New Forest East



By Michael Kallenbach and Benedict Brogan

Daily Telegraph – 29 April 2003

The coalition forces, rather than Telegraph journalists, ought to have secured vital documents from the fallen Iraqi Government, MPs from both main parties said yesterday. The MPs put pressure on Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, to explain why the documents, which could prove useful for intelligence purposes, were left for journalists to uncover.

Speaking as Mr Straw made a Commons statement on the situation in Iraq, they wanted to know why more Iraqi buildings had not been secured by the coalition as the Baghdad regime collapsed.

Julian Lewis (C, New Forest E) told the House:

"Normally when enemy capitals are captured, an intelligence objectives sub-committee will have arranged for the incoming forces to secure such obvious intelligence targets as the Foreign Ministry headquarters and the intelligence organisation headquarters."

He asked Mr Straw:

"Why was this not done in this case and why was it left to the Daily Telegraph and their enterprising journalists to find out what our own intelligence people should have found?"

Mr Straw told him:

"The situation in Baghdad was not one in which every building could be secured. That is the simple truth of the matter, but we also have to recognise that in the aftermath of a military defeat of the kind that took place 19 days ago there was likely to be a degree of disorder and lawlessness that others then exploited."

Tam Dalyell (Lab, Linlithgow), the Father of the House, said that in 1945, on orders from Washington, one of the first things that the American and British armies entering Berlin had to do was to get hold of Nazi documents.

"Why? Because of likely trials. It's not all that difficult to seize documents and take them into custody. Why were they left to other people to go through?"

He added:

"If there is going to be a case of Galloway versus Telegraph Newspapers, certainly the lawyers would ask why it was that these documents were just left in the Foreign Ministry and not taken into custody."

Mr Straw said:

"The world is far from perfect."

[For later developments, click here and here.]