All content from October 2017

Sorry Paul, Spycops Haven’t Stopped

Paul Mason article mastheadGuardian columnist Paul Mason has picked up on former MI5 boss Stella Rimington’s admission that security services have spied on people who are now advisors to Jeremy Corbyn, the person likely to be the next prime minister.

Mason lists a catalogue of counter-democratic outrages by the Met’s Special Branch in the 1980s and 90s; undermining union disputes, spying on families of victims of racist murders, deceiving women into long-term relationships.

Then he boldly asserts

‘that world is gone. Corbyn, who himself was targeted by MI5 and Special Branch, could soon be prime minister. With the Human Rights Act, the creation of a Supreme Court and the operational policing changes in the aftermath of the Macpherson report, the legal framework around policing and intelligence has tightened.’

Where does he get this idea from? The Human Rights Act was passed in 1998 and the Macpherson report was published in 1999. Far from ending the era of political policing, they came just as it began a period of expansion.

The second major political policing unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, was founded in 1999 to deploy the likes of Mark Kennedy and extend the worst of the spycops’ abuses. More spycops units were established in the 2000s.

Political policing has not ended. In 2013 HM Inspectorate of Constabulary explained that the old spycops units have been subsumed into the Met’s Counter-Terrorism Command (known as SO15), and that

‘All deployments of undercover officers which target the activity of domestic extremists are coordinated either by the SO15 Special Project Team (SPT), or by one of the regional SPTs’

There is no reason to think that the known abuses by political policing units have stopped.

In mentioning undercover officers deceiving women into intimate relationships, Mason links to a report on the recent letter from a group of them to the public inquiry. These women include those who were in relationships with officers as recently as 2009, far beyond his cutoff of 1999.

A LAW UNTO THEMSELVES

Mason continues;

‘From top to bottom, the UK’s armed forces, security services and police are acutely aware of constraints on their activities by the rule of law.’

They have always been aware of these constraints, and duly ignored them. In 1969, a year after the Special Demonstration Squad was formed, the Home Office issued unequivocal instructions:

‘The police must never commit themselves to a course which, whether to protect an informant or otherwise, will constrain them to mislead a court in subsequent proceedings.’

Dozens of SDS officers were arrested whilst undercover, many of them multiple times. They infiltrated defendants’ meetings, gave false testimony to courts, and some were even prosecuted under their false identity. These actions fit most people’s definition of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

With only a small fraction of the officers exposed, we have already had 50 wrongful convictions quashed, many from the late 2000s. The true total could be in the thousands.

Many of these officers committed crimes, organised illegal activity and made a personality trait of mocking activists who weren’t prepared to participate in their plans. Compliance with the law was irrelevant to them.

UNION BUSTING

Without supporting evidence, Mason instructs us to make a startling assumption.

‘The law enforcement culture that allowed undercover cops to perpetrate abuses is, we must assume, gone. Likewise, by implication, the culture that allowed MI5 to “destabilise and sabotage” an entirely legal trade union must be assumed to have gone.’

Undermining unions isn’t limited to MI5 and the specialist deep-cover units of the Met. The Independent Police Complaints Commission concede that every constabulary’s Special Branch illegally supplied information about political activists to the Consulting Association, a company who ran an illegal blacklist of construction workers.

Those on the blacklist were mostly targeted for their union organising, though others were on it for asking for proper personal protective equipment at work, or being spotted by police on environmental or anti-racist demonstrations.

The Consulting Association was active until it was raided in 2009 by the Information Commissioners Office. Although most major construction firms illegally used the list, none has faced any charges or even any censure beyond a letter asking them not to do it again. No police have been held to account. Why would they have stopped?

As workers – not only in construction but healthcare and numerous other sectors – can testify, blacklisting is clearly still going on. We know that the Met’s spycops unit still uses other blacklists of trade unionists and political activists. There is no reason to assume that the long-term, routine police collusion has suddenly ended.

TRUTH ISN’T PARANOIA

Mason cites undercover officers’ spying on Stephen Lawrence’s family, and the power of the Macpherson Inquiry report into the murder. He ignores the fact that the police deliberately withheld any mention of the spying from Macpherson. It was this very revelation in 2013 that led to the setting up of the public inquiry into undercover policing.

The secret state does not play by the rules. Those abused by it deserve answers. Yet Mason, echoing President Trump’s condemnation of Charlottesville ‘violence on many sides’, says

‘Amid the social warfare of the 80s, there are people from both sides who could say, as Rutger Hauer does in Blade Runner: “I’ve done questionable things.” Unless we’re going to have a South African-style truth and reconciliation process, the challenge is to bury the paranoia and move on.’

It’s not paranoia when the spying and methods are documented, established facts.

