Explosive Claims: War by Proxy

The Sunday Herald is carrying claims from a UVF source of “How Britain created Ulster’s murder gangs”:

A captain in military intelligence spelt out the reasons for the army creating these secret counter-insurgency cells. […] He said: “This type of war can’t be won by conventional means. The only solution is to implement a counter-operation, to counteract the violence of the enemy by heaping more violence on them That’s why we’ve chosen men like you to instil trepidation and pandemonium among the Provos and their support base, the Catholic community We will match whatever they do, and outdo them.”

From the article:

In JB’s words, “military intelligence trained, armed and moulded squads of loyalists to put pressure on the IRA to abandon their campaign of bloodshed and carnage”. JB was a young UVF member in the early 1970s when first approached by an MRF handler. JB says the military intelligence officer, whom he will name only as “Mike”, told him that the then prime minister Edward Heath had sanctioned the “training of loyalists”.Mike later added that “nobody, except at the very highest level of the British government and senior officers of the military” knew about the covert counter-insurgency operations.

Mike told JB that “London has ordered the war be taken to the IRA obviously this can’t be done openly and must be done covertly. That’s why we are looking for people like you … We are enlisting men from all over the province to co-ordinate attacks, to convince the Catholic people that support for the Provos will only bring death and destruction to their own community.”

As well as being trained in firearms at army barracks and firing ranges around Northern Ireland – primarily at Palace Barracks near Holywood in County Down – men like JB were also provided with intelligence on potential targets and given details about which targets to hit. JB knows of at least 30 loyalists who received similar training to him, but believes more than 120 could have been trained as proxy assassins.

JB was trained by military intelligence, he says, in how to use a variety of hand-guns, machine guns and rifles, as well as bomb-making techniques. The UVF men working for military intelligence were also given consignments of guns and ammunition by handlers, sent on gruelling fitness courses and schooled in the arts of surveillance, counter-surveillance and intelligence gathering. Other classes included lectures on forensic science, how to avoid leaving incriminating evidence at the scene of crimes and how to steal cars for use in assassination operations.

When proxies like JB were dispatched on a murder operation, military intelligence would impose an Out Of Bounds (OOB) order on the area in which the attack was to take place. In military terms, an OOB means an intelligence operation is under way and army and police are forbidden from entering the area. This gave loyalist murder gangs freedom to operate with impunity during such state-sanctioned attacks. At one stage, claims JB, Mike told him: “Mr Heath and the top brass have given the green light for this.”

  • no-excuses

    This stuff is all old hat, with newspapers trying to cash in on the Ombudsman Report into the actions of Informant 1 and his RUC/PSNI handlers. It is all retakes of information contained in books about Fred Holroyd, Brian Nelson, William Stobie etc. Holroyd was actually brought to the north because of expert knowledge on gangs and counter gangs he had gained in other parts of empire. Martin Dillons book ‘The Dirty War’ contains numerous references to the work of the security services in running loyalist gangs to counter the IRA and to distract them from their main aim of attacking the security forces. The one good thing about the ombudsman report is that maybe some unionists will actually listen now when they are told this information again.

  • Pete Baker

    According to the UVF source, aka JB, as quoted by Neil MacKay, he was even on the scene at Bloody Sunday..

    JB was provided with a British army uniform, a gas mask, camouflage face-paint and a rifle as cover for the time he would spend in Derry with his handler. During the events, JB watched from a military intelligence observation post as soldiers opened fire on civilians. He also claims to have seen members of military intelligence shooting at, and hitting, unarmed civilians from the gun nest in the observation post.

    Hmm.. personally I’m less than convinced of the reliability of JB from that account.

    And I see Martin Ingram is cited as verification for the contents of the article.. Martin?

  • The Dubliner

    Mackey may struggle with this one. ‘JB’ reads a bit like Forrest Gump – lurking in the background at all big historical moments in the north’s ignominious history. As ‘no-excuses’ pointed-out, it’s all a rehash – the only addition is a more direct attempt to link such atrocities with government as being deliberate policy and not ‘rogue elements’ in the form of the military intelligence officer “Mike” who claims that “nobody, except at the very highest level of the British government and senior officers of the military” knows about the policy, despite Mike knowing who knows and telling all and sundry, including lowly loyalist thugs of JB’s ilk. At least it didn’t contain narratives such as “JB stood by the window and pensively peered into the distance…”

  • Jesus Christ

    THis is indeed old hat. But when will the Brits be hauled off to the Hague?

  • Sammy Morse

    The credible stuff here is pretty old hat; I suppose the Brits will be hauled off the Hague at the same time the IRA and the Loyalists are – i.e. never. None of the ‘players’ in Northern Ireland wanted a truth commission and in any case people believe what they want to believe regardless of any inquiry; the Bloody Sunday Tribunal/Lawyers’ Benevolent Fund has proven that.

