House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
This is a
corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House.
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The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.
Sir Patrick Cormack, in the Chair
Mr John Grogan
Mr Stephen Hepburn
Dr Alasdair McDonnell
Mr Denis Murphy
Witnesses: Mr John Ware, reporter, Panorama and Mr Leo Telling, producer, Panorama, gave evidence.
Q40 Chairman: Mr Ware, could I on behalf of the Committee welcome you and your producer, Mr Telling. Thank you for coming, we appreciate your being here. As I explained to you briefly outside, there is to be a major vote in the House of Commons at 4.00, so we will try and conclude our questioning within the hour, and we will obviously want to ask you a lot of things about your film. We just refreshed our memories by seeing it again, and it is clearly a very important and graphic film. Now before we begin, is there anything that you would like to say by way of opening statement?
Mr Ware: I have drafted something which probably runs to three minutes, if you want to hear it.
Q41 Chairman: If it is three minutes and no more than three minutes, we would be
delighted to hear it. Last week in
Mr Ware: I will do my best, and if it feels like it is heading towards four, I will gabble. Sir Peter Gibson in our view provided confirmation of the heart of the programme, which was that GCHQ were monitoring mobiles of some of the bombers. He devoted 16 pages to intercept procedures, and we think that that, combined with some of the statements the Secretary of State has made both to Parliament and the BBC, where he has said in terms that there was intercept evidence, seems to us to amount at least to confirmation. He does not challenge our claim in his published report that the CID were not given the numbers of those mobiles that were being intercepted on the day of the bombing, or indeed any relevant mobiles in the lead-up to the bombing, nor does he challenge what one source told us, that there were four, perhaps five numbers, or that the product of this intercept was available within hours of the bombing. Our own view is that it is what he does not say that is perhaps even more important really. This is a highly circumscribed report, in our view. He does not explain why the CID were not told there had been intercepts. He does not explain why the CID were never given any numbers at any stage. He does not explain why the CID were left for nine months to trawl through phone logs from unclassified files from the telephone companies to make the connections which phones were speaking where and when on the day. Those were connections I am advised which the intelligence services could have made in pretty short order, I cannot say how short, a day, maybe less, because they have access to the names of the registered owners, and the logs as well. In other words, he does not address what in our view is without any question the nub of the programme, which was encapsulated in the title, "Omagh: What The Police Were Never Told". Indeed, I would say with great respect to Sir Peter he carefully avoids dealing with that central issue. I say that even though an ordinary member of the public reading his report would consider that is precisely what he has done. Paragraph 8, "... my terms of reference are not confined to GCHQ and I have investigated ... not only what intercept intelligence was shared with Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and RUC headquarters but also ... what sharing there was by Special Branch and RUC HQ with the police [that is the detectives] investigating the bombing." However, by the time we get to the penultimate paragraph, 31, it seems to me anyway there is a bit of a contradiction here, because Sir Peter says, "It was not part of the terms of my review that I should investigate, nor have I investigated, the reasons why Special Branch South acted in the cautious way it did, nor have I investigated the soundness of those reasons, although I do not doubt that Special Branch South took the actions it did for what it considered to be good operational reasons." The distinction in those two paragraphs, 8 and 31, may be lost on the ordinary reader. An ordinary reader could also be forgiven for thinking that but for Special Branch caution, whatever that means, and he does not explain it, the CID could have had any telephone number, any transcript, any tape recording, in fact anything they wanted from GCHQ but for the asking by their interlocutors, the Special Branch. But I do not think that is the case. I am expressing a personal view here, but it is because I have been involved in this subject for quite a long time. I hold no brief for the police, Special Branch or anybody else, I work for the BBC, I am an independent journalist, but I personally think it would be a travesty of history to record that the failings of this inquiry were ultimately principally at the door of the detectives. I think myself that the answer to why these numbers were not shared with the detectives has more to do with the protocols that existed within the intelligence services at the time. My guess is I am probably at three minutes and I have only got halfway through, so the rest will have to come in supplementaries.
Q42 Chairman: Thank you very much for that beginning. In your film, which, as I have said, we have seen again this afternoon, there are reconstructions as you imagine things to have been but there are certain things stated, as it were, as absolute fact. How do you know that the things that you state as fact in your film actually happened?
Mr Ware: There are things that we attribute to a source, and there are certain questions that we ask. If you want to pinpoint what particular passage in the script you are referring to, then I am able to help, but the programme was actually pretty carefully caveated. Certainly the section to do with whether the bombing could have been prevented, something we did not assert, is heavily caveated.
Q43 Chairman: But you do state that certain transmissions were made from certain phones or certain vehicles at certain specific times, and you are very exact about that. I am not saying that you are wrong, but I want to know how you are so sure.
