We believe that a major underlying reason for the problems that have arisen was the difficulty of achieving reliable human intelligence on Iraq. Part of the difficulty faced by SIS in recruiting and running reliable agents came from the nature and brutality of the Iraqi regime. The nature of Iraq after the war might also have had its own effect, with the risk that some of the informants may have reported reliably but had reasons after the war to deny having provided information.
However, even taking into account the difficulty of recruiting and running reliable agents on Iraqi issues, we conclude that part of the reason for the serious doubt being cast over a high proportion of human intelligence reports on Iraq arises from weaknesses in the effective application by SIS of its validation procedures and in their proper resourcing. We received evidence from two witnesses about the impact of organisational changes in parts of SIS relevant to our Review. Following reductions in SIS’s budget in the mid-1990s, these were made with the goal of making overall staff savings and freeing experienced case officers for operational work. This weakened SIS’s internal processes for the quality assurance of agents. One of those witnesses also noted that the level of staff effort applied to geographical and functional tasks relevant to our Review was too thin to support SIS’s responsibilities. We believe that the validation of some sources on Iraq suffered as a consequence of both problems.
The Chief of SIS acknowledged to us that a problem had arisen. He attributed it primarily to the shortage of experienced case officers following the rundown of the size of SIS in the 1990s. Our Review has shown the vital importance of effective scrutiny and validation of human intelligence sources and of their reporting to the preparation of accurate JIC assessments and high-quality advice to Ministers. We urge the Chief of SIS to ensure that this task is properly resourced and organised to achieve that result, and we think that it would be appropriate if the Intelligence and Security Committee were to monitor this.
We have examined the way in which raw intelligence was analysed and assessed over the period and then incorporated into JIC assessments for Ministers and other senior readers. In particular, we have looked at whether:
The material in intelligence reports was correctly treated as it passed along the chain from agent reports through analysis into JIC assessments, and that it did not suffer as a result of compression or incorrect translation from one stage to the next.
Analysis or assessment appears to have been coloured by departmental policy or other agendas.
Assessment had access to and made full use of available technical expertise.
Drawing on our conclusions on these issues, we have then examined and drawn conclusions on the quality of the JIC assessments we read on Iraq’s nuclear, biological,