It is time for an full, independent public inquiry into the case for war
by Peter Kilfoyle
The revelations of Katharine Gun should not have come as too big a surprise. After all, we have come to expect the worst of our security services when they are guided by men and women of little principle. Yet when we bug our allies to undermine them at the UN, we are plumbing new depths.
When the powerful feel threatened, there is little they will not do to protect their power. Thus, the downfall of Richard Nixon began with his burglars sifting through Democrat files at Watergate. Was the request by Frank Koza of the United States National Security Agency to GCHQ for illegal help qualitatively any different? When Peter Wright's book Spycatcher suggested an intelligence plot to oust Harold Wilson, many of us were not surprised either.
Why should we feel any better towards our security agencies today, when they appear to be more motivated by politics than by security? They begin by being selective and they degenerate into being subversive. It should be of no surprise that the prime minister reacted to the dropping of the case against Katharine Gun - and Clare Short's allegations - by attacking them.
Answering a question that he was not actually asked in his press conference yesterday, he said those who "attack the work they [the intelligence services] are doing, undermine the security of the country". This is a a breathtaking sidestep from the real issue of whether we spied on our allies and on the UN. Have we been acting illegally yet again? The prime minister's charge that Ms Gun and Ms Short are "irresponsible" will not wash.
The public wants a full account of what our intelligence services have been up to. The national interest demands a full account too, not further evasions and duplicity. There are two Congressional inquiries into the rationale for the Iraq warunder way in Washington. They will unearth more in a week than a dozen Butler commissions will manage in a lifetime. Unlike our system, US inquiries are designed to illuminate rather than obfuscate. It is perhaps why the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace - in its report, WMD in Iraq - drew upon official National Intelligence Estimates, which had been declassified up to July 2003, for its conclusions and recommendations.
From the earliest days, it was dissidents within the US intelligence community who were conducting a debate with the administration on the pro-war strategy. Can we imagine the British intelligence community dropping its supine posture towards the political establishment in such a frank way?
The recent revelations concern attempts to subvert the decision-making of the UN's security council. At such a critical time the UK was party to illegal spying at the behest of the US. Such a role for our country would be consistent with our peculiar notion of a special relationship, our reward for which is access to American intelligence. The existing cosy intelligence relationship has been complemented by a close alliance between Bush and Blair. The president, failing to get unqualified CIA support for his wilder claims on Iraq, relied on Donald Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans for other intelligence.