More than 1,000 political groups have been targeted by spycops in the last 50 years. Put simply, there aren’t that many who’ve done questionable things, and even the Met agree none of them deserved to be treated like like the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of women subjected to psychological and sexual abuse. This is a victim and perpetrator situation.

A glance at those targeted, even among the 200 significantly affected people designated core participants at the public inquiry, shows the breadth of this counter-democratic policing. Everyone targeted by spycops should should be told what was done to them and given access to their files. Only the police, and seemingly Paul Mason, want to bury the facts.

CHANGE AT THE TOP

Mason’s belief that a Labour government will do away with spycops’ activity is contradicted by the historical evidence. The secret state is run by people who are not hired by the government of the day. Governments come and go, but they endure.

Mason points to MI5’s plotting against Harold Wilson’s government in the 1960s, but there is more to it than that. As lawyer David Allen Green wryly noted,

‘ “Former Labour Home Secretary” is one the most illiberal phrases in British politics.’

All the major spycops units – the Special Demonstration Squad, National Public Order Intelligence Unit, National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit, National Domestic Extremism Team – were set up under Labour governments.

This mirrors the fact that the worst eras of detention without trial and our most repressive anti-terrorism laws are also Labour creations. Just this this week we learned of a political activist being victimised thanks to police powers granted by the Terrorism Act 2000, a law so draconian that you can get six months in jail for wearing the wrong T-shirt. It was created by Labour’s Jack Straw.

The current Labour party is very different to its predecessors, and it’s reasonable to hope that having a Prime Minister and Home Secretary who were themselves targeted by spycops would lead them to equally different approaches to political policing.

Whether the secret state complies is another matter. The spycops don’t even obey their own superior officers.

DON’T DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD

The political secret police started spying on the Green Party’s Jenny Jones after she was democratically elected. They continued for over a decade, whilst she was a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, the Met’s scrutiny body.

After they said they had destroyed her files, she asked them to check. This was in 2014, after senior police had ordered the preservation of files for the pending public inquiry, in line with the demands of the Inquiries Act. 

At this point, a whistleblower reports, officers hurriedly shredded the bulk of Jones’ records so a sanitised version could be presented.

Whilst the campaigns Mason mentions were over in the 1990s, the spying and repression they were subjected to has continued with other targets. If it is to be ended, there must be disclosure and accountability.

We know Britain’s political secret police have been active long after Mason’s imagined cut-off date and that his wishful naivety has no basis in fact. There is no indication that it has abated.

Those of us subjected to political policing, including Paul Mason, and the wider public all deserve truth and justice.

Victims of Undercover Policing Call on Public Inquiry to Come Clean

Protesters outside New Scotland Yard demand deatils of political police spies, 2011Over 100 people affected by political policing, frustrated by the Undercover Policing Inquiry’s lack of openness, are demanding answers and action.

Their concern about the direction and state of the Inquiry centres on the need for it to come clean over three crucial factors that would enable victims of police spying to understand the extent to which their lives have been invaded.

The necessary measures have not yet been taken by Inquiry Chair, Sir John Mitting, despite being more than three years into the process.

As Kim Bryan, speaking on behalf of the Spycops Communications Group, said:

‘Unless Mitting orders the release of the names of the undercover officers, the names of the 1000-plus groups that have been spied upon and allows the victims of police spying to gain access to evidence about them that is controlled by the MPS, there is no hope that this Inquiry can set out what it said it was going to do: discover the truth. It is time for the Inquiry to come clean.’

The Inquiry was set up in 2014 to investigate and report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968.

It was called by the then-Home Secretary, Theresa May after revelations from victims of undercover policing revealed widespread abuse of human rights and miscarriages of justice and the now notorious spying on family and friends of Stephen Lawrence.

The Inquiry has designated less than 200 significantly affected people as core participants. They are mostly political activists drawn from a wide range of political groups including those campaigning for equality, justice, community empowerment, the environment, workers’, civil, women’s, LGTBQ, human and animal rights; and campaigning against war, racism, sexism, homophobia, government policies, corporate power, and police brutality.

A majority of them have signed the letter expressing their grave concerns.

Kim Bryan explained:

‘As Core Participants we are rapidly losing confidence in the Inquiry and in the abilities of John Mitting. He is rowing back on commitments made by the previous Chair, Christopher Pitchford, who stated the inquiry’s priority is to discover the truth and recognised the importance of hearing from both officers and their victims along with the need for this to be done in public as far as possible.’

In August, Mitting made a notable departure from the approach of the previous Chair, Justice Pitchford, who resigned for health reasons.

The August rulings and ‘Minded-To’ notes prevent a thorough investigation and give non-state core participants no right to reply – without any justification.

The letter asks that Sir John Mitting respond to the five following questions:

1.What steps will be taken to ensure that all undercover identities are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the names of the 1,000 or so groups spied upon by undercover police officers are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

3. What steps will be taken to conserve, and speed up disclosure of the evidence controlled by the MPS, in order to allow the victims of undercover policing to understand the extent to which their lives have been affected?