    The incredible, Forrest Gump, stuff is more interesting. Not in and of itself, of course, but because of why and when it was released. Tomorrow the Shinners meet to decide whether or not to accept the peelers – who has any interest in releasing this sort of stuff this particular Saturday. Who is JB and why is saying this now? As a confessed loyalist does he still feel he has a duty to destabilising Republicanism (and fuck Norn Iron in the process) or is he simply trying to cash in before the real big men cash in with their NcNab-esque memoirs over the next few years?

  • Jesus Christ

    http://www.sbpost.ie/post/pages/p/story.aspx-qqqt=VINCENT+BROWNE-qqqs=commentandanalysis-qqqid=20441-qqqx=1.asp

    And Vincent Browne has a good piece in the same edition about the Quislings of Sinn Fein IRA. No disrespect ot the Quislings but it is hard to see a precedent anywhere for such a sell out.

  • Wilde Rover

    If, under decommissioning, a group’s arsenal includes all the weapons they have had access to, could we presume General de Chastelain would lead a convoy of cement mixers from barracks to barracks?

  • observer

    If, under decommissioning, a group’s arsenal includes all the weapons they have had access to, could we presume General de Chastelain would lead a convoy of cement mixers from barracks to barracks?
    Posted by Wilde Rover on Jan 28, 2007 @ 01:52 AM

    Its only the losing side which hands over it weapons

  • D’Oracle

    Now happening again on an industrial scale in Iraq ?

  • aquifer

    It is obvious that the british state in ireland, having colluded in the oppression of irish catholics, had a duty to decommission itself immediately some adolescent revolutionaries started to wave some pistols about.

    But really guys. is a democratic regime to be filled with such self-loathing that it capitulates to the first bunch of armed fanatics to present themselves. And what would anarchy have achieved in a society hopelessly split along sectarian lines, and with more protestants armed?

    I know that unionists suffer from false conciousness, that being british is a delusion brought about by too much bovril, and that the protestant heresy should be recanted to the nearest priest under 60, but it would have been reckless to set a precedent that would have been followed immediately my some long haired young scots.

    Whose idea was it to use guns when the brits would always have more?

    Made for great copy, but pity the mothers.

  • Jesus Christ

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2000602,00.html

    MI5 agent Henry McDonald takes a diffeent slant on the counrter gangs but admits the Provos/MI5 are beaten.

  • Wilde Rover

    “It’s only the losing side which hands over it weapons.”

    My understanding was that all paramilitary weapons need to be put beyond use under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

    So, pedantically speaking, this thread would imply the weapons of the British army fall into this category.

    I imagine it must require some feats of mental dexterity by some of a unionist persuasion to be able to change gear from the “Sanctity of the Rule of Law is Paramount” school of philosophy to the “Might is Right” school with such apparent ease.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Anyone who would believe that absolute bullshit is likely to also believe that Gerry Adams was never a member of the IRA.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This reminds me of that silly book, “The Committee”. Loopy Walter Mitty type characters make all sorts of claims which are immediately lapped up by people whose agenda it suits them to believe.

    Pete’s point above is on the money, and furthermore I have a hard time believing this :

    As well as being trained in firearms at army barracks and firing ranges around Northern Ireland – primarily at Palace Barracks near Holywood in County Down – men like JB were also provided with intelligence on potential targets and given details about which targets to hit.

    I just don’t buy the idea that loyalists (who shot at the police and army plenty of times during the course of the past three decades) were brought into Palace Barracks in broad daylight and given weapons training, without a single soldier opening their mouth to protest.

    Other classes included lectures on forensic science, how to avoid leaving incriminating evidence at the scene of crimes and how to steal cars for use in assassination operations.

    Another chink in the armour there. Loyalists aren’t particularly good at not getting caught. Many of them went to jail.

  • Ingram

    Pete,

    quote” And I see Martin Ingram is cited as verification for the contents of the article.. Martin?

    Neil did contact me last week about a number of issues , these memoirs were but one of the subjects discussed. I did not see sight of any material or indeed any of the claims and have yet to read the whole piece.

    I will review the piece later and give a detailed account once the wife lets me back on the PC after lunch out.

    Regards.

  • topdeckomnibus

    Wilde Rover

    We tried to bring General De Chasterlain to Kent.

    In 1987 21 members of the Kent territorial army were arrested for alleged possession of semtex and unlawful armed missions into Northern and Southern Ireland.

    Kent Police arrested under the Unlawful Drilling Act 1819. But then treated the whole matter as if it were merely a military fantasy.

    No charges were brought.

    But firearms certificates were re-issued by Kent Police to the TA men. One, which I recall, was for two calibres of high velocity rifle and 9 mm semi auto pistol with no limit on ammo holding and the round refill licence.

