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September Dossier

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Publication.png September Dossier 
Publication date24 September 2002

Not to be confused with the infamous Dodgy dossier which was issued to journalists on 3 February 2003.

Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government, also known as the September Dossier, was a document published by the British government on 24 September 2002 on the same day as Parliament was recalled to discuss the contents of the document.[1] The paper was part of an ongoing investigation by the government into weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, which ultimately led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It contained a number of allegations according to which Iraq also possessed WMD, including chemical and biological weapons. The dossier even alleged that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons programme. Without exception, all of the allegations included within the September Dossier have been since proven to be false, as shown by the Iraq Survey Group.

The much-anticipated document was based on reports made by the Joint Intelligence Committee, part of the British Intelligence 'machinery'. Most of the evidence was uncredited, ostensibly to protect sources. On publication, serious press comment was generally critical of the dossier for tameness and for the seeming lack of any genuinely new evidence. Those politically opposed to military action against Iraq generally agreed that the dossier was unremarkable, with Menzies Campbell observing in the House of Commons that:

We can also agree that [Saddam Hussein] most certainly has chemical and biological weapons and is working towards a nuclear capability. The dossier contains confirmation of information that we either knew or most certainly should have been willing to assume.[2]

However, two sections later became the centre of fierce debate: the allegation that Iraq had sought "significant quantities of uranium from Africa", and the claim in the foreword to the document written by British Prime Minister Tony Blair that "The document discloses that his military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them."[3]

Britain's biggest selling popular daily newspaper, The Sun, subsequently carried the headline "Brits 45mins from doom",[4] while the Daily Star reported "Mad Saddam ready to attack: 45 minutes from a chemical war",[5] helping to create the impression among the British public that Iraq was a threat to Britain.

Major General Michael Laurie, one of those involved in producing the dossier wrote to the Chilcot Inquiry in 2011 saying "the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care."[6] On 26 June 2011, The Observer reported on a memo from John Scarlett to Blair's foreign affairs adviser, released under the Freedom of Information Act, which referred to "the benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD Iraq is not that exceptional". The memo has been described as one of the most significant documents on the September Dossier yet published as it is considered a proposal to mislead the public.[7]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:The Death of David Kelly and the "Sexed Up" WMD Reportarticle21 February 2008Stephen Frost
David Halpin
Christopher Burns-Cox
Paul Brandon


  1. Hansard (24 September 2002). "Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction". TheyWorkForYou. mySociety. Retrieved 6 June 2013.

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  2. "House of Commons Hansard for 24 Sept 2002 (pt 12)". London: Parliament of the United Kingdom. 24 September 2002. Column 43. Retrieved 6 June 2013. External link in |website= (help)

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  3. "Full text of Tony Blair's foreword to the dossier on Iraq". The Guardian. London: Guardian News and Media. 24 September 2002. Retrieved 6 June 2013.

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  4. Pascoe-Watson, George (25 September 2002). "Brits 45mins from doom". The Sun. London: News International. Retrieved 18 July 2012.

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  5. "Timeline: The 45-minute claim". BBC News. London: BBC. 13 October 2004. Retrieved 9 May 2013.

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  6. Norton-Taylor, Richard (12 May 2011). "Iraq dossier drawn up to make case for war – intelligence officer". The Guardian. London: Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 14 May 2011.

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  7. Ames, Chris (26 June 2011). "Memo reveals intelligence chief's bid to fuel fears of Iraqi WMDs". The Observer. London: Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 6 June 2013.

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