Content tagged with "Blacklisting"

New video: The Public Inquiry Begins

New on our Youtube channel – a short film made by Reel News, shot outside the Royal Courts of Justice on 7 October, just before the first hearing of the public inquiry. Numerous people who were spied on outline their experiences and what they hope to get out of the inquiry.

The hearing [transcript] was to decide on some cases of ‘core participants’ – those ruled to have been so involved in the political policing scandal that they get greater access and representation at the inquiry. Around 400 people have applied of whom around half have been granted core participant status – mostly activists, some campaigns as bodies, a couple of dozen police officers and some state agencies too.

The Undercover Research Group noted its qualms afterwards.

Suing Private Spycops

Frankenstein's monsterA woman who was Mark Kennedy’s partner in 2010 after he left the police is suing Global Open, the private spy firm he worked for.

Global Open was set up in 2001 by Rod Leeming, the former Special Branch officer who ran the Animal Rights National Index database before going private to do basically the same thing (company profile here by the excellent Undercover Research Group).

Kennedy’s contract with the police formally ended in early 2010. He was immediately hired by Global Open, and at the same time actively targeted the woman (who has been granted legal anonymity for the case) and began a relationship with her.

He continued to live among the same activist community he had spied on, still using his police-fabricated identity of Mark Stone. He went to several animal rights gatherings across Europe in the summer of 2010. If he’d had the nouse to legally change his name to Mark Stone his identity documents would have been in the ‘right’ name and he may still have been spying today – and you would not be reading this.

THE GENERALS NOT THE TROOPS

In October 2010 he was exposed by activists including his long-term partner. Within hours he went to his other partner’s house and told her what had happened. She was devastated. The case she is now bringing mirrors that of around a dozen others who are suing (or have sued) the police for the systematic use of psychologically and sexually abusive relationships.

Like those cases, this one is being brought against the employer rather than the individual officer. The managers either deployed officers to use these tactics, in which case they are directly culpable, or else all these officers separately decided to do the same thing, in which case managers were negligent for not preventing or ending it.

Whilst it would presumably have little legal traction, the police must also bear a serious measure of moral responsibility for Kennedy’s post-police actions in 2010. Having trained him into that one mode of being for many years then withdrawn him with little notice or support, it is hardly surprising that he continued. Frankenstein’s monster may have terrorised the villagers but it was Dr Frankenstein who built it and failed to keep it from its rampage.

NOT JUST KENNEDY

This new case is yet another ray of light on the murky, unregulated world of corporate spying and its tight interweaving with parallel police units. The fact that Special Branch officers take their years of training and contacts to go and do the same job for private profit doesn’t merely raise ethical issues. It raises legal ones too.

The construction industry blacklist was routinely – illegally – given information on political activists by Special Branch officers across the country. Despite the blacklisters’ work being illegal, they had high-level meetings with Britain’s political secret police, including a powerpoint presentation from DCI Gordon Mills, the man who helmed the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit.

The McLibel trial exposed the fact that the entirety of McDonald’s security department were ex-police and that there was an open two-way flow of information between police and private spies. This is not officers upholding the law. This is officers breaking the law to uphold something that they consider more important.

HOW MANY MORE?

How many other political secret police officers continued the same role for a private paymaster, as Kennedy did? The fact that Global Open hired him as he was leaving the police suggests either they had inside information and knew he was becoming available, or else Global Open is known to the secret police as the place to go on to when their contract ends.

We know the names of less than 10% of the officers who worked for the disgraced political units since the Special Demonstration Squad was set up in 1968. Can we really believe that Kennedy was the first one to continue living under the same persona? Or is he just the first one exposed?

POLICE AND PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

The revolving door between undercover political police and the even less regulated world of private spying means the two groups cannot be separated. As Mark Kennedy proved, the same damage is done for the same reasons, often by the same people, with support from both sectors, irrespective of who signs the cheque.

If the forthcoming public inquiry is to be comprehensive and credible it must examine these documented instances and structural connections, and it must expose more. Police and private political spying are not two worlds, they are one.

Blacklisted Eco-activists Donate Compensation to Union Fight

Blacklisted workers outside the High CourtEnvironmental activists who were on a construction industry blacklist have donated compensation from the blacklisters to the Blacklist Support Group.

The illegal blacklisting system run by the Consulting Association was used by most of the big name firms in construction until it was exposed in 2009. More than 3,200 people had files detailing their instances of political activity, raising of health and safety concerns or trade union involvement.

Information in the files was provided by the companies themselves as well as police. Whilst most were actual construction workers, with some having dossiers running to nearly 50 pages of personal details, over 200 environmental activists – known as the ‘greenlist’ – also had files.

When the Information Commissioner’s Office raided the Consulting Association in 2009 they only seized an index list of greenlist files, the files themselves were destroyed. This meant there is no evidence of what was in the files or which ones had been used to deny work to any individual, and so greenlisters’ lawyers advised against continuing the legal case.

Last year, several of the companies who used the list admitted culpability and set up a compensation scheme, in a bid to head off potentially far more expensive court settlements. It gives £4,000 to anyone who was on the list, more if they can show their files were used. It is capped at £100,000. With some workers denied a living for a decade or more, the maximum payout doesn’t even cover loss of earnings for many, let alone any interest or damages. Many of them, co-ordinated by the Blacklist Support Group, are boycotting the derisory compensation offer and are fighting on in the courts.

But for the greenlisters, the legal fight seems over. With no obvious alternative cause of redress, some have accepted the scheme’s payouts and made donations to the Blacklist Support Group.

A statement from greenlist activists provided to the Blacklist Support Group said:

“Thanks to the incompetence of the Information Commissioner’s Office, only a fraction of the files were seized. Greenlisters only have a list of whose files existed. Had ours not been among those lost, we would have the chance to fight our legal case properly and to seek more answers. It was a breach of our right to privacy, to freedom of association, and our right to a unionised, safe workplace. But this paltry sum is the best we can hope for.

“Most of us were on the list because our details had been passed from brushes with the law in environmental protests. It seems likely that police were involved in supplying this information, and we note that the Independent Police Complaints Commission admit blacklist files contained information that can only have come – illegally – from police or security services. They worked not to uphold the law but in order to uphold corporate profit.

“Even if greenlisters did not suffer financial hardship from being on the list, that was not through want of trying on the part of the police and blacklisters. More than that the 3,000 construction workers suffered huge hardship over decades. This was a colossal conspiracy to invade people’s personal lives, the working class equivalent of phone hacking. We stand in solidarity with the blacklisted construction workers. We are proud to donate funds from the wrongdoers to the fightback against them. We hope it can help their court case get the truth and justice that has been denied to us.”

Dave Smith, the secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, commented:

“Corporate and state surveillance on peaceful protesters is a national scandal. The UK secret political police units considered trade unions to be the ‘enemy within’ and targeted UK citizens participating in democratic campaigns; routinely passing intelligence onto big business. The Blacklist Support Group is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with social justice activists and pledge our continued support for those campaigning for a full public inquiry into the anti-democratic conspiracy carried out by multinational corporations and the security services.”

The blacklisted workers are back in the High Court on 14 May with group litigation – equivalent to a US style class-action – as 500 blacklisted workers take on over 40 of the UK’s largest construction companies.

Join the protest outside court:
9:30am Thursday 14 May
Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London WC2A 2LL

We Are All Targets Now

John Catt

John Catt, permanently spied on even though he has no criminal record

Last autumn’s report into undercover policing by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) was as unimpressive as it was long. The 208 pages devoted much of their attention to non-political policing, even though the report was commissioned as part of the response to the revelation that the Special Demonstration Squad spied on Stephen Lawrence’s family.

