Sunday, October 30, 2011

two cover ups for the price of one

To briefly recap: Bernard Hogan-Howe's report said Mark Kennedy was a one-off rogue and the police would be fine watching themselves. At the last minute the report was pulped when it was revealed that one officer, Jim Boyling, had been prosecuted under his false identity, even testifying and being present in meetings between activists and their lawyers.

Then it came out that Boyling was not the only one. When his boss, Bob Lambert, had been an undercover officer he too had been prosecuted.

Hogan-Howe either hadn't looked into his subject at all and had simply made some stuff up, or else he knew full well that Kennedy's actions were sanctioned, and wrote a whitewash report of deliberate lies. Given Hogan-Howe's position as chief of the Metropolitan Police, the force that runs the undercover infiltrator officers, I think we can guess which answer is correct.

You'd think being so glaringly shown up would have taught them a little humility, perhaps even inclined them towards a sense of honesty and justice. Think again. Only a week after the shocking revelations that forced the climbdown, Hogan-Howe came out fighting, telling the Metropolitan Police Authority on Thursday that being prosecuted and giving evidence under oath using a false identity, lying about your involvement in the incident before the court, is absolutely fine.

There's no law that says it can't happen. The fact that someone has concealed their identity doesn't mean the crime didn't happen. In absolute terms, the criminal law does not make a crime of it. If you are dealing with more serious crimes, we have to seek all options.

The 'more serious crime' Jim Boyling was prosecuted for was a brief peaceful occupation of an office. In Lambert's case it was leafletting outside a shop.

With even more gall, considering last week's proof that his inquiry was a sham, Hogan-Howe has launched two more internal inquiries. One will look into how many times undercover police officers have been prosecuted under their fake identities. Another, headed by the Met's deputy assistant commissioner Mark Simmons, will look into 'a range of issues' about undercover policing.

In other news, Alex Ferguson has decided to counter Manchester United's recent dip in form by appointing himself referee for every remaining game this season. He has decreed that matches will be played without spectators or any officials from the opposition's team being present, and no cameras will be allowed.

Friday, October 28, 2011

who defends the indefensible?

Bob Lambert's apology cannot be trusted, partly because of the omissions (why is he not sorry for the other officers he deployed?) and partly because of its implausibility. The idea that his infiltration of London Greenpeace was a mere stepping stone on to more serious threats is nonsense, given the way his department clearly targeted numerous groups similar to London Greenpeace as an end in itself.

By saying that other officers didn't do anything wrong, he portrays himself as one rogue officer making, ahem, 'mistakes'. You know, like all those other one-off rogues he worked with and commanded. His explanation and apology, if they get believed, are not only helpful to his present career but also to the police's attempted narrative.

Two months ago Radio 4 broadcast a documentary called Living With Secrets that featured an interview with an unnamed ex-undercover officer. They perpetuated the fiction that what the undercover officers did - including, we now know, Bob Lambert - was against orders. The officer said that in their job the key thing was

never get too involved, not too personally involved. Definitely don't get romantically involved.

Specifically asked about Mark Kennedy and his sexual relationships with the activists he was sent to infiltrate, the officer said

It's a different time and a different age. As far as I'm concerned, that is dreadful.

Who was the anonymous officer disowning acts committed by Lambert and co? Compare the voices.

The BBC interview

Bob Lambert

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

one bad apple gets worse

There is even more to the story of ex-undercover cop Bob Lambert than we thought.

Not only are there revelations that he was prosecuted under his false identity, he is yet another of them who had a serious long term sexual relationship whilst undercover.

Lambert's girlfriend wasn't even an activist, she was merely a random citizen whose emotional wellbeing Lambert decided to sacrifice to help with his cover. He even had his Special Branch colleagues raid her house to puff up his image as a radical activist.

Lambert has come forth and apologised.

I was deployed as an undercover Met special branch officer to identify and prosecute members of Animal Liberation Front who were then engaged in incendiary device and explosive device campaigns against targets in the vivisection, meat and fur trades.

