Russia sent spies to Ireland to check undersea fiber-optic cables: report

Undersea cableThe Russian government sent a team of spies to Ireland to monitor undersea fiber-optic cables, which enable communications traffic between North America and Western Europe, according to a new report. The spies were allegedly sent to Ireland by the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, which is known in Russia as GU, and formerly as GRU.

Due to its geographical proximity to both North America and Europe, Ireland constitutes a major hub for several of the more than 300 undersea cables that currently cross the world’s oceans. Totaling over 500,000 miles, these cables deliver Internet and telephone traffic across every continent. Nearly all transcontinental communications traffic is facilitated through these cables.

According to the London-based Sunday Times newspaper, the Irish security services believe that the GU spies were sent to Ireland to check the cables for weak points, in case Moscow decides to sabotage them in the future. Others claim that the Russian spies sought physical access to the cables in order to install wiretaps. The Times article also claims that Russian spies were detected by Irish security personnel monitoring the Dublin Port, which is Ireland’s primary seaport. This, said The Times, prompted a security alert in government facilities along the Irish coastline.

The same report claimed that the GU has been using Ireland as a base for operations in northwestern Europe, from where Russian spies can gather intelligence on European targets such as Belgium, the United Kingdom, Holland and France.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 18 February 2020 | Permalink

Hundreds of MI5 officers prepare for Brexit violence in Northern Ireland

New IRAThe British Security Service (MI5) has over 700 officers —more than 20 percent of its entire force— stationed in Northern Ireland, due to fears that the Brexit process might reignite the centuries-long sectarian conflict there. In 1922, nationalist rebels managed to dislodge Ireland from the British Empire. But six counties in Ireland’s north remained under British dominion, and today form the British territory of Northern Ireland. Irish nationalists have for decades engaged in an unsuccessful campaign —at times peaceful and at times violent— to unite these counties with the Republic of Ireland. Following the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, nationalist and British loyalist groups in Northern Ireland terminated their armed operations and entered the political arena, effectively sharing power in the British territory. The integration of Ireland and Britain into the European Union helped in that process by effectively bringing to an end border checks between the two countries. Thus, pro-British loyalists continued to live under British rule, while nationalists have been able to cross from Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic and back without restrictions, as if the two states were effectively unified.

But this open-border regime is about to change once Britain leaves the European Union in March. Many fear that the reinstated border will remind nationalist communities in the North that the island of Ireland remains partitioned and will thus reignite secessionist sentiments. A few days ago, the London-based newspaper The Daily Mail cited an unnamed “counterterrorism source” who said that MI5, Britain’s primary counterterrorism agency, had stationed a fifth of its force in Northern Ireland. The agency is allegedly monitoring a number of dissident republican groups —a term used to describe armed groups of Irish nationalists who continue to reject the nationalist community’s majority view to endorse the Good Friday Agreement back in 1998. One such group —which is commonly seen as the most formidable in existence today— is the self-described New Irish Republican Army. The New IRA was formed in 2012 when dissident republican cells joined another dissident nationalist group, known as the Real IRA. The new formation is particularly strong in Northern Ireland’s extreme northwest, which includes urban centers like Derry. British security officials believe that the New IRA consists of about 40 hardcore members who are committed to an armed campaign against British rule in the North.

Nearly 50 New IRA militants are currently serving sentences in the British and Irish prison systems, while several raids of New IRA members’ residences and other properties have unearthed weaponry —including fully automatic weapons— and explosives. But the group managed to detonate a car bomb in Derry on January 19 of this year. The bomb employed gas canisters and went off nearly 30 minutes after an unidentified man called a charity shop located nearby and issued a bomb warning. Police officers rushed to the scene and were there when the bomb exploded. There were no injuries, according to reports in local media.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 January 2019 | Permalink

American held on espionage charges in Russia has three other citizenships

Paul WhelanAn American former Marine, who faces espionage charges in Russia, is a citizen of at least three other countries, namely Canada, Britain and the Republic of Ireland, according to reports. Paul Whelan, 48, was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on December 28 at the Metropol, a five-star hotel in downtown Moscow. News of Whelan’s arrest first emerged on January 3 in a report from Rosbalt, a Moscow-based news agency that known to be close to the Russian security services. He was reportedly indicted on Thursday and is now facing between 10 to 20 years in prison for espionage. His trial is not expected to take place until March.

According to Rosbalt, the FSB arrested Whelan in his hotel room while he was meeting with a Russian citizen who allegedly handed him a USB drive containing a list that included “the names of all employees of a [Russian] security agency”. However, Whelan’s family claim that the former Marine arrived in Moscow on December 22 to attend the wedding of an American friend who married a Russian woman. Whelan served two tours in Iraq with the United States Marines and was reportedly discharged for bad conduct. At the time of his arrest last month, he was the director of global security for BorgWarner, a Michigan-based manufacturer of spare parts for cars. He is believed to have visited Russia regularly since 2006, and is thought to have a basic command of the Russian language. He is currently being held in solitary confinement in Moscow’s Lefortovo detention center.

