MI6 spy found dead in bag probably locked himself inside, Met says (2013)
23 oktober 2015
Three-year investigation by Scotland Yard concludes Gareth Williams probably died as a result of a tragic accident
Gareth Williams: last year a coroner concluded that the spy was probably unlawfully killed and his death the result of a criminal act.
The MI6 spy found dead in a bag three years ago probably locked himself in the holdall and died as a result of a tragic accident, Scotland Yard has said.
Outlining the results of a three-year investigation on Wednesday, the Metropolitan police said Gareth Williams most likely died alone in his flat.
But Detective Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said the police could not “fundamentally and beyond doubt” rule out the possibility that a third party was involved in his death.
Williams’s naked body was found in the padlocked bag, with the keys discovered under his body, in the otherwise empty bath in his flat in Pimlico, central London, in August 2010.
Last year, a coroner concluded that Williams was probably unlawfully killed and his death the result of a criminal act. Following an eight-day inquest, the Westminster coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, said he was probably either suffocated or poisoned, before a third party locked and placed the bag in the bath.
But Hewitt said Scotland Yard’s three-year inquiry had come to a different conclusion and that Williams was “most probably” alone when he died.
“Despite all of this considerable effort, it is still the case that there is insufficient evidence to be definitive on the circumstances that led to Gareth’s death,” he said.
“Rather, what we are left with is either individual pieces of evidence, or a lack of such evidence, that can logically support one of a number of hypotheses.”
Hewitt added that the investigation had added “some clarity and detail” to the case, but that “no evidence has been identified to establish the full circumstances of Gareth’s death beyond all reasonable doubt”.
A forensic examination of Williams’s flat, a security service safe house, has concluded that there was no sign of forced entry or DNA that pointed to a third party present at the time of the spy’s death.
Scotland Yard’s inquiry also found no evidence of Williams’s fingerprints on the padlock of the bag or the rim of the bath, which the coroner last year said supported her assertion of “third-party involvement” in the death. Hewitt said it was theoretically possible for Williams to lower himself into the holdall without touching the rim of the bath.
Winding down the lengthy investigation, which has drawn interviews and statements from 27 of Williams’s colleagues in MI6 and GCHQ, Hewitt said the death remained a tragedy that would be kept under review by detectives.
In a statement, Williams’s family said they were disappointed with the police findings and that they agreed with the coroner’s conclusions that he was most likely killed unlawfully.”We are naturally disappointed that it is still not possible to state with certainty how Gareth died and the fact that the circumstances of his death are still unknown adds to our grief,” the family said.
“We note that the investigation has been conducted with further interviews upon some of the witnesses who gave evidence at the inquest and that the investigation team were at last able to interview directly members of GCHQ and SIS [MI6].
“We consider that on the basis of the facts at present known the coroner’s verdict accurately reflects the circumstances of Gareth’s death.”
In a press briefing at Scotland Yard, Hewitt admitted it was “a cause of some regret” that the police were not able to definitively explain the circumstances surrounding the 31-year-old’s death.
He rejected suggestions that the security services had “pulled the wool” over his eyes, following concerns over how MI6 and counter-terrorism officers had handled some evidence during the initial investigation. It emerged on Wednesday that police only gained access to Williams’s spy agency personnel and vetting files after the coroner’s inquest ended last May.
Williams, a maths prodigy and fitness enthusiast originally from Anglesey, was a private person with few other close friends aside from his family, police said. In interviews, MI6 and GCHQ colleagues described him as a “conscientious and decent man” and detectives were unable to identify anyone with any animosity towards him or a motive for causing him harm.
As part of the fresh investigation, a forensic sweep of Williams’s flat discovered 10 to 15 unidentified traces of DNA, which are being kept under examination, but none on the North Face holdall or around the bath area of the en suite bathroom of the flat’s main bedroom. There was also no evidence of a “deep clean” of the flat to wipe all trace of DNA.
Hewitt said: “There are really three hypotheses that you can use here. One is that Gareth, for whatever reason, got himself into that bag and then was unable to get himself out and died as a result of that.
“One is that Gareth, with someone else, got into the bag consensually, then something went wrong and he died as a result of that. The third is that someone murdered Gareth by putting him in that bag. I would argue that any physical absence [of evidence of] a third party being present tends to make the hypotheses that there is a third party present less likely.”
He added: “The coroner drew an inference. I am now drawing a different inference.”
At the coroner’s inquest, two experts tried 400 times to lock themselves into the 32in by 19in holdall without success, with one remarking that even Harry Houdini “would have struggled” to squeeze himself inside. But days after the inquest, footage emerged of a retired army sergeant climbing into the bag and locking it from the inside.
Hewitt said it was now established that it was theoretically possible for a person to climb into the bag and that it was “more probable” that Williams did this before suffocating as a result of the accident. It emerged during the inquest that Williams had an interest in escapology, but the police said it would be speculation to link his death to a failed attempt to escape from the locked holdall.
Wednesday 13 November 2013 14.44 GMT Last modified on Thursday 22 May 2014 09.11 BST
Find this story at 13 November 2013
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
MI6 and Met condemned over Gareth Williams’ death (2012)
23 oktober 2015
Coroner criticises intelligence agency for failing to report missing MI6 officer and rules he was probably killed unlawfully
The coroner in the Gareth Williams case delivered a damning verdict that was highly critical of the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism branch and MI6 as she ruled that the officer had probably been killed unlawfully.
The cause of death of Williams, 31, who was found padlocked in a holdall in the bath at his flat in Pimlico, central London, was “unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated”, said Dr Fiona Wilcox.
Passing a narrative verdict, she said she was satisfied that “a third party placed the bag in the bath and on the balance of probabilities locked the bag”.
She was, therefore, “satisfied that on the balance of probabilities that Gareth was killed unlawfully”.
Wilcox levelled devastating criticism at Williams’s employers at MI6 who failed to report him missing for seven days when he did not turn up for work. The explanation from his line manager lacked credibility, she said, and she could “only speculate as to what effect this [delay] had on the investigation”.
The lawyer for the Secret Intelligence Service, Andrew O’Connor, delivered deep regrets and an unprecedented apology to the family from Sir John Sawers, chief of the SIS, who recognised that “failure to act more swiftly” when Williams was absent had contributed to their “anguish and suffering”.
Officers in the Met’s counter-terrorism branch, SO15, whose role was to interview SIS witnesses, were also strongly criticised. SO15 failed to inform DCI Jackie Sebire, senior investigating officer, of the existence of nine memory sticks and a black holdall found at Williams’ MI6 office until two days before the inquest ended, the coroner said. On discovering this, Wilcox said she had seriously questioned whether she should adjourn the inquest at that point.
No formal statements were taken by S015 officers who interviewed Williams’ colleagues, “and I find this did affect the quality of evidence heard in this court,” she said.
She also criticised the handling of an iPhone belonging to Williams and found in his work locker, which contained deleted images of him naked in a pair of boots. The officer involved kept it in his possession before handing it to homicide detectives the following day, “demonstrating disregard for the rules governing continuity of evidence”, she said.
Many agencies “fell short of the ideal”, she said, including LGC Forensics in relation to DNA contamination, and the coroner’s office for failing to inform police officers of a second postmortem.
Williams, a fitness fanatic from Anglesey, north Wales, was probably alive when put in the bag but probably suffocated very soon afterwards either from CO2 poisoning, hypercapnia, or the effects of a short-acting poison, she said.
Scotland Yard has always treated the death as suspicious and unexplained, but held back from describing it as murder or manslaughter. Recording her verdict, Wilcox stated her belief that a criminal hand was involved, although police said afterwards that there was no evidence of this. The Guardian understands police inquiries have focused on the theory that Williams died accidentally in a private sexual liaison that went wrong.
The coroner, however, ruled out bondage or auto-erotic activity as explanations.
The dead man’s family said in a statement that their grief had been exacerbated by the failure of his employers at MI6 to make “even the most basic inquiries of his whereabouts and welfare” when he was absent from work for seven days.
They were “extremely disappointed at the failure and reluctance of MI6” to provide relevant information and called on the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, to conduct a review of how the investigation would proceed “in the light of the total inadequacy of S015’s investigations into MI6”.
Wilcox said there was no evidence to suggest that any SIS colleague had been involved, but it remained a legitimate line of inquiry given Williams socialised with so few people, and never let anyone he didn’t know into his flat. So any third party would be “someone he knew or someone there without invitation”.
An SIS spokesman said: “We fully co-operated with the police and will continue to do so during the ongoing investigation. We gave all the evidence to the police when they wanted it; at no time did we withhold any evidence.”
An iPhone found in his living room had recently been wiped and restored to factory settings, and it could not be ruled out that contact with a third party had been made via the internet on that phone, she said.
Wilcox was “sure that a third party moved the bag containing Gareth into the bath”. There were two possibilities: either he entered the bag outside the bathroom and it was carried in by a third party, or he was locked in the bag by a third party and lifted into the bath.
She dismissed an interest in bondage, and female clothing, as being irrelevant, condemning leaks to the media about him cross-dressing as a possible attempt “by some third party to manipulate a section of the evidence”.
She said: “Gareth was naked in a bag, not cross-dressed, not in high-heeled shoes.” If his interest was bondage, she would have expected much more internet activity on such websites, when his visits made up a tiny percentage of his browsing. His interest was in fashion, she said. Dismissing any auto-erotic activity, she said he was a “scrupulous risk assessor” and if he had locked himself into the bag would have taken a knife in with him to escape.
She said that despite a 21-month police inquiry: “Most of the fundamental questions in relation to how Gareth died remained unanswered.”
Detectives believe scientific tests on a crumpled green hand towel found in his flat may yet yield crucial DNA evidence, as the Metropolitan police launched a review into the case.
The towel was originally in the bathroom, and moved to the kitchen, police believe, by the “third party”. More tests are being conducted on the bag. The memory sticks, which have now been examined by police, are said not to have produced any significant evidence, but will be examined more closely.
Martin Hewitt, deputy assistant commissioner of the Met, said the circumstances of the death were particularly complex and continued to be the subject of a thorough investigation.
He added: “We have listened to the detailed ruling by the coroner and the concerns raised by Gareth’s family. We are giving both very careful consideration.”
Detectives were “currently undertaking actions in order to develop existing DNA profiles, to trace unidentified individuals who may have information about Gareth’s death, and to further develop analysis of telephone communications”.
Caroline Davies and Sandra Laville
Wednesday 2 May 2012 20.31 BST Last modified on Wednesday 21 May 2014 02.01 BST
Find this story at 2 May 2012
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
“24’s” phony history exposed: The dark history of a CIA “black site”
14 augustus 2015
Diego Garcia has been mythologized by American pop culture. Its true story is stranger (and bleaker) than fiction
“24’s” phony history exposed: The dark history of a CIA “black site”
This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.
First, they tried to shoot the dogs. Next, they tried to poison them with strychnine. When both failed as efficient killing methods, British government agents and U.S. Navy personnel used raw meat to lure the pets into a sealed shed. Locking them inside, they gassed the howling animals with exhaust piped in from U.S. military vehicles. Then, setting coconut husks ablaze, they burned the dogs’ carcasses as their owners were left to watch and ponder their own fate.
The truth about the U.S. military base on the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia is often hard to believe. It would be easy enough to confuse the real story with fictional accounts of the island found in the Transformers movies, on the television series 24, and in Internet conspiracy theories about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
While the grim saga of Diego Garcia frequently reads like fiction, it has proven all too real for the people involved. It’s the story of a U.S. military base built on a series of real-life fictions told by U.S. and British officials over more than half a century. The central fiction is that the U.S. built its base on an “uninhabited” island. That was “true” only because the indigenous people were secretly exiled from the Chagos Archipelago when the base was built. Although their ancestors had lived there since the time of the American Revolution, Anglo-American officials decided, as one wrote, to “maintain the fiction that the inhabitants of Chagos [were] not a permanent or semi-permanent population,” but just “transient contract workers.” The same official summed up the situation bluntly: “We are able to make up the rules as we go along.”
And so they did: between 1968 and 1973, American officials conspired with their British colleagues to remove the Chagossians, carefully hiding their expulsion from Congress, Parliament, the U.N., and the media. During the deportations, British agents and members of a U.S. Navy construction battalion rounded up and killed all those pet dogs. Their owners were then deported to the western Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles, 1,200 miles from their homeland, where they received no resettlement assistance. More than 40 years after their expulsion, Chagossians generally remain the poorest of the poor in their adopted lands, struggling to survive in places that outsiders know as exotic tourist destinations.
During the same period, Diego Garcia became a multi-billion-dollar Navy and Air Force base and a central node in U.S. military efforts to control the Greater Middle East and its oil and natural gas supplies. The base, which few Americans are aware of, is more important strategically and more secretive than the U.S. naval base-cum-prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Unlike Guantánamo, no journalist has gotten more than a glimpse of Diego Garcia in more than 30 years. And yet, it has played a key role in waging the Gulf War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, and the current bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Following years of reports that the base was a secret CIA “black site” for holding terrorist suspects and years of denials by U.S. and British officials, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic finally fessed up in 2008. “Contrary to earlier explicit assurances,” said Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband, Diego Garcia had indeed played at least some role in the CIA’s secret “rendition” program.
Last year, British officials claimed that flight log records, which might have shed light on those rendition operations, were “incomplete due to water damage” thanks to “extremely heavy weather in June 2014.” A week later, they suddenly reversed themselves, saying that the “previously wet paper records have been dried out.” Two months later, they insisted the logs had not dried out at all and were “damaged to the point of no longer being useful.” Except that the British government’s own weather data indicates that June 2014 was an unusually dry month on Diego Garcia. A legal rights advocate said British officials “could hardly be less credible if they simply said ‘the dog ate my homework.’”
And these are just a few of the fictions underlying the base that occupies the Chagossians’ former home and that the U.S. military has nicknamed the “Footprint of Freedom.” After more than four decades of exile, however, with a Chagossian movement to return to their homeland growing, the fictions of Diego Garcia may finally be crumbling.
The story of Diego Garcia begins in the late eighteenth century. At that time, enslaved peoples from Africa, brought to work on Franco-Mauritian coconut plantations, became the first settlers in the Chagos Archipelago. Following emancipation and the arrival of indentured laborers from India, a diverse mixture of peoples created a new society with its own language, Chagos Kreol. They called themselves the Ilois — the Islanders.
While still a plantation society, the archipelago, by then under British colonial control, provided a secure life featuring universal employment and numerous social benefits on islands described by many as idyllic. “That beautiful atoll of Diego Garcia, right in the middle of the ocean,” is how Stuart Barber described it in the late 1950s. A civilian working for the U.S. Navy, Barber would become the architect of one of the most powerful U.S. military bases overseas.
Amid Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, Barber and other officials were concerned that there was almost no U.S. military presence in and around the Indian Ocean. Barber noted that Diego Garcia’s isolation — halfway between Africa and Indonesia and 1,000 miles south of India — ensured that it would be safe from attack, yet was still within striking distance of territory from southern Africa and the Middle East to South and Southeast Asia.
Guided by Barber’s idea, the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson convinced the British government to detach the Chagos Archipelago from colonial Mauritius and create a new colony, which they called the British Indian Ocean Territory. Its sole purpose would be to house U.S. military facilities.
During secret negotiations with their British counterparts, Pentagon and State Department officials insisted that Chagos come under their “exclusive control (without local inhabitants),” embedding an expulsion order in a polite-looking parenthetical phrase. U.S. officials wanted the islands “swept” and “sanitized.” British officials appeared happy to oblige, removing a people one official called “Tarzans” and, in a racist reference toRobinson Crusoe, “Man Fridays.”
“Absolutely Must Go”
This plan was confirmed with an “exchange of notes” signed on December 30, 1966, by U.S. and British officials, as one of the State Department negotiators told me, “under the cover of darkness.” The notes effectively constituted a treaty but required no Congressional or Parliamentary approval, meaning that both governments could keep their plans hidden.
According to the agreement, the United States would gain use of the new colony “without charge.” This was another fiction. In confidential minutes, the United States agreed to secretly wipe out a $14 million British military debt, circumventing the need to ask Congress for funding. In exchange, the British agreed to take the “administrative measures” necessary for “resettling the inhabitants.”
Those measures meant that, after 1967, any Chagossians who left home for medical treatment or a routine vacation in Mauritius were barred from returning. Soon, British officials began restricting the flow of food and medical supplies to Chagos. As conditions deteriorated, more islanders began leaving. By 1970, the U.S. Navy had secured funding for what officials told Congress would be an “austere communications station.” They were, however, already planning to ask for additional funds to expand the facility into a much larger base. As the Navy’s Office of Communications and Cryptology explained, “The communications requirements cited as justification are fiction.” By the 1980s, Diego Garcia would become a billion-dollar garrison.
In briefing papers delivered to Congress, the Navy described Chagos’s population as “negligible,” with the islands “for all practical purposes… uninhabited.” In fact, there were around 1,000 people on Diego Garcia in the 1960s and 500 to 1,000 more on other islands in the archipelago. With Congressional funds secured, the Navy’s highest-ranking admiral, Elmo Zumwalt, summed up the Chagossians’ fate in a 1971 memo of exactly three words: “Absolutely must go.”
The authorities soon ordered the remaining Chagossians — generally allowed no more than a single box of belongings and a sleeping mat — onto overcrowded cargo ships destined for Mauritius and the Seychelles. By 1973, the last Chagossians were gone.
At their destinations, most of the Chagossians were literally left on the docks, homeless, jobless, and with little money. In 1975, two years after the last removals, a Washington Post reporter found them living in “abject poverty.”
Aurélie Lisette Talate was one of the last to go. “I came to Mauritius with six children and my mother,” she told me. “We got our house… but the house didn’t have a door, didn’t have running water, didn’t have electricity. And then my children and I began to suffer. All my children started getting sick.”
Within two months, two of her children were dead. The second was buried in an unmarked grave because she lacked money for a proper burial. Aurélie experienced fainting spells herself and couldn’t eat. “We were living like animals. Land? We had none… Work? We had none. Our children weren’t going to school.”
Today, most Chagossians, who now number more than 5,000, remain impoverished. In their language, their lives are ones of lamizer (impoverished misery) and sagren (profound sorrow and heartbreak over being exiled from their native lands). Many of the islanders attribute sickness and even death tosagren. “I had something that had been affecting me for a long time, since we were uprooted,” was the way Aurélie explained it to me. “This sagren, this shock, it was this same problem that killed my child. We weren’t living free like we did in our natal land.”
Struggling for Justice
From the moment they were deported, the Chagossians demanded to be returned or at least properly resettled. After years of protest, including five hunger strikes led by women like Aurélie Talate, some in Mauritius received the most modest of compensation from the British government: small concrete houses, tiny plots of land, and about $6,000 per adult. Many used the money to pay off large debts they had accrued. For most, conditions improved only marginally. Those living in the Seychelles received nothing.
The Chagossian struggle was reinvigorated in 1997 with the launching of alawsuit against the British government. In November 2000, the British High Court ruled the removal illegal. In 2001 and 2002, most Chagossians joined new lawsuits in both American and British courts demanding the right to return and proper compensation for their removal and for resettling their islands. The U.S. suit was ultimately dismissed on the grounds that the judiciary can’t, in most circumstances, overrule the executive branch on matters of military and foreign policy. In Britain, the Chagossians were more successful. In 2002, they secured the right to full U.K. citizenship. Over 1,000 Chagossians have since moved to Britain in search of better lives. Twice more, British courts ruled in the people’s favor, with judges calling the government’s behavior “repugnant” and an “abuse of power.”
On the government’s final appeal, however, Britain’s then highest court, the Law Lords in the House of Lords, upheld the exile in a 3-2 decision. The Chagossians appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the ruling.
A Green Fiction
Before the European Court could rule, the British government announced the creation of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Chagos Archipelago. The date of the announcement, April Fool’s Day 2010, should have been a clue that there was more than environmentalism behind the move. The MPA banned commercial fishing and limited other human activity in the archipelago, endangering the viability of any resettlement efforts.
And then came WikiLeaks. In December 2010, it released a State Departmentcable from the U.S. Embassy in London quoting a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office official saying that the “former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.” U.S. officials agreed. According to the Embassy, Political Counselor Richard Mills wrote, “Establishing a marine reserve might, indeed… be the most effective long-term way to prevent any of the Chagos Islands’ former inhabitants or their descendants from resettling.”
Not surprisingly, the main State Department concern was whether the MPA would affect base operations. “We are concerned,” the London Embassy noted, that some “would come to see the existence of a marine reserve as inherently inconsistent with the military use of Diego Garcia.” British officials assured the Americans there would be “no constraints on military operations.”
Although the European Court of Human Rights ultimately ruled against the Chagossians in 2013, this March, a U.N. tribunal found that the British government had violated international law in creating the Marine Protected Area. Next week, Chagossians will challenge the MPA and their expulsion before the British Supreme Court (now Britain’s highest) armed with the U.N. ruling and revelations that the government won its House of Lords decision with the help of a fiction-filled resettlement study.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for the Chagossians’ return, the African Union has condemned their deportation as unlawful, three Nobel laureates have spoken out on their behalf, and dozens of members of the British Parliament have joined a group supporting their struggle. In January, a British government “feasibility study” found no significant legal barriers to resettling the islands and outlined several possible resettlement plans, beginning with Diego Garcia. (Notably, Chagossians are not calling for the removal of the U.S. military base. Their opinions about it are diverse and complicated. At least some would prefer jobs on the base to lives of poverty and unemployment in exile.)
Of course, no study was needed to know that resettlement on Diego Garcia and in the rest of the archipelago is feasible. The base, which has hosted thousands of military and civilian personnel for more than 40 years, has demonstrated that well enough. In fact, Stuart Barber, its architect, came to the same conclusion in the years before his death. After he learned of the Chagossians’ fate, he wrote a series of impassioned letters to Human Rights Watch and the British Embassy in Washington, among others, imploring them to help the Chagossians return home. In a letter to Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, he said bluntly that the expulsion “wasn’t necessary militarily.”
In a 1991 letter to the Washington Post, Barber suggested that it was time “to redress the inexcusably inhuman wrongs inflicted by the British at our insistence.” He added, “Substantial additional compensation for 18-25 past years of misery for all evictees is certainly in order. Even if that were to cost $100,000 per family, we would be talking of a maximum of $40-50 million, modest compared with our base investment there.”
Almost a quarter-century later, nothing has yet been done. In 2016, the initial 50-year agreement for Diego Garcia will expire. While it is subject to an automatic 20-year renewal, it provides for a two-year renegotiation period, which commenced in late 2014. With momentum building in support of the Chagossians, they are optimistic that the two governments will finally correct this historic injustice. That U.S. officials allowed the British feasibility study to consider resettlement plans for Diego Garcia is a hopeful sign that Anglo-American policy may finally be shifting to right a great wrong in the Indian Ocean.
Unfortunately, Aurélie Talate will never see the day when her people go home. Like others among the rapidly dwindling number of Chagossians born in the archipelago, Aurélie died in 2012 at age 70, succumbing to the heartbreak that is sagren.
DAVID VINE, TOMDISPATCH.COM
TUESDAY, JUN 16, 2015 10:45 AM +0200
Find this story at 16 June 2015
Copyright © 2015 Salon Media Group, Inc.
Diego Garcia: UK Delays Publication of Flight Records Which May Hold Truth About CIA Activities
14 augustus 2015
The UK Foreign Office (FCO) has further delayed publication of flight records for Diego Garcia, following disclosures by a senior Bush administration official that interrogations took place at a CIA black site on the British island.
FCO officials are “still assessing the suitability of the full flight records for publication”, nine months after they were first requested from the government by human rights NGO Reprieve.
Campaigners believe that the logs — written records of all flights landing on and leaving the atoll — could provide crucial, previously undisclosed details of flights involved in the intelligence agency’s post-9/11 rendition and torture program.
‘It is now over seven years since the UK government was forced to admit that CIA torture flights were allowed to use the British territory of Diego Garcia, yet we still seem no closer to the publication of flight records which could provide crucial evidence of what went on.’
However, the UK government has so far declined to publish the logs, and has dismissed the new claims made by a former senior Bush administration official — published by VICE News — that the CIA did in fact detain prisoners on Diego Garcia, despite years of assurances from British ministers to the contrary.
“We have responded publicly in recent years to previous claims,” wrote Hugo Swire, the FCO minister of state, in a letter to Reprieve. “However, Colonel Wilkerson has not presented any new evidence to support his allegation that detainees were held on Diego Garcia.”
Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told VICE News in January that the island was home to “a transit site where people were temporarily housed, let us say, and interrogated from time to time.” His information came from four well-placed CIA and intelligence sources, he said.
Related: Exclusive: CIA interrogations took place on British territory of Diego Garcia, Senior Bush administration official says. Read more here
Swire said that the British government “seeks regular reassurance from the US government” on renditions, in the letter dated March 3.
“All previous assurances on transfer of detainees provided by the US government since 2008 remain valid and correct,” Swire wrote.
“Whilst I am not able to make public the details of diplomatic correspondence, I can confirm that the most recent assurances were received this month.”
Swire did not explain whether the FCO contacted the US in direct response to Wilkerson’s disclosures, but did say that the most recent assurances were made “after Colonel Wilkerson’s claims were made.”
Donald Campbell of Reprieve said the publication of the flight logs was necessary to reassure the public that Britain is not involved in a cover-up of torture evidence.
“It is now over seven years since the UK government was forced to admit that CIA torture flights were allowed to use the British territory of Diego Garcia,” he said, “yet we still seem no closer to the publication of flight records which could provide crucial evidence of what went on.
“Last summer, after the records reportedly suffered ‘accidental’ water damage, ministers promised that they were ‘assessing their suitability for publication.’ Eight months later, they say they are still ‘assessing.’ It is hard to see how such a long delay could be justified.”
It is far from the first time that Diego Garcia’s role in the CIA’s post-9/11 rendition and torture program has been disputed.
The tiny atoll in the Indian Ocean, which has been leased to the US for use as a military base since 1966, has been the subject of CIA torture program claims and counter-claims stretching back more than a decade. The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee torture report in December confirmed that the CIA did operate a post-9/11 global rendition and torture program, with secret prisons all over the world — but the heavily redacted document did not reveal whether Diego Garcia was a part of the CIA’s international network of black sites.
The UK’s changing position on Diego Garcia’s unpublished flight records
The British government says it has received repeated assurances from the US that no CIA rendition flights landed on Diego Garcia — bar two rendition planes which stopped briefly to refuel in 2002.
The government has been slow to release flight logs for the atoll, however, and the position of the Foreign Office in relation to the records has shifted as pressure for them to be released has grown.
February 21 2008: The UK admits that two rendition flights stopped over on Diego Garcia to refuel.
David Miliband, then the foreign secretary, tells parliament he is “very sorry indeed” to report that contrary to earlier assurances, two rendition flights carrying a single detainee each did, in fact, land on Diego Garcia.
July 2008: … but the UK claims that records on these two flights — and for the whole of 2002 — are no longer held.
Miliband tells the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) that records “are unfortunately no longer held for the period when the two cases of rendition occurred ,” because they are generally only held for up to five years.
June 26 2014: NGO Reprieve asks the foreign secretary whether flight records from 2002 onwards are held…
Reprieve writes to William Hague, who has by then taken over as foreign secretary, asking: “Can you confirm whether the government holds monthly statistics of flights through D[iego] G[arcia] from January 2002 onwards; daily logs from October 2002 onwards; and general aviation reports from January 2004 onwards? And can you confirm that all planes and flights recorded in all these logs and statistics have been investigated, and discounted as being possible rendition flights?”
July 8 2014: …and the Foreign Office says they are held, but 2002 flight records are incomplete due to ‘water damage.’
Mark Simmonds, a Foreign Office minister, tells members of parliament (MPs) that “though there are some limited records from 2002, I understand they are incomplete due to water damage.”
July 14 2014: … but then the foreign secretary says he believes that there’s actually a complete set of flight logs for 2002.
Hague replies to Reprieve’s letter saying that actually only a small number of flight records have been irretrievably damaged: “I am satisfied that for the period you are asking about, we have a complete set of information about types of aircraft, passenger and crew numbers landing and departing Diego Garcia.”
July 15 2014: The Foreign Office confirms that the water damaged 2002 flight records have not been lost after all — because they’ve “dried out.”
Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds tells MPs that water-damaged records have “dried out”: “Since my answer of 8 July, BIOT [British Indian Ocean Territory] immigration officials have conducted a fuller inspection, and previously wet paper records have been dried out. They report that no flight records have been lost as a result of the water damage.”
He says that “a small number of immigration arrival cards from 2004” have been damaged, however.
August 19 2014: The Foreign Office says that not all flight records from 2002 onwards are complete, but they should be able to get a full set anyway.
Responding to a letter from Reprieve asking for clarification on which flight records are damaged, Philip Hammond, now foreign secretary, writes: “The Administration of the British Indian Ocean Territory holds several different types of record about flights entering the territory, though not all of these are complete for the period you are referring to. By combining different types of records, we are confident we can establish what types of aircraft landed on a particular day, and passenger and crew numbers on these aircraft, for the period since 2002.”
September 4 2014: It turns out the heavy weather that damaged the records wasn’t so heavy after all…
VICE News obtains the government’s own records which show that the so-called “extremely heavy weather” in June 2002 amounted to 3.25 inches of rainfall — considerably less than the average for that month.
“I don’t think it’s very helpful for us to have a discussion about how much rain is a lot of rain,” a FCO spokesperson told VICE.
By Ben Bryant
April 8, 2015 | 1:15 pm
Find this story at 8 April 2015
CIA interrogated suspects on Diego Garcia, says Colin Powell aide
14 augustus 2015
Lawrence Wilkerson is the latest of a number of US officials to say British territory was used in CIA rendition programme
The UK government is facing renewed pressure to make a full disclosure of its involvement in the CIA’s post-9/11 kidnap and torture programme after another leading Bush-era US official said suspects were held and interrogated on the British territory of Diego Garcia.
Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Colin Powell at the US state department, said the Indian Ocean atoll was used by the CIA as “a transit site where people were temporarily housed, let us say, and interrogated from time to time”.
In an interview with Vice News, Wilkerson said three US intelligence sources had informed him that the CIA used Diego Garcia for what he described as “nefarious activities”, with prisoners being held for weeks at a time.
“What I heard was more along the lines of using it as a transit location when perhaps other places were full or other places were deemed too dangerous or insecure, or unavailable at the moment,” said Wilkerson, who served under Powell from 2002 to 2005.
“So you might have a case where you simply go in and use a facility at Diego Garcia for a month or two weeks or whatever and you do your nefarious activities there.”
Donald Campbell, spokesman for the legal rights group Reprieve, said: “We already know Diego Garcia was used for CIA renditions, yet over a decade on the British government has yet to own up to the full part the island played in the CIA’s torture programme.
“Ministers have consistently claimed that no CIA detainees were held on the island, but Col Wilkerson’s account suggests that either they are lying or they have been lied to. It is high time the British government came clean over the part UK territory played in the CIA’s shameful torture programme.”
Diego Garcia’s population was removed during the late 1960s and early 70s and forced to settle on the Seychelles and Mauritius. Since then the atoll has been leased by the UK to the US for use as a military base.
Wilkerson is the latest of a number of well-placed officials who have said that after 9/11 the atoll was also used in the CIA rendition programme.
Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star American general, has twice spoken publicly about the use of Diego Garcia to detain suspects.
Manfred Nowak, a former United Nations special rapporteur on torture, has said he has heard from reliable sources that the US held prisoners on ships in the Indian Ocean.
Dick Marty, a Swiss senator who led a Council of Europe investigation into the CIA’s use of European territory and air space, said he received confirmation of the use of the atoll. He later said he received the assistance of some CIA officers during his investigation.
There also is a wealth of circumstantial evidence to suggest that Diego Garcia was used in the so-called rendition programme.
There have been reports that an al-Qaida terrorist known as Hambali, who was suspected of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombing in which 202 people died, was taken to Diego Garcia to be interrogated following his capture in August 2003. A report in Time magazine quoted a regional intelligence official as saying he was being interrogated there two months after his detention.
An American detention facility of some sort is known to exist on Diego Garcia. In 1984 a review by the US government’s general accounting office of construction work on the atoll reported that a detention facility had been completed the previous December.
According to answers given to parliamentary questions, British military officials – who are nominally in command of the atoll – re-designated another building as a prison three months after the September 11 attacks.
In the past, Tony Blair, as prime minister, and Jack Straw, as foreign secretary, both denied the use of the atoll during the rendition programme, but these denials were contradicted by David Miliband, one of Straw’s successors, who told parliament in February 2008 that information had “just come to light” to show that two rendition flights stopped there to refuel.
That statement was made after human rights organisations obtained flight data showing that two aircraft closely involved in the CIA’s rendition programme had flown into and out of Diego Garcia.
A number of sources in the US have said there were a number of references to the CIA’s use of Diego Garcia in the report on the agency’s use of torture that was published last month by the US Senate intelligence committee.
Since then the UK Foreign Office has evaded a series of media inquiries about Diego Garcia and about the report, and has instead responded with a stock response.
Asked about Wilkerson’s comments, a spokesperson issued the same statement: “The US government has assured us that apart from the two cases in 2002 there have been no other instances in which US intelligence flights landed in the UK, our overseas territories, or the crown dependencies with a detainee on board since 11 September 2001.”
The Foreign Office has also performed a number of twists and turns when asked questions about the fate of flight and immigration records relating to Diego Garcia.
Last July the Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds told Andrew Tyrie, the Tory MP who has been investigating the UK’s involvement in the rendition programme for almost a decade, that daily records were “incomplete” due to water damage.
The following day, however, a Foreign Office official was photographed in Whitehall carrying a batch of emails that showed that Scotland Yard detectives had taken possession of “monthly log showing flight details” and “daily records [obscured] month of alleged rendition”.
A few days later, Simmonds told MPs that “previously wet paper records have been dried out”, and that “no flight records have been lost as a result of the water damage”.
Two months after that, the Foreign Office told the Commons foreign affairs committee that a number of immigration records relating to civilians landing on Diego Garcia “have been damaged to the point of no longer being useful”.
Friday 30 January 2015 17.11 GMT Last modified on Saturday 31 January 2015 00.08 GMT
Find this story at 30 January 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Terror trial collapses after fears of deep embarrassment to security services
27 juli 2015
Swedish national Bherlin Gildo’s lawyers argued British intelligence agencies were supporting the same Syrian opposition groups as he was
A Free Syrian Army fighter fires his weapon during clashes in Aleppo. The Old Bailey was told by the crown that there was no longer a reasonable prospect of a prosecution.
The prosecution of a Swedish national accused of terrorist activities in Syria has collapsed at the Old Bailey after it became clear Britain’s security and intelligence agencies would have been deeply embarrassed had a trial gone ahead, the Guardian can reveal.
His lawyers argued that British intelligence agencies were supporting the same Syrian opposition groups as he was, and were party to a secret operation providing weapons and non-lethal help to the groups, including the Free Syrian Army.
Bherlin Gildo, 37, who was arrested last October on his way from Copenhagen to Manila, was accused of attending a terrorist training camp and receiving weapons training between 31 August 2012 and 1 March 2013 as well as possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist.
Riel Karmy-Jones, for the crown, told the court on Monday that after reviewing the evidence it was decided there was no longer a reasonable prospect of a prosecution. “Many matters were raised we did not know at the outset,” she told the recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard QC, who lifted all reporting restrictions and entered not guilty verdicts.
In earlier court hearings, Gildo’s defence lawyers argued he was helping the same rebel groups the British government was aiding before the emergence of the extreme Islamist group, Isis. His trial would have been an “affront to justice”, his lawyers said.
Henry Blaxland QC, the defence counsel, said: “If it is the case that HM government was actively involved in supporting armed resistance to the Assad regime at a time when the defendant was present in Syria and himself participating in such resistance it would be unconscionable to allow the prosecution to continue.”
Blaxland told the court: “If government agencies, of which the prosecution is a part, are themselves involved in the use of force, in whatever way, it is our submission that would be an affront to justice to allow the prosecution to continue.”
After Monday’s hearing, Gildo’s solicitor, Gareth Peirce, said his case had exposed a number of “contradictions” – not least that the matters on which he was charged were not offences in Sweden, and that the UK government had expressed support for the Syrian opposition.
“He has been detained in this country although he did not ever intend to enter this country. For him it’s as if he has been abducted by aliens from outer space,” she said.
“Given that there is a reasonable basis for believing that the British were themselves involved in the supply of arms, if that’s so, it would be an utter hypocrisy to prosecute someone who has been involved in the armed resistance.”
Gildo’s defence lawyers quoted a number of press articles referring to the supply of arms to Syrian rebels, including one from the Guardian on 8 March 2013, on the west’s training of Syrian rebels in Jordan. Articles on the New York Times from 24 March and 21 June 2013, gave further details and an article in the London Review of Books from 14 April 12014, implicated MI6 in a “rat line” for the transfer of arms from Libya.
Gildo was was flying to Manila to join his wife, a Filipina, when he was stopped under schedule 7 of the 2000 Terrorism Act, the same statute used to question David Miranda, partner of the former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, in 2013.
The court heard that Gildo had sought the help of the Swedish secret service, Sapo, when he wanted to return to his home country.
It is not the first time a British prosecution relating to allegations of Syrian terrorism has collapsed. Last October Moazzem Begg was released after “new material” was said to have emerged.
The attorney general was consulted about Monday’s decision. Karmy-Jones told the court in pre-trial hearings that Gildo had worked with Jabhat al-Nusra, a “proscribed group considered to be al-Qaida in Syria”. He was photographed standing over dead bodies with his finger pointing to the sky.
The Press Association contributed to this report
Monday 1 June 2015 14.33 BST Last modified on Monday 1 June 2015 18.19 BST
Find this story at 1 June 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
KGB spy shares details of his escape to Britain in 1985
6 juli 2015
Oleg GordievskyA Soviet double spy, who secretly defected to Britain 30 years ago this month, has revealed for the first time the details of his exfiltration by British intelligence in 1985. Oleg Gordievsky was one of the highest Soviet intelligence defectors to the West in the closing stages of the Cold War. He joined the Soviet KGB in 1963, eventually reaching the rank of colonel. But in the 1960s, while serving in the Soviet embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, Gordievsky began feeling disillusioned about the Soviet system. His doubts were reinforced by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. It was soon afterwards that he made the decision to contact British intelligence.
Cautiously, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (known as MI6) communicated with Gordievsky, and in 1974 he secretly became an agent-in-place for the United Kingdom. Eight years later, in 1982, Gordievsky was promoted to KGB rezident (chief of station) in London. While there, he frequently made contact with his MI6 handlers, giving them highly coveted information on Soviet nuclear strategy, among other things. He is credited with informing London of Mikhail Gorbachev’s imminent ascendency to the premiership of the Soviet Union, long before he was seen by Western intelligence as a viable candidate to lead the country.
But in May of 1985, Gordievsky was suddenly recalled to Moscow, where he was detained by the KGB. He was promptly taken to a KGB safe house in the outskirts of Moscow and interrogated for five hours, before being temporarily released pending further questioning. Remarkably, however, Gordievsky managed to escape his KGB surveillance and reappear in Britain less than a week later. How did this happen? On Sunday, the former double spy gave a rare rare interview to The Times, in which he revealed for the first time the details of his escape to London. He told The Times’ Ben Macintyre that he was smuggled out of the USSR by MI6 as part of Operation PIMLICO. PIMLICO was an emergency exfiltration operation that had been put in place by MI6 long before Gordievsky requested its activation in May of 1985.
Every Tuesday, shortly after 7:00, a British MI6 officer would take a morning stroll at the Kutuzovsky Prospekt in Moscow. He would pass outside a designated bakery at exactly 7:24 a.m. local time. If he saw Gordievsky standing outside the bakery holding a grocery bag, it meant that the double agent was requesting to be exfiltrated as a matter of urgency. Gordievsky would then have to wait outside the bakery until a second MI6 officer appeared, carrying a bag from the Harrods luxury department store in London. The man would also be carrying a Mars bar (a popular British candy bar) and would bite into it while passing right in front of Gordievsky. That would be a message to him that his request to be exfiltrated had been received.
Four days later, Gordievsky used his skills in evading surveillance and shook off (or dry-cleaned, in espionage tradecraft lingo) the KGB officers trailing him. He was then picked up by MI6 officers and smuggled out of the country in the trunk of a British diplomatic car that drove to the Finnish border. Gordievsky told The Times that Soviet customs officers stopped the car at the Finnish border and surrounded it with sniffer dogs. At that moment, a British diplomat’s wife, who was aware that Gordievsky was hiding in the car, came out of the vehicle and proceeded to change her baby’s diaper on the trunk, thus safeguarding Gordievsky’s hiding place and masking his scent with her baby’s used diaper. If it hadn’t been for the diplomat’s wife, Gordievsky told The Times that he might have been caught.
After crossing the Soviet-Finnish border, Gordievsky traveled to Norway and from there he boarded a plane for England. Soviet authorities promptly sentenced him to death, but allowed his wife and children to join him in Britain six years later, after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher personally lobbied the Soviet government. Gordievsky’s death penalty still stands in Russia. In 2007, the Queen made Gordievsky a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George for services rendered to the security of the British state.
JULY 6, 2015 BY JOSEPH FITSANAKIS LEAVE A COMMENT
Find this story at 6 July 2015
Top KGB defector begged Margaret Thatcher to secure release of his family
6 juli 2015
Oleg Gordievsky told the prime minister that without his wife and young daughters his “life has no meaning”, papers released by the National Archives show
Oleg Gordievsky, the most prominent Soviet agent to defect to Britain during the Cold War, personally pleaded with Margaret Thatcher to help secure the release of his family from Moscow.
The KGB colonel told the prime minister that without his wife and young daughters, who were prevented from following him to London, his “life has no meaning”.
Files released by the National Archives reveal that MI6 secretly sought to broker a deal with the Russians to secure the safe passage of his family. When the offer was rejected, Mrs Thatcher insisted on expelling every KGB agent in Britain.
Mr Gordievsky, who was one of the most important spies during the Cold War, provided Britain with reports on Soviet operations for more than a decade.
When he issued his appeal to Mrs Thatcher in 1985, she responded personally in an emotive note on Sept 7 1985 urging him to have hope.
Tony Benn, the veteran Labour politician, has died at the age of 88. The former cabinet minister, who served as an MP for more than 50 years, died at his home in west London surrounded by family members.
Tony Benn, a KGB spy? No, he was far too dangerous for us 26 Dec 2014
Former KGB colonel says he paid late union leader Jack Jones £200 for information 22 Apr 2009
Sir Christopher Curwen 23 Dec 2013
They can’t take their eyes off us 07 Dec 2010
“Our anxiety for your family remains and we shall not forget them,” she said. “Having children of my own, I know the kind of thoughts and feelings which are going through your mind each and every day. But just as your concern is about them, so their concern will be for your safety and well-being.
“Please do not say that life has no meaning. There is always hope. And we shall do all to help you through these difficult days.”
Mrs Thatcher went on to suggest that the pair should meet when the “immediate situation” – the public announcement of Mr Gordievsky’s defection to Britain – had passed.
Her personal involvement was greeted with extreme gratitude by Christopher Curwen, the MI6 chief who had arranged Mr Gordievsky’s extraction from Moscow.
Curwen said: “The reassurance that his family would not be forgotten provided the help and support which he most needs at this difficult time.”
Her comments “greatly assisted” MI6’s dealings with Mr Gordievsky at a “very dificult time,” he added.
Mr Gordievsky arrived in London as a result of an emergency extraction sanctioned by Mrs Thatcher in the summer of 1985. Originally recruited in 1974, Mr Gordievsky became Britain’s star source inside the KGB after being posted to the Soviet secret service’s London bureau.
However, on May 17 1985, having just been promised the job of head of station in London, he was suddenly summoned back to Moscow and subsequently accused of being a spy. He eventually escaped to London with the help of MI6, who smuggled him across the border into Finland, after giving his KBG minders the slip.
When she formally announced Mr Gordievsky’s defection Mrs Thatcher said she hoped that “on humanitarian grounds” the Soviet authorities would agree to his request for his family to join him in London.
However it was another six years before he was reunited with his wife Leila and children. His elder daughter Mariya was 11 on her arrival in London in 1991, and his second child Anna was 10.
The National Archives files show that the prime minister took a close interest in Mr Gordievsky’s well-being, asking his handlers “whether he has some sort of companion to talk to and confide in at what is obviously a very difficult time for him.”
By Edward Malnick7:00AM GMT 30 Dec 2014
Find this story at 30 December 2014
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2015
Evidence of police complicity in blacklisting of trade unionists stretches back decades
26 juni 2015
Police are alleged to have been covertly helping companies to blacklist trade unionists since before the Second World War
The blacklisting of trade unionists by major firms over the years has been an inherently secretive practice. Even more secretive, it seems, has been the state’s covert collusion in such a practice.
From time to time, the public get glimpses that reveal how the state has facilitated the blacklisting. These snapshots suggest that there has been regular collusion for many decades.
The police and blacklisters have not welcomed public scrutiny of their relationship. However the trade unionists who were blacklisted are now pressing for the upcoming public inquiry into the failures of undercover policing – to be headed by Lord Justice Pitchford – to scrutinise the allegations (see here for more details).
In all these years, there has never been an in-depth, independent, and public examination of these persistent allegations.
Some of the evidence of this collusion is detailed below – the most recent dates from 2008. According to a leaked document, a secretive police unit that was involved in monitoring political activists met a blacklisting agency that was funded by large companies.
The agency, operating under the bland name of the Consulting Association, unlawfully compiled confidential dossiers on thousands of workers who were considered by company directors to be politically active or potential trouble-makers. Many workers were denied employment for long periods.
A note of the meeting at an Oxfordshire hotel on November 6 2008 records that the purpose of the police unit, which was then expanding, was “to liaise with industry”.
Police ‘spied on activists for blacklisting agency’
More evidence dates from the 1990s. Peter Francis, a former undercover police officer who has now become a whistleblower, has disclosed that he believes that he personally collected some of the information that later appeared in the files of the Consulting Association. Francis infiltrated anti-racist groups between 1993 and 1997 as a member of the Metropolitan Police’s undercover unit, the Special Demonstration Squad.
The blacklisting files recorded one bricklayer as being “under constant watch (officially) and seen as politically dangerous”.
An official watchdog, the information commissioner, shut down the Consulting Association, after seizing many of its files in a raid. Dave Clancy, a former police officer who worked as an investigator for the watchdog, has testified that “there is information on the Consulting Association files that I believe could only be supplied by the police or the security services”. These details, he added, were specific and came from police records.
An earlier incarnation of the blacklist was run by another clandestine agency, called the Economic League. This organisation had been set up shortly after the First World War, at a time of widespread industrial unrest, and, again, was financed by large corporations.
The Economic League had began to compile secret dossiers on workers around the country.
It seems that from early on, the Economic League received help from the police. Documents chronicle how Economic League officials worked closely with police in Lancashire in the 1930s.
In 1937, they met detectives who were monitoring political “subversives”. The league’s Manchester organiser reported to his superiors that he had “Manchester police in here yesterday and found them extremely helpful and have now arranged to work in the closest co-operation with them. Among other things, they promised to give me as long as I like looking over their Communist industrial file in their office.”
Blacklisted workers seek to prise open secrets of covert police surveillance
Days later, the league’s Manchester organiser wrote to the chief constable of the local force and thanked him for his help. At one point, the league asked police to carry out surveillance on a meeting of trade unionists as the blacklisters considered it “of considerable importance”.
At another point, the league’s Manchester organiser told his boss that he was due to get a report of a Communist Party meeting from the police without having to send “one of our own men”.
In that same year, Special Branch passed onto the Economic League a confidential list of Manchester communists.
Fifty years on, and collaboration still seemed to exist. In the 1980s, an undercover television sting caught the candid thoughts of an Economic League official who said :”We give all our information to the police. In return, they’re not exactly unfriendly back.”
Michael Noar, then the Economic League’s director-general, said in 1987 said that “of course, the police and Special Branch are interested in some of the things we are interested in. They follow the activities of these groups in much the same way as we do and therefore they do get in touch with us from time to time and talk to us and say ‘were you at this demonstration or that’.” He added that “in the course of discussions, there is an exchange of information just in the ordinary course of talking.”
Phil Chamberlain, co-author of a book on blacklisting, being interviewed
Police and Economic League officials have acknowledged they had meetings together, but say information about individuals was not passed to the league.
One unnamed Special Branch officer recently told an internal police investigation into the undercover infiltration of political groups that the “flow of information was purely one way”. The Economic League was treated solely as a source of information, according to the officer, and it was Special Branch policy not to share any information with the league.
Jack Winder, who worked for the Economic League from 1963 until its closure in the early 1990s, told a parliamentary inquiry two years ago that he had meetings with the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch over a long time for what he called “general chit-chat”. He told MPs that the “exchange of detailed information” about individuals was “absolutely forbidden”.
Sources : Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain, Blacklisted :the secret war between big business and union activists (New Internationalist, 2015); Mark Hollingsworth and Richard Norton-Taylor, Blacklist – the inside story of political vetting (Hogarth Press, 1988). For a detailed and documented history of the Economic League, see the work of researcher Mike Hughes here.
Tuesday 16 June 2015 11.03 BST Last modified on Tuesday 16 June 2015 11.06 BST
Find this story at 16 June 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Blacklisted workers seek to prise open secrets of covert police surveillance
26 juni 2015
Trade unionists blacklisted by major firms are pushing for the public inquiry into undercover policing to examine alleged collusion between covert police officers and company directors
Blacklisted workers have intensified their campaign to uncover the extent of secret police surveillance operations against them.
Covert police officers are alleged to have passed information they gathered on the trade unionists to multi-national firms who maintained a secret and unlawful blacklist.
The blacklisted workers want the allegations examined by the public inquiry that has been established into the police’s use of undercover officers to infiltrate hundreds of political groups.
That inquiry – to be headed by Lord Justice Pitchford – is drawing up its remit which is due to be announced by the end of July. This here and here gives some background on the inquiry that was set up by home secretary Theresa May.
This week, the blacklisted workers said they have applied to be given a central role in the inquiry. In legal terms, they are seeking to be made a “core participant” in the inquiry.
It is not yet known who will be the “core participants” in the Pitchford inquiry. The status is given to those who, for example, have a direct and significant interest in the issues that will be examined.
On the blacklist: how did the UK’s top building firms get secret information on their workers?
It allows them to see evidence in advance of it being aired at the inquiry and to seek to cross-examine witnesses.
The application by the Blacklist Support Group (BSG) has been made by Imran Khan, the lawyer who also represents Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen. (For more details, see this).
Dave Smith, the group’s spokesman, said: “Hopefully by the BSG applying for core participant status, we will be able to guarantee that spying on trade unions and passing over information to private companies becomes a theme within the Pitchford inquiry.”
“Police and security services spying on trade unions is not a one-off aberration, it is standard operating procedure by the state.”
An official watchdog closed down the blacklist in 2009 after discovering that major firms kept confidential files on workers deemed to be “trouble-makers”. Checks were run on trade unionists to deny them work if their names were on the list.
The police’s role in giving information to the blacklist has yet to be fully brought into the public domain.
Imran Khan, the lawyer working for the blacklisted workers. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Imran Khan, the lawyer working for the blacklisted workers. Photograph: Richard Saker/Richard Saker
Read this, this, and this for accounts of how the police are alleged to have colluded with the blacklisters by gathering and sharing information on trade unionists.
More than 580 blacklisted workers have launched legal action against 40 large construction firms in a case that is due to be heard in the High Court next year. They say the blacklisting files date from at least 1969.
At a preliminary hearing this month, lawyers for the blacklisted workers told a court that the blacklisters had deliberately destroyed documents after they had been raided by the official watchdog, the information commissioner. (Read this for more details).
Meanwhile, Smith, the co-author of a new book, Blacklisted : the Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists, is due to give a talk on the controversy on Tuesday June 2. This here gives details of the talk in London that is being organised by the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and the Institute of Employment Rights.
Thursday 28 May 2015 11.51 BST Last modified on Thursday 28 May 2015 12.00 BST
Find this story at 28 May 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Blacklisting: The Secret War Big Business Wages on Workers
26 juni 2015
You’d hope that construction work would be one area of life where tabloid stories about “health ‘n’ safety going mad” were actually true, in order to stop people getting in the way of machines designed to smash concrete, or falling off some 20th floor scaffolding. In fact, for years, the opposite has been the case, as people raising health and safety concerns have been systematically nixed from getting a job in construction.
From at least the 1980s, construction companies kept a secret “blacklist” of some 3,200 workers that they wanted to ensure never found work. These included various types of people who somehow got in the way of the companies making a fat profit—workers who complained about dangerous practices on sites, trade union organizers who tried to get a better wage, and even environmental protesters who weren’t employed in the industry but got in the way of construction. Lives were ruined as tradespeople found that they were mysteriously denied work all the time, despite being qualified. Some people were even pushed to suicide as they couldn’t provide for their families.
In 2009, an article written by journalist Phil Chamberlain in the Guardian ended up being put on the desk of an investigator at the Information Commissioner Office. That kick started a chain of events which exposed the truth of blacklisting that many had already suspected for years. Following a raid on the organization set up by the companies to manage the secret blacklist—the Consulting Association—the Blacklist Support Group was formed to represent blacklisted workers. The secretary of the group Dave Smith, a trade unionist who was blacklisted himself, has teamed up with Phil Chamberlain to write a book exposing the practice. Blacklisted: The Secret War Between Big Business and Union Activists tells the story of multinationals and the state colluding to undermine trade unionism and thousands of workers fighting for their dignity—a fight which continues to this day. I caught up with the pair at the book’s launch last week.
Man Decapitated in France and Islamist Banner Found on Site
Man Decapitated in France and Islamist Banner Found on Site
Australian Government Contractors Will Now Go to Jail for Reporting Detention Centre Child Abuse
Australian Government Contractors Will Now Go to Jail for Reporting Detention Centre Child Abuse
A Year After His Kidnapping, a British Man Is Still On Death Row in Ethiopia
A Year After His Kidnapping, a British Man Is Still On Death Row in Ethiopia
A Bachelor Party Prank Went Very, Very Wrong When the Cops Responded to the Groom’s ‘Kidnapping’
A Bachelor Party Prank Went Very, Very Wrong When the Cops Responded to the Groom’s ‘Kidnapping’
VICE: Dave, you’ve written this book as somebody who has been a victim of blacklisting. Tell me about your experience.
Dave Smith: My blacklist file is 36 pages long and runs from 1992 until 2006. The first entry records a protest about several week’s unpaid wages on a Balfour Beatty site. The rest of my file is about safety concerns I have raised including asbestos and overflowing toilets. I could never get a job for any of the large companies but managed to find work with small subcontractors or via employment agencies for a while. But it reached a point where even the agencies wouldn’t offer me a job. This is recorded in my blacklist file. I went from driving a large four by four to a £300 [$445] fiesta van and during the height of the building boom I was virtually unemployable. I had to leave the industry to pay the mortgage.
“Blacklisting people who complain about safety causes deaths on building sites. It’s as simple as that.”
How big was the human cost throughout the industry?
Some people we interviewed for the book have been out of work for 20 years. When you first tell someone that, they go “out of work for 20 years? Building work? That can’t be right,” but then when you actually see their file, they’re out of work and as soon as they get a job, the company find out, and they’re sacked. They get another job as soon as they’re fired and they’re sacked again. We’ve been talking not just to the workers but their wives and their partners. Kids aren’t getting new trainers, kids aren’t going on school trips. People have lost their houses over this. Quite a few people, their relationships have broken up. This isn’t just about numbers, it’s about the fact they’ve taken food off our tables and that’s why we’ve taken it so personally.
One of the main reasons workers were added to the blacklist was for raising health and safety concerns. What kind of impact does this have on building sites?
Well everybody knew there was a blacklist. It wasn’t a secret, although the employers always denied it whenever the politicians asked them. Management used to say, “If you carry on like that we’ll make sure you never work again in the building industry” and it wasn’t an idle threat—it was true. The impact on health and safety is, if somebody moans about a bit of scaffolding or the toilets overflowing and gets sacked for it, then next time when the toilets are overflowing or there’s asbestos, people just keep their head down and don’t say anything, which is one of the reasons why constructions got such a terrible health and safety record. Blacklisting people who complain about safety causes deaths on building sites. It’s as simple as that.
The promotional video for ‘Blacklisted.’
The blacklist was mainly a list of construction workers, but not entirely. What other kind of people were on the list, and why?
Phil Chamberlain: It started off as a construction blacklist and—I think it’s the nature of the surveillance—once you start compiling it takes in more and more people. People who the companies are concerned about suddenly get drawn in. If we look at the road protests [anti-road building activism] that grew up around the 1990s, they affected construction companies. The environmental protesters who took part in roads protests aren’t union members but they’re people the companies want to keep tabs on. That coincides with the kind of people which the state are interested in keeping tabs on as well. That’s when you start to see that kind of cross over. We’ve got academics and journalists on the list as well. People who start to cause worry to the companies started to be added in.
So you’re talking about a cross over between the construction companies and the state. Was the list compiled with the active collusion of the police?
It appears there were links between construction companies and the police. The question is about how systematized that contact was. In some cases it would have been personal contacts developed up over a number of years or inherited. We’ve spoken to industrial relations officers from the companies who have freely acknowledged meeting Special Branch people and we know the industrial desk at Special Branch was tasked with looking at trade unions and maintaining contact with corporations. We know those links existed and have done for a number of years. In some cases it would have been done on a fairly informal basis and in other cases perhaps more systemically done.
The files are quite clear in that some of the files contain information that could only have come from the police. That not just us saying that, the Information Commissioner’s Office looked at the files and came to the same conclusion independently to ourselves.
It’s quite clear this is much wider than construction and much wider than the UK but that’s because it’s the nature of the economic system which can’t deal with that kind of dissent, which is ultimately about preserving some profit margin at the expense of democratic, legitimate forms of protest.
In the book you draw a lot of parallels between the blacklisting scandal and the the phone hacking scandal. Why is that?
I think it’s fascinating in the sense that when Rob Evans and I wrote the article for the Guardian in March 2009 and in the summer Nick Davies writes that superb piece showing the breadth of phone hacking. The numbers are relatively similar.
But phone hacking victims are getting some sense of justice, whereas blacklisting victims are having to fight to be listened to.
The differences is who they are. The celebrities have got a lot more access to mechanisms to make their voice heard. They can employ better lawyers, they can apply pressure in a number of different ways.
The willingness to address the issue of phone hacking is in stark contrast and I think it’s because they’ve treated it as a corruption issue, but with blacklisting this was the normal mode of operation. That says something fundamental about the way we handle industrial relations in this country, the way we handle dissent in this country, which is far more frightening and needs to be resisted.
The book ends by putting blacklisting in its global and historical context. How widespread is the practice, and similar tactics?
One of the guys who ran the Economic League [predecessor in many ways to The Consulting Association] said to Parliament: “it’s gone on since the pyramids,” as if it’s part of your hazard of working. I think there’s a danger of accepting it because then we don’t get to challenge it and say that fundamentally this is wrong.
It’s quite clear in this country it’s operating in the NHS. There was a story published two weeks ago about keeping files on people involved in airline disputes with British Airways. We’ve looked at cases that have taken place in Canada where migrant workers from Mexico have been monitored and refused visas to go and work in Canada. There was a case in France in 2013 where Ikea used access to police files to monitor people in their stores. We’ve got evidence of a company based in Ireland which recruits migrant workers keeping files on workers in Europe who might be causing problems.
