Undercover Activist Details Secret Filming of Animal Abuse & Why “Ag-Gag” Laws May Force Him to Stop

An animal rights investigator details how he has spent over a decade secretly filming animal abuse and why that work is now imperiled by a wave of laws sweeping the country. Speaking on the condition we conceal his identity, “Pete” has secretly captured animal abuse on farms and slaughterhouses after applying to work at the location. He has released video footage to law enforcement and activist groups such as Mercy for Animals, helping spark national outcry and charges against the abusers. His investigations and footage have led to at least 15 criminal cases and have been used in several documentaries. But now Pete’s work is under threat. A dozen or so state legislatures have introduced bills that target people who covertly expose farm animal abuse. Nicknamed “ag-gag” laws, they would make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms or apply for a job at one without disclosing affiliations with animal rights groups. They also require activists to hand over undercover videos within 24 hours, preventing them from amassing a trove of material and publicizing their findings on their own. [includes rush transcript]
Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: In recent years, activists and investigators have gone undercover to reveal shocking cases of animal cruelty at some of the nation’s largest plants and farms. In many cases, they have made secret videos of the abuses, leading to prosecutions, closures, recalls and vows from the offenders to change their practices. In 2008, this undercover investigation by the Humane Society exposed wrongdoing by a California meat processor. A warning to our viewers, some of the images are very graphic.

HUMANE SOCIETY INVESTIGATION: An investigation by the Humane Society of the United States uncovers abuse of downed dairy cows, cows too sick or too injured to stand, at a California slaughterhouse. What’s more, the meat is being served to children through the National School Lunch Program.

AARON MATÉ: That undercover investigation by the Humane Society resulted in the largest meat recall in U.S. history. In the last two years, activists have also caught on camera employees of a Tyson Foods supplier in Wyoming flinging piglets into the air, workers at Bettencourt Dairies in Idaho shocking cows, and the searing of beaks off of young chicks at Sparboe Farms in Iowa. In the case of Tyson and Bettencourt, the employees were charged with cruelty to animals. In the case of Sparboe Farms, the company lost one of its biggest customers: the fast food giant McDonald’s.

AMY GOODMAN: But the videos have also sparked a reaction in the oppose direction: criminalizing those who blow the whistle. A front-page article in The New York Times this weekend noted that a dozen or so state legislatures have introduced bills that target people who covertly expose farm animal abuse. These so-called “ag-gag” bills, as they’re known, make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms or apply for a job at one without disclosing affiliations with animal rights groups. They also require activists to hand over undercover videos immediately, preventing them from publicizing findings and sparking public outcry or documenting trends.

Five states already have ag-gag laws in place. North Carolina has just become the latest state to consider such a law, joining a list that includes Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont. Many of these bills have been introduced with the backing of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a mechanism for corporate lobbyists to help write state laws.

In a moment, we’ll host a debate on the so-called “ag-gag” laws, but first we’re joined by one of the activists whose undercover work has sparked their passage. The activist agreed to join us today on the condition he could use a pseudonym and conceal his identity. He asked us to refer to him simply as “Pete.” Pete is an undercover animal rights investigator who has secretly captured animal abuse on farms and slaughterhouses for the past 11 years. He has released footage to groups such as Mercy for Animals, helping spark national outcry and charges against the abusers. His investigations have led to at least 15 criminal cases, and his videos have been used in a number of documentaries.

Pete, we welcome you to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what it is that you do?

PETE: Sure. Thank you for having me.

What I do is go undercover to work for an extended period of time, maybe two weeks, maybe longer, maybe six weeks or so, at farms, ranches and slaughterhouses. And the main thing that I do is focus on any and all criminal activity that exists at a facility. So, an undercover investigator’s job is to show everything that occurs, whether it’s legal or illegal. There’s a lot of standard practices that may look cruel, but they’re legal. And that is up to a campaigns department and lobbyists and the public to decide if they want to change that.

For an investigator, the main objective is to document all illegal activity and get that information to the authorities. And every single facility, whether it is a corporate facility or a family farm, whether it has a couple hundred animals or whether it has a million chickens on it, every one that I’ve worked at has been breaking the law. And because we keep finding illegal activity, and because we’re getting more cooperation from law enforcement now, I believe that has fueled some of these ag-gag laws in an attempt to try to stop us.

AARON MATÉ: And Pete, how do you go about doing it? Obviously, here we’re calling you Pete, not your real name. Do you give your real name when you’re applying for these jobs?

PETE: Yes, I do. I give—you know, because I have to fill out a W-2, and so I’m obligated to put my real name. You know, these investigations are done legally, so we don’t use fake IDs. You know, we don’t use fake names. And the most critical point is that when we’re hired, we do everything how they tell us to do it, so, you know, we try to fit in. We generally—you know, an investigator’s—part of the job is to always make sure that if you’re doing a good job, you get them to note that and let you know you are in fact doing your job: They can’t blame any problems on you.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about your time working at the Ohio hog farm in 2006. You captured this footage showing hundreds of impregnated pigs crammed into gestation crates that restrict their movement. They’re held in these crates, standing up or collapsed on the floor, for up to 116 days. The investigation was featured in the HBO documentary Death on a Factory Farm. Let’s go to a clip.

PETE: It’s a large farm. Basically, their operation is to birth and raise the pigs, then send them off to become hogs ready for slaughter. They use gestation crates and farrowing crates, just like most other hog farms in America. Gestation crates are where sows are impregnated in those crates, and they’re waiting while they’re pregnant.

How do they know which ones are pregnant? How do you know on a pig?

HOG FARMER: Huh?

PETE: You just see on the belly?

HOG FARMER: All these are pregnant.

PETE: You can just tell on the belly?

HOG FARMER: Yeah.

PETE: They are totally confined, shoulder to shoulder so they can’t move, for about 113 to 116 days. If they lie down, they have to plop straight down.

AMY GOODMAN: That is an excerpt of the HBO documentary. Pete, what happened here? How did you document it? And what resulted from your findings?

PETE: So, in that investigation, that was a little bit different. And in that, we actually had a whistleblower complaint that they were hanging crippled sows to death. They would—they would wait until they had too many sows, the female hogs, that were downed, and they started to become a nuisance. And so then they would be dragged out. They’d put a chain around their necks, then hang them from a front loader. And it would take about four to five minutes for them to be hanged to death.

Normally in an investigation, the targets are actually chosen randomly, and we consistently find violations of the law, regardless. But in this case, I went in because there was a whistleblower who complained about that specific act. However, a judge determined that hanging hogs to death was a legal means of euthanasia, and so they were not prosecuted for that act.

AARON MATÉ: Pete, I just want to clarify, you said earlier that you find cruelty 100 percent of the time?

PETE: One hundred percent of the time. You know, I mean, it would stand to reason that there has to be a farm out there, at least one, that’s not breaking the law. That would stand to reason. The only thing I can tell you is that I have not found it yet.

So, I have worked at a—for example, just with the dairies alone, I’ve worked at Bettencourt Dairy in Idaho, which at the one site that I was at, one of their numerous sites, there were about 6,000 cows, and, you know, people were breaking the law every day there. I’ve worked at the Conklin Dairy Farm in Ohio. It was a family-owned farm, had about 200 cows, the most sadistic animal abuse that I’ve ever seen. And I’ve worked at the E6 Cattle Ranch in Texas, also family-owned, and the owner was convicted for cruelty to animals. Another MFA investigator worked at a large dairy in New York, and he worked alongside a mechanic. And it just so happened that the one worker that he was working alongside was also convicted for breaking the law for cruelty to animals.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about one of the dairies, Pete. You recently infiltrated Bettencourt Dairies in Idaho and released some shocking footage. The video shows a cow being dragged on the floor by a chain attached from her neck to a moving tractor. It also shows dairy workers viciously beating and shocking cows and violently twisting their tails. Additionally, your hidden camera captured unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including feces-covered floors that cause cows to regularly slip, fall and injure themselves. There were also sick and injured cows suffering from open wounds, broken bones and infected udders left to suffer without veterinary care. Now, Bettencourt Dairies is Idaho’s largest dairy operation and cheese supplier for Kraft and Burger King. Three of the dairy workers were charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty due to your investigation. Tell us exactly what happened, how you got the video out, how you made it public, and who these people were who were convicted.

PETE: Absolutely. So, the entire purpose behind the Bettencourt investigation was that—I guess I should start by saying that my identity has been made public by the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and they’ve been trying to prevent me from getting undercover at farms and slaughterhouses. So the whole reason that I went to Idaho is specifically because Mercy for Animals hired me to just work at any facility that I could. And so I went to Idaho because I’ve never been there, and I chose the dairy industry because I hadn’t worked at a dairy in over two years. On that alone, I decided to go apply at Bettencourt. They were the first place to hire me.

And within 45 minutes of arriving on my first day, there was the—I filmed the incident that you discussed of someone putting a chain around a downed cow’s neck and dragging her out of a stall. The manager, Felipe, of that site, the Dry Creek Dairy site, he shocked the downed cow about 50 times with a hand-held device. He was the one who put the chain around her neck. I still don’t understand why he was not charged for that crime. But there it was, on my first day, that management was involved in the most hideous act of abuse that I saw while I was there.