At the time of his arrest, Whelan was identified as an American citizen. On Friday, however, the Associated Press reported that he also has United Kingdom citizenship because he was born to British parents. Additionally, he is now believed to hold Canadian citizenship as well, because he was born in Canada. He then acquired American citizenship after arriving in the US with his parents as a child. It is not known how he acquired Irish citizenship, but the Irish government confirmed it on Friday. Also on Friday, the Washington-based National Public Radio said that embassies of at least four Western countries —the US, Britain, Ireland and Canada— were working to gain consular access to Whelan. On Thursday, the former Marine was visited in prison by Jon Huntsman, America’s ambassador to Russia. Meanwhile, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said London was “extremely worried” about Whelan’s fate and warned Moscow “not to try to use [him] as a diplomatic pawn”, possibly by exchanging him with Russians arrested for espionage in the West.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 January 2019 | Permalink

Informer accuses Sinn Féin leader of ordering British spy’s murder

Denis DonaldsonA former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, who was an agent for the British security services, has alleged that Gerry Adams, leader of the second-largest political party in Northern Ireland, ordered the killing of a British spy in 2006. The former agent was referring to the killing of Denis Donaldson, a senior member of the Provisional IRA, who was found dead months after it was revealed that he had been secretly spying on the republican organization on behalf of British intelligence.

In December 2005, Adams announced at a press conference in Dublin, Ireland, that Donaldson had been a spy for the British government inside the Provisional IRA and its political wing, Sinn Féin. Soon after Adams’ revelation, Donaldson read a prepared statement on Ireland’s RTÉ television station, admitting that he had been recruited as a spy by the British Security Service (MI5) and the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (known today as the Police Service of Northern Ireland). Following his public admission, Donaldson was nowhere to be found. However, in March 2006, a reporter for a British tabloid newspaper found Donaldson living in a remote farmhouse in Northern Ireland’s County Donegal. Weeks later, Donaldson was shot dead in his cottage by persons unknown. In 2009, the Real IRA, a Provisional IRA splinter group that disagreed with the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent cessation of hostilities, took responsibility for Donaldson’s killing.

On Tuesday, a man who claims he was an informant for British intelligence inside Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA alleged that Donaldson’s killing was ordered by Adams himself. The man, who spoke on the BBC’s Spotlight program, could not be identified due to concerns about his personal safety. He said during a televised interview that he knew from his “experience in the IRA that murders have to be approved by […] the leadership of the IRA and the military leadership of the IRA”. When asked by the report who he was “specifically referring to”, the former informant answered: “Gerry Adams. He gives the final say”. On Wednesday, Adams denied any involvement in the killing, saying he wished to “specifically and categorically refute these unsubstantiated allegations”. The leader of Sinn Féin went on to claim that the accusations against him were “part of the British security agencies’ ongoing attempts to smear republicans and cover-up their own actions”. Adams’ lawyer said late on Wednesday that his client was considering launching a lawsuit against the BBC for defamation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 September 2016 | Permalink

Two men held in Ireland over 2006 murder of Provisional IRA spy

Denis DonaldsonPolice in Ireland say they have arrested two individuals in connection with the 2006 killing of a senior member of the Irish Republican Army, who had previously been outed as a spy for the British state. Denis Donaldson joined the Provisional IRA as a volunteer in mid-1960s, before the outbreak of the Troubles, which rocked Northern Ireland from the late 1960s until 1998. He was trained in paramilitary operations in Lebanon and participated in many IRA actions. He served time at the Long Kesh Detention Centre along with IRA volunteer and Member of Parliament Bobby Sands, who died in the famed 1981 Irish hunger strike. After Sands’ death, Donaldson stood as a general election candidate in Belfast East for Sinn Féin, the IRA’s political wing. In the process, he became a close associate of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. In 2000, shortly after the end of the IRA’s 30-year military campaign, Sinn Féin appointed Donaldson as the administrator of its parliamentary group in Stormont, the devolved Northern Irish parliament.

But on December 16, 2005, Adams stunned reporters during a press conference in Dublin, Ireland, by announcing that Donaldson had been a spy for the British government inside Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA. There were rumors at the time that Donaldson was deliberately outed to Adams by the British government. Soon after Adams’ revelation, Donaldson read a prepared statement on Ireland’s state-owned RTÉ television station, admitting that he had been recruited as a spy by the British Security Service (MI5) and the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (known today as the Police Service of Northern Ireland). Following his public admission, Donaldson was nowhere to be found. However, on March 19, 2006, a reporter for a British tabloid newspaper found Donaldson living in a remote farmhouse outside the village of Glenties, in Northern Ireland’s County Donegal. Weeks later, Donaldson was shot dead in his cottage by persons unknown. Most saw the Provisional IRA behind Donaldson’s murder. In 2009, however, the Real IRA, a Provisional IRA splinter group that disagreed with the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent cessation of hostilities, took responsibility for Donaldson’s killing.

