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IRA: The Belfast Connection

MONEY AND MUNITIONS FROM NEW YORK ARE HELPING THE IRA LAY SIEGE TO LONDON. THE NEW TRIANGLE TRADE.

BELFAST — In the head­quarters of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the deputy chief constable is concluding a briefing on the situation in Northern Ireland. The briefing is, of course, granted on condi­tion of anonymity. Neat in appearance, a trifle wan, diffident, the constable sits in a chair in a corner of the room clearly wishing he were someplace else. Not at all like John LeCarre’s Smiley, the exquisite spy­master modeled after Sir Maurice Oldfield, the British intelligence boss who once oversaw the local securi­ty situation. Nodding off at the constable’s side is his press aide.

The constable speaks positively about how well things are going, the excellent cooperation with the FBI in the United States, and the remarkable efforts of the British Embassy in Washington in setting the record straight about the ongoing war with the Irish Republican Army. Asked about the IRA’s “ingenu­ity” in concocting an arsenal of homemade weapon­ry, his mouth tightens. “Deviousness, I should say,” he corrects. He gestures with a pointer to a map of Northern Ireland on the desk before him. Little col­ored pins mark hot spots. Above the desk on a file cabinet a television screen flashes the comforting mes­sage: “All Quiet.”

That’s before lunch. By midafternoon, an unarmed female British soldier on patrol in the New Lodge section of Belfast has been shot in the face by an IRA sniper. A squad of British soldiers rushes the house where they think the sniper is hidden; a time-delayed bomb goes off, blowing it up. As night and a light rain fall, choppers hover overhead. Across the city, patrols of British soldiers, guns at the ready, inch down the streets. In a pub frequented by pro-IRA nationalists, everyone sits watching the door, uncon­sciously tensing every time it opens for fear a loyal­ist gunman is coming in. Late that night, in the mid­dle of Belfast, reporters hail a passerby to ask directions. The man halts, his eyes turning wide with fright. Fearing that these three men in a car are about to shoot him, he jackknifes away, running like a startled deer down the street.

The war in Northern Ireland is one of the longest-running and most intensive guerril­la insurgencies in the history of modern warfare. On one side, the forces of the Brit­ish union: 20,000 regular British soldiers, including a special homegrown regiment of Royal Irish Rangers, another 12,000 po­lice — Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Spe­cial Air Services, the elite British Special Forces unit. Then there are MIS, the British equivalent of the FBI, and MI6, the Brit’s CIA. There are Ulster Special Branch de­tectives, local detectives, and a myriad of competing intelligence units running agents and informers, and organizing surveillance. And amidst the loyalist, heavily Protestant community — the Brits’ allies — are paramil­itary units, Salvadoran-style death squads.

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Heavily fortified police stations and army barracks are spread across the coun­tryside — Fire Post Charlies amidst a sea of insurgents. There is a camera on every main road, hooked to a centralized intelli­gence-gathering computer. Tall, reinforced watch posts dot the countryside. Every de­cent-sized town has at least one heavily fortified checkpoint, and some as many as three. The license plate of every car is en­tered on a central computer, the location of every house, the number of inhabitants in the house, the color of the wallpaper. And in the sky hovering all day and all night, the ubiquitous choppers.

Against the massed forces of Her Majesty are the members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The IRA. The Terror­ists. The scum. The “wee fucking provies.” Five hundred of them at the very most in operations, and 350 more functioning as an active unit inside the Maze at Long Kesh, Europe’s most modern maximum security prison. Behind the fighters, a network of supporters, farmers, townspeople, and teen­agers, who stand ready when called upon to make their homes over into safe houses, to surrender their autos, to hide the fighters, and most of all to watch the Brits. These are the dickers, the lookouts in every town, out of every window, in the gas station, at the post office, in the cafe. Beyond them, another network of supporters 3000 miles away in the United States: money men meeting in the clubs of Wall Street, gunrun­ners, sympathizers offering IRA fighters safe jobs, new identities, new lives.

Since the early 1970s the Brits have tried everything to break the IRA. They have rolled through the streets of West Belfast with armored personnel carriers, sent squads of troops against the populace, shot civilians on sight, ambushed the IRA with shoot-to-kill SAS units, penetrated and ma­nipulated the Protestant paramilitary death squads. They have interned the populace, using statements obtained through torture to convict suspected IRA members in jury-less trials.

In return, the IRA has become the world’s most sophisticated guerrilla force. It has at times displayed a tendency to inflict damage on itself and its supporters by engaging in reckless and brutal adven­tures that have resulted in civilian casual­ties both in Northern Ireland and in Brit­ain. It has also displayed an ability, albeit erratically, to learn from its mistakes. To­day, the IRA controls large sections of this tiny portion of the world, which runs just 100 miles from the Irish Sea to the Atlantic. It has de facto control of the nationalist ghettos of the North’s two cities and large towns. From its secret and mobile com­mand posts in the South. the IRA is strong enough to keep up a constantly varied level of attacks against British targets across the North, as well as carrying its campaign of bombing to the very heart of London.

The siege of London has thrown the Brit­ish government onto the defensive and, in the view of many observers, driven the Tory government into a new initiative to settle the conflict. The hierarchy of the Tory party began quietly to push Prime Minister John Major into taking a more active role on Ireland, and despite the fact that he needs the 10 votes from Protestant Ulster to hang onto his majority for unifi­cation with Europe, Major set about open­ing secret channels with the IRA. For three years now the IRA through its political arm, Sinn Fein, has been engaged in on­-again off-again talks with the British, seek­ing some political solution to the war. Be­fore Christmas, the Republic of Ireland joined in attempting to broker a deal. But unlike Hong Kong, where the British clear­ly have announced their plans to retire, in the Union’s first colony, settled in the 12th century, they are staying.

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There may be no logistical or economic interest left, but emotions run deep, and to the Tory establishment the loss of Ulster is the loss of Britain, a Dunkirk too humiliat­ing to reckon. The IRA leadership may be eager to end the war, but it faces a potential revolt in its own ranks, among the grass­roots in the prisons, the ghettos of West Belfast, and the rural hinterlands, deter­mined to give no quarter to the British. So talk of peace goes on amidst a general sense that, for the time being, so too will the war. On Tuesday, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Ad­ams attended a conference on Northern Ire­land in New York, the first time in 20 years that a Sinn Fein leader has openly been in the United States. The visit, needless to say, is being interpreted as another move — ­this time by the U.S. — to nudge the peace process forward.

Adams’s 48-hour visa, agreed to by the Clinton administration after two weeks of negotiations, is a blow to the British, who had lobbied against it, mainly through the offices of House Speaker Tom Foley, a well-established Anglophile Irishman. Ar­rayed against him were Ted Kennedy, Dan­iel Patrick Moynihan, and, in the White House, Mark Gearan, director of the Office of Communications. Anthony Lake, the president’s national security adviser, spent much of last week on the phone, quelling the FBl’s nervousness over having a terror­ist openly visiting New York and splitting hairs over Adams’s views on violence. American diplomats in Belfast said Adams’s statements to them about wanting to halt the war met the American precondi­tion that he renounce violence before being allowed into this country. But there were plenty of signs before he left Belfast that Adams’s line toward the British had, if any­thing, hardened.

In early January, we set out to make our own assessment of the war in Northern Ireland, with visits and interviews at the three key points of the triangle: here in New York, center of the American network pro­viding money and still some of the key arms to the nationalists, as well as an over­all support system; Belfast and the rural North — the so-called cockpit of the war, where the fighting grinds on and where strategy is laid; and London, where the IRA recently has transformed the City, the his­toric financial district, into a veritable bun­ker. We talked to fighters in the field in the North and those hiding in New York; to the political leaders of Sinn Fein; and to the major counselors of the IRA. We even spoke with a senior official at General Headquarters, the IRA’s secret command post from the which the campaign against London is being carried out.

NEW YORK

IRISH REPUBLICANISM was born among Irish émigrés in Europe, formed by the in­fluence of French revolutionary Jacobin­ism. Its first uprising, in 1798, was aided by the navy of revolutionary France. But its modern day counterpart, the Irish Republi­can Army, has its origins in the teeming Irish ghettos on the Eastern seaboard of mid-19th-century America. It was there, amongst the economic and political refu­gees of Famine Ireland, that the so-called Fenian movement and the secret Irish Re­publican Brotherhood and Clan Na Gael organizations were formed with the aim of violently overthrowing British rule in Ireland.

Since that time, every important uprising in Ireland has been financed with money from the Irish community in the U.S. When the nationalist ghettos in Northern Ireland came under attack from loyalist mobs and the police in 1969 and 1970, it was to the Irish emigrant network in the U.S. that the Catholics looked for relief aid and munitions. The first weapons for the revived IRA campaign against the Brit­ish — 12 M1s — were smuggled from the United States into Northern Ireland in 1970.

Beginning in October of that year, Joe Cahill, the senior IRA official charged with overseeing the pipeline to America, made a series of trips to the U.S. to raise money and arrange for the purchase of weapons. Here he hooked up with old republican activists like Michael Flannery and George Harrison and set up arms-importation net­works that included, ironically, the QE2 luxury liner. One of the first clear indica­tions of the IRA’s reliance on this source was the emergence of the American AR-I5, or Armalite, as the IRA’s weapon of choice in the 1970s.

Today in the traditional Irish neighbor­hoods in New York — Norwood in the North Bronx, Woodside and Sunnyside in Queens, and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn — the old gunrunning and fundraising network based on bars and construction companies has been supplemented by the influx of new Irish immigrants, many of them fleeing un­employment and political repression in Northern Ireland.

