26 November 2003. Thanks to John Morrison.
Saturday November 22, 2003
Michael Meacher's piece on Operation Rockingham (The very secret service, November 20) is unadulterated codswallop. I can say this because I personally set up Rockingham in 1991, when I was head of the central secretariat in the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS). UN security council resolution 687 authorised the establishment of a special commission to find and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The problem for Unscom was that the UN had no intelligence of its own: where were its weapons inspectors to look? The chief of defence intelligence decided that the DIS should provide whatever support it could to Unscom and charged me with pulling that support together.
Rockingham was a tiny cell which drew on and coordinated all the resources of the DIS; its only aim was to provide leads for Unscom teams, which it did very successfully despite the problems of sanitising sensitive intelligence. Inevitably it was most effective in its earliest years, when Iraq's main WMD facilities, nuclear programme and stocks of chemical and biological weapons were destroyed. I well recall Scott Ritter, then an Unscom inspector, saying what a great job Rockingham was doing in providing material to his teams. He was a reliable source then.
From 1995-99 I was deputy chief of defence intelligence and head of profession for DIS analysts. Like my successors, I guarded their independence, and never allowed all-source intelligence assessments to be twisted or tailored to meet a political agenda. Whatever rubbish Michael Meacher chooses to believe, Operation Rockingham was a shining example of the effective use of intelligence in support of the international community.
John NL Morrison