The investigation lasted three weeks, and there were acts of unnecessary cruelty, of people beating and punching cows in the face and punching them in the eyes, and so forth, throughout that time. Once we felt that we had established a pattern of abuse and showed everyone who was involved in it, though no cow during that time had an imminent threat to their so that we felt we needed to cut the case immediately, we then went to law enforcement.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened to these people? Are they still working in the plant, though they were charged with misdemeanor? And the companies that use Bettencourt, the largest plant in the state?

PETE: Right. So, I guess first I should say Felipe, to my knowledge, is still running that site. He was not charged. There were three workers that were charged. Two fled. One was convicted. And the company itself was not charged.

So, the Bettencourts said that, you know, they’re going to put up cameras and that they’re going to have people sign a policy saying, “Don’t abuse animals.” I want to make this very clear: Most facilities that I’ve worked at, you have to sign a form that says you will not abuse animals. I have worked at more than one facility that has cameras that are operating there. I don’t know who’s behind the camera, but certainly they’ve never uncovered anything that I’ve been able to find with my hidden cameras. So I don’t believe that that’s going to actually do anything to minimize the amount of illegal cruelty at Bettencourt.

AARON MATÉ: Pete, I also want to ask you about what you uncovered at the Martin Creek Kennel in Arkansas. Your investigation was featured in the 2006 HBO documentary called Dealing Dogs. Let’s go to a clip. And again, a warning to our viewers: These images are very graphic.

PETE: Up at the trench, there’s a table sitting right next to the trench with a bloody knife on top. And the whole table is just covered in dried blood. The area around the table is just littered with dog organs.

These are lines of trenches. Started out here, and he keeps digging new trenches as he fills them up. More dogs, whole dogs. OK, this dog here had been cut open.

AARON MATÉ: That’s a clip from the 2006 HBO documentary Dealing Dogs. Pete, talk about what you found there.

PETE: Sure. So, that facility, they had been suspected for a long time of abusing animals. And it was a place that was licensed by the USDA to sell random-source dogs and cats to research labs. That’s called a Class B license. A few of those still exist, and most of them now buy their dogs and cats from pounds. So they go to the local shelter and then—or animal control facility, and then they’ll resell them to research. That facility was the largest in operation, having over 600 dogs at a time, over 100 cats at a time. And they would sell to universities for research all over the country. Not only were they abusing the dogs on a daily basis, but they were also getting a lot of stolen pets.

That facility was eventually shut down. The U.S. attorney’s office got involved, because they were also involved in a felony fraud. They had a veterinarian pre-signing their interstate health certificates without checking the dogs. And so, for every one of those that crossed state lines, it was a felony. It’s kind of like hitting Al Capone for tax evasion. But anyway, all of the animals were rescued once the U.S. attorney’s office raided the facility, and they were permanently shut down.

That said, there’s an interesting point about that case, which is that, you know, you look at—you look at a facility like that, it’s licensed by the government, and you wonder how can they be doing these things. Like, how can all of these farms and slaughterhouses be breaking the law, and no one but undercover activists finds out about it? Well, at Martin Creek Kennel, I watched a USDA inspection. I watched two federal inspectors walk through the facility, and they did not find a single dog that was dying of open wounds that I was able to document that day at that facility. I’ve seen federal inspections at several facilities that I’ve worked at, and they don’t find any of the crimes that I’ve uncovered while I’m there. So, I applaud the USDA for all of the action that they take, and I’m not trying to—I’m not trying to come down on them. But what I’m trying to say is that an inspection alone or third-party verification does not find the kind of criminal activity that an undercover investigation will find. And there is no law enforcement agency that exists in this country to do undercover work of puppy mills, factory farms and slaughterhouses.

AMY GOODMAN: Pete—

PETE: It’s up to nonprofit groups.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the so-called ag-gag bills that would criminalize the undercover work you do? Republican State Senator David Hinkins of Utah told his local station, KSL-TV, he doesn’t understand opposition to the so-called ag-gag bills. Hinkins said, quote, “If a wife were abusing her husband, we wouldn’t sneak into their living room and set up a hidden camera. We don’t want people mistreating animals. … There are authorities they can contact. They don’t need to be detectives or the Pink Panther sneaking around.” Your response?

PETE: Two things. Number one, animals cannot speak for themselves. So, of course, domestic violence is a complicated issue, but ultimately, you can question a battered spouse and try to get the truth from them. You cannot ask an animal, “Who kicked you?” or “Who’s neglecting you?”

The second thing—and I hesitate to say this because I have so much respect for law enforcement, and we’ve seen so much cooperation from law enforcement especially in the last few years, but corruption and apathy from law enforcement still is a big problem that we find when we’re dealing with animal cases. And if you’re a cop, and if you hear that, and that shocks you, it’s because you’re a good cop. But I can’t tell you how many times it is that we find clear violations of the law, and the local authorities won’t do anything. And it’s tough. You know, it’s very hard, if you’re a police officer in a rural county, you go to church with, and you live alongside, or you’re involved in the same business as the people who some activist comes in and starts showing conditions that, you know, they point out are illegal, but that you may—you may do yourself, or your friends may do themselves.

AMY GOODMAN: Pete, how would the ag-gag bills—

PETE: So that makes it a very complicated issue.

AMY GOODMAN: —affect you and your work?

PETE: They would make it illegal for me to do my job.

AMY GOODMAN: How?

PETE: It’s pure and simple. Well, so, the ag-gag laws generally say that if you document conditions at a facility, if you take a photograph or video of an animal agriculture facility, you’re breaking the law.

What they’ll also say—and this is the most clever—is they’ll say that if you see an act of illegal abuse, you have to report it within 24 hours. That’s misleading. It’s misleading because if you just show illegal activity from one individual, you can’t then show who else is involved in that illegal activity. And when one person is busted—and I absolutely swear to this—they’re not going to—it’s not going to stop other people from breaking the law. It’s going to let everyone else know they need to be more careful about how they do it, or they just need to make sure that they’re more careful about who they hire.

The second thing is that it’s not always clear what is illegal. The first dairy that I worked at, I saw someone kick a cow right in the side of her head to try and get her to stand. I documented it, thought it was illegal. Turns out, it’s perfectly normal to try to do to a cow to make her stand, that the first thing you should do is kick her right in the side of the head or the neck. When I saw people hanging crippled sows to death in Ohio, I assumed that surely that’s illegal. In fact, it looked sadistic. Turns out that’s perfectly legal. So you don’t always know.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happens when you get to continue to record? What is your point that when you turn it in after 24 hours, it hurts what you do?

PETE: Well, so let’s say that you go to a facility, and you believe that someone has—in fact, let’s set it up as best we can. Let’s say you see an act that you believe is illegal, someone admits that it’s illegal, and you have an attorney standing by within 24 hours to tell you it’s illegal. You’re very unlikely to meet all three of those conditions. You are then missing out on any pattern of abuse to determine if this is a one-off incident. You’re then missing out on an opportunity to determine if anyone else is involved in breaking the law. And you’re missing out on an opportunity to find out if management at that facility is aware of this, to see if it’s more of a systemic problem, like we found at Bettencourt and like we found at multiple facilities when we do these investigations. So it really hinders—it prevents you from working a criminal case.

AMY GOODMAN: Pete, you wanted to be a police officer when you were young?

PETE: Yes, absolutely. That’s the reason that I started doing this. I wanted to go into law enforcement, but, you know, I realized there’s a lot of people that are going into law enforcement, and there’s very few people doing this. And there is just no such thing as a cop whose sole job is to go undercover to look out for farmed animals or for dogs in puppy mills. So I decided to combine my two passions, since I was an animal rights activist and I wanted to be a cop, and try and do this job.

AARON MATÉ: And, Pete, since these ag-gag laws have been passed, have you stopped your work in any of the states where they have gone into effect?

PETE: Yes, I have. The main group that I work for is Mercy for Animals. They are an extremely gutsy group. They are extremely professional. And they are very, very focused on not only campaigning for animal welfare, but for finding illegal activity on farms and slaughterhouses. It’s why I love working for them. And they do everything completely legally. So, any states where the ag-gag laws have passed, it’s a no-go to work there.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for being with us. Pete is the name he asked us to use; it’s not his real name, though he does use his real name when he goes undercover; is an undercover animal rights investigator who has secretly captured animal abuse on farms and slaughterhouses. He has released the footage to groups such as Mercy for Animals, helping spark national outcry and charges against abusers. He’s using the pseudonym to conceal his identity, not disclosing his whereabouts, so he can continue to get hired by unknowing slaughterhouses, farms and other facilities suspected of animal abuse. HBO and others have used his video in their documentaries.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll have a debate on the so-called ag-gag bills. Stay with us.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Find this story at 9 April 2013

Debate: After Activists Covertly Expose Animal Cruelty, Should They Be Targeted With “Ag-Gag” Laws?

So-called “ag-gag” bills that criminalize undercover filming on farms and at slaughterhouses to document criminal animal abuse are sweeping the country. Five states, including Missouri, Utah and Iowa, already have such laws in place. North Carolina has just become the latest state to consider such a law, joining a list that includes Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont. Many of these bills have been introduced with the backing of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a mechanism for corporate lobbyists to help write state laws. We host a debate on the ag-gag laws with two guests: independent journalist Will Potter, and Emily Meredith, communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance. [includes rush transcript]
Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: We turn now to a debate on the so-called ag-gag bills that would criminalize undercover filming on farms and at slaughterhouses. Five states have already passed ag-gag laws. North Carolina has just become the latest state to consider such a law, joining Arkansas, California, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont.

