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Australian Inquiry Finds Intelligence Failures on Iraq's WMD Threat - 2004-07-22

An investigation into Australia's intelligence agencies has cleared the government of allegations that it manipulated information to justify its involvement in the war against Iraq. The inquiry report did, however, criticize the work of the country's intelligence agencies.

Former Australian diplomat, Philip Flood headed the investigation into just how accurate Australian intelligence was.

The report, released on Thursday, found that the country's spy agencies relied on what it termed, "thin, ambiguous and incomplete intelligence" before last year's invasion of Iraq. The report said the intelligence network must become more transparent and accountable.

The findings of the independent investigation mirror similar inquiries in the United States and Britain, which also said there had been a failure of intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Despite the criticism, the government in Canberra says there is no need for a major overhaul of the intelligence system, although it says that funding and staffing will be increased.

Prime Minister John Howard has defended the performance of Australia's intelligence apparatus and says that active support for the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein was the right move.

"I do not retreat in any way from the government's decision," Mr. Howard said. "If I had my time again I would take the same decision. I continue, as do my colleagues continue, therefore to reject the proposition that we took this country to war based on a lie."

Mr. Howard has stressed that no political pressure was brought to bear on agencies responsible for assessing pre-war intelligence on Iraq, most of which was supplied by Britain and the United States.

The "Flood report" cleared the government regarding allegations it had manipulated intelligence used to justify its involvement in the war.

Opposition politicians have called the report a "whitewash" and say its mandate was not broad enough.

On a related issue, the "Flood report" also found that Australian intelligence services should have known more about Jemaah Islamiah, the radical Islamic group blamed for bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali two years ago. More than 200 people died in that attack.