In an article for SpinWatch, Eveline Lubbers, author of the forthcoming Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate and Police Spying on Activists, comments on the first police report into undercover policing, as highlighted by the case of Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years undercover in the environmental movement:
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.
Lubbers challenges the reports conclusions about the work of Kennedy:
The HMIC claims that Kennedy ‘did help to uncover serious criminality’ but fails to produce any evidence, admitting that ‘the lack of specific outcomes makes an objective assessment of success very difficult’.
Without evidence, it is impossible to decide whether the methods used were proportionate or not.
Furthermore, HMIC states, in the Kennedy case the risks of intrusion were not systematically assessed and managed across the organisation. So either way, the intrusion into the lives of the people involved was not considered an issue during the many years of operation; and is still not an issue in this review.
Ultimately, the flaws in the review mirror the shortcomings in the supervision of Kennedy. Either the HMIC did not do a good job, or – even worse – there was nothing to be found. In all those years, the review identifies only two moments where Kennedy crossed the line (‘by continuing to work following his arrest and by taking an activist with him abroad’).
To conclude that Kennedy made only two mistakes is totally wrong however. These were the only mistakes that could be determined. The NPOIU had no idea what he was up to most – if not all – of the time. So it was impossible for HMIC to find out afterwards. Unfortunately the reviewers fail to make that point explicitly.
One could claim that this review reconfirms the general excuse that Kennedy was a rogue agent who increasingly crossed the line. My conclusion is a different one: the issue is not failing to act within the rules; it is a failing of the rules altogether.
Visit SpinWatch to read the article in full.
Corporate and Police Spying on Activists
Exposes the covert attempts of corporations and government to infiltrate and spy on peaceful protest groups.
“In the recent frenzy over media phone hacking, the shadow warriors of corporate espionage have escaped scrutiny, until now. Eveline Lubbers’ book shines a timely and sharp light on the dark arts of serving and retired cops, spooks and squaddies who are spying, bugging and lying for big business with impunity.” – Michael Gillard, Journalist, The Sunday Times
“In this eye-opening, ground-breaking volume Evelyn Lubbers opens up a new field of research. A must-read for anyone interested in grey policing, social movements, social reform and corporate intelligence behaviour.” – Gary T. Marx, Author of Undercover: Police Surveillance in America