Monday, February 18, 2013

The Murder of Patrick Finucane

                                          By Neil Harris

THE FINUCANE Independent Review, published in December 2012, found only some evidence of “collusion” between the British State and Ulster “loyalist” death squads, limiting those involved to a few “rotten apples”.  This has satisfied no one, least of all those hoping for the truth and because of this, the likelihood of further successful prosecutions after all these years is slim.

Written at the insistence of the Irish and American Governments, the review was a concession forced on the British government as part of the deal behind the “peace process” in Ireland and by the 2003 European Court of Human Rights finding that Britain had failed to carry out an adequate investigation into the murder of Patrick Finucane, in breach of Article Two of the charter.

Rather than simply report on the review, the New Worker thought it would be more interesting to look at the newly revealed material, including some heavily redacted secret documents and some partial statements from the Stevens investigations which now help us to see the direct links between the murderers and the British State. Of course, Mr Da Silva was looking for cast iron legal proof of collusion, failing to understand that the kind of people who involve themselves in this kind of murder, rarely leave more than a trace behind. This article pieces together the traces.

It all began in August 1987, when an Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) Colour Sergeant passed out weapons from the Palace Barracks armoury to the fascist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) for use by its front organisation the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). This included a standard British Army nine milimetre Browning pistol, one of the weapons later used in Finucane’s murder.

The Browning was to become part of a cache of weapons held by William Stobie, a paid informer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch. Stobie was a member of the UDA and acted as a Quartermaster to the UDA/UFF, holding weapons for the Active Service Units (ASU) of the West Belfast Brigade, amongst others.

As an informer, he kept the Branch aware of the weapons he was holding, who he supplied them to and, on occasion, passed those weapons out to the RUC for forensic tests to be carried out, before they were returned to the cache for use. Despite this knowledge, between 1987 and 1989, the West Belfast UDA/UFF carried out numerous sectarian murders unimpeded by the RUC.

In his statement to the Stevens investigation, journalist Neil Mulholland gave evidence of an interview with Stobie in 1990, where he described how he had warned RUC Special Branch that he had handed over the Browning to an ASU for imminent use against Finucane:

“It was after this that he said he had decided there and then, to take no more with the SB. He felt that these guys were killers, he said they knew Finucane was away for his tea and did fuck all about it, he said this scared the shite out of him.”

Prior to the murder of Finucane, RUC officers were making threats to his life via his clients and inciting his murder when interrogating “loyalists” at Castlereagh.

The Security Service conducted a propaganda operation against Finucane and other lawyers, who were also UDA targets, intending to discredit them.

Douglas Hogg MP, who was Tory Under-Secretary at the Home Office, visited the occupied north of Ireland on 24/11/88 where he was briefed by Sir John Herman (RUC Chief Constable) and other RUC officers about solicitors the RUC didn’t approve of. At Hogg’s request, this was followed up with a written briefing on Finucane and the others, which was sent to him on 13/1/89.

In a parliamentary statement on 17/1/89, Hogg used this information and referred to a number of solicitors who were “unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA”. Seamus Mallon MP of the Social Democratic and Labour party responded by saying that lawyers in Northern Ireland would become “targets for assassins bullets” as a result of Hogg’s comments. This was to prove an accurate forecast; on the 12th February 1989, Patrick Finucane, an Irish lawyer of great courage, was shot in his own home by a gang of UDA/UFF murderers.

Brian Nelson had been an Army informer, before he moved to Germany. The Force Research Unit, the Army unit responsible for running covert agents in Ireland, persuaded Nelson to return and resume his undercover activities in the UDA, which he did from 1987 to 1989. During this period as a paid informer, he returned to his old role as Intelligence Officer for the UDA, responsible for their “Intelligence Dump”, a collection of “personality cards”, essentially profiles of Nationalist targets for assassination built up from leaked security forces material.

It seems to have been widely known in “loyalist” circles that Nelson was an informer and in contact with the FRU, indeed, how else could he have access to such material?  For example, when he took over the dump again in 1987, the FRU completed a “contact form” (CF 14/10/87) setting out the confidential material it held, presumably after Nelson had given them access to it. It included: RUC statements, Garda reports on Nationalist personalities, British Army Personality files, Photos of British military ops rooms walls (that is of operational material; maps, photos and so on), British Army NI aide memoire and 500 RUC files of personalities (Nationalist targets).

Later Nelson passed the dump over to the FRU so that out of date material could be weeded out before it was returned to him for UDA use.

