Part One: The 1970's

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PART ONE, THE 1970's


People attending leftist demonstrations and meetings as well as this years Trade Union Congress) might have seen a brightly-coloured A4 magazine, Searchlight on sale. Along with tabloid-style slogans and accompanying photographs, Searchlight's cover modestly bills itself as 'The International Anti-Fascist Monthly'. The magazine itself despite world-wide distribution has a maximum declared circulation of 7,000. Searchlight appears to break UK company law, by not submitting accounts : but that is the least of their infractions. Closely related bodies are the 'Searchlight Educational Trust' (a supposedly charitable body) and 'Searchlight Information Services', which sells stories to the media. The Searchlight team have never admitted to more than a dozen staff members, and present themselves as specialists in the relatively narrow area of racism / fascism. However in their chosen field Searchlight are very influential, in fact virtually monopolistic: barely a story on fascists printed in the UK newspapers has not got their paw-print on it, and the same (even more so) goes for TV documentaries on fascism. They have established links with nearly every anti-fascist intelligence publication in Europe (East and West), with dire consequences for the independence and integrity of the latter. Searchlight's political influence is also immense : they were rapporteurs, providing official and exclusive research back-up for the two European Parliament reports into racism and fascism in Europe.

Searchlight started life as an irregularly produced news sheet in 1965, involving among others two left-leaning Labour MPs (Reg Freeson and Joan Lestor). The first really interesting development however was the publication of an anonymous well-distributed and highly-libellous document 'The Monday Club - A Danger to Democracy' in 1972. (the Monday Club is a racist right-wing pressure group in the Conservative Party). No one has ever admitted to writing this, but the content and style is highly redolent of themes that were to be staple Searchlight stories throughout the 1970's and later. In 1974, Searchlight resurfaced in the shape of a one-off (quite good) pamphlet entitled 'A Well Oiled Nazi Machine', devoted to exposing then premier fascist group, the National Front, who had just obtained 3.2 % in the February General Election and were to get 3.1 % in October. Spurred on by this, Searchlight magazine was started in February 1975 and has contnued to the present day. The first editor was sometime sports journalist (and member of the Stalinist Communist Party of Great Britain hereafter CPGB) Maurice Ludmer. Ludmer died in 1981 and after a short inter-regnum in which a female academic (Veronica Ware) was in charge there have only been two editors since. For most of the time Gerry Gable (former CPGB member) has been at the helm, only stepping aside for a short time to allow TV journalist Andrew Bell to take temporary charge. [1]

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In what follows I cannot look at more than a fraction of the disinformation that spews forth both through the monthly magazine and behind the scenes. Nevertheless, the character of their operation will hopefully be revealed by centring analysis on some key episodes and the operatives involved. Since its foundation Searchlight has propagated three really major stories: 'Column 88' in the 1970's, the 'Notting Hill Bomb Plot' in 1981, and the 'Combat 18' story in the 1990's. The Column 88 and Combat 18 fantasies are the most interesting, both in themselves and for the parallels with each other. Of equal importance is what these stories and the activities of Searchlight operatives reveal about the organizations real agenda: spying on and disrupting the Left / Greens as well as running errands for various state agencies.


In May 1975, four months after their relaunch as a magazine, Searchlight entered the lists with their first major scoop. This was a detailed treatment of 'Column 88' (hereafter C88) described as a well organised Nazi group whose 'long-term objectives are to have their members in places of influence across the whole spectrum of the Right, from Monday Club to the National Front, and to slowly but surely make sure National Socialism is not only not forgotten but also hedges ahead bit by bit within these groups. [2] The only media coverage of C88 I have been able to find before this date are three articles in a local paper, the Western Daily Press in April, just before Searchlight's May issue went to print. [3] In content they are very similar to Searchlight, clearly derived from each other or some other common (secret) source. There is a major difference between the local press coverage and Searchlight though: while the newspaper explicitly stated much of their information came from 'a man helping Special Branch with their enquiries.' [4] this was not something Searchlight told their readers. Yet if Searchlight was a genuinely independent magazine, as opposed to a satellite publication, surely they would have told their readers the source of their story was a state asset. In April 1976 C88 hit the national headlines in a big way when it was revealed a unit had carried out joint military exercises with members of Britain's reserve (Territorial) Army in the Savernake forest a few months earlier, in November 1975. One source of these allegations was unquestionably Dave Roberts, Searchlight's

