Ex-spy chief threatens Iraq 'time-bomb'

A page from the transcript to Sir Richard Dearlove's evidence to the Iraq inquiry
A page from the transcript to Sir Richard Dearlove's evidence to the Iraq inquiry
Alex Stevenson By

Former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove has threatened to release his "time-bomb" memoirs on the so-called 'dodgy dossier' sooner rather than later.

The man responsible for the intelligence used to justify the 2003 invasion, that Saddam Hussein was capable of deploying chemical weapons at just 45 minutes' notice, is expected to be heavily criticised when Sir John Chilcot's Iraq inquiry finally publishes its findings.

Dearlove is now considering releasing his own version of events, expected to argue the intelligence referred to battlefield weaponry rather than the longer-range capability which would have threatened British bases like those on Cyprus.

"What I have written (am writing) is a record of events surrounding the invasion of Iraq from my then professional perspective," he wrote in an email to the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

"My intention is that this should be a resource available to scholars, but after my decease (may be sooner depending on what Chilcot publishes).

"I have no intention, however, of violating my vows of official secrecy by publishing any memoir."

Dearlove has spent the last year preparing his account in a sabbatical away from his duties as master of Pembroke College Cambridge.

He wants Chilcot to force former prime minister Tony Blair and his director of communications, Alastair Campbell, to accept responsibility for misleading the public about the case for war.

A source close to Dearlove, 68, told the Mail on Sunday: "This is  Sir Richard's time-bomb. He wants to set the record straight and defend the integrity of MI6.

"And Sir Richard has taken a lot of personal criticism over MI6’s performance and his supposedly too-cosy relationship with Mr Blair.

"No chief of MI6 has done anything like this before, but the events in question were unprecedented.

"If Chilcot doesn't put the record straight, Sir Richard will strike back."

Dearlove gave evidence to the Chilcot inquiry in June 2010, in a private session which - when the transcript was eventually released to the public - was heavily redacted.

One section in which he did address the 45-minute claim saw him state: "At the time there was every reason to believe the intelligence was correct, and actually the intelligence stood up very well...

"It was only after prolonged questioning of the source and subsources that we eventually opened up the fact that it was probably not sound."

He added: "If there's anything I blame myself about, it's the fact that this was allowed to appear in the headlines of British newspapers, '40 minutes from'. It's just so awful that that happened because it did refer clearly to battlefield weapons."


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