Did These British Prime Ministers Know About ‘Steak Knife’ And Authorise His Licence To Kill?
I was disappointed in last night’s BBC Panorama special on Freddie Scappaticci, the British Army spy in the IRA known by his code-name ‘Steak Knife’ or ‘Stakeknife’.
There were a number of reasons. No mention of Peter Jones, the Force Research Unit handler who, according to a former British Army GOC in Northern Ireland, recruited and handled Scappaticci.
No mention of the GOC, General Sir John Wilsey who wrote a fascinating chapter about Jones and ‘Steak Knife’ in his book ‘The Ulster Tales’ which was featured recently on this site. Wilsey was one of the few outside the Force Research Unit who met Scappaticci.
There are flaws and falsehoods in Wilsey’s account to be sure. Scappaticci is portrayed in his book as an IRA ingenue, who was on the fringes of the organisation when he and Jones met. In fact Scappaticci was an IRA veteran by 1976, a former internee, when, according to Wilsey, he crossed paths with Peter Jones.
Having said that it was clear (from the contents of a taped phone conversation between Wilsey and Ian Hurst, aka ‘Martin Ingram’) that Wilsey was under considerable pressure from the British security authorities to not even write about Scappaticci and that he therefore massaged basic facts so as to disguise his real identity.
That certainly raises serious questions about his account but I still found it more credible than the version presented by Panorama reporter John Ware, which was that the RUC Fraud Squad initially had Scappaticci on their books but then handed him over to the British Army. Really? And what did the RUC Special Branch have to say about that, I wonder?
All this and other quibbles I had with the programme fade into insignificance however compared to the glaring hole in the middle.
A spy like Scappaticci who was regarded as ‘the golden egg’, as Wilsey called him, and the most important IRA double agent on the books of British intelligence would inevitably come to the attention of the British government at its highest levels.
And given that it was inevitable that in order to survive as a spy Scappaticci would have to kill or authorise killings, no British intelligence agency would dare give him the go-ahead without the highest possible political endorsement and approval.
This means that Scappaticci’s activities would have to be discussed by the British Cabinet’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), whose deliberations and conclusions – and formulations of rules governing intelligence operations – are shared and endorsed by the British prime minister of the day.
If Scappaticci was allowed by his handlers to kill it was because his handlers – and their bosses – had been given the green light by the prime minister of the day. To do otherwise would be like stepping into an Arctic snow storm naked.
If, as seems to be the case, he began spying for the British in 1976 and left the Internal Security Unit circa 1992/93, then, if all this is true, three British prime ministers, two of them now dead, authorised murder in Northern Ireland . They were James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
And that, dear reader, is why Jon Boutcher will get nowhere with his probe into Freddie Scappaticci.