Late October 2011, Bob Lambert was exposed as a police infiltrator in the activist movement. Using the name ‘Bob Robinson’ he had had a longterm affair and a child with a woman who believed him to be a genuine campaigner.
In an effort to save what was left of his reputation, Lambert publicly refered to his work on Islamophobia and his cooperation with Spinwatch on this front.
Since I have been working with people who had been spied upon for many years, in particular with London Greenpeace, a group that had been infiltrated by Lambert himself and later by others under his supervision, and as one of the founders of Spinwatch, his use of our organisation in his defense was unacceptable. The statement below summarises what happened late laste year.
It has since been revealed that, as an undercover animal rights activist, Lambert set fire to a Debenham store – for selling fur.
SpinWatch stands in solidarity with the infiltrated, 2 November 2011
On the 20 October 2011, SpinWatch wrote an open letter to ex-Special Branch Officer, Bob Lambert about his exposure as an infiltrator in the activist movement. The letter challenged him to confirm or deny the allegations, apologise if they were true and to dissociate himself from such actions. In response Lambert acknowledged that in his 26 year career of with Special Branch, he infiltrated London Greenpeace for several years in the 1980s. For this he apologised.
Subsequently he moved on to supervise other undercover agents. Lambert, and other infiltrators he supervised, had long term relationships (including sexual partnerships) with campaigners and those close to them. This is one of the most abusive breaches of trust imaginable. Lambert apologised for this as well, but claimed it was all part of his cover story to gain the necessary credibility to infiltrate animal rights groups.
Lambert did not, however, disavow his previous work, with serious consequences for his credibility in his current work.
In his reply, Lambert also referred to his ‘recent work undertaken with SpinWatch’ against Islamophobia. We should state that this has involved the following: participation at public meetings and at academic conferences where we have shared platforms with Bob Lambert. At such events SpinWatch has highlighted the rising tide of Islamophobia from the far right including from the BNP and the EDL on the one hand to the neoconservative think tanks on the other, and – importantly – the forces of the state including the police and intelligence services. We have always been, and remain, opposed to infiltration and spying by the police and intelligence services. Such efforts and tactics are supported by their allies in the Islamophobic ‘Counterjihad‘ movement. We have repeatedly criticised and drawn attention to this.
London Greenpeace revealed that Lambert was also actively involved with many other protest activities including Molesworth Peace Camp and free festivals. Under his supervision other agents infiltrated groups such as Reclaim the Streets, along with anti fascist protests and actions against genetically modified crops.
Lambert is currently subject to a Metropolitan police review into whether he was prosecuted in a court using his false identity. (He was reportedly prosecuted at Camberwell Green Magistrates Court for distributing ‘insulting’ leaflets outside a butchers shop). One of nine disciplinary and judicial inquiries into the controversy around undercover policing, this review was conducted by Bernard Hogan-Howe before he took his post as Met Commissioner. The planned publication of his report was abandoned on 20 October, hours after the Guardian and BBC Newsnight revealed evidence that undercover officers – including Lambert – may have been lying in court.
The delay of the publication coincided with the publication of the SpinWatch open letter and a comment piece by Lambert himself. This was followed by a flurry of stories in the Guardian featuring further details about his infiltration and the damage done by the 18 month relationship he pursued as part of his cover (for an overview see the Lewis and Evans’ Undercover blog).
Lambert’s past with Special Branch helps to confirm that the recently exposed police spies (such as Mark Kennedy) were not ‘rogue officers’. They were part of an unacceptable pattern of infiltration of environmental and other activist groups, which seems to have been condoned at the highest level. While Special Branch was undercover in London Greenpeace, the group was also infiltrated by private spies hired by McDonald’s – as was discovered in the McLibel court case. Intelligence gathered was shared between private spies and their corporate clients on the one hand and Special Branch on the other. This kind of cooperation continued until very recently – and may still be happening. The undercover units of ACPO, the supervisors of Mark Kennedy and other current infiltrators, shared information on climate campaigners with power companies and their hired spies, as the Guardian revealed in 2009.
SpinWatch filed a Freedom of Information request for Special Branch files on the infiltration of London Greenpeace and on cooperation with corporate spies in 2006. The Metropolitan Police confirmed such a file existed, but stated it was not in the public interest to release it. Today, the situation is changing. The pressure for a public inquiry is growing. Last week, Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, called for one overarching proper public inquiry into undercover police operations. Pete Black, another former undercover, argues for a full inquiry reminiscent of the Church Committee in the US in the 1970s. It uncovered the illegal activities of the FBI, CIA and other American intelligence agencies.
SpinWatch is committed to working with campaigners who have been infiltrated. It is our goal to ensure that the full truth is revealed and that justice is done. This involves supporting civil cases against infiltration, investigating the abusive activities of the secret state and campaigning for both disclosure and justice.
SpinWatch’s work and commitment is not compatible with Bob Lambert’s history as an infiltrator, the details about his past that have come to light so far, and the way he reflects on it in retrospect.
David Miller and Eveline Lubbers