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Official report on Omagh surveillance predictably clears GCHQ

January 21, 2009

An official report into allegations that the British intelligence services could have prevented the bombing of the town of Omagh by a renegade faction of the IRA in 1998 has, not entirely surprisingly, vindicated the intelligence services.

BBC TV’s current affairs strand, Panorama, had alleged that Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the US National Security Agency) had been monitoring the mobile phone communications of the bombers as they were moving towards Omagh, but did not inform the police on the ground in Northern Ireland.

The inquiry, chaired by the Intelligence Services Commissioner, Sir Peter Gibson, found no convincing evidence for this claim – which is of course, not to say that is wasn’t true. Let’s face it, it is highly unlikely that you would ever get GCHQ to admit to making mistakes let alone deliberately not giving information to the police on the ground. And even the ISC is not going to know whether GCHQ bosses are telling the whole truth or withholding information.

Justice in the case of the Omagh bombing has been hampered by murky behind the scenes dealings, despite the fact that it is widely known who was involved in planning and carrying out the attacks. Certainly the families of the victims of Omagh are probably right to reject the findings of this cozy establishment report, so typical of the way the British state polices itself.

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