SIR MARTIN GILBERT: Right. You told us in your submission that the February/March 2002 dossier — I think your words were, “was rejected because it did not make a strong enough case”. I really have two questions on that. First of all, given the evidence that was in the dossier, what case did you feel it did make and who was it who rejected it?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: Yes. I mean, I don’t know because I wasn’t conscious of the production of that. It was something that was being put together. What I do know is that people — I mean Joe French came back from some JIC meeting and said, you know, that dossier which was the four country dossier did not make a case for war and we are going to be doing this all again and we need to collect more information. So over the summer the pressure sort of built up and up to try to collect more.
SIR MARTIN GILBERT: So already in February/March there was this case for war?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: Yes, I mean we were quite clear on that. I’m not saying that was good or bad, it was just the fact: the purpose of this thing was to make a case for war. [...]
THE CHAIRMAN: You said in your submission to us that you knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was to make a case for war. I mean the diplomatic and political background is very complicated, isn’t it?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: Yes.
THE CHAIRMAN: There is no formal decision to mount an invasion, there is the objective, as some will have it, of putting maximum pressure on the Saddam regime by building up military capability and threat, there is also the need to bring about, if at all possible, compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions all of which, as it were, fold into a dossier being published. But you say very clearly you knew its purpose was to make a case for war. Does that imply an assumption that the decision had been taken to go to war, or that it was simply making a presentation of an argument that would build political and diplomatic pressure?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: I mean I think it’s yes to both. I mean certainly from the American point of view — and I went to America a lot — four times in one month — the Americans right through 2002 were quite clear that they were going to go to war, so there was a momentum anyway behind this. I don’t know at what stage the decision was reached in the UK, publicly or not, but yes, we were quite clear that this was to make a case.
THE CHAIRMAN: How do you come to know that, other than by inference? By specific direction, written or oral?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: I mean the words were used. That’s one thing I do recollect.
THE CHAIRMAN: By?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: I mean this was Joe French coming back from the JIC. You know, there was no point in producing a dossier which did not say anything.
THE CHAIRMAN: Sure. What about the argument that was put to us in evidence by Alistair Campbell, that it was not the case for war, it was the reason for mounting concern and by implication there to mount pressure on Saddam to comply?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: Erm — yes –
THE CHAIRMAN: Are we just talking semantics here?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: I think we are, yes, we are talking semantics here.
THE CHAIRMAN: But your concern in sending us a submission was that you thought that Alistair Campbell’s evidence misrepresented things?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: Well, I think behind my concern is the line that “we read the intelligence and made a decision on that and then the intelligence turned out to be wrong” and I don’t think that is fair. The intelligence in JIC papers was balanced and cautious. The dossier was more certain and therefore to imply that things put in the dossier were wrong because of the certainty expressed in the dossier is not fair to the intelligence people.
THE CHAIRMAN: That’s viewed from the standpoint of collection and, up to a point, JIC assessments.
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: Yes.
THE CHAIRMAN: On the other hand, we’ve had evidence from other witnesses — neutral I think you would describe such witnesses as being — of two things. One, the dossier language — leave aside the foreword — was consistent with the stream of JIC assessments, but also that the dossier was doing something broader: it was an appraisal of the sum of assessments but not inconsistent with them. But your standpoint was that it was actually inconsistent?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: I just feel it was more certain. I mean people criticise JIC papers because of the language used in JIC papers and at JIC meetings more time is spent deciding whether something should be “probably” or “possibly” than anything else, but that is probably necessary. When you get to the dossier those words are removed and of course there is one implication in that: the suggestion that the real intelligence was better than in the dossier, when in fact it wasn’t quite as good as in the dossier.
THE CHAIRMAN: Again, you will have read the Butler committee — on which I sat — account. Do you broadly accept that analysis in the Butler report –
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: Yes, yes I do.
THE CHAIRMAN: — that nuances were lost, the intelligence was asked to bear more weight than it could, but nonetheless there was not actually physical disjunction between JIC assessments on the one hand and the contents of the dossier, as opposed to, perhaps, the foreword?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: No, I agree with that, I agree with that. But people should make decisions based on the JIC assessments not on a dossier for public presentation.
SIR RODERIC LYNE: Perhaps I can just come back on one point on the dossier before we move on. The sentence in the foreword that Sir John alluded to, can I just read it to you and then ask you as an intelligence professional to say how you would characterise it? This is from the Prime Minister’s foreword:
“What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons and that he has been able to extend the range of his ballistic missile programme.”
Now, was that a justifiable encapsulation?
MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL LAURIE: No, because I don’t believe it was beyond doubt.