Australian Iraq report under fire

A parliamentary report is expected to clear Australian politicians of sexing-up pre-Iraq war intelligence but critics have already labelled it inadequate and demanded a second probe.

    Downer (R) does not rule out second inquiry

    Instead of targeting politicians, the report of the bipartisan joint committee on intelligence, to be discussed on Monday, will criticise the quality of the advice spy agencies provided on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, according to information leaked to the local media.

     

    But the report's authors, reportedly frustrated they could not access raw foreign intelligence or grill the Australian officials who prepared the pre-war reports, are expected to call for a second inquiry with stronger investigative powers.

      

    The opposition Labor Party has gone further and demanded a royal commission, which has the power to force witnesses to give testimony.

     

    Public record

      

    "Irrespective of what is contained in this report, there is now so much available on the public record which cries out for a royal commission into Australia's intelligence services and this government's handling of intelligence material in the lead-up to the

    Iraq war," opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd told reporters.

     

    "...there is now so much available on the public record which cries out for a royal commission into Australia's intelligence services..."

    Kevin Rudd,
    opposition foreign affairs spokesman

    Rudd said a report in the Age newspaper quoting Defence Intelligence Organisation Director Frank Lewincamp saying Australian intelligence agencies were pressured to fall into line with US assessments of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction showed serious questions still needed to be answered.

      

    Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has repeatedly denied the government has put pressure on intelligence agencies to bolster the case for war and said allegations that spy agencies had become politicised amounted to "defamation".

     

    Downer said the government would consider a second inquiry if the report recommended it, but insisted the government had been scrupulous in its use of intelligence in the lead up to war.

      

    He did not believe inquiries by the United States, Britain or Australia into the quality of the intelligence would "reveal anything terribly exciting or surprising".

     

    US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, under pressure from their political opponents and media, have also decided to establish committees to investigate the quality of their pre-war intelligence.

    SOURCE: AFP


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