5. What measures will be taken to the tackle the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS and victims of police spying within the Inquiry?

6. Most importantly, what steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public and NSCPs can have confidence in its findings?

Copies of the letter have also been sent to Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, and Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary.

 


 

FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER

Sir John Mitting
Undercover Policing Inquiry
PO Box 71230
London NW1W 7QH

Monday 23rd October 2017

Dear Chair,

RE: The need for openness in the Undercover Policing Inquiry

We are writing to you to express our serious concern over the current state of the Undercover Policing Inquiry and wish to raise a number of issues.

It is clear to us from the materials released at the start of August 2017 i that you are minded to take the Inquiry in a different direction than it has been heading to date, one of far greater secrecy.

For us, this Inquiry is about political policing to undermine groups and organisations campaigning for a better society and world, yet the content of the documents released on 3rd August shows a new course that places the needs of the police, particularly undercover officers, above those of their victims. This approach denies those who have suffered abuse at the hands of undercover police access to the truth and the right to justice. It appears, to those of us who have been targeted and have experienced an unacceptable intrusion of our lives, that police sensitivities are being allowed to trump all other concerns.

Your unilateral decision to grant HN7 complete anonymity on medical grounds ii without allowing those grounds to be examined is a case in point. By putting his needs above any consideration of HN7’s involvement in the issues covered by the terms of reference of the Inquiry, and refusing to release even his cover name, the Chair has negated any possibility of discovering if he engaged in sexual or other inappropriate relationships, caused a miscarriage of justice, or was involved in other abusive or illegal behaviour in his undercover role.

This decision denies any victim in HN7’s case the opportunity to come forward. The fact that the ruling makes no attempt to take this into account demonstrates that the Inquiry has a clear bias in favour of police interests. This is echoed throughout the ‘Minded-To’ notes iii, announcing closed hearings around other officers, particularly N81.

As Non-State Core Participants (NSCPs) we are rapidly losing confidence in the Inquiry. We note that the previous Chair, Lord Justice Pitchford, recognised the importance of hearing from both officers and their victims – and the need for this to be done in public as far as possible. He explicitly noted that any departure from openness must be justified iv; what we are seeing at the moment is quite the opposite. The August rulings and ‘Minded-To’ notes prevent a thorough investigation.

We ask you to remember that this Inquiry was called following a series of very alarming revelations about wrongdoing by police, the scale of political policing, and institutional sexism and racism. There is considerable evidence of the police attempting to destroy evidence and cover up that wrong doing. Undercover officers and staff who acted in public office should not be protected from accountability. That they may be upset or suffer disquiet is not sufficient reason for a Public Inquiry to be kept in secret.

We would also like to register our very deep concern at the tone taken by the “Mosaic effect” v and ‘Jaipur’ vi, ‘Karachi’ vii and ‘Cairo’ viii assessments, where anonymous officers, in some cases personal friends of undercover officers, make explicit and unfounded attacks against the victims of these undercover officers, particularly those who have brought to public attention the grievous abuses committed – at no little personal pain to themselves. This is simply inexcusable and it is an embarrassment to the Inquiry.

Furthermore, we would like, once again, to raise the issue of the significant imbalance in financial resources and power between the State and Non-State Core Participants in this Inquiry. This means that Non-State Core Participants (NSCPs) are often prevented from making submissions on issues of concern to them, while the MPS remains in complete control of the evidence and is able to bog the Inquiry down with multiple applications of its choosing.

We support the letter delivered to Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, on the 19th of September 2017, by 13 women who were deceived into sexual relationships with undercover officers. The letter highlighted concerns about institutional sexism and the lack of openness in the Inquiry.

We reiterate the need for answers to the following questions to restore faith in the Inquiry. In the absence of clear answers to these questions, we, as NSCPs feel that we are being asked to participate blindly in an Inquiry that is not fulfilling its own terms of reference, and may not even really intend to do so.

1. What steps will be taken to ensure that all undercover officers’ identities are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the names of the 1000 or so groups spied upon by undercover police officers are released as soon as possible, and when can we expect that to happen?

3. What steps will be taken to conserve, and speed up disclosure of the evidence controlled by the MPS, in order to allow the victims of undercover policing to understand the extent to which their lives have been affected?

4. What measures will be taken to the tackle the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS and victims of police spying within the Inquiry?

5. Most importantly, what steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public and NSCPs can have confidence in its findings?