The report said it was reassured that everyone knew officers shouldn’t have sexual relationships. Yet it appears there’s always been official banning of it. Despite this, numerous ex-officers have said it was unofficially condoned.

Bob Lambert had four sexual relationships whilst undercover. If it were such a bad idea, you would have thought that when he went on to run the Special Demonstration Squad he would make sure other officers didn’t do it. Instead, his proteges also had relationships – including long-term life partner relationships – and even (as Lambert had done) had children with activists they targeted.

Of the 14 officers so far exposed, 13 had sexual relations with activists they spied on. It’s hard to see this as anything other than accepted strategy. So the HMIC’s sense of ‘reassurance’ is based on a faith that has no basis in fact. That, or a desire to cover-up and protect police who’ve done wrong.

WE’RE COMING FOR YOUR FAMILY

Whilst life-partner sexual relationships are the most complete invasion of a person’s privacy that it is possible for the state to enact, there are others. They integrate into people’s lives and families, affecting non-activists. The official term is ‘collateral intrusion’, as if the deceit and damage done to the activists who are the primary focus is justified, as if those who want a fairer world are legitimate targets for psychological manipulation and abuse.

A 2012 HMIC report – when they thought they could pin everything on disgraced National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) agent Mark Kennedy being a sole ‘rogue officer’ – said the evidence

suggests that NPOIU operational supervision, review and oversight were insufficient to identify that his behaviour had led to disproportionate intrusion.

However, when he was part of a group of climate activists who planned to stop a coal train, his authorisation papers say the opposite.

It is very rare for collateral intrusion to occur because [Kennedy’s
name redacted] spends the majority of their time with likeminded people
engaged in activism.

He went straight from the coal train action to a friend’s wedding. People’s children and other relatives were there. And there he is in the pictures, whilst being paid overtime, PC Kennedy.

If the friends and children who formed relationships with him are not deemed not to ‘collateral intrusion’ then they are, therefore, in the target group. Just knowing someone who is an activist, being their friends or parent or child, makes you a legitimate target for these spying operations.

Kennedy spent a lot of time with the family of one of his partners, a woman known as Lily who explained to BBC Radio’s File on Four (download podcast here) that ‘he was on duty every minute that he spent with me’.

Lily’s mother mother took out a family photo and said,

That was my mother’s 90th birthday, as you can see from the balloon in the background. He looks comfortable in the photograph. I keep using that word, ‘comfortable’. I felt very comfortable with Mark and he seemed absolutely devoted to my daughter. He used to stay here, slob around watching TV with us, all that stuff that you do in a relaxed way with people in the family.

Kennedy was sanctioned and approved from on high, and it was no mere rubberstamp job. His authorisation papers include a full side of supportive A4 hand written by the person who oversaw all the secret police units, the National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, Anton Setchell.

So when senior cops at HMIC say they’re reassured that there are no bad relationships, that there’s no collateral intrusion, it’s meaningless and worthless. Just like the Operation Herne inquiry into undercover policing, it’s the police marking their own homework and awarding themselves A grades. There can be no credibility in self-investigation, nor those done by police satellite bodies like HMIC and the Independent Police Complaints Commission. We have given them too much trust for too long and they’ve shown themselves not to deserve it.

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION

Last month’s Supreme Court decision on the John Catt case underlined this. Catt is a 90 year old peace campaigner with no criminal record. After he had attended three demonstrations at the EDO arms factory in his native Brighton, anti-terrorism police stopped his car in London and threatened him and his daughter with arrest under the Terrorism Act if he didn’t tell them where he was going. He later discovered that a marker was placed against his car registration on the Police National Computer and that the network of number plate recognition cameras was used to flag him up to police for stopping.

It’s worth noting that the political police units – Special Demonstration Squad, National Public Order Intelligence Unit and others – have been merged with the Metropolitan Police’s Anti-Terrorist Branch under the name Counter Terrorism Command. Today’s Mark Kennedies are deployed by the same unit as the ones dealing with people who want to set bombs off on public transport. The structure is designed to conflate all dissent.

