In the summer of 2000, members of MI5 and the FBI met in the Washington office of the FBI. The purpose of the meeting was to finalise the details of the stitch up of Michael McKevitt. Back in the mid 1990’s the FBI had supplied MI5 with a paid informant, David Rupert. Rupert had worked with the FBI since 1974. He was a multiple bankrupt and a career informant for 30 years, working initially with the FBI and later with MI5. During those years he was arrested for cheque and wire fraud as well as suspected white slavery having been found with a 15 year old run-away in his truck. He was never charged or convicted of any of the above. However his informant services where used extensively throughout the same period.
Rupert travelled to Ireland spying on Irish citizens from the early 1990’s. During the mid 90’s Rupert was introduced to MI5 who according to him directed and controlled his actions while in Ireland. At one point the FBI funded the lease of a Bar and adjoining caravan and camping holiday park in Co. Leitrim as a base for Rupert to spy from. Rupert claimed the park was being used by IRA sympathisers and duly sent the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all the families mainly from Belfast who had holidayed in the park to the FBI and MI5. This was at a time when Loyalist death squads were receiving information from state forces to set up and murder selected individuals on their instructions. The Garda authorities were aware of Rupert passing details on to FBI/MI5 about Irish citizens yet they chose to allow this to happen.
Throughout his stay in Ireland Rupert claimed he forwarded all of the relevant intelligence he had acquired to MI5 via encrypted e-mails. Between 1997 and 2001 Rupert posted 2166 e-mails to his paymasters in British intelligence.
According to an article in Forum Magazine:
“On 11 April 1998, Rupert dispatched his most controversial e-mail to MI5 headquarters. It was almost five months before the now infamous maroon Vauxhall Cavalier would decimate the centre of Omagh town and kill 29 people. For this reason the e-mail was all the more startling because in it Rupert informed MI5 that a dissident republican group was planning a car bomb attack in Omagh. The April car bomb attack in Omagh was eventually frustrated by Gardai south of the border. However, MI5 management knew the threat was only postponed and not extinguished. Within days MI5 e-mailed Rupert: “We disrupted the intention to use the car bomb, but maybe not for long”. MI5 obviously foresaw the strong likelihood of a renewed attempt to bomb Omagh. However, MI5 now held the advantage over the would-be car bombers in that from as early as April 1998 it knew Omagh was a likely target for a dissident republican car bomb attack.
Rupert’s e-mails were not the only pre-August 15th information in MI5’s possession which pointed to a dissident republican attack in Omagh. A second key piece of intelligence came to light on August 4 when an anonymous phone-caller warned British intelligence of a planned dissident republican gun and bomb attack in Omagh on August 15. MI5 subsequently claimed that it dismissed this anonymous phone-warning as a rogue RUC Special Branch call. However, this was a poor attempt at distraction. The importance in all of this is that whereas Rupert provided specific details with regard to the proposed location of the planned bombing, this phone-warning supplemented his e-mail intelligence by not only confirming the location, but also providing the all important precise date of the planned attack.
However, the windfall of dissident republican intelligence did not end there. MI5 possessed a third piece of high-grade information which indicated that a car bomb attack was scheduled for mid-August. Two days before the Omagh bombing, FRU agent Kevin Fulton met with a Real IRA informant whose clothing, according to Fulton, was covered in dust particles of homemade explosives. Fulton correctly suspected that a car bomb attack was in an advanced stage of planning. Fulton provided British intelligence with the agent’s name and car registration number. Yet once again this vital piece of intelligence was ignored.
But perhaps the most startling disclosure concerning MI5’s foreknowledge of Omagh came during the inquest into the bombing. According to the Sunday Business Post (26/8/2001) leading British barrister Michael Mansfield QC, acting for Lawrence Rush, cross-examined several RUC witnesses. It emerged that a warning specifying the precise location of the bomb had not been passed on to local officers in time to clear the area.
“After that, we started getting threatening calls. We were told by the RUC that our name was on a death-list,” Solicitor Des Doherty said.
The RUC also confirmed to Doherty that a newspaper report of a spy satellite picking out the car used to transport the bomb was correct.
Doherty said. “It is understood that when the RUC contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in America, they produced information from the satellite.”
This suggests that the maroon Vauxhall Cavalier contained a tracking device which enabled a US GPS satellite not only to follow the car’s movements but also pinpoint its exact location on the day of the bombing. At the request of MI5, US intelligence would have monitored the car as a priority and would have conveyed this surveillance data to MI5 without delay. Yet MI5 chose not to relay this information to RUC officers on the ground on August 15. Furthermore, the presence of a tracking device on the maroon Vauxhall Cavalier indicates the involvement of an MI5 agent in the planning or the execution of the Omagh bombing, at some point between the unlawful procurement of the maroon Vauxhall Cavalier and the detonation of the explosives on August 15.
After the Omagh bombing MI5 ordered Rupert out of Ireland as a matter of urgency. An August 16 MI5 e-mail instructed Rupert to “insulate yourself from the Gardai” [MI5 to David Rupert, E-mail 305, 16-08-98]. Later that night Rupert was ordered to: “Collect tickets at Belfast City Airport…You’ll be here [London] for two nights. We need to talk. It’s extremely important” [MI5 to David Rupert, E-mail 329, 17-08-98]. Rupert’s MI5 handlers obviously feared that their agent might be gripped as part of a massive cross-border investigation and that – if placed under sufficient pressure – Rupert might disclose the prior bomb warning he had conveyed to MI5 in early April in relation to Omagh. Indeed all of Rupert’s MI5 e-mails on Omagh were subsequently withheld from Nuala O’Loan when she conducted her large-scale investigation into the intelligence background to the tragic bombing. By late August 1998 there were a number of skeletons inside MI5’s cupboard.
We now know MI5 possessed four pieces of high-grade intelligence which forewarned of a dissident republican car bomb attack in Omagh on August 15. The earliest intelligence data was dated 11 April. Then came the anonymous August 4 phone-call, Kevin Fulton’s August 13 intelligence report and finally the satellite monitoring of the Vauxhall Cavalier arising from a tracking device planted by a British agent involved in the Omagh bombing. Yet notwithstanding this avalanche of intelligence MI5 made no attempt to intercept the bomb How can this operational decision be rationally explained? What was the motivation of MI5 management? Did British intelligence want to protect the identity of its agent at all costs? Or was this yet another “securocrat” plot to subvert the peace?
MI5 management did not want to scupper the peace process, but it did want to protect the identity of its agent and, at the same time, drive – what it hoped would be – the final nail into physical force republicanism at an exceptionally sensitive time in the Irish peace process.”
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign