MI5 officers tell terror trial how they planted bug in Belfast house
MI5 planted an audio recording device in a west Belfast house where an alleged drug dealer was interrogated and threatened that he would have his "legs blown off with a shotgun".
But a Security Service witness refused to tell Belfast Crown Court yesterday whether or not the device was "covert'', saying it could "damage national security''.
The MI5 technical officer was giving evidence at the trial of four men accused of a number of terror charges, including IRA membership.
The four defendants are 52-year-old Dunmurry men Mark Gerard Heaney and Daniel Joseph Anthony McClean, both of Lagmore Gardens; and west Belfast men Kevin O'Neill (62), from Coolnasilla Park south and Robert Warnock O'Neill (41), of Bingnian Drive.
All are accused of IRA membership between December 2013 and June 2014 and conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm on a suspected drug dealer.
Heaney and Robert O'Neill face separate charges of possessing a firearm with intent and under suspicious circumstances. McClean is also charged with collecting information on drug dealers and falsely imprisoning a suspected dealer.
Kevin O'Neill alone is also charged with possessing articles useful to terrorists, including an imitation firearm, camouflage jackets and black gloves. These were allegedly uncovered during a search of his home following his arrest in June 2014.
The four deny all the charges.
On the opening of the trial earlier this week, the prosecution told Judge Patricia Smyth that the recordings were made between December 2013 and May 2014.
In one recording, it was claimed, a suspected drug dealer was threatened that he would have his "legs taken off with a shotgun" if he did not provide information on other alleged dealers.
A prosecution lawyer said that during his 41-minute ordeal, the man was told by one interrogator he would not think twice about putting him in a "body bag, or an open or closed coffin" and again threatened that he was a "hair-trigger away of getting your legs blown off".
Yesterday, the prosecution called 'PIN 3572' to the witness stand, which was screened off from the court with a dark blue curtain.
A brown envelope he brought to court was handed to Judge Smyth which confirmed his identity.
During questioning by the prosecution, PIN 3572 confirmed he was a "technical officer with the Security Services''. He also confirmed that on a date prior to December 16, 2013 "I installed an audio device at a property at Aspen Walk'' in Dunmurry.
The witness said during the installation of the device, he was accompanied by another technical officer along with "team leader PIN 4758''.
Defence barrister Jon Paul Shields asked the witness: "This was a covert device?''
PIN 3572 replied: "That answer could damage national security.''
The prosecution called the second witness, 'PIN 4758', who confirmed his identity to the judge.
He was asked: "In relation to this case, what did you do?'
PIN 4758 replied: "I was simply the team leader for this case.''
Defence barrister Jonpaul Shields asked the MI5 officer: "If I was to ask you any questions about the device, the technical specifications, are you in a position to answer those questions?''
He replied: "I'm afraid I can't."
Belfast Crown Court also heard from a third MI5 technical officer who was given the cypher 'PIN 4126'.
He confirmed to the prosecution that he was present on a date before December 16, 2013, when the audio device was planted at the house.
PIN 4126 told the court that on a date after May 7, 2014, he returned to the property with an MI5 colleague, known as 'PIN 1004', to "extract the audio material''.
Under cross examination, PIN 4126 was asked: "So you were the only person involved in both the installation and extraction of the device in question?''
The witness replied: "Yes.''
The MI5 officer was asked what happened to the device after it was extracted. He replied: "It was taken by myself and then passed over.''
Asked who it gave it to, PIN 4126 answered: "I can't name that person.''