The Catts mounted a legal challenge but senior officers found their officer’s actions had been ‘proportionate and appropriate’, a finding upheld on appeal to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which concluded that while the case highlighted the concerns over ‘the civil liberties
or protesters’, police had been acting in accordance with ‘national policy’.

Catt then went to court to challenge the retention of his data on the ‘domestic extremist’ database. He won, at first, but the Metropolitan Police launched an appeal and last month they won. The ‘national policy’ prevails and it is considered legitimate to gather data and harass anyone who has been ‘associated with protest’. It is guilt by association, and what you’re associated with needn’t be criminal either; protest is, in and of itself, seen as something to crack down on.

In other words, the Supreme Court just ruled that anyone who speaks out against the government and the established political order – even though there is no suggestion of any involvement with any crime – can be singled out for special treatment by the police. We have a name for that kind of state.

GUILT BY PROXIMITY

As the wedding guests at the wedding Mark Kennedy attended can attest, you needn’t even be as involved as John Catt. The construction industry blacklist run by the Consulting Association was more than an illegal practice used by most of the industry’s big names to deny work to anyone involved in unions or other political activity. There was a two way exchange of information between the blacklisters and police. Even the Independent Police Complaints Commission admit that it was likely to have been part of all Special Branches’ work to illegally supply the illegal blacklist with information.

But it wasn’t just construction workers. There were files on around 200 environmental activists whose information appears to have come from details given to police when arrested. The file on construction worker Frank Smith describes him as a ‘leading light’ in a group known as the Away Team who sought to protect anti-fascist groups from attack. That’s not the kind of thing a building site manager could observe.

Smith’s girlfriend, Lisa Teuscher, was also spied on and had a blacklist file despite having no connection with the industry.

I was shocked when I first read my file. It made me feel physically sick. It’s absurd. I don’t see any reason why my name should be linked with the building industry. I had no professional involvement whatsoever. The only reason I am on the list is because of Frank.

Remember this when they say that counter-terrorism police are needed to target ‘just the paedos and terrorists’ – their definition of legitimate targets is wide. If this is their definition of political threats, who might be included in their net of potential terrorist threats? To trust Counter Terrorism Command to be making reasonable, proportionate decisions puts a lot of faith in people who have repeatedly proven themselves unworthy of it.

The political police’s choice of who it is reasonable to spy on includes anyone who is politically active, anyone who is related to them, anyone who attends an event at which they’re present. The construction blacklist proves that this is not mere background gathering of information in case it becomes useful. The political policing units have actively broken the law to help ensure their targets are denied work, deliberately inflicting the impacts that has on a person and their family. They are there to disrupt the activities and lives of those they spy on, and that can be anyone.

Resisting the Database State

John Catt

John Catt

This month the Supreme Court ruled that police did not break the law by keeping records of a 90 year old peace protester suspected of committing no crimes on a vast database of ‘domestic extremists’. The decision grants huge discretion to the police who are now free to carry out mass surveillance of political activists.

The blacklisting scandal and continuing criminalisation of protest as ‘extremism’ reveal the potential for massive human rights infringements when police are allowed to track and monitor our political activities. At this event we will hear from those who have been victimised by and are leading the fight against the database state:

John Catt – veteran peace campaigner taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the retention of his records on the domestic extremism database

Dave Smith (Blacklist Support Group) – blacklist victim, campaigner and co-author “Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and union activists

Shamik Dutta (Bhatt Murphy Solicitors) – police actions lawyer who represents John Catt as well as a group of 6 journalists also suing the Met for keeping their records on the domestic extremism database

Free Admission
Tuesday 24th March, 6.30
Room L67, SOAS University of London, WC1H 0XG

This event forms part of a series of monthly events on social justice issues hosted by Defend the Right to Protest

Blacklisted: The Book

Blacklisted cover

The new book Blacklisted: The Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists tells the controversial story of the illegal strategies that transnational construction companies resorted to in their attempt to keep union activists away from their places of work. This is a story of a bitter struggle, in which collusion with the police and security services resulted in victimization, violence and unemployment, with terrible effects on families and communities.