It’s quite clear this is much wider than construction and much wider than the UK but that’s because it’s the nature of the economic system which can’t deal with that kind of dissent, which is ultimately about preserving some profit margin at the expense of democratic, legitimate forms of protest. Most of these people are simply just raising health and safety issues. There was a case in Indonesia where people were upset about conditions at an Adidas company and they reached for the blacklist. It’s a tool for managing, but it doesn’t mean it’s right.
Blacklisted: The Secret War Between Big Business and Union Activists is available from New Internationalist Books
March 16, 2015
by James Poulter
Find this story at 16 March 2015
Home Office to blacklist extremists to protect public sector
26 juni 2015
Theresa May says new extremism analysis unit is compiling list of legal but unacceptable individuals and groups to prevent another Trojan horse scandal
The Home Office is drawing up a blacklist of extremist individuals and organisations with whom the government and public sector should not engage, Theresa May has revealed.
The list of legal but unacceptable organisations is being compiled by a new Home Office “extremism analysis unit”, which is also to develop a counter-entryism strategy to tackle Islamist radicalisation and ensure there is no repeat of the Trojan horse affair in Birmingham schools across the public sector.
In a speech outlining a wishlist of measures and powers to tackle extremism in Britain, the home secretary acknowledged that the work of the new unit had received only cabinet approval so far.
May was put in charge of developing a cross-government extremism strategy last October, but she has so far failed to resolve outstanding problems raised by at least four Conservative cabinet colleagues.
“Chris Grayling wants more clarity on its impact on prisons. Theresa Villiers wants more consultation with Northern Ireland, where extremism is obviously historically a big issue. Eric Pickles wants work to be done on the impact on communities and faiths and Nicky Morgan wants more work done on the role of Ofsted,” said a Westminster source.
Instead, the home secretary outlined a list of measures a majority Conservative government would introduce, including closure orders for premises being used by extremists, banning orders, and a review of the impact of sharia law in Britain. The package would include a positive campaign to promote British values.
May said the new extremism analysis unit “will help us to develop a new engagement policy – which will set out clearly for the first time with which individuals and organisations the government and public sector should engage and should not engage”.
She added: “This will make sure nobody unwittingly lends legitimacy or credibility to extremists or extremist organisations, and will make it very clear that government should engage with people directly and through their elected representatives – not just through often self-appointed and unrepresentative community leaders.”
She said it was known from the Trojan horse affair in Birmingham schools that extremists use entryist tactics to infiltrate legitimate organisations to promote their own agendas.
“The counter-entryism strategy will ensure that government, the public sector and civil society as a whole will be more resilient against this danger,” the home secretary said in a speech in Westminster.
The move goes far beyond current powers to ban violent extremist and terrorist organisations and paves the way for a range of non-violent legal organisations to be put on a blacklist and boycotted by the government.
David Cameron, for example, has promised for the last five years to ban the non-violent radical Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir but it has failed to meet the legal criteria to be banned.
The Home Office defines extremism as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of armed forces whether in this country or overseas”.
A recent Home Office consultation produced many comments that a much tighter definition was needed and such vague terms could catch a wide range of organisations. Those blacklisted would be likely to mount legal challenges to the decision.
In outlining her list of possible new measures that a majority Conservative government would introduce, May revived the idea of closing down “extremist” mosques, new “extremism officers” in prisons, a review of how Sharia courts impact in England and Wales, a review of citizenship laws to ensure respect for British values, and a review of unregulated “supplementary” schools.
The home secretary called for a new partnership to defeat the extremists. “To those who do not want to join this new partnership, to those who choose consciously to reject our values and the basic principles of our society, the message is equally clear: the game is up. We will no longer tolerate your behaviour.”
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said: “Everyone other than the extremists agree that we should robustly defend and actively promote the pluralistic values our society rightly holds in esteem.
“But it isn’t enough for the home secretary to say it, she needs to act.
“We need to work in as many communities as possible, throughout the UK, to support civil society and defeat extremism.
“And we should never tie the hands of our agencies and the police in confronting dangerous, violent extremists. The government’s record is one of making that harder, not easier.”
Alan Travis Home affairs editor
Monday 23 March 2015 15.28 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 24 March 2015 08.21 GMT
Find this story at 23 March 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Blacklisted: The secret war between big business and union activists
26 juni 2015
Demo outside parliament, TUC Day of Action on Blacklisting in 2012
Demo outside parliament, TUC Day of Action on Blacklisting in 2012
REVIEW: The communications revolution of the past 40 years has transformed our capacity to hold and use information about large numbers of people. As databases grow from hundreds to thousands and then tens of thousands of people, our fear grows that much of this information may have been gathered wrongly: that the information itself is incorrect, or that it has been gathered without our consent or knowledge.
We all suspect that our personal data is being shared behind our backs, whether by utilities companies eager to trade on vulnerable pensioners, or by parts of the secret state who are monitoring emails on an industrial scale in the hope of catching extremists. Very rarely do we find out for definite who has been harmed or how.
In the conventional press story that usually follows, attention is paid to the whistleblowers, self-sacrificing individuals such as Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning who once played a part in a system of malicious data collection but threw their position away in order to expose the corrupt practises of giant organisations.
Blacklisted: The Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists by Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain is published by New Internationalist on 22 March
You can read Dave Smith on www.thejusticegap.com (Six years and still waiting: the legal implications of blacklisting)
The story of the construction industry blacklist, brought to light in this extraordinary book, corresponds in many ways but not in others to our conventional fears about the manipulation of data. One difference from the usual story is that Dave Smith, the secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, and Phil Chamberlain, the freelancer who originally broke the story of the blacklist in the Guardian, are able to show in much more graphic detail than is usual just how much harm was caused to the victims.
They have interviewed several hundred building workers and their family members, union officials, construction managers, former policemen, environmental activists, blacklisted academics or journalists, and blacklisters.
From the accounts of the first group, they are able to describe what it is like to be a skilled worker, and to find yourself suddenly unemployable, like Frank Morris who describes going home to empty cupboards during the recent Olympic building boom because he had supported a dismissed colleague and been placed on the blacklist, or Dave Ayre who said: ‘I’d been sacked so many times at Christmas that my kids that my kids thought it was part of the Father Christmas story.’
A second difference is that the champions of the story are the building workers who have been fighting for decades to secure trade union and healthy safety rights in their workplaces, rather than the whistleblowers.
There were indeed managers within the blacklisting process who became disenchanted with their employers and belatedly blew the whistle on this practice – such as Alan Wainwright, whose evidence at an early Tribunal hearing led to Chamberlain’s report and the subsequent raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office of the blacklisting company, the Consulting Association.
But Wainwright is an equivocal figure in the story, seemingly trusted neither by the employers nor the construction workers. And much the same can be said of Ian Kerr, the man who kept the blacklist going, very profitably, for decades. Kerr’s widow Mary spoke to the authors and described how he died of a heart attack shortly after giving evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee. Only two of Kerr’s colleagues within the TCA, staffed as it was by the personnel directors of all the main construction companies, even sent her their condolences. Not one attended his funeral.
If there are heroes to Smith and Chamberlain’s story it is rather individuals such as Mick Dooley and Chris Clark, founders of the Join Sites Committee, a rank-and-file union group of the early 1990s.
One of Dooley’s best-known actions was a strike at Vascroft in 1992, when he occupied a tower crane for 10 days in protest at the dismissal of union stewards, effectively preventing an entire site from working.
That tactics of this militancy were required is evident from the other passages of the book which describe the worsening conditions on sites over the last twenty years as union organisation has decayed. One of their sources Robert Smith describes working on the huge and vastly profitable Channel Tunnel extension to St Pancras, among rats, without toilets or other basic safety requirements.
While there was much that the employers might truthfully have told each other about the tactics of certain individuals, blacklisting went far beyond the sort of open, honest record of occasional unofficial militancy that might be justifiable. It extended to the private lives of those who were being spied on, their relationships, the employment of their relatives, the private opinions of their partners.
The names on the blacklist which cause the greatest distress are those who were rumoured to have worked at a site where the union had called a strike or who were said once to have purchased a copy of a left-wing newspaper, and found themselves subject to a simple data-trawl, often years and sometimes decades later. And where their name was on the blacklist, for any reason, they simply were not employed.
A large portion of the narrative is given over to the accounts of the legal battles which have led to the discovery of the blacklist and to the partial attempts to obtain redress for its victims. I have acted as a barrister for two of the litigants, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on these parts of the narrative. In any event, a previous article by Dave Smith for this website explains that part of the story.
Was blacklisting specific to construction, or has it become part of the ordinary way in which industrial relations are conducted in this country? I have sat in court and listened to employers in radically different industries from construction admit to all sorts of practices which differ only in scale from the picture in this book.
Has blacklisting ended? The authors term it ‘a global phenomenon which has been going on for centuries’. Kerr’s files were constructed out of the technology of a previous industrial era. His data was held on paper cards in drawers. New technology makes it easier to spy on large numbers of workers and to hide the fruits of this industrial espionage, but no less destructive in terms of their consequences for those about whom false data is being held.
The authors, and the whole campaign whose voices they have recorded, deserve our thanks for bringing this secret conspiracy into public focus.
Posted by David Renton on March 12, 2015.
Find this story at 12 March 2015
© 2015, ↑ The Justice Gap
Police continued spying on Labour activists after their election as MPs
26 juni 2015
Ex-minister Peter Hain says whistleblower’s disclosure of spying operations during 1990s raises questions about parliamentary sovereignty
Police conducted spying operations on a string of Labour politicians during the 1990s, covertly monitoring them even after they had been elected to the House of Commons, a whistleblower has revealed.
Peter Francis, a former undercover police officer, said he read secret files on 10 MPs during his 11 years working for the Metropolitan police’s special branch. They include Labour’s current deputy leader, Harriet Harman, the former cabinet minister Peter Hain and the former home secretary Jack Straw.
Francis said he personally collected information on three MPs – Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn and the late Bernie Grant – while he was deployed undercover infiltrating anti-racist groups. He also named Ken Livingstone, the late Tony Benn, Joan Ruddock and Dennis Skinner as having been subjected to special branch intelligence-gathering. The files on all 10 were held by Scotland Yard.
The whistleblower said special branch files were often “very extensive” and typically described the subject’s political beliefs, personal background such as parents, school and finances, and demonstrations they attended. Some contained “some personal and private matters”, Francis added.
Hain called for the home secretary, Theresa May, to ensure that an existing judge-led public inquiry into undercover policing examines the extent of the surveillance of members of parliament.
Why were special branch watching me even when I was an MP?
In an article for the Guardian, he wrote: “That the special branch had a file on me dating back 40 years ago to anti-apartheid and anti-Nazi League activist days is hardly revelatory. That these files were still active for at least 10 years while I was an MP certainly is and raises fundamental questions about parliamentary sovereignty.”
The Met’s special branch has been responsible for monitoring political groups considered to pose a threat to public order. Francis worked for special branch between 1990 and 2001. For four of those years he went undercover to spy on anti-racist groups as part of a covert unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which was controlled by special branch.
In recent years Francis has publicly detailed many aspects of this covert work, disclosing, for instance, that the SDS collected information on the relatives of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence and other families seeking justice over alleged police misconduct.
Francis approached Hain and described how he had read the pink special branch files – known as personal registry files – on the MPs while he was working for the police. He said some of the information in the files dated from the subjects’ days as political campaigners before they entered parliament, but special branch continued to store details of their political activities after they were elected to the Commons. “When you become an MP, the files don’t stop,” he said.
He said that while he was undercover pretending to be an anti-racist campaigner in north-east London, Abbott, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, often talked at meetings and demonstrations he attended. He reported back details of her activities to his special branch superiors.
To a lesser extent he collected information about Corbyn, the Islington North MP, and Grant, who represented Tottenham from 1987 until his death in 2000. “They were in meetings and I was there and they were talking about things and that is what I reported on,” he said. His superiors were “certainly very grateful” if he passed on information involving MPs, he added.
Last year the Metropolitan police said it did not know how many elected politicians it was currently monitoring, after it was revealed that it had logged the political activities of Jenny Jones, the Green party’s sole peer, and a Green party councillor in Kent on a secretive database.
May ordered the public inquiry after a string of revelations about the conduct of undercover officers who infiltrated political groups for more than 40 years. The officers routinely formed sexual relationships with women they had been sent to spy on. The remit of the inquiry, which is to be led by Lord Justice Pitchford, has yet to be defined.
Livingstone, former MP for Brent East and former mayor of London, said he backed the idea of an inquiry covering surveillance of MPs but said this would probably only be serious under an Ed Miliband government.
He said: “I wish I could have been a threat when I was an MP but I was completely powerless. My phone was being bugged in the 80s when I was on the Greater London Council. MI5 always denied it was them. So this was done by special branch?
“Did they think we were a threat to the western system? If only this were true. What a load of crap. What’s so ridiculous is that we were being subjected to IRA bombings right the way through that period and they were wasting officers spying on me and Tony Benn. It’s a complete waste of police resources. People like me and Tony Benn were sadly never a threat to capitalism because we never had the powers. I’d love to see the files. My kids would love to see the files. They’re most likely full of rubbish.”
Hain said the public should know whether covert surveillance hindered the MPs’ ability to represent their constituents and speak confidentially with them.
He said that when he was Northern Ireland secretary between 2005 and 2007, undercover operations to defeat terrorism and serious crime were vital. “But conflating serious crime with political dissent unpopular with the state at the time means travelling down a road that endangers the liberty of us all.”
Ruddock, the MP for Lewisham Deptford, described the news as “utterly appalling” and and “affront to parliament”.
She said: “It is a surprise and I think it is absolutely outrageous. The MI5 surveillance of me in the 80s had no justification whatsoever, was found to be illegal. The idea that it could carry on without even the pretext that I was involved in CND when I was a member of parliament is completely and utterly outrageous.”
Ruddock said she has written to May today demanding answers and would write again to whoever was the new home secretary after the election. She has also submitted a request to the police to see the file held on her and wants to know whether the Conservative political leadership of the day authorised the operation.
May has promised that the remit of the public inquiry will be drawn up in consultation with people who were spied upon.
Francis said: “My question is: how can people help formulate this public inquiry if they didn’t actually know they were spied upon? By me revealing that these MPs were also spied upon the same as many trade union members, countless law-abiding political activists and demonstrators also were, they can all demand to be included in the inquiry.”
A Met police spokesman said an internal police inquiry, Operation Herne, was unable to fully investigate claims by Francis as he has been unwilling to speak to the inquiry.
The spokesman said the Met had not shied away from issues raised by Operation Herne and another inquiry. “Whilst talking openly about undercover policing is challenging because of its very nature, the upcoming inquiry represents a real opportunity to provide the public with as complete a picture as possible of what has taken place,” he added.
Two SDS undercover officers previously spied on Hain in the 1960s and 1970s when he campaigned against apartheid and racism before becoming the MP for Neath in 1991.
Rob Evans and Rowena Mason
Wednesday 25 March 2015 18.13 GMT Last modified on Thursday 26 March 2015 00.40 GMT
Find this story at 25 March 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Canadian military predicted Libya would descend into civil war if foreign countries helped overthrow Gaddafi (2015)
1 juni 2015
Canadian military intelligence officers predicted in 2011 that Libya could descend into a lengthy civil war if foreign countries provided assistance to rebels opposing the country’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi, according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.
The warning, made just days before several countries, including Canada, began their March 2011 bombing campaign against Gaddafi’s regime, has unfolded as predicted.
Libya has descended into chaos as rival tribes and militias continue to battle each other for control of the country.
Last week, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Dayri warned that warring factions were pushing his country into a full-scale civil war. Italy has also raised concerns that Islamic extremists who now occupy parts of the country pose a threat to the region and Europe.
The Canadian government and military played key roles in overthrowing Gaddafi and highlighted those efforts as a significant victory both for Libya and Canadians.
At the time, then-foreign affairs minister John Baird reinforced Canada’s support for the rebel groups fighting Gaddafi, pointing out they had a well-developed plan that would transform the country into a democracy. “The one thing we can say categorically is that they couldn’t be any worse than Col. Gaddafi,” said Mr. Baird.
But when Gaddafi was overthrown in the fall of 2011, the various rebel groups refused to surrender their weapons and instead began fighting each other.
The uprising against Gaddafi began in February 2011. But it was NATO warplanes that destroyed large parts of Libya’s military and are now credited with allowing rag-tag militias and assorted armed groups to eventually seize control of the country.
Various nations began the military intervention in Libya on March 19, 2011. Canadian CF-18 fighter jets started their bombing runs on March 23.
Just days before, however, Canadian intelligence specialists sent a briefing report shared with senior officers. “There is the increasing possibility that the situation in Libya will transform into a long-term tribal/civil war,” they wrote in their March 15, 2011 assessment. “This is particularly probable if opposition forces received military assistance for foreign militaries.”
Some officers in the Canadian Forces tried to raise concerns early on in the war that removing Gaddafi would play into the hands of Islamic extremists, but military sources say those warnings went unheeded. Later, military members would privately joke about Canada’s CF-18s being part of “Al-Qaeda’s air force,” since their bombing runs helped to pave the way for rebel groups aligned with the terrorist group.
The Royal Canadian Air Force flew 10% of the missions during NATO’s campaign.
One can quarrel with it or not quarrel with it, but the mission was we would provide air cover for those that were initially subject to Gaddafi’s attacks and ultimately became his overthrowers
At the time of the Libyan uprising, U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, the NATO leader, acknowledged that some of the rebels benefiting from the air strikes could be linked to Islamic extremists. But he said that, overall, the opposition forces were made up of “responsible men and women.”
In September 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended Canada’s role in Libya, suggesting that neither it nor NATO can be held responsible for the chaos that has since engulfed that country. “One can quarrel with it or not quarrel with it, but the mission was we would provide air cover for those that were initially subject to Gaddafi’s attacks and ultimately became his overthrowers,” Mr. Harper explained shortly before meeting NATO leaders.
“The decision was made at the outset that we were not going to go into Libya (on the ground) per se. It was going to be up to the Libyans to then make the best of the situation.”
Gaddafi was considered a brutal dictator, but in later years he was embraced by Western leaders, who provided his forces with military training and weapons.
Analysts with the Department of National Defence also noted Gaddafi was a staunch ally of the West in the war against Al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism.
His efforts against Al-Qaeda-backed forces and his co-operation with the U.S. in providing information on terrorist networks were highlighted in a number of DND reports from 2002, 2003 and 2006 obtained by the Ottawa Citizen using the Access to Information law.
Gaddafi had his own reasons for helping the U.S. and Western nations in fighting Islamic extremists, since they also represented a threat to his own power.
POSTMEDIA NEWS 03.01.2015
Find this story at 3 January 2015
© 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
The circus: How British intelligence primed both sides of the ‘terror war’ (2015)
1 juni 2015
‘Jihadi John’ was able to join IS for one simple reason: from Quilliam to al-Muhajiroun, Britain’s loudest extremists have been groomed by the security services
Every time there’s a terrorist attack that makes national headlines, the same talking heads seem to pop up like an obscene game of “whack-a-mole”. Often they appear one after the other across the media circuit, bobbing from celebrity television pundit to erudite newspaper outlet.
A few years ago, BBC Newsnight proudly hosted a “debate” between Maajid Nawaz, director of counter-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, and Anjem Choudary, head of the banned Islamist group formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, which has, since its proscription, repeatedly reincarnated itself. One of its more well-known recent incarnations was “Islam4UK”.
Both Nawaz and Choudary have received huge mainstream media attention, generating press headlines, and contributing to major TV news and current affairs shows. But unbeknown to most, they have one thing in common: Britain’s security services. And believe it or not, that bizarre fact explains why the Islamic State’s (IS) celebrity beheader, former west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi – aka “Jihadi John” – got to where he is now.
A tale of two extremists
After renouncing his affiliation with the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), Maajid Nawaz co-founded the Quilliam Foundation with his fellow ex-Hizb member, Ed Husain.
The Quilliam Foundation was set-up by Husain and Nawaz in 2008 with significant British government financial support. Its establishment received a massive PR boost from the release of Ed Husain’s memoirs, The Islamist, which rapidly became an international bestseller, generating hundreds of reviews, interviews and articles.
In Ed Husain’s book – much like Maajid Nawaz’s tome Radical released more recently to similar fanfare – Husain recounts his journey from aggrieved young Muslim into Islamist activist, and eventually his total rejection of Islamist ideology.
Both accounts of their journeys of transformation offer provocative and genuine insights. But the British government has played a much more direct role in crafting those accounts than either they, or the government, officially admit.
In late 2013, I interviewed a former senior researcher at the Home Office who revealed that Husain’s The Islamist was “effectively ghostwritten in Whitehall”.
The official told me that in 2006, he was informed by a government colleague “with close ties” to Jack Straw and Gordon Brown that “the draft was written by Ed but then ‘peppered’ by government input”. The civil servant told him “he had seen ‘at least five drafts of the book, and the last one was dramatically different from the first.’”
The draft had, the source said, been manipulated in an explicitly political, pro-government manner. The committee that had input into Ed Husain’s manuscript prior to its official publication included senior government officials from No. 10 Downing Street, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the intelligence services, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.
When I put the question, repeatedly, to Ed Husain as to the veracity of these allegations, he did not respond. I also asked Nawaz whether he was aware of the government’s role in “ghostwriting” Husain’s prose, and whether he underwent a similar experience in the production of Radical. He did not respond either.
While Husain was liaising with British government and intelligence officials over The Islamist from 2006 until the book’s publication in May 2007, his friend Nawaz was at first in prison in Egypt. Nawaz was eventually released in March 2006, declaring his departure from HT just a month before the publication of Husain’s book. Husain took credit for being the prime influence on Nawaz’s decision, and by November 2007, had joined with him becoming Quilliam’s director with Husain as his deputy.
Yet according to Husain, Nawaz played a role in determining parts of the text of The Islamist in the same year it was being edited by government officials. “Before publication, I discussed with my friend and brother-in-faith Maajid the passages in the book,” wrote Husain about the need to verify details of their time in HT.
This is where the chronology of Husain’s and Nawaz’s accounts begin to break down. In Radical, and repeatedly in interviews about his own deradicalisation process, Nawaz says that he firmly and decisively rejected HT’s Islamist ideology while in prison in Egypt. Yet upon his release and return to Britain, Nawaz showed no sign of having reached that decision. Instead, he did the opposite. In April 2006, Nawaz told Sarah Montague on BBC Hardtalk that his detention in Egypt had “convinced [him] even more… that there is a need to establish this Caliphate as soon as possible.” From then on, Nawaz, who was now on HT’s executive committee, participated in dozens of talks and interviews in which he vehemently promoted the Hizb.
I first met Nawaz at a conference on 2 December 2006 organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) on the theme of “reclaiming our rights”. I had spoken on a panel about the findings of my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, on how British state collusion with Islamist extremists had facilitated the 7/7 attacks. Nawaz had attended the event as an audience member with two other senior HT activists, and in our brief conversation, he spoke of his ongoing work with HT in glowing terms.
By January 2007, Nawaz was at the front of a HT protest at the US embassy in London, condemning US military operations in Iraq and Somalia. He delivered a rousing speech at the protest, demanding an end to “colonial intervention in the Muslim world,” and calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate to stand up to such imperialism and end Western support for dictators.
Yet by his own account, throughout this very public agitation on behalf of HT from mid-2006 onwards, Nawaz had in fact rejected the very ideology he was preaching so adamantly. Indeed, in the same period, he was liaising with his friend, Ed Husain – who at that time was still in Jeddah – and helping him with the text of his anti-HT manifesto, The Islamist, which was also being vetted at the highest levels of government.
The British government’s intimate, and secret, relationship with Husain in the year before the publication of his book in 2007 shows that, contrary to his official biography, the Quilliam Foundation founder was embedded in Whitehall long before he was on the public radar. How did he establish connections at this level?
According to Dr Noman Hanif, a lecturer in international terrorism and political Islam at Birkbeck College, University of London, and an expert on Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group’s presence in Britain likely provided many opportunities for Western intelligence to “penetrate or influence” the movement.
Dr Hanif, whose doctoral thesis was about the group, points out that Husain’s tenure inside HT by his own account occurred “under the leadership of Omar Bakri Mohammed,” the controversial cleric who left the group in 1996 to found al-Muhajiroun, a militant network which to this day has been linked to every major terrorist plot in Britain.
Bakri’s leadership of HT, said Dr Hanif, formed “the most conceptually deviant period of HT’s existence in the UK, diverting quite sharply away from its core ideas,” due to Bakri’s advocacy of violence and his focus on establishing an Islamic state in the UK, goals contrary to HT doctrines.
When Bakri left HT and set-up al-Muhajiroun in 1996, according to John Loftus, a former US Army intelligence officer and Justice Department prosecutor, Bakri was immediately recruited by MI6 to facilitate Islamist activities in the Balkans. And not just Bakri, but also Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was recently convicted in the US on terrorism charges.
When Bakri founded al-Muhajiroun in 1996 with the blessings of Britain’s security services, his co-founder was Anjem Choudary. Choudary was intimately involved in the programme to train and send Britons to fight abroad, and three years later, would boast to the Sunday Telegraph that “some of the training does involve guns and live ammunition”.
Historian Mark Curtis, in his seminal work, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, documents how under this arrangement, Bakri trained hundreds of Britons at camps in the UK and the US, and dispatched them to join al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.
Shortly before the 2005 London bombings, Ron Suskind, a Wall Street Journal Pulitizer Prize winning investigative reporter, was told by a senior MI5 official that Bakri was a longtime informant for the secret service who “had helped MI5 on several of its investigations”. Bakri, Suskind adds in his book, The Way of the World, reluctantly conceded the relationship in an interview in Beirut – but Suskind gives no indication that the relationship ever ended.
A senior terrorism lawyer in London who has represented clients in several high-profile terrorism cases told me that both Bakri and Choudary had regular meetings with MI5 officers in the 1990s. The lawyer, who works for a leading firm of solicitors and has regularly liaised with MI5 in the administration of closed court hearings involving secret evidence, said: “Omar Bakri had well over 20 meetings with MI5 from around 1993 to the late 1990s. Anjem Choudary apparently participated in such meetings toward the latter part of the decade. This was actually well-known amongst several senior Islamist leaders in Britain at the time.”
According to Dr Hanif of Birkbeck College, Bakri’s relationship with the intelligence services likely began during his “six-year reign as HT leader in Britain,” which would have “provided British intelligence ample opportunity” to “widely infiltrate the group”. HT had already been a subject of MI6 surveillance abroad “because of its core level of support in Jordan and the consistent level of activity in other areas of the Middle East for over five decades.”
At least some HT members appear to have been aware of Bakri’s intelligence connections, including, it seems, Ed Husain himself. In one passage in The Islamist (p. 116), Husain recounts: “We were also concerned about Omar’s application for political asylum… I raised this with Bernie [another HT member] too. ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘On the contrary. The British are like snakes; they manoeuvre carefully. They need Omar in Britain. More likely, Omar will be the ambassador for the khilafah here or leave to reside in the Islamic state. The kuffar know that – allowing Omar to stay in Britain will give them a good start, a diplomatic advantage, when they have to deal with the Islamic state. Having Omar serves them well for the future. MI5 knows exactly what we’re doing, what we’re about, and yet they have in effect, given us the green light to operate in Britain.”
Husain left HT after Bakri in August 1997. According to Faisal Haque, a British government civil servant and former HT member who knew Ed Husain during his time in the group, Husain had a strong “personal relationship” with Bakri. He did not leave HT for “ideological reasons,” said Haque. “It was more to do with his close personal relationship with Omar Bakri (he left when Bakri was kicked out), pressure from his father and other personal reasons which I don’t want to mention.”
Husain later went on to work for the British Council in the Middle East. From 2003 to 2005, he was in Damascus. During that period, by his own admission, he informed on other British members of HT for agitating against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, resulting in them being deported by Syrian authorities back to Britain. At this time, the CIA and MI6 routinely cooperated with Assad on extraordinary rendition programmes.
Husain then worked for the British Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from late 2005 to the end of 2006.
Throughout that year, according to the former Home Office official I spoke to, Husain was in direct contact with senior Whitehall officials who were vetting his manuscript for The Islamist. By November, Husain posted on DeenPort, an online discussion forum, a now deleted comment referring off-hand to the work of “the secret services” inside HT: “Even within HT in Britain today, there is a huge division between modernisers and more radical elements. The secret services are hopeful that the modernisers can tame the radicals… I foresee another split. And God knows best. I have said more than I should on this subject! Henceforth, my lips are sealed!”
Shortly after, Maajid Nawaz would declare his departure from HT, and would eventually be joined at Quilliam by several others from the group, many of whom according to Nawaz had worked with him and Husain as “a team” behind the scenes at this time.
The ‘ex-jihadists’ who weren’t
Perhaps the biggest problem with Husain’s and Nawaz’s claim to expertise on terrorism was that they were never jihadists. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent movement for the establishment of a global “caliphate” through social struggle, focusing on the need for political activism in the Muslim world. Whatever the demerits of this rigid political ideology, it had no relationship to the phenomenon of al-Qaeda terrorism.
Nevertheless, Husain and Nawaz, along with their government benefactors, were convinced that those personal experiences of “radicalisation” and “deradicalisation” could by transplanted into the ongoing “war on terror” – even though, in reality neither of them had any idea about the dynamics of an actual terrorist network, and the radicalisation process leading to violent extremism. The result was an utterly misguided and evidence-devoid obsession with rejecting non-violent extremist ideologies as the primary means to prevent terrorism.
Through the Quilliam Foundation, Husain’s and Nawaz’s fundamentalist ideas about non-violent extremism went on to heavily influence official counter-terrorism discourses across the Western world. This was thanks to its million pounds worth of government seed-funding, intensive media coverage, as well as the government pushing Quilliam’s directors and staff to provide “deradicalisation training” to government and security officials in the US and Europe.
In the UK, Quilliam’s approach was taken up by various centre-right and right-wing think-tanks, such as the Centre for Social Cohesion (CCS) and Policy Exchange, all of which played a big role in influencing the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism programme (Prevent).
Exactly how bankrupt this approach is, however, can be determined from Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to express his understanding of the risk from non-violent extremism, a major feature of the coalition government’s Orwellian new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. The latter establishes unprecedented powers of electronic surveillance and the basis for the “Prevent duty,” which calls for all public sector institutions to develop “risk-assessment” profiles of individuals deemed to be “at-risk” of being drawn into non-violent extremism.
In his speech at the UN last year, Cameron explained that counter-terrorism measures must target people who may not “encourage violence, but whose worldview can be used as a justification for it.” As examples of dangerous ideas at the “root cause” of terrorism, Cameron pinpointed “conspiracy theories,” and most outrageously, “The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy.”
In other words, if you believe, for instance, that US and British forces have deliberately conducted brutal military operations across the Muslim world resulting in the foreseeable deaths of countless innocent civilians, you are a non-violent extremist.
In an eye-opening academic paper published last year, French terrorism expert and Interior Ministry policy officer Dr Claire Arenes, noted that: “By definition, one may know if radicalisation has been violent only once the point of violence has been reached, at the end of the process. Therefore, since the end-term of radicalisation cannot be determined in advance, a policy intended to fight violent radicalisation entails a structural tendency to fight any form of radicalisation.”
It is precisely this moronic obsession with trying to detect and stop “any form of radicalisation,” however non-violent, that is hampering police and security investigations and overloading them with nonsense “risks”.
At this point, the memorable vision of Nawaz and Choudary facing off on BBC Newsnight appears not just farcical, but emblematic of how today’s national security crisis has been fuelled and exploited by the bowels of the British secret state.
Over the last decade or so – the very same period that the British state was grooming the “former jihadists who weren’t” so they could be paraded around the media-security-industrial complex bigging up the non-threat of “non-violent extremism” – the CIA and MI6 were coordinating Saudi-led funding to al-Qaeda affiliated extremists across the Middle East and Central Asia to counter Iranian Shiite influence.
From 2005 onwards, US and British intelligence services encouraged a range of covert operations to support Islamist opposition groups, including militants linked to al-Qaeda, to undermine regional Iranian and Syrian influence. By 2009, the focus of these operations shifted to Syria.
As I documented in written evidence to a UK Parliamentary inquiry into Prevent in 2010, one of the recipients of such funding was none other than Omar Bakri, who at the time told one journalist: “Today, angry Lebanese Sunnis ask me to organise their jihad against the Shiites… Al-Qaeda in Lebanon… are the only ones who can defeat Hezbollah.” Simultaneously, Bakri was regularly in touch with his deputy, Anjem Choudary, over the internet and even delivered online speeches to his followers in Britain instructing them to join IS and murder civilians. He has now been detained and charged by Lebanese authorities for establishing terror cells in the country.
Bakri was also deeply involved “with training the mujahideen [fighters] in camps on the Syrian borders and also on the Palestine side.” The trainees included four British Islamists “with professional backgrounds” who would go on to join the war in Syria. Bakri also claimed to have trained “many fighters,” including people from Germany and France, since arriving in Lebanon. Was Mohammed Emwazi among them? Last year, Bakri disciple Mizanur Rahman confirmed that at least five European Muslims who had died fighting under IS in Syria had been Bakri acolytes.
Nevertheless in 2013, it was David Cameron who lifted the arms embargo to support Syria’s rebels. We now know that most of our military aid went to al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists, many with links to extremists at home. The British government itself acknowledged that a “substantial number” of Britons were fighting in Syria, who “will seek to carry out attacks against Western interests… or in Western states”.
Yet according to former British counterterrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge, despite this risk, authorities “turned a blind eye to the travelling of its own jihadists to Syria, notwithstanding ample video etc. evidence of their crimes there,” because it “suited the US and UK’s anti-Assad foreign policy”.
This terror-funnel is what enabled people like Emwazi to travel to Syria and join up with IS – despite being on an MI5 terror watch-list. He had been blocked by the security services from traveling to Kuwait in 2010: why not Syria? Shoebridge, who was a British Army officer before joining the Metropolitan Police, told me that although such overseas terrorism has been illegal in the UK since 2006, “it’s notable that only towards the end of 2013 when IS turned against the West’s preferred rebels, and perhaps also when the tipping point between foreign policy usefulness and MI5 fears of domestic terrorist blowback was reached, did the UK authorities begin to take serious steps to tackle the flow of UK jihadists.”
The US-UK direct and tacit support for jihadists, Shoebridge said, had made Syria the safest place for regional terrorists fearing drone strikes “for more than two years”. Syria was “the only place British jihadists could fight without fear of US drones or arrest back home… likely because, unlike if similar numbers of UK jihadists had been travelling to for example Yemen or Afghanistan, this suited the anti-Assad policy.”
Having watched its own self-fulfilling prophecy unfold with horrifying precision in a string of IS-linked terrorist atrocities against Western hostages and targets, the government now exploits the resulting mayhem to vindicate its bankrupt “counter-extremism” narrative, promoted by hand-picked state-groomed “experts” like Husain and Nawaz.
Their prescription, predictably, is to expand the powers of the police state to identify and “deradicalise” anyone who thinks British foreign policy in the Muslim world is callous, self-serving and indifferent to civilian deaths. Government sources confirm that Nawaz’s input played a key role in David Cameron’s thinking on non-violent extremism, and the latest incarnation of the Prevent strategy; while last year, Husain was, ironically, appointed to the Foreign Office advisory group on freedom of religion or belief.
Meanwhile, Bakri’s deputy Choudary continues to inexplicably run around as Britain’s resident “terror cleric” media darling. His passport belatedly confiscated after a recent pointless police arrest that avoided charging him, he remains free to radicalise thick-headed British Muslims into joining IS, in the comfort that his hate speech will be broadcast widely, no doubt fueling widespread generic suspicion of British Muslims.
If only we could round up the Quilliam and al-Muhajiroun fanatics together, shove them onto a boat, and send them all off cruising to the middle of nowhere, they could have all the fun they want “radicalising” and “deradicalising” each other to their hearts content. And we might get a little peace. And perhaps we could send their handlers with them, too.
– Nafeez Ahmed PhD, is an investigative journalist, international security scholar and bestselling author who tracks what he calls the ‘crisis of civilization.’ He is a winner of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Friday 27 February 2015 14:35 GMT
Find this story at 27 February 2015
© Middle East Eye 2014
MI5 says rendition of Libyan opposition leaders strengthened al-Qaida
1 juni 2015
Intelligence assessment concludes abduction of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi allowed dissident group to be taken over by exponents of al-Qaida
Abdel Hakim Belhaj
A secret UK-Libyan rendition programme in which two Libyan opposition leaders were kidnapped and flown to Tripoli along with their families had the effect of strengthening al-Qaida, according to an assessment by the UK security service, MI5.
Prior to their kidnap, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi had ensured that their organisation, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), focused on the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi, the classified assessment says. Once handed over to the Gaddafi regime, their places at the head of the LIFG were taken by others who wanted to bring the group closer to al-Qaida.
The two men were seized in Thailand and Hong Kong in March 2004 with the assistance of the UK’s intelligence service MI6, and were “rendered” to Tripoli along with Belhaj’s pregnant wife and Saadi’s wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.
In an assessment made 11 months later, MI5 concluded that the capture of the pair had cast the group “into a state of disarray”, adding: “While these senior-ranking members have always jealously guarded the independence of the LIFG, providing it with a clear command structure and set goals, the group is now coming under pressure from outside influences.
“In particular, reporting indicates that members including Abu Laith al-Libi and Abdallah al-Ghaffar may be pushing the group towards a more pan-Islamic agenda inspired by AQ [al-Qaida].”
Two years after MI5 made this assessment, Libi announced the LIFG had formally joined forces with al-Qaida. He became a leading member of the merged organisation and is believed to have orchestrated a series of suicide bomb attacks across Afghanistan, including one in 2007 that killed 23 people at Bagram airfield north of Kabul during a visit by then US vice-president Dick Cheney. Libi was killed in a drone strike the following year.
The classified MI5 intelligence assessment was among hundreds of highly sensitive Libyan and British files that were discovered in official buildings that had been abandoned during the 2011 revolution that led to the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi.
The end of his 42-year dictatorship was hastened by Nato air strikes, and was followed by a period of brief and heady optimism. At a rally in Benghazi in the east of the country in September 2011, the British prime minister, David Cameron, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, addressed enormous crowds waving their countries’ flags. “It’s great to be here in free Benghazi and in free Libya,” Cameron told them.
But Libya’s new leadership was already struggling to impose its authority on the country. And since then, the country has descended into violence and economic instability, with rival militias shelling residential areas and destroying infrastructure in their fight for supremacy.
Fears that Islamist militants would fill the yawning power vacuum appeared to be realised on Tuesday when gunmen claiming allegiance to Islamic State said that they were responsible for an attack on a Tripoli hotel in which at least five guards and five foreigners were killed.
The papers that were recovered during the revolution show that Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of joint operations with Gaddafi’s government and that some of the information extracted from victims of rendition was used as evidence during control-order and deportation proceedings in UK courts.
They also show that in 2006, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.
Another of the recovered documents is a letter that Tony Blair wrote to Gaddafi in April 2007, and whose existence publicly emerged last week. Addressed “Dear Mu’ammar”, Blair expressed his regret that the British government had failed in its attempts to have a number of Gaddafi’s opponents deported from the UK, and thanked the dictator for his intelligence agencies’ “excellent co-operation” with their British counterparts.
The classified MI5 document was prepared in advance of a five-day visit to Tripoli by senior agency staff in February 2005. Marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret”, it explains that members of the LIFG had been permitted to settle in the UK in the 1990s. This was at a time when Gaddafi, whom the group was plotting to overthrow, was considered to be an enemy of Britain.
The document adds that MI5 reassessed the LIFG’s UK-based members following the change in the group’s leadership that resulted from the detention of Belhaj and Saadi.
“We are actively investigating key individuals in the UK and are seeking to disrupt their activities,” the document says. This action was part of a new strategy “for countering the threat from the LIFG to the UK and its allies” – allies which, by 2005, included the Libyan dictatorship.
Accompanying the document was a list of questions that MI5 wanted Libyan interrogators to put to Belhaj and Saadi. A total of more than 1,600 questions were sent from the UK to Tripoli, in four batches, with MI6 at one point thanking the Libyan intelligence agents for “kindly agreeing” to pass the questions to their “interview team”.
Belhaj and Saadi both say they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli.
They say they were also interrogated by British intelligence officers, and Belhaj says he made it clear, by sign language, that he was being tortured.
After one of these encounters, he says, he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK to avoid being subjected to a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk.
The discovery of the documents that exposed the existence of the UK-Libyan rendition operations had caused widespread dismay in Westminster, even before the emergence of the latest report, which makes clear that one consequence of these operations was that the terrorist organisation that posed the greatest threat to the UK at that time was strengthened.
A criminal investigation into the affair was opened in January 2012 after Dominic Grieve, the then attorney general, wrote to the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe. After a three-year investigation codenamed Operation Lydd, detectives handed their report to the Crown Prosecution Service last month.
Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time, is among the people who have been questioned by police. His office says he was interviewed as a witness.
The rendition operations also led to damages claims being brought by Saadi – who received £2.2m in compensation from the British government – and by Belhaj. Belhaj is claiming damages on behalf of himself and his wife. She was four-and-a-half months pregnant when the couple were kidnapped, and Belhaj says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher for the 17-hour flight to Tripoli, before being jailed for several months.
Belhaj says he would settle his claim for just £3, as long as he and his wife also receive an apology. With the CPS currently considering the police file, this is unlikely to happen.
Thursday 29 January 2015 11.27 GMT Last modified on Friday 30 January 2015 00.05 GMT
Find this story at 29 January 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Britain hid secret MI6 plan to break up Libya from US, Hillary Clinton told by confidant (2015)
1 juni 2015
Sidney Blumenthal, a long-time friend of the Clintons, claimed David Cameron backed a French plot to create a break away zone eastern Libya
Britain acted deceitfully in Libya and David Cameron authorised an MI6 plan to “break up” the country, a close confidante of Hillary Clinton claimed in a series of secret reports sent to the then-secretary of state.
Sidney Blumenthal, a long-time friend of the Clintons, emailed Mrs Clinton on her personal account to warn her that Britain was “game playing” in Libya.
Mr Blumenthal had no formal role in the US State Department and his memos to Mrs Clinton were sourced to his own personal contacts in the Middle East and Europe.
Nevertheless, Mrs Clinton seems to have taken some of his reports seriously and forwarded them on to senior diplomats working at the highest levels of American foreign policy.
The first of Mr Blumenthal’s Libya memos – which were leaked to the New York Times – was sent on April 8, 2011, as rebel forces struggled to make gains against Gaddafi’s troops, and had “UK game playing” in the subject line.
The memo warned that British diplomats and MI6 officers were maintaining secret back channels with the Gaddafi regime “in an effort to protect the British position in the event that the rebellion settles into a stalemate”.
Mr Blumenthal claimed that MI6 spies were in discussions with Saif Gaddafi, the dictator’s son, “regarding future relations between the two countries if he takes over power from his father and implements reforms”.
The memo also claims that the Libyan rebels were deeply suspicious of Britain and suspected that the UK would be “satisfied with a stalemate” in which Gaddafi or his family stayed in power in part of the country.
Their suspicions were stoked when Gaddafi’s foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, defected to Britain in March 2011, Mr Blumenthal claimed. The rebels apparently saw the defection as evidence that Britain had secret lines of communication with the highest ranks of the Gaddafi regime.
Extract from the email:
Eight minutes after receiving Mr Blumenthal’s email, Mrs Clinton forwarded it on to one of her most senior aides. She did not comment on the allegations about Britain. A week later, she met with William Hague, the then-foreign secretary at a Nato summit in Berlin.
Perhaps unbeknownst to Mr Blumenthal, who was working for Bill Clinton’s global charity at the time and not privy to classified information, the CIA was maintaining its own back channels to Gaddafi.
Michael Morell, the CIA’s deputy director, spoke regularly to Abdullah Senussi, the head of Gaddafi’s internal intelligence service, even as US aircraft were bombing regime forces on the battlefield.
Mr Blumenthal emailed Mrs Clinton about Britain again on March 8, 2012 with the subject: “France & UK behind Libya breakup”.
By this time Gaddafi was dead and his regime had collapsed and a provisional government, the Libyan National Transitional Council, was trying to assert its authority across the country.
Mr Blumenthal told Mrs Clinton that MI6 and its French counterpart, the DGSE, were secretly encouraging rebels in eastern Libya to establish “a semi-autonomous zone” outside the control of the new government.
The plot was allegedly instigated by advisors to the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who believed that the new Libyan government was not “rewarding” French businesses for France’s role in overthrowing Gaddafi.
He alleged that MI6 joined in the plan “at the instruction of the office of Prime Minister David Cameron”.
“The French and British intelligence officials believe that the semi-autonomous regime in the eastern city of Benghazi will be able to organise business opportunities in that region,” he wrote.
Extract from the email:
Mrs Clinton seems to have been sceptical about the report and forwarded it on to her aide Jake Sullivan with the comment: “This one strains credulity. What do you think?”
Mrs Clinton’s aides appear unimpressed with the stream of emails coming from Mr Blumenthal and Mr Sullivan replied that the MI6 allegations sounded like “like a thin conspiracy theory”.
Mrs Clinton was asked about the emails during a campaign appearance in Iowa on Tuesday and said Mr Blumenthal had been “a friend of mine for a very long time”.
“He sent unsolicited emails which I passed on in some instances. That’s just part of the give and take,” she said.
On Thursday, a new batch of leaked emails showed that Mr Blumenthal had passed on allegations that MI6 was involved in talks to broker a ceasefire and install Saif Gaddafi in his father’s place.
Saif was one of the most Western of Gaddafi’s children and had strong links to Britain. He studied at the London School of Economics (LSE) and was hosted at Buckingham Palace.
A June 3 email from said the Libyan regime had “opened extremely complicated negotiations with the government of the United Kingdom” over a deal that would allow the Gaddafis “to maintain some level of control” in Libya.
Under the regime’s proposal Saif Gaddafi could take his father’s role as head of state but share power with a cabinet made up partly of representatives from the opposition.
Gaddafi himself would be allowed to go into exile without facing war crimes or corruption charges by the new government.
The initial conversations were apparently carried out by MI6 officers and it is not clear if the talks ever progressed to senior levels of government.
Mrs Clinton did not dismiss the claims and forwarded them on to a senior aide while asking her personal assistant to print them out.
Extract from the email:
The email claims Saif and his circle knew there was “little chance” that the rebels would agree to the offer and suspected MI6 may have engaged in the talks only “as a means of collecting intelligence while protecting British interests in Libya” and had no real interest in a deal.
In any event the plan was never carried out and Saif, was captured by rebel forces in November 2011, a few weeks after his father’s death.
He is now facing trial in Libya on charges that he orchestrated a campaign of terror against civilian populations during the uprising against his father.
The Foreign Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr Blumenthal memos have aroused interest in the US because they appear to show a blurring of the lines between Mrs Clinton’s State Department and the Clinton Foundation set up by her husband.
Although he had no role in the State Department, he was working for the Clinton Foundation and various political groups allied with Mrs Clinton, according to the New York Times.
Mr Blumenthal worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and was known for fierce loyalty to both the Clintons and for aggressively confronting their critics.
Aides to Barack Obama prevented Mrs Clinton from bringing him into the State Department in 2009, believing that he would only stir up trouble after the bitterly-fought election battle between Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton.
Raf Sanchez By Raf Sanchez, Washington4:30PM BST 21 May 2015
Find this story at 21 May 2015
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2015
Cooperation between British spies and Gaddafi’s Libya revealed in official papers (2015)
1 juni 2015
Links between MI5 and Gaddafi’s intelligence during Tony Blair’s government more extensive than previously thought, according to documents
Blair visit to Africa
Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of previously unknown joint operations with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government and used the information extracted from rendition victims as evidence during partially secret court proceedings in London, according to an analysis of official documents recovered in Tripoli since the Libyan revolution.
The exhaustive study of the papers from the Libyan government archives shows the links between MI5, MI6 and Gaddafi’s security agencies were far more extensive than previously thought and involved a number of joint operations in which Libyan dissidents were unlawfully detained and allegedly tortured.
At one point, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.
Previously, MI6 was known to have assisted the dictatorship with the kidnap of two Libyan opposition leaders, who were flown to Tripoli along with their families – including a six-year-old girl and a pregnant woman – in 2004.
However, the research suggests that the fruits of a series of joint clandestine operations also underpinned a significant number of court hearings in London between 2002 and 2007, during which the last Labour government unsuccessfully sought to deport Gaddafi’s opponents on the basis of information extracted from people who had been “rendered” to his jails.
Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
UK intelligence agencies sent more 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders.
In addition, the documents show that four men were subjected to control orders in the UK – a form of curfew – on the basis of information extracted from victims of rendition who had been handed over to the Gaddafi regime.
The papers recovered from the dictatorship’s archives include secret correspondence from MI6, MI5 reports on Libyans living in the UK, a British intelligence assessment marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret” and official Libyan minutes of meetings between the two countries’ intelligence agencies.
They show that:
• UK intelligence agencies sent more than 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders, Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, despite having reason to suspect they were being tortured.
• British government lawyers allegedly drew upon the answers to those questions when seeking the deportation of Libyans living in the UK
• Five men were subjected to control orders in the UK, allegedly on the basis of information extracted from two rendition victims.
• Gaddafi’s agents recorded MI5 as warning in September 2006 that the two countries’ agencies should take steps to ensure that their joint operations would never be “discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”.
In fact, papers that detail the joint UK-Libyan rendition operations were discovered by the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch in September 2011, at the height of the Libyan revolution, in an abandoned government office building in Tripoli.
Since then, hundreds more documents have been discovered in government files in Tripoli. A team of London-based lawyers has assembled them into an archive that is forming the basis of a claim for damages on behalf of 12 men who were allegedly kidnapped, tortured, subject to control orders or tricked into travelling to Libya where they were detained and mistreated.
An attempt by government lawyers to have that claim struck out was rejected by the high court in London on Thursday , with the judge, Mr Justice Irwin, ruling that the allegations “are of real potential public concern” and should be heard and dealt with by the courts.
The litigation follows earlier proceedings brought on behalf of the two families who were kidnapped in the far east and flown to Tripoli. One claim was settled when the government paid £2.23m in compensation to al-Saadi and his family; the second is ongoing, despite attempts by government lawyers to have it thrown out of court, with Belhaj suing not only the British government, but also Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of his kidnap.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
Belhaj has offered to settle for just £3, providing he and his wife also receive an unreserved apology. This is highly unlikely to happen, however, as the two rendition operations are also the subject of a three-year Scotland Yard investigation code-named Operation Lydd. Straw has been questioned by detectives: his spokesman says he was interviewed “as a witness”.
Last month, detectives passed a final file to the Crown Prosecution Service. No charges are imminent, however. The CPS said: “The police investigation has lasted almost three years and has produced a large amount of material. These are complex allegations that will require careful consideration, but we will aim to complete our decision-making as soon as is practicably possible.”
The volte-face in UK-Libyan relations was always going to be contentious: the Gaddafi regime had not only helped to arm the IRA, bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives in 1988, and harboured the man who murdered a London policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, four years earlier; it had been responsible for the bombing of a French airliner and a Berlin nightclub, and for several decades had been sending assassins around the world to murder its opponents.
The Tripoli archives show that the rapprochement, which began with the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1999, gathered pace within weeks of the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time, has said that these links were always authorised by government ministers.
The week after the attacks, British intelligence officers met with Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan intelligence, who offered to provide intelligence from Islamists held in the regime’s jails.
Two months later, British intelligence officers held a three-day conference with their Libyan counterparts at a hotel at a European airport. German and Austrian intelligence officers also attended.
According to the Libyan minutes, the British explained that they could not arrest anyone in the UK – only the police could do that – and that there could be difficulty in obtaining authorisation for Gaddafi’s intelligence officers to operate in the UK. They also added that impending changes to UK law would give them “more leeway” in the near future.
Other documents released under the Freedom of Information Act detail the way in which diplomatic contacts between London and Tripoli developed, with a British trade minister, Mike O’Brien, visiting Tripoli in August 2002, the same month that the dictator’s son, Saif, was admitted as a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics. Blair and Gaddafi spoke by telephone for the first time, chatting for 30 minutes, and in December 2003 the dictator announced publicly that he was abandoning his programme for the development of weapons of mass destruction.
With the war in Iraq going badly, London and Washington were able to suggest that an invasion that had been justified by a need to dismantle a WMD programme that was subsequently found not to exist had at least resulted in another country’s weapons programme being dismantled.
Three months later, in March 2004, the new relationship was sealed by a meeting between Gaddafi and Blair, during which the British prime minister announced that the two countries had found common cause in the fight against terrorism, and the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell announced that it had signed a £110m deal for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast.
However, the Tripoli archive shows that beneath the surface of the new alliance, the Blair government was encouraging ever-closer co-operation between the UK’s intelligence agencies and the intelligence agencies of a dictatorship which had been widely condemned for committing the most serious human rights abuses; MI5 and MI6, and the CIA, would begin to work hand-in-glove with the Libyan External Security Organisation.
Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 during most of the period that the UK’s intelligence agencies were working closely with the Libyan dictatorship, has defended the decision to open talks with Gaddafi on the grounds that it helped to deter him from pursuing his WMD programme. However, when delivering the 2011 Reith Lecture, she added: “There are questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”
The archive clearly shows that Gaddafi hoped that this intelligence co-operation would result in British assistance in his attempts to round up and imprison Libyans who were living in exile in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Mali. All of these men were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an Islamist organisation that had attempted to assassinate him three times since its foundation in the early 90s. A largely spent force since the late 90s, many of the members of the LIFG had been living peacefully in the UK for more than a decade, having arrived as refugees. Some had been granted British citizenship. Koussa’s agency asked British intelligence to investigate 79 of these men, whom they described as “Libyan heretics”.
Two weeks before Blair’s visit to Libya, Belhaj and his four-and-a-half-months pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, were kidnapped in Thailand and flown to Tripoli. Bouchar says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher, for the 17-hour flight.
In a follow-up letter to Koussa, Allen claimed credit for the rendition of Belhaj – referring to him as Abu Abd Allah Sadiq, the name by which he is better known in the jihadi world – saying that although “I did not pay for the air cargo”, the intelligence that led to the couple’s capture was British.
Three days after Blair’s visit, al-Saadi was rendered from Hong Kong to Tripoli, along with his wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.
Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
Both men say that while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened.
Belhaj says he was twice interrogated at Tajoura by British intelligence officers. After gesturing that the session was being recorded, Belhaj says he made a number of gestures to show that he was being beaten and suspended by his arms. One of the British officers, a man, is said to have given a thumbs-up signal, while the second, a woman, is said to have nodded.
Belhaj alleges that following one of these encounters he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK after being threatened with a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk, provoking extreme claustrophobia and fear as well as discomfort.
According to the claim being brought against the British government, the attempt to track down other leading members of the LIFG resulted in the intelligence agencies of Libya and the UK throwing their net still wider.
In late 2005, a British citizen of Somali origin and a Libyan living in Ireland were arrested in Saudi Arabia and allegedly tortured while being questioned by Saudi intelligence officers about associates who were members of the LIFG. The men say they were shackled and beaten. The British citizen says he was also interrogated by two British men who declined to identify themselves and who appeared uninterested in his complaints of mistreatment.
Many of the questions put to the two men concerned the whereabouts of Othman Saleh Khalifa, a long-standing member of the LIFG. Khalifa was detained in Mali a few months later and rendered to Libya. The Tripoli archive shows that summaries of his interrogations were sent to British intelligence, and that both MI5 and MI6 submitted questions that they wished to be put to him. A memorandum from MI6 to Koussa’s deputy, Sadegh Krema, was accompanied by questions “which you kindly agreed to pass to your interview team”.
Khalifa says that he was beaten during interrogations for around six months during the second half of 2006 and that he did not see daylight.
The Tripoli archive shows that during the same week that Khalifa was being rendered to Libya, MI5 and MI6 officers met Libyan intelligence officers in Tripoli and informed them that they were to be invited to the UK to conduct joint intelligence operations. The Libyan minutes of the meeting say that MI5 informed them that “London and Manchester are the two hottest spots” for LIFG activity in the country. The aim was to recruit informants within the Libyan community in the UK.
The Libyan minutes of the meeting also say that the British told them: “With your co-operation we should be able to target specific individuals.” The Libyans, meanwhile, said that potential recruits could be “intimidated” through threats to arrest relatives in Libya.
The following August, senior MI5 and MI6 officers and two Libyan intelligence officers met at MI5’s headquarters in London. According to the Libyan minutes, MI5 warned the Libyans that individuals could complain to the police if they believed they were being harassed by MI5, and could also expose the British-Libyan joint operations to the media.
The minutes also state that the British suggested that Libyan intelligence officers should approach potential recruits in the UK, and that if they refused to cooperate, arrangements could be made for the targets to be arrested under anti-terrorism legislation, accused of associating with those same Libyan intelligence officers, and threatened with deportation.
Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
One of the targets was a 32-year-old Libyan, associated with the LIFG, who had lived in the UK for 10 years and had been a British citizen for six years. The Libyan intelligence officers repeatedly telephoned him, claiming to be consular officials, and he eventually agreed to meet them at the Landmark hotel in Marylebone, London, on 2 September 2006. According to the Libyan notes of this meeting, the British insisted that two MI5 officers, one calling herself Caroline, should be present, so that the target should know that he was the subject of a joint UK-Libyan approach.
The target was told that he was to be given time to think about the approach. In Libya, meanwhile, the target’s brothers, sisters and mother say they were each detained in turn and told that they should persuade him to return to the country.
The Libyan intelligence officers also visited Manchester, calling at the home of another man targeted for recruitment. According to their notes, MI5 warned them not to enter the house but to persuade him to go with them to a public place where they could be photographed together. As he was not at home, the Libyan spies went instead to a mosque in the Didsbury district, where they told the imam that they were importing and exporting books.
On 5 September, shortly before the two Libyan intelligence officers returned home, they had another meeting with their British counterparts. Their notes show that the British warned that steps should be taken jointly to “avoid being trapped in any sort of legal problem [and] to avoid also that those joint plans be discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”. The Libyans assured MI5 and MI6: “We have effectively reassured them that we will stick by the joint plan to avoid any blame if the operation fails.”
The target says he was approached by “Caroline” and a second MI5 officer on a number of other occasions, but declined to travel to Libya and still lives in west London.
Six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin are bringing a number of claims, which include allegations of false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault.
The case is being brought against MI5 and MI6 as well as the Home Office and Foreign Office. Government departments declined to comment on the grounds that the litigation is ongoing.
When making their unsuccessful bid to have the case struck out, government lawyers admitted no liability. They argued that the five claimants who were subjected to control orders were properly considered to pose a threat to the UK’s national security, and denied that the government relied on information from prisoners held in Libya in making that assessment. They also argued that the LIFG had been a threat to the UK. They are expected to appeal Thursday’s high court decision.
Allen has declined to comment on the rendition operations, while Straw says: “At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law, and I hope to be able to say more about this at an appropriate stage in the future.”
Thursday 22 January 2015 14.24 GMT Last modified on Monday 26 January 2015 14.03 GMT
Find this story at 22 January 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
MI5 spied on Libyan torture victims, documents reveal (2011)
1 juni 2015
BRITAIN’S security service MI5 asked Muammar Gaddafi’s secret services for regular updates on what terrorist suspects were revealing under interrogation in Libyan prisons, where torture was routine.
