By Duncan McFarlane
Some of the same British military intelligence units and officers involved in collusion with terrorist death squads in the killing of civil rights lawyer Patrick Finucane and other innocent people in Northern Ireland were also involved in the killing of Jean Charles De Menezes. The same people are also involved in ‘counter-terrorism’ in Iraq.
‘Patrick Finucane was a prominent criminal defence and civil rights lawyer; his was one of the leading law firms in the 1980s in Northern Ireland acting in defence of those detained or charged under emergency legislation. He was instrumental in raising fair trial issues in the courts, arguing against practices which were in violation of international human rights standards. He was shot dead by two masked men on 12 February 1989 in front of his wife and his three children at their home in Belfast, Northern Ireland.’
Amnesty International ‘Patrick Finucane’s killing: Official collusion and cover-up'(1)
The murder of civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989 was the result of collusion between the Ulster Defence Association ‘ a loyalist terrorist organisation ‘ and a British military intelligence unit ‘ the Forces Research Unit or FRU which was headed by one Gordon Kerr from 1987 to 1991. The FRU included the intelligence ‘handler’ of UDA man Brian Nelson who was involved in the Finucane murder. The FRU were also involved in the murder by the UDA of at least 14 other people ‘ mostly innocent of any connection to the IRA. Some like Finucane acted as defence lawyers for people suspected by the FRU of being in the IRA ‘ and on that basis the FRU passed their lawyers’ names to the UDA death squads. Several people have also testified that they were employed as FRU double agents in the IRA during the 1980s and in the Real IRA cell which carried out the Omagh bombing which killed 29 people in 1998 (After 1991 the FRU was renamed the ‘Joint Services Group’). They claim the FRU allowed bombings to go ahead rather than risk blowing their agents’ cover ‘ bringing in to question what the FRU’s real motives were if they weren’t to prevent terrorist attacks.
You might think that there would have been charges brought against FRU members when this was revealed. Instead the FRU are now re-deployed in Britain and Iraq for under the new name of the Joint Services Group (JSG) (10). Kerr was promoted to Brigadier and given a posting at the British embassy in Beijing where he would have diplomatic immunity from prosecution (11). Geoff Hoon as Defence Minister in 2000 got a court injunction banning a Northern Irish newspaper from reporting on a court case charging British military intelligence with collusion in the murder of a 66 year old Catholic man – Francisco Notorantonio ‘ in Belfast in 1987 (12).
After the Iraq war ‘ended’ in May 2003 Kerr was sent to direct intelligence operations in Iraq. By May 2005 another of the British military intelligence units involved in the ‘dirty war’ in Northern Ireland ‘ the 14th Intelligence Detachment ‘ nicknamed the ’14th’ or ‘the Det’- was renamed the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) responsible for ‘counter-terrorism’ operations in Iraq and the UK. Brigadier Gordon Kerr was appointed the head of the SRR. (13,14,15). All retain immunity from prosecution ‘ this time that held by all coalition troops in Iraq at the demand of the Bush administration as occupying power (16).
True to old form in Northern Ireland we now know that the SRR have already been involved in getting at least one more innocent person killed. On the day that the Brazilian Jean Charles De Menezes was killed by armed police in the London underground at least one member of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment was the man who wrongly identified him as possibly being one of the July the 7th bombers. The government and the Metropolitan Police have refused to answer questions about whether more than one member of the SRR was involved in the surveillance team following Menezes (17,18,19).
The Scotsman newspaper also reported that the two SAS men arrested by Iraqi police last August for allegedly driving around with automatic weapons and bomb making equipment were also under the command of the SRR ‘ which would also put them under the command of Brigadier Gordon Kerr as head of that unit (20). Iraqi journalists hired by companies like CBS are frequently shot, jailed without charge and accused or ‘aiding insurgents by their actions’ or disappeared by US forces if they film the aftermath of terrorist bombings according to reports by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal (21,22).
The advanced bombs or ‘improvised explosive devices’ (IEDs) being used against British forces in Iraq are also apparently a legacy of the FRU’s time in Northern Ireland. Using the logic that if they knew how the IRA made its bombs they could defuse them more easily the FRU was involved in using double agents to give the IRA the technology to make advanced bombs triggered by beams of light. The IRA used these against RUC police officers. It has been speculated that they then sold or shared the technology with the PLO and Hezbollah who traded it on to Iraqi insurgents ‘ but how the technology was transferred to Iraq and by who remains uncertain (23).
Just as human rights lawyers were seen as ‘IRA’ by the FRU and their UDA terrorist allies and often assassinated in Northern Ireland so Iraqi academics who speak out against the occupation are routinely assassinated (24). There is no specific evidence that the Special Reconnaissance Regiment or the Joint research Group are involved in organising these assassinations but we do know that the tactic of collusion with terrorist death squad killings in Northern Ireland and there is no reason to think their tactics will have changed much given that many of their personnel ‘ like Kerr ‘ are unchanged.
There are death and torture squads linked to many different militias, to the coalition backed Iraqi government , and ‘ according to Iraqi exile Sami Ramadani ‘ to former Iraqi Prime Minister and ex-CIA funded terrorist Iyad Allawi (25,26,27).
US units are similarly involved in co-operating with extremely dubious groups in Iraq ‘ including some of Saddam’s torturers in the new Pentagon funded secret police , the Iraqi police and the fanatical Shia ‘Wolf Brigade’. The ‘Wolf Brigade’ consider all Sunnis to be apostates rather than Muslims and have the same kind of relationship with US forces that paramilitaries like the Serbian extremists of Arkan’s Tigers had with the Yugoslav military in the Bosnian War ‘ i.e. US forces can deny responsibility for killings and torture carried out by Iraqi government paramilitaries they trained (28,29,30,31,32,33).
