Agents of Influence by Dr Aaron Edwards – my view

Agents of Influence by Dr Aaron Edwards – my view

Agents of Influence by Dr Aaron Edwards – my view

by Philip Ingram MBE

I’m from Northern Ireland and grew up through the Troubles, I’m also a former senior officer in British Military Intelligence, who has never served in Northern Ireland formally in that role, I have served there in the mid 1980s in other roles. I think I know the place.

When I opened Dr Aaron Edwards book Agents of Influence, I was expecting lots of new stories and juicy insights exposing stories of agents in the republican movement that would leave me surprised and smiling, I started disappointed.

I was disappointed because my initial impression was that the book was a repetition of cases that had already been published elsewhere as I have read a lot of books about the Troubles and more are being published exposing the penetration of different terror groups by the Army, MI5, and the police on both sides of the border.  Then it struck me, and I had one of those growing smiles inside that said to me, wow, this book is very very clever.

Whether you have served in an intelligence role in Northern Ireland or not, one thing is certain, as an intelligence officer you will have heard the stories.  Stories shared furtively over a nod and a wink in the bar, or at a Regimental dinner, or whilst whiling away the hours wasted waiting for the RAF to deploy you on operations or bring you home, or in Land Rovers in operational theatres traveling long distances in complete discomfort, conversations between those who have been there in a HUMINT role, part of the unit referred to by letters only and oft confused with others,  by those who want everyone to see them as a breed apart from other intelligence personnel,  better, more warrior like, but they love to tell stories.

Over the years, little bits of the stories from different people add up to a better understanding of the picture, that is intelligence, and there were only a finite number of storied worth telling from Northern Ireland. The other thing about piecing the elements of the stories together, is you quickly recognise the embellished bullshit from the furtive reality. It is human nature, people like to talk and tell stories, even agent handlers.

Agents of Influence is one of the most cleverly put together telling of those stories, with the detail carefully weaved around other accounts already in the public domain, but much of it is new and the research behind it is exceptional. When that realisation hit me, this book took on a whole new meaning. Aaron Edwards has masterfully integrated stories about agents I only heard snippets of in the Bar and elsewhere, bringing them to life but without compromising them, as many are still in their communities either ‘stood down,’ effectively retired from crown service, or still active and reporting on activities, political, paramilitary and or criminal within their communities. The links between them remain strong.

His book gives a very clear understanding of the ways the different intelligence organisations worked and the often-differing priorities and the seeming lack of coordination in many cases, that I know is accurate.  He describes the way those in the Republican movement who wanted a political settlement were encouraged, almost assisted and oft rewarded and how it was probable that elements of the Republican movement used the security forces, and relationships they had with them via agents of influence, to interdict those in the movement who wanted nothing but violence or refused to follow more moderate ambitions.

What is very clear from his detailed research, not just with those who ran the agents, the handlers, but many agents themselves, is the level of penetration there was across the republican movement both within their paramilitary units and their political structures. What he didn’t have to say but is clearly implied, is those individuals are still within their communities today.

There will always be a debate as to just how penetrated the republican movement was (and still is) with the Republican movement claiming much of what is in the public domain is an exaggeration.  The reality is as Edwards suggests and I know, is what is in the public domain, including Edwards’s insights, is merely the tip of the iceberg.  This is a fantastic read with excellent insights!


You can get the book thought Amazon here:



World War 3 battling a virus

World War 3 battling a virus

World War 3 battling a virus

By Philip Ingram MBE

A war which is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the accepted rules of war are disregarded is the definition of ‘Total War’ in the Oxford Dictionary. The global fight against the invading army of microscopic virus particles is without doubt a total war. The fight against SARS-CoV-2 can be defined in no other way than World War 3.

The enemy front line in this conflict are those directly affected by it, those wilding the weapon of mass destruction that is the virus, it is the people, all the people of planet earth as anyone could be carrying it, anyone could spread it, anyone could catch it, anyone can die from it.

The SARS-CoV-2 weapon is the COVID-19 disease it causes, and the effectiveness of that weapon is enhanced by the ability of the virus to move silently, undetected through the population, killing only a very few, but generating fear in many and disrupting if not destroying what was normality.

The deep battle fighting the viral enemy has two distinct elements, firstly the political battle, bringing in restrictions to ensure social distancing, allocating resources to ensure those fighting the close battle have what they need and the second element is scientific research, trying to find a better testing regime for the virus and a vaccine for the disease. The tacticians and planners are our chief scientists, chief medical staffs and financial planners. They are preparing the ground for those fighting the close battle.

The close battle is being fought by our doctors, nurses and paramedics; in military terms they are the F echelon, the fighting echelon. Of course, they need support and that support is provided by the laboratory staff, the other health care staff including porters, cleaners, volunteers, military personnel and more; they are the B echelon, the vital element keeping the f-echelon able to focus on the task in hand, fighting the disease, COVID-19 caused by the virus, the global enemy.

Corona viruses have caused conflict before this century, three coronaviruses have crossed the species barrier to cause deadly pneumonia in humans: severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and SARS-CoV-2. However, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV only caused limited wars unlike the new deadly SARS-CoV-2 that has plunged the world into the new total war, that is our third World War.

The potential for a global conflict against a viral attacker is nothing new. Bill Gates said at the 2017 Munich Security Conference, “We ignore the link between health security and international security at our peril.” He concluded his talk by saying “When the next pandemic strikes, it could be another catastrophe in the annals of the human race. Or it could be something else altogether. An extraordinary triumph of human will. A moment when we prove yet again that, together, we are capable of taking on the world’s biggest challenges to create a safer, healthier, more stable world.”

We are seeing national and international industries change their focus and deliver vital war equipment; Dyson, JCB and Mercedes F1 delivering ventilators, airline staff delivering medical support, people from all walks of life helping supermarkets, delivery companies, charities and so many other initiatives. Our industry is on a total war footing.

We are seeing in a limited way at the moment but have no doubt it has the potential to increase, the use of deception, fake news and propaganda. This is where our responsible national media have moved to a total war footing, fact checking, broadcasting public information broadcasts and more.

What we have to realise is we can’t target the enemy directly this way like Sun Tsu espoused in the 6th century when he said, “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” However, those comments could fit perfectly with the need for social distancing. But the lesson from this is we shouldn’t open a second front, exploitable by the virus by fighting amongst ourselves. This is a time for all to come together to fight a common enemy and put human differences to one side.

The US surgeon general, Jerome Adams told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”, “the next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment.”

Her Majesty the Queen continued the wartime analogy when she said in her rousing speech watched across the globe: “I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time.
“A time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.”
“It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety.”
“Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones.”
“But now, as then, we know, deep down, that it is the right thing to do.”
“While we have faced challenges before, this one is different.”
“This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal.”
“We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us.”
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”

Invoking the emotion generated by our last global conflict. Her Majesty has clearly made the link to the current global conflict, World War 3, battling a virus, SARS-Cov-2. Ma’am, we will meet again.