Turning Up The Heat … M.I.5 After The Cold War
by Larry O’Hara
Much of Larry O’Hara’s animosity towards the Secret State rests on the issue of radical groups being labelled as “extra-parliamentarian”, and as if to prove as such MI5, through the establishment media, sees fit to craft this image by suggesting links with either the far-right, or – more often than not – Irish Loyalists or Nationalists, thus conjuring up images of terror.
Very little of Turning Up The Heat focuses on Scotland or Wales, and the bulk of it utilises O’Hara’s specialist knowledge by focusing on ‘Fascist/Nazi’ (British National Party and Combat 18) and ‘Anti-Fascist’ (Anti-Fascist Action and Red Action) groups, as well as MI5 and its operational fronts such as Searchlight magazine.
O’Hara starts however by giving special attention to the public image of MI5 via the July 1993 publication MI5 : The Security Service and the ground-breaking Dimbleby Lecture (BBC, 12th June 1994).
It was in the latter that Stella Rimington, its head, defined the role of MI5 as : “Safeguarding the survival and well-being of the State against substantial threats which are covertly organised and purposeful” — to which O’Hara cracks that “It is gratifying that Rimington allowed the veil of concern for ‘democracy’ to fall aside!” (p.9)
O’Hara, whom I respect for both his thorough research and for the element of satire his work contains, perplexes me when he suggests that the Socialist Workers Party, despite the “manifold inadequacies” of its political strategy, might still be “perceived as a threat” by the State (p.10). Does he really expect the reader to believe that the State sees the SWP as a threat, especially in view of his later comments on the SWP front group the Anti Nazi League? Or is this another subtle O’Hara quip?
Repeating The Irish Scenario
Much, if not all, of MI5’s interest in Militant Welsh Nationalism, is in the radical Meibion Glyndwr (Sons of Glendower); and more recently with the Meibion Glyndwr colour party, seven members of which were arrested and tried in 1993 under the auspices of the 1936 Public Order Act, part of which prohibits the wearing of political uniforms.
Much was made of MG’s alleged connections with the Official National Front in the late 1980s, and O’Hara sums up his rejection of the theory simply by stating that he has “little time for that fantasy” (p.21). He does not really explain how any such nexus was tenuous. Whatever NF sympathy there was for MG was qualified by the rejection of their strategy in a front-page article Second Homes: The Burning Question…. “We do not support the violent and secretive tactics used by Meibion Glyndwr. We have no links with them whatsoever. But neither are we willing to join in the unthinking Establishment chorus of condemnation of patriots driven to desperate measures to defend their nation.” (NF News No.118 p.1)
Turning his attention to MI5 activity in Scotland, O’Hara focuses on three key points; the 1984 allegations of links between the Scottish National Liberation Army and the Irish National Liberation Army; the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of Willie MacRae in April 1985, and the activities and arrest of Andrew McIntosh in 1993.
MI5 renewed its interest in the SNLA following their increased campaign of direct action. In 1993 McIntosh carried out a three-month bombing campaign before being caught as a result of his (insubstantial) connections with Settler Watch; and as recently as August/September of 1994 the SNLA planted bombs in both Aberdeen and Stonehaven.
SNLA men Adam Busby and David Dinsmore went into self-imposed exile in Dublin after their activities in the early 1980s, and this fuelled rumours of a SNLA/INLA nexus. Of more significance to O’Hara, however, was the way in which Dinsmore returned to Scotland in October 1993 to “face the music” on the charges of letter-bombing (p.25) — about which O’Hara unequivocally accepts Busby’s inference that Dinsmore’s sentence of 240 hours community service reeked of a “shabby deal” in which MI5 had induced Dinsmore to inform on former SNLA comrades (p.27).
As for the alleged murder of MacRae, O’Hara simply points out that this “has been persuasively linked to the Secret State” (p.27) — but he fails to deliver any proof to substantiate his claim, simply advising the reader to look at other sources, namely the Celtic League journal CARN.
New Beer In Old Bottles
O’Hara’s indictment against MI5 for waging a campaign against Red Action rests heavily on the case of the London IRA bombings in January and February 1993, and the subsequent arrest and conviction of two Englishmen, Patrick Hayes and Jan Taylor, in March of that year.
