We were told that the reason for the shortening of timescales in the JIC’s judgements about likely biological agent production - from months in earlier JIC assessments to weeks - was intelligence of Iraqi requests for large quantities of growth media. We were told that these were judged to be greatly in excess of Iraq’s likely legitimate requirements, on which advice had been sought from medical experts familiar with commercial and hospital requirements for growth media. It is not known if the growth media were actually obtained by Iraq. If they had been, this would have decreased the time needed to produce biological warfare agents.
JIC assessments on Iraq’s biological warfare capabilities changed once again in its assessment of April 2000. As well as the warning and Key Judgement that: Our picture is limited. But it is likely that Iraq is continuing to develop its offensive chemical warfare (CW) and biological warfare (BW) capabilities. the JIC also concluded as a Key Judgement that: There is clear evidence of continuing Iraqi biological warfare activity, including BW related research and the production of BW agent. Iraq seems to be exploring the use of mobilefacilitiesto giveits BW activitiesgreater security. Butwe have noevidence for Iraq filling weapons with biological agent since the Gulf War. and, as before, noted in the main body of the text that: We continue to assess that,even without procurement from abroad,Iraq has retained sufficient expertise,equipment and materials to produce BW agents within weeks using its legitimate biotechnology facilities. [JIC, 19 April 2000]
This firmer assessment was based on two new strands of evidence. The first was intelligence reports on aspects of Iraqi research and development activities in 1997/98.
The second, and more significant, was new intelligence from a liaison service2 received a few days before the production of the JIC assessment on the use by Iraq of mobile facilities to produce biological agent. This intelligence and the judgements drawn from it are described more fully at Chapter 6. We note that the JIC confined itself in the main body of its assessment to saying that:
Iraq seems to be exploring the use of mobile facilities to give its biological warfare activities greater security.
[JIC, 19 April 2000]
and to an assessment of the technical feasibility of production of the volumes of biological agent described in the intelligence reporting. We believe that this language was appropriate for a new source whose reporting had not by then been validated, although the Key Judgement was somewhat more firmly expressed than the subsequent analysis in the assessment might bear.
During the course of our Review, we were told by SIS that, as a result of their post-war validation of intelligence sources, they had concluded that important aspects of the intelligence reports received by them on this issue were incorrect. A fuller description is at Section 5.9.