Mr Ware: I think with respect to the times, they form part of an exhibit which the police have drawn up and refined over the years, drawn from the cell site analysis that the RUC and the PSNI refined, about what number was phoning and to which base station mast it was linked at the time of that communication episode. So that is one point. So far as, for example, extracts of what was said or words to that effect, like "bricks in the wall", or "crossing the line", those have come from more than one source. I am not going to get into sources, but they are sources that I am satisfied were in a position to know what they were talking about.
Q44 Chairman: But you state them in the film as fact. As you know, and as I know, there is fact and there is fiction, and there is what people sometimes call faction.
Mr Ware: I have not read the script for some time. I wonder if you could point me to a passage.
Q45 Chairman: I do not have a copy of your script.
Mr Ware: I have one here, I am sure you do not want to read it now, but anyway, I like to think I am pretty careful about attributing something which is potentially very controversial to a source without obviously naming the source. I am not sure there is anywhere --
Q46 Chairman: Would you please leave a copy of your script?
Mr Ware: I will have to send you one because this has a lot of sourcing in the left-hand column which I would not wish you to see, but I can certainly send you one.
Q47 Chairman: With great respect, we can ask to see persons and papers, and we would like to see your annotated script.
Mr Ware: I am going to have to take legal advice on that obviously. Come on, Sir Patrick, that is pushing it a bit. We normally do not reveal our sources. You must have talked to lots of journalists in your career and you would never have wished them to reveal their sources. I think you will find a pretty robust response from the BBC if you go down that line.
Chairman: Perhaps you could talk to our clerk about that.
Mr Grogan: Sir Patrick, I do not think we would all support seeing that.
Q48 Chairman: But we would like to see a copy of your script.
Mr Ware: You can have one.
Mr Grogan: Not the annotated script. Are we clear, Sir Patrick?
Chairman: We are asking for a copy of the script.
Mr Grogan: But not the sources.
Q49 Chairman: I am not asking for sources.
Mr Ware: My colleague tells me he has brought one. Here you are.
Q50 Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. You can leave that with us.
Mr Ware: It is unannotated.
Q51 Chairman: You will, of course, appreciate that there may well be things, having read that, that we wish to follow up on, because with great respect to my colleague, we are conducting an inquiry into this. We may well ask you for some supplementary information.
Mr Ware: I will do whatever I can, of course.
Chairman: That is something that is very important. Can I bring in Lady Hermon?
Q52 Lady Hermon: Thank you, Sir Patrick. Mr Ware, could I just cover three separate areas to begin with, I know that other colleagues want to join in the questioning subsequently. So the first area I would particularly like you to cover is what exactly has been the fall-out, if I can call it that, between the BBC and the government, following the broadcast of your programme last year? Have there been exchanges of correspondence between the Director General of the BBC and certain government ministers? Have there been arguments?
Mr Ware: There have been some communications between, I think, the Cabinet Secretary and the Director General.
Q53 Lady Hermon: Were you involved in that sort of correspondence?
Mr Ware: No, but I am aware of what took place.
Q54 Lady Hermon: Has it been difficult for you within the BBC since the broadcast?
Mr Ware: Quite the reverse.
Q55 Lady Hermon: Could you elaborate on that? Journalists have been supportive?
Mr Ware: Well, it is not just journalists. The editorial chain from the top down has been extremely supportive, because I have confided in them a great deal of the basis of this programme, and they have been very solid and supportive, they think it is an important programme, and obviously our response, which you have probably read, to Sir Peter has been through our legal department, has been through the editorial chain of command, and has the imprimatur of the BBC on it, not just me.
Q56 Lady Hermon: Would you like to add anything?
Mr Telling: No, I think that is absolutely right. There has been no suggestion from anyone at the BBC that we should not have broadcast the programme exactly as it was.
Q57 Lady Hermon: Thank you.
Mr Ware: I gather the Cabinet Secretary did say to the Director General the day before transmission, "Just a courtesy call, do not worry, this is not a Hutton", which was very gracious of him, but we do not see it remotely in the same category as Hutton. In fact, I would say the reverse is the case.
Q58 Lady Hermon: Thank you. The second area, and of course it is key to your programme, and key to Sir Peter's report as well, though not in any particular detail in the edited version, but it has been published, when you were just making your opening statement to the Committee, you mentioned at the very end and then stopped, you obviously have some understanding of why the telephone numbers known to GCHQ were not divulged to the CID. Why do you think they were not divulged to CID?
Mr Ware: I think we get a clue in Sir Peter's report, and the paragraph precisely escapes me, but from memory, I think it is 23, let me just double check that.
Q59 Lady Hermon: Yes, please do.