MI5 also agreed to trade information with Libyan spymasters on 50 British-based Libyans judged to be a threat to Gaddafi’s regime.
The disclosures come from secret intelligence documents left lying around in the ruins of the British embassy in Tripoli for anyone to find.
They include an MI5 paper marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only Secret”, which shows that the service provided Gaddafi’s spies with a trove of intelligence about Libyan dissidents in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester.
Other documents seen by The Sunday Times in the abandoned offices of British and Libyan officials reveal that:
– The Ministry of Defence invited the dictator’s sons Saadi and Khamis Gaddafi, whose forces have massacred civilians during Libya’s revolution, to a combat display at SAS headquarters in Hereford and a dinner at the Cavalry and Guards Club in Mayfair;
Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar.
MORESpy agencies’ ties to Libya revealed
MOREAnother Gaddafi stronghold set to fall
VIDEOPapers show Gaddafi links with CIA, MI6
End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.
– Tony Blair helped another son, Saif Gaddafi, with his PhD thesis, beginning a personal letter with the words “Dear Engineer Saif”;
– The Foreign Office planned to use Prince Andrew in a secret strategy to secure the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, from prison in Scotland and offset the risk of retaliation if he died in jail. In fact, Megrahi was released anyway.
The cache of documents shows how close the British governments of both Blair and Gordon Brown were to a brutal regime that was overthrown last month when pro-democracy rebels seized Tripoli.
Nowhere is this closeness more evident than in the intelligence sphere. The MI5 paper for Gaddafi’s security services contains detailed information about members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a militant dissident outfit with cells in Britain.
The document, prepared ahead of an MI5 visit to Tripoli in 2005, formally requested that Libyan intelligence should provide access to detainees held by secret police and to “timely debriefs” of interrogations.
It added: “The more timely (the) information the better … Such intelligence is most valuable when it is current. It is notable that LIFG members in the UK become aware of the detention of members overseas within a relatively short period.”
The request was made despite widespread evidence of torture in Libyan prisons and assassinations of dissidents in other countries, including Britain. Torture practices identified by the US State Department included “clubbing, setting dogs on prisoners, electric shocks, suffocation by plastic bags and pouring lemon juice into open wounds”.
The disclosures will reignite the debate on the alleged complicity of British security services in the torture of terrorist suspects abroad. Last year David Cameron announced a judge-led inquiry into separate claims that M15 and MI6 were complicit in the torture of British citizens by foreign interrogators.
Some of those named in the documents found in Tripoli are thought to have been arrested subsequently in Britain and placed on control orders, a form of house arrest that is due to be debated in parliament this week.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: “These chilling revelations show just how cosy British authorities became with a regime known for torture. How on earth did they think these timely detainee debriefs were going to be obtained?
“The thought that people [who were] discussed with Gadaffi’s henchmen may have been placed on control orders as a result of ‘detainee debriefs’ should prey on the mind of every MP who votes on the new control order regime tomorrow.”
Other documents that have emerged show how America’s CIA sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya. One letter from an MI6 officer to his Libyan counterpart reported the release from detention in Britain of a key LIFG member.
The MI5 document makes clear the key area of mutual interest to both countries was the LIFG, the most powerful radical faction waging war against Gadaffi’s regime. The group aimed to replace his dictatorship with a hardline Islamist state. Its main external base was in Britain, where 50 members lived.
MI5 believed the group had growing links to al-Qa’ida. It was suspected of supplying a “pipeline” of finance and false documents for the group’s international operations and of facilitating trips by jihadists from Britain to fight against western forces in Iraq.
MI5 also feared the LIFG might be planning terrorist attacks against the West.
A rider to the report says the information is being sent to the Libyans “for research and analysis purposes only and should not be used for overt, covert or executive action” – an apparent reference to kidnapping or execution.
A senior Whitehall official declined to discuss details of the agreement to share intelligence. He said: “We do not engage in, or encourage others to engage in, or contract out in situations where we knowingly, or have a very strong reason to believe that someone is being maltreated or is at risk of, maltreatment.”
William Hague, the foreign secretary, said intelligence documents emerging in Tripoli “relate to a period under the previous government, so I have no knowledge of those, of what was happening behind the scenes at that time”.
A document found in the office of Saadi Gaddafi, head of Libya’s special forces, showed the Ministry of Defence made elaborate plans for him to visit Britain in 2006 with his brother Khamis, whose commandos killed dozens of detainees before retreating from Tripoli as the regime fell.
The Sunday Times
MILES AMOORE AND DAVID LEPPARD THE SUNDAY TIMES SEPTEMBER 04, 2011 1:13PM
Find this story at 4 September 2011
Libya rebel commander wants MI6 and CIA apologies (2011)
1 juni 2015
The commander of anti-government forces in Tripoli has told the BBC he wants an apology from Britain and America for the way he was transferred to a prison in Libya in 2004.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who was then a terror suspect, says he was tortured after being arrested in Bangkok and taken to the Libyan capital in an operation organised by the CIA and MI6.
Details of his case are included in messages sent to the Gaddafi regime by the two intelligence services.
Jeremy Bowen reports from Tripoli.
4 September 2011 Last updated at 22:39 BST
Find this story at 4 September 2011
Copyright © 2015 BBC
Libya: Gaddafi regime’s US-UK spy links revealed (2011)
1 juni 2015
US and UK spy agencies built close ties with their Libyan counterparts during the so-called War on Terror, according to documents discovered at the office of Col Gaddafi’s former spy chief.
The papers suggest the CIA abducted several suspected militants from 2002 to 2004 and handed them to Tripoli.
The UK’s MI6 also apparently gave the Gaddafi regime details of dissidents.
The documents, found by Human Rights Watch workers, have not been seen by the BBC or independently verified.
Meanwhile, the head of Libya’s interim governing body, the National Transitional Council, said its soldiers were laying siege to towns still held by Col Gaddafi’s forces.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Sirte, Bani Walid, Jufra and Sabha were being given humanitarian aid, but had one week to surrender.
The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Benghazi says there have been unconfirmed reports that Bani Walid has now been taken by anti-Gaddafi forces.
But witnesses on the edge of Bani Walid say the opposition fighters are still on the outskirts although our correspondent adds that it appears as if Gaddafi loyalists have abandoned many of their outlying positions.
Thousands of pieces of correspondence from US and UK officials were uncovered by reporters and activists in an office apparently used by Moussa Koussa, who served for years as Col Gaddafi’s spy chief before becoming foreign minister.
Prime Minister Tony Blair embraces Colonel Muammar Gaddafi after a meeting on May 29, 2007 in Sirte, Libya
He defected in the early part of the rebellion, flying to the UK and then on to Qatar.
Rights groups have long accused him of involvement in atrocities, and had called on the UK to arrest him at the time.
The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Tripoli says the documents illuminate a short period when the Libyan intelligence agency was a trusted and valued ally of both MI6 and the CIA, with the tone of exchanges between agents breezy and bordering on the chummy.
Human Rights Watch accused the CIA of condoning torture.
“It wasn’t just abducting suspected Islamic militants and handing them over to the Libyan intelligence. The CIA also sent the questions they wanted Libyan intelligence to ask and, from the files, it’s very clear they were present in some of the interrogations themselves,” said Peter Bouckaert of HRW.
The papers outline the rendition of several suspects, including one that Human Rights Watch has identified as Abdel Hakim Belhaj, known in the documents as Abdullah al-Sadiq, who is now the military commander of the anti-Gaddafi forces in Tripoli.
Alleged CIA letter
Text of letter
I am glad to propose that our services take an additional step in cooperation with the establishment of a permanent CIA presence in Libya. We have talked about this move for quite some time and Libya’s cooperation on WMD and other issues, as well as our recent intelligence cooperation, mean that now is the right moment to move ahead. I am prepared to send [XXX] to Libya to introduce two of my officers to you and your service, arriving in Tripoli on 20 March. These two officers, both of whom are experienced and can speak Arabic, will initially staff our station in Libya. [XXX] will communicate the details via fax. I will call to confirm this with you.
We are also eager to work with you in the questioning of the terrorist we recently rendered to your country. I would like to send to Libya an additional two officers and I would appreciate if they could have direct access to question this individual. Should you agree I would like to send these two officers to Libya on 25 March. Again [XXX] will communicate the details to you.
The Americans snatched him in South East Asia before flying him to Tripoli in 2004, the documents claim.
Mr Belhaj, who was involved in an Islamist group attempting to overthrow Col Gaddafi in the early 2000s, had told the Associated Press news agency earlier this week that he had been rendered by the Americans, but held no grudge.
The CIA would not comment on the specifics of the allegations.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said: “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”
The documents also reveal details about the UK’s relationship with the Gaddafi regime.
One memo, dated 18 March 2004 and with the address “London SE1”, congratulates Libya on the arrival of Mr Belhaj.
It states “for the urgent personal attention of Musa Kusa” and is headed “following message to Musa in Tripoli from Mark in London”, according to the Financial Times. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.
The UK intelligence agency apparently helped to write a speech for Col Gaddafi in 2004, when the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair was encouraging the colonel to give up his weapons programme.
And British officials also insisted that Mr Blair’s famous 2004 meeting with Col Gaddafi should be in his Bedouin tent, according to the UK’s Independent newspaper, whose journalists also discovered the documents.
“[The prime minister’s office is] keen that the prime minister meet the leader in his tent,” the paper quotes a memo from an MI6 agent as saying.
“I don’t know why the English are fascinated by tents. The plain fact is the journalists would love it.”
In another memo, also seen by the Independent, UK intelligence appeared to give Tripoli details of a Libyan dissident who had been freed from jail in Britain.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague played down the revelations, telling Sky News that they “relate to a period under the previous government so I have no knowledge of those, of what was happening behind the scenes at that time”.
Mr Blair and US President George W Bush lobbied hard to bring Col Gaddafi out of international isolation in the years after the 9/11 attacks, as Libya moved to normalise relations with former enemies in the West.
In a press conference in Benghazi, Mr Jalil said four Gaddafi-held towns had one week to surrender “to avoid further bloodshed”.
Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
UN envoy Ian Martin on measuring the “expectations” of Libya
But our correspondent, Jon Leyne, says there are reports Bani Walid has now fallen without a fight, with Gaddafi loyalists either melting away or regrouping further south. However, these reports have not been confirmed.
One anti-Gaddafi commander, Abdulrazzak Naduri, had earlier told AFP that Bani Walid had until just 08:00 on Sunday or face military action.
Col Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unconfirmed. It was believed that two sons, Saadi and Saif al-Islam, had been in Bani Walid recently.
The NTC is stepping up its efforts at reconstruction, setting up a supreme security council to protect Tripoli.
Ian Martin, a special adviser to the UN secretary general, arrived in Libya’s capital on Saturday to try to boost international efforts in the country’s redevelopment.
The NTC has also said its leadership will not now move from Benghazi to Tripoli until next week, with Mr Jalil the last to go.
Our correspondent says this could mean a delay in the opposition formally assuming the role of the new government and raise fears of a power vacuum in the capital.
4 September 2011
Find this story at 4 September 2011
Copyright © 2015 BBC.
Files Note Close C.I.A. Ties to Qaddafi Spy Unit (2011)
1 juni 2015
TRIPOLI, Libya — Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.
Although it has been known that Western intelligence services began cooperating with Libya after it abandoned its program to build unconventional weapons in 2004, the files left behind as Tripoli fell to rebels show that the cooperation was much more extensive than generally known with both the C.I.A. and its British equivalent, MI-6.
Some documents indicate that the British agency was even willing to trace phone numbers for the Libyans, and another appears to be a proposed speech written by the Americans for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi about renouncing unconventional weapons.
The documents were discovered Friday by journalists and Human Rights Watch. There were at least three binders of English-language documents, one marked C.I.A. and the other two marked MI-6, among a larger stash of documents in Arabic.
It was impossible to verify their authenticity, and none of them were written on letterhead. But the binders included some documents that made specific reference to the C.I.A., and their details seem consistent with what is known about the transfer of terrorism suspects abroad for interrogation and with other agency practices.
And although the scope of prisoner transfers to Libya has not been made public, news media reports have sometimes mentioned it as one country that the United States used as part of its much criticized rendition program for terrorism suspects.
A C.I.A. spokeswoman, Jennifer Youngblood, declined to comment on Friday on the documents. But she added: “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”
The British Foreign Office said, “It is the longstanding policy of the government not to comment on intelligence matters.”
While most of the renditions referred to in the documents appear to have been C.I.A. operations, at least one was claimed to have been carried out by MI-6.
“The rendition program was all about handing over these significant figures related to Al Qaeda so they could torture them and get the information they wanted,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, who studied the documents in the intelligence headquarters in downtown Tripoli.
The documents cover 2002 to 2007, with many of them concentrated in late 2003 and 2004, when Moussa Koussa was head of the External Security Organization. (Mr. Koussa was most recently Libya’s foreign minister.)
The speech that appears to have been drafted for Colonel Qaddafi was found in the C.I.A. folder and appears to have been sent just before Christmas in 2003. The one-page speech seems intended to depict the Libyan dictator in a positive light. It concluded, using the revolutionary name for the Libyan government: “At a time when the world is celebrating the birth of Jesus, and as a token of our contributions towards a world full of peace, security, stability and compassion, the Great Jamhariya presents its honest call for a W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East,” referring to weapons of mass destruction.
The flurry of communications about renditions are dated after Libya’s renouncement of its weapons program. In several of the cases, the documents explicitly talked about having a friendly country arrest a suspect, and then suggested aircraft would be sent to pick the suspect up and deliver him to the Libyans for questioning. One document included a list of 89 questions for the Libyans to ask a suspect.
While some of the documents warned Libyan authorities to respect such detainees’ human rights, the C.I.A. nonetheless turned them over for interrogation to a Libyan service with a well-known history of brutality.
One document in the C.I.A. binder said operatives were “in a position to deliver Shaykh Musa to your physical custody, similar to what we have done with other senior L.I.F.G. members in the recent past.” The reference was to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was dedicated to the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, and which American officials believed had ties to Al Qaeda.
When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the group, a case officer wrote back on March 4, 2004, that “we are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services,” and promised to do their best to locate him, according to a document in the C.I.A. binder.
Two days later, an officer faxed the Libyans to say that Mr. Sadiq and his pregnant wife were planning to fly into Malaysia, and the authorities there agreed to put them on a British Airways flight to London that would stop in Bangkok. “We are planning to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” the case officer wrote.
Mr. Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said he had learned from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader for the rebels.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Belhaj gave a detailed description of his incarceration that matched many of those in the documents. He also said that when he was held in Bangkok he was tortured by two people from the C.I.A.
On one occasion, the Libyans tried to send their own plane to extradite a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Abu Munthir, and his wife and children, who were being held in Hong Kong because of passport irregularities.
The Libyan aircraft, however, was turned back, apparently because Hong Kong authorities were reluctant to let Libyan planes land. In a document labeled “Secret/ U.S. Only/ Except Libya,” the Libyans were advised to charter an aircraft from a third country. “If payment of a charter aircraft is an issue, our service would be willing to assist financially,” the document said.
While questioning alleged terror group members plainly had value to Western intelligence, the cooperation went beyond that. In one case, for example, the Libyans asked operatives to trace a phone number for them, and a document that was in the MI-6 binder replied that it belonged to the Arab News Network in London. It is unclear why the Libyans sought who the phone number belonged to.
The document also suggested signs of agency rivalries over Libya. In the MI-6 binder, a document boasted of having turned over someone named Abu Abd Alla to the Libyans. “This was the least we could do for you to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years,” an unsigned fax in 2004 said. “Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu Abd through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing.”
By ROD NORDLANDSEPT. 2, 2011
Find this story at 2 September 2011
© 2015 The New York Times Company HomeSearch
Documents show ties between Libyan spy head, CIA (2011)
1 juni 2015
Associated Press= TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies worked closely with the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi, sharing tips and cooperating in handing over terror suspects for interrogation to a regime known to use torture, according to a trove of security documents discovered after the fall of Tripoli.
The revelations provide new details on the West’s efforts to turn Libya’s mercurial leader from foe to ally and provide an embarrassing example of the U.S. administration’s collaboration with authoritarian regimes in the war on terror.
The documents, among tens of thousands found in an External Security building in Tripoli, show an increasingly warm relationship, with CIA agents proposing to set up a permanent Tripoli office, addressing their Libyan counterparts by their first names and giving them advice. In one memo, a British agent even sends Christmas greetings.
The agencies were known to cooperate as the longtime Libyan ruler worked to overcome his pariah status by stopping his quest for weapons of mass destruction and renouncing support for terrorism. But the new details show a more extensive relationship than was previously known, with Western agencies offering lists of questions for specific detainees and apparently the text for a Gadhafi speech.
They also offer a glimpse into the inner workings of the now-defunct CIA program of extraordinary rendition, through which terror suspects were secretly detained, sent to third countries and sometimes underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation tactics like waterboarding.
The documents mention a half dozen names of people targeted for rendition, including Tripoli’s new rebel military commander, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj.
Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, which helped find the documents, called the ties between Washington and Gadhafi’s regime “A very dark chapter in American intelligence history.”
“It remains a stain on the record of the American intelligence services that they cooperated with these very abusive intelligence services,” he said Saturday.
The findings could cloud relations between the West and Libya’s new leaders, although Belhaj said he holds no grudge. NATO airstrikes have helped the rebels advance throughout the six-month civil war and continue to target regime forces as rebels hunt for Gadhafi.
Belhaj is the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a now-dissolved militant organization that sought to assassinate Gadhafi.
Belhaj says CIA agents tortured him in a secret prison in Thailand before he was returned to Libya and locked in the notorious Abu Salim prison. He insists he was never a terrorist and believes his arrest was in reaction to what he called the “tragic events of 9/11.”
Two documents from March 2004 show American and Libyan officials arranging Belhaj’s rendition.
Referring to him by his nom de guerre, Abdullah al-Sadiq, the documents said he and his pregnant wife were due to travel to Thailand, where they would be detained.
“We are planning to arrange to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” they tell the Libyans. The memo also requested that Libya, a country known for decades for torture and ill-treatment of prisoners: “Please be advised that we must be assured that al-Sadiq will be treated humanely and that his human rights will be respected.”
The documents coincide with efforts by the Gadhafi regime over the last decade to emerge from international isolation, even agreeing to pay compensation to relatives of each of the 270 victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The documents show the CIA and MI6 advising the regime on how to work to rescind its designation as a state sponsor of terror — a move the Bush administration made in 2006. Both agencies received intelligence benefits in return.
The validity of the documents, not written on official letterhead, could not be independently verified, but their content seems consistent with what has been previously reported about intelligence activities during the period.
Later correspondence deals with technical visits to Libya to track the regime’s progress in dismantling its weapons programs.
In one undated memo, the CIA proposes establishing a permanent presence in Libya.
“I propose that our services take an additional step in cooperation with the establishment of a permanent CIA presence in Libya,” it says. It is signed by hand “Steve.”
Another memo is a follow-up query to an apparent Libyan warning of terror plots against American interests abroad.
One document is a draft statement for Gadhafi about his country’s decision to give up weapons of mass destruction.
“Our belief is that an arms race does not serve the security of Libya or the security of the region and contradicts Libya’s great keenness for world peace and security,” it suggests as wording.
But much of the correspondence deals with arrangements to render terror suspects to Libya from South Africa, Hong Kong and elsewhere. One CIA memo from April 2004 tells Libyan authorities that the agency can deliver a suspect known as “Shaykh Musa.”
“We respectfully request an expression of interest from your service regarding taking custody of Musa,” the memo says.
CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood declined to comment Saturday on specific allegations related to the documents.
“It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats,” Youngblood said. “That is exactly what we are expected to do.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also declined to comment on intelligence matters.
In Tripoli, Anes Sherif, an aide to Belhaj, said the documents provided little new information: “We have known for a long time that (the British and U.S. governments) had very close relations with Gadhafi’s regime.”
Amid the shared intelligence and names of terror suspects are traces of personal relationships.
In one letter from Dec. 24, 2003, a British official thanks Gadhafi’s spy chief Moussa Koussa — who later became foreign minister and defected early in the uprising — for a “very large quantity of dates and oranges” and encourages him to continue with reforms.
“Your achievement realizing the Leader’s initiative has been enormous and of huge importance,” the British official says. “At this time sacred to peace, I offer you my admiration and every congratulation.
AP foreign, Saturday September 3 2011
Find this story at 3 September 2011
© 2015 Guardian News
Police from several UK forces seek details of Charlie Hebdo readers
28 mei 2015
Newsagents in three counties questioned about sales of the French magazine’s special issue
Several British police forces have questioned newsagents in an attempt to monitor sales of a special edition of Charlie Hebdo magazine following the Paris attacks, the Guardian has learned.
Officers in Wiltshire, Wales and Cheshire have approached retailers of the magazine, it has emerged, as concerns grew about why police were attempting to trace UK-based readers of the French satirical magazine.
Wiltshire police apologised on Monday after admitting that one of its officers had asked a newsagent to hand over the names of readers who bought a special “survivors’ issue” of the magazine published after its top staff were massacred in Paris last month.
UK police force apologises for taking details of Charlie Hebdo readers
The case in Corsham, Wiltshire, was thought to be an isolated incident but it has since emerged that Cheshire constabulary and Dyfed-Powys police have also approached newsagents over the sale of Charlie Hebdo.
In at least two cases – in Wiltshire and in Presteigne, Wales – officers have requested that newsagents hand over the names of customers who bought the magazine.
“This is so ridiculous as to be almost laughable. And it would be funny if it didn’t reflect a more general worrying increase in abuse of police powers in invading privacy and stifling free speech in Britain,” said Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of free expression campaign group Index on Censorship.
“Does possessing a legally published satirical magazine make people criminal suspects now? If so, I better confess that I too have a copy of Charlie Hebdo.”
Paul Merrett, 57, the owner of a newsagent in Presteigne, Wales, said a detective and a police community support officer from Dyfed-Powys police spent half an hour asking his wife Deborah, 53, about the magazine.
“They wanted to know about Charlie Hebdo. They came in unannounced and we had customers,” he said. “There were questions asking where we got the Charlie Hebdo copies from, did we know who we sold them to – which we didn’t say. We were a bit bemused because it was out of the blue.”
“My wife said, ‘Am I in trouble?’ because she thought she was in trouble for selling them. They said, ‘No, you’re not in trouble’ but just continued with their questioning for half an hour.”
Merrett added: “It was all about Charlie Hebdo. I guess they wanted names and addresses of people we sold them to, which we didn’t tell them anything like that. We sold 30 copies.
“My wife was a bit worried with the questioning but she certainly wouldn’t have given any names to the police. I’m shocked they asked. They wanted to know where we got the copies from, how did we let the customers know that we had them.”
A Dyfed-Powys police spokeswoman declined to say why officers sought the names of Charlie Hebdo readers but said: “Following the recent terrorism incidents, Dyfed Powys police have been undertaking an assessment of community tensions across the force area.
“Visits were made to newsagents who were maybe distributing the Charlie Hebdo magazine to encourage the newsagent owners to be vigilant. We can confirm the visits were only made to enhance public safety and to provide community reassurance.”
In Warrington, Cheshire, a police officer telephoned a newsagent that had ordered one issue of the magazine for a customer, who asked to remain anonymous. She said: “My husband ordered a copy of the special edition of Charlie Hebdo from our local newsagent in North Cheshire.
“Several days later the latter had a phone call from the police, saying they’d been told that he had been selling and advertising Charlie Hebdo in his shop. He replied that this was untrue: he had supplied in total one copy, concealed, to a customer who was a French lecturer. I find the police action quite disturbing.”
Charlie Hebdo buyers attract police interest
Letter: A member of Her Majesty’s police service visited the newsagent, requesting the names of the four customers who had purchased Charlie Hebdo
DCI Paul Taylor, of Cheshire constabulary, said he was not aware of any officer contacting newsagents by telephone but added: “We were aware of the potential for heightened tensions following the attacks in Paris. Therefore where it was felt appropriate officers visited newsagents to provide reassurance advice around the time of its publication.”
In a later statement, a Cheshire police spokeswoman said: “Officers were asked to call into local newsagents in their area to provide visible reassurance around the time of publication and were not asked under any circumstances to make inquiries as to who was purchasing or preordering the Charlie Hebdo magazine. Each area endeavoured to visit as many newsagents as possible however we cannot provide an exact figure.”
The MP and former Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis said he thought the police action was more “stupid than sinister” but disquieting nonetheless.
“Quite what they think they’re doing and why they are wasting police time tracking down individual readers of Charlie Hebdo, really makes you wonder what sort of counter-terrorism and security policy those police forces are pursuing.
“It also has to be said that when police forces check up on what you are reading it’s unsettling in a democracy. I’m quite sure it’s not intentionally so, but it is unsettling and not something you should do lightly.”
The Metropolitan police said they were unaware of any such investigations by their officers in London.
A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said there had been no national guidance issued to forces about approaching newsagents that stocked copies of Charlie Hebdo.
However, counter-terrorism officers are known to have shared intelligence nationally following an assessment of potentially vulnerable communities after 17 people were killed in three days of violence in Paris.
The attacks began with two gunmen bursting into Charlie Hebdo’s Paris offices and opening fire in revenge for its publication of satirical images of the prophet.
In the UK, counter-terrorism officers have stepped up protection of police officers and the Jewish community over concerns that they may be targeted by Islamist militants.
Five million copies of the magazine – which has a usual print run of around 60,000 – were published in a special edition, with about 2,000 of them reportedly distributed in the UK.
Josh Halliday and Shiv Malik
Tuesday 10 February 2015 19.03 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 11 February 2015 12.09 GMT
Find this story at 10 February 2015
© 2015 Guardian News
GCHQ captured emails of journalists from top international media
28 mei 2015
• Snowden files reveal emails of BBC, NY Times and more
• Agency includes investigative journalists on ‘threat’ list
• Editors call on Cameron to act against snooping on media
GCHQ’s bulk surveillance of electronic communications has scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organisations, analysis of documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.
Emails from the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Sun, NBC and the Washington Post were saved by GCHQ and shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency.
The disclosure comes as the British government faces intense pressure to protect the confidential communications of reporters, MPs and lawyers from snooping.
The journalists’ communications were among 70,000 emails harvested in the space of less than 10 minutes on one day in November 2008 by one of GCHQ’s numerous taps on the fibre-optic cables that make up the backbone of the internet.
The communications, which were sometimes simple mass-PR emails sent to dozens of journalists but also included correspondence between reporters and editors discussing stories, were retained by GCHQ and were available to all cleared staff on the agency intranet. There is nothing to indicate whether or not the journalists were intentionally targeted.
The mails appeared to have been captured and stored as the output of a then-new tool being used to strip irrelevant data out of the agency’s tapping process.
New evidence from other UK intelligence documents revealed by Snowden also shows that a GCHQ information security assessment listed “investigative journalists” as a threat in a hierarchy alongside terrorists or hackers.
Senior editors and lawyers in the UK have called for the urgent introduction of a freedom of expression law amid growing concern over safeguards proposed by ministers to meet concerns over the police use of surveillance powers linked to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa).
More than 100 editors, including those from all the national newspapers, have signed a letter, coordinated by the Society of Editors and Press Gazette, to the UK prime minister, David Cameron, protesting at snooping on journalists’ communications.
In the wake of terror attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and a Jewish grocer in Paris, Cameron has renewed calls for further bulk-surveillance powers, such as those which netted these journalistic communications.
Ripa has been used to access journalists’ communications without a warrrant, with recent cases including police accessing the phone records of Tom Newton-Dunn, the Sun’s political editor, over the Plebgate investigation. The call records of Mail on Sunday reporters involved in the paper’s coverage of Chris Huhne’s speeding row were also accessed in this fashion.
Under Ripa, neither the police nor the security services need to seek the permission of a judge to investigate any UK national’s phone records – instead, they must obtain permission from an appointed staff member from the same organisation, not involved in their investigation.
However, there are some suggestions in the documents that the collection of billing data by GCHQ under Ripa goes wider – and that it may not be confined to specific target individuals.
A top secret document discussing Ripa initially explains the fact that billing records captured under Ripa are available to any government agency is “unclassified” provided that there is “no mention of bulk”.
The GCHQ document goes on to warn that the fact that billing records “kept under Ripa are not limited to warranted targets” must be kept as one of the agency’s most tightly guarded secrets, at a classification known as “Top secret strap 2”.
That is two levels higher than a normal top secret classification – as it refers to “HMG [Her Majesty’s government] relationships with industry that have areas of extreme sensitivity”.
Internal security advice shared among the intelligence agencies was often as preoccupied with the activities of journalists as with more conventional threats such as foreign intelligence, hackers or criminals.
One restricted document intended for those in army intelligence warned that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security”.
It continued: “Of specific concern are ‘investigative journalists’ who specialise in defence-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest.
“All classes of journalists and reporters may try either a formal approach or an informal approach, possibly with off-duty personnel, in their attempts to gain official information to which they are not entitled.”
It goes on to caution “such approaches pose a real threat”, and tells staff they must be “immediately reported” to the chain-of-command.
GCHQ information security assessments, meanwhile, routinely list journalists between “terrorism” and “hackers” as “influencing threat sources”, with one matrix scoring journalists as having a “capability” score of two out of five, and a “priority” of three out of five, scoring an overall “low” information security risk.
Terrorists, listed immediately above investigative journalists on the document, were given a much higher “capability” score of four out of five, but a lower “priority” of two. The matrix concluded terrorists were therefore a “moderate” information security risk.
A spokesman for GCHQ said: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.
“All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European convention on human rights.”
