MI6 was led to believe Saddam Hussein was continuing to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by a false agent who based his reports on a Hollywood action movie, the Chilcot Inquiry has disclosed. In September 2002, MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove said the agency had acquired information from a new source revealing that Iraq was stepping up production of chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents. The source, who was said to have “direct access”, claimed senior staff were working seven days a week while the regime was concentrating a great deal of effort on the production of anthrax.
It was pointed out that glass containers were not typically used in chemical munitions, and that a popular movie (The Rock) had inaccurately depicted nerve agents being carried in glass beads or spheres.
Families of the senior scientists involved were said to have been effectively made hostage to discourage them from deserting or leaking details to the US/UK coalition against Saddam. Sir Richard told the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), Sir John Scarlett, that they were “on the edge of (a) significant intel breakthrough” which could be the “key to unlock” Iraq’s CBW programme. Although the information was not included in the Government’s dossier on Iraqi WMD published a few days later, amid fears for the scientists, it was said to have underpinned “key judgments” made. A second report later that month based on the same source claimed that VX, sarin and soman nerve agents were being produced at a facility at Al Yarmuk. The report said they were loaded into containers of various sorts including “linked hollow glass spheres”. However, questions were raised about the agent’s claims when it was noticed his description bore a striking resemblance to a scene from the movie The Rock, starring Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage.