Former KGB spy claims evidence that whistleblower David Kelly didn't commit suicide
Britain's public inquiry into the country's instrumental role in the Iraq invasion is being thwarted by "deep state" bureaucrats who are intimidating witnesses and withholding documents, says a former Iraq expert for the UK government.
In a column in the Sunday Observer, Carne Ross asserted that he was cajoled by government operatives to not mention certain documents that suggest the British government lied to lawmakers about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He also said he had heard "from secondary sources" that other witnesses were similarly intimidated.
Ross, who served as the UK's expert on Iraq at the UN from 1997 to 2002, said he had planned to testify in front of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war that the British government hadn't looked for alternatives to military action in the run-up to the war. But government administrators told him the documents he wanted to back this up "could not be found."
"This is simply not plausible," Ross wrote.
In my testimony I had planned to detail how the UK government failed to consider, let alone implement, available alternatives to military action. To support this I had asked for specific records relating to the UK's failure to deal with the so-called Syrian pipeline, through which Iraq illegally exported oil, thereby sustaining the Saddam regime. I was told that specific documents, such as the records of prime minister Tony Blair's visit to Syria, could not be found. This is simply not plausible.
Ross also said that, in a meeting with Foreign Office agents hours before his testimony at the inquiry last week, "an official repeatedly sought to persuade me to delete references to certain documents in my testimony."
The documents in question involved a memo from a Foreign Office operative claiming that a British government letter to the then-ruling Labour Party parliamentary caucus "dramatically and inaccurately" hyped up the threat of Saddam's nuclear weapons program.
In a clear example of the exaggeration of Iraq's military capabilities, that paper claimed that if Iraq's programmes remained unchecked, it could develop a nuclear device within five years.
The official's memo pointed out that this was not, in fact, the UK assessment: the UK believed that Iraq's nuclear programme had been checked by sanctions.
Ross said he was "repeatedly warned by inquiry staff" not to discuss classified materials in his testimony, and that he viewed this as a "form of subtle intimidation" because underlying the warning was the threat of prosecution under the UK's Official Secrets Act.
It was made clear to me, and to journalists attending the hearing, that if I mentioned specific documents the broadcast of my testimony would be cut off. Other forms of retribution (Official Secrets Act prosecution?) hung in the air. It was a form of subtle intimidation.
Ross also said that his calls at the time to consider alternatives to war were ignored. "The available alternative Ã¢â‚¬â€œ to squeeze Saddam financially by stopping oil exports or seizing the regime's assets, which I and some colleagues had repeatedly advocated, was ignored," he wrote.
"Here the documents tell a different but equally clear and appalling story: there is not a single mention of any formal discussion, by ministers or officials, of alternatives to military action. It is hard to pinpoint a graver indictment of the government's failure."
The BBC reports that the Foreign Office has "no comment" on Ross's allegations.
"We are not going to comment on what witnesses have said, why the inquiry has called them, or what their lines of investigation should be," the office said in a statement. "These are matters for the independent inquiry to determine."
The Chilcot Inquiry has been hearing testimony about the UK's role in the Iraq invasion since last year. Set up by then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, it was designed to determine the "lessons learned" from the Iraq invasion.
IRAQ WHISTLEBLOWER WAS 'EXTERMINATED': RUSSIAN SPY
The death of a British government whistleblower who exposed the "sexing up" of a government dossier on Iraq's weapons in 2003 has always seemed suspicious to many. Now, the UK's Daily Mail reports that a former Russian spy-turned-defector says he was told by an agent of the British intelligence agency MI5 that Kelly had been "exterminated."
The paper says that Boris Karpichkov, who spent 15 years in the KGB before defecting to Britain, sent documents to the UK's attorney general "in which he claims to relay information from an Ã¢â‚¬ËœMI5 agentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ that Dr Kelly had been Ã¢â‚¬Ëœexterminated'."
An investigation into Kelly's death determined that he bled to death in a forest near his home in Oxfordshire. But last year, a group of 13 doctors who examined the evidence said that Kelly's death could not have been a suicide.
It also emerged last year that, shortly before his death, Kelly was in talks with a publisher about a book in which he would reveal he had warned then-Prime Minister Tony Blair that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.
During the inquiry into Kelly's death, it was claimed that Kelly had confided in an associate that "I will probably be found dead in the woods" if Iraq is invaded.