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De Silva - MI5, An Phobcrap, Finucane et al

1. MI5s propaganda initiatives details cannot be made public because of sensitivities, Pat
Finucane was included in these projects though so must address the issue:

15.5 Although many of the details underpinning this account cannot be

disclosed in view of their sensitivity, this has not inhibited me from
publishing an overview of these initiatives and their objectives; the fact of
Patrick Finucane's inclusion in these projects; and my conclusions on the
nature of the propaganda as a whole. I have been provided with access to
all the relevant underlying documentation. Although he was not directly
involved in these propaganda initiatives, I have had the opportunity of
questioning a senior Security Service officer on this material.


Origin lay in government need to counter IRA propaganda. Called it Counter-Action:

15.9 It is clear that by the 1980s there was a widespread feeling across the
security forces and the UK Government that such propaganda needed to be
countered. My Review has had access to a range of internal Government
documents outlining the discussions of the need for what was described as
'Counter-Action'. Counter-Action appears to have been described as the
use of either overt or covert means to provide truthful rebuttals of terrorist
propaganda or to expose the damaging effects of terrorism. A Northern
Ireland Office (NIO) Information Strategy Group was tasked with coordinating the Government's presentational strategy. This group considered
the Government's strategy in responding to specific controversial security
incidents and the presentation of its wider political and economic message.

Methods involved dissemination of information within Loyalist community with targets

being PIRA figures with goal of discrediting them - aim was to have an impact on the
target by the information being known in Loyalist circles - in practice they included
prominent figures in nationalist and republican community who werent Provos:

15.12 My Review has, however, established that some comparatively

limited propaganda initiatives were taken forward by the Security Service
in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. The initiatives focused on propaganda
directed against PIRA. The methods used by the Security Service involved
the dissemination of information within the broader loyalist community in
a bid to counter republican propaganda. The initiatives of central interest

to my Review were taken forward by the Service of their own volition and
without reference to the NIO Information Strategy Group.
15.13 The Security Service used a variety of methods and conduits through
which to disseminate the propaganda. The nature of the propaganda being
disseminated varied. Some of the propaganda involved, for example,
highlighted the damaging effect of PIRA murders and attacks. In other
instances, the propaganda was targeted more directly at discrediting
specific PIRA figures.
15.14 Security Service officers later referred to the dissemination of
information within the loyalist community, in such a way that it would be
likely to become known by PIRA figures, as having the potential to make
"an impact on the republican target." However, whilst the focus of the
propaganda was aimed at PIRA, it is also clear that the initiatives were not
particularly focused or controlled. The initiatives certainly came to include
within their scope individuals who were not members of terrorist
organisations but prominent figures in the broader nationalist and
republican communities.

Aim was to expose IRA members and to disrupt them; targets were individuals who had
resisted efforts to recruit them as agents or who were regarded as unrecruitable (presumably
didnt have anything on them); no evidence that motive was to incite attacks:

15.17 The second mechanism was described as follows:

"... [the Security Service could exploit the use of] the extensive intelligence
on PIRA players already available ... [to loyalist paramilitaries] to expose
to the public the nature of the people organising and profiting from IRA
terrorism." [7]
15.18 In furtherance of the second aim - to expose 'PIRA players' - the
officer proposed that the propaganda initiatives should be expanded to
include the public circulation of details of "the structure, organisation and
personnel of PIRA". Some PIRA figures had already been named and
exposed as part of the propaganda initiatives in the late 1980s, though this
had been done in an ad hoc and comparatively small-scale fashion. The
Security Service officer referred to above was proposing a significant
expansion of this aspect of the propaganda initiatives.

15.19 The note also provided an explanation as to how the public

circulation of details of PIRA players would assist the intelligence
agencies' wider strategy. It included the comment that:
"It has been agreed that disruption is the alternative as recruitment of
PIRA players has proved impossible, and this would provide an ideal
opportunity for unnerving the unrecruitable." [8]
15.20 The note thus implies that propaganda against specific PIRA figures
was a tactic that could be used against individuals who were either
assessed to be unrecruitable as agents or who had been approached and
had refused to become agents.
15.21 I should note that the "disruption" envisaged by the Security Service
appears to have referred to the concern that such propaganda would
prompt amongst PIRA players. There is no evidence that the Service were
motivated by a desire to spread the propaganda in order to encourage and
inspire loyalists to 'disrupt' PIRA figures by attacking them. I consider
below, however, the highly pertinent concerns of the Director and Coordinator of Intelligence (DCI) and others that, in practice, the propaganda
could nonetheless be perceived as being incitement against such


Undated documents cited by de Silva record reservations within upper reaches of MI5 at the

15.22 The documents I have reviewed suggest that there was considerable
unease amongst some Security Service officers with regard to the nature of
the propaganda and the proposals for expanding the initiatives. At one
stage, the Head of the Security Service's operational section had cautioned
that the Service should be careful that the initiatives should not involve
"anything which might be taken as incitement".[9]
15.23 The Head of G8, the Service's Irish agent-running section based in
London, provided the first internal critique of the propaganda initiatives.
He advised that the Government had an:
"... obligation to do nothing that intentionally or deliberately exacerbates
religious sectarian tensions." [10]

15.24 However, despite these reservations the officer also referred in the
same telegram to the initiatives as having been "talented and clearly
successful ".

