London's case for war against Baghdad was based on poor quality intelligence that was too easily swallowed by ministers, a British former ambassador who worked with the country's foreign intelligence service over many years wrote in a newspaper report.
Sir Peter Heap, ambassador to Brazil between 1992 and 1995, made an unprecedented attack on the UK's foreign intelligence service - MI6, in a report published in The Guardian Thursday.
Heap's assessment of London's Iraq intelligence comes as Lord Hutton prepares his report following the inquiry into the suicide of British arms expert Dr. Kelly.
"The Hutton inquiry seems likely to conclude that no one in government set out to significantly mislead the public over the threat from Iraq," Heap wrote.
"This should put the focus on the real issue: why the government got it so wrong in stating that Iraq was a threat at all, thereby providing the justification for going to war.
"This means a debate about the poor quality of intelligence material that was far too readily accepted at face value by ministers," Heap added.
Moreover, Heap strongly attacked the working methods of MI6 and called for an overhaul of the secret organisation.
He told the British paper that during a diplomatic career spanning nearly four decades, he saw MI6 staff bribing unreliable local informants with large sums of money in return for raw intelligence.
"Those agents, dependent on that money, inevitably had a strong temptation to embellish their reports," Heap stated.
"The whole process is wrapped around in an unnecessary cloak and aura of secrecy, mystery and danger that prevents those from outside the security services applying normal and rigorous judgements on what they produce."
In addition, Heap describes how he once discovered an MI6 officer at one embassy sending back a secret intelligence report which he described as emanating from a "well-placed source". However, it was an article taken from a local newspaper.
Heap is the most senior diplomat to provide such a detailed public account of MI6's behavior, normally protected by Britain's Official Secrets Act, The Guardian added.
Furthermore, Heap told the daily that Britain's senior embassy staff see all of MI6's raw intelligence reports filed to London but are powerless to veto them even if their accuracy is doubted. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )