MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.
The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.
The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair's inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was "necessary to create the conditions" which would make it legal.
This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.
Later, the article goes into the effects of the publication of the earlier memo which said that the facts and intelligence were being "fixed" to justify war against Iraq.
There has been a growing storm of protest in America, created by last month's publication of the minutes in The Sunday Times. A host of citizens, including many internet bloggers, have demanded to know why the Downing Street memo (often shortened to "the DSM" on websites) has been largely ignored by the US mainstream media.
The White House has declined to respond to a letter from 89 Democratic congressmen asking if it was true -- as Dearlove told the July meeting -- that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" in Washington.
The Downing Street memo burst into the mainstream American media only last week after it was raised at a joint Bush-Blair press conference, forcing the prime minister to insist that "the facts were not fixed in any shape or form at all".
John Conyers, the Democratic congressman who drafted the letter to Bush, has now written to Dearlove asking him to say whether or not it was accurate that he believed the intelligence was being "fixed" around the policy.
He also asked the former MI6 chief precisely when Bush and Blair had agreed to invade Iraq and whether it is true they agreed to "manufacture" the UN ultimatum in order to justify the war.
He and other Democratic congressmen plan to hold their own inquiry this Thursday with witnesses including Joe Wilson, the American former ambassador who went to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore for its nuclear weapons programme.
Frustrated at the refusal by the White House to respond to their letter, the congressmen have set up a website -- http://www.downingstreetmemo.com/ -- to collect signatures on a petition demanding the same answers.
Here's another passage worthy of your attention:
AfterDowningStreet.org, another website set up as a result of the memo, is calling for a congressional committee to consider whether Bush's actions as depicted in the memo constitute grounds for impeachment.
It has been flooded with visits from people angry at what they see as media self-censorship in ignoring the memo. It claims to have attracted more than 1m hits a day.
I'll try to keep you updated on this issue. Perhaps enough noise is being made that the mainstream press will start to cover this. But I'm not holding my breath.