10 May 2003. Thanks to L.

Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston were arrested by Northern Ireland security forces in connection with their publication of the Martin McGuinness wiretap transcripts.


The transcripts are reproduced from the new paperback edition of Martin McGuinness, From Guns to Government. The revised edition, by Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston, is published by Mainstream and available from http://www.mainstreampublishing.com

Target Name: McGuinness Martin

Start Date: 16/07/99
Start time: 1640:10
End Time: 16:46:49


JP: "Hello Martin, it's Jonathan."

MM: "How are you doing?"

JP: "Alright, how are you?"

MM: "Ah not good, but I'm sure you know that. Listen, is it possible that Gerry could speak to TONY tonight?"

JP: "Ah yes, I'll have to track him down, but in principle let me, let's see if I can do that. Ah, what sort of time?"

MM: "Around 7.30pm."

JP: "Ah I just don't know where he'll be then. Let me find out. Shall I come back to you, or?"

MM: "Well if you can come back to me it would be grand, yeh."

JP: "Okay."

MM: "We had a meeting with Paul Murphy and Mo Mowlam and a few others today and we just went through a few things that GERRY would like to speak to TONY about. But, without boring you, its not a pretty picture."

JP: "No, well, we watched it. (sniggers)

MM: "You watched what? (stern voice)

JP: "The picture yesterday."

MM: "Yeh, but I mean I'm not really (stern voice) I'm talking of course about that but also the very, very bad mood within REPUBLICANISM".

JP: "Yeh".

MM: "Where things are at. I think I have to say that since the 2nd JULY there is a view within REPUBLICANISM that the BRITISH GOVERNMENT have taken a strategic lurch in the direction of the old approaches.

I think that people are of a view that there was an attempt to shaft SINN FEIN and that what was going on was totally and absolutely outside the terms of the "AGREEMENT".

JP: "Mmm"

MM: "The effect for many people has been the further entrenchment of the ULSTER UNIONISTS and their demands.

And I think it is an encouragement to them to demand more and sit tight and do nothing. Look what has happened to DE CHASTALAIN, his independence has been compromised. Our initiative, which we worked hard on with yourselves and DOWNING STREET has been screwed effectively and for NATIONALISTS it's just the UNIONIST veto is ruling again.

People are saying that the BRITISH GOVERNMENT are being seen to buckle again."

JP: "Mmm but of course we did run D'HONT yesterday as you were very keen that we did do and we ran it the whole way through."

MM: "Absolutely, but" JP: "Despite what the Unionists wanted us to do".

MM: "Yeah but I think the clear message you know, pinned on the door of Stormont is that CATHOLICS need not apply. And out of that the BRITISH GOVERNMENT's damaged, the SINN FEIN leadership is damaged. SEAMUS MALLON's resignation I think shows that the PROCESS is badly badly damaged."

JP: "Mmm"

MM: "And what has happened.

The "NO" UNIONISTS within the DUP and the UUP have had a, what they consider to be, a famous victory. That's the problem".

JP: "Didn't look much like a victory at the time did it?"

MM: "But that's the way they see it. That's the mentality of the people that we're dealing with. I think that anything, particularly from our point of view which shows the British Government moving away from the terms of the "AGREEMENT" puts us up sh*t creek".

JP: "No, well you won't see that. TONY's made it clear very clear, that he's gonna walk his legs off to keep this going, despite the rather discouraging reaction he has had so far. I mean he is not going to walk away from this and in fact TRIMBLE himself seemed to be saying, as far as one can make out what he was saying today, that he is prepared to work for this deal."

MM: "Yeh, I know (sounding sarcastic) Aye, Are you impressed?"

JP: "Well I'm trying to look for some cause for optimism".

MM: "I don't think we're looking in the direction of the UNIONISTS. I think the UNIONIST strategy is very, very clear. They are for stretching this out to MAY of next year and they are clearly not interested in getting up the institutions.

They're not interested in the IRELAND MINISTERIAL COUNCIL and the like, all you have to do is listen to WILLIAM THOMPSON last night on BBC 2."

JP: "Agh, he's an ass".

