Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 620-639)


19 JUNE 2003

  Q620  Mr Chidgey: You have never seen anything as positive and as upfront?

  Mr Wilkie: No, and I would not expect to because, as I was saying earlier, by design the JIC is seeking to achieve a compromise from all of these agencies and all of these peoples and it tends to produce things very cautiously.

  Q621  Mr Chidgey: So it is unique in your experience?

  Mr Wilkie: Yes. I have never seen such an unambiguous strong case put out that is labelled as an intelligence document.

  Mr Chidgey: Or drawn from intelligence sources. Thank you.

  Q622  Andrew Mackinlay: I genuinely do not understand one thing you are saying. To summarise: the charge here is that the government on one individual matter may have interfered, and there is also the so-called "dodgy dossier", but nobody has suggested here in the United Kingdom that the security and intelligence services have been politically pliable. There is a complaint allegedly by members of the security and intelligence services that, in fact, what they fed out might have been exaggerated but nobody has suggested that the security and intelligence services have been pliable. I listened very carefully to what you said and the inference that I got was that both the Australian security and intelligence services and the United Kingdom security and intelligence services had been pliable. By that I mean that you are comprehensively dismissing that document. I think that has been your thrust. Nobody has suggested in the United Kingdom that that September document is flawed or is a piece of propaganda. There are allegations about the validity and veracity of that 45 minutes thing, whether or not it should have been in, whether there was a corroborative source and so on. We have got to deal with the "dodgy dossier", and I understand that in five minutes nearly everyone fell about laughing. It is a matter for my political cousins in the House of Representatives in Canberra, but are you really suggesting that the security and intelligence services of our respective countries could be lent upon to produce that because I think that is incredible and nobody else has suggested that?

  Mr Wilkie: Do not put words in my mouth.

  Q623  Andrew Mackinlay: No, I would not want to do that.

  Mr Wilkie: What I am saying is that the finished product, what I have got in my hands, does not have the feel of a carefully crafted, measured intelligence document. It feels as though it has been—I think the term used was—"sexed up".

  Mr Maples: It has been used here.

  Q624  Mr Chidgey: Developed.

  Mr Wilkie: It has got a polish on it. It is very subtle. It has got a polish which makes the situation less ambiguous than it was.

  Q625  Andrew Mackinlay: That is an incredible claim, Mr Wilkie, because nobody else, not even the people who criticised the Government's stewardship of this, not even people making serious allegations against the Government as regards what they put in the public domain, is suggesting that the document you have before you is anything other than a product of the security and intelligence services through the system, save the inclusion of one particular aspect, namely the 45 minutes thing, which is something that we are looking at thoroughly and I would understand you might have a view on that. You are coming up with a suggestion and you have used terms like "feel" but you say you cannot find a word for it, and indeed you cannot because there is not a scintilla of evidence you can produce to this Committee this afternoon to rubbish that document save in those particular matters which I have referred to, the 45 minutes and so on. It is a matter for the folk back in Canberra but you seem to be including your folk back home in this. What is your evidence to suggest that security and intelligence services have acquiesced by their silence in a comprehensive and wholesale doctoring of evidence by two governments? It is just too fantastic for words.

  Mr Wilkie: Mr Mackinlay, you are putting some words in to my mouth.

  Q626  Andrew Mackinlay: Am I?

  Mr Wilkie: Chairman, if I could just respond.

  Q627  Chairman: Answer that and then I want to move on, please.

  Mr Wilkie: I am not accusing the British intelligence and security services of anything I am accusing the British Government, along with the US and Australian Governments, of exaggerating the Iraq WMD threat and the associated terrorism threat. I have no concerns about—

  Q628  Andrew Mackinlay: What is your evidence of that exaggeration?

  Mr Wilkie: What is my evidence?

  Q629  Andrew Mackinlay: Yes.

  Mr Wilkie: The evidence is that what has been found in Iraq is nowhere near what is described in this book, that is my evidence. I think that is the clearest evidence anyone could produce to this Committee.

