BBC 'Confidential Information' Accessed relating to British Secret Army Dirty War Units in Occupied Ireland and Colonies
Highly sensitive and confidential information relating to the secret British Army unit, the Military Reaction Force, which is alleged to have shot unarmed civilians in Northern Ireland has been "lost" by the BBC's investigative team on the Panorama programme.
The material, which includes information on former soldiers from the controversial Military Reaction Force, leaked out following a lapse in securityIt is understood that at least one former serviceman from the elite unit has had his identity compromised.
The notoriously secretive MRF included men from the Special Air Service, the Special Boat Service, the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment.
Names and details of other senior military figures – in addition to those who served with the MRF – were also contained in the compromised file.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is investigating the major loss of data by the Panorama team after an inexperienced researcher allegedly downloaded a cache of material from an online dropbox service on to a USB stick and handed it to a third party.
It is understood that the matter is being treated as a potential criminal offence under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act.
Initially, the data was believed to relate only to Panorama’s investigation into alleged questionable practices at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The researcher leaked the file to the office of the mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, because she did not believe the documentary, broadcast in April, was balanced.
The material included details of people who had contributed to the documentary anonymously. But The Independent has learnt that the file also contained confidential information relating to “Britain’s Secret Terror Force”, a highly sensitive previous Panorama programme, which was shown last November.
The experienced Panorama presenter John Ware hosted both documentaries, although he is understood not to be responsible for the breach in security.
During the Northern Ireland programme, made by the television production company twenty2vision, seven unidentified members of the plain-clothes Military Reaction Force discussed their covert activities.
They all denied they had been part of a death or assassination squad but one soldier admitted: “If you had a player who was a well-known shooter who carried out quite a lot of assassinations it would have been very simple – he had to be taken out.”
Another said: “We were not there to act like an army unit. We were there to act like a terror group. We had our own rules, but I don’t recall being involved in the shooting of an innocent person.”
Two fatal shootings were linked to the MRF; Patrick McVeigh, a father of six who was shot in Belfast in 1972 and 18-year-old Daniel Rooney, who was killed in West Belfast in 1973.
The Ministry of Defence said it had referred Panorama’s findings to the police.
Last night military figures expressed astonishment that the BBC could have put the anonymity of servicemen who served with elite undercover units at risk. The mistreatment of confidential sources was “absolutely disgraceful”, said Hugh McManners, a military author and commentator.
“Protection of sources is paramount and the BBC and its researcher have behaved utterly disgracefully. I cannot believe that anyone could be so lax. If the media is going to misbehave like that, the Ministry of Defence would be justified in refusing all media requests, which isn’t in anybody’s interests.”
In the making of the Tower Hamlets documentary, it is understood that BBC application forms for covert filming used in the Northern Ireland film were duplicated to use as a basis for applications to film undercover in east London. But due to an error, confidential details used in the Ulster films were not deleted, putting the identities of at least one ex-MRF contributor at risk.
The breach of security occurred at Films of Record, which made the Tower Hamlets investigation “The Mayor and Our Money”, and not at twenty2vision. The researcher, who only worked at Panorama for five days, has told The Independent she acted “because of my conscience”. She said: “My basic point was that this is damaging to the Bengali community.”
It is understood that the Tower Hamlets copy of the file has now been destroyed.
A spokesperson for the ICO said it had to be “particularly cautious” when discussing an investigation which may lead to a criminal prosecution.
“We have been made aware of a possible data breach at Films of Record. We will be making inquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “There has been a lot of baseless speculation on the circumstances surrounding this programme. It’s not appropriate for us to comment further while there is an investigation by the ICO under way.”
Licensed to kill: Military Reaction Force
The Military Reaction Force (MRF) was a covert British Army unit operating in Northern Ireland during the early 1970s at the start of the Troubles.
The undercover unit, which is thought to have comprised 40 men, is said to have been given licence to operate a shoot to kill policy and ignore the Yellow Card rules which spelt out the circumstances under which soldiers were permitted to open fire.
The MRF included men from the Special Air Service (SAS), the Special Boat Service (SBS), the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment.
It has been linked to the shootings of several unarmed civilians, including Patrick McVeigh, a father of six children, who was hit by sub-machine-gun fire while manning a nationalist barricade in west Belfast in 1972. The MRF was disbanded in 1973.
U.K. file on Entebbe contains claim that Israel behind hijacking
Newly released British documents contain a claim by an unnamed contact that the Shin Bet security service collaborated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to hijack the June 1976 flight from Israel that was diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, the BBC reported Friday.
Israel's rescue of the dozens of hostages taken in the hijacking of the Air France plane, popularly known as the Entebbe raid, is considered one of the most daring and successful operations in Israeli history. Elite Israel Defense Forces troops stormed the airport where the hostages, many of them Israeli, were held and overpowered the hijackers and Ugandan soldiers.
Although the captors used the hijacking to demand the release of Palestinians or Palestinian supporters, a British government file on the incident quotes the unnamed source as telling a British diplomat in Paris that Israel was behind the hijacking. The claim is not known to be backed up by corroborating evidence, and the file does not make it clear whether the British government took the claim seriously.
"The operation was designed to torpedo the PLO's standing in France and to prevent what they see as a growing rapprochement between the PLO and the Americans," the BBC report said British diplomat D.H. Colvin wrote in the document, citing his source.
"My contact said the PFLP had attracted all sorts of wild elements, some of whom had been planted by the Israelis," Colvin reportedly wrote. "According to his information, the hijack was the work of the PFLP, with help from the Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Beit."
The document was written on June 30, 1976, three days after the hijacking and prior to the rescue operation.