An Historical Perspective
Backdrop to the Conflict
The Intelligence Context
The Australian Assessments
Divergence Between the Assessments
Public Presentation of Intelligence
Lessons from the UK and the US
Lessons from the Australian intelligence community
Operational Lessons from the ADF
Iraq has its roots in the beginnings of civilization. Over 4,500 years, a succession of city-states rose and fell across Mesopotamia, the territory that is now Iraq. Successive domination of the Tigris and Euphrates basin first by the Sumerians and Akkadians, then the Babylonians and Assyrians, marked the ebb and flow of Mesopotamian culture. From this turbulence, proud foundations of civilization emerged: from the Sumerians and Akkadians came not only the first form of writing, cuneiform, and agriculture but a lingering influence on sculpture, painting and jewellery design; from Babylon emerged the legal code of Hammurabi, while Nebuchadnezzar's greatness was proclaimed by the majesty of the city of Babylon with its legendary hanging gardens. Conquest by Alexander the Great, the passage of expeditions of the Roman Empire, conquest by the Sassanians out of Persia, and sacking by the Mongols in the mid-thirteenth century all followed. But it was the emergence of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century AD that has had the most lasting influence on modern Iraq.
The history of modern Iraq began at the end of World War I following the defeat of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which had ruled Mesopotamia for four hundred years. The League of Nations established a mandate which passed control of Mesopotamia to Britain. In turn, Britain established the Hashemite Prince Faisal ibn Hussain as the King of Iraq in 1921. Three decades of monarchy followed, during which full independence was granted in 1932. However, the Iraqi state was fragile from birth, existing within artificial boundaries imposed by the European powers that ignored the tribal and religious frictions among Arabs. Since the seventh century, the people had absorbed the language and culture of the Arabs. But, while most Iraqis are Muslims, it is by language, more so than religion, that they are united. Due to the great religious schism that occurred in Islam at the end of the seventh century - severing Islam into Sunni and Shia - Iraqis are a people separated theologically, socially and politically. And with the inclusion of the Kurds in the Iraqi melting pot in 1921, an ethnic divide was also thrown into the complex equation of governing Iraq.
It is this fragility of the Iraqi state that underlay two decades of turmoil and its descent into a totalitarian state. In 1958, the king was assassinated and the monarchy overthrown in a military coup, and a decade of power struggles followed between military governments and the emerging Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. By 1968, the Ba'ath Party was in power, and over the next ten years it consolidated its rule over the Iraqi state. Along with the economic reform and industrialisation that occurred through the 1970s, driven by the largesse of the oil boom, the control of the country by the Ba'ath Party became absolute. By 1978, all decisions had passed into the hands of the Vice President, Saddam Hussein, and in 1979, he became President. The history of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime in recent decades stands in stark contrast to the greatness of Iraq's past, and the capabilities of its people. Resurrecting the images of ancient Mesopotamian myth and Arab nationalism, Saddam invaded Iran in September 1980. By the end of the bitter, costly eight-year war Iraq had emerged as a central, if unpredictable, actor in Middle Eastern affairs, and a malevolent force to reckon with in the wider international community.
Four key factors formed the backdrop to the Iraq conflict. Saddam Hussein's egregious breaches of United Nations Security Council Resolutions relating to weapons of mass destruction, his history of use of those weapons, the brutal nature of his regime and his support for Palestinian and anti-Iranian terrorism combined to form a potent threat to the Iraqi people, the Middle East region and the international community. This chapter deals primarily with issues related to weapons of mass destruction.
A key part of the international community's reaction to Iraq's militarism was a focus on its WMD programmes. In fact, Iraq's development and use of WMD was an important factor in galvanising international action against their spread.
The Australia Group, now a grouping of 38 countries, was formed in 1985 to strengthen export licensing measures in response to the finding of a UN special investigatory mission that chemical weapons (CW) had been used in the Iran-Iraq war. And Iraq's CW programme gave impetus to the negotiations in the UN Conference on Disarmament that resulted in the conclusion in 1992 of the Chemical Weapons Convention. These measures were important, but it was Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and subsequent defeat that led to stronger action by the international community.
UN Security Council Resolution 687, passed in April 1991, required that Iraq, as a ceasefire condition, "unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless" of its chemical and biological weapons and related stocks and activities, and all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres, and related equipment, under United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision. The resolution also required Iraq to submit a declaration on locations, amounts and types of all items specified and agree to on-site inspections, and authorised ongoing monitoring arrangements to ensure that Iraq complied with these mandatory disarmament obligations after the processes to dismantle its WMD programmes had been completed.
The subsequent UN disarmament process revealed extensive WMD programmes and stocks in Iraq, including the shock discovery that Iraq's nuclear programme was very much more advanced than Western intelligence agencies had believed, and a biological weapons (BW) programme hidden from inspectors until 1995. At the point that Saddam withdrew his cooperation and inspections ceased in December 1998, the IAEA was satisfied that its activities had "revealed no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material, or that Iraq has retained any practical capability... for the production of such material". On chemical and biological weapons, UNSCOM reported that, from its inception, Iraqi compliance had been limited and that Iraq had acknowledged that it had decided to limit its disclosures for the purpose of retaining substantial prohibited weapons. Notwithstanding the "very considerable obstacles" placed in UNSCOM's way, UNSCOM assessed that a great deal had been achieved in removing or rendering harmless "substantial portions" of Iraq's WMD capability. But despite the years of extensive work, the impact of Iraq's incomplete disclosures, unilateral destruction and concerted concealment practices had made it impossible for UNSCOM "to verify, fully, Iraq's statements with respect to the nature and magnitude of its proscribed weapons programmes and their current disposition". Significant discrepancies in accounting for all of the programmes covered by UNSCOM's mandate thus remained. While accurate totals are difficult to establish, according to UNSCOM reporting these included:
It is important to note that the 'discrepancies' listed by UNSCOM did not represent a known residual capability or stockpile. They were discrepancies in accounting which had not been satisfactorily resolved. In some cases, the baseline figures used to calculate the discrepancies were provided by Iraq and could not be independently verified.
In March 1999, a senior UN panel appointed by the Security Council judged that "although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons have been eliminated". The panel recommended an ongoing monitoring and verification system to replace the disarmament process with the aim of preventing any continuation or resumption of WMD activities, and to investigate outstanding disarmament issues remaining from UNSCOM's work. This approach was essentially endorsed by the Security Council in December 1999 with the adoption of Resolution 1284 and the establishment of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), but Iraq did not allow inspectors back into Iraq until November 2002, nearly three years later.
Access to information on Iraq fell dramatically during the period from the end of 1998 to November 2002, although allied intelligence provided indications that Iraq was pursuing proscribed activities and may have been seeking to rebuild a WMD capability. In November 2002, the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed a further resolution (Resolution 1441) finding Iraq in material breach of previous Security Council resolutions and calling on it to meet its obligations. Resolution 1441 recalled previous resolutions; deplored Iraq's failure to provide "an accurate, full, final and complete disclosure", its obstruction of inspections and failure to cooperate fully with UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors; decided that Iraq "has been and remains in material breach of its obligations"; called for another "accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other delivery systems..."; and decided that failure to comply would constitute further material breach and that Iraq was to provide immediate and unfettered access to any and all facilities, records and people. Finally, the resolution recalled that "the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations".
Only after Resolution 1441 had been passed did Iraq agree to the resumption of inspections, but once again sought to obstruct, deceive and stall the inspection process. UNMOVIC, reporting to the UN Security Council in January 2003, outlined the extent to which Iraq was in breach of Resolution 1441: not providing any noteworthy new information in its declaration; inadequate cooperation with inspectors; stalling of interviews with scientists; blocking of reconnaissance flights; and failure to answer significant outstanding questions about its WMD-related activities.
In September 2002, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released a comprehensive technical assessment of Iraq's WMD capacities, drawing on technical experts with long experience with UNSCOM and IAEA in Iraq. This concluded that Iraq probably retained some stocks of both CW and BW, and that Iraq was capable of resuming both CW and BW production on short notice (weeks or months) using existing civilian facilities. The IISS described the retention of WMD capacities as the core objective of the Iraqi regime.
US and UK assessments on Iraq at this time are also well documented. Those that were publicly released concluded that Iraq had continued its WMD and proscribed-range ballistic missile programmes and that it possessed and had begun renewed production of CBW, and voiced concern about Iraq's ongoing support for terrorism after September 11. While these US and UK views were stronger than many others, including Australia's, it is noteworthy that prior to the coalition's military action against Iraq on 19 March 2003, the only government in the world that claimed Iraq was not working on, and did not have, biological and chemical weapons or prohibited missile systems was the Government of Saddam Hussein. Although many made clear in their public statements that Iraq's continued possession of WMD was yet to be proved, the unanimous passage of Resolution 1441 shows the strength of international concern, even amongst those countries which opposed military action in early 2003. Statements by French and German leaders and foreign ministers, for example, consistently called upon Iraq to disarm, as had those by the Clinton administration.
This was the backdrop to the assessments made by Australia's intelligence agencies. In particular, Saddam's history of WMD use, his past and continuing efforts to deceive and obstruct inspection processes, and his perceived strategic ambitions, were key underpinnings of ONA and DIO assessments.
Also important to an understanding of the context in which ONA and DIO made their assessments were a number of environmental factors. Key amongst these were the complexity of the Iraq target, the inherent ambiguity of WMD-related information, and the limited quantity and variable quality of the information available to the intelligence assessment community.
The complexity of Iraq as an intelligence target stems in large part from the character of Saddam's regime - one which was skilled in secrecy, deception and intimidation, supporting a counter-intelligence capability that was ruthlessly effective, forming part of a much broader, systematic and brutal strategy to suppress any opposition or dissent in Iraq. It had a culture of close central control, and deception within the regime itself was common. Communications security was very good, and there was a heavy reliance on human intelligence. Criticisms of excessive reliance on defector or opposition group human-source reporting and of false and misleading intelligence need to be balanced against the difficulty of developing alternative sources and the mistrust, confusion and fear engendered by Saddam's regime. Added to this mix is the peculiar mindset of Saddam's Iraq, which seemed to value a level of strategic ambiguity about its capabilities and intentions in general, and its WMD in particular.
The character of decision-making in the Iraqi leadership added even more complexity to assessment of the WMD issue. The assessment of leadership intentions is, like any predictive activity, inherently difficult. It is substantially more difficult if - as was later seen to be the case in Iraq - the leadership's logic or calculations are flawed. It was a reasonable assumption that - in late 2002 and early 2003, with the prospect of invasion of Iraq clearly on the cards - Saddam's interest in regime survival should have outweighed any other interest (including any wish to avoid intrusive inspections of his country). The fact that Saddam chose to resist inspections to the bitter end suggested strongly that he had WMD to protect (and perhaps that he hoped to avoid defeat by using them). If he did not have WMD, why did he not ultimately comply with the inspection regime, in order to ensure the survival of his regime?
With hindsight, it is clear that Saddam placed great value on avoiding capitulation on the WMD issue. But the difficulty in assessing that at the time is underlined by the fact that Saddam's own calculation of the situation has been proven clearly wrong. He has ended up without power and in custody, his sons dead, his standing destroyed - clearly not the outcome that he wished to achieve by his continued resistance to intrusive inspections in the face of a war.
By any measure, his was a miscalculation of massive proportions. Many factors were clearly at play - and the complexity of the game in itself may have been one of the causes of his downfall. Measured against his history, his behaviour in the lead-up to 19 March 2003 was extraordinary, and made the task of assessment even more complex and difficult. Thus Saddam's own miscalculation played a significant part in the flaws in allied intelligence judgments on Iraq's WMD.
Even without those factors, WMD is an inherently difficult and demanding target, requiring judgments to be made on the basis of information which is nearly always open to a range of interpretations. The fact that many components and facilities associated with WMD have legitimate uses and are therefore characterised as 'dual-use' illustrates these difficulties. During the period of inspections between 1991 and 1998, intelligence agencies had a range of information from often publicly available and reliable sources to supplement covertly acquired intelligence. However, following the withdrawal of inspectors, the volume of available material reduced significantly. In the absence of such corroborating material, and with relatively limited covert collection against Iraqi WMD targets, judgments on Iraq's WMD programmes became very much more difficult to make. Intelligence assessment is almost always inexact - precision is difficult in an endeavour which seeks to discover what others seek to conceal. In the case of Iraq's WMD, these difficulties were acute.
Adding to the problem was the thinness of the intelligence on which analysts were expected to make difficult calls. There was little by way of hard current intelligence available to analysts across the range of WMD capability issues, although the intelligence on Iraq's efforts to deceive inspectors was clearer. Much of the information that was available was equivocal or of uncertain validity. A good deal of it was either reporting of dual-use acquisition activity, inherently difficult to interpret, or human intelligence of uncertain sourcing and reliability. The weakness of the intelligence picture on Iraq was in part due to inadequate collection.
