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[casi] Intelligence? the British dossier on Iraq's security infrastructure

A sideways comment:

In preparation for Powell's presentation at 15:30 GMT today, I had a look
at the third British government's "dossier" released last Thursday, "Iraq -
Its Infrastructure Of Concealment, Deception And Intimidation" (30 January
2003). The document is at:

(references below to page numbers relate to the downloadable Word version).

The document claims to draw "upon a number of sources, including
intelligence material" (p.1, first sentence).

Now this is a bit misleading.

More precisely, the bulk of the 19-page document (pp.6-16) is directly
copied without acknowledgement from an article in last September's Middle
East Review of International Affairs entitled "Iraq's Security and
Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis".

The author of the piece is Ibrahim al-Marashi, 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.

It's quite striking that even Marashi's typographical errors and anomolous
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 other sources that are extensively plagiarised in the document are two
authors from Jane's Intelligence Review:

Ken Gause (an international security analyst from Alexandria, Virginia),
"Can the Iraqi Security Apparatus save Saddam" (November 2002), pp.8-13.

Sean Boyne, "Inside Iraq?s Security Network", in 2 parts during 1997.

None of the sources are acknowledged, leading the reader to believe that
the information is a result of direct investigative work, rather than
simply copied from pre-existing internet sources.

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".

Furher 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

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

Clearly, a reference to the "country bumpkins" would not have 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

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

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

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 a
different piece by Cordesman.


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