s death.

The task of investigating the “circumstances surrounding the death” of Dr Kelly was then handed to Lord Hutton who, following a two month inquiry, concluded the scientist had taken his own life.

Lord Hutton criticised the BBC and said the 45 minute claim had not been inserted into the dossier by Downing Street against the wishes of intelligence chiefs, stressing that the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee John Scarlett had had “ownership” of the dossier.

The Freedom of Information request for Williams’ draft to be made public was made by researcher Christopher Ames.

A passing reference was made to the Williams draft produced just over two weeks before the final dossier was published, during the Hutton inquiry, but it was never published.

The dossier released by the Foreign Office, which appears to be a re-draft of a document dated 24 July 2002, does not include the 45 minute claim.

The Foreign Office refused to hand over the document, saying that its publication would “inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation”.

Ames complained to the Information Commissioner, who concluded that the balance “was in favour of disclosure”.

The dossier was published to attract public opinion support for the war in Iraq in 2003.