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first disclosed 'star agent'. [5] That Searchlight were not coy in trumpeting their own role 'exposing' C88 in this way is made plain in all the relevant newspaper articles. In the follow up issue of May 1976, Searchlight boasted of their 'scoop on the activities of Column 88 and a Unit of the Territorial Army ... the many stories that have resulted from Searchlight's research into the extreme right Column 88. [6]

At this time, Searchlight was extimating C88 membership as 'in the region of 200 - 300' and again describing 'the long-term aim of C88 to provide a highly trained and efficient cadre for a national socialist party of the future.' [7] Searchlight concluded by pompously stating C88 is a private army. It is illegal. There is no legitimate reason why it should be allowed to continue. [8] Roberts, like Gable another former CPGB member only 'came out' as an agent after he was caught in the act and convicted in March 1976 for trying to assault the staff of an Indian Restaurant after a botched arson attempt on nearby Communist Party premises in Birmingham. [9] His co-defendants, when it came to sentencing, issued (implausible) statements denying his involvement, leading to him receiving only a suspended sentence (later served for a public order offence). The facts of Roberts' presence and role are undeniable: without a police patrol stumbling across the scene he would never have been caught, and his co-defendants were so convinced he was as complicit as they were that one entrusted to Roberts the task of visiting his home address and removing documents for safekeeping. [10] Searchlight returned to the topic of C88 in May 1978, implying very strongly that contemporary attacks on Black, Left and Community bookshops were 'co-ordinated on a national scale ... Whatever the name used, C88 or 11th Hour Brigade; they all come from the same stable, with an interchangeable personnel.' [11]

These extracts don't quite do justice to the flurry of TV and other Media stories covering C88, nor the way the whole phenomenon captivated anti-fascists. As late as October 1980 a Searchlight written story in Left magazine The Leveller depicted C88 as 'by far the nastiest group ... thought to have 250 members organised into small cells .... Currently lying low, their potential more worrying than the reality.' [12] Without Searchlight's lurid 1975 coverage and subsequent follow up in April and May

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1976, there would not have been any national C88 story. This fact is of great significance, as we shall see. The other story Searchlight pushed with all their might at this time was a reprise of the themes in the anonymous 'Monday Club' document mentioned earlier: exaggerating the political clout of George Kennedy-Young (former deputy head of MI6) and various associated, the height of whose influence had been a failed attempt to take over the Monday Club in September 1973. Particularly noteworthy was 'The Men In The Shadows' issue (November 1976) crammed full of primary source material intended to illustrate 'the growing trend towards a military / political involvement on the right which bodes ill for democracy in Britain' (p4) It was thus MI6 connected initiatives or sideshows / irrelevant failures who attention was being focussed on. That this occurred while Ludmer was still the editor, and it was he who initially 'controlled' both Dave Roberts and Sonia Hochfelder (see below) makes me highly suspicious of his lack of integrity. A fitting epitaph for Ludmer is provided by the fact that according to Gable at the very moment he died Ludmer was on the telephone to a 'senior Special Branch officer' [13]

As we now know, the key murky secret state activity of the mid 1970s was MI5's efforts to use the situation in Northern Ireland to their own advantage, and even undermine Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson [14] MI5 did not make the slightest appearance in either of the Searchlight-hyped stories, which is a chilling omission. C88 never added up to much [15] and neither, frankly, did George Kennedy-Young and his friends. As I stated in 1993, 'by the Left (and media) concentrating contemporaneously on the agenda Searchlight were pushing ... the more dangerous strategies and personnel constructing them were left in peace unmolested. [16] Searchlight can thus, in the politically charged and volatile 1970s, be seen to have performed a very useful function as a 'distractor', diverting potentially prying eyes away from what was really going on.