Monday 19 January 2015 15.04 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 20 January 2015 00.17 GMT
Find this story at 19 January 2015
© 2015 Guardian News
British spooks tapped emails from UK and US media… and rated journalists alongside TERRORISTS as potential security threats, leaked Snowden documents reveal
28 mei 2015
Journalists represent ‘a potential threat to security’, according to GCHQ
Revelation buried in secret documents leaked from the UK spy centre
Comes amid calls for security services to be given power to monitor emails
Journalists a ‘low’ security risk compared to terrorists who are ‘moderate’
GCHQ scooped up 70,000 emails in just 10 minutes, documents reveal
Among intercepted emails were some sent by BBC and New York Times
British spooks intercepted emails from US and UK media organisations and rated ‘investigative journalists’ alongside terrorists and hackers as potential security threats, secret documents reveal.
Internal advice circulated by intelligence chiefs at the Government spy centre GCHQ claims ‘journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security’.
Intelligence documents leaked by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden also show that British security officers scooped up 70,000 emails in just 10 minutes during one interception exercise in 2008.
Among the private exchanges were emails between journalists at the BBC, New York Times and US network NBC.
The disclosure comes amid growing calls for the security services to be handed more power to monitor the internet following the Paris terror attacks.
Internal security advice, shared among British intelligence agencies, scored journalists in a table of potential threats.
One restricted document, which according to the Guardian was intended for those in army intelligence, warned that ‘journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security’.
Furious Chuka Umunna storms off ‘ridiculous’ live TV…
Prime Minister David Cameron makes a speech at Ransomes Jacobsen in Ipswich, Suffolk, where he set out the Tory path to full employment, promising to keep Britain the “jobs factory of Europe” by backing small business. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday January 19, 2015. Mr Cameron admitted it had been a “tough few years” for UK plc, but said the country was “coming out the other side” – and urged voters to stick with his plan. See PA story POLITICS Cameron. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Britain is the ‘jobs factory of Europe’, Cameron boasts as…
Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha take a drink by a beach during their holiday on the Spanish Island of Ibiza today. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday May 26, 2013. See PA story POLITICS Cameron. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Young Tories promised a holiday in Ibiza with Dave and…
It continued: ‘Of specific concern are “investigative journalists” who specialise in defence-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest.’
The document adds: ‘All classes of journalists and reporters may try either a formal approach or an informal approach, possibly with off-duty personnel, in their attempts to gain official information to which they are not entitled.’
It warns staff that ‘such approaches pose a real threat’, adding it must be ‘immediately reported’.
One table scored journalists a ‘low’ information security risk – compared to terrorists who are seen as a ‘moderate’ threat.
A spokesman for GCHQ refused to confirm or deny if the leaked documents were accurate. The spokesman said: ‘It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.
‘Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.
‘All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European convention on human rights.’
According to the Guardian, GCHQ scooped up emails to and from journalists during one 10-minute ’tapping’ session in November 2008.
Emails from the BBC, the Sun and the Mail on Sunday were picked up and shared on the agency’s internal computer system – alongside memos from US media organisations.
The revelation comes as the British government faces growing pressure to ensure journalists’ texts and emails are protected from snooping.
Newspaper editors and lawyers have called for a new freedom of expression law.
By TOM MCTAGUE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 16:32 GMT, 19 January 2015 | UPDATED: 18:06 GMT, 19 January 2015
Find this story at 19 January 2015
© Associated Newspapers Ltd
Revealed: how energy firms spy on environmental activists
8 april 2015
Leaked documents show how three large British companies have been paying private security firm to monitor activists
Three large energy companies have been carrying out covert intelligence-gathering operations on environmental activists, the Guardian can reveal.
The energy giant E.ON, Britain’s second-biggest coal producer Scottish Resources Group and Scottish Power, one of the UK’s largest electricity-generators, have been paying for the services of a private security firm that has been secretly monitoring activists.
Leaked documents show how the security firm’s owner, Rebecca Todd, tipped off company executives about environmentalists’ plans after snooping on their emails. She is also shown instructing an agent to attend campaign meetings and coaching him on how to ingratiate himself with activists. The disclosures come as police chiefs, on the defensive over damaging revelations of undercover police officers in the protest movement, privately claim that there are more corporate spies in protest groups than undercover police officers.
Senior police officers complain that spies hired by commercial firms are – unlike their own agents – barely regulated.
Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, which until recently ran the secretive national unit of undercover police officers deployed in protest groups, said in a speech last week that “the deployment by completely uncontrolled and unrestrained players in the private sector” constituted a “massive area of concern”.
Revelations about Mark Kennedy and three other undercover police officers in protest groups caused a furore last month and led to four official inquiries into their activities.
Now a Guardian investigation has shed new light on the surveillance of green campaigners by private security firms whose intrusive operations include posing as activists on mailing lists and infiltrating full-time agents into campaign groups over many years.
Multinational companies, ranging from power producers to arms sellers, hire these firms to try to prevent activists running campaigns against them or breaking into their sites.
The leaked documents lay bare the methods of one firm, Vericola, run by 33-year-old Todd. Based in Canterbury, Vericola, according to Todd, is a “business risk management company” offering a “bespoke” service to clients “regarding potential threats” to their businesses.
Over the past three years, Todd, using different email addresses, has signed up to the mailing lists of a series of environ-mental groups organising major demonstrations such as the G20 rallies in London, demonstrations against E.ON’s Kingsnorth power station and the expansion of Heathrow airport, giving her access to communications and advanced notice of demonstrations.
Last July, she forwarded details about Climate Camp campaigners to two company directors she called “the usual suspects”.
One was Gordon Irving, the security director of Scottish Power since 2001 after spending 30 years in Strathclyde police force. The other was Alan Somerville, then a director of Scottish Resources Group which produces a large amount of Britain’s coal.
Todd highlighted a call from campaigners to submit more objections to coal-producing developments which needed planning permission.
Activists say she regularly attended meetings of an environmental group, known as Rising Tide, for around a year in 2007/08.
The documents also show her advising a colleague on how to fit in with the other activists at meetings held to organise future protests. One tip was that he should not mention he was flying to Germany as “obviously” the environmentalists “hate short-haul flights”.
Todd, who says she is not a corporate spy, told the Guardian that all the information she acquires comes from public sources such as subscribing to emailing lists through the websites of the environmental groups.
Despite emails revealing how she repeatedly tried to find ways for her agents to access protest gatherings, Todd denied her company “infiltrates” meetings of protest groups as they are open to any member of the public.
The environmental activists are angry that, by posing as a supporter, she has gained access to emails and meetings where tactics and strategies are discussed. Eli Wilton, a Climate Camp organiser, said: “It’s frightening that in a meeting about how to stop the fossil fuel industry, the person sitting next to you might be a spy paid for by the energy giants themselves.”
He said Todd and her colleagues “couldn’t have gotten subscribed without attending our meetings. These were internal lists where, for example, we strategised about how to stop new coal-fired power stations being built by E.ON.”
E.ON said it had hired Vericola and another security firm, Global Open, on an “ad hoc” basis as its executives wanted to know when environmentalists were going to demonstrate at or invade its power stations and other premises, as they had done in the past.
The E.ON spokesman said it asked Vericola only for publicly available information and if Todd and her colleagues had obtained private information, they had done so “under their own steam”.
SRG and Scottish Power did not comment.
Rob Evans and Paul Lewis
Monday 14 February 2011 21.00 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 20 May 2014 07.51 BST
Find this story at 14 February 2011
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Undercover, The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police
8 april 2015
Undercover (Guardian Books, 2013) tells the story of the London Metropolitan Police Special Demonstration Squad and its mission to monitor activists and protest movements. Authors Rob Evans and Paul Lewis present an enthralling and disturbing account of police infiltrations in the UK by chronicling nine people who worked as undercover agents in the activist scene from 1983 through 2010. These police spies took on false identities in order to live among activists for years at a time. They did not only keep tabs on activists, they were active participants in groups and often incited others to take radical – and at times illegal – action. Additional police spies have been unmasked since the book was published, yet the practice of surveillance of activist groups continues.
As current debates weigh the merits and rights-infringements of widespread surveillance to combat terrorism, Undercover reminds readers that spying on people who are considered to be subversive is a centuries-old state policy, even when the definition of “subversion” has always been nebulous. “Over the years, Special Branch had spied on suffragettes, pacifists, unemployed workers, striking trade unionists, anti-nuclear activists, anti-war campaigners, fascists, anarchists, and communists.” (p.22) The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) at the centre of the book was created in 1968 with the stated purpose of providing intelligence in order to prepare an “appropriate” police response to public demonstrations, yet its mission quickly drifted into building files on activists in case they have contact with “individuals police deem to be extremists – or even, perhaps, one day become extremists themselves.” (p.205) Similar tactics have been documented in the United States, where “virtually every movement has been the target of police surveillance and disruption activities.”
Evans and Lewis expose the policies and behaviours of police infiltrators that violate civil rights, are often illegal, and demonstrate patterns of targeting and exploiting women activists. Reading the book from the perspective of a long-time activist has raised several questions about how I view my own activism and contact with the state. While I have been increasingly troubled by the possibility that my email and social media are being tracked by the state, it is much more confronting to consider that I might have direct contact with a police spy. Although Evans and Lewis focus on the UK’s SDS, infiltrations by the police and secret services are common throughout the world. Many organizations and movements in the US have been infiltrated and seeded with informants, and in fact one of the main spies profiled in Undercover, Mark Kennedy, was sent to 11 countries on 40 occasions (including the US), coordinating with secret services and police forces while “infiltrating almost every major anti-capitalist and environmental protest” in Europe (p.4) For this reason, Undercover is essential reading for activists worldwide; learning how infiltrators operate and how they have been unmasked can be helpful in protecting our sisters and brothers, our organizations, and our movements.
Gateway activists and organizations
What struck me most from reading Undercover was the infiltrators’ use of non-threatening groups as entry points to get closer to those they consider to be more radical targets. For example, in order to infiltrate the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) in the mid-1980s, police spy Bob Lambert first infiltrated groups and joined protests that were not particularly hard-core. “After establishing himself among more moderate activists, Lambert set out befriending campaigners suspected of being in the ALF.” (p.34) This tactic was used by most of the agents described in the book and has been similarly used by infiltrators in the United States. FBI informant “Anna” made her way into the Earth Liberation Front by attending mass public demonstrations during a 2004 G8 meeting in Atlanta and was eventually responsible for the 2007 conviction of activist Eric McDavid, who was sentenced to almost 20 years on domestic terrorism charges.
I have always assumed that my activism would not be very interesting to the police or the secret service, and I have at times dismissed fellow activists who raised questions about possible infiltrations. It felt like over-stating the significance of our actions to consider the possibility of having police spies in our midst. Now, however, I am re-thinking my attitudes – that I have nothing to hide, that what I do is harmless anyway, and that anyone who shows up for the cause is worthy of trust. Not so much because I believe I am a target for my activism but rather that I can be a target for my contacts, that I can be a pawn in the spy game. I’ve had a similar change of heart about social media, its potential for mapping relationships and the possibility that my posts can put my contacts at risk. While I could not imagine that mapping my moves could be at all of interest to the police, I now wonder whether mapping my friends through my moves (in combination with other maps) could put them in danger. The current concerns about mass surveillance have much in common with the SDS mission exposed in Undercover: the state seeks to gather information about as many activists as possible, map out who’s connected to whom, and identify the weak links that can be manipulated. All this in the name of uncovering extremists, even though the results are highly questionable, particularly when infiltrators are agitating (entrapping?) seemingly moderate activists into taking radical action.
Exploiting romantic relationships with activists
A key chapter in Undercover begins with this sentence: “If there was one tactic that was the signature of the Special Demonstration Squad, it was the use of long-term relationships with women activists who could help give undercover operatives the credibility they needed.” (p. 176) Most of the police spies profiled in the book became romantically involved with women activists. Mark Kennedy, whose unmasking in 2010 caused the scandal that led to the book, had multiple sexual encounters as well as 2 long-term relationships with women activists, one of which lasted 6 years. Bob Lambert had four sexual relationships while undercover; he fathered a baby with one woman and used another as his exit strategy to abandon mother and child.
“Alison”, described in Undercover as a “peaceful anti-racist campaigner”, spent years searching for her boyfriend who had disappeared. She eventually concluded that he was an undercover agent, receiving confirmation 10 years later by Evans and Lewis. When thinking about the police spy’s motives, “Alison” felt that she had “inadvertently provided him with ‘an excellent cover story… The level to which he was integrated into my family life meant that people trusted me, people knew that I was who I said I was, and people believed, therefore, that he must be who he said he was…’” (p. 186) She and other women who were caught up in these situations have justifiably suffered greatly from the emotional toll of learning that their intimate relationships were a lie, and that they had been used as a prop in the make-believe activist play.
Although the only woman police spy profiled in Undercover did not become romantically involved with any of the activists, it is not a method used exclusively by men. As was recently reported by The Guardian, “Anna” in the United States seduced her target Eric McDavid and “might have entrapped her prey by encouraging him to behave conspiratorially in the hope of romantic fulfilment.”
The actions of the SDS agents, however, went beyond flirting with women activists. Most concerning is the long-term nature of the relationships they engaged in, the level of intimacy and the depth of the lies. There are 2 cases of police spies having children with women activists named in Undercover. The men did not legally recognize the babies, and indeed they could not since they were living under false identities and had wives and children in their real lives. Neither spy faced any consequences for their actions, and in fact both officers were promoted and continued highly praised careers in the police. In a chapter called “Fatherhood” Evans and Lewis detail how Bob Lambert abandoned his 3-year old son and his activist girlfriend, who only learned the real identity of her son’s father 25 years later. The police spy that seduced “Alison” was simultaneously going to couples’ therapy with his wife to resolve marital problems while at the same time his undercover persona was going to couples’ therapy with “Alison” to reconcile their disagreement about wanting children (he didn’t want them, she did). “The SDS officer had two separate, and totally different lives, with two strained relationships, and two counsellors.” (p. 184)
The police spies’ exit strategy of suddenly disappearing and never being heard from again was heart-breaking for the women with whom they had become involved. Helen Steel describes her reaction to finding out the man she had been in love with did not actually exist: “This was a man I had known for five years, who I had lived with for two years. How could I trust anybody again? I don’t even know the name of the person I had been in a relationship with.” (p. 179) In 2011, eight women deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers who were infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups took legal action against the Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers, “assert[ing] that the actions of the undercover officers breached their rights as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights…”
The pattern of using women activists that is exposed in Undercover shows a systemic misogynist attitude by the police. It is part of the macho personas that the infiltrators take on as a way of demonstrating they are “serious” about hard-core action, in order to gain entry into the supposedly radical scene or, as has been demonstrated, to agitate activists towards radical (illegal) action. An example from the US is FBI informant Brandon Darby, who is responsible for the conviction of David McKay and Bradley Crowder, two activists accused of being in possession of Molotov cocktails at the 2008 Republican National Convention. Darby had made contact with the activists in Texas months prior to traveling with them to Minnesota for the Convention. During early encounters, Darby met the activists to discuss actions at the Convention and later reported to his FBI handlers: “I stated that they all looked like they ate too much tofu and that they should eat beef so that they could put on muscle mass. I stated that they weren’t going to be able to fight anybody until they did so.” The film Better This World presents court transcripts and FBI documents including Darby’s emails to make the case for Darby’s role as an agitator who goaded the activists into acts that would be considered as domestic terrorism. This was Darby’s response when questioned about the incident during a Mother Jones interview: “Entrapment? Darby scoffs at the suggestion. He pulls up his shirt, showing me his chest hair and tattoos, as though his macho physique had somehow seduced Crowder and McKay into mixing their firebombs.”
An essay published by Make/Shift magazine in the US uses the example of Darby to explore the link between gender violence and police infiltration. Author Courtney Desiree Morris discusses the surprise among long-time activists to learn that Darby was an informant, particularly since he was a well-known and trusted activist in Austin Texas and New Orleans. However, Darby was also well-known for his aggressive organizing style that drove away women activists. “There were even claims of Darby sexually assaulting female organizers at Common Ground [in New Orleans] and in general being dismissive of women working in the organization.” The argument made in the Make/Shift article centres on infiltrators’ conscious use of power dynamics to destabilize radical movements, proposing that “[m]aybe if organizers made collective accountability around gender violence a central part of our practices we could neutralize people who are working on behalf of the state to undermine our struggles.” This certainly sounds applicable for several of the police spies featured in Undercover.
Coordination and collusion with corporate targets
Another troubling and important issue raised in Undercover is the coordination between the police and the corporations against which activists campaign. Many of the undercover agents profiled by Evans and Lewis infiltrated groups denouncing corporate power – from the military industrial complex to corporate-led globalization. This raises the question of which interests were the police truly protecting – those of public safety or corporate control? Most notably, the McLibel case demonstrates the unified interests between corporations and the state, particularly when it came to surveillance of activists.
The McLibel case was a legal battle between McDonald’s and activists in the UK that began in the mid-1980’s when an activist group named London Greenpeace produced a flyer exposing McDonald’s practices in relation to the environment, worker justice, and animal rights. The company took legal action claiming libel; under the UK’s defamation laws it was up to the defendants to prove that they had not committed libel. Several groups and media outlets decided to settle out of court, apologizing for having criticized McDonalds. Five activists from London Greenpeace were singled out in 1990; three eventually apologized but two refused to give in. A court case lasted from 1994 to 1996, with McDonalds spending £10 million on lawyers while the activists sold t-shirts and took up donations to cover their legal costs, raising £35,000. I’ve had my red “McLibel” t-shirt for 20 years, the yellow letters fading but still clearly read “McHunger, McMurder, McGarbage…” Although I was familiar with the campaign, it was only when reading Undercover that I learned how deeply infiltrated the group responsible for the “libellous” flyer was.
As described in Undercover, London Greenpeace “was one of the most spied-upon political groups in modern history.” (p. 66) State infiltrators met agents from 2 different detective agencies hired by McDonald’s (who, by the way, didn’t know about each other). “On at least two occasions, there were as many corporate spies at meetings for the small group as genuine activists.” (p. 71) On the SDS front, Bob Lambert had infiltrated the group in the 1980s and was photographed handing out flyers in front of a McDonald’s store. It is plausible that he would have been involved in drafting the infamous flyer. Later on, John Dines infiltrated the group, becoming its treasurer and engaging in a romantic relationship with Helen Steel. When Helen Steel was named as a co-defendant in the McLibel case, John Dines was perfectly positioned to gather intelligence on the activists’ legal strategy. “It is not known whether intelligence picked up by Dines… was passed on to McDonald’s. However, that seems highly probable. The McLibel trial revealed that Special Branch and McDonald’s were at various points colluding and exchanging information about London Greenpeace.” (p. 76)
While police infiltration and surveillance of activist groups is already alarming, sharing information with corporations (in effect going way beyond their stated mandate to ensure public safety) is even more concerning. Unfortunately the McLibel case is far from an isolated incident, but rather one example in a long history of collaboration between state policing and intelligence agencies and private companies. Current debates about mass surveillance conducted by the US National Security Agency has included concerns about the state agency’s relationship with private companies like Google. While these concerns relate to companies giving state spies access to users’ information, surveillance of the Occupy movement show that it is a two-way relationship; here the state was providing information to private companies in order to help them prepare for the demonstrations against them.
In December 2012, the US-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) exposed the surveillance of Occupy Wall Street by the FBI, Homeland Security, and other US government agencies. The documents released as a result of a Freedom Of Information request expose the coordination between government agencies and private companies, including proof that the FBI was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy protests as early as August 2011, one month prior to the initial action.
Among the documents released by the FBI was report by the Domestic Security Alliance Council – self-described as a “strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector” – that examined the Occupy protests at the West Coast ports. As summarized by PCJF, the “DSAC report shows the nature of secret collaboration between American intelligence agencies and their corporate clients – the document contains a ‘handling notice’ that the information is ‘meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel…”
PCJF Executive director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard was quoted on Democracy Now! that “throughout the materials [released by the FBI], there is repeated evidence of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, American intelligence agencies really working as a private intelligence arm for corporations, for Wall Street, for the banks, for the very entities that people were rising up to protest against.” In that same interview, it is remarked that “you can see the FBI using at least private entities as a proxy force for what appears to be infiltration. … [T]he Federal Reserve in Richmond was reporting to the FBI, working with the Capitol Police in Virginia, and reporting and giving updates on planning meetings and discussions within the Occupy movement. That would appear, minimally, that they were sending undercovers, if not infiltrators, into those meetings.”
Despite acknowledgment that Occupy was a non-violent movement, FBI field offices tracked the protests as they spread through the US and shared information with the protester’s targets. Further research by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy “demonstrate that law enforcement agencies may be attempting to criminalize thousands of American citizens for simply voicing their disapproval of corporate dominance over our economic and political system.” Writing in the Progressive, Matthew Rothschild states that “the work [the US government’s anti-terrorist apparatus does] in the name of national security advances the interests of some of the largest corporations in America rather than focusing on protecting the United States from actual threats or attacks…” In Arizona, police conducted coordinated online surveillance and infiltration of activist groups including Occupy Phoenix in order to provide intelligence to JP Morgan Chase and other corporations targeted by the activists. One police spy was seen at activists’ meeting spaces as early as July 2011, well before Occupy Phoenix was launched.
Back in the UK, the SDS continued to run into corporate spies long after the McLibel case was over. The landmark case that broke open the story of police infiltrators involved not only SDS officer Mark Kennedy but also private security companies hired by energy company E.ON in order to thwart planned protests at Britain’s biggest coal-fired power stations at Ratcliffe-on-Soar. As reported in The Guardian, leaked documents regarding private surveillance of climate justice activists “come as police chiefs, on the defensive over damaging revelations of undercover police officers in the protest movement, privately claim that there are more corporate spies in protest groups than undercover police officers.”
“They steal identities. They break the law. They sleep with the enemy.” These are the police spies and their systematic violations of rights as documented by Evans and Lewis in Undercover. The book is written by two journalists with great skill at presenting information to the general public. Importantly, it breaks the false dichotomy between “us” and “them” – us activists who are not of interest to the intelligence apparatus and them whose “hard-core behaviour” placed them on police radars. We are all at risk of surveillance for multiple motives: to gain entry into the activist scene, to legitimize their mission, to build as comprehensive a map as possible in order to provide corporations intelligence on the breadth and depth of their adversaries.
While the SDS formally disbanded, state monitoring of activists continues through agencies such as the National Domestic Extremism Unit. As in the US, intelligence-gathering of activists in the UK has evolved into a hybrid of online and offline surveillance. The stories documented in Undercover peaked with Mark Kennedy’s 2010 revelations and the book’s publishing in 2013. However, they remain relevant not only for the repercussions on the people and groups that the SDS manipulated but also because the policy of treating dissent like a crime – and increasingly like terrorism – continues in present day. In order to protect ourselves from police spies, we must understand how they operate and where they come from. This is crucial for all activists, regardless of whether we consider our beliefs and actions to be of interest to the state. For myself, I will be paying closer attention to avoid being a weak link in the surveillance and information chain – to protect myself and those with whom I have contact.
25 maart 2015
Buro Jansen & Janssen
Find this story at 25 March 2015
article in pdf
Cross-border undercover networks are a ‘global puzzle’
8 april 2015
Exposure of police spy Mark Kennedy revealed a little about international espionage, but much remains hidden
More light has been shed recently on a particularly hidden area of undercover policing. The Mark Kennedy controversy helped to provide a little glimpse of this, but much remains unknown.
During his seven years infiltrating the environmental movement, Kennedy spent quite a lot of time spying on, and disrupting, activists in other countries.
The Channel Four documentary on him called him ’the go-to cop for foreign governments who needed information about their own activists’.
He was deployed in 11 countries on 40 occasions, according to one official report. These countries included Germany, Denmark and Iceland. In Denmark, for instance, he says that he infiltrated a Danish community centre that had housed progressive causes for more than a century, obtaining intelligence to help police storm it and close it down in violent raids.
Mark Jacobs was another of the undercover officers who appears to have engaged in frequent Euro-travel to monitor campaigners.
What has emerged is a highly secretive official apparatus among governments for organising and co-ordinating this cross-border espionage. There appears to be a network of clandestine bodies in which police and governments manage the infiltration and surveillance of political as well as criminal groups.
We would of course be interested in any information on this subject.
Statewatch, which monitors civil liberties in Europe, has recently published this here, noting :”Information currently in the public domain makes up only a small piece of a global puzzle of police working groups and networks dealing with infiltration, intrusion and surveillance not just of criminal groups, but political activists”.
One politician who has pursued this with some vigour is German MP Andrej Hunko. He has recently published a detailed document collating information about these official networks, mainly from official answers in the German Parliament. It can be found here at the end of this document.
Hunko said :”When police forces and intelligence services engage in international cooperation, parliamentary oversight is the loser. The increasing significance of undercover police networks is making this situation far more critical.”
He added that Kennedy’s “infiltration of European leftist movements exemplifies police cooperation conducted beyond the bounds of parliamentary oversight. It remains unclear under whose orders the undercover investigator was operating during the years of his activity.”
He added :”The Icelandic police are stubbornly rejecting requests from the Minister of Justice to release full details of his activity into the public domain, claiming that disclosure would prejudice British security interests. Even though Members of the Icelandic Parliament have a right to ask questions on police matters, they are not being given any information.”
The British government has not disclosed much about these confidential networks either.
Friday 31 August 2012 15.33 BST Last modified on Wednesday 21 May 2014 08.01 BST
Find this story at 31 August 2012
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Political secret police units
8 april 2015
Don’t let the police self-investigations like Operation Herne fool you with their focus on the disbanded Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) – this is not a historic problem. The political secret police are still with us says Merrick Godhaven.
The shift from different units leaves us whirling in acronyms. Here, as far as I’m able to tell, is what’s what (corrections welcome!). It’s an alphabet soup of acronyms that swirl before the eyes, so thanks to Jane Lawson for designing the diagram below to make it easier to grasp.
In the beginning
The SDS was a secret unit within Special Branch from 1968 to 2008. Formed as the Special Operations Squad after a demonstration against the Vietnam War kicked off in March 1968, its temporary infiltration was decided to be useful and made permanent at the end of the year. Somewhere in late 1972 or early 1973 it was renamed the Special Demonstration Squad, a moniker it kept until around 1997 when it was renamed the Special Duties Section.
There were other units who amassed and collated intelligence from the SDS and other sources.
The Animal Rights National Index (ARNI), had been set up in 1986. It seems that it may have expanded to include activists from other movements. Around the same time the Southern Intelligence Unit (SIU) was based in Wiltshire and, with its Cumbrian sister team the Northern Intelligence Unit (NIU), ran a database of eco protesters, ravers, travellers and free party types. There is some indication of a third unit that focused on hunt saboteurs. These units had no ‘operational role’ of fake-identity spies in the field, they just gathered information and advised police forces.
Now comes the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Sounds like a cosy staff body, and indeed it was more like that when it was formed in 1948. But in 1997 it became a private company and got itself funding to flog police information. Then it took on running the spy stuff by establishing the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).
National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU)
Established in March 1999 the NPOIU was, along with the Terrorism Act 2000, ID cards and detention without trial, part of a raft of New Labour attacks on civil liberties (those who think of state repression as being a right wing tendency should note that the SDS was also founded by a Labour government). Operation Herne, the police’s self-investigation into secret political policing, says that the NPOIU was formed as a reaction to the large 1995 protests against the export of live animals from Shoreham in Sussex.
The running of the NPOIU was given to the Met, and so it was, to all intents and purposes, a unit within the Met’s Special Branch. Although it used serving Met officers for NPOIU spies, because ACPO was (and still is) a private company it was exempt from Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation and so protected even further from public scrutiny.
Like the SDS, the NPOIU was directly funded by the Home Office, which hints at an answer to the big question – who ordered all this spying and authorised its methods?
The NPOIU absorbed SIU/NIU and effectively replaced ARNI running a database of political activists. It also had an ‘operational role,’ that is to say they deployed undercover agents in target groups under the aegis of its Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU). Whilst the SDS was London-based, the CIU officers from the NPOIU went national. The NPOIU was granted a huge budget and began by putting an officer using the stolen identity ‘Rod Richardson’ into a group of anti-capitalist activists in Nottingham.
Within a couple of months of Richardson’s departure in 2003, those activists were joined by Mark Kennedy, aka Mark Stone. It was his exposure by activists in late 2010 that alerted the world to the existence of the political secret police.
For Operation Herne and other inquiries to focus on the long-defunct SDS but leave out the most notorious undercover officer of them all shows how incomplete an SDS-only picture is. Some managers worked for both the SDS and NPOIU, and officers from both units knowingly overlapped in deployments. Whilst SDS and NPOIU officers knew each other, nonetheless there may well have been some rivalry. As the case of ‘Rod Richardson’ shows, the NPOIU wasn’t initially warned against using the woefully anachronistic practice of stealing the identities of dead children.
As an aside, in 2001 the former ARNI boss Rod Leeming left Special Branch to set up a private spy firm Global Open. In early 2010 he head-hunted Mark Kennedy before his police contract had even finished. This indicates that that it’s a fairly standard career path, and suggests such firms are tipped off about officers who are leaving and cold-call them. It seems unlikely that Kennedy was the first one they got. With virtually no oversight or firm rules, private spies can stay in the field indefinitely. Indeed, had Kennedy been smart enough to change his name by deed poll to Mark Stone, he’d have had ID in the right name and would probably still be spying today.Undercover units chart
(Click to enlarge the chart)
The unholy trinity – NPOIU, NETCU and NDET
In 2004 ACPO created a new post, the National Co-ordinator Domestic Extremism, which oversaw both the NPOIU and a new unit, the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU). NETCU was established during the drafting of the 2005 amendment Serious Organised Crime and Police Act which made it illegal to ‘interfere with the contractual relations of an animal research organisation’ or to ‘intimidate’ employees of an animal research organisation. Run from Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, NETCU’s remit was defined as ‘prevention’ and it was tasked with helping companies such as Huntingdon Life Sciences frustrate campaigns waged against them by animal rights activists.
