The Downing Street documents

The Downing Street documents are a set of documents leaked to journalist Michael Smith in 2004 and 2005, of which the most significant is generally believed to be a record of a meeting at 10 Downing Street in July 2002.

See the full set of papers on the website

Although the documents are in the public domain, most of them remain unpublished by the Inquiry. Committee members have made numerous references in public hearings to the documents and the events that they describe but have not discussed their contents in detail with witnesses.

One document, Jack Straw’s 25 March 2002 letter to Tony Blair, below, has been published by the Inquiry.

About the documents

Are the documents genuine?

There is no doubt that the papers are genuine. Christopher Meyer, who was UK ambassador to Washington at the time and author of one of the documents, has confirmed their authenticity in his book “DC Confidential”.

What do they show?

The papers show that UK government officials were planning from at least early 2002 to take part in the anticipated US invasion of Iraq.

Were they seen by previous inquiries?

The Hutton Inquiry makes no reference to the papers. The Butler Review either quotes from or describes the contents of many of the documents but it is not certain that it saw them all. Neither is it clear that it accurately reported their contents. Read more

The list of papers

In each case, the first link is to the document on the website. The second “Read more” link is an analysis of each document and its significance.

March 2002 Cabinet Office options paper

The March 2002 options paper was drawn up by the Cabinet Office Defence and Overseas Secretariat. Read more

March 2002 legal background paper

A legal paper was attached to the March 2002 options paper. This discussed the various justifications for an invasion but did not find any of them applicable.

David Manning memo March 2002

On 14 March 2002, David Manning, head of the Cabinet Office Defence and Overseas Secretariat and chief foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair, sent Blair a memorandum describing his discussions at dinner with Condoleezza Rice, who was then the national security adviser in the Bush administration. Manning told Blair: “I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States. ” Read more

Christopher Meyer letter March 2002

On 18 March 2002, Christopher Meyer, the UK ambassador to Washington, sent David Manning a letter detailing his discussions at lunch the previous day with Paul Wolfowitz, the US deputy secretary of defense. He told Manning: “On Iraq I opened by sticking very closely to the script that you used [with] Condi Rice last week. We backed regime change, but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option.” Read more

Peter Ricketts letter March 2002

On 22 March 2002, Peter Ricketts, political director of the Foreign Office, sent a letter to foreign secretary Jack Straw. He told Straw: “even the best survey of Iraq’s WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or [Chemical Warfare/Biological Warfare] fronts.” Read more

Jack Straw memo to Blair March 2002

On 25 March 2002, Jack Straw sent Tony Blair a memo with advice in advance of Blair’s visit to George Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. He stressed the need to present the elimination of Iraq’s WMD capacity, rather than regime change, as the objective of UK policy. Read more

Cabinet Office briefing paper July 2002

On 21 July 2002, officials at the Cabinet Office Overseas and Defence Secretariat produced a briefing paper entitled “Iraq: conditions for military action” in advance of the meeting at Downing Street two days later. Read more

Downing Street memo July 2002

The Downing Street memo is a note of a meeting on 23 July 2002 to discuss UK involvement in the US invasion of Iraq. Read More

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