Drawing on first-hand accounts of the workers, Blacklisted reveals how, when major construction projects were unionized, those involved were unlawfully victimized. From the building sites to the High Court, this is a story of ordinary working people taking on some of the most powerful transnational companies in the world.

With a full inquiry promised by the Labour party, the practice of blacklisting is set to become a hot topic in the May general election.

The book also reveals how blacklisting extended beyond construction activists to environmental campaigners, journalists, politicians and academics. And it adds an international perspective with related stories from America and Europe.

It can be ordered direct from publishers New Internationalist for £7.99 plus postage.

There is a launch on Thursday March 12 in Committee Room 15 at the Houses of Parliament, 6-8pm. It’s free and all are welcome. There will be drinks and book signing afterwards at the Red Lion, Whitehall. Other events are being planned around the country and will appear on this website’s calendar as they are confirmed.

All In It Together

Blacklist Support Group and PCS picket stand together outside the Royal Courts of Justice, 10 July 2014

Blacklist Support Group and PCS picket stand together outside the Royal Courts of Justice, 10 July 2014

A week after the landmark court ruling that ended the police’s blanket use of the ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ policy, another significant step towards justice for victims of Britain’s secret police was taken at the High Court yesterday.

Since the construction industry blacklist was revealed five years ago, hundreds of workers who were on it have been pushing for answers, compensation and assurance that the practice has ended. Under the banner of ‘Own up! Pay up! Clean up!’, they’ve been demanding a credible inquiry and putting pressure on the firms who not only used the illegal database but whose information – ably assisted by Britain’s secret police – formed the content of the blacklist files.

Individual workers have been taking cases against specific companies, but it hasn’t brought results. It has parallels with the cases being brought by women who were deceived into long-term intimate relationships with undercover police officers – as horrific and outrageous as the instances are for the individuals involved, they are part of a wider strategic pattern. To get justice, we have to tackle the concerted effort rather than any one manifestation.

Rather than sue the officers who abused them, the women are taking action against the organisations who authorised it. By the same token, the blacklisted construction workers came to court yesterday seeking a Group Litigation Order putting the hundreds of workers together in one case against the firms involved.

Before they could go in there was something of a dilemma. It was July 10th, day of the huge strike by public sector workers, suggested as the largest since the General Strike of 1926. The Blacklist Support Group met the PCS picket line at the High Court and mutual support was expressed. Given the huge significance of the court case, the union’s branch secretary gave special dispensation to enter the building, and one picket said, ‘I only expect to say this once in my life – you’re welcome to cross the picket line!’

The hearing brought good news – the Group Litigation Order was granted. The victims of the list and the unions backing the case – UCATT, Unite and the GMB –  can formally combine their efforts and, more than five years since the illegal list was exposed, the stalling tactics of the culpable can finally begin to be brushed aside.

The case returns to court for a case management hearing in October with a further hearing provisionally set for December.

 

Blacklist Support Group: Protest, 10 July

Blacklist Support Group

Last week eight major construction firms involved in the industry’s blacklist made a fresh attempt at giving compensation for their illegal activity and the hardship it caused. It has been roundly dismissed by the workers and unions.

THE BLACKLIST AND STATE SPYING

The construction blacklist was run by a company called the Consulting Association. When the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) raided in 2009 they found 44 firms had used it including most of the big names in the industry. More than 3,000 people were on the list, many with files dozens of pages long including information about their family.

Most were on the list for workplace organising.  Dave Smith told parliament

Virtually everything in my file relates to where I have raised concerns about health and safety, asbestos, toilets overflowing on building sites and a young lad falling off the third floor of scaffolding… Throughout my file, there is nothing that mentions my doing anything other than raising concerns about health and safety, conducting normal trade union activities, giving interviews to various organisations and raising concerns about unpaid wages. Nowhere am I accused of doing unofficial strikes or anything like that; that just isn’t the case.