MM: "Ah, well it doesn't matter. He might be an ass, but there are a lot of other asses around him like Willie Ross" (interrupted by JP)

JP: (Laughing) "Quite a lot"


JP: "Please don't repeat all the names (A very strange comment)

MM: "Yeh, but that's what we're up against and I think from our point of view we need to know that the status quo isn't an option, that the tail wagging the dog is not an option."

JP: "Absolutely"

MM: "And the whole business of equality, justice, policing, human rights, demilitarisation and all the rest of it. (MM really getting annoyed).

JP: "I thought we made that pretty clear that we're pressing ahead with all of those and very, very quickly and we did what you wanted us to do yesterday, despite the UNIONISTS not wanting us to do it."

MM: "Oh, absolutely. I mean we are aware of that. I often ask myself if that had have been done last JULY."

JP: "Well we'd still be in the same place, wouldn't we, probably."

MM: "Well, then I mean."

JP: "That's probably the most discouraging thing about it."

MM: (Laughing) "Are we gonna be there next JULY?"

JP: "No, we're bloody well not. We've got to sort it out."

MM: "Well I think the UNIONISTS need to know the GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT is as good as it is gonna get and they need to know that decommissioning as per GEORGE MITCHELL and DE CHASTALAIN is voluntary and that participation in the institutions is voluntary".

JP: "Mmm".

MM: "And if neither of the above is achieveable, then you know the two GOVERNMENTs need to think about moving on over their heads".

JP: "Mmm, mmm. Well I think they gotta do. I mean although you say they're sort of glorying in it today, they did get a bit of a shock when it went against them yesterday. But you're right about the message that needs to get across."

MM: "Well, will you come back to me?"

JP: "What's that?"

MM: "Will you come back to me about the phone call?"

JP: "I'll come back to you as soon as I can."

Powell takes McGuinness's phone number.


Start Date: 18/07/99
Start Time: 20:51:32
End Time: 20:54:55


UIDM Hillsborough switchboard : "HILLSBOROUGH CASTLE"

MM: "Hello can I speak to the SECRETARY OF STATE please, its MARTIN MCGUINNESS from SINN FEIN?"

UIDM: "Right Sir"

Mo: "Martin"

MM: "Hello"

Mo: "Hi"

MM: "How are you?"

Mo: "Surviving, Getting a lot of coverage. I was just phoning to say I'm doing. You won't see much of me because I've been called across. I've been sent canvassing in by-election for the next two days. I've been called across to see the PRIME MINISTER tomorrow. I'm fighting like f**k to stay, but I don't know what will happen.

But as soon as I know I'll let you know."

MM: "What's your intuition telling you?"

Mo: "Well my intuition says it just depends how awkward he's being because I'm gonna say unless he takes me, he leaves me here, ahem I'll go on the back benches. Which he can't do because I'm too popular. So I'm gonna dig in and I just hope I can win."

MM: "So do we (laughs), so do we."

Mo: "Ahem, the second thing I was gonna say was that I was gonna go to AMERICA and if I've got it I'm still gonna go for a couple of days, this week. So I won't be around much and then I'm on two weeks holiday."

MM: "Right".

Mo: "So, it was really if there was anything, ahem?"

MM: "Your holiday plans and mine are colliding then."

Mo: "I'm going 26th for two weeks".

MM: "So am I, 26th for two weeks."

Mo: "Your not going to TURKEY I hope?"

MM: "No I'm going to Kerry."

(Both laugh)

Mo: "But, ah, I will be in LONDON on TUESDAY. We'll keep in touch as to what looks like that something's happening in the SUMMIT."

MM: "Right, okay. We're talking to BERTIE tomorrow, GERRY and I, so."

Mo: "Fine"


Mo: "Ahem, it looks like DECOMMISSIONING and EXECUTIVE, ahem, but what I'm hoping for we find out more on TUESDAY and we'll talk, if only by phone. But if you're seeing BERTIE you should be alright."

MM: "Yeh, Okay, " Mo: "Okay then?"

MM: "Well we'll be listening with great interest to see what develops?"

Mo: "Yeh, I don't know if he'll go public because I've an idea it'll be tough for him. But if you don't hear anything it'll be good news."

