Peter McMullen, man on the run, alias Terry Enwright, Peter Graham, William J. Pekar Jr. and now posing as Kevin O'Shaughnessy, was a desperate man when he first called the FBI in San Francisco in early May. He was out of money and tired. He was a man without a country or a cause. His thoughts as he dropped coins into the public telephone at an Oakland bar centered on survival.
"I wanted nothing more than to be able to stay in America legally and that's all I want -- political asylum," says McMullen.
"I called the FBI first and told them who I was and what I had been doing in this country and in Ireland. They told me it was out of their jurisdiction and that I could contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, a division of the Treasury Department)."
McMullen was staying at a hotel in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, so he called the Oakland BATF office and asked that they send an agent to meet him.
"I think they were a bit dubious at first, reluctant, but after I started telling them details of the arms deals I had been involved in in the United States, they sent two men to see me," said McMullen.
Again, his initial enthusiasm would turn to disappointment and frustration. McMullen had only one asset -- information -- and he hoped to trade that information for political asylum.
Aside from the New York buying and smuggling of arms, McMullen also told federal officials of seven tons of weapons that had been shipped in late 1977 and early 1978 from Libya.
"There were some pretty good weapons in that lot, including Russian surface-to-air missiles, RPG-5s and RPG-7s. The only problem was that all of the handbooks were written in Russian.
"When I left Dublin in April of 1978, the IRA had a whole batch of people studying Russian so they could learn how to fire the SAMs [surface-to-air missiles]. They also got some Russian-made rocket launchers and a big load of semiautomatic rifles.
"The rifles are a Chinese version of the Russian AK47 assault rifle, except that they don't fire automatic," McMullen said.
Also disclosed by McMullen was the complicity of a colonel of the regular army of the Republic of Ireland "who thought up the idea of using photoelectric cells as antipersonnel booby traps. He was the same person who introduced us to remote control bomb detonation by radio signal, just like those radio-controlled, toy airplanes." McMullen said he never learned the name of the colonel.
"But it was his idea to use a photoelectric cell to set off a bomb. What we'd do is cover the cell with black paper arm the bomb inside a box and then slip out the black paper."
Sometimes, he said, the British Army would be notified by the IRA that a bomb had been placed at a certain location. As soon as they took the cover off and light hit the cell the bomb exploded, killing or wounding a British Army bomb expert.
"After a few of those, the Brits caught on and would detonate the bomb themselves by setting off their own explosive charge against our booby-trapped bomb."
The photoelectric cells, McMullen said, were supplied by a television manufacturer in the Irish Republic who was sympathetic to the IRA. The remote control radio devices, he said, were easily obtained through hobby shops "but we stopped using them because once the British caught on, they'd send out radio signals over the whole range of frequencies," which resulted, in some instances, of IRA bombers being blown up by their own bombs.
Last week's remote control detonation that killed 18 British soldiers probably was a simple radio device but was successful because it had not been used for several years by the IRA and the British stopped sending out radio signals. McMullen said the bomb that killed Earl Mountbatten could have been set off that way too but by now the IRA may have come up with a new type of remote control detonator.
McMullen provided that type of information and much more to BATF agents, he said, when the FBI suddenly entered the scene and asked to talk with him.
"I told BATF I was quite happy with them and didn't want to talk to the FBI especially after they had initially turned me down. BATF told me to make my feelings known directly to the FBI. I did, but they said they could offer me a better deal than BATF and besides they wanted me to talk with a couple of guys from Scotland Yard who had just flown over to San Francisco from London."
McMullen said he refused to talk to the FBI and "the Brits but then the FBI said they could make things bad for me if I didn't cooperate. The two agents from the FBI said that if I'd talk with them and the two Special Branch men from London, I'd be well taken care of for my cooperation."
"So I agreed. I talked to the FBI and the British Special Branch men. Three days later, as I'm sitting in the motel with four BATF agents three officers from the U.S. Immigration Service walk in and arrest me. They said they had orders from the Justice Department to place me under arrest. Great Britain, they said, wanted me extradited for the bombing of Claro Barracks outside Liverpool. So much for all the help promised by the FBI for my cooperation. The BATF agents couldn't believe what was happening before their very eyes."
William Mallory, BATF agent in the Oakland office, refused to comment on the case or the circumstances of the arrest. Efforts to reach the Immigration and FBI agents involved with McMullen so far have been unsuccessful. McMullen was shuffled around five different jails and prisons over the next year in the San Francisco Bay area after his arrest in May 1978, while extradition proceedings against him were being heard by a magistrate in San Francisco's federal court.
He was fortunate indeed in having assigned to him an enthusiastic and energetic federal public defender named William Goodman. Since he was not aware of the IRA's history, goals and activities, Goodman read everything he could lay his hands on to familiarize himself with the history of Ireland and its relationship to Britain. Goodman became fascinated, not only with the history of the Irish and the IRA but also when he discovered that there were very few court decisions concerning extradition that seemed to apply to McMullen's case. That is, cases dealing with political exceptions to extradition involving guerrilla organizations.
"Basically I argued that McMullen's activities on behalf of the IRA were politically motivated and were directed by his superiors in the IRA. As political acts, therefore, he should not be liable for extradition," said Goodman.
