'MORE ON AUST ONA INTELLIGENCE OFFICER ANDREW WILKIE WHO RESIGNED OVER THE INTELLIGENCE USED - 17 JUN 2003'
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Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Intelligence Did Not Justify Iraq War - Wilkie
Felicity Davey speaks to Andrew Wilkie, a former ONA analyst who resigned over the intelligence used in Australia's justification for war on Iraq. Mr Wilkie said he did not believe the intelligence being used to justify war with Iraq was credible.
Compere: Felicity Davey
FELICITY DAVEY: Mr Wilkie, you're in London to give evidence before the UK's House of Commons inquiry into the conduct of war in Iraq.
We'll come to that shortly.
But first, let's begin with the ONA's submission to the Senate inquiry and this revelation today that the Government was warned that Bali was an attractive target for Jemaah Islamiah.
Alexander Downer elected not to upgrade the travel warning to Bali.
In your view, was that the right decision the Minister took?
ANDREW WILKIE, FORMER INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Well let me say quite clearly, up front, that I'm not an Indonesian analyst and I didn't work on the intelligence surrounding - before the terrorist attack in Bali.
I was very interested, though, to see the news today about ONA's statement to the Senate inquiry and very interested to see the Foreign Minister's response - interested because I remember quite clearly the senior Indonesia analyst coming into my office a couple of days after the Bali bombing and showing me a report he had written.
And I'm not quite sure how long before the attack - I assume it was within the previous six months or so - where he had put in writing his concern that Bali was a particularly attractive target for a terrorist attack in light of the increasing likelihood of religious terrorism in the region.
And what he showed me appeared to be a formal written ONA assessment.
So I'm not quite sure if that gels exactly with what the Foreign Minister has told the press about Bali not being singled out by ONA in writing.
FELICITY DAVEY: Mr Wilkie, do you recall seeing a date on that report that this Indonesian analyst showed to you?
ANDREW WILKIE: No, I don't, and, in fact, I can't really add much more to what I've just said.
It was just a very brief episode a long time ago.
I didn't think much more of it at the time.
In fact, it was only the news today that got me thinking about that and I really put my mind to it.
And I remember it quite clearly because the analyst concerned - and I won't use his name on television - was obviously quite pleased with himself that he had managed to predict the attack, I suppose is the way you would describe it.
I'd hasten to add that I'm not in any way disagreeing with the Foreign Minister or ONA when they say there was no specific intelligence about an attack in Bali.
But, of course, you have to be careful how you use that statement "there was no specific evidence".
I mean, clearly people such as this senior analyst were, in the lead-up to Bali, starting to suspect that Bali was a possible target and was starting to put that to paper and obviously had told the Foreign Minister, as reported in the paper today.
My personal opinion is that I'm surprised that that inkling of a potential problem didn't make its way into the travel advisories.
I'm surprised that Bali had been excluded from the broader warning about Indonesia.
FELICITY DAVEY: As you say, you're surprised it didn't become part of a warning, but a travel assessment or a warning of that nature would have been a lot easier, as we're looking now with the benefit of hindsight, to be fair to Mr Downer.
ANDREW WILKIE: Oh, yes.
And to be fair to Mr Downer, it's terribly easy with the benefit of hindsight to go back and to criticise people.
As I've said, and as many people have said, there was no specific intelligence singling out Bali.
I suppose, if I have any concerns in this matter - and I would like to get back to Iraq, that's my main concern at the moment - if I have any concerns about this, it might be that the Foreign Minister suggested, if what I read today is correct, that these concerns weren't put to writing and I know what this chap showed me was definitely in writing.
And I suppose I have another concern that, when intelligence agencies are starting to voice their concerns, like ONA was, I'm just curious why it didn't make it into a travel advisory.
FELICITY DAVEY: Is it usual that the Office of National Assessments, the ONA, would request a one-on-one briefing with a minister about information?
ANDREW WILKIE: Oh, yes.
The Office of National Assessment works very closely with the Foreign Minister and, in fact, with the PM's office.
It's not uncommon at all for ONA to go up to Parliament House often with a team of relevant analysts and to speak to the relevant minister or the PM about an issue that might be unfolding.
FELICITY DAVEY: Mr Wilkie you are in London, as you say, to give evidence to this British parliamentary inquiry as to whether or not Iraq possessed these weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the most recent Gulf war.
What is it about you?
Why are the British so keen to speak to you and hear from you?
ANDREW WILKIE: Well, obviously I was surprised when they rang me last Thursday and expressed an interest in me presenting evidence to the inquiry.
I suppose I'm interesting to them because I'm the only intelligence officer that went on the public record before the war to voice a range of concerns, some of which have been found to be reasonably accurate.
And I suppose they would want to know why, on 11 March, I went public and voiced those concerns.