In the aftermath of the first bombing outside Harrods on 28th January 1993, O’Hara claims that video footage clearly identifying Hayes, a prominent member of both Red Action and Anti Fascist Action and as such known to police thanks to ‘those nice police persons in helicopters’ (p.29), was withheld from the police by MI5 because it suited their strategic requirements. Quite simply, MI5 “wanted Hayes and Taylor to carry out further actions… the more bombs Hayes and Taylor planted, and logically the more causalities, the better it would be!” (p.30)… Potent words, even if only a hypothesis.
O’Hara goes on to reject the alleged comment by Jimmy Brown, former leader of the Irish Peoples Liberation Organisation, that Red Action was and is “run by British Intelligence” (Irish World 03.06.94); describing the charge as ‘throw-away remarks… another instance of the State attack on RA.” (p.38)
Brown’s ‘comment’ was probably born more out of contempt than proof; Red Action themselves having described the IPLO as “a haven for gangsters, hoodlums, pocket-lining armed robbers, handbag snatchers and even rapists” (Red Action No.65 p.9). RA also accused the IPLO of having held meetings with both the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Ulster Volunteer Force in connection with their drug-running rackets.
Of others on the left in whom the State might have some interest, O’Hara suggests the Revolutionary Communist Party because they are “rhetorically… committed to supporting the Republicans in what they see as the Irish War” (p.36), and because the RCP journal Living Marxism contains a sizeable repertoire of anti-state rhetoric, although O’Hara quips that upon learning that their Irish Freedom Movement march in August 1993 might be attacked by fascists and/or loyalists “the RCP’s anti-state position evaporated” and they “welcomed police protection” (p.39).
The Dog That Didn’t Bark
Turning his focus on State attention to the broader anti-fascist movement, O’Hara addresses the circumstances surrounding the Unity demonstration to close down the BNP’s Welling HQ on October 16th 1993, the end result of which he describes as “something of a riot” (p.41). An understatement if ever there was; but with the majority of left-wing groups seeming only too amenable to State manipulation, if a riot suited the State’s agenda, then a riot would ensue and the gullible anti-fascist movement (Red Action excepted) would unwittingly comply.
O’Hara recognises that this was not ordinary public matter, and paraphrases the astonishingly frank — even if partial misinformation — Evening Standard report that Welling resulted in “the biggest intelligence operation carried out by the police for a demo, with undercover work by Special Branch officers backed by information gathered by MI5 and special police surveillance units.” (Evening Standard 18.10.93)
O’Hara then alludes that despite the constant referrals to Red Action who were not even present in Welling, but were elsewhere confronting Combat 18, a fact confirmed up by both Red Action (No.67 p.12) and C18’s The Order (No.7 p.2), MI5 were in fact targeting Panther UK.
This theory does seem plausible, since as O’Hara points out Panther UK were by this time “asserting their autonomy from Militant” (p.41) and though Militant had unwittingly developed a working relationship with MI5 via Searchlight, MI5 would not be in a position to manipulate Panther.
Searchlight had sponsored the Unity demonstration, only, if rumours are to be believed, to have turned “grass” after the melee.
Likewise, O’Hara’s and Red Action’s theory that the riot was controlled by the police “right down to predicting in advance the precise location of the trouble” (p.42) does seem plausible, since as he sardonically points out, the Anti Nazi League, the majority faction present, are “hardly up to organising enough force to storm an empty telephone box” (p.41), instead they are merely capable of “circulating petitions to demand the police storm the telephone box, or selling badges/lollipops/stickers on the same theme.” (p.48)
Elsewhere, O’Hara suggests, events surrounding the anti-fascist movement are also being manipulated by MI5, nowhere more so than in West Yorkshire, where according to O’Hara, Leeds Anti Fascist Action is controlled by Searchlight’s Gerry Gable, his proof being the list of bizarre coincidences.
According to O’Hara — and it is difficult not to accept his argument — it was in Leeds that anti-fascists received threatening telephone calls at the same time that World In Action were preparing the April 1993 programme about the activities of Combat 18; it was from Bradford that the bogus ‘Targeters Targeted’ hitlists “produced by MI5/Searchlight agent Tim Hepple” (p.43) were sent; it was Leeds AFA that were “responsible for the production of an issue of the Europe-Wide ‘Anti-Fascist Infos'” (p.43), used to circulate smears about O’Hara and Class War activist Tim Scargill; and it was once again in Leeds that a November 1993 World In Action programme featured footage of an alleged AFA meeting. Coincidence, or contrived?
Next, O’Hara introduces the events surrounding the demise of that “fine publication” (p.43) Northern Star, the offices of which are central to the alleged theft of an address book, names from which were to later appear in Combat 18 hitlists….
Here again O’Hara believes that the agenda of MI5 lurks behind C18’s publication of the lists, in that “a clear way of creating a groundswell of support from Labour MPs for MI5 involvement might well be to use agents to target them.” (p.45)
So far so good, but O’Hara fails to elaborate on the potential for a much greater role for Northern Star itself, namely that it allowed Leeds AFA, whose leadership we are to believe is controlled by Gable, to use its offices as a postal address. Not only this, but Northern Star was in possession of its own printing press which would have been useful to Gable and Hepple in printing ‘Targeters Targeted’; and on O’Hara’s one visit to their Leeds offices staff behaved a little mysteriously on ascertaining his identity, quickly exiting behind a partition… long enough to telephone Gable?
It is not for me to imply that the staff of Northern Star were willing dupes of MI5, more that they were being manipulated in the name of anti-fascism; after all the one truly exclusive news story it featured during its existence concerned the alleged P2 Masonic Lodge connections of a local politician — and that was soon withdrawn following the threat of libel, (and of financial backing?) so Northern Star was always susceptible to both political bribery and financial rewards.
O’Hara of course does not limit his theories of MI5 infiltration and manipulation to anti-fascism, implying that the far-right are not adverse to manipulation, citing the example of Eddy Morrison as a possible state asset, the more so because of his “close association with ‘Agent Hepple’ up to and including (according to the latter) co-organising the Dewsbury riot of 1989.” (p.45)
O’Hara’s terrifying caveat is that “state assets in the ranks of the Left and Right are active in escalating conflict… Maybe at some point in the future (if they haven’t already) MI5 assets will provide arms to both sides…” (p.46)
Forging The Loyalist Connection
O’Hara describes the political climate of Ulster as “volatile, making a situation ripe for intrigue — just how MI5 like it”, adding that Ulster is “a laboratory” in which political/military techniques are perfected” (p.52). Furthermore, “the last thing MI5 wants is a ‘peaceful settlement’ for that would be an erosion of their capacity for autonomous action and the untrammelled exercise of power” (p.51-2), not to mention the fact that by their own estimation some 44 per cent of MI5 resources are allocated to Irish and other domestic counter terrorism.
O’Hara then focuses on an incident in November 1993 when a joint British/Polish Intelligence operation captured an arms cache originating in Poland and destined for Ulster as part of a joint Ulster Freedom Fighters/Ulster Volunteer Force venture, suggesting several possible scenarios; once again it is difficult to reject O’Hara’s hypothesis.
Firstly O’Hara implies that for the British this represented a huge publicity stunt designed to ‘coincide with publication of the Intelligence Services Bill” (p.54) and to “enhance MI5’s profile” (p.55), while their Polish counterparts were keen to ingratiate themselves with Western Europe in order to become members of both NATO and the EC; and secondly that this was designed to harm Loyalists by “squeezing finances” and enabling MI5 to create space for “state-sponsored agent provocateurs… hawking their wares” (p.54). Both scenarios would suit MI5’s current agenda.
O’Hara then stretches the hype in the escalation of violence by matching the Red Action/Republican threat with a Fascist/Loyalist one… enter Frank Portinari (London Ulster Defence Association Commander) and Eddie Whicker (ex-NF/UDA link man), with mention of Portinari’s/Whicker’s alleged gun-running in May 1993; as Larry quips, “seven hand-guns, some of which were vintage…. hardly the most up to date models!” (p.59)
Once again O’Hara theorises MI5 used Whicker, against whom charges were dropped, and encouraged Loyalists to “finger him as a state asset”; similarly an article in the Mail on Sunday, complete with information provided by Searchlight, implied that both Portinari and Whicker had grassed, thus “these two are being offered as scapegoats to divert attention away from MI5/SB’s real assets” (p.61). Again difficult to refute O’Hara’s conjecture, especially given Searchlight’s role.
New Nazis On The Block
Incremental to the State’s interest in the far-right outside of the Ulster scenario, O’Hara, unlike others that monitor the activities of the Secret State, imparts that MI5 have an ‘ambitious interest in fascists’ adding “when considering fascist-State relations, it must be borne in mind not all on the far right are antagonistic to the State” (p.65), a reference to the BNP and the Nazi League of St George, both of whom are at pains to convey that they differentiate between the policy which they support and the Government which they oppose — the League of St George have boasted of passing information about AFA and Red Action to MI5/Special Branch.
