THE newly-knighted John Scarlett is again at the centre of controversy over the validity of claims made by the government about intelligence information. In 2002 when head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Mr Scarlett, as he then was, found himself involved in the alleged “sexing-up” of the Downing Street dossier on the threat from Sadam Hussein; he was persuaded to endorse what proved to be the false government claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

This time, if press reports are to be relied on, he is being more cautious; in his new role as head of MI6 he has refused to endorse the claim of the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, that the intelligence services had agreed with Tony Blair's assessment that if inquiries into Saudi Arabian defence contracts by the Serious Fraud Office were pursued it would put into jeopardy British national security because the Saudis would “pull out” of intelligence cooperation. At his monthly press conference yesterday, Mr Blair stood by his assessment which, he said, was “the judgement of our entire system”, and insisted that if the SFO inquiry had gone ahead it would have been “devastating for our relationships with an important country.” He went on, in typical Blairite fashion, to declare that stopping the Saudi inquiry had not “sent a signal to developing countries that the UK tolerated corruption.” What signal did it send then?


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