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People travel back and forth to Ireland two or three times a year, send money home, make room for visiting relatives. The local bars are places where new immi­grants cash their pay checks, find jobs, lo­cate apartments. Just as in Belfast, locals watching out for the FBI’s antiterrorist squad agents cruise the neighborhood. In the bars along 204th Street in the Bain­bridge section of the northern Bronx, post­ers advertising IRA fundraising socials for organizations like Clan Na Gael, are com­mon. The serious fundraising goes on at invitation-only private gatherings, where the latest courier from Belfast makes a pitch and the attendees make out checks in the thousands.

The FBI has had some notable successes in arresting leading IRA members who’ve fled to the U.S. to avoid the heat in North­ern Ireland. Joe Doherty was arrested in New York in 1983 and Jimmy Smyth, Ke­vin Arrt, and Pol Brennan were picked up in California nearly 10 years after they took part in a mass escape from the Maze prison in Northern Ireland. Smyth and Arrt were carrying U.S. passports in the names of twins who had died from a rare blood dis­order in the early 1970s.

The IRA has its own structure here, with an OC or Officer-in-Command who coordi­nates activities on behalf of the leadership in Belfast and Dublin. One OC, Liam Ryan, moved back to his native Tyrone in 1987 only to be assassinated by a loyalist gang in the family bar that he managed. Ryan, who was himself charged in an arms-­dealing case in 1985, ran a courier trail with contacts in Kennedy Airport and a smuggling operation that carried people and money into the U.S. through Buffalo from Canada.

What began as gunrunning has now evolved into a complicated network helping to provide the IRA with high-tech improve­ments in its homegrown arsenal. New York is also a sort of r&r spot for men and women coming off active duty, some of whom are too hot to remain in Northern Ireland or the republic, and who are sent to America to get lost, to find new identities that cannot be traced. Others come here for a break, often finding employment as ille­gals in the construction business. And there is the constant flow of funds to keep the struggle going, ranging from money sent home to individuals to funds raised by legal entities such as Irish Northern Aid to help prisoners and their families.

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The Irish American community “is very important because the British think it is very important,” Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader said during an interview in Bel­fast. “There is a huge part of the U.S. —­ people who claim, or want, or are of Irish extraction; there is no language difficulty. Most American Irish are in the states be­cause of the relationship between Ireland and Britain. All of this has the British a bit paranoid, and I think it is the duty of freedom lovers to make the British very paranoid.”

The British commonly attempt to turn immigrants from Northern Ireland into spies. In at least one instance, American FBI and British intelligence agents engaged in a covert operation in New York to turn an Irish construction worker from Northern Ireland.

Kevin Corrigan, 31, had come to the U.S. with his wife and baby in 1989 from the small farm village of Cappagh in County Tyrone. Cappagh has been a center of at­tack and counterattack over the last 15 years.

On arriving in New York the Corrigans took up residence in a one-bedroom apart­ment in the Bronx, and Kevin got work in the construction industry around New York. Like many Irish immigrants, he did not have a green card. One evening in Au­gust 1990, Corrigan says, FBI agents ap­peared outside his Bronx apartment flash­ing their badges. They told him that he was in breach of the immigration laws. One of the agents proceeded to rattle off details of Kevin’s life, incidental facts such as where his son had been born, where he had been christened, and where the party was held afterward. Then the FBI agent threatened him with deportation.

When Corrigan said he was ready to go back to Ireland, the agent said, “You don’t have to go back, in fact you can stay here as long as you want. If you help us out we can help you.” And he said, “I’ll show you a number of photographs of men who drink in bars around here. All you have to do is tell me who they’re with and the times they come and go. That’s all I want.” Corrigan refused. The agent persisted, renewing the offer, and threatening him with the same fate as Liam Ryan. After 20 minutes or so, the FBI men left, promising to get back in touch.

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Two days later, as Corrigan approached the subway station on 204th Street on his way to work, the agents turned up again. One of them sat opposite him as he rode the D train into Manhattan to his job at a construction site near Herald Square. At the end of his workday Corrigan was ap­proached by two FBI agents who hand­cuffed him and marched him off the con­struction site. They put him in a car and drove a few blocks to 32nd Street and Fifth Avenue, where they took the cuffs off him and got out. Moments later another man got into the back of the car with Corrigan. He recognized the man as “Alex,” the Roy­al Ulster Constabulary Special Branch offi­cer who had interrogated him back home in County Tyrone. “Alex” repeated the FBI deportation threat. Pulling a cigarette in his mouth, the RUC man said, “When this cigarette is finished I’m getting out of this car, and there is nothing more I can do for you … If you were cooperative we could be sitting in a bar — any bar you like — ­having a friendly conversation, chatting about old times and I’d be telling you what was going on in the North and what all the boys are doing. Nobody need know any­thing about it.”

Corrigan refused. The cigarette burned down, and the man ordered Corrigan to get out of the car. Corrigan got out and walked away. Later that night the phone rang. It was “Alex.” Corrigan unplugged the phone. Later, he went back to his native Tyrone, where he still lives today. Apart from his unwillingness to betray his own people, Corrigan’s refusal was motivated by a sec­ond fact: he knew that the IRA’s way of dealing with informers was to kill them.

IN THE 1980s, the IRA’s weaponry needs shifted from guns to surface-to-air missiles with which to shoot down British Army helicopters, in many rural areas the only reliable form of surveillance and troop transportation. IRA engineers put together a team to devise their own system. The project was led by Richard Johnson, a Mas­sachusetts-based scientist with top U.S. se­curity clearance, and Martin Quigley, an IRA engineer. Backing them up was Chris­tina Reid, a Bay Area engineering student, and Peter Maguire, a technician with Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline. For seven years, from 1982 to 1989, the FBI set up an elaborate surveillance operation against the IRA team. By 1989, when the feds moved in, the prototype of a radio-signal con­trolled missile system had been developed.

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Parallel to the efforts to develop its own system, the IRA also made various efforts to buy Stinger surface-to-air missiles in the U.S. In one case, a group in Florida led by IRA member Kevin McKinley made ar­rangements with a group of arms dealers to purchase Stingers. To raise the needed $50,000, according to a federal indictment, an IRA member made a “charity fund run” to New York, hitting bars — including the Kilarney Rose and the Spinning Wheel­ — the Bank of Ireland, Chemical Bank, and several residences. After the cash was hand­ed over, the arms dealers revealed them­selves as undercover FBI agents and four men, including McKinley, were arrested.

In a follow-up operation, a total of 14 men, including those convicted in Florida, were indicted last year in Tucson, Arizona, charged with the purchasing and shipment to the IRA of 2900 detonators, which they claimed would be used for mining. From Tucson, the detonators were put on a Grey­hound Bus and shipped to New York and then sent on to Northern Ireland, where, according to the feds, they were used in explosive devices from January 1991 to June 1992. According to the indictment, another IRA member slipped into the Unit­ed States from Canada with a munitions shopping list that included night vision glasses for a Ruger mini-14, 2000 nonelec­tric detonators, 200 electric ignitors, bullet molds for 9mms, and conversion kits for various rifles. Those arrested in New York included a Bronx bar-owner, a building su­perintendent, a carpenter, and a Toronto-based bank executive.

When some of the defendants in the Tuc­son case were released on multimillion-dol­lar bail, they appeared at a welcome-home rally at Gaelic Park in the northern Bronx. The party was a standing-room-only affair packed with young Irish immigrants, repre­sentatives of Irish organizations from across the tristate area, labor union offi­cials, and Irish sports organizations. Speak­er after speaker told the cheering crowd that, while the defendants were innocent victims of FBI collusion with the British security forces, only armed resistance could drive the British out of Ireland. The high­light of the night was a speech from Gerry McGeough, an IRA figure who was himself on trial for trying to buy a Stinger missile.

Another boisterous victory party was thrown after a group of admitted IRA gun­runners was acquitted by a Brooklyn jury in 1982. Much to the annoyance of federal prosecutors, says one man who attended, some of the jurors showed up and music was provided by the NYPD Emerald Soci­ety Pipe band.

NORTHERN IRELAND 

CARVED OUT OF the historic Irish prov­ince of Ulster after the IRA’s War of Inde­pendence brought the British to the negoti­ating table in 1921, and constructed to ensure a loyalist/Protestant majority, Northern Ireland became, in the words of one of its founders, a “Protestant State for a Protestant People.” The island was turned into two underdeveloped units, both dominated by backward, religious-based ideologies, the “carnivals of reaction” James Connolly, the Socialist republican leader executed by the British in the 1916, predicted partition would create.

The early years of Northern Ireland saw large-scale pogroms against Catholic ghet­tos and the arming of more than one-third of adult Protestant males. The Catholic na­tionalist minority — which constituted be­tween a third and two-fifths of the popula­tion — was subject to institutionalized discrimination in employment, housing, voting, and almost all aspects of public life. The Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s — consciously modeled on its Ameri­can counterpart — provided a challenge to the system, and eventually tore it asunder. By 1969, it became apparent that Northern Ireland was incapable of reforming itself and British troops were sent in. The conclu­sion drawn by many Catholics was simple: civil rights could not be attained within the confines of the state of Northern Ireland. Only by uniting Ireland could they guaran­tee their democratic rights. That, coinci­dentally, had always been the position of Irish republicanism and its armed manifes­tation, the IRA.

