Sunday, November 4, 2018

The McConville Assumption

I can't prove that Jean McConville was an informer, and I can't prove that she wasn't. But it's now an article of faith that she couldn't have been, and that it's absurd to think a widowed mother living a modest life with her ten children could possibly have ever served as an informer in the service of British authorities in Northern Ireland: What could a person like that ever have offered to the sophisticated enterprise of military intelligence?

The American journalist Patrick Radden Keefe, who has written a new book about McConville's kidnapping and murder by the Provisional IRA, echoed this line in a recent interview with the Irish Times:
He does not take a position on the allegation that the reason she was murdered was because she was informing for the British army – a claim fiercely resented and rejected by the McConvilles, and also formally rejected by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan – although he reasonably queries what a vulnerable, stressed, 38-year-old widowed mother of a large brood of children could usefully do for the army.
But here's a passage from an excerpt taken from Keefe's book, describing McConville's kidnapping (which took place in her home, in front of her children):
A couple of the men were not wearing masks, and Michael McConville realised, to his horror, that the people taking his mother were not strangers. They were neighbours.
To acknowledge that Jean McConville lived in a place where her neighbors were IRA members is to acknowledge that she could have been a useful informer. A widowed mother, not leaving for work or frequent travel, at home constantly in what was effectively an IRA barracks, was in a position to report on the movements and meetings of her neighbors. 

Divis Flats was a center of IRA activity, a battleground and a deadly place for British soldiers. It was so important to the British Army to have eyes on Divis Flats that they built an observation post there – which would have allowed them much the same kind of information that McConville would have had from her own apartment. Who's coming, who's going, who's armed, what apartments do armed men enter, who's running into Divis Flats ahead of pursuing soldiers?

Troops in a fixed observation post can't see everything at all times; supplemental intelligence, on plain questions about the movements and identities of neighbors who serve in a paramilitary organization, would have been valuable to the British soldiers patrolling the area. Imagine IRA commanders having someone in British army barracks who called and reported the movement of troops. This is valuable information, easily reported, and not requiring sophisticated knowledge of military operations.

It's reasonable to describe the claim that McConville was an informer as a disputed claim, or an unproven claim. It's reasonable to notice the pain that the claim causes her children. It's silly to pretend that it's inconceivable, or that she could have offered no value of any kind to the British military in Belfast. It's perfectly clear that it would have been quite valuable to the British to have extra eyes inside Divis Flats, and it's perfectly clear that McConville could have been in a position to provide those eyes.

The British government could settle the matter by fully opening the archives, releasing every document relating to military intelligence and army patrols in Belfast in 1972. A similar point might be made regarding the commander in the Provisional IRA who ordered that McConville be taken, killed, and disappeared. The reality of the McConville killing is that the people who have the best evidence haven't shared it. Until they do – unless they do, and it seems unlikely that either British Army or former Provisional IRA leaders ever will – McConville's role as an alleged informer cannot be treated as an absurd proposition. As her children have said, she was taken by a paramilitary squad that included their neighbors. That's why she could have been an informer. The claim that she was is an open question.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Farcical High Court Decision Backs PSNI Farce

I am now convinced that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is an elaborate prank, a kind of brilliantly large-scale Candid Camera -- and the courts are totally on on the joke.

Let's start with some background. Feel free to skip to the heading WOODSHOP FELONY below if you've been following the Belfast Project subpoenas closely (you poor bastard) and don't need to go through the whole farce again.

In 2011, investigating a 1972 murder that they had ignored for thirty-nine years, the Police Service of Northern Ireland went shopping for unearned confessions in a historical archive in the United States. The subpoenas served on Boston College were, the claim went, desperately necessary, investigative tools scratching away the truth behind the most serious of crimes: the kidnapping, murder, and secret burial of a widowed mother of ten children, Jean McConville, killed by the Provisional IRA as a suspected informer in the employ of the British army in Belfast. 

Locked away in a university library, the Belfast Project tapes supposedly held the answers; consisting of frank oral history interviews with former members of paramilitary organizations, they would allow the authorities to bring a set of killers to justice. The headlines said so, plainly and uncritically. "Tapes Hold N. Ireland Murder Secrets," CNN reported. It was all pretty simple: Get the tapes, press the "play" button, make some arrests.

The police got the tapes they sought, but it doesn't appear that the police got their Northern Ireland murder secrets. More than seven years later, no one has ever been brought to trial over McConville's murder, or on any other crime supposedly exposed by the tapes. One elderly man, allegedly a former Provisional IRA member of high rank, was charged more than four years ago with crimes related to the killing, but his case has become the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce of the criminal courts -- forever subject to status conferences, forever unresolved

Following another, later subpoena, another set of charges were brought against another elderly man alleged to have once been a ranking member of a Loyalist paramilitary organization. Those charges have also gone Full Kafka, forever wandering the hallways of the courts of Northern Ireland and rattling their chains. One day the sun will implode, our solar system will vanish into a black hole, and the charges brought on the basis of the Belfast Project tapes will finally meet their resolution. 


But now the farce of the Belfast Project tapes has become something else altogether, the word for which probably hasn't been coined, yet. We'll need a neologism that combines the ideas of raw sewage, things of microscopic importance, and pure farce. (This would be easier if we all spoke German.)

In 2014, circling back to a source that had brought them no form of success in court at all, law enforcement authorities in Northern Ireland asked the U.S. Department of Justice to promulgate a new Belfast Project subpoena. This time, the PSNI was seeking the recorded interviews archived at Boston College in which a Belfast Project researcher, Anthony McIntyre (a former Long Kesh prisoner who has a PhD in history), is said to have discussed his own role in the Provisional IRA.

Federal authorities in Boston got McIntyre's interview materials, and the DOJ sent them off to Belfast. But McIntyre went to court to stop the police from reading the transcripts or listening to the tapes. This week, the High Court in Belfast issued a decision in McIntyre's legal challenge, which they heard almost a year ago. 

The decision is, God help us all, comic opera. It makes the farcical nature of the whole production abundantly clear, while attempting to manage the discussion within the boundaries of language that declares that this is terribly serious judicial business. I have a draft copy, not yet signed by the court, and the court has posted a summary of the decision here (link opens to PDF file). I'll stick to discussing the publicly available summary until the whole decision becomes public.

Now, remember that this all began, seven years ago, with a great deal of somber tut-tutting about the seriousness of the Belfast Project subpoenas, and the urgent work of the PSNI as it raced down the trail after some murderers. So take a look at the summary posted by the court, which describes the matters now being investigated by the PSNI with regard to Anthony McIntyre:
On 3 September 2014 the PSNI requested that the Public Prosecution Service (“PPS”) issue an International Letter of Request (“ILOR”) in respect of a criminal investigation it was carrying out into the following matters: 
The detection in 1978 in the applicant's possession of an imitation firearm while in custody in circumstances suggesting that he may be planning an escape from custody. The applicant states that this is a reference to an incomplete wooden gun in two parts which was found in a search cubicle in prison reception. He was questioned at the time of its discovery but not charged with any offence.
Note that this sentence about events in the 1970s begins with "the detection," at the time, of the thing being discussed. So in 1978, prison officials caught Anthony McIntyre with some pieces of wood, which they suspected, probably for good reason, that he was planning to turn into a fake gun so he could bluff his way out of prison. They questioned him about it but decided not to charge him with a crime. Thirty-six years later, the PSNI decided to conduct an investigation to determine if Anthony McIntyre had possessed some pieces of wood that could be turned into a fake gun for use in an attempt at a prison escape, and they went through the complex and difficult process of obtaining international legal assistance to subpoena interview materials archived in another country. 

The reason the PSNI suspected that Anthony McIntyre had once possessed wooden materials that could be used to make a fake gun was that, nearly four decades ago, prison officials in Northern Ireland caught Anthony McIntyre in possession of wooden materials that could be used to make a fake gun.

