[Marxism] More On Sinn Fein Spy Scandal

Jscotlive at aol.com Jscotlive at aol.com
Sun Jan 8 03:53:55 MST 2006

Tom Luby • 23 December 2005

        In an effort to minimise the damage that British agent Denis 
Donaldson has wreaked on the Provisional movement, SinnFein apparatchik Jim Gibney 
used a recent Irish News column to describe his former colleague turned traitor 
as a mere "listening device" who never suggested an original idea and was not 
close to Gerry Adams.
  Donaldson, he went on, "was not part of the small group of people in the 
national leadership of Sinn Fein who developed the peace process". 
  In other words Donaldson was on the fringe of the leadership and his 
usefulness to the British lay not in steering the Provos towards peace or whispering 
MI5-generated ideas into the Big Lad's ear but in picking up the odd bits of 
gossip that would come his way and passing them on to his handlers. A useful 
source in other words, but no Freddie Scapaticci.
  Nice try, Jim, but not good enough! Common sense and a basic understanding 
of spying tradecraft suggests that Donaldson was not a "listening device" but 
rather a "checking device" whose job, amongst other things, was to help 
confirm the accuracy of intelligence being generated by more highly-placed agents 
inside the Provisionals' decision-making bodies - very possibly in that "small 
group of people in the national leadership of Sinn Fein who developed the peace 
process" which is otherwise known as the Adams Think Tank.
  Denis Donaldson was not, as Gibney correctly asserts, ever a member of the 
Think Tank but in his position just below the Think Tank, as one of its fixer, 
fetchers and carriers, he was in a perfect position to tell his handlers 
about Think Tank decisions and policies that he had been tasked, with others, to 
  So, for example, when Donaldson was the IRA's representative in New York 
his job was to carry out tasks and put in place policies and personnel, or 
sideline them, as directed by the Think Tank, which had a direct say over the 
Provisionals' direction in the United States. Donaldson was not involved in 
formulating Think Tank policies but he could tell his British handlers all about them 
and in the process confirm other intelligence streaming into the offices of 
MI5 and the RUC Special Branch.
  The importance of Donaldson's unmasking therefore lies not just in the fact 
that he was a British spy for some two decades but that his existence 
strongly suggests that there were other, more highly-placed agents in the Provos and 
that these people most certainly would be able to come up with "original" 
ideas, get close to Gerry Adams, whisper into his ear and help steer the Provos 
towards the peace process.
  It goes without saying that agencies like MI5 and the RUC/PSNI Special 
Branch try to recruit multiple spies when targetting a particular branch of their 
enemy's organisation and the reason for that is to remove as much uncertainty 
as possible about the intelligence being passed on.
  Where this is not possible the consequence is often paranoia, distrust and 
division. In the 1960's the CIA's counter-intelligence division was almost 
destroyed by its chief, James Jesus Angleton who came to regard every Soviet spy 
working for the CIA as a potential double agent. Angleton's problem was that 
the CIA had so few human agents inside the KGB that it was unable to check the 
authenticity and reliability of the assets it did have. Knowing this the KGB 
sent over the odd false defector to muddy the waters and soon Angleton's 
counter-intelligence division was paralysed by doubt, unable to trust any of the 
CIA's agents.
  Angleton's fate is the nightmare of every spy agency but for MI5 and the 
RUC/PSNI Special Branch there has been no such problem with the Provisionals. 
Thanks in part to the doctrine of the long war and the fact that many IRA 
volunteers served more than one term of imprisonment a large reservoir of 
vulnerable, potential agents was at the disposal of the British.
  The evidence that the British were able to recruit multiple agents in 
whichever part of the IRA was being targetted comes from the story of the IRA's 
most sensitive section, its security or counter-intelligence department. The 
security department had unprecedented powers thanks to its mandate to root out 
informers. It was allowed access to every part of the IRA and investigated every 
operation that went wrong. No-one knew as much about the IRA as its security 
department and it was therefore the prime target for British intelligence.
  There were at least two known informers inside the security department - 
Brendan Davison and Freddie Scapaticci - and there are very strong suggestions 
that its head was also working for the British. Whatever, the fact is that the 
British had a number of well-placed agents inside the IRA's most sensitive 
section, who could tell their handlers almost everything there was to know about 
the IRA and lead the British to scores of other vulnerable recruits - and the 
British could use each of them to check the reliability of the others and the 
accuracy of their information.
  Common sense suggests that a very similar situation probably existed with 
Denis Donaldson and that apart from whatever information he was able to pass 
on, his real value lay in his ability to verify and confirm intelligence coming 
from other, higher sources.
  It is this aspect of the affair that has made the Donaldson saga such a 
nightmarish ordeal for the Adams' leadership for it could well mean that there 
are other real and undiscovered "agents of influence" in the Provisionals' upper 
  It was of course the job of the IRA's security department to root out 
people like Donaldson but thanks to the fact that almost the entire security 
department was working for MI5, the RUC/PSNI Special Branch or British military 
intelligence that was never going to happen. Which raises another question, 
perhaps the most important one of all. Why were the same people allowed to run the 
security department for years on end? Why weren't they replaced at regular 
intervals so as to minimise the damage just in case some turned out to be British 
agents? Why was this elemental rule of counter intelligence flouted?



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