To confuse things further O’Hara suggests that with regard to Combat 18 there is “plethora of misinformation, emanating from the far-right and State-connected sources” (p.66) and he is captious of the ‘left’ in general proclaiming that there has been “virtually no hard analysis about current fascist strategy” which he contends is why Searchlight is so important to the State, and “needs to be put out of business once and for all, with a stake firmly driven into its financial heart” (p.72). O’Hara’s analysis of the origin of C18 suggest that it’s founding corps came from “disaffected ex-BM members” (p.67) and arose due to the need for a Nazi Frontbann (defence squad) following the attack on the 1991 League of St George Kensington Library meeting, and the failure of Chris Marchant and Nick Griffin of the International Third Position to prevent historical revisionist Fred Leuchter being removed and deported before he could address a meeting organised by David Irving.
A much more sinister role is given to Harold Covington than that given by both Searchlight and World in Action, O’Hara alleging that despite his earlier denial of the existence of Combat 18, Covington did provide a postal facility for C18 and might have played a much bigger role but for his “supposed IRA sympathies” — denied by Covington — and the “imputation widespread on the Right that he is an FBI asset.” (p.68)
O’Hara then suggests that both the April 1993 World in Action and the June 1992/April 1993 Searchlight allegations were “designed to build up Covington” (p.70), implying an MI5/State asset role for Covington. This is not an unfamiliar role for US racists, O’Hara cites examples of similar cases such as Denis Mahon (White Aryan Resistance) and an alleged “US Naval Intelligence, an anti-Castro special operations agent, and a collaborator with the East German secret police, the STASI”; and David Duke (ex-Ku Klux Klan) and a “CIA operative in Laos”. (p.71)
The case against Covington is as yet not proven, as O’Hara himself admits when he asks for further information, but O’Hara is convinced that at the very best, with or without Covington, Combat 18 has been infiltrated and that as such is following two separate agendas, that of a Nazi terror gang and that of a State agent-provocateur, his proof being the significant change in C18 literature.
According to O’Hara the C18 glossy publication was “so inflammatory as to almost invite prosecution” and was most probably “penned by State agents with the express purpose of discrediting C18”, and more importantly “setting people up” (p.78) due to the fact that “many fascists, by their propensity to engage in violence as a political strategy, leave themselves wide open to manipulation.” (p.82)
O’Hara’s claim that the C18 glossy was any more inflammatory than RedWatch is erroneous. Is the call to put Jews “into camps until we find a final solution for the eternal Jew” (Combat 18) any more inflammatory than “the subhuman Jew must die if our race is to survive” (RedWatch No.3 p.2)? I think not, but I would agree with O’Hara in that it did change the direction of its attacks towards establishment figures thus, as previously mentioned, increasing the calls for MI5 involvement.
The Gallery Enlarged
Finally O’Hara looks at the role of agent-provocateurs within the green movement, hinting at the hand of MI5/Special Branch in attacks on anti-road campaigners resulting in scare stories concerning booby-traps and allegations of Class War/Earth Liberation Front Links appearing in the media, and the hearsay that a Special Branch journalist asset approached the Big Issue in order to get them to run a story suggesting “links between ecotage (ecological sabotage) and Combat 18”. (p.90)
Whilst O’Hara is quite correct in his assumption that the state seeks to influence and discredit the ALF, Animal Rights Militia, Hunt Saboteurs Association etal, he fails to address properly the Animal Liberation Front, stating that the ALF has “an unwavering commitment to non-violence” with specific exceptions.
O’Hara goes so far as to name Stuart McCulloch of the International Third Position as a state asset, but apart from McCulloch having set up a dummy ELF group, O’Hara offers no further proof, instead promising a “Hepple” type exposure at a later date.
In its entirety, O’Hara has written another superlative account of MI5 and the role of state assets within the radical fringe of British Politics. As such, his work deserves a much wider audience than it will inevitably receive, but his success will not be gauged on sales but on his ability to upset and expose MI5 agents and to hopefully awaken one or two of those misguided enough to believe in State fronts such as Searchlight, World In Action, and the vast array of supportive establishment journalists.
Who Is Larry O’Hara?
A political researcher whose work has been published in CARF, Frontline, Green Anarchist, Greenline, Green Party Anti-Racist Newsletter, Head, Here & Now, Labour Briefing, Lobster, New Socialist, Open Eye, Return, and Tribune. His latest booklet – Searchlight for Beginners – is also reviewed on this website. He is currently completing a PhD on contemporary fascism in Britain.
Phoenix Press, Oct. 1994
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