Workshop in Essex on Corporate Spying

First announcement of a speaking engagement at the University of Essex:

Corporate Spying & Activist Intelligence
University of Essex :: November 28th, 2012
Colchester Campus :: Room 5N.4.7 :: 2-5PM
a one-day workshop on
activist knowledge production & covert corporate strategies

Speakers:
Eveline Lubbers, researcher and author of Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark
Tom Anderson, researcher, Corporate Watch

Also see more recent blog posting: What Do You Expect From The Workshop in Essex?

The exposure of Mark Kennedy as an infiltrator of activist groups made headlines early 2011. When confronted Kennedy admitted to having been a spy for seven years. Using the name Mark Stone, he had embedded himself in the environmental movement, the organizing of summit protests, social movement organizing elsewhere in Europe. The Mark Kennedy story is an exemplary case, with the infiltrator as a facilitator, crossing the line towards the role of an agent provocateur. Press coverage was huge resulting in a series of official reviews. However, all of the official reviews neglected the aspects of corporate spying that make out the background of this operation.

The Kennedy case reveals the increasingly blurring boundaries between public and private policing and puts the grey area of corporate intelligence in the spotlight. The set of secret units Kennedy used to work for was founded explicitly to satisfy the needs of companies targeted by activists. What is more, the companies involved – such as electricity suppliers and airline companies – also hire former police and intelligence staff with long track records in monitoring activist groups to deal with security issues.

The Kennedy case is in no way unique, it is just the latest exposure in a long line of similar stories of intelligence operations in the UK and elsewhere, conducted either by the police or by private contractors. And it will not be the last case. Wikileaks has revealed how private intelligence company Stratfor is keeping monitoring the Yes Men and their campaigns for the survivors of the Bhopal disaster. Closer to home, the Tobacco Control Research Group investigates the tactics of the tobacco industry and its allies to undermine the governments health policies.

This workshop aims to address the worrying trend of conjunctions between the state and the corporate world aimed at suppressing critical voices that are indispensable in a democratic society.

Developing activist intelligence and methods to counter covert corporate strategy as a field of research is inherently difficult, given that the original source material is – almost by definition – hard to access, maybe secret, and often difficult to comprehend. Intelligence operations necessarily take place in secret, under-cover. Data on such operations are confidential by nature, prepared for the client’s ‘eyes-only’. Discovery of proof behind stories and controversies that surface in the media is essential to put the events in perspective and understand the wider context. But new research needs to be initiated too. The importance of the issues at stake calls for a more active role for social scientists, investigative journalists, politicians and NGOs, and others concerned about the role of public protest in society.

To register send an e-mail to essex.cwosATgmail.com

Sponsored by the Essex Centre for Work, Organization, and Society and Essex Community Advice

Political Debate To Date on Sex used by Undercover Officers

In preparation for the debate in Parliament this Tuesday, I’ve put together the only public political debates on undercover policing so far.

Green MP Jenny Jones questioned Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey and Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Stephen Greenhalgh about undercover officers about having sex, relationships with their targets. The occasion was a meeting of the Police and Crime Committee that examines the work of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and investigates issues relating to the performance of the Metropolitan Police Service. It took place on 27 September this year.

Mackey repeated the line from the since-departed policing minister Nick Herbert, suggesting that undercover officers could have sex with an activist, since a complete ban would give the people they were infiltrating a way of testing whether they were working for the police. “It is very hard to write a rule for” that, said Mackey.

@JulesCarey, lawyer involved in the women’s case, tweeted a comment: Herbert said you couldn’t have an absolute ban on spycops sleeping with ‘suspects’ because of a ‘sex test’ to prevent infiltration – but what if an organised criminal gang required a spycop to assault someone as ‘assault test’ ? Would that get police approval? Or indeed a “kill test” rather than an “assault test” – someone answered.

In fact there are two different issues here, being mixed up here. The first is, which infiltration tests should police reasonably take & which shouldn’t they. And the other is that non-consensual sex is never acceptable – as a test or otherwise.

Rob Evans at the Guardian wrote a good summary of the event. Jennie Jones put the undercover debate on Youtube.  Watch the official webcast of the meeting to see the authorities struggling to find answers, or read the transcript.

The Telegraph of 14 June 2012 has Herbert’s words on this. And here are the transcripts of Green MP Caroline Lucas questioning the Policing Minister on Undercover practices. This session was focussed on Bob Lambert who has admitted that he had sexual relations (and fathered a child) while being an undercover. Lucas revealed that Lambert had also set fire to one of the three Debenham stores  attacked by an Animal Liberation Front group he was infiltrating at the time. More on that later at Secret Manoeuvres.

Blogging versus Tweeting on Secret Manoeuvres

When my book Secret Manoeuvres got published, I started this blog and set up a Twitter account (@evelinelubbers) to promote my work. I had to find my way on Twitter, and must say this took more time than previewed.  Difficult to decide who you keep following, and what to retweet. As any newbie – and I guess anyone who is tweeting on a regular base – I struggle to find the right balance between the time spent on Twitter and the dedication that proper blogging requires.

Although I have come to appreciate the ease and speed of connecting with like-minded people who send me recent examples of corporate and police spying which I eagerly pass on, I think building up a collection of case studies needs more than that. Pumping round news items, just adding another voice to the existing noise in the echo chamber is a looming risk.  Although retweeting examples of Secret Manoeuvres informs a larger public – I am afraid that at this point in time the information hardly reaches beyond the like-minded  and the usual suspects. Not necessarily a bad thing of course, but not enough – I think – for me…

So maybe, in the end this posting is not so much about blogging vs. tweeting, but more about what I want with the Secret Manoeuvres project in general, and how blogging and tweeting fit in. If I had more time I would probably be on Twitter more, but at this moment that is impossible. For now I just decide to focus on blogging for a while, put new stories in context,  to understand them as case studies, which need following up. Because writing helps the thinking, and the building of new research projects.

 

Proudly Presenting: a Book & a Blog

Today, I was finally ready to announce my book and my blog. Getting together the address list was quite a job – and my contacts need to be updated, that much is clear.

Do take your time to have a look around, there are previews off the book, the projects I’m working on now, and there will be more.

I will try to do a decent book & research-related Twitter.
Follow me @evelinelubbers.

You can also link to my LinkedIn account, set up for the occasion!

If you like what you see, please forward the announcement (text included below) to others you might think could be interested, mail servers that I don’t know off, anything: spread the word! Continue reading “Proudly Presenting: a Book & a Blog”

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