Stevens lifts the lid on security forces’ tactics
30 April 2003
The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens on 17 April 2003 presented a report into allegations of collusion between the security forces and both protagonists in the Northern Ireland conflict. The outcome of three inquiries over a fourteen year period, the Stevens Reports fully vindicates what whistle-blowers like David Shayler have been saying: there needs to be effective scrutiny of what MI5 is doing. A gentlemanly regime of self-regulation is no longer tenable.
The Stevens report documents the role of William Stobie, recruited as an agent by the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 1987. As is often the case, the recruitment took place in a prison setting. At the time Stobe had been under arrest for a revenge killing. He was released without charge and established himself as the quartermaster (storekeeper of armaments) of the West Belfast Brigade of the Ulster Defence Association, a vigilante Loyalist paramilitary body. In February 1989 a solicitor who took cases for Northern Ireland’s Catholic community, Patrick Finucane, was shot in front of his children in Belfast in February 1989. The weapon was supplied by Stobie.
Finucane was described as a person “unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA” –Northern Ireland minister Douglas Hogg’s disgraceful statement to Parliament a few weeks before the murder. Stevens notes that “to the extent that they (Hogg’s statement) were based on information passed by the RUC, they were not justifiable and the inquiry concludes that the minister was compromised”. Stobie had informed his handlers that a murder was being planned, but this was not prevented. Stobe himself was shot dead in December 2001. Irish Minister Foreign Minister Brian Cowen said the Stobie’s killing could have been an attempt to hide the truth about the murder of Finucane.
The targeting of an “unsympathetic” solicitor sheds new light on the claims of intimidation by some other members of the legal profession. The late Sulayman Balal Zain-al-Abidin believed that the Police was seeking to carry out a character assassination against his solicitor – he was on his way to Arani & Co when he was taken ill and went to hospital instead, where he entered a coma and died.
Without better oversight, the fear is that in future counter-terrorism operations the security forces will continue their ‘gang on gang’ tactics. Instead of putting an end to terrorism, the network of agents and informers perpetuate it.
Stobie, and another agent highlighted in the Stevens Report, Brian Nelson, practically ran terrorist groups. A sectarian Protestant, Nelson was recruited by British military intelligence to work within the UDA, and ironically rose to become its ‘head of intelligence’. The Guardian recorded how he “would pass on the names and addresses of known IRA activists to the UDA, whose gunmen would promptly go out and execute the suspects” (17 April 2003). Stevens was twice prevented from arresting Nelson because of obstruction from his handlers in the Army’s intelligence unit, the Force Research Unit (FRU). On one occasion Stevens’ Incident Room was burned down. The Police Commissioner describes this as a “deliberate act of arson”.
Commenting on the revelations of the Stevens Report, The Guardian observed that it “tells a shameful story of state-sanctioned murder, collusion and obstruction more commonly associated with Southern American dictatorships than with western parliamentary democracies” (The Guardian, 18 April, 2003).
For extracts of the Stevens Enquiry see
The grooming of Agent Rupert
19th June 2003
The trial of Michael McKevitt on charges linked to the Omagh car bomb in Northern Ireland in August 1999 has again raised questions on how much the security services knew of the planned atrocity and the role of planted agents. It has been claimed as far back as 2001 a double agent had forewarned the police two days prior to the bombing and alleged that the Catholic splinter group, the Real IRA, was involved. The prosecutor at the Special Criminal Court trial that commenced on 18 June 2003 has stated that a key witness in the trail, US-born David Rupert, was paid £700,000 to infiltrate dissident Republican groups (Financial Times, 19 June 2003).
Bizarrely, the Northern Ireland police Chief Constable at the time of the bombing, Sir Ronnie Flannigan, declared that he would commit suicide if the allegations of a slip-up were proven. Proceedings against suspects within the Real IRA is likely to have been delayed to protect agents. Documents have been withheld from the defence team “on the grounds it could endanger the lives of British secret service agents in Ireland” (The Guardian, 9 October 2002).
David Rupert was able to gain the confidence of McKevitt even though his background could not have been more different: an American Protestant of German and Mohican ancestry. In the late 1990s Rupert moved to Ireland where, with FBI aid, he leased a pub and a caravan park near a beauty spot in Tullallen, Co Leitrim. He later abandoned the pub, which burnt down in mysterious circumstances. After befriending McKevitt, Rupert helped by purchasing encryption software and other computing equipment. Documents disclosed in the McKevitt case show Rupert was under investigation in New York state over claims that he was involved in drugs, arms and human trafficking along the Canadian border. Such possibilities – and in this particular instance personal difficulties were compounded with large unpaid tax bills relating to a trucking business – make individuals vulnerable to deals on offer and results in them offering their services.
Ulster police dismiss Omagh bomb findings
The Guardian, 24 January 2002
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,638348,00.html Relatives of Real IRA boss plan to sue US informer