'Incendiaries', 'explosives', makes you picture bloodied corpses being removed after IRA bombs in shopping centres doesn't it?

Most ALF devices were overtly stated as economic sabotage, almost always in empty premises and planted overnight, all the better to have serious damage done by the time anyone came in the following morning. As a tactic it is certainly more serious than leafleting and linking arms across doorways, but it is still just damage to stuff.

How many members of how many peaceful groups can have their trust in humanity shattered police officers trying to prevent property damage?

As part of my cover story so as to gain the necessary credibility to become involved in serious crime, I first built a reputation as a committed member of London Greenpeace, a peaceful campaigning group.

I apologise unreservedly for the deception I therefore practiced on law abiding members of London Greenpeace.

If that's the case, can we take it that he never reported back on what London Greenpeace were doing and thereby had their actions undermined?

By implication, was Mark Kennedy also on a career path to some big bad group, and just accidentally handed in seven years of notebooks detailing the meetings and plans and lives of environmental activists?

Peter Black's deployment saw him infiltrate the Anti-Nazi League before moving on, presumably to the groups whose threat to public safety warranted all the intrusion.

I began targeting the groups set up to win justice for those who had died in police custody or had been victims of racism, it was clear that what the loved ones of the deceased wanted was justice.*

Lambert is holding to the classic 'one bad apple' rogue officer idea, applying it to himself. Yet is is clear that other officers behaved in the same way. Indeed, Lambert was the superior officer in charge of Peter Black's deployment in justice campaigns.

I also apologise unreservedly for forming false friendships with law abiding citizens and in particular forming a long term relationship with [Name of person removed] who had every reason to think I was a committed animal rights activist and a genuine London Greenpeace campaigner.

It is the intimate personal relationships that are perhaps the most shocking aspect of the undercover police scandal. A person you had let into your life, who moved in with you, who had integrated into your family, was in fact there as a paid agent of the state to undermine the things you hold most dear. It must do incalculable damage.

Many of these people were in their 20s and 30s, a time when most people form very long term relationships. Not only did the police put fake relationships in, they kept real relationships out. Every year spent with your Special Branch officer is a year not spent finding and forming bonds with somebody who does actually love you. Even without the profound emotional impact of your partner turning out to be a copper, the loss of time that can never be regained is in itself an horrific attack on a person's personal life.

Lambert apologises, for whatever that is worth. Where's his apology for sending Peter Black and Jim Boyling in to have sexual relationships? Or would that just demolish his 'it was just me, not a calculated plan, honest guv' (fairy)storyline?

Daud Abdullah, who has worked with Lambert in recent years, dismisses all the Lambert revelations as 'smears' with the implication that it's all convenient for our neocon government.

When you have proof of something and the accused admits it and apologises, it's not a smear. It's a fact. Alleging that the anarchists from London Greenpeace who found Lambert are stooges of the government, now that's a smear.

the vast majority of Met special branch undercover officers never made the mistakes I made, have no need to apologise for anything, and I deepy regret having tarnished their illustrious, professional reputation.

His use of the word 'mistake' is a tad devious. It has more than one meaning - an innocent accidental act, or a knowing act that in retrospect was unwise, perhaps because it didn't let you get away with your misdeed. He can only mean it in the latter sense, but an articulate academic used to manipulating people is surely aware that the glow from the other meaning's connotations will make him seem a nicer guy than he is. This stuff was not a 'mistake' in the sense that anyone should be absolved of.

The two 'mistakes' he fesses up to are forming false friendships and having sexual relations with activists. Most other officers didn't do that, right Bob?

There are documented reports of this being true of five of the seven officers named in the Guardian's series of reports (and who knows if it's yet to come out about either or both of the others).

So, given that very high strike rate for the uncovered officers, how many never made these 'mistakes'? Earlier this year ex undercover cop Liam Thomas - not one of the seven - said

I remember one senior detective saying to me, 'Have you embedded yourself in the community yet?' It was tongue in cheek, but I left with the impression that had I shagged around for intelligence, it would have been OK.

Given that Lambert not only did such things but was then the superior officer in charge of Jim Boyling and Pete Black when they did the same, it's clear he had no problem with it at all. Indeed, you've got to wonder if he's the 'senior detective' Liam Thomas mentions.

I offer my new book Countering al Qaeda in London: Police and Muslims in Partnership as evidence of my ability to build genuine trust with groups campaigning for social justice and as a signal of my good faith moving forward.

Plug plug plug. The gratuitous hawking of his book is, by itself, proof that Lambert has no shame and, just as in his days undercover, can only see his career advantage rather than the impacts he is having on others.

He is frantically trying to retain his credibility and save his job. Sorry Bob, but spending the last five years working on one aspect of anti-racist work does not absolve you for 25 years of actively attacking it.

Who has done a better job of giving space for fascists to rise in the last twenty years, Combat 18 or Special Branch? If Lambert and Boyling had not been doing their work, how much of the BNP's increased popularity have been prevented? How many justice campaigns would have borne earlier and more valuable fruit?

I'm not saying that sinners can never repent. Realising you were wrong, saying so and trying to make amends is honourable. Sitting there hoping nobody will notice and only admitting it once tenacious activists have tracked you down and embarrassed you is not honourable. It is the desperate arse-covering of a self-serving fuckwad who has made a career out of duplicity, a man who is still trying to lie his way out of culpability for his actions.


* Peter Black is referred to in the article as 'Officer A'. The anonymous interview from March last year was actually the first publicity this affair got, though it went almost entirely unnoticed until Mark Kennedy was outed. Post-Kennedy, Black dropped the anonymity and is now the most outspoken of the former cops, a title it's not hard to earn.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

covering up the cover-up

The first of the raft of the state's self-investigations into the Mark Kennedy affair was due to report this week.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary had looked into the deployment of Kennedy and undercover officers. Advance notice had been given that it had found that Kennedy had been off-mission and was not properly supervised. It said that independent oversight by people outside the police would not be necessary. It was written by Bernard Hogan-Howe, who has just been appointed as head of the Metropolitan police.

So then, the police look into police misconduct and find that nobody outside the police need be involved in future. In other news, a gang of convicted child abusers say they don't need CRB checks when applying for jobs.

The HMIC report was dramatically pulled at the last minute after (yet more) revelations that Kennedy was by no means a rogue officer. In the late 1990s undercover cop Jim Boyling was prosecuted under his false identity and perjured himself in the process. As a supposed defendant, this officer was in meetings where activists met with their lawyers to discuss their case.

In the same case a police officer offered John Jordan, another of the defendants, helpful testimony if he'd become an informant. Jordan refused and, entirely coincidentally I'm sure, was the only one of the group to be convicted.

From Mark Kennedy's intelligence reports that were later disclosed to Ratcliffe defendants, we know he was recording things in minute detail, right down to people's biscuit preferences. The HMIC report's conclusion that he was going astray and that his superiors didn't know what this £5,000 a week asset was doing is just laughable.

Twenty of the Ratcliffe protesters were convicted and another six were going to court when the revelations forced the trial to collapse. It was not Kennedy himself who witheld the evidence which exonerated the Ratcliffe protesters. It was his superior officers and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Another of the Kennedy reports looks into these 'failings' by Nottinghamshire police and the suppression by the CPS of that evidence.

Sir Christopher Rose, who sat in the court of appeal until 2006, will head the independent inquiry set up by the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, who acknowledged "growing concerns" over the claims.

Rose, as Chief Surveillance Commissioner, has been responsible for scrutinising the surveillance activities of the police and other official bodies for five years.

So, as Chief Surveillance Commissioner, Rose had the ultimate sign-off over the deployment of undercover officers, including Kennedy. This isn't just the same body investigating itself, it's the same individual.

The various reports are an attempt to cover up the cover-up. They know exactly what the undercover officers did. Bernard Hogan-Howe's report could, I suppose, try to use the excuse that it didn't look into its subject at all before coming to a conclusion and making recommendations. Hardly tenable from the new chief of the country's largest force.

The police know full well that the other officers acted in the same way as Kennedy (and in some respects worse, what with being prosecuted under false identities and breaching lawyer/client confidentiality). Those deployments and the torrent of whitewash reports coming down the pipeline are not just institutional corruption. They're evidence of an institution that appears incapable of little other than corruption.

When denials and cover-ups fail, the powerful sacrifice those whose hands did the dirty work. Even in cases infinitely more serious and extreme than anything done by the UK's undercover police, the pattern of the powerful is identical.

The American military's use of torture at Abu Ghraib, a matter of policy practiced and refined at the Bagram base in Afghanistan before they brought it to Iraq, was depicted as an isolated incident of rogue personnel. No officers were jailed, only a handful of low ranking soldiers. A generation earlier, after the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, a solitary Second Lieutenant was the only person convicted.

As their actions are dragged out into the daylight, those who devised and ran the UK's undercover political policing are letting Kennedy be dragged out too, cutting their ties to him so they can remain in the shadows.

Kennedy is the most recent of the seven officers so far exposed. His behaviour tallies exactly with his forerunners. What he did, and what was done with his intelligence and evidence, was clearly part of an ongoing strategy.

No activist I know was surprised by Ian Tomlinson's death; the police dished out such life-threatening attacks thousands of times that day, and thousands of times a day on dozens of other occasions. But nobody I know was surprised at the police lies and cover up that followed either. Even when you have it all on camera they still try to deny it. If Delroy Smellie can be acquitted, any cop can.

But given the huge implications of Jim Boyling's prosecution, and newly-exposed Bob Lambert seeming to have done the same thing, whilst a third ex-undercover officer says that it was 'part of their cover' to be prosecuted, the police had to bin the HMIC report a couple of hours before it was due to be published and move to a higher grade of fob-off.

In place of the HMIC report, the police have asked the Independent Police Complaints Commission to look into Boyling's actions.

This is the same IPCC who ruled that the police did nothing wrong when they killed Jean Charles de Menezes, the same IPCC who were happy to parrot the police lies about Ian Tomlinson being in a place with no CCTV, having no contact with police and dying of a heart attack. Their reports are merely second-level cover-up.

There can be no credibility in self-investigation or reports by puppet bodies, and no believable outcome that doesn't see senior officers and politicians not just named but convicted.

It is clear that there has been a large scale systematic project of political policing, given priority over any considerations for its legality, its cost or, most importantly, the impact on the citizens it deceives and abuses.

Who devised this? Was it ordered by politicians, or did the police make it up for themselves? Which politicians knew about it and gave it their continuing approval? Throughout wild outpourings of truth about undercover policing in the last year, members of the government past and present have stayed conspicuously silent.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

yet another one bad apple

There's the old urban myth about glaziers who go round bricking windows at night then drop their card through the door the next morning. In Apocalypse Now the medics help soldiers of both sides, drawing the comment that 'we cut them in half with a machine gun and give them a Band Aid'.

Bob Lambert is a liberal academic who pushes for greater racial harmony and acceptance of multiculturalism. Here he is speaking at a Unite Against Fascism conference a couple of weeks ago, here he is writing for Al-Jazeera, lefty journal New Statesman and being praised in the Guardian.

For more than 25 years, Bob Lambert was a special branch undercover officer, actively undermining the work of protest groups including anti-racist groups.

Lambert's biography on his academic webpage, presumably self-written, describes his time in the police force working

in counter-terrorism, gaining operational experience of all forms of violent political threats to the UK

Under the alias of Bob Robinson, he infiltrated London Greenpeace in the 1980s. Not to be confused with Greenpeace International with whom they have nothing in common but half a name, London Greenpeace was a long established direct action group of an eco-anarchist bent whose public activities mainly involved a lot of leafleting.

