Police ‘error’ reveals secret deal between IRA, UK government

Provisional IRA muralBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An alleged police error, which has prompted the release from custody of a former Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) volunteer accused of killing British soldiers, has revealed a secret agreement between the PIRA and the British government. British authorities have long suspected John Downey of involvement in a 1982 bomb explosion in London’s Hyde Park, which killed four British soldiers and injured scores of bystanders. But Downey was released from custody yesterday, after a judge was shown a letter that the suspect had been provided by the British government, assuring him that he was not wanted for outstanding crimes related to PIRA operations. The letter was given to Downey in 2007 by Britain’s Northern Ireland Office; it stated that the former PIRA volunteer would be able to travel outside Northern Ireland “without fear of arrest”. British authorities said that the letter had been sent “in error” and that it should have been withdrawn prior to Downey’s recent detention. But the case has exposed what appears to be a “discreet agreement” between the British government and republican paramilitaries. The agreement is undoubtedly connected to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The multi-party accord permitted —among other things— power-sharing between Northern Ireland’s loyalist and republican political parties, in exchange for the decommissioning of weaponry held by paramilitary groups on both sides. But it also stipulated that all prisoners held for crimes related to sectarian violence in Northern Ireland were to be freed. By 2000, most of these prisoners had been released, based on the British government’s belief that paramilitary groups on both sides were unlikely to refrain from violence while many of their members remained in prison. However, there was nothing in the Good Friday Agreement to cover the cases of those “on the run”, namely paramilitaries —most of them republican— who were at large and wanted by the British state for crimes connected with paramilitary activity. Read more of this post

Al-Qaeda attack on Chinese ship uncovers IRA smuggling racket

Provisional IRA muralBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An attack by Islamist militants on a Chinese cargo ship has unveiled a massive smuggling racket by Irish gangs consisting of former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, commonly known as Provisional IRA. The revelation has inflamed existing tensions between Irish Republican militants linked to Sinn Fein –the political wing of the IRA– and a host of smuggling gangs operating on the border areas that connect the Irish state with Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The smuggling case was originally unearthed back in July of this year, when a group of militants linked to al-Qaeda fired two rocket-propelled grenades at Cosco Asia, a Hong Kong-registered Chinese commercial vessel, which is one of the world’s largest cargo ships. The attack, which occurred as the ship was sailing through the Suez Canal, shook the maritime-security world at the time, as it illustrated the rising lawlessness of the Sinai Peninsula following the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt. Ironically, the attack literally blew the lid off a complex smuggling operation. Specifically, one of the RPG rockets struck a container that, according to the ship’s manifest, was supposed to contain furniture. Inspectors who examined the damaged container, however, found that it was full of packets of cigarettes, which were destined to a company in County Louth, Ireland. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the firm didn’t exist, but was rather a front company for a smuggling gang operating in the Irish borderlands. Shipping inspectors contacted the Gardai, Ireland’s police force, as well as customs officials in Dundalk, Ireland, who proceeded to seize the cargo in September. A subsequent police investigation found that the smuggled cigarettes, which had an estimated street value of €4.3 million, had been purchased by “a consortium” of IRA-linked factions operating in County Louth. In a new report published last weekend, Ireland’s Independent on Sunday said that the same gangs who were behind the failed smuggling operation are also involved in laundering diesel fuel throughout South Armagh in Northern Ireland. Read more of this post

Spy agencies failed to share intelligence on Omagh bombing: report

Real IRA paradeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A new report on the 1998 bombing of downtown Omagh by an Irish republican splinter group claims that the tragedy could have been avoided had British, Irish and American intelligence agencies shared information with British police. The car bomb attack was carried out on August 15, 1998, by the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA). The militant organization consisted of former Provisional Irish Republican Army volunteers who rejected the Good Friday Agreement, part of the Northern Ireland peace process. It devastated the small Northern Irish town of Omagh, killing 29 and injuring over 200 people, including six children, several teenagers and a woman who was pregnant with twins. There have been no criminal convictions in connection with the bombing, despite the fact that it was the single worst instance of violence in the so-called Northern Ireland Troubles, which began in the 1960s and ended in 1998, largely because of the Omagh bombing. But now a new report commissioned by the families of the victims of the bombing claims that intelligence services from three countries failed to share information with British police, which could have prevented the disaster in Omagh. The report, authored by a group of retired security experts on behalf of London-based law firm SBP, says the RIRA had been infiltrated by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Britain’s Security Service (MI5) and the Irish Garda’s Crime and Security Branch. These agencies, claims the report, had at least two informants inside the RIRA: a smalltime Irish criminal named Paddy Dixon, who frequently smuggled stolen cars from Ireland into Britain for use by the RIRA, and David Rupert, an American of Irish descent. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #817 (assassinations edition)

Patrick FinucaneBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►British PM apologizes in killing of IRA lawyer. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, has apologized after a government report found that British intelligence officials had colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in the 1989 killing of lawyer Patrick Finucane in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Finucane, who had represented members of the Irish Republic Army in court, was shot dead by two gunmen from a Protestant paramilitary group while having a Sunday dinner at his home with his wife and three children.
►►Behind the plot to kill Afghanistan’s spy chief. On December 11, we reported that the Afghan government accused Pakistani intelligence of having played a role in the assassination of Assadullah Khaled, who heads Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security. But how was the attempt on Khaled’s life carried out, and how did the aspiring assassins get so close to the controversial intelligence chief? Time magazine reports that it was Khaled’s self-confidence “bordering on recklessness” that almost got him killed. Sources say that, even after taking over the NDS, Khalid frequently drove around without bodyguards.
►►How Mossad bid to kill Hamas leader ended in fiasco. Khaled Mashal’s recent presence in the Gaza Strip will have rudely reminded Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, of one of the greatest fiascos in the history of special operations, writes The Daily Telegraph‘s David Blair. Fifteen years ago, Netanyahu authorized a risky attempt to assassinate Mashal in the Jordanian capital, Amman. Everything went wrong. The Jordanian security forces responded to this brazen daylight attack, arresting two of the Israeli operatives and forcing three to hide in their country’s embassy, which was promptly surrounded by troops.