All of this is a long way from a war ‘against terrorism’ or for ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’. You can’t teach human rights to torturers like the Mukhabarat, fanatics like the Wolf Brigade or old collaborators with terrorists like the SRR and JSG who were the FRU and ‘Det’ of the dirty war in Northern Ireland. To employ these people is to continue human rights abuses against guilty and innocent alike. Iraqis are not safer with them operating in Iraq with the immunity from prosecution held by all coalition forces there – and the killing of Jean Charles De Menezes showed that people in Britain aren’t safe from them either.
It’s time that people with a record of collaborating in terrorist murders were out of the military and in front of the courts so that we can eliminate the additional dangers of their ‘counter-terrorism’ operations and replace them with people who can be trusted.
In Northern Ireland they were neither right nor effective ‘ their collusion in UDA terrorist murders helped create a surge in recruitment and support for IRA terrorists in the 80s. The De Menezes case showed that they are just as much of a liability now.
Copyright ‘ Duncan McFarlane 2006
(1) = Amnesty International 1 Feb 2000 ‘Patrick Finucane’s killing:
Official collusion and cover-up’, AI Index: EUR 45/026/2000 1 February 2000 ,
(2) = Amnesty International(1994), ‘Political Killings in Northern Ireland’, Amnesty International British Section , London 1994
(3) = Sir John Stevens , Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police , 17th April 2003 , ‘The ‘Stevens Inquiry -Overview’,
(4) = BBC News 17 April 2003, ‘Stevens Inquiry: Key people’,
(5) = ‘Cory Collusion Inquiry Report – Patrick Finucane’, http://www.nio.gov.uk/cory_collusion_inquiry_report_(with_appendices)_pat_finucane.pdf
(6) = BBC News Online, ‘Security forces aided loyalist murders’,
(7) = Sunday Herald 23 Jun 2002 , ‘The army asked me to make bombs for the IRA, told me I had the Prime Minister’s blessing … then tried to kill me’,
(8) = Guardian 31 Dec 2001 , ‘Shocked families want public inquiry to establish truth’,
(9) = Guardian 22 Jan 2002, ‘Omagh police’s terrorist logbook ‘vanished”,
(10) = Times 18 April 2005, ‘Top secret intelligence unit will quit Belfast for new role in Iraq’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1574148,00.html
(11) = BBC News Online 13 Feb 2004 , ‘Top soldier named in ‘Finucane papers”,
(12) = BBC News Online 1 October 2000, ‘ Paper’s anger over ‘gagging”,
(13) = Harclerode, Peter (2000) , ‘Secret Soldiers ‘ special forces in the war against terrorism’, Cassel & co.London, 2000, pages 339-344
(14) = Guardian 18 August 2005, ‘Special army unit played central role’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/0,,1551345,00.html
(15) = Times 18 April 2005 , ‘Top secret intelligence unit will quit Belfast for new role in Iraq’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1574148,00.html
(16) = Observer 23 May 2004, ‘Iraqis lose right to sue troops over war crimes’,
(17) = Observer 5 Feb 2006, ‘Ministry probes Tube train killing’,
(18) = Guardian 4 August 2005, ‘New special forces unit tailed Brazilian’
(19) = Sunday Herald 21 Aug 2005, ‘AN INNOCENT MAN SHOT DEAD ON THE LONDON TUBE BY POLICE … since then everything we’ve been told has been wrong’, http://www.sundayherald.com/51372
(20) = The Scotsman 20 Sep 2005, ‘British tanks in ‘smash and grab raid”,
(21) = New York Times 15 September 2005, ‘Detention of Iraqi journalists frustrates U.S. media’ , http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/09/15/news/cbs.php#
(22) = Wall Street Journal 15 September 2005, ‘CBS Asks Why U.S. Imprisons
Its Iraqi Hire’, http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB112674252518941221.html
(23) = Independent On Sunday 16 Oct 2005 , ‘Revealed: IRA bombs killed eight British soldiers in Iraq’, http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/ulster/article320004.ece
(24) = Guardian 28 Feb 2006, ‘Death of a professor’,
(25) = The Times 07 July 2005, ‘West turns blind eye as police put Saddam’s torturers back to work’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-1683578,00.html
(26) = Guardian 20 May 2005 , ‘British lawyers to pursue Iraqi security forces over killings’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1488096,00.html
(27) = BBC News 11 June 2005 , ‘Profile: Iraq’s Wolf Brigade’,
(28) = The Telegraph 04 Jan 2004 , ‘CIA plans new secret police to fight Iraq terrorism’,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/01/04/wirq04.xml
(29) = Human Rights Watch press release 25 Jan 2005, ‘Iraq: Torture Continues at Hands of New Government’, http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/01/26/iraq10053.htm
(30) = Washington Post 24 Aug 2003, ‘U.S. Recruiting Hussein’s Spies; Occupation Forces Hope Covert Campaign Will Help Identify Resistance’ ,
(31) = Amnesty International 6 March 2006 , ‘Beyond Abu Ghraib:
detention and torture in Iraq’, http://news.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE140012006?open&of=ENG-2D2
(32) = International Herald Tribune 23 July 2003 America is said to be seeking help of former spies on Iran
(33) = AP Worldstream 24 Aug 2003 Bomb rips through home of leading Muslim Shiite cleric; Americans recruiting Saddam intelligence agents
Copyright ‘ Duncan McFarlane 2006