“The great bulk of our evidence is in tens of thousands of government documents. Many of them are highly classified. They allow us to shine a bright light into seldom-seen corners of the government machine, revealing what really went on behind the scenes before, during and after the Iraq conflict. Those documents form the central core of the Inquiry’s work. The Inquiry is still receiving more documents every week, and we have no reason to believe that any material is being deliberately withheld. We have published a small number of those documents during the hearings. I should emphasise that our access to documents is unrestricted. Publishing a limited number is a separate matter. ”
Sir John Chilcot’s closing statement, 8 February 2010
Sir John Chilcot’s statement here makes clear how invisible most of the Inquiry’s work is to the public, with the publication of a “limited number” of the documents given to it by the government.
In addition to evidence published by the Inquiry, some very significant evidence has already been published or leaked. The most significant evidence relating to a number of issues is listed and linked below. It is also possible to identify unpublished sources of evidence that the Inquiry should have access to.
Published and leaked evidence
Reviews of Iraq strategy before and after the 2000 US election
In March 2010 the Independent obtained and published a Strategy paper produced by the Foreign Office in late 2000 in anticipation of a new administration following that year’s election, which brought George W Bush to the White House. The Inquiry has published a number of papers relating to a further review in early 2001, including a letter from John Sawers, Tony Blair’s foreign affairs adviser, showing that he deliberately excluded the Department for International Development from the review, in spite of what he told the Inquiry.
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. During the Inquiry’s hearings, panel members made repeated reference to most, if not all, of the documents but the government has prevented it from publishing any of them or quoting from them directly. Read more
Evidence of conflicting and changing opinions on the legality of the invasion
Most of the key evidence relating to the internal government advice on the legality of the war has been published but there remains some potentially significant evidence that has not been published. Read more
Foreign Office documents September 2002
In December 2010, the Foreign Office disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act a media strategy for Iraq written by its press secretary in September 2002. The strategy was written at the request of Sir Michael (now Lord) Jay, the FCO’s top civil servant and includes the possibility that Britain might take military action against Iraq without UN cover.
In November 2011, the Foreign Office disclosed a draft letter from Jack Straw’s private secretary (PS) to Sir David Manning and the internal covering letter, dated 5 September 2002. The Inquiry had previously published a letter dated 3 September 2002 from Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s UN ambassador to Jay, in which Greentock had referred to an earlier draft of the PS letter. In response to an FOI request the FCO stated that it could not find the draft described by Greenstock, which he said suggested a “resolution aimed at provoking an indisputable example of Iraqi intransigence by calling for the readmission of Inspectors with a tight timetable and more intrusive powers”. The later draft letter disclosed by the FCO is expressly stated to reflect Greenstock’s reservations about the feasibility of such an approach. It contains handwritten amendments by Straw and appears to be close to the wording of the final version of the letter, which the FCO also stated it could not find.
The September 2002 Iraq dossier
A great deal of information about the genesis and production of the September 2002 “dossier” on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction has been put into the public domain through previous inquiries, freedom of information (FOI) requests and leaks. Read more
Records of discussions between the government and the oil industry
In 2011 campaigner Greg Muttitt obtained a large number of documents concerning Iraq’s oil industry, including some which documented discussions between oil companies and the British government before and after the invasion. These documents are published on the Fuel on the Fire website.
Brian Jones’ evidence to the Hutton Inquiry and the Butler Review
The late Dr Brian Jones, formerly of the Defence Intelligence Staff and a founding contributor to the Digest, made his full written evidence to the Butler Review publicly available on the Digest. The evidence includes his written witness statement to the Hutton Inquiry, which is also published as a separate paper.
Carne Ross evidence to the Butler Review
In December 2006, the House of Commons published the previously secret evidence of former diplomat Carne Ross to the Butler Review.
Evidence of US plan to bug UN security council members
Internal MoD reports
In 2008 an official report on “Stability Operations in Iraq” from May 2003 to January 2005 was published online by Wikileaks.
Leaked documents published by the Telegraph in November 2009 include Stability Operations in Iraq as well as:
In 2011 the Ministry of Defence published under FOI the Operation Telic Lessons Compendium, an analysis of lessons learned from previous reports, including the above two reports.
Post invasion Iraq
A memorandum circulated to senior ministers and officials by the Iraq directorate of the Foreign Office, entitled “Iraq: The Medium Term” and dated 19 May.
In October 2010 Wikileaks published nearly 400,000 leaked “war logs” from the US military.
If you have any of these documents, please let us know.
In February 2009 justice secretary Jack Straw used a ministerial veto under the Freedom of Information Act to overrule a decision by the information tribunal that the government should disclose the minutes of two cabinet meetings (on 13 and 17 March 2003) at which the legality of the invasion was discussed. During the information tribunal hearing, it had emerged that the information commissioner, who had earlier ordered release of the documents, believed that they showed insufficient cabinet discussion of the issue.
The original FOI request had also sought disclosure of the cabinet secretary’s handwritten note of the meetings, but neither the commissioner nor the tribunal believed that these documents should be disclosed.
Unpublished inter-departmental advice and discussions
The Butler Review refers in a number of places to “inter-departmental advice” that sets out UK government policy on Iraq during 2002. It appears that some of this, for example Peter Ricketts’ letter to Jack Straw, forms part of the Downing Street documents but Ricketts’ letter itself refers to “official advice” from Straw to Tony Blair and a “draft minute” (possibly the draft official advice). These documents have not been published.
The September 2002 dossier
A great deal of evidence regarding the dossier remains unpublished. Read more
Records of discussions between UK and US politicians
The Inquiry will need to see – but is unlikely to publish – notes of various discussions, including telephone calls, between British and US politicians. These include meetings between Blair and Bush, for example, in April and September 2002. In August 2002 Straw held a meeting with US secretary of state Colin Powell. In the same month Blair discussed Iraq on the phone with Bush.
According to Professor Philippe Sands, David Manning, Blair’s foreign policy adviser made a detailed account of a meeting at the White House on 31 January 2003. Sands has said that “ it looks clear that Bush and Blair recognised the inadequacy of the intelligence, had failed to make any proper preparation for postwar planning and had decided to start the war in mid-March 2003 regardless of a further Security Council resolution”. The note is also said to show that the US was planning to fly reconnaissance aircraft over Iraq painted in UN colours, in the hope of provoking an Iraqi reaction.
Alastair Campbell’s actual diaries
The Hutton inquiry was given copies of Alastair Campbell’s contemporaneous diaries for relevant periods during 2002 and 2003 and Campbell was questioned on the contents of these. Unlike other evidence, these papers were not published. In 2007, Campbell published edited versions of these diaries that omit reference to events discussed at Hutton, such as the meeting on 12 September 2002 during which the head of MI6 briefed Blair and Campbell on new intelligence.
Iraq survey group
Email from John Scarlett to Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), in March 2004
Detention and rendition
In July 2008 the government refused to release the majority of a review into detention policy in Iraq, carried out in March of that year by a senior general. It later stated that the review continued into 2009. The review covers the policy of transferring prisoners to US custody and their subsequent treatment.