AMY GOODMAN: For a discussion on these so-called ag-gag laws, we’re joined by two guests. Will Potter, freelance reporter who’s been covering the bills and ALEC for years, the American Legislative Exchange Council, he runs the blog GreenIsTheNewRed.com. He’s also the author of Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege. And we’re joined by Emily Meredith, the communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance. The group’s annual summit will be held next month with a heavy focus on the undercover animal cruelty videos and the ag-gag laws trying to block them. The summit’s theme is “Activists at the Door: Protecting Animals, Farms, Food & Consumer Confidence.” Both guests are joining us from Washington, D.C.

Let us begin with Emily Meredith. Can you talk about the—

EMILY MEREDITH: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Morning. It’s good to have you with us—the Animal Agriculture Alliance and what these laws are that are being often successfully passed around the country?

EMILY MEREDITH: Sure. Well, the Animal Agriculture Alliance is the largest national coalition of individual farmers and ranchers, veterinarians, processing facilities and a host of national organizations representing basically every protein group. And we work to make sure that there’s a unified voice communicating and engaging with consumers and helping them understand where their food comes from.

And this farm protection legislation, which has been termed ag-gag legislation by the activist community, is extremely important because these undercover videos are harmful to the farm owners where these videos are taped, the farm families that work those farms day in and day out, and the animal agriculture industry truly as a whole. And these videos damage their reputations. They bring harsh criticism. And many of these videos have found no legitimate instances of abuse, but rather use manipulated footage. They show false narrative of the images that are being shown. And they’re meant to shock and awe consumers and to really highlight conduct that the animal activist groups want to put an end to the entire industry. They want to end the animal agriculture industry. And that’s what these videos are about. And that’s why legislation like this is so important. It is because this legislation is meant to protect the right of these people to continue to operate their farms and ranches and to continue to provide food to this hungry country and the world.

AARON MATÉ: Will Potter, you’ve covered this issue extensively. Your thoughts on what are called the ag-gag laws or farm protection laws?

WILL POTTER: Well, there is certainly a lot of truth to what you just said. I mean, these undercover investigations have created a lot of distrust with the industry and really questioned where people are getting their meat and animal products from. It’s important to point out, though, that these investigations have also led to criminal charges across the country. They’ve led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. They’ve led to ballot initiatives across the country in which consumers are speaking out.

And to frame this as something by animal welfare groups who are seeking to abolish animal agriculture is just disingenuous. The people that are opposed to these bills are people like the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Teamsters, the AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Press Photographers Association. These are not radical extremist animal rights activists; these are everyone who cares about where their food comes from and whether or not they have a right to know about what they’re buying.

AMY GOODMAN: Emily Meredith, your response?

EMILY MEREDITH: Well, I would say that these videos are—they’re showing families, they’re showing farms and slaughterhouses, and they’re basically making them guilty without ever giving them the opportunity to address the allegations that are levied in those videos. They’re not giving them the opportunity to take corrective action. I know that Pete mentioned that they often turn the videos over to the authorities. That is completely—I think that’s disingenuous, when in fact they actually release these videos direct to the media. They send them direct to companies. One of the farms where—that Pete mentioned, they sent the video direct to CNN and to Burger King. And it was in fact the farm owners that turned that footage over to the state prosecutor and took responsibility, fired five of his employees, at least five of his employees, and turned that footage over. And I think that’s—that’s disingenuous.

If you truly care about animal welfare, you’re not going to wait even a minute to report animal abuse. You’re going to see it, you’re going to stop it, and you’re going to say something. And I think that’s very important to note. This footage is taken for weeks or months. It’s held, and it’s released at a politically opportune or strategically conceived time. And it’s used—these videos are used for these groups’ fundraising purposes. I know Pete mentioned Mercy for Animals. Yes, they release these videos, and they release them under a big “donate now” button. And I think that’s really and truly disingenuous. And that’s why this legislation is so crucial.

AMY GOODMAN: Will Potter, your response?

WILL POTTER: I think it’s interesting to say something like the activists are making people who abuse animals and are facing felony animal cruelty charges, in many cases, making them guilty. I mean, it completely restructures the debate away from the people who are actually committing the abuses.

And I think it’s important to point out also that we can’t limit this discussion to what’s being described as criminal activity. Although these investigations have certainly led to criminal charges across the country, much of what these investigators are documenting are actually standard industry practices. I think most people would be shocked to learn that there is not one federal law that protects farm animals during their lives. There are some legislation that protects animals as they’re being transported and some legislation that protects animals as they’re being slaughtered, but that exempts poultry, which are about 90 to 95 percent of animals that are killed. So, to put this in another way, there’s about nine billion animals killed every year for food in this country by an industry with virtually no government oversight and no accountability. These undercover investigators are really the only meaningful way that American consumers have a right to know how their food is produced and to have a check and balance on a multibillion-dollar industry.

AARON MATÉ: Emily, does the industry have safeguards in place that you think counter what Will is saying is needed, which is people investigating and doing monitoring of these farms?

EMILY MEREDITH: Oh, for sure. I mean, I think the last thing that the industry needs is activist groups that really wish to see a vegan world, quote-unquote, “policing” them. Some of the measures that are in place are every employee that is hired on a farm or ranch is required to sign a document saying if they see abuse, they will report it to managers, to farm owners, and even to local authorities. There are a lot of farms, ranches, processing facilities, that have video cameras in place that run every day, that a quality assurance manager or some sort of manager is reviewing that footage. There’s trainings in place. A lot of these facilities train in multiple languages to make sure that their employees understand how to properly handle animals and care for them.

And I think the bottom line to really note here is that these—98.2 percent of farms and ranches in this country are family-owned. I think that the term “factory farm” gets thrown around a lot, and that’s a completely—again, a term made up by—a very catchy term made up by the activist community, whereas, in reality, the majority of farms and ranches in this country are family-owned. And these farm families, they truly care about their animals. And they want—it’s not in their best interest to have abuse allegations levied against them. They want to make sure that every one of their employees is doing the right thing, that they’re doing the right thing, and that they can continue to do what they love to do and what has been in their families for generations. Some of these farms and ranches have been in operation for a hundred years. They don’t want to have any allegations against them that would allege animal cruelty, because that is—A, it’s bad for business, but, B, it goes against what they were raised to do. And I think that that’s really important to note. And we need to remember that these people are producing our food every day.

AMY GOODMAN: Will Potter, what about Emily Meredith’s points that the vast majority of farms are family farms and that they successfully monitor themselves?

WILL POTTER: It’s completely nonexistent. Old MacDonald’s farm just does not exist anymore. We’re talking about nine to 10 billion animals raised for food every year. These are not little red barns dotting the countryside. These are industrial operations, in some cases with a million birds on a single farm. To say that this is a family business is just misrepresenting how the entire animal agriculture industry functions. This is a multibillion-dollar industry that, as I said, has virtually no safeguards, no oversight from the government. And a handful of activists and whistleblowers have really rattled the industry to its core.

And I think what that really represents is that as these investigations are exposed, they not only lead to criminal charges, but they’ve really changed the nature of the public debate. Most people have been led to believe exactly what Ms. Meredith said, that there are these little red barns and Old MacDonald raising animals for American consumption. But that just doesn’t happen. So people, when they see this footage, when they become aware of how this industry operates, they’re appalled. And I think that really reflects the sea change in the national dialogue right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Will Potter, I want to ask you about how journalists will be impacted by these bills, but first let’s turn to this 2011 report by ABC’s Brian Ross on McDonald’s dropping a large McMuffin egg supplier. The fast food chain fired Sparboe Farms following allegations of animal cruelty.

BRIAN ROSS: In the wake of an ABC News investigation, McDonald’s has fired Sparboe Farms, citing undercover video made by an animal rights group, Mercy for Animals, showing mindless animal cruelty, most of which is too graphic to broadcast.

AMY GOODMAN: Will Potter, can you comment on this?

WILL POTTER: I mean, particularly what concerns me as a journalist is exactly what you just described. I mean, these bills are so broad that they wrap up, in some cases, photography and video documentation. They wrap up anyone who distributes or possesses that footage. And even the reformed bills, as they’ve been presented, which focus on misrepresenting yourself in job application or the mandatory reporting provisions, those still put reporters at risk.

I think people need to understand that there’s a long history of investigative journalism in this country, I mean, dating back to Nellie Bly, who pretended to be insane in order to expose systemic abuses in insane asylums across the country, for reporters to document these types of abuses in this way. In addition to that, not everyone who is exposing and making the news has congressional press credentials. We’re in a climate right now where some of the national headlines are made not by investigative journalists, but by people that are taking it upon themselves to document this kind of corruption.

AMY GOODMAN: Give us examples of what has been exposed that has led to the closing of factories, changes in policy.

WILL POTTER: I think it’s really reflective of this national climate to see what happened in North Carolina this last week. A fifth person, a fifth employee of Butterball pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges. And on that same day, the North Carolina Legislature introduced a new bill that criminalizes the very investigation that led to those criminal charges, and also led to the ousting of a top Ag official in North Carolina on obstruction of justice. I think that really wraps up, you know, the totality of what we’re talking about, that the mechanisms in place that are meant to be safeguards in many ways themselves are corrupt. And it’s taken undercover investigators to expose that and to allow for this dialogue of what needs to happen to reform.

AMY GOODMAN: And a point that Emily Meredith made about if you see abuse, if you do get in there and you do film it, you should have to turn the film over within 24 hours, what is your response to that, Will Potter?