Mr Ware: Yes, there it is, 23. Sir Peter seems to me to be saying there that there was a very strict regime in place governing the dissemination of intelligence. In fact, so strict that it was not always possible to share the fact that an interception had taken place even with some sections of the Special Branch, never mind the detective officers, the ordinary CID. I say ordinary, they are not ordinary, I mean the CID. If you read the paragraph carefully, you will see there I think an interpretation of the 1994 Act and subsequently, which I think had been sort of echoed in the Interception of Communications Act 1985 and the one that reformed that, RIPA, which essentially says that nothing shall be disclosed to anybody if there is the remotest risk of getting into the evidential chain. So, therefore, not only were telephones not given to the CID, but the fact of interception was never disclosed to them. I summarise it as a doctrine of total secrecy, and no doubt there was a good reason for it at some stage, and there probably is a very good reason for it in lots of cases, but in this particular case, I would have thought that the demands of the criminal justice system I think would have been helped if there had been some relaxation of that doctrine, and I am expressing a personal view here, but as indeed the Chief Constable has suggested has taken place. He has referred to a different regime being in place, he mentions this, I think, in his letter to the Secretary of State, when Sir Peter Gibson's report was published, but I think therein lies the reason for why the detectives were not given, so to speak, the bullets to fire in the first place. I am aware of the criticisms of the CID, and I am sure a lot of them are justified. I note that Sir Peter refers to the Special Branch's caution, but the fact of the matter is, you have to ask yourself, why were the Special Branch so cautious, and maybe it was because they knew that if they went back to GCHQ and said, "Can we tell the detectives" -- I am not saying they did this, I do not know that they did this, but, "Can we tell the detectives that there were intercepts, can we give them some numbers?", because boy this would be a head start, you have got some numbers there that were engaged to a greater or lesser degree in this operation. A number, unless it is one of these Pay As You Go phones -- and almost all of the phones engaged in the Omagh bombing, there were 22 phones, I think, identified by the cell site analysis in respect of five linked incidents, were registered. The owners of those telephones and their addresses would have been available to the police within a very short time. There is no doubt about that. They have access, rightly so, to billing, and they could have got that from the Irish side, I am sure, with an event of this kind. Sir Patrick, if I have a number and it registers to Sir Patrick Cormack and it looks as if that phone has been in some way engaged in this operation and I am a police officer, I am going to knock on your door and if you cannot explain to me where your phone is or who you have lent it to, you are going to come with me to the cells until you do, hopefully. That could have happened. Do not take my word for it, ask some of the detectives who have been on this inquiry. That never happened. Sir Peter Gibson does not address that central question as to why that did not happen. All he does is cite the regime, without expressing a view as to whether it was the right regime for this particular act of mass murder, or not. He simply reports the doctrine that applied at the time.
Q60 Chairman: You are, of course, referring quite appropriately and properly to the version of Sir Peter's report, the published version.
Mr Ware: I am, that is true.
Q61 Chairman: Of course you are. You have not seen --
Mr Ware: No, I have not.
Q62 Chairman: Now Sir Hugh Orde, who obviously has seen the full version, seems entirely reassured by Sir Peter's report.
Mr Ware: In what respect?
Q63 Chairman: Well, he has gone on record, and we have it here, as saying that he does not believe that anything could have been done to prevent the bombing, and that there was no --
Mr Ware: He has, I noticed that, but Sir Patrick, he has said that, I do not know how hard he has been grilled on that.
Q64 Chairman: I think that is casting aspersions on a highly respected --
Mr Ware: No, I am not,
I am simply drawing a distinction -- I am not.
But what I am doing is I think you can also find, I cannot remember
where the reference is, that Sir Hugh has said that he has no dispute with the
conclusions of the Police Ombudsman for
Chairman: Yes, we will have a chance to ask Sir Hugh on a future occasion about these things.
Q65 Mr Murphy: But irrespective of the amount of material that was available to GCHQ, it would only be of any use at all if it was passed on, and even if it was passed on to, I presume then it would have been Special Branch South, which was in Portadown, they were not allowed to share that information with their colleagues in the North unless they sought permission from GCHQ, and then and only then, according to Sir Peter's report, could they pass on a sanitised version of that.
Mr Ware: That is right.
Q66 Mr Murphy: Which GCHQ were happy with.
Mr Ware: That was not the law, those were their protocols at the time.
Q67 Mr Murphy: I am merely posing the question, that it would be almost impossible, irrespective of the information that was held at GCHQ, unless the rules were relaxed, to know that information.
Mr Ware: I accept that, but the rules have subsequently been -- I do not know about relaxed, but changed, reformed, and that seems to be to me to be a recognition that the protocols in place at the time were not fit at least for the purpose of bringing to justice people involved in mass murder.
Q68 Mr Murphy: Sir Peter almost says that in his report.
Mr Ware: Why does he not say it? He spends a lot of time talking about Panorama. Why does he not say this? That is the question, with respect, you need to ask him.
Q69 Mr Murphy: He does concede that what was in place with GCHQ would actually prevent that information being passed on, so whilst he does not condemn that --
Mr Ware: He is not actually saying that, with respect. He is saying the Special Branch were cautious, they could have gone back to ask them, they never did. Well maybe the reason they never did was because they knew there was not a hope in hell of them getting an affirmative answer, but I do not know.
Q70 Mr Murphy: That is exactly what I read into that.
