McSpy – Bob Lambert

The spying on London Greenpeace is one of the case studies in my book Secret Manoeuvres. The chapter is called McSpy – just as the trial was called McLibel as a playful reference to the hamburger giant that brought this upon us. I brought up possible further cooperation, with Special Branch using the corporate infiltration as a stepping-stone to target animal rights activists.

Little did I know then about the role of Bob Lambert and his blueprint for future spies – identical concepts anywhere you go.

Continue reading “McSpy – Bob Lambert”

Lobbying, Spying & Legal Threats. Energy Giants & Gov’t Joint Efforts to Undermine Protest.

Update 21 February. Not just lobbying, also spying! That’s what I wrote yesterday – E.ON did not only lobby the government for harsh sentences, they both spied on the climate activists as well and exchanged intelligence between them. Mark Kennedy was just one of many players in this game. Within a few hours of publishing my blog, EDF sued @NoDashForCash £5m in damage claims for the cost of occupying a West Burton chimney. Again, there is evidence of spying, even more so, EDF France was effectively convicted for hacking  the computer network of Greenpeace UK.

The connection between the gathering of intelligence and corporate counter-strategy is at the heart of my book Secret Manoeuvres. A corporation does not spy on its critics just to know what is going on: it does so to be prepared and to defend itself!
The joint efforts to undermine protest are worrying. Adam Ramsay came to the same conclusion in his Bright Green blog today, I could not have put it better:

What we are up against is not one company. The line between corporation and state is greyer and greyer as previously public companies turn round and eat their former owners. We are up against the entwined power of a growing energy/state complex: an ever stronger network which is squeezing the democracy out of our country and the life out of our planet – or, at least, which will if we let them.

Not just lobbying, also spying!

Energy giant E.ON repeatedly lobbied the government over the sentencing of activists disrupting the company’s power plants, pressing for ‘dissuasive sentencing to discourage similar such incidents in the future’, the Guardian revealed this week .

The lobbying involved the highest echolons: the chairman and CEO of E.ON UK at the time and the then-energy secretary Ed Miliband and his staff, details released to Greenpeace under the Freedom of Information act show. The two met after the lax sentencing of eco-activists engaged in direct action at Kingsnorth,  on the day a group of environmentalists would be sentences for aggravated trespass at Ratcliffe-on Sour – yet another coal-powered station owned by E.ON.

However, this high level meeting was just the final stage of close cooperation between the energy company and the government. The signs of joint efforts to undermine environmental protest began to emerge a few years earlier. Continue reading “Lobbying, Spying & Legal Threats. Energy Giants & Gov’t Joint Efforts to Undermine Protest.”

Police spies: The Met wants my help – I want a properly public investigation

chris robson letter 001Last week, I received a letter from the Metropolitan Police. Presuming I have important information on the infiltration of London Greenpeace back in the 1980s, the Met wants me to get in touch to discuss the matter further. Indeed, my book Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark, corporate and police spying on activists (Pluto, 2012) includes a case study titled McSpy, detailing the infiltration of this group before they were brought to Court for leafleting McDonald’s. I have also been blogging about the case of the women against the Metropolitan Police on state-sponsored abuse at here at

This open letter is my reply, with a proposal towards a properly public investigation.

23 January 2013

Dear Chris Robson,

Thank you for inviting me to contact you about police infiltration of campaigning groups. I am open to discuss an exchange of information but not behind closed doors, hence this open letter.

To begin with, your letter is rather short on information. You write that the Metropolitan Police ‘is conducting a review of Policing methods used to gather information relating to people involved in campaign groups’, but it was unclear to me at first which of the many ongoing reviews it was.

The clue was the ref in your letterhead, which said ‘Op Herne’. Grilled on the issue of undercover officers having sexual relationships by Jenny Jones  in the the London assembly, deputy commissioner Craig Mackey explained that Operation Herne is the internal review into the undercover unit of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a unit that existed for 30 years. The review into ‘covert deployments’ between 1968-2008 was announced by Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe in October 2011, and is led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons.
You want to talk to me about ‘the organisation called ‘London Greenpeace’ and events that led up to the ‘McLibel’ case between 1990-1997.’