Having built up C88 so much, indeed based their reputation on it, the admission by Searchlight concerning the group later on, in for example their 'Community Handbook' (1995) is nonetheless staggering. After two pages of an (as usual) error-strewn chronology of the far-right, they stated 'C88, the nazi underground group that existed from around the late 1960s until the end of the 1970s was a honey trap operation by British intelligence and should not be counted as a genuine far right

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or racist group' (Section 2.2-2). Shortly before, Searchlight had gone even further, claiming that 'Column 88 ... is now thought to have been an unofficial adjunct to the British section of the Gladio network.' [17] In January 1991, while still asserting C88 had been an 'underground fascist paramilitary organization' and not, therefore, a state operation as such 9p 6) there was an attempt to retrospectively tie C88 in with George Kennedy Young himself, saying that he 'and his close associates used organizations like Column 88 as a smoke screen for their more criminal plans.' (p3) Attacking MI6 in this general way (ie with little evidence) is yet another instance of Searchlight's predisposition towards their MI5 rivals, something we will have reason to return to. If we take their 1995 argument about C88 being a state 'honey trap' at face value, then if C88 was a state operation from start to finish, why did Searchlight not disclose this when it was relevant to do so: when it was actually functioning, or when George Kennedy Young was still alive to answer their allegations about his supposed involvement? By not blowing the whistle when it mattered, they themselves acted as 'unofficial adjuncts' and disinformers on behalf of this very same 'honey trap operation'. Indeed, without them, this 'honeytrap' would not have been able to function at all in the first place. If Searchlight had not existed, no doubt the secret state would have used, (or set up) some other conduit to hype C88 -- ie peddle disinformation. But the fact is the state didn't need an alternative outlet: Searchlight willingly did the job of selling C88 to the media Left & Right, and at the time were happy to take the credit. In the light of Searchlight's record on C88 alone, everything they say on the subject of security service involvement in fascist politics should be treated as disinformation, in no way as credible 'hard' information. The alternative charitable view, that Searchlight weren't aware at the relevant time of the nature / function of C88 hardly sees them as coming out better: they would be equally lacking in credence but merely naive as opposed to malign.


Was Searchlight's promotion of the C88 / George Kennedy-Young 'distractor' stories due to naivity or a more sinister motivation? An answer can be found by looking in more detail at some of their active personnel. Dave Roberts made no secret of the fact that after his arrest he passed a great deal of information to Special Branch. [18] There are only two logical reasons for him doing this: either he wanted a shorter sentence in his trial, or he wanted to enter into a working relationship with the state. These are not mutually exclusive options: once a 'relationship' with Special Branch (or MI5) is established, they have a hold over the individual concerned and it is difficult, if not impossible, to shake them off, especially as the public exposure of a past

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relationship is very harmful for any political activist to whom it applies. It seems probable that Roberts was already a state asset when the attempted arson occurred, most likely Special Branch. Indeed, Terry Liddle (ex husband of key 'team' member Daphne Liddle) referred to Roberts as someone 'reputed to trade information with Special Branch'. [19] Even if Roberts wasn't a state asset up till that point, after the trial he clearly felt himself bound to the state. How else to make sense of the assertion in Unity magazine (issue 1) by editor Daphne Liddle in 1977 that 'hours of tape recordings and hundreds of documents have gone to the authorities ... But since, we presume, a great deal of this material records fascist activity in, or with some organs of the state, Dave's lips are sealed.' (p7) Why, logically, should that have been the case: hardly the stance of a non state-compromised anti-fascist and self declared Communist, is it? Robert's release from prison in March 1978 hardly produced a lessening of his pleadings to a supposedly 'infiltrated' state to increase its own powers. Forewarned (issue 2 April 1978) also edited by Daphne Liddle quoted Roberts as calling 'on the authorities to arrest leaders of Column 88 ... under the Public Order Act and to ban all marches, meetings and literature. 'Only then', he added, 'could violence on a large and escalating scale be avoided.' (p 11) Calling upon the state and therefore the political police of all persuasions) to enhance its capacity to monitor and suppress political dissent, was something Forewarned never desisted from. [20]


There is no doubt about the allegiances of current editor Gerry Gable, who has always played a crucial role in the organization, and boasts privately that he has owned Searchlight since 1968. His first public media appearance was when he was prosecuted for breaking into the flat of right-wing historian David Irving in 1963. His defence counsel Ivan Lawrence (now chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee) said in mitigation 'they intended to hand over any documents or books they found to the Special Branch'. Rather damning don't you think? [21] In May 1977, when employed by London Weekend Television, he wrote a notorious (and he hoped confidential) document that has passed into infamy as the 'Gable Memorandum'. [22] In it, he outlined his spying on radical journalists in a celebrated press freedom case, which involved among others Philip Agee. He concluded with the memorable phrase 'I have given the names I have acquired to be checked out by British / French security services ... It is now