We suspect this man of Crime X because forty years ago he was caught committing it, so now we need to find out if he committed the crime that we know about because we know he was caught committing it.

Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, ladies and gentlemen.

The PSNI used the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States in an attempt to find out if Anthony McIntyre hid some wood in his socks forty years ago, a thing they already knew he did.

But let's keep going, and take a look at the other things the PSNI supposedly set out to investigate by digging into McIntyre's Belfast Project tapes. Like this:

"Membership of an illegal organisation."

Goodness yes: Let's use international legal assistance to conduct an investigation to find out if Anthony McIntyre was ever a member of the Provisional IRA, more than forty years after the time he was actually convicted on that charge. McIntyre's own website, by the way, has a review of his book on Irish republicanism, which describes McIntyre as "a historian, a former member of the IRA and a onetime party activist with extensive contacts in the organisation." It took me five seconds on Google to come up with that one -- but I don't have the option of asking the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas on my behalf, so I was forced to fall back on other means.

Finally, the PSNI suspects that McIntyre carried out a bombing, with a few problems:

"A bomb attack on a house at Rugby Avenue on 6 February 1976. The PSNI claimed to have received information on that date the applicant was involved in the bomb attack. The applicant, however, maintains that he was in fact the target of the attack and that in any event if the attack was on the date alleged he was in police custody throughout that day."

More about the Rugby Avenue bomb later, when the full decision is available, but alleging in an international letter of assistance that McIntyre bombed somebody's house on a day when he was in police custody is an interesting choice.

Analyzing the international letter of assistance -- the letter the PSNI asked Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service to prepare in order to ask American law enforcement officials for help -- the High Court acknowledges in its decision that the police and prosecutors made a hash of the whole thing. From the summary released by the court, and take a moment to read this carefully:

"There were a number of errors in the ILOR including reference to the incorrect date of birth of the applicant, the incorrect section of legislation in respect of an offence, an assertion that the applicant had been convicted of armed robbery in 1975 and sentenced to a period of imprisonment of three years when in fact there was no evidence to support that assertion and an incorrect date of Judicial conviction for the offence of membership of a proscribed organisation."

So the police set out to investigate whether Anthony McIntyre once possessed some wood that they suspect he possessed because they know he possessed it, and also set out to learn if a convicted IRA member had ever been in the IRA, and also set out to determine if he blew up somebody's house on a date when he was locked up in the police station, and when they wrote the letter outlining their investigation, they got most of the supporting facts totally wrong.

These two conclusions come one after the other in the summary of the decision posted on the court website:
• The errors in the ILOR were due to a distinct and surprising lack of care on the part of the PSNI and the PPS;  
• The errors in the ILOR were not indicative of bad faith.
Got that? They fucked up everything they touched, which we're pretty sure proves that they were trying to be careful and do a good job.

More to come.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Shocking Interview With a U.S. Intel Source

This week, Buzzfeed published explosive but unverified intel documents of unclear origin, revealing a claim that President-Elect Donald Trump had flown to Moscow, checked into a hotel room recently frequented by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and deliberately defiled the sanctified space with large quantities of hooker urine.

