Only A Public Inquiry Will Do Into Green Spy

17 Jan

Originally posted at SpinWatch.org.

Andy Rowell and Eveline Lubbers, 17 January 2011

The solicitor acting for the climate protestors, Mike Schwarz from Bindmans, is calling for a full public inquiry into the Mark Kennedy case. Schwarz believes the new IPCC investigation that was announced last Friday, will not go nearly far enough.

“We need a public inquiry into what has happened, similar to the Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence,” argues Schwarz. “We must have a measured inquiry to get the whole picture, including the policing of protest generally. It needs to be independent, with clout, with full disclosure”.

One of the main areas of concern is Kennedy’s actions as an agent provocateur. “We need to look at the whole issue of whether Kennedy in this case, and police officers generally, act as agent provocateurs in protests”, says Schwartz. “What are their limits about encouraging, condoning, and facilitating offences?”

“Jane” is a veteran of the climate protests. SpinWatch has hidden her identity to protect her from retaliation from the police or her employers. She knew both Mark Kennedy and Officer A, the second police informant to infiltrate the protest groups.

“It wasn’t just passive information gathering”, says Jane. “There was active involvement by driving, going on reconnaissance.”

She argues there is a clear case of “entrapment” by Kennedy on the Ratcliffe power station action, as the whole protest was due to be called off before Kennedy, falsely, told everyone that the police had left and it was safe to continue. “Had he not given that false information the action would have been cancelled, everyone would have left and no one would have been arrested,” she says.

Jane argues that the three justifications that senior police officers since come up with to justify the deployment of undercover officers “do not measure up”.  The first reason is to collect evidence for trial. But after eleven years of combined undercover work by Kennedy and Officer A, no one has been brought to trial because of their evidence. In fact the opposite has happened, with one trial now collapsing.

The other two reasons – serious public disruption and potential harm to others – do not apply, argues Jane, as the climate protest movement is peaceful.

Another area of concern for Schwarz to be addressed is “where the police stand in relation to industry”. One of the organisations that most worries Schwarz is the police unit NETCU – the National Extremism Coordination Unit – which blurs the boundaries between public and corporate undercover work.

Schwarz argues it is “disturbing” that NETCU is providing intelligence for companies as well as Government. “What you don’t want is police protecting industry when criminal activity has not taken place. They are just chilling protests generally”.

But in that sense the Mark Kennedy case should not been seen in isolation. The climate change movement has its roots in the direct action campaign against the Tory road building programme in the early nineties.

There the state employed a whole range of tactics against protestors, including surveillance, legal and physical intimidation, and disinformation.

For many the defining anti-road campaign was that of Twyford Down, where the M3 was bull-dozed through the chalk downs of Hampshire. In what was believed to be the first time a government department, rather than the security services, spied on environmental protestors, the Brays Detective Agency from Southampton was hired by the Department for Transport.

Brays ran up a bill of £700,000 spying on the protestors for the Government, a move condemned by many, including Liberty. “We believe that collecting information on people solely because they are protestors is a breach of their privacy under international law”, said Liberty, in a statement that has ramifications for the Mark Kennedy case.

There was overwhelming evidence that the Police turned a blind eye to violence by the security guards on protestors, especially women who were frequently molested. This was repeated at various protests from the M11 in London to the M65 near Blackburn.

At the time it was known that security companies were in regular contact with Special Branch that started compiling a list of environmental and animal rights activists.  Fed by Special Branch, the press starting a disinformation campaign against the protestors, often labelling them as violent and extremist.

There was Police infiltration too. Two campaigners on the M11 were believed to be Police informants as well as one campaigner on the Solsbury Hill road protest near Bath.

Another defining anti-roads battle was the Newbury By-Pass. Thames Valley police later admitted paying for someone to spy on the protestors. Such was his success, he was later deployed to spy on animal rights activists.

Further intelligence was collected on Newbury activists for the security company Group Four and the police by Evelyn le Chêne, a security consultant. Le Chêne claimed she had at least two people infiltrated in the Newbury Bypass camp.

Starting in 1995 le Chêne was also paid by British Aerospace to monitor the peace movement for at least eight years. Her main target seems to have been Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), with six to eight agents infiltrating CAAT working for le Chêne.

CAAT’s databases and IT systems were accessed by the spies, with information gleamed on sympathetic celebrities such as Helen Mirren, Prunella Scales and Anita Roddick.

One of the longest-standing infiltrators was CAAT’s action coordinator Martin Hogbin, a member of staff with a pivotal position in the European peace network.

When Hogbin was “outed”, many activists were stunned that he had been leaking information for years. The political comedian Mark Thomas considered Hogbin a personal friend, and it took him four years to acknowledge the betrayal.

The BAE and Mark Kennedy cases can even be linked. After le Chêne was exposed, BAe hired Paul Mercer to keep an eye on the protest movement. Mercer’s contract with the arms manufacturer was finalised through the security company Global Open. In February 2010, Mark Kennedy set up a company called Tokra that has since been dissolved. The address he gave at Companies House was that of a Global Open director Heather Millgate.

Kennedy is now said to be in fear of his life due to his actions, but could make a fortune from media and bok deals.

Reflecting on what has happened, Jane says she feels “mainly anger at the way the police have been politicised and used as a tool for undermining what is a progressive social movement trying to stop climate change”.

The merging of corporate and state interests also worried her. Kennedy’s case “exposes that the police are just an arm of the corporate / government conjunction. It is a very political attempt to crush a movement and defend corporate interests”, she argues.