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a time of waiting for feed-back and also further checks here.' [23] Gable has never adequately explained away this Memo, unsurprisingly as it can only lend itself to the interpretation he is a true flunkey of the state, and a nasty one at that. In an exchange with me in the New Statesman letters column he admitted writing it and absurdly attempted to justify such by saying that 'if one is engaged in an area of journalism covering the exposure of the wrongdoings of Britain's security services, as I have been ... one will inevitably find oneself in situations where one has to speak to people from the areas one is investigating. [24] Certainly; but as the document makes crystal clear, he was not 'investigating' the secret state, but spying on the Left on behalf of the secret state, and has been doing the same (and worse) in the twenty years since, with considerable but not total success. On subsequent occasions, Gable has been almost as explicit in public about his cosy relationship with the state: a fawning profile in 1987 referred to the 'magazine's stories, gleaned from a wide range of contacts (including people in the secret services)' [25]

An extraordinary episode in 1986 shows just how much Gable is genuinely valued by his state contacts. In April 1986, under pressure because of an ogoing libel action by some Tory MPs against the BBC for a Searchlight sourced story on 'fascist infiltration' into the Tory party, Gable panicked. He printed a fictitious tale in that month's issue (p2-3) implying that a Tory MP involved in the libel action and others were planning to kidnap and murder him. In fact, they were only investigating him, and the 'harassment' described is far less than has been undertaken by Searchlight against anti-fascists such as myself (see below) Knowing the story was a fabrication to gain sympathy, Searchlight were careful not to name the MP supposedly concerned. They passed the story to Private Eye, who were rash enough to print the name (2/5/86) The MP concerneed and a business associate successfully sued Private Eye winning substantial 'undisclosed damages' [26] What is germane here isn't so much the lies, but how the 'plot news' was received. In the original Private Eye piece, Gable admitted discussing the matter with Special Branch. A more recent account by Gable associate Gary Murray with 'Mr Gable's kind permission' outlined that after hearing others were investigating him, 'Gable's next step was to speak with a friend in Special Branch who decided to arrange armed bodyguards to watch over him.' [27] Murray goes on to say that 'from there the matter was referred upwards, and when the police enquiries were concluded a report was given to Mrs Thatcher at a meeting in Downing Street and to Lord Bridge then Chairman of the Security Commission. [28] Just how could a

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supposedly anti-establishment journalist of Left-leanings, running a magazine with 7,000 circulation (maximum) have the political clout to get threats against him (real or invented) investigated by the Security Commission Chairman (an oversight body) and even the Prime Minister? The simple answer is that this kind of protection is not available to genuine radicals, but is forthcoming to prized state assets. [29]


A noteworthy and bizarre modus operandi of Searchlight operatives in the 1970's was the almost simultaneous infiltration of Left and Right-wing groups, as well as the passing of information from each side to the other to facilitate the circulation of 'hit-lists', including details of supposed former 'comrades'. Take, for example, the magazine Forewarned Against Fascism published between 1978 and 1981 by Dave Roberts and Daphne Liddle, the latter even today a photographer for the Searchlight 'team'. From issue 5 (November 1978) they began publishing 'hit-lists' of fascists, giving hundreds upon hundreds of names / addresses / work-places. This understandably upped the political tempreature, and the publication of these lists preceded those produced by fascists in Bulldog and South London News. [30] Issue 9 of Forewarned recognised the fascists hit-lists were probably a response to their own publication of such (April 1981 p 3) The point isn't that fascists needed hit-lists targetting them to act violently: they never have, the significance is that Forewarned, run at arms length from, but clearly connected to Searchlight (and their ultimate protectors) pro-actively took the initiative in pouring petrol on the flames of political violence. At the same time Roberts and Liddle were calling upon the state to increase its surveillance and powers of the very organisations whose members were intended to be the targets of attack and thus public disorder. While urging state intervention and publishing 'hit-list' made some political sense, the combination of the two simultaneously seems highly illogical. Looked at from the hypothesis that Forewarned was a state operation conducted at 'arms length' designed to escalate political turmoil and justify concomitant increased powers to deal with the same, these two positions make perfect sense. Starting in 1978 the Nazi League Review featured extraordinarily well-informed articles on anti-fascists under the pseudonym Heimdall (in Norse mythology a look-out for the gods) Issue 26 (August 1979) saw Heimdall helpfully giving fascists the home details of 'Anti Nazi League' Committee Members: a body to which Roberts had very recently narrowly failed to be elected. In the atmosphere of conflict then prevailing this was clearly intended to set those of them lacking police protection up for attack. Issue 27 carried an article by Heimdall which supposedly rubbished Roberts but which would