WILL POTTER: I think there are a couple things to point out. One is that this doesn’t allow for a systemic or a multi-abuse pattern to be exposed. For instance, no one would go to the FBI or to the police and say that they should bust the mob after catching one illegal activity. And I think that’s really the same situation here. Do we want to see one aberrant behavior, or do we want to see what is happening every single day on these farms to get a complete picture of what’s happening and how our food is being processed?

I think the second thing to think about is that many of the people who work on these facilities are some of the most vulnerable populations in the country. These are people that in many cases are not native English speakers, that are not familiar and don’t have access to an attorney within 24 hours. So for them to make the decision to report this information and put their livelihood on the line cannot be forced on them in such a short amount of time. That really places an unfair burden on the workers. And that’s why groups like the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO have opposed this, as well.

AARON MATÉ: Emily Meredith, many points to respond to here. Will Potter’s point that forcing this quick disclosure puts an unfair burden on workers?

EMILY MEREDITH: I think that’s blatantly untrue. I think that it’s easy for the activist community to sit there and say it puts an unfair burden on workers, when, in reality, I think it puts an equal burden when they cut and run after obtaining the footage that they want and release it to the mainstream media. I mean, you’re showing workers there that are most—in most cases, not doing anything wrong, are complying with standard industry practices, and you’re releasing that footage direct to the public. So, where are the activists in doing what Mr. Potter just suggested, in helping those workers get attorneys and making sure that they’re represented? They’re not doing that.

And I think it’s easy for them to sit there and say that—you know, make all these excuses why their videos are necessary; however, I think we need to remember that these videos play a huge part in their bottom lines. They’re a huge part to their fundraising campaigns, and it’s how these organizations, like Mercy for Animals, like the Humane Society, like PETA—that’s how these organizations stay in business and continue to operate.

And I would also say that there’s nothing in the Constitution that would give you a right to videotape on private property. In fact, there’s many states that have—that prohibit videotaping in any sort of business, not just on farms and ranches, not just in agriculture. And I think that that—that’s a very crucial point, because just because you’re an undercover activist doesn’t give you the right to go onto someone’s private property. And in many cases, these are family farms, as I’ve mentioned before. Animals are 100 feet from the family home. It doesn’t give you a right, just because you want to—you think you want to expose something, to go onto that private property and to videotape.

And these farms and ranches, they do need protection. In fact, I will say one more thing, if I may, which is that the first of these bills which—the first of these recent bills was actually written at the kitchen table of former Iowa Representative Annette Sweeney. This bill, she had farm—she’s a farmer herself. She raises animals. And she had other farm families coming to her, saying, “What’s our recourse? You know, these videos are spreading misinformation. They’re using false footage. They’re using footage that wasn’t even obtained in our facility. And we don’t have a recourse, and we need to do something about it.” And so, she sat down with other legislators at her kitchen table and drafted the first one of these bills to protect families like hers. And I think that that’s what we really need to remember, is that—

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go—let’s go to who is writing the legislation. And here I want to ask you about the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, in pushing these state bills. ALEC spokesperson Bill Meierling told the Associated Press, quote, “At the end of the day it’s about personal property rights or the individual right to privacy. You wouldn’t want me coming into your home with a hidden camera.” Let’s put this question to Will Potter, because Emily Meredith raised it, as well, that people don’t have a right to go onto private property and film.

WILL POTTER: Well, if I were keeping pigs in my home their entire lives and not allowing them to turn around, keeping chickens in battery cages and debeaking them, or docking pigs’ tails without anesthesia, I probably wouldn’t want anyone coming into my home and documenting that, either.

I think what is missing the point here is that the American Legislative Exchange Council is behind a coordinated effort, dating back to about 2003, in which they’ve drafted model legislation criminalizing a wide range of activity, from nonviolent civil disobedience to the undercover investigations of animal welfare groups as terrorism. And over the next 10 years, they’ve used that legislation around the country. And in—the recent attempts of ag-gag bills are really an extension of that. This is a concerted effort by corporations to silence their opposition, and it’s bankrolled by some of the most powerful industries on the planet.

AMY GOODMAN: Where does ALEC fit into this picture, this organization where corporate heads and legislators get together and write legislation?

WILL POTTER: So, I think most of your listeners are familiar with ALEC, because Democracy Now! has reported on it quite a bit. But the way the group functions is by taking thousands of dollars of donations from corporations, and in exchange for that money, these corporations are allowed to draft model legislation. And these model bills are introduced around the country without any fingerprints tying them to the industries that crafted or are attempting to craft the law, so most people have no idea where these bills are actually coming from. Meanwhile, ALEC mobilizes lawmakers around the country. For instance, in Utah, my reporting on the ag-gag bill there showed that the Senate, as it—the Utah Senate that passed the bill, over half of the supporting votes came from ALEC members. I mean, we really have no idea of the true scope of this organization, but it’s clear, especially with this wave of ag-gag bills, that ALEC bills has been a driving force behind these attempts to criminalize activists.

AMY GOODMAN: Emily Meredith, how involved is ALEC in the legislation that’s passing in state after state, most recently this week introduced in North Carolina?

EMILY MEREDITH: Well, I’ll go back to what I said earlier, which was the first recent one of these bills was really written around the kitchen table by someone who is a farmer herself, who has a vested interest in this, and who was approached by other farm families, and looking for a recourse for these videos, looking for someone to help them protect themselves, really. And I think that it doesn’t matter where the impetus is coming from, and I would—I would strive to say that the impetus is coming from farm families themselves.

But the true point is that, you know, as Will Potter pointed out, well, I—you know, I don’t think you would want me videotaping that. Well, you know, I think that that is—that is untrue. I think that there’s a lot of farmers’ and ranchers’ organizations, like the Animal Agriculture Alliance, who are striving to be transparent and to help consumers understand where their food comes from. However, we’re running up against staunch opposition and activist organizations, like Mercy for Animals, activists, journalists, who are going in and who are really mistreating this video footage, who are taking footage for weeks and months, they’re holding it, then they’re releasing it, as I said before, at a politically opportune time. And this video footage is often spliced together from footage from 10, 20 years ago that they use in these videos. They’re running a false narrative with a lot of these images. And even—

AMY GOODMAN: Will Potter, that’s a serious charge that Emily Meredith is making, that most of it is false, the videotape.

WILL POTTER: Yeah, it is a serious charge, and I would love to see any evidence of that. I’m sure prosecutors would, as well, as they’ve brought criminal charges in these cases, not from footage from 10 or 20 years ago, but of things that happened months ago, that have immediately led to criminal investigations. If there are allegations of any of this footage being manipulated or staged or doctored in any way, I would love to see it, from anyone in the industry. But they continue to make these claims without any evidence as to what is actually happening.

To talk about transparency in this way is really interesting to me, because this industry is behind attempts to keep consumers in the dark, and then the Animal Agriculture Alliance, for example, is holding a conference about those attempts, and then, at the same time, denying access to reporters such as myself—my credentials were refused—who are trying to attend and learn about their efforts. So at every step of the way, they’re trying to keep the public in the dark, they’re trying to keep consumers in the dark, and they’re trying to make all of us unaware of what’s actually happening.

AMY GOODMAN: Emily Meredith, your response? And the significance of the meeting that you’ll be having in Virginia, coming up on May 1st to 2nd at the Westin Arlington Gateway, “Activists at the Door: Protecting Animals, Farms, Food & Consumer Confidence”?

EMILY MEREDITH: Well, I want to say first that the industry is not trying to keep consumers in the dark. They have made a lot of efforts to be more transparent, to communicate about things. And in fact, these bills—I want to emphasize this point—mandate reporting. They want you to see it, they want you to stop it, and they want you to say something. They don’t want you to hold the footage. As I said before, a lot of this footage is never even turned over to prosecuting authorities, until the farm families and the owners of these facilities turn it over themselves. And that has happened in numerous cases.

The second thing I want to make a point about is that after a lot of these videos are released, these farms themselves are going to independent review panels—excuse me—and having these videos reviewed by known humane handling experts, like, for instance, Dr. Temple Grandin. And I want to make this point very clear. When that review panel asks for the full footage—let’s say that the activist organization was in a facility for three weeks or three months—when that review panel, which—

AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.

EMILY MEREDITH: —which includes experts, they ask for the full footage, they’re not turned that full footage over. The activist community does not want that review panel to see the full footage. And in my mind, that’s because there really is—

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there. Emily Meredith, I want to thank you for being with us, of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and Will Potter, freelance reporter, author of Green is the New Red. We will look at the case of Daniel McGowan after our show, and we’ll post it at democracynow.org.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Find this story at 9 April 2013

Undercover policeman planted bomb in 1987 Debenhams blast that caused millions of pounds worth of damage to ‘prove worth’ to animal rights group he was infiltrating, claims Green Party MP

News revealed as minister said undercover officers CAN have sex with environmental activists to maintain their cover

Bob Lambert planted a bomb in Debenhams inHarrowin 1987, MP says using parliamentary privilege

Three bombs planted during the coordinated attacks

Two bombers were caught and jailed, but the third one was never traced

An undercover policeman planted a bomb in a department store to prove his commitment to animal rights extremists, an MP claimed yesterday.

Bob Lambert is accused of leaving an incendiary device in a Debenhams inLondon– one of three set off in a coordinated attack in 1987.

Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, used parliamentary privilege to claim that Mr Lambert – who went under the alias Bob Robinson – carried out the attack after infiltrating the Animal Liberation Front.

