15 May 2003 Edition
Brits must come clean on dirty war
Belfast man denies allegations amid media frenzy
Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly on Wednesday evening called for complete disclosure of files and documents relating to Britain's dirty war in Ireland. He was speaking after Alfredo 'Freddie' Scapatticci, the Belfast man accused throughout the media at the weekend of being a senior British agent in the IRA known as 'Stakeknife', spoke to ther media to deny all allegations against him.
Gerry Kelly said that the media had been manipulated by faceless people intent upon damaging the political process. "What I am arguing for is that files need to be opened on those faceless and nameless people," he said.
"All I know is that the people who made the accusations certainly have an agenda in doing so."
On Wednesday afternoon, Freddie Scapatticci spoke to journalists Brian Rowan and Anne Cadwallader in the Falls Road office of his solicitor, Michael Flanigan. In a statement, Flanigan said his client had not been in hiding, had not left the Six Counties and would be issuing defamation proceedings. He had been forced to leave his home on Sunday morning "solely because of the media onslaught on his character". The solicitor added that the allegations had been published with no regard for his client's position or the harm it could cause to him or his family.
"The past three days have been very traumatic for Mr Scapatticci and his family," said Flanigan. "He now intends to resume his private life."
Speaking after his solicitor's statement, Scapatticci said:
"I am sitting here today with my solicitor and I am telling you I am not guilty of any of these allegations.
"I have not left Northern Ireland since I was challenged by reporters on Saturday night.
"Nobody has had the decency to ask me if any of these allegations were true and why the police had not come to question me about these allegations."
Responding to questions, Scapatticci said he did not know why the allegations had been made. He said he was not an active member of the republican movement. "I was involved in the republican movement 13 years ago but I have had no involvement this past 13 years," he said.
Commenting afterwards, Sinn Féin representative Gerry Kelly said:
"Last weekend, British Intelligence comprehensively briefed the British and Irish media. Faceless and nameless securocrats in British Intelligence made a raft of serious but unsubstantiated allegations against Freddie Scapatticci.
"This storm of accusations and allegations against Freddie Scapatticci has been accepted and repeated as fact by a large section of the media without question, without criticism. Mr Scapatticci has denied the allegations in categoric terms. These allegations were made by the same people who:
killed Pat Finucane;
ran Brian Nelson and used him and other agents to control and direct loyalist death squads against republicans, nationalists and Catholics;
continue to control and direct the unionist paramilitaries;
continue to target and gather intelligence, not just on Sinn Féin, but also on their own government;
at every turn of the peace process maliciously leak and brief misinformation to create crises and to bolster anti-Agreement elements.
"Even before these recent events, there was a clear need for full disclosure of the activities of these faceless and unaccountable agencies. That case is now overwhelming. The files must be opened up. There must be full disclosure."
Media have field day with British allegations
Since Sunday the media have had a field day.
The years of speculation about the identity of a British Army agent at the heart of the IRA supposedly came to an end when a number of British and Irish newspapers identified an Andersonstown man, Freddie Scapatticci, as 'Stakeknife'.
For years now, the British press has run story after story claiming that the notorious British Army's Force Research Unit (FRU) had an agent at the heart of the IRA, that this agent, had up to 40 people - including many IRA Volunteers and civilians - killed to keep his identity safe and that this agent supplied top grade intelligence to his British Army handlers, intelligence that was used to devastate the IRA and undermine its capacity to wage war against the British.
The British Guardian, on Monday 12 May, seemed to go to heart of the matter when on Monday, in its opening paragraph it trumpeted that, "the IRA was reeling in shock and panic last night after one of its top members was unmasked as the infamous army spy known as Stakeknife".
The day before, Sunday 11 May, the Sunday People, claiming to lift the lid on "the most shocking secret of Ulster's 30-year war", stated that "Britain's most senior agent inside the IRA was in a safe house in England".
The People said that it had learned on Friday that Scapatticci was to be identified on a website on Saturday night. It added that the posting went ahead 24 hours after Scapatticci was taken into "protective custody with the resettlement branch of the British Army".
However, further on in its coverage of the affair, the People's Greg Harkin reported that he had spoken to a man named Freddie Scapatticci at his West Belfast home, who stated clearly that he was not Stakeknife.
To confuse matters more, Harkin was interviewed on a BBC radio programme and said that he was twice told by security sources that Stakeknife, alias Freddie Scapatticci, had been taken into protective custody in England.
A bemused Harkin said that he visited the Scapatticci home on two occasions to find the man named at home.
"I was lied to", said Harkin, seemingly undermining his own sources within the British security services.
On Monday, at a press conference in the party's Belfast headquarters in Sevastopol Street, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly revealed that members of the Scapatticci family had been in contact with the party to say that Freddie Scapatticci had not left Belfast.
"There have been a mass of allegations in the media over the weekend and again today concerning West Belfast man Freddie Scapatticci," he said.
"The Scapatticci family have been in touch with Sinn Féin. We have advised them that Freddie Scapatticci should go to a solicitor and should make a public statement.
