[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
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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