The conclusions of the Butler report provoked skepticism among former US intelligence officials yesterday, who variously described it as gentlemanly, shallow and clubbish.
Most described Lord Butler's conclusions as politically driven, and compared them to last week's parallel report by the Senate intelligence committee, which similarly found the White House was not to blame for the Iraqi intelligence fiasco. However, the Senate committee lambasted the CIA's leadership, while the Butler report was less brutal about MI6. Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA chief of operations for counter-terrorism, said: "I can tell you there's rampant jealously in the CIA, where they wish they could have had a report more like Butler's. It was much more nuanced, much more fair."
Bob Baer, an ex-CIA operative once stationed in Iraq, argued both inquiries were "highly politicised", but while the Senate was driven by party politics, the Butler committee was aimed at defusing the scandal and absolving everyone involved: "They just wanted it all to go away."
Another US intelligence veteran, Ray McGovern, argued that the key difference lay in the make-up of each commission. "It's just old boys. You've had Lord Hutton, Lord Butler. It's so clubbish."
The pro-Bush Washington Times argued the British inquiry confirmed the message from the Senate report. "In short, intelligence on Iraq's weapons programmes on both sides of the Atlantic was flawed, but no one 'lied' about it," the paper wrote in an editorial. "Both President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair acted in good faith given the intelligence provided by their respective agencies."
Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector who also worked for US intelligence while in Iraq, disagreed. "It wasn't an intelligence failure. It was an intelligence success. The job was to provide intelligence that would support the policy of regime change. The Butler report pretends the British government policy was disarmament ... Butler doesn't do his homework. The whole report is like that it's shallow. It doesn't dig."