Blair Faces Investigations on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction
July 7, 2008 - 7:13 PM
London (CNSNews.com) - The British government came under renewed pressure to reveal intelligence information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program Wednesday after a top official alleged that "rogue elements" of the U.K. security services wanted to undermine the government.
As the search for concrete proof that Saddam Hussein had existing biological or chemical weapon stockpiles continues in Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Blair has been criticized for allegedly overstating the case for war.
Unidentified sources speaking to the British press have questioned details listed in a dossier on Iraq's weapons programs.
John Reid, the leader of the House of Commons, said that the leaks were fabricated stories being released to journalists by "obviously rogue isolated individuals" inside the British security services.
"Their position is not known. They have uncorroborated evidence. They were very small in number," he said.
Reid said the leaks could have even come from a "man in the pub."
"The tragedy about this is I have the greatest respect for our intelligence services," he said, adding it was a "disgrace" that unnamed individuals would cast doubt on publicly released intelligence information.
In the document, the prime minister's Downing Street office claimed that Iraq had the capability to launch unconventional attacks in the region within 45 minutes of an order by Saddam. The BBC, citing unnamed sources, reported last week that officials had exaggerated Saddam's capability to make the document "sexier" and boost the case for war.
Blair said the allegations were "completely and totally untrue." He told the House of Commons that information hadn't come from an Iraqi defector, as was reported, but was given to the government by an "established and reliable source."
Blair said one of the reasons no live weapons of mass destruction have yet been found is that "the priority after the conflict was to rebuild Iraq."
But those answers didn't satisfy Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.
"The truth is, no one believes a word now that the prime minister is saying," Duncan Smith said.
While repeating that he supported the war, Duncan Smith demanded to know the identities of the "rogue elements" and said: "The whole credibility of (the) government rests on clearing up these charges."
Parliament's Foreign Affairs Select Committee announced Tuesday that it would launch an investigation into the way intelligence information was presented by the Blair administration.
On Wednesday, Blair said that he would cooperate with a second parliamentary inquiry by the Intelligence and Security Committee. That committee will specifically examine the role of the Britain's spies in the war.
"I welcome this...the government will cooperate fully with it," he said.
The committee works in secret, and its reports can be censored for security reasons. Blair promised to publish the committee's findings, but the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties both pushed for a separate and independent judicial investigation.
"Who are the public to trust if the government are letting it be known that they can't wholeheartedly trust their own intelligence services?" Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy asked.
Duncan Smith said that Blair "will only let that committee see the intelligence reports he wants them to see.
"It reports directly to him, and he can withhold any part or all of its reports," Duncan Smith said.
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