"The Scapatticci family have confirmed that, contrary to media reports, Freddie Scapatticci is not in custody and has not left Belfast."
On Tuesday 13 May, Scapatticci released a statement through his solicitor, Michael Flanigan.
The statement read: "A number of most serious allegations have been made about my client in the press since Sunday. My client denies each and every one of these allegations. He is not 'Stakeknife'. He has never been an informer, has never contacted the intelligence services, has never been taken into protective custody and has never received any money from the security services.
"My client is the victim of misinformation, apparently emanating from the security forces and disseminated by the Press. Mr Scapatticci is an ordinary working man living in West Belfast and as such has no means at his disposal to combat this onslaught of false allegations.
"Clearly, his life has been placed in danger as a result and he is now in hiding. He has not been arrested and no attempt has been made by the police to speak to him about any of the matters referred to by the media. He has not been contacted by the Stevens' investigation team.
"Mr Scapatticci has been compelled to issue this statement as a result of the intense media speculation about him. In the interest of protecting his privacy no further statement will be issued at this time."
Further collusion claims
As the allegations against Freddie Scapatticci focused the media's attention, fresh allegations of loyalist collusion were being largely ignored.
The Belfast based Sunday Life, which is serialising a book written by loyalist killer Michael Stone, carries the claims by Stone that the RUC helped him carry out his attack on mourners at Milltown Cemetery in 1988.
Stone claims that he was told before he went to West Belfast for the funerals of the three IRA Volunteers killed in Gibraltar that contrary to previous policy, when the British crown forces swamped republican funerals, there would be no crown forces in attendance at the funerals.
Stone could not have planned his attacks without this knowledge.
Then on Monday, the unionist daily, in what could almost be described as a break with tradition, exposed a UVF spy ring that colluded with the British Army and RUC to kill dozens of alleged republicans.
The paper wrote that the UVF intelligence network suggests that 'police' and 'army' collusion with loyalists was broader and more coordinated than ever imagined.
"Two senior Belfast UVF figures orchestrated the spy network during the '80s and '90s, collating countless files passed by individuals in the 'security' forces.
Said the Newsletter, "the operation was not State sponsored but collusion was '"institutionalised'".
Intriguingly as the Stakeknife story moved into Wednesday, the Guardian asserted that "Stakeknife is in a British safe house".
However, the paper also quoted a British Ministry of Defence source who said the army ran an agent code named 'Steak Knife' and not 'Stakeknife'. The source added that Mr Scapatticci was not in the care of the army.
Meanwhile, speaking from London, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty accused faceless elements within British military intelligence of being behind the Scapatticci story.
Said Doherty: "The media reports at the weekend about an alleged agent all emanated from faceless elements within British military intelligence with all the resources of the British state behind them.
"They were aimed at a named individual who has no such means to counter these allegations and who has since denied these allegations.
"These allegations, speculation and disinformation come on the back of the Stevens' inquiry and revelations from the UVF and Michael Stone that loyalist death squads were manipulated and directed by FRU and Special Branch."
Ahern must demand equality, openness and integrity from British
Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has challenged the Taoiseach to provide evidence to support his claim during Taoiseach's Questions on Wednesday that the British government has declared its war in Ireland to be over. Ó Caoláin said it was "disingenuous of the Taoiseach to make claims on behalf of the British government that are frankly untrue".
The TD for Cavan/Monaghan said: "Rather than attempting to pick at non-existent holes in the IRAs recent statements the Taoiseach would do well to pay some attention to the lack of clarity from the British government and the sinister developments that have taken place over the last few days.
"Today, the Taoiseach said 'the British government has made its position very clear - that its war is over.' Where is the evidence to support this? On what information is the Irish government making this extravagant claim? Although the evidence manifestly suggests otherwise the British have never even acknowledged that it was in fact engaged in a war in Ireland. It is disingenuous of the Taoiseach to make such claims on behalf of the British government that are quite frankly untrue.
"Also worth noting is the fact that minutes after he made his 'the war is over' claim on behalf of the British government the Taoiseach went on to say that he often came out of meetings with the British Prime Minister more confused than when he went in, particularly having raised questions about Britain's sinister military activities in Ireland.
"All of this points to the fact that the British government is treating the Irish government with little disguised and patronising contempt. The Irish government needs to take a more forceful stand in this relationship. They must demand equality, openness and integrity from the British side if the nationalist population in Ireland is to retain its confidence in this process and in the Good Friday Agreement.
"The Irish government could make a start by demanding access to and publication of the full Stevens' report into collusion. If Britain has nothing to hide or if, as the Taoiseach claims, that all of this is in its past, then they could show their bona fides by making the full report public.
"Otherwise, judging by the events of the last couple of days and the role played by Britain's Ministry of Defence and MI5, ordinary people could not be faulted for thinking that Britain's sinister war in Ireland was continuing unabated."