Australian agencies had the added complication of an almost complete reliance on foreign-sourced collection and, on occasion, foreign assessments. Additionally, Australia's focus on its nearer region meant there was limited analytical capacity in relation to Iraq and, while there was better capability in relation to WMD issues, it was still limited when compared to the capacity of US and UK counterparts. And it is in practical terms more difficult for analysts to query and challenge foreign-sourced material, especially when there is little or no alternative input. In general, source descriptions were less than helpful for analysts, tending to be selected from a small group of standard phrases. It is noteworthy in this context that most if not all of the material from Iraqi opposition groups was clearly marked as such, and was treated by Australian assessors with appropriate scepticism.
ONA and DIO, along with the rest of the international community, failed to judge accurately the extent and nature of Iraq's WMD programmes. And both agencies' assessments about Saddam's intent and capacity to use WMD against US forces, or against those countries who allowed their territory to be used by the US in the event of a US-led invasion, were not borne out. Nevertheless, ONA's and DIO's key judgments on Iraq's WMD capabilities were relatively cautious. They drew the most likely conclusions from the available information, and generally presented them with appropriate qualification. The obverse conclusion - that Iraq did not have WMD aspirations and capability - would have been a much more difficult conclusion to substantiate.
A number of factors contributed to these failures in intelligence assessments. In part they are factors outside ONA's and DIO's control - the complexity of the target and the paucity of intelligence source material described above. But the Inquiry also found a number of systemic weaknesses in both assessment agencies which played a role.
The first of these was a failure rigorously to challenge preconceptions or assumptions about the Iraqi regime's intentions. It is natural that analysts approach an issue with a set of expectations and contextual understanding. Analysts are valued for their background in the subject matter under assessment. In the case of Iraq WMD, assessors' preconceptions had a clear logic - they were based on UNSCOM reporting, Iraq's history and perceived strategic imperatives.
But on an issue with such potentially serious policy implications as Iraq's WMD capabilities and the threat posed by Saddam, more rigorous challenging of the assumptions underlying their assessments should have been carried out. While individual analysts almost certainly travelled the ground in their own minds, and managers challenged the bases for particular judgments, there is little evidence that systematic and contestable challenging was applied in a sustained way to analysts' starting assumptions.
There is also little evidence of a consistent and rigorous culture of challenge to and engagement on intelligence reports from collectors, and limited evidence of dialogue on assessed material. There are a number of reasons for the lack of rigorous questioning of sources, including the limited extent to which some raw material influenced key judgments in this case. But the lack of a dynamic dialogue on sources, one indicator of a healthy assessment process, is of concern.
The agencies did not always make clear from the text of their assessments the strength and range of specific information supporting a particular conclusion, as opposed to the judgments of the analyst about the likely behaviour and intentions of the Iraqi regime. This lack of clarity can allow readers to infer inappropriate levels of certainty to judgments.
Another contributing factor was the lack of sufficient integration between the assessments of Iraq's global, regional and domestic considerations and its WMD capabilities and aspirations. While dialogue and sharing of drafts did take place both within and across agencies, the assessments did not reflect an effective synthesis of technical and geopolitical issues. The content and style of the assessments, and discussions with relevant staff, suggest that the process of consultation and clearance across disciplines was less substantive than it might have been. Specifically, there were many assessments which presented fragments of the WMD picture, but few which synthesised technical conclusions about possible Iraqi capabilities with judgments about the regime's likely strategic game plan. Such meaningful interaction between technical and geographic specialists might have tempered the conclusions drawn and helped to challenge assumptions.
One impact of this appears to be the lack of analysis of the implications or significance of facts in many of the Australian assessments. What is the significance of a small number of hidden missiles, mostly in poor condition? What kind of military effect could have been achieved with, say, 1.5 tonnes of chemical agents? On some occasions DIO assessments clearly stated that any Iraqi WMD capability would have a limited battlefield effect. But broader analysis on the strategic utility of Iraq possessing limited WMD capabilities was largely absent.
The lack of a National Assessment coordinated by ONA, or a formal Intelligence Estimate from DIO, was regrettable. Both of these vehicles provide the opportunity to generate both discussion and recording of a wider range of Iraq and WMD-related issues. While the two joint reports produced by ONA and DIO did go some way to assisting a coordinated national approach, these were short pieces (2 and 3 1/2 pages) which did not take a holistic approach to Iraq, its strategic environment and imperatives, the broader regional and domestic context in which its WMD decisions were being made, its likely strategic objectives, and the likely capacity of its WMD. One or both of these documents might also have covered areas relevant to Australia's interests on which there was little intelligence assessment: the strategic cost implications for Australia of contributing to military action against Iraq, the likely strategic costs and issues involved in post-Saddam Iraq, and the impact of military action on the safety of Australia and Australians.