The group planted the devices in protest at the store’s decision to sell fur products.

The attacks caused £8million of damage and led Debenhams to stop selling fur.

The claims were strongly denied by Mr Lambert, who is now a leading academic and expert in terrorism and Islamophobia at St Andrew’s University.

Following the July 1987 attacks on Debenhams, two activists – Geoff Sheppard and Andrew Clarke – were jailed for planting devices in theLutonand Romford stores.

Sheppard received a sentence of four years and four months, while Clarke was jailed for more than three years. The third activist involved was never caught.

Miss Lucas yesterday said she had seen a witness statement from Sheppard claiming the third man was Mr Lambert and that he targeted a store inHarrow.

She told MPs that Sheppard was not there when the bomb was planted. She read from his statement, which said: ‘I straightaway knew that Bob had carried out his part of the plan.

‘There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Bob Lambert placed the incendiary device at the Debenhams store inHarrow.

‘I specifically remember him giving an explanation to me about how he had been able to place one of the devices in that store, but how he had not been able to place the second device.’

Miss Lucas alleged that when Sheppard’s flat was raided two months later while he was making four more fire-bombs, the intelligence was so accurate it ‘came from Bob Lambert’.

Calling for an inquiry into the activities of undercover officers, Miss Lucas told MPs: ‘It would seem that planting the third incendiary device was perhaps a move designed to bolster Lambert’s credibility and reinforce the impression of a genuine and dedicated activist.

 

‘There is no doubt in my mind that anyone planting an incendiary device in a department store is guilty of a very serious crime and should have charges brought against them.’

 

Mr Lambert said: ‘It was necessary to create the false impression that I was a committed animal rights extremist to gain intelligence so as to disrupt serious criminal conspiracies.

 

‘However, I did not commit serious crime such as planting an incendiary device at the Debenhams Harrow store.’

 

Mr Lambert infiltrated the Animal Liberation Front in the late 1980s and his evidence was used to convict Sheppard and Clarke.

 

He went on to become a police spymaster who led a network of undercover officers who infiltrated radical groups.

 

Find this story at 13 june 2012

By Kirsty Walker and Chris Greenwood

PUBLISHED: 14:27 GMT, 13 June 2012  | UPDATED: 00:45 GMT, 14 June 2012

Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd

Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

Undercover Policing

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)

It is a pleasure to hold this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I am very grateful for the opportunity to raise the issue of the rules governing undercover police infiltrators and informers.

I am sure the House will agree that when it comes to the deployment of undercover police officers, transparency and accountability are of the utmost importance. In recent months, however, a number of cases have come to light that seem to expose serious abuses of any guidelines that we might reasonably assume inform what police officers working undercover can and cannot do. The cases raise important questions about whether such guidelines are ever enforced, whether individuals who breach them are properly held to account, and the extent to which infiltration of campaign groups is a legitimate, or even effective, tactic. Also, I have details of new allegations relating to the behaviour of one undercover officer that I believe require immediate investigation and raise questions about the convictions of two individuals.

Since at least the 1968 protests against the Vietnam war, police chiefs, backed by successive Governments, have used the tactic of infiltration to secure more reliable intelligence about political demonstrations than could be provided by informants. Undercover police officers pose as political activists over several years, to gather reliable intelligence and perhaps disrupt campaigners’ activities. In the early days, such officers were part of a super-secret unit within special branch, called the special demonstration squad; more recently they have been under a second unit, the national public order intelligence unit.

Up to nine undercover officers have been unmasked following the exposure of Mark Kennedy in late 2010. I will say a bit more about his case later, but the officers include Bob Lambert, know by the alias Bob Robinson. That officer pretended to be a committed environmental and animal rights campaigner between 1984 and 1988. By the summer of 1987, he had successfully infiltrated the Animal Liberation Front, a group that operated through a tightly organised underground network of small cells of activists, making it difficult to penetrate. In October 2011, after he was exposed as an undercover officer, Bob Lambert admitted:

“In the 1980s I was deployed as an undercover Met special branch officer to identify and prosecute members of Animal Liberation Front who were then engaged in incendiary device and explosive device campaigns against targets in the vivisection, meat and fur trades.”

Lambert has also admitted that part of his mission was to identify and prosecute specific ALF activists:

“I succeeded in my task and that success included the arrest and imprisonment of Geoff Sheppard and Andrew Clarke.”

The men Lambert referred to were ALF activists who were found guilty of planting incendiary devices in two Debenhams stores. Allegations about exactly what kind of role Lambert might have played in their convictions have come to light only recently.

In July 1987, three branches of Debenhams, in Luton, Romford and Harrow, were targeted by the ALF in co-ordinated, simultaneous incendiary attacks, because

the shops sold fur products. Sheppard and Clarke were tried and found guilty, but the culprit who planted the incendiary device in the Harrow store was never caught. Bob Lambert’s exposure as an undercover police officer has prompted Geoff Sheppard to speak out about the Harrow attack. He alleges that Lambert was the one who planted the third device and that he was involved in the ALF’s co-ordinated campaign. Sheppard has made a statement, which I have seen, in which he says:

“Obviously I was not there when he targeted that store because we all headed off in our separate directions but I was lying in bed that night, and the news came over on the World Service that three Debenhams stores had had arson attacks on them and that included the Harrow store as well. So obviously I straightaway knew that Bob had carried out his part of the plan. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Bob Lambert placed the incendiary device at the Debenhams store in Harrow. I specifically remember him giving an explanation to me about how he had been able to place one of the devices in that store, but how he had not been able to place the second device.”

In the same interview, Sheppard says that two months after the three Debenhams store were set on fire, he and another person were in his flat making four more fire bombs when they were raided by police. Sheppard alleges that the intelligence for the raid was so precise that it is now obvious that it “came from Bob Lambert”. Lambert knew that the pair were going to be there making another set of incendiary devices.

Sheppard was jailed for four years and four months, and Clarke for more than three years. For Lambert, it was a case of job done—in fact, so well had he manipulated the situation that he even visited Sheppard in prison, to give him support before disappearing abroad. Until recently Sheppard had no reason whatsoever to suspect the man he knew as Bob Robinson—he assumed that Robinson had got away with it, fled the country and built a new life.

It seems that planting the third incendiary device might have been a move designed to bolster Lambert’s credibility and reinforce the impression of a genuine and dedicated activist. He successfully went on to gain the precise intelligence that led to the arrest of Sheppard and Clarke, without anyone suspecting that the tip-off came from him, but is that really the way we want our police officers to behave?

The case raises new questions about the rules governing undercover police infiltrators and informers, particularly when it comes to those officers committing a crime—an area in which the law is especially grey. Police chiefs can authorise undercover officers to participate in criminal acts to gain the trust of the groups they are trying to infiltrate and, in theory, to detect or prevent a more serious crime, but usually they are not allowed to be involved in planning or instigating the crime. As I understand it, the specific law on that is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and that before its enactment, at the time of the Debenhams attacks, the rules were vague. They have not so far been made public.

If Sheppard’s allegations are true, someone must have authorised Lambert to plant incendiary devices at the Harrow store, and presumably that same person may also have given the officer guidance on just how far he needed to go to establish his credibility with the ALF. We simply do not know, and in the absence of any

proper framework or rules, the task of holding Lambert to account is very difficult. Even if strict protocols are in place to try to control the actions of undercover officers, who decides what the protocols say, and how can we hold those people to account, given the secrecy that surrounds such activities?
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Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood, Conservative)

Will the hon. Lady give way?
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Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)

Yes, but very briefly, as I am short of time.
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Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood, Conservative)

Is not an alternative explanation that there were no protocols in place and that decisions were taken at the discretion of this officer, who was not properly controlled? To the extent that there were protocols, is it not clear that the guidance for undercover officers was coming from the Association of Chief Police Officers, which is an entirely unaccountable organisation?
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Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. The truth is that we simply do not know, and that is the problem. We need clarity, which is what I hope the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice can help us with later.

There is no doubt in my mind that anyone planting an incendiary device in a department store is guilty of a very serious crime and should have charges brought against them. That means absolutely anyone, including, if the evidence is there, Bob Lambert or, indeed, the people who were supervising him.

Ironically, as we have seen, the use of undercover police infiltrators can make it much more difficult to secure successful convictions. Three Court of Appeal judges have overturned the convictions of 20 environmental protestors, ruling that crucial evidence recorded by an undercover officer, Mark Kennedy, operating under the false name of Mark Stone, was withheld from the original trial. The judges said that they had seen evidence that appeared to show that Kennedy was

“involved in activities that went further than the authorisation he was given”,

and that he was “arguably, an agent provocateur.” The latest allegations concerning Bob Lambert and the planting of incendiary devices prompt us to ask: has another undercover police officer crossed the line into acting as an agent provocateur, and how many other police spies have been encouraging protestors to commit crimes?

Mark Kennedy’s exposure in 2010 has shone a light on how officers behave when they go undercover, and especially on the rules governing whether they are permitted to form intimate relationships with those on whom they are spying. Jon Murphy, Chief Constable of Merseyside and the police chiefs’ spokesman on the issue, claims that that is “grossly unprofessional” and “never acceptable”, yet one undercover police officer, Pete Black, claims that superiors knew officers had developed sexual relationships with protestors to give credibility to their cover stories and help gather evidence.