Pursuing those remarkable claims, I have just managed to interview a senior U.S. intelligence official – who reveals, on condition of anonymity, that American officials have received a number of other astonishing tips regarding President-Elect Trump's dangerous sexual practices. In the interest of transparency, I present the wholly unverified statements of this senior official verbatim, leaving it for readers to determine their veracity:
First incident: Our intel sources say Mr. Trump was there to deliver a pizza, but then the sorority didn't have enough cash to pay for it. For reasons that remain unclear, a funky bass line began to play. Then the sorority chicks began to undress, revealing bosoms of exceptional proportions, and Mr. Trump is said to have made a play on words that involved the delivery of a 'sausage' pizza, while licking his lips in a suggestive manner and boldly tossing his mullet from side to side. Perverse and gymnastically exceptional sexual acts did then occur.
Second incident: A highly placed foreign government official tells us that a car driven by three ravishing blondes in cheerleader outfits broke down on the side of a remote highway. Though the day was exceptionally hot and sunny, the ladies in question were able to cool their bodies by pouring bottles of chilled water onto their shirts. Mr. Trump was driving a tow truck, and responded to the scene to assist. However, upon seeing the wet cheerleader shirts in question, he became aroused. Our sources indicate that Mr. Trump then stated that he would 'pull out his gear and get you ladies all jacked up to ride,' prompting spontaneous squeals of apparent delight. He then lowered a mattress to the ground, adjacent to the highway. Once again, numerous sexual acts took place.
Third incident: While working as a junior college volleyball referee, Mr. Trump called a foul on a pair of young players in extremely small shorts. Having identified a transgression against 'league rules,' our sources indicate, Mr. Trump explained to the players that the penalty for the offense in question was 'a hot and nasty spanking to show you what I do to bad girls like you.' The younger of the players objected, pulling on her pigtails and tucking a fingertip into the corner of her mouth. Substantial HUMINT indicates that the player stated, 'But sir, we're barely legal college girls.' The subsequent sexual acts are said by several foreign intelligence agencies to have involved baby oil, a small leather paddle, and a sturdy nylon swing.
As experienced professionals, we assess this intel to be highly credible.
Clearly, these are allegations of the highest merit, raising deep concerns. It appears that the Trump presidency will be finished before it even begins.

Exclusive: Major New Intel Report on Donald Trump's Russian Ties

Shortly after Buzzfeed's publication of an explosive intel dossier on Donald Trump, I received this shocking document directly from a highly-placed source in the intel community:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Jean McConville, Ivor Bell, and the Denouement that Never Comes

There's nothing there. It's a shadow of a shadow of a shadow.

Prosecutors in Belfast have now presented their case against Ivor Bell, in a preliminary inquiry meant to show that their evidence is strong enough to be advanced to trial. The Public Prosecution Service alleges that Bell aided and abetted in the 1972 murder of the Belfast widow and mother Jean McConville, joining others in the solicitation of murder.

Don't take my word for what I'm about to say: Take a few minutes to review some of the news stories about the preliminary inquiry. Here's a story from the Belfast Telegraph. Here's another story from the same newspaper. Here's a story from the BBC. Here's a story from the Times of London. (Remarkably, I can't find any stories about the preliminary inquiry from the Irish Times.)

The preliminary inquiry lasted two days, and the testimony covered in news stories all focused on the Boston College tapes. Notice what testimony doesn't appear in the news stories, and what kind of facts were apparently absent from the courtroom:

What are the names of the people Ivor Bell allegedly aided and abetted?

Specifically, what are the criminal events, in sequence, in which Bell allegedly participated?

What is the name of the person who is alleged to have actually ordered the kidnapping, murder, and disappearance of Jean McConville?

Other than Ivor Bell, what are the names of the Provisional IRA leaders who allegedly discussed the subject of McConville's murder and disappearance? There was a meeting: Who was there?

Previous accounts of McConville's kidnapping from her home in Divis Flats suggest that about a dozen members of the Provisional IRA participated in the abduction. What were their names?

McConville was buried on a beach in the Republic of Ireland. What are the names of the people who dug her grave?

Who shot Jean McConville? 

Quite simply, unless it happened but the reporters in the courtroom completely missed it, prosecutors have outlined no crime at all. They have laid out no charges, advanced no facts, and described no events. They have not said who did the things that Ivor Bell is alleged to have assisted with; indeed, they have not said in any particular detail what actions he aided. They have no theory of the case they wish to advance in court, can publicly offer no timeline, and have named no names but one. They do not fully describe a plot and its procedure, placing Bell inside well-explained events in his particular context. They do not appear with witnesses who can testify firsthand about what they saw, heard, and did as McConville was carried from her home, killed and buried.

All they have – five years later – is the tapes. Which they present with a shrug, and some general testimony from a librarian about the project to record them.