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have built him up greatly in Leftist eyes. This article printed personal details of many associates with whom Roberts had fallen out or never liked, and displayed a detailed knowledge of the arcane by-ways of Stalinist theory I've never seen matched before or since in any fascist publication. Significantly Heimdall left out Roberts then address, sagely informing readers that 'we shall of course inform our readers of Roberts' new address as soon as he finds one.' [31] They never did! A normally reliable source has suggested that Heimdall was in fact a codename for Roberts himself, which would make sense. Eventually, Roberts fell out with Searchlight and the August 1981 edition disowned him: but his work for them had been completed: they had concocted new fantasies for which he was no longer necessary. He died in June 1982.


The final 1970's 'team' member analysed here, Sonia Hochfelder, is today married to the editor of Searchlight, Gerry Gable, and was a co-founder in 1992 (later Executive Director) of the 'Searchlight Educational Trust'. Back in the mid-1970's she was in a tiny but militant Maoist group, the self-styled 'Communist Party of England-Marxist Leninist' (hereafter CPE-ML) Nothing remarkable in that, but while a student at Imperial College (London) she jumped ship in late 1974 and threw in her lot with the fascists, becoming the girlfriend of another student at the same institution, the well known Northern Irish fascist Steve Brady, about whom Searchlight (edited by her future husband) were to print all manner of lurid stories. [32] In March 1975 the fascist paper Britain First, produced by a National Front faction with which Brady was closely involved, reported on a 'National Front Students Association' meeting at Imperial College, attended by Richard Lawson and the late Dave McCalden as guest speakers [33] Lawson, a key fascist strategist from that time to this, was the editor of the paper. McCalden, some US readers may recall, was in charge of California-based revisionist outfit the 'Institute for Historical Review' between 1978-81 before he parted company with Willis Carto. Hochfelder, according to a well-informed source, booked the room.

On March 8th 1975, Irish Republican Sociaalist Party member Michael Adamson was shot dead at home in Belfast by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force [34]. Speaking of this murder, a letter from Brady to Hochfelder circa March April 1975 refers to CPE-ML members "apparently they had been carrying on a friendly correspondence with an IRSP student Michael Adamson, and the letters were

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discovered when the UVF Auxiliary Unit (ie 'Death Squad') officers searched Adamson's flat following an 'exchange of views' between the UVF and Adamson which the UVF men won with that most forceful and final argument a .45 calibre bullet! Rifkin, Rowe, Evans and Reakes have incurred the displeasure of UVF Brigade Staff over this; not a situation particularly good for the future health and prospects of the individuals concerned -- their activity in certain fields, such as politics, revolutionary mobilising of the glorious proletarian masses, eating and breathing may shortly be permanently discontinued." This was reproduced in Searchlight (May 1983 p3 / April 1992 p 6) In 1983 it was described as being written 'to another fascist', by 1992 it was now said to have been written to Andy Tyrie of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) a rival paramilitary grouping. This second attribution is clearly fictitious: a 1980 letter from Brady to Tyrie (that I have stated before was most likely passed via intermediaries from British Army Intelligence to Searchlight, a contention I stand by) clearly shows that five years after the Adamson letter Brady hardly knew Tyrie. Note also that Brady didn't feel necessary to give the full names of the CPE-ML members, who had clearly been discussed before. Brady was not exaggerating UVF hatred for the CPE-ML, first featured in their publication Combat January 1975. In July 1975 Combat referred to them as the 'most violent Communist organization in the UK' and confirmed Brady's reference to correspondence with the CPE-ML having been stolen from Adamson's home. CPE-ML individuals named were Adrian Rifkin, Paul Rowe and Alan Evans: three of those featured in Brady's letter. In May 1975 the UVF reminded Combat readers that Adamson had been 'a legitimate military target. He was a revolutionary socialist ... when the UVF executed Michael Adamson they were not engaged in a murderous act, they were simply eliminating a revolutionary terrorist who, one day would perhaps murder scores of British citizens.'