Eight women who say that they were duped into forming long-term loving relationships with undercover policemen have started a legal action against the police. They have a copy of a letter from a Metropolitan police solicitor that asserts that the forming of personal and other relationships by a “covert human intelligence

source” to obtain information is permitted and lawful under RIPA; so either rogue undercover officers have been breaking the rules set by senior officers, or senior officers have misled the public by saying that such relationships are forbidden. We need to know what the truth is, and we need any rules of engagement to be published and open to public and parliamentary scrutiny or challenge.

The eight women allege that the men’s actions constitute a breach of articles 3 and 8 of the European convention on human rights. Article 3 asserts that no one shall be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment, and article 8 grants respect for private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state. The women go on to allege that the actions amount to common law tortious acts of deceit, misfeasance in public office and assault.

Bob Lambert is one of the five men named in the legal action, as is Mark Kennedy. The Guardian has also reported that Bob Lambert secretly fathered a child with a political campaigner whom he had been sent to spy on, and later disappeared completely from the life of the child, concealing his true identity from the child’s mother for many years. Lambert has admitted having had a long-term relationship with a second woman to bolster his credibility as a committed campaigner, and he subsequently went on to head the special demonstration squad and mentor other undercover officers who formed deceitful relationships with women.

The police authorities have made virtually no attempt to hold those or other men to account, or to examine whether they have broken any rules on relationships when undercover. The solicitors instructed by the Metropolitan police have taken a totally obstructive approach to the litigation, threatening to strike out the claims as having no foundation. Furthermore, police solicitors argue that cases can be heard only by the investigatory powers tribunal, in secret—a move that would prevent the women, whose privacy was invaded in the most intrusive manner imaginable, from hearing the evidence, such as the extent to which intimate moments were reported back to police chiefs. It seems that the police do not want anyone to be able to challenge their version of events or to scrutinise their actions. To paraphrase one of the women involved, it is incredible that in most circumstances the police need permission to search someone’s house, but if they want to send in an agent who may sleep and live with activists in their homes, that can happen without any apparent oversight.

The rules governing undercover police infiltrators and informers are also remarkably deficient when it comes to giving false evidence in court to protect a secret identity. For example, Jim Boyling, who was exposed last year for infiltrating groups such as Reclaim the Streets using the pseudonym Jim Sutton, concealed his true identity from a court when he was prosecuted alongside a group of protestors for occupying a Government building during a demonstration. It is alleged that from the moment Boyling was arrested, he gave a false name and occupation, maintaining this fiction throughout the entire prosecution, even when he gave evidence to barristers under oath.

Boyling was reported to have been present at sensitive discussions between other activists and their lawyers to decide how they would defend themselves in court, undermining the fundamental right of the activists to

hold legally protected consultations with a lawyer and illicitly obtaining details of private discussions. A lawyer representing activists who were charged alongside Jim Boyling has noted:

“This case raises the most fundamental constitutional issues about the limits of acceptable policing, the sanctity of lawyer-client confidentiality, and the integrity of the criminal justice system. At first sight, it seems that the police have wildly overstepped all recognised boundaries.”

Yet Boyling’s actions may well have been authorised. Pete Black, who worked with Boyling in the same covert unit penetrating political campaigns, said that the case was not unique and that, from time to time, prosecutions were allowed to go ahead in order to build up credibility with the activists being infiltrated.

The Metropolitan commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has defended undercover officers’ use of fake identities in court, claiming that there is no specific law that forbids it. However, I echo the concerns of Lord Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, who said that Hogan-Howe’s defence was “stunning and worrying”. He commented that

“at the very least, the senior officers who are sending these undercover PCs into court to give evidence in this way are putting them at serious risk of straying into perjury.”

Bob Lambert, Mark Kennedy and Jim Boyling, as well as two other officers named in current legal actions against the police, John Barker and Mark Cassidy, have all crossed a line. Similarly, other undercover police officers may well have crossed such a line. The assumption is that they have been authorised and instructed to do so or at least, if that is not specifically the case, that a blind eye has been turned to some of their actions.

Activists who have been infiltrated have called for one overarching, full public inquiry to examine what has gone on. Lord Macdonald has also called for such an inquiry to consider how we should control undercover operations, but the Government have ignored calls to set one up. Instead, the authorities have set up 12 different inquiries since January 2011, each held in secret and looking at only one small aspect of an undercover operation. Those inquiries have not been particularly thorough and have not resulted in follow-up action. For example, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, ordered an investigation and report into allegations that the Crown Prosecution Service suppressed vital evidence in the case of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar environmental protestors. A key criticism of the CPS in that report is of the

“failures, over many months and at more than one level, by the police and the CPS.”

Nick Paul, the senior CPS lawyer who specialises in cases involving police misconduct, was not even interviewed as part of the investigation, and senior CPS staff have evaded disciplinary action. The CPS shows an ongoing reluctance to investigate past possible miscarriages of justice, and Keir Starmer is among those resisting calls for a more far-reaching inquiry.

The new allegations that I have raised today make the case for a public inquiry even more compelling. So many questions remain unanswered, including whether Bob Lambert planted the third incendiary device and, if he did, who authorised him to do so and why. More widely, the public have a right to know why money is being spent on infiltrating campaign groups, with no apparent external oversight of the decision to infiltrate

or of whether the methods used are necessary or proportionate. Why are the rules on such practices open to such abuse? Why are high-ranking police officers and, presumably, politicians sanctioning operations that put police officers at risk and undermine basic human rights?

We need to have faith that police officers are beyond reproach, that robust procedures are in place to deal with any transgressions and that those making decisions about the deployment of police officers are accountable and subject to proper scrutiny. I hope the Minister will take this opportunity to review the various concerns I have raised, and that he can tell us that the Government will agree to set up a far-reaching public inquiry into undercover police infiltrators and informers, which will look back over past practices as well as look forward.
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11:16 am

Nick Herbert (Minister of State, Justice; Arundel and South Downs, Conservative)

May I say what a surprise, but nevertheless what a great pleasure, it is to see you in the Chair, Mr Davies? I congratulate Caroline Lucas on securing the debate. I am grateful to her for raising some of these issues, because it gives me an opportunity to set out the Government’s response. I recognise that the issues she has raised are serious.

Undercover operations are sometimes necessary to protect the public and to prevent or detect crime. We should commend the difficult and often dangerous job performed by undercover officers. However, in the light of recent cases and concerns, including those raised by the hon. Lady, it is right to ask two principal questions that we must be able to answer with confidence. First, is there a system for ensuring that the use of police undercover deployment is consistent with human rights legislation, particularly the right to privacy and the right to a fair trial? Secondly, is the system working sufficiently well for the particular type of undercover deployment that has led to concerns, or do we need to take action to improve it and ensure that it provides the required assurance?

Before I consider those two fundamental questions, it is important to point out that the deployment of Bob Lambert, a case raised by the hon. Lady, took place in the 1990s, before the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000—or RIPA, as it is known—was implemented. RIPA is the legislative framework that enables police and other public authorities using covert human intelligence sources, such as undercover officers, to ensure that they act in compliance with their duties under the Human Rights Act. A “covert human intelligence source” is the label used by the legislation to describe anyone who establishes or maintains a relationship for a covert purpose. That applies to a member of the public who comes forward to volunteer information about someone and who is asked by a public authority to find out more. It applies to a public authority test purchaser who engages the confidence of a supplier to buy illicit goods. It also applies to a member of a law enforcement agency who goes undercover to infiltrate and to pass intelligence back to that agency about an organisation planning disruption or criminal acts.
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Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood, Conservative)

Could the Minister clarify whether RIPA also applies to ACPO’s responsibility for an undercover officer and its status as a private company? Moreover, did ACPO have any involvement in the Lambert case, or did it become involved only in later operations?
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Nick Herbert (Minister of State, Justice; Arundel and South Downs, Conservative)

I will clarify that point later, but my understanding is that the accountability lies with chief constables, not ACPO. I am aware of and share my hon. Friend’s concern about ACPO and its status. I hope and believe that it will be addressed, but if there is anything further to say about the matter, I will write to him.
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Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood, Conservative)

I am thinking in particular of the environmental protests at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, where it emerged that ACPO was responsible for the management of undercover officers. I am delighted that since then, Ministers have ensured the transfer of the powers involved to the Metropolitan police.
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Nick Herbert (Minister of State, Justice; Arundel and South Downs, Conservative)

My hon. Friend is correct about the responsible unit, and that important change has enhanced accountability.

RIPA applies to each of the instances that I have mentioned, because the true nature of the relationship, which involves reporting back covertly to a public authority what has been said or done, is hidden from the other person or people being talked to. In every case, RIPA requires that authorisation is only given if it is necessary and proportionate. RIPA sets out who can make a decision to deploy a covert source and for what purpose the deployment might be made. RIPA codes of practice provide practical guidance on how best to apply the regulatory framework and how to observe the human rights principles behind authorisations. External oversight and inspection is provided by the chief surveillance commissioner, and independent right of redress is provided by an investigatory tribunal for anyone who believes that they have been treated unlawfully.

That is the current system, which was not in place when Lambert was deployed, but does it work? The published annual reports of the chief surveillance commissioner indicate that, in the main, it does, but that has not always been the case. That was shown graphically by the independent report produced by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary earlier this year on the deployment of undercover police officer Mark Kennedy. It showed that there had been failings in the application of the existing system and safeguards, but it went further by making a number of recommendations for ACPO to strengthen both internal review and external quality assurance of undercover officers deployed against domestic extremism. It also invited the Home Secretary to consider the arrangements for authorising the undercover police operations that present the most significant risks of intrusion. In particular, it proposed raising the internal level of police authorisations for the long-term deployments of undercover police officers under RIPA, and establishing independent, external prior approval by the chief surveillance commissioner for long-term deployments of undercover police officers.

