This startling figure was first published in September 2016 in the second edition of Blacklisted: The Secret War Between Big Business and Union Activists. The new official confirmation came from the Inquiry in reply to questions asked by lawyers acting for around 200 significantly targeted people who have been granted core participant status at the Inquiry.
The 1,000+ groups were targeted by undercover units, primarily the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, since the SDS was formed in 1968.
The huge number is commensurate with the vast scale of the spying by individual officers. Mark Ellison QC produced two landmark reports on spycops, pretty much the only credible official investigations there have been. In his second report, published in July 2015, he told us
By way simply of example, over 240 files were found relating to a single undercover officer who had been arrested at some point in his undercover role. Those enquiries generated another 51 files relating to their reporting. These files mention 642 individuals who need to be checked to identify any undercover policing related convictions. 628 of the 642 individuals have their own intelligence files which include their date of birth to enable Police National Computer [‘PNC’] checks to be conducted.
A single officer feeding the secret police files of 628 citizens. This is not someone taking a few notes in meetings. It is something far larger and more sinister. We already know that peace activists with no criminal record or criminal intent have extensive files and are harassed. We know that it was not considered ‘collateral intrusion’ when undercover officer Mark Kennedy spied on the friends, relatives and children of activists at a wedding.
This is sweeping surveillance of campaigners and the communities that surround them. Taken with the new admission of spying on more than 1,000 groups, it demolishes the credibility of earlier police claims that they only targeted very dangerous organisations which were a serious threat to public safety.
The first official report came from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in 2012 who were keen to explain
The NPOIU was involved in the successful collection of intelligence on violent individuals, whose criminal intentions or acts were subsequently disrupted, and who were in some cases brought to justice.
These were not individuals engaging in peaceful protest, or even people who were found to be guilty of lesser public order offences. These were individuals intent on perpetrating acts of a serious and violent nature against citizens going about their everyday lives.
That report focused on Mark Kennedy, who had devoted years of his deployment to infiltrating Climate Camp. Two years after the report, police admitted at least 18 justice campaigns of grieving families had been targeted. The police know full well that they target groups that challenge the status quo, irrespective of any supposed threat to ‘citizens going about their everyday lives’.
The same lie has been recently repeated by police lawyers at the preliminary hearings of the public inquiry, long after they must have been fully aware that it wasn’t true. This is a further indication that the police regard the Inquiry as hostile and are seeking to delay and obstruct it.
How many ‘more than 1,000 groups’ have been spied upon isn’t clear, but the revelation of the figure indicates that the Inquiry has a list. It is imperative that this list is published. Unlike releasing an officer’s real name, there can be no assertion that telling us the names of an infiltrated group would endanger those being identified.
If we are to get the truth of what has been done, we need to hear from those affected. Every person and group spied on by these disgraced units should be told and given access to their files. The victims need time to find their contemporaries and confirm the details. Only then can we see what the real purpose of the spying was, only then can the victims correct any misinformation on the files.
The Inquiry is inching towards this. So far they have technically confirmed the identity of officers by saying that no anonymity is required for that person. However, last week they published their Two Year Update which says
From the autumn, rather than just publishing anonymity decisions on names and cover names of former officers, additional information will also be placed in the public domain, including, where relevant, details on the dates in question and details of the main organisations infiltrated by the officers.
A mere 20 officers have been exposed so far out of a total of at least 144. Even with this fraction of the truth, we have already learned of 50 miscarriages of justice, dozens of women being sexually abused, dozens of families whose dead child’s identity was stolen. How much more is still being kept secret?
We need all the cover names of the officers, for the same reasons that we need the names of the groups. The majority of core participants have made this clear. Whether the Inquiry complies is the crucial test of whether it will be worth anything at all.