Pat Finucane murder linked to MI5’s ‘licence to kill’

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MI5 authorised its agents and informers to kill targets and commit other crimes under a secret policy which operated throughout the conflict in Ireland and continued until at least 2012, an investigative powers tribunal in London has heard.

The policy, known as the ‘Third Direction’, has no legal basis and its existence has been secret until now.

In November 2012, former British Prime Minister David Cameron asked for the policy to be reviewed, but with an extraordinary impunity clause regarding any potential prosecutions.

Writing to Mark Waller, the ‘Intelligence Services Commissioner’ who had the job of oversight of MI5’s use of agents, Cameron wrote: “For the avoidance of doubt, I should be clear that such oversight would not provide endorsement of the legality of the policy; you would not be asked to provide a view on whether any particular case should be referred to the prosecuting authorities; and your oversight would not relate to any future consideration given by prosecuting authorities to authorisations, should that happen.”

The letter was sent two weeks before the publication of an independent report into the 1989 murder of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane as Cameron prepared to issue an admission that British state collusion was involved in his murder.

The Pat Finucane Centre, a human rights campaign body named after him, is among the claimants asking a judicial tribunal to order MI5 to release information abou the legality of the ‘Third Direction’ policy.

In their submission, they cited Pat Finucane’s murder as an illustration of the “considerable public importance” of the issues raised. It also refers to allegations that Freddie Scappaticci was a former senior member of the IRA and a murderous double agent working under the codename Stakeknife.

MI5 has refused to answer questions on the policy, which allowed them to engage in “murder, torture, sexual assault or other grave criminality” in the name of the British national interest, the PFC said.

The revelations are a damning indictment of the British state’s involvement in the conflict here, according to Sinn Fein’s Linda Dillon.

“It was only in 2012 on the eve of the Da Silva report exposing the role of agents in Pat Finucane’s murder that the then British Prime Minister David Cameron belatedly produced new and frankly inadequate guidelines for oversight of intelligence agencies,” she said.

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