You will recall that on 11 March, and in writing on 12 March in that 'Bulletin' article, I stated that there were three main reasons why I didn't feel we should go to war -
In regard to that first point about it not posing a serious enough security threat, I stated quite clearly that I judged Iraq's conventional military to be weak and not to pose a threat to any other country.
I also judged that Iraq's WMD program was disjointed and contained - and they were the words that I used - and,
So I'd imagine they're very curious to work out how I could come up with those assessments and make them public when they were so at odds with what was being said publicly by the leaders of the US, the UK and Australia.
FELICITY DAVEY: But I guess, Mr Wilkie, in the end, if weapons of mass destruction are never found, does it really matter, given that a despised regime has now been removed?
ANDREW WILKIE: Yes, it does really matter, well, for many reasons.
For a start, the war was sold to us on the basis of Iraq having a massive weapons of mass destruction program and that program posing an imminent threat to the world.
Now, we've got to ask ourselves whether those government assertions were accurate or whether they were honest.
Perhaps this is now more an issue of government honesty and what level of dishonesty we're prepared to accept from our Government.
Also, I feel very, very strongly that a war must always be the last resort.
For war to be used before it's necessary, I don't think it's any better than the sorts of evils we're trying to stamp out.
Hans Blix had asked for a few more months to finish his inspections but yet the US, in particular, and, by association, the UK and Australia, weren't prepared to give Hans Blix the time he asked for.
So we went to war too early and, curiously, the coalition are now asking for exactly the more time that Blix himself asked for before the war.
FELICITY DAVEY: Mr Wilkie, you've been somewhat constrained in what you've been allowed to say here in Australia.
Do you think the House of Commons inquiry will afford you parliamentary privilege and, thereby, freedom to perhaps expand a little more on your views?
ANDREW WILKIE: Yes, I'm not assuming that I will be accorded any particular privilege by speaking in the House of Commons.
I assume that I'm still bound by the Australian Crimes Act and, consequently, I need to be just as careful talking in that forum as I've been over the last three months talking in Australia.
Having said that, I think it's an opportunity for me to go a little further than I've spoken in the past and to talk in a little more detail about some of my specific concerns about what the UK leadership was saying publicly prior to the war and, if given the opportunity, I'd like to also focus on a few of the aspects of the UK's dossier of September last year and to point out things that I think were unbelievable and to explain why.
FELICITY DAVEY: Just finally, Mr Wilkie, if these weapons are never found, will you feel personally vindicated for the stand that you've taken?
ANDREW WILKIE: Well, I'm being very careful not to say I'm happy or I'm gleeful or even vindicated.
This is too tragic an issue to feel too satisfied about.
I suppose it just helps me to be at peace with what I've done and what has just totally occupied me for the last few months.
FELICITY DAVEY: Andrew Wilkie, thank you for your time on Lateline.
ANDREW WILKIE: Thank you.
WHEN THE STORY BROKE ON 11 MARCH 2003 - 9 DAYS BEFORE BUSH'S LATEST TRANSGRESSION
First Posted: Tuesday, March 11, 2003. 19:00:04 (AEDT).
Senior Australian Intelligence Officer Quits Over Iraq
A senior Australian intelligence officer has quit in protest over Australia's support for a possible war against Iraq.
Andrew Wilkie, a senior analyst at the Office of National Assessments (ONA), says the Australian Government's policy on Iraq is "dumb" and "not worth the risk".
Mr Wilkie has told Channel Nine he can no longer remain there because of his opposition to Australia's stance on Iraq.
"Going to war against Iraq, invading Iraq is exactly the course of action that is most likely to cause Saddam to do the things that we are trying to prevent," he said.
"To cause him to lash out recklessly and to use weapons of mass destruction and maybe to play the terrorism card."
The director-general of ANO Kim Jones says Mr Wilkie was employed in the transnational issues branch, which does not deal with matters relating to Iraq.
However he says he did write a recent report on the implications of war on refugees.
"I deeply regret that this has happened, the views that he has expressed are not the views of ONA," he said.
Labor finds Wilkie claim 'worrying'
Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd says Mr Wilkie's claim Australia has not had access to all the US intelligence information, is worrying.
"This resignation by Mr Wilkie is a major development in the overall Australian political debate on Iraq," Mr Rudd said.
"The reason is that in decades we have not had such a high profile resignation from a senior Australian public servant on the question of the foreign policy direction of the nation."
Wilkie resignation 'honourable': Downer
The Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Mr Wilkie has done the right thing.
Mr Downer says Mr Wilkie has shown himself to be honourable.
"This is a very dramatic issue and inevitably on an issue which is highly charged and very difficult ... like this you will get differences of opinion," Mr Downer said.
"But his opinion does not reflect the opinion of the Office of National Assessment."
TVOTW - ICOPO
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