Scarlett speaking at a Chatham House event in 2011
|Service||Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6)|
|Active||1970 - 2001; 2004 - 2009|
|Rank||Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service|
|Born||18 August 1948|
|Alma mater||Magdalen College, Oxford|
Sir John McLeod Scarlett KCMG OBE (born 18 August 1948) was Chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) from 2004 to 2009. Prior to this appointment, he had chaired the Cabinet Office Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).
Fluent in French and Russian, Scarlett was educated at Epsom College and Magdalen College, Oxford, where in 1969 or 1970 he received a first class degree in history. He was a contemporary of figures including Christopher Hitchens, Robert Jackson, William Waldegrave, Edwina Currie, Stephen Milligan, John Redwood, William Blair, Bill Clinton and Gyles Brandreth. Shortly afterward, he was recruited by MI6 and served in Moscow, Nairobi (1973–1976), and Paris. In 1994, after a tit-for-tat row between the UK and Russian authorities, Scarlett was expelled from Moscow where he had been MI6's "station chief". He retired from MI6 as Director of Security and Public Affairs in 2001, rejoining in 2004.
Joint Intelligence Committee
The normally secretive intelligence services were thrust into the public gaze in the Summer of 2003 after the death of the eminent government weapons expert, Dr. David Kelly. Kelly had been found dead in the Oxfordshire countryside near his home, after being exposed as the source of allegations that the government had "sexed-up" intelligence regarding existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The "classic case" was the claim that Iraq could launch Weapons of Mass Destruction "within 45 minutes of an order to do so" - Dr. Kelly had privately dismissed this as "risible".
Scarlett gave evidence at the Hutton Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Kelly's death. It became clear that Scarlett had worked closely with Alastair Campbell, then the Prime Minister's Director of Communications and Strategy, on the controversial September Dossier, with Campbell making drafting suggestions which the inquiry found may have "subconsciously influenced" Scarlett and the JIC. This influence may have had deleterious effects on the quality of the assessments presented in the dossier. For instance, the Intelligence and Security Committee made several criticisms in their report "Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction — Intelligence and Assessments":
- "As the 45 minutes claim was new to its readers, the context of the intelligence and any assessment needed to be explained. The fact that it was assessed to refer to battlefield chemical and biological munitions and their movement on the battlefield, not to any other form of chemical or biological attack, should have been highlighted in the dossier. The omission of the context and assessment allowed speculation as to its exact meaning. This was unhelpful to an understanding of this issue."
Scarlett became the head of SIS on 6 May 2004, before publication of the findings of the Butler Review. Although the review highlighted many failings in the intelligence behind the Iraq war and the workings of the Joint Intelligence Committee, it specifically stated that Scarlett should not resign as head of the Committee and SIS.
On 8 December 2009, Scarlett gave evidence to The Iraq Inquiry. He denied he was under any pressure to "firm up" the September Dossier, and claimed there was "no conscious intention" to mislead about Iraq's weapons but it would have been "better" to have clarified battlefield munitions not missiles were meant.
On 26 June 2011, The Guardian reported on a memo from 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.
On 28 January 2011, Scarlett was appointed to the board of Times Newspapers Ltd, part of News International, which publishes The Times and The Sunday Times. He is also a governor of Epsom College.
Scarlett was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in the Queen's New Years Honours List 2007. Scarlett, while Chairman of the JIC, was the principal author of the assessments on which the September Dossier was based, a document partly by which the Prime Minister justified to Parliament the invasion of Iraq and which was later found to be "flawed" by the Butler Review. However, despite the claims of preferential honours, the award of a KCMG is normal practice for all heads of SIS and senior FCO and British diplomats.
- "John Scarlett". MI6 A Century in the Shadows. 3 Aug 2009. BBC Radio 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lv0bm. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
- "Profile: John Scarlett". BBC News. 2006-12-30. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Rose, David (2004-05-09). "A singular spy". The Observer (London). Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "MI-6 versus KGB-FSB: The Battle in Moscow". Axis News. 2006-01-30. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Evans, Michael (2003-08-23). "Intelligence chief will emerge from a lifetime in the shadows". The Times (London). Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "Kelly 'taken aback' by Gilligan grilling". BBC News. 2003-09-04. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Evans, Michael (2004-05-07). "Rise to the top of the spy who came in from the Cold War". The Times (London). Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "Iraq inquiry backs new MI6 chief". CNN. 2004-07-14. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Jeffery, Simon (2004-07-14). "Open to doubt and seriously flawed". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "Ex-spy chief says Iraqi WMD claims not manipulated". BBC News (BBC). 8 December 2009. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
- Family affair, Financial Times, Emiko Terazono, 2 March 2011
- Memo reveals intelligence chief's bid to fuel fears of Iraqi WMDs, Chris Ames, The Guardian, 26 June 2011
- In the air: Murdoch's daughter joins Times board, Gideon Spanier, London Evening Standard, 2 March 2011
- Another Murdoch joins The Times board - with a retired spy, Roy Greenslade, The Guardian, 2 March 2011
- "Governing Body".
- Elliott, Francis (2006-12-31). "'Dodgy dossier' knighthood attacked". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- John Scarlett collected news and commentary at the London Evening Standard
- John Scarlett at the Notable Names Database
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- The Observer Profile: John Scarlett, David Rose, The Observer, 9 May 2004
- Profile: John Scarlett: ‘C’ is for suspected crony in spying HQ, The Sunday Times, 9 May 2004
- MI6 - A Century in the Shadows (Part Three), 31 December 2010, 24:00, "In the final part of this series, Sir John Scarlett, the former head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service talks about the interrogation of terrorist suspects and MI6's role in the run up to the war in Iraq."
Sir Peter Ricketts
|Chairman of the
Joint Intelligence Committee
Sir Richard Mottram
Permanent Secretary, Intelligence, Security and Resilience
Sir Richard Dearlove
|Chief of the SIS
Sir John Sawers