British Intelligence Iraq Dossier Relies


By Glen Rangwala

February 5, 2003

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in his presentation to the Security Council on February 5, sought to reinforce his argument by referring to a recently released British report. He said "I would call my colleagues' attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed . . . which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities."

Powell was referring to "Iraq Its Infrastructure Of Concealment, Deception And Intimidation", published on January 30, 2003. The Downing Street authors state they drew "upon a number of sources, including intelligence material" (p.1, first sentence). In fact, they copied material from at least three different authors and gave no credit to them. Indeed, they plagiarized, directly cutting and pasting or near quoting.

A close textual analysis suggests that the UK authors had little access to first-hand intelligence sources and instead based their work on academic papers, which they selectively distorted. Some of the papers used were considerably out of date. This leads the reader to wonder about the reliability and veracity of the Downing Street document.

Please read comments by Glen Rangwala, lecturer in politics at Cambridge University who has analyzed the document in revealing detail:

The three primary plagiarism sources:

Ibrahim al-Marashi, "Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis", Middle East Review of International Affairs, September 2002,
Rangwala contacted al-Marashi. According to Rangwala, "al-Marashi [is] a postgraduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He has confirmed to me that his permission was not sought; in fact, he didn't even know about the British document until I mentioned it to him. "

Ken Gause, "Can the Iraqi Security Apparatus save Saddam?", Jane's Intelligence Review, November 2002, pp.8-13.

Sean Boyne, "Inside Iraq's Security Network, Part One," Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 9, No. 7 (July 1997), and No. 8 (August 1997)

At least one secondary source of plagiarism is:

Anthony H. Cordesman, "Key Targets in Iraq", February 1998,

Marashi's typographical errors and anomalous uses of grammar are incorporated into the Downing Street document. For example, on p.13, the British dossier incorporates a misplaced comma:

"Saddam appointed, Sabir 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Duri as head"..

Likewise, Marashi's piece also states:

"Saddam appointed, Sabir 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Duri as head"..

The fact that the texts of these three authors are copied directly results in a proliferation of different transliterations (eg different spellings of Ba'th, depending on which author is being copied).

There are two types of changes incorporated into the British document.

Firstly, numbers are increased or are rounded up. So, for example, the section on "Fedayeen Saddam" (pp.15-16) is directly copied from Boyne, almost word for word. The only substantive difference is that Boyne estimates the personnel of the organisation to be 18,000-40,000 (Gause similarly estimates 10-40,000). The British dossier instead writes "30,000 to 40,000". A similar bumping up of figures occurs with the description of the Directorate of Military Intelligence.

The second type of change in the British dossier is that it replaces particular words to make the claim sound stronger. So, for example, most of p.9 on the functions of the Mukhabarat is copied directly from Marashi's article, except that when Marashi writes of its role in:

"monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq"
this becomes in the British dossier:
"spying on foreign embassies in Iraq".
Similarly, on that same page, whilst Marashi writes of the Mukhabarat:
"aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes"
- the British dossier renders this as:
"supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes".

Further examples from the section on "Fedayeen Saddam" include how a reference to how, in Boyne's original text, its personnel are

"recruited from regions loyal to Saddam", referring to their original grouping as "some 10,000-15,000 'bullies and country bumpkins.'"

becomes in the British government's text a reference to how its personnel are:

"press ganged from regions known to be loyal to Saddam" ... "some 10,000-15,000 bullies."

A reference to the "country bumpkins" might not have had the rhetorical effect that the British government was aiming for.

Finally, there is one serious substantive mistake in the British text, in that it muddles up Boyne's description of General Security (al-Amn al-Amm), and places it in its section on p.14 of Military Security (al-Amn al-Askari). The result is complete confusion: it starts on p.14 by relating how Military Security was created in 1992 (in a piece copied from Marashi), then goes onto talk about the movement of its headquarters - in 1990 (in a piece copied from Boyne on the activities of General Security). The result is that it gets the description of the Military Security Service wholly wrong, claiming that its head is Taha al-Ahbabi (whilst really he was head of General Security in 1997; Military Security was headed by Thabet Khalil).

Apart from the obvious criticism that the British government has plagiarised texts without acknowledgement, passing them off as the work of its intelligence services, there are two further serious problems. Firstly, it indicates that the UK at least really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq's internal politics - they just draw upon publicly available data. Thus any further claims to information based on "intelligence data" must be treated with even more scepticism.

Secondly, the information presented as being an accurate statement of the current state of Iraq's security organisations may not be anything of the sort. Marashi - the real and unwitting author of much of the document has as his primary source the documents captured in 1991 for the Iraq Research and Documentation Project. His own focus is the activities of Iraq's intelligence agencies in Kuwait, Aug90-Jan91 - this is the subject of his thesis. As a result, the information presented as relevant to how Iraqi agencies are currently engaged with Unmovic is 12 years old.

For reference, here are a few other summary comments on the British document.

Official authors are (in Word Properties) P. Hamill, J. Pratt, A. Blackshaw, and M. Khan.

p.1 is the summary.

pp.2-5 are a repetition of Blix's comments to the Security Council on the difficulties they were encountering, with further claims about the activities of al-Mukhabarat. These are not backed up, eg the claim that car crashes are organised to prevent the speedy arrival of inspectors.

p.6 is a simplified version of Marashi's diagram at:

p.7 is copied (top) from Gause (on the Presidential Secretariat), and (middle and bottom) from Boyne (on the National Security Council).

p.8 is entirely copied from Boyne (on the National Security Council).

p.9 is copied from Marashi (on al-Mukhabarat), except for the final section, which is insubstantial.

p.10 is entirely copied from Marashi (on General Security), except for the final section, which is insubstantial.

p.11 is entirely copied from Marashi (on Special Security), except for the top section (on General Security), which is insubstantial.

p.12 is entirely copied from Marashi (on Special Security). p.13 is copied from Gause (on Special Protection) and Marashi (Military Intelligence).

p.14 is wrongly copied from Boyne (on Military Security) and from Marashi (on the Special Republican Guard).

p.15 is copied from Gause and Boyne (on al-Hadi project / project 858).

pp.15-16 is copied from Boyne (on Fedayeen Saddam).

A final section, on the Tribal Chiefs' Bureau, seems to be copied from Cordesman, pg. 8.

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