MM: "Well that's good. I'll keep my fingers crossed. (Laughs)

Mo: "And I'm still chugging on FINUCANE and NELSON. I hope I may move on NELSON before I go, but I doubt it, but I will move on them."

MM: "Okay"

Mo: "Okay babe"

MM: "Take care"

Mo: "Take care"

MM: "God Bless"


Start Date: 22/09/2001
Start Time: 14:18:11
End Time: 14:20:43


G: "I was out just at meetings and such there and I didn't hear TRIMBLE's remarks, have you heard them?"

MM: "I heard him say what he was going to, ah, put a motion before the Assembly, calling for the exclusion of SF ministers from the Executive. And they were going to put that motion down for Monday, but it might take a couple of weeks."

G: "Right, Ah, I wonder has he just introduced a stalling thing, what do you think?"

MM: "Well I think what he is going to do is put the motion and if and when the motion fails, he will progressively pull out of the Executive. That's what he is hinting at."

G: "Yeh, but I wonder is he, is he stalling in order to create a bit of space to keep his own people at bay, or is he genuinely (interrupted)

MM: "Ah, well its obviously.

There's people in there like DONALDSON who would want him out on Monday morning so he's obviously stalling. Ah there is no doubt about that. But at the same time when it comes to that point."

G: "Nah, well it's unacceptable from our point of view, no matter what his reasons are."

GERRY said he was in RICHARD's doing a few things and asked MARTIN MCGUINNESS could he cover any media stuff tomorrow as he was going to, "the big game". MM said that he was going too, so GERRY said he would get MITCHELL MCLAUGHLIN to cover it.

Call ended.


Start date: 22/09/2001
Start time: 12:25:21
End time: 12:27:33

MARTIN MCGUINNESS SPEAKS TO A KATHLEEN SNU and tells her he has been very busy but that he hoped to get down to her within the next couple of weeks. They discussed the NEW YORK attacks and both agreed it was terrible.

KATHLEEN said that her PATSY has a bar out there in PEARL RIVER which is, "up state NEW YORK".

Kathleen feared for a WAR.

K: "It's the outcome of it".

MM: "Exactly. Ah it's not finished yet."

K: "No, we don't want another War."

MM: "The Americans are going to make a mess of it, I think".

K: "Bush will".

MM: "And BLAIRS going to help him."

K: "That's what I say, he is"

MM: "I think you're right".

MM bid his farewell and call ended.

British Irish

13b Hillgate Place
London SW12 9ES
Tel: (+44) 020 8772 9161
Fax: (+44) 020 8772 9162
e-mail: birw@birw.org

Kader Asmal MP
Michael Mansfield QC
Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC

A charity registered in england no. 1048335
website: http://www.birw.org

Rt Hon Paul Murphy MP
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
11 Millbank London

9th May 2003


Dear Paul Murphy,

Arrests of journalists in Northern Ireland

Please find enclosed a copy of a report we have sent to the United Nations concerning the arrests of two journalists, Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston, in Northern Ireland on 30th April.

We are concerned both about the fact that these journalists were arrested at all and by the manner of the arrests.  The nature of the material they published, while it may very well cause embarrassment in government circles, cannot be said by any stretch of the imagination to impinge on official secrets or harm national security.  The message that these arrests sends out both to the journalists concerned and to their wider profession is that investigative journalism will be punished.  Such oppressive behaviour on the part of the state would rightly be criticised in a right wing dictatorship and should have no part in a developed democracy.

We have written to the Chief Constable of the PSNI asking him a number of specific questions about these arrests and their consequences, but we would welcome an assurance from you that you and your officials played no part in them.  If indeed you or your officials were involved, then we should be grateful for an explanation of your role.

Yours sincerely,

Jane Winter,


British Irish

arresting the messengers

submission to the united nations special rapporteur on
freedom of opinion and expression concerning the arrests of
liam clarke and kathryn johnston

British Irish rights watch is an independent non-governmental organisation that monitors the human rights dimension of the conflict and the peace process in Northern Ireland.  Our services are available to anyone whose human rights have been affected by the conflict, regardless of religious, political or community affiliations, and we take no position on the eventual constitutional outcome of the peace process.

This report to the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion concerns the arrests of two journalists in Northern Ireland after they published transcripts of clandestine tape recordings of conversations between Martin McGuinness MP and various persons in a biography they had written about him.  British Irish rights watch is concerned that these arrests were oppressive and have the potential to adversely affect their careers and, indirectly, may discourage investigative journalism in Northern Ireland.

Liam Clarke is the Northern Ireland editor of the Sunday Times.  He and his wife Kathryn Johnston are the co-authors of an unofficial biography of Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness MP, From Guns to Government.  A new paperback edition of the book was published recently.  It included transcripts of tape recordings of four telephone calls in 1999 and 2001 between Martin McGuinness and Jonathan Powell, chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair MP; Mo Mowlam MP, at that time Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams MP; and a woman in the USA called Kathleen.  The tape recordings were allegedly made by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) at the request of the secret intelligence service, MI5,[1] in which case the decision to tap the telephone of Martin McGuinness, himself a member of Parliament, would have been authorised at the highest political level.

On 30th April 2003 two newspapers, the Times and the Sun, published extracts from the transcripts, and the Irish News[2] reproduced them in full.  While the publication of the transcripts was embarrassing for the government, it raised no issues of national security.

At around 8:30 pm that same evening, armed police officers arrived at Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston’s home.  The police searched the house and took away four computers and large numbers of documents and other items, including list of the journalists’ contacts.  The search took some five hours and police officers scrutisined all the documents before deciding what to seize.  Many items were seized despite the fact that they had nothing to do with official secrets or national security, and despite the fact that they had come from official sources or, in some cases, were documents that had previously been shown to the police.  The police officers conducting the search ignored the journalists’ explanations of the provenance of some of the documents, and also their requests not to seize documents that compromised the privacy of others or were of a personal nature.  The PSNI also raided the Belfast office of the Sunday Times, declining Liam Clarke’s offer of a key and instead breaking down the door.  The Sunday Times’ lawyers are seeking to recover 18 bags containing documents, computer disks and computer disks, together with three other bags containing computer equipment.  The officer in charge of the operation was Chief Superintendent Phil Wright.[3]   It remains unclear whether the Chief Constable of the PSNI or some other person authorised the arrests[4].

Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston were arrested under the Official Secrets Act at 2:00 am on 1st May[5].  They were taken to the new police interrogation centre at Antrim[6].  They were each interviewed four or five times[7] in the presence of their lawyers.  Liam Clarke was not allowed to make any telephone calls.  Kathryn Johnston was eventually allowed to make calls concerning the welfare of their eight-year-old daughter.  Her calls were listened to by police officers.  Neither journalist answered any questions that would have revealed their sources.  They were released on police bail after almost 24 hours in custody.[8]  The PSNI took fingerprints and DNA samples from both journalists, and photographed Liam Clarke.

On 29th April 2003 a retired Special Branch[9] officer was arrested.  On 2nd May he was charged under the Official Secrets Act and released on bail.[10]  His former role included the monitoring of bugged telephone conversations in Martin McGuinness’ home town of Derry[11].

Two other journalists have also been contacted by the PSNI concerning the leaked tapes.  David Lister, a journalist with The Times, was questioned under caution on 1st May 2003.  He was interviewed at his solicitor’s office by appointment.  Henry McDonald, Ireland editor of the Observer, was questioned on 7th May at Castlereagh police station[12].  Reportedly he was questioned about a signed confidentiality agreement found at the home of the former Special Branch officer, whose autobiography Henry McDonald is said to be ghost-writing[13].

Liam Clarke and the Sunday Times are both the subject of an injunction preventing them from publishing any further revelations by a man calling himself Martin Ingram, who has alleged that a British army intelligence section known as the Force Research Unit engaged in collusion with paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.  This injunction was covered in an earlier report by BIRW to the Special Rapporteur in October 2000.  Many of the allegations made by Martin Ingram have recently been substantiated in a report by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan (London) Police, Sir John Stevens[14].  Liam Clarke was interviewed concerning Martin Ingram by the Metropolitan Police under police caution in the presence of his solicitor on 20th July 2000 at Musgrave Street RUC station in Belfast.  On that occasion, he was not arrested and his home was not searched.  When his home was searched on this occasion, papers relating to Martin Ingram were seized, as were documents relating to a former police officer who has made allegations about collusion between the police and paramilitaries, John Weir, and other documents concerning equally sensitive matters.