NETCU didn’t just advise corporations about threats to their profits from campaigns, it took a proactive political role in discrediting and undermining those campaigns. Its website linked to the pro-vivisection Research Defence Society, and the unit issued several press releases boasting of activists being prevented from doing street collections.
NETCU’s ‘mission-creep’ saw it move to encompass environmental and climate activists. It also helped the illegal construction blacklisting company the Consulting Association (as documentation from a November 2008 meeting between NETCU and the Consulting Association obtained through an FoI request confirms). Additionally, the Independent Police Complaints Commission says it was likely that every constabulary’s Special Branch will have supplied information about citizens to the construction blacklist.
A third ACPO unit, the National Domestic Extremism Team, was set up in 2005. It was intended to provide an investigatory function, drawing on intelligence gathered through NPOIU spies as well as Forward Intelligence Teams and Evidence Gatherers, for use by forces across the country. All three ACPO units – the NPOIU, NETCU and the NDET – were overseen by the National Co-ordinator Domestic Extremism, or NCDE. Around the same time, direct management of the NPOIU (and presumably the two allied units) passed to ACPO.
Goodbye SDS, hello NDEU
In 2006 the Metropolitan Police’s merged its intelligence-oriented Special Branch (aka SO12) with the investigatory Anti-Terrorist Branch (SO13) to form Counter Terrorism Command (known as SO15). It was headed by Richard Walton, until he was moved from his post following revelations about his key role in the SDS’ spying on Stephen Lawrence’s family in the Ellison report earlier this year.
With Special Branch, the SDS’ parent unit, now part of Counter Terrorism Command and much of the SDS’s work superseded by the NPOIU, the SDS faded. It has been suggested that when Counter Terrorism Command officers took over the SDS they were alarmed at its targets and methods and moved to close it down. The unit is described as ‘having lost its moral compass’ by the time of its closure in 2008 – as if it ever had one in the first place.
The three ACPO units (the NPOIU, NETCU and the NDET) were merged into the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU) in early 2011. At that time they had a combined budget of around £9m per year.
At the same time as the name change, management of the unit was then passed from the FoI scrutiny-shielded ‘private company’ ACPO to the (not exactly accountable themselves) Metropolitan Police under the ‘lead force’ model. There had been several reviews pushing for this, including Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s report ‘Counter Terrorism Value For Money’.
Certainly, it will have taken a lot of discussion and planning so it seems very unlikely that the exposure of Kennedy in October 2010 played a part. This didn’t stop government ministers trying to portray it as a response a mere week after the Kennedy story hit the media.
The NDEU was brought to operate under the umbrella of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.
As happened when they were three separate units, all the ACPO political police operations under the NDEU were overseen by the National Co-ordinator Domestic Extremism, though the rank for the post was downgraded from Assistant Chief Constable to Chief Superintendent, the first holder of the post being Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway.
Despite the budget for political spy units being public when they were run by ACPO, in 2012 the Met refused to follow suit, and with its gift for exaggerated flourishes it cited text from an Al-Qaeda training manual by way of a reason.
Modern times: mergers and yet another acronym
The unit’s remit changed at the same time as its restructure and it no longer carries out undercover operations. It has taken on the ‘prevention and detection’ tracks previously associated with NETCU and NDET, maintaining a database of activists and working with companies and organisations that activists campaign against. Kennedy-style deployments of undercover officers are now run either by the Special Project Team (SPT) of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, or one of the regional SPTs run by North West, North East and West Midlands Counter Terrorism Units.
Official reports say that this change is, indeed, a result of the exposure of undercover officers as the established anti-terrorism units were felt to have ‘more robust procedures for the deployment of undercover officers’ than their NPOIU/SDS-derived police equivalents.
In April 2011 Tudway sent a private email confirming that the English Defence League were not domestic extremists. Organising racist violence on the streets is fine because it’s understood and safe, whereas fluffy but explicitly anti-capitalist things like Climate Camp get multiple officers like Mark Kennedy and Lynn Watson. This isn’t key to the story, it just illustrates the fact that it’s not threat of political public disorder, damage to property or violence to citizens that concerns the secret police – it’s threats to the present parliamentary political norm and police credibility.
In 2012 the NDEU split its work into two sub-units. The Protest and Disorder Intelligence Unit (PDIU) collates and provides strategic analysis relating to protest and disorder across the UK, whilst the Domestic Extremism Intelligence Unit (DEIU) provides strategic analysis of domestic extremism intelligence within the UK and overseas.
Quite how they define ‘protesters’ as separate from ‘domestic extremists’ isn’t clear. Given their very wide and loose use of ‘domestic extremism’ in the past, it is worrying that they feel the need to spy on even less dangerous campaigners. But it was ever thus. As Merlyn Rees, Home Secretary in the Labour government 1976-79, said, the role of Special Branch is “to collect information on those who I think cause problems for the state”. Although the two subunits are physically separate, they share an intelligence database, the National Special Branch Intelligence System (NSBIS), implying that there is no clear boundary between protesters and domestic extremists.
As if in an attempt to close the book on an embarrassing subject, in May 2013 the NDEU was renamed the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU).
But there is no reason to believe that the outrages perpetrated by the SDS, NPOIU and associated units have stopped, despite the musical chairs and name changes. When political campaigns are counter-democratically undermined by the state, and participants subjected to sustained psychological and sexual abuse, changing the acronym doesn’t change the immorality and injustice.
Thursday, 05 February 2015 04:54
By Merrick Godhaven
Find this story at 5 February 2015
How Special Branch Spied on Animal Rights Movement
8 april 2015
Since 2010 there have been revelations about police infiltration of protest groups. For over 40 years the state sanctioned the use of undercover police to gain intelligence on political activists, including animal rights campaigners.
Though it was widely assumed that groups were under surveillance, no-one would have imagined the extent to which the secret state burrowed deep into organisations, established close friendships and sexual relationships with activists, and broke the law to further its objectives. This article will explain how it happened and what can be learnt from it.
The Special Demonstrations Squad
The story begins in 1968, when tens of thousands of people marched against the Vietnam War. In March there was rioting as protesters fought with police outside the American Embassy in London and the government was so alarmed that it set up of the Special Demonstrations Squad (SDS).
Although the police had used undercover officers before to catch criminals, this was as Rob Evans and Paul Lewis say in their book ‘Undercover’, ‘a new concept in policing.’ Special Branch officers transformed themselves into activists and lived amongst their targets for several years. They changed their appearance and used fake identities to penetrate political groups to the highest levels to gain intelligence and to enable the police to maintain public order. The nickname for the SDS was ‘the hairies’ because – in the early days at least – their operatives had to grow their hair long in order in order to blend into the milieu of radical politics.
The job of the SDS was to infiltrate groups considered subversive which meant those that ‘threatened the safety or well-being of the state or undermined parliamentary democracy’. Initially this meant mainly Marxist or Trotskyist groups, as well as the anti-apartheid movement in the seventies.
The eighties: Robert Lambert
By the early eighties, however, the animal rights movement had become established. It was attracting thousands of people on protest marches against vivisection and groups like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) were rescuing animals and damaging property. To the state this was a dangerous and subversive threat.
Evans and Lewis say Special Branch first became involved when one of its operatives was deployed at the World Day for Lab Animals march in April 1983. Shortly afterwards a second spy was sent in. His name was Robert Lambert and he became an almost legendary figure amongst his colleagues. For the activists who knew him he was equally unforgettable, though nowadays it is for all the wrong reasons.
Lambert called himself Bob Robinson. Like all SDS agents he stole the identity of a dead child. Mark Robert Robinson died aged seven in 1959, only to be quietly resurrected 24 years later by Lambert who would have found his birth and death certificates. He was then given a forged driving licence, passport and other documents. This procedure was known in SDS circles as the ‘Jackal Run’ because it was based on the book, ‘The Day of the Jackal’.
Lambert quickly immersed himself in the world of animal rights by going to protests and meetings. At a demo outside Hackney Town Hall he met Jackie, 12 years younger than him, and they soon started a relationship and their son was born in 1985. Lambert was already married with two children but knew an activist girlfriend would give his cover an added dimension, making him appear a fully rounded, genuine person.
London Greenpeace and the ALF
In 1984 Lambert became involved in London Greenpeace (LG). This wasn’t an AR group as such but a radical organisation (not to be confused with the much larger Greenpeace International) that embraced anarchism and direct action. Up to then it had been mainly concerned with anti-nuclear and environmental issues but in the mid-eighties it adopted much more of an animal liberation stance.
The first LG meeting I attended was a public meeting with a speaker from the ALF in 1985. Lambert chaired the discussion and obviously had a prominent role in the group. He soon became a close friend. Like all the spies that followed him, Lambert had a van that was used to take people to demos. He said he was a gardener and needed a vehicle for his job.
Lambert’s mission was to infiltrate the ALF and he made it clear he was a strong supporter of illegal actions. In 1986 he organised a benefit gig for the ALF Supporters Group but kept back some of the takings to buy glass etching fluid, used to damage windows. Soon afterwards he confided to friends that he had dressed as a jogger and thrown paint stripper over a car belonging to the director of an animal laboratory.
He also wrote two notable publications. One was a simple A5 leaflet titled ‘You are the ALF!’ which exhorted people to do direct action themselves, not ask others to do so on their behalf. The other was a booklet called ‘London ALF News’ which had articles on the ALF and a diary of actions, including attacks he had carried out.
In July 1987 the ALF targeted three Debenhams’ department stores with incendiary devices because they sold fur. In two, water from the sprinklers caused hundreds of thousands of pounds in losses, but at the Luton branch they had been switched off and fire gutted the store, causing over £6m in damage.
Two months later, Andrew Clarke and Geoff Sheppard were caught at the latter’s bedsit in Tottenham in the act of making incendiary devices as the police burst in. In June 1988 at the Old Bailey Sheppard received 4 years and 4 months and Clarke 3 ½ years. Obviously the police had been tipped off but neither activist knew who it was until nearly 24 years later when Lambert was uncovered as a spy.
Lambert, according to Sheppard, was the third member of this cell. Neither activist suspected him but then they had good reason not to – as far as they were concerned he had planted the device in the Harrow store that caused £340,000 in damage.
The last time I saw Lambert was in a pub near the LG office in Kings Cross in November 1988. He was unusually downbeat as he told me his father who had dementia had just died and the values he fought for in World War II were dying too under Thatcherism. He also said Jackie had started a relationship with a fascist and he was no longer allowed to see his son. Both stories were lies and I now know he was preparing for his exit.
All undercover spies have an exit strategy, usually prepared months if not years in advance. Lamberts would have been devised around the time of the Debenhams action but departing too soon would have appeared suspicious. He waited for over a year, until he left allegedly on the run from Special Branch, which was in fact his employer. They even staged a fake raid at the flat where he was staying.
By the beginning of 1989 Bob Robinson was just a memory but LG already had another spy in its ranks. John Dines, using the surname Barker, had joined the group in October 1987. During the next year as he rose to prominence, Lambert was on the wane – going to fewer meetings and demos. This was a pattern that would be repeated time and time again.
Like his mentor, Lambert, Dines had van which he used for demos. He twice drove activists all the way to Yorkshire to sab grouse shoots and he also took them to a protest against Sun Valley Chickens in Herefordshire. While there he was apparently arrested but released without charge. He too produced an anonymous publication called ‘Business as Usual’, which comprised a diary of actions, and he also organised two benefit gigs for London Greenpeace in late 1989.
John Dines and McLibel
While LG was well known in activist circles – mainly for the anti-McDonald’s campaign it had started several years earlier – it hardly registered to the outside world. Most people confused it with Greenpeace International. All that began to change, however, when five of its supporters were sued for libel by McDonald’s in September 1990.
None of the defendants had written the pamphlet that was the subject of the writ; in fact three of them weren’t even part of the group at that time. Ironically Lambert had been one of the architects of the ‘What’s Wrong with McDonald’s’ factsheet but he was long gone.
McDonald’s placed several infiltrators of its own in the group from the autumn of 1989 onwards with the result that it became infested with spies. At some meetings there were more of them than genuine activists. These new corporate spies aroused suspicion – they didn’t quite fit in – and some of them were followed. One of those doing the following was Dines, together with Helen Steel, who would later be sued and become Dines’ girlfriend..
In January 1991 I and two others decided to cut our losses and apologise. Helen and Dave Morris carried on fighting the case as the McLibel 2. By their side was Dines who was the group’s treasurer and a key player. He relayed the legal advice they received and the tactical discussions they had with other group members back to his bosses in the SDS who then passed it on to McDonald’s. Several years later the McLibel trial revealed that Special Branch and McDonald’s had exchanged information about London Greenpeace. Morris and Steel sued the Metropolitan Police over this and received £10,000 in an out of court settlement and an apology.
London Boots Action Group: Andy Davey and Matt Rayner
By the early nineties the animal rights movement was on a roll again and three activists decided to set up a new London-wide organisation called London Boots Action Group (LBAG), to target Boots plc, which at that time did animal testing. LBAG was unashamedly pro-direct action so it is no surprise that it became a target for the SDS. The group was launched in November 1991 with a public meeting that attracted nearly 100 people, two of whom were spies.
Andy Davey and Matt Rayner were two of the many new people to join the fledgling group. But they were slightly different – they had vans, which made them both unusual and useful, and they got quickly involved. Both also had jobs (quite rare in those days as many activists were either unemployed or students). Davey was a ‘man with a van’ removal service – his nickname was ‘Andy Van’ – while Rayner said he worked for a company that delivered musical instruments.
Each lived in a bedsit, Davey in Streatham, south London, Rayner in north London. They even looked similar – tall, dark haired and with glasses, and spoke with Home Counties accents. What set Davey apart from other agents was his dog, named Lucy who came from an animal rescue person that lived locally. His bosses probably decided he would appear a more authentic activist if he had a companion animal.
Personality-wise they differed though. While Rayner was easy going and friendly, enjoying social situations, Davey had a somewhat hesitant and nervous manner and could at times appear too eager to please. Initially there were suspicions about both but they quickly assimilated into the protest scene. They would have known who each other were, as their unit had only about a dozen operatives at any time, but they weren’t close. This meant that if one spy was uncovered, the other wouldn’t fall under suspicion.
It was not common practice for two spies to be placed in the same group. In the book Undercover, the whistleblower Peter Francis says the SDS had two animal rights spies when he joined it in January 1993. This was indicative of the threat posed by animal rights in general and LBAG in particular.
Davey was so well entrenched that he begun to produce the group’s newsletter. Shortly afterwards he also transferred the mailing list onto a computer. We were in the era when some organisations still did not have their own PC or internet access and his IT expertise was considered invaluable. Spies are trained to exploit skills shortages like this, to ensure they become trusted and above suspicion.
Rayner, too, was a fixture in the London scene. He would usually be the one to drive activists to demos outside London. A notable example was the 1993 Grand National when he took a vanload of people to Aintree. This was the year the race had to be abandoned because the course was invaded, costing the betting industry over £60m.
In 1995 – following former spy Dines’ example – he drove a carload of saboteurs to the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ to sab a grouse shoot. While there he was arrested and taken into police custody, only to be released a few hours later. He wasn’t charged but this brush with the law only served to improve his standing.
London Animal Action: Davey’s exit
Rayner had a long term relationship with a female activist. Davey never managed this though it wasn’t for want of trying and he gained a reputation as a lecher. This no doubt undermined his status – some saw him as a bit sad, others didn’t really take to him – and it probably played a part in the decision to take him out of the group. This happened quickly as he announced he was ‘stressed’ and was going to Eastern Europe. The double life he was leading was probably taking its toll as well. He left in February 1995 with a farewell social to which only a few people came. Shortly afterwards a hunt sab whom he knew received a couple of letters postmarked abroad.
As Davey’s exit was hasty, the spy who replaced him joined London Animal Action – as LBAG was now called – around the same time he left. Unusually the new agent was female and her name was Christine Green. As she set about inveigling herself into the group, Rayner’s deployment was reaching its climax. In May 1995 Geoff Sheppard’s flat was raided again by the police where they found materials for making an incendiary device and a sawn-off shotgun. In October he was sentenced to seven years in prison.
After Geoff’s release we speculated on why the police had chosen him. Devices were being placed in various targets and it appeared to have been simply a chance raid due to his arrest in the eighties. However, it is now clear that Rayner set Geoff up just as Lambert had done years earlier. No-one suspected him of the sting because he was, like his boss had been, an established and trusted of the group: by 1995 he was LAA treasurer.
Lambert the spymaster
By the mid-nineties Lambert was the operational manager of the SDS thanks to his ‘legendary tour of duty’ a decade earlier. According to Evans and Lewis he was ‘the gaffer…pulling the strings like a puppet-master’ and he used his experience to guide a new generation of infiltrators who were in some cases spying on the same activists as he had. Geoff was one of those and he describes Rayner as being ‘up to his neck’ in direct action. The final proof came in April 2013 when it was discovered the real Matthew Rayner died aged four in 1972. We still don’t know his true identity.
One of Lambert’s first duties when he re-joined the SDS was to write a report on a spy who had ‘gone rogue’ named Mike Chitty. Chitty – known as Mike Blake – had penetrated the animal rights movement in London at the same time as Lambert but in comparison his deployment had been a failure. It resulted in no high-profile ALF arrests and it seems he enjoyed socialising more than targeting subversives. Even worse, when his deployment finished he returned to his activist comrades, leading a double life unbeknownst to his employers or his wife. He was eventually pensioned off after he began legal action against the Met for the stress he suffered due to his covert role.
Rayner’s exit strategy
Clearly not everybody could cope with the demands of undercover work. Davey may have been one of those but Rayner made of different stuff. His exit strategy was masterly in execution, bearing the hallmark of his mentor and manager, Lambert, who had written a report highlighting the importance of ‘carefully crafted withdrawal plans’ to convince ‘increasingly security-conscious target groups of the authenticity of a manufactured departure…inevitably this entails travel to a foreign country.’
In November1996 Rayner apparently went to work in France for a wine company. He had always liked France and could speak the language fluently. To a few close friends he mentioned his unease with activism after being raided by the police and the breakdown of the relationship with his girlfriend. Very well liked, he was given a big going away party, presented with a camera from the group and a speech wishing him well in his new life.
The next day he drove to France in his van and with him were two activist friends. At the port they were questioned by a police officer who said he was from Special Branch before letting them go on their way. This plan was concocted for the activists’ benefit in the knowledge they would tell others about it, lending further credibility to Rayner’s exit. A few weeks later he briefly came back to London and met up with friends before supposedly returning to France for good. Then over a period of about a year letters were sent and phone messages were left saying he had moved to Argentina, and after that he was never heard from again.
By 1997 Green was occupying a key part of the group, driving activists to demos, going to meetings and mailouts and taking part in protests, as her predecessors had done. She had even taken over Rayner’s role of group treasurer. The same pattern repeating itself but no-one was aware of it. For the next two years Green appears to have been the only spy in LAA. Perhaps there was another who remains unexposed – though this seems unlikely – or the SDS may have deployed another spy elsewhere.
To enhance her cover, Green began a relationship with a well-known hunt saboteur whose job was a coach driver and they took coach loads of protesters to some of the high profile demos of the time, for example at Hillgrove Farm. There is no suggestion that the sab was a spy. There was speculation surrounding her, however: she was not always easy to get along with – though she did make some friends -and she always carried the same bag around with her, which inevitably drew suspicion.
Towards the end of 1999 Green let it be known she was tired with activism. Early in 2000 she said she was departing to Australia for a relative’s funeral and would stay there travelling. About a year later, though, she reappeared and made contact with a few activist friends. Several years later in 2010 she cropped up once more, this time in Cornwall where she was spotted with the same boyfriend in a veggie café. Someone who knew them from LAA tried to have a chat and was all but ignored.
Green’s replacement in and the last known SDS spy was Dave Evans. Like Dines he appeared to be from New Zealand and he had the same rugged appearance. He had a van and was a gardener too, so very much in the Lambert mould, except his personality couldn’t have been more different. While his boss was amiable, even charming, Evans could be a bit peevish and erratic: once he turned up at a demo then left after only a few minutes saying his flatmate was locked out. Typically spies spent five or six days in the field, only returning to their families for one night per week, but on one occasion he went missing for so long that people became concerned and went round to his flat.
A lot of the time he gave the impression of not being very committed and more interested in the social side of the group. LAA had a big drinking culture which he took to like a duck to water and he often took part in fundraising at festivals by working in bars. In SDS parlance he was a ‘shallow paddler’, not a ‘deep swimmer’.
In the last year or so of his deployment, Evans’ involvement in animal rights tapered off somewhat and it was recently revealed that his flatmate was Jason Bishop, a spy active in anti-capitalist groups. The pair drove minibuses to the G8 protests in Scotland in 2005. Both were arrested with other activists for conspiracy to commit a breach of the peace but the charges were dropped.
Evans’ exit and the end of the SDS
Evans was last seen at the AR Gathering in 2005. While sitting around a bonfire he began asking other activists questions about LAA, which had just folded after its bank account containing thousands of pounds was seized by Huntingdon Life Sciences. The mask slipped and it became obvious that he was a cop. He must have realised this because he left the next morning and was never seen again. Evans was the last known SDS spy in London animal rights circles. There were also at least two corporate infiltrators during this period, one of whom worked her way up to be group treasurer before she was uncovered.
In 2008 the SDS was disbanded, its functions supplanted by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) set up a few years earlier. This was one of three pillars of a new secret state established by the Labour government to combat ‘domestic extremism’, a term which encompassed anyone who wanted to ‘prevent something happening or to change legislation or domestic policy outside of the normal democratic process.’ The others were the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) and the National Domestic Extremism Team.
There is no reason to believe that intelligence gathering has diminished in the last few years. The animal rights movement has been perceived as less of a threat, mainly due to the imprisonment of certain activists, but the emergence of the anti-badger cull campaign will undoubtedly lead to an increase in surveillance and spying. The ‘Undercover’ book also mentions a recent spy in the Welsh animal rights scene but does not go into detail.
Conclusion: (1) How were we duped?
With the benefit of hindsight it appears obvious that animal rights groups in London were targeted by undercover police who followed the same pattern over a period of at least two decades. In that case why did no-one find out what was going on?
The answer lies in Lambert, the spymaster, who established the template the rest followed. For 23 years ‘Bob’ as he was known was held in such high esteem and affection that his authenticity wasn’t doubted. He was one of us, an anarchist and animal liberationist, who had fled overseas to build a new life. Nobody guessed he was working just a few miles away at Scotland Yard.
The agents that followed – Dines, Davey, Rayner, Green and Evans – did attract suspicion but only individually, not as a sequence. The people they spied upon were activists fighting for animal rights and a better world, welcoming of outsiders into their groups, not spycatchers. Moreover the suspicions were usually no more than of the ‘they are a bit dodgy’ variety, with little or no concrete evidence. Many people have been falsely accused in this way over the years.
The whole thing finally fell apart thanks to the determination of two women: Helen Steel and Laura, the girlfriend of a spy called Jim Boyling, whom she met in Reclaim the Streets in 1999. She managed to track him down after he left her and he confessed about Lambert and Dines. Helen had spent years searching for the latter after he supposedly ran off abroad in 1992. By 2010 she knew he had been a cop but it was Laura who confirmed that he was also a spy. At the same time Mark Kennedy, who worked for the NPOIU, was unmasked.
Conclusion: (2) What difference does it make?
The next important question is what difference does it make? Isn’t this just history? While a lot of this happened a long time ago it does stretch up almost to the present. Those who experienced this also have to show what the state is capable of doing to other, newer activists. Should we should trust politicians and believe the promises made by political parties or is the state fundamentally a force for repression? Can we cooperate with a system that tries to disrupt and undermine groups and individuals in this way?
What went on still matters because when we sweep away all the intrigue and scandal, we are left with a very simple fact: the spies were there to prevent animals being saved. This article has concentrated on what occurred in London because that’s where the writer has mainly been active but there is no question that infiltration went on elsewhere. We know, for instance, that there was a spy active inside SHAC before the mass arrests of 2007.
Many people have been arrested, convicted and even imprisoned during the struggle for animal rights and if it can be proved that a spy was involved, then those convictions are possibly unsafe. Even if their role was only driving activists to a demo where they were arrested, then there could be good grounds for an appeal. This is especially true if those nicked discussed their case with the spy, because this information would have been passed on to the police.
So far a total of 56 convictions or attempted prosecutions of environmental protesters have been overturned, abandoned or called into question over the past two years following disclosures surrounding the activities of undercover police officers. Most of these relate to Mark Kennedy and two climate change actions against power stations in 2008 and 2009.
Most defendants are being represented by Mike Schwarz from Bindmans and he has said he is keen to act for animal rights campaigners who want to try to overturn their convictions. But in order to do that we first have to find out who the spies were.
Conclusion: (3) Learning the lessons
There are no fewer than 15 investigations taking police into the role of undercover police. The main one is Operation Herne which is an internal Metropolitan Police enquiry This will last up to three years and cost millions of pounds but many of the victims of the SDS, including women who had relationships with spies, are boycotting it. They have instead called for an independent public enquiry as when the police investigate themselves the result is inevitably a whitewash.
What can activists themselves learn? Well firstly we should not succumb to paranoia. This may sound strange after what we know now but it is important to realise that the spies were in a small minority. Yes there were several in LBAG/LAA over the years but the group was large and regularly attracted over 50 people to its meetings.
There are, however, commonsense precautions that can be taken. The modus operandi of Special Branch agents – such as using dead children’s’ identities and driving vans – will not be replicated by current spies but if there are certain aspects of a person’s behaviour that don’t make sense or appear suspicious , then it is entirely reasonable to find out the truth. If that means questioning the person to ascertain whether they are a bone fide activist, then so be it. A genuine person would not object to this line of enquiry if the reason for it were explained to them.
Finally the lesson to take from all this is that we are making a difference. The state would not have invested such huge resources in trying to undermine the animal rights movement if it did not fear what we stand for. This is something we should be proud of.
If you have any further information or would like to join an email distribution list called ARspycatcher please contact: ARspycatcher@riseup.net
Buro Jansen & Janssen
Find this story at 26 February 2014
On the trail of Britain’s undercover police
8 april 2015
Recent revelations have exposed the routine embedding of undercover police officers within environmental and social justice campaigns. But piecing together the public evidence on undercover police tactics brings as many questions as answers.
When activists exposed their long-term comrade Mark Stone as police officer Mark Kennedy in 2010, the British public was stunned. On the surface he appeared indistinguishable from his ’targets’. The long-haired, pierced and tattooed man had lived among environmental and social justice groups for seven years. Perhaps most shockingly, he had long-term sexual relationships with activists, including a woman he lived with as a committed partner for six years.
Senior police initially portrayed Mark Kennedy as a rogue officer who had strayed off mission. But a swift flurry of further unmaskings have shown his tactics to be textbook methods, endemic in Britain’s secret police.
Since they were formed amidst the political upheaval of 1968, around 150 officers of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) – later the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, and nowadays the National Domestic Extremism Unit – have infiltrated political groups this way. Behaving in a similar manner to the earlier COINTELPRO operation in the USA, their secret, counter-democratic remit finds them deeply and seriously involved in far left, animal rights, environmental, peace, anti-racist, and far right groups.
The secret police do not gather evidence to be used in court. Instead, they infiltrate groups, collecting information on individual campaigners. The aim is to preemptively disrupt a threat before it begins. Sometimes it is a threat of violence on the streets but much more often it is a threat to corporate profits, to police credibility or to the dominance of capitalist ideology. Being critical of corporations and government policies, being the victim of police corruption, or holding anti-capitalist views, is deemed ‘subversive’ in itself.
Their work has included undermining numerous justice and anti-racism campaigns for people who either died in police custody or whose deaths were under-investigated by police. The undercovers would get actively involved in the campaigns, even holding official positions, looking for personal information with which to discredit the participants – including the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.
In going so deep undercover with so little oversight, officers have sometimes crossed the line to become agent provocateurs, instigating the very activities they are there to prevent.
Twelve officers have now been exposed. Almost all of them had sexual relations with the citizens they targeted, most of them having serious relationships that integrated them into activists’ lives, work and families. Sexual relationships with targets provided a fast track into the social circle and staved off potential suspicions. One woman explained how she had been used to get social credibility: ‘people trusted me, people knew that I was who I said I was, and people believed, therefore, that he must be who he said he was because he was so welcomed into my family’.
Three of the exposed officers fathered children. This included the man who would go on to be in charge of SDS operations, Bob Lambert, who had a planned pregnancy with one of his activist girlfriends, being present at the birth before disappearing from their lives three years later. The mother of his child only found out the truth by reading a newspaper article 25 years later in June 2012.
The police need a warrant from a judge to search your home once. Yet the secret police decided for themselves to send these men to move in and stay for years, sharing an activist’s innermost feelings and of course the details of their political plans and legal cases. It is the most complete invasion of privacy that it is possible for the state to enact.
The women would think they were meeting The One when it wasn’t even a person – it was a mask, a set of techniques. The whole relationship was controlled, monitored and quite possibly directed by an unseen group of analyst officers. The lasting trauma visited on the women was seen as just collateral damage.
The women were not giving informed consent to the relationships. Had they known the men’s true identities, they would not have allowed them close. One of them has said it feels ‘like being repeatedly raped by the state’. They have been left psychologically devastated, their judgment and trust shattered, unable to form new relationships as they used to.
To create false identities that have official documentation such as passports and driving licenses, a large proportion of officers stole the identity of someone who died as a child. A recent internal police report concedes it was ‘an established practice that new officers were taught’. It is believed that around a hundred secret police officers did it between 1973 and around 2005.
This is not merely in poor taste. Social justice campaigner Helen Steel tried to track down John Barker, a boyfriend who had disappeared. She got the birth certificate and went to the address on it, discovering that ‘John Barker’ was a boy who died of leukemia aged eight. Her boyfriend was police officer John Dines, who had passed off Barker’s identity as his own.