    The point about soldiers would question what went on if persons were brought in for firearms training. This happened concerning the 21 TA paramilitaries. Permanent Staff instructors attached to TA did raise questions why the TA men had “Weapons to which they are not entitled” and who had sanctioned them to train at Mereworth military training area Kent.

    More prosaically there were also questions to MOD from the Royal Navy Auxiliary. Some of their members had become aware that the TA men were allegedly paid an extra forty quid a week. An MOD inquiry got back to the envious RNA men that if the TA was getting forty quid a week more than them it certainly came from no official source.

    People do ask questions.

    The arrestable offence under the Unlawful Drilling Act is that military activity is conducted with neither Crown nor Secretary of State authority.

    On this basis we asked General De Chasterlain to deploy to Kent and to investigate these matters including the history of Kent Police issued firearms certificates to a gun club called the 6th Thanet Gun Club.

    General De Chasterlain replied that he had no authority to investigate security personnel.

    Yet they were not acting as security personnel were they ?

    In 1994 a Permanent Staff Instructor attached to TA went to the 6th Thanet range and saw live fire and movement training .. firing from vehicles and even a 762 rifle on a range only ever planning consented at max calibre .22.

    Another witness saw Uzi sub machine guns in burst fire use at that range.

    Another witness (Council PLanning enforcement officer) heard full auto fire from that range.

    The neighbouring landowner (my mate) did get the range licence withdrawn in 95 by using his JCB (which was fired upon bouncing bullets off his bucket …) and dragging back the chalk quarry face top (target end which was at the top on his land). This dropped the target back stop height and he called in MOD Brifadier Hafue and had their range certificate revoked as they failed to meet range architecture standards.

    In the spoil he dragged back from the target end quarry face top there were many empty cases. IE Guns had been fired from the target end 24 feet up along the tree edge and back towards the range.

    For many years the neighbouring farmer’s workers had refused to work near the range because of the overshots.

    My mate took photos of them firing towards his JCB and these show four men lined up left of arc (a range of offence) in order to get a line on his JCB.

    Undoubtedly some are military fantacists. But that is no qualification to give them high velocity rifles and semi auto pistols.

    The arrests of 1987 are referred to in Pat Monteath’s book who pays the ferryman.

    I feel that this is a case of in the imaginary garden police would not seek the real toad.

    De Chasterlain did, however, forward a report to Paul Murphy to record the concerns with the NI Office.

  • Ingram

    Pete,

    “Mike later added that “nobody, except at the very highest level of the British government and senior officers of the military” knew about the covert counter-insurgency operations”.

    Rule No 1 never believe your Handler! we build a picture that may not be 100% accurate, with aim of making the Agent feel valuable.

    “As well as being trained in firearms at army barracks and firing ranges around Northern Ireland – primarily at Palace Barracks near Holywood in County Down – men like JB were also provided with intelligence on potential targets and given details about which targets to hit”

    Most Agents are taken to the ranges! these occassions are not only useful from a training point of view but also to cement or build the friendship with the Handlers.

    Brian Nelson and Scap were regularly taken to Ballykilner ranges were a special SECURE range is available for this activity.

    I would not consider Palace Barracks to be a suitable location but back in the seventies that may have not been a problem.

    “JB was trained by military intelligence, he says, in how to use a variety of hand-guns, machine guns and rifles, as well as bomb-making techniques. “

    Cannot ever say Bomb making was a technique we ever tought but certainly the use of captured terrorist weapons were and the chance to use one or two of the in house weapons were always good fun.

    “When proxies like JB were dispatched on a murder operation, military intelligence would impose an Out Of Bounds (OOB) “

    You have to imagine the operational environment back in the 70`s certainly the use and abuse of OOB was to figure prominently later in the troubles. No reason to doubt this account.

    “At one stage, claims JB, Mike told him: “Mr Heath and the top brass have given the green light for this.”

    Handlers will often tell their Agents this type of line! it is done for a number of reasons all connected to achieving the tactical objective. Wille Carlin and many other exposed Agents have all made similar claims.

    Regards.

    Ingram

  • Free Stater

    Forget the past,save p,buy a house,get a better job,copy us southerners…

  • Pete Baker

    Martin

    Thanks for that. Although it’s the specific detail, as in the example mentioned, that I find unconvincing rather than the matches to a general modus operandi.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Martin,
    Have to disagree with your assessment of this, it’s a complete bullshit article! Also, are you quite sure about BK being used by agents or is that something someone else has told you? I was in BK many, many times and have shot at EVERY range in it, Scap was never there, Nelson may have been when serving but Scap was known to every soldier ever stationed at BK and definitely was not there and thats from someone who was with NITAT!