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Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 16:23 GMT
Who might have bugged Gerry Adams?
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP Gerry Adams demands to know who is listening to him

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams is demanding to know who planted a "bugging" device in the car he and education minister Martin McGuinness used while travelling to talks with the IRA.

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The West Belfast MP has lodged a formal complaint with both the Irish and British governments.

Security expert and former soldier Colonel Mike Dewar says the planting of such surveillance devices is not uncommon, with figures like Gerry Adams a prime target.

"We shouldn't be at all surprised, I'd be staggered if he wasn't bugged."

Gerry Adams with listening device Adams is a prime target for 'bugging'
"Bugs" which can pick up conversations and transmit them to a listening device up to a mile away are available from specialist suppliers.

Mr Adams claims the "sophisticated" object found within the bodywork of a party supporter's one-year-old Ford Mondeo included a tracking device.

"It's not a simple device you'd stick under the dashboard," says Mr Dewar of the bug described by the Sinn Fein leader.

It seems unlikely such complex equipment would be employed by an amateur spy or rival political or paramilitary group.

To install a bug of this kind, which Mr Adams claims had a microphone hidden in the centre of the car's roof, would take the sort of expertise and resources usually at the disposal of government agencies.

Colonel Dewar says that when national security is threatened governments resort to using an array of surveillance techniques: "That's not news, it's standard practice."

Part of 'bug' found in a Sinn Fein car Such complex technology is difficult to install
"Sinn Fein and the IRA expect to be bugged and have pretty good counter-surveillance equipment and experts."

With the Northern Ireland peace process promising to bear fruit at last, it is debatable whether the UK security forces would risk bugging such a wily and media-savvy target, suggests Mr Dewar.

"It would seem politically inept," he says.

The defence commentator thinks the notion that the device is an IRA bug, perhaps intended to embarrass the UK government, should not be discounted.

If Mr Adams is expecting an admission of guilt by the intelligence services or 10 Downing Street, he may be disappointed. Both remain notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to eavesdropping allegations.

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08 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Bug found in Adams' car
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