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British Intelligence Operations in Northern Ireland Report

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Updated: Nov 17th, 2021

According to Dillon (1999), the British Army activated their forces in Northern Ireland by 1969 after the 1968 mass protests and uprising. The period was considered “dangerous and amateurish spying exploits” where criminal agents were allegedly hired to counter the Irish Republican Army and bombs were exploding in Dublin (p 86). It apparently caused strife in the British-Irish relations. One specific tall tale was of one of Kenneth Littlejohn who was convicted for robbery but was in cahoots with the police during the time he was wanted.

The British Military Intelligence Systems in Northern Ireland focus on the activities of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) integrating various systems HUMINT, ELINT and SIGINT with the objective to gather data and counter terrorism. The HUMINT is abbreviation for Human Intelligence engaged in gathering information by means of interpersonal contact. ELINT on the other hand refers to Electronic Signals Intelligence, and refers to intelligence-gathering using electronic sensors that target non-communications signals. The third, Signals intelligence or SIGINT, intercepts signals, between people or through communications intelligence, between machines, or combination of the two. Encrypted information uses cryptanalysis to gather sensitive information. Currently, intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom include: the

Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) for Tasking and strategic direction, the National Agencies Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or popularly MI6), Security Service (MI5), the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) for Tasking and strategic direction (Wikipedia, 2009).

In Dillon’s (1999) conclusion, he assailed the questionable activities and the way armed forces deal with suspects as well as criminal elements who were not established hardened IRA supporters. Paddy Hillyard (1993) also argued that Northern Ireland was a testing ground for repressive policy measures that soon spread in other localities, doubly damaging in a global scenario. However, Karstedt (2002) already observed that human rights played a “subdued role in the cross-national exchange of policies,” (p 121).

Mulcahy (2005) also noted that “despite political pressures to draw on any relevant lessons from Ireland, the scale of conflict and the controversies surrounding policing in Northern Ireland generated counterpressures that prevented the uninhibited transfer of repressive technologies and practices,” (p 204).

Other notable observations about the British Army and presence in Northern Ireland is when Sir Arthur Young became the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) of which he commented that he was treated, “if he wasn’t an enemy was certainly an alien… It was rather like the Metropolitan Police having a Japanese general for their commissioner,” (Alderson, 1998, p. 116).

Intelligence services throughout the globe are mandated to uphold the rights and privileges of peaceful, upright taxpayers that contribute to the well-being of existence, of governments and their governed territories and nationalities. These organizations are from the armed forces with the oath to serve the public good.

In instances as shown on how conflicts at Northern Ireland were handled, popular concerns of questionable results and implications are but justified outrage that needs to be addressed. While globally, British Intelligence has been considered top-notch, its hierarchy should adapt and deploy intelligence strategies that do not compromise its citizens’ safety. It is therefore not enough that suggestions from the HUMINT, ELINT and SIGINT become unquestionable, but a more thorough investigation be conducted on all suspected activities and elements prior to action from the intelligence body that may lead to public suspicion or outcry.

References

  1. Alderson, J. (1998). Principled policing. Waterside Press. Dillon, Martin. The Dirty War, NY 1999. Pages 211-416
  2. The ‘Other’ Lessons from Ireland?: Policing, Political Violence and Policy Transfer Aogán Mulcahy European Journal of Criminology, 2005; vol. 2: pp. 185 – 209.
  3. Hillyard, Paddy (1993). Suspect community. Pluto.
  4. Karstedt, S. (2002). Durkheim, Tarde and beyond: The global travel of crime policies. Criminal Justice 2, 111-123.
  5. Wikipedia (2009). “” Web.
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