In outlining these systemic issues, the Inquiry acknowledges that it is doubtful that better process would have changed the fundamental judgments about the existence of WMD. At best it may have led to more qualified judgments, and the presentation to government of alternative, less likely scenarios. While the principles outlined above remain critical for the integrity and quality of future assessments, the Inquiry's conclusion is that, based on the available intelligence and other information, ONA and DIO assessments represented reasonable and relatively cautious conclusions.
In addition to these broader issues, the Inquiry found some instances of inconsistency in assessments, unclear presentation and an occasional lack of precision in language which affected the quality of the product. And there were a small number of cases in which individual pieces of intelligence did not support the assessments drawn. But in a large body of reporting produced under pressured conditions, these are relatively minor issues which do not represent serious flaws or systemic problems.
Against all of the criticisms one can make in such a review of performance with the full benefit of hindsight, it is critical not to lose sight of what the assessment agencies got right and did well - and there is much to commend in their efforts.
It is significant that, using similar but not all of the material available to the UK and the US, Australian assessments on Iraq's capabilities were on the whole more cautious, and seem closer to the facts as we know them so far. There was not, as some have charged, a blind adherence to US and UK assessments. The bulk of conclusions drawn by Australia's assessment community on individual pieces of intelligence were sound, and there is evidence of our agencies applying healthy scepticism to the intelligence received on a number of specific issues, in some instances maintaining a different or more cautious line in the face of firm conclusions by allies. This is true on the issues of sourcing uranium from Niger, mobile BW production capabilities, the threat posed by smallpox, Iraqi capability to deliver CBW via unmanned aerial vehicles, and links between Al Qaida, Iraq, and the September 11 terrorist strikes in the US.
There was also a proper place, in intelligence analysis of a topic as potentially threatening as Iraqi WMD, for reporting to cover worst case scenarios, particularly in the policy context in which the intelligence assessments were being made. It was right for our assessment agencies to focus on the challenges troops might face should they be deployed - and to highlight the worst of a potential adversary's capabilities. DIO's primary duty is to support the safety and success of Australian Defence Force operations. In the case of Iraq's WMD, the intelligence community had the institutional memory of having underestimated Iraq's WMD (especially nuclear) capabilities at the time of the first Gulf War.
Finally, the Inquiry has found no evidence of politicisation of the assessments on Iraq, either overt or perceived. The Inquiry received no indication that any analyst or manager was the subject of either direct or implied pressure to come to a particular judgment on Iraq for policy reasons, or to bolster the case for war. While agencies and their analysts are conscious of the policy environment, both their processes and their cultures and, in ONA's case, its legislation, promote independence of assessment. The Inquiry's conclusion that, on the basis of the available information, ONA and DIO drew the most likely conclusions, is consistent with and supports the finding that there was no evidence of politicisation.
The comments made so far apply, with small variations, to both ONA and DIO. Both agencies' major judgments were similar, and although their focus, style and audiences varied, the differences were, in most cases, not significant. On the key issues of new production of CBW, of the timeline for nuclear weapons, of efforts to maintain WMD capability, and of Saddam's continuing desire to have WMD, the agencies' assessments were in essence the same, and remained so. Their reporting on aluminium tubes, uranium from Africa, and mobile BW production facilities was also essentially the same.
The only significant point of divergence relates to the key issue of possession of actual WMD, or stocks of WMD, and came late in January 2003, although there were some implicit changes in ONA assessments caused by imprecise language from late December 2002. Neither agency issued a comprehensive assessment over this period in which they stated that their key judgment on this issue had changed, or that it remained the same. But the substance of the divergence is explicitly captured in ONA reports in late January and February 2003 which assessed that Iraq must have WMD. ONA's strengthened judgment was based on a growing pool of intelligence and UNMOVIC reporting of Iraq's deception activities, and its rationale for coming to this conclusion is clearly spelt out in its reporting. DIO, with access to the same information, did not draw this conclusion. ONA's judgment, while reasonably argued, has not been borne out by what has been found in Iraq, and DIO's caution has been justified. That said, the Inquiry has seen no evidence to suggest that ONA's judgment was influenced by policy or political considerations.
Beyond this specific point of divergence, much of what separated ONA and DIO reporting on Iraq represents the different styles that typify ONA and DIO product. ONA reporting was broad and high level with emphasis on key judgments rather than the detailed reasoning and evidence behind them. DIO reporting more consistently drew out the military implications of its conclusions, and restated its baseline judgments to give context for its analysis of individual pieces of intelligence.
Resource levels, and types of expertise, differed between the two agencies as a result of their different mandates and audiences. What was common between the two agencies was the professionalism, dedication and hard work of all staff engaged in reporting on Iraq. The Inquiry is conscious, in making the observations above, that the assessments staff were working extended hours over long periods and operating under significant time pressures. In some ways the critique issued above, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, is unfair - and the Inquiry stresses its finding that, overall, the efforts of analysts were praiseworthy.
From mid-2002, ONA had one to two WMD analysts working either partly or mostly on Iraq WMD, and two Middle East analysts spending most of their time on more general Iraq issues, until the creation of a Watch Office immediately prior to 19 March 2003. The two relevant branch heads also dedicated a good percentage of their time to Iraq-related reporting. None of the analysts had specific technical background in WMD, although one senior officer has some nuclear background. As a larger organisation, DIO was better resourced on Iraq. In the period leading up to the war, and before the creation of a task force in March 2003, DIO had six-ten WMD analysts working on Iraq, and eight-nine country analysts working on broader Iraq and Middle East assessment. Again reflecting the different size and the military focus of the agency, DIO's analytical effort was based on stronger technical skills - all of DIO's WMD analysts working on Iraq had some relevant technical qualifications and/or experience, including several with experience working with UNSCOM.
While ONA seniors judged the resources to be adequate at the time, both analysts and branch heads talk of the constraints imposed by time and resource pressures on their ability to challenge sources. They also speculate that a higher level of resourcing might have enabled analysts and their managers more time to stand back and consider alternative assessments. This may or may not have been borne out - but additional analyst resources would have added a level of internal contestability at the drafting stages, and given ONA more depth on the WMD topic. In DIO's case, with more people on the task, analysts working on Iraq also felt stretched. While additional analytical resources would have been welcome, the pool of analytical skills backed by technical and scientific knowledge is shallow.
The question of the public presentation of intelligence is a complex and challenging one, requiring the balancing of public interest against protection of intelligence sources, methods and international relationships. This issue is dealt with more fully in Chapter 7, but is germane to two particular issues in relation to Iraq.
The first of these is the production, on 13 September 2003, of an unclassified compilation of Iraq WMD material. At the request of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ONA coordinated intelligence community input to and published an unclassified document representing the agencies' common views which could be drawn on in public statements by ministers. A review of the material contained in the compilation found that intelligence assessments made up only about one-third of the document, the balance being drawn from UNSCOM/IAEA reporting and other material of historical fact or public record. Only one of the intelligence judgments differed from previous reporting, and that one in a matter of degree only. There is no evidence of political influence over this or any other material in the compilation, and in fact there is a clear record that comments by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the only policy agency engaged in the draft compilation, were restricted to accuracy of facts with no bearing on the intelligence judgments.
The second issue relates to the clearing of political speeches. ONA was asked to check the five major speeches by the Prime Minister for accuracy of references to intelligence information. Those speeches were delivered on 4 February, 14, 18 and 20 March, and 14 May 2003. ONA restricted its comment to the accuracy of the statements referring to intelligence. It did not comment on the significance attached to such intelligence, nor on the conclusions drawn from that intelligence. It is the Inquiry's view that it is not reasonable to expect an intelligence agency to comment on the manner in which the government chooses to use such intelligence. Conversely, those drawing on the material should be clear about the role played by the intelligence agency so that there is no room for the inference that the speech as a whole, or all the conclusions drawn from intelligence, have the intelligence agency's imprimatur.
Consultations by members of the Inquiry secretariat with UK and US officials in London and Washington during April 2004 indicated that neither government had then completed its consideration of 'lessons learned' in relation to intelligence on Iraqi WMD programmes. The Lord Butler inquiry in the UK on WMD intelligence, and the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, are expected to play a major role in identifying key lessons. It would be inappropriate for this Inquiry to comment publicly on the views of US and UK officials prior to the conclusion of their own inquiries.
