New cover-up as MI5’s plan for Special Branch withheld

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An MI5 report on policing compiled at the height of the conflict in the early 1970s must remain secret, a British official has ruled.

The Morton Report, which examined operating practices of the RUC Special Branch police in 1973, is understood to contain details of illegal activities which were recommended for use by the RUC as a “counter-insurgency” strategy.

The decision appears to confirm the importance of MI5 officer Jack Morton (pictured) and his report in laying the groundwork for the Special Branch’s Dirty War.

A year after the report was issued, loyalist paramilitaries acting in collusion with Special Branch and other British forces killed 33 people and an unborn child in a series of terror attacks against nationalist civilians across Dublin and Monaghan. It was the deadliest attack of the conflict.

Britain’s Information Commissioner said the report was instigated by the head of MI5, Michael Hanley, who suggested to then RUC Chief Constable Graham Shillington that a senior ‘Security Service’ officer conduct a review of Special Branch in June 1973.

The officer chosen was Jack Morton, once a former colonial police chief in India who eventually rose to become a high-ranking figure in British military intelligence.

Over 20 academics from Britain and Ireland have called for the Morton Report to be made available for their research, but to no avail. The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, declared the report should stay secret because it was supplied by MI5, without any further justification.

Reacting to the decision, Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee for the Administration of Jutice (CAJ) said: “It is difficult to conceive how the 1973 Morton report can’t be released by the PSNI for national security reasons when the PSNI did – eventually – release most of the 1980 Walker Report to CAJ in a similar case.

The Walker Report notoriously advised the RUC to maintain paid informers instead of prosecuting them for any offences they had committed, including murder.

“Both relate to the structures of RUC Special Branch, and both were authored by MI5 officers,” Mr Holder said, adding that such reports “reveal wrongdoing by the state.”

Mr Holder said that the public has a right to know about the past. “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.”

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

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