MI5 report on RUC Special Branch to remain secret

Watchdog says police do not have to disclose 1973 report which recommended shake-up

The Morton report on the RUC Special Branch is so sensitive that it took Britain’s freedom of information watchdog 18 months to reach a decision. Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP

 

 

 

An MI5 report on policing compiled at the height of the Troubles will remain secret nearly half a century after it was written, Britain’s freedom of information watchdog has ruled.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said police in the North do not have to disclose the so-called Morton report, which recommended a shake-up of RUC Special Branch in 1973.

In reaching its verdict, however, the ICO confirmed for the first time how significant the report could be for understanding the history of policing in the Troubles.

The ICO said the report was instigated by the head of MI5, Sir Michael Hanley, who suggested to then RUC chief constable Sir Graham Shillington that a senior security service officer conduct a review of Special Branch in June 1973.

The officer chosen was Jack Morton, a former colonial police chief in India.

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A year after Morton wrote his report on Special Branch, the UVF killed 33 people and an unborn child in a series of car bombs across Dublin and Monaghan. It was the deadliest attack of the Troubles.

Barron inquiry
An inquiry by former Irish Supreme Court judge Henry Barron later concluded: “A number of those suspected for the bombings were reliably said to have had relationships with British intelligence and/or RUC Special Branch officers.”

Morton’s report on the Troubles is so sensitive that it took the ICO 18 months to reach a decision, in what became one of the watchdog’s top 10 longest-running cases.

More than 20 academics from Britain and Ireland had called for the Morton report to be released for their research, but to no avail.

This month, the commissioner ruled the report could stay secret after MI5 confirmed it had originally supplied the document to the RUC.

Daniel Holder, deputy director of Belfast-based NGO the Committee on the Administration of Justice said the decision was “difficult to conceive”.

“There is a right for such information to be put into the public domain,” Mr Holder said.

“The application of blanket national security vetoes over historic information is not human rights compliant,” he warned, “particularly when the documents in question may contain evidence of past security policies and practices that involved or facilitated human rights violations.”

Mr Holder said the report should be disclosed to prevent “a repetition of past practices that fuelled conflict”.

With many thanks to: The Irish Times and Phil Miller for the original story 

PRISONER’S HARD CELL

EXCLUSIVE

Catholic inmate’s bid to get Her Majesty removed from name of Ulster’s prisons

HER Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s title could soon be a thing of the past as far as prisons in the North of Ireland are concerned, the Sunday World has learned. 

INFRINGING: HMP Maghaberry GAOL

For decades ‘Her Majesty’ has prefixed the name of all three state prisons here. But now a remand prisoner – currently being held in HMP Maghaberry – is claiming the name of the prison infringes his human rights as an Irish citizen. And he hopes to have ‘Her Majesty’ removed from the name of the prison as soon as possible. Jonathan Turley-from Belfast’s Short Strand district-is hoping to bring a judicial review before the courts as soon as possible. Speaking to the Sunday World during a pre-arranged visit this week, 38-year-old Turley said: “People tell me I’m crazy to try to change the system, as it has remained the same for many years.

END BRITISH TORTURE IN MAGHABERRY

“But I believe I have a good case and I intend to raise the matter in court. Unless people like me try and change things, then nothing will ever change here,” he said. Turley revealed he has already written to the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland Eamon Martin asking for his help. And he’s also contacted Secretary of State Julian Smith in regard to the same. Turley said: “Archbishop Martin recently spoke out about the comparatively low number of Catholics joining the Police Service of NI.

DISMANTLED 

“But a quick glance at the North of Ireland Prison Service tells you things are much worse in it. In fact I feel everything about the Prison Service in the North of Ireland would need looked at and reviewed.” Turley also insisted the title of the police was changed from the (RUC) Royal Ulster Constabulary to the (PSNI) Police Service of Northern Ireland in order to make Catholics feel more at ease about joining. And he pointed out Crown insignia was removed from courtrooms across the North of Ireland for similar reasons.

END INTERNMENT-MAGHABERRY-PORTLAOISE-HYDEBANK

He said: “There are three dimensions to the justice system here-the police, the courts and judiciary, and the prisons. “The first two were dismantled to accommodate the Catholic community, so why not the prison service as well? How can someone like me get a fair deal in a place like this?” He added: “My appearance before the courts in relation to this is only the first step in a long road, but I’m determined to see it through.” Turley was arrested in Thailand last year on foot of a International Arrest Warrant.

Loyalist screws in Maghaberry Gaol (riot squad) raiding a prison cell in the Gaol in full riot gear. Where they outnumber the prisoner 12 to 1 in the prisons favor

At the time he was still wanted in the North of Ireland on a number of outstanding charges. But cops in Belfast discovered Turley was making a name for himself on the Muay Thai boxing circuit. And he was  scooped by police shortly after he returned to his Bangkok apartment. And he appeared in court flanked by Thai police officers involved in his arrest.

