[Media-watch] Top official sacked over Blair [WMD] jibe - The Times - 25/07/2004

Julie-ann Davies jadavies2004 at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Jul 26 00:08:07 BST 2004


July 25, 2004

Top official sacked over Blair jibe
Adam Nathan and David Leppard

A SENIOR intelligence official has been sacked after publicly accusing Tony
Blair of misleading the country over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

John Morrison lost his job as investigator for the parliamentary
intelligence and security committee (ISC) after criticising Blair in a
television interview. The move makes Morrison, a former deputy chief of
defence intelligence, the only person to have lost his job in the wake of
Lord Butler's report into the intelligence ahead of the Iraq war.

In the interview two weeks ago, Morrison revealed how intelligence officials
had reacted in disbelief to Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi
dictator, posed a "serious and current threat to the United Kingdom".

"When I heard him using those words I could almost hear the collective
raspberry going up around Whitehall," he said.

A senior Cabinet Office official said last week that Morrison had been
"chopped" for speaking out. "He is certainly not going to work for the
committee again," he said.

The official pointed out that Morrison was a Cabinet Office employee and had
let down security mandarins. Sir David Omand, Blair's intelligence and
security co-ordinator, is understood to have been furious about Morrison's
appearance on the BBC's Panorama programme.

He is said to have consulted Ann Taylor, the ISC's chairwoman. Morrison was
then sacked and is now serving out his notice.

Morrison's colleagues said he was devastated at losing his job for speaking
to the BBC, an act he believed had been in the public interest.

His sacking highlights the continuing tensions between the government and
the BBC over Iraq. The corporation had hoped to draw a line under the
dispute with the resignations of Gavyn Davies, its chairman, and Greg Dyke,
the director-general.

Morrison disclosed that the Blair administration had exerted political
pressure on Ministry of Defence intelligence staff.

The prime minister wanted them to sign up to a statement that Operation
Desert Fox - the joint UK and US bombing of suspected weapons of mass
destruction sites in 1998 - had been an unqualified success, when it had

Other criticisms by Morrison of how the Iraq dossier was put together and
the role of the joint intelligence committee (JIC)were borne out three days
later by Lord Butler of Brockwell when he published his report.

Butler revealed that much of the intelligence used to justify the war had
come from unreliable MI6 sources and that it had been overstated to
straining point by Blair in his foreword to the dossier.

Key intelligence on Saddam's chemical and biological weapons programme given
to Blair by Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, prior to the dossier's
publication, was later withdrawn as faulty in July 2003.

But the fact that it had been withdrawn was not made public.The government
has subsequently been criticised for the cover-up.

Colleagues of Morrison are in no doubt that his sacking was to avenge his
public criticism of Blair. "The decision seems petty and spiteful," said

"An official inquiry found we went to war on false intelligence but no
government official was ever sacked for that. Morrison has lost his job
simply because he told the truth," said a former MoD colleague.

Relations between the government and the BBC have been strained since the
corporation broadcast its original claim on Radio 4's Today programme last
year that the government had "sexed up" its intelligence on Iraq.

The BBC's new management had hoped to consign the Iraq row to the past.
However, the sacking of Morrison could reopen wounds.

Colleagues of Morrison say that he had informed both Taylor and the clerk to
the ISC that he was going to record an interview for Panorama on the failure
of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Morrison kept to an undertaking not to reveal his role with the ISC. Last
week he was unable to comment on the matter. "The terms of my contract do
not allow me to discuss this with you," he said.

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