Iraq weapons dossier draft reveals role of ‘spin doctor’

Fresh evidence that a senior government press officer was closely involved in drawing up the government’s discredited Iraq weapons dossier, despite official denials, was revealed yesterday.

A document the Foreign Office tried to suppress shows that John Williams, its director of communications at the time, had access to secret intelligence as he prepared an early draft in 2002.

The document suggests that Williams, a former Sunday Mirror political editor, used the same sources as the Joint Intelligence Committee, chaired by Sir John Scarlett, which produced the government’s final dossier. Though there are striking similarities, Williams’s draft does not contain the claim that Iraq could launch a chemical warfare weapon in 45 minutes – a claim central to the prime minister’s case for war.

The 45-minute claim was made later, and subsequently withdrawn.

The FO fought to suppress the Williams draft. The information tribunal ordered its release, observing that it may have played a bigger role in influencing the dossier than previously supposed.

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