Initiative wound up towards end of 1989 (after Finucane killing) amid reservations
expressed by new Chief Constable, Hugh Annesley; MI5 Operational Section wanted it to
continue so that republican players can experience same fear of assassination as security
forces (We should interview Annesley):

15.26 The propaganda initiatives appear to have only been terminated

entirely towards the end of 1989. The minutes of the Targeting Policy
Committee during September 1989 also show that the new Chief
Constable, Sir Hugh Annesley, had expressed reservations about the
intelligence agencies conducting any 'Counter-Action' type of propaganda
activity (though there is no record to suggest that the Chief Constable had
been made aware of these Security Service initiatives).
15.27 However, it is clear that the Security Service's operational section
viewed the ending of the initiatives with some regret. Whilst accepting that
the Service's operational branch should not have a propaganda role, one
officer expressed the view that there was nevertheless a continuing need
for a project:
"... which challenges republican assertions, which makes republican
players feel that they, too, are as exposed as the members of the security
forces who live daily under threat of the assassin's bomb or bullet."

Although not the focus of the initiative, Pat Finucane became a target by virtue of
representing IRA clients and the propaganda linked him to the activities of his clients. Aim
was to unnerve him rather than incite attack but de Silva says he has to consider whether
effect was to legitimise him as a target:

Propaganda referring to Patrick Finucane prior to his murder

15.30 The above analysis provides the background to the formulation and
implementation of the Security Service's propaganda initiatives. This
project is of particular relevance to my Review because I have established
that in the late 1980s, prior to his murder, the initiatives encompassed the
dissemination of information referring to Patrick Finucane within the
loyalist community.

15.31 I should note that Patrick Finucane was not the focus of the
propaganda initiatives in the late 1980s. The thrust of the propaganda
rumours and innuendo was aimed at the republican movement and specific
PIRA players, including individuals who would have been represented by
Patrick Finucane. However, as a result of his work in defending these
individuals, it is clear that Mr Finucane came to be included within the
scope of the propaganda.
15.32 The information relating to Patrick Finucane that was being
circulated effectively involved fanning the rumours and speculation
linking him to the IRA. The effect of the propaganda would certainly have
been, in my view, to associate Patrick Finucane with the activities of his
15.33 I have found no evidence that the Security Service circulated Patrick
Finucane's personal details, nor that they proposed that any individual or
group attack him. In line with the broader objectives of the initiatives, the
propaganda against Patrick Finucane appears to have been designed to
discredit and 'unnerve' him rather than to incite loyalists or anyone else to
target him. However, even if the propaganda was not intended to incite
loyalists in that respect, I must consider the question as to whether it could
have legitimised him as a target for loyalist paramilitaries.

MI5 denied there was a direct link between propaganda and Finucanes murder:

15.39 I questioned Security Service officer G/07 on the propaganda

initiative. He acknowledged that:
"... the discussion that we saw [between the DCI, HAG and the Head of the
Service's operational section] might more usefully have taken place before
the [initiatives] took place." [15]
15.40 However, he did express the view that, given the UDA's longstanding targeting of Patrick Finucane, he did not "see a direct linkage
between the [propaganda] and the murder"

De Silva does believe the effect was to help make Finucane a target for Loyalists:

In considering the background to this initiative, and taking account of the

underlying material I have seen, I do believe that the propaganda could
have had the effect of further legitimising Patrick Finucane as a target for
loyalist paramilitaries.

Both RUC Special Branch and the FRU knew and approved of the targeting of Pat

15.46 A Security Service telegram produced in the late 1980s also

demonstrates that both the RUC SB and the FRU were aware of the
propaganda that included Patrick Finucane. The RUC SB appear to have
provided their endorsement for the propaganda, whilst the FRU were said
to have been made aware of the propaganda intended for dissemination.
The Security Service note stated that:
"We have consulted [Assessments Group] (HAG) and RUC (SB Ch Insp.)
who was enthusiastic about the concept and content [with the proposed
nature of the propaganda]. FRU were [made aware of the proposed nature
of the propaganda]."

Oliver Kelly and Paddy McGrory were also targets:

Propaganda against Oliver Kelly and Paddy McGrory

15.49 I have established that the propaganda initiatives also included the
dissemination of rumours with respect to the solicitors Oliver Kelly and
Paddy McGrory during the 1980s. As was the case in relation to Patrick
Finucane, I am satisfied that the channels used for this propaganda meant
that the information reached loyalist paramilitary groups.
15.50 The Security Service were aware at the material time that these
rumours would reach loyalist paramilitaries. The rumours would have
added to and reinforced a variety of other conversations taking place
within UDA circles at the time with regard to the supposed allegiances of
these solicitors.
15.51 I should note that there is no evidence that the Security Service
intended such rumours to be circulated with a view to encouraging
loyalists to attack these lawyers. However, even if the intention was to

'unnerve' such lawyers, there were obvious risks in acquiescing in the

circulation of such information around the loyalist community. The
propaganda was disseminated despite the fact that both lawyers were
known to be under threat from loyalist paramilitaries.

Targeting of Finucane undermined his ability to do his job as a lawyer as the British
government was bound by international agreement to protect and served to legitimise
Finucane as a target although the intent was to unnerve him rather than incite attacks:

15.53 I am entirely satisfied that, although he was not the focus of the
initiatives, Patrick Finucane came to be included within their scope. In my
view, his inclusion in this manner breached the obligations that should
have been upheld by the State to ensure that lawyers could operate free
from intimidation and not be identified with the causes of their clients.
15.54 I am satisfied that the dissemination of this propaganda could have
served to further legitimise Patrick Finucane as a target for loyalist
paramilitaries. Whilst the aim of these initiatives was to 'unnerve' people
such as Mr Finucane (rather than to incite loyalists to attack them), the fact
that the propaganda could have such an effect was, in my view, a
consequence that should have been foreseeable to the Security Service at
the time.