Friday, 22 April 2011

The Death of David Kelly - A timeline on the 45-minute claim

Readers of this blog know that I like timelines since they can help to make a sequence of events much clearer.

Some readers may be interested in this timeline produced by the BBC about the 45-minute claim: Timeline: The 45-minute claim.

One of the issues which the timeline doesn't deal with is the use and the subsequent abandoning of use of the 45-minute claim by the Blair Government.

It seems plausible to me that the Blair Government knew around 25th September 2002 that the 45-minute claim was non-credible.

That (stunning?) realisation led to the Blair Government immediately stopping using the 45-minute claim in its public propaganda in favour of a war with Iraq.

Is there a better explanation of why the Blair Government abruptly stopped using the 45-minute claim?

If they knew the 45-minute claim was false, who told them it was false?

And, if all that is true, why didn't Blair, Campbell and others publicly acknowledge it to be false.

Surely a British Government wouldn't go to war on the basis of "intelligence" it knew to be false?


  1. Maybe it was Hoon that Kelly gave the information to, maybe Hoon forgot to tell his boss.

  2. LL,

    Thanks. An interesting article.

    It's a pity that we don't know how long "some months" might be.

  3. Andrew, there is a piece by "Andrew Mason" on the Iraq Digest site of Chris Ames for 16 Decemeber 2009 which says
    Nevertheless, this intelligence was later withdrawn. Jack Straw revealed this to Parliament on October 12 2004, stating that the intelligence services had withdrawn the controversial claim that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction could be ready within 45 minutes, although this actually happened (it was withdrawn by the SIS in July 2003) sometime before the Hutton Inquiry (into the death of Dr David Kelly) began taking its evidence on Monday August 11 2003, and which was not told about this withdrawal.

    It is a bit more complicated because of a sybiosis of the 45 minute claim with another secret claim, X.

    Of the Secret Report, Brian Jones says
    My understanding is that Sir David Manning suggested Sir Richard Dearlove should tell the PM about this new intelligence on 12 September. Dearlove confirmed to the Butler Review that he had done so and insists he included the caveat that it was from a new source on trial. Campbell had talked about it in outline in his Hutton evidence.

    Jones says this of Report X [agent/weapon production]
    The withdrawal of Report X in July 2003 is described as being about sourcing – there does seem to have been another sub-source involved.

    and also
    It [the 45 minute claim] needed to be stood up by Report X.

    So by definition , when the highly secret Report X was abandoned in July 2003, so too would the 45 minute claim have become redundant.. did it involve Anthrax, one wonders?

    This is what the ISC was told....
    “We were told that there was further intelligence of a nature so sensitive that it was only released on a very restricted basis. We have seen that intelligence and understand the basis on which CDI and the JIC took the view they did.”

    Now, what did Dr Jones say to the Hutton Inquiry?
    LORD HUTTON: Please correct me if I am in any way wrong in my understanding. Was it the position that Dr Kelly then did not express a view about the 45 minute claim, in that it was based on recent intelligence which he had not seen?
    Dr Jones: "I cannot recall that he expressed a view on it."

    Perhaps because he had already seen Report X - he told the FAC in July 2003 that he saw intelligence.
    "I always have access to such[SECRET INTELLIGENCE] material, yes,

  4. President Bush also used the UK 45 minute claim as read here

    On Sept. 26, 2002, President Bush repeated a claim put forth by British intelligence that "the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order were given." On Sept. 28, he again made the claim in his weekly radio address.

    But the administration chose not to consult the CIA before making this assertion. If they had, however, they would have learned that two weeks earlier, the agency had objected to the claim that Iraq could mount an attack so quickly. In discussions with the British government, the CIA had noted that the claim was based on a single, unreliable source and had advised British intelligence to remove it from a dossier they had compiled on Iraq's weapons capability.

  5. So, the foreign help which Mr Scarlett canvassed in drawing up the dossier was not American, pointing rather towards Israel, perhaps,if some commenters there are to be believed.

  6. Andrew

    The BBC timeline could be improved by adding the first enunciation of the 45 minutes claim's origins by the head of MI6, Richard Dearlove at the Hutton Inquiry. This is what he said:

    "Can I just say, you use the word "claim"; I think I would prefer to refer to it as a piece of well sourced intelligence.
    Q. Right. When did you first become aware of this well sourced piece of intelligence?
    A. It first came to my attention when it was reported towards the end of August. I think the precise date is 29th August."

    Not a claim but a well sourced piece of intelligence. Apparently.

  7. Felix,

    A particularly interesting part of Dearlove's evidence is that he said it on the afternoon of Monday 15th September 2003.

    The 45 minute intelligence was withdrawn by MI6 in July 2003, supposedly on 17th July as I recall.

    Dearlove, in my view, lied to Hutton. He referred to it as "well sourced intelligence" about 2 months after MI6 had concluded that it wasn't valid.

    More detail on that in a future post.

  8. "'Muddle' caused 45 minute claim" by Michael White Guardian 8 September before Dearlove appeared before Hutton.
    "Like Dr Kelly, Sir Richard is also said to have been in favour of military intervention in Iraq. "He was a strong supporter of pre-emptive action, anxious that the intelligence MI6 supplied produced results," a senior minister told the Guardian."

    Like Dr Kelly. Allegedly.

  9. Just out of interest,
    "Engineering experts from the Defense Intelligence Agency have come to believe that the most likely use for two mysterious trailers found in Iraq was to produce hydrogen for weather balloons rather than to make biological weapons, government officials say. The classified findings by a majority of the engineering experts differ from the view put forward in a white paper made public on May 28 by the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which said that the trailers were for making biological weapons.... "
    Douglas Jehl, "Iraqi Trailers Said to Make Hydrogen, Not Biological Arms", New York Times, 9 August 2003.

  10. Jack Straw, in a speech at the RIIA at Chatham House London on 21 February 2003 did mention the 45 minute claim...

    "Recent intelligence shows that Saddam's military plans envisage using chemical and biological weapons against a range of targets, including his own Shia population . Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them.

    The meeting was not in Dr Kelly's diary - perhaps because his daughter Ellen was getting married the next day.

  11. Andrew, a strange outlier in the history of the 45 minute claim is found in this Guardian article (Rob Harris, 9 September 2003) about Sir Trevor McDonald of ITV News, who was their anchor in Baghdad during January 2003.
    McDonald writes:
    "I refused to do a piece while in Baghdad about weapons of mass destruction.... strangely enough it was about this 45-minute claim,"

    Yes, very strange.