demanding of the intelligence community’s and policy-makers’ time and attention. Iraq loomed large from mid-2002 onwards. But even then other matters, including terrorism and the activities of other countries of concern, were requiring intensive day-to-day observation and action, including continuing operations in Afghanistan and the crisis between India and Pakistan.
THE SOURCES OF INTELLIGENCE
Iraq was a very difficult intelligence target. Between 1991 and 1998, the bulk of information used in assessing the status of Iraq’s biological, chemical and ballistic missile programmes was derived from UNSCOM reports. In 1995, knowledge was significantly boosted by the defection of Hussein Kamil. But, after the departure of United Nations inspectors in December 1998, information sources were sparse, particularly on Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programmes.
In Spring 2000, intelligence was obtained from a significant new source via a liaison service on mobile biological agent production facilities. During 2002, additional human intelligence reporting was obtained by the UK. Nevertheless the number of primary human intelligence sources remained few (although they drew on a wider number of sub-sources and sub-sub-sources). As Section 5.9 explains, SIS had five main sources. Two of those were dominant, in terms of both the number of reports and influence on JIC assessments.
Furthermore, SIS did not generally have agents with first-hand, inside knowledge of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological or ballistic missile programmes. As a result, intelligence reports were mainly inferential. Other intelligence sources provided valuable information on other activity, including overseas procurement activity. They did not generally provide confirmation of the intelligence received from human sources, but did contribute to the picture of the continuing intention of the Iraqi regime to pursue its prohibited weapons programmes.
Validation of human intelligence sources after the war has thrown doubt on a high proportion of those sources and of their reports, and hence on the quality of the intelligence assessments received by Ministers and officials in the period from summer 2002 to the outbreak of hostilities. Of the main human intelligence sources described above:
One SIS main source reported authoritatively on some issues, but on others was passing on what he had heard within his circle.
Reporting from a sub-source to a second SIS main source that was important to JIC assessments on Iraqi possession of chemical and biological weapons must be open to doubt.
Reports from a third SIS main source have been withdrawn as unreliable.