Northern Ireland: What did 'Bob' do with FRU?

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Following the appointment of Jonathan "Bob" Evans as Director-General of MI5, there is growing interest in his role as an MI5 operative in Northern Ireland. According to The Observer (11 March 2007, link) Evans's role in Northern Ireland was to work with the British Army's Force Research Unit (FRU) about which little is known, notwithstanding the steady stream of revelations in recent years about collusion between state security forces and paramilitary organisations. Evans apparently treated agents much better than his predecessors, insisting that they call him "Bob" and flying them to good hotels in France and Scotland for briefing sessions.

Below, Statewatch publishes an article about FRU written in 2003. This was prepared before the publication of the Cory Reports, the Barron Inquiry Report (to be followed by the McEntee Report) and the Police Ombudsman's reports dealing with collusion (such as the report on the death of Raymond McCord - Operation Belfast).

Britain's Force Research Unit

In April 2003, Sir John Stevens, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, gave the first official description of the British Army's Force Research Unit (FRU). In his brief 24-page report of 17th April, the FRU was described simply as "the Army's agent handling unit in Northern Ireland". This came as part of the only public report on Stevens' fourteen years of investigation into collusion between the official security forces and unofficial loyalist armed groups.

The significance of the Stevens Report and its public acknowledgement of FRU should not be underestimated. FRU was at the heart of a counter-terrorist strategy in which intelligence, police and military operatives actively supported loyalist paramilitary groups and dramatically increased their killing capacity. That support included the sourcing of weapons, the provision of surveillance, the identification of targets and the facilitation of murder operations.

Over many years, and especially since the murder of lawyer Pat Finucane in February 1989, a range of evidence has come to light which makes it impossible to continue to deny the reality of systematic collusion. Stevens was obliged to reveal that his inquiries:

"have highlighted collusion, the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder. These serious acts and omissions have meant that people have been killed or seriously injured."

It is no surprise that it took Stevens fourteen years to reach this conclusion and to air it publicly. Stevens writes:

"throughout my three Enquiries I recognised that I was being obstructed. This obstruction was cultural in its nature and widespread within parts of the Army and the RUC."

FRU was central in obstructing Stevens, once it was clear that Stevens wanted to arrest Army agent Brian Nelson who was acting as head of intelligence for the largest loyalist group, the Ulster Defence Association, at the time of Finucane's murder. FRU took Nelson's intelligence records (which FRU itself had been instrumental in creating and organising) into "safekeeping" in an effort to prevent Stevens finding out the significance of Nelson's role. FRU also tipped Nelson off that Stevens was about to arrest him:

'There was a clear breach of security before the planned arrest of Nelson and other senior loyalists. Information was leaked to the loyalist paramilitaries and the press. This resulted in the operation being aborted. Nelson was advised by his FRU handlers to leave home the night before.' (Stevens Report, p13)

A fresh date was set for Nelson's arrest but the night before, there was a fire in Stevens' incident room which was 'never properly investigated' and which Stevens regards as 'a deliberate act of arson'.I would attribute this It's also Stev

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