Reiss casts light on cable leaks

By Susan Falvella Garraty

Washington, D.C. --- The U.S. diplomat at the center of State Department cables posted on the WikiLeaks website claims in an Echo interview that that the U.S. had no evidence to show that Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness had advance knowledge of an Irish bank raid in 2005 that netted thieves an historic amount of cash.
Mitchell Reiss, the former U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland under the George W Bush administration, also says there should be an inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane.
The original February 4, 2005 cable labeled "SECRET" shows the redacted name of a senior Irish government official who spoke to then American ambassador to Dublin, James Kenny.
Stated the cable: "He said the GOI (Government of Ireland) has no smoking gun or hard evidence but that the GOI considered it 99 percent certain that IRA conducted the robbery," and that there was 'rock solid' evidence that McGuinness and Adams knew of the heist in advance."
Other cables describing the implications of the December, 2004 Northern Bank robbery, which netted more than $40 million, describe a meeting between then taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Reiss in which Ahern assured Reiss the Provisional IRA was behind the crime.
"I believe the taoiseach believed what he told me," recalled Reiss in the interview.
"This was the taoiseach speaking. The cable doesn't give you my opinion. I certainly had no evidence whether these men were complicit or not.
"Governments often have information about illegal activities that they decide not to prosecute for a variety of reasons. Many is the time you have certain individuals who are in a peace process, therefore you decide not to pursue these issues. It could be, in some cases, that they're actually on the payroll as we know some senior IRA people were. There's no evidence that Adams or McGuinness was, but we know that others were," Reiss said.
The "Irish" cables additionally indicate widespread concern of U.S. British, and Irish officials over a long simmering issue: the death of Patrick Finucane.
Reiss said it was his request that prompted the then head of the British intelligence service MI5, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Butler, to offer its files on the murder of Pat Finucane as detailed in a June 1, 2005 cable labeled "CONFIDENTIAL."
"MI5 at my request was willing to put all of its information at the disposal of the public," Reiss said.
"There was a sense that there was nothing on MI5's part that it had which showed that institution in a bad light. I also think they probably wanted to draw a line and get this information out there."
Reiss thinks an inquiry is long overdue.
"This is such a famous case and it stirs so many emotions that I think it's probably in the best interest for there to be an investigation and I would certainly encourage the British to be as forthcoming as possible."
Reiss noted that there were other cases worthy of outside investigation. He cited the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, the murder of people whose bodies were never recovered, and the 2005 murder of Robert McCartney.
Reiss left the Bush administration in 2007 for the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he was the diplomat in residence. Earlier this year, he became the president of Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

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