FRU whistle blower not to be prosecuted
BY LAURA FRIEL
A former member of the British Army's covert Force Research Unit (FRU) charged under the Official Secrets Act in the belief that he was the whistle blower known as `Martin Ingram' will not be prosecuted, it has emerged this week. The London Metropolitan Police abandoned the prosecution of the former FRU operative as he emerged as a key witness in the Stevens' investigation.
The charges had followed a series of newspaper articles exposing the FRU's collusion with loyalist death squads in the killing of Irish nationalists and republicans. The Sunday Times journalist, Liam Clarke, at the centre of the media revelations was also facing charges but the investigation has been stopped.
In their haste to silence `Ingram', the MoD inadvertently identified a possible witness for the Stevens team
Earlier this year, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) secured a series of gagging orders against The Sunday Times preventing further revelations by `Ingram' appearing in print. At the same time, Scotland Yard Special Branch and others spent months hunting down former members of the FRU in a desperate attempt to identify the `Ingram' source.
In one incident, a house used by a former FRU member was illegally broken into and documents stolen. The FRU member suspected of being `Ingram' was later confronted with the documents during interrogation. The `Ingram' suspect was subsequently charged under the Official Secrets Act.
If the British MoD had hoped that this would be an end to it they have been sadly disappointed. In their haste to silence `Ingram', the MoD had inadvertently identified a possible witness for the Stevens team. For months the Stevens investigation had been banging its head against the brick wall of British military intelligence secrecy. To make any headway, the team needed a breakthrough. The MoD provided it.
The `Ingram' suspect was available and willing to talk to the Stevens team. The London Metropolitan Police, who had pursued `Ingram' with such vigour, could hardly deny access to their colleagues investigating the killing of Pat Finucane. `Ingram' was not only able to tell the Stevens team what to look for but also where to look. The FRU kept secret documents detailing their dealings and the records were stored in Thiepval barracks.
Having gained access to the so-called `secret books', the Stevens team could link specific FRU operatives with particular lines of inquiry and request them for interview. A number of former FRU operatives are expected to be arrested and questioned by Stevens.
Two weeks ago, a second former FRU operative was charged but not under the Official Secrets Act. Philip Campbell Smith was charged with intimidating a witness after the personal details of the former FRU member currently cooperating with Stevens were posted on the Internet.
Last month, the British officer who ran the FRU at the height of the unit's campaign of terror (now a Brigadier and military attache in Beijing), was identified as Gordon Kerr. The details of his military career were outlined in a Scottish newspaper. The exposure of Kerr is an indication of the tensions that have been stirred up by the Stevens investigation, not only within the FRU but in the wider British intelligence community. And apparently, the spooks are spooked.
According to recent media reports, a psychologist has been interviewing undercover operatives in the British Army's top security Thiepval barracks. Tension within the ranks of serving FRU operatives has forced British army chiefs to order psychological assessment of its entire military intelligence section. Under the threat of exposure and possible prosecution, it is not surprising that operatives are suffering from low morale. More intriguingly, their military masters appear to be getting very jumpy.
Meanwhile, a former UDR soldier has been charged and remanded in custody on charges relating to the UFF killing of Rathfriland Catholic Laughlin Maginn in 1989. 51-year-old Kieron Dalton, a former Colour Sergeant Major in the UDR, was charged with collusion-related offences between January 1988 and December 1989.
After the Rathfriland killing, the UFF showed a BBC reporter a Crown forces photo montage of `IRA suspects' on which a picture of Maginn appeared. It later emerged that UFF leader Tommy Little had doctored the montage with a photograph of Maginn superimposed by a freelance photographer. The political furore that followed the revelation that loyalist gunmen had access to Crown force documents led to the first Stevens inquiry into collusion.