The items seized were not returned to the journalists until 6th May, by which time the PSNI had had six days to scrutinise them.  Certain documents, mainly relating to a libel trial, were retained by the police, who also informed the journalists that they had photocopied some of the documents they returned.  They refused to specify which documents had been copied or why.  They also said that they had imaged the hard drive of their computers, which means that they can scrutinise their contents at their leisure.

Martin McGuinness is Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator in the Northern Ireland peace process.  At the time the tape recordings were made, he was Minister for Education in Northern Ireland and a Member of Parliament.  It is very much a matter of public interest that such a person should be clandestinely bugged.  In arresting these two journalists, the police are engaging in shooting the messenger.  The transcripts they published do not jeopardise national security in any way.  It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the journalists were arrested as a punishment for having made disclosures that caused embarrassment to the government.  It is also clear that large quantities of materials were seized from their home that had no bearing on this particular issue and that the police were indulging in an unjustified fishing expedition.  This seizure has two undesirable consequences.  First, the police have been able to ascertain what information Liam Clarke has in his possession in relation to Martin Ingram, John Weir and  many other sensitive matters that he has investigated as a journalist.  Secondly, the seizure has the potential to compromise many people who have acted as confidential sources of information to both journalists, whether in relation to their biography of Martin McGuinness or other matters.  People who have spoken to them in the past may not be prepared to do so again in the future, and other potential sources may not come forward, for fear that their contact with them will become known to the police.  This in turn may affect the work of other investigative journalists, because people generally may not have confidence that their confidentiality can be protected.  Similarly, potential whistle blowers may be discouraged from disclosing information in future.

It is because of these consequences that the freedom of the press is so jealously guarded in a democracy.  While governments are entitled to require confidentiality from their employees and agents, if they act in such a way as to arouse public disquiet, such as clandestinely tapping the telephone of an elected representative, then their right to such confidentiality may be eclipsed by the public’s right to know that it is engaging in such behaviour.  Arresting journalists who expose such acts and attempting to force them to reveal their sources so that they can prosecute their employee or agent is manifestly oppressive and contrary to the freedom of information that is necessary in a democratic society.  In this case, the arrests of these two journalists may have potentially serious consequences for their careers and may have placed a chill factor on investigative journalism in Northern Ireland and beyond.

We respectfully request the Special Rapporteur to transmit this report to the government of the United Kingdom and to seek their assurance that these two journalists will not be charged with any offence.

MAY 2003


[1] Blair under fire for arrest of reporter, by Nicholas Rufford, Sunday Times, 4 May 2003

[2] Willie Thompson, he’s an ass said Blair’s top aide, Irish News, 30 April 2003

[3] Arrested by the serious gossip squad, by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times, 4 May 2003

[4] Blair under fire for arrest of reporter, by Nicholas Rufford, Sunday Times, 4 May 2003

[5] Official Secrets & Official Lies, by Carrie Twomey, The Blanket, 4 May 2003

[6] Arrested by the serious gossip squad, by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times, 4 May 2003

[7] Official Secrets & Official Lies, by Carrie Twomey, The Blanket, 4 May 2003

[8] Arrested by the serious gossip squad, by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times, 4 May 2003

[9] The intelligence wing of the PSNI, now re-named and undergoing re-organisation

[10] Detective charged over Mowlam phone call leak, Daily Telegraph, 6 May 2003

[11] Secret tapes furore leads to arrests, by Jim Cusack, Sunday Independent, 4 May 2003 – the name given for the former officer in this article is incorrect

[12] Official Secrets & Official Lies, by Carrie Twomey, The Blanket, 4 May 2003

[13] Police talk to editor about Mowlam leak, by Thomas Harding, Telegraph, 7 May 2003

[14] Stevens Enquiry 3: Overview & Recommendations, 17 April 2003

The Sunday Times

May 04, 2003

by Liam Clarke

MY wife Kathy was the first to spot them: armed and boiler-suited police teams piling up the drive. Two grim-faced detectives knocked at the front door while other men with guns darted round the back to secure the garden in case we opted for a life on the run. Last Wednesday was not the sort of evening anyone expects, even after years of reporting the murky world of the security forces in Northern Ireland. Our instinct was to run and warn Adam, our 23-year-old son, who was playing computer games in a room built into the garage. But as I opened the door I was told by the detectives they had come to search our house and would shortly be raiding “other premises”.

They refused to disclose which premises until search squads were in place but they turned out to be The Sunday Times’s office in Belfast. I offered the detectives keys but their boss, Chief Superintendent Phil Wright, preferred to have the door flattened with a battering ram. It would have taken about half an hour to get the key to the office but Wright felt he had no time to lose.

This interruption to a quiet family evening turned out to be part of a huge operation to discover who had given Kathy and me transcripts of four politically embarrassing telephone calls published as an appendix to the paperback edition of From Guns to Government, our biography of Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator and a former IRA chief of staff.

The transcripts show the chummy relations McGuinness enjoyed with senior British figures, particularly Mo Mowlam, the former Northern Ireland secretary - who fawned over him, once calling him “babe” - and Jonathan Powell, the prime minister’s chief of staff.

McGuinness’s phone is tapped by MI5 and the calls we had were, the police insisted, official secrets. Taking place between 1999 and 2001, they showed McGuinness chatting affably to Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, as well as to Mowlam and Powell.

It was hard to see the damage to national security; much easier to predict the political embarrassment to the new Labour establishment. Here was Mowlam gossiping about Blair while McGuinness gave away little in return. Powell sniggered and joked, referring to unionist MPs as “asses”.

The emergence of the tapes, however, also grated with many republicans. “He got on so well with the British he sounded like one of them,” said one former IRA prisoner who rang me.

After publication of the transcripts last week, McGuinness made representations to Downing Street; he described the revelations as “disgraceful” and demanded heads should roll. As the police swarmed over the house, it seemed his appeal was being answered.

Beyond appeasing McGuinness, however, the search was plainly being used as a fishing expedition, designed to sift through 20 years’ documents, including personal files and my work with The Sunday Times.

The police seized records of old legal cases, pictures of terrorist suspects, scores of notebooks and four computers, along with several boxes of old newspapers and stacks of children’s computer games. The papers they took contained information on all our contacts and a wealth of research into undercover activities - as well as stacks of rubbish.

I remonstrated that it would be impossible to do my job without a computer or phone numbers of contacts: “They could be evidence of a crime,” the search team argued and tipped the lot into brown paper sacks.

Finally, we were arrested and sped to Northern Ireland’s biggest and newest interrogation centre in Antrim in the early hours of Thursday. It came as a surprise. I had once before been questioned under the Official Secrets Act after articles about security forces’ dirty tricks based on information from an army intelligence officer who used the name Martin Ingram.

His revelations of collusion between the army’s shadowy Force Research Unit and loyalist murder gangs were far graver than the political tittle-tattle in the transcripts.

However, the Metropolitan police Special Branch had interviewed me by appointment and supplied me with a list of questions. That had been a morning in a police station and one of the first to sympathise with my predicament had been Hugh Orde, then deputy assistant commissioner. Since becoming chief constable in Northern Ireland last September, it seems Orde has changed his tune over the tactics to be adopted when harassing journalists.

Orde had even met our eight-year-old daughter when he had dinner in our house last year. Now his men were turning the same house upside down and saying neither of us could stay at home to look after her or take her to school the next morning.

His men raided my home, arrested my wife and me and smashed down the door of my office. After we had been read our rights and taken to the cells, we learnt our treatment was linked to the arrest the previous night of a retired Special Branch detective. He was being accused of leaking the transcripts to us but had denied it. He had been picked up with a similar show of force.

Much of our questioning would revolve around how well we knew him, how often we had met him; whether, like Orde, he had ever been to our home for a meal and whether, like Orde, he had ever assisted us with our work as journalists.

Despite the brutal architecture of the interrogation centre and its freezing, windowless rooms, the uniformed officers were friendly, polite and accommodating. They apologised for the food and offered endless cups of coffee. At critical junctures, however, Wright’s baleful influence showed itself.

At the reception desk I was given a sheet outlining my rights, which included a phone call, but Wright decided to rescind this. An undertaking given by the officers at Antrim to tell The Sunday Times I had been arrested was also broken. Publicity was to be avoided and the newspaper was not to be contacted in case it endangered “evidence of an arrestable offence”.

Eventually Kathy was told she could make “welfare calls” to ensure our daughter was looked after but was warned police would be listening in.

After the lengthy questioning, we were released after 11pm on Thursday after nearly 24 hours in detention. On Friday the retired police officer who was accused of leaking the transcripts to us was charged under the Official Secrets Act.

His case is unlikely to go anywhere. Neither Kathy nor I are willing to say anything that may reveal our sources or confirm or deny accusations against him. Throughout the questioning, we made it clear we were not prepared to take part in a politically motivated fishing expedition.

There is unlikely to be any conviction but the end result is less doubtful: to discourage civil servants and members of the security forces from talking to the press. The message will go out that even the suspicion that you have broken ranks to reveal politically embarrassing information will lead to house raids, arrests and harassment.

Senior politicians and their aides will be free to share jokes with Sinn Fein safe in the knowledge that their every word is protected under the cloak of official secrecy.


The Sunday Times

4 May 2003

ST Man's Arrest 'Heavy-Handed'

by Nicholas Rufford

THE British government is being challenged by MPs over the "heavy-handed" arrest of a Sunday Times journalist and seizure of confidential documents during police inquiries into the leaking of secretly recorded tapes that have embarrassed Downing Street.

MPs from the three main British parties, together with the Ulster Unionists, demanded to know who authorised the police action and why it was necessary for raids to be carried out at night by armed officers who used a battering ram to break down the door of The Sunday Times office in Belfast in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Northern Ireland police appeared in disarray yesterday over who was responsible. During the questioning of one suspect, police claimed that Hugh Orde, the chief constable, gave his authority.

A spokesman for Orde denied this and said: "The whole investigation is really further down the chain than him (Orde)." He refused to elaborate, but said: "All I can do is repeat the words he (Orde) used: 'beneath his vision'." He said two middle-ranking officers ordered the raids.

In a further escalation of the affair, Tony Blair is likely to be required to explain to the House of Commons why the security services in Northern Ireland tapped the phone of an MP, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin.

Jeffrey Donaldson, an Ulster Unionist MP, has called on Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland secretary, to make a statement. "The prime minister's office has been embarrassed by this story and is striking back in a completely unwarranted and undignified manner," he said.

Liam Clarke, The Sunday Times's Northern Ireland editor, and his wife Kathryn Johnston were arrested in the early hours of Thursday morning by armed detectives who seized papers and computer records relating to a number of investigations, including one into alleged collusion by the army in murders by loyalist paramilitaries. In a separate visit to The Sunday Times's Belfast office, police demolished a door despite having being offered a key.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said he would ask the prime minister to justify the arrests. "It is unacceptable to see someone arrested like this for simply doing his job," he said.

A 48-year-old former police officer has been charged under section one of the Official Secrets Act. The man was told that he was being questioned with the express authorisation of the chief constable.

The raids were carried out after last week's publication of bugged conversations between senior British politicians and McGuinness, the former IRA chief. The transcripts, from 1997, expose the surprisingly close and familiar relationships McGuinness enjoyed with Mo Mowlam, the former Northern Ireland secretary, and Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff.

Brian Mawhinney, a former Northern Ireland secretary, has accused the police of acting unreasonably. "It seems to me this arrest was seriously over the top," he said.

"The idea that you needed to have this size of armed force in the early hours of the morning to arrest a journalist will appear to most people as disproportionate.

"I think the most important aspect is that the contents of the tapes reveal a serious prejudice on the part of Mo Mowlam towards a Republican inclination at a time when we were told the secretary of state was following government policy to be even handed." MI5 obtained the transcripts of the McGuinness conversations only after they were published last week. Northern Ireland police had not made the transcripts available through official channels and MI5 got them from a journalist, according to Home Office sources.

"The Police Service of Northern Ireland decide what they share with MI5 and in this instance they chose not to share," said a senior official. Other sources, however, claimed the phone-tapping operation against McGuinness was carried out at MI5's request.

