Betrayal of Spycops Involves More Than Sex

16 Oct

Some thoughts I wrote last year, after the hearing in Parliament on the undercover officers who had longterm relationships with women as part of operations to undermine activist groups.

Does it make things worse, a weird question that comes to mind, that sex was involved? The only sensible thing to say about this, is that the aspect of intimate involvement provides an opportunity – or at least makes it less difficult – to take legal steps at all. It remains next to impossible to estimate the damage, should it become clear which rules have been violated.

The betrayal is not just on the personal level, although it is the intimate and sexual part that seems to be the most shocking to satisfy the sensation-sensitive parts of the public. The double-life let by some of the police men involved, married with children while having moved in with their activist partners as well.

For the women here, or for most of them, I would think from my own experience, it’s not just about the sexual involvement. Devoting your life to protest, the relationship with a fellow activist fits the larger context of being part of a movement, wherein overall, there is less of a boundary between the working and the private life. Being part of a movement means the sharing of ideas, ideals, the risks of activism, the scary things at night, the confrontations with the authorities, the arrests maybe, the interrogations, prison for some, the pub afterwards, the long nights. Emily Apple wrote about this impressively beautiful.

The sharing of all this, means people are sharing their entire life, working hard to make this world a better place – to use a common phrase. Hence, the betrayal is not just in the relationship, not just in the private – as if that would not be enough – it’s also in the political, in the beliefs, and the practical every-day life.

With the betrayal on so many levels, one can only begin to understand the trauma caused. Trauma not restricted to those who have had the intimate relationships. Their cases, in a way, represent the damage done to a larger part of the movements involved, all those people who thought they had friends and mates – only to find out they were betrayed by the state.

Still that’s not all, though this is where it links to the need for further research.

From the chronology of the stories that have come out to date and the police men involved, we know that it continued for years – several decades in fact. We know of undercover officers that moved on to become supervisors of a next generation that did exactly the same. It makes you wonder whether the intimate relationships and sexual involvement was not just accepted practice, but in fact part of the strategy to get ‘deeply penetrated’ (No pun intended, Gary T. Marx pointed at the loaded language surrounding infiltration, as I discussed here).

The research needs to get beyond the rules or the lack thereof. We are only beginning to understand how big this is, and what was behind it.

Reclaiming Rights

For context, the final part of my report on the Parliamentary Hearing, full blog here Reclaiming Rights Rather than Rules & Regulations

Apart from the fact that no one in his or her normal mind would think of using sex to test potential spies and uncover their true if they would refuse, the question is – once again – completely beside the point. As Jules Carey, the lawyer of four more women pointed out, we are talking about people with high moral standards, who dedicate their lives to make this world a better place. Likewise, the mother of one of the women spoke of her daughter as a principled person, devoted to political activism and direct action. She also said that it was not just about the sexual relationship, Mark Kennedy was welcomed into her family as a friend, attending the 90th birthday of her mother for instance, and she really liked him. She was devastated to hear that he was in fact a police spy, and angry for what has happened.

My problem with the meeting in Parliament was that the main focus was on the lack of authorisation, oversight and accountability. Such might give the impression that would proper control be in place, everything would be OK and none of this would have happened.

To reduce the issue to rules & regulations, the lack thereof or the need therefore, might be necessary to frame the debate in Parliament or the get the cause into Court, but it is not enough.

If anything, these discussions, the search for the right wording, the quest for framing if you wish, remind me most of all of the time and effort it took to get the sexual abuse of women on the agenda as an official crime of war.

Launching legal action is a first step, not just because of the difficulty of finding the laws or legal terms that have been violated. It is largely a symbolic action. No outcome, no financial compensation or public excuse will be sufficient to heal the harm that has been done. Likewise, the Committee meeting in Parliament served as a way to bring the issue to the attention of the government and the wider public (although the concurrency with American Elections did not really help, media-wise).

Which is good, don’t get me wrong, it’s great that it is being done. The nagging feeling that remained afterwards, though, is that not everything was addressed – not properly. So much more to say, and to think about.

In fact, of course, this is about women reclaiming their rights, the autonomy over their bodies and their lives. And their right to speak up, as activists and as women or vise versa – without being denigrated in the most horrible way.

This case – in the end – is about how we, as a democracy – deal with dissent.

McSpy – Bob Lambert

23 Jun

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

What Others Say….

5 Mar

Update: Interviews
Dragging secrets into daylight: An interview with Eveline Lubbers
Aaron Leonard
11 April 2013

I see my role as an active one, chasing evidence where most of it is secret, bringing together the work of investigative reporters, whistle blowers, and people spied upon. Why? To empower activists, to engage in the debate, to help prepare the right questions in official investigations — to stand up for a vibrant democracy, or what’s left of it, that’s what scholars should do.

5 Questions for Eveline Lubbers - the Business of Intelligence
10 April 2013

The exposure, in 2010, of British NPIOU officer Mark Kennedy as an undercover agent in the environmental activist movement offered insight into how governments monitor political activism. But is intelligence gathering targeting activist groups limited to the state?


London Review of Books
I want you to know I know who you are
Katrina Forrester
3 January 2013

In Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate and Police Spying on Activists, Eveline Lubbers, an academic, activist journalist and researcher with the organisations SpinWatch and Buro Jansen & Janssen, focuses on what she calls ‘grey intelligence’, the informal networks of co-operation between corporate interests and state agencies that are now central to the surveillance of dissent in Western European democracies.

A World to Win

Corporate spooks and their dirty tricks
by Peter Arkell
16 January 2013

Spying on activists and disrupting their campaigns against the corporations has become a sinister growth industry. What they get up to is brilliantly exposed in a new book by Eveline Lubbers.

Everything They Don’t Want You to Know
by Adam Federman
February 2013

McDonald’s and Shell are two of the mega corporations featured in Eveline Lubbers’s book, Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate and Police Spying on Activists. Their efforts to undermine activist campaigns, from anti-apartheid groups to animal right’s advocates, reveal just how seriously these corporations take the threat of any opposition no matter how weak or loosely organized it may be.

Marxist Review

The State, Espionage and Counter-revolution
by Chris Anglin
Jan/Feb 2013 issue

Conclusion of the Marxist Review

Conclusion of the Marxist Review: not revolutionairy enough…

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

20 Feb

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

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

6 Feb

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

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

23 Jan

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

Outrage as High Court permits secrecy over undercover policing

17 Jan

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.”


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