UK Daily Mail
Aug 13, 2011
The exhausted secret intelligence officer was heading home after a heavy session analysing reports from Iraq. As he stepped out through the high-security air-lock exit from MI6’s grand headquarters beside the Thames in London, a newspaper-seller’s placard caught his eye — ‘45 minutes from attack,’ it proclaimed.
Alarm bells rang in his head. It was September 2002, and Prime Minister Tony Blair had that day unveiled with great fanfare the government’s dossier detailing Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, as a justification for going to war.
He knew, in a way the public did not, the precise background to that headline. His first thought was that this was not what the original intelligence report had said. ‘If this goes wrong, we’re all screwed,’ he muttered to himself.
It did go wrong, spectacularly so, as a new history of MI6 by the BBC’s well-informed security correspondent Gordon Corera recounts. It’s a disturbing story of how tiny sparks of dubious information picked up in the backstreets of Baghdad and elsewhere were fanned into giant flames.
The result was a firecracker of a dossier which was pivotal in the run-up to the deeply divisive British and American invasion of Iraq. For many people, the scary information it disclosed — that Saddam was so advanced with his chemical and biological weapons that he could fire them with a mere 45 minutes notice — was a tipping point.
This article was posted: Saturday, August 13, 2011 at 4:36 am