In 1989 FRU took possession of the dump to secure it from the Stevens enquiry into leaks of confidential information. At that time it included so much confidential material we can only quote a sample: 238 Army photo montages of suspects, 27 RUC photos of PIRA suspects, 500 photos from Army/RUC, Army notebooks, 42 B/W Army photos, 10 pages of suspects names from RUC source, 18 Army style photos, “Country Suspect” lists Army/RUC, 26 pages Army/RUC information (target files), 113 military photos PIRA, 24 B/W photos funerals, 25 photos – “stop and search”, “stop lists” of vehicles, vehicle registration numbers, Newry PIRA “sightings list”, RUC “sightings lists”, Army air photos, Army maps, RUC photo fits, lists of “Arrests for the month”, RUC lists of “persons of interest”, Army films, military style photos and one letter from the fascist British National Front, presumably begging for help.

This “dump” was to be given protected status by the Army and RUC; in his statement, the Officer Commanding the FRU’s East Detachment (East Det FRU)  told the Stevens II investigation on 9th December 1993: "I have said before and I repeat – RUC Special Branch, in particular the Source Unit, were aware of the address where the int dump was contained, and to the best of my knowledge, this address was listed by them as a 'do not search property without reference to the FRU'."

All this information collecting was not just “trainspotting”, Nelson was providing accurate targeting material based on Army and RUC secret intelligence to UDA/UFF death squads and then reporting to his Army handlers what was going to happen. This is what he did in relation to Finucane, including providing the UDA with his personality card, photographs and even doing a “recce” of his house in advance of the assassination.

In a FRU telephone contact form dated 13/2/89, the following conversation was recorded between Nelson and his handler regarding the Finucane murder;

Nelson: “It was done this morning”

Handler: “Was it?”

Nelson: “Yes”

Handler: “OK thanks”

Nelson: “See you tomorrow”

Handler: “OK bye”

Nelson: “Bye”.

The review concludes: “The handler commented that Nelson was referring to the murder of Patrick Finucane. The Officer Commanding (East Det FRU), A/01, added proudly that this intelligence was "passed to Source Unit before it was claimed on Downtown Radio".

Kenneth Barrett drove the murderers to Finucane's house and many years later made admissions that resulted in his conviction and life imprisonment. But after the murder, he agreed to become an RUC informer and as a result forensic evidence from the hijacked car used in the murder disappeared. This was not the only evidence to go missing; Barrett’s first taped confession vanished and the Browning pistol was bizarrely returned to the UDR after its recovery, where its barrel and firing mechanism were removed and destroyed. All of which protected Barrett for some years, while he was providing information.

In fact the protection went further; an RUC CID officer investigating Barrett’s role in the murder, Detective Sergeant Brown, gave the following account of  a discussion with R/06, an RUC Special Branch officer on 3/10/91:

"'Move away from it', Sam [DC R/06] said …

“I brought it to his attention that we could clear the controversial murder of the solicitor Pat Finucane … What he said next astounded me.

“ 'We (Special Branch) know he done it', he said.

“ 'Pardon?' I replied."

Later, after being convicted and imprisoned for life for his role in the murder, Barrett made statements to the Stevens investigation where he set out exactly what had happened.

On the 28th April 2006, he described how police were “putting word out that Finucane should be shot”. Then he described how “Nelson produced a card for Finucane” as well as photographs. He described how Stobie brought the guns from their hiding place and that “somewhere on the Antrim Road there was always a roadblock. L/20 made a couple of calls to remove it…the week before the murder the road block was removed”.

He also separately described how it was arranged that he could steal weapons from Malone Barracks: “It was set up for me to go in. There were a few with knowledge of what was happening – MI5, FRU he spoke to, whatever.”

He described how he lost confidence on the first attempt but then returned “when it was explained the Army were in on it….I was allowed to walk in the armoury”. He signed for various weapons in a false name while wearing uniform: “I took two SA80’s and some Brownings. I walked out with the guns but there was a problem”. He described how he was threatened into returning one of the SA80’s: “One of the SA80’s had to be recovered…we were told what we could do and what we couldn’t do.”

The extent of active collusion can be best understood in this example we have pieced together from the review and its documents: in early December 1988 Nelson reported to his Army handler that the UDA were going to enter an Ulster Defence Regiment barracks to obtain secret information, with the help of sympathetic soldiers. The RUC decided not to intervene, neither did the FRU on behalf of the British Army.

The Security Service (MI5) was kept informed and recorded a discussion their officers had with the Deputy Head of RUC Special Branch (D/HSB) in an internal note:   

"[L/03] was planning to break into a UDR camp on 2nd December to photograph some intelligence reports … We agreed that this was … odd … a view endorsed by D/HSB when I spoke to him subsequently. D/HSB advised that 'since the UDA already had lots of this stuff anyway' and that they would find nothing of value there was little to be gained by trying to prevent [L/03's] activity."

In fact amongst other material, the UDA obtained a video tape of a secret UDR briefing on Nationalist targets. Nelson was reported in an FRU CF dated 6/12/88 as having viewed the tape and saying that the sympathetic UDR soldiers had offered refuge in the barracks to the UDA/UFF hit team if they needed somewhere to hide. The UDA targeted the individuals on the tape and murdered Loughlin Maginn. It was that murder that started the chain of events leading to the three Stevens inquiries, the prosecution of Nelson, the inquiry by Justice Cory and eventually the Finucane review.

In an FRU CF dated 4/1/89, Nelson reported to his handler: “If no attacks resulted on any of those mentioned on the video tape, the UDR personnel who supplied it would not supply any more”. There was little danger of that happening; they knew the security forces would not have taken any action to prevent it.

In the second part of this article, we will look further at the involvement of the State and politicians in the cover up that followed the murder, and to what extent this was all deliberate policy.

The Murder of Patrick Finucane: the cover up

                                        By Neil Harris

BY 1989 the new spate of sectarian “loyalist” murders had been noticed and the press were starting to take an interest. Concerned by criticism, the UDA/UFF tried to justify its murderous acts by producing “evidence” in the form of Army or RUC intelligence material.
This was the case with the murder of Loughlin Maginn and others. Copies of Army “montages” (collections of photographs of “people of interest”) were handed to the press and on a couple of occasions copies were pasted on Belfast walls.
For the British state this was bad publicity and when The Guardian newspaper published some of the montages, action had to be taken. The fact that Garda intelligence was being passed to “loyalist” death squads was particularly embarrassing, especially as the Irish government was putting on pressure. The name “Finucane” wouldn’t go away and America was watching.
As a result, Sir John Stevens, a Chief Constable, was appointed to carry out a limited inquiry into the leaks, to put the problem to sleep. But Stevens had learned from the destruction of Deputy Chief Constable John Stalker on a previous inquiry and was determined to protect himself and his team.
As a result the genie was let out of the bottle and his little investigation turned into three major inquiries. A real battle of wits began between the team of ordinary London detectives and the secret world of the “dirty war” in Ireland. The obstruction they faced was extraordinary and worthy of an article in itself. Both the RUC and Army deliberately withheld vital evidence from the inquiry.
At an initial RUC Special Branch briefing, one of the Stevens team asked about British Army agents, only to be told that the British Army did not run any informants in Ireland.
The FRU seized and hid Brian Nelson’s “intelligence dump”, essential for any investigation into the leaking of secret documents. Its existence was not disclosed to Stevens for four months, until the arrest and charging of Brian Nelson made it inevitable. It is likely that the “dump” was washed clean during that time.
The Security Service seemed embarrassed by the RUC Special Branch failing to disclose RUC links to “loyalist” paramilitaries, stating in a remarkably candid letter:
"It is not clear why there is no similar document relating to the RUC – perhaps Stevens only asked about the UDR. Certainly our researches suggest that RUC links are as extensive as the UDR's; although it is probably fair to say that RUC officers would not have committed so many offences of murder, manslaughter, firearms offences and so on."
Steven’s office was bugged and broken into and the secure safes may have been opened. In the end the offices were burnt out on 10th January 1990, just before Nelson was due to be arrested. In his Overview and Recommendations report published in April 2003 Sir John Stevens stated:: "This incident, in my opinion, has never been adequately investigated and I believe it was a deliberate act of arson."
In short there was an active cover up by the Army and RUC. The case of Martin Ingram is helpful here: the author Ingram is in fact Ian Hurst, an Army Officer and member of the FRU West Detachment, the section running agents in Nationalist organisations. Hurst’s evidence at various inquiries has been pretty inconvenient for the State; he is a whistleblower now and he has a record of not being believed. That doesn’t make his evidence untrue.
Before the Stevens inquiries, he gave evidence of conversations with Nelson’s handler and other officers of the FRU East Detachment about the murder of Finucane:
"Hurst: There was … intelligence pre the actual attack … I was told by A/04 that that information had been passed to the RUC …”
Detective Superintendent S/02: “… do you know as a fact or did you take it that that information was supplied to the FRU by Nelson.”
Hurst: “Oh that, without a shadow of a doubt that is the only, that was the only conduit.”
S/02: “But are you saying that within the FRU there was knowledge that Finucane was a target?”
Hurst: “Oh yeah that was undoubted that."
In his written statement, Hurst set it out;
"My clear understanding [from conversations with A/04] was that there was pre-emptive intelligence in regards to Finucane on two occasions and that there is little doubt that Nelson had told FRU that Finucane was being targeted. I believe that the RUC were informed on the first occasion. I don't know why the first targeting did not actually take place as I recollect it was the most serious of the threats but the second was allowed to proceed."
He also confirmed that FRU had passed intelligence to Nelson about Finucane before the murder; "I am 80/90 per cent certain that [A/04] said there was a photograph of Finucane passed to Nelson by FRU."
Hurst gave evidence that Nelson’s handler (A/13) had the full support of her Commanding Officer (A/05): "[A/13] said quite clearly that [A/05] … held the view that he was content with the case and it was 'bomb proof' and being overseen by political masters."
Most importantly of all, Hurst gave evidence that the “Contact Forms” (CF’s) that the Finucane Review trusted so completely were edited and altered: “In January 1990 I remember [A/04] explaining to me that in relation to Nelson he would be spending several months sorting the CFs out as there were a few problems and there needed to be a few subtle changes made to the CFs."
In his statement Hurst said that A/04 "would be required to travel from Fermanagh to Lisburn for this reason".
Ingram/Hurst has not just had problems because they don’t believe him; he also has problems because he might be believed. When he started writing books and articles after he left the Army, he was arrested by Special Branch and made subject to a Court injunction.
