UK to probe role of high-ranking IRA informant in 24 murder cases

Provisional IRAAuthorities in Northern Ireland have launched an official investigation into the alleged involvement of a British government informant in dozens of murders perpetrated by Irish republican militants. The informant, codenamed STAKEKNIFE in British government documents, has been identified by some as Freddie Scappaticci, the grandson of an Italian immigrant to Northern Ireland, who in the early 1970s joined the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Eventually, Scappaticci was put in charge of the Provisional IRA Northern Command’s Internal Security Unit. The unit was tasked with counterintelligence operations, which involved detecting, capturing and eliminating suspected British government spies inside the IRA.

Unbeknownst to the IRA, however, Scappaticci was himself an informant for the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s Special Branch. He is believed to have been paid up to £80,000 a year to provide information to the British government about the IRA’s activities. STAKEKNIFE’s reputed work for the British government was first publicized in 2003 by another British government informant in the IRA, Kevin Fulton. But Scappaticci, who is known in republican circles as ‘Scap’, denies he was STAKEKNIFE, and the claims about him and his activities have been surrounded by an air of mystery.

Last year, however, families of those killed by the IRA’s Internal Security Unit took advantage of Fulton’s claims. They argued that, if STAKEKNIFE was indeed a British government informant, and if he was personally involved in the murder of alleged IRA informants, then the British authorities technically allowed him to get away with murder in order to protect his secret identity. The government, therefore, technically colluded in the murders and should be held responsible.

The Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland investigated these claims and communicated his findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The latter recently described the STAKEKNIFE investigation as “perhaps the most significant case” in his time as DPP. He has now ordered the Police Service of Northern Ireland to launch a formal inquiry into the matter and to start inviting witness testimonies. It is reputed that Northern Ireland First Minister, Martin McGuinness, who is said to have been close to Scappaticci during his tenure in the IRA, will be among the first witnesses called on to testify as part of the investigation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 October 2015 | Permalink

IRA spy’s lawsuit against MI5 to be judged in secret, UK court decides

Martin McGartlandA lawsuit against Britain’s Security Service (MI5) by a former spy, who in the 1980s infiltrated the Provisional Irish Republican Army, commonly known as IRA, is to be judged in secret, a court in London has decided. The spy, Martin McGartland, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, was recruited by the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the mid-1980s. The information he supplied to the security agencies over several years is widely credited with having saved the lives of at least 50 British police officers and soldiers. His autobiographical experiences formed the basis of the 2008 motion picture 50 Dead Men Walking.

However, McGartland’s cover was dramatically blown in 1991, when the IRA began suspecting that he might be an MI5 mole. After several hours of interrogation by the IRA’s Internal Security Unit, McGartland managed to escape his captors by throwing himself out of a third-floor window. He survived serious injuries and was taken into hiding by MI5, living in a series of safe houses across Britain for nearly a decade. In 1999 the IRA caught up with him at an MI5 safe house in North Tyneside, in the northeast of England, where he was shot and left for dead by an IRA hit team while walking to his car.

McGartland is now suing MI5 and its institutional patron, the British Home Office, claiming that they failed to support him after he was shot by the IRA. In his lawsuit, McGartland claims that the government funding he was receiving for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder was withdrawn after he publicly criticized the British government’s counterterrorism policies. In May of 2013, it emerged that Home Office solicitors had filed a formal request to hold the trial as a Closed Material Procedure (CMP) hearing. This type of practice, which became law in Britain under the 2013 Justice and Security Act, allows the court to decide a case without giving the plaintiff party any details of the information against them.

In many cases, the government resorts to CMP ostensibly to protect ‘sources and methods’. But McGartland’s legal team said that the secret hearing was designed “solely to cover up [MI5’s] own embarrassment and wrongdoing and not, as the Government has been claiming, to protect national security”. Moreover, civil rights groups warned that applying CMP to McGartland’s lawsuit would open the way for the imposition of wider restrictions on the principle of open justice and would normalize secret hearings in the civil courts.

After the judge hearing the case decided to impose CMP on the proceedings, McGartland’s legal team filed an appeal. Now the appeal judges seem to have sided with the Home Office. In a decision published on Tuesday, the judges opined that the imposition of CMP was “a case management decision properly open to the judge and there is no proper basis for this court to interfere with it”. They added that their decision did not represent a blanket approval of secret legal proceedings, but that they expected court judges to scrutinize future CMP applications “with care”.

The ruling means that McGartland’s legal team will not be allowed to hear testimony by certain MI5 witnesses or view court material designated as “sensitive” by the government. Lawyers for the former IRA informant said on Tuesday that the approval of the imposition of CMP represented “a serious aberration from the tradition of open justice”. But lawyers for the Home Office said that the ability to protect sensitive information was central to the proper function of a national security service.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 July 2015 | Permalink: https://intelnews.org/2015/07/15/01-1735/

MI5 wants secret court session over IRA informant’s lawsuit

Martin McGartlandBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, has requested a secret court hearing to deliberate a lawsuit from a high-profile spy who infiltrated the Provisional Irish Republican Army, commonly known as IRA. The mole, Martin McGartland, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, was recruited by the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the 1980s. The information he supplied to the security agencies over several years is widely credited with having saved the lives of at least 50 British police officers and soldiers. His autobiographical experiences formed the basis of the 2008 motion picture 50 Dead Men Walking, written and directed by Kari Skogland and starring Jim Sturgess as Martin and Ben Kingsley. McGartland’s cover was dramatically blown in 1991, when the IRA began suspecting that he might be an MI5 mole. After several hours of interrogation by the IRA’s Internal Security Unit, McGartland managed to escape his captors and throw himself out of a third-floor window. He survived serious injuries and was taken into hiding by MI5, living in a series of safe houses across Britain for nearly a decade. However, in 1999 the IRA caught up with him at an MI5 safe house in North Tyneside, in the northeast of England, where he was shot by an IRA hit team while walking to his car one morning and left for dead. McGartland is now suing MI5 and its institutional patron, the British Home Office, claiming that they failed to support him after he was shot by the IRA. In his lawsuit, McGartland claims that government funding he was receiving for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder was withdrawn after he publicly criticized the British government’s counterterrorism policies. 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