Mr Ware: But the point is that Sir Peter, with the greatest respect to him, leaves all this terribly opaque. He is happy to editorialise in respect of Panorama about a subsidiary issue --
Q71 Mr Murphy: I am not defending him.
Mr Ware: I know you are not, but you have given me the opportunity to make the point. He is happy to editorialise about the extent to which we have raised in my view a totally legitimate question about whether the bombing could have been stopped once we were satisfied, as we are and as we remain today, that there were intercepts, but he says absolutely nothing about the wisdom of those protocols, and the question is why.
Q72 Chairman: Well, the Committee may well have the chance to ask Sir Peter that.
Mr Ware: I hope you do.
Q73 Chairman: There are two essential issues here which are troubling the families of Omagh, and we saw them again last week. The first question is: could that bombing conceivably have been anticipated and therefore stopped? You are not saying that it could have been, you are raising those questions. The other question, of course, is why has it taken so long not to bring the right people to account, and you very properly included a clip of Sir Ronnie Flanagan saying that no stone would be left unturned. Well, however many stones have been turned or unturned, nobody has yet been convicted of this most appalling atrocity, and what we are seeking to do, in our brief inquiry, we met the Omagh victims, is to pursue these two issues to see whether we believe (a) that something could have been done to stop it, but (b) whether more could have been done to bring to justice the perpetrators.
Mr Ware: Yes, I follow.
Q74 Chairman: Those are our essential tasks and we are focusing on those tasks. Insofar as you can help us with them we are very grateful.
Mr Ware: I cannot help you as to whether the bombing could have been stopped. I have no reason -- Sir Peter is pretty clear it could not have been stopped. He has had access --
Q75 Chairman: And you do not challenge that?
Mr Ware: How can I challenge that? There are a lot of questions I want to ask about that, because I think again there are some, on the face of it, which may --
Q76 Chairman: I am sorry to pin you down, but it is very important that we do if we are going to conduct this inquiry. You are not in fact challenging, as I infer from what you say --
Mr Ware: It is a qualified unchallenge. OK? It's an unqualified challenge.
Chairman: Alright. Thank you for that, that is reasonably clear. I will bring in Mr Simpson, then Dr McDonnell, and then back to Lady Hermon.
Q77 David Simpson: We just do not have the time, John, to go into all the detail and
all the questions that we would like to ask, and I think the programme did
reveal a lot and a lot of concerns, and I think it raised a lot of issues,
but in relation to one point, do you accept Sir Peter Gibson's dismissal of
your assertion that the Gards in the South had warned the
Mr Ware: Mr Simpson, I do not entirely, and I can explain why. This is terribly frustrating because I cannot disclose my sources, but this source is a very reliable individual. This source was, so this source tells me, with the individual from the Special Branch who was made aware on the 14th that the Garda Siochana were concerned there may be something on the move. Now I have not seen a record of this warning, if one was given. I think there were at that time a number of warnings, the whole border was pretty jittery, as you will recall these dreadful bombings coming up through the Dundalk/Newry corridor, so everybody was very jittery, and how formalised, how confident this particular warning was, I simply cannot say, but I know what I was told, and I have been back to this source on a number of occasions. And I would just say this, that it is consistent with other things that I know about that were what I believe to have been known to the Gards at the time, and I want to make it absolutely clear, in no way am I buying into this business about Detective Garda John White, with which I am sure you will all be familiar. Nothing that has ever been said to me about the Garda Siochana Crime and Intelligence Branch allowing a bomb to go through has ever -- I think there are major problems with Detective Garda White's credibility in all sorts of ways, I just want to make that clear. None of this relates to that. However, in the course of my interview with Sir Peter, I did suggest a number of people that he might want to go and interview, one of whom I knew to my certain knowledge he had not interviewed, because in fact I had had a conversation with this individual, as it happened, a few days earlier. My understanding is he then did go and interview this individual, but according to this individual's account of his interview with Sir Peter to me, he did not ask him about 14 August. So for Sir Peter to say "there is no evidence whatever before me" is not strictly true.
Q78 Mr Hepburn: Then why did he not offer that information? Surely it was a crucial point. Why did the individual you are talking about, if he was being interviewed by Sir Peter, not offer that information?
Mr Ware: I cannot answer that.
Q79 Mr Hepburn: Do you not think it is strange, when you are saying --
Mr Ware: I suppose on the face of it, it is a bit strange, but I do not know what --
Q80 Mr Hepburn: Is he not saying one thing to one person and something different to another?
Mr Ware: I cannot help you. I mean, you may be sceptical, that is fair enough, but I know this individual --
Q81 Chairman: Mr Ware, we are trying just to get some helpful information. I respect you as a journalist, who is not a sensational journalist, but who tries to do a thorough and proper professional job. I also respect Sir Peter as a man of integrity. Now you saw Sir Peter and you had an interview with him. I am not asking you in public session to say exactly what you said to Sir Peter, of course I am not, but when you were talking to Sir Peter, did you in fact share with him some of your sources, so that he could talk to them?
