In January 1994 complete details of a conversation I had with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams were reported some of it verbatim in the London Sunday Times owned by Murdoch.
Clearly someone was hacking or wiretapping the phone of Gerry Adams.
Was it you Rupert?
It was a fraught time. The decision on whether the Clinton administration would give Gerry Adams a visa to come to America was just about to be decided.
The British media was in an uproar. A New York Times editorial that previous day recommending a visa had sent them into a tizzy
I knew we were very close to getting it after years of effort.
As the person negotiating between the White House and Adams on the nature of the visa or whether it would be be granted I was in the thick of it.
I wrote about this in my memoir ‘An Irish Voice’ as did journalist Conor O’Clery in his book ‘Daring Diplomacy.”
I felt sure at the time it was British intelligence who were listening in now I’m not so sure it wasn’t one of Murdoch’s minions.
Certainly the fact that it ended up in The Sunday Times is proof that the two were pretty much in collusion with each other whowever was doing the tapping.
They tried to disguise the conversation when they published it by saying it was between Adams and White House National Security official Nancy Soderberg.
But that was impossible, the White House was refusing to deal directly with Adams at the time which was why I was involved.
They detailed a very strange conversation. Adams was on the cusp of winning the visa but then came an incident right out of MI5s dirty tricks book.
A San Diego British store reported receiving a bomb threat from the ‘American IRA’ if Adams did not get the visa.
It was a complete head fake by the dirty tricks boys an attempt to have the visa decision turned on its head at the last moment.
Amazingly it almost succeeded. I was told my task was to convince Gerry Adams to apologize for the incident and denounce this American IRA group.
It is an example of what pressure people were under in The White House that this particular hoax got as far as it did.
I was told in no uncertain terms that the visa was there for Adams but he just had to deny and condemn this incident.
Adding to the drama Senator Edward Kennedy called at the same time and told me I had only to convince him and that the visa was certain to go ahead. No doubt that was recorded too.
So it was I found myself gingerly dialing Adams in his West Belfast home at about 2-00 in the morning his time.
He was surprisingly good natured and not at all surprised that the British were up to some games as usual.
But apologizing for a nonexistent IRA unit in San Diego was a hard hurdle to get past.
We spoke at length and he eventually agreed to issue a statement.
In the pre-internet age I had to rush to my office to my fax machine and get his statement, then fax it out to the media.
It was a surreal scene, trying to convince newspapers to take a report about a fake event that they knew nothing about.
Eventually my colleague Conor O’Clery of The Irish Times came to my rescue and gave me the number of a wire service reporter who would carry it.
That saved the day and the Adams denunciation of the ‘bombing’ was carried to the satisfaction of The White House.
A few hours later the White House issued the Adams visa, one of the turning points in the peace process.
And the Sunday Times man listening in on the line or patched in by M15 got his verbatim non-scoop a few days later.