ONA and DIO have both conducted internal reviews of their respective performances on Iraq. Notwithstanding conclusions by both that their assessments were measured and careful, both agencies have identified areas in which their performance can be improved, primarily in the areas of collection and analysis of information. Specific themes are:
The Inquiry also received some comment on the role of the users of intelligence. This related primarily to the need for senior-level customers both to give strategic direction to the analytic effort, and to engage closely with the intelligence community. Customers with a greater understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the system will be better able to drive its performance.
Operations in Iraq involved all elements of the Australian intelligence system, from strategic agencies to deployed tactical intelligence elements. Although Australia's intelligence system was not comprehensively tested in this coalition environment, particularly in the critical area of operational decision support, intelligence provided a key contribution to the success of Australian operations, and successfully met the demands of an operation taking place well outside Australia's region of expertise.
The two primary reasons for this success were the comprehensive integration of Australian intelligence staff with their US counterparts, and the deployment of indigenous intelligence capabilities to support ADF commanders. This was reflected in the formal Defence review of Operations Bastille and Falconer, which noted the "importance of 24/7 availability of intelligence support (staff, sensors and analysis) to all levels of command and decision making". The review recorded that "intimate integration with, and connectivity to US resources is also vital to the formation of a timely and comprehensive intelligence picture".
The deployment to an operational area outside Australia's near region, and the speed and complexity of operations, placed fundamental limitations on the level of detailed operational intelligence support that could be provided by Australian agencies. Planning for operational intelligence support therefore assumed reliance on access to US-sourced information to support the planning and conduct of operations.
Early integration of ADF personnel into the headquarters of US Central Command and its component headquarters was critical to support this strategy. It was complemented by the deployment of relatively large Australian intelligence components within the deployed Australian force elements, including liaison elements from national agencies. This approach could not have worked as a 'just-in-time' solution: its success was due to the deep and effective intelligence-sharing relationships between the US and Australia established over many years, during both peace and conflict.
Despite heavy reliance on access to US material and analysis, Australian forces were not totally dependent on the US system. Indeed, the Australian intelligence support architecture in the Middle East was designed to ensure that Australian commanders received independent analysis. The deployment of liaison officers from Australian agencies and the ability to access secure Australian intelligence links provided an important contribution to the capability in the Middle East and are key areas of operational intelligence support that will continue to be developed and used.
In addition to supporting the deployed commanders, the deployment of robust Australian intelligence capabilities was also valuable on two further counts. It allowed Australian forces to make an active contribution to the coalition intelligence effort, complementing the broader Australian commitment to the coalition. Importantly, it also enabled timely and accurate reporting from the Middle East to be integrated into intelligence briefs for the National Security Committee and senior Defence leaders.
There has been a failure of intelligence on Iraq WMD. Intelligence was thin, ambiguous and incomplete. Australia shared in the allied intelligence failure on the key question of WMD stockpiles, with ONA more exposed and DIO more cautious on the subject. But many of the agencies' other judgments have proved correct. Overall, assessments produced by ONA and DIO on Iraq WMD up to the commencement of combat operations reflected reasonably the limited available information and used intelligence sources with appropriate caution.
The lack of comprehensive assessment, which might have been achieved by production of a National Assessment or an Intelligence Estimate to support ADF deployment considerations, was regrettable. Such comprehensive reporting may have helped to clarify a complex and fragmented picture. The limited analysis of the significance of Iraq's WMD in terms of the threat that Iraq posed also impacted on the utility of the assessments.
The two agencies' key judgments were largely consistent until late January 2003, when ONA assessed that Iraq must have WMD, while DIO continued to assess that the intelligence on the issue was inconclusive. But differences in style, including ONA's lesser use of detail and qualification, led to an implicit difference in assessments from late December 2002. On the key points of Iraq's possession of WMD, and the significance of its concealment and deception activities, ONA judgments were expressed with fewer qualifications and greater certainty than those of DIO.
On the critical issue of independence, the Inquiry's investigations showed that, despite a heavy reliance on foreign-sourced intelligence collection, both agencies had formulated assessments independent of those of the US and the UK, in several notable cases choosing not to endorse allied judgments. The Inquiry found no evidence to suggest policy or political influence on assessments on Iraq WMD.
There was insufficient challenge both to assumptions and sources in the agencies' assessments on Iraq, and both ONA and DIO need to institutionalise work practices and training to remedy this.