Whilst most information came from employers, the files also included material that could only have come from the police or MI5. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has conceded that it was likely to have been a routine part of Special Branch work across the country to supply this illegal list. Undercover police whistleblower Peter Francis says he not only infiltrated anti-racist organisations and was sent to find material to smear Stephen Lawrence’s family – he also believes his intelligence was used for the construction blacklist.

The undercover National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) that deployed the likes of Mark Kennedy was only one of three units run by the Association of Chief Police Officers. They also ran the National Domestic Extremism Unit that collated the intelligence from NPOIU officers, and the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) which advised companies who were the target of protesters. It is known that NETCU met with the Consulting Association but the ICO is refusing to release the details of what went on.

The Metropolitan Police initially dismissed a complaint from the Blacklist Support Group alleging police collusion but, following publication of a posthumous interview with the Consulting Association’s Ian Kerr detailing a meeting with a ‘key officer’ from NETCU, they’ve launched an investigation. There can be no credibility in yet another self-investigation from police who’ve already demonstrated their reluctance on this issue.

The scale of the blacklist is staggering.

In the period between 1996/7 and 2003/04,  the Carillion group, (trading as Tarmac/ Carillion/ John Mowlem)  paid £83,161.00, and was then the third largest supporter and user of the blacklist. This spending broke down as an annual fee of £3,500, plus a fee of up to £2.20 per name to check information on the unlawful database.

At £2.20 a time, it means they made nearly 30,000 name checks – and there were two even larger users. As the list was secret, there was no way to check the veracity of the information, nor to get off it. Workers were cast out of their trade for life. Some people were never in the trade – one was a teacher who had a file due to being on an anti-racist demonstration. Around 200 environmental activists also had files.

THE INSULT OF THE OFFER

Ian Kerr, the man who was paid £46,000 a year to ruin thousands of lives with the Consulting Association, was fined £5,000. The companies who paid for it were let off with a warning. The eight of those firms in the compensation offer make pre-tax profits of over a billion pounds a year.

This week’s basic compentsation offer is for a fast-tracked £4000, rising to £20,000 for those who can prove discrimination. With blacklisters by definition having suffered hardship and waited years for compensation, many will be tempted to take the offer. For those prepared to spend up to six months arguing and have irrefutable proof of the worst damage done, there is a cap of £100,000 compensation. Some of these people went without work for many years. For a lot of people on the blacklist the loss of earnings exceeds £100,000, and that’s before interest, let alone any consideration of the impacts on their privacy,  psychological welfare, their home life and the upbringing of their children. As Dave Smith said,

I was a qualified engineer and during one of the longest building booms this country has ever known, my children were on milk tokens

People had breakdowns, some attempted suicide. Some changed their identities to try to get work. Whilst the companies have issued a statement saying they believe were wrong to use the list, the insultingly paltry figures in this attempt at a settlement suggest otherwise. It appears that their only real regret is that they have been caught.

THE DEMAND FOR JUSTICE

The construction blacklist is yet another example of different pillars of the establishment unethically and illegally working in concert to protect their position. It is further proof of the anti-democratic remit of the undercover police who sought to stifle active politics on the spectrum outside the sliver that is represented in the House of Commons. The construction workers’ fight for truth and justice is another facet of the same struggle of the black justice campaigns, environmentalists, social justice activists, anti-fascists and others who were spied on and abused by Britain’s political secret police.

The case is back in court next week (hence the timing of the new offer of compensation). The blacklist Support Group has organised a protest outside the hearing which has already had pledges of support from union members from UNITE, UCATT, GMB and the RMT as well as environmental activists.

Where: Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2N 5HX
When: 9-10am on Thursday 10th July.

Blacklist Support Group blog
Blacklist Support Group on Facebook
Dave Smith on Twitter