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Scarlett: 45-minute discrepancy

Scarlett
Scarlett insisted he had "ownership" of the Iraq dossier.

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SPECIAL REPORT
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LONDON, England -- John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), said he was in overall control of the September dossier but took advice from Downing Street on presentational issues.

Some of the suggestions came from Alastair Campbell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's director of communications. He made 16 changes in a memo dated September 17, followed by three further e-mails between September 18 and 19. The dossier was published on September 20.

The key Campbell suggestion covered the controversial 45-minute claim -- that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of the order being given -- which became the focus of a row between the government and the BBC.

It was point 10 in Campbell's memo.

Scarlett was quoted by the UK's Press Association as saying a September 16 draft had a "clear inconsistency" between the executive summary and the main text.

He said the executive summary contained a judgment that chemical and biological weapons "could be ready for use within 45 minutes".

The main text said they "may" have that capability.

Scarlett added: "This was clearly an inconsistency which was unbalanced and needed to be addressed."

He said members of the Defence Intelligence Staff had already raised the question in advance of a drafting meeting on September 17, before the memo from Campbell was received.

Scarlett said the issue was discussed at the drafting meeting and the language changed.

The intelligence chief added: "It was decided that after the end of the discussion the assessment staff would go away and look at the September 9 classified assessment, and also the intelligence, and bring the wording of the text into line with what the intelligence said."

He said the assessment staff took the view that the executive summary was a judgment, adding: "A judgment is either a judgment or it is not there at all.

"It is not possible to qualify it with 'intelligence indicates' or 'intelligence suggests' or whatever, so that was how they left it."

He said he replied to Campbell on September 18 and said the wording was "tightened".

Scarlett said: "What I meant on that point was that the inconsistency had been removed and brought into line with the intelligence."


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