PRISON officers and loyalist prisoners are allowed to respect their dead by wearing Poppys but Republican prisoners are punished including some being put in solitary confinement for respecting our dead by wearing an Easter Lilly

As he was being held in a Thai prison prior to being sent back to the UK, Turley contacted the Sunday World to say he believed he had been shopped by an Irishman operating as an MI6 agent in Thailand. He is currently on remand in HMP Maghaberry, near Lisburn, awaiting trial on a string of outstanding charges, some dating back many years.

With many thanks to: The Sunday World and Hugh Jordan for the original EXCLUSIVE story hJordan.media@btinternet.com

License to kill: MI5 agents can commit serious crimes like murder and torture, tribunal rules — RT UK News

https://www.rt.com/uk/476528-mi5-crimes-legal-murder/

British intelligence plotted a massacre at a Catholic school, Glenanne Gang member tells film

Sean Murry Documentary maker, “Unquiet Graves”

A former RUC officer has made shocking claims that British military intelligence initiated a plan to carry out a massacre at a Catholic primary school in Co Armagh in the 1970s.

John Weir was a self-confessed member of the UVF’s notorious Glenanne Gang.

The terror gang, which included members of the security forces, was linked to 120 murders, including the attack on the Miami Showband in 1975 in which two UDR men were killed when the bomb they were planting on the group’s bus blew up prematurely.

Weir made the comments in new documentary Unquiet Graves: The Story Of The Glenanne Gang, which premieres in Belfast tomorrow.

“The plan was to shoot up a school in Belleeks,” he said, which meant the murder of young children and teachers.

He said this was intended as retaliation for the Kingsmill massacre of January 1976 in which 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by the IRA.

The Glenanne farm home of John Weir in South Armagh

Weir claims the plot came from military intelligence to make the Troubles “spiral out of control” into a full civil war.

He said the attack was only called off because even the UVF’s bloodthirsty leadership in Belfast considered it a step too far.

The same claims were made in the past by former RUC officer Billy McCaughey, now deceased, who was convicted alongside Weir for the sectarian murder of a chemist in Ahoghill in 1977.

Filmmaker Sean Murray spent four years working on the documentary.

Former Glenanne Gang terrorist John Weir pictured here in 1999

“John Weir said he firmly believed it was British intelligence, that’s what I also believe,” he said.

“When I say that, I mean ‘hawks’ within British intelligence, as I think there was an internal power battle going on.

“There were people who would have been against that, but the hawks wanted a gloves-off approach to the IRA. It’s quite revealing the UVF were unwilling to go through with this.”

He said he was prepared for any backlash against the film, adding that all of Weir’s statements had been corroborated by the Historical Enquiries Team.

“I think films like this are the only viable option for some semblance of the truth for victims, particularly against state violence,” he added.

“I hope to see similar films like this coming from all sides here, because there’s no owners of history. It’s a mosaic of different stories, even if they are competing.”

In recent days the PSNI has faced criticism for failing to disclose legacy files to the Police Ombudsman over the Sean Graham bookmakers atrocity of 1992 in which five Catholics were murdered by the UFF.

“That feeds into what we’re trying to say in Unquiet Graves. There isn’t a lot of trust for the PSNI in certain sections of the community,” said Mr Murray.

“Trust needs to be built for both communities to move on.” Growing up in west Belfast, he said he and many others saw the UDR and RUC in the same way others viewed the IRA. “I viewed them as de facto paramilitary groups,” he added. “But I’m still willing to speak and work with former members of the UDR and RUC to move forward.”

Asked if Weir gave him an insight into the Glenanne Gang’s mindset, he said: “It’s OK to sit in 2019 and reflect that these people were psychopaths. In many ways, they were born into an era when this was sanitised. It was normal behaviour in many working class areas. I think admitting this is a great justice to the victims,” he said.

“Without him, I’m not sure a lot of families would get some semblance of truth.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Allan Preston for the original story 

MI5 ‘really does have a licence to kill’: Spy agency has secretly allowed informants to murder, kidnap and torture for decades, tribunal hears

MI5 has been illegally allowing its informants to commit serious crimes, potentially including murder, kidnap and torture, for decades, a tribunal has heard.

Four human rights organisations are taking legal action against the UK Government over a policy they claim ‘purports to permit MI5 agents to participate in crime’ and effectively ‘immunises criminal conduct from prosecution’.

The groups argue the effect of the policy, which they say ‘has been in place since at least the 1990s’ and was ‘kept secret for decades’, is ‘for the executive to grant itself the power, in secret, to dispense with the criminal law enacted by Parliament’.