British governments have sanctioned murder - McNamara
Commons debates collusion report
Speaking in a debate in the House of Commons on the implications of the Stevens' report into collusion, Labour MP Kevin McNamara said: "I believe that the findings of Sir John Stevens - even in the form of an interim overview - represent the most damning indictment of the security services and by implication government practice I can recall.
The 90-minute debate was listed for Wednesday morning at McNamara's request. In a letter to the Secretary of State, the Labour backbencher and former party spokesman on the North, urged Murphy to announce an independent inquiry without further delay.
"Stevens' stark message is that successive British governments have sanctioned murder. They have employed agents and given them a license to kill. Agents have acted above the law and acted with impunity.
"Many of Stevens' proposals on bringing accountability to the intelligence gathering process echo the thoughts of Her Majesty's Inspector," he said.
"Stevens' findings on the murder of Patrick Finucane are quite clear. I do not believe it is in the public interest for an independent inquiry to be further delayed. There is a need to restore confidence. I urge the Minister to bring forward the government's agreement in principle commitment for a full inquiry under the 1921 act to be conducted by an international jurist of repute."
"At the centre of Stevens' investigation and allegations of dirty tricks and unlawful activities carried out by the British Army are the members and officers of the Force Research Unit - FRU, previously known as the Forward Reconnaissance Unit, and before that 14th Intelligence Company. The unit is now known as the Joint Services Group and according to Brigadier Arundell David Leahy, its methods of operation have not changed to any significant extent.
"The Saville Inquiry has heard evidence of discussion papers prepared by senior personnel in the security forces arguing for the adoption of tactics based on illegal use of lethal force through arbitrary killings and extra-judicial assassination. Orchestration of a flawed Inquiry under Lord Justice Widgery and consequent failure to prosecute those responsible for the Bloody Sunday outrage sent a disturbing message to the security forces.
"Her Majesty's government permitted the impression to remain - that while illegal actions were damaging for propaganda purposes, their commission was protected by informal system of impunity.
"If it is tacitly 'understood' that intelligence agencies may operate outside the rule of law, or such behaviour given an informal 'legitimacy' through the failure to set lawful parameters, it is not structurally possible to hold the agencies, their employees and agents accountable without the intervention of an outside independent body.
"It now seems evident that the intelligence agencies have been engaged in 'running agents' inside both loyalist and republican paramilitary groups, promoting, planning and participating in terrorist activities in order to achieve internally defined goals. Agencies have protected individuals both from other paramilitaries and from investigation and prosecution by the police.
"For successive governments, the tactical assessment of the options for the military offensive against terrorism was flawed by compromised intelligence and undermined by its reliance upon unlawful activities of agencies.
I remain to be convinced that dirty tricks saved lives. Undoubtedly, undercover British agents prevented some loss of life; but too often the lack of political control meant agents averting their eyes from terrorist crime and ending up acting as judge, jury and executioner."
"I believe that intelligence agencies played a significant role in shaping the political geography of Northern Ireland and prevented the emergence of a political alternative for many years.
"While great strides have been made in addressing shortcomings of the RUC by a process of police reform and the adoption of a model of accountable policing that would have been unthinkable a decade ago; the intelligence agencies have so far been immune from change.
"I do not believe that impunity for serious offences committed by agents of the state can be in the public interest."
"Discovery of the truth behind controversial killings is part of the process of reconciliation in Northern Ireland where the grief of victims has been compounded by an appearance that unlawful acts have been condoned by those in authority.
"The interests of justice require that those who sanctioned such activities be identified and brought to justice. They must be removed from office and punished. The process of cleansing is also essential for the integrity of the intelligence agencies themselves.
"Following an indication by Sir John Stevens that he wished to interview an FRU agent known as "Stakeknife", new and even more serious allegations concerning the activities of the security services have come into the public domain.
I do not want to distract attention from the findings of Stevens that have been thoroughly investigated and are based upon verifiable evidence.
I am aware of the controversial nature of Stakeknife allegations and the extra-ordinary lengths to which the Ministry of Defence has gone in issuing gagging orders to prevent journalists from reporting them. I am aware that republicans regard the whole affair as yet another example of counter-intelligence propaganda.
Commenting on the public naming of Freddie Scapatticci and the allegations surrounding this claim, McNamara said: "If true, these allegations go to the heart of British involvement in unlawful actions in pursuit of its objectives in Northern Ireland.
"If true, responsibility goes right to the top and the government must be held accountable.
"I believe the public has been kept in the dark for too long. I believe the government has colluded in unlawful activities of its agents. I believe those that are guilty must be called to account - however high up. Where there is sufficient evidence, they must be prosecuted and punished.
"It is clear that existing mechanisms for oversight and scrutiny of the intelligence services have failed. A committee that is appointed by the Prime Minister meets in secret and has its reports vetted in advance of publication cannot provide the accountability we are entitled to demand.
"When the government itself stands in the dock, what is the appropriate remedy? The charges made by Sir John Stevens are the most serious to be faced by any government in Britain. They go to the very heart of our democracy. Our commitment to human rights, to the rule of law and to justice in Northern Ireland will count for nothing if we cannot address these matters openly and honestly."