Mr Ware: I did not share with Sir Peter any of my sources, but I have to say I do not think the way he conducted the interview with me was a very efficient way of dealing with the questions that he had, that is my personal view, because he gave me no forewarning that he was going into some depth about matters, some of which were pretty complicated, to do with algorithms and technical data about interception, and all of that. If I had been aware of that, I would of course have brought all my files with me and I was really at a bit of a loss --
Q82 Chairman: Did you not have the chance then to go back to the files and see him again?
Mr Ware: Well I did and I wrote, but he would not let me have a note of the questions, would not let me take anyone with me, would not let me have a note of his questions. The Private Secretary was taking notes, and I said, "Some of the things I cannot remember; if you give me a note of the questions, I will take them back and I will help you". No, he would not have it. I thought personally his approach was defective, to be perfectly frank. It is not the way I would have conducted research. His approach was adversarial, he was impatient. I am not the only person to express that view about the way he approached this matter. He may well, probably had, seen vast amounts of classified material that I never had. He may have had an absolutely well settled view about where the truth of these things lay, which I accept would entitle him to be a little brusque and dismissive, but he certainly was both of those, I can tell you.
Q83 Chairman: You saw him once?
Mr Ware: I saw him for two and a half hours.
Q84 Chairman: But on one occasion, you did not go back?
Mr Ware: On one occasion, and I then went back -- I was busy engaged on another programme, but I thought it was a very unsatisfactory way of having conducted an interview. It is not the adversarial element I mind, it is just that when you are trying to explain something, or as I often did, I said, "If you tell me what lies behind that question, I can help". "I am not here to answer your questions, Mr Ware". Well, okay. And I think to be perfectly frank, some of what he said, if I may say so, in his report, was -- I am trying to think of another word for disingenuous, I cannot instantly think of one, it will do for the moment, but he said in his report, if you remember, he drew a conclusion about "bricks in the wall", he said he was satisfied there was no such phrase issued in respect of Banbridge and therefore no benchmark, as it were, for those listening to have been alerted to the fact, if they had been listening live. That may be academic now, if we do accept the bombing could not have been stopped, but the point is, what he did not say, what I did not know then, because this was one error we made based on a source that made it in good faith, went back to the source, got it corrected, it was in fact Lisburn. I think it would have been helpful in his report to have said not Banbridge, but actually those words were used at an incident even before Banbridge, which is worse, if you think about it. But he does not say that. Why does he not say that?
Q85 Chairman: Just a minute, you are being a bit adversarial, in fact you are quite good at it. So I should think you and Sir Peter would make a wonderful pair together.
Mr Ware: I tell you, if I did that in the BBC, I would be up before our editorial complaints unit, and rightly so.
Q86 Chairman: Now look, let me just pin you down on this, because your very influential programme, an extremely well-made programme, if I may say, a very compelling programme, about the worst incident in over 30 years of Troubles, obviously caused not only interest but distress, not just in the province but throughout the United Kingdom, and beyond, in the Republic too. Now you do actually say in your programme very specifically this phrase "bricks in the wall". You categorically said it was Banbridge and then it was Omagh. Sir Peter does refute this --
Mr Ware: He does not refute the words were used at Omagh, I do not think he refutes the words were used at Omagh, or words to that effect.
Q87 Chairman: I am just concerned as to your getting into too much of a spat with Sir Peter, and therefore obscuring the real facts. You are absolutely convinced from information you got that this was in effect a code phrase that was used to herald a previous bombing and that was used at Omagh?
Mr Ware: That is what I am told, and I have been back to this source on a number of occasions. I believe this source, the source is a person of integrity, and in a position to know. I can do no more than that.
Q88 Chairman: And the source is not the person to whom you referred when my colleague Mr Hepburn challenged you a few minutes ago, is not the person to whom Sir Peter did not ask what were in your view the right questions?
Mr Ware: I am not going to get into that. That might identify him, and to that extent I have some sympathy with the intelligence services, because questions of that sort can lead to identification, so I cannot go there. Neither confirm nor deny.
Chairman: Fair enough. We may perhaps on a future occasion ask for a private meeting with you, but fair enough, this is on the record, so we take that for the time being certainly. Dr McDonnell?
Q89 Dr McDonnell: Thank you very much, Chairman. Thank you very much, Mr Ware. As someone perhaps not as well attuned to these things, but can you explain to me what the purpose of monitoring was if it was not to be acted on and to intercept bombs? What did they intend doing with this stuff?
Mr Ware: Can I say that is an extremely perceptive question, I genuinely mean that. Again, Chairman, I take your comments, I do not want to get into a spat with Sir Peter, you are absolutely right, let us stick to the more important issue.
