BRITAIN ran a covert 'dirty tricks' operation designed specifically to produce misleading intelligence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction to give the UK a justifiable excuse to wage war on Iraq.
Operation Rockingham, established by the Defense Intelligence Staff within the Ministry of Defense in 1991, was set up to 'cherry-pick' intelligence proving an active Iraqi WMD program and to ignore and quash intelligence which indicated that Saddam's stockpiles had been destroyed or wound down.
The existence of Operation Rockingham has been confirmed by Scott Ritter, the former UN chief weapons inspector, and a US military intelligence officer. He knew members of the Operation Rockingham team and described the unit as 'dangerous', but insisted they were not 'rogue agents' acting without government backing. 'This policy was coming from the very highest levels,' he added.
'Rockingham was spinning reports and emphasizing reports that showed non-compliance (by Iraq with UN inspections) and quashing those which showed compliance. It was cherry-picking intelligence.'
Ritter and other intelligence sources say Operation Rockingham and MI6 were supplying skewed information to the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) which, Tony Blair has told the Commons, was behind the intelligence dossiers that the government published to convince the parliament and the people of the necessity of war against Iraq. Sources in both the British and US intelligence community are now equating the JIC with the Office of Special Plans (OSP) in the US Pentagon. The OSP was set up by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to gather intelligence which would prove the case for war. In a staggering attack on the OSP, former CIA officer Larry Johnson told the Sunday Herald the OSP was 'dangerous for US national security and a threat to world peace', adding that it 'lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam'.
He added: 'It's a group of ideologues with pre-determined notions of truth and reality. They take bits of intelligence to support their agenda and ignore anything contrary. They should be eliminated.'
Johnson said that to describe Saddam as an 'imminent threat' to the West was 'laughable and idiotic'. He said many CIA officers were in 'great distress' over the way intelligence had been treated. 'We've entered the world of George Orwell,' Johnson added. 'I'm disgusted. The truth has to be told. We can't allow our leaders to use bogus information to justify war.'
Many in British intelligence believe the planned parliamentary inquiry by MPs on the Intelligence and Security Committee will pass the blame for the use of selective intelligence to the JIC, which includes senior intelligence figures .
Intelligence sources say this would be unfair as they claim the JIC was following political instructions. Blair has been under sustained criticism following allegations that intelligence on the threat from Iraq was 'sexed up' to make it more appealing to the public.
The rebel Labour MP and Father of the House, Tam Dalyell, said he would raise the Sunday Herald's investigation into Operation Rockingham in the Commons on Thursday and demand an explanation from the government about selective intelligence. Ritter has also offered to give evidence to parliament.
Both the MoD and Downing Street refused to comment on Ritter's allegations about Operation Rockingham, saying they did not make statements on intelligence matters.
British and American intelligence analysts have also come forward to dispute claims made by President Bush that two military trailers found in Iraq were bio-weapons labs.
©2003 smg sunday newspapers ltd.