Thursday, March 04, 2004
Lord Butler's Facade

Unlike the Hutton Inquiry, the Review of Intelligence on weapons on Mass Destruction, does not aspire to the same standards of transparency.

The official website has a welcoming photograph to assure any political junkie that this review is in safe hands. The terms of reference are here and the procedures are here. There is no need to dwell upon the drawbacks of this remit since they look at structures rather then personnel, a one-sided affair that will dissipate rather than concentrate blame.

The biographies of the members show that they share a number of common aspects. Like Hutton, Sir John Chilcot was in Northern Ireland and at the same time, as Counsellor to the Intelligence Services. He also served in the Home Office. Ann Taylor is a close ally of the Blair administration as Chief Whip, a position from which she can steer the final report towards a resolution that will satisfy the frontbench and the backbenchers. Michael Mates has a long history as a parliamentary member of committees on Intelligence, Defence and Northern Ireland. Lord Inge, former Chief of the Defence Staff, is one of the lodestars of the military establishment but may prove less conformist than the other members though his is unlikely to dissent on questions of strategy.

The Review will hand its report to the Prime Minister. However, the membership has been recruited from the 'magic circle' that the intelligence services view as dependable. Understandably, experience and interest in Northern Ireland, the intelligence circus of a few decades ago, provided a benchmark of acceptability for those candidates whom the government was unable to directly appoint. Now, we shall see if they can spring a few surprises in order to avoid looking as blinkered as Lord "didn't I do well" Hutton.

If you want the official site, go here.

(22.21, 4th February 2004)


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