According to Searchlight in 1983 the letter was to be interpreted as 'showing his close knowledge of UVF violence.' [35] By 1992 we were told 'this extract ... shows how closely he is linked with the Ulster Volunteer Force Death Squads' [36] I see no compelling reason to set aside my 1992 opinion that this letter isn't hard proof of operational links between Brady and the UVF [37] but there are doubts now concerning this episode that weren't there before. These centre around subsequent research into the Adamson killing. A worrying aspect of the murder is the UVF claim (Combat May 1975) that letters were taken from Adamson's home 'some days prior to his execution'. This is more likely than Brady's assertion the letters were taken after the death, for Adamson was killed while the family home was being used for a wedding, and UVF gun-men staying to rifle the premises would hardly have gone un-noticed. It is reasonable therefore to infer that Adamson's correspondence was used to determine whether or not he should be executed in the first place. Burgling the residence so soon prior to his murder was intrinsically risky, and points to the strike against Adamson not being the result of their own intelligence-gathering but a consequence of information

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received from outside 'normal channels'. Holland & McDonald point the finger at the 'Official IRA' from whom the IRSP were a split, and they may well be right. [28] However there is another disturbing possibility worth airing. Was Adamson set up by someone in England, well aware he was in correspondence with prominent CPE-ML members? That would explain why the information had to be riskily checked out locally before action. In this light, a throwaway remark by Holland & McDonald that the UVF paying such attention to the CPE-ML was 'Loyalist naivety' (p57) can be viewed another way. The CPE-ML, small as they were, did play a highly visible and aggressive part in English anti-fascist street demonstrations. And in any event, it was the intention of some part of the secret state (such as Special Branch or MI5) to stir up political strife, exaggerating the significance of Republican-Leftist links and implying they were operational is a well-worn strategem.

If we follow Searchlight's stated position, that the above quoted letter really does illustrate Brady's links with 'UVF Death Squads', then it must also denote Hochfelder's links, and raises the question as to whether she transmitted information about the CPE-ML and their affairs (such as dealings with Adamson) to the UVF either via Brady or some other conduit -- a well informed source has stated that she was Intelligence Officer for the Nazi League of St George at this time. That such an obscure group as the CPE-ML appeared in the UVF's sights shortly after Hochfelder began consorting with fascists in late 1974 is hardly coincidental. The CPE-ML were of interest to the British state too: their 1975 conference was raided by police looking for weapons, who found some bullets. Such a raid is likely to have been a late phase in a state operation that would have started covertly earlier. Being Intelligence Officer for the League of St George almost by definition implies gathering information on Leftists, but might she have contemplated setting up former comrades for attack by disclosing nformation to the enemy? An answer can perhaps be found in the July 1975 edition of Britain First, which carried another article penned by McCalden, this time on the CPE-ML. It divulged members personal details (including addresses) that could only have come from someone with detailed knowledge of that tiny milieu. All four activists referred to in Brady's letter were fingered, three of them named previously by the UVF. Even if Adamson himself was not set up for murder by Hochfelder, the above matrix connecting her to Brady and McCalden (both from Northern Ireland) is highly suggestive of her knowing full well the implications of targetting Leftists in this way. The balance of probability has to be that despite being well aware (from private correspondence and the UVF's public pronouncements) of lives being in danger, Hochfelder passed CPE-ML details to McCalden nonetheless. Not until I had publicly made known to the Left her relationship with Brady and speculated in general terms about her 1970's activities in 1993 [39] was a very half-hearted attempt to paint her as an anti-fascist 'mole', with little believable detail. [40] A related article clouds the issue even further, describing her as 'an infiltrator in the BNP for several yyears.' [41]

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Yet the BNP wasn't founded till 1982, and she was involved with Brady / Nazism as early as 1974. Debate about the nature of links between Hochfelder-Brady and UVF / fascist / state targetting of anti-fascists can only now be carried forward by Searchlight fully revealing the complete text of the Brady / Hochfelder letter; the exact dating of which and comparison to information in the public domain would be most helpful.