17 July, 2012

Iraq Inquiry ~ Chilcot ~ Report delayed perhaps 2 years


The Iraq Inquiry - under the chairmanship of Sir John Chilcot - was expected to report during 2012 but publication of a report is to be delayed and may not appear until 2014.  What has brought about this state of affairs?

The delay seems to arise for three reasons - (a) the amount of material to be analysed; (b) the process known as "Maxwellisation" and (c) problems in getting government to agree to certain material being published either in the eventual report or alongside that report.

Statement on the Inquiry website:

The Inquiry website states that the Inquiry has concluded its public hearings and is currently analysing the written and oral evidence it has received and drafting its report.

Pulling together and analysing the evidence and identifying the lessons, for a report that covers so wide and complex a range of issues and a time period of some nine years, is a significant task. Very considerable progress has already been made, but there is still much to be done.


As well as drafting the report, the Inquiry is negotiating with the Government the declassification of a significant volume of currently classified material, in order that it may be quoted in, or published alongside, the Inquiry’s report. Work on this substantial task, which involves the detailed scrutiny of many thousands of documents, is already under way. Significant progress has been made, but there will continue to be a series of further requests as drafting progresses.

The Inquiry has previously indicated that it intends to undertake a process of Maxwellisation whereby individuals who may be criticised in the report will be informed of the proposed criticism (and provided with relevant parts of the draft report in which the criticism is made) in order that they may make representations to the Inquiry Committee before the report is finalised.

The Inquiry has advised the Prime Minister that it will be in a position to begin the process of writing to any individuals that may be criticised by the middle of 2013.

The Inquiry’s report will be submitted to the Prime Minister as soon as possible after that process is complete. The Inquiry understands that it will then be published in Parliament. A copy will also be available on [the Inquiry] website.

Sir John Chilcot, the Inquiry Chairman, wrote to the Prime Minister on Friday 13 July 2012 to provide an update on the Inquiry’s progress and an outline of the scope of the Inquiry’s report. The Inquiry published this letter on Monday 16 July.

Sir John’s earlier letter to Sir Gus O’Donnell, the then Cabinet Secretary, sent on 21 October 2011 and Sir Gus’s reply on 2 December were published on 14 December 2011.

Maxwellisation:

this process is described well in this link

Publication of material:

Just what is this material which the inquiry says it requires and which the government is reluctant to allow to be published?

The letter of 13 July 2012 from Sir John Chilcot to Prime Minister David Cameron offers an indication.

"There are, however, a number of particularly important categories of evidence, including the treatment of discussions in Cabinet and Cabinet committees and the UK position in discussions between the Prime Minister and the heads of State or Government of other nations, to be addressed....."


The Guardian 16th July 2012 reports:

"Fierce opposition in Whitehall to the disclosure of key documents relating to the invasion of Iraq, notably records of discussions between Tony Blair and George Bush, has meant the Chilcot inquiry will not now be able to publish its report for well over a year.

Sir John Chilcot has made it clear in a letter to David Cameron that he and his fellow panel members are deeply frustrated by Whitehall's refusal to release papers, including those that reveal which ministers, legal advisers and officials were excluded from discussions on military action. The papers still kept secret include those relating to MI6 and the government's electronic eavesdropping centre, GCHQ.

The inquiry panel has seen the classified documents in dispute but is being prevented from publishing them."

Comment:

Little of this is actually surprising even though it does nothing to allay public concerns such as those expressed by World Socialist Web Site on 16th March 2010.

It seems highly unlikely that government will ever sanction publication of some of this material.  Furthermore, there will be some Blair-Bush discussions for which no record was ever maintained.  The end result will be that the report will contain certain crucial gaps.  This will be a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.

Freedom of Information:

A Freedom of Information Act request for disclosure of the record a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Blair and President G W Bush on 12th March 2003 was the subject of a ruling in May 2012 by the First-Tier Tribunal General Regulatory Chamber which "largely upheld" a decision of the Information Commissioner of 13th September 2011 - read the decision - to the effect that certain parts of the record were to be disclosed to the applicant - a Mr Plowden.

See Telegraph 21st May 2012 - "Blair-Bush Iraq conversation must be released"

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