Yours

Advisory Service for Squatters
‘AJA’
Albert Beale
Alex Hodson
Alice Cutler
Alice Jelinek
‘Alison’
‘AN’
‘Andrea’
‘ARB’
Belinda Harvey
Ben Leamy
Ben Stewart
Blacklist Support Group
Brian Healy
Brian Higgins
‘C’
Carolyn Wilson
Celia Stubbs
Ceri Gibbons
Chris Dutton
Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army
Claire Fauset
Claire Hildreth
Climate Camp Legal Team
Colin Roach Centre
Dan Gilman
Dan Glass
Danny Chivers
Dave Morris
Dave Nellist
Dave Smith
Debbie Vincent
Dr. Donal O’Driscoll
Duwayne Brooks OBE
Emily Apple
Frances Wright
Frank Smith
Geoff Sheppard
Dr. Graham Smith
Guy Taylor
Hackney Community Defence Association
Hannah Lewis
Hannah Sell
Dr. Harry Halpin
Helen Steel
Indra Donfrancesco
Jacqueline Sheedy
‘Jane’
Jason Kirkpatrick
Jennifer Verson
Jesse Schust
‘Jessica’
John Jones
John Jordan
Kate Holcombe
Kate Wilson
Ken Livingstone
Kim Bryan
Kirk Jackson
Kirsty Wright
Leila Deen
‘Lindsey’
‘Lisa’
Lisa Teuscher
‘Lizzie’
Lois Austin
London Greenpeace
Reverend Dr. Malcolm Carroll
Mark Metcalf
Martin Shaw
Martyn Lowe
Matt Salusbury
McLibel Support Campaign
Megan Donfrancesco Reddy
Melanie Evans
Merrick Cork
Michael Dooley
Michael Zeitlin
‘Monica’
Morgana Donfrancesco Reddy
‘Naomi’
Newham Monitoring Project
Nicola Benge
‘NRO’
Olaf Bayer
Paddy Gillett
Paul Chatterton
Paul Gravett
Paul Morozzo
Lord Peter Hain
Piers Corbyn
Robert Banbury
Robbin Gillett
Robin Lane
‘Rosa’
‘Ruth’
‘S’
Sarah Hampton
Sarah Shoraka
Shane Collins
Sharon Grant OBE
Sian Jones
Simon Lewis
Smash EDO
Spencer Cooke
Stafford Scott
Steve Acheson
Steve Hedley
Suresh Grover
Thomas Fowler
Tomas Remiarz
Trapese Collective
‘VSP’
William Frugal
Youth Against Racism in Europe
Zoe Young

i UCPI Anonymity applications: Special Demonstration Squad, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-directions-SDS.pdf
ii UCPI Ruling in respect of HN7 – Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-ruling-N7-anonymity.pdf

iii UCPI Minded to notes, 3rd August 2017
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170803-Minded-to.pdf
iv UCPI Restriction orders (legal approach) Ruling, 3rd May 2016
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/160503-ruling-legal-approach-to-restriction-orders.pdf
v Evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service “The Mosaic Effect”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Mosaic-report-open-version.pdf
vi Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Jaipur”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Jaipur-Risk-Assessment-with-redactions-burned-in.pdf
vii Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Karachi”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Karachi-Risk-Assessment-with-redactions-burnedin.pdf
viii Anonymous evidence submitted by the Metropolitan Police Service in the name “Cairo”
https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Cairo-Statement-dated-20-July-2017-open-version.pdf

Another Spycop Named: ‘Bill Lewis’

Silhouette of head with superimposed question markA new member of Britain’s political secret police has been named. On 5th October, the Undercover Policing Inquiry released the cover name William Paul ‘Bill’ Lewis, who was undercover in the Special Demonstration Squad 1968-1969.

The announcement follows the Met’s blanket application to keep undercover officers’ names – real and fake – secret.

The inquiry is working through the list of names and said in August that it was minded to release the cover name – but not the real name – of this officer. The Met then withdrew their application to keep it secret.

The fake name is about all we have. The inquiry doesn’t even tell us which groups he actively infiltrated, only that

He may have been encountered by individuals involved with the International Marxist Group or the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in London at that time.

We have no photo, no detail on whether he, like so many of his colleagues, deceived women into sexual relationships or orchestrated miscarriages of justice.

Whilst any information is better than none, this announcement doesn’t move us onward. To understand what these disgraced units did, we need to hear from those who witnessed it.

We need the list of cover names used by officers and the list of over 1,000 groups that they spied on so that the activists may be contacted and speak about what they saw. Until this happens the inquiry cannot begin to do its allotted task.

At a preliminary hearing on 1st November the Inquiry Chair Sir John Mitting is going to ‘make a statement on the future conduct of the Inquiry’. It’s not clear exactly what this means, but his recent compliance with much of the Met’s desire for secrecy does not give cause for great optimism.

We now have details on 24 of 144 undercover officers. ‘Bill Lewis’ is the first new one identified in three months, and even then in such scant form as to be practically useless. This glacial pace, driven by the Met’s stonewalling, denies justice to those who have already waited too long.