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MI6 regarded Alastair Campbell as "somewhat of an unguided missile" in discussions about intelligence before the Iraq War, a senior intelligence officer has said.

The spy agency "suffered" from the former Downing Street communications director's tendency to have "rushes of blood to the head" and brief journalists without consulting them, according to previously secret evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry into the conflict.

A witness said Mr Campbell had regular contacts with MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), as part of the Government's communications strategy in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The senior MI6 officer, referred to as "SIS2", told the inquiry: "We found Alastair Campbell, I think, an enthusiastic individual, but also somewhat of an unguided missile." He added: "We also, I think, suffered from his propensity to have rushes of blood to the head and pass various stories and information to journalists without appropriate prior consultation.

That's not to say that we didn't engage to the extent that we could, and I think that Alastair Campbell found us a useful organisation to work with, simply because SIS was actually an organisation that was very focused on delivery."

SIS2 admitted that the "very febrile atmosphere" before the war resulted in MI6 making mistakes, including validating some intelligence that later had to be withdrawn after it turned out the sources were not reliable.

The senior intelligence officer said a "fair criticism" would be that the spy agency was "probably too eager to please" Number 10.

"The pressure to generate results, I fear, did lead to the cutting of corners," he told the inquiry.

"I think perhaps SIS was at that point guilty of flying a bit too close to the sun."

In testimony to the inquiry last year, former MI5 head Baroness Manningham-Buller criticised the way Tony Blair's government used "fragmentary" intelligence, largely from MI6, to make the case for war.

"If you are going to go to war, you need a pretty high threshold, it seems to me, to decide on that and I think there is very few who would argue that the intelligence was not substantial enough on which to make that decision," she said.

An edited transcript of SIS2's evidence at a private hearing was released yesterday.

The inquiry, chaired by Sir John Chilcot, hopes to publish its final report later this year.

Responding to SIS2's testimony, Mr Campbell wrote on Twitter: "No such views expressed to me by senior SIS personnel at time, as on the record evidence to inquiries shows."


* Alastair Campbell had a tendency to have 'rushes of blood to the head' a senior intelligence officer has told the Chilcott Inquiry
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 15, 2011
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