The Home Secretary welcomed the HMIC report, and since its publication the Home Office has been working with the inspectorate, ACPO, the chief surveillance commissioner and others on how best to implement its recommendations.
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Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the situation as he sees it, but does RIPA allow undercover police to have sexual relationships with those they are trying to infiltrate? That is one of the points at issue: some say that it does and some say that it does not.
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Nick Herbert (Minister of State, Justice; Arundel and South Downs, Conservative)

I will try to respond to the hon. Lady’s question before the end of my speech.

One factor is how we target the type of deployment that causes concern, without imposing an unnecessary or burdensome bureaucracy across a much wider field where the current regime may be said to be working as Parliament intended. We need to ensure that we do not deter members of the public from coming forward to help the police in what can be difficult work. We also need to make sure that officers charged with sensitive, intrusive and dangerous policing in the community are given the support and protection they require. Above all, we need to avoid the mistakes identified in the HMIC report being made again. Our response, when we make it, will have that uppermost in mind.

On the hon. Lady’s call for a public inquiry, the independent HMIC review looked at the broad issues raised by the Kennedy case, and made clear recommendations as to how the current system should be strengthened—a system that was not, in any case, in place when Lambert was deployed. We are considering our precise response to those recommendations. I do not think that it is necessary to conduct a public inquiry.

The hon. Lady raised a number of specific issues, one of which was whether RIPA can be used to authorise a covert human intelligence source to break the law. In a very limited range of circumstances, an authorisation under RIPA part II may render lawful conduct that would otherwise be criminal, if it is incidental to any conduct falling within the Act that the source is authorised to undertake. That depends, however, on the circumstances of each individual case, and consideration should always be given to seeking advice from the legal adviser of the relevant public authority when such activity is contemplated. A covert human intelligence source who acts beyond the limits recognised by the law will be at risk of prosecution, and the need to protect the covert human intelligence source cannot alter that principle.

The RIPA statutory guidance does not explicitly cover the matter of sexual relationships, but it does make it clear that close management and control should

be exercised by the undercover officer’s management team. That will be a relevant factor. The absence of such management gave rise to concern in the Kennedy case.
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Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)

Does the Minister agree that that sort of fudged, grey area means that for women who have had such an experience, and for women and, indeed, men who might have such an experience in the future, this is incredibly unsatisfactory? We simply do not have clear guidelines on whether the action and going that far is legitimate, and that undermines confidence in the system. The Minister has referred to other inquiries that have been conducted, but what has not been conducted is a public, overarching inquiry to consider all the relevant areas.

Moreover, the Minister’s response to the case of Bob Lambert is extraordinarily complacent. Yes, RIPA was not in place at that point, so there can be no criticism that its guidance was not followed, but what is the Minister going to do now, given that the issue is in the public domain and that there could have been serious miscarriages of justice? How will the Minister follow up on that case in particular?
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Nick Herbert (Minister of State, Justice; Arundel and South Downs, Conservative)

I would be happy to pursue the matter further with the hon. Lady, if she likes, but I am not persuaded that it would be appropriate to issue specific statutory guidance under RIPA about sexual relationships. What matters is that there is a general structure and system of proper oversight and control, rather than specific directions on behaviour that may or may not be permitted. Moreover, to ban such actions would provide a ready-made test for the targeted criminal group to find out whether an undercover officer was deployed among them. Specifically forbidding the action would put the issue in the public domain and such groups would know that it could be tested.

The Government are certainly not complacent about the Lambert case. We were keen for an independent, wider review of the deployment of undercover officers by HMIC, which is now independent of the Government and reports to Parliament. We are satisfied that its recommendations will further strengthen the proper system of safeguards for the deployment of undercover officers that did not operate when Lambert was deployed.

Sitting s uspended.

Find this story at 13 June 2012

Questions remain over animal rights activists’ case

An undercover operation 25 years ago that led to the jailing of two animal rights activists now appears shrouded in mystery

It seemed like – and may well have been – a heroic police triumph that thwarted a campaign to firebomb department stores. When anti-terrorist officers caught two animal rights activists red-handed as they assembled incendiary devices to set fire to branches of Debenhams, it appeared their timing could not have been better.

As police burst in, the Old Bailey was later to hear, the activists were sitting at a table using a soldering iron that was still hot.

But on Wednesday, 25 years after an audacious police investigation led to the jailing of two activists for inflicting damage totalling £9m on three Debenhams stores, new questions have been raised in parliament about the ethics of the operation and the conduct of one particular police spy.

The MP who raised the case – Caroline Lucas of the Green party – conceded that much of the infiltration of a cell of the Animal Liberation Front in 1987 remains shrouded in mystery.

What is unlikely to be disputed is that an undercover police officer, Bob Lambert, adopted a fake identity to live deep undercover among hardcore activists – gaining crucial intelligence about their campaign against the fur trade.

The question raised on Wednesday was whether Lambert went further, potentially acting as agent provocateur. According to the accusation levelled by one convicted activist – and aired by Lucas in parliament – Lambert is suspected of planting one of three incendiary devices in branches of Debenhams. Lambert has strongly denied the allegations.

A long-standing investigation by the Guardian has brought to light various aspects of Lambert’s clandestine surveillance unit, set up in 1968 to gather intelligence about anti-Vietnam war protesters.

Police continue to maintain an army of spies living long-term in activist groups – the most infamous example being Mark Kennedy, who was last year exposed as a police officer after a seven-year deployment among green activists. Kennedy’s double life as ‘Mark Stone’ ended in ignominy last year after it emerged he had developed sexual relations with women while undercover.

Since Kennedy was unmasked, a further eight undercover police officers have been identified, most of whom stand accused of developing sexual relations with activists – behaviour police chiefs insist is banned. They include Lambert, who has apologised for deceiving “law-abiding members of London Greenpeace” during his deployment and admitted he tricked an innocent woman into having a long-term relationship with him, to lend credibility to his alter ego. Lambert also fathered a child with a woman activist he had been sent to spy on.

Responding to Lucas during the parliamentary debate, the policing minister, Nick Herbert, said police officers can start sexual relationships with suspected criminals if it means they are more plausible. He said that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), the law that has governed their activities since 2000, does not explicity prohibit sexual relations, but requires the operations to be strictly managed.

Herbert said it was important police were allowed to have sex with activists because otherwise it could be used as a test for outing suspected undercover officers.

In his almost total adoption of a new identity, and his willingness to develop close personal relations with women activists, Lambert followed a similar path to that of Kennedy. His journey into the core of the animal rights movement started around 1984.

Like other members of the covert unit, then known as the Special Demonstration Squad, Lambert radically changed his appearance, growing his hair long to reinvent himself as the militant animal rights activist ‘Bob Robinson’.

Insiders from the covert police unit confirm Lambert’s work inside the ALF burnished his reputation as one of their most successful spies. He went on to become a spymaster in the unit before leaving the police for a career as a lecturer at St Andrews University.

However, his respected record was placed in doubt on Wednesday when Lucas raised questions about the extent of his involvement in a campaign to target Debenhams stores with incendiary devices. Lucas admitted “we just don’t know” exactly how far Lambert may have taken his operation.

By 1987, Lambert had infiltrated the small ALF cell co-ordinating arson attacks on stores in protest against their sale of fur. The relatively simple devices – the size of cigarette boxes – were placed under inflammable objects in the stores and were designed to set off the sprinkler systems, causing extensive flooding. They were set to go off at night so that people were not harmed, according to the activists. In July that year, the incendiary devices were simultaneously planted and ignited at three Debenhams stores in Luton, Romford and Harrow. But only two activists – Geoff Sheppard and Andrew Clarke – were caught and convicted. It appeared that the perpetrator who planted the third device had got away.

Lucas told MPs: “Sheppard and Clarke were tried and found guilty but the culprit who planted the incendiary device in the Harrow store was never caught. Bob Lambert’s exposure as an undercover police officer has prompted Geoff Sheppard to speak out about that Harrow attack. Sheppard alleges that Lambert was the one who planted the third device and was involved in the ALF’s co-ordinated campaign.”

She added: “Sheppard says that two months after the three Debenhams stores were set on fire, he and another person were in his flat, making four more firebombs, when they were raided by police. Sheppard alleges that the intelligence for the raid was so precise that it is now obvious that, and I quote, it ‘came from Bob Lambert’ who knew that the pair were going to be there making another set of incendiary devices.”

The suggestion that intelligence gathered by Lambert thwarted two activists planning a firebombing campaign is likely to be uncontroversial. On 9 September, police burst into Sheppard’s bedsit in Hillside Road, Tottenham and caught the pair red-handed surrounded by paraphernalia for making the devices – alarm clocks, copper wire, bulbs and batteries.

Victor Temple, for the prosecution, said at the time: “They were in the process of what was clearly a well-practised method of constructing incendiary devices similar in every significant respect to those used at Harrow, Luton and Romford.”

Previously, Lambert has spoken about his role in the police operation against the ALF, and his specific involvement in the investigation into Sheppard and Clarke, saying: “I succeeded in my task and that success included the arrest and imprisonment of Geoff Sheppard and Andrew Clarke.”

