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The new Howard doctrine: 100% blame for the intelligence community. 0% responsibility for John Howard.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security


100% blame for the intelligence community. 0% responsibility for John Howard

The findings of the Flood Report demonstrate that there was no plausible intelligence basis upon which John Howard took Australia to war in Iraq.

Mr Flood has concluded that the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD was ‘thin, ambiguous and incomplete’.

It was on this basis that Mr Howard decided to take this country to war.

Mr Flood gives us more information as to why there was such a massive problem in the intelligence community. In the nine months prior to the war commencing, the Prime Minister’s own intelligence agency had a total of three to four analysts working ‘either part or in whole on Iraqi WMD’. Stunningly, Mr Flood informs us that: “none of the analysts had a specific technical background on WMD”.

How could these poor souls have had any hope of providing effective, independent assessments on the massive volumes of foreign-sourced intelligence on Iraq in the lead up to the war? We already know from the Jull Report that 97% of the intelligence material which Australia relied on was foreign-sourced.

The Prime Minister, quoting Mr Flood, asserts that there was no evidence of politicisation of the assessments on Iraq, either overt or perceived. However, the Jull Report itself has already referred to the danger of ‘policy running strong,’ concerning the hardening of ONA assessments on Iraq in the lead up to the war.

Mr Howard’s other problem is that in testimony before the Jull Inquiry, DIO stated it “had the view that the US was committed to military action against Iraq’ and that commitment was ‘…independent of the intelligence assessment’. If the Australian intelligence community through its own admission had concluded that the US had already decided to go to war, and given the Prime Minister’s repeated statements of political solidarity with the US during this period, are we to conclude that intelligence officials in no way assumed that a policy decision had already been taken?

These are observations both by Mr Jull, who chaired a Government-dominated committee and the DIO. Neither of these can be construed as fronts for the Labor Party.

A key deficiency in Mr Flood’s report (through his limited terms of reference) concerns the way in which the Howard Government used the intelligence information it had at its disposal.

Again the Jull Committee found 12 occasions where the Howard Government exaggerated the intelligence information it had in its possession in making its public case for going to war. Notwithstanding the limitations in his terms of reference, Mr Flood has recommended that the Government as a matter of priority develop guidelines on the public presentation of foreign intelligence. Mr Flood would not have included a recommendation of this type had there been no anxiety within the intelligence community about the way in which the Howard Government exaggerated the case for going to war.

As for the detail of Mr Flood’s 23 recommendations, the Opposition will examine these in the coming days and make an appropriate response - including any other courses of action which may be necessary.

The Government has had the Flood Report for at least a week. The Opposition has had it for two hours.

Ends. 22 July 2004

Media contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823