As Corbyn Rises In Polls, Tories Press Panic Button Marked ‘IRA’

An RUC Special Branch View Of The Peace Process

William Matchett is a former Detective Inspector in the old RUC Special Branch, who stayed on for a bit with the PSNI, then wrote a thesis for a PhD which he has turned into a book, published recently, called ‘Secret Victory: The Intelligence War That Beat The IRA’.

The two videos below are derived from his appearance at a recent seminar organised by the Conservative Party think tank, Policy Exchange in London at which Dr. Matchett gave a talk and then answered questions from the audience.

I don’t know how the audience felt at the end of his contribution but if it was anything like myself, most of them probably wished they had stayed at home and watched a movie on Netflix.

My gripe with him was not that he was a bad speaker, which I’m afraid he is, nor that he has, at Policy Exchange and elsewhere, trotted out all the old familiar RUC kvetches about events since 1994: it was the Special Branch which beat the Provos and obliged them to embrace the peace process, nothing to do with Tony Blair or Bertie Ahern or Redemptorist priests; there was no such thing as collusion with Loyalists; the intelligence war was played like cricket, according to a rule book which most everyone followed; there were some ‘bad apples’ but far fewer than in the Gardai or the London Met and the legal authorities should lay off investigating old soldiers and cops for things they probably never did. And so on.

No, these are all familiar gripes from RUC veterans of a certain type.

My problem with Dr Matchett is that the Troubles he describe are almost entirely devoid of a political context and therefore unrecognisable. In fact there is not even a hint of a concession in his various expositions, especially this one delivered to Policy Exchange, that the Provos had roots in the political slum that was Northern Ireland between 1921 and 1968.

He regards the Provos as a criminal conspiracy, a terrorist group no different than Baader-Meinhof, who could be bested by good detective work and professional undercover operatives.

The possibility that the IRA had organic roots that reached deep into their community, wholly unlike Baader-Meinhof type groups, seems not to occur to him.

Nor that the grievances of which Nationalists complained and which encouraged many of them to take up the gun, were in no small way related to the behaviour of the force, and the particular unit of the force of which he was a member.

I do not disagree with his claim that by the end the intelligence war had been almost entirely lost by the IRA, or that the Special Branch, MI5 and Military Intelligence had thoroughly infiltrated the organisation.

But the truth is that is took the British, with all their experience and power, the best part of a quarter century to overwhelm a group whose major recruitment pool had a population equivalent to the Bronx in New York where I now live.

The only possible explanation for this failure – and it was a monumental failure – is that the IRA was a self-replicating group nurtured in a factory of grievances. The rest of the world arrived at that conclusion a long time ago but not, seemingly, the RUC Special Branch, if Dr Matchett is at all representative.

His analysis, as deficient in its way as ‘Blair-Ahern brought the Provos to peace’ theory of the peace process, entirely leaves out of consideration the reality that the terrorism which he describes had a political foundation and that it could not be brought to an end solely or even mostly by security methods.

It is no accident that Dr Matchett was invited by Policy Exchange to explain his views. Policy Exchange is a leading, some say the leading Tory think tank in Britain and these days it is headed by Dean Godson, best known in Ireland for his acclaimed biography of David Trimble, ‘Himself Alone’.

Although we probably disagree about every important subject, Dean is a friend of mine and I know him well enough to know that he is an unashamed, indeed unreconstructed neoconservative and that this political stance has deeply affected his view of Ireland and the peace process.

Like his friends and counterparts in Israel’s Likud party, Dean believes that terrorist groups should never, ever be engaged with politically, only militarily. The IRA, to Dean’s mind, is the European version of the PLO or Hamas.

Unsurprisingly he, like others in the British Tory party, disagreed with my view, expressed implicitly in the pages of ‘A Secret History of the IRA’, that Gerry Adams was sincere in his pursuit of the peace process.

Like other neocons with whom I clashed rhetorical swords, Dean believed that Adams’ peace process expedition was a journey steeped in trickery that would culminate in the IRA’s return to violence when Britain’s political will had been sufficiently sapped.

The passage of time, and the course of events have obliged them to modify that view – but only a little bit.

And so, like Dr Matchett, his preferred approach when dealing with the Gerry Adams’ of this world is extirpation. A pity for him then, that in William Matchett, he has such a poor champion.

I was going to enjoin my readers to enjoy the videos below. But in all honesty I could not do that.

Is John Finucane a SF/IRA dupe?

Peter Sefton asks a question I guess a lot of people asked themselves when they heard that John Finucane was standing for the Shinners in the upcoming UK general election. My own reaction was one of dismay born out of a belief that John has damaged the campaign for the truth about his father’s death. The ‘told you so/he got what he deserved’ brigade will be delighted and so will the UDA on the Shankill…..


It’ s hard to imagine [almost] the horror that John Finucane witnessed, although  he was not by any means an isolated case.

I knew, worked with and liked his father, who was a contemporary.

Since then, John has qualified and practised as a solicitor, seemingly uninterested in politics, till now.

It would be difficult for an impartial observer to conclude otherwise than he is anti-British.

He and I have a common interest . As his mother put it, who sent the gunmen? I want to know who sent the bomb team that murdered my parents. Our common suspicion is that the State was involved.

Here, the stories diverge.

The other night, John shared a platform with two IRA volunteers, Kelly and Na Chullin. Worse, he was photographed beside Sean Maguire, who was part of the operation that killed my parents. Maguire was a prominent member of PIRA in 1990 and…

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Are America’s Spymasters Conspiring Against Donald Trump?

Former CIA officer, Philip Giraldi, writing in The American Conservative, thinks they are, and bases this belief on the quality of the leaks damaging to Trump that have appeared in the US media. Such high-grade intelligence, he believes, could only have come from the very upper reaches of the CIA and FBI.

The release of such intel to media outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post therefore suggests America’s spymasters are working to remove Trump from office, he argues.

What their motives are can only be guessed at – restoring Russia to its usual spot as enemy No 1 may be one – but those who may be ambivalent about this purported soft coup by the CIA and FBI should bear in mind that if Trump falls, he will be replaced by right-wing Christian zealot, Mike Pence, whose foreign and domestic policy priorities will cause no sleepless nights for either the FBI or CIA.

Giraldi’s hypothesis also carries implications for the American media. The aggressive coverage of Trump, reflected in the fierce competition between the Times and the Post for daily, damaging exclusives on the beleaguered President, is being seen as a new golden age for US journalism, one that contrasts in particular with the dismal stenography of the ‘Dubbya’ Bush era.

If Giraldi is correct then the reality is somewhat more prosaic and humdrum: picture a puppy being rewarded with kibbles for good behaviour.

I have no idea whether Giraldi is correct but he does advance a quite powerful proposition, one that had been forming in my own mind, sans the insights only a former spy can bring to the subject.

It is a good read, whatever you may think at the end. Enjoy:

Do High-Level Leaks Suggest a Conspiracy?

National-security officials may see themselves as patriots, but their methods set a dangerous precedent.

Back in my time in the CIA, there were two places in the headquarters building one could go that were free speech zones—places where it was safe to vent about senior management without necessarily being admonished or even reported. They were the Historical Intelligence Collection room off the library, where no one ever went to look at the books, and the office supplies storage room in the basement. The supplies room had a lot of dark corners and concealing shelves where it was possible to be anonymous and it was completely unsupervised in the belief that true-blue CIA officers would never stoop to taking even a single pencil more than was actually needed to get the job done.

I don’t know if those rooms still exist, but I sometimes think of them when the subject of government conspiracies come up. I have this vision of two or three conspirators huddled in the corner behind the staplers back in 1975 discussing how one would go about eliminating the likes of Senator Frank Church, who at that time was heading a major congressional investigation into CIA improprieties.

If there had been such a gathering, I would imagine that the Washington Post would have found out about it on the next day as intelligence officers are gregarious and like to talk. This has been my principal problem with the debate in some quarters about the 9/11 Commission. Their report did indeed miss many important angles in order to protect certain governmental interests, but if there had been a genuine conspiracy involving what must have been hundreds of people to demolish the Twin Towers with explosives, it surely would have leaked long ago.

Two months ago, I would have dismissed as fantasy any thoughts of a conspiracy based in America’s national security agencies to bring down Donald Trump. But now I am not so sure. Many of my friends who are former intelligence officers are increasingly asking questions. It is worth pointing out that none of us are fans of what the White House has been doing and saying—quite the contrary. Still, alerting the country to concerns over what might be a developing soft coup orchestrated by the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to nullify the results of a national election in no way equates to trying to protect Donald Trump and his uncouth and ill-informed behavior. It is rather a defense of the Constitution.

Donald Trump said on Wednesday that “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” He might be right. He was referring to Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein’s appointment of the highly-respected Robert Mueller as independent counsel to investigate “any links and/or coordination between Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Trump’s bombast puts everyone but his most tone-deaf supporters on edge, but there are two points that he has been making repeatedly that are essential to any understanding of what is going on. First, the investigation into Russia and the Trumpsters has been a high priority at FBI and also in Congress for nearly a year. Yet so far no one has produced evidence that anyone broke any law or even that someone did something wrong. Second, and more importantly, the vilification of Trump and Russia has been driven by a series of leaks that come from the very top of the national security apparatus, leaks that appear not to have been seriously investigated.

This involvement of FBI and CIA in the campaign, whether inadvertently or by design, was particularly evident in the various reports that surfaced and were leaked to the press during the campaign and right up to the inauguration. The leaks of that type of information, to include technical intelligence and Special Access Program “codeword” material, require top-level access as well as the ability to arrange clandestine contacts with major players in the media, something far beyond the reach of most employees at CIA or the FBI.

Similar leaks have been appearing since that time. I confess to finding Monday’s detailed account of what President Trump discussed with Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov, which included corroborating material that likely did more damage than the information that was actually shared, highly suggestive of the possibility that something like a conspiracy is, in fact, functioning. Given the really tight-security control of that transcript after it was determined that it contained sensitive information, one might reasonably assume that the leaks to the media came directly out of Donald Trump’s own National Security Council or from the highest levels of the office of the DNI, CIA, or FBI.

Yesterday, the anonymous sources struck again, revealing that “Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.” That sort of information had to come from the top level of the FBI and would have been accessible to only a few, but even though the leaks of what constitutes highly-classified information have been recurring for many months, no one has been fired or arrested.

The emphasis on Russia derives from the government and media consensus that Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) computers that led to the exposure of what the DNC was doing to destroy the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. There is also a related consensus that the Russian hacking was intended to damage American democracy and also to help the Trump campaign, a narrative that the president has described as a “made-up thing,” a view that I share. All of these assertions are regarded as unquestionably true as measured by inside-the-beltway groupthink, with even the White House now conceding that there was Russian interference in the election.

Sometimes the hysteria over Russia produces over-the-top stories in the mainstream media, including last week’s completely speculative piece wondering whether the entourage of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had sought to sneak a recording device into the White House during his White House visit. It was the type of tale that might have been inspired by a leak from someone in the National Security Council who personally observed the context of the meeting and was able to provide corroborating details.

Nevertheless, in spite of the overwhelming groupthink, it has been repeated ad nauseam by people like myself that no actual evidence has been produced to support any of the claims being made about Russia and Trump. There is more evidence that the White House was penetrated by Ankara—through the good services of Michael Flynn—than by Moscow, but Congress has not called for an investigation into Turkey’s lobbying. Ray McGovern, a former senior CIA analyst, is even speculating that the Agency might have been the actual hacker into the DNC, leaving a trail behind that would have suggested that it was done by the Russians. His concern arises from the recent WikiLeaks revelation that the CIA had developed cyberwarfare capabilities to do just that.

McGovern, like myself, is also asking why former CIA Director John Brennan has not been summoned by the Senate Committee looking into Russia-gate. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has testified twice, while former FBI Director James Comey, current NSA Director Mike Rogers, and former Justice Department senior official Sally Yates have all appeared once. Brennan’s absence is conspicuous as he was the senior national security official most closely tied to the Obama Administration, may have had the tools at hand to fake the Russian connection, and has also been plausibly linked to “encouraging” British Intelligence to provide damaging information on Michael Flynn.

I now suspect that there is indeed a group at the top of the U.S. national security system that wants to remove Donald Trump and has wanted to do so for quite some time. If that is true, I believe that they have been operating with that goal in mind for at least the past year. It is not a traditional conspiracy or cabal in that it does not meet and conspire together, but I suspect the members know what they are doing in a general sense and are intervening whenever they can to keep Trump off balance. Their program is simple: convince the nation that the president and his team colluded with the Russians to rig the 2016 election in his favor, which, if demonstrable even if not necessarily true, would provide grounds for impeachment. They are motivated by the belief that removing Trump must be done “for the good of the country” and they are willing to do what they consider correcting a mistake made by the American voters. They are assisted in their effort by the mainstream media, which agrees with both the methods employed and the overall objective and is completely on board with the process.

Saving the country from Trump is certainly an attractive notion. I suspect the Comeys, Clappers, and Brennans, together with a host of former senior officers who appear regularly on television, if they were involved, see themselves as great patriots. But they must understand that the blunt instrument they are using is far more dangerous than the current occupant of the White House. A soft coup engineered by the national security and intelligence agencies would be far more threatening to our democracy than anything Donald Trump or even the Russians can do.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

Photo Contest – Put A Name To The Pic

A free lifetime subscription to the first reader to correctly identify the curly-headed bloke standing beside John Finucane (the Sinn Fein Westminster candidate for North Belfast) in this photograph.

A second life time subscription, for partner or best friend, if you can supply an accurate profile/life story, with emphasis on why this guy is so interesting……

A Seedy Little Story Of Britain’s Dealings With Libya

Do you remember all the fury and grief in Britain that followed the April 1984 murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher at the hands of Libyan diplomats who shot her dead from an upper window of the Libyan embassy in London? Those vows to bring those responsible to justice?

A mortally wounded WPC Yvonne Fletcher is comforted by colleagues outside the Libyan embassy, London in 1984

Well, it seems that the Metropolitan police had in their grasp a man who knew more about the killing than most Libyans but let him go without using his information to bring prosecutions ‘for reasons of national security’.

Here’s how The Washington Post reported the decision:

The Guardian reported that the man was Dr Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk, a former minister in Gaddafi’s government who had, it seems been ordered in the 1980’s to infitrate anti-Gaddafi elements in Europe and report back to Tripoli. The police refused to confirm the Guardian story.

The Guardian continued:

Mabrouk was with the demonstrators outside the embassy on the day Fletcher was killed and was deported from the UK after the murder. But that order was later lifted, allowing him to return to Britain under an initiative to improve relations with Libya that formed part of a deal ultimately aimed at bringing the Libyan Lockerbie bombing suspects to trial.

One possible translation: Mabrouk agreed, with Tripoli’s permission, to assist British intelligence identify jihadist elements amongst the Libyan expat population in London, possibility agreeing to infiltrate their ranks – as he had the anti-Gaddafi elements in the 1980’s – and facilitating their deportation to jails in Libya for interrogation by methods so unsavory they could not be directly countenanced by MI6 or their counterparts in the CIA.

A little corner of the curtain covering Britain’s failure to pursue compensation for victims of the IRA’s use of Libyan Semtex has, perhaps, been lifted. All under Tony Blair’s watch, mind you. Nice one Ton!

Why Does The Irish Times Bother?

I was first alerted to the possibility that Barra McGrory might resign as Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland at 2:24 pm, New York time or 7:24 pm, Dublin time.

Don’t forget I am in New York, 3,000 miles away.

About thirty minutes later, the BBC’s website in Northern Ireland carried confirmation of the rumour.

It is now 5:21 pm in New York or 10:21 pm in Dublin and still The Irish Times website has not caught up with news that is decidedly important, given that Mr McGrory is an advocate of prosecuting British soldiers accused of murder, especially during the 1970’s and in the process has attracted the fury of the Tory Right in England, not to mention Unionists in the North.

His resignation/retirement raises obvious questions, particularly this one: was he pushed? Others include: did the government in London play a part in his decision? What happens now to legacy cases in Northern Ireland and what will the implications of his resignation be for the resurrection of the power-sharing Assembly in Belfast? Will Bloody Sunday soldiers now escape prosecution, or will the powers-that-be grasp this opportunity to draw a line under the past?

It is now 10:31 pm in Dublin and still The Irish Times doesn’t have the story.

Why do they bother?