I’m glad we agree on the importance of that period. London Greenpeace, the small campaigning group founded long Continue reading “Police spies: The Met wants my help – I want a properly public investigation”

Outrage as High Court permits secrecy over undercover policing

Press Release on behalf of Birnberg Peirce Claimants 17 January 2013

Published at

N.B. The ruling can be found here as tweeted by @JudicialOffice

The High Court has today granted an application by the Metropolitan Police for a secret hearing over the claims brought against them under the Human Rights Act, arising from undercover officers engaging in intimate long term relationships with women whilst undercover. The Claimants, who were involved in protest movements, were deceived into intimate sexual relationships by officers, including Mark Kennedy. One relationship lasted six years and all the Claimants suffered significant psychological damage as a consequence of those officers intruding deeply into their private lives. Lawyers for the women said that their clients are “outraged” at the High Court’s decision today that the claims should be heard in the secret Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) is a little known tribunal set up under section 65 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA, 2000) to deal with claims brought under the Human Rights Act against the police and other security services.

Mr Justice Tugenhadt rejected the police submissions that the IPT was the appropriate tribunal for hearing common law claims also brought by the women (including for deceit and misfeasance in public office). However, the common law claims can be heard in the open jurisdiction of the High Court, but will be put on hold pending the verdict of the IPT.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Tugenhadt states that the actions of these officers must have been contemplated by legislators on the basis that:
“James Bond is the most famous fictional example of a member of the intelligence services who used relationships with women… fictional accounts (and there are others) lend credence to the view that the intelligence and police services have for many years deployed both men and women officers to form personal relationships of an intimate sexual nature (whether or not they were physical relationships) in order to obtain information or access.”

He did, however, say that if the allegations are true they are very serious. He went on to say that physical sexual relationships, that are covertly maintained, may amount to inhumane and degrading treatment depending on the degree and nature of the concealment. This is an important concession because by implication, these relationships could not be authorised under RIPA and would be unlawful.

The rules of the IPT permit the case to proceed with the women denied access to and unable to challenge police evidence, and being powerless to appeal the tribunal’s decisions. Eight women, who are bringing a case together, were deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover officers, who as part of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPIOU) and its predecessor the Special Demonstration Squad, seemingly had no other brief than to gather information on political groups. So far, this has meant that unlike a criminal investigation, the actions of the officers and their undercover command structure have never been subject to court scrutiny or public hearing, despite serious concerns over human rights violations.

Harriet Wistrich of Birnberg Peirce said: “This decision prevents both the claimants and the public from seeing the extent of the violations of human rights and abuses of public office perpetrated by these undercover units. The claimants have already suffered a gross violation of their privacy and abuse of trust by the police, if the case is dealt with by the IPT they will be denied access to justice and may never discover why they were thus violated by the state.”

She read a short statement on behalf of the claimants:
“We brought this case because we want to see an end to sexual and psychological abuse of campaigners for social justice and others by undercover police officers. We are outraged that the High Court has allowed the police to use the IPT to preserve the secrecy of their abusive and manipulative operations in order to prevent public scrutiny and challenge. In comparison, the privacy of citizens spied on by secret police is being given no such protection, which is contrary to the principles we would expect in a democratic society. It is unacceptable that state agents can cultivate intimate and long lasting relationships with political activists in order to gain so called intelligence on political movements. We intend to continue this fight.”

Women vs. Spy Cops: Hearings in High Court

Seated at wooden benches, with a cop right behind me. Was he reading over my shoulder? I don’t know. When I sit back, I crumple his notes. That’s how close we are. Streets around the High Court were riddled with police, awaiting the student protests. The London School of Economics is just around the corner. The helicopter hovering low all morning just adds to the atmosphere.