The real John Barker’s brother Anthony spoke of the danger that the police put unwitting bereaved families in: “Imagine that policeman had infiltrated a violent gang or made friends with a volatile person, then disappeared, just like this man did. Someone wanting revenge would have tracked us down to our front door – but they wouldn’t have wanted a cup of tea and a chat, like this woman.”
Miscarriages of justice
Undercover officers have been arrested and prosecuted under their false identities, committing perjury whilst bolstering their undercover identities. In the case of undercover police officer Jim Boyling, prosecution under his false identity granted him access to confidential meetings with lawyers as one of the ‘defendants’.
The judicial process has been undermined in other ways by the presence of undercover police: most shockingly through the withholding of evidence that exonerated accused activists.
In April 2009, Mark Kennedy was part of a group of 114 climate activists preemptively arrested at a meeting for conspiring to shut down a coal-fired power station. Kennedy was the intelligence source for this police action, and had secretly recorded the gathering prior to the police raid. Despite the fact that Kennedy’s surveillance tapes exonerated many of the arrested activists, it was not disclosed to the defence at the subsequent trial, and 20 people were convicted of conspiracy.
A later trial of six others charged with conspiracy occurred following the exposure of Kennedy as a police spy. Prosecutors were forced to disclose the previously withheld evidence – and the case collapsed.
This wasn’t just a police cover-up. Senior members of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) knew of the planned action, and of police plans to preemptively arrest, before it even happened – including the use of an undercover officer. It seems clear that between the arrests and trials senior officials in the CPS worked with police to ensure that Kennedy’s crucial evidence did not come to light.
The original 20 activists had their convictions quashed, with the appeal judges saying that Kennedy had arguably been an agent provocateur and a juror at the original trial lambasting the ‘prolonged entrapment’ of the police operation. 29 convictions from another action that Kennedy was involved in are due to be overturned as well.
These miscarriages of justice were prevented or overturned only because Kennedy was exposed as an undercover police officer. If this one officer can set up at least 55 wrongful convictions, how many thousands can the secret police be responsible for? Even now, police policy to ‘neither confirm nor deny’ whether someone is an undercover police officer, is keeping similar cases in limbo.
A group of women who were in relationships with undercover officers are suing police – the managers who orchestrated it, not the individual officers – for assault as well as an assortment of crimes of deceit. They are suffering a double injustice. Firstly there was what was done to them, and now – just like with the wrongful convictions – there are the legion legal obstructions, delays and other tricks the police perform in order to avoid accountability and justice.
The human rights claims – infringement of the right to privacy and a family life – are to be heard in a bizarre secret tribunal. They do not get to be in court, to see what evidence the police present (or omit), do not get given the reasons for the judge’s verdict, and have no right to appeal.
So much for the right to a fair trial. The given reason is the protection of security around the secret police. But Mark Kennedy could scarcely be less secret: he hired the notorious press agent Max Clifford and sold his story to tabloid newspapers years ago.
As this scandal rolls on the authorities are forced to respond to the outcry. There have been 17 inquiries commissioned, largely just the police investigating themselves. Others have been given to satellite bodies, such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission or Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, who have an established record of obediently waving through the police’s requirements. Many will not be publishing their findings. All but one have been given very narrow remits that cannot join the dots to create a picture of any systemic problem.
The one inquiry taking a broader view is Operation Herne. It consists of 44 staff, the vast majority of whom are from the same Metropolitan Police force under investigation. They include serving officers who have their future careers to think of before flagging up anything that embarrasses their superiors. It is not due to report for several years and there is no promise to publish the findings. The overseeing officer, Chief Constable Mick Creedon, claims police will do a better job than the independent public inquiry that many people are calling for.
But with secrecy comes impunity. The very fact that the allegations involve secret police covering up the actions of other police who unarguably acted wrongly undermines the credibility of any police self-investigation. Some victims, like the Lawrence family, have much of their grievance based on the consistent failure of police self-investigation.
The smattering of reports out so far show that the truth is not being searched for. Worse than that, there is no redress for victims, nor believable assurances that the same disruption of justice, stifling of protesters and persecution of individuals has ended. The promised tightening up of rules about undercover policing merely requires authorisation from higher ranks and a bit more involvement of the compliant rubber-stamp body of Surveillance Commissioners.
Exporting police spies
After two years among British activists Mark Kennedy was hired out to other states, working in 14 different countries. Whilst under contract to the German police, Kennedy had sexual relationships with activists and, upon arrest for arson, disclosed only his false identity to the public prosecutor, all of which is illegal under German law. Questions abound over the German police’s hiring of this British police spy.
Tenacious research by German parliamentarian Andrej Hunko has revealed that such contracts are not piecemeal: shining light on the hitherto unknown European Co-ordination Group on Undercover Activities that organises and focuses undercover work.
Established in the 1980s, it is comprised of all EU member states and other countries such as the USA, Israel, South Africa and New Zealand, plus selected private companies. It meets irregularly and says it doesn’t keep minutes. According to the German government, the UK and Germany are the trailblazers in the group. Far from the undercover scandal being centred on a rogue officer or a rogue unit, the UK’s tactics seem to be part of a concerted effort in which governments and corporations act together across borders.
The big question
Three years on from Kennedy’s exposure, the flow of facts is not abating. As more activists uncover old spies and former officers come forward out of conscience, it seems that we have still barely begun to get the full story of Britain’s political secret police. It is also becoming clear that Britain is by no means unique in this.
Beyond the ‘who and what’ lies a bigger question – ‘why?’ Where do these monstrously intrusive, anti-democratic, ill-defined, open-ended missions come from? Do the police make them up for themselves? Or are they ordered from higher up? The stoic silence from British politicians seems telling.
We know that these activities, like the individual officers themselves, cross borders. Answers will not come from the UK police investigating themselves. Rather the police forces and governments involved across Europe must be compelled to reveal the truth.
MERRICK BADGER 13 August 2013
Find this story at 13 August 2013
Women start legal action against police chiefs over emotional trauma – their statement
8 april 2015
Eight women have started to sue police chiefs saying they were duped by undercover officers into forming long-term relationships. Below is the statement they have issued. One line has been removed for legal reasons.
Birnberg Peirce and partners have commenced legal action against the Metropolitan Police on behalf of eight women who were deceived into having long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers.
The five undercover officers* were all engaged in infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups between the mid 1980’s and 2010 and had relationships with the women lasting from seven months and the longest spanning nine years.
The women assert that the actions of the undercover officers breached their rights as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article 3 (no one shall be subject to inhumane and degrading treatment) and Article 8 (respect for private and family life, including the right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state).
The women are also bringing claims for deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence, and seek to highlight and prevent the continuation of psychological, emotional and sexual abuse of campaigners and others by undercover police officers.
After deceiving at least one woman into having a relationship with him, one of the officers, Bob Lambert, went on to supervise other undercover officers who had long term intimate relationships with campaigners. This, and the extended period in which these relationships were undertaken confirms that recently exposed police spies were not ‘rogue officers’, but were in fact part of an unacceptable pattern of engaging in long term intimate relationships (including embedding themselves in extended families) as part of the infiltration of environmental and other activist groups, which seems to have been condoned at high levels.
Through their collective experiences the women have identified a pattern that covers more than two decades of police operations and is therefore indicative of systemic abuse of female political activists involved in a range of different groups. Officers are given extensive training in how to spin tales, groom, deceive and embed themselves deeply in protest movements. After the women formed loving relationships with these men, they disappeared when their posting ended, leaving the women to cope with the trauma of not knowing whether or not the person they were in love with would return, not knowing if they should be worried or angry and trying to discover what was real and what was not. In one case where the officer re-appeared, his training enabled him to create a new deceit and further abuse the woman who had been left in a state of shock and trauma. The responsibility for the lasting damage this caused goes right back to the undercover operation by the Metropolitan police and the training they gave him in the art of duplicity.
The subsequent discovery that the men they had loved were in fact undercover police officers spying on them and others they knew was a horrifying experience, leaving the women with both a sense of violation and difficulties in trusting others and their own judgement. Discovering that the fundamentals of the relationship were lies has left them trying to comprehend how someone they shared dreams with, knew so intimately and trusted so deeply had never actually existed This abuse has had a severe and lasting emotional impact on those affected.
“We believe our case highlights institutionalised sexism within the police. It is incredible that if the police want to search someone’s house they are required to get the permission of a judge, yet if they want to send in an agent who may live and sleep with activists in their homes, this can happen without any apparent oversight!”
“We are bringing this case because we want to see an end to the sexual and psychological abuse of campaigners and others by undercover police officers. It is unacceptable that state agents can cultivate intimate and long lasting relationships with political activists in order to gain so called intelligence on those political movements.”
So far twelve inquiries have been set up in relation to undercover officers, however none of them are focussed on the human rights abuses perpetrated by the unit, none is independent and none of them are open and transparent.
* The five undercover officers are Mark Kennedy, Jim Boyling, Bob Lambert and two others who have not yet been exposed, known when undercover as John Barker and Mark Cassidy.
Friday 16 December 2011 19.45 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 20 May 2014 21.11 BST
Find this story at 16 December 2011
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Police Spies Out of Lives Support group for women’s legal action against undercover policing
8 april 2015
We are supporting the legal action by eight women deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers who were infiltrating environmental and social justice campaign groups.
In December 2011 eight women launched legal action against the Metropolitan Police and ACPO for the harm caused by undercover officers deceiving them into long term intimate relationships.
The women assert that the actions of the Metropolitan police officers breached their human rights, subjecting them to inhumane and degrading treatment, and disrespecting their private and family life and their right to form relationships without unjustified interference by the state.
The women are also bringing claims for deceit, assault, misfeasance in public office and negligence. They seek to highlight and prevent the continuation of psychological, emotional and sexual abuse of campaigners and others by undercover police officers.
Read more: The Case / Where We Stand
Police Spies Out Of Lives is a support group for the women involved with this case. It is not a legal entity, but a loose affiliation of concerned individuals, friends, and family members of the eight women who are bringing the case.
As part of our support, we are exposing the immoral and unjustified practice of undercover relationships, and the institutional prejudices which have led to the abuse. We are calling for an unequivocal end to the practice, a full inquiry into the past, and changes to prevent it ever happening again.
Find this story at December 2011
Five Eyes’ countries to meet on anti-terrorism fight -Canada
8 april 2015
OTTAWA, Jan 13 (Reuters) – The five nations that make up the world’s leading intelligence-sharing network will meet in London next month to confer on strategies to fight terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks, Canada said on Tuesday.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the so-called Five Eyes – the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand – had scheduled a meeting for Jan 22.
A Canadian government official later said the five would actually meet in London some time in February.
Blaney’s comments were unusual, since members of the Five Eyes network rarely talk about its activity.
“We’re going to have a meeting with our Five Eyes allies in London … and this is serious stuff. Terrorism will be there” on the agenda, he told CTV television.
U.S. intelligence officials have shared with their French counterparts information related to the travel history of those suspected of involvement in the Paris attacks, in which a total of 17 people died, a White House spokesman said on Tuesday.
Blaney gave no more details of the London meeting, save to say that U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson would be present.
Separately, the Canadian government official said the London event had been scheduled before the Paris attacks.
“The Five Eyes regularly meet to discuss shared concerns and approaches,” he said.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that the fight against terrorism would be “a major focus” of the meeting but declined to give more details.
The five nations that comprise the group divide the world into eavesdropping target sectors and share the results. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker)
Source: Reuters – Wed, 14 Jan 2015 01:37 GMT
By David Ljunggren
Find this story at 17 January 2015
Copyright © 2015 Thomson Reuters Foundation
Chilcot: we know Blair was to blame for Iraq, so this is already a work of history
8 april 2015
The best war inquiry was into the Charge of the Light Brigade. It was conducted by the poet Alfred Tennyson in eight weeks, and reached a one-line conclusion, “Someone had blunder’d.” It has never been bettered.
Everyone knows who blundered in Iraq. It was Tony Blair. Mild interest may still attach to the question, why? But no one is sitting in an agony of suspense. No great issue turns on the verdict. Even the Labour party, whose cringing submission to the whim of Blair must mean it carries a share of blame, has purged itself of guilt. The Iraq war is yesterday. It is history.
So why the shocked headlines about “Chilcot verdict delayed”? History is always late. We do not read “Mantel’s delayed verdict on Boleyn execution”; we do not read “Starkey late with verdict on Magna Carta”. The Chilcot inquiry was a ploy of Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, somehow to get his own back. At the time, in 2009, David Cameron said it was “an establishment stitch-up”. He little imagined it would be still be there when he was the establishment, and had to defend it.
The writing of Chilcot – its hearings ended in 2011 – has become a ghostly whodunnit. It has taken longer to write than War and Peace, and at a rumoured million words is near double the length. A post-edit, called Maxwellisation, grants a right of reply to those criticised, not just before publication but, it appears, before the conclusions are written. This mechanism is a victims’ racket for delay. It compares ill with the US Congress’s laudably savage report on the CIA and Iraq, published last month with no right-of-reply nonsense. (Will Chilcot, I wonder, disclose his Maxwellisation exchanges under freedom of information?)
The chief victim, Blair, has furiously protested that he is not playing a delaying game. He now seems to regard Iraq as a personal matter between him and God. More serious objection has come from the security service. Its addiction to prying into other people’s secrets is not reciprocated when others want to pry into its own. In addition, the American friends are apparently coy about Anglo-American relations in 2002-3. In particular, the disclosure of private chats between Blair and George Bush at Camp David would mean such chats would end, for ever.
I have some sympathy with the Americans (and the Brits) on this confidentiality. But Chilcot has already said he will redact such minutes and convey only the gist of them. Besides, what is new? Bob Woodward’s book Plan of Attack, published back in 2004, was based on interviews with Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and 74 others, with access to “personal notes, calendars, official and unofficial records, phone transcripts and memos”. It contains verbatim calls with Blair. With that and the witness evidence from the Chilcot hearings, notably from the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, it is hard to believe there are still “lessons to learn”.
Chilcot is a mountain made from a molehill. No recent event has been so scrutinised as the Iraq war, with the standard bibliography running to some 200 entries. It was always an American fiasco, with Britain as a bit player. Blair’s role was summed up in the excruciating “cojones” exchanges with Bush. The truth is that Chilcot should really be investigating a personal infatuation, not an invasion.
At some stage the concept of blame and responsibility has to pass from politicians and lawyers to historians. Some people feel that as long as there are victims, such as families of dead soldiers and civilians, there must be a quasi-judicial closure. I disagree. Like the current craze for “historical” sex prosecutions and repeated Hillsborough inquests, the cost of deflecting police and court resources must be prohibitive.
Chilcot can only be a work of history. The Iraq war was a tragedy for all concerned, apart from defence contractors, and one from which that country is suffering more than ever. There was no shortage of prior warnings. Like Vietnam, Iraq was a classic folly as described by the historian, Barbara Tuchman: “one perceived as counterproductive in its own time … recognised by contemporaries.”
Inquiries into such follies are political acts, conforming to the mood of the day, usually to exonerate or whitewash those in power at the expense of their enemies. The war in Afghanistan was every bit as foolish as Iraq, but it was regarded as a “good” intervention, and one that could hardly be pinned on Blair. No inquiry is in the offing.
The Franks report on the causes of the Falklands war was meant to expiate Thatcher’s guilt for leaving the islands undefended, and thus enable her to revel in her victory. Franks was shameless in confining any guilt to the body of his report, leaving Thatcher the joy of a final exoneration. He later attributed his whitewash to “the mood of the day”.
In the case of Bloody Sunday, “guilt” was erased by the mind-numbing delay of the Saville report, eventually published 38 years after the event, at a cost of £400m. Chilcot is a peccadillo against this shocker. Each of these inquiries gets longer. Between the world wars, they took an average of two months. By the 1960s, this had stretched to 11 months; since then the average is 20 months, not counting Saville and Chilcot. This has to be dreadful governance. Legal process obliterates clarity. “Fairness to all” is code for fees. The years roll by and guilt dissolves into tedium.
A public inquiry is a lantern on the stern, not a searchlight on the bow. The longer it takes, the less it is visible and the less people care. The ideal inquiry is immediate and quick, whatever the risk of unfairness. Better still would be Alice in Wonderland: “Inquiry first, decision afterwards.” Why was there no inquiry before Andrew Lansley’s reform to the NHS? Why none today into Trident renewal, or HS2, or last year’s “return to Iraq”, or those many government decisions of which, one day, someone will ask: who was the idiot? It is reminiscent of Orwell’s Crimestop, “the faculty of protective stupidity”.
David Davis MP calls the delay to Chilcot “incomprehensible”. The SNP’s Angus Robertson calls it “an absolute scandal”. But surely it is just a very expensive history book. I can see the old timers shrugging and switching the television to Wolf Hall. That is their sort of inquiry.
Wednesday 21 January 2015 19.22 GMT Last modified on Thursday 22 January 2015 00.04 GMT
Find this story at 22 January 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Chilcot report on Iraq war delayed until after general election
8 april 2015
Outcry at yet another postponement to findings of inquiry, which stopped taking evidence in 2011
The six-year-longBritish inquiry into the 2003 Iraq invasion and its aftermath will not be published before the general election, prompting an outcry from those demanding that the long overdue reckoning should be put before the voters.
Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the inquiry, will set out his reasons for the further postponement in an exchange of letters with David Cameron on Wednesday. The inquiry was set up in 2009 and took public evidence from its last witness in 2011.
The prime minister has already expressed his personal frustration at the repeated delays, and a cross-party group of backbenchers had been due to stage a debate and vote in parliament on 29 January, demanding publication before the election.
Tony Blair, the prime minister at the time of the war, has insisted he is not the culprit behind the delay in publication; his allies have suggested the blame lies with the civil service and sensitivities about the relations between the UK and US intelligence agencies.
There has been a stand-off between those demanding that the personal exchange of messages between the former US president George W Bush and Blair in the run-up to the war be published, and those saying such a move would represent an unprecedented breach of confidence concerning one of the most sensitive episodes in British foreign relations.
It is understood the publication date of the inquiry was discussed by the UK and American delegations when Cameron met Barack Obama at the White House last week. But the threat of a Commons vote will have added urgency to the issue.
In June last year Chilcot announced he was satisfied that the “gist” of talks between Blair and Bush could be made public, removing a big obstacle to publication of his report. Chilcot is understood to have sent “Salmon letters” to those who were to be criticised to give them an opportunity to respond before the report’s publication, which will have led to further delays following objections from those criticised.
The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, reacted furiously, saying the public, soldiers and families affected needed closure after six years of delay, adding that the public will think the findings are being “sexed down” to meet the needs of the establishment.
In a letter to Chilcot, he said: “I welcome your efforts to ensure the inquiry has been methodical, rigorous and fair in its approach. I also support your efforts to allow individuals criticised in the report to see the draft criticism and make representations to the inquiry before publication.
“However, neither administrative processes nor a constant back and forth between the inquiry and witnesses criticised should frustrate an independent report so important to the country’s future from being published as soon as possible.
“The public have waited long enough and will find it incomprehensible that the report is not being published more rapidly than the open-ended timetable you have now set out.
“We need to see a much clearer and more defined timetable, known publicly, with strict deadlines and a firm date for publication.
“If the findings are not published with a sense of immediacy, there is a real danger the public will assume the report is being ‘sexed down’ by individuals rebutting criticisms put to them by the inquiry, whether that is the case or not.”
Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader said: “If Chilcot is to be delayed again it would be an absolute scandal.”
Blair previously said he wanted the Chilcot report to be published as soon as possible and that he resented claims he was to blame for its slow progress.
He has made repeated attempts to justify the highly controversial invasion, but has conceded that, for a variety of reasons, including disputes in the Bush administration, the detail and quality of post-war planning was inadequate.
Blair is determined to rebut the argument that he lied to parliament over the intelligence he had been given over the likelihood that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The basis of this claim and the key informants have emerged and been discredited. Ministers have conceded that if the final report were not completed by the end of February, it would be wrong to release it in the heat of a closely fought election campaign.
Although Ed Miliband was not in parliament at the time of the invasion, and has said he would have opposed the war, Labour probably has least to gain from the reopening of the debate about the basis of the invasion and its continuing consequences, including the rise of Islamic State, or Isis.
The Conservatives, including an agonised Cameron, backed the invasion at the time, but the Tories subsequently said they had been misled about the intelligence. Although Cameron pushed through military action in Libya, and, in principle, air strikes to punish Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria, the prime minister has generally been a sceptic about humanitarian military action. The Liberal Democrats opposed the war and probably would gain most politically from publication.
David Davis, the former shadow home secretary who has been a leading voice in calling for the report to be published before the election, said it was incomprehensible that the report was being delayed until after the election.
Davis told the Guardian: “Frankly this is not good enough. It is more than five years since it started. It is incomprehensible as to why this is [being delayed]. We need to know why. This is not simply some formality. This is for the whole country to understand why we made a terrible mistake in Iraq. Simply putting it off is not good enough.
“Why has this taken so long? What is going on that is preventing this? The report was created in the first place by a Labour government in order to get an understanding of what went wrong. I can think of no reason why this should be deferred.”
Davis has been a driving force behind the backbench Commons vote next week that would call on Chilcot to publish in a few weeks. He said the vote would not bind Chilcot in case there was complex legal justification for the delay. But Chilcot would have been expected to explain to MPs the delay. “We are getting neither. We are getting neither the report nor the explanation,” he said.
Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt
Wednesday 21 January 2015 00.21 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 21 January 2015 09.17 GMT
Find this story at 21 January 2015
© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited
Top-secret MI5 files released online to mark first world war centenary
19 mei 2014
Spies such as Mata Hari, heroic nurse Edith Cavell, suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst and the Boy Scouts feature in documents
Exotic spies, heroes, and known and suspected communists feature in top-secret MI5 files available online for the first time on Thursday to mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war.
Mata Hari, Edith Cavell, Sir Roger Casement, Arthur Ransome, Sidney Reilly, a leading suffragette and the Boy Scouts were among those MI5 kept under surveillance in its early years as Britain’s Security Service.
Mata Hari, one of history’s most celebrated honey-trap spies, first came to MI5’s attention in December 1915 when she arrived at Folkestone on the Dieppe boat train. She admitted her destination was The Hague to be near her lover Baron Van der Capellen, a colonel in the Dutch Hussars.
The following year, MI5’s informant in The Hague, codenamed “T”, reported: “Mata Hari is a demi-mondaine who is in relation with highly placed people and during her sojourn in France she made the acquaintance of many French and Belgian officers. She is suspected of having been to France on an important mission for the Germans.”
In November 1916, questioned by MI5, Mata Hari claimed that a French consul in Spain had subsequently asked her to go to Austria to spy on that country’s forces.
A renowned dancer, Mata Hari was a Dutch divorcee born Marguerite Gertrude Zelle in the Dutch East Indies. A French intelligence report dated 22 May 1917, shown to a MI5 officer in Paris, noted: “Mata Hari today confessed that she has been engaged by Consul Cremer of Amsterdam for the German Secret Service. She was paid 20,000 francs in advance.”
She was shot by a French firing squad in 1917.
Edith Cavell, a British nurse at a Red Cross hospital in Belgium, was executed by a German firing squad in October 1915 for helping 200 allied soldiers to escape. The files in the National Archives show that British diplomats clung to the hope that Germany would not execute a woman who was regarded as a heroine.
An MI5 agent in Liège said he had been told by a reliable source that “the two spies who denounced Nurse Cavell have both been killed, one by a bullet in the head, the other by a dagger thrust in the chest”.
Sir Roger Casement, a British consul in Africa and South America knighted for his work in exposing the exploitation and slaughter of Africans and South American Indians, and Sidney Reilly, a naturalised Russian Jew dubbed the Ace of Spies, are other victims of espionage who feature among the 150 MI5 files.
Casement was arrested on a beach in Co Kerry, three days before the 1916 Easter rising, after landing in a boat that had picked him up from a German submarine. A trawler accompanying the submarine and carrying 20,000 guns was scuttled after being intercepted.
The MI5 documents show Casement knew the Easter rising was doomed to failure after Germany reneged on its promises to send troops to help the rebels. The UK government used his “black diaries” to smear him and sabotage a campaign to save his life.
“I have done nothing dishonourable, as you will one day learn,” he told Frank Hall, a senior MI5 officer. Casement was hanged in Pentonville prison on 3 August 1916.
Reilly was recruited to work for the British secret intelligence service, MI6. When he died in 1925 the Russians claimed a guard had shot him as he crossed the border with Finland. MI5 documents suggest he was executed by Bolsheviks in 1925.
Reilly had many wives, according to MI5. A Special Branch informer reported that his second wife, actress Pepita Bobadilla, went to the Russian embassy in Paris following his death. As she applied for a visa, she told the Russians her husband had been “spying for the British government”.
Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, caught MI5’s attention as correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in Moscow who married Trotsky’s secretary, Evgenia Petrovna Shelepina.
British officials told MI5 that Ransome was “exceedingly clever and interesting fellow – but an out and out Bolshevist”. The British consul and MI6 officer in Moscow, Robert Bruce Lockhart, soon corrected them. Ransome, who was given the codename S76, was a valuable intelligence asset during the chaos of the Russian revolution, he said.
The files include one on the suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, one of MI5’s later targets. MI5 noted that in 1940 she wrote to Viscount Swinton, chairman of a committee investigating Fifth Columnists, sending him a list of active Fascists still at large and of anti-Fascists who had been interned. A copy of the letter includes a note by Swinton, saying: “I should think a most doubtful source of information.”
The files also show how MI5 was concerned that the Boy Scouts were being infiltrated by Communists after the first world war.
The files can be accessed at the National Archives link – First World War 100.
The Guardian, Wednesday 9 April 2014 22.43 BST
Find this story at 9 April 2014
© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
Condemned spy Mata Hari glib during final interrogation: MI5 files (2014)<< oudere artikelen nieuwere artikelen >>
19 mei 2014
World War I spy Mata Hari refused to fully confess to espionage before facing French firing squad in 1917.
Mata Hari was a wildly-popular Dutch exotic dancer, who was executed as a German spy in 1917.
The spy known as “Mata Hari” was glib in her final prison interrogation before her life ended in front of a French firing squad in the First World War, according to formerly top secret files from the British intelligence agency MI5.
Mata Hari, once a wildly popular Dutch exotic dancer, didn’t appear fazed when an interrogator confronted her with a long list of her lovers, an MI5 report released earlier this month states.
“When faced with her acquaintances with officers of all ranks and all nations, she replied that she loved all officers, and would rather have as her lover a poor officer than a rich banker,” the MI5 files note.
Walking the Western Front:
• Where John McCrae wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’
• The ‘Trench of Death’
Her lovers included a wide range of ages and nationalities, including Germans, French, Russians, Swiss and Spaniards, the files state.
At the time of her execution on Oct. 15, 1917, in a muddy field outside Paris, she was accused of feeding Germany information that cost some 50,000 Allied troops their lives.
But two academics who have studied her case say they don’t believe she provided Germany with any useful information for its war effort.
“She really did not pass on anything that you couldn’t find in the local newspapers in Spain,” said Julie Wheelwright of City University in London, the author of The Fatal Lover: Mata Hari and the Myth of Women in Espionage.
Mata Hari was the stage name for Gertruda Margaretha Zelle, who was born July 8, 1876, in the Dutch East Indies to a Dutch father and a Javanese mother. Wheelwright said she became an exotic dancer after fleeing an abusive marriage.
Wheelwright described her as “an independent woman, a divorcee, a citizen of a neutral country, a courtesan and a dancer, which made her a perfect scapegoat for the French, who were then losing the war.”
“She was kind of held up as an example of what might happen if your morals were too loose,” Wheelwright said.
Wesley Wark, a security, intelligence and terrorism expert at the University of Ottawa, said Mata Hari provided France with a scapegoat when the country wrestled with emerging power for women and fears of losing the war.
“They needed a scapegoat and she was a notable target for scapegoating,” Wark said.
In the MI5 files, an intelligence officer sounds impressed with her attitude during her final days.
“She never made a full confession nor can I find … that she ever gave away anyone as her (accomplice),” the report states.
“She was a ‘femme forte’ and she worked alone,” the report concludes.
The newly released files show Mata Hari was trailed by Allied surveillance officers across France, Spain and England.
The officers noted that on Aug. 4, 1916, she wrote to a Don Diego de Leon and then met a Capt. Vladimir de Masloff, of the Russian army, stationed in France.
“He was very intimate with her from this date and constant letters pass between, he was her favourite lover,” the MI5 files state.
“Same day she met PROFESSOR MARIANI Captain Italian Army.”
While in custody in the ancient Prison de Saint-Lazare outside Paris, she admitted to having spied for the Germans, the MI5 files state.
A file dated May 22, 1917 states: “Matahari today confessed that she has been engaged in Consul CREMER of Amsterdam for the German Secret Service. She was paid 20,000 (francs) in advance and her number was H.21.”
That file also notes her German spymasters gave her vials of invisible ink.
Much of her prison interrogation statement concerns mundane thoughts, not troop movements.
Her MI5 file includes the note: “She had discussed the life led by people in Paris, as regards supply of food etc., had said that the English officers in Paris treated their French Allies badly, although the French went out of their way to treat them ‘like Kings’; that the French nation might live to regret that they had ever allowed the English into the country … .”
Even if she wanted to divulge information, there wasn’t much she could say, Wark said. “Politics wasn’t really part of her world.”
Accounts of her execution say she waved off the offer of a blindfold or the last sacrament. She was reportedly blowing a kiss — at her lawyer, a nun or the firing squad, depending on who’s telling the story — the instant her life ended.
Wheelwright thinks this was likely bravado on the dancer’s part.
“This was going to be her last performance and she was going to go out in style,” she said. “She was playing to the crowd, which is what she always did.”
By: Peter Edwards Star Reporter, Published on Thu Apr 24 2014
Find this story at 24 April 2014
© Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. 1996-2014