On Tuesday, the Garda Síochána, the police force of the Republic of Ireland, said it had arrested two men in connection with Donaldson’s murder. The two men, who are reportedly in their 40s and 70s, have not been named. They are being held under Ireland’s Offences Against the State Act, the Gardaí said. The precise connection —if any— between Tuesday’s arrests and the official inquest into Donaldson’s death, which continues after having been postponed or delayed 20 times, is unknown at this time.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 July 2016 | Permalink

IRA source in high-profile counterfeit money case claims his life is in danger

SupernoteA former senior member of the Official Irish Republican Army in the United Kingdom claims that he was abandoned by British and American spy agencies after he testified in a high-profile counterfeiting case. The case involves members of the Official IRA, including its alleged former chief of staff, who is wanted in the United States in connection with the so-called supernote counterfeit money investigation. The supernote, also known as superdollar or superbill, is a fake 100-dollar bill believed to be one of the highest-quality counterfeit banknotes ever detected. The US government believes that a nation-state is behind the production of the supernote, with North Korea being the primary suspect.

In 2000, in cooperation with the US Secret Service, British intelligence conducted a large-scale undercover operation codenamed MALI. According to the BBC’s investigative news program Panorama, the operation focused on Seán Garland, the former chief of staff of the Official IRA and former president of its political wing, the Workers’ Party of Ireland. The Official IRA and the Provisional IRA were the two main splinter groups of the “old” IRA, which parted ways in 1969 due to ideological and tactical differences. In 1972, the Official IRA declared a unilateral ceasefire and eventually morphed in to a leftwing political party calling itself the Workers’ Party of Ireland. Operation MALI allegedly found that the Workers’ Party former president, Seán Garland, traveled to Russia and visited the embassy of North Korea in Moscow. He is said to have picked up a package containing supernotes, which he then secretly smuggled into Ireland and from there to England, in exchange for money. Garland was arrested in 2005 in Belfast, UK, but managed to flee to Ireland when he was released on medical leave. He was arrested again in 2009 and released on bail. In 2011, his extradition request to the US was rejected by an Irish court on a technicality, but he remains wanted by Washington. Ireland is also considering whether there are legal grounds to prosecute Garland in Dublin. He and his supporters deny the charges against him and claim that they are politically motivated.

Last week, however, the man believed to be behind the tip-off that led to Garland’s arrest, said his life was in danger. The man, who uses the pseudonym “Michael O’Brien”, was a member of the Official IRA in the 1970s. But he says that after 1996 he worked as an undercover informant for Britain’s Security Service (MI5) and the Anti-Terrorist Branch of the British Police. He claims that it was he who first alerted British authorities about the involvement of members of the Workers’ Party of Ireland in the distribution of supernotes from Russia to Europe. He is also believed to have testified behind closed doors at a US court hearing involving Garland and other alleged conspirators in the counterfeit money case. However, O’Brien told The Sunday Times last week that his cover was blown in January of this year. Since then, he has allegedly been the subject of death threats and had to abandon his home in Belfast as a result. He also claims that the US Secret Service and British police have failed to provide him with protection. O’Brien told The Times that he chose to speak to the media in order to protect himself from possible assassination by Irish republicans.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 July 2016 | Permalink

Continuity IRA claims killing by armed assailants disguised as police

CIRAA leading dissident republican group in Ireland has claimed responsibility for a bloody attack in Dublin, which was carried out last week by a group of masked assailants disguised as police and carrying AK-47 assault rifles. Police said that the carefully planned attack involved at least six people wearing SWAT-style police uniforms, at least one of whom was disguised as a woman. The assailants stormed a boxing match weigh-in and opened fire, killing Dubliner David Byrne, 33, and injuring at least two others. The boxing match for the European lightweight category, which was scheduled to take between the Portuguese champion Antonio Joao Bento and Dubliner Jamie Kavanagh, was cancelled by the World Boxing Organization.

Initially, the attack was said to have been carried out by an organized illicit smuggling gang. However, police were skeptical about such a claim, given that the use of disguises and AK-47 assault rifles is reminiscent of the tactics used by the Provisional Irish Republican Army prior to the group’s decommissioning in 2005. On Monday, a man who gave the BBC a prearranged code-word associated with the Continuity IRA (CIRA), a republican splinter group, said the attack had been carried out by the militant organization. He said the senior leadership of the CIRA had ordered Byrne’s killing in retaliation for his involvement in the murder of a well-known republican militant in Dublin, nearly five years ago. Alan Ryan, who was believed to be a member of the Real IRA (RIRA), another republican splinter group, was gunned down in Dublin in September 2012, in what the police described as a “planned, targeted killing”. It was believed at the time that Ryan had been killed by a criminal gang with which the RIRA had quarreled.

The alleged CIRA representative told the BBC that Byrne’s killing “will not be an isolated incident”, adding that the group had plans to carry out more attacks aimed against “drug dealers and criminals” in Ireland. Early on Tuesday, meanwhile, another man, Eddie Hutch, was shot dead in northcentral Dublin, in what police said was a reprisal for last week’s CIRA attack in the Irish capital.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 February 2016 | Permalink