BBC’s Panorama reveals fresh evidence that agencies dismissed intelligence from Iraqi foreign minister and spy chief
Tony Blair’s claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are challenged again in Monday’s Panorama. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Fresh evidence has been revealed about how MI6 and the CIA were told through secret channels by Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister and his head of intelligence that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction.
Tony Blair told parliament before the war that intelligence showed Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programme was “active”, “growing” and “up and running”.
A special BBC Panorama programme aired on Monday night details how British and US intelligence agencies were informed by top sources months before the invasion that Iraq had no active WMD programme, and that the information was not passed to subsequent inquiries.
It describes how Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, told the CIA’s station chief in Paris at the time, Bill Murray, through an intermediary that Iraq had “virtually nothing” in terms of WMD.
Sabri said in a statement that the Panorama story was “totally fabricated”.
However, Panorama confirms that three months before the war an MI6 officer met Iraq’s head of intelligence, Tahir Habbush al-Tikriti, who also said that Saddam had no active WMD. The meeting in the Jordanian capital, Amman, took place days before the British government published its now widely discredited Iraqi weapons dossier in September 2002.
Lord Butler, the former cabinet secretary who led an inquiry into the use of intelligence in the runup to the invasion of Iraq, tells the programme that he was not told about Sabri’s comments, and that he should have been.
Butler says of the use of intelligence: “There were ways in which people were misled or misled themselves at all stages.”
When it was suggested to him that the body that probably felt most misled of all was the British public, Butler replied: “Yes, I think they’re, they’re, they got every reason think that.”
The programme shows how the then chief of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, responded to information from Iraqi sources later acknowledged to be unreliable.
• The Spies Who Fooled the World, BBC Panorama Special, BBC1, Monday, 18 March, 10.35pm
guardian.co.uk, Monday 18 March 2013 06.00 GMT
Find this story at 18 March 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.