  Q630  Andrew Mackinlay: You and I do not know what has or has not been found in Iraq yet, do we?

  Mr Wilkie: What I do know is that whatever has been found in Iraq so far is short. You are asking me to present the evidence and that is the easiest challenge anyone can throw at me. The evidence is that we were promised a war on the basis of this big WMD threat but it has not been found and whatever is likely to be found now is going to be miles short of what the war was sold to us on.

  Andrew Mackinlay: You do not know that, do you? We are going round in circles.

  Q631  Mr Olner: Just on the back of what Andrew was saying, the whole substance of your argument, Mr Wilkie, is that your colleagues did not agree with your scenario, you took your bat away, you would not play, and you are now saying because they have not found any you were right. What about if they do find it all next week?

  Mr Wilkie: We were promised—I do not know if the word "massive" was used in this document, I do not think it was—we were told orally and sold the war on the basis of a massive programme presenting an imminent threat.

  Q632  Mr Olner: But you forget the history that he has used these weapons on Iran, he has used these weapons on his own people in the marshlands and what have you. We still control a no-fly zone, our planes still get shot at by Saddam. I have to say that even if he had enough weapons just to fill this room, I think he would gladly use them against the West.

  Mr Wilkie: But we were not sold the war on the basis of enough weapons to fill this room. In all three capitals we were sold the war on the basis of a massive programme. There is a book here listing—

  Andrew Mackinlay: Non-compliance with inspectors, unimpeded access for inspectors were the two material factors. Let me bounce this off you—

  Chairman: Mr Mackinlay, we really must keep some discipline on this. To pick up on what Mr Mackinlay says, the basis of 1441 was non-compliance. I would like to get Mr Olner, then Mr Illsley and then back to Mr Maples.

  Q633  Mr Olner: I really want to ask Mr Wilkie, can we as politicians, can the general public in Australia, America and Great Britain, trust our intelligence agencies again?

  Mr Wilkie: Mr Olner, we have got to be very careful here not to shift the blame to the intelligence agencies.

  Q634  Mr Olner: I am not shifting the blame, you are putting the blame there.

  Mr Wilkie: I am not blaming the intelligence agencies.

  Q635  Mr Olner: I assume the data that the Australian Government saw and the American Government saw was derived in the first instance from the intelligence agencies?

  Mr Wilkie: You are quite correct, but my concern is the way reasonably sensible and measured assessments were exaggerated.

  Q636  Mr Olner: Did you make that point to anybody in your department before you left? When you first became aware of this, did you say anything to anybody?

  Mr Wilkie: That is a fair question. No.

  Q637  Mr Olner: Why?

  Mr Wilkie: That is a fair question and I welcome the opportunity to answer that. I did not voice my concerns in the Office of National Assessments. The reason was that just as I started to realise that my judgment about Iraq was so at odds with ONA's corporate line, if I can call it that, at the same time I came to understand I had to put up and shut up or do something about it, and I decided to do the latter, to do something about it.

  Q638  Mr Olner: How much support did you get from amongst your colleagues? Did you get any support whatsoever or were you the sole, lone voice?

  Mr Wilkie: I need to be careful how I answer that because the moment I say there are a few people in ONA who agree with me fully there will be a witch hunt around ONA trying to find out who these people are. I will answer that by saying the feelings through the Australian intelligence agencies reflects the feelings in the Australian community, which are everything from strong support for the war through to very, very strong opposition. I still have a number of very close friends in ONA who have been very supportive of me personally and both parties are sensible enough to know to keep the work stuff separate.

  Q639  Chairman: That was not the question. The question was whether you were the lone voice in voicing this opposition or whether a number of your colleagues were saying that they agreed with you, not whether they sympathised with you personally.

  Mr Wilkie: I was the only one who did what I did, obviously. ONA is a good organisation and people are allowed to speak their minds and on issues like this people do disagree all the time, but they tend to operate below a threshold.

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