'Not an accurate description of the intelligence': What the Chilcot report says about whether Blair lied about WMD

In the autumn of 2002, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government was moving toward making a case that the UK should join the US in an invasion of Iraq to prevent dictator Saddam Hussein from pursuing his weapons programmes.

So the Blair government asked its Joint Intelligence Committee to prepare a dossier on all that was known about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The Chilcot report says that the conclusions Blair presented publicly about that intelligence were different to what the intelligence actually said: They reflected Blair’s beliefs more than the underlying facts, Chilcot says. But because Blair presented his conclusions in parliament, and in an executive summary of the underlying JIC report, Blair’s beliefs had a distorting effect on the actual facts inside the report — which said Iraq did not have WMD.

The report does not outright say that Blair lied about the intelligence. But it does say the information delivered to the public was “not an accurate description of the intelligence” given to him.

Here is the crucial section of the executive summary of the Chilcot report (emphasis added):

534. At issue are the judgements made by the JIC and how they and the intelligence were presented, including in Mr Blair’s Foreword and in his statement to Parliament on 24 September 2002.

535. It is unlikely that Parliament and the public would have distinguished between the ownership and therefore the authority of the judgements in the Foreword and those in the Executive Summary and the main body of the dossier.

536. In the Foreword, Mr Blair stated that he believed the “assessed intelligence” had “established beyond doubt” that Saddam Hussein had “continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and that he had been able to extend the range of his ballistic missile programme”. …

538. But the deliberate selection of a formulation which grounded the statement in what Mr Blair believed, rather than in the judgements which the JIC had actually reached in its assessment of the intelligence, indicates a distinction between his beliefs and the JIC’s actual judgements.

539. That is supported by the position taken by the JIC and No.10 officials at the time, and in the evidence offered to the Inquiry by some of those involved.

540. The assessed intelligence had not established beyond doubt that Saddam Hussein had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons. The Executive Summary of the dossier stated that the JIC judged that Iraq had “continued to produce chemical and biological agents”. The main text of the dossier said that there had been “recent” production. It also stated that Iraq had the means to deliver chemical and biological weapons. It did not say that Iraq had continued to produce weapons.

541. Nor had the assessed intelligence established beyond doubt that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued. The JIC stated in the Executive Summary of the dossier that Iraq had:

• made covert attempts “to acquire technology and materials which could be used in the production of nuclear weapons”;

• “sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active nuclear programme that would require it”; and

• “recalled specialists to work on its nuclear programme”.

542. But the dossier made clear that, as long as sanctions remained effective, Iraq could not produce a nuclear weapon.

This is from the body of the report:

… 826. Mr Blair’s categorical statement that the intelligence picture painted by the JIC over the last four years was “extensive, detailed and authoritative”, was not an accurate description of the intelligence underpinning the JIC’s assessments.

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