Q. . . . if you were to choose a paragraph as the most dramatic that you’ve read this morning what is it?
A. Well to be honest it’s not that kind of document. It’s,it’s actually rath er sensibly cautious and measured in tone on the whole. There are,as I say a couple of,of sexy lines designed to make headlines for the tabloids like the fact that he can deploy within 45 minutes if the weapons were ready and that he could reach the British bases on Cyprus . . .
[BBC Today programme, 0855, 24 September 2002]
It was followed by stories in London and regional newspapers during the day, and by national newspapers the next day5.
We conclude that the JIC should not have included the ’45 minute’ report in its assessment and in the Government’s dossier without stating what it was believed to refer to. The fact that the reference in the classified assessment was repeated in the dossier later led to suspicions that it had been included because of its eye-catching character.
We have been informed by SIS that the validity of the intelligence report on which the 45- minute claim was based has come into question. Post-war source validation by SIS, described more fully at Chapter 5, has thrown doubt on the reliability of one of the links in the reporting chain affecting this intelligence report.
MOBILE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS LABORATORIES
There are two strands to this story. The first concerns intelligence about mobile equipment that, if it exists, has not yet been found. The intelligence on which this strand is based is being validated; some aspects of it are now unsafe. The second relates to trailers discovered by US forces post-war. We cover both strands below.
INTELLIGENCE ON MOBILE BIOLOGICAL AGENT PRODUCTION FACILITIES
In January 1999, UNSCOM’s final report noted that Iraq had “once considered” mobile biological agent production facilities. In early 2000, on the basis of intelligence from a new source, received via a liaison service, the JIC reported that:
Iraq seems to be exploring the use of mobile facilities to give its BW activities greater security.
and that, according to the source:
. . . Iraq had started to produce biological agent in ’mobile production centres’. [JIC, 19 April 2000]
We wrote to some 60 Editors of national and regional print and broadcast media to ask them if they had been briefed by representatives of the Government about the dossier immediately prior to its publication or whether, post-publication, they were guided to report particular aspects, such as the ‘45 minute’ story. All of those who replied said that they had not been guided to particular parts of the dossier prior to its publication. There was some evidence from the replies that some journalists had had their attention drawn after its publication to passages in the Prime Minister’s Foreword. Some Editors noted that the ‘45 minute’ story attracted attention because it was of itself an eyecatching item in a document containing much that was either not new or rather technical in nature.