Britain's Government Told It Must Disclose Iraq Intelligence Memos

Britain's Information Commissioner ruled Thursday that the government must publish memos and e-mails related to a 2002 intelligence dossier on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction.

Richard Thomas said written comments made by officials on early drafts of the Joint Intelligence Committee document should be disclosed.

Campaigners allege that the dossier's central claim — that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes — was inserted into a final draft on the advice of press advisers seeking to bolster the content of the document, rather than by intelligence staff.

They hope the e-mails and memos ordered released under freedom of information laws will reveal the extent to which the dossier was redrafted.

The 45-minute allegation was crucial to ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair's push to back the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but was later discredited.

Blair presented a final draft of the dossier, called "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction," to parliament on Sept. 24, 2002.

Government weapons scientist David Kelly killed himself in 2003 after he was exposed as the source of a British Broadcasting Corp. report that accused Blair's Downing Street office of "sexing up" intelligence to make a stronger case for war.

Lord Butler's 2004 official inquiry into intelligence on Iraq did not fault Blair's government but criticized intelligence officials for relying in part on seriously flawed or unreliable sources. The inquiry concluded the government had left out vital caveats in its presentation of prewar intelligence.

A second document, published in February 2003 and which became known as the "dodgy dossier"— was criticized after it was found to have repeated verbatim parts of an academic study on Iraq's supposed concealment of weapons.

Opposition Conservative Party lawmaker William Hague has called on the government to sanction a new inquiry into the buildup to the invasion of Iraq.

"Rather than have items of evidence dragged into the public domain piece by piece, the government should set up a full-scale inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Iraq war," Hague said in a statement Thursday.

Thomas said Britain's government has 35 days to lodge an appeal against his ruling. It is not required to release the documents while an appeal is being considered.