Irish government ‘refused cooperation’ with probe into IRA attack

Warrenpoint ambushBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The government of the Republic of Ireland allegedly ordered senior police officials not to assist an investigation into a 1979 attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army that killed 18 British soldiers in the UK province of Northern Ireland. The attack, known as the Warrenpoint ambush, took place in the afternoon of August 27, when a British military convoy was blown up by a remote-controlled 500-pound fertilizer bomb hidden in a lorry loaded with straw bales. It was soon followed by a second massive bomb blast at a nearby house, and resulted in the British Army’s greatest loss of life in a single incident during the Northern Ireland Troubles. Now a retired officer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), as the British police body in Northern Ireland was then known, has told an official government inquiry that the Irish government refused to collaborate with the investigation into the Warrenpoint ambush, and even ordered its senior police officers to distance themselves from it. The man, who testified behind closed doors through a video link from Belfast, cannot be named and is instead referred to in tribunal documents as ‘Witness 68’. All that is known about him is that he is a retired detective and retired from the RUC with a rank of Deputy Assistant Chief Constable. He told the Smithwick Tribunal that the government of the Republic of Ireland instructed its intelligence and law enforcement personnel to view the Warrenpoint ambush as a political crime and to abstain from the British-led criminal investigation into the killings. Consequently, in April 1980, when British RUC officials met with senior officers from the Garda’s (Irish police) Criminal Intelligence Division in Dublin, the Irish delegation informed British officials that the Irish Prime Minister, Jack Lynch, had given specific instructions that “no assistance would be given to the RUC”. Subsequently, the RUC discovered that a site located in the Republic of Ireland, which the British suspected had been used to detonate the bomb that exploded a few yards away at Warrenpoint, had been destroyed before forensic teams were able to examine it. Read more of this post

US gave N. Ireland police weapons, spy equipment, despite Congress ban

Royal Ulster Constabulary forces in the 1980sBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Declassified documents show that thousands of American-made weapons, as well as spy equipment, ended up in the hands of Northern Ireland’s police force in the 1980s, despite a strict ban enacted by Congress. The ban was passed in 1979, following strong pressure by organized groups in the Irish-American community. The latter accused Northern Ireland’s police, known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), of severe human rights violations and systematically excluding Catholic recruits. But internal government documents released in Northern Ireland this week, reveal that thousands of pieces of American-made weaponry, as well as surveillance equipment, continued to get into the hands of the RUC, despite the official ban. According to the documents, which were released under the UK’s 30-year declassification rule, the RUC eventually managed to collect all 6,000 Ruger revolvers it had ordered from American manufacturers before 1979, when the Congressional ban was enacted. The weapons continued to be shipped to Northern Ireland by way of “third-party suppliers”, who sent them secretly and in small quantities, so as not to arouse suspicion. The documents also state that the RUC was able to “receive [from the United States] some US equipment for surveillance work which is arguably more sensitive than guns”. The documents do not specify if the White House was aware that the Congressional ban against selling weapons to the RUC was being broken, or if the weapons were being surreptitiously smuggled by the British government, which hid the shipments from Washington. But The Belfast News Letter, which accessed the declassified documents, said it spoke to “one former senior RUC officer” who said that “the Reagan Administration was aware of the shipments” and had “turned a blind eye to the issue”. Read more of this post

Half of all IRA leaders were government spies, report claims

Ian HurstBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A report to be presented before an Irish government inquiry states that nearly half of the leadership of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) during the ‘Troubles’ of the 1960s and 1970s consisted of informants working for British or Irish intelligence services. The 24-page report is part of a larger dossier of evidence that is soon to be presented before the Smithwick Tribunal, a judicial inquiry into the 1989 killing by the Provisional IRA of two police officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (see previous intelNews coverage here). The evidence dossier has reportedly been prepared by Ian Hurst, former member of the Force Research Unit (FRU), a secretive body within the British Army’s Intelligence Corps, tasked with running agents inside militant groups. Hurst, who worked in the Intelligence Corps from 1981 to 1990, was responsible for handling informants and agents inside Irish paramilitary groups, including the Provisional IRA. He is believed to be the first-ever member of the FRU to have spoken publicly about his experience. In the report, which was leaked to The Belfast Telegraph, Hurst suggests that approximately one in every four volunteers of the Provisional IRA was an agent of an intelligence organization, and that among leading members this number increased to one in two. Among them was allegedly the British agent codenamed STAKEKNIFE, identified by some as Freddie Scappaticci, a senior member of the Provisional IRA Northern Command’s Internal Security Unit (ISU), tasked with counterintelligence operations (Scappaticci denies these claims). Read more of this post

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