The Sunday Times is taking legal action to recover from police 18 bags containing documents, computer disks, and photographs, and three bags of computer equipment. Some of the material relates to articles in which The Sunday Times revealed how the Force Research Unit, a shadowy department of the British army, allegedly colluded with loyalist terrorists in murders. The seizures raise concerns that sections of the Northern Ireland police may be pursuing a campaign against Clarke.

The prime minister will face pressure next week to explain whether the police have broken a parliamentary rule, established in 1966, that the phones of MPs would not be tapped.

It says no MP should have his phone tapped and if he does, parliament should be informed of the reason for such an extraordinary measure as soon as it is conducive to national security.

The parliamentary table office last week refused permission for Andrew MacKinlay, a Labour member of the foreign affairs select committee, to ask the prime minister who had authorised the phone taps on McGuinness.

Blair has established a precedent of not answering questions about intelligence and security matters. MacKinlay said: "This blanket block should be challenged, particularly in this case which has serious political and constitutional implications."


Sunday Times


In Northern Ireland, it seems, the police are their own worst enemies. Last week, after newspaper reports based on material in a book by Liam Clarke, The Sunday Times Northern Ireland editor, and his wife Kathy, the province’s police blundered into heavy-handed action. The Clarkes’ home was raided and computers, contact books and other material - essential to their work as journalists - were bundled up and loaded by armed officers into police vans. Contact with the couple’s eight-year-old daughter, at the house of a friend, was not allowed at first. Offered the key to this newspaper’s Belfast office, which they also wanted to raid, the police preferred to smash down the door with a battering ram.

After 24 hours in custody at Northern Ireland’s newest interrogation centre, Mr Clarke and his wife were eventually released, having refused to answer questions that would reveal their sources. The police’s gain, if there was one, was an underhanded excuse to rifle through contact books, computer files and private papers. The Sunday Times is taking legal action to recover from the police 18 bags containing documents, computer disks and photographs, as well as three containing computer equipment.

What was this clumsy Keystone Kops exercise in aid of? Had lives been endangered? Did the book’s revelations, based on taped transcripts, endanger the Northern Ireland peace process? Hugh Orde, the Northern Ireland chief constable, appears to be trying to blame junior officers for the arrest of the two journalists and a 48-year-old former police officer, but that is barely credible. Indeed, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the police were fired into action by embarrassment in high places. There were red faces when the tapes revealed the chumminess between Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s chief of staff, and Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator.

Both, it seemed, shared a contempt for some “asses” among unionist politicians. Mr Powell, it seems, has little time for William Thompson, who was one such ass, or Willie Ross, Jeffrey Donaldson, Roy Beggs, Clifford Forsyth and the Reverend Martin Smyth. As unionists had always suspected, Mr McGuinness, the target of the bugging and who thinks his reputation has been most damaged by the revelations and has complained to Downing Street, also had the cosiest relationship with Mo Mowlam, when she was Northern Ireland secretary. She called him “babe”, he offered her God’s blessing. And that was that. In the words of Mr Donaldson, who is calling for a statement from Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland secretary: “The prime minister’s office has been embarrassed by this story and is striking back in a completely unwarranted and undignified manner.” The former officer has been charged under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act.

Mr Clarke’s account of phone-tapping in Northern Ireland posed no threat to national security and was clearly in the public interest. As Lord Bingham said three years ago in another Northern Ireland case, Turkington and others versus Times Newspapers: “It is very largely through the media, including of course the press, that they (citizens) will be alerted and informed. The proper functioning of a modern participatory democracy requires that the police be free, active, professional and inquiring. For this reason the courts, here and elsewhere, have recognised the cardinal importance of press freedom and the need for any restriction on that freedom to be proportionate and no more than is necessary to promote the legitimate object of the restriction.”

Mr Clarke and his wife should never have been arrested, still less in such an unnecessarily heavy-handed way which amounted to intimidatory tactics. Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, intends to press the prime minister on the issue. “It is unacceptable to see someone arrested like this for simply doing his job,” he says. He is absolutely right. When the police take action like this against a journalist legitimately doing his job in exposing the actions of the authorities, we should all be worried about our liberty.