Now, driving through the rain-swept, overcast countryside, we pass a slogan on a gable-end wall that sums up the perspective of this part of the world: “In the Middle­-East they say ‘Yassir,’ in County Tyrone we say ‘No-Sir!’ ” We are on our way to the small village of Loughmacrory in the hills of mid-Tyrone, where a Gaelic football match is in progress. The local side, many of whom have served time for various IRA offenses, is playing a team of IRA prisoners on a weeklong holiday parole from the H­-Blocks. After the game — which is won by the locals who, though lacking the prison­ers’ fitness, have the edge in game prac­tice — the players are joined by 300 to 400 locals in the village’s community center to debate the political and military strategy of the republican movement. First, though, the winning team has to be presented with medals.

Later, in a nearby roadhouse, hundreds of Tyrone republicans gather for a social event, the highlight of which is the presen­tation of plaques to the families of Tyrone IRA volunteers killed in action in the latest phase of the conflict. The ceremony goes on for an hour as family after family leaves its table and makes its way to the podium amid loud ovations from the crowd. The presentations are testimony both to the strength of support in the community for the IRA and also to the price paid in casu­alties over the last 20 years.

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A center of rebellion as far back as the 16th century, Tyrone became subject to a two-pronged British policy of genocide and plantation that saw the lands of the native Irish confiscated and the inhabitants re­placed by thousands of settlers imported from Scotland and England. The Irish fled to the poor land on the hillsides. Their descendants live there still, strong supporters of the secret military conspiracy that is the IRA. From here, in the late 1960s, Bernadette Devlin traveled to Queen’s Uni­versity in Belfast and became a leader of the civil rights movement that was first attacked and clubbed by loyalist mobs and their supporters in the RUC, and then shot off the streets by British paratroopers. On Bloody Sunday, in January 1972, they killed 14 unarmed civil rights marchers in Derry. Afterward, nationalist youth in Ty­rone joined the IRA in droves.

As the war has changed over the years, with the IRA focusing its targets more closely on commercial enterprises, the number of civilian casualties from its bombing attacks has declined. But the war has taken an ominous turn with the emer­gence of loyalist death squads, drawn from the descendants of the 17th-century Scot­tish and English settlers. In the last three years, the two main loyalist paramilitary groups — the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) — have carried out more killings than anyone else. Their targets vary from known republican activists to ordinary Catholics who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

(It was an IRA attempt to take out the leadership of the UDA that resulted in one of the army’s biggest public relations disas­ters of recent years, when a bomb directed against a UDA leadership meeting explod­ed prematurely, killing 10 people, including the IRA bomber, in a fish store on loyalist Shankill Road in Belfast last December.)

Drawn from the lower sections of the Protestant working class, the loyalist gangs have close connections to neo-fascist groups in Britain and adopt a racially su­premacist attitude toward the Catholics. In many cases the loyalist gangs have been able to operate with impunity because of the latent sympathy among sections of the RUC for their aims and their methods.

For many years there have also been alle­gations of collusion between the British se­curity forces and the loyalist gangs. “It is a matter of common knowledge within the nationalist community that information gathered by the British forces regularly and easily finds its way into the hands of loyal­ist death squads,” says Gerry Adams. In 1989, the British government was forced to dispatch a senior British police official, John Stevens, to investigate the growing evidence that intelligence files on republi­cans were being handed over to the loyalists.

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One of the men Stevens arrested was the UDA’s intelligence officer, Brian Nelson. Shortly afterward it was revealed that Nel­son was an agent of British military intelli­gence. It was his function in the UDA to collate all of the intelligence files on nation­alists provided by the British security forces and provide computer readouts on poten­tial victims to UDA hit squads. One of Nelson’s victims was lawyer Patrick Finu­cane, who had become a thorn in the side of the North’s legal and security establish­ment by his courageous civil rights advoca­cy and his defense of IRA suspects.

Nelson had also been party to an arms deal engineered by loyalists in 1988 that imported 200 AK-47s, 90 Browning pistols, 500 splinter grenades, numerous rocket launchers, and tens of thousands of bullets from South Africa. The deal was set up by the South African authorities in collabora­tion with a Middle East arms dealer.

The arrest of Nelson was both a huge embarrassment to the British authorities and clear evidence that loyalist death squads were being armed and directed with the assistance of British intelligence. At his trial in January 1992, during which a senior British military intelligence officer provid­ed a character reference for Nelson, murder charges were dropped in the “public interest” in return for a guilty plea. Nelson is due to be released in 1996.

The loyalists’ propensity for violence is directly correlated to any indication of ambivalence on the part of the British govern­ment to the status quo in Northern Ireland. Should the British suggest even a long-term process of disengagement, the loyalist gangs, along with important sections of the local security forces, could be expected to unleash an unprecedented onslaught against the nationalist community.

LONDON

STARTING IN THE early 1970s, the IRA ran a wild and ruthless campaign, marked by bombings of civilian targets — pubs fre­quented by British Army personnel at Guildford and Woolwich, well-to-do gentle­men’s clubs and fancy restaurants in Knightsbridge, and Harrods department store in the middle of London. It botched a warning at a Birmingham pub, where the bomb killed 21 civilians. It killed horses in a ceremonial parade, and shot and killed the editor of the Guinness Book of Records, who had offered a reward for the capture of IRA squads in England.

Then, during the middle ’70s, it came close to collapsing altogether into what turned out to be a shrewd British trap. Offering the IRA a ceasefire, which they then extended, the British hinted they wanted to end the violence and leave Northern Ireland. The IRA accepted the ceasefire: the guerrilla fighters came out into the open and here and there began to take up normal lives, revealing their cover and support system in the process. Behind the scenes, the British were beefing up their own intelligence operations, penetrating the IRA brigade system that now was nakedly exposed, tightening the rules for criminal arrest and prosecution. They then swooped down, and the IRA buckled.

It was at that point that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s vice-­president, took over and, on the basis of discussion groups IRA prisoners had undertaken in jail, reorganized the republican movement. The IRA replaced brigades with cells, ended the retaliatory shootings of Protestants, and shifted its focus to a long-term campaign against commercial targets aimed at costing the British money. It began blowing off big bombs in the downtown provincial towns of the North, blowing up the center of Belfast itself, all the while aiming to kill as many British soldiers as possible in hit-and-run ambushes.

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Even with this redirection of efforts, they never quite got rid of the brutal IRA reputation, which was revived by what came to be known as the European campaign, in which British military units stationed along the Rhine and off-duty soldiers in Holland and Belgium were attacked. This campaign soon became marked by a sense of ruthless abandon, with IRA units killing a baby, injuring a mother on her way home from the store, and mistakenly killing two people with short hair it thought surely were off-duty soldiers. As it turned out, they were Australian tourists.

In 1988, amidst the botched campaign on the continent, the IRA launched another campaign within Britain itself, attacking a variety of targets — a soldiers’ barracks, the homes of Tory politicians — mortaring a cabinet meeting during the Gulf War, switching quickly back and forth to keep the British security forces off guard. The campaign climaxed with two big bombs in the City of London, the British capital’s financial district, which demolished the Baltic Exchange, the shipping center. A year later, just as the Tory establishment was congratulating itself with a grand banquet for reopening the Baltic, the IRA struck again, this time with an enormous bomb in Bishopsgate, which blew up buildings housing foreign banks and offices, and damaged the big Liverpool Street train and subway station. All in all, in 1993 the IRA tried to blow up three times as many explosives — 18 tons — in the City of London as it did in the whole of Northern Ireland. The damage totaled upward of $ 1.5 billion. It was the heaviest bombing since the Blitz.

From the bustling entrance of the mod­ern Liverpool Station the City looks like any modern downtown, construction cranes pulling the finishing touches on high-rise towers that are crowding out the historic financial buildings. It takes a moment to get one’s bearings, but a security guard standing outside a bank helpfully points out what’s going on. “There,” he jabs with a finger at a high-rise office building. “And over there.” Another jab. “There, there, there.” All points where the IRA truck bomb took out the heart of the City.

The cranes and workmen sprawled across the narrow, rain-swept streets are still struggling to rebuild. The streets are all but empty, traffic having been diverted around the City area. Another helpful guard points out the slim silver canisters at the beginning and end of every street, outside the entrances of Lloyd’s, all around the bank buildings. These are security cameras, so common in Belfast, but remarkable here.

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Inside a commodity trading house, which is reached only through locked doors and with a pass from a security guard (hooked by beeper into all the other security guards in the City), a young English broker de­scribes the effect of the IRA bombings. “The windows,” he says, pointing to the glass expanse that encloses the trading room, “there’s a bulletproof film over them. And most of the securities firms have duplicated their trading rooms.” That is, taking advantage of the recession to rent other quarters, they have created replicas of their offices, complete with telephones and computers. These stand empty, ready to be inhabited should there be another bombing.

Last fall, the IRA began to steadily bomb or hoax the commuter railroads. In Decem­ber, the army set off a bomb on the Reading railroad, a main commuter line. The IRA can easily close every mainline station during the morning rush hour. Last year it claimed there was a bomb on the Kent line, completely shutting it down for hours. It’s been estimated that hoax cost nearly $100 million.