This is the legal cases of the women who were deceived into having relationships by undercover police officers. Last week saw the first set of hearings devoted to the technical procedures. If the Met has its way, this could be the only public hearings in the entire case.

Two days of hearings were not enough, the Court needed more time on Friday. The judge has now retired, as the women write at, to consider the issues raised and has not yet indicated when the judgement is likely to be handed down.

The Case

The legal claim is about the extent of damages for the harm caused, which is of course difficult to translate into financial figures. 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. Continue reading “Women vs. Spy Cops: Hearings in High Court”

What do you expect from the workshop in Essex?

Preparing the workshop in Essex, discussing this with Tom Anderson from Corporate Watch: there is just so much to talk about!
Since the workshop as a format implies input from those who join, we may as well make it interactive from the very start. So, there you go: what would you expect from a workshop on corporate and police spying on activists? And what would your own contribution be?

  • I could talk through one of the case studies featuring in Secret Manoeuvres, just to get an idea.
  • Explain how the research I do is different from investigative journalism (“I start where the papers stop”).
  • We could address the issue of what is needed to understand the issue of corporate spying: case studies, time lines, following the money, the people/companies behind it.
  • Address the question of approaching corporate & police spying on activists within the larger context of so called ‘issue management’, reputation, globalisation, undermining of protest.
  • We can talk about infiltrator’s role in the undermining of social movements.
  • How to balance between talking about research and talking about spies?

Do we expect our participants to read Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark first?   ->-> Purchase it now – or get a copy in Essex! <-<-

Let me know, I’ll open the comments, tweet your feedback to @evelinelubbers, or use the Secret Manoeuvres mailbox at

N.B. If you can’t come to Essex, I can come to you – we might turn this into a tour!

Reclaiming Rights Rather than Rules & Regulations

A long report on the Committee meeting Green MP Caroline Lucas organised in the Houses of Parliament, Tuesday 6 November.

The use of sex & deception by police infiltrators. The difficulties of phrasing and framing what this is about. Plus some added contemplations.

A grand tour of Parliament House it takes to find the room where the Committee meeting is held. At first is seems it’s going to be quite a private party, with just those who already know present. Due to confusing over which building, Members of Parliament arrive late, people of the press and others interested as well. All together there were some 40 people in the room for the meeting organized by Green MP Caroline Lucas. Chaired by Helena Kennedy we get to listen to the voices of three of the women involved, interviewed for a BBC in File on 4 documentary.

Powerful voices trying to put into words what has happened to them. It’s not so much the level of emotion, but rather the recognisability of their stories: it could have happened to you. Or me, for that matter. It is difficult not to identify yourself with them.
The struggle to deal with the array of feelings, of having found the love of your life, the worries when he suddenly disappears, the distress he seemed to be in, the longing and getting over lost love. To find out that your lover was in fact a police officer, someone on a mission, someone who has used you in every possible way.

As a film script it would be a bit over the top. But this is real. Continue reading “Reclaiming Rights Rather than Rules & Regulations”

Writing on the Impact of Undercover Involvement

Two important pieces written this week on the Impact of undercover involvement with activists, by Ellie Mae O’Hagan and Emily Apple. I’ve taken a few quotes, but go read them in context!

Ellie Mae O’Hagan wrote a Comment is Free pieceA life under surveillance, the state’s constant intimidation of peaceful activists like me takes a huge psychological toll on our lives.’ The Guardian, 1 november 2012.
She is @MissEllieMae on Twitter.

Despite the peaceful nature of their actions, the simple act of protesting means that activists’ lives sometimes resemble that of Tony Soprano. Surveillance, police intimidation and undercover officers are routine hazards they must negotiate. As one environmental campaigner who has come into contact with undercover officers puts it: “You don’t have to be self-important to suspect you’re the victim of state surveillance. If you’re politically active, it’s simply a fact of life.” Continue reading “Writing on the Impact of Undercover Involvement”

Reflections on State Use of Sex & Deception

The stories that have come out about under covers having had long-term relationships with women in activist groups, make you wonder if nothing has been written about this before. The questions around this issue are many, they are complicated and intertwined. It is difficult, for instance, to separate the question of how the women involved deal with what has happened to them on a personal level, and the problem of which legal steps to undertake, when the law is in fact inadequate as an instrument – since no rules have been written to address this.

However, as the case of the eight women who launched legal action against the Metropolitan Police for the harm caused shows, there is evidence that under covers have been engaged in intimate relations with women active in the groups the officers infiltrated, again and again in a period of at least 30 years – in the UK only. This implies that there was something of a strategy behind it, or at least that supervisors and those higher up responsible for the infiltration operations did not have a problem with state use of sex.

My project researching Secret Manoeuvres includes locating existing literature, and providing it to those interested.
One of the few academic articles I have found so far, is written by the American sociologist Gary T. Marx, now Professor Emeritus of Sociology at M.I.T. He has been writing about infiltration, protest and surveillance since the 1960s, and he is still going strong. His writing was an inspiration for my PhD, Secret Manoeuvres is the popular version.

Under-the-Covers – Undercover Investigations: Some Reflections on the State’s Use of Sex and Deception in Law Enforcement, the 1999 revision of article in Criminal Justice Ethics, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 13-24, Spring 1992. The entire article is worth reading, but here I will lift the bits that refer to the cases at hand.

State-sponsored deception, of course, raises all the ethical issues generally associated with deception. It also raises some issues that are unique to the state as the symbolic repository of societal values (for example, the need to avoid setting bad examples).

But when friendship and sex are present, (…) the situation becomes more complex. Manipulation, temptation and deception (whether involving motives and/or identity) are joined in a potentially explosives mix. Continue reading “Reflections on State Use of Sex & Deception”

Emily Apple writing about Martin Hogbin

Emily Apple (@emilyapple) invites people who – like her – considered Martin Hogbin a good friend to share their thoughts. At her blog, beautifully called Random Reflections of a Domestic Extremist, she announced her plans earlier this week:

Please excuse the cliché, but I think we need to talk about Martin. It’s been a while coming – next year it will be ten years since we first found out our friend, colleague and comrade was in fact a BAE spy, but it’s finally time to write about what happened in detail and with the hindsight of perspective.

Martin Hogbin is the name of the spy who infiltrated the Campaign Against Arms Trade for many years, from the very moment he became active as a volunteer, until he got exposed by the Sunday Times back in 2003.

Five years earlier, in 1998, I was involved in exposing Adrian Franks who had been spying on networks of peace groups in several European countries. We found out that both Hogbin and Franks (and many others!) had been working for Evelyn le Chêne and her company Threat Response International, hired by BAE. Moreover, Evelyn and Adrian turned out to be mother and son. The Sunday Times Insight Team had laid hands on spy reports that Evelyn le Chêne sent to BAE. Because of my involvement in the case, the journo’s allowed me access to these files. The Secret Manoeuvres book has a long chapter based on these files and CAAT internal research in an effort to analyse the spying in great detail.

Early findings can be found at my old website, but the book has more!

I have also investigated the history and career of Evelyn le Chêne, to discover that her work rooted in fierce ‘anti-communist’ ideas. Cold War believes got her involved in Thatcherite circles in the 1980s and campaigns in Southern Africa until the early 1990s. Her general aversion of the left and her links with intelligence smoothly got her into spying on activists, on CAAT, but also on road protest, animal rights and Earth First!.

Emily’s call triggered some thoughts about the difficulties of dealing with infiltration, and writing about it. Difficulties that I have also encountered when talking to people involved in investigating Mark Kennedy, and with women taking legal steps against undercover officers who engaged in (sexual) relations with them.

I will try to address these thoughts here, exploring the field, building on bits & pieces of Emily’s wording. Continue reading “Emily Apple writing about Martin Hogbin”

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