Pat Finucane was offered to the UDA as an alternative to their first choice of target. They were more keen to kill Gerry Adams, but the security services directed them away from him, with someone pointing out Finucane as a higher-value target.
This is not a shock expose I am offering; it is information available from the de Silva report into the killing of Pat Finucane.
One of the unfortunate side-effects of the continuing deadlock over the demand for a public inquiry into Finucane's murder is that what has already come to light is undervalued.
David Cameron, as Prime Minister, in refusing a public inquiry, went some way to clarifying the horror of what had happened by inviting Sir Desmond de Silva QC to examine intelligence on the killing and to report on its contents.
What de Silva delivered is a shocking account of the collusion with paramilitaries by both the Army and RUC Special Branch (SB).
Geraldine Finucane, who was herself wounded in the attack that killed her husband, described the report as a whitewash.
That is a bizarre description of a document which tells us so much about the behaviour of the intelligence agencies, which illustrates how Special Branch wilfully declined to intervene to save both loyalists and republicans who were being targeted.
De Silva wrote: "My extensive research into the contemporary material leads me to the view that, when certain individuals were targeted, the reaction of the RUC SB was also influenced to a significant extent by whether or not the individual under threat could be 'traced' as a paramilitary on either side of the sectarian divide.
"This theme is evident in documents from throughout the period ... It was clear to me that steps were often not taken to secure the protection of those who were considered to be (as referred to in one intelligence document) 'a thorn in the side' of the security forces during this period of the Troubles."
The prelude to the killing of Pat Finucane was a sustained effort to kill Gerry Adams. Brian Nelson, a loyalist working for the Army, developed a plan to bomb Adams with a limpet mine attached to the roof of the black taxi that he travelled in.
The loyalists assumed that the cab was armoured, but that the roof might not be. The attack was to take place outside Housing Executive offices in Belfast.
The Army decided that it could not be allowed to proceed, not because they had qualms about loyalists committing murder. They did not, however, notify the RUC of the plan to kill Adams, but did the job themselves, flooding the area with a Tasking and Co-ordinating Group.
Nelson's plan was to arrive on a motorbike with the limpet mine, put it on the roof of the cab and clear off.
The logic for saving Adams was that, as a candidate in a general election, his murder would be viewed as interference with the democratic process. That would be bad enough.
If it got out that the Army had encouraged, facilitated, or looked the other way, that would lead to "adverse consequences"; a nice phrase for the arrest of the soldiers running Nelson.
In a previous attempt to save Adams from assassination, in 1983, the Army had arrived late and he sustained minor bullet wounds from weapons that some think had been weakened.
Now, the problem was Nelson. He was happy to work for the Army and get information on republicans from the Force Research Unit (FRU). De Silva says the Army rationalised giving this information to Nelson to direct the loyalists away from innocent Catholics, easy targets.
But they also knew that Nelson liked killing republicans and that he had been embarrassed by the failure of the limpet mine attack.
If a third attack on Adams failed as starkly, then he would come under suspicion by fellow loyalists of working against them.
Two years later, Nelson learned that the UDA planned to attack Adams and reported this to his handlers.
This time, it appears that someone in RUC Special Branch, which had not been trusted to protect Adams from the limpet mine attack, intervened to redirect the hitman away from him.
De Silva concluded that the intelligence which the UDA based its planning on was so similar to Special Branch filed information that it was probably drawn from it.
That intelligence said that Pat Finucane was an intelligence officer for the IRA and that he laundered money for them. De Silva believes that Nelson did not share this plan to kill Finucane with the FRU, because he needed an attack to succeed in order to preserve himself against exposure as an agent.
On a February evening in 1989, just a month short of his 40th birthday, Pat Finucane was shot 14 times as he sat down to dinner with his wife and children, when Ken Barrett and another UDA man slammed their way into his home and opened fire.
The RUC Special Branch daily intelligence book included the following note: "(L/28) claimed responsibility for Finnucane's (sic) murder ... he was an IO (intelligence officer) and had been seen with G Adams + other top PIRA at a meeting."
While the-then chief constable, Sir John Hermon, said that Pat Finucane was not a member of the IRA, Special Branch clearly believed he was and apparently allowed the killing to go ahead on the understanding that he was "a thorn in their side".
Brian Nelson explained to the journalist John Ware why he had been deflected from Adams to Finucane as the target. "They were going for Adams, but (L/28) was told - I don't know by whom - don't bother with Adams: Finucane is the man who really counts. He's the brains; he's the man who organises all the money to be laundered; he's the man who gives them advice. I assume that that came from the cops."
But did Special Branch really believe that Finucane was a high-value target? Or did they just think that, as a solicitor for captured republicans, he was disrupting their efforts to recruit spies?
The most sensitive moment in the process of turning an arrested paramilitary into an informer is when the solicitor approved by his organisation turns up at the prison to see him.
Perhaps these are questions that only a public inquiry could get to the heart of.