What is likely to prove more controversial is the suggestion, relayed by the MP, that Lambert may have gone further than a mere observer, and planted the third incendiary device in order to bolster his credibility and “reinforce the impression of a genuine and dedicated activist”.

That is an allegation that Lambert has firmly denied. He told the Guardian: “It was necessary to create the false impression that I was a committed animal rights extremist to gain intelligence so as to disrupt serious criminal conspiracies. However, I did not commit serious crime such as ‘planting an incendiary device at the [Debenhams] Harrow store’.”

One possibility is that police chiefs authorised some kind of controlled explosion at the Harrow store – which the court heard suffered £340,000-worth of damage – to maintain Lambert’s cover story. That, however, would raise further questions.

If Lambert did not let off the incendiary device, who did? And if police knew about the plan to start fires in three branches of Debenhams, why did they let them go ahead, causing £9m in damages and lost trade?

Both are likely to be questions explored by an internal Metropolitan police inquiry into the activities of undercover officers in protest groups between 1968 and 2008 – a review that has been continuing for several months.

The Met said in a statement: “Any matters arising from the review will be assessed and where appropriate will be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).”

Whatever the precise nature – if any – of Lambert’s involvement in the firebombing campaign, his success in duping hardened animal rights activists into believing he was a fellow campaigner is beyond doubt.

In 1988 – a year after the Debenhams fire attacks – Lambert later went abroad, telling friends he was escaping the attentions of Special Branch. They could not have known he was in fact one Special Branch’s finest operatives.

Following their arrests in 1987, Sheppard and Clarke were convicted for planting devices in the Debenhams branches. Sheppard was jailed for four years and four months, and Clarke for more than three years. Sheppard was jailed again in the 1990s but says he stopped doing illegal protests some years ago.

Sheppard said he did not doubt the motives of the man he knew as ‘Bob Robinson’ until his true identity was revealed in the Guardian. The convicted activist told the Guardian: “For 24 years I have believed that my friend … Bob Robinson was on the run and had most likely gone to a different country and probably made a new life for himself and I just thought – good for him, he was the lucky one that managed to get away.”

So instinctively did Sheppard trust Lambert, he said, that he was grateful to him when he visited him in jail. Sheppard said: “I remember thinking ‘Bob’s still there for me’. Actually, he was the guy who put me there.”

Clarke declined to talk about his role in the arson campaign but his lawyer, Mike Schwarz, said: “These allegations are very serious. If true, they cast doubt on the safety of my client’s convictions. Over a month ago I wrote to the director of public prosecutions asking about these issues. It is of great concern that the Crown Prosecution Service have still not replied to me.”

His letter to the DPP, Keir Starmer, states that Lambert played an “active, participating and crucial” role in the firebombing campaign, and the failure of prosecutors to diclose his information about his role would render Clarke’s conviction unsafe.

Herbert indicated on Wednesday that the Home Office was not inclined to investigate the Lambert case. It may therefore turn out to be in the courts where the latest allegations are resolved.

Last year the court of appeal quashed the convictions of 20 environmental activists infiltrated by Kennedy. The key issue was the failure by the Crown Prosecution Service to disclose details about Kennedy’s undercover operation to the defence team. On the face of it, the Lambert case presents another example in which police or prosecutors did not disclose all the evidence they had amassed.

In July last year, when overturning the convictions of green activists, the three senior judges said they had evidence indicating Kennedy “was involved in activities that went further than the authorisation he was given” and was “arguably, an agent provocateur”.

During her speech in parliament, Lucas suggested Kennedy may not be the police spy to have “crossed the line”.

“The latest allegations concerning Bob Lambert and the planting of incendiary devices would beg the question: has another undercover police officer crossed the line into acting as an agent provocateur?” she said. “And how many other police spies have been encouraging protesters to commit crimes?”

Find this story at 13 June 2012

Paul Lewis and Rob Evans
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 13 June 2012 17.40 BST
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Call for police links to animal rights firebombing to be investigated

MP claims that undercover police officer may have ‘crossed the line’ during animal rights activists’ bombing of department store

Ministers have been asked to investigate the police infiltration of a cell of animal rights activists responsible for a firebombing campaign after questions were raised about the ethics of an operation that, it was alleged, may have involved an undercover spy planting an incendiary device in a department store.

The MP who raised the case, which dates back to the 1980s but surfaced only after recent disclosures about the clandestine unit of police spies, suggested it may constitute a case in which “a police officer crossed the line into acting as an agent provocateur”.

Caroline Lucas, parliament’s only Green MP, used a Westminster Hall debate on the rules governing undercover policing to raise the case under parliamentary privilege, and add to calls for a public inquiry into the use of police spies.

Only limited details are known about the mysterious police operation to infiltrate a group of hardcore anti-fur protesters, and Lucas admitted no one could be sure about the precise role played by the undercover police officer, Bob Lambert, who spent years living among the activists having adopted a new identity.

Lambert infiltrated a cell of activists from the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), who detonated three incendiary devices at three Debenhams branches in London in July 1987 as part of a campaign against the sale of fur.

Two activists, Geoff Sheppard and Andrew Clarke, were caught red-handed months later as they prepared for a second wave of arson attacks. They were convicted over the attacks on the stores.

“Sheppard and Clarke were tried and found guilty – but the culprit who planted the incendiary device in the Harrow store was never caught,” Lucas said. “Bob Lambert’s exposure as an undercover police officer has prompted Geoff Sheppard to speak out about that Harrow attack. Sheppard alleges that Lambert was the one who planted the third device and was involved in the ALF’s co-ordinated campaign.”

The MP relayed comments from Sheppard in which the convicted activist said: “Obviously I was not there when he targeted that store because we all headed off in our separate directions but I was lying in bed that night, and the news came over on the World Service that three Debenhams stores had had arson attacks on them and that included the Harrow store as well.

“So obviously I straight away knew that Bob had carried out his part of the plan. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Bob Lambert placed the incendiary device at the Debenhams store in Harrow. I specifically remember him giving an explanation to me about how he had been able to place one of the devices in that store, but how he had not been able to place the second device. So it would seem that planting the third incendiary device was perhaps a move designed to bolster Lambert’s credibility and reinforce the impression of a genuine and dedicated activist. He did go on to successfully gain the precise intelligence that led to the arrest of Sheppard and Clarke – and without anybody suspecting that the tipoff came from him. But is that really the way we want our police officers to behave?”

Lambert, who has admitted having sexual relations with women while operating undercover, has previously spoken about his role in the police investigation of the ALF and his specific role in the operation against Sheppard and Clarke.

However, he firmly denies planting the incendiary device. He told the Guardian: “It was necessary to create the false impression that I was a committed animal rights extremist to gain intelligence so as to disrupt serious criminal conspiracies. However, I did not commit serious crime such as ‘planting an incendiary device at the [Debenhams] Harrow store’.”

Lucas admitted “we just don’t know” exactly how far Lambert may have taken his operation, but said: “Yet, if Sheppard’s allegations are true, someone must have authorised Lambert to plant incendiary devices at the Harrow store. Presumably that same someone may also have given the officer guidance on just how far he needed to go to establish his credibility with the ALF.”

She added: “There is no doubt in my mind that anyone planting an incendiary device in a department store is guilty of a very serious crime and should have charges brought against them. That means absolutely anyone – including, if the evidence is there, Bob Lambert or indeed the people who were supervising him.”

Lucas raised the case of Mark Kennedy, who was revealed last year to have spent seven years living undercover among environmental activists. He also had sexual relations with female activists. Kennedy’s exposure led the court of appeal to quash the convictions of 20 environmental campaigners wrongly convicted of conspiring to break into a power station. The three judges said they had seen evidence that appeared to show Kennedy had been “arguably, a provocateur”.

Lucas said: “The latest allegations concerning Bob Lambert and the planting of incendiary devices would beg the question: has another undercover police officer crossed the line into acting as an agent provocateur? And how many other police spies have been encouraging protesters to commit crimes?”

The MP voiced concerns about other aspects of a longstanding operation to plant spies in protest groups, including the evidence that most of those unmasked in public are suspected of having engaged in sexual relationships with activists. She raised the case of eight women who say they were duped into forming relationships with undercover officers, and who have begun a legal case against police.

She said senior police chiefs had said it was “never acceptable” for their spies to have sexual relations with activists, but the Met had told the women’s lawyers that “forming of personal and other relationships” is permitted under Ripa, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

“So either rogue undercover officers have been breaking the rules set by senior officers, or senior officers have misled the public by saying that such relationships are forbidden,” Lucas said.

The policing minister, Nick Herbert, acknowledged there were questions about the accountability of long-term spies and said the Home Office was considering how better to regulate the area.

He said ministers were considering proposals from a review of the Kennedy case by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which recommended that future deployments of undercover police officers should be “pre-authorised” by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners.

Find this story at  13 June 2012

Rob Evans and Paul Lewis
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 13 June 2012 13.29 BST
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

 

 

Claims that police spy ‘crossed the line’ during animal rights firebombing campaign

An MP has raised questions over the conduct of Bob Lambert, an undercover policeman who infiltrated the Animal Liberation Front in the 1980s, suggesting he may have acted as an ‘agent provocateur’. Here, one of two activists convicted over an ALF firebombing campaign explains how he was duped by the police spy.

Find this story at 13 june 2012

Rob Evans, Paul Lewis, Richard Sprenger, Guy Grandjean and Mustafa Khalili
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 13 June 2012

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