Who ordered the murder of Jean McConville, and who shot her? It wasn't Ivor Bell. To prosecute him for aiding and abetting without clearly and convincingly answering those two questions in an open courtroom is a sham and an embarrassment.

More than five years after the first subpoenas arrived at Boston College, we still have not seen the police or prosecutors in Northern Ireland venture a public answer to the most obvious questions of all.

This is a sideshow, staged by circus clowns who stand over the grave of a murdered woman.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Long Game of Blindfolded Darts

I've been arguing for years that the Belfast Project subpoenas aren't an example of a police investigation, but rather offer proof that police in Northern Ireland are engaged in a theatrical performance and refusing to perform real detective work. Events in Belfast courts this week prove the point.

First, in a hearing regarding an American subpoena requested by the PSNI for Belfast Project interviews conducted with Anthony McIntyre, lawyers for McIntyre argued that the International Letter of Request (ILOR) sent by the British government to the U.S. government was "replete with errors, and that’s putting it mildly.” Among the errors alleged by McIntyre's lawyers were claims made in the ILOR that McIntyre had previously been convicted for offenses for which he had actually been acquitted or never charged.

In response, lawyers for the police and the prosecution service made no argument at all, neither conceding nor rejecting the claim; instead, they told the judges hearing the case that they would have to look into it. "Counsel for the respondents were unable to confirm the claim, insisting archives would have to be checked," the Irish News reported (emphasis added). Here's what comes next in that newspaper story:
Lord Justice Weatherup, sitting with Lord Justice Weir, described the situation as unsatisfactory.
"It's incredible; you have sent a letter to America... and you don't know whether it was in respect of an offence for which he's already been acquitted," he said.
So the Police Service of Northern Ireland initiated a request for the U.S. Department of Justice to subpoena an academic archive in Boston, and now -- now, after making an international request for legal assistance in a supposed criminal investigation -- have begun to look into the factual background their own case. Oh, yeah, man, we'll go, like, check the archives and stuff.

The laziness, shoddiness, indifference to professional standards, and general halfassedness scream across an ocean at the American prosecutors who are playing along with this nonsense. These worthless idiots sent off an ILOR, then started to think about what they were up to. (A pattern emerges, by the way.) I'm not in Belfast to check, but I assume the PSNI's detectives drool on themselves and shit their pants.

Meanwhile, in another hearing over a different set of Belfast Project interviews, a different judge heard a legal challenge to the evidence obtained in the case of Ivor Bell, who is accused of aiding and abetting in the 1972 murder of Jean McConville. The federal appeals court in Boston, narrowing the decision of a district court judge, ordered that only two interviews with the interview subject known as "Z" -- who is alleged, but not proven, to be Bell -- be handed over to the PSNI. In fact, Bell's lawyers claim, authorities in Belfast are attempting to go to court with several more of the Belfast Project's "Z" interviews, evidence obtained far beyond the scope of the American court order.

Of course, Bell was charged in early 2014; now, two and a half years later, prosecutors in Belfast can't even get their evidence into the courtroom for a preliminary inquiry, much less a trial.

One week, two shambles.

Meanwhile, note the incredible statement at the conclusion of the Irish News story on the McIntyre hearing, linked above: A lawyer for the PSNI's chief constable "suggested PSNI officers who will be in Boston on Saturday to collect other materials could also bring back the McIntyre recordings and deposit them, still sealed, with the court.

The PSNI has gone back to Boston, in at least one other international request for a subpoena that has not yet been disclosed. They keep churning up garbage with their shoddy trips to Boston, and they keep going back to Boston.

Will anyone ever restrain these idiots? They're embarrassing themselves, damaging the legitimacy of Northern Ireland's political institutions, wasting the DOJ's time, angering Belfast judges, and making a clown show of the rule of law. And the U.S. government keeps shrugging and typing up the subpoenas.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

American Sociological Association Statement on the New Belfast Project Subpoena

The president, past president, and president-elect of the American Sociological Association have signed a public letter denouncing the outrageous new federal subpoena of Belfast Project interviews that were conducted with Dr. Anthony McIntyre: