WMD inspector challenges Aussie gov't story
"TONY EASTLEY: A former Australian weapons inspector says the Federal Government was told about concerns of political interference in the preparation of an interim report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
"Rod Barton was a member of the Iraq Survey Group which was searching for the WMDs, but he resigned in March last year claiming 'there was no real objectivity in the investigation'.
"The United States, British and Australian Governments used the prospect of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction as the key justification for the invasion of Iraq two years ago.
"Now Mr Barton has told a Senate inquiry that a second Australian member of the Iraq Survey Group also resigned, and that this unidentified official later discussed his concerns that the group's reports were politically tainted, with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
"From Canberra Kim Landers reports.
"KIM LANDERS: Rod Barton is a scientist and former intelligence analyst who was part of the Iraq Survey Group hunting for Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
"When preparing its interim report in March last year, he says there was pressure from London and Washington to leave the impression that weapons may still be found, even though the Survey Group had concluded there were none.
"Rod Barton resigned.
"ROD BARTON: To hide information that we knew about I thought was very wrong.
"KIM LANDERS: Now for the first time he's revealed a second senior Australian official also resigned for similar reasons just weeks earlier. And Rod Barton has told a Senate inquiry his former colleague then sent him three emails describing what had happened when he arrived back in Australia.
"ROD BARTON: He had, according to this, 20 minutes with Mr Downer.
"JOHN FAULKNER: Ah. Mr Downer. That would be the Minister for Foreign Affairs?
"ROD BARTON: Yes, that's correct. In Defence he saw Mr Ric Smith.
"JOHN FAULKNER: Well, just to interpolate there, of course Mr Smith, that's pretty heavy, isn't it? He's the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Mr Ric Smith, yep.
"KIM LANDERS: Mr Barton has refused to reveal the second Australian's identity, referring to him only as 'J'.
"ROD BARTON: I'm reluctant because he's asked me not to. He's a colleague of mine, and I'm trying to respect his privacy. He is a consultant to a government dept.
"KIM LANDERS: Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd questions why the Government has never conceded that this Mr 'J' discussed concerns about the Iraq Survey Group's interim report.
"KEVIN RUDD: So in other words, in mid March last year we have a second Australian government official telling Mr Downer, it seems, that there are problems in terms of political influence being brought to bear on the Iraqi Survey Group, but from that time on Mr Downer continues to use the Iraqi Survey Group as his source of authority for underpinning the Government's claims on Iraq's WMD status all the way up to the election held last October.
"KIM LANDERS: Rod Barton has also told the inquiry there was no interference from Canberra.
"KEVIN RUDD: I think Mr Downer would do the country an enormous service if he issued a full and complete statement about his and his department's awareness of these concerns by senior Australian government officials who were working for the Iraqi Survey Group at the time. If Mr Downer has integrity, he will do that without the pressure of Parliament.
"TONY EASTLEY: Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd. And the Foreign Minster, Alexander Downer was unavailable to comment on Rod Barton's claims."
Source: ABC AM