Steady, long-term surveillance has brought a certain success to British security forces, leading the police to one or another stash of explosives. But, from what one can tell, the IRA’s operational network in England remains in place, ready to strike. In all probability it involves sleepers, people who are sent over to England years before they are activated. From some recent arrests, it’s clear the IRA now has second­-generation Irish involved, people who emigrated from Ireland, married, became to all intents and purposes English with English accents, living in working-class suburbs with decent working-class jobs. They drink at the corner pub. They fit no profile. Who would have ever thought that these descendants of the oldest colony — the dependable handyman, the maid, the accomplished but eccentric writer, the day laborer, the workers who built the Chunnel, would at the end of the 20th century turn on their decent En­glish employers and entertain the prospect of becoming urban guerrillas?

THE GHQ 

THE ATTACKS ON the City of London, indeed the overall British campaign, have been directed by a handful of individuals who make up the IRA’s General Headquarters, a secret floating command center that moves about the island of Ireland. Sometimes it’s in the north in working-class Belfast, and at others across the border in the countryside of the south. Getting in touch with GHQ isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but over time, following a circuitous and often haphazard-seeming route through New York, Dublin, and Belfast, we asked for and eventually were granted an inter­view with one of the officials at GHQ.

We were to show up on a certain street corner in downtown Belfast after lunch on a cold, drizzly day in mid-January. Our contact man was driving a small sedan. He didn’t speak as he drove carefully through a warren of terraced houses just west of Belfast’s city center. After about 10 minutes of taking side streets to avoid British Army checkpoints, we pulled up outside a small group of neighborhood stores. The driver nodded to another car parked adjacent to a grocery store. Inside were two young men in jeans. We switched cars, and started off again, crisscrossing the working-class hous­ing estates that slope down from the Divis mountain and sprawl across nationalist West Belfast. The two young men in the car drove along, asking how easy it would be to get a ticket to the World Cup soccer match in New York. Nobody mentioned politics.

After another car switch, and more criss­crossing, we stopped outside a small, two-­story dwelling on a cul-de-sac in a non­descript public housing development. We entered and waited in the front sitting room while the last driver scanned the street from the window. Then, a man who looked to be in his thirties came up the sidewalk and into the house. The two men who had brought us there produced massive dead­bolts, locking the front door. Settling into a chair, the official from GHQ began to talk.

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“It’s important to see the English cam­paign in the context of overall IRA strate­gy,” he began, setting up right away the political context for the discussion. “Our strategy is underpinned by a number of strategic objectives, the aim of which is to sap the will of the British government’s violent denial of the Irish people’s right to self-determination. Given that objective, the IRA seeks with a variety of tactics to stretch and re-stretch the British in terms of their personnel and resources.” He paused.

“Like all guerrilla armies, the IRA seeks to improvise and manufacture at as low a cost as possible weaponry and armaments which can be deployed against Crown forces and other targets on the basis of the largest return for the least outlay. Another factor is the need to pace ourselves. The essence of guerrilla warfare is that the smaller insurgency force harries and harass­es a massively superior enemy. The object is to have the enemy in a constant state of high alert and continuously guarding a wide range of potential targets. For example, in the mid 1980s the IRA devastated over 45 rural British Army and RUC bases with large-scale bombings. One effect of this was that the British had to undertake a large campaign of reconstruction and refortifica­tion. The IRA then issued a warning that anyone involved in the reconstruction of these bases would themselves become tar­gets. The effect of that was two-fold: it caused a major inflation in the cost of re­building, and two, it meant that the British had to deploy two extra battalions of troops to assist in the rebuilding program.

“The nature of the rebuilding program rendered the use of car bombs redundant because we were dealing with three-foot-­thick walls, sometimes reaching 20 to 30 feet. Quite early in that program the IRA began to improvise with their mortar tech­nology. We had the production of the Mark 10 to Mark 14 mortars and now the Mark 15, which the British call a barrack buster. When that mortar goes in — and it has a maximum payload of 500 pounds of explo­sives although they now average 150 to 200 pounds — the fortifications which act as a deterrent to car bombs actually multiply the damage in the base.”

But, he continued, if the IRA were to focus on just one method, the British soon would catch on and counter it. It’s the whole “tapestry of operations” that mat­ters. One important element was strikes against commercial targets, which countered British claims that life was normal.

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“Throughout 1991, ’92, and continuing in 1993, we engaged in massive bomb at­tacks in the commercial heartland of London. The IRA in one period of 1992 de­ployed 26 tons of explosives in and around London. Unfortunately 18 tons of explo­sives were seized by British forces, and the operation itself went wrong, when British forces tailed one van. IRA engineers and backup volunteers were in position with the explosives and had a simple choice to make. They could have executed the British police who had stumbled into an operation that was beyond their capacity to deal with, but it was decided that because the opportunity to remove the explosives didn’t exist there was no military justification for attacking the British police, and the volun­teers withdrew from the area. It had been our intention at that point to simultaneous­ly explode six substantial explosive devices at targets throughout the capital.

“Another aspect of the campaign has been the persistent and long-term disrup­tion of the travel network in and around London. There is the economic loss of work hours, and the sheer frustration of the local populace when the IRA paralyzes the city, making it hellish. That has the effect, along with our other operations, of draining the Exchequer and straining the nerves of the British establishment.

“It is clear that the British establishment, when it comes to the question of Ireland, are slow learners but they will find that the IRA are very patient teachers.”

The official broke off, rising to talk to one of the guards who had come into the room. Then, turning to us, he said, “I’ve got to get out of here right away,” and departed.

WAR WITHOUT END

WITH THE PHONY ceasefire of the mid 1970s very much in mind, the IRA leader­ship warily approaches the recent British maneuvering over Ireland. They suspect that, far from planning to retire from Northern Ireland, John Major is more like­ly to try to split the IRA by luring Adams and the leadership into a ceasefire without the kind of concessions that would radically alter the situation. IRA leaders see rhetoric on Irish self-determination contradicted by the insistence that a majority in Northern Ireland have a veto over any change.

All of this takes place against a back­ground of secret talks between Sinn Fein, IRA leadership, and the British that began in 1990. In Belfast, Gerry Adams explained that the IRA had indeed been involved in direct talks with the British before the at­tacks on the City of London began. “We engaged in protracted dialogue and contact with the British government for almost a three-year period,” he said. “In the course of that, the British government offered a series of meetings with Sinn Fein and ar­gued that this could be facilitated and as­sisted if the IRA campaign was stopped. Having negotiated the logistics and the gen­eral political parameters of the meeting, Sinn Fein then asked the IRA leadership to suspend its campaign in line with the Brit­ish request.”

The IRA agreed to suspend the campaign for two weeks, after which the talks were supposed to take place at one of a number of suggested locations in mainland Europe. But having got the agreement of the IRA, Sinn Fein found that the British were sud­denly no longer interested.

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Adams continued: “The British govern­ment then walked away from the proposals. By that time, we think they got into trouble within their own Tory party and when they started to make an arrangement to deal with the unionists.” In June of last year, Major needed the votes of the Ulster union­ists in the House of Commons to save his political hide in a vote on European inte­gration. That need coincided with the Brit­ish decision not to pursue the peace talks with Sinn Fein/IRA.

But Adams had been pursuing his own talks with John Hume, the leader of moder­ate nationalist in Northern Ireland. Those talks created a momentum — particularly in Dublin, where the Irish government has, since the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, had a consultative role in the running of North­ern Ireland. The talks, and the revelation that the British had already been talking to Sinn Fein, created the pressure that result­ed in the so-called Downing Street Joint Declaration signed by Major and Irish prime minister Albert Reynolds.

Full of ambiguous language, the Joint Declaration implies that Britain is playing a neutral role in Northern Ireland. It declares that when the IRA lays down its arms the British will open talks with Sinn Fein — a new precondition. While the British and Irish governments talk of their initiative as one that will eventually open up the door to a United Ireland, the reality is easier to discern by the fact that the Unionist Party, the core of Ulster unionism, welcomed it as a document that would “copper-fasten the Union.”

The Joint Declaration was seen by Re­publican leaders as a maneuver designed for quick rejection by them —a rejection that the British could use first to isolate them and then to bring in even harsher repressive measures. Adams’s response was to seek clarification of the Joint Declaration and to place the onus on London and Dublin to prove that it was a genuine peace initiative.

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Under pressure from its electorate and an attempt to draw the IRA into a ceasefire, the Dublin government lifted the 20-year-­old censorship of Sinn Fem on television and radio. Dublin also made it known to the White House that it had no objection to the ban on Adams entering the U.S. being lifted.

Meanwhile, a consistent majority of peo­ple in Britain tell opinion pollers that they want out of Northern Ireland. Apart from the hundreds of millions of dollars that are paid out in compensation for IRA damage, Britain pays out $5 billion every year just to keep things running. So why, many peo­ple ask, don’t they just cut and run? One television journalist we met in London who has worked extensively in Northern Ireland pointed to the crisis in the British state as one key reason. “We have strong national­ist movements in Scotland and Wales, the monarchy is in a state of crisis, the Justice system is discredited, nobody believes in the established Anglican church anymore, and they can’t come to terms with the Eu­ropean Community. Ireland is our first and oldest colony and key parts of the establish­ment are scared to death of the ramifica­tions of losing what’s left of it.”

There is also the problem of the 1 million Protestants. “We have managed to create a hybrid race of our own little Afrikaners over there,” the Journalist added. “They say they are British but nobody here wants anything to do with them. They’re already armed to the teeth and ready to go to war if we pull out.”

