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War on Truth  From Warriors to Resisters
Books of the Month

The War on Truth

From Warriors to Resisters

Army of None

Iraq: the Logic of Withdrawal

The British Dossier on Iraq's Intelligence Infrastructure

Glen Rangwala, Lecturer in Politics at Cambridge University

Author of 'Counter-Dossier II' - Claims and Evaluations of Iraq's Proscribed Weapons and
co-author of Counter-Dossier (with Alan Simpson, MP, for Labour Against the War).
Dr. Rangwala has also written a First Response to Secretary of State Colin Powell's UN Presentation Concerning Iraq.

At end of commentary, see Links to related material on fake Dossier.

February 5, 2003

In preparation for Powell's presentation at 15:30 GMT today, I had a look at the third British government's "dossier" released last Thursday, "Iraq - Its Infrastructure Of Concealment, Deception And Intimidation" (30 January 2003). The document is at:
(references below to page numbers relate to the downloadable Word version).

The document claims to draw "upon a number of sources, including intelligence material" (p.1, first sentence).

Now this is a bit misleading.

More precisely, the bulk of the 19-page document (pp.6-16) is directly copied without acknowledgement from an article in last September's Middle East Review of International Affairs entitled "Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis".

The author of the piece is Ibrahim al-Marashi, a postgraduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He has confirmed to me that his permission was not sought; in fact, he didn't even know about the British document until I mentioned it to him.

It's quite striking that even Marashi's typographical errors and anomalous uses of grammar are incorporated into the Downing Street document. For example, on p.13, the British dossier incorporates a misplaced comma:

"Saddam appointed, Sabir 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Duri as head"..
Likewise, Marashi's piece also states:
"Saddam appointed, Sabir 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Duri as head"..

The other sources that are extensively plagiarised in the document are two authors from Jane's Intelligence Review:

Ken Gause (an international security analyst from Alexandria, Virginia), "Can the Iraqi Security Apparatus save Saddam" (November 2002), pp.8-13.
Sean Boyne, "Inside Iraq's Security Network", in 2 parts during 1997.

None of the sources are acknowledged, leading the reader to believe that the information is a result of direct investigative work, rather than simply copied from pre-existing internet sources.

The fact that the texts of these three authors are copied directly results in a proliferation of different transliterations (eg different spellings of Ba'th, depending on which author is being copied).

There are two types of changes incorporated into the British document. Firstly, numbers are increased or are rounded up. So, for example, the section on "Fedayeen Saddam" (pp.15-16) is directly copied from Boyne, almost word for word. The only substantive difference is that Boyne estimates the personnel of the organisation to be 18,000-40,000 (Gause similarly estimates 10-40,000). The British dossier instead writes "30,000 to 40,000". A similar bumping up of figures occurs with the description of the Directorate of Military Intelligence.

The second type of change in the British dossier is that it replaces particular words to make the claim sound stronger. So, for example, most of p.9 on the functions of the Mukhabarat is copied directly from Marashi's article, except that when Marashi writes of its role in:

"monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq"
this becomes in the British dossier:
"spying on foreign embassies in Iraq".

Similarly, on that same page, whilst Marashi writes of the Mukhabarat:

"aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes"
- the British dossier renders this as:
"supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes".

Furher examples from the section on "Fedayeen Saddam" include a reference to how, in Boyne's original text, its personnel are "recruited from regions loyal to Saddam", referring to their original grouping as "some 10,000-15,000 'bullies and country bumpkins.'"

This becomes in the British government's text a reference to how its personnel are:
"press ganged from regions known to be loyal to Saddam" ... "some 10,000-15,000 bullies."

Clearly, a reference to the "country bumpkins" would not have the rhetorical effect that the British government was aiming for.

Finally, there is one serious substantive mistake in the British text, in that it muddles up Boyne's description of General Security (al-Amn al-Amm), and places it in its section on p.14 of Military Security (al-Amn al-Askari).

The result is complete confusion: it starts on p.14 by relating how Military Security was created in 1992 (in a piece copied from Marashi), then goes onto talk about the movement of its headquarters - in 1990 (in a piece copied from Boyne on the activities of General Security). The result is that it gets the description of the Military Security Service wholly wrong, claiming that its head is Taha al-Ahbabi (whilst really he was head of General Security in 1997; Military Security was headed by Thabet Khalil).

Apart from the obvious criticism that the British government has plagiarised texts without acknowledgement, passing them off as the work of its intelligence services, there are two further serious problems.

Firstly, it indicates that the UK at least really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq's internal politics - they just draw upon publicly available data. Thus any further claims to information based on "intelligence data" must be treated with even more scepticism.

Secondly, the information presented as being an accurate statement of the current state of Iraq's security organisations may not be anything of the sort. Marashi - the real and unwitting author of much of the document – has as his primary source the documents captured in 1991 for the Iraq Research and Documentation Project. His own focus is the activities of Iraq's ntelligence agencies in Kuwait, Aug90-Jan91 - this is the subject of his hesis. As a result, the information presented as relevant to how Iraqi agencies are currently engaged with Unmovic is 12 years old.

For reference, here are a few other summary comments on the British document.
Official authors are (in Word > Properties) P. Hamill, J. Pratt, A. Blackshaw, and M. Khan.

p.1 is the summary.

pp.2-5 are a repetition of Blix's comments to the Security Council on the difficulties they were encountering, with further claims about the activities of al-Mukhabarat. These are not backed up, eg the claim that car crashes are organised to prevent the speedy arrival of inspectors.

p.6 is a simplified version of Marashi's diagram at:

p.7 is copied (top) from Gause (on the Presidential Secretariat), and (middle and bottom) from Boyne (on the National Security Council).

p.8 is entirely copied from Boyne (on the National Security Council).

p.9 is copied from Marashi (on al-Mukhabarat), except for the final section, which is insubstantial.

p.10 is entirely copied from Marashi (on General Security), except for the final section, which is insubstantial.

p.11 is entirely copied from Marashi (on Special Security), except for the top section (on General Security), which is insubstantial.

p.12 is entirely copied from Marashi (on Special Security).

p.13 is copied from Gause (on Special Protection) and Marashi (Military Intelligence).

p.14 is wrongly copied from Boyne (on Military Security) and from Marashi (on the Special Republican Guard).

p.15 is copied from Gause and Boyne (on al-Hadi project / project 858).

pp.15-16 is copied from Boyne (on Fedayeen Saddam).

A final section, on the Tribal Chiefs' Bureau, seems to be copied from a different piece by Cordesman.

Links to Related Material

*Hear Glen Rangwala on Democracy Now

*"outdated contemporary
intelligence material."

"cobbled the secretary of.
.chief .spin doctor and some gofers."

*"The central issue ... public trust."

"...shadow over ... case against Saddam."

David Keppel explores scandal (talking points)

CNN - ITV(UK) - BBC - TV4 (UK) - AP stories

Page created February 9, 2003 by Charlie Jenks.; revised February 20, 2003.