Then last year he made a statement as a core participant in the Leveson Inquiry into Press Standards. In 2004 he had moved to France, where so many in the secret and security world seem to go to retire. The much delayed police inquiries into Murdoch’s News International had revealed how in 2006, the News of the World hired a private detective (X), who had been a fellow member of the FRU serving with Ingram for three years. X inserted a “Trojan” into Hurst’s computer, giving access to his files and E-mails, ostensibly on behalf of the newspaper but with the clear intention of discrediting him and his evidence.
The decision whether or not to prosecute Nelson for his crimes, following the Stevens recommendations, is where the cover up gets really interesting. The Ministry of Defence fought very hard to stop a prosecution; their written advice to their minister Tom King, 26/9/90 stated that a prosecution would;
"… challenge the integrity of the system … by revealing that … [Nelson] … was not merely a paid informer but a long-term agent who was allowed to continue as an active member of a terrorist organisation which committed many murders while he was acting as its intelligence officer. It would feed the speculations of those who believe that the security forces are involved in a 'dirty tricks campaign' and are in collusion with loyalist paramilitary groups."
As a result King recommended that “overall, he regarded it as important that [Nelson] should not go near the courts". King based his view on the briefing from the MOD Civil Servants, which they had got from FRU. Nothing was to change King’s view, even when the evidence of Nelson’s role turned out to be false.
Representations against prosecution were made by the Minister for Northern Ireland on behalf of the RUC, the Defence Minister on behalf of the Army and both the Home secretary and the Director General of the Security Service on behalf of MI5.
The Civil Service then weighed in on behalf of the Security Forces when the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robin Butler, minuted the Prime Minister, John Major on 15th March 1991 outlining the "damage" that could be caused by proceeding with the proposed murder charges against Nelson. Charles Powell, the Prime Minister's Private Secretary, provided a similar briefing to the Prime Minister before a meeting of relevant cabinet ministers, repeating the Army’s lies about Nelson.
Even when those lies were exposed, the arguments continued, more frantically than ever. In the end, Nelson was to be prosecuted, although half-heartedly. A note from the Prime Ministers principal secretary gives away Civil Service hopes of how the case might work out:
"One possibility is that when it becomes apparent that the prosecution case is relying on Nelson's debriefing to his handlers and treating it like a confession, the defence will object on grounds that this is not a proper statement taken under Police and Criminal Evidence Act. If the objection is sustained the case could collapse at the start - a very good outcome. [Attorney General] and DPP (NI) consciences are salved and case comes to an end before too much damage is done."
In the end a number of charges were to be dropped, including any relating to the murder of Finucane. In court further charges were to be withdrawn following a deal between the prosecuting and defending barristers.
When Nelson came to be sentenced, “Colonel J”, the Commanding Officer of FRU gave evidence on oath on his behalf, supposedly outlining the lives saved by Nelson’s work. In his inquiry into the affair, Justice Cory stated that:
"The evidence given by the CO FRU, (Soldier ‘J’), at Nelson's trial could only be described as misleading. The statement that Nelson's actions were responsible for saving close to 217 lives was based on a highly dubious numerical analysis that cannot be supported on any basis."
The result of this was an unduly lenient sentence of 10 years for an involvement in four murders, and as we now know, many other unproved serious crimes. This should not come as any surprise, as the Ministry of Defence’s submission to the Secretary of State for Defence dated 26th  September 1990 revealed that:
"[Nelson] is now in a position where he has to rely on us to protect his life (either in or out of prison) and the lives of his [family]: such protection would be conditional on his remaining silent about our covert operations."
That October, Nelson was granted an interim resettlement package of £1,650 per month in payments to his wife. In an internal note (6/11/90), the Army was looking to persuade him to accept an MOD recommended solicitor to open a “channel of communication” with him and to reassure him: “The Army is paying close attention to his case and looking after his wife; and will resettle him when he is released, subject to his remaining silent on what he knows."
What we have seen is clear collusion between Army Intelligence (FRU), the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Ulster Defence Regiment and “loyalist” death squads. This was with the intention of directing them towards people the Army and Police wanted executed, using Brian Nelson as a conduit to pass over intelligence that would identify the favoured targets.
Above that level, the security service and senior civil servants were only too happy to endorse that tactic and participate in the cover up when it all started to unravel.
What about the politicians, supposedly in charge of the State, but in reality reliant on briefings from civil servants and the security forces? The review quotes R/16, a former senior Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch (RUC SB) officer, who described briefings to Ministers as follows:
"These briefing papers would not deal with the identity of particular agents because such operational details were not considered to be the domain of the political leadership; indeed, [R/16] considered that if they were wise the political leadership would steer clear of such details."
In short, the politicians chose whether they would be part of the cover up or remain ignorant and not ask embarrassing questions. Either way this left the State and the soldiers to get on with it.
What was the result of the cover up? In 1999, they did it again. Rosemary Nelson, a feisty and determined solicitor happy to represent unpopular clients was blown up by a car bomb placed by the “Red Hand Commando”, following the same pattern of RUC threats made through her clients.
What was the result of the inquiries into the death of Rosemary Nelson? They did it all over again. “Colonel J”, Officer Commanding FRU, (Gordon Kerr) was promoted to Brigadier and was eventually appointed Military Attaché at the British embassy in Beijing to get him out of the way.
Following the invasion of Iraq, he was placed in charge of the same kind of Army intelligence operations there that he had run in Ireland during the 1980’s. Now that he is retired, there will be other Frank Kitson’s and Gordon Kerr’s, eager to do it all over again unless we stop them.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A test for peace

