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Controversial Spy is Appointed Britain’s New Intelligence Chief 2 decks

By Sarah Lyall

The New York Times -- LONDON

A career spy who presided over and approved a much-disputed British government dossier that asserted that Iraq had unconventional weapons was on Thursday named as the next chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, Britain’s equivalent of the CIA.

The spy, John Scarlett, 55, is currently chairman of the government’s Joint Intelligence Committee. In that role, he oversaw the compilation of the dossier, which was released in September 2002. The weapons have not been found, and it appears now that British and U.S. intelligence officials relied on faulty information.

The move was immediately criticized by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s political opponents, who said that the government should wait until it completes its inquiry into how possibly erroneous intelligence was used to justify Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war before allowing Scarlett’s appointment to go ahead.

“In today’s world, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Services is central to our national security,” Michael Ancram, the foreign affairs spokesman for the Conservative Party, said in a statement. “And it is essential that the whole country has the fullest confidence in it.

“The government-appointed Butler inquiry is currently reviewing the whole question of intelligence, and the use made of it,” he added. “Given that John Scarlett is central to that review, and that the inquiry has not yet reported, I believe that this appointment at this time is inappropriate.”

But Blair said Scarlett was recommended by a selection panel led by David Omand, Blair’s security and intelligence coordinator. Saying that Sir Omand had worked independently of the government, Blair told reporters: “You can only imagine what you guys would have been saying to me if I had interfered with that process.”

Scarlett -- who joined MI6 in 1971 and who served in Moscow, Paris and Nairobi, Kenya, among other places -- is to take over the job this summer, replacing Sir Richard Dearlove.