 

Privacy International, Reprieve, the Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre are asking the Investigatory Powers Tribunal to declare the policy unlawful and grant an injunction ‘restraining further unlawful conduct’.

Four human rights organisations have claimed that MI5 informants employed by the spy agency have been illegally committing crimes for the intelligence services for decades. Pictured: MI5 headquarters at Thames House in London

At the start of a four-day hearing in London yesterday, Ben Jaffey QC said ‘the Security Service (MI5) are permitted under the policy to ‘authorise’ criminal conduct for a variety of purposes including any national security purpose, or maintaining the economic well-being of the United Kingdom’.

He added that ‘the agents in question are not officers of the Security Service, but they are ‘recruited and given directions by MI5’.

However, he said those MI5 officers could become criminally liable as an accessory.

Mr Jaffey said the issues raised by the case are ‘not hypothetical’, submitting that ‘in the past, authorisation of agent participation in criminality appears to have led to grave breaches of fundamental rights’.

He pointed to the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, an attack later found to have involved collusion with the state, and the case of Freddie Scappaticci, ‘who is alleged to have been a senior member of the IRA and a security service agent working under the codename ‘Stakeknife”.

Mr Jaffey told the tribunal that the Government had ‘refused’ to confirm that such serious criminal offences ‘could never be lawfully sanctioned under their

Sir James Eadie QC, representing the Government, said in written submissions that it would be ‘impossible’ for MI5 to operate without covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) ‘also known as agents’.

‘They are indispensable to the work of the Security Service, and thus to its ability to protect the public from the range of current threats, notably from terrorist attackers,’ Sir James submitted.

He added: ‘Given the covert nature of CHIS, and given the types of person with whom and entities with which they have relationships, they need to behave in certain ways and participate in certain activities.’

Sir James said that ‘this behaviour by CHIS is an inevitable and neccessary part of their ability to function as providers of vital life-saving intelligence, and in order to seek to protect their own lives and safety from the hostile, dangerous actors on whom they are providing intelligence’.

He submitted that MI5 ‘does not, and does not purport to, confer immunity from criminal liability’, adding: ‘A prosecution remains possible.’

Sir James concluded that ‘the underlying conduct – namely the participation in possible criminal activities by agents – was widely known and entirely obvious’, describing it as ‘an unavoidable part of their maintaining their cover and acquiring vital intelligence’.

The tribunal, led by IPT president Lord Justice Singh, is due to hear submissions over four days and is expected to reserve its judgment.

Follow this link to find out more: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2587810658117521&id=2496147257283862

With many thanks to the: Daily Mail and Lara Keay for the original story 

MI5 policy ‘gives agents legal immunity to commit serious crimes’

The MI5 building on Millbank, in London.

Human rights groups challenge extent and legality of powers to commit crimes such as torture

MI5 operates a partially secret policy that allows agents to participate in serious crimes including torture and killing, a security tribunal has heard.

In a challenge to the intelligence service’s handling of agents, lawyers for a coalition of human rights groups have questioned the legality and extent of the powers.

Some elements of what is known as “the third direction” – guidelines permitting agents to become involved in criminal conduct – have been published. Crucial details specifying whether there are limits on such criminal activity, however, remain secret.

Ben Jaffey QC, representing Privacy International, Reprieve, the Belfast-based Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre, said the policy in effect meant that MI5 was granting immunity to its agents.

Addressing the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), which hears complaints about surveillance and the intelligence agencies, Jaffey said that if there were any limits on the type of criminal behaviour MI5 authorised they remained secret.

Because MI5 does not tell the victim of any crime, police or prosecutors about such incidents, Jaffey argued, they were in practice concealed and no public interest prosecution was considered.

The issues raised were not hypothetical, he stressed. Collusion between officials and agents inside terrorist organisations had led to grave abuses, he said.

Police have recently recommended that more than 20 people, including senior officials, should be prosecuted for murder, kidnap, torture and perverting the course of justice following an investigation by Operation Kenova into the handling of agents inside the IRA during Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

Jaffey told the IPT that “the practical effect of the policy is therefore for the executive to grant itself the power in secret to dispense with the criminal law enacted by parliament”.

He added: “The criminality is kept secret within MI5 so police and prosecutors do not find out about it. So for practical purposes MI5 are granting immunity, the strength of which depends on the ability of MI5 to keep a secret.”

The hearing is expected to last for the rest of the week. Some evidence will be heard behind closed doors without the media or lawyers for the claimants being present.

MI5’s policy was drawn up following the murder of the Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989 by loyalist paramilitaries who had been working as informants for RUC’s special branch.

In a skeleton argument submitted by Sir James Eadie QC, who represents the government and intelligence agencies, agents, also known as CHIS (covert human intelligence sources), are described as “indispensable” to the work of the security service.