DEMOCRATIC Korea conducted a third underground nuclear test this week. The atomic test was conducted safely to ensure that there was no adverse effect to the surrounding ecological environment. The development of the DPR Korea’s independent nuclear deterrent is part of a series of practical measures to defend the security and sovereignty of the DPR Korea in the face of the economic and diplomatic offensive by US imperialism and its venal allies and lackeys to deny the independent right of the DPRK to pursue space exploration.
Communists all over the world have joined the Korean people in the free north, the occupied south of the country and the overseas communities in congratulating the latest achievement of Democratic Korean science and technology. But the prospect of a free and independent DPRK has provoked the usual hypocritical bleating from the imperialist camp and those who clearly should know better than to condemn north Korea for doing what they have already done themselves.
Had US imperialism honoured the agreements struck between great leader Kim Il Sung and the Clinton administration in the 1990s none of this would have happened. But the Americans chose to double-cross the DPRK and now they must pay for the inevitable consequences for their duplicity.
The Americans, who used atomic bombs to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War, are the last to talk about peace and disarmament. They have conducted over a thousand nuclear tests of their own and they possess a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the world several times over.
The imperialists, whose legions straddle the world they exploit, plunder and oppress, have no right to condemn anyone for taking steps to defend their own independence. Democratic Korea threatens no one but its enemies are close by. United States nuclear-armed warships are stationed off the Korean coast and thousands of US troops are in the south of Korea as well as in Japan.
Democratic Korea has never invaded another country nor does it seek to do so. The imperialists destroyed Yugoslavia. Imperialist troops and their pawns have invaded Iraq and Libya. Their troops fight on in Afghanistan and Mali and their agents foment the civil strife in Syria. In the Middle East America’s chief lackey, Israel, maintains a brutal occupation on the West Bank of occupied Palestine while the Americans’ other willing tools, the feudal Arab oil princes,  use their money to destabilise Syria to make the region safe for the big oil corporations and the vultures from the World Bank and the IMF.
Democratic Korea is committed to the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula and it has pledged never to be the first to use nuclear weapons.
The DPRK has had no choice but to develop its nuclear energy programme and its own independent nuclear deterrent. The DPRK threatens no one. The US wants to perpetuate the division of Korea and ultimately to extinguish socialism in the Korean peninsula. That will not happen.  The New Communist Party fully stands by the DPRK and condemns the imperialist aims and threats.