On the protection of sources…

Following on several detailed discussions on Slugger (here and here) of the accusations by Martin Ingram about the loyalities of Martin McGuinness based on what he claims is a confidential MI6 transcript document of a Kathy Johnston offers these thoughts on the protection of sources.From Kathy Johnston

“Liam Clarke knows that the Now Chief Constable Hugh Orde told the family of Mr Notorantonio that my claims that he featured within the Brian Nelson files and that he had been involved in the Stake knife story was true. Mr Clarke sat on that story because his sources did not want the story in the Public Domain. The Newspaper (the People) that did carry the story received an immediate Injunction, forcing that paper to publish a blank page in recognition of the states desire to stop the story from being told. The Injunction made it clear that no mention of the murder could be made and further more a second injunction prevented the paper from telling the world that it had been injuncted in the first place.”

Hugh Orde, who was in charge of the Stevens Inquiry investigation at the time, told The Sunday Times in October 2000 that he had found no link between the Notarantonio murder and Stakeknife. In December 2000 he met the Notarantonio family to tell them that he had no evidence to confirm claims that Notarantonio was killed to protect Stakeknife. He also told them that Stakeknife did exist. In January 2001 Orde confirmed this to The Guardian.

MI brings up the question of injunctions. No action has been taken against the Sunday World – they weren’t, for example, injuncted against publishing their advertised follow up on Martin McGuinness or MI’s article last Sunday. Nor did they have to submit copy to the D Notice Committee, who made no moves to stop any organisation publishing this story, including Slugger. And Sunday World has not been contacted about the alleged J118 document by the police.

When Liam Clarke and I published authentic secret documents – telephone transcripts of MMcG’s conversations with Mo Mowlam and Jonathan Powell – in the paperback edition of our unauthorised biography of Martin McGuinness in April 2003, our house was raided by heavily armed police officers under the direction of Hugh Orde, by then PSNI chief Constable. They seized journalistic contact books, sack loads of personal, legally privileged and journalistic material, computer discs, a laptop and three hard drives. They imaged the laptop and the three hard drives. Simultaneously they used a battering ram to force entry to The Sunday Times office before seizing material from it. They arrested us at two o’clock in the morning and held us at Antrim PSNI station for 23 hours, during which time we were separately questioned by detectives in four interviews each. We were re-arrested the following month and questioned again when we answered police bail. After a year and a half the police sent us a letter advising us that the DPP had decided that we should not be prosecuted ‘at the moment’. That is what happens when you publish genuinely secret documents.

We never at any time revealed the names of our sources for anything in the book – not under police questioning, not to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry when we gave evidence to them. We didn’t perjure ourselves with the police, nor with the Bloody Sunday Inquiry either – even when we had to answer to the threat of a custodial sentence for contempt. That is easy – you just have to say no and keep your mouth shut. MI is obviously aware that we have not revealed his true identity nor his whereabouts despite legal pressure to do so.

Nothing of any evidential value was found in the raid on our house and The Sunday Times office. We haven’t discussed the identity of any of our sources, nor their nature, with anyone and I stress that MI does not know who any of them are. Neither has anyone been convicted in connection with the book. Although one person was charged with leaking us stuff, he was found not guilty.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty