Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Book Gives Vital Background to Downing Street Memo

New Book "State of War" by NY Times' James Risen Gives Vital Background to Downing Street Memo


By Jonathan Schwarz
From: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/6558

The relevant excerpts from State of War appear at the bottom of this post

After the Downing Street Memo was leaked last May, the U.S. and U.K. governments were eventually forced to admit it was genuine. However, they never revealed any background to the memo—most importantly, who did Richard Dearlove, head of British intelligence, meet with in Washington just before the July 23, 2002 high-level U.K. government meeting the memo memorialized? This would go a long way to answering why Dearlove believed "Military action was now seen as inevitable" and "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

State of War, the just-released book by New York Times reporter James Risen, sheds important new light on these issues. (State of War is now best known for its revelations about warrantless spying by the NSA, but it contains a great deal of other significant information.) Regarding the Downing Street Memo, the most important points made by State of War are these:

  • Dearlove was in part reporting on a CIA-MI6 summit he attended with other top MI6 officials at CIA headquarters on Saturday, July 20, 2002

  • According to "a former senior CIA officer," the meeting was held "at the urgent request of the British"; CIA officials believe "Blair had ordered Dearlove to go to Washington to find out what the Bush administration was really thinking about Iraq"

  • During the day-long summit, Dearlove met privately with CIA head George Tenet for an hour and a half
  • This obviously raises other questions, such as:

  • What records of the meeting exist on the American side?

  • Will the Senate Intelligence Committee examine the meeting as part of its Phase II Iraq intelligence investigation?

  • What specifically did Dearlove and Tenet discuss when alone?

  • Why has the New York Times failed to publish Risen's information about the Downing Street Memo background?
  • Risen's book also makes the scoffing about the Downing Street Memo by various Washington pundits appear even more peculiar. For instance, in a Washington Post column, Michael Kinsley suggested Dearlove might have just been reporting back to Blair about what he'd heard from "the usual freelance chatterboxes." Later, in an exchange with Mark Danner, Kinsley indicated Dearlove may have simply been talking about the "mood and gossip of 'Washington.'"

    In any case, there is clearly much more to the story, if anyone besides James Risen cares enough to investigate it.

    ***********

    From State of War by James Risen, p. 112-114:

    As the invasion of Iraq drew closer, an attitude took hold among many senior CIA officials that war was inevitable—and so the quality of the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction didn't really matter. This attitude led CIA management to cut corners and accept shoddy intelligence, other CIA officials believe...This acceptance of weak intelligence among senior CIA officials appears to be the backstory to the famous so-called Downing Street Memo.

    According to a former senior CIA official, the memo—the leaked British government document from July 2002 that provided a British assessment of the Bush administration's plans for Iraq—was written immediately after a secret conference in Washington between top officials of the CIA and British intelligence. The memo, dated July 23, reported that "there was a perceptible shift in attitude" in Washington about Iraq. The memo went on to say that "military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

    The memo reflected an assessment of the prevailing attitude inside the Bush administration offered to Prime Minister Tony Blair by Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, the British intelligence service. Just days before, Dearlove and other top MI6 officials had attended a CIA-MI6 summit meeting held at CIA headquarters, in which the two sides had candid talks about both counterterrorism and Iraq. According to a former senior CIA officer, the summit meeting was held at the urgent request of the British.

    The American and British intelligence services are so close that under normal circumstances, they hold an annual summit to discuss a wide range of issues in a relaxed setting. The year before it had been held in Bermuda. But after 9/11, Tenet had told other CIA officials he was too busy to be bothered with another conference with the British, particularly one held in a remote location. The British were very insistent, however, and kept pushing for the meeting, the former CIA official said. The MI6 officials made it very clear to their CIA counterparts that they had to sit down and talk immediately.

    CIA officials believe that Prime Minister Blair had ordered Dearlove to go to Washington to find out what the Bush administration was really thinking about Iraq. While Blair was in constant communication with President Bush, he apparently wanted his intelligence chief to scout out the thinking of other senior officials in Washington, to give him a reality check on what he was hearing from the White House.

    "I think in hindsight that it is clear that Dearlove was insistent on having the summit because Blair wanted him to find out what was going on," said the former CIA official.

    Tenet finally agreed to the conference as long as it could be held at CIA headquarters, rather than out of town. The session was scheduled for Saturday, July 20, 2002.

    The two sides ended up spending most of that Saturday together. One of Tenet's great attributes was his ability to develop warm relationships with the chiefs of allied intelligence services, and Tenet had an especially good personal relationship with Dearlove. He was usually very candid with his British counterpart.

    During the Saturday summmit, Tenet and Dearlove left the larger meeting and went off by themselves for about an hour and a half, according the a former senior CIA official who attended the summit. It is unclear what Tenet and Dearlove discussed during their one-on-one session. Yet Dearlove's overall assessment was reflected in the Downing Street Memo: the CIA chief and other CIA officials didn't believe that the WMD intelligence mattered, because was was coming one way or another.

    "I doubt that Tenet would have said that Bush was fixed the intelligence," said a former CIA official. "But I think Dearlove was a very smart intelligence officer who could figure out what was going on. Plus, the MI6 station chief in Washington was in CIA headquarters all the time, with just about complete access to everything, and I am sure he was talking to a lot of people."

    From: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/6558

    © Scoop Media

     
     
     
     
     
    Top Scoops Headlines

     

    Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

    Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

    Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

    The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

    ALSO:

    Buildup:

    Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

    It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

    ALSO:

    Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

    Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

    Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

    Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

    Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

    I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

    Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

    It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

    ALSO:


    Get More From Scoop

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Top Scoops
    Search Scoop  
     
     
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news