Q90 Dr McDonnell: What I am really getting at --
Mr Ware: You are
right, he says, does he not, that the SB never highlighted any particular
number as being one to watch out for in respect of a potential bombing, Omagh
or anywhere else. He says something pretty
much like that. Now bearing in mind that
the Special Branch's purpose in those days certainly was to prevent first and
foremost a bang, that was their principal job, obviously to assist the
detectives wherever they could, but first and foremost, they were there to
forewarn and wherever possible provide information so the security forces could
interdict or disrupt, that was the way they saw their task, and you will see
that in Sir Dan Crompton's report. He
emphasises that that is the way. I am
sorry to bring Sir Peter back into it, but given that he does not deny numbers
were given, he just disputes the priority that they were given, it is, I quite
agree with you, hard to understand for what purpose other than the fact that when
these numbers were busy might the Special Branch have given them to GCHQ in the
first place. Presumably not so they can
listen to their
Q91 Dr McDonnell: Or to provide bedtime reading.
Mr Ware: Quite. If you get any of them in front of you, you may want to ask them. But I can tell you this for an absolute fact, and I am not going to get into sources again, but I sat down with an individual who claims to have made that request to GCHQ, and if I went back to this individual once, I went back to this individual on a number of occasions, and said: what do you mean when you say you expected you to be given a heads-up on this? What do you mean?
Q92 Chairman: Mr Ware, I may be wrong, I just want to clarify something for all our sakes. My understanding after the tragic business of Dr David Kelly was that the BBC did say that journalists should always check a source against another source. In other words, have two sources to make sure that they were not inadvertently putting forward something that was not necessarily the case. Did you check your sources against sources?
Mr Ware: That is not a precise reading. I played some part in the development of those protocols, as it happened, because you may not know this, but I made a programme about the BBC and the Gilligan episode and was highly critical -- unusually and unfashionably, I happen to agree with Lord Hutton's comments, and I said this Balkanised independent BBC said that the Director General had bet the farm on a shaky foundation, so believe me, I am not trying to suggest I am the oracle on sources, but I know how important they are. You are quite right, wherever possible. However, if the Cabinet Secretary tells you something, not that he ever does, but if he did --
Q93 Chairman: We would be so lucky.
Mr Ware: --- you would be entitled to say, well, you know, he is in a position to know.
Q94 Stephen Pound: I would certainly want it to be double sourced.
Mr Ware: Okay, bad example, but you take the point. There are circumstances in which sources, if you are satisfied they are in a position to know something, you can rely on them. It is always better to have them double sourced, and in some cases, and I must say, in many respects, much of this was not only double but triple sourced actually, but there were one or two bits of it which were single sourced, but they were only in cases when I was satisfied the person was in a position to know.
Q95 Chairman: "Bricks in the wall" was single sourced or double sourced?
Mr Ware: Negative. It was more than one source, believe me.
Q96 Dr McDonnell: Is it your hypothesis that some of the hypersensitivity was related to cross-border monitoring?
Mr Ware: I do not know.
Q97 Dr McDonnell: I am still trying to get my own head round why GCHQ should be doing all this monitoring and not doing anything with it.
Mr Ware: To be fair, GCHQ are worker bees. They are set tasks, as I understand it, and they are a service provider. They are not there to analyse this and that and the other, they provide the coverage. My understanding is, and this is very well sourced, that as the dissident campaign developed, the Special Branch got extra funding for interception of a very significant number of telephone boxes, in fact most boxes, I think, in the area where most of the bombings were happening. Special Branch's intercept ability stops at the border, they are not allowed to operate south of the border. Obviously GCHQ does have that capability. There came a point where Special Branch got a lead on one or more numbers, and they gave it to GCHQ, you know, if I am calling you and you are calling someone else, they can do all that stuff much more quickly than the ordinary SB system. So you develop a matrix about who is talking to whom. And that was the assistance, as I understand it, that GCHQ were providing. But as you rightly say, what on earth would the point have been of Special Branch asking for this service if it was not to do what the branch did principally, which was to prevent, disrupt and interdict? The inference I draw from Sir Peter, and it may well be right, really, is these guys simply did not prioritise it enough. They said, "Keep an eye on those numbers", but they did not say, "Look, we really do think that this one is worse than that", or something, I do not know.
Q98 Dr McDonnell: Has your evidence strengthened since the programme? Have you reinforced any of the evidence along those lines around this?
Mr Ware: I have heard nothing, quite the reverse actually, quite the reverse. Because when you get a report like this, that sort of basically says you have got it all wrong, or much of it, you think, blimey, have I? It is quite shattering. So of course I went back to some sources, and nothing has changed, nothing, nothing at all.
Q99 Lady Hermon: There are two areas that I am particularly interested in, and completely baffled about. I am deeply distressed, very deeply distressed that the detectives spent, according to your programme, some nine months trawling through telephone records. GCHQ had monitored at least five mobile telephones. Am I right in thinking that in fact the information, certainly the number of one of those telephones had also been connected with a previous bombing in Banbridge, is that correct?
