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.

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 evel.nl 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”

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.


Secret Manoeuvres, Shell and Kiobel

This week saw a landmark hearing before the Supreme Court in Washington DC. Widow Esther Kiobel accuses the oil giant’s parent company, Royal Dutch Shell, of complicity in the murder and torture of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Nigerian activists. They were executed by the Nigerian military government after protesting Shell’s exploration and development in the Niger Delta in 1995.

Essentially a case of relatives seeking to hold an oil company accountable for its deeds, it now centers on the question whether survivors of human rights violations in foreign countries can bring lawsuits against corporations in U.S. courts under a 1789 U.S. law called the Alien Tort Statute. See Twitter on #Kiobel for different takes on this hearing.

Shell has a long history of undermining protest. The company applies an interesting mix of PR strategies, denials and greenwash exercises on the one hand and the dirty tricks and undercover operations on the other. For Shell,  or so it seems, cooperation with a military government and police Special Forces in an African country is just one step beyond involvement in private intelligence agencies and cybersurveillance in Europe and the US. It’s all part of the game. Continue reading “Secret Manoeuvres, Shell and Kiobel”

Bob Lambert, Spinwatch and me

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. Continue reading “Bob Lambert, Spinwatch and me”

March 2012: HMIC’s ‘empty’ review leaves little hope for robust scrutiny of undercover cops

With the latest developments in the case of the women who filed a case againtst the infiltrators who deceived them into longterm relations – sometimes with children as a result, it might be useful to go back to my critique of  the only official review into Mark Kennedy’s activities (at least the only one that has been published so far).

Published by Spinwatch.org , 28 March 2012

If the first official review of undercover policing is to set the tone for the next dozen or so evaluations to come, there is not much hope. Of all reviews, this is the only one focusing on the activities of Mark Kennedy specifically and the supervision of undercover officers by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) more generally.

The findings and recommendations of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) are shocking for their emptiness, in three different ways. The findings are flimsy, which makes you wonder whether the search was superficial, or even worse, that there was nothing to discover. Its recommendations are ridiculous, the tightening of the term ‘domestic extremism’ by broadening it with yet another non-existent subjective term ‘serious criminality’ will not bring any clarity as Matt Salusbury pointed out earlier at SpinWatch. Thirdly, the report is shocking for what it does not discuss – the pressing issues that the responsible authorities have left untouched.
Continue reading “March 2012: HMIC’s ‘empty’ review leaves little hope for robust scrutiny of undercover cops”

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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