The U.S. Justice Department, which represented Britain during the proceedings "argued, and this is a simplicification, that McMullen was a terrorist and terrorists should be extradited. They relied heavily on documents provided by the British, which ironically, fortified my case in many instances. The British failed to grasp the meaning of American law. Also, this was the first time, to my knowledge, that a federal court in the United States was evaluating the activities of the IRA".
U.S. Magistrate Frederick J. Woeflen wrote, "This has been a unique extradition proceeding. It cannot be characterized as the usual type of extradition normally which has its source in either a bank embezzlement, robbery, extortion, fraud or murder -- all absent of political overtones."
Evidence introduced by the British themselves admitted that a state of emergency existed in Northern Ireland. The IRA operated quite openly against the British and their objectives were well known, he wrote. Other evidence introduced by the British, he wrote, "irrefutably establishes the defendant as a member of the PIRA [Provisional Irish Republican Army] in 1974." (At the time of the bombing of Claro Barracks near Liverpool.)
"We find that the defendant [Peter McMullen] has established by evidence which we must conclude as prepondering, that the act of the bombing of Claro Barracks was political in character. Thus, the two requisites of establishing the political offense exception of the [extradition] treaty having been met, we find that Peter Gabriel John McMullen is herefore not extraditable under the provisions of the Extradition Treaty in force between the United States of America and the United Kingdom as of 1974."
he decision, said Goodman, was significant in two ways in that "It's the first time that a court in this country has evaluated, to my knowledge, in extradition proceedings, the activities of a member of the Provisional IRA. There have been deportations, but extraditions are entirely different animals. So it's precedent-setting in that respect.
"Also, to some extent, it's precedent-setting because to my knowledge this is the only modern decision applying the political offense exception to modern terrorist organizations and the tactics they use."
Asked if he would use the same defense, that of political motivation, if a member of any other terrorist group, such as the Palestine Liberation Organization or Red Brigades faced extradition for their acts, Goodman said, "Absolutely. While a magistrate's ruling does not carry as much weight or prestige as that of a judge, it is no different, in law, than that of a judge."
There is no appeal from the ruling. However, a new extradition hearing can be sought by the Justice Department before a different federal judge. So far, that request has not been made.
Instead, McMullen has been turned over to U.S. Immigration officials. He faces a deportation hearing on Sept. 28. At the same time, his request for political asylum will be heard. Much depends on the State Department's Human Rights Division. A favorable recommendation by them alomost certainly would result in granting of asylum. The State Department has the final say in the matter.
McMullen's present attorney, Lynn Sonfield, a Legal Service lawyer, hopes to demonstrate that deportation to the Republic of Ireland is tantamount to a death sentence.
Meanwhile, McMullen is fatalistic. Even if he wins his case against deportation, the ruling can be appealed. Also, the request for extradition by the British government still stands. A new hearing could be sought by the Justice Department, whose spokesmen refused to say whether such a hearing would be sought.
"I've not asked for protection or for a new identity. I've cooperated fully with U.S. officials and with British authorities. All I ask is for political asylum -- the right to remain in America legally," said McMullen.
He would like to bring his wife and four children to America from Belfast. He has not seen them for more than a year. Once a devout Catholic who attended Mass every day as a youngster, McMullen believes in God "and I go to Mass once in a while but it's not like it used to be. Like a lot of people, I guess, I just drifted away from the church."
His politics on Ireland are firm. He does not believe the Marxist leadership of the IRA would be suited to the Irish people if their politics wer to be put into practice as national rule.
"the plan that I think had and still has the best chance of uniting Ireland, north and south is the one proposed by Prime Minister Jack Lynch."
That plan, McMullen said, would divide Ireland into states, much like the United States, with each state having home rule representation, similar to state legislatures, as well as representatives elected from their home states to a federal body, much like the U.S. Congress, who would speak for the individual states on a federal level. Britain would help finance the transfer of Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland for 15 years.
"But I don't think you'll find the present leadership of the IRA about to let that happen. They know the people wouldn't vote for a Marxist ruling body so their only hope for power of any sort is to keep the war going," McMullen said.
"I'm not a deep political thinker although I have read just about everyone from Marx to Connally. My expertise was mainly military but I've always spoken out politically in the IRA when I disagreed or agreed with the way the movement was going.
"I joined the IRA because I firmly believed at that time that the movement was the only way to help my people. I left when I became convinced that the IRA, more often than not, betrayed their own people either deliberately or through sheer neglect and stupidity."
McMullen knows what the man looks like whom he thinks is looking for him but he does not know his name. He does know that the man entered America in late September or early October of 1977. He is traveling with an Irish passport issued in the name of O'Shaughnessy, the same surname on McMullen's false passport.
"He's a short man in his late 40s. He's indistinguishable, bland. If there were only the two of you walking down a street at night, you'd never notice him," McMullen said.
This bland, middle-aged man walked into a Dublin bar in September 1977. He sat down next to his friend John Lawler. Lawler had been identified by the IRA as an informer. The quiet little man ordered Lawler a drink in the crowded bar. As Lawler raised his glass, the little man shot him through the head with a single bullet from a .357 magnum revolver and quietly walked out the door.