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Lies, the media and the outing of ‘Stakeknife’
Only one thing is certain , amid the murk of the ‘Stakeknife’ controversy: security ‘sources’ deliberately lied to the media. Now isn’t that strange?
Eamonn McCann, 28 May 2003
Has the Stakeknife story done more harm to the Provisional IRA than to British Intelligence? Hard to say, at the time of writing. But Gerry Adams posed a different question at the Ulster Hall on May 15th. And just because if was Grizzly who put the point doesn’t mean there’s no substance to it. His question was – “Has the greatest damage of all been done to the media?”
One of many curious aspects of media handling of the story concerns the timing of the spate of reports purporting to indentify Stakeknife. Four papers, three claiming an “exclusive”, named Freddy Scappaticci on May 11 as the agent – the Sunday People, the Sunday Tribune, the Sunday World and Glasgow’s Sunday Herald. Two of the editors have explained publicly why they went ahead.
Andrew Jaspan of the Herald says that he went into print after receiving confirmation from the Ministry of Defence that Scappaticci had been moved to safety in England. “It was quite important to us to know that he was out of harm’s way,” he told the Guardian.
Tribune editor Paddy Murray was, he says, “120 percent certain” Scappaticci was Stakeknife. He decided to name him once it was established that he had been “spirited out of Belfast... We were exposing a wrongdoer, but ethically it made it easier that he wasn’t at risk.”
Is this not passing strange – such concern for the safety of a man they were about to identify to the world as a torturer and a mass murderer? If Scappiticci is the vicious animal they so confidently claim, why worry? Would this consideration apply to a serial child molester unmasked by journalistic enterprise?
Certainly, it didn’t apply to the men Panorama purported to out last year as the Omagh bombers. What was the difference, other than that Stakeknife was assumed to be an agent of the State?
It was the State’s security forces which confirmed that Scappaticci was in a “safe house” and out of harm’s way. So, whatever the role of British spooks in generating the story, they clearly dictated its timing.
Of course, Scappaticci, it quickly emerged, hadn’t been spirited away anywhere. He popped up on the Falls three days later. In this, at least, the “security sources” had been lying. Which rather casts a cloud across the rest of the yarn.
Which is not to say that the story is untrue. There’s nothing I wouldn’t believe about any of the murky outfits involved in the matter.
One of these outfits is MI5, which worked in the closest cooperation with the FRU, the violent gang which, we are told, ran Stakeknife. By bizarre coincidence, MI5 witnesses were meanwhile testifying at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in London.
In the course of evidence, one MI5 agent casually let it be known that his statement had been drawn up for him by MI5 and presented to him for signature. He’d made “half a dozen” “minor” corrections before signing it. Another, “E”, testifying as to the credibility of the informer code-named Infliction, who says that Martin McGuinness had confessed to him that he’d fired the first shot on Bloody Sunday, volunteered that lawyers for the Tribunal had invited her to read over the statements of other MI5 witnesses scheduled to testify on the same subject before making her own statement. “Counsel to the Inquiry agreed that we should be aware of each other’s evidence, there were sort of no surprises...”
Barry McDonald, for the Bloody Sunday families: “Say that again. Counsel to the Inquiry suggested that you should read the statements...?”
E: “Well our legal advisors told us that it had been agreed that we could read the statements...”
McDonald: “Do you mean your own counsel, counsel for the Security Service?”
E: “No. Counsel to the Inquiry.”
McDonald: “Counsel to the Inquiry?”
Reasonably in the circumstances, E felt entitled to regard counsel to the Tribunal as “our legal advisors.”
Far from sparking a media outcry, this astonishing exchange has gone virtually unreported.
Whatever inquiries, if any, are launched into the Stakeknife affair, there’s need for the media to ask why we’re such easy meat for manipulation by the shadowy forces of the ruthless State?