They were perhaps best known for the McLibel case - after handing out What's Wrong With McDonald's leaflets they were prosecuted for libel. The multinational spent thousands of pounds per day on lawyers whilst the defendents represented themselves in the longest trial in English history.

During the trial it was revealed that the group was heavily infiltrated. Indeed, meetings occurred where the activists were in the minority and most people in the room were either undercover cops, private detectives hired by McDonald's, or a second group of detectives hired to spy on the first lot.

After his time with London Greenpeace, Lambert moved to backroom stuff, overseeing officers deployed in other groups. He put Jim Boyling into those well-known terrorists Reclaim The Streets.

More pertinently, he put 'Pete Black' into anti-racist groups for four years. Having had a stint obstructing the Anti-Nazi League's attempts to prevent the rise of the BNP, Black then infiltrated and undermined people fighting for justice for under-investigated black deaths such as the Stephen Lawrence campaign.

The dignified tenacity of the Lawrence family and those around them eventually led to an admission of 'institutional racism' from the Metropolitan police, and serious subsequent changes to the acceptability of racism in the force. But all this was after they'd done their best to scupper the campaign.

Where was the terrorism being countered? Where was the threat of political violence? The only threat they posed was to the credibility of the police by drawing attention to their incompetence and racism.

As we've seen with the Mark Kennedy case, groups are not infiltrated according to their threat to public safety but in proportion to their political unacceptability to the status quo. And nothing draws the police's attention and ire quite as much as an attack on police credibility.

This is why senior officers ordered constables' statements to be altered at Hillsborough disaster.

Last two pages require amending. These are his own feelings. He also states that PCs were sat down crying when the fans were carrying the dead and injured. This shows they were organised and we were not. Have [the PC] rewrite the last two pages excluding points mentioned.

Like all concentrations of power, the police's maintenance of their position becomes paramount, other considerations are secondary where they exist at all. Lambert - whose police work garnered an MBE - is the seventh undercover cop to be exposed, compounding a body of incontrovertible evidence that the same methods were used against the same kind of groups for more than thirty years.

Knowing it is indefensible, the various self-investigatory reports will try to hang their underlings out to dry and tell us Mark Kennedy was a rogue officer straying off-mission. When all seven exposed officers behaved more or less identically, the police need to tell us how many it takes to prove that far from following orders, this was strategy. And more than that, who devised, approved and ordered this political policing?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

the best human rights money can buy

Earlier this week Theresa May donned the jackboots essential for any Home Secretary to wear whilst speaking, got up on her hind legs and railed against the Human Rights Act to the Tory Party conference.

She singled out the use of the Act's guarantee of a right to family life being used to prevent deportations, citing a case where courts decided someone

cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – because he had a pet cat

She was telling the truth - she had not made it up. The head of UKIP, twitchy right armed freemarket fundamentalist Nigel Farrage, made it up two months ago.

Farrage told a meeting that courts had decided somebody

should not be deported because... and I really am not making this up ... because he had a pet cat

This is, as is now established, bullshit. But the right wing campaign against the Human Rights Act rolls on.

The UK is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. Any breach of the rights granted by the Convention can be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.

Despite what the Mail and Express tel you, none of this has anything to do with the European Union. The Convention and the courts that adjudicate on cases arising from it were set up and run by the Council of Europe, an institution older and far larger than the EU.

But here's the thing that I'm not seeing said elsewhere; the repeal of the Human Rights Act would not alter our human rights. The Convention would still stand, and the judgement of its court would still be binding.

The Human Rights Act did not give us more rights, it only made the principles of the Convention enforceable in our domestic courts. This means that people can get Legal Aid for cases instead of needing the vast heaps of personal cash required to take a case to the European Court.

Rather like the way the government (including the Labour Party) says we should have the right to strike but only if we don't use it, they are now saying we can have human rights but only if enforcement is priced out of our reach.

Once again this cabinet of millionaires moves to horde the most important resources as the exclusive preserve of the rich.