Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Letter on the Colin Wallace affair (was misled)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: The Times, 1 February 1990
Journalist: Nicholas Wood and Michael Evans, The Times, reporting
Editorial comments: Item dated from evidence of article.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 397
Themes: Northern Ireland, Security services & intelligence

Black propaganda in Ulster

Thatcher: ‘I was misled’

The Government yesterday launched a second investigation into the Colin Wallace affair after the Prime Minister admitted she had been personally misled over the existence of a black propaganda operation by security agencies in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

The Ministry of Defence will investigate how confidential papers about the duties of the former senior Army information officer went missing and were not brought to the attention of ministers when they denied the operation.

A Commons statement on the affair will be made today by Mr Tom King, Secretary of State for Defence, with the Labour leadership urging the intervention of the Commons select committee on privileges and with some MPs pressing for a wider inquiry. Yesterday details began to emerge of how officials belatedly unearthed two documents relating to the Clockwork Orange propaganda campaign in which Mr Wallace was involved. They were uncovered by an MoD official as he searched through the archives for job appointment application records.

Previous searches had failed to uncover any reference to Mr Wallace 's claimed role in psychological warfare operations. That was because officials had only examined Mr Wallace 's personal file.

The Prime Minister was one of those ministers caught out by the failure to make wider searches. She said yesterday in a letter to a Tory MP that an examination of departmental papers had brought to light information that showed a number of statements in her letters and in other ministerial statements and official correspondence were incorrect.

“Inquiries are being made to establish how these errors in the handling of departmental papers occurred.”

The Times has learnt that during a cross-checking of general files that listed a whole range of jobs in Ulster, the official came across a document referring to Clockwork Orange, which recorded an oral description given to Mr Wallace of a covert role he would be expected to play. Another document said he would be expected to give unattributable briefings to journalists.

Mr Wallace, who was dismissed in 1975 for leaking a restricted document, has claimed that he was victimized because he exposed dirty tricks.