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November 11, 2004

Spinning The Spies: Intelligence, Open Government and the Hutton Inquiry

Posted by Michael Mosbacher

Spooks Should Return to the Shadows
Controversies over Iraq Intelligence are a direct result of John Major's Open Government Initiative when the intelligence services are brought into the open they are inevitably politicised

The controversies over the intelligence used to support the Iraq war from 'dodgy dossiers' to the 'Kelly affair' are a direct result of the initiatives, launched by John Major, to make the intelligence services more 'transparent' and 'open'. This is the argument of two of Britain's leading academic experts on intelligence Prof. Anthony Glees and Dr Philip H. J. Davies in a new book, Spinning The Spies: Intelligence, Open Government and the Hutton Inquiry, to be published on Monday by the Social Affairs Unit. When intelligence services become public bodies they become politicised bodies this has long been the experience in the United States and is now the experience in the UK. The inevitable consequence of this new openness was Tony Blair's grave error in publishing secret intelligence to justify the Iraq war. Such dossiers must inevitably be political documents since they can never supply sufficient information for operational reasons to enable the public to evaluate the intelligence independently, something for which the public in any case has not the sufficient knowledge or experience. "Making intelligence public turns it into propaganda."

Glees and Davies also indict the BBC for its handling of the 'Kelly affair' "Had the BBC acted differently, Kelly might be alive today" and outline the growing conflict between former diplomats and SIS, which they see as corrosive of public trust in the intelligence services. Glees and Davies also offer specific recommendations for the future to improve the management of intelligence in the UK and guarantee the independence of the intelligence services.

Update 15th November: Spinning The Spies has received coverage in the Daily Mail - Ban publication of intelligence - and The Guardian - Whitehall acts on Butler report.

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