Spooks fear Stakeknife report as publication looms

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A report into one of the most controversial episodes of the conflict is facing censorship by British state agencies even before it is published in the new year.

It was reported this week that intelligence agencies are seeking powers to block parts of the report from a police unit set up to investigate ‘Stakeknife’.

Stakeknife, allegedly the codename for Freddie Scappaticci (pictured), is the British agent who became the head of the IRA’s internal security unit. The double agent has been implicated in the killing of republicans and civilians in collusion with British army intelligence handlers.

More than six years after it began, the special police unit dubbed ‘Operation Kenova’ has sent files on about 30 cases on Scappaticci’s alleged crimes to prosecutors in the north of Ireland.

According to a report in Monday’s London Times, British officials and Crown Force agencies now want powers to block sections of the report from publication if there are “national security disputes”.

They have called for an extensive censorship process. They also want organisations that are criticised in the report to be offered a chance to mount a damage limitation exercise prior to publication.

The head of the unit Jon Boutcher, a former English police chief, has said he will resist attempts by government agencies to “amend or suppress unwelcome findings or conclusions”.

Mr Boutcher also said the planned legislation for a general conflict amnesty, including British war crimes, should not derail the report’s publication.

He said the process for release “has been finalised” and his unit is “engaging with all of the relevant parties before publication which I anticipate will be early 2023. This will finally mean we can address some of the unanswered questions from families.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood challenged efforts to suppress the report.

“Any attempt to suppress or censor Kenova reports would be an act of outrageous bad faith,” he said.

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