His submission to the tribunal is heavily redacted with many key passages blacked out. Eadie argues that “the security service does not, and does not purport to, confer immunity from criminal liability” to its agents.

MI5 does not authorise breaches of the Human Rights Act, Eadie maintains. The agency’s “Participation in Criminality (PiC) forms”, he said, ensures that the law is not broken.

A number of PiC forms have been opened up to the IPT, Eadie’s submission reveals, although they have not been made public.

Eadie has told the tribunal: “The security service does not purport to, and could not, offer immunity from criminal liability … The ‘authorisation’ will be [MI5’s] explanation and justification of its decisions should the criminal activity of the agent come under scrutiny of [police or prosecutors].

“The authorisation process and associated records may form the basis of representations by the service to the prosecuting authorities that prosecution is not in the public interest.”

A similar public policy of discretion not to prosecute, Eadie added, appears in Crown Prosecution Service guidelines covering how to deal with relatives of the terminally ill who accompany them to Swiss-assisted suicide clinics such as Dignitas.

Eadie said the tribunal has been given “information about all crimes ‘authorised’ since 2000”. The IPT has selected a number of PiCs (Participation in Crime) forms. “This will allow for the case-specific complexities for each individual instance of authorisation to be considered.”

In none of them has MI5 breached any human rights, Eadie said. Indeed, under its obligation to uphold the right to life, under the European convention on human rights, MI5 has a duty to counter threats from espionage, terrorism and sabotage.

Commenting on the case, Maya Foa, the director at Reprieve, said: “Our intelligence agencies play a vital role in keeping this country safe – but this does not mean that there should be no limits on UK activity when MI5 agents become involved in crime. The government must make clear what limits – if any – they place on agents committing serious crimes like torture or murder.”
The hearing continues.

With many thanks to: The Guardian and Owen Bowcott Legal Affairs Correspondent for the original story@owenbowcott

Former MI5 head warns court action over when spies can commit crimes risks exposing informants

Lord Evans of Weardale CREDIT: DAVID MIRZOEFF/PA

A former head of MI5 has warned that a legal challenge against the security services over when spies are allowed to commit crimes risks exposing informants who have entrenched themselves

Campaigners begin their action in the courts on Tuesday over a document which was released last year which states undercover agents were permitted to commit crimes if they thought it was necessary.

It was signed by David Cameron, and human rights activists are demanding an inquiry into the transparency of the secret services and how they conduct their operations.

But Lord Evans of Weardale, who was MI5 director general until 2013, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme certain aspects of such sensitive material through the courts could put spies in danger.

Insisting that it was right that “there’s nothing wrong with bringing a case” against potential wrongdoing and that it “up to the courts to decide what the outcome would be”, he warned that some information could out informants.

He said: “One of the concerns here is that if the exact details of the parameters that are applied are made public then we’re in a situation where a terrorist group who is trying to find out if anybody is actually giving out information could set tasks for them in such a way as to be sure that if they refuse to do that task they know they are working for the intelligence services.

“Not only would that be bad for intelligence gathering, but it would also be very dangerous for the safety of the agent.”

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve – the campaign group bringing the legal action – said she wants to know “what the limits are to this policy”.

“We have only recently discovered that there has been a policy in operation for decades authorising agents of MI5 to potentially commit serious crimes including torture and unlawful killing,” she said.

“Does it mean they can torture? Does it mean they can kill people? Can we torture a five-year-old child of a suspect?”

Lord Evans dismissed the claims, and said: “This isn’t about torture, and it’s not about killing.

MI5/MI6 GCHQ London

“If you’re going to be able to understand the nature of the details of threats to mount terrorist attacks in this country – a really important source of intelligence is humans who are part of the conspiratorial group.

“For many years, probably for decades, we’ve been in a situation where human source intelligence has been absolutely critical for keeping this country safe.”

The former head of MI5 pointed out that by infiltrating a banned group like National Action, agents are already committing a crime by merely being a member.

But pushed on whether MI5 agents are permitted to carry out a punishment beatings such as kneecapping, he said: “The rules are very clear – they are, in this game or in this process to safeguard the public and in order to keep the country safe and able to maintain the rule of law.

“So that’s the ground rules. You have to act in a proportionate way.”

He added: “There are no specific rules on exactly which crimes but there is very clear process to ensure that this is only done at a level which is appropriate, which maintains security and maintains the rule of law.”

With many thanks to: The Telegraph and Gareth Davies for original story 

Follow these links to find out more: https://thebreakingnewsheadlines.com/blog/mi5-role-before-london-bridge-attack-of-legitimate-concern/

(2)-: https://www.voanews.com/europe/britains-mi5-lowers-terrorist-threat-level?amp

(3)-: https://amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/09/secret-report-accused-mi5-police-killing-northern-ireland