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McGartland claims that the government funding he was receiving for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder was withdrawn after he publicly criticized the British government’s counterterrorism policies.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/

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British spy agency to scrap $140m IT system over security fears

DeloitteBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, has decided to “accept defeat” and scrap a multimillion digital records management program over fears it could create a dangerous “intelligence vacuum”. The program, which has so far cost the British taxpayer over £90 million ($140 million) in payments to private consultants, was first conceived in the run-up to the London 2012 summer Olympic Games. While evaluating terrorist-related threats posed by the hosting of the Games in the United Kingdom, British security officials decided that the government-wide intelligence-sharing system in place was archaic and in need of serious overhaul. They hired a group of senior IT management consultants from Deloitte, one of the world’s largest professional services firm, headquartered in New York, NY. The pricey corporate experts were tasked with helping MI5 digitally collate intelligence data collected or produced by all departments of the British government. Deloitte’s planning team had projected that the multi-million dollar system would be in place and operational by the summer of 2012, before the Olympic Games were held in London. This, however, proved wildly optimistic; Deloitte barely managed to scrape together a watered-down version of the promised records management program in late 2012. When the program was tested by MI5’s intelligence collection managers, it was found to contain serious errors that, according to British newspaper The Independent, could leave the country’s intelligence agencies “vulnerable and struggling with an intelligence vacuum”. When initially questioned about the Deloitte debacle by British lawmakers, MI5’s (now retired) Director, Sir Jonathan Evans, told the frustrated members of the British House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee not to worry. Read more of this post

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

News you may have missed #720

Betty SappBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Lebanese national wanted for spying for Israel. A Lebanese military court has issued an arrest warrant for a Lebanese national suspected of spying for Israel. The judge in the case accused the suspect, whose name is yet to be released, of being in touch with Israel and passing on information about Ron Arad, an Israeli Air Force weapon systems officer who went missing in 1986.
►►Article sheds light on UK Home Office’s ex-spy official. An article in The Sunday London Times examines the role of Charles Farr, a former MI6 officer, who is considered as “the heart” of the British Home Office’s security policy. Farr, who joined MI6 some time in the 1980s, and served in South Africa and Jordan among other places, directs the Office’s Security and Counter-Terrorism unit. He is now in charge of the Home Office’s Communications Capabilities Development Programme, an attempt to augment online government surveillance. One former official, who had a showdown with Farr over policy, tells The Times: “He’s almost messianic. He’s like he’s on a mission to protect the nation. When you disagree with him he gets very emotional. He’s one of these guys who goes white and shakes when he loses his temper”.
►►First woman tapped to lead US spy satellite agency. For the first time in its storied history, the secretive builder and operator of America’s spy satellites, the National Reconnaissance Office, will be run by a woman. Betty Sapp, currently principal deputy director at the spysat agency, will move up one slot and replace NRO Director Bruce Carlson, who many credit with turning around the agency’s problem-plagued acquisition system. While Sapp is the first woman to lead the NRO, she is the second woman to lead one of the major intelligence agencies. Letitia “Tish” Long, director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, gets to claim the honor of first woman to break that glass ceiling.

News you may have missed #0131

  • CIA active in UK, British MPs told. Charles Farr, the head of the British Home Office’s office of security and counter-terrorism, told members of the British Parliament that Britain had a “very close” relationship with the US intelligence community and that “declared” CIA personnel are active in the British Isles. IntelNews readers have been aware since last January that the CIA has been conducting “unprecedented intelligence-gathering operations in Britain”.
  • Denmark’s military spy chief resigns amid soldier book scandal. The publication of a book by Thomas Rathsack, former member of Jaegerkorps, an elite army unit, which reveals systematic breach of Geneva Convention directives by members of the unit deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, has prompted the resignation of the country’s military intelligence chief. Tim Sloth Joergensen announced his resignation on Sunday.
  • Wife of poisoned Russian spy criticizes Moscow visit. The widow of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was assassinated by radiation poison in London, where he was living after defecting to the UK, has criticized the prospect of a visit to Moscow by Britain’s Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. “That [Mr. Miliband’s] visit will take place exactly on the third anniversary of my husband’s poisoning is adding insult to injury”, said Marina Litvinenko.

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UK Home Office to propose outsourcing interception database

A few months ago, UK Home Office Minister, Jacqui Smith, postponed the proposal of a controversial legislation placing in the hands of private companies a database containing all of the country’s intercepted telephone call and Internet traffic use data. The huge database collects the identity and location of all telephone callers and website visitors in the UK. Smith was eventually forced to abandon the plan, but now says she intends to publish a consultation paper re-introducing it to the public. She enjoys the backing of British law enforcement and intelligence services, who say “it is no longer good enough for communications companies to be left to retrieve such data when requested” to do so. Read more of this post