Mr Ware: My information is that the Colm Murphy mobile - well, it is not just my information, it is a matter of public record now - if we can refer to it as the 585 Murphy mobile, played a co-ordinating role in the Banbridge bombing precisely two weeks before. My understanding is that cell site analysis had been done which identified that telephone as having been involved. I do not know that that telephone number was given to GCHQ to monitor, I do not know that. I do firmly believe, in fact I know, that a telephone call from a telephone box which was being monitored, and where they went through a series of dry run warnings, did connect with the Murphy mobile, and that alone -- hindsight is a wonderful thing. We are getting into maybe too much detail here, but the devil really is in the detail of all this. The answer is I do not know whether GCHQ were monitoring that phone. I believe they probably were, but I do not know. They should have been, but I do not know, and it depends whether they were given the number by the Branch in the first place.
Q100 Lady Hermon: Do you actually believe that the information about the telephones was withheld from detectives in order to protect sources?
Mr Ware: Do I believe it, or do I know it?
Q101 Lady Hermon: Both questions. Do you believe it, do you know it? Do you know it?
Mr Ware: I do not know it.
Q102 Lady Hermon: But you believe it?
Mr Ware: I do not believe anything unless I have proof.
Q103 Chairman: Well, you did not have absolute proof of many things that you said in the film, and you said them in totally good faith, I accept that.
Mr Ware: I do not believe it unless I have had a silent click in my head. I have not had a silent click in my head on that.
Q104 Chairman: So you cannot give an affirmative to either --
Mr Ware: No, I cannot. And as a matter of fact, I have totally avoided speculating on that, because you could make a circumstantial case that that may have been the case, but it may also not have been the case, and I do not know the answer to it.
Q105 Lady Hermon: Have you also been told that the car that was involved in the horrendous dreadful bombing in Omagh was bugged, do you have that information?
Mr Ware: I have no information as to that. There were suspicions that may have been the case, but I have no information to that effect. In fact, there was a sweep of the debris, I think the second time around, to double check whether that was the case, and nothing was found.
Q106 Lady Hermon: Nothing was found?
Mr Ware: Nothing was found. That does not mean to say if it was, it was destroyed in the explosion -- I just do not know. That arose from the essential one-sided nature of the conversation. But if I can just finish, Sir Patrick, because Lady Hermon asked an important question about the Murphy phone, as I say I do not know for a fact that the Murphy phone was one of the phones being listened to, but I strongly suspect that it was. The reason I strongly suspect that it was is because the words "crossing the line" are as I understand it uttered consistent with the time that the phone logs say the convoy was crossing the border, and those two cars, without any question, contained the Murphy phone and another telephone, the bomb car phone and the scout car phone.
Q107 Kate Hoey: Behind all of this, of course, there are the many grieving families that we have met and you have obviously met. Did it upset you that Sir Peter and Shaun Woodward almost implied that you had been leading the families on, and this whole thing had led them to feel --
Mr Ware: I will be
frank with you, I thought it was not only unworthy, I thought it was totally
unwarranted. What especially upset me
was the fact that I went to considerable lengths - I know the Secretary of
Q108 Chairman: Did you show them the programme?
Mr Ware: No, of course not. We do not show programmes in advance, they did not need to see the programme in advance, I would submit, because the e-mails and letters I sent made it absolutely clear where we were going. They said, "We are not getting involved in all this". The question I would respectfully suggest you might wish to ask members of government if they come is: why, if they have said what they have now said about the bombing, and what could not have been stopped, could they not have briefed us then? We work for the BBC, we are responsible journalists. I do not want to lead people up the garden path, but in any event it is quite clear that the relatives do not feel that, and they have made that clear, and Sir Peter has ignored all of that.
Q109 Mr Hepburn: What about the headline, "The words that could have saved Omagh"?
Mr Ware: I do not write headlines.
Q110 Kate Hoey: He did not write the headline.
Mr Ware: You are referring to the Telegraph. I did not write the headline.
Q111 Kate Hoey: I think you wrote and asked for a rebuttal, you have not received anything from government on that, they have not withdrawn the suggestions?
Mr Ware: No.
Q112 Kate Hoey: Just one final point. In sitting where you are and in sitting where we are, we equally sometimes feel as left out of knowing what is going on, and various things.
Mr Ware: Do you? That is dreadful. You are only Parliamentarians.
Q113 Kate Hoey: What do you think we should be doing now, because clearly Sir Peter has produced a report which knowing even what we know, in my view, is not a report that I think should close the door. I do not think it has answered the very serious allegations that were made by your programme. What do you think should happen now?
