The probe, named Operation Kenova, is to examine the alleged activities of the Army’s most high-ranking agent in the IRA - Stakeknife - who is alleged to have been head of the IRA’s ‘internal security’ unit and is linked to some 50 murders.
The investigation is being led by the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police, Jon Boutcher, who has assembled a team to work under the authority of the PSNI.
Stakeknife has been named in the media as west Belfast Freddie Scappaticci, who has strongly denied the claims.
A spokesman for Mr Boutcher’s team told the News Letter: “The remit of the investigation is to establish any evidence of criminal offences by any party in relation to cases connected to the alleged agent known as Stakeknife. The investigation will pursue evidence wherever it exists, regardless of who that might potentially implicate, what their role was or who they were working for. This is a search for the truth for the victims of these awful crimes.”
The team confirmed its objectives after a meeting with high profile victims campaigner, Willie Frazer.
Mr Frazer said: “During our meeting Jon Boutcher gave us assurances that this will not just be a witch-hunt into the security forces.
“The investigation will also follow up intelligence records about who in the IRA gave the orders for the Stakeknife murders - and who carried the murders out.
“The Kenova team will go wherever the evidence takes them.
“We have told them we have information that we know will be very beneficial to them. If they act on it there will be arrests.
“They have assured us they will do their job regardless of where the evidence takes them.
“If someone on the state side agreed to a course of action that led to someone being killed to protect an agent, then they should be held accountable.
“But if someone was simply carrying out their duties of intelligence gathering, that is a different matter.
“In every one of these 50 murders, senior IRA figures will have given the order to kill and many other IRA members beneath them will have worked together to carry that out. This investigation must hold all these people fully accountable and not turn into a witch-hunt against security forces whose main aim was to defend law and order.”
Speaking in private to the Policing Board in June, Mr Boutcher outlined the aims of Operation Kenova in probing the activities of Stakeknife.
The top three priorities, he told board members, are to determine whether there is evidence of criminal offences by;-
a) Alleged agent Stakeknife, including murders, attempted murders or unlawful imprisonments.
b) Members of the British Army, the Security Services or other Government agencies linked to Stakeknife.
c) Any other individual linked to the alleged agent.