“absolutely unacceptable” – German MP writes letter to Theresa May

In Germany sexual relationships in police investigations are not permitted and that includes foreign undercover officers operating in the country. Two years after Mark Kennedy was exposed, the Federal Ministry of Interior has now confirmed that such is not allowed.

Getting this far was not easy, and it is thanks to never-ending efforts of activists involved and Member of the German Parliament for Die Linke Andrej Hunko, that the issue kept coming up. It was through their questions, for instance, that we know about the contracts fixed between the German authorities and the British for Kennedy to spy on summit gatherings. Both Mark Kennedy and “Mark Jacobs” went to Germany on several occasions, they were deployed to collect information about preparations of the G8 summit in Heiligendamm in 2007 and the 2009 NATO summit in Strasbourg, for instance.

Earlier this week, the MP wrote a letter to the UK Home Secretary Theresa May to raise some legal issues, to hold her to account and to urge her to provide the necessary information. His letter focuses on the issue of the possible sexual relations abroad, but it touches upon European police cooperation, the lack of regulation and accountability too.

Right from the start, the Germans were more clear about police officers having intimate relationships on the job. Asked if undercover investigators in Germany had sexual relationships with persons they were investigating or with their contacts, the head of the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt), Jörg Ziercke, told the Bundestag Committee on Internal Affairs in January 2011, that that would be “absolutely unacceptable”. Continue reading ““absolutely unacceptable” – German MP writes letter to Theresa May”

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 SecretManoeuvres.org

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 PoliceSpiesOutofLives.org

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.”

Thanks to a friend in Paris, I discovered someone who is working on Secret Manoeuvres issues too. It is a journalist called Emmanuel Fansten who has recently written a book called:

Les nouveaux barbouzes, Enquête sur la privatisation de l’espionnage

barbouze is slang for para-military force, secret agent or spy in French, referring to beards (barbes) or false moustaches often worn to hide the face, so the title translates into something like The New Spies, Research on the privatisation of spying.

The author is on Twitter @efansten, mostly en Français though…
and here are his articles on Slate.fr

I have not got a copy yet, but here are some articles on the book, all in French! Continue reading “Les Nouveaux Barbouzes, enquête sur la privatisation de l’espionnage”

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 PoliceSpiesOutofLives.org, 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”

Support Women’s Court Case Against UK Spies


Demonstration outside High Court in London
in support of the women on Wed and Thur 9.30-10.30am.

Photo action in Berlin:
Wednesday, 21 nov, 12noon, near Brandenburg Gate
Meet at U55 Exit across from Starbucks and Hotel Adlon

Elsewhere too?

On 21+22 November, 8 women will be in court in London trying to stop the Metropolitan Police from having their case put into a shadowy secret court known as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. They have filed legal action against police because they were deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover police officers, such as Mark Kennedy.

The women have called out for international solidarity, so please come support them by making signs if you can and being part of a brief photo action next to the British Embassyin Berlin, with signs of support.

Here are random ideas for signs:
…or make your own


Statement condemning the Metropolitan Police’s attempt to have case
heard in secret
Published: November 19, 2012

“The police cannot be permitted to hide behind the cloak of secrecy,
when they have been guilty of one of the most intrusive and complete
invasions of privacy that can be imagined.”

The approach of the Metropolitan Police to the litigation has been
obstructive from the outset, refusing to provide any substantive
response to the allegations and hiding behind a ‘neither confirm nor
deny’ policy about the activities of their officers. Now, to add insult
to injury, following one of the most intrusive invasions of privacy
imaginable, the police are attempting to strike out the women’s claim by
arguing that the case should have been started in a shadowy secret court
known as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). [1]

The IPT exists for the sole purpose of maintaining secrecy, and under
its jurisdiction the case could proceed with the women denied access to
and unable to challenge police evidence, and powerless to appeal the
tribunal’s decisions. This will mean that neither they, nor the public
will ever find out the extent of the violations of human rights and
abuses of public office perpetrated by these undercover units. Thus, the
women, who have suffered a totally disproportionate, unnecessary and
extremely damaging invasion of their privacy, may be denied access to
justice by the very legislation which was purportedly designed to
protect their rights.

The public outrage at the phone hacking scandal earlier this year
focused on the cynical intrusion into lives of individuals by the press Continue reading “Support Women’s Court Case Against UK Spies”

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 xs4all.nl.

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

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

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

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”

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.

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