Calls in Australia for Iraq probe

Calls in Australia for an independent inquiry into intelligence used to justify war in Iraq have intensified.

    Prime Minister John Howard is under increasing pressure

    This comes after a top spy admitted he was the source of a report saying US claims about Iraq's weapons programme were exaggerated.

    Defence Intelligence Organisation chief Frank Lewincamp told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that he was the unnamed official quoted by the Age newspaper in Melbourne on Saturday saying the government was warned about the accuracy of US claims.

    Lewincamp said he had made the statement at an Australian National University briefing attended by a journalist.

    The intelligence chief disputed elements of the story and said
    he believed the briefing on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was off the record.

    "I have never said that the Bush administration's claims justifying an invasion were exaggerated," he said. "Nor have I said that the government was told that the Iraq WMD did not pose an immediate threat." 

    "The important thing is to establish the truth, to recognise that the war against terror is very much an intelligence war, we need to get it right"

    Mark Latham,
    Australian opposition leader

    However, Lewincamp did not dispute the story's claim that he said Iraq's WMD capacity was "latent" and did not justify an invasion.

    Opposition Leader Mark Latham said he was concerned such sensitive information had been revealed amid "banter" at a university discussion. 

    "It's very concerning, it's quite extraordinary that the head of
    one of our intelligence agencies would be down at a university seminar talking about this sort of thing," he told Sky News. 

    Latham said Lewincamp's remarks added weight to the call for an independent inquiry into the quality of intelligence used ahead of the Iraq war.

    "The important thing is to establish the truth, to recognise that the war against terror is very much an intelligence war, we need to get it right," he said.

    "If mistakes were made either in intelligence advice or government decision making prior to the war on Iraq, we can't afford those mistakes to happen again in the future."

    SOURCE: AFP


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