» Thursday, May 6, 2004

John Scarlett

Asked if Downing Street would agree with the Opposition’s suggestion that John Scarlett’s appointment as Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) was ‘inappropriate’ since his promotion could be interpreted as pre-empting his exoneration by the Butler Inquiry, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that Mr Scarlett’s appointment, like all Civil Service appointments, had been made on merit. She also pointed out that the Butler Inquiry was not retracing the same steps as the Hutton Inquiry. As a press release on 12 February had made clear, the Inquiry would be focussing “principally on the structures, systems and processes, rather than on the actions of individuals”.

Asked if the Prime Minister had been consulted about Mr Scarlett’s appointment, the PMS said that as her colleague had told journalists this morning, it was normal procedure for the Foreign Secretary to make the appointment under Section 2(1) of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 on the basis of recommendations from a selection panel following Civil Service Commission practice. In this case, the panel had been chaired by Sir David Omand. Under this procedure, the Prime Minister was consulted at the end of the process.

Asked what was being done to protect John Scarlett’s security given the fact that his identity had been revealed during the Hutton Inquiry proceedings, the PMS said that it wasn’t our policy to discuss the security arrangements for the Chief of the SIS, as to do so would completely defeat their purpose.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news


  1. "[T]he PMS said that it wasn’t our policy to discuss the security arrangements for the Chief of the SIS, as to do so would completely defeat their purpose."

    It’s nice to see that the government are firm believers in security-through-obscurity.

    Comment by Chris Lightfoot — 6 May 2004 on 8:19 pm | Link
  2. License to Pork Pie, by Steve Bell.

    Appoint an insider and get the same-old same-old.

    We want government departments to tell the government what it wants to hear!

    Comment by Julian Todd — 6 May 2004 on 10:28 pm | Link
  3. What about OUR security? Scarlett endorsed the dossier about the non-existent WMD in Iraq and the non-existent threat they posed. The dossier was spectacularly wrong and provided the basis for launching a war that has clearly increased the threat of terrorism, as Blair was warned it would.

    This appointment is a political reward for a mediocrity who should have been sacked on the spot for being completely wrong about such serious matters. Needless to say, the same applies to Blair and it’s a shame we’ll have to wait for the next election to remove him. The damage he has done to this countries standing in the world may well be irreparable by then.

    Comment by Ron F — 6 May 2004 on 10:42 pm | Link
  4. Here’s a tough sentiment: Why blame the intelligence system, which has historically been notoriously wrong on so many fronts at so many times, for getting it wrong. Intelligence is, by its nature, hit and miss; no matter how good it gets, it’s never absolute.

    The difference this time is that decisions were taken which depended on the accuracy of that intelligence – ignoring the fact that intelligence is almost always gray, and suffers from many shades of veracity in the snapshots it takes of the things it talks about. The blame for blind reliance on fallible information cannot be on those people, who have really done nothing different than they ever have – the blame for taking us into war belongs on the shoulders of those who sought to use intelligence as justification.

    John Scarlett is as good an appointment as any; nobody sitting in that position will be able to prevent a government interested in misusing intelligence from doing so. Pointing fingers at him ignores that fact; John Scarlett and the JIC did not take us to war. Arguably, they didn’t even tell us anything new.

    Comment by Gregory Block — 7 May 2004 on 12:13 am | Link
  5. As this press report from America shows, the appointment of John Scarlett is being reported abroad as a tainted appointment because of his association with the drafting of the infamous dossier on Iraq’s WMD presented to Parliament in September 2002: http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/news/breaking_news/8604010.htm

    Comment by Bob — 8 May 2004 on 1:32 am | Link
  6. That’s an AP article; it says nothing about the opinion of the U.S. on the issue, only that the AP London folks are reporting it as a tainted appointment.

    To be honest, Americans are going to react in one of two ways: They’re either going to say "John Who?" and go back to watching home videos of American soldiers engaging in bizarre sex acts on their local news stations, or latch on to the corruption of *any* other government in preference to watching their own country’s moral standing crumble before their eyes.

    I doubt America has much interest in anything except themselves at the moment. Historically people might argue that this has always been the case, but at the moment, I think the American people have their hands full enough with their own behavior that they’re not going to hold much opinion of or care too much about an unknown appointment to a little-known organization in a country that isn’t in the middle east and doesn’t have active US troops committing atrocities in it.

    Comment by Gregory Block — 9 May 2004 on 12:29 pm | Link
  7. Presumably, the appointment will carry some significance for the political literati in America, not least because Britain is one of the few and diminishing number of countries engaged in the Coalition of the Willing, and perhaps especially if they come across this in the Murdoch press by someone who was head of the Downing St policy unit in a previous government: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,2762-1103153,00.html

    I had to smile at the bit about the head of MI5 having to "hose down" the head of MI6.

    Comment by Bob — 9 May 2004 on 9:29 pm | Link
  8. Should not the hugely misleading Scarlett JIC documents not have been detected by Downing Street if Tony & his cronies gave a hoot about the overwhelming strength of the incursion into political decision making that was made by Military Intelligence?
    Is the UK actually more in the hands of our own Military Intelligence services than any politician on a cosy \xA3177,200+ all travel expenses paid lifestyle would like to admit to our European partners?
    Did Downing Street gladly put power & authority for the decision to go to war ‘or not’ (sic)in the hands of the JIC & Military Intelligence long enough to assure UK would cluelessly volunteer for this quagmire of a War we have now had to endure, to our increasing moral loss, for 3 whole years now?

    Comment by Graeme Stewart — 4 Jan 2006 on 8:34 pm | Link
  9. I think john scarlett should be given a " proper security-style interview ", the kind that he thought Dr David Kelly deserved, only a bit more severe with a little luck.

    Comment by derek — 21 Mar 2007 on 10:25 am | Link
  10. Its obvious Scarlett and Downing Street have been covering up something since 9/11. The WMS issue and David Kelly’s tragic death all show something, are we fighing the right people.

    No smoke without fire!

    Comment by steve — 23 Jun 2007 on 6:31 pm | Link
  11. Its obvious Scarlett and Downing Street have been covering up something since 9/11. The WMS issue and David Kelly’s tragic death all show something, are we fighing the right people.

    No smoke without fire!

    Comment by steve — 23 Jun 2007 on 6:31 pm | Link

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