In August 1995, MI6
received astonishing information about
This information didn’t
come to MI6 third hand from some shadowy source, like the now discredited
45-minute claim. It came direct
from the horse’s mouth, from an informant who was in a position to know –
because for 10 years he had been in administrative control of
informant was Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, who left
This information was
missing from the Government’s dossier of
September 2002 on
Kamel provided other information, for example, that
in August 1990
Kamel was therefore a proven source of reliable
Today, that question cries out for an answer. The Iraq Survey Group hasn’t made any
significant find of chemical or biological agents or weapons, and it looks as
if Kamel was telling the truth about their destruction. In January, Washington Post journalist,
Barton Gellman, reported on documentary evidence from August 1995 suggesting
that Kamel did tell the whole truth (see below). In those circumstances, an inquiry into
Pages and pages are devoted to examining how the intelligence services came to believe information received third hand in the post-1998 period, information which turned out to be false. But there is no examination whatsoever of why the intelligence services apparently did not believe information received from a reliable source, whom they themselves interviewed in August 1995, information that seems to be true.
Could it be that this question is too awkward to be exposed to public
Now, if the
Newsweek March 2003
Kamel’s astonishing claim
of August 1995 didn’t become public knowledge until late February 2003, a few
weeks before the US/UK invaded
“Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and UN inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the Gulf War, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.”
Kamel had been interviewed in
The notes record Kamel as saying:
“I ordered destruction [sic] of all chemical weapons. All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed” (page 13).
Earlier (page 7), he described anthrax as the “main
Of missiles, he said: “not a single missile left but they had blueprints and molds [sic] for production. All missiles were destroyed.” (page 8)
(This information was reported in the March 2003 issue of Labour & Trade Union Review).
When the Newsweek article was published, the Foreign Office told Private Eye that Kamel’s claims “were dismissed at the time as a complete fabrication” and that the intelligence services believed that Kamel was “lying” (see Private Eye 1111, 23 July 2004). A CIA spokesman Bill Harlow was quoted by ABC News on 24 February 2003 as saying: "It is incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue”.
MI6 (and the CIA) also interviewed Kamel, and presumably he told them the same story. In any case, it is certain that MI6 (and the CIA) were familiar with what he told UNSCOM, whether or not it was UNSCOM policy to inform them officially, since both agencies had personnel within UNSCOM.
Kamel the reliable informant
As we have said, in the
months before the US/UK invasion of
For example, in a speech on 26 August 2002, Vice-President Dick Cheney said Kamel's story “should serve as a reminder to all that we often learned more as the result of defections than we learned from the inspection regime itself”. And in the crucial debate on 18 March 2003, Prime Minister Blair told the House of Commons:
“In August , it [
“Kamal also revealed
Prime Minister did not to divulge to the House of Commons that Kamel had also
told UN inspectors that, on his orders, all
For reasons which have never been explained, the Prime Minister didn’t restate in March 2003 the confident assertion in his foreword to the Government dossier published in September 2002 that intelligence had “established beyond doubt” that “Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons”. Instead, all he talked about was the “old remains” manufactured before the Gulf War.
Even though Kamel’s astonishing claim was in the public domain when the Prime Minister spoke to the Commons, he wasn’t challenged on that day about it, nor has he been seriously challenged about it since.
As we have said, the
(The text in bold also appears in the report’s conclusions (Chapter 8). Strangely, Kamel doesn’t figure anywhere in over twenty pages of conclusions despite his significance as an informant.)
It needs to be emphasised that UN inspectors didn’t
“depart” of their own volition in December.
They were withdrawn by President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair prior
to their bombing
“It [the bombing campaign] was quite deliberately undertaken by us in the knowledge this would mean that the inspections regime would come to an end and would have to be replaced by a policy of containment.”
The “sparseness” of information sources after December 1998 is down to Clinton and Blair.
Section 5.2 of the report (paragraphs 155-209) deals
with the intelligence from 1992 to 1998.
Kamel’s contribution to the JIC’s increased knowledge of
On chemical agents and weapons, Paragraph 177 says:
“In the same vein, in August 1995, drawing on evidence provided by Hussein Kamil after his defection, the JIC concluded that: ‘We assess [Iraq] may also have hidden some specialised equipment and stocks of precursor chemicals but it is unlikely they have a covert stockpile of weapons or agent in any significant quantity; Hussein Kamil claims there are no remaining stockpiles of agent.’ [JIC assessment, 24 August 1995]”
From that, it is fairly clear that the JIC believed Kamel when he said that chemical agents and weapons manufactured before the Gulf War had been destroyed. And there is no indication later in the report that the JIC’s original confidence in Kamel’s claim was overridden by later information.
Nevertheless, this material was still on UNSCOM’s “unaccounted for” list when its inspectors were withdrawn in December 1998, and was still on UNMOVIC’s “unaccounted for” list in March 2003. On 18 March 2003, the Prime Minister reeled off a list of chemical agents and weapons from this “unaccounted for” list, and gave the misleading impression that we had on UN authority that they definitely existed – even though it appears that in August 1995 the JIC believed Kamel when he said they had been destroyed.
From Paragraphs 199 and 200 of the report, it is clear that in August 1995 the JIC also believed what Kamel said about missiles and missile components having been destroyed:
“… the JIC assessment of August
1995 included an analysis of
“In the same reassuring vein, the JIC said that: ‘We would expect Kamil to know a lot about the missile programme . . . He has also said that all the Scuds and their components have been destroyed . . .’ [ibid]”
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister felt able to tell the House of Commons on 18 March 2003 that “an entire Scud missile programme” (whatever he meant by that) had been “left unaccounted for” by UNSCOM in 1998 and it was “palpably absurd” that Saddam had destroyed it.
However, it seems that the JIC did not believe Kamel about the destruction of biological agents and weapons. Paragraph 185 of the report says:
“… following the defection of Hussein Kamil and the Iraqi admission of an extensive biological weapons programme, the JIC had growing concerns that Iraq was concealing biological agent stocks.”
Gellman on Kamel
Gellman says he has obtained a copy of a 6-page handwritten letter to Saddam’s son Qusay, composed just after Kamel’s defection and setting out what Kamel was in a position to reveal to UNSCOM that was not already known to UNSCOM. Gellman writes:
“The new evidence appears
to be a contemporary record, from inside the Iraqi government, of a pivotal
The letter was apparently written by
Hossam Amin, then and until his arrest on 27 April 2003, responsible for
liaison with UN inspectors, and as such the keeper of
According to Gellman:
“The person who provided a
copy to The Washington Post had postwar access to the presidential office where
he said he found the original. Iraqis who know Amin well and experienced
government investigators from the
“Just before his ‘sudden
and regrettable flight and surrender to the bosom of the enemy’, Amin wrote,
‘the traitor Hussein Kamel’ received a detailed briefing on ‘the points of
weakness and the points of strength’ in
Amin then listed, in numbered points, ‘the matters that are known to the traitor and not declared’ to UN inspectors.”
“The most significant point
in Amin's letter, US and European experts said, is his unambiguous report that
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