Any deal struck between London, Dublin, and Belfast would have to meet the approval of the IRA, and especially the prisoners at Long Kesh. An indication of their view of things came during our meet­ing in the Maze with Sean Lynch, the OC of 350 IRA men who arc organized as a pris­oner-of-war unit. The peace proposals, among other things, offer them the possibil­ity of a general amnesty, a chance to abruptly conclude their 20-to-30-year sen­tences and return to normal life. Their an­swer, Lynch said without hesitation, was no. No until the British said they would retire from the island of Ireland.

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“The war has gone on for 25 years,” Bernadette Devlin McAliskey said. “And nobody can say what the balance sheet of suffering is. Certainly the greatest weight of war has been carried within the republican community. Those of us who have been part of the struggle for 25 years have chil­dren. The children have grown up in a totally militarized society. The most alarming thing about the situation is that this is nor­mal life for our children. This is the kind of society, the kind of life, the kind of struc­ture, that has provided the normal basis of their growing up. Peace is abnormal to any­body in this country under the age of 25. There may be some people around who say that anything would be better at this point than seeing these people have to go through the next 25 years the same as ourselves. But that’s not our decision. That decision is for people who are 22 and 23.

“And the kids? What they’re saying to the leadership is, if you’re tired, that’s all right. Go home. We’re not tired.” ■

Special thanks to Ed Moloney, the Sunday Tribune‘s Belfast correspondent, who has diligently covered the war and its complex politics over the last two decades. Additional reporting in New York: Susan Walsh, Eamon Lynch. 

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Fifty Dead Men Walking As Close to Truth as Earth to Pluto

Canadian writer-director Kari Skogland’s slick, soapy procedural—an unreliable adaptation of former IRA informant Martin McGartland’s bestselling memoir—again proves how easy it is to shamelessly bilk audiences of their empathy with an “inspired by true events” credit. McGartland himself, still in hiding, publicly claimed that the film is “as near to the truth as Earth is to Pluto.” From off the violent streets of Northern Ireland during the late-’80s peak of the Troubles, cocky Belfast hoodlum Martin (Jim Sturgess) is recruited to infiltrate the IRA by British Special Branch officer Fergus (Sir Ben Kingsley). Unable to tell even his trigger-happy mate (Kevin Zegers) or pregnant girlfriend (Natalie Press) of his thorny situation, Martin gets pulled dangerously under the spell of both his new extremist family and his avuncular handler. The private jousting sessions between Sturgess and Kingsley are easily the most compelling moments, though it’s the younger actor’s convincing desperation that pretty much carries the film. The unfitting flashiness and clunky segues between thriller and melodrama kill any real sense of tension, making this a poor man’s Donnie Brasco—that is, if its self-congratulation and failure to contextualize the values on both sides of the ethno-political struggle didn’t already make it the poor man’s Hunger.

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Brooklyn’s Captain Nemo

He’s circumnavigated Manhattan in a plywood raft, planted a flag on the East River’s Belmont Island to claim it as a sovereign nation during the Republican convention, built the secret Dead Horse Tavern on Plum Beach, almost inhabited Robert Smithson’s Floating Island (the Coast Guard threw him off), and lived for several years in a storage space with pigeons. But for Duke Riley—artist and explorer of the obscure, bird lover, professional tattooer, nautical nostalgist—no adventure compared to the Friday morning in August when, in the Buttermilk Channel, he launched The Acorn, his ill-fated version of a Revolutionary War submarine that tried but failed to sink a British man-of-war in 1776. Over two centuries later, Riley was only trying to make a movie. But as he coaxed his miniature sub toward another significant British vessel, the massive Queen Mary 2—an intentional parallel to history—the city saw terrorism instead.

Homeland Security protocols snapped into effect, news helicopters circled, the Harbor Police rushed over to apprehend him, and Riley was hauled off to the 76th Precinct for questioning. Eventually, the FBI showed up to make things, as Riley says, “very dramatic.” One frightening guy, as Riley describes him, stood silently in the corner and just glared, looking like “a cross between Christopher Walken and one of those tree creatures from Lord of the Rings.” Two other agents, working the good-cop/bad-cop routine, tried to link him, he says, to anti-British sentiment and the IRA, citing the thousands of dollars he once received from an Irish woman named Ursula (a grant from an arts organization, actually, for a project in Belfast). Fined by the NYPD, Riley still faces the federal charge of violating a security zone (punishable by up to five years in prison), not to mention the FBI’s promise to keep their dark shades trained on him.

It’s not the first time his art has instigated a terror alert. One morning, as he was filming a project near the East River, Riley says a suspicious cop demanded to see his video camera, found footage of a one-eyed Pakistani man (a friend of the artist) standing before distant jets, and then called in the Anti-Terrorism Task Force. Waiting for the trench-coated agents to arrive, the cop quizzed Riley about college football, apparently to test his citizenship. If you measure American credentials by moxie, Riley’s are more than solid. But as he describes the day of the Acorn incident, he insists several times that he didn’t want publicity. “The submarine was one aspect of a pretty elaborate project,” he explains. “People think about it as a performance, and it becomes something that seems more like a stunt. . . . But there’s never anything I’ve done that solely involves an act.”

The project, titled After the Battle of Brooklyn (at Magnan Projects beginning October 28), centers on a mockumentary that mixes the history of the original 1776 sub, The Turtle, with deadpan Monty Python absurdity. Like his previous video, The Bright Passage—which investigates accounts of Mill Rock Island’s land-based pirates—the latest one is a smirking PBS-style presentation, with English-accented narration, several “authorities” in book-lined offices, clips from re-enactments, and the familiar (and by now clichéd) Ken Burns–ian pans across old images. Leaping from theme to theme (as Riley’s conversations often do), the video touches on insurgency, suicide bombing, and disillusionment with political causes—parallels, Riley sees, between the Revolutionary War in New York and the “current situation.” The video’s central claim is that the Americans employed a second sub—The Acorn, of course—that mysteriously disappeared with the pilot (and possibly his cat) and has now resurfaced. But you never quite know what’s real. His videos, Riley says, demonstrate how “you can take certain information and twist it to tell whatever story you want.”

Fascinated by The Turtle‘s odd history, Riley also saw it as art: “Just as an object, it’s a beautiful-looking thing.” With friends offering their technical expertise (from welding to water displacement), Riley created his own version in about five months. Seeing the craft up close (it’s part of the gallery show), you understand Riley’s attraction: It’s an elegant—and sophisticated—piece of work, shaped just as its name suggests. Built from iron, plumbing pipes, and slats of oak coated with fiberglass (a substitute for the 18th-century tar), the sub includes two large snorkels, a water chamber for neutral buoyancy, a ballast-release mechanism, a flipper-shaped rudder, and miniature portholes. “I definitely wanted to make sure I didn’t die,” Riley says, referring to the controls. Though he never got the thing to fully submerge, he implies that the dangers were a necessary aspect of his imagined history. Consider, he says, what The Turtle‘s pilot, a man named Ezra Lee, “was thinking about in 1776—they had no knowledge of how this stuff worked.”

Riley’s interest in the maritime anachronism extends to his other art works, which typically augment his videos. He designs black-and-white mosaics as whalers’ scrimshaw: Ships and sailors from past centuries, set inside ornamented ovals, sit before contemporary cityscapes or ply through waters filled with fast-food trash. Dense and busy drawings in the style of Hieronymus Bosch depict hallucinogenic frigates. Another piece, in the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent collection, packs in all the images and stories—historical and invented—that he collected for The Bright Passage. And at East River Tattoo, a shop that he co-owns, Riley inks antiquated nautical designs on his customers’ 21st-century skin.

Thin as a harpoon, with tattooed arms and a throaty Boston accent, Riley, 35, resembles an old-time sailor himself and rarely strays too far from the sea, in either art or life. His apartment overlooks Red Hook’s marine terminal, and his studios sit near the river. “The water was traditionally a place available to everyone,” he says, lamenting the gradual disappearance of the working dockside community, something he addresses in his work. “Living close to the water has now become a luxury. Particularly in New York, it’s becoming less and less accessible. To be able to maintain that connection to water is extremely important to me.”

Riley grew up with that connection, working as a kid with his uncle on the docks of New England fishing towns. Having also developed obsessions with drawing and tattoos (his first barber had one), he went to art school at the Rhode Island School of Design and combined everything he knew. In his freshman year, he tattooed dead fish with seafaring scenes and floated them in formaldehyde—his first project, as it happened, to attract unwanted attention from the authorities. Responding to complaints about the smell, a school security guard threw out everything.

Riley’s current troubles, along with the publicity, may force him to postpone his more ambitious explorations for a while. “It makes it a lot harder to do my artwork. Maintaining a low profile has always been really key for me in doing a lot of this stuff.” Possibly he’ll return to pigeons, the less-risky subject of earlier paintings and photographs, and another interest that had its start in childhood, when he first saw the famous rooftop scenes in On the Waterfront. But even the birds have come up against official disapproval: His landlady recently ordered him to discard his coop. “I still have one pigeon,” he happily admits, “that comes back to visit a lot”—a creature Riley welcomes inside as a fellow voyager of the city.

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Solo Performer Recalls a Really Troubling Catholic Childhood

Gunshots explode, feet pound, a man bursts into a Belfast shop. Suddenly sweet Sheila, swollen with her fifth child, is anxiously smuggling an IRA bomb in a box of cream buns past a British soldier. The moment is horrific—and hilarious.

In scene after scene of Belfast Blues, an autobiographical one-woman show, Geraldine Hughes captures the humor and pathos in everyday Northern Ireland life during the worst of the Troubles. Transforming herself into nearly two dozen characters, she introduces us to family, friends, and neighbors in the notorious Divis Flats Catholic ghetto. As the British internment of political prisoners takes hold and bricks fly, Geraldine preens in her frilly communion dress, helps her ma run an illegal shop in their flat, hides from riots in a closet, and lands a part in an American director’s film about poor Catholic and Protestant children.

A skilled mimic and caricaturist, Hughes sketches her characters with a few broad strokes. Her Da struts, smoothing his hair back with grease; the frenetic shopkeeper Eddie compulsively blinks and wrings his hands. She also conjures jeering kids, frightened Brit soldiers, and a hoity-toity housing inspector with accuracy and brio. In the background, set and lighting designer Jonathan Christman’s grainy black-and-white projections of 1970s and ’80s Belfast and sound designer Jonathan Snipes’s nerve-shattering eruptions of street violence lend chilling reality to her vignettes.

Past the midpoint of this 85-minute piece, the dramatic tension slackens. But Hughes’s affection for her characters and her buoyancy as a performer carry us along with her. Though headlines flash the raw historical facts on a backdrop, it is Hughes’s wee Geraldine, reverently licking her precious ice cream, who illuminates the truth of children in war.

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Music

Guinness Gray

Irish punks get middle-age kicks all through their night

The Undertones

Knitting Factory

March 4 and 5

Irish lads the Undertones frequented Derry pubs 30 years back to drown their adolescent sorrows in lager and to blare out garage music amid IRA terrorist attacks. Unlike Bono, Sinéad, or Van, they weren’t on any mythic mystic quest—they were just pogoing Ramones fans, driven by John O’Neil’s tunes of woe and lust and Feargal Sharkey’s bizarre Geddy Lee warbling. With boosters like John Peel and the Clash, the ‘Tones signed with Sire and recorded two wonderful albums (1979’s The Undertones, 1980’s Hypnotised). But after just a few U.K. hits they split apart, briefly morphing into the sobersided That Petrol Emotion and barely making an impression stateside. After recently regrouping without Sharkey (now heading a British task force to promote live music), the band put out the surprisingly fine Get What You Need last year, and thus rewrote their history: In the ’80s, they’d matured too quickly into sensitive soulmen, but they’ve since grown at a moderate pace, wisely returning to powerpop roots but making music lighter on romantic desperation and heavier on Brit Invasion harmonies and soaring guitars. A wise move, because the Undertones’ whole catalog just came back out along with a documentary DVD, and now they have no choice but to face their past.

For their March 4 and 5 Knitting Factory shows (their first U.S. gigs in 20 years, not to mention a supposed “benefit for the Martha Stewart 1”), they stuck smartly to tried and true formula. Drummer Bill Doherty powered them, but eyes focused on new singer Paul McLoone. He shrewdly didn’t try to impersonate Sharkey’s freak-of-nature voice, instead showing more range and swaggering cockiness. The rest of the band seemed glad to be back, teasing their younger frontman and cracking imperceptible jokes in thick accents as they blasted relentlessly through old favorites like “Teenage Kicks” and “Get Over You,” plus a few bars of “Rockaway Beach,” for a mostly middle-aged moshpit. New numbers like “Thrill Me” and “Oh Please” even improved on the studio versions—other punk old-schoolers (not to mention Rancid and Blink-182) could learn a thing or two from the Undertones about graying gracefully. —Jason Gross


Midnight Records 1984-2004

New York nugget-vinyl vault forced to shut garage doors

On its last day, March 6, Chelsea’s vaunted garage-rock record store Midnight Records was packed for the first time in recent memory. Owner J.D. Martignon—ever the enigmatic Frenchman, with cigarette, rattail, and paisley shirt—chatted with lightly eyelinered Rudolph Grey, who reminisced about using chainsaws in his late ’70s band Red Transistor. Martignon’s son, 10-year old Clovis—ever the ’60s rocker, in a gorgeous mop-top and bemused expression—wandered crammed aisles. Shaggy-haired collectors, some spending upwards of $700, scoured rows of hard-to-find vinyl, grumbling “sad reflection” and “damn shame.”

Part of the cult band Dagon in France, Martignon followed a woman to New York in 1973 and never left. A journalist for the underground magazine Parapluie, he covered the Stooges and the Dolls, interviewed the Cramps and Real Kids before they put out albums, and blew his mind on DMZ at CBGB. Punk bands were playing ’60s garage, he noticed. Martignon began collecting records, but quickly amassed so many that he “had to sneak them into the house when my girlfriend wasn’t around”—so he decided to start selling them. He kick-started a mail order business in 1978, and the store—which became the center of New York’s garage revival in the mid ’80s—opened six years later. Martignon even ran his own label from 1984 to 1993, putting out cult bands and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins live tracks.

Now Martignon is fighting eviction and a lawsuit. The landlord wants to double the rent, and business has not been booming. (The current garage revival “generates zero sales” of his obscure inventory, Martignon says.) Meanwhile, Martignon is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in conjunction with the RIAA for the sale of, to quote one of his lawyers, “what they’re alleging are unauthorized recordings of concerts.” Midnight is the only store of its kind facing prosecution. “A collector’s store that cannot sell some bootlegs is kaput,” the owner sighs. According to store employees, when Midnight was busted in September, Martignon was led off in handcuffs, protesting, “We’re not harmful people! We’re music people!” For now, he’s mired in his court case (famed Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig is working pro bono) and wants volunteers to revamp midnightrecords.com, where the store will now solely exist. —Hillary Chute

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Similarities Between Iraq and Northern Ireland

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A British soldier in the south of Iraq earlier in the week compared Basra to Northern Ireland, where the British fought a war against a tiny enemy for 30 years and still couldn’t win.


The comparisons are intriguing. The appearance of the Saddam Fedayeen may well be early manifestations of what could turn out to be a lengthy guerrilla war. “The enemy we’re fighting is different from the one we’d war-gamed against,” Lt. General William S. Wallace, the army ground commander in Iraq, told the Washington Post. It’s hard to believe that Saddam hasn’t used the last decade to build up stockpiles of ammunition and weapons and stash them throughout the country. That, after all, is what the British did all
over England in the early days of World War II, when an attack by the Nazis was real enough. They prepared themselves for irregular, guerrilla warfare, though in the end it wasn’t necessary.


In Northern Ireland the British government poured thousands of troops to maintain control. At the height of occupation in 1972, the British had some 30,000 troops stationed in a country of 1.5 million people. That’s one soldier for every 50 people. Still, they couldn’t win.


Since that time up to the recent past, contingents of British soldiers numbering anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 were stationed there. They hung
out in small fortresses within city centers, their every move noted and tracked by IRA partisans, from school boys to housewives to grannies, who passed the word for an ambush.


The British troop were confronted not by thousands of guerrilla warriors of the sort Saddam can muster, but by perhaps 800 to 900 active IRA members. The IRA waged a twin campaign, bombing commercial targets in cities such as Belfast and Derry, while using ambushes and booby traps to kill British soldiers. They were so successful with this sort of fighting, that the British were virtually driven off the streets in parts of Northern Ireland. They took to the air to patrol and controlled the countryside. The IRA went to Libya in what turned out to be a botched trip to import Sam7s to take out British air superiority.


Then, in the last decade, the IRA launched an attack against London, virtually halting all work in the city’s financial heart. When British defensive tactics drove them out, the IRA prepared to employ homemade mortars hidden in the backs of vehicles to attack Heathrow airport. Such
attacks never materialized, although the IRA shot off a few blank mortars that landed in the middle of the airport complex-just to show what it could do.


Saddam is in a far superior position. He is head of a government that presumably has been importing and making arms for years. Where the IRA faced grave difficulties in importing arms into an island colony,
Saddam is surrounded by friends in the Arab world. The more the allied invasion is seen as an attack on Iraq as a nation, the more friends he will have. The U.S. thinks of him as a vicious dictator, and the Bush
government would like to stop him from becoming a martyr. But if guerrilla warfare takes hold, Saddam can transform himself into a nationalist desert hero.


As Ed Maloney, the journalist and author of A Secret History of the IRA, puts it, “Iraq could well turn out to be a nest of vipers.”

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Nation


  • Small Arms Make Big Trouble

  • Dismember Los Alamos



  • Small Arms Make Big Trouble

    Pocket Rocket

    As the experts spend their time plowing through the 12,000-page arms report released by the Iraqis last week, and as Bush insiders continue their cynical debate on how best to serve their twin desires for warmongering and political advancement, the real source of future terrorist threats keeps percolating, with little official comment. Despite what the Bushies would have us believe, Al Qaeda still poses a far greater danger to so-called homeland security than either Saddam Hussein or the Democrats. And the unsuccessful missile attack last month on an Israeli jet taking off from a Kenyan airport provides a frightening glimpse of what may be to come from bin Laden’s group.

    Called man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS, shoulder-fired weapons are easily concealed and, as the name suggests, can be launched by a single individual. They’re able to hit a fast-moving target at over 10,000 feet, which means commercial airliners are vulnerable over many miles of their takeoff and landing paths. These weapons have been used widely against military planes, and are cited as one reason for keeping long-range bombers at high altitudes in the recent U.S. bombing runs over Afghanistan.

    The attack on the Israeli plane came from old Soviet Strela missiles, a weapon similar to the American Stinger. These missiles are heat-seeking and were used against aerial targets during the Cold War. After the Afghan war between the Soviets and the U.S.-sponsored mujahideen in the 1980s, piles of shoulder-fired missiles remained for the pilfering. They’re also easily procured on the international market, and can even be welded together with home-mixed explosives and timing devices bought at Radio Shack.

    “Persistent rumors indicate that bin Laden’s personal bodyguards may be equipped with Stingers, ostensibly to counter airborne attack,” wrote Jane’s International Security News. “If this is true, then Al Qaeda represents the most significant threat to international civil aviation.” The magazine lists 24 publicly reported shoot-downs from 1996 to 2000, many of them by rebels from Chechnya. Planes were also attacked in South Asia, Bosnia, and Colombia, where top Irish Republican Army technical people are on trial for helping the insurgent FARC.

    To understand the disruptive power of relatively small arms fire, you need only turn to the IRA’s campaign against English rule. Between 1985 and 1987, the IRA managed to import SA-7s from Libya with the intent of deploying them against British planes patrolling the southern border of Northern Ireland. But by the time the IRA got around to firing them, the batteries were dead. As Ed Moloney, the knowledgeable Irish journalist and author of A Secret History of the IRA, said in a Voice interview, IRA operatives—world experts in kitchen-table munitions—also came to the United States in that era and hooked up with Richard Johnson, an American scientist with high-level security clearance. He was arrested while helping them develop a scheme for their own brand of shoulder-launched missile, and he’s still in jail today.

    Though foiled in their efforts to shoot down planes, the IRA showed what havoc could be wreaked with similar low-level munitions. In addition to inventing the car bomb, which they used to shut down London’s financial center, they paralyzed Heathrow Airport in the early 1990s in a mock attack with mortars buried in the ground nearby and stashed in the trunks of cars in the parking lot. Deliberately left unarmed, these caused little damage yet briefly disrupted international travel and sounded a warning of what might one day happen.

    One can imagine the panic if a similar mortar were shot from the back of a car parked on a New York City street, not to mention the effect of a shoulder-launched missile blasted off a Long Island beach at a plane approaching a JFK runway. Even a near miss could have a devastating impact on the economy. “There is no protection against these kinds of attacks,” said Moloney. “The only solution to this problem, in the end, is a political solution.”

    Today, an estimated 500 million such weapons circulate freely around the globe. The situation is likely to worsen in the near future, when more of these outdated but deadly weapons hit the market as former Eastern-bloc countries upgrade their arsenals to meet NATO standards. Between 1997 and 2000, for example, the Ukrainian arms business grew tenfold, as it exported some $1.5 billion worth of guns. Ukrainian traders have been linked to the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.

    Making matters worse is the American policy of privatizing the military, opening the way for private multinational companies to get involved in providing the personnel, as well as the weaponry, to wage the world’s wars. A major report released last month by the Center for Public Integrity reports that some 90 such companies are engaged in 110 countries around the globe.

    “The strong links between the U.S. government and many of the private military companies that contract with them has presented questions regarding the revolving door between government and the private sector,” said the center’s report. The study notes that in 1992, the Pentagon—under then defense secretary Dick Cheney—paid a firm called Brown & Root $3.9 million for a classified analysis of ways private companies could support American troops in hot spots. That same year, wrote the center, the Pentagon handed Brown & Root another $5 million “to update the report.” Of course, Brown & Root is a subsidiary of Halliburton Corporation, where Dick Cheney later served as CEO, from 1995 to 1999. Maybe it was money well spent. If anyone knows how the mercenary business works, it ought to be the vice president.



    Lab Workers Looting the Plant

    Dismember Los Alamos

    Think back to the Chinese American scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was held in solitary confinement for nine months under suspicion of being a spy. The basis of this accusation was that he had transferred classified computer codes from a secure system at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he worked, to unclassified computers and then to portable cassette tapes—presumably a rare breach of security.

    But in a recent report, prepared by the lab’s chief financial officer, Los Alamos reveals that its employees seem to play fast and loose with gear from this highly secret atomic research institute. Last month Los Alamos fired two of the key whistle-blowing employees who brought the lab’s widespread fraud and theft to public attention.

    Here’s a sampling of the 141 items (in all, worth $1.3 million) listed as lost or stolen:

  • Personal computer ($3467)
  • Printer ($11,037)
  • DVD recorder ($450)
  • Power transformer ($9290)
  • Still camera ($600)
  • Workstation ($9750)
  • Leak detector ($18,685)
  • Printer ($473)
  • Handheld computer ($371)
  • Digital camera ($869)

  • Additional reporting: Rebecca Winsor and Josh Saltzman

    Categories
    CULTURE ARCHIVES FILM ARCHIVES TV ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES

    Troubles Every Day

    “It’s unquestionably the most difficult, the most contentious, the most controversial single day of the whole Troubles,” says Bloody Sunday writer-director Paul Greengrass of January 30, 1972. “In a sense, it’s the day that propelled Northern Ireland into 30 years of conflict.” On that brisk winter’s afternoon in Derry, what began as a civil rights march plummeted into rioting and then lethal chaos when British paratroopers shot 27 unarmed Catholics, killing 14. Based on Don Mullan’s oral history, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, Greengrass’s harrowing panorama of the massacre (screening at the New York Film Festival on October 2 and 3 before opening in theaters October 4) serves as a vital corrective to decades of blame-the-victim obfuscation by the British government.

    “I think people in Britain always wanted them to be terrorists,” says Greengrass, himself an Englishman, of Derry’s fallen. “Their families went through so much hardship—not only did they lose their sons and fathers, but then their reputations were smeared with the tar of terrorism. But I also wanted to convey that Bloody Sunday was never meant to happen. The British thought they were going to go in there and get tough with hooligans, and that desire shaded into excessive force and beyond that into, essentially, murder.”

    Bloody Sunday achieves a chilling verisimilitude further enhanced by the participation of actual witnesses. On the initial day of re-creating the march, Greengrass recalls, “a lot of former British soldiers were on one end of the street and all these citizens of Derry were at the other. These are people who were sworn enemies for decades. I remember thinking, Oh my god, I’ve made the worst mistake of my life; this is all about to go horribly wrong. And then—I’ll never forget it—Don Mullan, who had been there on that day as a young boy, walked through the crowd to the soldiers and shook hands with them. That broke the ice.”

    It comes as no surprise that Greengrass cut his teeth on docs, as a producer for Granada’s World in Action series. (He made his first theatrical feature, the Kenneth Branagh-Helena Bonham Carter weepie The Theory of Flight, in 1998.) Greengrass first visited Derry in 1980 while researching a piece on Irish Republican Army soldier and hometown boy Raymond McCartney, then serving two life sentences for murder and at the bitter end of a 53-day hunger strike that he barely survived. “His cousin, Jim Wray, was killed on Bloody Sunday—shot twice in the back,” says Greengrass. (Gilles Peress’s extraordinary photograph captures 22-year-old Wray sitting in calm protest minutes before his death, as demonstrators rampage behind him.) “Ray was about the same age as me, ostensibly living in the same country, listening to the same pop music, watching the same football, and it seemed unimaginable that this is the same bloke who decides, ‘All right, let’s shoot people in the head from three foot’ and then decides to starve himself to death. And I guess I wanted to know why.” To that end, Greengrass began a secret correspondence with McCartney. “The first sentence of his first letter is, ‘It all began for me on Bloody Sunday.’ ”

    So much came to an end on Bloody Sunday—the lives of 14 men and the very possibility that Northern Ireland’s course of rebellion could be steered not by the resurgent, vengeance-fueled IRA but a nonviolent, integrated civil rights movement, as espoused by Derry’s then-MP, Ivan Cooper. A founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party—mainstay of the Catholic middle class—Cooper, a Protestant, helped conceive the day’s march as a peaceful demonstration against the ongoing internment of suspected IRA militants, often on the flimsiest of pretenses.

    “When I saw Paul’s film for the first time, I was right back on the streets where I’d been that day—I felt that horror and that fear,” says Cooper, now 58 and a small-business consultant. “For us in Derry, we have the feeling that we’ve been vindicated. For people in the wider world, you have the feeling of an injustice that was covered up by the highest law officer in the land and by the entire government machine.” Tony Blair’s Labour leadership has also done its part to amend for past wrongs—including, perhaps, the awarding of an OBE to the British paramilitaries’ commanding officer for his services during Bloody Sunday—by opening an unprecedented second inquiry into the event. (The tribunal is expected to report its findings in about two years’ time; the first former IRA member to testify, on September 5, was Raymond McCartney.)

    Cooper did harbor some skepticism when Greengrass approached him about the project (“You must remember he is English,” Cooper points out), but he was won over in part by the casting of James Nesbitt, star of the hugely popular TV comedy Cold Feet—”the Friends of the U.K.,” as Greengrass puts it. “Jimmy too is from a middle-class Protestant background and grew up not far from Derry,” Cooper says. “I thought he could bring some of the feeling of isolation which I have felt on occasion—though I don’t feel it any longer.”

    Indeed, both Greengrass and Cooper believe that stubborn sectarian prejudices in Northern Ireland are beginning to dissipate, though Bloody Sunday arrives on these shores following a summer of ceaseless—and occasionally fatal—violence in areas of Belfast. “It’s horrendous and depressing, but the situation is immeasurably better than it was five years ago,” Greengrass says. “We’re not at war—it’s not like it was 15 or 30 years ago—and it’s not peace. It’s this indeterminate area where progress is being made all the time, but there is a continual two steps forward, one step back.”

    Greengrass’s film aired on Irish and British TV to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, but its first-ever screening took place in Derry, for an audience that included Cooper as well as many relatives of the victims. “I was afraid to face them,” Cooper says. “I feel that I share a large degree of culpability for what happened—I didn’t fire a bullet, but I was responsible for leading people on a march through the streets where they died.” One of them was Barney McGuigan, shot in the head when he went to the aid of a mortally wounded neighbor. “I had been a shirt-manufacturing executive and Barney worked in our factory, so I knew him very well,” Cooper continues. “I have never been able to face his widow, even to this very day. I’ve never had the guts. But I met his daughters—they look so very much like him, and I didn’t see them for 30 years. Here were these kiddies, and now they were young women, and I talked to them about their dad and mum. It was very uplifting for me.”

    “When we showed the film in Derry, the reaction at the end was not what you’d expect—it wasn’t vengeful,” Greengrass adds. “There was instead a sense of serenity, a feeling that at last a necessary story has been told. You feel anger and contempt for the people who did such dreadful things and lied about it afterward, but your dominant feeling is a sort of letting go. You come up to date and say, That was then; we mustn’t go back.”



    Related story:

    J. Hoberman’s review of Bloody Sunday

    Categories
    Living NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

    Your Neighbor, the Terrorist

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—At least four Muslim organizations with past connections to Osama bin Laden or other terrorist fundamentalists operate within the U.S. and Canada.

    At least two of them have ties with the Saudi royal family, which initially supported Bin Laden and the fundamentalist cause in Afghanistan. The royal family consists of some 2000 members and represents a wide spectrum of political beliefs, from playboys to fundamentalists. And it pays at least lip service to fundamentalists by allowing their religious police to roam the streets harassing the populace. The late king Faisal was a friend of Bin Laden’s father. While Saudi Arabia claims to have broken relations with Bin Laden and the Taliban following the September 11 attack, Bin Laden reportedly still has ties with family members. After the September 11 bombing, King Fahd, the current Saudi ruler, phoned his nation’s ambassador in Washington and asked him to protect Bin Laden’s family in the U.S. Under FBI supervision, family members were quickly gathered together and sent home. (The Saudi royal family has always denied any connection to terrorism.)

    The number of terrorists within the U.S. Muslim community, which numbers more than 7 million, is unknown. Attorney General John Ashcroft says the government had detained 500 people and is looking for another 400.

    Experts think the total number is relatively modest, anywhere from less than 100 to more than a thousand. “I would say small,” says David Isby of Jane’s Intelligence Review. “What we saw took five years to put together.” “I would say dozens, rather than hundreds,” estimates Mark Pitcavage, fact-finding director of B’nai B’rith’s Anti Defamation League. “There are terrorist groups in the U.S. But many terrorists view us as a big piggy bank. Terrorists do fundraising here, whether soliciting funds from immigrant communities, à la the IRA, or setting up businesses to siphon off money or charities designed to collect money.”

    Where do they live? FBI portraits of the hijackers show them melding into the suburban American landscape. One suspect was even a sergeant in the U.S. Army. “Al Qaeda and others like it . . . have carefully thought about evading law enforcement detection,” says terrorism expert Jessica Stern, who teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “A manual that came to light during the African embassy bombing trial instructed operatives living in enemy territory to dress so they could not be identified as Muslims, to shave their beards, to rent apartments in newer areas where people do not know one another, and to not chat too much, especially to cab drivers.” Adds Paul Wilkinson of St. Andrews College in Scotland, which has become the world center of terrorist studies: “It is clear they didn’t attract much attention to themselves. They didn’t take any part in political activities. They blended in well to their environment. They were not suspected by neighbors of any malevolent or illegal activity. It indicates a well-briefed, tightly controlled operation.”

    “A good terrorist is the most boring person,” adds Isby. “Totally law abiding and never drives above 55 miles per hour, because they’re afraid they’ll get stopped for speeding and caught on that.”

    Neil Livingstone, another terrorist expert in Washington, says that “betrayal is probably the biggest fear they have. That someone will sell them out, even close relations. Ramzi Yousef [the 1993 WTC bomber] was sold out in Pakistan.”

    By Monday, October 1, the Taliban was reportedly beginning to crack inside Afghanistan, with some members trying to jump ship before it was too late. If this turns out to be true, it could be a big break for Western intelligence, and might lead to the whereabouts of Bin Laden himself.

    The Muslim organizations with past operations in North America:

    • The notorious Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)— “movement of holy warriors”—labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. With leaders trained in Afghanistan, HUM focused its activities on Kashmir, killing tourists there. It was responsible for the December 1999 hijacking of an Indian airliner to Afghanistan. The group fought the Soviets during the war and has close ties to the Taliban. It reportedly has recruited in North America.

    • International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and the Muslim World League, two closely associated Muslim charities. Both are tightly tied to the Saudi royal family and have been previously investigated for possible terrorist activities, according to The Washington Post. The IIRO has given $60 million to the Taliban. In 1999 an Orlando, Florida, resident who had worked for the Muslim World League in Pakistan was jailed after he refused to explain his connections to people involved in the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa. The IIRO said it has nothing to do with terrorism, and Saudi intelligence claims there are no ties to the Saudi royal family. But Jonathan Winter, a former State Department official, testified before Congress last week, saying that Islamic charities have “either provided funds to terrorists or failed to prevent their funds from being diverted to terrorist use,” according to the Post.

    • Al-Fuqra (AF), which began clandestine activities in the Muslim communities of North America and the Caribbean in the 1980s. This group is reported to have raised money for fundamentalist groups in Pakistan and recruited groups of African Americans to train within Pakistan. Based in Hancock, New York, the group had an estimated 1000 to 3000 members in the U.S. in the ’90s.

    Documents seized in Colorado reportedly revealed the group was doing surveillance on various targets including Colorado gas, electric, and hydroelectric projects, along with National Guard armories, police stations, communications control sites, and airports [see “The Next Attack? sidebar]. Fuqra attacks during the 1980s included assassinations and fire bombings across the U.S. Fuqra members in the U.S. have been linked to murder and fraud.

    It goes without saying that numerous individuals associated with these groups look for spiritual guidance from Sheik Umar Abdel-Rahman, jailed for life for his role in the first World Trade Center bombing. The blind sheik has ties with Egypt’s once large Islamic Group. It’s best known for its efforts to kill Egyptian president Hosny Mubarak and successfully murdering tourists at Luxor. According to the State Department, IG has operations in Great Britain, but not the U.S. It has ties to Bin Laden as well.


    Law enforcement thinks that many members of the September 11 hijack team were “sleepers”—operatives sent some years ago to blend into American society. Sleepers are a big problem and can only really be stopped by penetrating their command structure. British efforts to find sleepers among the IRA offer an example of just how difficult it can be to ferret out such individuals. Over the last 20 years, the IRA sent secret agents to live in England. On call, these individuals drove trucks full of explosives into the London financial district and set off other spectacu-lar attacks. Eventually, British intelligence managed to break into the IRA command structure, found the sleepers, and put an end to their operations. With their sleepers gone, the IRA had to assemble big bombs in territory they control near the Northern Ireland border with Ireland, and ship them to England for detonation.

    The September 11 attacks on New York and Washington underlined just how weak our intelligence services are. Shortly after the attack, Le Monde reported a meeting between French and U.S. intelligence: “The first lapse has to do with the processing of intelligence items that come out of Europe. According to our information, French and American officials did in fact hold important meetings in Paris from the 5th to the 6th of September, that is, a few days prior to the attacks. Those sessions brought representatives of the American Special Services together with officers of the DST (Directorate of Territorial Security) and military personnel from the DGSE (General Overseas Security Administration).

    “Their discussions turned to some of the serious threats made against American interests in Europe, specifically the one targeting the U.S. Embassy in Paris. During these talks, the DST directed the American visitors’ attention to a Moroccan-born Frenchman who had been detained in the United States since August 17 and who was considered to be a key [high-level] Islamic fundamentalist. But the American delegation, preoccupied above all with questions of administrative procedure, paid no attention to this ‘first alarm,’ basically concluding that they were going to take no one’s advice, and that an attack on American soil was inconceivable. It took September 11th for the FBI to show any real interest in this man, who we now know attended two aviation training schools, as did at least seven of the kamikaze terrorists.”


    Originally it was thought the terrorists had cleverly encoded their communiqués by hiding them within porn sites on the Web, but FBI assistant director Ron Dick, head of the U.S. National Infrastructure Protection Center, said they in fact had just used the open Internet where anyone could have read their messages—if they knew where to look. Some 35 to 40 open messages, sent from libraries or personal computers in Arabic and English, were sent within the U.S. and abroad.

    Brian Gladman, former chief of electronic security at the British Ministry of Defense and for NATO, told The Guardian last week that the National Security Administration’s problem is that the “the volume of communications is killing them. They just can’t keep up. It’s not about encryption.”

    And that’s not the only trouble at the CIA. According to a new report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, “Written materials can sit for months, and sometimes years, before a linguist with proper security clearances and skills can begin a translation. Intelligence officers overseas often cannot contact and recruit key potential sources because they do not possess the requisite language skills.”

     

    The committee argues that the intelligence agencies must undertake drastic changes to remedy the mess and doubts that the Bush reviews of intelligence now under way will result in substantive changes.


    Sidebar:The Next Attack?


    Additional reporting: Ariston-Lizabeth Anderson, Sarah Park, Curtis Lang. Translation: Arlette Lurie.