Sunday Life

300 'spies' in Ulster lose jobs

By Sunday Life Reporter
30 January 2005

Police and M15 commanders have axed up to 300 undercover agents across Ulster, since last summer, Sunday Life can reveal.

Security sources have revealed the full extent of the cutbacks, which have saved around £1.25m per year.

The agents, who were supplying information on terror groups, were receiving an average retainer of around £350 per month, plus bonuses for key information.

Critics say the cuts have seriously weakened the ability of the security forces to gather information on paramilitary gangs, including the IRA, which has been officially blamed for the Northern Bank heist.

Sunday Life understands that senior PSNI and MI5 commanders took the decision to 'deactivate', or stand down the agents, late last summer. The move followed a reduction in terrorist activity, and last year's relatively peaceful 'marching season'.

But, sources claim that a lack of available finance was the major factor for the cuts.

Undercover agents are commonly known in intelligence circles as Covert Human Intelligence Sources or CHIS's.

It is understood the majority of axed agents were operating within paramilitary organisations, in the Greater Belfast area.

Others are understood to have infiltrated groups in the Derry, Ballymena, Craigavon and Omagh areas, where they provided information on a range of terrorist activities, including drug smuggling and fuel laundering.

The decision to dump the agents has angered a number of Special Branch officers.

One retired police officer described the move as "premature and ill-judged".

"The CHIS's is an essential tool of Special Branch and MI5," said the ex-officer.

"The axing of some 300 sources, and the loss of the intelligence they provide, is a massive blow. Some of these people have been working for years."

A spokesperson for the PSNI said:

"While we do not comment on details of intelligence, the PSNI, like all police services, continually reviews its sources of intelligence to ensure they are fit for purpose."


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