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2003 Richard Bulter Former UN Weapons Inspector

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Author Topic: 2003 Richard Bulter Former UN Weapons Inspector  (Read 60 times)
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« on: December 20, 2008, 05:38:20 am »
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Wilkie blames Howard, who hits back

By Josh Gordon
August 23, 2003

Prime Minister John Howard's office "sexed up" its case for war by doctoring intelligence reports to remove doubts, qualifications and ambiguity, a parliamentary inquiry has been told.

In the first day of evidence, former Office of National Assessments senior analyst Andrew Wilkie accused the Government of fabricating evidence and deliberately deceiving the public to justify sending troops to Iraq - a claim Mr Howard angrily denied.

"It was sexed up," Mr Wilkie told the committee. "Sometimes the exaggeration was so great it was clear dishonesty. I will go so far as to say the material was going straight from ONA to the Prime Minister's Office and the exaggeration was occurring in there."

Mr Howard challenged Mr Wilkie to produce evidence to back his claims.

"I deny that absolutely," Mr Howard said. "I don't know on what he bases those claims. If he has got evidence of that, let him produce it, otherwise stop slandering decent people."

Mr Wilkie, a former member of the Liberal Party who left the ONA in March in a blaze of publicity, also claimed Mr Howard's office had run a campaign to discredit him and had wrongly asserted he was not privy to high-level intelligence information and was mentally unbalanced.

Mr Howard yesterday said Mr Wilkie - who has a contract to write a book about the issue - "had virtually no access to the relevant intelligence".

Mr Howard told Parliament in February that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program and there was evidence that it had sought uranium from Africa - a claim discredited by a United States official who visited Africa to investigate almost a year earlier.

The term "sexed up" was first used by the BBC to describe the Blair Government's use of its intelligence information, based on conversations with weapons scientist David Kelly, who later committed suicide.

Former chief UN weapons inspector, now Tasmanian governor-designate, Richard Butler also gave evidence yesterday, saying he believed Saddam Hussein had a pathological addiction to chemical and biological weapons, which he still believed would be unearthed.

However, Mr Butler, who earlier said Mr Howard should resign over Iraq, said he did not believe the war was justified, because other options had not been fully explored.

Australian Defence Association chief Neil James told the inquiry that Australian intelligence agencies were too dominated by bureaucrats who lacked specialist skills and presented information in a way that tended to please the Government.

Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said Mr Wilkie's testimony went to the heart of Mr Howard's dishonesty about the Iraq war.

"John Howard, on this, on children overboard, on ethanol, is demonstrating a pattern of behaviour, the core of which is misleading the Parliament and the Australian people with fundamental matters of national security," he said.

Australian Greens senator Bob Brown said Mr Wilkie's claims were compelling and believable. "He has done the nation a service by revealing the ONA's advice was altered and rebuilt in a way that misled Australia with clear dishonesty," Senator Brown said.

Intelligence agencies will appear next month, but their evidence will be kept secret.

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