Mr Ware: Well, if we just take it from the point of view of the families, I cannot speak for them, any more than I am speaking for anybody, but I think the thing that has eaten away at them actually is a lack of openness actually. They are immensely touched that the Prime Minister met them and took an hour of his time to meet them, and brought all those very senior people over, and I think they were genuinely touched by that really, because the Prime Minister is someone who genuinely feels this kind of pain for people like them, I think that really mattered to them. I personally think, the question I would like to know, because I still do not know the answer, is whether I am right when I say that it was the doctrine and the protocols that applied at the time which prevented as I say the bullets being given to the detectives. I would like to see whether an official or a minister would acknowledge that, and I think myself that if one or other did do that, I think that would actually go a long way, because it would be a kind of act of contrition to the families. It would not solve everything, but it would be an acknowledgment that the culture and the processes at the time were not fit for that purpose, investigating the worst atrocity of the Irish Troubles, and I think that would really help.
Chairman: We are moving towards the end. Mr Pound?
Q114 Stephen Pound: An act of contrition is entirely appropriate at this time of year, but can I just ask you a question about the technology? One of the key issues to me is whether there was live monitoring, and whether there was locational and directional analysis that could certainly have been intensely helpful. We are told on the one hand that such technology did not exist in 1998, and we are told on the other hand that it did. You had an expert on your programme saying that he felt that the technology did. We have been told through the prism of Gibson that it did not. You are a professional in this medium. Can I ask your personal opinion of whether you feel that technology was in existence at the time?
Mr Ware: I am going to rely on Sir Peter for this, because actually again buried away is an interesting admission, I think. He refers to the fact that you can get near live monitoring of conversations, and I think what that means is, as I understand the system, if he gives evidence before you he will no doubt correct this, but I think the way it works is once a telephone has been involved in a bombing, it is plugged into the system and if it is priority 1, 2 or 3, depending on how serious it is, different lights light up. The system is then interrogated, headlines are dashed off and whizzed off by fax or whatever to the customer, Special Branch. So there was that capability. As to positioning or not, this is what Sir Peter says, and I think the paragraph is 31, and he says this: "Information on the location of a mobile telephone only existed within the mobile phone network in respect of 'communications events' -- when a phone was switched on or off, or during a call, for instance -- and even then would have been limited to information about the cell (the area covered by a particular mast) in which the phone was active." So that seems to me to be acknowledging that there was the facility to give broad locational information. Now how broad depends on topography, depends on whether the system was digital or analogue, as I understand it, but there is an admission from the oracle, so to speak, that that ability was there.
Q115 Chairman: But you have to read the next sentence also, do you not, "It is clear therefore that no intelligence or security agency or law enforcement agency did see or could have seen what was suggested by the Panorama programme in its representation."
Mr Ware: Sorry, with respect to Sir Patrick, Mr Pound was asking me about the technology, not what actually happened on the day, I think.
Q116 Stephen Pound: Can I just say, I am sorry, I do not want to deconstruct this, but the words that Sir Peter said described a phone that was either on or off or in use. I cannot think of any other status that a telephone could have, other than being on, off or in use. What is your interpretation of that? It could be smashed, I suppose.
Mr Ware: If you are on a bombing run, why would you turn it off? The whole point of having a scout car is to check that there are not any VCPs or security forces ahead, so you would not turn it off, would you?
Q117 Stephen Pound: How can a phone be other than on, off or in use? Surely those are the only --
Mr Ware: There is this make to break --- Leo is more expert on this than me.
Mr Telling: From our conversations with Greg Smith, who was our expert, this is all from unclassified sources, the phone will check into the mast periodically to say, "Hello, here I am, which is my nearest mast, have I still got a signal", and you can look at your phone anywhere you like and you see the strength of the signal and which network you are connected to. Now the phone has to check into the base station, the mast, periodically to make sure it is still connected to a network, and it does that quite regularly, and every time it does that, that information is logged within the mobile phone system. So it is possible to actually track the phone while it is on.
Dr McDonnell: But the other point about on, off or in use is sometimes it is on but not functioning because there is no mast to connect with.
Chairman: Mr Grogan, a very quick question.
Q118 Mr Grogan: Just one quick question. It seems to me that reading the published version of Sir Peter's report, there is only one point when he challenges the central thrust of your programme, when he says that there was an all source intelligence picture briefing on 20 August from Special Branch South to the CID investigation team. Would you comment on that? Do you believe that that ever took place?
Mr Ware: Yes, a briefing of some sort did take place. He may have talked to the same people I have spoken to, he has certainly not spoken to some of the people I have spoken to, because I have asked them, but my understanding, based not just on recollection, let me put it like that, is that a briefing did take place on 20 August. I am not suggesting other briefings did not take place, but the one that seems to matter was the senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Houston was briefed by the SB responsible for the Omagh area, north region, and Houston then briefed Anderson, and there is a reliable account of what that briefing involved, and it did not involve any of the names that subsequently were tipped up to the detectives.
Q119 Chairman: The division bell is ringing and I am obliged by the practice of the House to bring this session to a close, but can I thank you and Mr Telling for coming. It is very possible that we will wish to follow up on some of these things, possibly with another session, maybe with a session with you in private, but thank you for coming, and we shall look forward to our further sessions on this with other witnesses too.
Mr Ware: Thank you.